The Stupidity of Scientists

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Tom Frame » 01/06/11 02:10 PM

Jon,

Buy the book, read it with a critical eye and let me know what you think.
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Postby Diego » 01/06/11 02:20 PM

Yay scientists!
Remember that Dr. Rhine and others from the academic world have helped mentalists and other related performers to present and sell their acts in our scientific age.

When the crystal ball-gazing turbaned mystic, claiming powers from the Far East, was no longer viable, many mentalists, who would not be booked otherwise, could now be booked and accepted by audiences, by NOT implying anything supernatural about their work, but stating their presentations were demonstrating the amazing untapped powers of the mind, that the scientists at Duke University and others were studying/validating.

ESP was now for smart people, unlike those so ignorant, that they could not understand the amazing potential of the power of the mind.

Celebrate their wonderful work, science is amazing!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/06/11 02:21 PM

Tom Frame wrote:Jon,

Buy the book, read it with a critical eye and let me know what you think.


Tom, if you send me the book I'll read it with an open mind.

I'm about done with the second read of three editions of A. C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future for the "magic - technology" quote project (found the other short story where he may have gotten the line from) - and will have a chance to put that book on top on my reading stack if it arrives in the next couple of weeks.

For now, have a look at the PDF of the guy's paper and let me know what you think.

Jon
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/06/11 02:40 PM

Diego, the experimental setup in Bem's work needs a little tweaking for magical/mental performance work, but I entirely agree. His version of guess which door the volunteer will later hide the marker lends itself readily to our use.

* just found out Mayer's book on Extraordinary Knowing is all of ten dollars. Might pick it up as a goof. Her writing seems more personally engaging that Clarke's so... :)
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 01/06/11 02:48 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: i was expecting a serious tome on research which cost $$$
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Postby Diego » 01/06/11 02:50 PM

In the 1930's, when Koran-The Crystal Seer Supreme, was on trial for mail fraud, beside his legal arguments, Koran's attorney explained to the court, "That the Science of astrology, and of clairvoyance, are regarded as such, around the world."

The judge dismissed all charges and Koran walked.

Science is wonderful!
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Postby erdnasephile » 01/06/11 04:28 PM

I'm listening to the radio now and our local afternoon talk show is discussing this article and inviting anyone who believes in ESP or "special powers" to call in. Should be interesting...

I would encourage everyone to read the study critically for themselves. Look closely at the study design, focusing particularly on sample size, study controls, attempts to eliminate bias, and exactly how large the "effect" was in absolute terms.

Finally, I would suggest looking at the editorial rebuttal that will accompany the article.

To avoid biasing you, I won't give my analysis, but I will say that one of the abilities they studied was the ability to locate porn.

(There...that guarantees at least some of you will read the paper! :grin: )
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Postby Chris Norris » 01/06/11 05:17 PM

Commentary from Jamy Ian Swiss over at randi.org :

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swi ... -that.html
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/06/11 06:39 PM

What's this about boots and titanium necklaces?
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Postby magicam » 01/07/11 02:50 AM

Generally speaking, the track record of scientists who test claimants to paranormal powers is rather checkered.
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Postby Richard Forster » 01/07/11 07:16 AM

There's an interesting paper available ( Why Psychologists Must Change the Way They Analyze
Their Data: The Case of Psi
) available that discusses this. That conclusion is essentially that the use of statistics by psychologists is poor. The paper's abstract ends with the note:

We conclude that Bems p-values do not indicate evidence in favor of precognition; instead, they indicate that experimental psychologists need to change the way they conduct their experiments and analyze their data.
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Postby magicam » 01/07/11 09:12 AM

I predict ...

... that Genii readers will be able to read some commentary on this very subject very soon.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/07/11 10:52 AM

What is the consensus on asserting the existence of such a phenomenon in the discussion section of a paper? One could just as well say that the feng sui of the room permits reversed causality or that some people are attended by porn fairies which tell them where to find porn.

Why the focus on one specific mythology?

Maybe there is a spacetime anomaly encoded into the program they are using to run the tests. Maybe the experimental design summons a poltergeist which affects the random number generator? Again - there are an infinity of possible rationalizations to serve the vanity of the "scientist" out to foist their agenda rather than explore what reality has to offer.
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Postby Jim Riser » 01/07/11 12:49 PM

Jon;
You seem to be a skeptic and seem to be missing the "big picture".

Once these esteemed experts prove the existence of various mental powers, the sales of thumb writers, little note pads (to be held closely to the chest), floating objects, squigglies, rising card decks, etc. will jump.

This is good for the magic business and such research should be supported by those of us in the hoodwinking business. With more sales will come more Genii ad$ thus further increasing sales. It will snowball!

This research could be just what we need to jump start the economy. It would benefit all of us if our esp/mentalist performers managed to become convincing test subjects.

I suggest that we all get behind such valuable research. Come on, Jon, get with the program. If you need a new shiner, let me know.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/07/11 02:29 PM

Look at this silliness I just got in a mass emailing from Alain Nu. He's a nice guy, but when I read this kind of stuff it makes me ill.

As Promised: Alain Nus Predictions for the Year of 2011

I am predicting important and distinctive changes for the better in 2011.

Although its much harder to put predictions into words than one might think, especially because they come from a swirling soup of impressions and interpretations, I have come up with my own format for delivering to you in a useful way the random thoughts that have hit me during this first 7 days of the year.

Below are 11 predictions for 2011. Each impression and vision is put into words to the best of my abilities to be as specific as possible; but I have also added a thought to accompany the first- in the form of advice and guidance you can follow to manifest those concepts in your life (in italics). In fact, Im thinking this advice is so good I am going to try to follow it myself!

Whether the predictions manifest into reality is something we will all have to wait a year to find out. However, I hope you keep in touch with me throughout the year about what YOU see and sense, and let me know what your personal results are with the advice and guidance provided.

One might notice that I refrain from making mention of disasters like earthquakes, wild fires, sinking ships, plane crashes, or terrorist attacks. I feel it is of utmost importance that we should always be mentally aware and prepared to the best of our ability in case a difficult incident should arise, but to focus on such matters, or to invoke fear of it for no good reason is simply not my intention in making predictions.

During uncertain times, its all the more important to remain open minded and open spirited as we make our way through a New Year. I hope these 2011 predictions will inspire you, resonate with you or even just make you wonder

1) Medical science will make significant progress in its understanding of the physical detriments of emotional stress and how to live longer by reducing stress. Consider where you can diminish stress and distress from your surroundings that may invade your mental space.

2) Entrepreneurs and innovators inspired by the recession will surpass public expectation with common-sense approaches employed to create highly efficient machines, effective treatments for common illness, bringing resources to the needy and educating children. Embrace changes in life directions, priorities, and overall patterns as opportunities to build new strengths.

3)An American spacecraft returns from space and is discovered with clues of incomprehensible outside interference that further points to signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life or cosmic communication. Expect the unexpected, and there is nothing to be fearful of.

4)People will Facebook on their TV sets. A universal TV remote control will be sold that allows you to surf the web, watch any movie, download any video game, scroll photograph collections, and make video phone calls and text messages all through your TV set. Consider your own potential to integrate everything you do for a more streamlined lifestyle, and figure in ways to get out more often.

5)While the gulf will continue to be in trouble, scientists will discover compelling evidence of very promising biologically-based cleanup solutions for future use. Something unusual and unexpected, like a prehistoric fish, unknown organism or possible spacecraft, is found in the gulf during this time. More clusters of dying wildlife species are found throughout the year. Be a caretaker for your little part of the planet by reconsidering what you put in your soil, where the foods you eat are grown.

6)The world of spectator sports will realize its need to refocus on safety issues-- for its spectators. Keep your distance where projectiles are involved.

7)More and more highly publicized human interest stories will inspire people around the world to recognize the potential of good in all people. A new spirit of brother helping brother emerges. Steps are taken to reduce purposeless violence. Watch how fast good things come back to you by controlling how you process negativity, and engaging with a personal connection to your community.

8)The health risks of poor lifestyle choices will become impossible to deny, with more people, especially the very young, being plagued by entirely preventable illness. Meanwhile a not-so-healthy but first true weight loss pill will make its debut on the internet and late night TV. Dont ever underestimate the power of three healthy meals a day and a decent amount of rest for self-preservation.

9)For teens now bored with computer games and techno-music, a new hula hoop and neo-Elvis trend will surface among young hipsters. Communicate playfully; sometimes less IS more.

10)New levels of political decorum will need addressing after continued exposure on the internet. Wikileaks was just the beginning. New dimensions of internet journalism will create a new generation of leak-pluggers, contracted internet security experts whose purpose is to protect political and public figures by operating at the highest security level. Be mindful in your discourse with others by being responsible and honest within yourself.

11)2011 is the year of the Rabbit, but it will also prove to be the year of the Brain. The brain will be revealed, more than ever before, to truly have true world-changing potential. Quantum physics begins to be established more prominently as relevant to medicine, psychology, education, exercise, computing, art, and even entertainment. ESP will begin to be more accepted as a real phenomenon. Learn something new this year to really challenge your brain, and it will thank you in exciting and unexpected ways!!

Many of these eleven predictions may appear strange and somewhat fantastic, but truth is stranger than fiction. At any rate, I hope you found them to be entertaining, enjoyable, thought provoking, or even inspiring in some way towards finding some initial footing for the amazing and exciting New Year ahead of us. May all your actions and intentions this year be positive and strong!

Alain Nu 1-7-10
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/07/11 02:38 PM

Yay for number 3!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/07/11 02:52 PM

That's a fine as a note to send to customers if you're doing mentalism. Serves to have them keep you in mind as things happen - sort of a lottery ticket for you.
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Postby Chris Aguilar » 01/07/11 02:55 PM

Nu seems to be channeling Jeane Dixon.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 01/07/11 03:24 PM

No 4 may have had some help with some inside information. One of Nu's TV show consultants is a big wig at a company who has developed a lot of these applications already.
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Postby F.Amílcar » 01/07/11 07:47 PM

"Non comments" but if you would like how advanced are the scientist world except in this manner, can read EL.LIPSE the magazine of Park Research Biomedical from Barcelona. Visit the web: www.prbb.org That must be enough for those who are writing in papers like a journalists fools of their own evidence.

Truly yours,

F. Amlcar Riega.
www.amilkar.com
http://amilkar-cursosdemagia.blogspot.com
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/08/11 02:01 AM

PRBB looks like the sound of a "Bronx cheer."
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Postby Oli Foster » 01/08/11 11:01 AM

I don't think Nu's predictions are bad for punters, harmless fun, as it's not veering into anything more than generally good advice, rather than actual unqualified counselling peddled by 'psychics'. I was at a work party and my boss decided to start a conversation on Derren Brown (got to appreciate considerate humouring). Astonishingly, the consensus was that he has super human powers of suggestion. I bit my tongue and agreed how wonderful he is (which is true, in fairness).

Something only marginally related: I was interested to watch a Penn and Teller special on ITV last night called Fool Us. The premise was that various magicians had to perform before the duo and anyone who could perform something something they couldn't explain won a spot in their act in Vegas.

I think I was stupidly expecting miracles and was therefore disappointed at seeing standard, although quite good (with a particularly good performance from Michael Vincent) magic. They ended up being caught out on technicalities on surmising specific methodology rather than being particularly blown away by something legitimitely inexplicable.

Of course it's just an excuse to televise magic, without it looking like a cliched throwback to Paul Daniels - but it got me thinking, as I had read these posts earlier in the day. Assuming we're open minded and will not rigidly conform to a single world-view in spite of evidence to the contrary (and also accepting that very few of us are actually scientists), what 'evidence' WOULD persuade us of supernatural phenomena?

I think it's got to be more than not being able to explain a particular anomaly. For example, I can't explain how this laptop works. It's something that doesn't occur elsewhere in nature but here I am typing on it - and if I showed it to a tribe unequainted with the joys of microchips and circuitry, they would rightly be astonished by it.

I can also see the argument put in some of these links that not being able to explain an effect does not prove an imagined cause. Like, for example, I can't grasp the concept of time and space starting with the big bang and consequently have no idea of what, if anything, existed BEFORE. Yet, this, to me, does not prove nor necessitate a creator - being one specific explanation that may or may not be right(appreciate religion and science don't necessarily mix). But, as this example is theoretical (for the time being at least) we could attribute any cause and all of our ideas would be equally as valid or invalid without a theory that is, itself, proved by observation, rather than pasted over the cracks (of course, some would say their theory IS proved by observation).

So, if somebody came up to you and said they were psychic (and ignoring our preconceptions as to whether such phenomena actually exists or not), how would they convince you? - and thinking about it deeper, how would you KNOW that the results they achieved were due to the abilities they claimed, as opposed to just being inexplicable? Isn't this just a paradox of science - that knowledge is just based on probability, which is in itself, a best guess?

The problem with probability though is, like a shuffled deck of cards, it doesn't run evenly on a small, human scale and certain, seemingly unlikely, outcomes clump together in places (like when you're accused of 'not shuffling the deck very well') and don't occur at all in others. So, if you're testing something that is supposed to be elusive, rare, and only tangible in effects, how in fact, can we ever know that it exists at all? and what therefore makes something improbable possible?

Is the wind the breath of God?

There I go again...
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/08/11 01:15 PM

So, if you're testing something that is supposed to be elusive, rare, and only tangible in effects, how in fact, can we ever know that it exists at all? and what therefore makes something improbable possible?


The practice of experimental design addresses finding ways to make meaningful measures of things. There are also tools to analyze the collected data to sift out potential factors (try SPSS) for further exploration. I am not so sure it is good practice to use the same data set for both factor analysis and measures of significance for those factors. I was under the impression that the outcomes of factor analysis are suitable for refining the experiment rather than offering evidence to support post hoc hypotheses.
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Postby Diego » 01/08/11 02:04 PM

Yes, those from David Hoy, Rose Dawn, Jeanne Dixon and others knew their predictions would be of interest to their audiences AND good copy for the media of their time.
Kreskin gives his predictions each year, with the media reporting them, always a good news/feature item for them at the beginning of the year.
Jimmy Grippo and others would get publicity by making pronouncements, if not predictions of different things.

Some of Nu's predictions are already happening...number 4: People are already doing facebook and other stuff on their TVs, synced to their Droid smart/cell phones.
Number 8: Questionable diet pills have been hawked for forever. My favorite was the TV commercial for "The DreamAway Pill.".(Voice over for woman sleeping in bed: "What is that woman doing? She is LOSING WEIGHT using the DreamAway Pill! Lose weight while you sleep, order now!)

Science is wonderful!
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Postby Bob Cassidy » 01/09/11 08:48 PM

I agree with Max Maven's earlier post. Also I would mention that Dr. Bem is a long time and highly respected member of the PEA. He is hardly a "shut-eye" nor is he an "idiot scientist."

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And remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future.-Criswell
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/09/11 08:55 PM

I think that any scientist who studies ESP in any form--with any degree of seriousness--is a boob. It's just silliness, and a waste of academic time and money.
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Postby Terry » 01/09/11 09:26 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:I think that any scientist who studies ESP in any form--with any degree of seriousness--is a boob. It's just silliness, and a waste of academic time and money.


Maybe Richard, but there are worse things scientists "study" while wasting our dollars.

The C.I.A. studied ESP, etc. to try and develop a new weapon they could use.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/09/11 09:29 PM

It's entertainment. Like certain "sports". All about the publicity and giving the audience a chance to get excited about something.

Enjoy the show :D
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 10:06 PM

I find it strange that neither the article nor people here know that Daryl Bem is a longtime amateur mentalist/magician. He was a member of the SAM group in Palo Alto CA back in the 1970's. This is the same group and time frame that had as other members Roger Pierre, Ormond McGill, and Byron Walker, and probably eventually Daryl Martinez.

I knew Daryl Bem briefly when I was a teenager then and he was a professor at Stanford. LOL, I just remembered, I did a mentalist routine at the ScoutORama back then. Daryl later told me "I know how you did all of those except for the reading the drawing in the envelope." I told him that routine uses a simple window cut in the back of one of the envelopes and I got it from George Andersons Magic Digest, which was new then.

Anyhow, I keep an open mind. But in this case I'm pretty dubious. 53% is considered a statistically significant improvement over 50% success? For the limited number of trials they did?

Even smart people can make mistakes, or go insane. I hope neither is in the case for Daryls sake. He was a nice guy, and an intelligent man. I recall something about he and his wife doing some intersting studies based on human sexuality.

[later]

aha, found this news article which mentions him doing a cassette prediction at an SAM Houdini Seance, 1977.

[added]

http://topsmag.com/Newest_Tops/?p=637
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/09/11 10:16 PM

Even smart people can make mistakes, or go insane. I hope neither is in the case for Daryls sake. He was a nice guy, and an intelligent man. I recall something about he and his wife doing some intersting studies based on human sexuality.

[later]

aha, found this news article which mentions him doing a cassette prediction at an SAM Houdini Seance, 1977.


Wow, gonna be hard to beat that.
This may win the non-sequitor award for 2011.

Are you a writer for the Fox show Family Guy?

Or maybe he predicted getting a specious paper on psychic phenomena published and discussed in the New York Times?
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 10:24 PM

LMAO. Jonathan, I was waiting to see if you were going to psyically intuit the link I was thinking of :)

Here it is:
http://topsmag.com/Newest_Tops/?p=637
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 10:29 PM

"The C.I.A. studied ESP, etc. to try and develop a new weapon they could use."

Yes, and gov't research into exactly the kind of experiment Daryl Bem describes was funded by a gov't agency at least through the 1980's.
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 10:42 PM

Here's the Jonathan TOwnsend approved version of my post:

"I knew Daryl Bem briefly 35 years ago and he's a skilled amateur magician as well as being a very smart guy. And a nice guy to boot."
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/09/11 10:47 PM

How sweet, you must miss booting him.

It's gonna be a tough year in the non-sequitor category.
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 10:50 PM

It's nice that I can lead in something :)
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Postby Brad Henderson » 01/09/11 10:59 PM

When I read lines like these"Bems claims (after, of course, we accumulate enough failed replications)" and "And so, as we wait for the sun to settle on failed replications, and watch as parapsychology eventually moves on to its next ephemeral and oh-so-temporary claim of the day" from Jamy's article, it makes me doubt the sincerity of the alleged "skeptic". It seems to me a skeptic wouldnt say something like that. That's the language of a believer.

Likewise the notion that the results are until the mechanism is defined (or further study should be discouraged until it seems) resonates with a similar frequency to the protestations of the pious who try to dismiss science because "we dont know how (insert big idea) happened."

I would think skeptics would be thrilled at the thought that a solid scientific experiment (not saying this was one) revealed evidence of any kind that could lead to further study.

Unless they are more interested in 'their side' than the truth.

Having said that, I consider myself a skeptic. But I don't have all the answers. Which I think is a requirement for the title.

As Bob Neale observed, "a believer believes one thing, a skeptic many".
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 11:11 PM

Wise words indeed Brad. I too am a skeptic. I'm more likely to believe in a case like this that the testers could detect after images on the screen, or hear disk acess clicking differently, or simply a bad random number generator was used. But, since it doesn't hurt me one way or another, I keep an open mind.

At the risk of being accused of non sequitor again by the local oracle, so much of the overlap between "psychic" workers and magicians reeks of irony. Randi's life is modelled after that of Houdini's (magician first/escape artist, then psychic debunker.) If Randi had a follower as Houdini had Conan Doyle, no doubt Randi would be accused of being a reincarnated Houdini. When I was a little up and coming magic bratling I followed the same path, anxious to inform my friends about how carny cames were unwinnable, or how cold reading was how the palm reader my mom went to probably got her info. It didn't take much introspection on my part to realize that this wasn't so much about me wanting to make the world a better place as it was me wanting go show everyone how much smarter I was than them. I may be projecting, but I think that's the big beef magicans have with many psychics: jealousy.

I'm not talking about the readers who rip old ladies off of their life savings; I'm talking about readers who make money by doing sittings for a fee/donation.

..back to trying to find my copy of Websters so I can find out what "non sequitor" means...
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/09/11 11:12 PM

IMHO such papers are a boon for several parties including those who wish to duplicate the experiment and those who wish to learn enough to understand the statistical methods used in going from data to conclusions.
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Postby Robert Allen » 01/09/11 11:16 PM

/batter up!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/10/11 12:10 AM

Grown up rational adults seem really foolish to me when discussing ESP or any other ridiculous supernatural idiocy. It's just a waste of time.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 01/10/11 12:47 AM

It may be. But it seems hypocritical for those claiming to be skeptics to evaluate a claim with minds fully closed. Im sure some claimed those who thought flight possible were engaging in idiocy. Sometimes the universe has more bits than we imagined. Sometimes not. There are those who believe there are. There are those who believe there arent. Should a skeptic be either?

(even Dawkins won't say that he knows with certainty that there isn't a god. As a good scientist he knows he can't. Sadly those on the other side of the issue read too much into his intellectual honesty, which is unfortunate. But I respect him for avoiding hypocrisy with his position.)
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