Re:  Sina's Response to Brent Meeker

By Aparthib Zaman

E-mail: [email protected]  



I found Brent Meeker's original response to Ali Sina reflecting my own views so accurately that I felt tempted to respond to Ali Sina's response to Brent Meeker. I hope Brent would not mind my doing that. Please forgive any typo in my hurriedly written response.


 In response to Brent Meeker's comment:  "Sina notes the contrast between this and religious and political doctrines that are held to be beyond criticism and revision. But he presents a false dichotomy between dogmatism and rationalism - as though one can be rational simply by not being dogmatic."

Ali Sina wrote: Yes I actually do think that dogmatism and rationalism are mutually excluding. You seem to disagree, however you did not provide any further explanation. Are you saying it is possible to be dogmatic and rationalist on one particular issue at the same time?

Aparthib's Comment :

Ali Sina is having some problem with the notions of logical fallacies, here the fallacy of false dichotomy. Brent was simply pointing out the false dichotomy between dogma and rationality. Pointing out the False dichotomy does not imply that dogmatism and rationalism are NOT mutually excluding, as Ali Sina is alleging it did. What Brent meant that one can be irrational but still NOT dogmatic. So there are 3 possibilities: (1) Dogmatic (2) Irrational (e.g non-dogmatic credulity) (3) Rational

Not being (1) does not guarantee being (3), one can be (2).




Ali Sina was confused by and in disagreement with Brent Meeker's following statement:

"The opposite of dogmatic denial isn't rationality; it's uncritical credulity.",

He wondered if he was missing something here. He indeed missed something. And it was the proper interpretation of of Brent's statement, although to me the meaning was clear from the context of his entire article. By "dogmatic denial" (he was really quoting Sina using such expression) he meant the denial of paranormal of so-called "pseudo-rationalists" (Again an expression used by Sina). So clearly the "opposite of dogmatic denial" refers to the views of people like Sina who are opposed to such dogmatic denial (of paranormal). So the final implication of Brent's statement was that the views of people like Sina who are opposed to dogmatic denial (of paranormal) do not NECESSARILY mean rationality, but CAN mean uncritical credulity (of paranormal). My position here is that the opposite of "Sina's view" is not NECESSARILY pseudo-rationality, but true rationality. Of course here I am assuming that Sina's position on paranormal is that the paranormal event "HAS occurred.". My view and I believe the view of true rationalists is that paranormal event MAY have occurred, but since anecdotes are not genuine evidences for its occurrence, so it CANNOT be said that it HAS occurred.


Ali Sina:

However, I am not prone to hallucinations and that thing did not seem to be hallucination at all. It was as real as any other object I have seen in my awaken life. We also have cases of several people reporting to have seen the same ghost at the same time. How can you scientifically prove that several people hallucinate together and see the same thing? We are not talking about guided imagery or induced hypnosis. So what is your explanation? Dogmatism is inability to accept anything that defies one's preconceived notion of reality


This part brings out the crux of the whole problem. Insisting on anecdotes as proof of occurrence. Yes, Sina, I have no doubt you believe you are not susceptible to hallucinations. Nobody ever doubts themselves except some true skeptic (May be Vic Stenger is one). Your sincerity and confidence notwithstanding, the fact remains that brain induced visions are as real as observations of REAL events. There are enough brain induced experiences simulated in the lab, which appears real to true skeptics. The experiments of psychologist Persinger bears that out. You may also wish to read the book "Phantoms in the Brain" by Neurologist Ramachandran to learn about the bizarre way brain can induce perceptions of reality. So emphatically vouching for one's sincerity is hardly a genuine evidence of the REAL OCCURRENCE of paranormal to a true skeptic.

Ali Sina: Dogmatism is inability to accept anything that defies one's preconceived notion of reality

Aparthib: Thats a loaded statement. What a true rationalist is unable to accept is not "anything that defies one's preconceived notion of reality", but rather "Claims of occurrence of any event based on anecdotes". There is a clear and fundamental difference. A rationalist do not have a preconceived notion of reality, or even if he has one, that does not factor in the acceptance of the claim. Only objective evidence can influence his/her acceptance of such claim.


Ali Sina:

Let me again quote the dictionary definition of paranormal. "Beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation." If the globe I saw and what many other people see as ghosts cannot be explained by science what other names you have for them?


The last part of the above is an example of the fallacy of complex question, there is a built in assumption that paranormal event HAS occurred, and since there is no scientific explanation, then why not call it as paranormal, right?. But before something is declared as paranormal due to lack of scientific explanation, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt to have actually occurred. Again anecdotes do not qualify as proof beyond reasonable doubt to a rationalist. Ali Sina failed to separate the two independent issue of OCCURRENCE of paranormal and EXPLANATION of a putative paranormal. "Seeing" is not an evidence for the objective occurrence of an event. Brain can create a simulation of reality (for various reason beyond the control of the person whose brain is interpreting reality) that may be indistinguishable from real occurrence. We can never be sure about our brain's interpretation of reality until a scientific observations corroborates that independently. This statement is consistent with skepticism. To contradict this statement is to contradict skepticism (Thus rationalism).


Ali Sina:

I also have one challenge for you. Looks like issuing challenges is fun. So let me make one challenge. Please present yourself as a psychic in a radio or an assembly of people and convince as many people as Van Praagh does, that you are bringing messages from their dead relatives.

This should not be difficult to do. You seem to have found the trick that Van Praagh and other so called psychics play. Why don't you replicate that trick for us? If I discover the tricks of any magician, with a little practice I can do exactly what they do. So what do you say? You will manage to prove without the shadow of doubt that this is all a hoax and psychic power does not exist.


Ali Sina misunderstood the skeptic's position and Occam's razor on paranormal again. Brent Meeker or any skeptic will never claim that they have the true explanation of paranormal. First a paranormal event must be agreed upon to have OCCURRED, to be called paranormal. The occurrence has to be verified in controlled environment. Again, Van Praagh's performences have not been subjected to a controlled experiment, as far as I can tell, and there are too many variables. Besides one can set up a plausible explanation based on whatever variable that are known. So Occam's razor already rules out any other explanation than the plausible one. Then why insist on the other explanations that are not dictated by Occam's razor? In the spirit of true skepticism, we should state that there is no accurate explanation of the event, but also that there is no true evidence of its occurrence either, because here the word "occurrence" has a loaded meaning. It carries a certain interpretation of the sequence of occurrences as well, not just a certain sequence of events.

We cannot explain many magic, does it mean we should call magic as paranormal? If we do not call magic paranormal/psychic, then why call Van Praag's tricks paranormal/psychic? Just because magicians have been gracious enough to admit that there is nothing psychic behind their tricks and gracious enough to reveal the tricks behind many of their tricks? The exposed tricks behind many magic gives the plausibility arguments of putative paranormals more credibility.

Finally Ali Sina, when you say "you have no problem embracing your spiritual reality, that you are a spiritual being foremost", you are actually stating a sentiment, a feeling, an emotion, not an objective reality. Spiritual reality has no objective meaning. I share that same sentiment, emotion and feeling as you do (Einstein called it the feeling of the mysterious), but I or any skpetic would not call it spiritual reality and ascribe an objective reality to it.

- Aparthib 

Tue, 9 Mar 2004

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