Friday, May 17, 2013

Some opinions on Truzzi

In a previous post, I documented the views of Marcello Truzzi, who resigned from the Center for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in the 1970s.  In that post, I did not express a positive or negative opinion.  This is not because I believe that a blog post on the internet is an inappropriate place to express opinions.  Actually, I think it's important to interact with history by forming opinions on it.  I just figured the post was long enough and I can express my views separately here.

I have a rather negative view of Truzzi's views:
  • He took agnosticism to an unreasonable extreme.  He wouldn't even have tentatively conclude that Velikovsky's theories were wrong.  He felt anything less than agnosticism meant you held a burden of proof.  I think he didn't really internalize his own quote, "Extraordinary ideas require extraordinary proof", or he had a different understanding of it than I do.
  • He seemed to really dislike hypotheses that involve paranormal claimants cheating or doing bad statistical analysis.  I don't see why this should be singled out as a bad hypothesis, unless you're emotionally attached to the idea that everyone is essentially a good person.
  • He thought people were rational to consult alternative medicine when there were no orthodox solutions.  It's the Pascal's Wager of alternative medicine (and it fails just as badly).
  • He felt there was a conflict between CSICOP's role as advocate and role as judge.  I think the legal analogies aren't helping.  In my experience, researchers have all sorts of biases and favored conclusions, but this doesn't necessarily compromise their science.  You just need to use methods that filter out personal biases, and adversaries to spot errors.
  • As a matter of personal taste, Zetetic Scholar was just too serious and dry for me.  But then, I expose myself to the same complaint...
It also seems that Truzzi's criticism of skepticism was roughly opposite that of many critics today.  Today, critics would like to broaden the scope of skepticism more, while Truzzi wanted a narrower scope.
Do any of you, dear readers, have opinions on Marcello Truzzi or his ideas?