The Disease of Conceit
Ain't nothing too discreet / About the disease of conceit - Bob Dylan
Language, being the virus that it is, often makes me sick. These days, not so much from the perpetual misdiagnosis of "conspiracy theory" (conspiracy is a hypothesis, doc; deep politics is the theory), as at the gatekeeping virologists' nerve to call what they do "skepticism."
The Skeptics Society, which claims ownership of the term, defines it as "the application of reason to any and all ideas.... When we say we are 'skeptical,' we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe."
Right there we can see the argumentative circularity, and the richness and the weirdness of life that must forever lie beyond the pale for such people. "Show me," they say. Yet evidence compelling to them must necessarily conform to "reason" (in other words, to a trumped-up rationality with control issues), and so all evidence that transgresses reason (or more accurately, puts rationality in its place) is invalidated. In this manner, the paranormal and much of what we call the parapolitical can never be proven to such people. "Show me," they say, and yet these same people are more likely than not to accept official narratives of controversial history without having been shown anything. Rather, it's us, the "conspiracy theorists," who are saying "show me," and meaning it. We're the ones withholding judgement. We're the true skeptics, and I want us to stake a claim on the word.
The society adds that "modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena."
Here the problem narrows, and sharpens, to the reduction of skepticism to scientific method. But much of our experience of the world, even of the "natural" world, cannot be subjected to a scientific method and still retain its meaning for us.
Just last week, scientist Richard Dawkins opened a conference with the caution that the Universe is to weird to understand, and that there is a "narrow range of reality that we judge to be normal." Scientific method is moving uncomfortably beyond the "skeptic," who seems a hide-bound Newtonian from the perspective of our quantum politics.
Have you ever browsed the Skeptic's Dictionary? A word that comes to mind to describe the intellects at play there is credulous. Virtually all that is offered is assurance to those who don't want such things to be true that they needn't worry, and need inquire no further.
For instance, the complete entry for "Xenoglossy" is the "alleged speaking or writing in a language entirely unknown to the speaker. The probability of this happening is about zero." Well, he said, brushing off his hands, that takes care of that.
Under "Mind control," we read that:
...a common complaint from the mind-controlled is that they can't get therapists to take them seriously. That is, they say they can only find therapists who want to treat them for their delusions, not help them prove they're being controlled by their government. Thus, it is not likely that the 'mind-controlled CIA zombies' will be accused of having delusions planted in them by therapists, as alien abductees have, since they claim they cannot get therapists to take their delusions seriously.
Either the author did not respect the subject enough to seriously research it, or he did and hopes the reader won't, because it's an absolute fabrication.
I'll let just one example stand for many. (And let's note this: these kind of skeptics must paint with the broadest of brushes, because if only one contrary fact is admitted, everything crumbles.) Dr Valerie Wolf, testifying before the Presidential Commission on Radiation Experiments in 1995, said that:
...in preparation for my testimony at these hearings, I called nearly 40 therapists across the country to find out what they knew about the link between radiation and mind control and to get what other therapists were seeing in clients who had been used in mind control experiments.... Generally, it appears that therapists across the country are finding clients who have been subjected to mind control techniques. The consistency of their stories about the purpose of the mind control and torture techniques such as electric shock, use of hallucinogens, sensory deprivation, spinning, hypnosis, dislocation of limbs and sexual abuse is remarkable. There is almost nothing published on this aspect of mind control used with children and these clients come from all over the country, having had no contact with each other.
In its debunking of "alien abductions," the dictionary never strays from the ET hypothesis, arguing against the probability of travelling interplanetary distances without raising the theoretical likelihood of parallel worlds.
Regarding the late Harvard psychiatrist, Dr John Mack, who took seriously the abduction phenomenon, the dictionary sneers:
...until the good doctor or one of his patients produces physical evidence that abductions have occurred, it seems ore reasonable to believe that he and his patients are deluded or frauds. Of course, the good doctor can hide behind academic freedom and the doctor/patient privacy privilege. He can make all the claims he wants and refuse to back any of them up on the grounds that to do so would be to violate his patients' rights. He can then publish his stories and dare anyone to take away his academic freedom. He is in the position any con person would envy: he can lie without fear of being caught.
Again, the broadest brush is employed - the "good doctor" is a con man - because if they are wrong once, their world slips away.
And there is ample physical evidence for both UFOs and abductions. Another solitary example to stand for many: The case of "Dr X," the French health professional Jacques Vallee introduced to us in Confrontations. When attending to his crying toddler early morning November 2, 1968, he noticed a light outside the child's window. He didn't pay it much attention until his son was asleep again, and then he stepped out on the balcony and observed two large disks moving slowly over neighbouring homes. The objects merged, and a white beam was directed toward the ground below. "Finally the disk made a movement that brought it to a vertical position, and the white beam caught the doctor squarely on the balcony. He heard a bang and the object vanished, leaving only a whitish form like cotton candy."
Afterwards he experienced abdominal pain, and a red, equalateral triangle with sides of six inches in length appeared around his navel. His doctor believed it to be a psychosomatic reaction to his "dream" of an object which was somehow associated with a triangle. "But when the same shape appeared on the abdomen of the child, and when the same phenomena recurred in successive years, the psychosomatic explanation had to be discounted." (A thermographic examination in 1984 found "intense cutaneous erythema of triangular shape, centered over the umbilicus; absence of visible superficial vessel.... resistant to cooling.")
The encounter also accompanied spontaneous healing of a permanent disability on the right side of his body he had incurred ten years before from a mine explosion while in the French army. And this just scratches the weirdness, as Dr X and his wife were subsequently "plagued by poltergeist activity" and by visitations "so fantastic as to stretch credulity, yet they appear to be verifiable by other family members." But let's not invite the rolled eyes of the "skeptic" with such episodes. But it's too late for that. Even the medical records of Dr X and his son are inadmissable as evidence because they do not conform to "reason," and so will not be seriously considered.
Cocksureity seems the hallmark contradiction of such skeptics. Stage magician Penn Jillette is such a one. He says that people should "learn to carry their intelligence the way James Dean carried his cigarette." In other words, as an affectation.
Jillette could have said the way Peabody carried his bowtie, but it wouldn't have been as cool.