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The Kook test

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  • The Kook test

    After reading the numerous posts on the Brian Josephson thread, I wondered "what does it take to be a kook?" The same goes for other similar words, like "nutty", "nutjob", and "whacky."

    Professor Josephson, doesn't come across to me as unintelligent, rude, clumsy, or ill-mannered, yet he has been described using several of the pejorative terms listed above. More importantly, these words are used carelessly to describe many other people, including some of his colleagues. From what I've seen, the common factor is their interest in parapsychology. If this is all it takes to reap opprobrium, I have to wonder at the standards set for the usage of these terms.

    For instance, let's say that psi does not exist at all, in any form, just for the sake of argument. Now let's say that Josephson et al have experiments that indicate otherwise. Let's go further and say that the experiments, despite these indicators, are flawed and unreliable. Nevertheless, they indicate psi, and the scientists in question have been unable to detect any flaws with the experiments. How does that make them into "nutjobs?" Other researchers have studied subjects that turned out to be other than what they expected, without having such unclassy words applied to them.

    As anyone who has seen my posts is aware, I disagree with the hypothetical scenario I just wrote here, but for the sake of illustration I think it does a fair job of exposing the indecent latitude psi-opponents have taken when discussing psi proponents. Amazingly, it isn't even the taking of a position that allows this appellation to be used, as if that isn't bad enough, but simple curiosity regarding the subject.

    I've seen this kind of language used far too often to think it is just a few irascible persons who are responsible. More importantly, I'd like to know why the "kooks" and "nutjobs" aren't the folks who label people with such pejoratives without having any proper basis for it beyond knowledge of their interests. Is James Randi a "Nutjob?" I wouldn't describe him that way, and it isn't only because I am more polite than he is. I wouldn't describe him that way because that word and others like it have little practical value.

    The remarks come across as the academic equivalent to racist slurs. The reason is because "what it takes" to have one hurled at you is that you need only belong to a group to have it applied. Unlike other racist terms, these are multi-purpose slurs that can be used in a variety of situations and with a variety of groups. I do note however, that the group slinging them rarely ever gets it cast back in their own face. Is this because they aren't flagrantly "nutty" or because their opponents across the slang divide are more careful with their statements?

    In academic institutions especially, where credibility is so important, I am not cheered to know that this kind of name-calling is not totally alien to that environment.

    What does it take to be a "kook?" Not much.

    AP
    Last edited by paqart; May 6th, 2010, 12:11 PM.

  • #2
    I do think Brian Josephson's manner can appear a little bit eccentric ... but so many leading scientists of the past were similar ... they are just often speaking over the heads of their listeners.... Josephson is extremely clever and polite too.

    I think it was James Randi who also coined the term 'woo woo' aimed at anyone who supports a paranormal claim.

    What can one do to when all leading skeptics main tactic seems to involve derision, scoffing or a display of misplaced confidence that it doesn't live up to their own arbitrary standards? If one remains polite, no one listens .... if one is rude in response, the skeptic claims to have been insulted.

    Future history is unlikely to be kind to the leading figures of the skeptic movement ... instead of protecting science, they have often impeded looking properly.
    Last edited by Open Mind; May 7th, 2010, 07:47 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by paqart View Post
      After reading the numerous posts...
      We are a primitive species in need of the security of certainty. Our arrogance is in assuming our asumptions are more than that which they are.

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      • #4
        I think it is useful to consider words, like "nutty", "nutjob", and "whacky" as being reflexive - they actually apply to the describer, not the person being described

        David

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        • #5
          "Woo-woo" as in "Woo-woo peddlers" is pure kindergarten stuff!

          It's quite impossible for me to hold James Randi in less esteem than I do now, but when I first heard that term I laughed out loud......it's beneath pitiable!

          How on earth can anyone take the man seriously? I've read he surrounds himself with angry 20 something zealots...male, mainly.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Ian Holfield View Post
            "Woo-woo" as in "Woo-woo peddlers" is pure kindergarten stuff!

            It's quite impossible for me to hold James Randi in less esteem than I do now, but when I first heard that term I laughed out loud......it's beneath pitiable!

            How on earth can anyone take the man seriously? I've read he surrounds himself with angry 20 something zealots...male, mainly.
            Nice, pull out the homophobia will you? I'm sure Randi is not missing your esteem.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Arouet View Post
              Nice, pull out the homophobia will you? I'm sure Randi is not missing your esteem.
              Or on the other hand, give him an extra slice of pity because of his recent coming out? I don't think that is appropriate either.

              I have my own view of this, but do not consider this forum, or any place, the right venue to discuss them. Randi's personal choices are between him and his maker, not us. His more public actions on subjects pertinent to this forum is a different story. From what I've seen, I am convinced he is dishonest, and that is all I need to know.

              AP

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              • #8
                Originally posted by paqart View Post
                Or on the other hand, give him an extra slice of pity because of his recent coming out? I don't think that is appropriate either.

                I have my own view of this, but do not consider this forum, or any place, the right venue to discuss them. Randi's personal choices are between him and his maker, not us. His more public actions on subjects pertinent to this forum is a different story. From what I've seen, I am convinced he is dishonest, and that is all I need to know.

                AP
                Attacking his honesty is fair game. Attacking his sexuality is not.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                  Attacking his honesty is fair game. Attacking his sexuality is not.
                  As it happens I wasn't attacking Randi's sexuality, nor was I actually aware of his 'recent coming out.'

                  This is news to me!

                  It's of total indifference to me what his sexual inclinations are, and I agree that it's not particularly relevant to my feelings of dislike for the man, which are entirely to do with his methods and proven dishonesty.

                  What I was getting at was the thoughtless zealot behaviour of his "followers" and the fact that they are 'mostly male' and in their 20s was simply a comment.

                  Randi may not be in need of my esteem and it's just as well, eh? One thing is sure, he should be ready for criticism, on any level, from any source, and on any front, as he's certainly dished out as much dirt as he's been able to over the years, hasn't he?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ian Holfield View Post
                    As it happens I wasn't attacking Randi's sexuality, nor was I actually aware of his 'recent coming out.'

                    This is news to me!

                    It's of total indifference to me what his sexual inclinations are, and I agree that it's not particularly relevant to my feelings of dislike for the man, which are entirely to do with his methods and proven dishonesty.

                    What I was getting at was the thoughtless zealot behaviour of his "followers" and the fact that they are 'mostly male' and in their 20s was simply a comment.

                    Randi may not be in need of my esteem and it's just as well, eh? One thing is sure, he should be ready for criticism, on any level, from any source, and on any front, as he's certainly dished out as much dirt as he's been able to over the years, hasn't he?
                    Thanks for this. When I read your post, it didn't sound like a comment about Randi being homosexual, but then after reading Arouet's reply I had another look and couldn't be sure. I was inclined at first to point out that you weren't casting aspersions on Randi in a protected area of behavior, but wasn't positive that was the case, so I held back. Now I wish I'd written what I wanted to write to begin with.

                    AP

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ian Holfield View Post
                      As it happens I wasn't attacking Randi's sexuality, nor was I actually aware of his 'recent coming out.'

                      This is news to me!
                      Allright then, but you can see in retrospect why it looks like a sly dig at his sexuality! I'll accept that it wasn't.

                      Randi may not be in need of my esteem and it's just as well, eh? One thing is sure, he should be ready for criticism, on any level, from any source, and on any front, as he's certainly dished out as much dirt as he's been able to over the years, hasn't he?
                      Of course he should be ready for criticism, on any level about his ideas and the things he says. You weren't doing it there, but you'd agree that attacking his personal life should be off bounds. I don't think we're in disagreement here.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                        Allright then, but you can see in retrospect why it looks like a sly dig at his sexuality! I'll accept that it wasn't. )
                        Only in the US - over here hardly anyone gets upset about homosexuality!

                        David

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by David Bailey View Post
                          Only in the US - over here hardly anyone gets upset about homosexuality!

                          David
                          I certainly don't. I have gay friends, and a very close friend of mine who is 'part of the family' and I've known for 25 years, is trans-gender.
                          Last edited by Ian Holfield; May 19th, 2010, 06:23 AM.

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                          • #14
                            HAHA! Just read every post, funny misunderstanding

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