Friday, July 3, 2009

It's All Science

I read a lot of skeptics' websites because I mostly agree with them and I think they provide a good service by presenting a more materialistic viewpoint. Where my views diverge from some of theirs is, for one, I've seen evidence of ghosts so I can't deny their existence and two, I try to take an agnostic view toward most of the woo stuff.

This causes some confusion for people because (I think) they assume that believing in ghosts means I believe in afterlife as expressed by religions or that I support some of the other beliefs espoused by proponents of channeling and mediumship et al. What I'm really saying is that I've experienced something that I can't explain, but I think it is a phenomenon that others could also experience and I think it deserves more study. If the results of the studies indicated that temperal lobe epilepsy can be caused by visiting Gettysburg, so be it, but I still want to know what's really going on.

I also believe that other psychic claims should be tested and the results should be treated with the same respect as any other psychological study. There is so much we can learn about brain function, perception and cognition, especially with all the tools we now have to track the workings of the brain, that I think refusing to pursue such experiments or not treating the results with respect, is a wasted opportunity.

I realize that the way attitudes are right now, a scientist who even expresses an interest in psychic research could cost him his career, so there may be many people out there right now who would love to be involved in such research but dare not mention it for fear of being marginalized. There are many others, however, who have decided that psy is all bunk and any research, no matter how well done, deserves no concideration. These last mentioned people remind me too much of fundies. They have decided what does exist and what doesn't and no amount of evidence will sway them from their opinion. Anyone who decides before the experiment is done, what is or is not true and/or refuses to accept the results of an experiment because it doesn't match their preconceptions, is irrational, biased and a poor scientist. Results are all that matters. If some one does an experiment with good controls and that can be repeated which proves that under certain stimuli monkeys will fly out of a person's butt, no one has the right to say it isn't true, especially if they haven't even tried to reproduce the experiment.

Unfortunately there are way too many people in the skeptical community that have made up their minds before the fact and sneer at anyone who disagrees with their views. Insisting that psy experiments are useless and their results are invalid isn't very different from creationists insisting that the study of evolution is useless and the results invalid. Any hypothesis has a right to be tested and the proof that comes from it deserves to be accepted, whether you like it or not. Anything short of that is the suppression of knowledge and the intentional perpetuation of ignorance.

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