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A Small Discourse on Skepticism

Since I got involved in the research of the paranormal the word skeptic keeps coming up with more and more frequency.  It appears to have taken on a whole new meaning a skeptic is someone who already has made up their minds and will not allow facts to change their minds.  This definitions totally wrong. The context in which this statement is used is based on misunderstanding, ignorance and arrogance.

  I will start this discussion with the basics. The American Heritage College dictionary defines it as follows:

Skeptic also sceptic n 1. One who doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.

There is nothing here that states that a skeptic has already made up their mind or that they are unwilling to change their minds.

 The skeptic received its negative reputation because it was a form of heresy. The position of the Catholic Church at the dawn of the enlightenment was that God's power was absolute and the bible (as interpreted by the Catholic Church) explained everything. Anyone that dared question, doubt or disagree with any of these precepts was guilty of heresy and became candidates for persecution.  Those accused were some of the greatest thinkers and dare I say most open-minded scientists and philosophers Skeptics everyone of them. They saw that truth was
not a social, institutional or an absolute construct.  Truth is an amorphous paradigm that is best defined as a pursuit rather than a destination.

Unfortunately, the positive implications of being skeptical have been forgotten. It is used as an an anthem against anyone who questions certain paranormal assertions. Historically the world of the paranormal has had more than its share of frauds and phonies. There are also those who will grab for the most tenuous instances of proof and then proclaim these as facts. They offer absolutely nothing of substance except their self-proclaimed keen insight, profound open-mindedness and years of experience. When challenged they dismiss any inquiry for validation as being close-minded.

Research into the paranormal should be treated like any scientific endeavor.  Skepticism is the most important ingredient. All assertions should be questioned. Clear, rational and repeatable procedures should be followed.
Experimentation and documentation showing how one reaches a conclusion should be open for all to scrutinize.
Without this process the assertions become dogmatic,not scientific.
 Most of us became interested in the paranormal because of a profound belief that there is life after physical death.
There is nothing we would like better than to find some tangible evidence. We will never do so if those who for reason of greed and/or ego refuse to embrace skepticism and constantly misguide us.  I beseech all who are true
investigators to become strident skeptics demand to know the how and why. Provide documentation of experimentation that proves that yours or anyone's devices or procedures are sound. The most important thing to remember is this anyone who uses the term skeptics someone who already has his mind made up and will not
allow the facts change their minds is hiding something.

Christopher J. Williams - R.M.P.R.S.


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