TED Talks: Why do people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”? Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer shows how we convince ourselves to believe — and overlook the facts.
2 years ago
It may be wise to be skeptical about Shermer himself:
Do any of the ad hominem points in those links make what he says in the video any less true? They seem like predictable political attacks based on Shermer's own politics (which btw, I don't share either)… and that's fine, but adopting the Glenn Beck style of propaganda – of arguing character instead of ideas – doesn't make the magic Shermer's skeptical of any more real.
The charges may be 100% accurate, but I'm ambivalent to ad hominem that doesn't negate a person's ideas.
The way I read it, Prof. Anthony Hall is not guilty of ad hominem. He gives good reasons at least challenging, if not negating, the what and how of Shermer's presentation and exposes its own evasive ad hominem smear tactics of lumping and guilt-by-association:
"Shermer does major violence to the laws of evidence and proof by making vast and unsubstantiated generalizations about so-called conspiracy theorists rather than addressing the diversity of good, bad, or indifferent work done by thousands of investigators exploring scores of circumscribed problems. Shermer’s circus of pseudo-skepticism sets a terrible example for students and junior researchers. They would and should be blocked from advancing up the ladder of professional scholarship if they were to replicate Shermer’s unique brand of materialist evangelization aimed at turning the zeal of his converts against the demonized others. The complex of alleged connections said to link all thinkers with whom Shermer disagrees draws vital intellectual energies away from the tried and true methodology of setting out specific research problems that are narrowly enough defined to be comprehensively addressed with careful reference to relevant academic literature."
Most of what I saw at the link you provided was a campaign claiming Shermer was lying about his role with a university, and thus, should be ignored. Attacks on credentials always smack of ad hominem to me. As primarily an autodidact, I don’t find that criticism very interesting one way or another.
I don’t see anything in what you quoted that negates what Shermer discusses in the video. Any time I’m told I should ignore everything someone says, as Hall basically does, I tend to question the motives of the accuser. Was there anything in particular in the video that jumped out at you as wrong?
I view Shermer as a popular journalist, not a scientist. In that regard, skepticism toward his views are warranted. If there’s something specific you find fault with, it might be interesting. Hall’s philosophy of science approach might be an appropriate discussion for academia, but I find it uncompelling with respect to the TED talk.
Just saying Shermer's TED presentation is the thin end of his wedge.
Prof. Hall is calling him out on how thick he gets on the back of this shtick.
"Most of what I saw at the link you provided was a campaign claiming Shermer was lying about his role with a university, and thus, should be ignored. Attacks on credentials always smack of ad hominem to me. As primarily an autodidact, I don't find that criticism very interesting one way or another."
Shermer is not being "attacked" over credentials or lack thereof; he has been exposed for misrepresenting / mis-legitimizing himself. Big difference, no?
While I sympathize with your autodidact bias (after all, who isn't an autodidact?), I reiterate my initial point that it may well be judicious to remain skeptical of this self-appointed skeptic who appears to have an agenda supporting the official 911 conspiracy theory by means of lumping competing theories that provide more [pulverized] concrete evidence for controlled demolition, such as that from Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth, with all manner of tinfoil hat stuff.
Are we not both in agreement when it comes down to the choice between weighing scientific evidence rather than simply trusting authority and going along with all the bromides of official discourse?
I think we're in agreement on a lot of things. In fact, I don't see anything substantial that we've disagreed with in any of the conversation. My main question in all of this can be paraphrased… "Is the video interesting and/or useful?" To me, the answer is yes on both counts.
Be skeptical of Shermer, sure. But… I think those he discusses in the video are intentionally spreading harmful wrong ideas, and I find that to be of much more concern than misrepresenting credentials. Posing the psychological question of "why do people believe strange things?" is an interesting line of inquiry.
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