Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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

In part one, I basically argued that for most members of American society, exposure to and an open mind to paranormal claims of various is the normal state of affairs. To most Americans, perhaps most humans in general, the skeptic point-of-view is seen as an extreme point of view, far outside the mainstream.

In part two I basically argued that for most of us to become skeptics we must have some interest in the subject of what are loosely grouped together as "paranormal beliefs." If we are not interested in these subjects, how can we look at them deeply enough to develop an informed opinion.

Here, in part three and four, I intend to argue that not only must one develop an interest in these subjects, but you must have the analytical tools and research abilities to dig deeply enough to get at the truth of the matter. Now make no bones about it and say what you wish, at this point I'll make it clear that it is my belief that, like it or not, nine times out of ten, in the realm of what are loosely clumped together as paranormal beliefs the skeptics point of view is the correct one. I do not, for instance, believe that spaceships are visitng earth and abducting people. I do not believe the Bermuda Triangle has a particularly high rate of mysterious disappearances of ships and plans. I do not believe in ghosts or psychic powers, although, I confess, sometimes I think the world would be a more interesting place if such things were true.

But why? What does this mean? If one wishes, one can after all find a great deal of evidence for these things. Taking UFO claims, for example, there are huge numners of websites that discuss and present arguments in favor of UFO beliefs. Surely, that's a lot of evidence.

Yes, it is a lot of evidence, but it is not good quality evidence.

Let me ask the following questions:

1. Is there any museum exhibit anywhere that includes actual, indisputed evidence of visitors from space?

2. Are there any college classes that teach about UFOs and if so what do they use for a syllabus?

3. How much time and energy does the US government publicly spend on the matter of UFOs?

4. What are the three best pieces of physical evidence of UFO sightings?

5. What were the attendance numbers at some of the most important recent UFO gatherings?

6. How much new evidence, versus recycling of old evidence and old claims, in the field of Ufology is presented each week via the internet?

7. Is there anyone out there who makes their living, full time, as a UFO expert?

And please note, number seven. One of the ironies of the UFO field is that the prominent believers and the prominent skeptics both tend to hurl accusations of mercenary motivation at each other while screaming about the poverty and sacrifice they make to ensure that the truth gets out about this field.

In summary, I believe that there is very little quality evidence behind UFO claims, or for that matter, most so-called 'paranormal claims" in general.

I feel that if one digs into the actual claims themselves, this becomes apparent.

Perhaps I should argue this further, yet it's been done elsewhere both more deeply and better.

What I'm saying is that if one wishes to look into these claims deeply one will soon see that quantity or frequency of claims is often mistaken for an actual quality of evidence.

More later.

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