Thursday, December 3, 2015

Loss of Intellectual Integrity

     It’s that time of the year again, when charitable organizations and the like solicit for financial support.  That includes the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.  I am more than inclined to send them a big check similar to what my wife sends to her church, but no matter how much I support the mission of the organization, I am forced to decline.
     Likewise articles in their magazine and related publications, such as eSkeptic, unintentionally reinforce that decision, when I find I am weakening in my resolve.  My problem is the hypocrisy I find in the position these organizations have taken on Climate Change and the continued highly biased and one-sided opinion pieces that both the Committee and the Skeptic Organization publish.
     Many people with a sincere interest in the facts associated with Climate Change search for the opportunity for a credible debate on this topic.  These organizations could provide the platform, if their official positions were not so blatantly one-sided.  This is not the same as the oft voiced comment by Creationist to “teach the controversy,” where it is an argument of faith verses evidence.  Both sides of the Climate Debate have credible and distinguished scientists.
    To make matters even worse there has been a movement within these organizations to discredit those that challenge some of the extreme positions of global warming from being referred to as Climate Skeptics, as if these organizations had ownership of that identification.
     This week in eSkeptic  the book review,  Advocatus Diaboli—the Devil’s Advocate by David Priess reminded me of the problem I have with the organization.
     The review opens with the statement
Recognize your assumptions. Question them regularly. Don’t fall prey to mirror-imaging and related mindsets. Avoid cherry-picking to support your preferred hypothesis. Value evidence over belief. Skeptics in diverse fields ranging from the hard sciences to intelligence analysis know these maxims well. But plenty of research has made it clear that only exceptional effort keeps us all from falling prey to the same troublesome mental traits; it’s just plain hard to move beyond mere recognition of critical thinking best practices to actually practicing them best.
The article goes on to discuss experiences in the Catholic Church for the establishment of sainthood.
The book starts by describing the roots of the red team concept in the Roman Catholic Church’s “Devil’s Advocacy” method for vetting the qualifications of potential saints. . . It was thought, would ensure that objectivity served as a brake on rapid rushes to sainthood. . . But it raises the question: Why didn’t the process of challenging superstitions lead to the debunking of all attempts at sainthood?
This mild brake on the system for “confirming” miracles eventually proved too annoying for the faithful. . . .Pope John Paul II in 1983 got rid of the position altogether . . . beatifications and canonizations skyrocketed.
And here is the key sentence summarizing the result of this failure to challenge
 The integrity associated with the process and outcome was negated.

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