Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
I apparently have a skill that is both unique and amazing and gives me the gift of an intellectual capacity that towers over the regular mortals. This mysterious skill allows me to be right most of the time, to make fewer missteps and navigate difficult issues and generally deal well with complexity.
This superpower allows me to counter the arguments of others with well thought out and accurate insights supported by a wealth of facts. This ability frees me from ignorance, poor logic and faulty conclusions. With it, I demonstrate a superior grasp of the issues that many others cannot even imagine.
What is this great superpower I possess? What is this amazing ability? No, it’s got nothing to do with my psychic ability nor does it have anything to do with healing. The thing that I do which conveys this Mastery of Logic is . . .research.
You see, when I don’t know something, I look it up. My apparently towering intellect is nothing more than the ability to acknowledge my ignorance before I shoot off my mouth. It’s not like research is hard or anything. Sit at your computer, type in a few key words and you’re off. If necessary, you might have to check out a book or two from the library since not everything is on line. But get on the internet and you will at least quickly discover the book you need.
Are there really people out there who get ALL their news from the TV and newspapers? Are they really so ignorant as to think that this is ALL THERE IS? Are they really so content to just believe everything they see and hear and rarely question anything? I visit a Q & A website on a regular basis and I saw this question. It is very typical of a certain class of questions I see all the time and it is what set me off on this rant:
Aren’t homeopathic companies more corrupt than Big Pharmaceuticals because they don’t actually produce studies verifying their claims?
This question assumes of course, that no studies verifying the claims of homeopathic medicine exist. Why does the person asking this question assume this? (Researching this took all of five seconds. Answer is here. Positive studies of homeopathic medicine do indeed exist.) Why would anyone make such a blanket statement? The answer I most commonly hear is:
I think I would have heard about it if it were true.
What?? That’s how you judge it? You feel that by watching TV and reading the news that all the information in the known world has now spilled into your lap for easy consumption?
When presented with a counter argument they respond with:
What evidence? Prove it!
It is this kind of thinking that I believe is at the heart of our blight of truly ignorant and stupid people. They are sitting around waiting for someone to feed them information and assume that if no one has done this, then the information must not exist. They are not required to prove that they are right, everyone else is required to prove them wrong. Of course this is especially harmful to a field like parapsychology. Without any fact checking whatsoever, people automatically assume that no valid studies exist. The people who follow this line of reasoning are not just rednecks and High School dropouts. These are physicists and teachers, psychologists and other well educated people.
Apparently these people have supreme confidence that whatever opinion they have, they don’t need to check around to find out if they’re actually right. This kind of thinking is more common than I’d like to believe.
Once people have the wrong idea in their heads it is just hell to get it changed. They don’t want to be wrong and start questioning everything even though it’s been demonstrated that they did not know anything useful about the subject in the first place. They can’t utter the three wisest words known to man: “I don’t know.” To argue with them is like fighting with a tar monster. Pretty soon you’re covered in it and nothing has changed as the subject slips around faster than eels in a barrel.
The level of this type of ignorant thinking is breathtaking. I find it everywhere I go on line and in the course of my job. The inability of people to perform any self examination . . . at all . . . to find out if their opinions have any merit whatsoever; to find out if they are at all grounded in any sort of factual basis continues to astound me.
We have the internet. You can find all sorts of useful information in a matter of seconds. We don’t have to stumble around half ignorant of things because the information is too hard to find. We have it all at our fingertips. And yet with all this informational power people still go on about subjects that they know nothing about. Even sitting at a computer where it’s as easy as opening a new tab and taking five minutes to do some reading there are any number of people willing to spout off on stuff as though they had the slightest idea of what they were talking about.
What are kids learning in school? Certainly not how to construct an effect argument based on even minimal research. Why are there so many people out there who cannot distinguish between what they think and what they know? Aren’t we supposed to be teaching this in science? After all, most kids will never become scientists, but they will use scientific thinking over and over again throughout their lives. Are we teaching the science without the fundamental thinking that goes into it? What is happening out there that leads to such boneheaded thick skulled thinking?
I get increasingly irritated by this crap as I get older. It makes me cynical because it is exactly this kind of crappy thinking that is running the U.S. Senators, Congresspeople, cabinet members, you name it and chances are that if you scratch the surface, you find a stupid person inside with a million unchallenged assumptions about how things are. Assumptions that could be changed with a minimum of fact checking if the person could just put their ego aside for moment and realize that they might be ignorant.
So that’s my rant. I’m going to take a deep breath and try not to think about it too much. I’m going off to find an assumption I’ve made that I can research and uncover the truth. It’ll make me feel better.