Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Addresses new and interesting links to other sites (not listed on the Genii website) that merit attention.

Eric Fry
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Eric Fry » August 16th, 2013, 6:49 pm

OK, the title was censored. Just go to http://www.thedailybeast.com

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Michael Kamen
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Michael Kamen » August 16th, 2013, 11:32 pm

Great article about the Skeptics movement, of which Randi and Swiss are exemplars.
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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 17th, 2013, 12:22 am

Skeptics are no better than the people they demonize.
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Eric Fry
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Eric Fry » August 17th, 2013, 2:41 pm

Houdini always made a distinction between religious beliefs, such as belief in the afterlife, and mediums, who used trickery to deceive bereaved people. He didn't quarrel with spiritualism, even, as a religion; only with mediums. And I think he recognized that some people who claimed to contact the dead, such as Lady Doyle, were sincere (but deluded).

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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Jim Maloney » August 17th, 2013, 2:55 pm

Here's a direct link, since this story has been rotated off their front page: http://nswk.ly/13ElVfC
Books and Magazines for sale -- more than 200 items (Last updated January 10th, 2014. Link goes to public Google Doc.)

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Jonathan Townsend » August 17th, 2013, 4:57 pm

Eric Fry wrote:Houdini always made a distinction between religious beliefs, such as belief in the afterlife, and mediums, who used trickery to deceive bereaved people. He didn't quarrel with spiritualism, even, as a religion; only with mediums. And I think he recognized that some people who claimed to contact the dead, such as Lady Doyle, were sincere (but deluded).


Could well be the artificial distinction which taints the view of those who claim to be skeptics yet come across as angry complainers. Saying the prints in the peanut butter are not signs of invisible elephants is one thing... but to say there is no Ganesha is problematic.

IIRC the cusp on the map of right v correct can be found at least as far back as William of Occam's quibble. Likely analogous to a protocol for bluffing in a potlatch ;)
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Michael Kamen
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Michael Kamen » August 17th, 2013, 7:00 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Eric Fry wrote:Houdini always made a distinction between religious beliefs, such as belief in the afterlife, and mediums, who used trickery to deceive bereaved people. He didn't quarrel with spiritualism, even, as a religion; only with mediums. And I think he recognized that some people who claimed to contact the dead, such as Lady Doyle, were sincere (but deluded).


Could well be the artificial distinction which taints the view of those who claim to be skeptics yet come across as angry complainers. Saying the prints in the peanut butter are not signs of invisible elephants is one thing... but to say there is no Ganesha is problematic.

IIRC the cusp on the map of right v correct can be found at least as far back as William of Occam's quibble. Likely analogous to a protocol for bluffing in a potlatch ;)


:applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:
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Eric Fry
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Eric Fry » August 17th, 2013, 11:32 pm

Does that mean you understood what Jonathan said? What did he say?

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Bob Cunningham
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Bob Cunningham » August 18th, 2013, 12:52 am

Eric Fry wrote:Does that mean you understood what Jonathan said? What did he say?



George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I think that Jonathan tries to overcome that illusion by forcing people to puzzle out what he is saying. A dictionary, Wikipedia and thoughtful analysis are usually enough for me to get a sense of what he is saying :-)

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Chas Nigh
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Chas Nigh » August 18th, 2013, 11:19 am

Except for the article, this thread was a complete waste of my time.

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Bill Marquardt
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Bill Marquardt » August 18th, 2013, 11:32 am

I shall interpret Jonathan's post for you:

"Skeptics are no better than the people they demonize."

Unless, of course, they are not really bluffing in the potlatch.

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Michael Kamen
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Michael Kamen » August 18th, 2013, 6:28 pm

I liked Jon's post because it introduced me to words that are part of the English language, interesting in sound, that I do not recall hearing before. That he was able to use them in a coherent sentence that expressed an opinion about the subject at hand, was to me impressive.

No attempt to paraphrase here: Jon uses metaphor to describe Houdini's "skeptic" position as (I will call it) ironic.
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Bill Mullins
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Bill Mullins » August 18th, 2013, 8:15 pm

Michael Kamen wrote: That he was able to use them in a coherent sentence


Neither the first sentence nor the last had a subject, and the last had no verb.

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Michael Kamen
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Michael Kamen » August 18th, 2013, 9:02 pm

I am not a grammar cop, but I found subject and verb to be inferred. Dunno. Could have misread and stand ready to be corrected.
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Bill Mullins
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Bill Mullins » August 18th, 2013, 9:59 pm

I was able to infer them, as well (I think). But why should I have to guess at a statement's meaning? That's the point -- the English language is meant to communicate, and when used properly, can communicate at a very high level, with specificity and clarity. Two separate readers (Marquardt and Kamen) took his post to mean different things, and I don't necessarily agree with either interpretation.

I often get the impression that JT has something very interesting to say, but intentionally obfuscates himself.

For example: "to say there is no Ganesha is problematic". I'm fairly well read, but I'd never heard of Ganesha until now (apparently Ganesha is a Hindu god). So his allusion is lost on me (and would be lost on most readers outside of the subcontinent) -- as far as I'm concerned, there is no Ganesha, so saying so isn't particularly problematic.

For example: "the cusp on the map". "Cusp" has several meanings, but most are something like "point". Maps are flat, and don't have points. ???

For example: "right v correct". "Right" and "correct" can be synonyms; why would they be in opposition? And if Jon is using them in other senses, such that they aren't synonyms, it's difficult to resolve his ambiguity so that a reader understands his point.

For example: "protocol for bluffing at a potlatch". I'm not familiar enough with potlatches to know in what way bluffing occurs at them (I thought they were a tribal gathering, with a lot of food and communing). That being the case, what a protocol for it would be is far beyond me, so to say that something is analogous to it turns what might be a springboard for further discussion into a head-scratcher.

Jonathan's posts sometimes (often?) are buried in obscurity so deep that rather than being able to take his clear meaning, I first have to figure out what the words he uses mean directly (dictionary and wikipedia); then figure out how he's using them (what do his metaphors refer to?); then figure out what he means. Wouldn't it simply be easier to say "Houdini's skeptic position is ironic"?

I rag on Jonathan a fair amount, and I probably shouldn't. If I wasn't interested in what I think he's trying to say, and if I thought he didn't care deeply about magic, it would be much easier to ignore him. As it is, I get frustrated when I engage him directly, and confused when I try to follow him. This manifests as "grammar cop" sometimes, and sometimes I say things that aren't as fraternal and collegial as I hope we would be if we were speaking together in person.

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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Jonathan Townsend » August 18th, 2013, 10:12 pm

Footprints in the peanut butter is a callback to a children's elephant joke about knowing if you've got elephants going into your refrigerator... with a nod to the footprints in the sand item as we are walking around a delicate matter. Ganesha is an aspect of divinity in some cultures which presents as having some aspects of an elephant. Change Ganesha to some other divine figure if you need - I often use Lovecraft mythos examples. Go ahead and use the M word if you dare.

Grammar time:
Subject first sentence: that distinction we accept in social dialog, the distinction made by Houdini and others in our society. Subject in last sentence: that distinction (which I hold to be an inconsistency) again. It's the topic of the post.

Logos: How do we decide what is "right" in social context? Sometimes it comes to argument and appeal to values. Sometimes we ask others to change their position and some of those values or levels of accepted authority. Potlatch is a dialog of sorts where opponents demonstrate their willingness to forgo some items of value in demonstration of how much they hold the matter in question to be of value. Potlatch or order of trumps in dialog might be a novel idea for some here. Consider a set nested frames of things we agree to value with some being more important and general to what we value and expect of eachother in our society. For example: soda preference is usually treated as less important as a social value or distinction than liking blondes vs brunettes...but per Swift we don't discuss which side of the egg to open.
Then we get the idea of a bluff in potlatch - example even if we don't like some card tricks and argue against something we see in card tricks we don't expect anyone to really give up card tricks, do we?

The cusp ... Rene Thom idea - consider a Cartesian grid with axes "right" and "correct". We'd like for that to be a flat plane and put things in their place. Similarly we'd like to believe we can move things around in that plane and have them only change a little as they move a little. But that's not always the case. When there's a cusp on the plane it's as if the map were bent and flexed around a point into a surface that (simplest case) has two levels and a strange overlap region. When you approach on one side you are at one level and from the other you are on another level. Catastrophe for civil discourse as we consider matters where the specific case gets close to that cusp.

Hope that helps (me look like a babbling idiot?) :)

Jon
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Michael Kamen
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby Michael Kamen » August 18th, 2013, 11:11 pm

Bill -- JT has an extraordinary mind -- sometimes he gets carried away. I often enjoy the game of trying to decode him, if I have the time. At other times I just ignore. Everything you said seems very human and understandable. It takes a lot of work -- there is reward in learning something new, when we have the time -- I appreciate his eccentricity. This particular one came fairly easily since I am long familiar with Ganesh. Had to look up potlatch, and that turns out to be a very interesting reference (to me anyway).

Thank you JT.
Michael Kamen

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erdnasephile
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Re: Skeptics including Randi & Swiss

Postby erdnasephile » August 19th, 2013, 9:41 am

I like reading JT.

Is he obscure? Many times, yes. Are his references sometimes a little too obscure for me? Yes. On balance though, he's a fun read.

(I recall back in the heyday of "Parallax", similar complaints were lodged against Max.)


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