Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Way back in the late ’80’s, early 90’s, in the middle of the New Age Movement, I was exposed to a lot of psychic people and wannabe’s. One of the collective traits of this movement was to ignore pseudo skepticism and stay away from pseudo skeptical people as much as possible. The theory behind this was that the key to happiness and fulfillment was to stay positive and ignore all that negative energy. For the most part, I went along with this, more because I didn’t know anything about the science and I was terrible at research. At the time there was no Internet to speak of and the book that got me started, “The Conscious Universe” by Dean Radin, hadn’t been written yet. What little got onto TV or into print wasn’t sufficient to reach any conclusions. In other words, even if I wanted to argue with skeptics, I lacked the necessary information. Also, in pre-Internet days it was harder to find the sort of hard core pseudo skeptic that the Internet has so graciously to us.
Now, of course, there is no avoiding them. They are very focused on getting out their message and show up on mainstream sites on a regular basis in the comment section. The Internet has given them the perfect forum for spreading their ideas far and wide. This has changed the landscape considerably . . . for the better. It has forced the psychic community to become more focused and better educated on psi and ever so slowly has started changing the culture of ducking and running from the pseudo skeptics. The TED controversy was a good example of this. The way forward is pretty clear to me. As a group, our spiritual advancement now goes straight through the pseudo skeptics. Our healing and our growth depend on removing their ability to out-influence us.
As irritating as it has been, I’ve discovered that pseudo skeptics have forced me to be a better thinker. I’ve had to do more and better research as a result of arguing with them because it was important to me to know what I was talking about. I had to be sure I wasn’t doing the same thing they were: forming opinions using bad logic, faulty reasoning and a poor grasp of the facts. Many times after I’ve argued with them, an insight came to me; it was a way of looking at things that I hadn’t seen before that helped me understand my own point of view. For example, it was after an argument with a pseudo skeptic that I realized that I had been defining my own perceptions about psychic ability wrong. I had been accepting the pseudo skeptical version that I had beliefs about psychic ability. That’s not actually true. I have experiences which shape my perception. They are not beliefs. These kinds of insights are only possible if we are challenged.
One result of becoming better informed was that I began to perceive my own position differently. I lost the hesitancy and uncertainty I once felt about being psychic; a result of this is that I have become bolder and more assertive fundamentally about identifying myself this way. I’m reminded of this song: (WARNING: ’80’s hair and one scene with glitter. It cannot be unseen. Viewer discretion is advised.)
It’s become sort of an anthem to me.
The struggle has allowed me to understand the pseudo skeptical mindset that I previously feared and as a result, I fear this sort of mindless skepticism no more. I don’t get the pit in the middle of my stomach when I see that someone is firmly in Camp Pseudo Skeptic. I know enough not to take them seriously.
Of course there comes a point of diminishing returns when dealing with pseudo skeptics. There is only so much to learn from them before it simply becomes tiresome, but for me, this took quite a while. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit obsessive myself or maybe it’s because I grew up in a household with two brothers and an opinionated father where pointless arguing was the main sport; at any rate it took me years to let go of needing to confront pseudo skeptical trolling. Intellectually I understood that it was a waste of time, and completely useless, but I just could not let it go. At times I was as bad as they were, but eventually the urge to rise to the bait subsided. I would see some inane comment and rather than compulsively responding, I finally accepted that it just wasn’t worth it. It was an emotional change, not a logical one that finally put that behavior to rest. There was a spiritual change as well. Losing the need to correct people also meant that it was easier to be nice to them, regardless of how they were personally reacting. I wasn’t getting caught up in their drama.
Ultimately, we are all connected, and arguing incessantly with skeptics is a way of acknowledging this connection. If you think of arguing as a kind of dance then you have to realize that you are actively choosing your dance partner. You have to have something in common with people in order to engage them and this is something I realized early on with the intellectual battles I was engaged in. I was seeing a reflection of myself in their behavior, however unpleasant. Did I really want to engage in discussions with people who had strong opinions but knew almost nothing about the subject? What did this say about me that I felt compelled to do this? I’m reminded of this cartoon by xkcd comics:
We can learn a great deal about ourselves from the people that annoy us most if we stay present and allow ourselves to learn the lessons that they present to us. I am grateful to the pseudo skeptics that I’ve argued with. They’ve helped me become a calmer, better person and more certain of myself. Without their help, I would be less certain about my own identity and would not have become a good thinker.