a Critical Evaluation of the Organized Skeptic Movement
Pseudoskeptic Meticulously "Analyzing"
My intention in this site is to analyze the Organized Skeptic Movement (also known as Modern Skepticism), especially in its most troubling deviation: pseudoskepticism. But since not all Organized Skepticism is pseudoskepticism, it is important to say a few words about what skepticism is.
It seems that the Organized Skeptic Movement was born around (or little before) 1976, especially with the creation of an organization called Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, pronounced "psi cop"). James Randi, in an interview (apparently in 1998 to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), says of this: "It was a meeting in a little restaurant in New York City which I had organised and called together 22 years ago now. We formally decided to announce that we were going to get a committee together to try to present a sceptical point of view about the pseudo science that was becoming very popular. All sorts of paranormal and parapsychological nonsense was being highly publicised and we thought it was time to do something about it. If we hadn't organised CSICOP I think there would have been no opposition whatsoever to the paranormal nonsense that was being promoted by the media, and I must say the media are largely responsible for the promotion of this sort of thing because it serves their purposes."
So, it seems that Modern Skepticism was a sociological phenomenon that was brought about by the increase of some sorts of beliefs in non-established phenomena (and perhaps it was also boosted by the fear of the increase of the belief in non-orthodox religious systems as well...). At about the same time, and dating back almost a decade before it, there was the so called "New Age" trend in USA, western Europe, and "western world" as a whole (Latin America, etc). This new trend brought to occidental countries many of the beliefs of some eastern countries, including the belief in reincarnation from India, China, and Japan (Hinduism and Buddism). In its fight against dangerous beliefs, the Skeptic Movement has been highly beneficial to society in many instances... (Carl Sagan details many instances of it in his 1995 book "The Demon-Haunted World"). But also, as quite expectable from any human endeavor, The Skeptic Movement has also engaged in many deplorable actions, with devastating effects on science and on society too.
There are many sites on the internet that analyze and criticize skepticism. Some are more trustworthy. Others are more biased, and sometimes not much to be trusted. What I present below is some material for those who want to understand better where and how the Skeptic Movement goes wrong. This material is largely based on my first-hand experience in debating with many skeptics via internet, plus detailed reading of skeptic writings and of parapsychological writings of several different types (articles, books, etc).
The vices of the Skeptic Movement are sometimes amusing. Sometimes, they are enraging, or sad. Other times, they may be highly dangerous, as in the instance of the test performed by CSICOP on the Russian psychic Natasha Demkina in 2004. But, always, they are of our concern. The Skeptic Movement is a public movement, in the sense that it affects the lives of the people. It is not something private, that only affects those who are part of it (as is the case with most things we do inside our own homes, or as is the case now with some religions that have, at last, understood that religion must not be forced onto anyone; unfortunately, many religions still try to affect the lives of all people as much as they can, encroaching even into the political arena and trying to suppress other belief systems by all conceivable means...). Therefore, just like Science itself and other public areas of the human enterprise (like politics, education, social health, etc), the Skeptic Movement is subject to our evaluation of it, and to our interference on it to garantee that it truly fulfills the beneficial social role that it must play. Sometimes, prominent skeptics with vested interests in this movement try ferociously to block any criticism to their ways... Many other skeptics, even prominent ones, are quite often much more honest and amenable to criticism and to suggestions for needed changes.
I myself am a skeptic. That is, I am a part of the skeptic movement. However, I am not a member of it... Most members of the Skeptic Movement are atheist-materialists (one prominent exception is Martin Gardner, one of the most important founders of CSICOP - I think he is some sort of a theist, that is, he believes in the Judeo-Christian God). The concept of what is an atheist and of what is a materialist is a rather tricky one. Usually it is defined as someone who "does not believe in God" and that "does not believe in things beyond matter." But actually, atheist-materialists usually are not people who do not belive. They are people who believe indeed. They belive that God does not exist, and they believe that a world beyond matter does not exist (especially, they believe that there is no life after death). I am very much a spiritualist. I believe that God exists, and I am very much inclined towards the Brahmanism notion that God fills everything and is everything (we, or our souls, are, in Brahmanism, atma, that is: tentacles of Brahman, the Ultimate God). I believe that when we die our spirit survives (and can sometimes communicate with the living), and that we can reincarnate. I also believe in ESP (extra sensorial perception, that is: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retrocognition, etc) and in PK (psychokinesis). Some of these beliefs of mine have some empirical evidence (usually very weak). Some do not (i.e. they are only beliefs, with no scientific basis whatsoever). But as a scientist, I always look at evidential data with the unbiased look of someone who is fully aware that he can be dead wrong in his private beliefs and worldviews. In that way, like any true scientist, I am a skeptic. That is, I do not know if I am right or wrong; and I am open to ponder over the evidence pro and con.
Besides this attitude of mine described above, I am also
a skeptic in the sense that I have
a site, in my native tongue Portuguese, where I analyze
and criticize one of the main mediumnistic religions in Brazil,
Kardecist Spiritism. And this despite the fact that this belief
is very similar to my own belief...
About: My name is Julio Siqueira (actually Julio Cesar de Siqueira Barros - I have been abridging it to "Julio Siqueira" in honor of my mother - who passed away in year 2000 - , for Siqueira was the family name that I inherited from her). I am Brazilian, and I was born in Rio de Janeiro, in 1963, where I have lived all my life. I have a bachelor's degree in biology (1993) and a master's degree in microbiology (2001 - with emphasis in clinical bacteriology - both degrees from State University of Rio de Janeiro, UERJ). Therefore, I am a biologist and a microbiologist (also a clinical bacteriologist). However, I never worked as such. Presently, I work with the other academical training that I have, as an English teacher, in public elementary schools teaching basic English words and phrases to kids from 11 years old to 17 years old, most of them coming from very poor (and violent, and criminal...) areas of the city where I live. I am a strong supporter of the Skeptic Movement. But at the same time, I am a harsh critic of it.
my email is juliocbsiqueira2012 and then @ followed by gmail.com