The people we interview on the Be Reasonable podcast often share ideas and beliefs that are way out there. I get that. There are occasions during the interviews where I sit in stunned silence wondering how to proceed with the next question. It’s a bit of adventure really, because you never know what claim someone is going to come out with and me and Marsh can’t challenge them all successfully because we don’t know everything about all paranormal and pseudo-scientific subjects. This is what the show is about though, that is what is at the core of the Be Reasonable podcast; laying ideas on the table to be explored with genuine-yet-skeptical curiosity.
It isn’t everybody’s cup of tea though, and we’ve had a number of comments left in different places telling us we’re too soft on our guests, that we don’t challenge them enough, or that we’re failing as skeptics by doing so. I disagree but I do understand where these commenters are coming from with this feedback and I understand that for some people listening to our guests talk about their strange beliefs unchallenged can be a frustrating experience. We realised from the very beginning that this podcast wasn’t going to be something that everybody enjoyed, but the majority of our feedback has been positive, with many people telling us how although they find episodes difficult to listen to in places, they come away having learnt something.
I can appreciate where they’re coming from too – I can’t speak for Marsh here, but when we came away from the Episode Two interview with Michael Wilmore of the Flat Earth Society I had learnt so much that I would never have learnt otherwise. It was (and is) fascinating to learn about a particular world view I’ve never encountered before, even if it is frustrating to hear someone making what I consider to be huge mistakes with their logic…
Does that make them crazy, though? Does someone arriving at a different conclusion about a subject than you or I have make them “mad”? Not necessarily. I mean, there’s a chance that all of us could have some form of a mental health disorder to deal with at some stage in our life, and someone who believes in, say, psychics could be one of those people with such a disorder. Yet one of the first things rational thinkers learn is ‘correlation does not equate causation’, so I find it very strange to see some of our guests being referred to as ‘mad’, ‘crazy’, nutcases’, and more on a regular basis. It seems such an irrational and reactionary thing to write in response to the podcast episodes. It is also quite offensive, but more on that later.
While there are mental health disorders that cause people to think others are out to get them or that can cause people to hear voices, health disorders that cause people to hear noises or see things, and psychological conditions that can convince people they’re psychic or that they’ve been abducted by aliens, it’s important to remember that not every person who believes in such things is automatically mentally ill. So, please stop calling out guests mad?
As many readers of my blog know, I used to believe in ghosts, psychics and more. I had a really interesting experience during a seance once where I physically felt what was described as psychic energy. This experience was caused by a mixture of expectation, the power of suggestion and desperation on my part to experience something and had you spoken to me all those years ago I would have sworn on my life that I felt the psychic energy. That didn’t mean I was mad. I just came to a different logical conclusion about what I experienced than I would today.
The casual manner in which people sometimes refer to the guests of Be Reasonable as ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ is alarming and offensive, and it’s a behaviour I would see often when I was a believer, from people who didn’t want to offer the time of day to somebody with an opposing world view to their own. Although I don’t necessarily agree with their ideas and beliefs I still have a lot of respect for all of our guests for giving up their time for what they know is a skeptical podcast, which I imagine must be a bit of a daunting thing to agree to do. These are people who don’t deserve to be belittled because their ideas aren’t mainstream…
…and even if they were dealing with a mental health problem, I don’t think that the use of words such as ‘mad’, ‘crazy’, ‘nutcase’, ‘loopy’ and so on actually adds anything to the conversation. It’s combative and dismissive language. To call someone you disagree with ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’ is hugely insensitive and stigmatizing too.
So, please stop calling our guests mad.