Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Part Four: Skepticism: skeptics appeal and skeptics burn out.

In my last installment of this sweeping essay, I made some very sweeping statements to the effect that most so-called paranormal claims do not stand up to intense, logical scrutiny.

Clearly, this is a very important statement. Quite frankly, if it's true I'm being intelligent, logical and insightful. If it's not true, then I am being dismissive, unintelligent, and perhaps even bigoted. Unfortunately, its not an easy statement to just easily prove or disprove, especially in a few brief paragraphs.

Therefore let me just show an example, perhaps I'll add others. One of my favorite skeptics books is Lawrence David Kusche's "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved." There are several reasons I like it.

First, Kusche began his investigation as a small plane pilot and librarian who became curious about the Bermuda Triangle mystery due to frequent requests at the library where he worked for materials on the subject. He did not seem to have an axe to grind.

Second, he explains the steps he takes to investigate fairly carefully as he digs into the claims one by one. His investigative techniques are thorough but easily followed.

Third, you can find the book relatively easily and cheaply. Please note that although the current edition is published by Prometheus Books, a prominent skeptics book publisher with links to organized skepticism, the original edition was not.

Should you wish a copy one source is through or their network of second hand book sellers.

After reading this book you will discover why, despite large amounts of tabloid, paperback and docudrama of the week TV specials, the US Navy and Lloyds of London still do not give the Bermuda Triangle much attention. Essentially, what one discovers through reading this books is that despite sensationalized attention to the claims, despite frequent repetition of the most dramatic claims, when looked at carefully and methodically what one finds in this case, as in many others, is that a lot of bad evidence does not make up for a lack of good evidence when it comes time to take the claim seriously and look deeply.

Because I believe that this is the pattern with not just the Bermuda Triangle, as Kusche illustrates, but with most so-called paranormal claims, I am therefore, by some definitions of the term, a skeptic.

More later.

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