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"I think that's why skeptics are so stubborn and, often, so oddly vehement. Any suggestion that psi is real threatens the core of their being - as they perceive it. - Michael Prescott
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Our whole Universe from the very smallest to the very largest is a bit dodgy. It's not what it seems. The very fact that life exists at all is somewhat of a miracle. The chances of our Universe being perfect for life to exist as we know it are astronomically small. I read recently somwhat on the order of 10 to the 10th to the 123 power. That's ten billion to the 123 power. Our Universe seems to be perfectly fine tuned for life. The strong and weak forces inside the atom holding it together, electromagnetic forces, gravity, etc. all seem to be perfectly adjusted for stars to form, for Carbon to be made inside stars, water, heavy metals, etc. It's a miracle that we are here at all.

If the Earth didn't have a moon life wouldn't be able to exist as we know it. Too much wobble with erratic climate. If the Earth were just a bit closer all the water would boil away, and just a bit further all the water would be frozen.

And don't get me started on quantum physics. Matter is not made of matter, but more like pure energy. Atoms are mostly ghostly empty space and the Sub atomic particles themselves are able to do all kinds of things that what we consider to be ordinary matter doesn't do. Appear and disappear, communicate with each other over vast distances, pass right through solid matter, sometimes appearing as a wave and sometimes as a particle, and sometimes even seeming to communicate with the people who investigate them. If it weren't for the electromagnetic charges in my hand repelling the negative charges in the desk they are resting on they would just float right through it.

Add into that people coming back from NDE's and reporting having been someplace else, dying people talking to long lost relatives, and a few of the other things reported by some people and it's obvious to me that all is not what it seems to be. - Art

"Then I realized that what troubled me about the story was the skeptical response, which was all too typical of the stubbornly intractable mentality of hardcore skepticism."

I live in Atlanta and the reason people are angry is because of the incompetent urban planning. Roy Barnes, the last governor, was in the process of creating additional reservoirs to compensate for the rapidly increasing population but he was voted out of office before he could institute the plans. We have a right to be angry if our dumb evangelical hick governor (Sonny Perdue) is placing our hopes on prayer instead of taking action to fix the reservoir system and to create better emergency protocols.

Michael said: The ego is built on lies, and its sense of control is itself a lie.

Kind of going overboard, there, Michael. The ego is that part of the Self whose job it is to deal with the material world. It is just as much necessary for life as any other part. Unfortunately, certain egos become inflated with their sense of self-control (probably because of their isolation from the rest of the Self) and restrict the optimal functioning of the Self. Perhaps the best strategy isn't to denigrate the ego but to help it find it's proper place in the whole person.

An interesting description of rain-summoning can be found in "The Isaiah Effect" by Braden. No dropping of inhibitions; ego and unconscious working together using imagination and love.

“Self-hatred becomes hatred of the Other”. This is an interesting phenomenon, as we tend to direct own self-hate on to others. It is like the ego cannot stand to look at itself so it projects its pain outward. Many have felt Hitler had this self-hate as he was considered a failure as an artist.

One book I read some spirit suggested that Hitler’s dad was more responsible for Hitler’s atrocities than Hitler.

Here is any interesting theory lets see how far this trial balloon theory of mine flies. Ultra skeptics and the ultra religious appear to have the same degree of certainty that they and only they understand truth.

I believe it is not due to certainty but doubt that makes them come across with such certainty. Somewhere in their subconscious it is whispering to them this inner doubt and this is very painful so they cover up this “whisper” with this appearance of certainty and even to the point of attacks and try very hard to invalidate the person that disagrees with them by calling them names or question their IQ.

This may be a religious statement but somehow I think people like Jesus and others are able to see through these appearances and that is why they can have such compassion for everyone. They judge not by appearances. They see the mental pain these people are covering up.

I have read books that have disagreed with my beliefs and they claim to have all this evidence that proves these cherished beliefs of mine are not valid. I feel this mental and emotional pain as I am reading this book and even to the point of fear all over my body that I have been duped or made this colossal mistake in my research. It hurts because I want things to be as I want them to be not what this book is stating. As Dr Hora stated wanting and not wanting cause most of our suffering in our lives.

And then I usually find their great evidence is more opinion then evidence but not always or they have misstated their evidence. Example: I was deep into past life hypnosis and life between life hypnosis and really wanted to accept this evidence but then my research into spiritualism contradicted some of this but not all and this was very painful to have to alter my beliefs. Between life hypnosis painted a much prettier picture of the afterlife for “everyone” than spiritualism.

I think we humans just don’t want to deal with that pain so we protect our cherished beliefs at all costs. Ultra skeptic is no more than ultra protection from this fear and emotional pain we have to endure when our cherished beliefs coming tumbling down. Our ego has this great fear of this slippery slope.

>I live in Atlanta and the reason people are angry is because of the incompetent urban planning.

That makes sense, but many of the skeptical comments I read seemed to come from outside Georgia.

>our dumb evangelical hick governor

A little bit nasty, no? There are many highly intelligent evangelicals.

>Michael said: The ego is built on lies, and its sense of control is itself a lie.

>Kind of going overboard, there, Michael.

It's the Eckhart Tolle influence. Actually, I do think the ego is ultimately built on lies, but they are necessary lies if we're going to function in the physical world.

It's the Eckhart Tolle influence. Actually, I do think the ego is ultimately built on lies, but they are necessary lies if we're going to function in the physical world.
Interesting statement Michael,what becomes
necessary lies could be taken as 'necessary excuses' for something inherently better in ourselves.

lucyjane

It's the Eckhart Tolle influence. Actually, I do think the ego is ultimately built on lies, but they are necessary lies if we're going to function in the physical world.

Interesting statement Michael,what becomes
necessary lies could be taken as 'necessary excuses' for something inherently better in ourselves.

I think people like Jesus and others are able to see through these appearances and that is why they can have such compassion for everyone. - william
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It's the way the physical universe is designed. Free will is an illusion. After we cross over those beings of light that are reported by near death experiencers are non-judgemental because they know that's the way the world is designed. Free will is an illusion. - Art

“A little bit nasty, no? There are many highly intelligent evangelicals.”

This is an interesting statement. Dr Hora defines god as love and intelligence. The problem with that definition is the he also defines intelligence different than intellectual capability. Since most people have not studied his teachings they don’t get it. As a species we humans are not that intelligent (I.e. we don’t know much about the mysteries of life) but can by our peers be considered intelligent.

Speaking of intelligence we suspect that we are only seeing 4% of the energy in the universe and instead of calling this 96% unknown matter or energy we call it dark matter. I suspect it is not dark matter or energy at all but only unknown to us. My point is we may be seeing only 4% of reality and we call ourselves intelligent.

I like to tell people I am pretty smart (as I graduated with honors and have a PHD and all that stuff) but I am not very intelligent. Just don’t know how intelligent an evangel is that thinks they are the only ones that god listens to and everyone that does not believe as they do will go to hell for eternity.

Many of their beliefs do not even pass simple logic tests such as god gave man free will and man screwed it up since they also claim god is all knowing. And that Jesus had to die to put us back in good with god but that god is and always has been perfect love. Even as a child on a small farm in the middle of nowhere Illinois I saw the lack of logic in many of these evangel beliefs.

Sorry to take on religious beliefs that way but my point is that one can be intellectually smart and know worldly things but fall short if we qualify intelligence as some kind of divine wisdom that has understandings of many of the mysteries of consciousness and awareness.

I have always looked for a word other than intelligence or divine wisdom to explain the difference between an intelligence that is able to create life and this grand universe and our intellectual capability. Any suggestions appreciated.

I remember Michael Shermer once asked "Why hasn't a Psychic won the lottery or found Jimmy Hoffa". However, this is clearly a "Heads I win, tails you lose" situation too. Why?

Psychic wins the lottery, lucky guess, the odds can allow anyone to win, the Psychic just retro-fitted a supposed prediction with them winning it.

Psychic finds Jimmy Hoffa, some mafia insider tipped the Psychic off as to the location, in fear of mafia retaliation they leaked the information to a Psychic to inform the world since it would be safer for them.

So, they always have a Trump Card up their sleeves to explain these things even if they happen. It's merely a game of Raising The Bar or Impossible Perfection.

01-If 2,000 individual trials of the ganzfeld protocol cannot persuade skeptics that something paranormal is going on, nothing ever will.

How many scientists replicate the ganzfeld protocol? I think the number of subjects tested is not so important like the number of scientists replicating the ganzfeld protocol. I think not all scientists get a positive result using the ganzfeld protocol.

02-But why? What is it about skeptics that makes them so resistant to changing their minds, at least in this area?

I think because there is no theory that can be tested.

Well reasoned, Michael, and my praise is not simply motivated by the admission that I have for so long been convinced that insecurity is arguably the single greatest motivator of behavior. Insecurities seem so ubiquitous that I'm forced to conclude that the vast majority are actually trapped in that adolescent phase of egoism, which doesn't bode well for humanity as a whole. Such is the power of those insecurities that it will compel people to cling relentlessly to their comforting certainties about the world of physical existence, even when their own experiences give contrary evidence. Consider this, noted by Peter Fenwick, M.D.,F.R.C.Psych., Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London in his book The Truth in the Light (1996): in 1987, following the first TV program in the U.K. regarding NDEs which produced over 2000 letters from viewers describing their OWN NDEs, Dr. Fenwick and his wife selected 500 letters which seemed to them to describe "core NDEs" as first described by Kenneth Ring back in 1980 (most readers of this blog are familiar with the aspects of the experience, so I won't list them)and sent the correspondants a questionnaire, of which 450 were returned. Of these, 98% admitted that, prior to the broadcast, they had never heard of NDEs and thus had no preconceived notions about them, no expectations. Of those, 2% were avowed athiests, and their responses give a prime example of Michael's assertion, because their comments were very angry, the athiests saying they "had not wanted this experience and they found it quite difficult to incorporate into their lives". That is an utterly fascinating admission. I can only feebly try to imagine how many individuals have experienced an unknown number of phenomena completely OUTSIDE the realm of their comfortable reality paradigms and rejected them because such things weren't "supposed" to exist or occur, or they attempt to shoehorn the anomaly in to their prejudged worldview with a comforting interpretation. As I noted in a previous recent and related thread, when scientists do this they are only illustrating their entry into intellectual fossil-hood (is that a term?), as mind becomes mineral. Who knew archeology could be so sad?

Do you know what it reminds me of? I was watching 12 Angry Men the other night, and Lee J Cobb's character seemed to sum up this state of mind rather well.

He feels he can steamroller the others into accepting his argument. In particular, I found it very similiar to these sort of arguments as he's not essentially arguing that he's guilty, but that there's no possibility of the suspect being innocent. There is no room for doubt in his mind, until his prejudices are brought to light. I thought it was an interesting comparison.

Though I don't consider myself a skeptic, I was unsettled to see much of myself in the above 'personality profile'; could this be why, despite my great interest, I've never to my recollection had any unambiguously 'paranormal' experiences?

Just as a minor footnote: Many years ago in Ohio there was an extremely severe drought. The farms in the northern part of the state spent the summer baking into the stark burnt golden hues of a Charles Burchfield painting while vultures circled everywhere overhead. The local farmers were ready to try anything to produce rain. Since the northern part of the state is heavily Catholic, they brought in a priest who conducted a mass for rain. Then they turned to an Indian shaman who conducted a rain dance. Finally, they turned to science and had some rockets fired into clouds. Two things odd about all of this. They turned to science as a last ditch measure. But ironically, only the Indian produced any measurable rain.

Hi Mr Prescott,

As a skeptic I feel oblidged to point out my opinion that you are very mistaken. Skeptics are not debunkers, although you seem to think they are. There is almost certainly debunkers who call themselves skeptics, but that is their mistake. A skeptic is a person who seeks unambiguous scientific/experimental evidence in order to support the ideas he/she entertains.

A quite from the SA Skeptics website:

"Modern skepticism is the method of using scientific principles to evaluate claims or ideas. This is a positive action, to separate sense from nonsense. Skepticism is therefore not to be confused with cynicism."

Skeptics do not say that prayer could not make it start raining (debunkers would say this). Skeptics do, however, say that there are no unambiguous scientific evidence that supports this claim - and therefore it is wrong to assume that a given 'hit' by a psychic/rain maker/etc, not performed under scientifically controlled conditions, constitutes evidence for the notion that the cause of the event is indeed 'miraculous'.

I mean no offense but articles such as these have a negative influence on humanity in the sense that it presents an unbalanced, and quite frankly false, picture of skeptics and skepticism. Skepticism and the scientific frame-of-mind is one of the things that make humans able to penetrate the mysteries of the world and find the real causes of events. If you re-word your post to attack debunkers and praise true skeptics, that would be more fair.

Regards,
Marius Myburg.

Marius, I agree that skepticism in the original sense of the word is a positive thing, but the term has been appropriated by the debunkers. Since language is always changing, usage determines meaning. The word "liberal" used to mean an advocate of limited government; now it means an advocate of more expansive government. The word "let" used to mean "prevent"; now it means "permit." Etc. So while it would be nice if skepticism still held its original meaning, for the most part it doesn't.

Still, I usually try to clarify the point by talking about "diehard" skeptics, "ultraskeptics," and so on. In this post I didn't bother, since I assumed my regular readers would know what I meant.

By the way, there's a website called Skeptical Investigations that tries to preserve the original meaning of the term.

The following is an account of a conversation between historical figures, which highlights the problem of the skeptic.

When night came, the king sat privately with Zarathustra; and I'hua'Mazda cast a light on the wall, and the soul of So-qi came and appeared before Asha. So-qi said: “Do you know who I am?” And Asha said: “Yes, So-qi.”
So-qi said: “True, O king, the soul is immortal!” And then it disappeared. Asha said: “It seems to be So-qi. And yet if it were he, would he not have called me, Asha, instead of, O king” Then spake Zarathustra, saying: “Call for some other spirit?” Asha said: “Allow, then, the soul of my wife to appear.”
Again the light appeared, and the soul of Asha's wife inhabited it, and he saw her. Asha said: “It is, indeed.” And then she disappeared. Asha said: “Had it been she, she would have spoken.”
Zarathustra said: “Call for another spirit.” Asha called Choe'jon, the songster, who looked like no other man under the sun. And Choe'jon also appeared; and even sang one of the songs about the slaughter of the infants.
Asha said: “It was like Choe'jon; but had it been he, he had surely mentioned the
miracle.” Then Zarathustra said: “Call yet for another spirit.” And Asha called, and another appeared; and thus it continued until twenty souls of the dead had shown themselves, and talked with him, face to face, and every one had related things pertinent to themselves.
Then spake Zarathustra, saying: “To-morrow night you shall again sit with me.”
Now, on the next night, twenty other spirits of the dead appeared and spake face to face with the king. But yet he did not believe.
Then spake I'hua'Mazda through Zarathustra, saying: “What will satisfy you, O man? For I declare to you, that spirit is not provable by corpor, nor corpor by spirit. There are two things; one grows by aggregating, and the other grows by dissemination, of which All Light is the highest. As by darkness light is known, and by light darkness known, similarly diverse are corpor and spirit known. Your generations [forebears], O king, have been long bred in unbelief in spirit, and unbelief is so entailed upon you that evidence is worthless before you. Who do you think I am?”
Asha said: “Zarathustra.”
Then Zarathustra asked him, saying: “Who do you think I am?”
Again Asha said: “Zarathustra.”
To which I'hua'Mazda said: “Because you see with your eyes this corporeal body, and hear with your ears this corporeal voice, so it is your corporeal judgment that finds an answer. But I declare to thee, O king, there is a spiritual judgment as well as a corporeal judgment. There is a spiritual man within all men, and it never dies. The spiritual man, which is within, is the only one that can discern spiritual things. It is the only one that can recognize the spirits of the dead.”
Then Asha said: “How shall I prove there is not some element belonging to you personally, that is as a mirror, to reproduce a semblance of whatever is within your thoughts?”
I'hua'Mazda said: “What would that profit you if proven? And what profit if not
proven? Hear me, then, for this is wisdom: There are millions of souls in heaven that are in the same doubt you are now in, not knowing that they themselves are dead. Especially those slain in war and in unbelief of spirit life.”
The king said: “Who, then, do you say you are?”
I'hua'Mazda said: “First, there is Ormazd, Creator, Who is over all and within all, Whose Person is the Whole All. Then there are the unseen worlds in the sky; then this world, and the stars, and sun, and moon. After them, mortals, and the spirits of the dead.
Hear me, O king; because the dead do not know the All High heavens, the Ormazd, Whose name signifies Master of All Light, sends His exalted angels down to the earth as masters and teachers, having captains and high captains, that their labor be done orderly. The highest captain is therefore called I'hua'Mazda, that is, master voice over mortals and spirits for their exaltation.
Know, then, O king, I, who speak, have you and your city and your country within my keeping. I am come to stay man's bloody hand. And through Zarathustra I will reveal the laws of Ormazd; and they shall stand above all other laws. Because you are the most skilled of men, I made you king; because you have seen that man must have an All Highest Law, I have come to you. Yea, from your youth onwards, and during your long life, I have spoken to your soul, saying: Asha, find the All Highest: Asha, you shall have a strange labor before you die! Asha, you, who have attained to the measurement of the stars, shall find a Power behind the stars!”
The king said: “Enough! Enough! O stranger! You turn my head with wonders. I scarcely know if I am living or dead, because of the mastery of your wisdom. Alas, my kindred are dead; my friends are fools! I have none to tell these wonders to. All your days
you shall live in my palace, and whoever you demand for wife, shall be granted to you.”
I'hua'Mazda said: “Till I come again to you, O king, keep your own counsel. For the
present, I must return to the forest. Give me, therefore, of your choicest ink and brushes and writing cloth, and send two servants with me.”
Asha said: “Allow me to be one of your servants, and I will abdicate my throne!”
I'hua'Mazda said: “I shall need you where you are. Thus ended the interview with the king. The next day Zarathustra returned to the forest, to write the Zarathustrian laws.”
(Exerpt from Oahspe)

Ruth

Can't similar charges be laid against those praying for rain? I once heard it said that the political spectrum wasn't so much a line as it was virtually a circle: the extreme left and extreme right were in fact very similar in many respects. Aren't the scientism and fundamentalism ideologies really similar at the core?

Both seek to have a set of ready-made answers to big questions, and defend the dogma against any objections: creationism on the one side, and the similarly shaky big bang and neo-darwinian evolution as origin of species on the other. Both decry any examination of their fundamental beliefs and denounce those who seek to do so, sometimes violently. While religious examples are common enough in the news, lesser known examples on the other side including biologist Richard Dawkins denouncing agnostic Richard Milton's book "Shattering the Myths Of Darwinism" not by debating the science, but by declaring Milton mentally ill, suggesting the book should be burned, and various of his supporters calling for a boycott of the publisher. Astronomer Halton Arp, locating evidence that quasars, despite being highly red-shifted, are not as far away as commonly believed, which deflates the concept of the red shift and hence an expanding universe and a big bang, found himself shut down to the point where no observatory in America would give him telescope time and he had to relocate to Europe to continue his research.

Both believe they are the defenders of the truth and the salvation of culture - we have the self-proclaimed "culture wars" of the American fundamentalists, and Randi and his cohorts being dubbed "science vigilantes" by at least one fellow scientist. The debunkers spend more time ridiculing those with different beliefs than actually investigating anything, and the religious extremists spend very little time worrying about getting to their heaven but lots of time telling everyone else they're going to hell.

Your "heads I win, tails you lose" would have also been done by those leading the prayer if no rain had materialized, and with arguably less justification. If the rain had happened one day, two days, one week, two weeks, three weeks later, it would have been called an answer to prayer. If no rain had occured, it would have been declared that it "wasn't God's will" for there to be rain, or that not enough people prayed, or that they weren't good enough people, etc. In fact, there was a recent study on prayer to help ill people that showed not only no benefit to prayer, but a slightly *worse* result for those who were prayed for than those who weren't. It's been pointed out that if it had shown a positive correlation, the religionists would have trumpeted it as scientific proof of the divine; however, given the result, a bevy of excuses for the outcome have come forth, as the religionists are no more inclined to examine their beliefs than the debunkers:

http://www.slate.com/id/2139373/

And as for "coincidence", in April 2006 children praying at the foot of a large outdoor metal cross in Mexico were killed when a bolt of lightning struck the cross. I'm sure religious advocates would find this at least as much a coincidence as those who find rain occuring after prayer when there was a potential for rain in the forecast.

I'm not sure the issue here then is one of control as much as it is those with a low degree of tolerance for uncertainty. I think both parties fear the unknown and can't function in undefined circumstances. It's not a seeking of *control* (the scientific method doesn't seek to dispel impulsiveness, it seeks to dispel falsehood, and doesn't grant any control). What it is is a seeking of *order*. The religionists have a defined set of answers, a set of unquestionable rules, and a ready-made set of rationalizing answers to any evidence that conflicts with the dogma. The Scientism followers have turned theories into dogma, turned the idea that the scientific method tells us the full truth about the material world into the idea that the material world is all that exists and hence the scientific method is the only source of knowing anything about existence, and as you've noted, the same set of rationalizations to avoid questioning dogma. When either side is confronted with challenges to their belief system, significant cognitive dissonance sets in. I think that's more apt to be your culprit.

Richard Milton was so shocked by the personal attacks he received from "vigilantes" moved to defend the scientific orthodoxy that he studied the phenomenon, both attacks on/suppression of challenges to scientific paradigms and also the type of people who react that way. He actually wrote a book on the subject, the U.S. title being "Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment". There's plenty of material in here about scientific theory becoming dogma, authoritarian personality types, cognitive dissonance, and particular scientific research that was attacked. It is a fantastic read and I believe those interested in the subect of Mr. Prescott's essay would find this book enlightening. You'll encounter topics from scientists being a short carriage ride from the entire block that Thomas Edison lit up with his lightbulbs who declined an invitation to see this but instead wrote letters to papers denouncing the claim as preposterous and a hoax upon the public, to newspaper reporters who denounced the Wright brothers' flying as a fraud despite being done out in the open, to an experiment in which playing card suits and colors were switched and some people, even staring at the cards for 11-13 seconds, would insist they saw the cards as they should be (say, "black spades") rather than as they were (e.g. black hearts) and becoming emotionally upset or even hostile while staring at them (their minds could not handle seeing something that conflicted with what it believed it should be seeing).

On a personal level, I make little distinction between those who hold negative beliefs without proof and those who hold positive beliefs without proof... I think of those who reject paranormal phenomena out of hand in the same fashion as those who are convinced photographic orbs are dead spirits, ufos are abducting people, etc. without anything approaching proof. My own credo is "I believe in nothing and the possibility of everything". I assign everything a probability, that probability being _between_ 0 and 1, and that probability is understood to be based on the evidence as it presently stands, and can change as new evidence unfolds. The great physicist Neils Bohr once said, "It should be understood that every statement I make ends not with a period, but with a question mark", and another scientist, whose name I do not recall, said that one spends the first part of one's scientific career trying to prove a theory, and the rest of one's scientific career trying to disprove it. Lastly, the paleontologist, philosopher and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, upon being ordered not to publish his ideas by the Vatican, said "Only those who truly believe their faith dare to question it." These three ideas have helped shape my philosophy of knowledge... and have a habit of putting me at odds with any group certain in their knowledge. :-) Perhaps this is why I view the debunkers and the true believers the same way.

Thanks, Joseph, for your thoughtful and well-reasoned comment. By the way, I've read Richard Milton's book and I agree that it's very worthwhile.

As for prayer, it seems to be an inherently difficult thing to study, perhaps because it means different things to different people.

Also, it's very hard to get a proper control group. For instance, if you divide hospital patients into two groups, one to be prayed for and one not to be prayed for, how can you guarantee that no one is praying for the members of the latter group? They may be praying for themselves, or their family and friends may be praying for them.

Another problem with those experiments is that the people who did the praying had no personal connection to the patients. They had never met them or seen them, and knew only their names. I wonder if any sort of psychic connection can be made under those circumstances.

I realize the above remarks may seem like special pleading, but the reason I suspect that prayer in some form can have actual effects is that there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of experiments testing distant mental influence, and many of these experiments have shown strong positive results. The prayer experiments are only a tiny subset, and their doubtful results should not blind us to the more convincing evidence of other studies.

Lynne McTaggart's book The Intention Experiment provides a generally good overview of this whole subject. She acknowledges the mixed results of the prayer tests, but also reviews many other experiments in distant mental influence. There's a surprisingly large body of evidence for this phenomenon.

Good article Michael. After of a critical reading of the skeptical literature and dabating with skeptics (debunkers or pseudo-skeptics) for years, I've arrived to the following conclusion: most skeptics don't change their views because they hold strong ideological worldview (specially, ontological materialism; combined with atheism and neo-positivism). This is the general rule.

Their criticism against the paranormal isn't a casual objection against it by simple curiosity and the need of discover the real truth behind it, but a deep conviction (derived from ideological reasons) about the inexistence of such "pseudoscientific garbage" and the intrinsic irrationality of any person who believe in it.

In my opinion, they aren't rationalists, because many times they don't use the reason when attack paranormal phenomena. They learn and "teach" about logical fallacies (only applied against paranormal "proponents"), but they use them when attack paranormal research (e.g. attacking the integrity of experimenters... isn't it an ad hominem fallacy?). They don't critize skeptical literature nor conventional medicine. They use emotional language and rhetorical words (e.g. "psedoscientist", "credulous", "irrational", etc.) to refer to people who research or believe in paranormal. They said that testimonies aren't evidence, but the use them against the paranormal... (e.g. quoting the testimony of Richard Feynnman against Uri Geller; or the "confessions" of Shipi against Geller; or testimonies of skeptics "infiltrated" in the programs of John Edwards; etc.). They want laboratory evidence of paranormal and articles published in peer review journals, but they use anecdotal evidence and non-scientific articles against it (e.g. the "tests" of Randi published in his own books or TV programs, but never in peer review journals like Nature or Science)

The materialism is incompatible with "not material" phenomena. So, they attack whatever account of any phenomena that seems be not material (e.g. afterlife, ghosts, telepathy, etc.). Materialism holds that mind is a fuction of brain; so, if the brain die, mind also. Ergo, mind can't exist apart of the mind... (this is the reason they attack telepathy, mediumship, etc.).

Atheism is incompatible with "spiritual beings" and Supreme beings or inteligent design (e.g. ghosts, afterlife, religion, etc). So, they attack any kind of evidence or research in these area and any people who holds some type of beliefs in them.

Neo-positivism only recognize as "scientific" laboratory experiments and the methods of natural sciences. By this reason, skeptics attack testimonies (because they aren't used como "evidence" in natural science like physics), and any type of "soft" disciplines like social science, or any branch of knowledge different of natural science.

This is the rule. Exceptionally, you can find theists and deists between the skeptics (e.g. Martin Gardner), but they hold the materialistic and neo-positivistic view.

This is the reason why they can't be convinced using arguments or scientific evidence. It's impossible, because they have a strong ideological worlview (that they consider attacked if such phenomena exists). They can't be open minded about phenomena or realities that challenge or refute their deep convictions and ideologies.

A recent example is the change of mind of strong atheist and polemicist Antony Flew. In his recent book "there is a god", they explain the reasons of his change of mind. It caused a strong, aggresive and dishonest reactions of his "friends" atheists.

If you go to amazon.com and see the comments of the readers, you'll see the dishonest attacks, ad hominem speculations and pseudo-refutations of Flew's book. It include comments of philosophers like atheist Richard Carrier who attack the book speculating about who really wrote the book, accusations of dishonesty, irrelevant objections, etc.

>A recent example is the change of mind of strong atheist and polemicist Antony Flew. In his recent book "there is a god", they explain the reasons of his change of mind. It caused a strong, aggresive and dishonest reactions of his "friends" atheists.

One wonders what the reaction of James Randi's fans would be if, somehow, someone were allowed to win the famed "million dollar challenge." Would Randi's supporters change their minds about psi, now that the challenge had been met? Or would they instantly declare that Randi "must have" been fooled, followed by freewheeling speculation that he "must be" senile, or he was paid off, or he was never a "real" skeptic in the first place? In other words, would they abandon their skepticism, or would they abandon Randi? I think most of them would throw Randi to the wolves, just as Flew's friends turned against him.

I read this article and i loved it, i wholeheartedly agree with it. In my field i have to deal with a lot of skeptics, and that's very true of them. If they hear of examples of unanswered prayers, they right away point those out, but if there are instances of miraculous answers, then they have a dozens of reasons to explain those things away. Many a time i realized that their mind is just made up and they can't be confused with the facts, so basically it's just a choice they make of what they decide to believe, cafeteria-style, whatever suits their fancy. Great article!!

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