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Why Are Skeptics Such a Negative Bunch?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the this-should-be-an-FAQ dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 74

Makin Waves asks: "Skeptics are very good at 'disproving' things that can't be proven in the first place, so, how about offering me a reasonable, rational explanation for all the cattle mutilations in Argentina instead? (200 at last count). A decent explanation must include the following...Where did all the blood go? What portable instrument does the cauterized cuts? Why won't scavengers touch the dead bodies? Why are there no tracks or blood around the bodies? Why do they take tissues that have a lot of nerves? Last but not least, if not aliens....then Who, Why and How? A Google search will get you all the info you need. For the lazy, this place has a lot of stories. C'mon skeptics, put your money where your mouth is. Maybe it was 'auto-suggestion' eh?"

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shut the fkuc up (-1)

u-238 (515248) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637214)


it was obviously aliens from outer space, duh, stupid skeptics.

Sceptisicsm (0, Troll)

Zephy (539060) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637263)

It's simple. Sceptics are usually right.

Vampire Robots, of course (3, Funny)

whatever3003 (536979) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637267)

I did. Im a Robot Vampire, created by extremist Argentinian environmentalists that foresaw the need to control the number of cattle, lest they eat all of their fodder and starve themselves. I use an array of surgical tools, of which are in place of my arms. These tools are far beyond the known scope of human science. These dangerously hot and pointy tools are used to remove tissues with a high density of nerves so that I may graft them to my metallic facade in order to pass for human one day and drink from the fount of human life, and not have to feed from bovine blood (which is of course processed and used by by my bio-mechanic innards). Scavengers wont touch my leftovers because of the keen and smelly scent I leave behind, untraceble by humans and their petty, near useless senses. ... Aliens are more interested in probing, silly. With all of that probing, who has time for messy endeavours such as analysing what robot vampires eat for dinner?

Re:Vampire Robots, of course (1)

PerlGuru (115222) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637451)

:-) Where's the mod points when I need them?

Re:Vampire Robots, of course (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638980)

I think a good name for a speed metal band would be 'Bio Mechanical Innards.'

Cattle mutilations explained (0, Redundant)

alnapp (321260) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637269)

God told me to do it :-)

Scientific approach (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637272)

Most sceptics I know don't have a scientific approach to these problems. For instance they say that aliens don't exist because it's never proven they exist. That is of course a crappy argument. I also feel that some/many people don't want to admit they don't have answers to all questions. Like it's a defeat to admit you don't know something.

Re:Scientific approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5638006)

Actually that is the Scientific approach. Sceptics do not say that there are no space allens. Just that there is no proof of space allens. Most Sceptics will tell you that most likley there is life other places in the universe the just see no proof that they have ever showed up here. If I told you that the cattle where killed by Barbie Dolls that come to life at night and drink cow blood. You would think I was nuts but you can not prove it does not happen. You would have to prove that none of the Barbie Dolls came to life ever and went out and drank cow blood. There is just as much proof for magic Barbie Dolls as for UFO pilots getting off on killing cows.

Re:Scientific approach (1)

PD (9577) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638444)

I can't prove that invisible pink elephants don't exist, but is that also a crappy argument?

Re:Scientific approach (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638524)

Yes because maybe they do exist. You can't prove that something doesn't exist.

Re:Scientific approach (2, Insightful)

PD (9577) | more than 11 years ago | (#5639314)

But, is someone justified in believing in invisible pink elephants? And, if someone believes in invisible pink elephants, would they be justified in believing in invisible blue elephants?

The point I'm getting at is without a good BS detector (scepticism) nobody will be able to decide what to believe.

Re:Scientific approach (1)

ScepticOne (576266) | more than 11 years ago | (#5641317)

How can they be pink if they're invisible? Invisible implies perfectly transparent.

Re:Scientific approach (1)

PD (9577) | more than 11 years ago | (#5642373)

They are invisible, but not transparent. Invisible pink elephants can see each other perfectly fine. Lots of people accept things like "three persons one god", so why is this so difficult?

Re:Scientific approach (1)

NTT (92764) | more than 11 years ago | (#5639226)

So... Does that mean the invisible pink elephants are NP [http] problems???

Re:Scientific approach (1)

Sgt York (591446) | more than 11 years ago | (#5656597)

If they are pink, then they aren't invisible.

Another one down! Next, please!

but skeptics support SETI (2, Insightful)

cbogart (154596) | more than 11 years ago | (#5641390)

Of course it's crappy thinking to say that if aliens are unproven, aliens don't exist. But in fact many people skeptical of alien cattle mutilations support SETI research, because they're open-minded on the question of aliens.

On the other hand it's also crappy thinking to say that if there is something unexplained going on, then the explanation is probably something Big that subverts the dominant paradigm and will make all those smug science people humble when they realize that an ordinary person had the answer that their billion dollar labs couldn't provide.

I think a lot of people feel intimidated by the inaccessibility of modern science so they're highly motivated to believe it's wrong about *something*. Hence the popularity of alternative medicine -- the evidence for it is sometimes questionable but the act of *choosing* it gives you more sense of control over your life and health, which may have more theraputic value than the pharmaceutical-plus-condescending-doctor combo could have provided.

Re:Scientific approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5644371)

You think skeptics are bad? Nihilists don't even believe in skeptisism.

Sigh (1, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637286)

A bunch of cows die and nobody claims responsibility, so it MUST be aliens? Please.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5637622)

Thanks for providing a decent explanation like he asked for, dimwit.

Re: Sigh (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637878)

> A bunch of cows die and nobody claims responsibility, so it MUST be aliens? Please.

I'll bet you're a curmudgeon who doesn't think aliens make crop circles, either!

BTW, I read somewhere that in the USA cattle mutilations follow county lines. If a sheriff writes them up as insurable losses they continue in that county, otherwise they stop after the first couple of incidents. Funny behavior for aliens, if true.

Maybe aliens want to wreck the insurance industry before their assault troops land.

Re:Sigh (1)

uncoveror (570620) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640711)

The jury is still out on whether El Chupacabra are aliens. They maybe a result of genetic tinkering, or a yet undiscovered species, but those cattle mutilations are El Chupacabra for sure. The worst parts are that El Chupacabra can breed with dogs, [uncoveror.com] and that a Chupa Pup has been on a rampage in New England! Read more, [uncoveror.com] and more, [uncoveror.com] and still more. [uncoveror.com]

Why they're so negative (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5637287)

I've had some experience with these types so I'll try to lay it out:

1) They have poor people skills and lack tact. They usually are obsessional and highly impassioned over their chosen field, and wish to bulldoze anything in their way.
2) They hold their values/ideals/theories as personal mojo brownie points, they don't truly care about they truth or any 'scientific method', all they're interested in is warping and ramming in everything to fit in with what is fashionable in the accidemic establishment in their particular area. You wouldn't believe some of the daft things I've seen them try to say to protect the status quo.
3) They view anybody who isn't a part of the 'mainstream' (read: people who have unquestioningly cabon-copied all the ideas fashionable in that area of science) as the enemy, and with scorn and dirision. Anything someone on the outer says is not going to be taken seriously simply because of who has said it.
4) They're very conservative, they hate new ideas. Ideas are like religious dogma in certain accidemic circles, they hate it being altered and challenged. The only way things get changed is if somebody very high up in the hiarachy, who has scored major mojo points by being ultra conformist, makes every so slight alterations to an established idea. This'll then be argued over for a decade or so before being accepted.
5) They don't like anything they can't explain. Something which throws a spanner in the works they don't want to know. Something that sounds like it is from a 'quack' they don't want to know. Some of what you read in your high school text books is incorrect, but nobody in accidemia will accept it because they won't take notice of blatent evidence if it doesn't conform to the status quo.

Re:Why they're so negative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5637639)

I suppose it is funny, but I was actually being serious. This is really what they're like. You would've believe how frothing at the mouth some accidemics can become over their cherished 'truths'.

Re:Why they're so negative (1)

bardencj (122074) | more than 11 years ago | (#5639520)

"accidemic"? Are those people who didn't know what they wanted to do in school and just kept studying until they suddenly found themselves teaching classes at a university?

"Omigod, I'm a professor. How did this happen?!"

Your comments are on target for some academics, but not all of them. The vast majority of successful scientists recognize that to disprove a false claim requires only science, not vitriol. The ones you speak of, though they may claim to be evangelists for "reason," are really just intellectual bullies who lack confidence in their own abilities. If they really wanted to show the conspiracy theorists the error of their ways, wouldn't they try some tact every now and then?
Hint: Yelling "bullshit" at someone isn't a persuasive argument.

There's another, more sinister possibility...
maybe the skeptic's cult gets a royalty cut for hawking Sagan's book... but I couldn't prove that, mind you. ;)

Re:Why they're so negative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5643280)

B.S. isn't good enough for accidemics, they prefer the word "bollocks" ;-)

Hmm come to think of it they do actually.

Re:Why they're so negative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5641488)

You're description sounds uncannily like all of the 'biblical inerrancy' fundamentalists I've ever had the extreme displeasure of meeting. Except, of course, that when scientists and skeptics describe religious fundamentalists, they generally make fewer spelling, grammar, usage, and style errors.

Re:Why they're so negative (1)

bigmattana (646048) | more than 11 years ago | (#5657525)

Style error? Talk about dogma!

sceptical... (1)

arnorhs (650507) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637293)

well... i'm the typical sceptic, and my sceptical answer is that it is simply a lie. No cattle has ever been drained of it's blood. anyways, i won't belive it until i see it...

Simple explanation. It's a bloody HOAX!!! (2, Insightful)

xutopia (469129) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637338)

Use Occam's razor when you have many theories to choose from. Use common sense when you do not have any.

Re:Simple explanation. It's a bloody HOAX!!! (2, Funny)

Spackler (223562) | more than 11 years ago | (#5642430)

Sorry, my wife used Occam's razor to shave her legs over the weekend. It's a little dull now, so it must have been the aliens

Re:Simple explanation. It's a bloody HOAX!!! (1)

bigmattana (646048) | more than 11 years ago | (#5657756)

Yes, it probably is a hoax (and a bloody one at that), but you, like many poeple, seem to have a misunderstanding of Occam's Razor. It says that a theory should not be more complicated than needed to explain a particular phenomenon. Many people, including one of my physics professors, seem to equate complex with uncommon or hard to believe. It does not even say that the simplest theory is ALWAYS true, but that we should lean toward the simplest theory if it explains something as well as a more complicated one, essentially "slicing off" parts of the theory that don't help it explain things better.

The problem with people who are skeptical of everything that doesn't fit into the current scientific theories (which have nothing against aliens other than the time it would take for them to get here) is that they want to eradicate theories that are strange or complex altogether, even when there is not another one that can explain EVERYTHING.

Most skeptics of crop circles for example, sipmly say that they are all made by people using rope and boards, but they ignore the details that this theory does not explain. (I'm not sure if I believe that aliens are making crop circles, but I would certainly like to hear a theory that actually could exlain the nuances of the more complicated ones - the things skeptics won't touch.)

It is good to be skeptical of things that are not believable, but if skeptical opionions are to be taken seriously, they must include some sort of alternative theory that actually explains how and why something happens. If you don't you are showing that people who jump to far-out conclusions can some up with solutions better than you. (Not you personally, but you get the idea.)

One of the reasons why there are so many innocent poeple in prison is the fact that police departments overuse Occam's Razor. This is also one of the reasons why cops are rarely suspected of crimes in an investigation. That would just be too far-out and complicated.

Link (3, Informative)

tsa (15680) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637342)

By the way, the link doesn't work. Try this [crystalinks.com] .

burden of proof (1)

rask22 (144831) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637345)

Tell me how I, as a skeptic, have any more information about this to base an opinion on that you? You are the one trying to show that there is some extraordinary reason for what is happening to the cattle. That requires extraordinary proof, proof that you just aren't giving us. But you are the one trying to prove something here, not us. Your failure to convince us is your shortcoming, not ours. (Oh, and happy April 1st! ;)

My (not so) humble opionion... (3, Funny)

moonboy (2512) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637348)

...it's Cowboy Neal.

Re:My (not so) humble opionion... (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640183)

"...it's Cowboy Neal."

If it's in Argentina, wouldn't that be Gaucho Neal?

Hi, I'm a skeptic (1)

jolshefsky (560014) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637364)

I'd just like to not clarify my skeptical position, should I have one. Basically, I don't believe in everything, but phrase it in the negative. For instance, "How do we know cattle mutilations are not the work of extraterrestrials?" In other words, "How do we know cattle mutilations do not have terrestrial causes."

If you're confused, just remember, you're not confused. Figure that one out, brainac.

You have skeptics wrong (2, Insightful)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637412)

You are viewing controversy in black & white.

When a new "unknown" is discovered (like this cow thing) people put forth theories (aliens, vampire robots, etc). A skeptic is someone who is unwilling to agree to your theory without evidence.

I think the statement "we earthlings are being visited by extraterrestrials" demonstrates this point nicely. While there is much antidotal testimony to support such a statement, there does not appear to be evidence (no alien corpses washing up on Miami beach, no alien spacecraft shot down by Syrian shepherds and on display).

Many skeptics also understand that usually the first theories about something are, in fact, incorrect.

Re:You have skeptics wrong (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637641)

>people put forth theories (aliens, vampire robots, etc)

You almost had it right. In fact, the saucer people and the reverse vampires are behind this.

Re:You have skeptics wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5638348)

While there is much antidotal testimony to support such a statement

I think you mean anecdotal...

Sorry to be pedantic, but it bugs me when someone gets a word that wrong.

Not "dis"-proving. Proving "non-proof." (5, Insightful)

dschuetz (10924) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637439)

Skeptics don't really disprove anything (I'm generalizing here). They simply prove that a proponent of an extraordinary claim are not able to prove that claims.

It's a "put up or shut up" argument. Are there dead cows on the side of the road? Sure, I suppose occasionally a cow dies here or there. And occasionally teenagers go out and kill a bunch on a lark (I'm guessing).

Are there cows with no blood, cauterized wounds (why cauterize them if the blood has been drained?), and that no longer appear appetizing to vultures? Hm. That's interesting. Where are these? How many? And, most importantly, have they been independently verified?

Skeptics are, as a rule, willing to believe. But nobody who's come forward with an incredible claim has been able to show that they were what was claimed in the first place. It's easy to say that you've been abducted by aliens. Anyone can do it. It's difficult to prove that you've been abducted, and without some kind of proof, skepticism is the only proper response.

It's been said by many (and I've already seen it mentioned here) that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." That's what it comes down to.

If you can document, with careful undoctored photographs of dead cows, medical examinations of their drained bodies and cauterized wounds, surveilance of un-vultured corpses (with additional surveilance of other dead animals in the region at the same time to be sure it's not just a vulture holiday), and bring all that, properly reported and analyzed, then a skeptic might be willing to say that something weird's going on.

But bring them all that information, and then say "see, aliens did it!", then not only will you have an unprovable claim, but you're likely to cast a shadow on otherwise proper research. (good tip -- if you're trying to be an authority on cattle mutiliations, don't pose for a photo in a crop circle.) And don't forget, no matter how well-performed your research, it's still possible you introduced an unintentional bias in the methods or results, and the report that the deaths are "weird" might itself not even be valid.

I might also mention that the vast amount of bad science in the field of paranormal studies strongly discourages real scientists from getting into the field, so the posssibility of real, controlled, precice research into any of these is only hampered by the wackos complaining that nobody's listening to them.

So, no, skeptics aren't a "negative" bunch. To paraphrase Fox Mulder, many "want to believe." But to be comfortable in that belief, they need something more than badly-designed web pages and the Weekly World News.

Re:Not "dis"-proving. Proving "non-proof." (2, Informative)

arthurs_sidekick (41708) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637636)

FWIW, the, uhh, classical source (in western "civilization", props to Gandhi) of the argument about the strength of testimony required to establish an extraordinary claim stems back to David Hume. Amongst his diverse interests were arguments concerning the existence of a deity, and here's his encapsulated response to attempts to establish the existence of a deity by appeal to testimony about miracles:

That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish... [ An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding ]

occult rituals? (1)

Vincman (584156) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637471)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it not just as plausible that some occult tribe uses cattle in it's rituals? And yes I am a sceptic, especially when I'm supposed to take something unproven for a fact.

Re:occult rituals? (1)

ccp (127147) | more than 11 years ago | (#5639581)

Im from Argentina, and the only tribes left here are soccer fans.
Beside, its very hard to HIDE in the flat, treeles pampas.
Wait, maybe theres an UNDERGROUND tribe. That would explain everything.

Have I been trolled?
If so, cheers.

Vultures (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637506)

Unvultured corpses? That's simple: So many people believing in aliens walk around the things and make noise no sane vulture would get anywhere near it.

Re:Vultures (1)

orangesquid (79734) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640805)

Vulture 1: Hey, look, free cow!
Vulture 2: Dude---haven't you heard?
Vulture 1: What?
Vulture 2: Aliens touched that cow!
Vulture 1: Huh?
Vulture 2: Aliens. They're these short, smart humans who make guest appearances in X-files episodes.
Vulture 1: X-files? I saw that once! There was some guy, and everybody thought he was a Fox or something but he didn't even have a tail, and then there was some lady named Scully, and she kept getting taller and then shorter.
Vulture 2: Yeah, that's the one. Anyway---
Vulture 1: Oh, yeah, and there was some conspiracy episode once, with this old guy who put little fires in his mouth, and they kept talking about some black oily stuff that makes people sew their eyeholes shut.
Vulture 2: Yes! That's alien blood. I bet that cow is full of it.
Vulture 1: Wow... let's steer clear, then. My sewing machine is broken.
Vulture 2: Yeah, and I don't have any thread to match my feathers, anyway.

So does "it was aliens" work? (5, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637527)

Where did all the blood go? What portable instrument does the cauterized cuts? Why won't scavengers touch the dead bodies? Why are there no tracks or blood around the bodies? Why do they take tissues that have a lot of nerves?

That's a lot of questions. Add to it, Did the blood really go? How robust was the research into scavengers? Has there been any research into whether the meat was edible? Why are you talking about "they"?

Now, let's try "it were aliens" as the answer. How many questions have we answered? None. Do we get any new questions? Yes - How can aliens come to earth, How come no-one noticed them even with extremely refined rader equipment etc, and Why in heck would they do a thing like this.

An answer that answers nothing and only poses new, rather hard questions is not a very good answer.

Unfortunately the link is Slashdotted. I'd look into the facts first - how thorough was the research that makes those claims?

Last but not least, if not aliens....then Who, Why and How?

Those have to be answered if you argue it was done by aliens, too.

Question for original questioner (1)

GCP (122438) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640637)

So, original questioner, there is clearly a discrepancy between relativity and quantum mechanics. I claim that the existance of tortilla chips in the world is the cause, and if they were all eliminated, the discrepancy would vanish.

Are you skeptical of my claim? Well then by your logic, *you* are now responsible for proving me wrong, presumably by removing all tortilla chips from the world and demonstrating that the discrepancy still remains.

By your logic, if you don't then you'll just have to accept my tortilla chip theory as correct.

Re:Question for original questioner (1)

AssFace (118098) | more than 11 years ago | (#5654762)


You just cleared up a lot for me. I've always suspected there was something up with tortilla chips.

Re:So does "it was aliens" work? (1)

Sgt York (591446) | more than 11 years ago | (#5656665)

An answer that answers nothing and only poses new, rather hard questions is not a very good answer.

Without delving into the rest of the quagmire of this thread, I have to say something here...

You are correct that the "aliens" explanation provides no answers, yet raises questions. No argument there. But on a philosophical note...Answers to questions that raise more (and harder) questions are the best ones. It happens to me all the time. Whenever I do an experiment and get a good answer, 10 more great questions pop up in its place, as a direct result of the question. Generally, it goes along the lines of "Why did X happen?" (do the experiment) "Because of Y and Z." "OK, what caused Y? What caused Z?" and so forth...

You sure do have a lot of "facts" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5637585)

Can you now please point to a skeptical or scientific source that can verify all these factual claims you are making about these cattle killings?

You can't have proof of fantasy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5637602)

The problem with your challenge is as usual, you're asking for an explanation of "facts" that aren't true. In every case when claims like these are investigated the premises collapse.

For example, you ask for an explaniation of the "surgical tools." Who says there any cuts at all, much less of "surgical precison."? Who says surgical tools are required? Whether the evidence is of anything "surgical" is a judgment call and it turns out that the judgment is wrong.

I'd like to know how you leap from "You can't explain..." to "That proves it was done by aliens in UFOs." Those aliens must have lousy note taking capability if they have to keep doing cattle disections to figure them out.

Scientific investigation does not begin with such premises.

You turned around at your desk and you were surprised that I was standing right behind you. How did I get teleportation capability? Do I have alien technology? Don't just tell me that you think I snuck up behind you quietly!

Here's the explanation for you to ignore because it doesn't have enough fantasy: http://skepdic.com/cattle.html [skepdic.com]

Skeptics *have* put their money up... (3, Insightful)

jhealy1024 (234388) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637649)

C'mon skeptics, put your money where your mouth is.

You obviously have never heard of James Randi [randi.org] . He (and his foundation) have offered a $1,000,000 prize to anyone who can scientifically prove claims of the paranormal [randi.org] .

Guess what. Nobody has ever collected. In fact, nobody has ever passed a preliminary screening test for the prize.

I don't have a copy of Randi's An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural [amazon.com] with me at work, but I'm sure there's an entry about cattle mutilations. You might borrow that book from the library sometime (or any of Randi's other books, or a tape of his PBS Nova special [pbs.org] ). It would definitely give you some perspective, even if it didn't answer your questions about dead bovines.

Skeptics are skeptical because we believe that there are a set of rules to follow when observing phenomena and formulating explainations for them. The burden of proof lies with those who wish to believe. Just because I can't readily provide a rational explanation for dead cattle doesn't mean that "aliens must have done it." If that sounds like a cop-out, consider it this way: just because I can't provide a rational explanation of how a magician appears to levitate somebody on stage doesn't mean that he has supernatural powers. Most of us know that magicians don't have super-powers, yet most of us can't explain how their tricks work (at least, the good ones).

Add to that the fact that many people want to believe in the supernatural, even if they're proven wrong! Many people still believe that crop circles are made by visitors from another world, even though it has been shown (many times!) that all you need is a 2x4, some surveyor's tape, a few buddies, and 6 hours in the dark.

So skeptics aren't negative, they're just less easily excited. That may make them seem like party-poopers, but it's really just the fact that many people are waaaaaaaay too willing to believe.

Come on, say it with me... (2, Funny)

litui (231192) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637655)


It's a tautology? (2, Informative)

HughsOnFirst (174255) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637920)

skeptic also sceptic

1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
2. One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.
3. Philosophy.
1. often Skeptic An adherent of a school of skepticism.
2. Skeptic A member of an ancient Greek school of skepticism, especially that of Pyrrho of Elis (360?-272? B.C.).

[Latin Scepticus, disciple of Pyrrho of Elis, from Greek Skeptikos, from skeptesthai, to examine. See spek- in Indo-European Root

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

On an entirely other angle, I grew up on a farm and have seen a lot of dead things.
These cattle mutilations always sounded a lot like a few dead cows and some insect scavengers. It's pretty amazing how some insects will completely devour one organ and leave the rest.

LOL - retarded? yes. (1)

AssFace (118098) | more than 11 years ago | (#5637959)

Well duh, the answer HAS to be space aliens.

Anything that doesn't immediately present itself as obvious to you HAS to be space aliens.

Or super-intelligent mind reading mice.

You have to be kidding me. It scares me that there are so many retards that are allowed to live out there... worst yet they post on slashdot. You are probably even allowed to drive.

Go out and buy Carl Sagan's "A Demon Haunted World" and read it from cover to cover.
Then do the world a favor and beat yourself to death with it.

Re:LOL - retarded? yes. (1)

xutopia (469129) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638384)

Pale Blue Dot and Dragons of Eden are wonderful books from Sagan as well! :)

Skeptics don't get laid (1)

timotten (5411) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638009)

Earnest: I really like you.
Skeptic: What? Nooo, you don't reeeally. Do you?
Earnest: I want to have your baby.
Skeptic: Hahaha. I don't believe you can have babies. But you almost got me there.

I can't be certain, but... (2, Interesting)

justinburt (262452) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638521)

As legitimate a question as this Ask Slashdot is, and as worked up as people are getting, I can't help noticing the post date:

Tuesday April 01, @07:00AM

And other Ask Slashdot topics today, including "Why do some CDRs smell like Almonds?" and "How Much Are Tongues Worth?"

Perhaps the editors are trying to get back at us for our spelling and grammar skills by phrasing silly questions as legitimate avenues of inquiry and seeing what happens. Just a thought.


this-should-be-an-FAQ dept? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5638542)

Nice going, Cliffy-boy! Not only did you put a troll submission on the front page of slashdot, but your little addition doesn't make good grammatical sense! It should be "this-should-be-a-FAQ dept" and not "an-FAQ". The rule is that you use "an" instead of "a" if the next syllable in the sentence is a vowel sound. Neither "fak" or "frequently" starts with a vowel sound!

Now, where can I sign up for a subscription to give my hard-earned money to fund these wonderful editors again?

Re:this-should-be-an-FAQ dept? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5638972)

Although 'eff', as in 'eff ay cue' does. Moron.

Interesting April 1st Question... (1)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 11 years ago | (#5638820)

I can possibly answer one of the questions - but I probably won't be believed because I don't have much to back it up:

The question is regarding the portable instrument used to make cauterized cuts. I remember back in the early 90's seeing in a Popular Science or Popular Mechanics magazine a blurb in the "new technology" section about a handheld laser device, about the size of a flashlight, being developed by DARPA for in-field surgery needs in time of war. It seems like a possible thing to build, though I would think the power supply would be much larger (at least backpack size), and that a cable would connect the laser end to the power supply, or the backpack would contain the laser system, and the "cable" would be a fiber-optic conduit (though how they would cool it would be another matter - yes, fiber can get warm).

Now, whether this was just a "blue-sky" device or something, I don't know - the interesting thing is that cattle mutilations have been reported for a long time, long before the early 1990s (and interestingly, I think even before the "UFO Wave" of the 1940's - though that is when it picked up steam, so to speak).

One point not made in the post of the question (though I am sure it can be found with good searching of google), is that some of the cows (and other animals) have been found in muddy areas - with no tracks around or leading to/away from the bodies.

I don't know if it is UFOs, or whether it is crazy DARPA engineers flying around in black helicopters, or something else entirely. Considering that it has happened in many countries, in many locations in the countries, I tend to doubt it is just one group, nor do I think it is the farmers hoaxing people (the animals are expensive - you don't kill your source of revenue unless you are truely nutso - the probability that all the farmers and keepers of the animals being insane mutilators just isn't feasible). The scary thing is that it is happenning, and nobody seems to really give a damn.

Perhaps when numerous people start turning up this way, there will be some notice...

"Mutilation"? (2, Insightful)

mcglk (10840) | more than 11 years ago | (#5639639)

I, for one, would be fascinated if animal mutilations---heck, even one---turned out to be of metaphysical origin. But having seen a whole bunch of pictures of alleged mystical occurrences (whether caused by aliens, satanists, radioactive ants, whatever), I gotta tell you, the metaphysical theories just aren't all that compelling.

Take this photo [crystalinks.com] , for example, taken by an Alabama police officer in 1993. The website [crystalinks.com] says, "There is no evidence of scavenging birds, but rather a precise oval incision which removed the udder while leaving the underlying tissues untouched. The entire operation was bloodless."

It's true---there's no evidence of scavenging birds here, but that doesn't mean that this was an "incision" or "operation," either. There are some basic facts which most of these wide-eyed True Believers never seem to pick up on.

  1. In most cases where an animal dies of natural causes, the body stays intact.
  2. Once a body is dead, it doesn't tend to bleed much, even when the skin is punctured, particularly when the wound is caused above ground level.
  3. Skin naturally retracts when cut for some time after death.
  4. Animals (and bugs) tend to go after targets of opportunity with the least possible amount of effort.
  5. Softer parts are usually easier to remove and eat, and some parts can be naturally pulled away from the body with some effort (such as ears, 'nads, and so forth). It's also easier to bite into loose skin, such as that around the belly of an animal.
  6. Protruding parts are usually easier to remove, but nibbling around existing bodily portals is also good if you're not too particular about where your meat comes from, and most animals aren't particularly famous for their keen sense of microbiology.

In that image, I see a soft, protruding body part was removed. I don't see a "precise oval incision"---in fact, the edges are pretty ragged, and the skin has retracted and slumped away from the wound. It wasn't "bloodless"---there's clotted blood on the surface of the wound. It does appear that part of the wound may have been licked clean, but I see nothing inconsistent with a carnivore finding a dead animal, going after an easy tasty morsel, and leaving before the humans showed up.

Skeptics aren't necessarily curmudgeons. I think skeptics just find it tiresome that some of the most vocal promoters of metaphysical explanations aren't at all interested in finding out whether something's actually metaphysical or not---they just move on to the next "possibility" without stopping for even one moment to engage a single neuron. For a good example, see this breathless account [paranormalnews.com] on Paranormal News [paranormalnews.com] .

Of course, photos abound. Here's a sampling

  • Cow [geocities.com] . No details about this image were available; the article in which it appears [geocities.com] doesn't make it clear about what's being claimed for this case. However, it is not "bloodless," and it fits rules #5 and #6 above.
  • Cow [geocities.com] . This comes from the same page referenced above. The article in question gives no details about the image itself---or even mentions it. But I see a fairly clean wound with evidence of retraction (at three o'clock in the image) and tearing (at four o'clock and from seven to nine o'clock). This wasn't a precise operation, and it's not clear what part of the cow this was from. The article purports the image to be of a case that occurred in 2000 in Alberta Canada. The dark area you see in the image (which I would ascribe to oozing tissue permitted to clot and dry in open air) is claimed to be "signs of high heat," which is not a conclusion I could support. The article says that "the left ear had been cut off" and "patches of skin removed from the belly area" and "a large excision of the penis area." See rules #5 and #6.
  • Horse [anomalies.net] . Again, rules #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 all apply here.
  • VERY DISTURBING HUMAN IMAGE [uforc.com] ---DON'T VIEW IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH. The article [uforc.com] claims that this body was in perfect condition, that rigor mortis had not set in, and that the time of death was 48 to 72 hours prior to discovery. It further claims that there were "no signs of animal predation or putrefaction." This is absolute crap, though; the face is one of the first targets of predation (see Rules #5 and #6). Rigor mortis dissipates around 24-36 hours after death (assuming outside temperatures in the 55-75F [12-23C]), so the rigor claim is almost certainly crap as well.

The "paranormal mutilation" proponents come up with a lot of claims, but those claims should be dismissed for the time being on lack of evidence of anything paranormal occurring. The claims being made simply aren't supported by the facts, and the most obvious indicators aren't just glossed over, but instead are aggressively ignored by the True Believers.

Nobody, but nobody would be more delighted than skeptics if there were evidence of paranormal occurrences. I think it's just hard not to get tired of the litany of idiocy that's being promoted by the gullible, or the scam artists willing to take advantage of those gullible masses (i.e., Sylvia Browne, John Edwards, Uri Geller, etc., etc., etc.).

OK, I'll bite... (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 11 years ago | (#5639844)

I've never heard this stupid story, but I'll try an explanation anyway:
  • kill them with some poison injected in large quantities (bleach...), this way predators won't touch them.
  • after some time (a few days), cut them open. There won't be any blood coming from a long dead animal.

Why don't you try it on your neighbor's pet ?

Coded message (0, Offtopic)

falsification (644190) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640007)

This is a coded message. It is a uncrackable encrypt. Attempt no to read. Send Commander Juenovix. Now!

GGur uhznaf ner ba gb hf. Gurl ner fgnegvat gb nfx irel hapbzsbegnoyr dhrfgvbaf nobhg gurve sbhe-yrttrq oerguera. Bhe cynaf gb hfr gurz nyy nf fynirf naq zrng pbhyq tb njel. Pbzzrapr vainfvba va avar beovgf bs guvf fuvgubyr zhqonyy nebhaq vgf cngurgvp, htyl lryybj fgne. Vzcbegnag! Ercrng: Vzcbegnag! Gur qnatrebhf fvgr xabja nf Fynfuqbg zhfg or fnobgntrq! Bajneq, Unyvgbffnevna Rzcver! Unvy gur Terng Yrnqre Ohypu!

Religious Zeal (2, Interesting)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640286)

For an explanation of how this may be possible: Never underestimate the zeal of a devoted 'follower' of a faith (this is not to say that I think there is anything wrong with such zeal; unless it involves the death, torture, humiliation, etc. of other human beings.) It may seem completely irrational to go to the troubles described by the article; but rationality is almost always based on the understanding of the observer.

There may be some odd religious group that has some kind of ritual or rite which requires (or at least, results in) these cattle-mutilations. Or, it could be a group that has a quasi-religous zeal in suckering people into believing a lie.

The fact that you can't explain it, or know what tools are necessary to do such a thing, is by no means proof that there is no simple explanation.

Ever think that the cattle may be exanguinated in such a way that no blood is lost? Many, many religions require the reclamation of a sacrifice's blood; there are such religions native to south and central america, as well as the rest of the world. Cauterizing helps control the bleeding, so that every possible drop can be reclaimed. The Egyptians once removed the heart, liver, intestines, and other vital organs as part of their death rites (even when mummifying non-humans, such as cats and cattle. Blood was also drained from the corpses. The bible speaks of King Solomon sacrificing thousands of bullocks for the dedication of the temple he built, and the draining of blood is part of the sacrificial ritual. In fact, it's rare to find a culture that did not at one time or another have animal sacrifices, and even more rare for one of those cultures to not include bloodletting (and collection) in such sacrifices.

Occam's Razor... you fools (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640522)

If aliens are among us, why are we not finding dead aliens washed up on our shores? Why have we never found a dead alien?

Well, duh - you overlook the obvious: WE HAVE!

Why isn't blood involved in these "cattle mutilations?" Because these vampire cows don't have blood! These are the very bodies you are saying we never see! Why don't vultures feast on the carcass? Because these alien bodies are inedible! Even animals know better than to eat poisonous carrion, so they avoid these rotting space aliens like the plague they have become.

Why do you think these bodies are always showing up in some poor farmer's field? Because UFOs never fly into highly populated areas! These space alien vampire cows avoid contact with human society as much as possible, so when an accident does happen it inevitably involves a body or two rotting away in an unpopulated farmer's field.

Fools. The obvious answer to all your skepticism has been right before you all this time, and not one of you "enlightened" souls has had the sense to realize the obvious...


The way I heard it... (1)

chriso11 (254041) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640572)

The way I heard it was:

Rancher Bob has a sick cow. That cow cost a lot of money to raise.

Now ignore the fact that the cow was sick. Rancher Bob sees some strange lights out back one night. And then, one of his cows his horribly massacared on night. It must have been aliens! THe cops come and agree that it was strange alright.

Rancher Bob then submits an insurace claim on the cow. Left as an exercise for the reader is which cow died...

my only question (1)

BortQ (468164) | more than 11 years ago | (#5640958)

where's the beef?

skepdic.com Entry (1)

bartle (447377) | more than 11 years ago | (#5641305)

One of the best resources I've found for general healthy skeptism is skepdic.com [skepdic.com] . Here's their entry on cattle mutilations [skepdic.com] . The site is effectively a catalogue of all kinds of phenomenon; I suspect even non skeptics would enjoy browsing through it.

In regards to skepticism in general, I have a thought on that. The first thing skeptics do is question the essentials of any situation. In the vast majority of cases, it is simply the initial information that is wrong and the impossible scenario never occured, at least not how others believe it did. People like to tell interesting stories and they usually aren't very happy when a skeptic begins questioning aspects of their tale. Hence we make a bad impression.

Now if someone could explain the Joplin Spook Light [freewebspace.com] I would be eternally grateful.

Genetics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5642319)

Genetics. Researchers believe that they have identified a "faith" gene, which makes people more likely to take things on faith (people lacking the gene are much less likely to belong to an organized religion, for example). Also an "optimism" gene which makes it more likely for people to turn out to be optimistic than pessimistic in their general outlook. I'm sure there's a "skepticism" gene in there somewhere.

come on now... (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5642875)

Imagine humans make it to another planet. I'm sure that we'll spend decades doing nothing more than mutilating cattle and leaving cryptic clues to our existance in the middle of convieniently placed fields. ESPECIALLY if there is someone else there to talk to. We would never want to see what another intelligent race would think, we would only be interested in their agriculture.

That's what any highly advanced race which has spent untold generations, money, and effort building machines to travel such large distances would do. It's the only logical solution.

I told you: it has nothing to do with agriculture (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#5643469)

And everything to do with culture. If you are invading a planet, where do you hide while infiltrating their species? You hide in the form of the dumbest animals in direct contact with the species. Dogs and cats are no good since they are either pets or pests. Cows are the perfect form because they are in direct contact with humans, yet live in remote rural areas where anyone talking about space ship traffic will not be credulous.

It's the perfect ruse...

Why Aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5644117)

I notice that this was posted on April 1st. However, even if you're jokeing then there are some people out there who agree with it anyway. My question is this:

Why is with you people who blame everything you don't understand on aliens? Why is it that only perfectly normal things happen on earth except when aliens intervene? What would aliens gain from mutilating cows? Or from flattening circles in fields? Mabey Leonardo DaVinci was just really smart. And no, I don't know what the freemasons are up to, but I don't see any reason why it should have anything to do with aliens. And the USAF really does have some incredible aircraft up their sleeve. Just look at the SR-71 and compare it to some of the UFO sightings from back when it was classified. They seemed impossible at the time...
The Earth is full of strange people, clever pranksters and other strange things we don't understand. I havn't seen anything yet that I thought aliens would be a good explanation for.

Art Bell knows! (0)

tsoquark (592609) | more than 11 years ago | (#5644274)

It was the shadow people! Or maybe it was Mothman! or maybe it was even (gasp) Matreyia!
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