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Skeptics of Tucson Message Board › Review of Wednesday December 3rd Alternative Healing Meeting

Review of Wednesday December 3rd Alternative Healing Meeting

user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 93
Hi James Thompson,

I look forward to having a more detailed conversation with you about the very things you brought up, either here in the forum or in person. Sorry if we have already met, I can't always remember all the names and faces at the meetings. There are still too many new people and I see them too infrequently for it to stick very well.

I would specifically be interested in talking to you more about Neuroscience. I personally studied a 16 hour DVD course on it a few months ago. It would be fun to kind of bounce some ideas around as it relates to reason and un-reason.

I agree with you, and would also classify the Chiropractors attempted manipulation as 'cold reading' as I understand it.

Wouldn't you agree that it would be fun to invite a real alternative believer, who says they are open minded and willing to question / double check their beliefs, and then walk them through a basic skeptical sort of reasoning process and watch them de-convert. I think that would be a lot of fun. I also think that there might be some people out there who would be up for it. If they are confident about their beliefs in alternative woo / healing / pseudoscience, then they might be willing to evaluate those extreme beliefs in public. I know I was and I would have been. The only problem that existed was the fact that I didn't know any skeptics / science oriented people who could have / would have asked me the right questions. I didn't know anyone who would have spent any time with me to deconstruct my beliefs. It just wasn't available. The only reason I ever really stumbled onto this whole skeptical / scientific thing was because of Penn and Teller's Bulls-Hit TV show and Derren Browns Russian Street Scam Video on YouTube. Mythbusters was interesting, but they don't deal with the psychology of delusional and paranormal thinking, they don't expose scams, liars, frauds etc.

I have been very much appreciating this exchange. Those alternative healing guys really hit close to home with me and stirred a lot of stuff up. I used to be very close to where they are at, and I could have ended up in a similar sort of condition.
A former member
Post #: 40


I agree with Don. You provided a great summary of the meeting, and your thoughts about Alternative Medicine provided some more insight into the subject.

Of course, as always, Don did a great job in keeping the discussion at a decent level.

But I have concerns in believing if they were not scam artists. That is difficult to determine, and it looked like they were true believers. My only clue to question the speakers motive is that he brought a large number of supporters. It made me think that he knew he had a weak case, and he wanted support from others. The fallacy here being if a large number of people believe something, then it is more likely to be true.

These guys are not different from most religious people, and some of them were blatant believers in the Bible and other dogma. The guy sitting next to me made it clear to me that he taught Atheist were irrational and not good people.

I am usually opposed to having such irrational views be presented for evaluation. I tend to regard that as sort of waste of time. But I think it is good to see what we are up against. Maybe we can come up with a way to deal with them. I think it is very difficult to convince someone that their views are irrational. The best we can hope for is to plant a seed of doubt, and hope that it convinces them to reevaluate their beliefs.


user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 97
Haha, LOL, Yea I guess the fact that they brought a large group of people could be seen as a sort of ploy to corroborate their weak case with a logical fallacy. They might have been trying to increase their credibility by bringing a large quantity of believers.

I want to give Don props for keeping the conversation at a decent level. There was no shouting, name calling, accusations or anything like that. It wasn't like a war or a fight, but more like a slow motion multi car highway pileup.

I wonder why the group actually agreed to come visit us. Does anyone know? What were they hoping to get out of our Skeptics meeting? What were they hoping to accomplish by interacting with us? Surely they didn't expect any converts or future clients. Well I guess they actually did end up getting at least a few, so they really were successful. If they were able to find agreeable people in a skeptics meeting, then maybe their message isn't all that stupid. Or maybe we aren't all that smart? ;^)

I know exactly what I got out of the meeting. I got to see people articulate their faith in 'energy', conspiracies and super-secret natural cures that have the ability to cure everything. I got to see people talk about their lives, which are founded on outrageous beliefs and based on practically no evidence. They used terrible persuasive tactics and resorted to manipulation to try to get their points across. I kept wanting to see if they could be reasoned with, if their reasons for believing could be clarified, modified or if they had the ability to just reboot their belief system and do a sort of fresh install. The same way you would wipe your hard drive and reinstall windows, without all the viruses, spam, spyware and programs that you don't need. Anyway, I came to the conclusion that these folks were so far into their beliefs and life, that it was practically impossible to reason with them.

I agree with you that it would be interesting to come up with a way to deal with these sort of people. I also think it is difficult to convince someone that their views are irrational. We need to find super believers who are receptive to reevaluating their beliefs. I think you hit it on the head. We need to find true believers. People who don't just exercise 'blind faith', but someone who is confident with their outlandish beliefs and who is willing to prove their courage to us by trying to defend the substance of what they believe. The key to talking to them, would have to involve us pre-screening them. How can we find believers who are receptive to reevaluate their beliefs? How can we best help them reevaluate their beliefs? This is most exciting to me, because all the skeptical stuff I have studied over the last 12 months has given me so many tools, that I have been able to throw away tons of dogma and blind belief, that I can now relax. I want to watch others do the same. I feel like I have the tools now, but I want to help others get them and use them. I am just afraid that most people are incapable or at least too old to learn.
John T.
user 5081321
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 4
I think we may be missing the point around belief and the possibility of reasoning with what I have called "true believers." Rational thinking is an elusive goal. Each of us, no matter how much we may feel otherwise, holds views that others think are irrational (and they may be in some larger sense).

To try to get someone to see the errors of their ways in what we feel are irrational belief is either an exercise in "deprogramming" or psychotherapy. I would feel that the only value in a conversation with believers is to understand the nature of the rationalizations they use and to test my own reaction to look for places where my own views are based in faith that I look upon as reason. Conversion of any sort should not be the objective.

Debriefing ourselves about the 12/3 meeting with the aim of understanding where we skeptics lost our rational grip could be a useful learning experience. You may want to see my comments on the thread concerning IONS if you are not full up on my opinions already.
A former member
Post #: 41
John noted:

"I think we may be missing the point around belief and the possibility of reasoning with what I have called "true believers." Rational thinking is an elusive goal. Each of us, no matter how much we may feel otherwise, holds views that others think are irrational (and they may be in some larger sense).

To try to get someone to see the errors of their ways in what we feel are irrational belief is either an exercise in "deprogramming" or psychotherapy."

I may be misinterpreting what John is trying to say in the above noted paragraphs. But from the above I draw the conclusion that everyone is susceptible to holding irrational views, and that includes us skeptics. And I do not disagree with that.

But I do not agree that, in the case of most skeptics, "deprogramming" or "psychotherapy" will be needed to convince one of the error of their ways. I, hope that a logical argument and presentation of facts should do it.

In the case of the "true" believers, I agree that "deprogramming" or "psychotherapy" would be required. But as Erick Hoffer pointed out that in most cases "true" believers hold their views based on irrational premises or emotions. I do not think that is not the case for most skeptics.


John T.
user 5081321
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 7
Good points Saul. I think was trying (not very well) to characterize the process of engaging believers and the time and effort that would be required as well and the techniques needed. An evening or two of conversation, in my view would only serve to change the minds of those with "lightly" held beliefs that are irrational (from my perspective). These folks, it would seem are already operating in a mostly rational domain of belief and have only a few, lingering areas of superstition.

The "true believers" (my term for those with deeply irrational and superstitious views) would not be moved by such conversations. In fact, they will (in my experience) have strong defenses for their beliefs and will require "professional" interventions to address changes. I think these efforts are long term and enjoyable in the "evening of chat" sense.

user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 98
I started this forum post, to analyze my reaction to the alternative healers. I continued the post to clarify, exactly what it is that I am looking for in the skeptics meetings. Now I have a better idea of these things. I want to articulate them and then help facilitate their appearance in future meetings.

Things I absolutely want to see and learn at the meetings:

1. I want to get a very clear understanding of how the Tucson skeptics ended up becoming skeptics. Were they born natural skeptics, who merely developed their skills and skepticism? Or, did they learn the skeptical skills later in life and then unravel all the illogical, delusional, fantasies that were pumped into them? Then I also want to know more specifically if they grew up in a skeptical environment (which is an obvious advantage), or if they grew up in such an outlandish environment that their escape naturally led them to skepticism (and/or science).

By the way, I misused the word true believer. I did not mean it in the sense of the book 'True Believer'. I just meant someone who was certain of their position, because they were convinced that their position was founded on evidence (although their evidence is flimsy when analyzed with scientific and skeptical / logical tools).

I never meant to propose to de-program someone, but was interested in finding people who would honestly and sincerely consider our open ended questions, that might lead them to scrap their radical beliefs. I am curious to see if there are reasonable people out there, who aren't just defensive and stuck in their ways. I know I was always willing to learn if people were willing to gracefully help me reconsider my current positions. This takes finesse of course. I am afraid that many people who are stuck in their beliefs are much like the dowsers James Randi talks about. No matter how much you show them that their techniques are only as good as chance, they will not abandon their beliefs in dowsing. I am afraid that the only people who can avoid falling victim to these false and preposterous beliefs are children, who have been properly educated to avoid such delusions. Maybe there just comes a time in peoples lives, after which they will not be likely to learn how to become a skeptic.
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