I used to identify as part of “the skeptic movement” but after a lot of consideration I stopped doing so after being unable to agree with the actions many took in the name of “skepticism” which, for me, has always been more of a methodology than anything else. I wrote about this a while ago here. Recently, Amy Bruni- who used to be on the US hit television show Ghost Hunters –made a post on her Facebook page that reprimands skeptics for their behaviour. It was (I believe) because the Guerilla Skeptics (GS) group recently made information public (here and here) about a number of undercover stings they did on Chip Coffey who claims to be psychic.
I don’t see people who believe in paranormal and psychic phenomena accosting “skeptics” at their conventions and gathering – or posting constant blogs and forums about how skepticism is terrible.
Strangely enough, we really don’t care what their belief system is – because it is their right. And personally, I don’t care or have to justify what I believe to someone else. So, why do they feel the need to constantly bash what we do?
So, why do they feel the need to constantly bash what we do? Arrange “guerrilla stings” on psychic and paranormal conventions? I mean – puh-lease, you must have something better to do. Truly – there’s a while lot of bad in this world. And if your “cause” is to take on people whose thoughts on fide and existence are different from yours (but causing you no harm), I think it’s time you take a little look at yourself.
Some people have (rightly) pointed out that Bruni doesn’t seem to understand what skepticism is in this rant and is using the behaviour of a few bad eggs to dismiss a whole methodology. However, she has since made a clarification that suggests the above was written out of anger and that she does actually understand rational inquiry perfectly well. She says
Critical thinking IS severely lacking in this field and it makes us easy targets. Which brings me back to my original post. Again, I have nothing against skeptics in general – but I do have everything against the methods some are employing and the fact they are attacking people who I love and trust intensely.
I hear you, Amy. It seems to me that Bruni isn’t suggesting for a minute that Coffey has the right to not have his claims questioned. Her issue is with the way in which the GS went about doing so.
Psychics in general routinely refuse to have their abilities tested in controlled conditions that would rule out positive hits being the result of chance. The results of their public readings often suggest they could be using other non-paranormal techniques and that warrants further questioning. I personally admire the research into psychics that the Good Thinking Society does and inspires others to do. They go to a show and report on what they see as an audience member. In recent years this method alone- with no stings or intentional misleading involved -has shed light on techniques that Sally Morgan might be using at her psychic shows simply through the power of observation… methods that some audience members report she has since occasionally stopped using so much.
That’s pretty powerful.
I have written previously about my concerns with the actions of the GS which you can read here and here. The GS claim that they’re not trying to change the minds of the people who already believe in Chip Coffey and his paranormal abilities and that they’re just trying to educate the general public… but I’d like to politely suggest that they’re doing nothing more than shouting into an already noisy echo chamber and serving their own interests. Both of their stings provided us with no new information, by the way, so although using tricks to exposure scams can work (Randi exposing Popoff, for example) I think it’s important to make sure the ends justify the means…
As someone who uses rational inquiry to investigate paranormal claims and the strange experiences that people report having I’d stand with
Amy Bruni and Chip Coffey believers any day rather than associate myself with “skeptic activists” who don’t seem able to see past their own noses. It isn’t always about being right and it isn’t always about point scoring. There’s a whole human side (dare I say humanist side?) to being involved in paranormal research that so many people miss and that’s pretty tragic, don’t you think?