Main Arbitrary Skepticism Discussion

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01:05:03 PM Jul 24th 2016
The Simpsons example seems ... confused. It seems to be simultaneously saying "Why does Lisa refuse to believe in angel skeletons when at this point in the series she's meant to be Christian?" and "Why do the other Springfielders so readily believe in angel skeletons when, even if you're Christian, that's completely ridiculous?"
06:05:37 AM May 29th 2015
Someone more experienced might want to look into this, but the entire second-to-last paragraph about movie critics and whatnot seem like a total non-sequitur that I would consider too subjective to include even as an example, let alone as part of the trope description.
02:21:07 PM Jan 19th 2012
Can I just lodge a complaint about this trope in general? It seems to go against the very nature of having a skeptical outlook on life to ever not be skeptical of something entirely because some other thing turned out to be real.

Take the page quote for example. I would have to agree with Wash: So? What does living in a spaceship have to do with whether or not psychic powers exist? Why does living in a world where ghosts exist mean zombies must also?

The description even acknowledges this, but only very briefly and seems to want to just stuff the problem in the corner so you won't notice it.

Also, this: "In reality, no claim requires 'extraordinary proof', just sufficient proof." This treats 'extraordinary' and 'sufficient' as if they're mutually exclusive concepts, when they're not. Perhaps the proof must be 'extraordinary' in order to be 'sufficient'.
12:03:16 AM Apr 14th 2012
The examples in this trope would more accurately be 'Apparent Arbitrary Skepticism'. Thing A is not Thing B. To take the Justice League example, although a ghost might have possessed an alien, that doesn't mean there are talking gorillas. The gorilla might have been a talking robot. In this case one thing proving true seems like it should make one give up all skeptic thought and accept everything at face value.

The second type common on here is the Avatar: The Last Airbender example, where bending and the avatar are known parts of normal life there, but generic ghosts and fortune telling could simply be hoaxes. To the viewer they're all types of magic, so what's the difference? seems to be the reaosn for inclusion.

An actual Arbitrary Skeptic would be someone that believes in vampires(imagine a Twilight fangirl type), but not were-wolves ("Eww, gross."). In such a setting one of the main characters she knows would likely be a were-wolf and she's actually witnessed the werewolves multiple times but dismisses them as pranks while suspecting every cute guy of secretly being a vampire. Vampires may or may not turn out to exist in such a setting, it's the disbelief in werewolves despite evidence while believing in vampires despite a lack of evidence that makes it. If she meets a vampire, she'll never believe that one is 'real'. Arbitrary Skepticism thus can be more identified by someone that's a "wanna believe" type.

That's what would make for _arbitrary_ skepticism. Finding out A is true yet still waiting for proof on B C D etc is how skepticism works. Crossing A back off if the evidence for A later turns out false is also required of a skeptic.
12:39:59 AM Apr 14th 2012
Thinking about it, I can break it into categories:

Apparent: Arbitrary Suspension of Disbelief; Where A is common in-universe, but B is skeptically received. - Example: A is superheroes with powers in a super-hero-verse, B is a 'ghost'. To the viewer B might be as plausible as A, but in universe the ghost would be a suspected super if not a hoax, the result of telekinesis, intangibility, illusions, etc.

Apparent: Arbitrary Plausibility; Where A was something not believed to be true, but turned out true. Typically A being true is a given reason to give B a chance. Proof for A doesn't prove B however, only A. - Example: Advanced robots were found to exist, but mentioning a talking gorilla gets odd looks. It might turn out to be a robot after all.

Actual: Unicorns are Cool; Where A and B are both fictional, but only A is worth believing in and B is just silly. Example, Unicorns are acceptable, but pretending to be an elf hunting orcs is silly.

Actual: Misplaced Belief; Where A is obviously true but disbelieved while B is believed without proof. Common in any story where some supernatural group hides their existence, and a local normal frequently sees plenty of proof, but they are saved because that normal believes in something else. - Example: A super-hero knows someone in normal life that is an occult fanatic, but thinks super-heroes in spandex outfits are essentially a stupid hoax. Will end up at least once believing a super to be something occult, like mistaking a flying brick for a vampire. Occult may or may not be true in universe, it's the dogged disbelief in the obviously real group that matters.
08:23:24 PM Apr 17th 2012

"Note that Super Hero shows have not traditionally bothered. Instead, civilians largely accept, albeit with firm evidence, that the strangest things definitely exist and go about their lives hoping that the authorities and the superhero community can keep the more dangerous stuff under control. Instead, Arbitrary Skepticism is often used; Muggles may have no problem accepting aliens fighting mutants with the help of people in Powered Armor, but anyone who claims to be a God is clearly a fraud, or simply crazy."

I think it might be worthwhile to create sub-categories for this trope and sort the examples. If anyone can suggest more than four sub-tropes and better names that would be a good starting point. Also, although I'm sure I've seen #4 several times(Misplaced Belief) I can't think of any examples.
10:29:34 PM Apr 17th 2012
I agree completely. The way the trope currently is, it seems to be more based on how the viewer perceives the situation than on how the character views the situation. Essentially, because the audience knows that the characters are in a fictional story, and thus that whatever the author pleases can pop up at any given moment, they can afford to suspend skepticism for the sake of the story. The problem is they assume the characters should have the same attitude.

I think your breakdown of the situation is right on the head. Maybe this should be taken to TRS? I think you could make a good case for getting the trope redesigned to better reflect attitudes in the story itself than how the audience feels looking at the story from the outside.
05:09:56 PM Apr 23rd 2012
edited by ValorPhoenix
Glad to get a reply and some feedback. I came back to post something related I found.

It's the Sci-ence webcomic, this particular one being about a selective skeptic that believes in acupuncture and crystals. This would be type 3 on my list (Unicorns are cool), in the webcomic it's called Sacred Cows, which seems better.

The Ghosts of Woo webcomics preceding that one are also related. To quote Ghosts of Woo 3

"But I don't believe in that other stuff!"

"Why not? Is the line you've drawn between denial of magic potions and acceptance of arcane needle stabbing fetish that arbitrary?"

The type 4 one is what I was hoping to find examples of here as I can remember seeing shows using that as a kid. Might need to gather some type 3 and 4 examples before taking action.

Alternative names:

Type-3 Sacred Cows

Type-4 These Aren't the Werewolves You're Looking For...

10:32:39 AM Apr 24th 2012
edited by ValorPhoenix
I went to the quote page and grabbed a few to use as examples:

"The supernatural is make believe" says the UNICORN to the DRAGON. - Youtube comment on My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic

Supernatural means it isn't part of the natural world, aka reality. In MLP unicorns and dragons are very much real. To them, they are not supernatural, but to the viewer. This is the difference between the definition of supernatural and the _label_ supernatural which is applied from our perspective. The MLP unicorn is correct.

Wash: "Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction." — Zoe: "You live on a spaceship, dear." — Wash: "...So?" Firefly

An extended response from Wash would make this obvious. — Wash "So? Space ships are science fact. I should know, I live on one."

"Oh come on, there's no such thing as crop circles! What it really was was a ghost. And that dinosaur the principal saw? Ghost dinosaur."'' Random fifth grader, Digimon Tamers

This is an example of Type 4, a schoolkid blames everything on ghosts. The dinosaur was actually a dinosaur type digimon. Even if a digi-tamer tried to explain this, they might be met with disbelief because their reality(of digimon) would seem stranger than fiction(ghosts).
10:37:23 AM Apr 24th 2012
I think another important point that the Ghosts of Woo comic brings up that is relevant to the trope is this quote:

"Why not? What's the difference, Craig? They've been doing it for thousands of years. People say it works. Why does your credulity stop there? What drives your decision?"

Basically, another characteristic of a real arbitrary skeptic is that the very same arguments can convince them of the truth of one thing, but not of another, with the difference simply being some arbitrary feelings or intuitions. A good example is in the comic, where acupuncture must work because people have been doing it for thousands of years, but bear bile potions are just gross and obviously wrong, despite the fact that people have been making those for a very long time too.

And I'll try to come up with some examples for 3 and 4. I know I've seen them too, but I'm drawing a blank right now.
06:07:54 AM Sep 19th 2012
Basically the trope works when it's like this - If you live in a world where wolfmen exist, it wouldn't make much sense to confidently claim that another animal person. It shouldn't necessarily follow that ghosts or gods exist in that verse though.
02:06:25 AM Jan 1st 2011
About the following line: "Can cause Fridge Logic; if dragons are a regular and accepted occurrence in the characters' world, then why would they use it as an example to compare with something that doesn't?" I would like to add something pointing out that this makes more sense if there is some sort of conspiracy or whatever where most people don't believe in all the supernatural stuff (like in most Urban Fantasy settings) but I'm not sure how to word this. In other news, the description should probably be more clear. I think what this trope is is when a skeptic is convinced of one thing that goes against previous beliefs (say dragons) but instantly reverts back to skeptic mode when he sees something else (say elves). This would make sense if the two things are unrelated, but often the skeptic decides to belief in mythological creature a but then doubt mythological creature b even though they are part of the same mythology or whatever.
02:48:02 PM Sep 7th 2010
I deleted the following justification from the Stargate entry " * They probably dismiss the idea of a dragon of the kind depicted in the Arthurian legends being real, because such a creature is biologically impossible. A "dragon" in and of itself, okay, dinosaur. A flying dragon, only possible if it's fairly small. A fire-breather? No, just no. "

Firstly, it's a whole paragraph of justification. Secondly, it's only safe to say that dragons are pretty much imposible in our world - but our world doesn't have huge insects (impossible in their own right, considering insects don't scale up too well) capable of multiplying by overwriting a human victim's DNA so it bodily turns into lots and lots of said insects either.
01:08:35 PM May 5th 2010
The core concept of this proof is problematic for me. Why should the fact that new evidence has changed a skeptic's mind about a specific topic break the skeptic's skepticism?
11:39:53 AM Jul 27th 2010
I might be misunderstanding your meaning, but the trope isn't "Skeptics Are Wrong" its "Skeptics Are Wrong When Singing Angels From Heaven Come Visit Them On A Regular Basis And They Refuse To Believe It". Despite every reason to believe the contrary, a character who continuously goes "No, there's a scientific reason for that" when we know that's not the reason, is considered an Arbitrary Skeptic. They just won't acknowledge it, because, well, they're skeptics. That's what they do.

Again, your sentence doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
09:20:30 AM Sep 19th 2010
Actually, the trope is "Skeptics who Have Single Angels From Heaven Visit Them on A Regular Basis are skeptical when somebody claims to see a unicorn"

It's not somebody refusing to believe in something contrary to evidence that it exists, it's somebody who believes in something normally considered not to exist ("angels"), yet is closed-minded about the possibility that something else normally considered not to exist ("unicorns") also might exist.
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