"There's an old saying; just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they're not out to get you. I have my own variation: just because you're insane that doesn't mean that things aren't slipping in unnoticed through dimensional gateways..." ~ Christopher Knowles (h/t to The Daily Grail for quote.)
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
What is it about those who pathologically debunk just for the hell of it? . . .
We were watching Monster Quest: Birdzilla! last night, when my husband “George” said to me, “Why do some people have this obsessive need to debunk, just for the hell of debunking?”
In particular, George was referring to the segment on the giant bird kite. Disputing the idea there are giant birds (Thunderbirds, dinosaurs, cryptids, condors or wayward monkey eating crowned eagles) a “master kite builder” built a giant black bird kite to show the rest of us we can be fooled.
The kite was very cool. Very cool. As someone who loves kite flying myself, I was enchanted by the kite. It would be great to fly a kite like that! It’d take twenty people, but it looked like great fun.
Before the master kite builder segment, there were the usual witnesses to giant birds, including some interesting footage of a very large bird indeed taken in the 1970s.
Aside from the obvious anti-anomalous perspective -- no such thing as giant birds, especially those grabbing up little children -- was that tired chronic skeptic refrain about size. We can’t judge things correctly in the sky because ... well, we just can’t. Without a reference point, we don’t know how big it is and all the usual excuses.
Except, in the case of the 1970s footage, there were reference points.
Back to Mr. Kite Builder. They go out, fly the kite, and it’s huge. Big black very cool looking bird kite. No reference points, as in trees or buildings; just the black bird agasint the blue sky. Then they asked passersby to estimate how big the bird kite was. The word here is estimate.
And they did, and since they were estimating, responses varied. This, to the pathological debunkers, “proved” that we can’t possibly know what we’re seeing as far as size goes.
Two points seemed to fly right over their heads. (heh) One, all who estimated were in the same ballpark. (Except for one guy, who George laughed at and said “He probably exaggerates about everything.” ) The other point, that was glaringly obvious, was that the bird kite was big. Really, really big. How exactly big? Who knows; unless one can fly and manage to whip out a tape measure while the thing’s flying around, impossible to say. But the obvious fact is that, looking up, that is one big bird up there, and a perfectly reasonable thing to say it was, say, "bigger than a crow." Or an eagle. Or really, anything most of us in the U.S. has ever seen.
Which should be enough for anyone.
But it's not enough for those with the pathological need to debunk, who debunk even when there’s no need.
It’s an interesting study in human nature and response to the unusual; observing and musing on why these chronic minded types do what they do. It wouldn't matter much except that it’s often presented disingenuously and so distracts from the real stuff.
By doing mildly interesting things like flying giant bird kites around, no matter how cool they are, the fact of witnesses accounts, of stories, lore, myth and legend, petroglyphs, film footage, and the obvious thing right in front of you (it’s big, damn it) are questioned. In fact, one could say that the reality of the seeming unreality is questioned. Our experiences are questioned. Not only are these things questioned (which isn’t neccesarly a bad thing in itself) but diluted, and reguritated back to us as “nonsense” or “misinterpretations.”
The magicians pulling one over on us aren’t those with tales of the weird, they’re the Pelicanists, the chronic skeptics, the pathological debunkers who pull all kinds of stunts to distract us from what some of us can't acknowledge.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
We forteans could be characterised as benign sceptics, taking nothing on trust but tolerating the surreal fringes of explanation until they are supplanted by more convincing evidence. We use 'sceptic' in this sense and distinguish it from the word skeptic (with a 'k') which can usefully be employed to cover the militancy (exemplified by CSICOP) which starts from the premise that most unexplained phenomena area priori impossible. Of course, current dictionaries don't make this distinction; perhaps we need a new word." ~ Fortean Times 1/02