I am not saying that intelligent enquiry is bad, in fact I whole heartedly recommend it, but these closed minded aggressive “fundamentalist materialists” as Robert Anton Wilson calls them frustrate the hell out of me!

(For the rest of this blog I am going use the example of psychic ability, for ease of writing)

Sceptics make some rather flawed leaps of “logic”. For example, they use the argument that there are fake psychics out there as a big stick to beat you over the head with and claim that because some psychics are fakes all psychics are fakes. Well I could fake being a brain surgeon; it doesn’t mean that brain surgeons don’t exist.

They offer an alternative argument to the one being presented and then claim that this alternative argument is proof that the psychic is a fake. But all they have really done is offered an alternative theory, not disproved the psychic.

They claim that if we cannot prove something it obviously doesn’t exist. This is a bit daft really if you think about it. We are discovering new things all of the time, all we can ever really say is that we cannot prove it….yet! So you have to have an element of “maybe” in every assertion you make, but sceptics are often as evangelic as the people they profess to hate (ironically I have discovered that often their belief structure is the same as the people they lampoon it is just the content that is different), they 100% believe their argument is right. I bet they would feel a bit daft if you turned round tomorrow and offered overwhelming evidence of psychic ability. Sceptics were probably the people who put Copernicus to death!

There are lots of things we cannot or have not yet 100% proved (I don’t think we can 100% prove anything to be honest; If you jump up in the air we can generalise from previous experience that you will come back down again, but you can never prove that until you have jumped up infinite number of times and always come back down again, which of course is a bit hard to do…), there has to be an element of faith in everything that we believe to be true. But sceptics won’t accept faith, they even ironically claim they don’t believe in it!

Don’t limit yourself, don’t be a sceptic, it is waste of energy. Now I am not to saying we should all be dumb believers, oh no no no no… my attitude is I believe in the possibility of these things, but am always very careful around people who claim to do them.

To be honest, I don’t mind them limiting themselves in that manner, everyone is entitled to think what they want, what really annoys me is their evangelical mission to tell everyone about their point of view and how right they are! If they would just shut up and go away…

Please, don’t run round being evangelical about anything. Remember the “maybe”!!

3 replies
  1. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    Hi Matt. Thanks for posting.

    I’d like to stand up for the sceptics here.

    Maybe our differences are semantic, but I wholeheartedly embrace scepticism, as distinct from cynicism. What you describe here, I would call cynicism.

    A cynic (like a true believer) has already made up their mind;
    a sceptic withholds judgment while more evidence is sought.
    A cynic (like a true believer) hates uncertainty;
    a sceptic is happy to embrace it.
    A cynic (…) claims to know things they don’t actually know;
    a sceptic knows their knowledge is imperfect and always will be, and feels no need to deny it.

    Who are all these sceptical evangelists you mention? I’ve not encountered many. Even Dawkins fully recognises the point you make about not being able to prove a negative, just as Bertrand Russell pointed out how it is impossible to prove there is not a teapot orbiting Neptune. That doesn’t mean there is any good reason to assume the teapot actually does exist. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Which is why Dawkins calls one of the chapters of the God Delusion “Why god *almost certainly* does not exist”. A few staunch atheists criticised him for that “almost certainly”, but as a good scientist, he knows you can’t prove a negative.

    Scepticism is asking questions, seeking evidence (“how do I know that?” you might say ;-)) and using (or withholding) one’s own judgment rather than following the herd or social convention. All this is in the spirit of NLP, I think.

    I think there is actually *too little* scepticism in the NLP world. Many practitioners I know also practice a long list of “alternative” techniques with very questionable backgrounds and effectiveness, positing all kinds of different “energy” explanations and cures as if they were facts. And thus, to an extent, such practitioners end up self-selecting the type of clients who are already into those things, or at least the ones not put off by being told that maybe their problem is caused by their meridians being out of synchrony.

    Personally, I think the rational-minded, sceptical client is horribly under-serviced in the field of health-related NLP. I don’t see nearly enough practitioners for my liking basing their work on a sceptical and thorough scientific platform, on explanations and research into the placebo effect, psycho-neuro-immunology, neuro-plasticity and the like.

    I’d be careful about the possibility of people confusing different definitions of “faith” too. Where a scientist may make an *assumption* based on enormous evidence that gravity will most likely continue to work, that is not the same as having “faith” that an intergalactic teapot exists, or that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. That second type of faith is what sceptics choose not to indulge in (rather than ‘believe’ in).

    Of course, plenty of science-types can be selective in their use of evidence — most commonly dismissing valuable anecdotal evidence and focusing too narrowly on RCTs, which inevitably tend toward an unimpressive ‘average’ outcome, and measure a bog-standard process rather than a dynamic practitioner-client relationship.

    However, I find that real sceptics and scientists don’t limit themselves anywhere near as much as “true believers”. Scientific discovery based on an acknowledgement that “we don’t know — let’s explore!” has produced far more wondrous and awesome things for us to experience than “faithful” certainty of religious dogma and comforting explanatory stories. Why bother to work out how viruses evolve and mutate, when we have unshakeable faith that a god created each of these things separately?

    To paraphrase Douglas Adams: those who seek, and focus on, the beauty of the fairies at the bottom of the garden are not paying attention to the far greater beauty of the garden itself.

    Just my tuppence-worth. Keep up the good, slow work.



  2. matt caulfield
    matt caulfield says:

    Hi Glenn,

    Wow! This post is a blast from the past, I had utterly forgotten I had written it.

    Thank you for your well thoughtout, argued and written comment (it is a bit of a shame that this comment may not be read as widely as it deserves).

    Now if you will excuse me, I must get back the telescope, if I keep looking I am sure I will see that teapot one day…


  3. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    Well, if no-one else sees the post, at least I’ve found out what I think about the subject by writing it down.

    I stumbled upon your original post as a ‘related post’ from the “How do I know that?” blog. Only after I sent the reply did I notice how old it was!

    Now, enough internet. I must go and find my beautiful Whittards teapot and fill it with some lovely Assam.



Comments are closed.