Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Talking to skeptics always comes out the same. They can explain away any evidence you present to them and manage to give all their weight to their own opinions and facts while giving none to yours. On line of course, the rudeness just increases. Why do they act this way? How can they pretend to be so rational and have such superb critical thinking when they are so obviously responding emotionally?
The short answer is this: The one defining thing about skeptics is that they lack the ability for critical self appraisal. That is to say, they cannot take a step back and evaluate whether their own opinions are biased. Another way to say this is that they have an emotional stake in their opinions that they are not aware of and therefore will defend them beyond all rationality. All the while of course, they will be insisting on the rationality of their positions.
My experience is that highly sensitive people are generally aware of how their emotions affect their judgment so that in a weird twist of fate, the more emotional people are actually more capable of objective analysis. It’s this simple: Those people who understand their own biases are more likely to reduce that effect.
We will always have to confront skeptics, or at least listen to them, so it’s important that we understand a little about how they operate. As I said before, and I can’t state this strongly enough, their position is emotional. If you don’t understand this, then you can either be hurt by them, or waste your time in endless arguments. If you can “see” the emotional base for their argument then everything starts to make sense.
My experience in dealing with the ordinary skeptics that I run across is that they are long on demanding evidence and short on providing it. Rather than take a position and back it up with factual data the usual tactic is to simply deride any evidence that is provided. Here is a comment that did not make it past my spam pile. This was in regards to my article on plant consciousness:
Maaaan, you know there is such thing in the web like search engine, http://google.com if you don’t, go there to understand why this post is bullshit
This is typical skeptic stuff in that the comment involved no research or additional effort on the part of the skeptic to explain his position. He did not contradict anything in particular, but rather issued a vague condemnation of the whole article. I didn’t feel particularly compelled to publish that comment because of this.
These people are referred to as pseudo-skeptics because they don’t really try to understand the subject, they just know how they feel about it. In fact, a lack of curiosity is one of the hallmarks of these skeptics. A typical skeptic comment is: “If psychic ability were proven I think I would have heard about it.” They don’t see themselves as required to defend their positions with factual data.
In one case, I specifically asked a blogger skeptic for any information on meta-analysis he might have since this is central to the evidence for psi. Here is that snippet of his reply:
Regarding meta-analyses(the correct spelling, learn to use spell-checker, my friend), I’ve been suspicious of any whose component studies were methodologically “fixed” retroactively, as the ones often published by so-called “pioneering researchers” are, making said analyses worthless as sound evidence, especially when they are “peer-reviewed” only in pro-paranormal journals.
His opinion would be fine except that it contains no references whatsoever to scientific data refuting these meta-analyses. This is all just unsupported opinion and consequently I have learned nothing new. Here’s where the rationality really breaks down because this business of “all claims and no data” is precisely what parapsychological believers are accused of by these very same skeptics. When people start accusing you of the very things they themselves do, is this really someone you want to argue with?
I suppose the point here is NOT to argue with them unless you feel that you have to make a point in front of other people. One on one you will certainly accomplish nothing and more importantly, learn nothing.
One more thing. It’s hard to tell when you’ve won an argument with a skeptic, because they’ll never concede, but when they start to drift from their original points and bring up new ones, you’ve pretty much accomplished all that you’re going to. It’s time to end the argument and go do something constructive.