So, recently on the Skepticality forum, Eric Marsh (AKA Doctor Science) reintroduced his wife’s current, pet, new age, mumbo-jumbo, psycho-babble, belief system – The Landmark Forum. He claimed to have done this because: “ here-say (sic) is not a good way to make evaluations.“ But this is a bit of a bait and switch – what they both appear to mean is that we can’t trust the words of people using critical thinking skills, over the words of those who have been indoctrinated. Janet first made this claim (quite strongly in fact) in the original discussion, and it seems clear that Eric is now supporting it.
Obviously that is a bit of a ridiculous hurtle to achieve, and it is reminiscent of the creationist demand that we see a banana become an ape or else evolution is not proven. Are we to accept the validity of the claims made by Scientology, unless we have been through their program? Of course not.
Eric then claims to be reasonably impartial, forgetting or ignoring that he just previously stated he is attending the LF for the sole purpose of pleasing his wife – as a birthday gift. To a skeptic, that alone should be enough to disqualify him from impartiality. He then attempts to add to his claimed impartiality quotient by stating (rather without proof) to be some sort of super-rational thinker who can see through the baloney and is already living the good skeptical life. Good for him.
Eric then launches into what can only be described (from pure volume if nought else) as a very selective account of his three day experience, in the end finding nothing very objectionable about the forum or his wife’s continued participation (go figure).
Of course the links and scholarly work provided in past (primarily to Skepdic and it’s supporting material) disagreed with his assessment of “mostly harmless”, and did so with rational argument and objective evidence. The main author maintained his objectivity by not joining the forum, and by then citing expert testimony from both pro and con attendees, as well as significant work from science based LGAT observers – that is to say, social science professionals who study such groups. This form of objective evidence clearly trumps any layman husband’s attendance to please the wife, no matter how allegedly rational that husband may be.
But it seems to me that this whole set-up by Eric was more or less a clever beard for his wife Janet so that she could reenter the discussion on footing that was more biased to stroking her ego, and allowing her to go unchallenged when using all sorts of logical fallacy and making unsubstantiated claims.
Janet took her cue well, and entered the discussion first with a false claim that she was the subject of a bloodbath (rather than rational response) in the previous LF thread. Then just as quick as can be she started making the same spurious claims that got her challenged previously. Namely: using pseudo-psychological jargon to claim very broad assertions about the mind states of most people without one whit of evidence in support.
“ Life means what we choose it means to ourselves. The point is that most people don’t grok that“ “They let everything an everyone around them decide the meaning of their lives.“ “The problem is that most of us don’t realize the constraints we place on ourselves “
But none of that is why I am concerned about the discussion. I really don’t care if Janet believes in LF or if Eric supports his wife. In a way, I am glad that they think it helped, at least they feel they got value for money. But anecdote is anecdote regardless of how sincere the believer is, in their anecdote. I’m disturbed that the community on the Skepticality board allowed such carte blanche facility for this nonsense.
Bad enough that they did not demand proof when seeing the unfair and fallacious claim of how poorly Janet was treated. But worse still that they then allowed the illogical argument and fallacy of both posters to go unchallenged. To be fair all might have been afraid of being labeled a blood bather. After all, the field was cleared of the previous strong skeptical voice through the setup and apparent acceptance by the community of the straw-man, that Janet was treated harshly. A claim that does not withstand even light scrutiny.
Sure we should welcome all comers – I have said so on many occasions and also spoke in strong defense of all who have been banned or rode out on a rail. But, welcoming all comers does not mean we should allow them to take advantage of our credulity or good will. We are not obliged to give even feigned respect to nonsense argument or opinion. It would be especially foolish to do so just because we want to swell our ranks. That tactic will spell our demise, diluting us in this day when poor logic and faulty reasoning are the norm, and skepticism is the exception.
So, to me, Janet, Eric, JDG, Andy Monk, or even Cloud ought to be welcome to participate, but no quarter should be given, when it comes to reason and logical debate. Of course none is asked.