Recently, I came across an opinion piece in Scientific American (January, 2009 – Telephone to the Dead by Michael Shermer) that talks about Christopher Moon’s use of Frank’s Box as a means to communicate with spirits.
All and all, Shermer has some good points in his article – certainly worth adding to one’s knowledge-base when attempting to determine the scientific validity of devices like Frank’s Box.
Later, I was reading an article written for Paranormal Underground by none other than my beloved husband. The article looks at the role anoxia (lack of oxygen) might play in near-death experiences. I believe my husband to be a brilliant man, and he also made some tremendously valid points that one might wish to consider when making a scientific evaluation of the near-death experience.
There was, however, a problem with both of these works of skepticism (sorry, honey!) It is (or was in my husband’s case – he fixed it when I pointed it out to him) what I call the skeptic’s attitude – something that is often present in the writing of those who believe they have seen the light and want to convince others to come away from the dark side with them.
What is this skeptic’s attitude, you ask? It is one that appears to be of condescension. That subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) tone that appears of “I’m smarter than you and you are a fool to believe in _________________.”
I have no problem with skepticism, per se. I tend to believe myself to be an open-minded skeptic about many, many things. I believe that the world (and particularly the paranormal field) needs skeptics as much as it needs believers, and that both play an important role in the exploration of our universe.
But, I also believe that there is an art to skepticism. There is a way to put your ideas out there that doesn’t belittle others for theirs. To put forth thoughts in a way that says, “I have seen the light, you are stupid because you haven’t,” merely causes those people you are trying to convince of your point of view to slam their brains shut and not listen to what you have to say.
The human ego is a funny thing. We all want to feel that we are intelligent people who don’t make foolish choices or have foolish beliefs. When someone challenges those beliefs in a way that makes us feel somehow less, then our most likely counter-move is to either attack or ignore the one who we feel is making an assault on our very beings.
There is an art to belief and there is an art to skepticism. Or at least this is true if we want those on “the other side” to listen to our point of view and thoughtfully consider what it is we have to say.
In open-minded discourse, there is no place for condescension or ego. If we truly want to be heard by those who believe or understand differently than we do, then we need to communicate our understandings in such a way that says, “Here are the facts. Here is the science. Here is my understanding of that science. You are welcome to study it all and see if what I say has any validity to your world-view.” And then we need to step back and let people decide for themselves – without judging the conclusion that they reach as somehow less than or more stupid than our conclusion.
The world is a subjective place. Different facts can have different interpretations. Nobody sees the world in quite the same way. This is a good thing, because it has led to amazing discoveries and astounding advancements in science. But all of these advancements started with perhaps the most valuable of human commodities – an idea, an open mind, the wherewithal to explore, discover and learn. Anyone who pursues an idea with an open heart and an open mind is possibly leading us to a bold new discovery or understanding. And that, in my book, is what it’s all about.