Friday, October 18, 2013

Eye of the Skeptic -Disinformation

Originally publishedOctober 18, 2013 via disinfo.com

“Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”
                                     -Robert Anton Wilson
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.”
                        -The Amazing James Randi

“Faith” should be a four-letter word.  I propose a change in spelling.  “Fath,” maybe.

Those “I’m always right” types absolutely need faith, or else those vicious doubts start creeping in.  Not only will you find faith in the religious mind, calling God a fact, you’ll also find it lurking in the atheist, saying He isn’t.  Come to think of it, anyone who uses the word “fact” so easily must be pretty faithful, at least when it comes to their own nonsense.

One of my favorite “always right” groups to hate is the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), a self-proclaimed “skeptical” organization founded by professional debunker and ex-stage magician, the Amazing Randi.  According to their website, the Foundation “was founded in 1996 to help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.”  If you look at this statement closely, you’ll see that little demon, “faith,” wearing a lab coat and a clipboard, trying to look casual in the corner.  It presupposes that “paranormal and pseudoscientific claims” are something to be defended against, and presupposition is the very antithesis of skepticism.  It goes against the very spirit of skepticism: a “questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts.”

Although I’m sure most supporters of the JREF are scoffing right now at the idea that their beliefs are grounded in faith, there’s almost certainly one thing they never question: their own senses.

According to cognitive science, vision makes one of the largest contributions to our perception of reality.  We rely on our sight to interpret the world around us, but in reality, it only sees a fraction of what’s there.  The wavelength of visible light ranges between 380 and 750 nanometers, less than 1% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  We cannot see X-rays, gamma rays, microwaves, or infrared.

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