Why Bother?

-- by Bob Glickman

In the face of a tidal wave of wishful thinking and misinformation masquerading as fact, this is sure to be heard over and over. Should the skeptical among us just sit back or should we speak up? Why bother, indeed? If no one bothered, pseudoscience would replace science, irrationality would replace logic and reason. The lines between fantasy and reality would blur. Proof, normally needed to back up a claim, would no longer be required.

Unfortunately, these aren't possible future scenarios. From ancient times to the persecution of Galileo to today, the struggle between fact and fiction has long been under way. Even with all the great strides in medicine, technology and science in general in the past 50 to 100 years, pseudoscience and belief in the paranormal is as dominant as ever. They represent billions of dollars of business. Today, the push for teaching "creation science" in public schools is unending. Psychic 1-900 hotline numbers thrive. UFO stories and abductions appear to be routine occurrences. "Alternative" medical treatments including homeopathy, foot reflexology and therapeutic touch, try to muscle their way into mainstream healthcare.

What do all of these elements have in common? They are all based on what people want to be true; they have little need or desire for trivial things like truth or logic. To people supporting these ideas, anecdotal references or faith in a concept is considered superior to concrete evidence or scientific studies. All of these things combine into a gigantic multi-faceted capital generating juggernaut that plays to people's fears and their desire for power and control over their lives.

Why bother? Can we look to the popular media for a level headed perspective and relief from this insult to truth and sanity? Obviously not. The print media are the source of some of the most outrageous paranormal stories. The worst offenders are supermarket tabloids like the National Enquirer and Weekly World News. Werewolves, angels and extraterrestrials are regular inhabitants in their worlds. Oprah and her friends on the other TV talk shows are now at the point where they sometimes don't even bother to put a dissenting point of view on with their proparanormal guests. Oprah has even devoted an entire show to Betty Eadie's stories about the afterlife and angel friends.

No one was there to represent a prosanity point of view. Whenever a person with a skeptical opinion appears on one of these shows, it is usually towards the end of the show after all the proparanormal people have had their say. Then the skeptic might be able to squeeze in a few words edgewise. At this point the skeptic usually gets shouted down by his opponents, sometimes with the support of the host or audience. Once this affront to their happiness is taken care of, talk returns to the desired fantasies they want to promote. The skeptic is basically just there to be the sacrificial lamb to be butchered on the altar of supernatural nonsense.

Last July NBC showed "Cured: Secrets of Alternative Healthcare", a two hour pseudo-documentary incredibly weighted to the proparanormal. Snippets of skeptic's points of view were strategically edited and placed for minimum impact. They were present solely to give a hint of fairness but again the skeptics were only there to be the fall guys. It's not a pretty sight. In this country, where the one, true god is the almighty dollar, ratings points and circulation are what really count. The paranormal really brings in the readers and viewers. Who needs an anchor like the truth to hold things back when there is money to be made? So what we are up against is a mammoth money making machine that has strong media support and a hungry public clamoring for more.

Why bother? Well it seems there might be a crack in the walls of their fortress. Our society gets most of its information from this same media. In the past two years during a normal conversation, I haven't spoken to one person who recognized the Skeptical Inquirer or Prometheus Books outside of the present membership. The skeptical movement appears to be a big secret. People just don't know that it's out there. They assume, because of the sheer volume of material, that there has to be something to all these supernatural reportings. There is where PhACT comes in. We feel there is a large untapped market of people who would be more skeptical if they only were exposed to the right ideas and concepts. A steady diet of talk shows and tabloids is very unhealthy. We hope to get everyone's attention. We feel that when people are given good information, they will be able to make better decisions. We plan to look into paranormal events both locally and nationally and try to get out our point of view. We hope to be a resource to the media and to avoid being just another sacrificial lamb to the world of the supernatural and greed.

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