“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
- Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
- Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philospher
“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
- Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher
Greetings. My name is Winston Wu. I am a researcher and explorer of the paranormal, psychic phenomena, metaphysics, quantum physics, consciousness research, realms of higher consciousness, and religion/philosophy. This book rebuts and critiques the most common arguments made by pseudoskeptics (those who claim to be skeptics but in fact are cynics, debunkers, scoffers) regarding paranormal and psychic phenomena, showing the flaws and fallacies in their thinking, philosophy and methodology. I’ve listed their common arguments one-by-one and pointed out the fallacies, flaws and problems in them based on years of experience in debating with them.
The Paranormal is one of the most exciting frontiers today. Research into Consciousness, Quantum Physics and Psychic Phenomena, etc. explores venues that are unlocking the mysteries of the universe and gateways to other dimensions or levels of reality and consciousness. These provide deeper insights into a larger nature of reality, revealing insights into the meaning of existence and spawning hope for a better future in which humanity's consciousness and awareness are elevated to new heights, transcending greed, lust for power, hatred, violence, ignorance, and the confines of a materialistic paradigm that keeps us living in fear. Therefore, the study of the Paranormal is a key stepping stone for humanity's next stage of evolution.
However, standing in the way are groups of organized fundamentalists who call themselves "skeptics" but in reality are dogmatic defenders of establishment and materialistic reductionistic science who reject and deny anything which challenges that. They are pseudoskeptics cause their actions and behaviors are the antithesis to what the word skepticism really means. (More on that later)
The pseudoskepticism movement includes organizations such as CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), now known as CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) and professional Skeptics such as Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine, as well as many smaller groups and websites. In media reports and programs on paranormal phenomena, these skeptics are often presented as the final authorities on the matter and go virtually unchallenged. And unfortunately, most paranormal/psychic researchers have neither the time nor interest to debate these debunkers.
And that’s where we come in. This book’s objective is to expose and debunk the fallacies, flaws and misinformation of the pseudoskepticism movement.
Now it's our turn to form a counter movement and coalition. Enter SCEPCOP – The Scientific Committee to Evaluate PseudoSkeptical Criticism of the Paranormal. As CSICOP was formed to "police the claims of psi", SCEPCOP now in turn acts to "police the cynicism of pseudoskeptics". We will debunk their arguments, and reveal their fallacies, misinformation, censorship, denial, inconsistencies, pseudo-dogmas posing as "rules of logic" and double standards, showing that they are not objective truth seekers, but biased debunkers.
Just to state for the record though, opposing pseudoskepticism does NOT mean that SCEPCOP endorses every crackpot claim, theory and fantasy out there. Not at all. We believe in applying equal skepticism to both sides, as well as the objective weighing of evidence, for as you might expect, some claims and phenomenon have a lot of solid evidence to back it up, while others have little or none.
First though, let me tell you how I came to write this book.
Possessing a vivid imagination and the ability to think outside the box, I’ve always been unimpressed with mundane ordinary life and materialistic values. Thus I’ve always aspired to reach higher, for deeper meaning and understanding, and the bigger picture. Thus I’ve always had an interest in esoteric things, and been drawn to spirituality, religion, and the search for meaning. I started out during childhood as an Evangelical Christian fundamentalist, which gave me the structure and solid sense of purpose that I needed at the time. When I turned 19, I felt that the absolutist doctrines of my faith were too limiting and narrow minded for me, and not allowing me to learn anything new without fear. This began a slow de-conversion process which led me to become Agnostic for a while. You can read my story about my deconversion entitled My Rise to Christianity and Transcendence From It. (I also have another book in similar form to this one debunking and refuting main Christian arguments entitled Debunking Christian Circular Arguments and Assumptions)
Since then, I have always been a critical opponent of brainwashing tactics, after having been brainwashed myself a number of times, but learning from it each time. As a result, I’ve written various debunking articles. See a list of them here.
After my Christian deconversion, I found that the Atheist paradigm didn’t have the answers to life’s mysteries or even to unexplained phenomena either. I knew that its paradigm was insufficient as well. Neither Atheism nor Evangelical Christianity seemed adequate, but oddly enough many people seem to think that those are the only two belief systems to choose from. Realizing that there were way too many things that couldn’t be explained by conventional or scientific explanations, I started looking for answers in non-organized forms of spirituality. After further research and questioning, I discovered many fascinating things and new paradigms that fit the unexplained data, which gave me a more comprehensive view of reality and spirituality. I discovered that there was indeed powerful evidence (some of which is irrefutable) that some paranormal phenomena are genuine and do have a basis, both scientifically and in terms of anecdotal evidence.
To try to gain an understanding of the other side of the issue, (which is what you should do when you want to learn something in depth) I went to skeptics to ask what they had to say and also read some of their literature. I found that what they had to say made sense on the surface, but was very different than what I heard from the literature about paranormal phenomena, accounts of paranormal experiences from ordinary people (some of which I know and trust), and my own experiences. In order to try to make sense of such different but arguable views, I tried to sift through the details and the evidence. What I found was that although both skeptics and believers can be closed-minded and tend to rationalize away what they don’t want to believe, in either case the objective evidence for some of the paranormal was incredibly strong and undeniable.
As I became more educated and informed of the evidence for different types of paranormal phenomena, I presented this to skeptics both on message boards and internet newsgroups. What resulted was an endless charade of arguments on both sides, with each side bringing up facts that support their side while denying the facts of the other side. This is typical of debates in general, no doubt, but since there were so many types of paranormal phenomena, the topic range was broad and diverse enough to make continuous and interesting discussions. Consequently, the discussions dragged on much longer than expected. Not only were there so many topics to discuss, but I kept finding more and more quality evidence to support my view each time I looked. All this became a fascinating exercise in the quest for truth.
During the discussions and debates, I was led to skeptical material such as Professor Bob Carroll's The Skeptic's Dictionary, editions of Skeptical Inquirer (published by CSICOP), articles by the infamous paranormal debunker James Randi, and others. Over time, I developed a strong recognition and grasp of their system of philosophical arguments and sensed the patterns in them. After hearing almost all the arguments they used, I learned how to respond to them to the point of it being second nature to me. I knew their strengths and weaknesses, just as an experienced chess player understood the strengths and weaknesses of the positions of his opponent’s pieces. For almost three years, I debated skeptics ranging from honest doubters looking for truth (like me), to those who were clearly cynics masquerading as skeptics having already made up their minds before looking at the evidence.
These skeptics included cynics, debunkers, Atheists, Humanists, certain scientists bent on materialistic reductionist world views, those for whom science is their God (even though they won't admit it), scientific materialists, haters of religion, etc. Now we call them “pseudoskeptics” because although they pose as skeptics, their skepticism is “pseudo” meaning “False or counterfeit; fake.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Hence the title of this book.
Eventually, I realized that their skepticism was not about an open inquiry for truth, but rather a philosophy they used to manipulate data to fit their beliefs and reject anything outside of it on purely subjective grounds. This philosophy was pseudo-intellectual in nature and used to discredit and invalidate both claimants and evidence. Oddly, these skeptics seem to think that they can use semantics and rules from this philosophy to erase evidence from reality! They think that they can invalidate real-life objective events and evidence of a paranormal nature by putting labels on them or quoting some theorem or axiom such as “anecdotal evidence is invalid”, “appeal to authority”, “ad populum fallacy argument” etc. In effect, they attempt to use semantics to erase objective reality. Unfortunately for them, reality doesn’t work that way.
It was obvious that these skeptics were not seeking the truth nor were they open to it. Instead, they were about systematically trying to debunk everything that didn’t fit in with their a priori staunch materialistic views. Therefore, they did not ask questions of an exploratory nature, but rather, they taunted and attacked believers and made claims and judgments about their paranormal experiences. They had already made up their minds beforehand, and would only accept evidence that fit their conclusions. A true skeptic and truth-seeker analyzes both sides and updates his views and opinions to conform with the facts, while a pseudoskeptic on the other hand manipulates the facts to fit into their beliefs, using selective attention as well.
Then I suddenly realized at the time that no books or in-depth analyses have been written to directly counter the arguments and philosophy of organized skeptics and debunkers. There were a few articles written about closed-minded skeptics in general, but no in-depth point by point critique or debunking of their arguments. For almost every other organized belief system, there are books written analyzing its precepts and doctrines, but not for organized skepticism. Therefore, I decided to be the first to write such a thing, making use of the knowledge I gained over the years and my debating skills. I felt that being the first in something was an accomplishment that I would be inspired to do. And that’s how this book came to be written back in 2001.
it was first released, it became widely acclaimed in the paranormal
as groundbreaking, effective and the first of its kind.
to my appearance on several radio shows such as Forbidden Truth
by my friend Michael Goodspeed, The Clyde Lewis Show
AM) in Portland, Oregon, and Ghostly Talk Radio (you can
to that interview in the archive section of their website at www.ghostlytalk.com
or on YouTube
Later, due to widespread recognition, I was invited to an international
conference as a guest speaker at the Mysteries of the World theme
Of course, not surprisingly the skeptics later issued a piece to debunk this book. A skeptic named Paul Sandoval published his counter-piece to it, which you can download here. As you can see from it, he simply does more of the same, twisting words into “logical fallacies”, which anyone can do to anyone they disagree with, putting labels on things, and twisting semantics to his advantage, none of which disproves any of the facts, examples and evidence I cited, nor erases evidence for paranormal phenomena from existence. People who do this are “in their own world”, so to speak. (To see a great example of word games from pseudoskeptics that have nothing to do with reality, see this online exchange I had with one in which he was proven to have lied several times beyond any shadow of doubt.)
Years later in 2009, I formed a coalition and website called SCEPCOP – Scientific Committee to Evaluate Pseudoskeptical Criticism of the Paranormal, which was the world’s first organized counter-skeptic group created to counter CSICOP, JREF, etc. Although at this time SCEPCOP is in its infancy, its popularity has soared among the Paranormal community and received attention from the Skeptic camp as well. (See a list of paranormal websites and blogs announcing SCEPCOP here) And in August of 2009, the popular paranormal magazine Atlantis Rising did an article on SCEPCOP in issue 77, which you can download here in PDF format. (see pages 24, 26 and 61)
With the exception of sensational pro-paranormal programs, skeptics are often given the chance to present their arguments and explanations in the media, national magazines, and television programs, without rebuttal from the other side, even when their explanations are insufficient to explain all the data. As a result, there is often an imbalance in the presentation of paranormal and psychic phenomena in the media, leaving most viewers and believers uninformed. This book attempts to counteract the imbalance. It is written both for the education and knowledge of the believer who deals with skeptics, and for skeptics who are willing to hear counter-arguments to their positions.
Now let me clarify that I have nothing against honest true skepticism. It is good to have a healthy dose of skepticism to protect one from scams, con artists, misleading advertising, misleading claims, propaganda, brainwashing, jumping to conclusions, etc. But when closed-minded cynicism comes masquerading as skepticism, it becomes a block to truth finding and open-minded investigation. However, those new to this subject may not be able to discern the difference between open honest skepticism and closed-minded pseudoskepticism. Therefore, let us differentiate between the two.
According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, a skeptic is:
"One who is yet undecided as to what is true; one who is looking or inquiring for what is true; an inquirer after facts or reasons."
Pyrrho, the founder of "Skepticism", intended for it to be about open inquiry and suspension of judgment.
“In classical philosophy, skepticism refers to the teachings and the traits of the 'Skeptikoi', a school of philosophers of whom it was said that they 'asserted nothing but only opined.' (Liddell and Scott) In this sense, philosophical skepticism, or Pyrrhonism, is the philosophical position that one should suspend judgment in investigations.”
But rather than inquiring, or asking questions to try to understand something, they seek to debunk, discredit and ridicule anything that doesn't fit into their belief system. And rather than suspending judgment, they make accusations of fraud and delusion of all paranormal claimants. They are PROSECUTORS, not investigators. Hence, we call them pseudoskeptics (a term coined by the late Marcello Truzzi) for their actions and behaviors are the complete antithesis of what skepticism truly means.
According to WikiSynergy:
Pseudoskepticism (or pseudoskepticism) is defined as thinking that claims to be Skeptical but is actually faith-based disbelief. Because real skepticism is a justifiable position, pseudoskepticism may also be defined as making pseudoscientific arguments in pursuit of a skeptical agenda.
Pseudoskepticism is a general term which encompasses two types of faith-based disbelief: making positive claims that something is wrong or unreal without evidence (positive disbelief), and rejecting sufficient evidence.
A "true skeptic" objectively inquires and seeks evidence, challenging all sides including their own beliefs (see here). But these pseudoskeptics do anything but. As someone observed to me:
"The original definition of skeptic was a person who questions ALL beliefs, facts, and points-of-view. A healthy perspective in my opinion. Today's common definition of skeptic is someone who questions any belief that strays outside of the status quo, yet leaving the status quo itself completely unquestioned. Kind of a juvenile and intellectually lazy practice in my opinion."
Even Wikipedia indirectly admits that modern skepticism is really about rejecting new information:
“The word skepticism can characterize a position on a single claim, but in scholastic circles more frequently describes a lasting mind-set and an approach to accepting or rejecting new information.”
And this insightful YouTuber eloquently hit the bull's eye with this comment:
"What skeptics fail to understand is that skepticism involves being skeptical of your own position, it does not mean just being skeptical of that which you do not believe in, otherwise we are all skeptics and that renders their use of the term "skeptic" meaningless. A true skeptic casts skepticism on their own position as well. Since the Randi crowd do not employ skepticism in this respect then they are fairly termed pseudo skeptics and demean the term skepticism."
So, pseudoskeptics have hijacked the term "skeptic" to refer to the one who suppresses, rather than the one who "doubts or questions" which it is supposed to refer to. As such, a "skeptic" now refers to the ridiculer, debunker and discreditor of the "questioner" (who is the true skeptic) rather than to the questioner himself. In other words, the new "skeptic" is someone who debunks a "skeptic" by wearing the hat of the person they are out to debunk, in effect impersonating them! It's a highly deceptive form of role reversal that is very sneaky and devious, no doubt.
And furthermore, it seems way too calculated and militant to be due to some accidental misunderstanding, ignorance or closed mindedness. Hijacking a word to mean its opposite seems more like part of some sort of agenda, perhaps a deliberate disinformation campaign or cultural mind control. If that sounds terrible, well, we are here to expose that thank goodness.
In truth and by their actions, these pseudoskeptics are defenders of the status quo and materialism. They are fanatics and dogmatists who have no regard for facts, evidence or truth, but have an a priori faith-based belief that paranormal phenomena is impossible and therefore set out to debunk it, not investigate it. And they will distort, dismiss and obfuscate to get their way. Thus, they generally have no objectivity toward evidence, but bigotry and emotional fanaticism.
If you’re wondering if this is true, then ask yourself this: Why do those who attack, ridicule and deny all paranormal claims also usually deny all conspiracies and facts in support of them, while dogmatically accepting all propaganda by the media and establishment? Have you ever seen a paranormal debunker like James Randi, Michael Shermer or CSICOP’s Skeptical Inquirer challenge anything official held by the status quo at all, period? If not, what does that tell you? Think about it.
And that’s what a “skeptic” is today in the media and pop culture. Obviously this means that their skepticism is highly selective and subjective, not distributed equally in all directions, hence an extreme bias exists in them rather than any form of objectivity. Skepticism should be a tool and method of inquiry to help one learn things and find truth, not be used as a cover to defend one's own rigid narrow views. Questioning things and seeking answers helps one learn things, but trying to debunk everything outside your world view doesn’t.
Dean Radin, who spent many years studying parapsychology and skeptical views, concluded the same in his acclaimed book Entangled Minds: (pages 10-11)
"Some skeptics pushed doubt to extremes and insisted that positive evidence was always due to mistakes or intentional fraud. As I saw it, within this dialectic one side was struggling to understand the depths of inner space by probing Nature with clever questions. The other was trying to maintain the status quo through passionate, and sometimes vicious, denial. The former were willing to take risks to advance knowledge, the latter were naysayers interested mainly in defending dogma."
Chris Carter, author of Parapsychology and the Skeptics, accurately described the pseudoskeptics' true motivations in this interview:
"You have to remember that the argument is not really about the evidence. The argument is about their assumptions and their preconceptions. Their preconceptions are, with these sort of phenomena, that they don’t make any sense and challenge their world view. So, they’re going to do anything they possibly can to dismiss evidence that challenges their preconceptions."
The late great author Robert Anton Wilson observed the same regarding pseudoskeptics, calling them “fundamentalist materialists” and “irrational rationalists” in this interview:
“DAB: One of your recent books is The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about this book.
RAW: I coined the term irrational rationalism because those people claim to be rationalists, but they're governed by such a heavy body of taboos. They're so fearful, and so hostile, and so narrow, and frightened, and uptight and dogmatic. I thought it was a fascinating paradox: irrational rationalists. Later on I found out I didn't invent that. Somebody else who wrote an article on CSICOP, that's the group they all belong to: Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Somebody else who wrote about them also used the term irrational rationalism. It's a hard term to resist when you think about those people.
I wrote this book because I got tired satirizing fundamentalist Christianity, I had done enough of that in my other books. I decided to satirize fundamentalist materialism for a change, because the two are equally comical. All fundamentalism is comical, unless you believe in it, in which case you'd become a fanatic yourself, and want everybody else to share your fundamentalism. But if you're not a fundamentalist yourself, fundamentalists are the funniest people on the planet. The materialist fundamentalists are funnier than the Christian fundamentalists, because they think they're rational!
DAB: They call themselves skeptical.
RAW: Yes, but they're not skeptical! They're never skeptical about anything except the things they have a prejudice against. None of them ever says anything skeptical about the AMA, or about anything in establishment science or any entrenched dogma. They're only skeptical about new ideas that frighten them. They're actually dogmatically committed to what they were taught when they were in college, which was about 1948-53, somewhere in that period. If you go back and study what was being taught in college in those days as the latest scientific theories, you find out that's what these people still believe. They haven't had a new idea in 30 years, that's all that happened to them. They just rigidified, they crystallized around 1960.”
It is interesting to note that while Carl Sagan is a great teacher of astronomy and science, he has inadequate knowledge and experience with paranormal phenomena. This is demonstrated by the fact that in his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark Sagan devotes a big chapter to debunking the Alien Abduction phenomenon, yet not once does he even personally investigate or interview any abductees at all, like an honest open-minded investigator or truth seeker would. On the other hand, researchers like Harvard Professor John Mack (author of Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens ) and Budd Hopkins (author of Missing Time) have done extensive interviews and investigations with abductees for their book, which led them to the conclusion that there was more to the phenomenon than just the “all in the brain” or sleep paralysis. In fact, Mack has personally investigated 76 abductee cases during the course of four years. But how many did Sagan investigate? Zero. Therefore, one ought to give those researchers more credence than skeptics like Sagan who just dismiss the subject off-hand without any deep investigation for truth.
Of course, all pseudoskeptics will claim to be true skeptics, just like all high pressured salesmen claim to not be high pressure, all liars and con artists claim to be sincere, and all politicians claim to be honest. But as you know, ACTIONS speak louder than words, so the proof of what they are is in their ACTIONS, not words. If a salesman for example, told you "I am not a high pressure salesman" but then proceeds to pressure you to buy his product/service, hounding you without end and not taking no for an answer, then what do you believe, his words or his actions? Likewise, when a self described skeptic tells you that he is a true skeptic who is open to evidence, yet he displays all the characteristics, traits and behaviors of a pseudoskeptic, then do you listen to his words or his actions? The answer is obvious.
Thus, regardless of what they claim about themselves, if they exhibit the follow traits and characteristics, then they fall into the category of “pseudoskeptics”.
1) Ignoring facts and evidence that don’t fit into their preconceived world view, rather than updating their beliefs to conform to the facts, which is more logical. (e.g. “It can’t be, therefore it isn’t!”) This is known as the process of rationalization through cognitive dissonance.
2) Trying to force materialistic explanations, even if they’re false, to account for a paranormal event regardless of whether they fit the data. For example, using “cold reading” to explain the amazing accuracy of a psychic reading when no known cold reading technique could account for the facts and circumstances. (see Argument # 16)
3) Moving the goal posts or raising the bar whenever their criteria for evidence is met. For example, a skeptic wants evidence for psi in the form of controlled experiments rather than anecdotal evidence. When this evidence is presented, he will then raise the bar and demand that the experiments be repeatable by other researchers. When this is done, then he will either attack the researchers integrity and character, attack their methods, or demand a report of every detail and minute of the experiment or else he will contend that some unmentioned lack of controls must have been the culprit to explain the positive psi results, etc. He will always find some excuse due to his already made-up mindset. Patrick Huyghe has written an article about this at Extraordinary Claim? Move the Goal Posts!
4) Using double standards in what they will accept as evidence. They will not accept anecdotal evidence for the paranormal because they consider it to be unreliable, but not surprisingly they will accept anecdotal evidence when it supports their position. Also, when psi experiments shows positive results well above, they will not accept it as evidence against psi. But when a psi experiment only shows chance results, they will accept that as evidence against psi.
5) Attacking the character of witnesses and undermining their credibility their evidence or testimonies can’t be explained away. As we all know, when politicians can’t win on the issues, they resort to character assassinations. Unfortunately, this is also what skeptics and debunkers tend to do as well. When evidence or testimony from key people can’t be explained away or are irrefutable, skeptics will find ways to discredit them such as character assassinations or grossly exaggerating and distorting trivial mistakes. This has especially been done with the direct eyewitnesses of the 1947 Roswell Incident, as Stanton Friedman, author of the famous Crash at Corona: The U.S. Military Retrieval and Cover-Up of a UFO often points out in his articles you can read at www.v-j-enterprises.com/sfhome.html.
6) Dismissing all evidence for the paranormal by classifying it either as anecdotal, untestable, unreplicable, or uncontrolled. Skeptics who wish to close their minds to any evidence, even after asking for it ironically, tend to do so by classifying it into one of the categories above. If the evidence is anecdotal, they will say that anecdotal evidence is worthless scientifically and untestable. If the evidence is in the form of scientific experiments, they will then say that it is unreplicable or uncontrolled.
Here are a list of traits that define the true skeptic vs. the pseudoskeptic.
True Skeptics / Open-Minded Skeptics
PseudoSkeptics / Closed-Minded Skeptics
Wikipedia's original entry on pathological skepticism (before pseudoskeptics took it down) listed these defining behaviors of pseudoskeptics:
"The difference between pseudoskepticism and skepticism appear in the conduct of an individual's actions. Among the indications of pseudoskeptical actions are:
In the SCEPCOP Forum, Steve Trueblue observed these five consistent patterns in pseudoskeptics:
"As a skilled observer you will also note that PseudoSkeptics:
In short, these pseudoskeptics are materialist fundamentalists driven by fanatical beliefs and views which they seek to proselytize to the world. Regardless of facts or evidence, they ALWAYS start and end with the following dogmatic positions:
They begin with those precepts and always come back to them, regardless of the facts or evidence in any investigation or debate, EVERYTIME. That's one consistent thing you will notice about them. And they will resort to playing games, ridicule, denial, even deliberate distortion, fabrication and connecting false dots to maintain these core positions. That's why they are not really capable of serious honest discussion. Instead, they play games and cheat at them in order to win. I've seen them do it time and time again. It doesn't matter how much proof or evidence you have. All of that is irrelevant to them. They seek only to validate their beliefs, not change their beliefs in accord with the facts or data.
They will never admit that they've lost, even though technically they have. When cornered by facts and reason, they resort to denial or ad hominem attacks. Or they even will spin your own arguments against you, without basis. It's like winning a chess game against an opponent, and even though the rules say they are checkmated, they still refuse to admit defeat. That's not fair, honest, or decent behavior.
The late Marcello Truzzi, former member of CSICOP and critic of pseudoskepticism, wrote an article about pseudoskeptics which you can read about here.
One of the tell-tale signs of pseudoskeptical mentality is in the words they use when describing believers. If they describe them as: “delusional, irrational, gullible, charlatans, superstitious, wishful-thinking, primitive and child-like thinking”, etc. then it’s a strong indication of their a priori mentality.
PseudoSkeptics such as the CSICOP and JREF crowd are definitely not open minded truth seekers, but rather their words and behavior are that of automatic dismissing and denying that which doesn’t fit into their paradigm. They are cynics who have closed their mind to anything that doesn't fit into their world view, dismissing all else as misperception, delusion, or fraud. But don’t take my word for it, for if you read their own writing and hear what they say, it’s obvious from their own words and behavior, and from their tunnel-view of reality, as well as their righteous indignation of what’s real and what’s “quackery” (a word they love to use). They do not seek to understand, but to attack and discredit.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the term “pseudo” means “False or counterfeit; fake.” These debunkers exhibit a false mask of skepticism. In actuality, they are cynics, debunkers, and deniers. They deny and dismiss all evidence that doesn’t fit their views, whether scientific or anecdotal, no matter how credible or plentiful, and look for excuses to justify it. They are not about seeking truth or open-minded investigation, only in discrediting whatever doesn’t fit into the orthodoxy/materialist paradigm.
Unfortunately, pseudoskeptic groups have not heeded the warnings and advice of one of their own heros, the late Carl Sagan:
"...The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them -- the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you're sensible, you'll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status." - Carl Sagan
"People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs." - Carl Sagan
"The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there's no place for it in the endeavor of science." - Carl Sagan
These illogical ways of thinking are strange coming from people who pride themselves on their logic and rationality! Of course, flawed thinking such as the above can come from both believers and skeptics. That is why it is good to point them out to keep both sides in check.
Afterlife researcher Dr. Victor Zammit, describes how these debunkers reject what doesn’t fit into their world view through the process of rationalization through cognitive dissonance:
“Let's borrow a page from traditional psychology. When a skeptic receives information - say, scientific proof for the afterlife -- which is fundamentally inconsistent with his or her entrenched cherished beliefs, the skeptic tries to rationalize his/her beliefs to reduce and to offset the intense biological, emotional and mental anxiety. The intense anxiety is created by the information that the afterlife exists.
The skeptic's mind tries to resist and reject this new information (even if the information is the absolute truth) - hence the cognitive (the mind) 'dissonance' - between the new information - (i.e., the positive evidence for the afterlife) and the skeptic's own personal beliefs that the afterlife cannot exist.
Closed-minded skepticism is extremely difficult to shift because his/her skepticism is 'electrically wired' into the skeptic's neurological, psychological, intellectual and emotional belief system. Thus with absolute certainty, this skeptic inexorably loses all sense of empirical equanimity.“
Dr. Zammit also hit it on the head about how pseudoskeptics overgeneralize and distort information:
“Skeptics can be seen to overgeneralize saying for instance that because some mediums are fraudulent therefore all mediums are fraudulent.
Further, skeptics distort information saying that because it may be possible to reproduce certain phenomena by fraud - even at odds of one billion to one - that they have proven that fraud took place. In this sense, the skeptics find it impossible to transcend their 'metaprogram' (their overriding world view of reality) of materialistic beliefs.”
As to why pseudoskeptics believe what they do, this author, who spent time undercover in a skeptical organization, might be able to shed some light on that:
"A person who has been duped frequently in everyday life might learn by bitter experience to be cautious and wary. The reaction of those who have joined PhACT is however more dysfunctional. They have been wounded at a deeper level, to the extent that what was purported to be a valid philosophy of life, and in which they were heavily involved, turns out to be empty and useless, even damaging, in their eyes. Thus, they gravitate to what appears to them to be the ultimate non-faith-based philosophy, Science. Unfortunately, while they loudly proclaim their righteousness, based on their professed adherence to “hard science”, they do so with the one thing no true scientist can afford to possess, a closed mind. Instead of becoming scientifically minded, they become adherents of scientism, the belief system in which science and only science has all the answers to everything.
This regrettable condition acts to preclude their unbiased consideration of phenomena on the cutting edge of science, which is not how a true scientist should behave. In fact, many “Skeptics” will not even read significantly into the literature on the subjects about which they are most skeptical. I have direct experience with this specific behavior on the part of a number of PhACT members. Initially, I attributed that behavior to just plain laziness, but lately I’ve begun to suspect that those individuals may actually have a phobia about reading material that is contrary to their own views. It seems entirely possible that they fear “contamination” from that exposure will eventually lead to (Gasp!) acceptance of the opposition’s position. Such scientifically inclined, but psychologically scarred people tend to join Skeptics’ organizations much as one might join any other support group, say, Alcoholics Anonymous. There they find comfort, consolation, and support amongst their own kind.
Anyone who has spent much time engaging members of Skeptics’ organizations knows about their strong inclination toward ridicule and ad hominem criticism of those with differing viewpoints. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many members of PhACT have been rather offended by my position as someone who is skeptical of Skeptics. As the old adage states, “They can dish it out, but they can’t take it.”
In school, you are taught that "critical thinking" means to refute and ridicule anything that opposes the establishment or status quo, but never the status quo itself. A true skeptic can rise above that and apply skepticism and critical thought toward established orthodoxy, but a pseudo-skeptic cannot. Instead, the pseudo-skeptic follows the school system's form of "critical thinking", applying it only to those who oppose orthodoxy in defense of the status quo.
In that sense, they are in reality "establishment defenders" rather than true skeptics. That is why they NEVER challenge, criticize or scrutinize their government or any part of the establishment, including the pharmaceutical companies, CIA or FBI, even if logic, facts, evidence or moral cause dictates that they should.
To these establishment defenders, authority = truth, and as such is always blameless in their eyes. That is their religion, so hence, all their skills, talents and knowledge are used to serve their true God - orthodoxy. In their view, establishment authority can do no wrong, even if they murder, traffic drugs, steal, lie, stage terrorist attacks, start wars by funding both sides, etc.
What this means is that these pseudo-skeptics or establishment defenders do not serve truth as their master. As such, they are willing to lie and deceive to serve their masters (there are so many documented cases of this). Thus they are not "free" in any sense of the word, nor honest, which is sad.
This is why not only are they closed minded against anything to do with paranormal phenomena, but are vehemently opposed to all claims of government conspiracies as well, no matter how well supported, for it offends their "true master" (which is not truth).
Examples of famous pseudoskeptics and establishment defenders: (Check them all out and you will see that their actions fit the above description)
Now let me clarify something. Critics of pseudoskeptics have accused them of believing in Scientism – the belief that science is to be treated as an authority with all the answers and taken on faith, just like a religion is. In response, pseudoskeptics claim that science is a process of independent peer review and replication and therefore not a religion.
So then, is science a religion, you might ask? Well, yes and no. Technically, science is not a religion. It is a tool and methodology of obtaining logical conclusions through evidence and inquiry. As such, it is not an entity that holds positions or viewpoints, like people do. Therefore, science is not pro or anti-paranormal, anymore than a pencil, computer program or mathematical formula is.
However, the scientific establishment is another matter, because it involves people, politics, power, money, institutions and vested interests. And as such, politics, corruption, control, censorship and suppression are naturally a part of it. Realists know and understand this. But for some reason pseudoskeptics don’t.
The key fallacy that pseudoskeptics make is lumping the scientific process and the scientific establishment into one, and assuming that they are one and the same. That is the major fallacy of the organized skepticism movement, which consists of the JREF, CSICOP and Michael Shermer type crowd.
In doing so, they falsely assume that the science and medical establishment is objective and unbiased, and free of politics, corruption, control, censorship and suppression. That’s where their major mistake is. And as such, they deem the science and medical establishment as an unassailable authority that is not to be questioned or challenged. In that sense, they treat science as a religion. So even though they claim that science is not a religion, they still treat it as such, by holding the views of the science establishment as an unquestionable authority.
So, if researchers such as Dean Radin, Rupert Sheldrake or Dr. Gary Schwartz come up with evidence for psychic phenomena, it is automatically dismissed as invalid, simply because it challenges the orthodoxy of the science establishment, not because the experiments were not legit. And they will use any excuse to do so, including the lamest ones.
Likewise, when evidence comes up that vaccines, fluoride, aspartme or mercury dental fillings are dangerous and harmful, that evidence is suppressed and deemed inadmissible, simply because it threatens the medical establishment and its vested interests, not because the evidence is untrue.
By filtering out such contrary evidence, even when it is legit and valid, pseudoskeptics definitely are treating the science and medical establishment as a religion. And as we all know, religion is authority and faith based, not evidence based.
You see, no one likes to invest a lot of time and money into something, only to have it proven wrong or changed. And the science/medical establishment is no exception. They are people with political interests, not objective unbiased machines. So let’s get real here.
You don’t have to be educated to understand this. Anyone with common sense, street smarts, and real life experience knows this. But pseudoskeptics, in their fanaticism, ignore such common sense realities. They are fanatics, not realists.
Furthermore, organized skeptics like to tout “science” as a peer reviewed process of independent replication, and therefore totally reliable. In doing so, they treat it like a “democratic process” in which the majority of scientists decide what’s true by agreeing on it. This is another fallacy, because it assumes that most scientists are objective and unbiased, and free to say whatever they want without consequence.
But this is not the way the real world of money, power and politics works. Any realist knows that when you work for an institution or receive funding, you have to “tow the party line”, or else you are out. It’s that simple. Any scientist who says something that opposes the views of those he works for, will jeopardize his career and reputation. There are many real life examples of scientists and researchers who have lost funding or suffered damage to their career for espousing unorthodox positions, even if their position was legit and evidence-based.
Moreover, most people are not unbiased, open minded, or hold truth as the highest value. Instead, they are concerned with their image, reputation, career, funding, and hold rigid views that they feel safe and comfortable in. Many people do not like uncertainty or mystery. They want a world where things make sense and are predictable and well-defined. That’s why they are prone to fall into rigid unchanging belief systems. Why would scientists be any different. They may be more educated than the average person, sure, but they are humans, and humans have biases.
It is the truth seeker and freethinker who questions everything and does not hold any authority as truth, who is most likely to find the truth. Not the most educated or well connected with institutions.
Pseudoskeptics ignore all this, or are blind to it, because they are fanatics, not truth seekers or freethinkers. When you look at the overall picture, this becomes obvious.
Thus, the key difference in this area between the pseudoskeptic and the truth seeker/freethinker, is that the former holds the science/medical establishment as a religion of unquestionable authority, whereas the latter does not, and recognizes it for what it is – an institution with vested interests, politics, power, money, control and censorship that is not above suppressing that which threatens it.
Anyone who examines the material produced by pseudoskeptics can see this apparent pattern. They hold everything said by the science/medical establishment as unassailable truth and authority, and never question or scrutinize it, ever, while automatically dismissing anything that opposes it. That’s not skepticism. It’s thought control, mind control, and suppression of truth.
Now, let me clarify something. It is NOT my position to argue that all paranormal claims are true. In fact, I happen to be skeptical of many claims myself. Instead, I am for open minded inquiry and honestly weighing the evidence. Not all paranormal claims are true, but some are backed by a lot more evidence than others. For example, ESP and ghosts are backed by a much higher percentage of testimonials than the Loch Ness Monster is. So, I argue that the evidence for paranormal phenomena should be considered and investigated as possibilities rather than rejected automatically ruled out just because it doesn’t fit in with prevailing beliefs and world views. I do not claim to have all the answers to all the paranormal mysteries. However, based on my experience and research, I will argue that the overwhelming evidence as a whole points to the existence of some sort of metaphysical reality that exists, and that at least some paranormal claims have a basis in reality. My position is that SOME types of paranormal phenomena which are backed by evidence and widespread testimonials (e.g. ESP, Psi, Telepathy, NDE’s) have something to them other than mere hallucination or delusion.
Very few people are willing to cast their skepticism on all sides, including their own beliefs. Most people, including the pseudoskeptics, seek to validate what they already believe, and reject the data that would cause them to change their beliefs. We at SCEPCOP try to avoid this by applying true skepticism to all sides, including our own, and basing our conclusions on the data itself rather than on our subjective emotional beliefs.
With that, let’s begin the debunking of their common arguments.
Note: I have assigned numbers to each pseudoskeptical argument so that I can reference them throughout this book.
Note: Although CSICOP has changed its name to CSI, I will refer to it as CSICOP here because that is still what most people know it as.
“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.”
- Carl Gustav Jung
“It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware.”
– Albert Einstein
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”
- Marcel Proust, French novelist