I used to be skeptical of ‘Elvis is alive’ but, after having tea with him yesterday, I became a giant fucking retard

I’ve decided it bothers me when people say ‘I used to be really skeptical of (insert paranormal/supernatural/etc stuff here) but then I had this amazing (read: imaginary) experience and now I am a true believer in what essentially equates to unsubstantiated magical/supernatural claims. So, being a former skeptic means I understand exactly where you’re coming from and I know that one day, you will change your mind.’


That is, quite frankly, fucking ridiculous.  I checked Merriam-Webster and this is the definition of skepticism:

1:  an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object
2the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain b : the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics
3:  doubt concerning basic religious principles (as immortality, providence, and revelation)

Nowhere, does it say “pretending to possess ‘scientific’ characteristics with regards to the accuracy of information/beliefs.”  Whilst there is an emerging breed of skepticism that seems to differ from the ‘old’ skepticism, according to this article, both having a slightly different take on how things should be approached (I find this gives an oddly ironic nod to  religious denominations/sects), the basic premise is still one of rationality. The article makes some interesting points on the way people behave after they’ve labelled themselves as ‘rational’, but I’ll leave you to read that if you are interested.


I basically want to make three points here:
  • People who use anecdotal evidence to attempt to convince you of their position – and think that just because they’ve left evidence behind for ignorance, you should do the same – need to be put down.
  • Labels, whilst obviously possessing a basic and necessary use, can lead to limitations and self-aggrandized perceptions of ‘self’.
  • If kittens tied to kites ruled the world, we would not be having these problems.  I will defend this thoroughly.
Anecdotal evidence is usually what people bring up, as if someone else’s personal experience (or perception thereof) somehow trumps actual evidence.  My friend told me a story just today about how she was playing hide and seek with her brother as a child and saw him hiding in the attic, only it wasn’t him – it was a small boy hiding by a dusty clock and her brother turned out to be hiding somewhere else.  This led her to conclude she’d seen a ghost.  There are a ton of explanations for this, the most obvious being that you don’t actually ‘see’ everything you think you see.  Your brain knows what it expects to see and if something is missing, it fills in the blanks.  Little experiments and illustrations like this are all over the net.  It’s common.  She did not like hearing that and we are no longer friends.  The things I do for the good of society – I’m basically a philanthropist.


There are other explanations for seeing ghosts or anything paranormal; some of which are listed here.  My essential point is that anecdotal evidence is useless in determining trends, for obvious reasons, such as the sample is small and biased, not based on larger-scale facts, these things tend to be reports by (usually) unscientific observers and tend to be more casual observation rather than actual scientific analysis.  Think about it like this: would you want a doctor to give you a treatment that has been rigorously trialled and documented over a large sample of people and has a 80% success rate or a treatment that has been tried a couple times, by a friend of a friend, with a 100% success rate?


I know what you would pick because, if you’re reading this blog, you’re obviously not a fucking idiot, but given my personalexperience (YES, I know what I did there; clever me), a lot of people give credence to the anecdotal.  These people are morons.


Secondly, the use of labels, such as ‘I am a skeptic’ or ‘I used to be a skeptic’ can ultimately be detrimental or, at the very least, limiting.  This is actually something I’ve been ranting about a lot, largely to Justin (my boyfriend).  I think he’s probably sick of hearing me say it, so now THE WHOLE WORLD gets to hear.  You can blame Justin.  If you’re labelling yourself in a way that’s non-useful (obviously labels such as ‘I am a woman’, ‘I am a child’, ‘I have this personality trait’, ‘I am gay’, etc, are useful because labels are how we categorise and therefore understand the world around us.  That’s fine.), then you are essentially just being a giant tool.  That analysis is pure science – and it’s a freebie.


My initial rant started with regards to the whole ‘straight edge’ movement, with my main point being ‘If you don’t want to drink or do drugs or whatever, why not just not do those things?  Why do you need to identify with this reactionary movement and be tied in with all the inconsistencies that require clarification (i.e some ‘straight edge’ people don’t have caffeine; some do.  Some don’t have premarital sex; some do)?  It just doesn’t make sense to me; it seems unnecessary and confining.  After some continued ranting, my thoughts moved to the current topic of skepticism, having had the exact experience outlined in the initial paragraph.


If you now, after some magical experience, believe in ghosts, telekinesis, psychics, astrology, the tooth fairy or any other intelligence-insulting bullshit, you were never a skeptic ‘like me’.  I don’t label myself a skeptic with a capital ‘S’, despite the fact that I very well may qualify under most of the generalised list of attributes.  This is because if there’s even one attribute that doesn’t really fit properly, I don’t want that assigned to me because I’ve lumped myself in under some stupid and unnecessary label.  My own particular brand of skepticism is essentially an initial reaction of doubt and distrust.  I can be swayed by reading different studies (peer-reviewed studies) and by reading/seeing actual evidence.  However, even if I did ‘see’ a ghost or something, I’m aware enough to know that just because I think I saw something does not mean I actually saw it.  I would probably be more likely to assume I’m going completely nuts than to say that because I had a certain experience, as perceived by my brain, that means the laws of science suddenly become invalid.  I’m really, really arrogant, as most people I know will gladly tell you, but I’m not arrogant enough to assume that my personal experiences trump actual evidence or lack thereof.  If you can find me some kind of general label that encompasses everything I’ve said precisely and does not have any other attributes that I’d need to rationalise to make them apply to me, then you are free to label me as you please.  I’ve not found one yet.


You would think that’s the logical position to take (because gurrrrrl, you don’t know me), but apparently this isn’t good enough for everyone; many people have tried to convince me things exist by referencing the three things that Richard Dawkins (a hero) mentions in one of his books as terrible reasons to accept anything.  These things are tradition (people have believed this for a long time, therefore it must be true), authority (Newton/Galileo/The Pope believe this; you’re not smarter than them, therefore it must be true) and revelation (this was revealed to me in a supernatural/unprovable/untestable manner, therefore I know it’s true).  The one thing I’ve learned is that people do not like it when you call them out on this.  I do it regardless and that’s why I spend my time sitting around writing long rants instead of attending seances with all the cool kids.


As for my final point, if kittens tied to kites ruled the world, we would almost certainly not be having these problems.  Think about the stuff that pisses people off or makes them think the universe is against them – one of these things is almost certainly an example like ‘I got my car cleaned today and a fucking bird took a shit on it before lunch.  The universe hates me.’


If we consider this logically, kittens tied to kites would be an amazing anti-bird-shit mechanism, especially if we could train them to corral the birds over a large wooded area.  This is why I picked kittens.  They are young and therefore more likely to be easily trained – if we accept the age-old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, this implies that you can teach a new dog new tricks.  If you can teach a puppy, you can teach a kitten, probably.  If this kitten is tied to a kite, we have some element of control over where they are placed.  These kittens could be like awesome sky-police and could help guide the birds into shit-appropriate arenas.  This would solve the problem of the idea that the universe hates us, which we could use to coax people away from the idea that there is any guiding karma inherent within the universe, therefore taking away any mystical ‘intent’, therefore solving ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS.


Boom.  Logic.


Also, it would be really fucking hilarious and not at all cruel.  I’m sure most kittens would love to fly, given the opportunity.  Why do you think they go after birds all the time?  JEALOUS.


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