A Revealing Hyperskeptic Placard in Mid-preparation Soon to be Deployed in Some Anonymous City Near You

A Revealing Hyperskeptic Placard in Mid-preparation Soon to be Deployed in Some Anonymous City Near You

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The genius composer and iconoclast Frank Zappa once remarked that there should be a billboard in every city that says, “I doubt it.” The hard-boiled atheist that he was, he crystallized the job of the (hyper)skeptic well. All that is required is every time someone claims something, just say “I don’t believe that” or “I doubt it”. One of us Christian apologists might spend hours researching into a question one such skeptic has, looking at multiple explanations and multiple refutations, then considerately and sincerely present the results to such a person. They then merely need to say, “I don’t believe it” or “I doubt it” and continue along their way, oblivious not only to the work a Christian apologist just put into their question, but also to the fact that somebody probably asked it long before they did.

What is made apparent pretty soon is that the problem isn’t the amount of evidence for a claim (Can you ever have all the evidence for anything?), it’s a question of presuppositions. This in itself is interesting since arguing about a point entails that you think it is significant or worthwhile. However, I find that some consider the points they argue with such fervor so insignificant that one is confused on why they are hard-pressed to argue their point.

Thankfully, many legal systems don’t operate the way hyperskeptics do. Jurors the world over are pressed not to focus merely on what is possible (since everything is, really), but on what is reasonable. And that is the true enemy of the hyperskeptic who seems content to maintain their skepticism in spite of the evidence and the unreasonableness of their conclusions.

A perfect example is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What have been the alternative explanations given to explain the evidence we have?

For nearly 2,000 years people have provided answers for objections to the explanation that best fits the facts, even as early as the second century in the works of Origen. “Jesus was a copy-cat myth. Jesus was this. Jesus was that.” As the pitifully (or intentionally?) lazy director, Peter Joseph, of the Internet video sensation Zeitgeist have proven, some skeptics aren’t at all interested in having their questions answered. They are content with promoting a type of hyperskepticism that serves their presuppositions and is impervious to any previous history.

Beware that this sort of incurable skepticism will make its way to a city near you… if it isn’t already there.

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14 thoughts on “A Revealing Hyperskeptic Placard in Mid-preparation Soon to be Deployed in Some Anonymous City Near You

  1. Yet it’s amazing how these self-proclaimed “skeptics” never seem to display any doubt (and basic critical thinking skills) when it comes to evolution and other State-sanctioned beliefs.

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    • That’s because they know they’re right and everyone else is wrong, especially Christians! Didn’t you get the memo?! :)

      The thing that seems to be generally true of most skeptics is their inability to consider that their skepticism may be unreasonable. That’s why I specifically brought up the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Skeptics put forward all sorts of possibilities, many of them are unreasonable given the evidence we have.

      Anything might be possible, but not every possibility is reasonable.

      Joshua

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    • What an incredibly silly statement to make… knowing before you even begin to print that it is simply not true broadly applied.

      If you honestly and forthrightly respected what’s true you wouldn’t dream of writing such nonsense, but if you wish to intentionally misrepresent others who do, then you submit this kind of stuff.

      I suspect you wouldn’t recognize critical thinking even if it whacked you upside the head because you demonstrate no clue about what it entails.

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  2. Selected bits from the media guide to skepticism:

    What is skepticism?

    Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies tools of science. Skepticism is most often applied to extraordinary claims – those that refute the current consensus view.

    The Skeptical process considers evidence obtained by systematic observations and reason.

    The conclusion that is reached at the end of this Skeptical process is provisional because additional or better evidence may come along that points towards a more suitable explanation.

    The more extraordinary the claim, the stronger the evidence must be to support it. If a claim is made that would require us to revise or overturn well established knowledge, we should be very suspicious and ask for a greater degree of evidence.

    What does it mean to be a skeptic?

    Respect for the evidence. The application of reason to evidence is the best method we have to obtain reliable knowledge.

    Respect for methods, conclusions and the consensus of science. Science is a particular way of obtaining information that is designed to reduce the chances of coming to an incorrect conclusion. Using a scientific process will minimize errors (but not eliminate them entirely). So, Skeptics are often vigorous advocates of science – in medicine, in schools, and for informing policy decisions. Fake, junk and pseudo-science is called out as a ruse. Logic and math are also components of science that can be valuable in assessing claims.

    Preference for natural, not supernatural, explanation. Natural laws give us rational boundaries in our quest to determine explanations. Miracles are an example of using a supernatural agent (a god, saint or angel who operates outside of natural laws) as part of the explanation. A Skeptic will look for a natural explanation that does not call for a supernatural, unproven (and possibly unprovable) entity to be included.

    Promotion of reason and critical thinking. Many Skeptics are good at identifying mistakes in arguments and reasoning.

    Awareness of how we are fooled. People routinely fool themselves and are fooled by others. This is most commonly seen in our over-reliance on our senses and memory – for example, “I know what I saw,” or “I remember it like it was yesterday.” Skeptics are wary of eyewitness testimony because observation is fallible and memory is malleable. Stories of events, even from trustworthy people, make for very poor evidence on their own. Even collectively, anecdotes don’t tell us much about the validity of the claim. Skeptics also understand that people tend to look for, remember and favor the evidence that supports their preferred conclusion.

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    • “Respect for the evidence. The application of reason to evidence is the best method we have to obtain reliable knowledge.”

      Yep. And I bet flat-Earthers also respected the official State-sanctioned “evidence” for a flat earth back in the day. I bet many died respecting the “evidence” that the T-rex was a dinosaur that stood upright like Godzilla; and that many also died thinking that Piltdown man was real evidence of human evolution. That there is no “evidence” that cigarette smoking can lead to cancer. After all, it’s all indisputable scientific “evidence” until there’s overwhelming “evidence” to the contrary.

      “Many Skeptics are good at identifying mistakes in arguments and reasoning.”

      True; my analysis of your faulty reasoning methods is just one example.

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    • Hi, tildeb.

      The selection you posted defined “extraordinary claims” well enough (i.e. “a claim…that would require us to revise or overturn well established knowledge”). Can you qualify “extraordinary evidence” for us? (The selection merely points to additional evidence.)

      As far as the cartoon is concerned, I just seem to see a trend where “skeptics” are unreasonable ones who want things established not merely beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond all doubt. But as I pointed out, being skeptical and doubting is easy. All you have to do is say, “I doubt it” and then propose or promote another possible explanation that may or may not take into account all the evidence we do have (evidence which is always partial and incomplete). So, doubt can always exist.

      “Skeptics also understand that people tend to look for, remember and favor the evidence that supports their preferred conclusion.” Interesting. How many would willingly admit it about themselves?

      Joshua

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      • Hi Josh. I understood your post to be about unreasonable skepticism and I agree that hyperskepticism is just that: unreasonable and, I think, counterproductive to honest inquiry, meaning that claims about how reality operates are always tentative, always subject to revision if better evidence indicates a good reason to make such changes to these claims. Pittdown Man is a good example of the correcting nature of any honest inquiry, where tentative assertions are further examined and, if discrepancies are discovered as they were, leads to accumulating excellent reasons to show why the original claim was not true, that in this case was revealed to be a perpetrated and intentional hoax.

        But rather than celebrate this method that allows for further inquiry, allows for re-examination, allows for correction, people like synapticcohesion see it as a methodological failure, one that is not equivalent with what many theists assume is a strength of the method of faith-based belief: trust and certainty in having the right answer provided, one that should be properly immune to further questioning and, if indicated, revision. This is why I think he sees any further inquiry that does not agree with the faith-based belief to be an attack, one with ulterior motives other than discovering and verifying how reality operates, rather than a necessary and legitimate questioning of how the beliefs we have comport with the reality we share. And to maintain this method requires him to reject in parts exactly the same method that informs all the therapies, technologies, and applications he trusts with his life. This is the cherry picking required to protect the religious versions of the Pittdown Man.

        As far as qualifying what ‘extraordinary evidence’ means, what we’re looking for is supporting evidence of the same kind claimed. For example, if prayer to a particular deity could be shown to reliably work to produce practical and predictive results versus prayers to other deities that did not, then we would have extraordinary evidence of a specific hidden agency at work, a specific and knowable causal factor revealed by reality to be active even if unseen and unavailable for direct testing. If we found people consistently able to alter the laws of chemistry, physics, and biology by calling on the intervention of their specific deity to aid them in this repeated demonstration of it’s causal effects claimed to be active, then we would have extraordinary evidence of causal effect at work in the reality we share. Extraordinary claims require the same kind of supportive evidence purported to be true in order to properly account for the extraordinary nature of the claim. If holding a certain kind of faith during life could be shown to reanimate damaged and now dead cells, then this would be the same kind of evidence claimed for the resurrection of Jesus.

        And as far as confirmation bias is concerned, we are all guilty of doing just that. Being aware of this tendency, and understandable preference to back up what we believe with what appears to be supporting evidence while failing to account for contrary evidence, allows us to accept evidence for doing just this when it happens (and it will). Hopefully, by being aware of its seductive power, confirmation bias can be more easily revealed to be at work, which allows us to make correcting adjustments and allowances accordingly.

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  3. “Thankfully, many legal systems don’t operate the way hyperskeptics do”

    On the contrary they share a key element with sceptics that you reject – an assumption of natural causes as an explanation. No court system could work that accepted the supernatural as a possible cause.

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    • Not necessarily. Have you ever heard that famous Sherlock Holmes quote from The Sign of the Four?

      “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

      What if the evidence points to a non-natural cause as the most reasonable explanation?

      It’s the reason I brought up the resurrection of Jesus and alternative explanations. Skeptics can propose alternative theories and possibilities (and they have for nearly 2,000 years). But do they hold up to scrutiny?

      Joshua

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      • “Not necessarily”

        Please tell me a legal system that accepts supernatural causes. Quoting fiction written by a man who believed in fairies (A C Doyle) doesn’t help you here. A jury in the UK or US who returned a verdict that involved the supernatural would be dismissed. Your analogy fails.

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      • For what it’s worth, according to cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace (whose book “Cold-Case Christianity” inspired the cartoon) verdicts in criminal cases are determined based on what is reasonable given the evidence, not on what is possible. I was making a comparison; the type of hyper-skepticism I was talking about is the one related to the claims of Christianity and specifically the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When we’re talking about explanations for events or evidence, sometimes a supernatural explanation is the most reasonable one even if skeptics may propose a number of other possibilities.

        So, back to my question:

        What if evidence points to a non-natural cause as the most reasonable explanation?

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  4. “based on what is reasonable given the evidence, not on what is possible”

    And what we call the evidence in court assumes that the laws of nature remained constant. Forensic science depends on this assumption, eg that the laws of physics are not broken and so rates of decay are steady and predictable. Courts simply don’t consider ideas like ‘what if a corpse rose from the dead and committed the crime?’. If you’re going to allow supernatural occurrences as a possible explanation, there is literally no explanation that is any more or less ‘reasonable’ than any other, as the sky is the limit for what is considered ‘possible’.

    When Holmes said ‘eliminate the impossible’, he eliminated the supernatural. Otherwise the word ‘impossible’ would have no meaning in that context. He looked for a natural explanation for wild dog – he didn’t consider a genuine hell dog among the possibilities.

    A court that can find no natural explanation for an occurrence simply returns an unexplained verdict.

    And by ‘hyperskeptic’ you seem to be referring to someone who simply doesn’t say ‘Oh, it must have been an angel who rolled back the rock and Jesus must have come back from the dead’. You’re welcome to call such a person ‘hyperskeptic’ but it doesn’t really fit the definition Tildeb gave.

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    • “If you’re going to allow supernatural occurrences as a possible explanation, there is literally no explanation that is any more or less ‘reasonable’ than any other, as the sky is the limit for what is considered ‘possible’.”

      Nice assertion, but you’ve missed the point. I was trying to show you the opposite. A (hyper-)skeptic can offer a nearly infinite number of alternative “possibilities”, not all of which are equally reasonable or incorporate existing evidence. (Some of them don’t even limit themselves to existing evidence!) And there’s a difference between a skeptic (someone legitimately inquisitive who can be convinced by evidence) and a hyper-skeptic (who doesn’t care what evidence you present, they still doubt everything you say or hold to be true — the Zappa-esque type skeptic — who can’t be convinced, even with evidence).

      Nevertheless, I was waiting for you to ask for an example of when a non-natural explanation would be the most reasonable (again, in the context of the claims of Christianity and theists). You didn’t. Add to that the fact you ignored a question I asked you twice (or you felt it was beneath you) and that the rest of your comment is filled with red herrings that show you’re just here to foam.

      No thanks, Andy.

      Joshua

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  5. “the rest of your comment is filled with red herrings that show you’re just here to foam.”

    No actually, I was here to make the very simple point: that your statement “Thankfully, many legal systems don’t operate the way hyperskeptics do” was incorrect. I’ve now made that point, and without any foam too. Rather than accept this point or rebut it, you just ask me questions that had nothing to do with my point.

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