Skepticism is No Magic Bullet

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Before I jump into this, let me establish some definitions.

I always get the question when I discuss this topic, “Well, isn’t skepticism a good thing?” My answer is an unequivocal yes. Skepticism is and should be a natural part of anyone’s analysis of information. Otherwise, we would, indeed, fall for anything…as Organized Skepticism claims those of us who explore alternative ideas do.

Problem skepticism is what I term Organized Skepticism. Despite what they will tell you, OS is an organized belief system. This is evidenced by their dogmatic attacks on anyone who doesn’t agree with their key tenants and theories. It’s also attested to by the conformity of the topics that should never, ever be broached or investigated beyond castigation.

Anyone who has ever encountered an OS adherent in person or online could pretty quickly list those doctrines they hold dearest – anything not conforming to a standard reductionist (“natural”) explanation. The underlying assumption here, and you can drive a mothership through it, is that there is only ONE way to know something. It’s corollary is that our modern science has the universe figured out and your paranormal, extraterrestrial, or other non-standard explanations have been summarily dismissed.

OS cloaks itself in science and rationalism, but those appearances are quickly shed when they are confronted with evidence on a topic they have deemed apocryphal. Usually you get anger, name calling, and few facts to counter these alternative ideas. The worst “sin” of all is apply the skeptical model to the skepticism itself. That is absolutely not permitted.

Among today’s high priests of skeptical thought is Dr. Michael Shermer. Search YouTube for skepticism and you will quickly find a large volume of videos with Dr. Shermer sharing the stage with other skeptical luminaries like Dr. Richard Dawkins , Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson,  James Randi, or others. Wow! They don’t sound dogmatic to me.

Going back to the 1950s, psychiatry has labeled and increasingly viewed a tendency to see patterns in chaos as the early stages of psychopathy. They call this a neologism. That means if you see conspiracy theories in world events, believe that a God must be responsible for the apparent ordered universe, or think aliens must be responsible for unexplainable things in the human past, let me be the first to congratulate you. The establishment sees you as literally mentally ill.

It should be noted that there are strong veins of OS in modern psychiatry. They deal strictly in terms of the physical, atomic body and strongly avoid the power of the mind or ideas about the energy body having a role in healing.

In his 2011 book The Believing Brain, Shermer says the following.

“The brain is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. The first process I call patternicity: the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data. The second process I call agenticity: the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency. We can’t help it. Our brains evolved to connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen. These meaningful patterns become beliefs, and these beliefs shape our understanding of reality. Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.”

I can’t argue with anything he’s saying. That’s all true. Of course, he leaves out one element of the equation for us “believers.” We do see these patterns. We do ask questions. We do apply reason and logic. Still, we conclude there is a pattern to be seen.

Skeptics, highly credentialed, degreed, and intelligent as they usually are, miss one key point. Skepticism, just like the tendency to believe, is a way of approaching data. The “belief” that there is nothing to see…no pattern…no divinity…no UFOs…is also a belief that continues to be reinforced by the data you consider to be valid. Pretty soon your brain becomes a doubting machine.

Skeptics also make a large point that they, unlike believers, change their perspective based on the data. That doesn’t hold true if you assail any of the high dogmas of skepticism – Darwinism, atheism, and certain views of how the cosmos works that precludes alien visitation to Earth.

It matters not how much evidence one compiles for Intervention Theory, an ordered universe pointing to an intelligence behind it, or alien visitation. Skeptics will not only not change their minds on these topics; they’ll refuse to examine the evidence.

As Dr. Stanton Friedman points out in his four basic rules for debunkers.

  1. What the public doesn’t know, I’m not going to tell.
  2. Don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.
  3. If you can’t attack the data, attack the people, it’s easier.
  4. Do your research by proclamation–investigation is too much trouble, and nobody will notice the difference anyway.

Skeptics are also the laggards to innovation and new ideas. What has a skeptic ever discovered? He is always there to cast doubt and naysay new ideas that don’t conform. If all we had was skepticism, we’d never achieve progress.

To me, these very smart skeptics believe they hold some intellectual high ground unattainable by unwashed believers. I say they still have a very strong belief system. They have made a belief of their doubts. They have asserted that doubting is always the superior position to believing. They have asserted that seeing patterns in the chaos is inferior to just seeing the chaos.

Parapsychologist David Luke has coined a phrase to capture this “psychopathy”. He calls it Randomania. This is the thought process that chronically attributes chance to data that shows evidence of patterns and connectedness.

Touché, Dr. Shermer.

Be free! Be inspired! Follow your bliss!

Ray Davis
for 6 Sense Media