Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Last Battlefield: Pseudo-science vs. Pseudo-scepticism

There is a pathology underlying the constant fighting between pseudoscientific believers and pseudosceptical disbelievers that boggles the mind, or at least it boggles mine. Neither side ever really listens to what the other is saying, because they're so busy trying to make each other look like (a) heartless bastards with no imagination (believers to disbelievers) or (b) stupid rubes with no common sense (disbelievers to believers). It's not about a reasoned discourse or debate with these folks - it's about polemics.

What I don't understand, and never will (particularly as I only have a 1st year undergrad psychology course under my belt), is why either side invests so much time and energy into the struggle. But I'll hazard a guess. For the believers, it stems from a need to belong, and to be recognized. For the disbelievers, it stems from a need to be superior. In both cases, the insecurity underlying it all shines like a neon sign, for everyone else to see. 

Regardless of the motivating factors, neither group has anything of substance to offer to the search for the truth about the paranormal (or anything else, for that matter - politics, religion, music reviews...). Don't confuse either side with true scepticism, which relies above all else on intellectual caution and suspended judgment.

If you're genuinely interested in the possibilities of the paranormal, leave the believers and disbelievers to their respective pseudo-science and pseudo-scepticism.

Let it be their last battlefield - not yours.

Paul Kimball


Michael CP said...

Well said.

Kandinsky said...

Paul, I agree with the notion of staying out of the believer/skeptic BS. It was largely thanks to the Hopkins/Jacobs 'flame wars' that made the foolishness of both sides so clear and urgent. The downside of *trying* to stay out of skeptic/believer discussions is it's hugely slashed my opportunities for participation in discussions!

P.S. If any of Paul's readers are interested, Flying Saucer Review's issue of Jan-Feb 1960 covers the same ground and puts it into perspective....and makes you smile. The lunatic fringe and debunkers are here to stay!

* Is there a conspiracy?
* Keyhoe Versus Adamski
* Is there life on the Moon?
* Beware the Lunatic Fringe
* Why I believe Adamski
* USAF Double-talk

Sounds like yesterday on the internet instead of 50 years ago. The names and faces change, but the noise is identical.

Red Pill Junkie said...

It would be naive to think this sort of antagonism is exclusive of the Ufology field. Rather, its origin lies in the very human proclivity to externalize the uncertainties about one's belief system by focusing on showing the other side's folly.

Perhaps Spock was right after all ;)

Terry the Censor said...

People are not good at dealing with uncertainty.
I'm been reading Sextus Empiricus and he argues suspension of judgement is unavoidable -- and very pleasant. He makes a good case.

Anonymous said...

Seeing that old clip from Star Trek:TOS reminded me how overated it (TOS) was. The costumes and hasn't aged well - compared to the best of the Star Trek series franchise: Deep Space 9.