Author Topic: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole  (Read 11599 times)

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Offline Ah.hell

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Art Bell and coast to coast were certainly influential on my road to skepticism, I was a night security guard for years.   Its fascinating to see how the other side thinks.  I will never forget the moment when a guest said, "...Pasteur's debunked germ theory of disease...." as an aside that went completely unnoticed by the host.  I almost did a spit take.

Really opened my eyes to the notion that folks could believe things that are so completely wrong about things that I thought pretty much everyone agreed about.

Then there's things Like Mel's Hole, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel%27s_Hole, some random dude crank calling Bell over years.  No idea if Bell realized it was all BS or not, but he never let on that he did. 

Side note, its also the first place I heard Seth Shostak and Michio Kaku speak.  I have a hard time taking either seriously as a result.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2017, 11:38:08 AM by Ah.hell »

Online John Albert

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The Coast to Coast AM shows leading up to and then following the Hale-Bopp/Heaven's Gate incident are quite instructive about the dangers of allowing pseudoscience to go unchallenged, even when it seems obviously silly.

Up until that point I had been enjoying Art Bell's presentation as something of a wink-and-a-nod romp through the world of the unabashedly weird. This was before the rise of Alex Jones on right-wing AM radio, so it all seemed like mostly harmless fun. Sure it was sensationalistic and often heavyhanded, but I chalked that up to the inherent risk of the kind of show that just put stuff out there and let the chips fall where they may. Sure it was cringeworthy to listen to Father Malachi Martin sensationalizing the practice of exorcism, or some poor unwitting NASA science educator being verbally ripped to shreds with conspiracy accusations by a rabid kook like Whitley Strieber. But Art Bell was a consummate showman who really knew how to present a radio show. Most of the time he maintained a good tonal balance between the wondrous and the spooky, the outrageous and the silly. And there were genuine moments of truly great radio. Stories like Mel's Hole, "Madman" Markham's time machine, the panicked call from an anonymous Area 51 whistleblower, taking calls from the world's most remote phone booth in the middle of the Mojave desert; it was amazing to hear these myths unfolding in real time at 3AM every weeknight.

But after the Heaven's Gate suicides, the show took a very dark turn from which it never properly recovered. The heat he took from the Hale-Bopp broadcasts was probably undeserved. There was no way of knowing that some weird death cult was listening to his show every night and taking it all very seriously. Art Bell had always been genial with his guests regardless how nutty they came off, but the shows after that were strained. The quality of his guests changed. No longer was he giving a voice to any old weirdo with a crazy story. The bizarre gave way to the unscrupulous. Suddenly it turned boringly commercial, every guest being some woo-woo author trying to pitch their latest book.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 06:43:58 PM by John Albert »

Offline Beleth

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Art Bell and coast to coast were certainly influential on my road to skepticism,

Mine too. I used to often drive down the California coast later at night than I care to admit, and Coast To Coast AM was one of the few things worth listening to on the radio. I found one topic that I couldn't just debunk on my own (reverse speech), so I started searching for more information online, which led me to one of Randi's Swift articles that mentioned it. He dismissed it with a scoff and a wave; I found that unsatisfying, but I was hooked on Randi's writing style. I decided to become a forum member there, then a forum member here, then the forum mod here, etc. etc. etc.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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I've tried and I just cannot make it through this whole thread.  I don't pay any attention to Milo, but it is distressing to me that Skeptic Magazine seems to supporting him, or at least not being very critical of his views.  I mean, if I'm going to read a book review in a magazine labelled "Skeptic" then I'm going to want to see some skepticism, not just an uncritical rephrasing of it that I could find anywhere. 

All that aside, I find the idea of distancing myself from the "skeptic" label, ever, laughable.  If every other person in this world who calls themself a skeptic is a racist, homophobic, sexist, violent waste of human life I will still identify as a skeptic.  The reasons are that the label is accurately applied to me, as a skeptic I'm fairly pedantic, and those qualities it describes in me and what I strive to be like are qualities that I value as most critically important to forming my worldview.  Don't get me wrong, the fact that the skeptic label has in some cases become associated with things I find disgusting bothers me quite a bit, but that is a separate issue.

I agree with you. "Skeptic" and "atheist" are about the only two labels I'm fully comfortable to associate or identify with. I guess you can add "secularist" to that as well. I don't identify with any political ideology or political party. And here I don't really count purely descriptive labels that I happened to be born with, like "Swede", "European", "male" etc, I'm only counting intellectual labels.

Steve has explained on various occasions why it's important to identify as a skeptic, and I agree with that reasoning.

And I agree that we should be concerned when bad things happen within the skeptical community.
"I appear as a skeptic, who believes that doubt is the great engine, the great fuel, of all inquiry, all discovery, and all innovation" - Christopher Hitchens

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole
« Reply #244 on: September 03, 2017, 06:09:27 PM »
This was not on my radar, but back in February, Michael Shermer tweeted the following:

Quote from: Michael Shermer
Why Skepticism Is Important. My dialogue with Stefan Molyneux, one of the most articulate podcasters for reason.

(Don't forget to look at the comments to that tweet. And full disclosure, I haven't listened to the conversation between Shermer and Molyneux.)

So who is Stefan Molyneux? Let's take a look: Michael Shermer endorses popular alt-right Youtuber Stefan Molyneux

Quote
Many people are likely unaware of who Stefan Molyneux is and I can only say that those people are very fortunate. I came across his videos after they were repeatedly shared and endorsed by an old university friend who has fallen deeply down the alt-right rabbit hole. According to Stefan, he is the host of the world’s largest and most popular philosophy show on YouTube. But anyone who spends any time watching his videos will quickly notice a distinct lack of philosophical content and an absolute abundance of partisan alt-right political and social commentary.

The self-proclaimed ‘world’s most popular philosopher’ currently devotes most of his time to defending Donald Trump, criticising the omnipresent bogeymen of the alt-right: social justice warriors and political correctness and issuing heavily skewed click bait hit pieces on celebrities and notable historical figures (‘the Truth about Robin Williams/Martin Luther King/Trump’). Recently he has also began to flirt with IQ and ‘race realism’ content (i.e. black people are genetically less intelligent), increasing his appeal amongst the far-right and White supremacists and resulting in one ex-guest decrying “a libertarian icons descent into racist pseudoscience“. Shermer thus joins a prestigious line of recent ‘featured interviewees’ on Stefan’s show which includes Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulous, Mike Cernovich, Paul Joseph Watson, Gavin McInnes, and so on. (Notice any pattern?)

But wait, there’s more. Stefan isn’t just your run of the mill alt-right bobble head. No, in a previous life (i.e. just prior to the current election), Stefan was better known for promoting his own brand of libertarian anarcho-capitalist, combined with a kind of quasi-Freudian psychoanalysis that attributes any and all problems with the world, or his follower’s lives, to their ‘abusive’ upbringing (and women in general). Stefan even gained some infamy a few years back for his advocacy of the practice of deFOOing – a euphemism he invented for cutting contacts with all friends and family if they didn’t share your anti-state views.

See also the discussion on Reddit Skeptic.

Now, unlike quite a lot of people, I'm not really bothered by Michael Shermer being a libertarian. I'm not a libertarian myself (though I have some libertarian tendencies and sympathies), but I don't think being a libertarian or leaning that way is inherently incompatible with being a skeptic.

But this alt-right stuff is different, in my view. I am troubled if prominent skeptics are being associated with that political faction. And in Shermer's case, it's just the top of the iceberg. He is on record as endorsing Sam Harris' meta-ethical philosophy (which has been debunked many times over), and then I haven't even mentioned the Big Thing we all have heard about...

I have seen it stated that Why People Believe Weird Things is one of the seminal tomes of skepticism, very highly rated and well-liked (even if it might fall a bit short of Sagan or Randi in popularit). I haven't read that book, but I have planned on doing it at some point. However, the more shit its author seems to be up to, the less I feel like doing it. What do you guys think?
"I appear as a skeptic, who believes that doubt is the great engine, the great fuel, of all inquiry, all discovery, and all innovation" - Christopher Hitchens

Offline Redamare

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Re: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole
« Reply #245 on: September 03, 2017, 08:18:43 PM »
Well, if Shermer is really chugging the Molyneaux Kool-Aid, we no longer need to worry whether or not to accept him as a skeptic given the allegations of assault. He's gone full nut-bag.
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Online John Albert

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Re: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole
« Reply #246 on: September 05, 2017, 06:45:13 AM »
What a loser. Fuck Shermer.

Offline Jeremy's Sea

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Re: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole
« Reply #247 on: September 05, 2017, 05:18:11 PM »
I have seen it stated that Why People Believe Weird Things is one of the seminal tomes of skepticism, very highly rated and well-liked (even if it might fall a bit short of Sagan or Randi in popularit). I haven't read that book, but I have planned on doing it at some point. However, the more shit its author seems to be up to, the less I feel like doing it. What do you guys think?
It's one of the few "skepticism" books I have ever read. It's pretty good, if not a little dated by now. Though if Shermer is falling in with the alt-right it should make for interesting bedfellows, as I recall a fairly heavy portion of that book was devoted to Holocaust denialism and his efforts against that.
Skepticism is now having its period of hard reflection as it grows, but can we shed the alt-right nonsense as easily as the misguided A+ debacles? This is where we are seeing the true fallout from the demographics and representation issues this "movement" has been warned about for the last decade (or more).
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole
« Reply #248 on: September 05, 2017, 05:40:46 PM »
Skepticism is now having its period of hard reflection as it grows, but can we shed the alt-right nonsense as easily as the misguided A+ debacles?

We don't yet know what Shermer's position on the alt-right is. It is disturbing enough that he hails Molyneux as a "podcaster for reason", but as long as he hasn't actually made any statement on his behalf what his views are, we should be careful in lumping him in there. It would however be interesting to see him clarify his position.

As for the movement as a whole, I'm less worried. Has anyone besides Michael Shermer walked even remotely as near the alt-right territory as he has?

(No, Richard Dawkins has not.)
"I appear as a skeptic, who believes that doubt is the great engine, the great fuel, of all inquiry, all discovery, and all innovation" - Christopher Hitchens

Online D4M10N

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Re: SKEPTIC magazine continues skepticism's descent into a dark, sad, bigoted hole
« Reply #249 on: September 05, 2017, 09:59:14 PM »


Skepticism is now having its period of hard reflection as it grows, but can we shed the alt-right nonsense as easily as the misguided A+ debacles?

Just exactly as easily. Relationships will be severed, activist groups riven by schism.

Offline BTS

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eh, you can't control how people label themselves. Climate change deniers call themselves "climate skeptics" and this absolutely harms the skeptical movement. We can't stop them from using the term, but we can ensure that we don't engage in any teach-the-controversy bullshit like Skeptic magazine did with The Bell Curve.

If Skeptic magazine continues what it appears to be doing (I've only seen a few instances and it's always possible those are outliers) they can be marginalized, and not just by individuals canceling supscriptions. It's not hard to make it the kiss of death to publish an article in their mag for example, as far as invites to speak at cons and on podcasts (and thus promote their own work). It really depends on how far you want to go, and this is absolutely up to a podcast or con or individual. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences; no one is obligated to have you on their platform.

Milo was effectively blacklisted by the MSM for his pederasty comments, and then Skeptic magazine decides to publish what is essentially a defense of Milo's worldview (at least in part). My response would be to blacklist Skeptic magazine going forward, and anyone who continues to be willing to contribute. If "Skeptic" magazine is no longer skeptical, or is otherwise abhorrent, skeptics should be as wary of writing for them as they would be for Stormfront.

It's not impossible, though it is always going to be a constant fight. Someone is always going to be shitting in the pool, while proclaiming it the bestest most skeptical shit ever. We don't have to invite "Bill Cosby" to speak at our cons or speak on our podcasts either.

Apparently, skepticism means only discussing certain topics from a progressive pre-ordained perspective.  The proper policy to deal with AGW is an extremely complex issue, surely we don’t believe that there are no issues to be discussed and dissected. It seems to be more harmful to skepticism when there is a set of politically approved conclusions that need to be protected by calling anyone with a question or a challenge a denier.   Do you seriously consider holocaust denial equivalent to criticism of policy options around AGW?   

The best criticism of I have seen of the Bell Curve is why would anyone even bother researching the topic as it will only lead to misunderstanding and misuse of the findings (Unfortunately, its analysis seems to hold up).  It seems disingenuous to place far too much emphasis on race (i.e. white privilege) and then howl with indignation when someone continues with this collectivist viewpoint in research on IQ distributions.  Treat everyone as individuals, with no prejudice seems to be the real answer rather than trying to parse everything in a racial framework.  Bigots exist, they are awful, call them out,  don't join them by using race as a determinant of import or culpability.
 
Milo is an intellectual light-weight.  His positions are not well thought out and his arguments are weak.  Give him the attention he has earned, none.  It should be exceedingly simple to refute his drivel, do so and move on.  It would do Milo more harm for ~20 dolts to show up for his presentations than to have the outcry and banning that powers pathetic conspiracy theories.  He is a provocateur, don’t be moths that succumb to his 6W bulb.

Online John Albert

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Apparently, skepticism means only discussing certain topics from a progressive pre-ordained perspective.

No, that's not what "skepticism" means at all, nor is it what the "Skeptic movement" is about.

The movement is about promoting science literacy, critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning; to a lesser extent, it's about identifying and criticizing pseudoscience.


The proper policy to deal with AGW is an extremely complex issue, surely we don’t believe that there are no issues to be discussed and dissected. It seems to be more harmful to skepticism when there is a set of politically approved conclusions that need to be protected by calling anyone with a question or a challenge a denier.

But denialism of a scientifically-validated fact is not a valid conclusion, regardless of your opinion about what is or isn't "politically approved."

The science comes first, and political opinions should be determined from there. Doing it the other way round only serves the interests of dishonest political actors.


The best criticism of I have seen of the Bell Curve is why would anyone even bother researching the topic

Really? How much criticism have you actually read about The Bell Curve?

Because of all the stuff I've read about it over the past 20 some odd years, the idea that we should just flat out refrain from doing research is among the worst premises I've ever heard about anything.

Adverse reactions to the pernicious claims in The Bell Curve have inspired lots of new research, which in turn spawned several entirely new fields of study into the nature of intelligence. That flourish of academic response is testament to its importance as an object lesson about how sociology should not be done.


(Unfortunately, its analysis seems to hold up).

That would depend on which analyses you're talking about. Some of the analyses in that book are clearly faulty, and others have shed light on some glaring flaws in the intelligence evaluation methods on which we'd come to rely.


It seems disingenuous to place far too much emphasis on race (i.e. white privilege) and then howl with indignation when someone continues with this collectivist viewpoint in research on IQ distributions.

White privilege is not really about "putting emphasis on race." It's an observation of the cultural consequences of institutional racism. 


Treat everyone as individuals, with no prejudice seems to be the real answer rather than trying to parse everything in a racial framework.  Bigots exist, they are awful, call them out,  don't join them by using race as a determinant of import or culpability.

Except for the fact that nobody can really treat everyone equally without prejudice. Numerous cognitive psychology studies have revealed that we are all racist to some extent. Refusal to acknowledge racism as an ongoing systemic problem is one of the most insidious expressions of racism. 
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 03:32:56 PM by John Albert »

Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Apparently, skepticism means only discussing certain topics from a progressive pre-ordained perspective.  The proper policy to deal with AGW is an extremely complex issue, surely we don’t believe that there are no issues to be discussed and dissected. It seems to be more harmful to skepticism when there is a set of politically approved conclusions that need to be protected by calling anyone with a question or a challenge a denier.   Do you seriously consider holocaust denial equivalent to criticism of policy options around AGW?   

The best criticism of I have seen of the Bell Curve is why would anyone even bother researching the topic as it will only lead to misunderstanding and misuse of the findings (Unfortunately, its analysis seems to hold up).  It seems disingenuous to place far too much emphasis on race (i.e. white privilege) and then howl with indignation when someone continues with this collectivist viewpoint in research on IQ distributions.  Treat everyone as individuals, with no prejudice seems to be the real answer rather than trying to parse everything in a racial framework.  Bigots exist, they are awful, call them out,  don't join them by using race as a determinant of import or culpability.
 
Milo is an intellectual light-weight.  His positions are not well thought out and his arguments are weak.  Give him the attention he has earned, none.  It should be exceedingly simple to refute his drivel, do so and move on.  It would do Milo more harm for ~20 dolts to show up for his presentations than to have the outcry and banning that powers pathetic conspiracy theories.  He is a provocateur, don’t be moths that succumb to his 6W bulb.

Do you have any specific examples of anything you'd like to discuss?
If global warming is real then how come I just felt this chill down my spine?

Offline Sawyer

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You guys know when someone bumps an old thread, you are allowed to just ignore them, right?  Even if they have a mildly interesting point, maybe another trip down Bell Curve Avenue isn't actually very productive for any of the active members here?  (especially when a major conclusion in this thread appears to be that we should let Skeptic magazine slowly fade into obscurity)


Offline BTS

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I don't read Skeptic magazine.  I do listen to the Skeptics Guide. 

What I am most disturbed about in this so called skeptical forum, is that only evidence or analysis from the sources that fit a particular political bent are valid.  AGW is scientifically valid?  Beyond the claim that man-made CO2 causes increased forcing that will tend to raise the temperature, what claim is iron clad?  Is an ECS of 3.4 K iron clad?  Is the bountiful wonder of a Carbon Tax iron clad?  Global Warming seems to be the one topic that even left leaning people I would consider open to a diverse discussion (like Sam Harris or Bret Weinstein) will fall in lock step with the leftist viewpoint, apparently a religious tenet to horrible to even question.

You can't even have a discussion here.  My politically motivated analysis trumps your politically motivated analysis. 

The degree of political homogeneity and its policing by the self anointed moral police is disappointing.  Sorry I don't hover around this site in order to be considered timely with my input.
 Unintended or not, the result will be closing another hole in your Echo Chamber lest my unenlightened perspective soil the floor.  The regressive left has succumbed to the same self-serving belief in their absolute moral authority that turned many people off about the religious right.  I will leave you to swim in your ideological pool of purity and unburden your lifeguards of watching for moral degenerates like me.  Maybe Heterodox Academy will be a place where a real discussion can take place.

Just because you understand the concept of motivated reasoning doesn't mean you are immune; of course neither am I.

 

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