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Interesting. And although different people have different ways of reacting to another's 'filtering process", especially when that filtering process is much different than our own, I think many of us truly crave the hostility that intense disagreement brings. The real problem, from my own filtering process, is that we feed so heavily (at least in this society), off entertaining ourselves with the 'throw down debunk all hostility' that requires viciously 'defeating' the other person. We crave that, we see it everyday, and accept it as the 'right way' to get at truth. Debunk and conquer.

But of course: We decide where we stand on any issue and search for evidence to support it. Even Einstein did that. It can be a productive process, driven by intuition. Then, of course, it can be a simple matter of denial. It hard for any scientist to accept that he's spent his life digging a hole in the wrong place.

Wasn't it Niels Bhor who said that for every profound truth the opposite is also true?

It seems my filter has a very similar list to yours!

This is what is meant by "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If a phenomenon is on your filter list, then a proponent either has to come up with extraordinary evidence (i.e., Bigfoot in a cage) or convince the world the claim is not so extraordinary (i.e., modern physics implies psi can exist).

Ps. Even 'Niels Bohr'. :)

MP: People may refer to their particular screening process as common sense, the way things are, the way the world works, or their BS detector.
Another term (which has been used here IIRC): One's "boggle threshold."

Hi Michael,

Good thoughts. People's minds are formed by the basic principles they've accepted. And that mental form is structured such that it accepts things that agree with it and rejects things that don't.

When I'm debating someone who holds differing views based on differing starting principles, my goal is rarely to convince that person of what I'm saying. Rather, I'm focused on the listeners, some of whom may not have made up their minds yet.

Once people have made up their minds, they're generally impervious to countervailing arguments. Usually only some shattering experience, whether sudden or over time, will dislodge people from firmly held beliefs. And even shattering experiences may not be enough to do it.

PS. I tried to sign in as WordPress, but got a persistent error from TypePad related to the login servers.

Your approach here seems to be to show that you are a discerning thinker, by announcing that you don't believe in a certain group of theories. But I'm not sure that's needed, because your previous posts
show your keen intelligence. Although I'm no
advocate of ancient astronaut theories, the general idea seems like a reasonable hypothesis, so I'm not sure such
an idea belongs on any person's "exclusion list."

As I am encountering quite a variety of shocking paranormal phenomena well documented on my site,
these days I like to keep my "exclusion list" to a minimum, and to think that the universe may have all kinds of utterly weird realities lurking within it.

My list is close to yours but a year ago I took aliens and put them in my '50/50' box.

The book that prompted the change was by a man I'm sure you know, Ingo Swann. The book was short, 80 some pages, Moon something or Something Moon? Hold on ... 'Penetration' it's called

I cannot tell if Ingo is nuts or blown away by the truth but I respect him enough to put aliens in the 'quite possible' box. The hollow moon? That's still just too damned odd for my little brain.

But for the large majority of people Psi, many other things on the "skeptics" Index Prohibitorum, are not only live options but experiences. "Skeptics" on the other hand deny that there is such an index of prohibited thoughts, even as they and their heroes, such as Carl Sagan, publish them.
It's fairly obvious who is in denial of the more obviously real things.

"Your approach here seems to be to show that you are a discerning thinker, by announcing that you don't believe in a certain group of theories."

I just wanted to show that I have a filter too. I picked some fairly uncontroversial items. Others would be more open to debate. For instance, no one can ever convince me that Jimmy Carter was a good president. I remember his presidency too well. But that one is less obvious than the ones I listed.

With regard to aliens, I'm not saying I dismiss the possibility of aliens (from another planet or another dimension) visiting the earth now or in the past. But the idea that they built the pyramids etc. is a nonstarter for me. There is plenty of info on how ancient peoples were able to accomplish these tasks with the help of simple mechanisms and unlimited slave labor.

Micheal: Your post brought to my mind a number of thoughts.

Two are:

1) Your observations make me think of a term I have used in my private musings, which is "a philosophical lean-to".

I am thinking of the early settlers in the woods of America. The first thing they would often do when reaching their destination is to construct a lean-to, which was a simple shelter made by leaning old logs or branches against a fallen tree or cliff wall, or something similar. Gaps in the roof would be filled in with whatever was available -- animal skins, etc. It was a way to start to deal with the great dangers of living in an uncharted forest.

The worldviews, or cosmic views, of some individuals are like philosophical lean-tos that are cobbled together to deal with the Great Cosmic Unknown. Once they get comfortable in those lean-tos, they often are going to be disinclined to let go of what works for them. (Think religion, for example. Think Helmholtz.)

Being humans, (i.e., a big brain on an ape-animal chassis), these individuals are also going to have a tendency to get animalistically territorial about their views, and will be willing to fight to defend their philosophical lean-tos, under the "flag" of being scientific -- when, in reality, they are being pseudoscientific. They will tend to abandon the axiom that science deals in probabilities, not certainties, in favor of defending their philosophical lean-to as being a certainty. It's more comfortable that way.

These philosophical lean-tos tend strongly to get intertwined with tribal and familial loyalties, and financial issues, which can make it extra hard to step outside of the philosophical lean-to to see a bigger more comprehensive picture of of the "forest" of the Great Unknown.

2) Micheal wrote:

"For [Helmholtz], the implications of telepathy were too shattering to bear thinking about ... As a matter of psychological self-defense, [Helmholtz] had to repudiate the very possibility [of telepathy]. And why not? Nobody is obligated to embrace an idea that will destroy the entire intellectual structure of his life."

This makes me think of the dangers of using psychedelic mind-expanding drugs without quality guidance. Mind-expanding drugs can rock the foundations of one's worldview -- one's philosophical lean-to -- in a way impossible to ignore or wave away, and can make the unguided user become deeply unglued and psychologically damaged, at least for a while, from being unable to assimilate the influx of information in systematic orderly fashion.

I've been thinking about my own filters for a while. I'm as left-wing as the average SF Bay Area resident, where I live, but I see a lot of cock-sureness about left wing opinions that makes me cautious and I constantly try to spot my own blind spots.

In a paranormal vein, I've never seen anything 'weird' but I've been told astonishing,clearly elaborated stories about deceased relatives appearing to friends, out-of-body experiences(of the veridical variety), etc by people I totally trust to be telling me what they believe is true. I encourage friends to share their experiences with me but then I look at my own belief filters and ask myself why I can't buy into what they're telling me. ( No matter how much I hear, I just need more evidence.) I don't think I'll ever really change my stance on what I believe and I wonder how I would be affected by having a personal experience with the paranormal. I'd love to travel out of body (if it's possible).


The archaeological consensus is that the pyramids and other great works built by the ancient Egyptians were not constructed by slaves, but mostly by farmers who were not otherwise employed during seasons of slack agricultural labor. Or so I've read.

Maybe the "slaves" theme was influenced by the Book of Exodus.

This is such a great point to make, Michael. Mind's are not capable of being open to everything, but it is a great learning experience to try and see the world through someone else's culture or worldview. I went through a period of atheistic materialism and it helped to cure me of western religious dogma. I have now a more spiritual path and it feels right, but can be at bit scary at times.


There is a corner round which we
Will not proceed because we see
Around it, somehow, corner-wise
The dread familiar one denies

But if I take myself in hand
To lead my soul to understand
What mind enclosed will not concede,
Then round that corner it will lead

Then if but once my soul has peered
Despite the corner it has feared
Into another crossing street
Another mind and soul to meet

Who was mere steps behind my fear,
The corner hiding what was near,
I will confront another mind
Which by its terror was confined

March 23, 2015

I would agree totally with your list Michael, apart from homeopathy, where the evidence is very strong indeed; from in vitro studies, all the way to clinical trials.

Pavel, is that your original poem? I dig it!


Very thoughtful and insightful post! I agree with you but think we need to take the distinctions a bit further.

I think there is a different between live/dead options we have considered/haven't considered.

For example, I don't consider the moon hoax a live option, but I've also read their claims in some detail (and counter-claims as well). IOW, I've looked into the debate, and I consider it all thoroughly "dead" at this point. The same thing for 9/11 trutherism, Holocaust denial, and a bunch of other stuff. Now I was very much disinclined to believe all of these things, but I nevertheless looked into the debates on all three.

There are also some things I've studied and am totally convinced about, but those wouldn't fit the "live option" concept, since I don't consider them "options."

So perhaps we can do a classic grid like this:

Believe Possible/Researched/Convinced
• Justified positive belief

Believe Possible/Not Researched/Convinced
• Unjustified belief

Believe Possible/Researched/Not Convinced
• Researched live option

Believe Possible/Not Researched/Not Convinced
• Unresearched live option

Believe Impossible/Researched/Convinced
• Justified skepticism

Believe Impossible/Not Researched/Convinced
• Unjustified skepticism

Believe Impossible/Researched/Not Convinced
• Researched dead option

Believe Impossible/Not Researched/Not Convinced
• Unresearched dead option

Obviously, anything "justified" here is "nominally justified." Doing research and dismissing facts because one doesn't like them isn't justifed at all. But it's a step up from simply accepting or rejecting something without looking into it at all. We could expand the grid to encompass things like conspiracy theorists who are really into their really stupid topics, such as moon hoaxers. The weird thing about such people is that they can argue very coherently and intelligently--i.e., they don't seem low-IQ--but their epistemology is so rotten that they simply fail to see reality as it is, and ultimately there is no arguing with them.

So that brings us to the skeptics, and you say,

|| Even if there are obvious holes in their logic or clear misrepresentations of the reported facts, we should not necessarily assume dishonesty (unless a particular skeptic has a track record of intentional deception). In most cases, these errors are the result of dismissing the claim too quickly, without really studying it or even thinking about it - i.e., without taking it seriously.||

Well... we'd have to go to the grid. There are many, many people who have never researched psi who simply assume it's just "one of those things" that "we all know" is impossible. But most skeptics who take on that label and argue on behalf of atheistic materialism do *not* fit that description.

Most self-labeled skeptics *have* studied and thought about *some* of the issues in detail. Sure, they will automatically dismiss claims that don't smell right to them, make arguments up on the fly, etc., because of their need to defend their dogmatic belief system. But they feel they have put in sufficient work to take on that belief system in the first place.

You say,

||it would be a mistake to assume that they're being churlish or deliberately obtuse.||

I must disagree. I think skeptics are required to be "deliberately obtuse" in order to maintain their very rigid belief system. Their obtuseness is not limited to being blind to well-attested facts. One thing that I have *never* and I mean *never* seen a skeptic do is admit that his/her opponent has processed the topic of the argument in a sophisticated way, is intelligent, or is worthy of the slightest amount of respect. If you say, as could be truthfully said by several participants here, "I used to be an atheist too and understand where you are coming from. I had experiences that caused me to believe what I do now," they simply *will not* process what you are saying. Every "believer" is just stooooopid.

There are a few reasons why they need to take this approach:

1. They've built their subculture on a mocking, dismissive, and invalidating approach, and they do not enhance their position in their group by going against this approach. When they are arguing against believers, they are not actually trying to convince them. Rather, they are celebrating their status as more smart and sophisticated then others.

2. Explaining phenomena, as opposed to explaining them away, would be hard work. For example, coming up with a real theory of how NDEs work in a materialist world would be tough. Much easier just to say, "Lack of oxygen to the brain--nothing to see here, move along," than actually try to explain the mechanisms involved. Moreover, coming up with an explanation for things would involve putting forth ideas that might violate atheist-materialist orthodoxy, subjecting onself to mockery and excommunication. Fear and ordinary human laziness make it preferable for skeptics simply to blow off their opponents' positions.

It's nice in a way that you often take a diplomatic tack with skeptics, but they really are a nasty bunch who give their opponents no courtesy.

To a certain extent, we all are products of our bias filters, meaning that all information we think we 'know' has been manipulated in some way either by our own belief system or the belief system of others. Everything we read , most of what we hear and some of what we see all enters our brains through a bias filter. The bias filters generate our 'will to believe' or our 'will to not believe', that is, our 'live options' or 'dead options'.

Not only do individuals have bias filters, but groups, societies and cultures have them too--- 'group think', if you will.

Perhaps the filters most difficult to recognize are those with which we have grown up, that is, those filters we unknowingly incorporated into a belief system which came from our family, our teachers, our religion and the society in which we spent our formative years. That may be why, for example, someone like President Obama, does not have the same understanding of the United States as someone who grew up in mainstream America. His formative years were not spent on main street America but in Indonesia where he received his early education and developed his bias filters. It is not a matter of where someone is born that matters most---whether Hawaii, Kenya or Canada---but where one learns to understand the world around him or her, that is, where one's bias filters were developed.

I think that it is important to acknowledge these bias filters in ourselves and others and not be too critical when we run up against one. Perhaps we all should keep an open mind but as Carl Sagan is reported to have said, ". . . not so open that our brains fall out." - AOD

The concept of live and dead options is an interesting one as it relates to how perception of reality can affect us. I'm wary of saying "things need to be believed to be seen" but on a less metaphysical level I do find studies about mental health & aging to be fascinating:

I love this summation by esteemed psychic researcher Hayward Carington

In conclusion: Perhaps the greatest difficulty we have to contend with in this subject arises from within ourselves - from our natural desire to settle the issue definitely one way or the other, and at once; and our reluctance to resign ourselves to a state of partial and uncertain knowledge. It is this, I think, rather than the voice of reason, which makes so many of us prone to accept the roseate fairy-stories of spiritualists, occultists, religionists, etc., on the one hand, or even (since we demand an answer at whatever price) the pretentious extrapolations of materialists affirming extinction on the other. We insist imperatively that Survival, if it occur, shall be 'proved'; whereas I doubt whether this is possible in any ordinary sense of the word, because, I suspect, just those properties of the universe that make some sort of survival a certainty also provide alternative explanations (if we care to make them far-fetched enough) for any evidence of it.

But I think we can do better than prove Survival - we can find out something about it. If we harden our hearts against dogmatism in some quarters, sentimentalism in others, and wish-thinking in ourselves; if we carefully scrutinize the evidence (especially the odder and more unexpected items); if we try to develop a reasonable theory of what is likely to be going on, and check it wherever possible against any relevant facts obtainable, I believe we shall gradually form a pretty clear conception of what post-mortem conditions are like, and why. In this way, by studying the question of How, we shall make as it were a detour around Whether, and end with a degree of informed assurance unlikely to result from any frontal assault.

Thanks Ray. I like the Carrington quote too, especially the last paragraph you referenced. That guidance is what I try to follow as perhaps others on this blog do too. - AOD

Well said, Hayward Carington! :)

Not to be nit-picky but I assumed you meant 'Hereward Carrington'? - AOD

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