Showing posts with label Skeptics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skeptics. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE

At parties, you’ve heard me say that when it comes to my world view I am a “Skeptic.” (Right now, I am addressing only the people I have gotten drunk in front of, which it turns out is more of you then I wish to admit) Some of you think I use the word Skeptic as a general adjective, as in: “I am skeptical, please refill my wine glass.” To be clear, when I say I am a Skeptic I mean, I belong to an organized group calling, themselves “Skeptics.” Yes, there is such a group. You’ll be surprised to hear there are a number of such grumpy sounding groups. They publish grumpy magazines like "The Skeptic” and “Skeptical Inquirer.” They have grumpy podcasts like “Point of Inquiry” and “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.” They have grumpy congressional lobbing groups and they even hold grumpy conventions. They just had one this month in Las Vegas where I’m sure no one gambled because no one believed they could win. That’s all a pack of lies of cause. They are not a bunch of grumpy people. They are just like everyone else. (I was about to say they are just like you and I, but since I myself am not know as mister sunshine I thought better of it.)

During the convention in Vegas, psychic, Connie Sonne participated in James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge. For those of you who don’t know, Randi is a funny old bearded Skeptic who has offered a million bucks to anyone who can perform any supernatural feat under controlled scientific circumstances. A MILLION BUCKS FOR ANY SUPERNATURAL FEAT. To this date no one has even passed the preliminary testing for this challenge. Let me repeat that. To this date no one has even passed the preliminary testing. That should tell you something about the “supernatural.”

Connie was no exception. Using a divining stone she thought she could identify three playing cards in an envelope. She failed on all three. I give her credit for trying, though. She seems sincerer, like so many who truly believer. But something she said during the question and answer session after the test particular struck me. She of cause gave some excuse as to why she failed the test. They always do. She said the test didn’t prove anything, and she still believes she has psychic powers. They always do. But then she was asked if there was any test that would change her mind. And without skipping a beat she said “no.”

Think about that for a second. There is no empirical test in the entire world that could change this woman’s mind about a particular subject. Call me naïve but I do not believe there is a single position that I hold that I am not willing to change my mind about give enough evidence. Granted some things would require a mountain of evidence for me to change my mind but still it’s possible. And that’s what Skeptics are. They are people who are willing to go where the evidence leads, even if they don’t like the results. In today’s world this ability is crucial. To participate in anything less is to enable fanaticism, partisan politics, and religious extremism.

Poor Connie, I don’t mean to lay all that at her feet. She is just some lady who thinks she can guess cards in an envelope. I don’t mean to pick on her but if more people were willing to accept evidence even when they don’t like the results (and we are all guilty of this, myself included) the world would be a far far better place. Our unwillingness and inability to listen to contrary evidence and weigh that evidence fairly is the reason we are the only developed country in the world without health care. It is the reason the US is involved in two overseas wars, and why we, as a species are doing nothing about the dying seas and global warming. And it is the reason some people believed (all evidence to the contrary) it is a good idea to fly planes into buildings. .....Do me a favor, change your mind about somethings.