When I’m disliked by only one side, then I know I have a problem
Some of you may know I now blog for Huffington Post as well as the usual outlets. Some of you have been kind enough to read and retweet. I appreciate that. My latest piece is out.
I’ve been circulating in the Skeptisphere for a good long while. But I have not forgotten the value of being challenged and seeing alternative views. This draws me to paranormal conferences and events. I go there to be immersed in highly unskeptical ideas. It is immediately clear, to me at least, that I am out of my comfort zone at these events. I do not feel free to talk to anyone lest they determine I am not of their “ilk” and decide I should be shunned. But I am curious, and no one berates me for wanting to listen and observe. What is it about the paranormal culture that draws people here? Why is this population of people happy to spend a weekend engaged in these particularly paranormal activities, listening to speakers and making new friends?
This is a piece I wrote after I returned from a paranormal conference. I would strongly suggest all capital-S skeptics read it and would love to know what you think. I find myself cringing when I hear people (e.g. “skeptics”) laugh at paranormal believers (not beliefs but BELIEVERS) and soundly state “Bigfoot is a myth. Grow up!” How narrowly you see people. Skeptics lack empathy in many cases. You may decry me for giving paranormalists the time of day but I think they have something to say about being human. I’ve not been treated kindly by some in the skeptic-athesist community and I’ve been stabbed in the back and teased by some of the “skeptical believers” (I don’t accept their soft definition of “skeptic”) and of course you’re doomed if you are the Skeptic on a pro-paranormal forum. But, honestly, I’m so used to that. I write policy for a living. If I make everyone happy or NO one happy, I’m doing something right. It’s when I am only liked by one camp that I know I have a serious bias problem.
On the flip side, a new Sounds Sciencey was published this week as well.
It also contains bits that I picked up from the paranormal conference. But a different take. Here I describe how belief in the paranormal can be dangerous, foolish and misguided. People really do believe this stuff.
To immerse yourself in the paranormal culture means you run the risk, however small, of becoming detached from reality, obsessed with communicating with the dead or discovering the monster in the woods. Listening to one conference speaker talk about “holy shifts,” she described how the paranormal was her gateway drug to new spirituality. She started out with the scientific outlook and now is more religious. Perhaps this makes her happy and fulfills a need or perhaps this is the wrong path. It’s not for me to say. But when she claims that she spoke to a ghost, this is certainly fair game for rational critique.
Yep, I’m writing to different audiences for sure but there are no contradictions in these pieces.
Finally, I spent over a month researching and gathering references for two pieces that comprehensively cover the Ketchum Bigfoot DNA project. It’s finally in print. Blogs don’t cut it for this kind of stuff; it’s important to have a written record. The longer version appears in Skeptical Brief (ironically) including a side bar about the Sierra Kills incident. The condensed version will appear in the news section of Skeptical Inquirer. I will lobby for these pieces to be released online so people can read a full account and history.
I’m off to NECSS in NYC this weekend, the Northeast Conference of Science and Skepticism. I prepared a talk about sounding sciencey. It’s the first time I’m speaking about this concept to a big audience so should be interesting.