Thursday, February 4, 2016

Valuing Skepticism, heck, Valuing Everybody's Opinions

Okay, so, there's this attitude in modern society that you're either Believer (spiritual) or a Skeptic (scientific) when it comes to the paranormal (as if humans are not capable of enough abstract thought to consider both possibilities, or at least the ones with IQs over room temperature). And often this is clearly this is a case of closed mindedness on both sides. Neither party wants to admit they could be wrong, and neither party wants to see the other party's evidence.

And occasionally you run into a third camp, Forteans. Many of them put on this guise of being scientific, while really they’re just putting stock in an alternate paranormal belief from the Believers. You're going to hear a lot more about this when I finish slogging through The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomenon by Bob Rickard and John Michell (expect a healthy does of respectful sarcasm in that post). But one glaring example is that of an air field where lemming tracks were found in the new fallen snow, shallow at first, but deeper as they headed towards the long grass, and it's suggested they fell from the sky, completely ignoring the obvious interpretation of such tracks. The lemming headed for shelter when it started snowing!

Fortean studies probably fall into what skeptic Sharon Hill would probably call 'scientifical', a term she uses for fake science used in paranormal investigation, and ignore evidence contrary to their claims. It lacks debunking, criticism, and communication. And she has some personal experience with such investigators, and let's face it, we all seen those paranormal shows where everyone gets jumpy and dramatic, but the audience doesn't see anything even closely related to evidence.

We need these people, all of them (whether you're a Believer, Fortean, Skeptic, or something in-between).

If you're bothering to try and prove something isn't real, as opposed to just shrugging it off, you're just as passionate as someone that firmly believes. As skeptic Ben Redford started about his participation in paranormal investigations, “I do it because I genuinely want to know.”
Skeptics hold Believers and Forteans accountable for their investigations. As paranormal Investigators, we need to use the scientific method, we need to seek help in testing areas that are not our expertise, and we can't allow tests to be bias. Heck, I've always felt this way.

But skeptics shouldn't just dismiss paranormal evidence either, it works both ways.
And if you have a different opinion of what causes said phenomenon, or what x creature actually is, it should be treated no different from any other hypothesis. It should be tested, using the actual scientific method. We don't have any way of knowing whose crazy theory will turn out to be correct, or lead us to the actual answer. Several cryptids have turned out to be descriptions of rare or diseased animals. Before '92, the Saola was nothing more then local legends about gilled antelope that could breath underwater.

Think of what we could accomplish if we all took each others' opinions seriously. It doesn't mean I'm going to believe in bigfoot, but I'll review your footage to see if I can identify the animal in it.

Resources and Further Reading:

Doubtful News
(Note: This source was not used, but may provide believers with a better view of real skeptics then the standard, 'you just don't want to believe'.)

Krulos, Tea. Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators. Chicago: Review Press, 2015.

Rickard, Bob and John Michell. The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomenon. Italy: Rough Guides, 2007.

Wikipedia (last modified 2016 - 1 - 18)