When My Skepticism Offends…

When I write and talk about paranormal subjects I often find myself prefacing what I have to say with non-committal language such as “so-called”, “alleged”, “self-proclaimed” and similar so that people won’t accuse me of dismissing or accepting claims a priori. Anyone who investigates, researchers or reports on paranormal subjects from a rational or skeptical position will often find themselves in a no-win situation with accusations of being too accepting or too skeptical at the same time.

Yesterday I had a light bulb moment in which I realised that it didn’t matter if I preface what I say with such wording because people will become offended regardless which is comes to the ideas they believe being questioned.

I saw a Facebook post that made the claim about how ghosts are just troubled dead people and I pointing out how I found it funny that ghost hunters often act as though they’re doing the dead a favour. Superhero complex or what?

In response I was asked where my respect was for this persons right to believe what they choose. It was pointed out to me that one day I would die – would it be funny then?

Well… possibly?

It has become really clear to me over the years that people who hold irrational beliefs don’t always know the difference between having a right to believe what they wish, and having the right to not have those ideas questioned or ridiculed. The later isn’t a right anyone has, no matter how violently they may try to claim otherwise.

I respect buy hydrocodone online with paypal your right to believe what you choose to and I recognise the importance that belief in paranormal ideas can play in the lives of people, but I don’t have to hold any respect for the ideas themselves. I don’t find the perpetuation of myths a respectful thing, and I do not respect those who use and promote pseudoscience as science. Especially when there are bad consequences.

Ideas can be criticised and if you happen to believe in bad ideas and don’t want them to be criticised then you’re in for a bad time.

Telling people they’re being disrespectful when they question your claims sounds a lot like trying to wriggle out of having to back up the claims you are making with evidence and that’s just sly and questionable. What kind of researcher are you, exactly?

You can believe what you wish but you sure don’t have a privilege to see your beliefs go unchallenged no matter how much you dislike it. I become hugely suspicious of anyone who says that a person shouldn’t be criticising ideas because it is disrespectful. It reminds me a lot of secular students on university campuses who are censored for fear of offending religious students. Replace the religious students with people who believe in ghosts and it’s pretty much the same situation and the same sense of entitlement.

Fact is though that if your ideas are bullshit, your beliefs are based on bullshit, and you spread that bullshit then it’s bullshit and bullshit doesn’t deserve any sort of respect.

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Hayley Stevens

Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

8 thoughts on “When My Skepticism Offends…”

  1. The idea that people have the right not to be offended goes considerably further than secular students being censored for fear of offending religious students – if taken seriously it threatens academic debate in many areas.

  2. > I was asked where my respect was for this persons right to believe what they choose

    I have seen this notion in blog comments…most recently on a baseball blog, if I recall correctly.

    It’s paradoxical to argue that a right to form an opinion does not extend to others forming an opinion about the opinion.

    This is another example supporting my observation that when most people talk about their rights, they have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s sad.

  3. Right. OK –you’ve taken a hard line approach to all of this because it’s your “bread and butter” (we’re all aware meme posters on FB push pernicious platitudes, so what). People become annoyed when you challenge a quip. Yup -that’s FB life. I know you’ve had your own paranormal experiences; Good. Great. Yes, there are groups of like-minders who will pay to hear you righteously pan paranormal investigation (back-patting being what it is). I’m an EVP tech (9 yrs now); I maintain a healthy amount of skepticism -every creak isn’t a communicative response, agreed. On the other hand, when it gets right down to it, obviously one has to ‘choose a camp.’ My grief in relation to all of this rabid skepticism lies in nay-saying minions’ propensity for “throwing the baby out with the bath-water.” Yes, there are a considerable number of over-zealous investigators out there brandishing tri-field meters and scaring themselves silly; at the same time there are a few of us researching in earnest –striving to maintain a generous degree of sensibility about it all. The real issue here is the internet world’s propensity for breeding self-promoters. We’re all independent contractors; in truth, it’s easy for on-lookers to become confused by “the facts.”

    BOTTOM LINE: I will continue to research with gusto, whether you or any other dogmatic skeptic pushes back. And you will most likely continue to promote your herculean campaign of so-called “neutrality.” Which one of us, do you suppose, will make strides toward achieving a greater understanding of the depth and breadth of the universe in which we live?

    1. Hayley, THAT’S the best you’ve got? You seem like such a bright young woman.

      Compelling evidence? –done. Over and over and over again.
      Your predictions interest no one Terry. Let me guess, you drive a muscle car…

    2. Kenda, you have no evidence until you can publish it and get it scrutinised by experts. When that happens, then you’ll have a method that other investigators can use to replicate your findings. The Nobel committee will then be calling.

      But I suspect that insulting your critics will not result in positive evidence for the phenomenon you care about. You need to give us something more than your anger.

      As I’ve written elsewhere, fringe science investigators could make use of these four logical, respectable, scientific reasons for their failures:

      1) the evidence for the phenonemon sucks
      2) our investigation of the phenomenon sucks
      3) our explanation of the phenomenon sucks
      4) the phenomenon does not exist, which sucks!

      But instead they grab at an illogical reason for their shortcomings:

      5) the people who aren’t studying the phenomenon suck

      I’ve been reading Popper and, so far, he has not mentioned that whining is part of the scientific process. If that changes, I’ll mention it on Twitter.

      Good luck with your investigations.

    3. > Which one of us, do you suppose, will make strides toward achieving a greater understanding of the depth and breadth of the universe in which we live?

      Not the gooner who describes the unconvinced in extreme terms such as “rabid skepticism” and “dogmatic skeptic.”

      If you had convincing EVP evidence you wouldn’t need to resort to such childish partisanism, would you? But you are a partisan, so instead of blaming your methods or your evidence, you have to blame the people you have failed to persuade.

      I predict that such rhetorical methods will not give us any understanding about “the depth and breadth of the universe.”

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