G’day. You all know me by my pseudo-pseudonymous handle, and for over four years now I’ve been posting on this blog on various matters, some skeptical, some personal, and sometimes atheistic, posts on these and other topics punctuated by my frequent, and to some, annoying, fractal posts.
But the drama that has shaken the Skeptical Community™ to its knees has shattered my resolve, nay, my Faith™ in Science, and sent me looking to more fertile ground for mental and spiritual sustenance that a cold, sterile, mechanistic, reductionistic, materialistic, and yes, Physicalist™ worldview cannot supply. I have sought a new paradigm to feed my hungry soul, that even the Great Old Ones could not besiege, and lo, the paradigm has shifted…The stars are right!
So, I have discovered my potential, tasted the forbidden fruit of the paranormal, and decided to renounce science, skepticism, ethics and intellectual honesty forever. No more being mean to psychics, no more Dogmatic Scientistic Closed-Mindedness™ about UFO’s™ and cryptozoological creatures, no more roundly mocking popular gurus about their lucrative book sales and seminars…I want in on the action too!
So, it is with heavy heart that I rededicate and retool this blog, saying goodbye to those I’ve met in the Skeptical Community™ and opening my mind so far as to step over that fine line I’ve drawn on the floor and embrace total, complete and utter madness!
Yes, the stars art right, and henceforth, I shall blog on paranormal topics from a believer’s point of view and begin, without any journalistic training or professional writing ability whatsoever, and no real or relevant credentials (after all, having no qualifications on a topic means I can think outside the box and speak on it with authority, because I wasn’t conventionalized by the Establishment!), a series of books on Alternative Science™ and the start of my own religion based on my own feverish ravings of revelations from insane alien beings.
And finally, for those of you convinced I’ve finally gone over the edge and completely lost my mind…
May you all have a terrific 1st of April. G’day.
G’day. As a former theist and paranormal believer, I hold what I understand only to varying degrees of probability, nothing as completely certain outside of formal logic and maths, and those as certain only by virtue of arbitrary but accepted and useful conventions of logic.
As a theist, I had been brought up to see my religion as uniquely privileged to the Truth™ and in this I find that I was not unique at all.
Many of us raised or indoctrinated later in life into a religious belief system find it difficult to pierce the bubble of continuous doctrinal reinforcement and confirmation bias that surrounds us.
As a theist, I’d been paradoxically blinded to religion by that very thing. Religion was so much a part of my thinking that it was always in the background, always so well, blindingly obvious as to be just out of sight, and hence out of mind.
I never noticed it in the cultural environment I grew up in. It had never come to my attention how religion and religious belief was so pervasive.
In the religious tradition of my upbringing, I had been taught that unbelievers (everyone not a Bible-believing Adventist) were at best delusional and at worst evil. How ironic that it was only a few years later I became one of those same unbelievers, as my indoctrination waned from a lack of reinforcement.**
The same applies to my paranormal beliefs. Growing up with shows like In Search Of, including having attended a lecture at Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research & Enlightenment, I accepted nearly every sort of claim that made the tabloid headlines at the time.
Yes, the beginnings of an interest in science were there, but lacked a crucially important tool; a well-calibrated and functioning baloney detector.
There was neither the understanding nor the skill to filter the good science from the very, very bad science.
I knew about people called skeptics, but knew very little of them, and not in a positive light. They were ill-tempered meanies, spoiling my fun by debunking all of those cool things the media said psychics were doing. Skeptics too, were unbelievers held in almost the same light as those evil atheists.
Almost, though not quite as bad.
It was the 1970s, during the birth of an organized skepticism I knew next to nothing about, and the paranormal was everywhere in the popular culture, from tabloids, to movies, to comic books, toys, animated cartoons, television, and paperback fiction billed as nonfiction. There was so much of it out there that it was almost invisible. Again, hidden in plain sight.
I was literally, in a psychological sense, blinded to the prevalence of supernatural and paranormal belief by immersion in that very belief. I suppose It’s possible to internalize a set of beliefs so much that you think of that set as normal, acceptable, and desirable, and only notice when they are lacking, like those diabolical black-hat atheists and skeptics who I had foolishly thought so in denial of obvious reality and normalcy.
There resided in my skull not a smidgen, not a molecule of good critical sense.
But things changed since my teens. There was the move from magical thinking and religiosity to, in time, a worldview valuing reason and evidence, if nothing else because that was what helped you make credible arguments whether you won or not, and the novel discovery that it’s okay to be wrong as long as you admit it, correct it, and move on.
But is it possible that I’ve just traded one sort of blindness for another? Was there now credulity for skepticism?
That’s just as silly as it sounds, since the first thing learned as a skeptic is to consider all sources, all authorities, as fallible, and to follow any claim to its primary source whenever possible. There is questioning and testing of even conventional claims when better data comes to light, even those of other skeptics and scientific research workers.
Such is the case with any branch of science. Even established findings are subject to this, and many may need revision or rejection in the face of better observations when these are made. Science questions itself much more than it’s critics assert with every new finding it makes, much more than in most other endeavors.
Try to find that in politics or religion without it resulting only in doctrinal schisms or ideological purges.
There is the testing and so the questioning of assumptions, to see whether they at least are still useful in producing effective results, whether they are true as well as useful. Assumptions which fail such inquiry are abandoned for better ones. Skepticism has a set of values that apply to it, but is not itself an ideology nor a belief system. It’s a method of asking questions which requires only that we accept the answers we get even if we must force ourselves to accept what the data say despite our wants and wishes.
I see the skeptical approach at work plain as day as well as the effects and influence of religious and paranormal claims everywhere now.
Others, better skilled than I are to be learned from, not hero-worshiped, their knowledge tested, not taken as a given, their authority questioned within the bounds of good reason, not knee-jerk rejection, their facts and credentials checked in relation to those of similar training, experience and knowledge background.
There are men and women I admire and respect, not uncritically, the living and the departed, who have taught me much of value, who’ve enjoined me to learn more on my own, and I hope I’m not embarrassing those major contributors of skepticism and secular thought still among us by mentioning their names; Michael Shermer, the late Martin Gardner, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the late Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, the late Paul Kurtz, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, the late Isaac Asimov, Ray Hyman, Joe Nickell…
I believe that for a robust skepticism, one must know the human side of their heroes, both the light and the dark. To know them in the context of their lives and relation to the world they lived in. The glitter and the tarnish. For a realistic worldview, nothing else will do.
**text added, paragraph #6, at 12/26/2012, 1:24 am EST.
I saw something recently on Facebook, an unattributed quote saying:
“If you can hate the sin but not the sinner, I can hate the belief but not the believer.”
It brought up thoughts of how one should properly approach personally dealing with those who believe certain claims of the paranormal, religion, partisan politics, or pseudoscience.
The internet tends to attract the most extreme commentary on whatever controversial subject is discussed on almost any venue, and this goes for some popular blogs of both believers and skeptics, with the lion’s share of the irrationality going to those who see little value in reason and evidence and none at all in civility when it comes to dealing with dissent.
Mind you, I’m usually pretty content to leave beliefs to those who hold them, unless holding a belief is overtly dangerous in and of itself, like a belief in Breatharianism, demonic possession, or witches.
You can’t convince true believers by logic and evidence because their minds are already made up — attacking the belief is seen as an attack on the believer. So closely do many people invest in their belief-structures as a part of themselves, their very being, that they just dig in their heels and believe even harder.
Often, they imagine themselves hated and persecuted by their critics, but this is mistaken.
Most psi-research skeptics, for example, while interested in investigating claims of parapsychology, don’t invest a lot of emotion, time, money, or effort in not wanting there to be real psi-abilities, and most don’t dislike believers, not in the toxic ways I’ve seen some believers hate skeptics.
I personally don’t dislike believers. I’ve a few in my personal life, including an ex girlfriend. I’ve known and still do know theists, conspiracy theorists, political partisans, and New Age and paranormal believers, with my only disagreement being with their beliefs.
As a former believer (both paranormal and theistic) I’ve gotten used to dissociating myself from the claims I accept, adopting new ones with better data when the old are shown mistaken. I see little use in identifying with a belief and reacting as though wounded when that belief is criticized, much less hating the critic.
Some people are far too easily offended.
It is unwise to invest too heavily in a belief system, or crave undue certainty, since it’s so easy to show these false or fallacious, or the result of an error in thought or perception. Less is at stake for me where the paranormal is concerned. I don’t place a lot of importance in something that’s not part of my reality equation.
I’m more concerned with the process by which we arrive at beliefs rather than the content or subject matter of beliefs, how we arrive at them and make them “truths,” only seeing them on a shaky foundation when we take a step back and look at them as objectively as we may.
Of course, I can’t use logic, evidence, or objectivity to convince anyone who doesn’t already accept the worth of logic, evidence, or objectivity, but that’s okay. I’ll argue only with those willing to argue, not those who brook no disagreement.
Many may put great stock in their particular truth-claims, sometimes too much, but I can respect them if not the belief itself. My big concern is not the minutia of the belief, but the dangers of fuzzy thinking that leads to erroneous belief, often resulting in loss of health, wealth, freedom of choice and quality of life, since our life decisions are based upon the soundness of our thinking.
As one who’s been there and done that I know that a healthy mind is best open with wonder and receptive to reality, not closed by dogma, and that a mind too small for doubt is a very small mind indeed, all too easily a target for bamboozles and charlatanry of all sorts.
- The Hyper-Belief Problem (martinspribble.com)
- Inoculated Against Illusion: Skeptics and Face-Pareidolia (sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com)
- Innoculated Against Illusion: Skeptics and Face-Pareidolia (randi.org)
- Dealing With Different Views: An Interview on the Secular Buddhist (skepticalteacher.wordpress.com)
- The Art of Positive Skepticism (lantanagurl.wordpress.com)
- The Hyper-Skeptic Problem (martinspribble.com)
- Here’s Why Some People See Jesus In Their Toast (businessinsider.com)