Winston Wu, Pseudoskeptic Extraordinaire!

Winston Wu is a writer who has “written extensive and thorough critiques” of Christian Fundamentalism and what he calls “PseudoSkepticism”. Winston isn’t a new face to some, but to me he is; having found out about him after he posted about “Debunking the Law of Attraction and “Thoughts Create Reality” Religion” within the Australian Skeptics Facebook Group.

Winston Wu

After reading much of his article, I commented that his assessment was “OK overall”, except for what I saw as a few flawed conclusions; Winston makes non-specific references to research done by “Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR)”, and reference to a “psi wheel” as evidence of psi-attributed anomalies. Because of this, I believe that Winston does not have a good grasp of statistics; he mentions that the reported “effects produced are MICROSCOPIC”; That is to say,of no statistical significance; In any area of investigation you are likely to get false-positives, or indeed anomalous results – thus the demand by those who follow the evidence, for such studies that show an anomalous result to be replicated; or indeed improved upon with better controls that prevent researcher bias, and indeed unintended interference.

But, it seems Winston refuses to acknowledge that independent research replication is part of doing good science.

It may very well be the case that Winston is simply credulous, and accepts of the research at face-value because it supports his views; Winston is an avid advocate of various phenomena reported to have of paranormal cause; and has been looking to have his beliefs verified by scientific investigation after he believed he had an experience where he “knew” his girlfriend was in an car accident around the time she was indeed in an accident.

When I questioned Winston about his article, he responded with (the inserted image):

I may be an amateur skeptic, but I found a number of problems with this, his first response:

1. Winston declares that science and his personal investigation has confirmed it (psi) as a real phenomena, yet does not provide any details of the research, or indeed the methodology used in his “personal investigation”;

2. Winston then refers me to a published book to demonstrates Psi is “a proven FACT”; apparently I am being asked to accept this book as being 100% true and correct, and free of any possible methodological errors. Winston expects me not to question it.

3. Winston then refers me to the work of a Biologist, who runs a few online experiments; his page he includes a disclaimer about the research results:

“Because these experiments took place under uncontrolled and unsupervised conditions, we cannot eliminate the possibility that some people were cheating, or that some starers were inadvertently giving clues to the subjects by the way they gave the signal for the beginning of the trial or by unintentional sounds that were different in the staring and the not staring trials.”

4. And Winston finishes with a personal attack, implying that anyone who does not accept that Psi is “a proven FACT” must be “establishment defenders”, are “not critical thinkers, or “objective truth seeking investigators”, and must be “biased to uphold a certain world view”.

To me, it seemes that Winston accepts a lower level of scientific integrity in studies that he assesses when they supported his beliefs. For instance, in his assessment of the LOA (Law of Attraction), if not for the acceptance of poorly controlled studies as good evidence for paranormal phenomena, the article overall would have been decent. I remarked this; and after a little while, Winston posted again; continuing on with his personal attack against people who he sees as being “pseudo-sketpical (image below)”:

What struck me as ironic, is that his article on the LOA (Law of Attraction) was on a website called “debunking skeptics”. While the DebunkingSkeptics website does indeed assert many good traits a skeptical person should indeed have (albiet in a flippant and informal prose), it also includes a number of assertions that is NOT part of good skepticism.

The website itself uses language that indicates a strong paranormal bias, and the imagery is suggestive of this too; the website is more about rejecting what is seen as the “status quo” or “establishment”, and less about following the evidence – regardless.

The authors of the website assert that when someone points out when a poor line of reasoning has been employed, that person is a “pseudo-skeptic”; rather than being what is is – someone pointing out that their line of reasoning is flawed.

Winston trumpets in his response that “Skeptics fail to understand that skepticism involves being skeptical of your own position,” yet he attacks anyone who questions his position and refuses to be skeptical of his own position.

As part of his foray in to the Australian Skeptics Facebook Group Winston posted a link entitled “Characteristics and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics vs. True Skeptics” and I just had to comment; I noted to Winston:

In “True skeptics” it says “When all mundane explanations for a phenomenon are ruled out, are able to accept paranormal ones”.

This is fallacious. It ignores what the evidence says; to conclude that a phenomena MUST be paranormal because all “mundane” explanations known to the experimenter have been exhausted, is an appeal to personal ignorance.

That is not skepticism. It’s not even science.

I have no problem accepting a paranormal explanation, provided there is evidence for it.

I will not, due to my own personal ignorance, simply conclude something is paranormal because something is a mystery to ME; I am not so arrogant to do so.

Winston was also eager to provide reference to an article entitled “Dr. Michael Persinger Announces Telepathy as Proven Fact! : Psychic Phenomena / ESP / Telepathy“. Because it formed part of the Debunking Skeptics website, we can see Winston’s responses, and in it Winston declares:

“Some people do have a connection to each other that distance doesn’t block. That is true. Twins or lovers often have this type of connection. No mundane explanation can explain it. End of story.”

This go against some of the very things listed on the Debunking Skeptics website.

Winston has done exactly what I, as a responsible skeptic, did not do – Impose on myself a belief in a paranormal phenomena despite having no good reason to do so; he has decided that because he personally was unable to conclude the cause, that it must be paranormal; Winston doesn’t want to find out the answer, he wants to ASSIGN an answer.

The Debunking Skeptics website exposes his pseudo-skeptical behavior and lists this as “Does not ask big questions to try to understand things, but judges them by whether they fit into their fixed beliefs”

Winston has arrogantly assigned an answer based with no good reason, instead of simply reserving judgement. It is of no consequence to accept that we personally do not know everything, it is perfectly OK to say: “At this time, I do not have enough information to come to a rational conclusion, as such I will reserve judgement till I have enough information to come to a conclusion, and if new evidence should come to light, I reserve the right to change my answer based on that new evidence.”

The Debunking Skeptics website exposes his pseudo-skeptical behavior and lists this as “Unable to accept mysteries and uncertainty, cannot think in terms of possibilities

The above evidence demonstrates that Winston Wu is only skeptical when that being investigated it does not infringe on the imagined world of the paranormal.

The Debunking Skeptics website exposes his pseudo-skeptical behavior and lists this as “Applies “critical thinking” only to that which opposes their beliefs and the status quo, but never to the status quo itself”

Finally, because of the above behavior, he infringes on another listed behavior on the Debunking Skeptics website; “Not interested in truth, evidence or facts, only in defending their views

Determined by the very website he writes for, Winston Wu, is indeed a pseudo-skeptic.