Thursday, June 12, 2008

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

Why skepticism? Why skeptics burn out?

Growing up in American society, it's inescapable that most of us have some exposure to claims of paranormal, "unexplained" or supernatural phenomenon. For instance, we've all heard some reports of UFO or ghost sightings, use of allegedly psychic means to obtain seemingly unobtainable information or strange places where ships and planes disappear without a trace or where visitors catch fleeing glimpses of hairy, ape-men like creatures or sea serpents. We've all been exposed to these reports, sometimes through the media, sometimes through friends or acquaintances.

Like most people, growing up I was under the impression that with all these reports, some from clearly honest people, there must be something to some of them, even if some specific cases were patently absurd. After all, we are often told that it is closed minded to dismiss such things as unfounded without proof.

Therefore, I don't think there's anything too strange about people who have some degree of interest and acceptance of these claims. There is after all, a spectrum of such belief. At one end there is enthusiastic disbelief. At the other end is eager enthusiastic disbelief. In the middle lie several states, including the relatively passive, uninterested acceptance of the possibility of several things that one has heard about but either has never really taken the time to explore or else has never really felt knowledgeable about how to explore.

Therefore many healthy, sane, intelligent people in our society have some degree of acceptance or belief in things that could loosely be lumped together under the umbrella terms of "paranormal or supernatural phenomena."

However, I also believe that when one digs deeper into these claims, using the proper analytical tools, certain patterns emerge and through familiarity with these patterns one can get a clearer picture of what is and is not likely to be true among the many interesting claimed phenomena that surround us as we live our lives.

In upcoming entries, I hope to expand on this, and, ultimately, describe the journey from fanatical skeptic to burned out skeptic.

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