A Response To bryce

Posted in Blogosphere on  | 9 minutes | 2 Comments →

So, the usual haters are at it again, but in between the name-calling and flanking I noticed a rather composed comment from somebody by the name of bryce. I liked the response his comment provoked, but it got a bit long, so I figured I'd post it here. Who knows? Maybe bryce will come by, maybe we'll have a fruitful discussion, or maybe he'll even become a regular commenter? Weirder things have happened. Here's bryce's comment in its entirety:

It's bold of you, PhillyChief, to take on this guy. I actually find many of the arguments surrounding this dispute less than satisfactory. In addition, I think atheists rely too heavily on appeals to science when trying to refute claims of supernatural events. I don't think what people generally call science can even be applied in many cases.

Take cl's story about the flying video games as an example. It seems unlikely that anyone will ever know exactly what happened. I think an investigation would only enter the realm of science once the event could be replicated. Anyone can make a conjecture about what happened, but it's very difficult to assign weight to any conjecture without more information. Yet, it's very tempting to generate and argue for some conjecture. It's really hard to test conjectures that include one-time events or events that rely on a complicated confluence of circumstances (such as, for example, the emotional state of the people around). Coming up with a conjecture that's very difficult to verify means that it's likely hard to refute as well.
When James Randi commences to debunk some claim, he does it by finding a verifiable explanation for a phenomenon which can displace the false claim. Unfortunately, in those one-off events like the flying video games, the first step of replicating the phenomenon is not possible. I think it's at this point that a divergence in many peoples' thinking occurs. Some think we simply haven't found an explanation for the event. Some will ascribe the event to ghosts. Some will ascribe the event to God. And so on. For any event, there are any number of imaginary and false explanations.

There's a theme in this type of debate of dividing up causes of events into "natural" or "supernatural". I would tend to reject this distinction. The discourse, for me, needs to center on what's knowable and what is not knowable. Any explanation involving, say, ghosts raises a whole set of new questions. If we found out there are ghosts, then that would push back the envelope on what's knowable. We could then ask questions about how ghosts fit into the world in terms of physics, for example. Of course, the idea of ghosts is just a nebulous concept until we can actually characterize them. The definition would have to be refined as more is learned. There might be different classes of ghosts, and some events that were formerly attributed to ghosts might be found later to be caused in fact by pink unicorns. If cl finds hundreds of events that remain un-explained and points to them as evidence for ghosts, what are we to say when some fraction of the events are later explained with ghosts ruled out as the cause? Perhaps by the time the ghost hypothesis is ruled out in all the initial cases, a thousand more un-explained events have been documented. This process usually gives an account for what happened in each of a number of cases, but doesn't advance general knowledge at all.

I think what atheists like myself would like to see from someone like cl is some unexplainable phenomenon that we can observe ourselves. And if he wastes our time with dodges or phenomenon that do have explanations, then it seems fair to stop bothering to investigate his claims. In addition, we can fairly say to the world that he has been making false claims as to the cause of some phenomenon.

Well. There's quite a bit in there, and even better, all of it thoughtful and relevant, and not one single sentence of it inflammatory or accusatory. So, let's get down.


First off, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Believe me, it stood out like a beacon of light in that dark, dark thread. From what I'm seeing right now, you and I are the type that could probably get somewhere in a discussion about these things. Although, I would suggest investigating what I actually say about X, Y or Z instead of Philly's perceptions of what I say about X, Y or Z. If you haven't noticed, the guy intensely dislikes me, to put it mildly. Yet as we all know, heated emotion tends to blur cold logic. Of course, it's fully possible that you've already checked me out and found me wanting, and I don't mean to be presumptuous if that's the case, I just wanted to reiterate the rationalist's maxim that we're always better off going straight to the source.

I agree with you about the epistemological difficulties anecdotes and conjectures inherently retain. I also concur with you regarding the silliness of the "natural / supernatural" dichotomy, which is actually a point I've been trying to explain to Philly.

Allow me to point out that I'm not claiming that the video game incident proves or demonstrates "the supernatural" (for lack of a better word). The main point of that post was to first test the plausibility of all feasible rational explanations, to see how they fare. Whenever we're met with some anomalous phenomena, it seems to me the place to start is excluding explanations that can't account for all the data. Would you say that's a decent starting point?

In that thread, some people gave rational explanation an honest and respectful shot, while the rest saw fit to simply insult me and make all sorts of misconstrued statements about the weight I assigned to the incident. I got everything from "liar" to "drunkard" to "group hallucination," and then some. Yet, like yourself, I'm gravely concerned with what is and is not knowable; what is and is not true. Although you are most certainly correct that we'll likely never know what actually caused the games to do what they did, the way I see it, if we are to be intellectually responsible, we can't just sweep these things under the rug and denounce everybody who experiences them as some sort of superstitious loon.

You said,

I think what atheists like myself would like to see from someone like cl is some unexplainable phenomenon that we can observe ourselves. And if he wastes our time with dodges or phenomenon that do have explanations, then it seems fair to stop bothering to investigate his claims. In addition, we can fairly say to the world that he has been making false claims as to the cause of some phenomenon.

Then by all means, give me a shot. I do my best to add new phenomena to the discussions here, and I believe that if you give me an honest shot, you'll see for yourself that although I might make a mistake here and there like anyone else, I'm not a liar, nor a troll, I don't make false claims, or any of that. Now, if I have departed from sound epistemological or scientific principle, then by all means, I need to know. I need calm, collected, rational people to explain where and why I've erred – with cogent refutation – not a bunch of emotion-based, first-grade vitriol masquerading as cogent refutation. Boats don't float with holes in them. I want people to help me build a better boat, not call me every denigrating name in the book for trying. As Stephen Hawkings knows all too well, refutation by denigration is the sore loser's strategy.

I submit that when people like Philly malign my character by calling me a liar – which is nothing short of libel – I usually ask for the citations and evidence – which are of course never forthcoming. And every time, Philly and the people that make these libelous claims resort to excuses as to why they can't provide the citations and evidence I request.

As you can see yourself from Philly's reply to you, and also his opening statement in the OP,

[cl] has a trail of nonsense that should anyone wish to go through it on various blogs they could expose a lot of his shit…
That's why I always thought somebody should compile his crap, categorize it and just serve it up each time he appears making a new claim or generally talking shit.

Now, that's a great idea if I don't say so myself, and I actually do keep lists of the things my detractors do that I claim are
objectionable. If you go through my blog, you'll find instances where I've categorized
objectionable behavior from Philly and his cronies. As they're
ever-hating, my lists are ever-growing. In fact, they often ridicule me about that, too, but I don't see it as negative that I revisit threads to check. After all, the last thing I want is for myself to be blinded if I am in fact an idiot. I take this stuff seriously. As a professional writer, it's important to me to do my best to be on point, and by no means am I always on point, but I do take the time to make the effort.

On the other hand, I find it a bit suspicious that Philly apparently has plenty of time to spend entire days calling me "jackass" and "douche" in other threads, but not enough time to actually compose the legitimate meta-analysis he needs to sustain his claims. Is that not consistent with the very "deflection" and "dodging" I've been accused of? 

Either way, thanks again, bryce. Like I said, anyone who responds in a thoughtful and courteous manner tends to stand out. I hope to make your acquaintance and learn a thing or two. If not, best to you.


  1. Gideon


    This is what I meant, before, when I said it would do no good to relate any supernatural experiences with infidels, especially of the ilk of that fat-assed Philly Chief. Unless they were there to see for their own infidel selves what went down, they’ll always take the easy way out, which is to scoff.
    The Chief and his gaggle of moronic numbskulls will just have to do without the benefit of the mind and consciousness-expanding supernatural… even to their eternal loss, if need be. Their pseudo-science hasn’t been proven; they can’t seem to produce any proof of their assertions, yet they exclude and condemn all other explanations.
    I won’t waste my time with them, anymore, and that’s a biblical premise, too. (Matt. 10:13-15)

  2. cl


    In the end, bryce turned out to be uninterested. It is what it is.

    ..especially of the ilk of that fat-assed Philly Chief.

    Why do you often say he’s fat? How could you know that unless you’ve seen him? Or a photo of him? Or…, well, let’s just leave the options to those for now. ;)
    I don’t necessarily equate stubborness with stupidity. Though I do believe his pride often renders him incapable of correction, and it’s always frustrating to converse with people who can’t seem to squarely confront facts, the Chief’s not as bad as you make him out to be. Many people act different online than they do in real life. He’s probably a fun guy to be around in a cordial, everyday environment – like a bar, party or concert. Online, he just seems like any other overconfident skeptic who reacts irrationally to information that challenges their worldview.

    Unless they were there to see for their own infidel selves what went down, they’ll always take the easy way out, which is to scoff.

    I agree that scoffing is taking an easy way out, and I would agree to the statement that many will not be convinced without experience. I also agree that the strident atheist’s unwillingness is to their own detriment.

    I won’t waste my time with them, anymore,

    That’s interesting; I just saw you at SI’s the other day. What do you mean by “waste [your] time” then?

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