Friday Doubt and About: Cut the crap

I’d like to touch on a few points this week, really quickly…

It’s clear that those who continue to refer to me as dismissive and a “scoftic” are not actually paying attention but are ironically just being dismissive scoftics. That’s incredibly closed minded. You look foolish calling people “skeptards” and such. If you don’t get the value of critical thinking in life then you are in for either temporary bliss due to ignorance until it bites you in the ass or real trouble sooner rather than later. Life is short and it’s all you got. Choose wisely who you follow and goals you wish to pursue.

I will assume you are a good person with good intentions by default. Please don’t try to pull a fast one. If you wish to associate in a worthwhile way, I’m all for it. Some groups and people clearly are not. I will not “be nice” to them anymore since they are not returning the courtesy. I hold out hope that will change. But I’m not naive.

Some people and groups are courageous enough to step away from the stereotype of the ARIG and to be open to advice and constructive criticism. That is really awesome. I’m very happy to give credit to even-handed and well-intentioned research groups, websites and writers who show thoughtfulness and diligence as well as respect to others. There are a few. Just as I appreciate their efforts to engage with me, an apparent “outsider”, I appreciate their efforts to NOT be the generalized awful paranormal research group or Bigfoot trackers. I wish them all the best in their search for answers and am happy to help if I can.

Once again, I’ll state that I have some experience with research methodology and scientific protocols and best practices. So those who are telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to ghosts and Bigfoot are missing the point. I’m talking about your evidence, research methodology and practices in terms of how you portray yourself to the public. Frankly, if that pisses you off, I think that you KNOW it’s a sore spot and are happy to just shut me up rather than do the work to address that. My intentions are to provide a rational view of paranormal topics. They are more complicated and interesting than the average person would guess. I don’t want the public to have a skewed view of the topic and fool themselves. So, I try to express the rest of the story. If you don’t like my stuff, don’t read it. Go about your business enjoying what you do and believe what you want to believe. But examining your own assumptions is something I do every day and try to get others to do too. Do you?

Stop telling me I need to sit in the woods and have a personal experience. Anyone can go have a personal experience. I can go to church to have a religious conversion or a New Age spot to become one with the universe. But, IT’S PERSONAL, it means nothing to the rest of humanity and it does not mean that what I experienced is what actually happened. I can evaluate scientific evidence just fine from here. Let me know when you have something worthwhile to share besides stories. And besides, there are bears in the woods. Bears scare the hell out of me.

Also, if you post disgusting, sexist comments about me, or call me names, a few things to think about: I am a person – a wife, a daughter, a mother and a friend. I’ve said nothing personally degrading to you. Would you say those things to my face? You probably wouldn’t because I think you are afraid of where I would kick you. So, stop it. Go do something positive.

Finally, I’ll probably not be participating in forums and groups very much except for ones where I’ve long been a member. I don’t have time to properly address stuff as it deserves to be addressed and I feel bad just leaving a short response. I need to focus on some bigger projects and those things can be a time sucker. But feel free to drop me messages, within reason. Thanks for those who have messaged me and ESPECIALLY those who have stated support for me in public and tried to defend my position in those dark places on the web that I don’t see. That means more than I can say.

Check out Virtual Skeptics this week. We were silly as usual. Exceptional dog stories, climate change, Icelandic trolls, chiropractic and more.

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idoubtit

Http://SharonAHill.com

20 thoughts on “Friday Doubt and About: Cut the crap”

      1. Sure, I get that. But the pressure has to be not on them (because it will never work, pressure from you will just make them happier). It has to be, and you start down this road in your essay, on their supposed friends.

        The trolls have no decency. The question, what of those who nominally associate with them, or through their silence, would be associated with them?

  1. I am a skeptic, I go sit in the woods sometimes with my Bigfoot group. Heck the woods are full of people all the time. “Try what we do” when what they do isn’t working (seriously, it’s not working!) is a waste unless you truly want to go camping. working with a skeptic, or someone that can look at what you are doing and help you think of new ways and give constructive criticism is how ANY group gets better. It’s what real science does, scientists ask other scientists and others to look at their work. When you close yourself off from criticism, it often means you are nervous about the validity of your beliefs. This should be about finding the truth, not endlessly validating your own perception of the truth.

    1. Kitty: I’m seeing how “house of cards” their system is. They are free to believe whatever they want but when they present to the public, write books or star in TV shows, they are fair game for fair criticism.

  2. Arguing with kooks is for entertainment purposes only (and that’s what I tell them). I don’t get my feelings hurt, mainly because they argue in such a blatently dishonest manner that invective pretty much is concession on their part. And once they attack me personally, that gives me license to lay on my much funnier comebacks. Also, I rarely give my own opinion on a subject — I check their facts and analyse their logic — so the idea that I am a mere partisan is a nonstarter. But most important, I have no notion that I am educating these people. You can’t inform people who hate facts. These kooks revel in their ignorance of their own subject matter, caring only for angry, self-pitying rhetoric.

    But as Sharon has noted, there are intelligent, informed, honest and civil proponents of fringe topics. I fact check them on occasion, comment on their excesses, and ask questions. But I never harangue them; these are people I can learn from (they tend to be better informed on their subject than skeptics). I respect their long years of research and they have come to welcome my contributions (well, most of the time).

  3. > Stop telling me I need to sit in the woods and have a personal experience.

    There is a definite split amongst fringers who value verifiable evidence and those who think knowledge is a kind of personal revelation. I was reading this just yesterday:

    Dr. Leo Sprinkle: In my opinion, the history of UFO investigation indicates that the experience is the significant effect of the UFO phenomena. I believe that UFO investigation should be conducted so that UFO experience — the change in the world view of the UFO observer — becomes the focus. (Playboy magazine, January 1978)

    As a psychologist, Sprinkle’s perspective makes sense for him. And he thought the hard science should continue to look at UFO reports. But the fringe fandom has taken witness reports to the extreme, treating them as a personal revelation, making their “experiences” an unfalsifiable nonsense.

  4. I just wanted to say that there are a lot of people interested in Bigfoot and the paranormal that consider themselves “skeptical believers”. They believe there is such a thing but doubt the majority of claims as “evidence”. They like to theorize the “what ifs” rather than declare the “for sures”. They agree that a more scientific approach needs to be taken. It is disappointing that more “researchers” aren’t more receptive to your criticisms. (and they wonder why mainstream science doesn’t take them seriously?)

    If bigfoot researchers want their evidence to be taken seriously, they need to learn scientific methods. But, science is meant to be slow, and people are impatient. Everyone wants to be the one on Youtube or the evening news with irrefutable proof, and yet we are left with hundreds of blurry blobsquatch photos/videos (if they were clear we would most likely see the zipper). All of the stories, while compelling and entertaining, really suck as evidence when you take into account that eye witness testimony has been proven scientifically to be unreliable.

    I wish more of the skeptical believers would speak out in these forums, but unfortunately most of the intelligent debates devolve into the name calling fights between the blind believers and the ones who refuse to accept anything is possible.

    So I encourage the criticisms you bring, there are even a lot of believers who agree with you. Just remember that the important part of science is that science is always willing to change it’s position in light of new evidence. So you have to be open minded enough to look for and consider that evidence.

  5. Being able to have one’s work, methodology, results and conclusion reviewed critically is a trait one must develop to be taken seriously as a researcher. As someone who has had to endure another researcher finding problems with my methodology I understand it’s frustrating (grad school can be an ego-shattering experience).

    I chuckle imagining how seriously I’d be taken if I had responded with “Yeah, but you weren’t IN THE LAB when I worked so hard for these results, so why should I listen to you criticize them from behind a desk?” Spending weeks replicating my flawed initial results wouldn’t have been a productive use of their time, and it wasn’t required for their evaluation to be spot on. On the flip-side, by opening your work to critical review, someone might spot something useful that even you didn’t expect in your results.

    When someone lets you off the hook without critical analysis because you demand they follow you “into the lab/field/woods,” it means they don’t take you seriously.

  6. idoubtit,

    Everything you say about the paranormal community applies to the skeptic community. The comments at Bigfoot Evidence run about 80-20 AGAINST Bigfoot. JREF posters are notoriously condescending and insulting toward intellectual opponents. Skeptics seem to “get off” on ridiculing and demeaning people with unorthodox or un-scientific opinions. It makes them feel superior or something.

    But here’s my biggest problem with skeptics: Unlike the “faith-based” community, they refuse to admit having doubts. Most Bigfooters admit to feeling jaded and frustrated by all the hoaxes and disappointments in the field of Bigfoot research. Most religious people admit to having a “crisis of faith” at some point in their lives. But I never hear a skeptic acknowledge the possibility that things go bump in the night. Their aggressive, obnoxious, and dishonest attempts at “debunking” all paranormal claims strike me as desperate attempt to erase doubt from their own minds.

    I think it all goes back to the God question. Most skeptics are atheists who embrace some form of materialism or scientism. They believe the material universe is all that exists and that SCIENCE is the only legitimate source of knowledge. Like you said, “Life is short and it’s all you got.” The skeptic’s worldview is all about certainty and control. They cannot tolerate mystery or doubt. This explains their contempt for something as harmless as Bigfoot research. If Bigfoot is real, maybe “science” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe we’re not as smart as we think. Maybe materialism doesn’t have the final word. If a natural creature like Bigfoot could exist right under our noses without being discovered, what supernatural forces could exist beyond the reach of science?

    Maybe you’re right about Bigfooters. Maybe our “faith-based” worldview hurts our objectivity and makes us hostile toward critics. However, skeptics have their own baggage: They are intellectually, psychologically, professionally, and emotionally invested in a universe without mystery. And don’t give me the same old skeptic retort: “But I would love for Bigfoot to exist!” Sure, if Bigfoot was captured tomorrow, you’d be excited like everyone else. But as long as Bigfoot remains a mystery, you have psychological reasons for not believing.

    I like your blog, though. You’re a good writer.

    1. Mike Smith said above:

      “Their aggressive, obnoxious, and dishonest attempts at “debunking” all paranormal claims strike me as desperate attempt to erase doubt from their own minds.

      I think it all goes back to the God question. Most skeptics are atheists who embrace some form of materialism or scientism. They believe the material universe is all that exists and that SCIENCE is the only legitimate source of knowledge. Like you said, “Life is short and it’s all you got.” The skeptic’s worldview is all about certainty and control. They cannot tolerate mystery or doubt. This explains their contempt for something as harmless as Bigfoot research. If Bigfoot is real, maybe “science” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe we’re not as smart as we think. Maybe materialism doesn’t have the final word. If a natural creature like Bigfoot could exist right under our noses without being discovered, what supernatural forces could exist beyond the reach of science? “

      No.

      I’ve seen some skeptics who I think, maybe, think this way. In my opinion, some of those are indeed more focused on atheism.

      But speaking for myself, that doesn’t resemble my thought patterns in the least.

      If you want to believe something, _outside_ of the scientific paradigm _and_ you aren’t trying to suppress actual science and scientific education with it, well, I may not think much of you, but I’m happy to leave you alone. In other words, if you don’t make a claim to be doing science, and you’re not trying to foist anti-science on the rest of us, well, fine. BTW, when I’m using “science” here, I’m expanding that to any form of scholarly inquiry (in other words, history may be considered a humanity and not a science, but it is an examination of evidence to better understand reality).

      But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about people playing at being scientists and scholars. People who either want to use faulty methods (or no methods at all) to misinterpret real evidence (and who get angry when these faulty methods are pointed out, and indignant when someone points out they have no training that could potentially help their work), or who want to present ‘evidence’ that is worthless, and then get angry when those who have spent a lifetime training and researching the sort of methods and evidence that would answer such questions, tell them exactly how worthwhile their evidence is.

      Never mind the hoaxers, charlatans, would-be-tv-stars, tall-tale tellers, etc., which any historical insight at all shows to be a major part of these topics.

      That’s what angers me, at least. It is the insult to the whole concept of actually doing serious work and research. Not serious play. Taking a vacation out in the woods like a steampunk explorer on the quest for the Golden Wombat of the Yukon is serious play. Playing around as a rogue genius who can see through manipulation of poetic symbology to determine that Oreo cookies are proof of an ancient global conspiracy (actual example, unfortunately), is serious play. Running around in the desert snapping pictures of mailboxes or meeting “deep throats” to play detective and connect dots from fake government documents from shady characters, as a method of uncovering our Reptilian overlords, is serious play.

      Studying and learning how to actually find out something about reality, through exhaustive efforts to make sure your evidence isn’t wrong, that’s serious work.

  7. Mike Smith has some pithy comments worth responding to. There are bad skeptics, yes. There are idiot ranters everywhere on the internet and on letters to the editor pages. I tend to view extremists as ideologically motivated. They don’t wish to know the truth, they are more invested in being right. But I don’t agree all the characteristics of believers apply to skeptics and I think Mike misunderstands some things. Let me address the key points:

    Mike wrote:

    “The comments at Bigfoot Evidence run about 80-20 AGAINST Bigfoot.”

    Well, the comments there are about 80% garbage so that doesn’t leave much to work with. When you allow your comments section to be trash, you are going to attract more trashiness. I think most of the people there simply want to be contrarians for the fun of it. They are not worth paying attention to.

    “JREF posters are notoriously condescending and insulting toward intellectual opponents. Skeptics seem to “get off” on ridiculing and demeaning people with unorthodox or un-scientific opinions. It makes them feel superior or something.”

    Yep. Many are. Many are not. It’s not easy for a pro-X claim to come into such circles just as it is not easy for me to do the same. But I don’t come in attacking or saying dumb stuff so it usually does not go too bad. But, yes, for long-standing groups, you will get badgered. There is a great deal of tribalism going on in distinct communities. I don’t see how collectively that can be changed but I’m trying to do it individually. To get to know people specifically so we can have a mutually beneficial exchange.

    Re: doubt and “aggressive, obnoxious, and dishonest attempts at “debunking” all paranormal claims strike me as desperate attempt to erase doubt from their own minds.”

    Yes, there are people who are aggressive, obnoxious debunkers. I hate that. There are certain subject which are closed books of stupidity that I can not tolerate – homeopathy, Young Earth Creationism/Biblically literalism, antivaccination. Those things are clear cut but I try not to disrespect the person because there may be legitimate personal reasons for them to have invested in that belief. I will debunk only if there is bunk there to begin with. I don’t think I agree with the “erasing doubt”. I can’t speak for everyone but myself. But that’s not me.

    Re: skeptics see SCIENCE is the only legitimate source of knowledge. “The skeptic’s worldview is all about certainty and control. They cannot tolerate mystery or doubt.”

    Here I have to put my foot down. Science is the best invention by humans in my book. It is THE MOST reliable way of knowing. Religion, revelation, intuition, etc, are all unreliable. Science is so rigorous and attempts to take the subjective out of things that it will get you most closely to reality. There is no doubt about that. But science is also always tentative because more evidence comes along that can refine or overturn the theoretical explanation. That’s why you hear scientists use “weasel words” like “likely” or “probably” or give percentages less than 100%. They never say “here’s proof” they say “here is the best evidence and explanation”. We always are tentative and often just don’t know. So, your statements here are completely wrong.

    “what supernatural forces could exist beyond the reach of science?”

    That makes no sense. Science must have boundaries in order to operate. Those boundaries are natural laws. If something is beyond natural laws (supernatural) then they are beyond the realm of science. But, we’ve never had that ever happen. There is nothing certain and supernatural. (God would be SN but we can’t prove he exists due to the whole above natural law stuff, so it ends up a philosophical issue.)

    “They are intellectually, psychologically, professionally, and emotionally invested in a universe without mystery.”

    I don’t understand this either. If there were no mysteries, there would be no need for science to find out about the world. This makes zero sense. I don’t think you meant to phrase it that way.

    “you have psychological reasons for not believing.”

    And believers have psychological reasons for believing. Our worldview guides how we go about life and interpret the world. So, yes, there is psychological processes. But science tries to remove the subjective ideas in each person. That is why it feels cold and unemotional and it repeated and tentative. It’s also hard to do that but it’s the most accurate. Look at humans now! We can feed billions of people, we live longer than ever, we can prevent and cure diseases that wiped out humans and animals en masse in our history. It makes me queasy when people denigrate science. You are alive today because of it.

  8. Terry: I don’t argue with “kooks”. I know a lost cause when I see it. That’s why I’m busy trying to find people who might actually want to listen, those that I can have some meaningful exchange with. I’m always interested in what pro-paranormal people are doing why they are doing it.

    It’s been most disheartening to me that I try to NOT be the debunker, the meany, grumpy skeptic and STILL get painted as such. But, I get why that happens. I do not get why people have to be personally hurtful and ugly as certain people have been though I suspect my ideas threaten them too much and they just get defensive.

  9. idoubtit: How do you expect to be seen as rational to a person who is not? Many people in that ‘field’ make the ‘evidence’ fit their beliefs. NO amount of logic or facts will dent those minds. It is the only thing they have that makes them relevant.
    Good luck with trying, but your words, to them, are ‘flying-in-the-wind’.

    1. Like I said, I know a lost cause, but I’m not going to assume that everyone is. Some people may find what I say interesting. I don’t really know WHO is listening. But I’m game to put my POV out there. Listen or don’t, whatever. Considering the uphill battle, it’s not been so terrible so far.

  10. Thank you Sharon for addressing for Mike Smith’s comments.

    It drives me nuts to see people dismiss science in such a manner.

    I’m a Bigfooter, first off. I’m one of those people who believe that there is a scientific explanation for what I saw. It might not fit today’s understanding of the universe, and may be long in coming, but, there is still a scientific explanation, none-the-less.

    The best definition for science that I can think of is this: “Science is the best explanation for the world around us given all known and verifiable data.”

    Science can be mistaken. However it is only mistaken in that it doesn’t always have the complete dataset. It can only work with what is verifiable. However, science is a discipline that seeks, by it;s very principle, to disprove itself, and, therefore, correct itself.

    Yes, I’m a Footer. We’re not all crazy.

    1. It’s going on in a big way over at the Bigfoot Show blog. A few just don’t like what I have to say and resort telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  11. As a person who actually has sat in the woods, had revelations, mulled them carefully, and tucked them away, I’ll say this about that. The woods are only so big. A Bigfoot would have to scarf up every bit of evidence of itself, ( feces, hair, bones, teeth, et cetera ) hide from a lot of people trying to find him, and breed, all with a very limited number of individuals, and a limited intellect. Not very likely. Flying Saucers ?? Although the galaxy and the universe are very big and very old, the speed of light being a limiting factor as it is, this is also extremely unlikely. There were simply no elements capable of protecting a living being in a journey through space for a very big part of time’s existence, and distances are just too large. Ghosts ?? I suppose that, in the multiverse, universes might “Kiss”, or something, and some glimpse of the “Next” universe over might be evident, but… Come ON !!! When you have to stretch rational thinking and reason to prop up an idea THAT much, I mean, What’s the POINT ?!? Humanity has had a long time to evolve around fuzzy logic and misconceptions. Perhaps, even, in our history, being wrong and misguided was of some assistance to our continuation. Better to be wrong but on the alert than to be lulled into a stupor and snatched by a lion or tiger or bear. Oh My !! But really, if you spend too much time wandering in thought down unproductive paths of non-reality, you’re wasting too much of your time. If you dismiss the horse crap from your thoughts, you might actually be able to come up with an idea that has some real value to it;the way that Darwin did, or any other number of science-loving people did, in the course of human evolution, who, having sat in the woods and had a revelation, came up with a good idea and ran with it, and didn’t get bogged down with some crazy delusion. Also, Sharon : If you actually DO need to kick someone sometime, remember : KNEE to the crotch, and don’t forget the shins and ankles. Dave

  12. Thanks for replying to my comment. Please answer one more question. How would you rank the four major categories of paranormal phenomena according to plausibility? (The categories are cryptozoology, parapsychology, extraterrestrial, and the supernatural.) I ask only out of curiosity. I won’t argue with your responses. I encourage everyone to take my survey. It will take 2 minutes of your time and does not require registration: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GGKXDD7

    1. Mike, FYI you might want to reword (if it isn’t too late) the “most to least.” It becomes clear once one starts assigning, but you might wish to make it clear that 1=most plausible, etc.

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