Sunday, 20 May 2012

highlights from lawrence torcello's "the trouble with pseudoskepticism"

skeptical inquirer, vol. 36, no. 3 | may/june 2012

"science advances through efforts to disprove hypotheses, even when hope is held for their confirmation. this is described well by philosopher karl popper:
whenever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, practice this precept
criticism will be fruitful only if we state our problem as clearly as we can and put our solution in a sufficiently definite form--a form in which it can be critically discussed.

this makes me think of the mormon doctrine (DC 132:18):
"my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God"

is it? or is it a house of non-testable, unwarranted claims?

"The efforts Popper describes are reflected in standard scientific practices, such as repeated and controlled experimentation, the publication of findings only after peer-reviewed critique, and the requirement that such findings be presented openly so that other researchers may attempt to replicate and independently confirm or reject them under the same rigorous constraints. Indeed, all of this is a necessary prerequisite for any findings to take on a meaningful level of scientific acceptance, let alone consensus. A scientific theory becomes accepted as such only once the laws observed, findings predicted, and facts organized under that proposed theory have been so rigorously tested and confirmed over time that it becomes highly implausible (if nevertheless logically possible) that the stated theory should ever be refuted. Any scientific theory as a whole will represent the accumulated and organized explanatory force of numerous repeatedly tested data points. Thus skeptical critique is necessarily and inextricably part and parcel of the scientific process."

this made me wonder, what is a scientific law then?
"A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observation that describes some aspect of the world. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements
Laws differ from scientific theories in that they do not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: they are merely distillations of the results of repeated observation"

back to the article:
"while scientists are busy attempting to disprove a favored hypothesis and guarding themselves against the ever-present danger of confirmation bias, pseudoscientists actively seek confirming evidence for what they have already deemed to be the case.
to call oneself a paranormal investigator (as opposed to an investigator of paranormal to already confess a belief that there is something paranormal to investigate; the pursuit itself begs the essential question"
"truzzi's concern was that skeptics not abandon reasonable agnosticism in favor of a dismissive cynicism. instead, truzzi would have us remain true to the spirit of scientific inquiry by proportioning our beliefs to the strength of evidence available. and when there is no supporting evidence available for a claim, truzzi would have us call that claim unwarranted, rather than disproven."
 "some types of claims, even if true, are beyond the scope of what can be scientifically supported"

"expand upon the concept of pseudoskepticism to include that well-known pseudointellectual performance that involves the rejection of assertions already firmly established through the rigorous scientific process. pseudoskepticism is a form of cynicism posturing as skepticism. it is fatuously premised on the assumption that doubt for doubt's sake is inherently rational--call this the 'cynic's fallacy'. such is obviously not the case when there is strong supporting evidence in favor of a given claim."
this made me think about people who claim things like "well even when X was unanimously accepted by scientists, it was later proven to be false" and wonder when the scientific method really was born, and is there a list of scientific theories supported by a scientific consensus that were later disproved?
yes, this is called superseded scientific theories.

"of course, this is not to argue that one cannot legitimately question scientific consensus; indeed, without constant testing and questioning, science would be in danger of stagnation. scientific inquiry flourishes in the context of open intellectual contest, as evidenced by its skeptical nature."

"pseudoskepticism, alternatively, can be understood in relation to three proppositions put forth by bertrand russell in 'on the value of skepticism':
there are matters about which those who have investigated them are agree; the dates of eclipses may serve as an illustration.
even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.
nevertheless the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. the scepticism that i advocate amounts only to this:
(1) that when the experts are agree, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain;
(2) that when they are not agree, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and
(3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment."
seems rational =)

"russell goes on to argue that if these simple propositions were to be accepted, they would have positive, even revolutionary implications for human life. russell therewith suggests that his skeptical principles have certain moral and social implications."

"[not] every appeal to expertise ought to be considered a fallacious appeal to authority. this is not to say that experts cannot be wrong, but it is always more reasonable to appeal to an expert than a nonexpert when one lacks appropriate expertise. it stands to reason that the more experts agree on a particular topic, the more cause there is for nonexperts to defer to their consensus."

"skepticism is precisely what has established the overwhelming consensus among working climatologists for anthropogenic global warming. to deny the legitimacy of this consensus while claiming to be a skeptic would require an unjustified double standard regarding one's appreciation of the scientific process."

"to call such obdurate denialism 'skepticism' is a gross misnomer that undermines science as well as the potency of genuine skepticism"

"i maintain, with (richard cameron) wilson, that pseudoskepticism is most often a product of ideological motivation rather than of balanced inquiry."

"the burden is upon the researchers to demonstrate their alternative hypothesis within the standard parameters of the scientific process (i.e. empirical research, peer-review, repeated independent replication by other researchers, etc.)"

"a good place to begin learning about anthropogenic global warming is by turning to the intergovernmental panel on climate change
realclimate: climate science from climate scientists
skeptical science: getting skeptical about global warming (pseudo-)skepticism
national center for science education

Saturday, 12 May 2012

my comments on the LDSPublicAffairs' video "political neutrality"


it is fun to see how carefully the church PR people choose their words.

here's the transcript with my comments (what are yours?):
"the COJCOLDS is neutral when it comes to comes to party politics"

the keyword is "is", as in "right now". but has the church always been neutral? what about prop8, prop22, ERA, etc?

"simply put, its mission is to preach the gospel of jesus christ, not elect candidates"

this is a straw man/distraction. no one is saying that the *mission* is to elect candidates. however, this doesn't mean that the church doesn't try to influence its members to vote for mormon-doctrine-friendly candidates.

"so just what does political neutrality mean? let's take a closer look. political neutrality means that the church does not engage in party politics, endorse candidates or try to influence them"

notice how they only use the word "candidates". it should be "politicians". political neutrality covers more than just *candidates running for office*. does the church try to influence politicians already in office?

"also off limits: the use of church buildings for political events, political messages from the pulpit or using membership lists for fundraising and campaigning. that's without exception, whether they're mormon or not, it makes no difference."

maybe now, but has it always been like this?
(the last sentence i didn't quite understand what the narrarator was talking about.)

"does that mean that mormons don't vote? (partial laughter) hardly! latter-day saints are encouraged to get civically involved. like other citizens, mormons vote during elections, are active in the political process and some may even choose to run (a pavlov's-dog-esque musical triangle ring sound effect) for office. church leader m."

this is a straw man/distraction. seriously? did the church make this video in response to people wondering if mormon's vote? is the sound effect a psychological conditioning to get people to think of romney?

"russell ballard has said this to church members: 'be involved, but don't look to the church as to how to get involved. the civic duty of any latter-day saint, regardless of where they live, including any country they may live in is to be actively involved in the political process. that meaning that they study the issues, they determine what the needs are, as they see it, that they then use their freedom and their agency to vote according to their own conscience. it's very important that good people everywhere are involved in this process.'"

why are church leaders counselling members on civic duties? what does this have to do with their alleged mission, as stated in statement #2? "the civic duty of any latter-day to be actively involved" uses the language of a commandment: "is".

"what about speaking out about community and moral issues if they're not about party politics? of course that's ok. it's a long held right of all religions to have a place in the public square. like many of those faiths, the church may choose from time to time to join the discussion on moral issues that it believes could impact society."

what does "not about party politics" mean? gay marriage, technically, isn't about party politics, i.e. the subject of "party politics". it's about equal rights for homosexuals.

"so in a nutshell, political neutrality means that the church does not back candidates,"

"does not back candidates" doesn't mean they don't speak against candidates. again, there's the usage of "candidates" instead of politicians.

"but mormons as individuals are fully encouraged to participate in the political process, back the causes and candidates of their choice that inspires good government, and on election day, vote according to their conscience."

i.e. members can choose as long as their choices support what the church deems "good government". that the church even uses that phrase implies that they have a definition of "good government"

Friday, 11 May 2012

list of falsifiable, mormon claims

todo: make this list


* obeying the word of wisdom will give you marrow in your bones

list of psychological concepts relating to mormonism

todo: make this list


* conditioning
* brainwashing
* gaslighting

Thursday, 10 May 2012

female genital mutilation is a matter of changing *women's* way of thinking according to sudanese doctor

Sudanese surgeon Nahid Toubia—president of RAINBO (Research, Action and Information Network for the Bodily Integrity of Women) —told the BBC in 2002 that campaigning against FGM involved trying to change women's consciousness: "By allowing your genitals to be removed [it is perceived that] you are heightened to another level of pure motherhood—a motherhood not tainted by sexuality and that is why the woman gives it away to become the matron, respected by everyone. By taking on this practice, which is a woman's domain, it actually empowers them. It is much more difficult to convince the women to give it up, than to convince the men."[25][26] Boyle writes that the Masai of Tanzania will not call a woman "mother" when she has children if she is uncircumcised.[27]

if mothers decide to have their sons circumcised, shouldn't they also circumcise their own vaginal folds?

thanks to Kris Erickson for these comments on circumcision:
I hear the argument "well, it's cleaner" and it makes me cringe. Tell me ladies... how many folds do YOU have down there? Would it be cleaner if we chopped off any of your bits? No. So stop using poor parental hygiene as an excuse to lop things off of little boys. thank you.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

my comments on "Remarks by Bishop Keith B. McMullin to Evergreen International"

here are my comments on this speech given by the second counselor in the presiding bishopric in the mormon church, to evergreen international:
First, far less is known about the causes of same-gender attraction than is claimed to be known. Preliminary findings are touted as proven facts while retractions or contradicting evidence about the same issue receive little, if any, attention. The result is an abundance of untruth and distortions worthy of Isaiah’s warning:
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! . . . [Who] justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! . . . They have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel”(Isaiah 5:20–21, 23, 24; see also 2 Nephi 15:18–24).
homosexuality/same-gender attraction is compared to evil and darkness.
yet the church admits that little is known about the causes of same-gender attraction.

what specifically is "untruth" in this case? please provide some examples. since little is known, how has the church been able to establish the untruth?

Second, the personal well-being of those struggling with same-gender attraction often declines with each so-called public victory for same-sex attraction. Increased public acceptance of same-sex behavior inevitably leads to a diminution of personal, righteous behavior. When sophistry prevails, the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life is obscured. Hence the Savior’s warning: “Enter ye in at the strait gate; . . .Beware of false prophets, [who] come to you insheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:13, 15; see also 3 Nephi 14:13, 15).

it seems again that the church is claiming to know more than the little that is known.
here homosexuals claiming they are good, normal, nice people are really "ravening wolves", out to mortally destroy "the sheep".

For example, the cultural adaptations to same-gender marriage will, in time, make the prospect of eternal marriage and family more difficult to attain.
as in heterosexuals will find it harder to choose to marry heterosexually in a mormon temple because the option of gay marriage is available? is this also an endorsement of homosexuals marrying heterosexually?

Wide acceptance of same-sex attraction will inevitably foster greater deviance from God’s laws.
wide acceptance of same-sex attraction will inevitably foster greater understanding and love between parents and children and relatives and reduce youth suicides.

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9; see also verses 10–11).

nice display of arrogance.

duly appointed and authorized leaders in the Lord’s Church are called upon to counsel and assist those struggling with same-gender attraction. Unlike the world, what these local priesthood leaders do can have an everlasting effect for good on the precious souls seeking their help.
is the church claiming that their lay clergy can cure same-sex attraction? that they are more qualified to deal with complex psychological, emotional and biological issues than licensed healthcare professionals? it seems as if they are:
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. (Boyd Packer)
does the church claim that businessman/"prophet" thomas monson understands human behavior better than e.g. phil zimbardo?

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have reaffirmed that “all human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God
what about people "he created" with both sex organs--a penis and a vagina? or people without sex organs? or conjoined twins? or psychopaths? or mentally retarded? doesn't it seem logically possible that "god" "created" people as homosexuals too? or bisexuals? or asexuals?