Debunking

Communities is a track that focuses on the communities that many fen are also a part of (but are or can be separate from fannish interests). This includes among others the BDSM, homeschooling, Jewish, Pagan, poly, and SCA communities as well as other self-identifying communities.

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Debunking

Postby MichaelMcAfee » Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:23 pm

Sadly, there are still charlatans out there trying to take advantage of people's inexperience with technology to sell items or services with no tangible proof they would ever work (such as the technology the "gas companies don't want you to know about" that will allow you to double your MPG). Fortunately, there are folks (such as The Skeptics Society) trying to protect the public by debunking such practices. How does one become a debunker? How does one debunk in a socially responsible way? What are some examples of debunkings gone wrong?
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Debunking other panels

Postby kdo » Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:15 pm

Debunking is good. I'm sure we can all agree that "this simple idea will double your MPG" is bunk. But what about the existence of "real-life psi people", mentioned in the description of last year's "Psi, SF, and Storytelling" panel? Some of us think that is also bunk. And what about "people who are non-human in all but physical outward form". Folks who believe in this stuff should have a space to discuss it, but maybe folks who don't believe in it should too.
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Re: Debunking

Postby Themiscyra » Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:00 pm

There is a fine but distinct line between scams that fleece and/or harm people (commercial mediums who use cold reading and audience plants to con people out of their money, the anti-vaccination movement, homeopathy and useless herbal supplements) and deeply held personal beliefs (neo-paganism and magical traditions, psi, Otherkin). I would suggest, with all due respect, that 'debunking' other people's beliefs when they are not using them to hurt anyone runs counter to the diverse, welcoming environment Arisia has been trying to cultivate for a while now, and does not actually serve any community interest.

As I know for a fact that the Psi panel at Arisia 2015 was disrupted by someone who came to loudly proclaim his skepticism that the panelists' experiences were in any way valid, I honestly don't think I want to encourage that flavor of debunking in a public forum. There are plenty of places out there to discuss it. The community is better served by a panel on recognizing scams, not a panel on 'can you believe these weirdos?'
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Re: Debunking

Postby Themiscyra » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:25 pm

Actually, I'd meant that to be my piece, but this has been bothering me all evening, so I suppose I'd like to say more. Once we start 'debunking' outre beliefs, I just don't know where we stop. I'm not a fan of slippery slope arguments but, honestly: shall we also invite panelists to question the validity of gender identity and variance? The transgender community is outside the mainstream, albeit gaining visibility with every passing week, and it has plenty of critics. Or perhaps we could go back further and reopen the debate about homosexuality as a mental disorder.

These panels on fringe communities -- they're about education and community. Explaining an unusual viewpoint or experience to those who want to know more. Offering a space for people who share those experiences. We don't need an 'I don't believe in any of this' panel for the same reason we don't need a 'Heterosexuality 101' panel or a White History Month. It's the mainstream view already. (All right, less so, perhaps, where ghosts or psychic powers are concerned, but it's still possible to critique scam artists and pseudoscience without taking a stab at people who just want to live in peace with their beliefs.)

I'm all for a panel that explains cold reading, sleight of hand, how to spot an audience plant, how to avoid being distracted by patter, how to recognize love bombing and other cult techniques. I'm all for getting into why vaccines and herd immunity are important. I'm even for pushing back against pseudoscientific religious archaeology and creation science when their proponents are trying to actively disrupt and replace the scientific consensus. That would make for an excellent panel.

But if they're not trying to profit off it, or hurt people with it, or insert it into public education, going after people for their personal beliefs just seems mean-spirited, whether those beliefs involve identifying with mythical creatures, subjective psychic phenomena, encounters with ghosts, gods and prophets, or invisible pink unicorns. If THAT'S what the debunking panel is going be, then I can't support its presence at Arisia in the slightest.
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