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.

Suspend Your Skepticism and Just Listen.

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.

Leave Us Alone, You’re Spoiling Things – CSI.

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.

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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.

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idoubtit

Http://SharonAHill.com

2 thoughts on “When I’m disliked by only one side, then I know I have a problem”

  1. Idoubtit, In the 1970’s and onward for fourteen years, I did research on the subject of the paranormal. I made friends with a woman who was very respected in the area. This gave me access to everything she was involved with, including attendance in a ‘spiritual church’.

    I let her know that I am a researcher and had been sense the middle1960’s and that I would not embarrass her nor any of her friends, I was there to observe and learn, and that I had no preconceived belief that could not be changed with proof. That being understood by all, I was included in all of the activities of the church and the ‘spiritual community’.

    My observation, over those years, is that most ‘believers’ are sincere within their experiences. Many were out and out frauds. The sincere ‘believers’ tend to be what I would call ‘needful people’. They need recognition, however slight. Many have undergone troubled childhoods. Some have experiences they did not know how to deal with making them easy pray for the frauds.

    All in all, the community is a group of ‘same thinking’ people that receives support from each other and a since of acceptance within a world they have trouble functioning within.

    A. M. Dove

  2. When you are dealing with people immune to reason, what are you to do? Just smile and nod, passively endorsing their beliefs? I’m certain 90% of them are sincere, good people, but I have no interest in acquiescing their irrational beliefs.

    We can sit down and play some cards, watch a game, and have a beer. However, if we’re going to discuss topics of pseudoscience and woo, the gloves are off. I will not ignore reason to preserve their egos.

    I am friends with many people I disagree with on many topics, but I often find pseudoscience believers (include the religious fundamentals as well) have their personal identity wrapped up in their belief. This makes it difficult to separate a discussion from a personal attack.

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