Here is Zeiler's Usenet Newsgroups attack on me, and my reply


Subject: CSICOP groupie Gary Posner illustrates the essence of "skepticism"
From: Brian Zeiler
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 1996 03:38:19 -0700
Message-ID: 3262181B.1DA7@sprynet.com

Dr. Gary Posner, MD and cult leader of the Tampa Bay Skeptics wrote the following in "Faulty Sense of Reality", published in "Skeptical Inquirer", 3(2), p. 79:

"[Believers in the paranormal may be] afflicted with a thought disorder that manifests in ... a faulty sense of reality.... [Their] irrational behavior ... may be more compatible with a diagnosis of ambulatory schizophrenia ... than with mere naivete."

So, once again, we see the basic pseudoscientific line of argumentation of the "skeptics": instead of addressing the claims with the specificity demanded of the scientific method and the protocols of logical debate, Posner chooses to assert that his opponents suffer from a pathological medical condition, a bold claim for which Posner apparently has no burden of proof. Posner, a self-styled "skeptic" forgets that in science, criticisms of claims must be specific, not vague attacks -- much less vague attacks on mental stability.

Posner, like most "skeptics", will cloak the shocking irrationality of his amazingly pseudoscientific claim in the holy robes of "science", thus lending a false sense of scientific legitimacy to an approach more consistent with witch hunts and crowd madness than with the scientific methodology which he ironically claims to defend. In reality, he only denigrates that which he purports to promote.

Thank you, Posner, for illustrating the essence of "skepticism" in a way that is highly effective in discrediting any sense of objectivity and scientific rationality that you might have hoped to enjoy. Of course, your fellow skeptic cult members will simply laugh and congratulate you, but that's only to be expected.

How did the scientific community morally deteriorate to such a level where base instinct overrides the logical faculties? Posner's comments are the antithesis of scientific methodology and logical debate, yet CSICOP promotes such intolerable, fanatical viewpoints nevertheless, all while cloaking their zealous agenda of dogmatic fascism in the ruse of objective science.

_ _

Brian Zeiler


From: Brian Zeiler
Newsgroups: alt.alien.visitors,alt.paranet.ufo,sci.skeptic
Subject: Re: CSICOP groupie Gary Posner illustrates the essence of "skepticism"
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 1996 16:06:30 -0700
Message-ID: 3262C776.5FDC@sprynet.com

Cluster User wrote:

> I am curious what he actually wrote that you've replaced with
> brackets and "..."s; I may eventually get to the article. In
> fact, I have to, because I intend on using this again. Shocking.

It is indeed quite shocking. As for the complete text, all I have is the paraphrasing in an article which refers to the article. I'm going to try to get this article sometime, I think.

> Shocking that someone could view another fully functional human
>being with different but completely coping, functional
> opinions/views on the world as an "ambulatory schizophrenic."
>What does he do as an MD? Apparently, his idea of "ambulatory
>schizophrenia" is a personal tool to diagnose anyone with a
>different view from his.

I have no idea what kind of MD he is, but he would have been a great Nazi doctor in World War II.


[Note that Zeiler admits that he had not even read my letter! Upon hearing that, I promptly mailed him a copy, along with documentation that I had been a believer in UFOs well into my 20s! But instead of receiving an apology and retraction, Zeiler posted the following "Conclusion." --G.P.]


Subj: Conclusion on Posner's comments
Date: Mon, Oct 28, 1996 1:10 AM EDT
From: bdzeiler@anet-chi.com
X-From: bdzeiler@primenet.com (Brian Zeiler)

Here are my concluding comments on the Posner debate from about two weeks ago. First, the background. Dr. Gary Posner is a medical doctor, specialty unknown to me, and he currently is the President and CEO of the Tampa Bay Skeptics. The other player, aside from myself, is George Hansen, but unfortunately I don't have any biographical information on him. I do know that he is a contributor to peer-reviewed journals for psychical research, so it would be safe to assume that he is an academic.

The controversy began two weeks ago when I posted an attack on Posner due to my revulsion at reading excerpts from his letter to the editor of Skeptical Inquirer, a non-academic and non-peer-reviewed magazine run by cultists at CSICOP dedicated to debunking all paranormal claims. The original letter by Posner was from issue 3(2), p. 79, 1978. The letter will be reproduced below.

I did not read the original letter prior to my comments, but instead read Hansen's excerpted quotations printed in "CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview", The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 86, January, 1992, p. 42.

Here is Posner's original letter. I will then reproduce Hansen's comments, followed by Posner's reaction to Hansen's comments and my conclusion about this whole incident.

[Zeiler then posted the entire text of my letter here. --G.P.]

Now, let's look at Hansen's quotation in JASPR:

"Gary Posner, an MD and leader of the Tampa Bay Skeptics, has claimed that believers in the paranormal may have a pathological medical condition, saying they may be 'afflicted with a thought disorder that manifests in... a faulty sense of reality' and their 'irrational behavior... may be more compatible with a diagnosis of ambulatory schizophrenia... than with mere naivete' (1978, p. 79). Posner made this claim despite the fact that surveys show that over half the population in this country has had psychic experiences (Greeley, 1975; Haraldsson & Houtkooper, 1991)."

As an explanatory note, the "Uri Awards" are presented by the Skeptical Inquirer to ridicule what they perceive to be the most radical of paranormal researchers and proponents. As I said above, Skeptical Inquirer is not a peer-reviewed, academic outlet for primary research, but rather a trade magazine. Ridicule and derision are typically not invited for academic publication.

As anybody can see, Hansen certainly did *not* take any of Posner's letter out of context, or distort it to even the mildest extent. As any literate person can see above, it was Posner himself, in his own letter, who said, verbatim:

"It is my opinion that much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists may be more compatible with a diagnosis of ambulatory schizophrenia (or a close cousin thereof) than with mere naivete."

Hansen could not have taken this out of context, since there *is* no context! The only "context" is Posner's mention of the "irrational behavior of many paranormalists". If that sentence, the opener to the closing paragraph, had any context, it certainly did not appear that way. It appeared, due to its tone and placement in the letter, to be an independent thought formation, without any tie to any earlier themes or qualifications with respect to types of beliefs. If you read the above letter again, it should be clear that his diagnosis was *not* applied toward only the Uri Awards, but rather to "much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists".

Now, Posner complained, in a subsequent letter to JASPR (88:2, April 1994), that Hansen took "out of context quotes". Then Posner suggested that Hansen should have known that Posner was referring explicitly to the Uri Award nominees themselves, since he mentioned them in the first paragraph. He mentions in the JASPR letter that his comments were directed in particular toward Julius Weinberger, who apparently was nominated for the Uri Award for claiming to have communicated with the dead through a Venus flytrap.

Unfortunately for Posner, his claim is not valid, for several reasons.

First, Posner's letter was poorly written, if it was to convey what he allegedly intended, which is that the *most* bizarre of paranormal claims are really the ravings of madmen in need of therapy. I would suggest that everybody now scroll up and review Posner's letter. Posner opens by vaguely alluding to the Uri Awards, but by the third paragraph, he *opens* this new thought with, reproduced here once again, the following quote:

"It is my opinion that much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists may be more compatible with a diagnosis of ambulatory schizophrenia (or a close cousin thereof) than with mere naivete."

This statement in the closing paragraph is provided *totally* independent of *any* consideration of the Uri Award nominees and is given without any qualification whatsoever as to the types of paranormal beliefs. Posner simply refers to "much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists". We're supposed to think that he was confining this thoroughly vague opening sentence of the closing paragraph to the Uri Award nominees? To the contrary, it sounds to me, and apparently to Hansen, as though Posner was really suggesting that "MANY" paranormal believers suffered from "ambulatory schizophrenia" -- which is precisely what he said! -- but that the Uri Award nominees were only a *small* sample from the extreme right-tail of the distribution of "bizarre intellectual behavior" deserving of his diagnosis.

Perhaps no misunderstandings would have occurred had Posner qualified his last paragraph by continuing to refer to the extremist paranormal views, rather than"much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists".

In fact, one might say that his last paragraph thoroughly disproves his subsequent claim that he was referring only to the Uri Award nominees, since if Posner claims he was really referring to these nominees throughout the letter as the extremist types that are schiozphrenic, then how can "much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists" logically apply to an extremist sample of the population of paranormalists? The nominees were, by definition, a tiny group of extremists, yet Posner then broadens his diagnosis to include "much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists" -- and, furthermore, that was said in a paragraph which did not refer to the Uri Awards any longer.

It doesn't look to me as though Posner simply wrote the letter rather poorly. It looks as though Posner offered a collective, long-distance, remote medical diagnosis with absolutely no scientific research whatsoever, and upon being attacked by one or more offended readers, proceeded to make unfounded accusations of "out of context" quoting by retroactively adding a context in such a way that not only requires telepathic ability in the reader, but in such a way that actually logically contradicts his earlier statements, as I explained in the paragraph directly preceding this one.

The contradiction is that Posner insists he was referring to the extremist paranormal believers, which by definition are some small subset of all paranormal believers, yet then he applies his diagnosis to "much of the irrational behavior of many paranormalists [which] may be more compatible with a diagnosis of ambulatory schizophrenia..."

Conclusion:

* Hansen did not take Posner's quotes out of context

* I did not take Posner's quotes out of context through Hansen

* I stand by my original comments that Posner's letter was written recklessly and thoughtlessly, and I now conclude that his subsequent response to Hansen's criticism was nothing more than hasty damage control which relied on logical and explicit verbal contradictions with his earlier letter.

_ _

Brian Zeiler


Read my reply (and that of others) to Zeiler's attack.

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