FreeThought Fort Wayne

        Be Reasonable

Posts Tagged ‘investigation’

Hate the Supernatural (Belief), Love the Superstitious

Posted by Andy D. on July 30, 2008

I first heard that line from Joe Nickell on this Point of Inquiry interview. I was listening in the car and almost lost control because it is such a funny play on the religious outcry “hate the sin, love the sinner” line about homosexuals.

The thrust of the interview is how skeptical folks should be polite to the superstitious and he is an investigator not a debunker. James Randi has said the same thing many times. Sure we can be skeptical until their is evidence, but we have to look at the evidence and really listen to witnesses. Joe said he was known as being nice and listening. In an example, he suggested rational explanations to a supposed supernatural events that were not correct at first. However, because Joe was polite and engaged the superstitious person’s concern completely that superstitious person found the actual non-supernatural cause for the phenomenons on his own later. It was due to Joe’s prior attempt to rationally explain the event. Joe was later thanked.

In the last FreeThought Fort Wayne meeting, we talked briefly about how we engage in teaching skepticism to a lay person. I know we think there are many overly superstitious people out there. That may be true but it is not like they all have the same superstition. (The religions sects have different levels of unreason.) Most folks have one or two sacred cows and when stepped on the emotion center of the brain kicks in and overrides the reason center in the frontal cortex. (You can see that in the death threats in PZ Meyers it’s just a cracker drama. For the record that is a free speech lesson and I support it).

I think the safest way to try to engage the superstitious person is to ask them what they don’t believe in. Big Foot and Flying Saucers are usually pretty safe. You can go to other gods and worship such as cargo cults, Scientology, Joseph Smith, Heaven’s gate, etc (whatever they are not)

**Joe Nickell did make the distinction that he will attack charlatans when they abuse the superstitious.

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