Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
I have been on a quest recently to understand psi skeptics and skepticism better. Part of this has to do with a book that I am writing, but part of this also has to do with a personal journey. I think that this relates to other psychic people and believers as well, hence the blog post. First of all, it is important to humanize skeptics; they are not subhuman knuckle dragging Neanderthals after all, but ordinary people.
For anyone who takes a pro psi position on the web in an open Internet forum, it can be really difficult to see skeptics as possessing any humanity at all. The close mindedness we encounter, the ignorance, the spiteful ridicule and the idiotically stubborn refusal to ever be wrong all give the impression that skeptics are the sorriest bunch of losers ever to live in their mother’s basement. But this description does not fit skeptics; they tend to be well educated, well rounded individuals. They are mostly male and in many situations they share the same values as we do. I have seen no indication that skeptics are normally racists or bigots either.
Psi skeptics tend to believe in evolution and climate change and favor liberal economic policies, much like many psychics and believers do. It is rare for me to meet skeptics in real life, but when I do, these people are almost always polite, pleasant and courteous, much in contrast to the lunacy that I see on line.
So what causes these people to check their brains at the door whenever they discuss the topic of psychic ability? There seem to be some personality characteristics that fit skeptics and explain why understanding psychic ability is so difficult for them.
One thing that I have heard several times from skeptics is that they are very hesitant to trust their instincts. It is perhaps the single most important difference between skeptics and psychics. Psychics and believers in contrast, normally trust their instincts.
From this one significant difference, all of the other pieces fall into place. One of the most consistent traits that I have noticed from a wide variety of skeptics is that they don’t trust me. Why should they? Because I know more about this subject than they do. The skeptics that I encounter rarely ask questions or wish to know anything about me at all despite the fact that I tell them that I am psychic. (I can’t remember any skeptic asking me even the most basic question: How do I know that I am psychic?) They are, however, eager to tell me what they think that they know and then defend their position.
Militant skeptics think that I am a fraud and moderate skeptics think that I merely have a mistaken belief based on the assumption that I am not very good at calculating probabilities or chance.
This lack of trust extends to ridiculous extremes. After all, about ¾ of the world population believes in psi. According to Wikipedia:
“Another survey conducted in 2006 by researchers from Australia‘s Monash University sought to determine what types of phenomena that people claim to have experienced and the effects these experiences have had on their lives. The study was conducted as an online survey with over 2,000 respondents from around the world participating. The results revealed that around 70% of the respondents believe to have had an unexplained paranormal event that changed their life, mostly in a positive way. About 70% also claimed to have seen, heard, or been touched by an animal or person that they knew was not there; 80% have reported having a premonition, and almost 50% stated they recalled a previous life.”
Skeptics are sitting on a rock in an ocean of believers and they do not trust any of them to be telling the truth about their experiences. 5 billion people must be deluded or liars according to them. The only way that a person can maintain such an enormous conceit is if they do not trust themselves. They see their own inability to trust their instincts and they have concluded that instincts are not to be trusted.
A corollary to this is that skeptics have more trouble relating to their own feelings. This leaves them blind to situations where their emotions are controlling their logic and they are far more vulnerable to cognitive dissonance and less able to cope with it than those who are more aware of their own feelings.
If a person does not trust their instincts, then they must find something else to trust and it is understandable that they will not be particularly flexible about it. Unsurprisingly, skeptics favor the status quo. Science is the rock that they typically sit on, clinging to whatever the mainstream scientific establishment favors at the moment and even twisting it if it does not meet their internal image of what it is supposed to be.
For a person that does not trust the world inside of themselves, the world on the outside is all there is, which is how we get illogical and fanatical defenses of a materialistic view of the world even though science is pretty clear on the point that reality does not fit that description.
Trust is a right brain feature. You have to grasp the essence of things in order to trust and you cannot get bogged down in details. However, this is exactly what happens to skeptics. Even in discussions with moderate skeptics, I have seen time and again that they do very well when involved in details. When asked to consider things as a whole, however, they fail miserably.
Of the rare moderate skeptics who actually know something about the science of parapsychology this is a consistent feature of their evaluations. They can pick at just about any single study and come to the conclusion that something is wrong with it, but entirely miss the fact that they always do the same thing. For instance: a skeptic will find nothing wrong with this incomplete chart of parapsychological lab research and the skeptical conclusions:
Overview of Scientific Parapsychology Skepticism
|Autoganzfeld*†||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Psychokinesis*†||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Staring Studies*†||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Dog telepathy||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Parrot telepathy||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Dice studies*||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Remote Viewing*||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Precognition*||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Zener Cards*||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|The Afterlife Experiments||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Global Consciousness||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Retropsychokinesis||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Plant and single cell organism telepathy*††||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
|Distant Healing† (Braud)||Yes||Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher|
*Studies replicated by other scientists
†Meta analyses have been done.
†† Cleve Backster, (retired) who performed the original experiments was not a research scientist, he was, however, one of the premiere polygraph experts in the world.
A skeptic will not be able to perceive this as a repetitive pattern of dogmatic denial, but will instead, want to focus on the specifics of each individual case to point out the perceived flaws. It is almost impossible for a skeptic to grasp that the individual studies can have flaws AND there can also be a pattern of dogmatic skepticism. The skepticism as a whole has a flaw that cannot be seen in individual cases.
Nor do they have a problem in holding their skeptical views while dismissing the experiences of half the world’s population, the hundreds of case studies on various forms of psychic ability or disregarding consciousness in physics. The reason is that strongly detail oriented people compartmentalize these things and lack the necessary skills to comprehend them as a whole.
I think that this is often confused with stubbornness on the part of skeptics, when in reality it is a gaping hole in their ability to process information.
Here again, we see a deficiency in a crucial right brain activity. In the area of imagination, skeptics fly blind. To a degree, they lack the ability to visualize concepts that are foreign to them and the ability to see issues from all sides. Imagination is a crucial skill in accepting new ideas, but it requires internal trust because not all of those new ideas will be widely accepted. Imagination also suffers in the presence of compartmentalization because it requires letting go of such strong focus.
In conclusion, what we have here is a person who has a limited ability to trust with a left-brain outlook and a very narrow ability to focus and a lack of trust in their own instincts. This necessarily limits their imagination and puts skeptics in the position of trusting exterior sources instead of themselves. This then makes it extremely difficult for skeptics to take in new information which conflicts with their previously held beliefs. (Because they put their trust in these exterior sources.) It also makes them vulnerable to cognitive dissonance .
 The term “believer” in this sense is someone who believes in psychic ability and has possibly experienced it, but does not consider themselves to be psychic.
 2005 Gallup Poll on the paranormal