Are paranormalists picked on by society?

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Skeptics often get put down for speaking out against a community’s or a individual’s cherished belief. They call us downers or haters, ignorant or closed-minded (all are often baseless accusations). Or, as some of emails and comments from wankers suggest, I’m a “whiney bitch”. I don’t appreciate that crap because you don’t know me, you just see what I write and project your own feelings onto it – argue about what I say, don’t judge my personality or call me names because you look like an idiot. Attacking the person is easier and more cowardly than dealing with the claims themselves. I just ignore those people or let it roll off with a laugh.

In order to progress in a field, there must be civil discussion, but there will also be disputes. I try to keep it civil as long as others do. But everyone won’t be friendly or supportive – that’s a given.

Here’s the thing… as much as I hate being pigeonholed into the stereotype of mean skeptic, I wonder how paranormalists who are very interested and committed to their subjects get along in society?

Ghost hunting and Bigfoot tracking is popular and mainstream from my perspective, but not understood or appreciated by everyone. Do these folks get harassed by others – their friends, family and work colleagues – for their perceived unusual interests? I’d suspect they sure do. They have as much passion and drive to understand their subject area as skeptics do, they just choose a different approach to it.

It’s not fair for me to complain about getting picked on for a skeptical stance when I think people get picked on for a credulous stance too. I’d like to hear about it. How is your interest in fringe topics perceived? Is it cool to be an investigator of fringe topics? Or is it ridiculed? Are you respected or rejected? Lauded or laughed at?

[Note: Comments are moderated which is why you don't see the "whiney bitch" stuff get through. So it might take a bit for your approved comments to be posted. Also, for purposes of this post, I'm using "paranormalist", for lack of a better word, in a way that means anyone who subscribes to the idea there are things to discover that are currently outside of scientific acceptance, which includes ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs, psi, etc. I mean no offense to those who think these phenomena have a non-supernatural explanation yet to be found.]

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5 thoughts on “Are paranormalists picked on by society?

  1. I read about alien abduction and other moral panics (MPD, SRA, pretty much anything dealing with recovered memories). I try to read the original works, so some of the titles and covers are pretty wacky, even lurid. If someone asks if I believe that stuff, I tell them I am researching factitious disorders. That turns their brains off immediately.

  2. I’m one of those “paranormalists”, and I’ve only recently (like since this last spring) begun creeping on your blogs and watching a few of your posted videos. I’ve wanted to comment before, but I never wanted to land on your radar or show up in one of your presentations. :-) I only comment now because after discovering you and this blog a few months ago, I blogged about you under the title of “How does the skeptic view paranormal folk?” I included a video of you speaking. Even though I consider myself “openly skeptic” (like so many paranormalists do), I realize I’m often “sciencey” and on a completely different planet than you are. That doesn’t mean I haven’t found many of your opinions or statements fascinating. I think it’s good for us to see what “the other side” (Ha!) is saying… or see how we’re viewed. My feelings were honestly a bit hurt watching that video (“Sounds Sciencey”), but I think it was good to see. I don’t always read everything, but I do enjoy creeping by secretly on occasion, just to see what you’re saying. I’m not sure how my readers would feel about this comment, but for the most part, I can respect your opinion… and learn from some of it.

    • Lagaya1

      Hi, Patrick,

      You seem like an intelligent and pretty open-minded guy. Your comment was great.

      I don’t think most skeptics want to bully people, as many of us who call ourselves skeptics still have areas of our lives that we are not exactly objective about. For me, veganism is my sacred cow (ironic, no?). I don’t eat animals because of the cruelty involved, but I’m also perfectly willing to believe any doctor that says it will also make me live to be 100 years old. I know my belief doesn’t hurt anyone, and I wouldn’t expect to be ridiculed about it.

      The thing that I can’t stand as a skeptic, though, is the people who harm others by their beliefs. These are the anti-vaxers, the psychics talking to the dead for money scams, the curse lifters, the exorcists, etc. If there’s a harm to someone, it should be called out. Other than that, people can believe whatever they want.

  3. Joseph

    Most of the time, I get negative responses if I ever say anything outside of the majority point of view. So I have learned to be very cautious about revealing to anyone, not only my incredulity about the standard claims, but my credulity about any non-standard claim.

    What is interesting to me is that I find this to be necessary no matter what group of people or what person I happen to be around. For example, I am a Catholic. I decided a long time ago to own that religious tradition (to make it my own), and I take every aspect of it very seriously. However, I have non-standard knowledge about Church history, theology, and other areas and have developed points of view about certain topics that would be unwelcome to either liberal or conservative Catholics.

    What appears to be the case is that most people are wired to respond to non-standard points of view with skepticism. of course, the obvious problem is that “standardness” is defined *in-group*. The only way to overcome this problem appears to be to learn the internal language and belief system of any group you have a desire to convince of points of view that are new or different from what they are used to. Once you do that, everybody feels more comfortable with you and is more willing to listen to something new you might have to say.

    I have put this to the test with conservative Catholics. I appear so much like one most of the time, that I am able to introduce what would be experienced as a new idea about Catholicism to your average conservative Catholic.

    Human psychology is very interesting once you have an accurate model of how it works.

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