Exposing PseudoAstronomy

November 10, 2017

About Accepting and Rejecting Claims


I was contacted in the recent past by a listener inquiring about various claims that I’ve written (here) or spoken (podcast) about, and whether me not talking about certain things or choosing to ignore certain claims means that I agree with them. I explained my position via email, but in lieu of an on-time podcast episode (sorry … now a week late), I thought I’d explain my position here, too.

For me, to either accept a claim or to reject a claim means that you (or me, in this case, since I’m talking about me) would need to actively form an opinion about something and then state that opinion somewhere so others know about it. That latter part isn’t necessarily required, but it does constitute documentation of acceptance or rejection of said claim.

In this case, the opposite is also true: If I do not actively form an opinion about something, I have neither accepted nor rejected it. Is red wine or white wine better? For me, someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I have no opinion in my own mind nor have I stated that opinion because I simply have not thought about it.

Could there be a knee-jerk reaction to something or could one accept or reject something by default before exploring it? Sure — Brian Dunning did an episode of Skeptoid about this maybe a year or so ago that, to exist in normal society, we can’t be a skeptic about everything. For example, I take it for granted that the electromagnetic force making me a solid object will keep me in my car, and I and my car won’t fall through the road. I take it for granted that my alarm clock will go off when I tell it to, that the operating system on my phone will just keep working, and I could go on with a myriad of other examples.

On the other side, I’ve gotten all sorts of “outside the mainstream” feedback for my Exposing PseudoAstronomy “brand.” For example, I had a woman e-mail me earlier this year claiming that chemtrails are crazy conspiracy, but that she had proof in a photograph that a certain cloud formation was actually the angelic Host of Heaven coming forth to Earth. I ignored the e-mail.

In ignoring that e-mail, does that mean that that woman should think that I accepted her position? Absolutely not – it would be pretty crazy to interpret a non-response as an acceptance of someone’s position. Should she assume that I don’t agree with her because I did not respond? She might, and my knee-jerk reaction is to disagree with that kind of message, but in fairness, I did not investigate and so I opted not to form a formal opinion on the matter. Do I consider it unlikely? Of course. But formally, I have neither accepted nor rejected her claim.

The same goes for many other kinds of messages I get from other individuals, as well: While I appreciate feedback, though am always behind in responding, if you send me a claim that you believe in, my failure to respond indicates neither acceptance nor rejection of that claim. However, if that claim is one that I have already looked into and have copious writings on in the past – for example, a young-Earth creationist claim, or Planet X, or much of Richard Hoagland’s material – then one can look to that material and likely infer my response.

But, to interpret a lack of response as me accepting your position is dishonest and could be considered libelous, depending on how far you go.

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4 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

    Comment by Vincent S Artale Jr — November 10, 2017 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  2. Thumbs up.

    Comment by Bruce b — November 10, 2017 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  3. What? Are you claiming that an argument from silence is some sort of logical fallacy?

    Comment by Stan Rogers — November 14, 2017 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

    • Something like that. Though in this case I’m specifically stating that my failure to express an opinion of something cannot be taken as approval or disapproval of it. This takes it out of the realm of an informal logical fallacy and puts it into the realm of a lie if someone claims otherwise.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 14, 2017 @ 9:11 pm | Reply


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