The Skeptic is the unwanted visitor to the paranormal-themed discussion. Questions are unwelcome; they spoil the fun. (Leave Us Alone, You’re Spoiling Things! by Sharon Hill, 29 March 2013, CSI)
I’m scooping up this article, because it offers a nice continuation to the reflexion started by the French-speaking blog of Sham & Science in a blog post from last week about the difference between science and “sciencey”. Or rather, about the difference between scientism and science. While the latter offered some tips on how to recognise manipulated or unverified claims disguised as science through “sciencey” editorial tricks (like enlisting autority figures of a field as a back-up, multiplying references to journals and newspapers, to give the impression that the claims is consensual among experts, using a technical jargons and referring to high-level statistics and probabilities to confuse lay readers, etc.), this article describes the conflicts that arise when skeptics happen to question claims made by so-called “believers” or “non-skeptics” and offers some idea on how to overcome them in order to establish discussions or at least more fruitful debates than the present steril controversies that usually occur.
It also defends the position of the skeptics who decide to engage in debates with “non-skeptics” (for lack of a better expression for the time being) on various issues, including subjects that are deemed harmless, like ghost hunting or other related activities. It clearly appears that drawing the thin line between fun and actual deep involvment in those beliefs is quite difficult, not just for the outsider skeptic, but also for those indulging in the paranormal. She particularly underlines the danger represented by many radio and TV shows as well as a large body of paranormal litterature that blur the border between mere entertainment and scientific claims. Although, I would say that she might be a bit too assertive in her statement about the actual impact of this confusion on the public, at least on adults, I think she brings forwards a fair point of concern that definitely justify the fact that skeptics publicly challenge the messages circulated by these media and associations specialized in promoting these beliefs.
As she writes it: “The portrayal of ghost hunters as “scientific” or having credible knowledge feeds public scientific ignorance. We can’t afford that.”
See on www.csicop.org