Saturday, September 4, 2010

Comment on RACV article - The True non-believer

A recent article in the Australian RACV magazine presents a kind of interview with 'Victoria's head skeptic' Terry Kelly.

In defense of those with either an open mind or the power of deeper thought, I thought that I might make some interesting observations on the article and, more specifically, on 'skeptics'.

Firstly, there is the obvious problem relating to the classification of a paranormal event as 'bunkum'. This I call the 'one road theory'. It goes like this:

If I can get to Melbourne via the Geelong Freeway then the ONLY way to Melbourne is via the Geelong Freeway.

The 'theory' is based on the premise that all paranormal experiences are imaginary or faked because the same results can be obtained through non-paranormal means. A classic example is the spoon-bender. Nobody can bend spoons through the power of their minds because a magician can bend one through trickery.

This should give us plenty to think about and a good opportunity to revise testing and so forth in terms of measuring, detecting and classifying paranormal activity because it allows the creation of tests and tools to detect fakery. But it does not prove that all spoon-bending is a trick. That is not a logical assumption.

There are, in fact, many roads to Melbourne.

A look at real scientists will show, in fact, that there are many phenomenon which cannot be proved or whose criteria for occurrence cannot be identified. But scientists - real scientists that is - do not discount them as fakery. Quantum physics is a good example of this. But probably Mr Terry Kelly thinks Quantum physics is just 'bunkum' too I expect.

The second and much more important thing that comes to mind is that while skeptics deride those that they (correctly) term 'true believers', they are actually no different themselves.

True-believers believe without evidence.

Skeptics dis-believe without evidence.

Proving the non-existence of many or most paranormal phenomenon is impossible. We measure and value phenomenon using physical tools. By its nature, the paranormal must be non-physical - at least in part. So it cannot be measured. At best if can be implied or heuristically 'proven'.

You cannot, for example, prove the existence of a God who by definition must exist beyond our current limited physical definition of the universe. You might say that this God did not create the 'big bang' (Hawking) but you cannot disprove God's existence. You are free, at least in this country, to make up your own mind though.

But skeptics, such as Terry Kelly, decide that things don't exist - they believe that they don't exist - yet have no evidence to support their beliefs. Just like the true believer, they hold a view as truth without any evidence at all.

That is the biggest problem I have with skeptics. They are simply true believers who choose to believe something different.

They are not 'more logical' or 'more intelligent'.
They are not 'informed' or 'rational'.

They are religious zealots whose religion is denial.

In fact, they are the True Believers.

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Skeptics are welcome. As are intestinal worms. I am not prejudiced, I treat them both the same.