Pseudoskepticism is an important concept in my work as a paranormal investigator, because pseudoskepticism usually is used in opposition to an assortment of questionable claims (from UFOs and paranormal phenomena to alternative medical practices to religious ideas). Pseudoskepticism refers to arguments which use scientific sounding language to disparage or refute given beliefs, theories, or claims, but which in fact fail to follow the precepts of conventional scientific skepticism.
The term “pseudoskepticism” has gradually been expanded to include any unsubstantiated invalidation of a theory.
The term was coined by professor in sociology, Marcello Truzzi. Truzzi attributed the following characteristics to pseudosceptics:
1) The tendency to deny, rather than doubt.
2) Double standards in the application of criticism
3) Tendency to discredit, rather than investigate
4) Presenting insufficient evidence or proof
5) Assuming criticism requires no burden of proof
6) Making unsubstantiated counter-claims
7) Counter-claims based on plausibility rather than empirical evidence
8) Suggesting that unconvincing evidence is grounds for completely dismissing a claim
Truzzi characterized true skepticism as:
1) Doubt rather than denial; nonbelief rather than belief
2) An agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved
3) Maintains that science need not incorporate every extraordinary claim as a new “fact.”
4) As a result, has no burden to prove anything
5) Discovering an opportunity for error should make such experiments less evidential and usually unconvincing. It usually disproves the claim that the experiment was “air tight” against error, but it does not disprove the anomaly claim.
Pseudoskepticism is often building on scientism; that is: it overestimates the importance of science, for example by claiming:
1) that philosophy and religion need to be founded in science
2) that certain single branches of science can give an explanation of everything
3) that certain single branches of science are self-sufficient and that philosophy and religion are superfluous.
Personally, I am supporting true skepticism within science, but my method is not itself building on science, but on philosophy. I consider myself as a philosophical investigator and spiritual practitioner, who is using critical thinking, and not a scientific investigator, who have to follow the precepts of conventional scientific skepticism. This is due to, that I have experienced spiritual crises and paranormal phenomena (therefore I can´ t be an agnostic), but at the same time I am critical towards how to describe and behave in relation to such phenomena.
The goal of critical thinking (rationality) is to arrive at the most reasonable beliefs and take the most reasonable actions. We have evolved, however, not to seek the truth, but to survive and reproduce. Critical thinking is, seen in that connection, an unnatural act (seen from a deeper perspective it is the opposite: here critical thinking is natural and irrationality is unnatural). Anyway, by nature, it seems, we're driven to confirm and defend our current beliefs, even to the point of irrationality. We are prone to reject evidence that conflicts with our beliefs and to attack those who offer such evidence.
The spiritual practice has in fact three aspects:
1) Critical thinking (spotting thought distortions, created by dualistic unbalance, both in yourself and in others - see my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions, which is a manual in critical thinking - free download).
2) Investigating the shadow (ignorance, the unconscious, the painbody, the cause of suffering, your own dark side, the Ego - see my articles The Emotional Painbody and why Psychotherapy can´t Heal it, The Ego-inflation in the New Age and Self-help Environment, and Suffering as an Entrance to the Source).
3) The spiritual practice (going beyond all ideas and images – see my book Sûnyatâ Sutras – free download).
A central inspiration in my work as a paranormal investigator, is Sherlock Holmes. In his article, Sherlock Holmes,Paranormal Investigator, the paranormal investigator Joe Nickell is describing how Holmes, in many of his cases, actually worked as a paranormal investigator.
In her book, Mastermind – How to think like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova shows that Holmes´ genius was based on an ability for neutral observation and passive listening presence; that is: meditation.
Another source of inspiration is my own concept of The Matrix Conspiracy. Here I see myself as a Matrix rebel, who helps people out of the labyrinth of the Matrix, by investigating and exposing the strange beliefs, amusing deceptions, and dangerous delusions of the Matrix agents and sophists.
Related topics A to Z (will be updated from time to time)
Clairvoyance is a kind of para-psychic opening, that gives a visual, auditory or emotive knowledge about a past and a future, which lies outside your own personality. Clairvoyants, or psychics, can perform as mediums/channelers for the dead, for spirits or gods – or they can perform so-called “readings.”
Clairvoyance is also known in connection with astral travel or astral projection (out-of-body experiences). This can for example happen when a medium allows a dead person, or a spirit of some kind, to possess her body, and use it as a channel.
The problem with the alternative environment within the New Age movement is that the normal inaccessible areas of the astral plane´s collective history, which in principle lie outside the area of the Ego-consciousness, are open for all sorts of fantasies.
Within the New Age movement there are countless people today, who work egoistic with karmic experiences – that is to say: they earn money as clairvoyants, regression therapists etc. Some of them live on pure make believe, others are direct frauds. See my article Paranormal Phenomena Seen in Connection with Clairvoyance Also read the article Psychic, by Robert T. Carroll
List of notorious clairvoyants/psychics and topics on clairvoyance:
Long Island Medium is a television program on The (so-called) Learning Channel featuring Theresa Caputo doing readings as a psychic medium. The article tells some of the worst examples of disillusioned psychics, for example when they tell people that their missing relatives are dead, and later (often years after) it turns up that they not are dead at all. Also read Is Caputo Kaputo Yet? by Mark Edward
Follow the thought distortions explained in the texts (as for example Subjective Validation), or use my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions as a manual.
How To Become A Life Coach (and make lots of cash). A simple recipe in style with the Rumpology Hoax (see below), which also show the main traits of the enormous number of websites offering life coaching. Not surprisingly the author uses the Law of Attraction coaches as a bogeyman. Law of Attraction is the worst example of what people will write about themselves and their results, as well as the methods they use in order to fool people.
(Joe Vitale is the Danny DeVito of the Secret, who also signs himself Dr Joe Vitale, MSC.D. I wonder what these initials mean? I have never heard about them. Anyway: it is funny to follow his extremely self-exaggerated statements).
Also see my article The New Thought Movement and the Law of Attraction)
Priory of Sion
1) Holy Blood, Holy Grail: The Secret History of Christ & The Shocking Legacy of the Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln
The description of the book says: Is the traditional, accepted view of the life of Christ in some way incomplete?
Is it possible Christ did not die on the cross?
Is it possible Jesus was married, a father, and that his bloodline still exists?
Is it possible that parchments found in the South of France a century ago reveal one of the best-kept secrets of Christendom?
Is it possible that these parchments contain the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Grail?
According to the authors of this extraordinarily provocative, meticulously researched book, not only are these things possible — they are probably true! so revolutionary, so original, so convincing, that the most faithful Christians will be moved; here is the book that has sparked worldwide controversey.
2) The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince
The description of the book says: In a remarkable achievement of historical detective work that is destined to become a classic, authors Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince delve into the mysterious world of the Freemasons, the Cathars, the Knights Templar, and the occult to discover the truth behind an underground religion with roots in the first century that survives even today. Chronicling their fascinating quest for truth through time and space, the authors reveal an astonishing new view of the real motives and character of the founder of Christianity, as well as the actual historical -- and revelatory -- roles of John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene. Painstakingly researched and thoroughly documented, The Templar Revelation presents a secret history, preserved through the centuries but encoded in works of art and even in the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, whose final chapter could shatter the foundation of the Christian Church.
3) Do the descriptions sound convincing? Well, don´t take everything at face value. Facts about 1 and 2:
Both books are based on the Priory of Sion Hoax, a myth they present as fact. Priory of Sion is the name given to a fringe fraternal organisation, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 by Pierre Plantard as part of a hoax. In the 1960s, Plantard created a fictitious history for that organization, describing it as a secret society founded by Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, conflating it with a genuine historical monastic order, the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion. In Plantard's version, the priory was devoted to installing a secret bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe.
This myth was expanded upon and popularised by the books The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, which both, in that way, are pieces of pseudohistory. Later it was claimed as factual in the preface of the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.
After becoming a cause célèbre from the late 1960s to the 1980s, the mythical Priory of Sion was exposed as a ludibrium created by Plantard as a framework for his claim of being the Great Monarch prophesied by Nostradamus. Evidence presented in support of its historical existence and activities before 1956 was discovered to have been forged and then planted in various locations around France by Plantard and his accomplices. Nevertheless, many conspiracy theorists still persist in believing that the Priory of Sion is an age-old cabal that conceals a subversive secret.
The Priory of Sion myth has been exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century. I find it extremely exciting to read about, but I´m also expressing my concern that the proliferation and popularity of books, websites and films inspired by this hoax have contributed to the subject of conspiracy theories, pseudohistory and other confusions becoming more mainstream. I´m troubled by the romantic reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works.
The books are heavily infected by the thought distortion called Confabulation, a deep problem within New Age circles. Read about Confabulation in my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions (free download).
Also read my articles The Matrix Conspiracy and The difference between philosophical education and ideological education
Richard Dawkins (see Pseudoskepticism and Pseudoscience)
In Danish only, but very easy to handle (First: Vælg køn = choose gender - Next: Indtast dit navn hér = Enter your name here – third: you will get a note with your personality type (maybe you can copy and paste and translate) – pressure on and you will get your brand new name which will improve your personal abilities and competences – it might be a Danish name, but that doesn´t matter, on the contrary). Read my article Personality Typing is a Refined System of Prejudice
The Rumpology Hoax
A hoax of exposure created by the philosopher Robert T. Carroll. Rumpology, also known as butt reading, is the art of reading the lines, crevices, dimples, and folds of the buttocks to divine the butt owner's character and get a glimpse of what lies ahead by analyzing what trails behind.
According to Jacqueline Stallone, a foremost American rumpologist (and praised by her famous son), rump reading is an art that was practiced in ancient Babylon, India, Greece, and Rome. She claims that the ancient Greeks thought the butt was the key to health and fidelity. She says the Romans used butt prints the way some people use graphology today: to determine potential talents and future success.
The Rumpology Hoax (or Rumpology for Dummies) is written as a recipe on how you as a therapist (in just about anything) can create success. Carroll of course uses, as example, one of the most stupid New Age therapies to date, in order to show how easy it is to fool people and get success.
The Sokal Hoax
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont
In 1996, Alan Sokal published an essay in the hip intellectual magazine Social Text parodying the scientific but impenetrable lingo of contemporary theorists. Here, Sokal teams up with Jean Bricmont to expose the abuse of scientific concepts in the writings of today's most fashionable postmodern thinkers. From Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray and Jean Baudrillard, the authors document the errors made by some postmodernists using science to bolster their arguments and theories. Witty and closely reasoned, Fashionable Nonsense dispels the notion that scientific theories are mere "narratives" or social constructions, and explored the abilities and the limits of science to describe the conditions of existence.
Read my article The Sokal Hoax
The Illusion of knowledge
The Illusion of Knowledge is a thought distortion. It´s is our tendency to believe we understand something much better than we really do. Illusion of knowledge is closely related to ego-inflation. Ego-inflation happens when the ego has embezzled itself energy, which rightly belongs to the collective time. The collective time manifests itself in a widely and indefinite area, for example could a broad spectrum of common human activities and organizations be called manifestations of the collective time: parties, state formations, wars, work communities, ideologies, concerts, clans, tribes and sects, mass psychological phenomena, religious parishioners, fashion streams, group souls, books, the internet, Google, Wikipedia, etc.
Ego-inflation is of two kinds: 1) Identification with an outer power, which doesn´t belongs to the ego (an institution, a teacher, others´ techniques, books, meditation-centres, one´s role, Google, Wikipedia, etc.). This is very common. 2) Identification with an inner power, which nor belongs to the ego (God, master, healing energy, the collective time, collective images, etc.). This is more seldom, and actually more dangerous.
New Age must be seen as being permeated with this thought distortion (not to mention New Atheist skeptics – see Richard Dawkins). It is clear that the many people within New Age and self-help who have been caught up in The Illusion of Knowledge, will spoil their spiritual practice, if they actually have any – it will leave the rails, and end up blind. But worst of all, they will lead other people on the wrong track as well. Especially when the claimed knowledge is coming from misinformed sources which themselves are based on The Illusion of Knowledge. This you for example see in the extremely widespread myth, that quantum mechanics is a proof of subjectivism; that is: that the consciousness influences (or directly creates) the object.
In a critical review of Rhonda Byrne´s two books The Power and The Secret, The New York Times stated: "The Power and The Secret are larded with references to magnets, energy and quantum mechanics. This last is a dead giveaway: whenever you hear someone appeal to impenetrable physics to explain the workings of the mind, run away – we already have disciplines called 'psychology' and 'neuroscience' to deal with those questions. Byrne's onslaught of pseudoscientific jargon serves mostly to establish an 'illusion of knowledge,' as social scientists call our tendency to believe we understand something much better than we really do."
People who really are caught up by the Illusion of Knowledge is a nuisance to their surroundings, especially when these know better. The Illusion of Knowledge is extremely widespread today, where everybody brands oneself as an expert in whatever one desires to be an expert in, and doesn´t hesitate to go into discussions with people who know better.
See my articles Quantum Mysticism and its Web of Lies, The Ego-inflation within the New Age and Self-help environment, and The Curse of the Internet Troll.
Related articles on the paranormal:
Pseudoskepticism and pseudoscience
Related book on New Age pseudoscience:
Worlds of Their Own: A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams, and the Velikovsky Affair, by Robert J. Scadewald
History is written by the winners; including the histories of science and scholarship. Unorthodoxies that flourish at the grassroots are often beneath the contempt of historians. Zetetic astronomy (flat-Earth science) was a household term in Victorian England, but not a single reference to it is found in conventional histories. We ignore such histories at our peril; the modern "intelligent design" movement is almost a carbon copy of the 19th century flat-Earth movement in its argumentative techniques. When orthodox science finds itself stumped, or a certain segment finds it unpalatable, the unorthodox may rush in to fill the void. The past two decades have brought a surge of interest in the history and philosophy of science. But how do we discern between pseudo and actual science? To fully understand what science is, we must understand what science is not. Written with penetrating insight into the minds of alternative thinkers, this book throws light on the differences between pseudo and actual science. The droll humor that permeates Worlds of Their Own makes it as enjoyable a read as it is enlightening.
Despite its focus on unorthodox ideas, Worlds of Their Own is about human nature. Whether they drew their ideas from the Bible or nature, all the pseudoscientists discussed in this book were driven to communicate their "truth" to the misinformed world. None was afflicted with self-doubt. All defended their "truth" with similar standards of evidence, modes of reasoning, and methods of scholarship. Their counterparts are legion - the blue-collar philosopher who refutes Einstein from his barstool, the preacher who refutes (but cannot define) evolution from his pulpit, the narcissist who promotes quackery courtesy of modern talk shows and infomercials. Each topic discussed in Worlds of Their Own covers a once-popular concept that persists to this day.
Read this review, by Donald Simanek, the man behind The Museum of Unworkable Devices and The Ideal Scientific Equipment Company
Related articles on the topics discussed in the book:
Related Comment to Worlds of Their Own:
It is a puzzle to me why the critics of the theories in the book don´t realize that the newest trend on universities all over the world, Social Constructivism, actually can justify all the theories in a rather sophisticated way (read my article Constructivism: the postmodern intellectualism behind New Age and the Self-help Industry).
Richard Dawkins and The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI)
My inquiry (yes let´s use that word with emphasis) in this article is: why is it that Richard Dawkins is so praised in the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry - (Center for Inquiry (CFI) and Richard Dawkins Foundation are now formally merged) - where the main virtues (a defense of science, rationality and reasoning) only can be described as the precise opposite of, what I in this article will show, is Dawkins´? I will show that it is because the underlying goal is ideology and neither science nor philosophy. Religious pseudoscience and atheistic pseudoscience are two sides of the same Matrix coin in The Matrix Conspiracy valuta. My conclusion is that CSI in short is a right-wing conservative, so-called “skeptic” atheist movement. I illustrate this by investigate both sides of the coin, since New Age is part of the widely spread popular culture, which actually adopts a lot of atheistic pseudoscience.
The Seek Safely Promise
Seek Safely is a website created by Kirby Brown’s family, whom decided to bring positive purpose to Kirby, James Shore and Lizabeth Neuman’s tragic deaths in a Sweat Lodge led by Self-help guru James Arthur Ray (see my article James Arthur Ray and the Sweat Lodge Tragedy).
The website says:
Kirby’s search to find the deeper meaning in life and a deeper purpose for herself was a huge part of who she was. We want to be Kirby’s voice to keep others safe from physical, emotional and financial harm. When someone is seeking to expand themselves, they should not lose their money, their time or their life! Kirby’s parents, George and Ginny are licensed, clinical social workers and educators who have worked with those suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety, family dysfunction, grief, and challenging life transitions. Kirby’s siblings, Bob, Kate, and Jean, are professionals in various fields who are also raising young families. If Kirby was alive today, we know that she would be speaking up – yelling, more likely – about the abuses she experienced. Now, we are Kirby’s voice.
On the website Self-help practitioners are asked to sign The Seek Safely Promise. It says:
A person’s journey to self-empowerment and personal improvement is deeply personal, emotional and often times spiritual. We/I acknowledge and support every individual’s right to a safe and constructive journey so that each person might find the personal growth and change he/she seeks. As an organization/program we/I are committed to providing an environment and experiences that are:
Truthful: Consumers will receive accurate information about the authors, leader’s or speaker’s professional degrees, credentials and experience.
Protective: The leader will protect the emotional safety of participants by keeping confidentiality and implementing appropriate boundaries.
Accurate: It will be clearly delineated what is personal opinion, belief or speculation as opposed to information that is supported by third party scientific research.
Integrity: The leader will provide personal witness by living the program being taught.
Respectful: Participants will be able to freely express opinions, without fear of public humiliation, ridicule, shame or physical abuse.
Safe: The leader will have a comprehensive risk management plan to minimize any risk taken by participants and clearly explain any potential risks.
Kirby Brown´s mother asked big names in the self-help industry to sign the promise. She says they wouldn´t do it. In my view there is nothing in the promise that any responsible human being could not agree with. In this I mean: by signing it they do not conform to any authority, organization, idea or ideology. They just make a promise about that they are honest people. It opens the question: why not? (note that because they haven´t signed the promise, doesn´t mean that they break the promise!).
On the time of writing only 79 lesser known practitioners have made the promise.
The page also shows a list of people the website has invited to make the promise, among others Tony Robbins. The list amounts to 167. No one have signed it.
Plastic shaman, or plastic medicine people, is a pejorative colloquialism applied to individuals who are attempting to pass themselves off as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who have no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent.
List of notorious plastic shamans:
Carlos Castaneda. Carlos Castaneda was a best-selling author of a number of books centering on a Mexican Yaqui brujo (witch, sorcerer, or shaman) and his pharmacologically induced visions. He called the brujo Don Juan Matus. Castaneda claimed he was doing anthropology, that his books were not fiction. He was granted a Ph.D. by the UCLA Anthropology Department in 1973 for his third book, Journey to Ixtlan. Critics say the work is not ethnographically accurate and is a work of fiction.
Lynn Andrews. Lynn Andrews has been instrumental in propagating the non-existent Sisterhood of the Shields. She has been shown to peddle fantasy, and heads the list of fake medicine people.
James Arthur Ray. Read my article James Arthur Ray and The Sweat Lodge Tragedy
Stanislav Grof. Read my article A Critique of Stanislav Grof and Holotropic Breathwork