Advertisement
If you have a new account but are having problems posting or verifying your account, please email us on [email protected] for help. Thanks :)
Hello All, This is just a friendly reminder to read the Forum Charter where you wish to post before posting in it. :)

Skepticism in Ireland

  • 07-12-2003 10:40am
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 857 ✭✭✭ davros


    First draft of a forum charter...


    About The Irish Skeptics Society

    The Irish Skeptics Society has the following aims:
    • To promote a scientific and rational point of view.
    • To promote the teaching and application of critical thinking skills.
    • To promote the active questioning of claims in a variety of areas, which is noticeably absent at present.
    • To provide a forum for debate, discussion and rational argument on a range of relevant topics.
    • To provide an access point for media for skeptical responses to questionable claims.
    • To encourage the active involvement of people from a wide range of backgrounds.
    A very good introduction to skepticism can be found here.


    Irish Skeptics Website

    Our official website can be found at www.irishskeptics.net. You can find more information on society events and skepticism in general there.


    This Forum

    This forum is for discussing and investigating remarkable claims of any kind. Sample topics of interest include dowsing, ESP, alien visitations, alternative medicine and creationism. Everyone's opinion is welcomed - skeptic, astrologer, reflexologist, etc.

    The basic rules here are the same as for any other board: no abusive language or trying to pick fights. In particular, do not accuse anyone of fraud or other criminal behaviour.

    If this is your first time on Boards.ie, you can find answers to a lot of general questions here.


Comments

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,292 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    What does it mean to be a skeptic? In short, it’s a way of looking at the claims that people make, by asking the 'how' questions and the 'why' questions, and not accepting the claims as valid until some supporting evidence appears and has been judged. Or, even briefer, when someone makes an extraordinary claim, the skeptic says “That’s interesting – now why should I believe you?” And that’s about it.

    Unlike most philosophies, skepticism doesn’t tell you what to think, rather, it helps you with thinking itself. And that’s why a skeptic isn't required to hold any particular position on any controversial topic (though many do, since reliable evidence frequently points in one direction only). Instead, skepticism is a process designed to weed out faulty ideas, so that when it’s properly applied, the skeptic will arrive at a way of looking at the world which is based upon facts and guided by reason, and not by unfounded hopes or beliefs.

    Again, unlike most philosophies, because of its evidence-based approach, skepticism doesn’t deal in absolute truths or absolute conclusions, because the evidence which supports the current conclusion might be wrong, and might need to be revised, or thrown away, when some new and conflicting piece of evidence appears. This means that skepticism deals in provisional conclusions, supported by provisionally-agreed facts.

    Since skeptics tend to ask questions, they can come across in conversation as picky, or even worse, needlessly argumentative. This is unfortunate, because it leaves many with an impression of skepticism as something negative or disapproving, when it's quite the opposite: a process of learning how to ask the right questions, and how to interpret the answers given (if any), and along the way, probably losing many of the comforting, but faulty, beliefs of childhood.

    In Ireland, as elsewhere, skeptics are a small, but growing and increasingly-coordinated, movement which hopes to counterbalance the spread of untenable, or anti-social, beliefs, many of which can harm, or take advantage of, the unwary or the trusting. These stretch from the mostly benign absurdity of astrology and the lucrative, tax-free and politically dominant, fundamentalist religious industries currently rampant in the USA, to the potentially life-threatening decisions made by untrained people in the alternative medicine business. Skepticism offers a way to see through these artful fantasies and view the world as it really is, not as it we'd like it to be, or other people would like us to think that it is.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 403 ✭✭ mysteria


    I believe I was born with a large dose of healthy skepticism, and have had personal dealings with members of the Irish Skeptics in a debate on national radio with some of your members. In theory your forum charter sounds fine, but with respect may I point out that the doctrines of all major religions, every government minister in every country,in fact every organization I know of has a code of practice that sounds attractive, plausible, just or impartial. The reality unfortunately is usually quite the opposite. An intrinsic part of the human psyche appears to be the need to judge or compartmentalize others. We are afraid of what we don't understand.And what we can't understand we seek to destroy, suppress or denigrate in some way. Every organization has members who have differing agendas. I have found that many who profess to be skeptical about various topics are at least open to listening to the opinions of others. And if they are perceptive or aware enough, they might even learn something! I suggest you keep an open mind. If you view any subject from the standpoint of a confirmational bias you will inevitably find something to "prove " your theories. So while healthy skepticism is a good thing, it is important to keep an open mind and listen to what others have to say. Every field has its charlatans and chancers. I notice you don't list the medical profession, pharmaceutical companies etc while complimentary medicine is targeted. And yet the former appear to be causing far more harm than the latter.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 857 ✭✭✭ davros


    mysteria wrote:
    I suggest you keep an open mind.
    That's one vote in favour of our charter then. Thanks for that, mysteria!


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,292 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    > I notice you don't list the medical profession, pharmaceutical
    > companies etc while complimentary medicine is targeted. And
    > yet the former appear to be causing far more harm than the latter.


    In the useful spirit of keeping the open mind that we all aspire to, could you please tell us more about the very serious claim to harm that you're making about the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies? The evidence which will be most welcome and most convincing to everybody around here tends to come from double-blinded, controlled, repeated, statistically-sound tests which appear in peer-reviewed articles in independent journals such as The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature (and so on) which indicate that there's some clear and unambiguous trend whereby sick people have a worse outcome for the condition from which they're suffering, than people who don't go to doctors (within 'conventional medicine', you're not allowed to go to pharmaceutical companies for medicine). One-off personal experiences, or testimonials from people who've been cured of something which they'd believed was incurable, on the other hand, aren't listened to very much, on account of the confirmation bias (and other problems) which you quite rightly suggest leads to unreliable claims.

    FYI - when we refer to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (usually abbreviated to CAM), we're usually talking about things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, aura therapy, homeopathy, reflexology, Reiki and many, many more practices. Unfortunately, it's been the case to date that when all of these are tested using the double-blinded, controlled, repeated, statistically-sound testing which is applied as a matter of course to 'conventional medicine', they all produce results identical to what you'd expect if there was no treatment at all. And this strongly suggests that any curative powers are imaginary, even though it would be wonderful if things like water, massage and perfume *did* actually cure people of cancer, AIDS and the rest (which is what it's all supposed to be about).

    The Skeptics Dictionary has this entry on Alternative health care, and how it's different, at the drug and practitioner level, from standard medicine:

    http://www.skepdic.com/althelth.html

    ...which might be worth ploughing through for longer and more comprehensive version of the above.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 14,576 ✭✭✭✭ FlutterinBantam


    jaysus christ almighty ....is this supposed to be about sceptics

    J***s spell the thing correctly for starters....

    Jeeesh


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 17,247 ✭✭✭✭ 6th


    FB have a go on Google, theres a link below if you've never heard of it. The word Skeptic can be spelt with a "k" or a "c" but if all you have to offer is a comment on spelling ....well, nuff said.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 112 ✭✭ skeptic griggsy


    Try Googling the Skeptic Society, the Kansas City Skeptics, the South African Skeptics, IIDB, Theology Webb[ Christian but has a naturalist forum], Cener for Free Inquiry and the Mail and Guardian[ has a relgious-nonrreligious forum].Our new atheist books are bringing our message to many. We do also go against the paranormal and that is why I prefer skeptic,naturalist and rationalist to atheist as that puts the others in the negative.:cool:


  • Registered Users Posts: 255 ✭✭ Pixel8


    We should be more sceptic about the things we already take for granted in the medical industry because we already know that politics, economics and MONEY control them to such an extent that new technologies like blood electrification are harder to believe coz we've all been brainwashed by the powers that be...
    Apparently blood electrification kills ALL diseases and there is no need for drugs, doctors or even hospitals anymore. Check out Dr. Robert (Bob) C. Beck blood zapper technology. Figure that one out and see what you find...


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 228 ✭✭ gillyfromlyre


    The hubby says I'm very sceptical about a lot of things, does that make me an irish Skeptic?


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 3,523 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Myksyk


    Well strictly speaking you should give us the joining fee .... ;)


  • Advertisement
  • Closed Accounts Posts: 384 ✭✭ jawlie


    The hubby says I'm very sceptical about a lot of things, does that make me an irish Skeptic?

    I think it more probably makes you a sceptic. For reasons best known to itself, the Irish Skeptics Society have decided to adopt the American spelling for their name.

    I was brought up to believe the definition of a sceptic is someone who requires proof, before believing something. (As opposed to a cynic who does not need proof). It seems to be that to be sceptical is the only intelligent position to adopt, as the alternative is to be credulous.
    mysteria wrote: »
    ...We are afraid of what we don't understand. And what we can't understand we seek to destroy, suppress or denigrate in some way...

    Speaking for myself, I am not in the least afraid of that which I can't understand. Quite why you claim "we" (whoever that refers to) are afraid of that which we can't understand is not explained. Sceptics are less concerned with HOW something works, and more interested in DOES something work.

    I have often observed those who want to believe the unbelievable, such as homoeopathy, will often explain HOW it works as a smokescreen to deflect from DOES it work.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,569 ✭✭✭ iamhunted


    I was brought up to believe the definition of a sceptic is someone who requires proof, before believing something. (As opposed to a cynic who does not need proof)

    I always thought it was the cynic who required absolute proof and the skeptic was someone who thought critically, yet still remained open minded to a degree.


  • Registered Users Posts: 297 ✭✭ bipedalhumanoid


    iamhunted wrote: »
    I always thought it was the cynic who required absolute proof and the skeptic was someone who thought critically, yet still remained open minded to a degree.

    A cynic believes the worst on insufficient evidence. A skeptic requires sufficient evidence in order to form a belief.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,134 ✭✭✭ FarmerGreen


    A cynic believes the worst on insufficient evidence. A skeptic requires sufficient evidence in order to form a belief.
    A sane person expects the worse.
    They do no not have 'beliefs', as in, if I drop this brick on my foot it wont hurt if I dont believe it will.
    This universe we live in doesn't care what you think.


  • Registered Users Posts: 297 ✭✭ bipedalhumanoid


    A sane person expects the worse.
    They do no not have 'beliefs', as in, if I drop this brick on my foot it wont hurt if I dont believe it will.
    This universe we live in doesn't care what you think.

    Well, scientists are all skeptics in practice. I guess they're insane.

    In every day life we have to form beliefs without conclusive evidence. If it were as simple as assuming the worst we'd never leave our homes due to the assumption that there is a gunman waiting outside waiting to kill us.


  • Registered Users Posts: 430 ✭✭ margarite


    jaysus christ almighty ....is this supposed to be about sceptics

    J***s spell the thing correctly for starters....

    Jeeesh
    I agree, if someone wants to try advertise one against another that another thread, this is for someone who will not agree to someone even if they trust them unless they see some physical evidence. In society today we tend to follow like lambs and just do what we are told, only to find out that if we question something sometimes we are not tolerated and this cannot be right, everyone has a right to question what they have being told to do then go off and check it out, everyone makes mistakes right, why should we be at the end of that person s mistake and end up the worse for it. I have got the jest of the question correct?:rolleyes:


  • Registered Users Posts: 430 ✭✭ margarite


    Well, scientists are all skeptics in practice. I guess they're insane.

    In every day life we have to form beliefs without conclusive evidence. If it were as simple as assuming the worst we'd never leave our homes due to the assumption that there is a gunman waiting outside waiting to kill us.
    Ah maybe you r taking things over and above what the topic being discussed, you make sound like we should not live are lives the way they should be lived to the last. If there is not enough Skepticism in Ireland, we will not progress.:(


  • Registered Users Posts: 430 ✭✭ margarite


    robindch wrote: »
    > I notice you don't list the medical profession, pharmaceutical
    > companies etc while complimentary medicine is targeted. And
    > yet the former appear to be causing far more harm than the latter.


    In the useful spirit of keeping the open mind that we all aspire to, could you please tell us more about the very serious claim to harm that you're making about the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies? The evidence which will be most welcome and most convincing to everybody around here tends to come from double-blinded, controlled, repeated, statistically-sound tests which appear in peer-reviewed articles in independent journals such as The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature (and so on) which indicate that there's some clear and unambiguous trend whereby sick people have a worse outcome for the condition from which they're suffering, than people who don't go to doctors (within 'conventional medicine', you're not allowed to go to pharmaceutical companies for medicine). One-off personal experiences, or testimonials from people who've been cured of something which they'd believed was incurable, on the other hand, aren't listened to very much, on account of the confirmation bias (and other problems) which you quite rightly suggest leads to unreliable claims.

    FYI - when we refer to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (usually abbreviated to CAM), we're usually talking about things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, aura therapy, homeopathy, reflexology, Reiki and many, many more practices. Unfortunately, it's been the case to date that when all of these are tested using the double-blinded, controlled, repeated, statistically-sound testing which is applied as a matter of course to 'conventional medicine', they all produce results identical to what you'd expect if there was no treatment at all. And this strongly suggests that any curative powers are imaginary, even though it would be wonderful if things like water, massage and perfume *did* actually cure people of cancer, AIDS and the rest (which is what it's all supposed to be about).

    The Skeptics Dictionary has this entry on Alternative health care, and how it's different, at the drug and practitioner level, from standard medicine:

    http://www.skepdic.com/althelth.html

    ...which might be worth ploughing through for longer and more comprehensive version of the above.
    While I agree with you in someways, I have worked in the medical area for a number of years, and have a life lone illness myself, I am therefore not allowed to do certain things, take certain drinks so on and so forth, there is one thing I have come to believe, you yourself are responsible for your own health, learn all of what you can of your conditions in your own best interests because with the six month turn around or Doctors, mistakes can and have being made, Doctors do not like to be questioned, but I do so because I went to the trouble of finding out what I can and cannot do, and am therefore able to question so that my life is not put into these doctors hands. Now do I do everything they tell me, NO I like to enjoy myself, take some medications that s being proved to help and I do enjoy my drink now and again, otherewise I do not get to see the look on the Doctor when I question them, and when I tell how much and what I drink the look is priceless. I then tell them how long I have the illness and tell them what I have had to do and why life would not be worth living otherwise. By the way my illness is rear and I am the youngest person in Ireland to have it, that s why I question and will continue on to do so.:D


  • Registered Users Posts: 297 ✭✭ bipedalhumanoid


    margarite wrote: »
    Ah maybe you r taking things over and above what the topic being discussed, you make sound like we should not live are lives the way they should be lived to the last. If there is not enough Skepticism in Ireland, we will not progress.:(

    I said nothing of the sort. Try reading it again.


  • Registered Users Posts: 297 ✭✭ bipedalhumanoid


    margarite wrote: »
    I agree, if someone wants to try advertise one against another that another thread, this is for someone who will not agree to someone even if they trust them unless they see some physical evidence. In society today we tend to follow like lambs and just do what we are told, only to find out that if we question something sometimes we are not tolerated and this cannot be right, everyone has a right to question what they have being told to do then go off and check it out, everyone makes mistakes right, why should we be at the end of that person s mistake and end up the worse for it. I have got the jest of the question correct?:rolleyes:

    The Skeptical movement started in the USA. Skeptic organisations around the world have chosen to use the american spelling for that reason. In fact, there are now enough people using this spelling to make a case for it being accepted as an alternative spelling locally.


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 136 ✭✭ Malpaisian


    davros wrote: »
    First draft of a forum charter...


    About The Irish Skeptics Society

    The Irish Skeptics Society has the following aims:
    • To promote a scientific and rational point of view.
    • To promote the teaching and application of critical thinking skills.
    • To promote the active questioning of claims in a variety of areas, which is noticeably absent at present.
    • To provide a forum for debate, discussion and rational argument on a range of relevant topics.
    • To provide an access point for media for skeptical responses to questionable claims.
    • To encourage the active involvement of people from a wide range of backgrounds.
    A very good introduction to skepticism can be found here.


    Irish Skeptics Website

    Our official website can be found at www.irishskeptics.net. You can find more information on society events and skepticism in general there.


    This Forum

    This forum is for discussing and investigating remarkable claims of any kind. Sample topics of interest include dowsing, ESP, alien visitations, alternative medicine and creationism. Everyone's opinion is welcomed - skeptic, astrologer, reflexologist, etc.

    The basic rules here are the same as for any other board: no abusive language or trying to pick fights. In particular, do not accuse anyone of fraud or other criminal behaviour.

    If this is your first time on Boards.ie, you can find answers to a lot of general questions here.

    I have to say, one thing I would be very sceptical of is the idea of a "sceptics society". Sounds like prescribed thinking to me. These things always have an agenda and it is never to encourage people to think for themselves. It is to encourage people to buy in to some kind of prescribed belief system while believing that they are thinking for themselves.

    I have attended humanist society meetings where people constantly bang on about the evils of religion and the virtues of atheism. There was never much evidence of any real free and critical thinking. There was, in my opinion, a definite "groupthink" dynamic to the whole affair. One person suggested that parents should be legally banned from sending their children to Sunday School and the like. This suggestion was met with nods of approval all around the room. Sounds more like fascism than humanism to me.

    My mother used to attend these meetings until she got dissillusioned with them. She recently told me the story of how she interupted one of their regular sessions of smug,ritualistic religion bashing to suggest that maybe they should pay some attention to the all pervasive and deeply corrupting influence of the media. This interjection was met with an atmosphere of mild derision and disapproval.

    Beware of groups who get together to "think". They are always being manipulated in to becoming evangelists or foot-soldiers for some control agenda or another. They are especially easy to manipulate when they've been led to believe that they are the "enlightened" ones. Religion has been using this old trick to great effect for a long long time now.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,188 ✭✭✭ pH


    Malpaisian wrote: »
    I have attended humanist society meetings where people constantly bang on about the evils of religion and the virtues of atheism. There was never much evidence of any real free and critical thinking. There was, in my opinion, a definite "groupthink" dynamic to the whole affair. One person suggested that parents should be legally banned from sending their children to Sunday School and the like. This suggestion was met with nods of approval all around the room. Sounds more like fascism than humanism to me.

    Was this the humanist society meeting in Dublin or Galway?


  • Registered Users Posts: 136 ✭✭ Malpaisian


    pH wrote: »
    Was this the humanist society meeting in Dublin or Galway?

    Dublin


  • Registered Users Posts: 10 Landaris


    davros wrote: »
    A very good introduction to skepticism can be found here.
    That link is broken. I think that the current link is http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/manifesto.html. Anyway, the same website has another section called "A brief introduction" that seems to be a better starting point: http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/. This is essentially a summary of the previous link.


  • Registered Users Posts: 86 ✭✭ 38Flowers


    Hi there,

    Would just like to say that while I agree critical thinking and investigation is vital to accurately understanding the world around us, arrogance and closed mindedness pushes us farther away from doing so. I'm afraid it must be said, the term ' sceptical' feels much more like a cloaking term that is used here for the word negative, which is not useful or intelligent.
    Negativism in Ireland is often expressed under the guise of INTELLIGENT scepticism, as a means by which to feel superior, when in fact it promotes ignorance. Healthy scepticism is a good thing, critical and logical investigation and understanding of something certainly is too, but closed mindedness to the things we may theorise about but have no scientific proof of, means that there may or may not be, things left to discover regarding something that has all or some of the signs of something, but not much scientific related proof as yet. As yet.
    And on the other hand it may be proven that the theory is absolutely incorrect. Possibilities are endless, and what is not often recognised is that our current scientific 'logic' will only bring us so far, and scepticism will bring us even further away , in the opposite direction of true knowledge or 'the facts'. Because we have so much to learn, we are still in the infancy of understanding the world around us. If you replaced scepticism with a little awe, I feel you would far closer to achieving what you purport to achieve - closer proximity to the truth and the facts.
    The world once believed that the earth was flat, that atom was the smallest particle in the world and we believed these 'facts' to be absolutes, until new information that might have seemed impossible, maybe even codswollop, mumbo-jumbo, hippy-dippy rubbish, turned out to be true and then we all changed our tune.
    A healthy dose of open mindedness will bring you farther in this world to discovering 'the impossible' than what you call, 'scepticism', ever will. Scepticism has it's place, negativism does not, I'm afraid.


  • Registered Users Posts: 297 ✭✭ bipedalhumanoid


    38Flowers wrote: »
    A healthy dose of open mindedness will bring you farther in this world to discovering 'the impossible' than what you call, 'scepticism', ever will. Scepticism has it's place, negativism does not, I'm afraid.

    Skeptics are the most open minded people I know. They're willing to believe absolutely anything provided adequate evidence can be provided. Without evidence you have no reason to consider a claim to be credible.

    On the other hand the majority of people I know who believe outlandish things are the most closed minded people I have ever come across. No amount of evidence will change their minds. They will hapily believe conspiracy theories and dismiss evidence out of hand.

    Interesting that you introduce the flat earth analogy. It was a skeptic applying empiricism, conducting experiments and gathering evidence who first proved that the world was round. Eratosthenes was a great skeptic. On the other hand it was people who believe all sorts of woo woo and superstition who burned down the library of Alexandria (which held his findings).


  • Registered Users Posts: 86 ✭✭ 38Flowers


    Thanks for the reply. I guess we're talking about semantics in ways. Scepticism itself is fine, if that is part of your general approach to life, but it strikes me that the definition loses it's meaning and starts to look more like negativism for negativism's sake, when you base an organisation around it. (which I think helps no-one and makes debate a lot less interesting)
    Doing this feels like a crusade that is looking to pin people to crosses rather than actually just doing/studying the investigations done/planned that you believe in, and ignoring what you don't believe in, begging the question: why not follow what you believe and not what you don't? Following what you don't believe in is by default negativism. Herein lies my problem. :)


Advertisement