Skeptics’ Circle Number 73 – Holford watch

Holford Watch has a form letter for us to fill out for this week’s version of the circle.

My favorite from this week is Action Skeptic’s essay, which I think describes a character flaw common among cranks. That is, it’s not so important for them to operate with scientifically valid rules of evidence or inquiry, but as long always perceive themselves to be right.

It was right then that I realized a major difference between skeptics and woos, between those dedicated to using and promoting the scientific method and those whose ignorance, nihilism, and epistemological hedonism lead them to believe all kinds of total nonsense. We are interested in being justified in our beliefs and claims. They, on the other hand, just want to be right. They need to be right. They hunger and thirst to be right. They have an ideological mental framework that is immune to evidence and so perserves their rightness ’til the bitter end.

That’s why they’re so fucking insufferable when they are right.

But the problem is that it isn’t about being right. This is the same mentality that so many psychics and prognosticators showcase on a daily basis: “If I say Y at time t0, then later on at time t5 Y is shown to be true, I was right.”

No, you were not right. You made a lucky guess. If I hand-pick my lottery numbers and then happen to win, it does not mean I was right. It means I was extraordinarily lucky.

But that’s beside the point. When somebody makes a claim like that, they don’t want to hear that they weren’t right and they won’t listen to you when you say it. What you must ask them is “Who cares?”

Because seriously, who does? If your prediction or claim or opinion is not backed up by any evidence, it doesn’t matter that you were “vindicated” by new studies at a later date. What matters is that you were not justified in holding your original opinion. What matters is that, though I may have doubted your claim at time t0, I was justified in my doubt. Now I’m more than happy to admit that I was wrong, but you think that somehow that means you “won.”

Really a dead-on essay describing a very common behavior that I think we’ve all seen with the crank mentality.