I spent the weekend at a paranormal convention in Gettysburg, PA. Now, to most Skeptics, they may not have been able to hold out three days but, actually, it’s a truly enlightening experience. I’ve been to a few paranormal events like this before. I’m certain I was the only card-carrying Skeptic at this one. I’ll be writing and talking about it in various outlets soon but I wanted to give you the quick takeaways.
These conferences are fun and rewarding for the people who attend. They feel like they are among their “kind”. In their spare time, they do paranormal investigations so their regular jobs do not compare. This is no different than a skeptical or any other hobby con. But the big difference between a skeptic event like Skepticamp or a conference is the worldview of the attendees. At a Skeptics convention, the scholarship is high, mistakes are pointed out, serious critiques are brought up in the questioning and it’s all about thinking, not feelings. For this event it was very much the opposite. It was all about suspending scientific thought, very much more spiritual (in the religious sense) than I anticipated. It did not matter what religion you subscribed to (it all sort of mashed together) but your belief will protect and heal you. References and evidence were weak, emotion was strong. Personal stories are welcomed – when were you most scared and most vulnerable? People are very profoundly altered by experiences they had and are struggling to understand them. Without critical thinking tools or framework, it appears explainable in the spiritual sense. Often, what is lacking from Skeptics is empathy towards others’ struggles to understand their frightening experiences. In fact, empathy is downright rare.
The emphasis from the experts there was on the individual – do what is right for you, do it your way. Other than the stereotypical paranormal investigator uniform of black tee with your group’s acronym on it, I saw several groups doing their own thing their own way, writing their own books, and thinking they would be the one to get it right and discover THE PROOF.
The people at a paranormal conference see the world very differently than those of us who subscribe to a rational-based framework for the world. I’m not going to tell them they are wrong, I’m going to try and understand how they seen things. More to come on this.
But right now, I’m pretty exhausted by the whole thing.
Also, on Friday, I debuted a new piece on the Huffington Post.
This is my way of reaching a new audience. Please pass it along if you like it. I’m always open to topic suggestions, questions or critiques.