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Skeptics

or: The practice of absolute faith in authority

or: Reductionism as the engine of dehumanization

or: Why self-proclaimed skeptics are not skeptical of authority

This is what a skeptic is supposed to be:

skeptic (n.)

  1. a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions (synonyms: cynic, doubter, questioner, scoffer)
  2. (philosophy) an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere

However, in recent times, large numbers of self-proclaimed "skeptics" have formed cult-like groups of loud-mouthed "defenders of science and reason" (defenders of perceived authorities), militant atheists (anti-religious fanatics), and "debunkers" (naysayers) of "woo woo" (ideas they don't like), among other sub-groups using the banner of skepticism, who are rather far removed from the original definition above.

The true meaning of skepticism

The idea of skepticism can apply to any model or theory or postulation about ontology (the study of reality) and epistemology (the study of knowledge).

Wikipedia defines the ideas of skepticism (in general), scientific skepticism, philosophical skepticism, and methodological skepticism (Cartesian doubt) — the latter of which, summed up by Descartes' cogito ergo sum, is the kind of skepticism employed by the ontological subjective reality metaparadigm described on The Biggest Picture:

Skepticism or scepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.

Philosophical skepticism is an overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence. Classical philosophical skepticism derives from the 'Skeptikoi', a school who "asserted nothing". Adherents of Pyrrhonism (and more recently, partially synonymous with Fallibilism), for instance, suspend judgment in investigations. Skeptics may even doubt the reliability of their own senses. Religious skepticism, on the other hand, is "doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation)". Scientific skepticism is about testing scientific beliefs for reliability, by subjecting them to systematic investigation using the scientific method, to discover empirical evidence for them.

Scientific skepticism is the practice of questioning whether claims are supported by empirical research and have reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". For example, Robert K. Merton asserts that all ideas must be tested and are subject to rigorous, structured community scrutiny (see Mertonian norms).

Scientific skepticism is also called rational skepticism, and it is sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry.

Scientific skepticism is different from philosophical skepticism, which questions our ability to claim any knowledge about the nature of the world and how we perceive it. Methodological skepticism, a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs, is similar but distinct. The New Skepticism described by Paul Kurtz is scientific skepticism. Magician Jamy Ian Swiss stated that scientific skepticism is about "how to think, not what to think".[citation needed]

Philosophical skepticism (UK spelling scepticism; from Greek σκέψις skepsis, "inquiry") is both a philosophical school of thought and a method that crosses disciplines and cultures.

It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Skepticism is not a single position but covers a range of different positions. In the ancient world there were two main skeptical traditions. Academic skepticism took the dogmatic position that knowledge was not possible; Pyrrhonian skeptics refused to take a dogmatic position on any issue—including skepticism. Radical skepticism ends in the paradoxical claim that one cannot know anything—including that one cannot know anything.

Skepticism can be classified according to its scope. Local skepticism involves being skeptical about particular areas of knowledge, e.g. moral skepticism, skepticism about the external world, or skepticism about other minds, whereas global skepticism is skeptical about the possibility of any knowledge at all.

Skepticism can also be classified according to its method. In the Western tradition there are two basic approaches to skepticism. Cartesian skepticism, named somewhat misleadingly after René Descartes who was not a skeptic but used some traditional skeptical arguments in his Meditations to help establish his rationalist approach to knowledge, attempts to show that any proposed knowledge claim can be doubted. Agrippan skepticism focuses on the process of justification rather than the possibility of doubt. According to this view there are three ways in which one might attempt to justify a claim but none of them are adequate. One can keep on providing further justification but this leads to an infinite regress; one can stop at a dogmatic assertion; or one can argue in a circle.

Philosophical skepticism is distinguished from methodological skepticism in that philosophical skepticism is an approach that questions the possibility of certainty in knowledge, whereas methodological skepticism is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out true from false claims.

Cartesian doubt is a form of methodological skepticism associated with the writings and methodology of René Descartes. Cartesian doubt is also known as Cartesian skepticism, methodic doubt, methodological skepticism, Universal Doubt, or hyperbolic doubt.

Cartesian doubt is a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs, which has become a characteristic method in philosophy. This method of doubt was largely popularized in Western philosophy by René Descartes (1596-1650), who sought to doubt the truth of all his beliefs in order to determine which beliefs he could be certain were true.

Methodological skepticism is distinguished from philosophical skepticism in that methodological skepticism is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out true from false claims, whereas philosophical skepticism is an approach that questions the possibility of pure knowledge.

The major difference between these ideas is how much of their ontology they take for granted. Ontology (what is reality, what is real) preceedes epistemology (what is knowledge, what is truth), because to know that something is true, one must know what reality is. This is where methodological skepticism comes in. As Descartes pointed out, one can doubt everything, except the fact of one's own existence. Thus, the ontological starting point is before the idea that "reality exists objectively, outside of consciousness".

Pseudo-skepticism

Once again we turn to Wikipedia for the definition of pseudo-skepticism:

Pseudoskepticism (or pseudoscepticism) is a term referring to a philosophical or scientific position which appears to be that of skepticism or scientific skepticism but which in reality fails to be so.

[...]

David Leiter, a member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, uses the terms 'pseudo-skepticism' and 'pathological skepticism' to refer to the "organized skepticism" he found in one group he had encountered. Leiter claimed that many of its members had an "unfortunate experience with a faith-based philosophy" at an earlier period in their lives, and that they had sought an organized skeptical group as a reaction to this. "Instead of becoming scientifically minded, they become adherents of scientism, the belief system in which science and only science has all the answers to everything" and that even many of these members are unwilling to spend the time to "read significantly into the literature on the subjects about which they are most skeptical". He goes on to characterize members of skeptical organizations as "scientifically inclined, but psychologically scarred."

Susan Blackmore, who lost her initial belief in parapsychology and in 1991 became a CSICOP fellow, later described what she termed the "worst kind of pseudoskepticism":

There are some members of the skeptics’ groups who clearly believe they know the right answer prior to inquiry. They appear not to be interested in weighing alternatives, investigating strange claims, or trying out psychic experiences or altered states for themselves (heaven forbid!), but only in promoting their own particular belief structure and cohesion.

Hugo Anthony Meynell from Department of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, labels the "extreme position that all significant evidence supporting paranormal phenomena is a result of deception or lies" as pseudoskepticism.

While Truzzi's characterisation was aimed at the holders of majority views who he considered were excessively impatient of minority opinions, the term has been used to describe advocates of minority intellectual positions who engage in pseudoskeptical behavior when they characterize themselves as "skeptics" despite cherry picking evidence that conforms to a preexisting belief. Thus according to Richard Cameron Wilson, some advocates of AIDS denial are indulging in "bogus scepticism" when they argue in this way. Wilson argues that the characteristic feature of false skepticism is that it "centres not on an impartial search for the truth, but on the defence of a preconceived ideological position".

About philosophical skepticism, Wikipedia further says:

Skepticism, as an epistemological argument, poses the question of whether knowledge, in the first place, is possible. Skeptics argue that the belief in something does not necessarily justify an assertion of knowledge of it. In this, skeptics oppose dogmatic foundationalism, which states that there have to be some basic positions that are self-justified or beyond justification, without reference to others. (One example of such foundationalism may be found in Spinoza's Ethics.) The skeptical response to this can take several approaches. First, claiming that "basic positions" must exist amounts to the logical fallacy of argument from ignorance combined with the slippery slope.[citation needed]

Thus, the pseudo-skeptics we are referring to on this page are clearly not "philosophical skeptics", nor methodological skeptics. They are (pseudo-)scientific (pseudo-)skeptics, as we will contend below.

Pseudoskeptics and authority

Self-proclaimed skeptics of card-carrying variety (including but not limited to self-styled "debunkers") are never skeptical of the patriarchal figures of "authority" which they have unquestioning faith in. Since it is clear that they are not real skeptics by any definition, we will refer to them as pseudo-skeptics, because that is a more accurate term.

Robert Anton Wilson, a true skeptic, put it very succintly. Quoting Wikipedia:

Wilson also criticized scientific types with overly rigid belief systems, equating them with religious fundamentalists in their fanaticism. In a 1988 interview, when asked about his newly-published book The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science, Wilson commented: "I coined the term irrational rationalism because those people claim to be rationalists, but they're governed by such a heavy body of taboos. They're so fearful, and so hostile, and so narrow, and frightened, and uptight and dogmatic... I wrote this book because I got tired satirizing fundamentalist Christianity... I decided to satirize fundamentalist materialism for a change, because the two are equally comical... The materialist fundamentalists are funnier than the Christian fundamentalists, because they think they're rational! ...They're never skeptical about anything except the things they have a prejudice against. None of them ever says anything skeptical about the AMA, or about anything in establishment science or any entrenched dogma. They're only skeptical about new ideas that frighten them. They're actually dogmatically committed to what they were taught when they were in college..."

The only authority is truth

Indeed, the pseudo-skeptic was indoctrinated (brainwashed) so strongly during childhood that he can no longer think critically, while apparently fully (unconsciously) believing that automatically taking the side of authority is equivalent to critical thinking. The pseudo-skeptic is trapped in a left-brain-dominated limited state of awareness, with the ego believing itself to be the only one that is experiencing.

Like-minded pseudo-skeptics have joined together in groups, even organizing conferences to show how skeptical they are of everything except authority-approved information. Their absolute faith in authority remains hidden because, as with any religion, absolute faith takes authority for granted, as if intrinsic. It makes no difference whether the supposed authority is an ill-defined deity or just people who believe they have "authority".

Faith in authority

As Frater Isla writes:

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.”

Pseudo-skeptics have not only placed science (the concept) and the scientific method (the tool) on a pedestal, but also the scientific establishment (and its religion, scientism) and the authority-based systems that filter, ignore or approve, and shape information sources, as part of its purpose to control public perception. Even the concept and the method should not be placed in such a position, as science is no more than an ontological tool, not an arbitrer of truth — fundamentalist-materialist misconceptions notwithstanding.

How rational are pseudo-skeptics?

Pseudo-skeptics are not irrational per se — in fact they are better described as fanatical ultra-rationalists or pseudo-rationalists (or as Wilson called them, irrational rationalists) — but are caged in their own cognitive limitations, which is to say their beliefs. Their rationality is reductionist, rather than expansive, like reality is. Anything that can't be "proven" according to the standards and methodology and authority of their ontological belief system is automatically, unconsciously, dismissed, in exactly the same manner as a Catholic or Muslim dismissing information that contradicts whatever belief system they have been taught.

Skepticism vs. cynicism

Bashar explains the difference between (true) skepticism and cynicism:

Bashar - "Debunking the Debunkers"

Preview for Bashar "Debunking the Debunkers" - June 20, 2009.

The real challenge, the real negative challenge on your planet, the most important thing to change, in terms of your mindset, on your world in general, that will make all the difference in the world — you wanna know what it is? Cynicism.

(Q: What causes that?)

Self-doubt, self-fear, beliefs in lack of self-worth, belief in lack in general. Cynicism: "There's not enough for you, there is only enough for me. You can't be right, that doesn't fit with my world; therefore I will mock you." You understand?

Cynicism: the idea of the combination of ignorance and arrogance. C. I. A.

Bashar

Terence McKenna the skeptic

Terence McKenna is probably the best example of how a true skeptical rationalist thinks. We would suggest that one who has proclaimed oneself a skeptic but doesn't believe in "paranormal" phenomena or alien abduction stories or "conspiracy theories" would have his ontological categories challenged by the King of Skeptics, the great bard and psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna, in the following video:

“The Evolution of a Psychedelic Thinker” - Terence McKenna

(If it please, start at 34 minutes the first time, where he relates how he began as and still is a skeptic.)

"... belief always being seen as a kind of trap — because if you believe something, you are forever precluded from believing its opposite; so you have run a line down the center of the cognitive universe, and divided things into the believable and the unbelievable."

How many self-proclaimed "skeptics" are even aware of the existence of DMT? How many of those have actually had the "privilege" (birthright) to experience a DMT trip? The answer to the latter question would be close to zero, because DMT, used to its full potential, unfailingly shatters the dogmas of the pseudo-skeptic, as McKenna explains and DMT proves "authoritatively" to the experiencer. Its "authority" comes from the nature of the experience itself. As McKenna said, "I hold it as the ultimate convincer."

We need to run it like a headline... it goes something like this: "Scientists discover nearby hyperobject in alternative continuum." It's that sort of thing.

[...]

... Because that's how big it is in there. The further in you go, the bigger it gets. We are like monkeys, sitting in the prescence of a flying saucer whose doorway has just been flung open. This is what we need to become conscious of. We need to dissolve the assumptions of the culture. And this is why LSD was so terrifying, because I firmly believe one of the things psychedelics do, is they dissolve cultural assumptions. It doesn't matter whether you're a member of the politburo or a go-go dancer in Berlin or a professor of agronomy in Kansas — you will doubt your beliefs and your world if you take psychedelics. This is good; we need to dissolve our cultural conditioning, and try to get down to brass tacks, because I'm convinced that reality is a tinker toy set that we can learn to take apart and put together in completely different ways. And we're gonna have to pull some real rabbits out of the hat, or the planet is just going to pour over the edge into chaos. And, you know, before they were called 'psychedelics', they were called 'consciousness expanding drugs'. Well, if there's any possibility that that's true, let's put our best people on it. Because consciousness is what we're dying for. We don't have enough of it....

Terence McKenna

How could something this big (bigger than NSA, Manhattan project, conspiracies, etc) be kept hidden? Watch McKenna & friends speak about the balkanization of epistemology (by empiricism/skepticism/positivism):

Trialogue #27: Skepticism & The Balkanization Of Epistemology (McKenna, Sheldrake, Abraham) [FULL]

In this trialogue held on June 8, 1998 at Santa Cruz, CA, Terence McKenna, Ralph Abraham, and Rupert Sheldrake explored the "fluff factor" and what degree of healthy skepticism is required these days.

Terence McKenna: "Somehow as a part of the agenda of political correctness it has become not entirely acceptable to criticize, or demand substantial evidence, or expect people, when advancing their speculations, to make, what used to be called, old fashioned sense."

Terence: "These phenomenon, which we know exist, and which we find rich in implication, would simply not be allowed as objects of discourse, they would be ruled out of order. So there's something wrong on one level with what's called empiricism, skepticism, positivism, it has different names."

Terence: "[Empirical science] is a coarse-grained view of nature, and what it mitigates against seeing are the very things that feed the progress of science, which is the unassimilated phenomenon, the unusual data, the peculiar result of an experiment."

Rupert Sheldrake: "Weirdness and cults and most of the phenomenon you've named are phenomenon of Hawaii and California. When you live in England, things take on a rather different perspective. There's a general level of popular skepticism, such that the general tone of an English pub is one of sort of skepticism." Terence: "Well, but aren't crop circles, and Graham Hancock all homegrown British phenomenon?"

Rupert: "There is the possibility to return to a more common sense approach, common sense of the British pub type, and probably of standard American kind too, will often deal quite satisfactorily with the probono proctologists from outer space."

Terence: "You speak from your knowledge of the calculus and world history, and this person speaks from their latest transmission from fallen Atlantis. And this is all placed on an equal footing, and it's crazy-making, and it also guarantees the trivialness of the entire enterprise. I just don't think any revolution in human history can be made by fluff-heads."

Ralph Abraham: "In other words, there is no simple measuring stick of simplicity."

Ralph says he wishes we could create a measuring stick to measure the truth of something and then goes on to describe how one could be designed.

Terence: "The history of alchemy is far older than the history of science. It has always been in existence. It's thinkers have always evolved and adumbrated their field of concern. So that's one kind of fluff. Fluff with punch, because it has historical continuity."

Ralph: "The problem with this 'strict parent' approach to fluff, is that some important discoveries may be shuttled aside."

Terence: "What we have to legitimize is critical discussion. So that when someone stands up and starts talking about the face on Mars people behave as they apparently behave in British pubs and just stand up and say, 'Malarkey mate.'And force people to experience a critical deconstruction of their ideas."

Ralph: "Question authority."

I conducted the following exercise: I said I would move backward through the epistemological history of science to the last sane moment science knew. And then analyze what that consists of. And I'm not completed in this process, but what I find is that a curious betrayal has occured in science, that with the rise of capitalism and industrialism, science has actually become — has allowed assumptions to be made that betrayed its original intent. And, what I mean by that is [that] modern science relies on statistical analysis of data. [...] This approach to phenomena mitigates against unusual phenomena, inevitably, because they are "statistically insignificant" — that's the phrase that is actually used.

Terence McKenna

The Skeptical religion

Perhaps the most "authoritative" work in pseudo-skepticism — in a sense the Bible of the pseudo-skeptics — is The Skeptic's Dictionary, by Robert Todd Carroll, published on his website skepdic.com and in an outdated printed book (2003). Carroll was a professor of philosophy, until his retirement in 2007.

According to the author,

The Skeptic’s Dictionary is aimed at four distinct audiences: the open-minded seeker, who makes no commitment to or disavowal of occult claims; the soft skeptic, who is more prone to doubt than to believe; the hardened skeptic, who has strong disbelief about all things occult; and the believing doubter, who is prone to believe but has some doubts. The one group this book is not aimed at is the 'true believer' in the occult. If you have no skepticism in you, this book is not for you.

Not realizing the "true believer" nature of his pseudo-skepticism, Carroll's commitment to "authority" is definitionally equivalent to critical thinking, in his reality. Paradoxically, the objective reality delusion allows him to be right and wrong at the same time. The control system welcomes ultra-narrow-minded reductionist philosophers who will automatically defend the "official story" of any event as told by "authorities".

The Skeptic's Dictionary has entries for Abraham-Hicks, Ramtha, Pleiadians, and some other channeled beings who can be logically dismissed using reductionism, but — not surprisingly — no entry for Bashar, by far the most convincing of all "paranormal" phenomena to the (persistent) logical mind.

Leaders of the Skeptical religion

ClownsMichael Shermer, James Randi, and Sam Harris in their real form?

It has been observed by some observers (but not yet verified empirically by "authoritative sources") that most pseudo-skeptics have a notoriously low sense of humor... though some like Penn & Teller present their skepticism in a humorous tone in their TV series (although full of unnecessary elements to spice up an ostensibly otherwise boring show).

As "conspiracy theorists" — the pole which defines the "debunker" (a militant pseudo-skeptic) — point out, the masters they bow to (obey) are in Washington DC, New York, London, and Tel Aviv (the political establishment). However, there is another, less demanding type of masters they worship (if perhaps in a more subtle way): the scientific establishment. The "lower-ranking" (i.e. less invested) pseudo-skeptics also worship the most "authoritative" pseudo-skeptical leaders. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptics Magazine, and James "The Amazing" Randi, an illusionist, are amongst the most "authoritative" leaders of the Skeptical religion and thus could be considered, in a sense, the High Priests of (Pseudo-)Skepticism.

Michael Shermer

In the following presentation, Shermer begins by stating, with an axiomatic certainty akin to a Muslim talking about the Quran, that "all beliefs occur in the brain, of course — that's where everything happens":

Michael Shermer - The Threat of Pseudoscience

This half hour lecture is from the McGill University's Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium on the confrontation and threat of pseudoscience in contemporary society. As a leading figure in this movement, Dr. Michael Shermer is more than qualified to speak on many of the issues. His down-to-earth style coupled with his laundry list of first hand encounters with the baloney of our day make this presentation (as well as many of his others) an absolute treat to watch.

The threat of pseudoscience? What kind of pathological mindset would conjure a "threat" out of opposing views? A fanatic, regardless of the religion the fanatic believes in, would seem to be the answer.

Shermer is "more than qualified" to tell science and pseudoscience apart, his ego loves to believe. You, on the other hand, are unqualified (unauthoritative, unauthorized), according to the symbolic world these pseudo-skeptics have allowed themselves to be restricted by.

In the 30-minute presentation, Shermer makes a compelling case for absolutely nothing. There is lots of verbosity (a habit probably acquired from years of editorializing) with almost no substance. "When I was this, back when I was doing that..." — much centers around the ego. Everything he says is perfectly compatible with (i.e. non-contradictory to) much of what he denounces as "pseudoscience", just not from the perspective arrived at from the initial ontological assumptions he is operating under.

Michael Shermer and Deepak Chopra | WHO ARE YOU? Part 1

Deepak interviews his biggest critic Michael Shermer, the professional skeptic.* Shermer is an author and President of the Skeptic Society of America. He explains how he founded the Skeptic Society and answers Deepak's existential soul profile questions.

[part 2] Deepak challenges his biggest skeptic (and good friend) Michael Shermer to a game of Word Play

[part 3] Things get heated when Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic Magazine, asks Deepak Chopra questions about his views and philosophies* From the funny and honest, "What the hell are you talking about?," to deeper existential questions, "Do we have free will?" - the two thinkers debate some of life's most interesting topics.

Shermer simply shifted from one religion to another (evangelical Christianity to scientistic reductionism), both of which provide a sense of certainty that he can devote himself to. Shermer would likely benefit a lot by having an entheogenic experience — an often highly effective permission slip to allow oneself to experience oneself from a higher frequency focus (the most effective of which is, as mentioned, our own frequency neuromodulator, DMT).

In part 3, Shermer has to admit how empiricism relies on the authority of "experts" (gatekeepers of the possible), and then Deepak cleverly shows the cynical nature of pseudo-skeptics as Shermer tries to reduce every concept thrown at him to the most cynical degree possible.

In terms of "authority figures", we would suggest that Bashar is more worth paying attention to than any of the self-referential "authoritative sources" that make up mainstream realms of thought.

As YouTube commentator 'digidgetnation' (how's that for an authority figure?) put it:

I find that skeptics are much too certain they actually know things THEY DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW!!! Then tend to have blind faith in people like Michael Shermer. They DON'T critically think about what Michael Shermer 'preaches' they are USUALLY closed-minded blind faith believers in authority figures like Michael Shermer and people like him. I have found that, generally speaking, skeptics ARE NOT OPEN-MINDED; thus they CANNOT possibly be proper critical thinkers for proper critical thinkers are open-minded NOT CLOSED-MINDED!!!

Shermer has chosen to show the contrast of eliminativism, and he has succeeded in that purpose. Here is another example of this kind of absolutist axiomatic reductionism:

Now what's the difference between the wind and a dangerous predator? The wind is an inanimate force, a dangerous predator is an intentional agent. And his intention is to eat me, and that can't be good. So what we also do, in addition to finding these meaningful patterns, is infuse in them agency. That it's alive, it's real, it has intention, so I better assume it's real. And this is the basis of animism and spiritism, and polytheism, and monotheism, and the belief in angels, and aliens, and demons, and spirits, and poltergeists, and gods.

Michael Shermer [source]

Such ridiculous blanket statements are typical of Shermer's rhetoric. To assume that the infusion of agency where there may be none is the basis of all those diverse ideas for no other reason than the idea that it would be naturally "selective" is an absurdly reductionist assumption. Those ideas are believed because they exist, and they exist because they are believed, i.e. defined to exist — because reality exists only subjectively, within consciousness — or, at least, that is precisely what The Biggest Picture is proposing and what our intragalactic neighbors are communicating to us by means of non-authority-approved instrumentalities.

It is only the conceit of the scientific and post-industrial societies that allows us to even propound some of the questions that we take to be so important. For instance, the question of contact with extraterrestrials is a kind of red herring premised upon a number of assumptions that a moment's reflection will show are completely false. To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant. And yet, this has been chosen as the avenue by which it is assumed contact is likely to occur. Meanwhile, there are people all over the world - psychics, shamans, mystics, schizophrenics - whose heads are filled with information, but it has been ruled a priori irrelevant, incoherent, or mad. Only that which is validated through consensus via certain sanctioned instrumentalities will be accepted as a signal. The problem is that we are so inundated by these signals — these other dimensions — that there is a great deal of noise in the circuit.

Terence McKenna, 1982

James Randi and the Million Dollar Challenge illusion

Pseudo-skeptics (and many people who have fallen for the illusion) often refer to James Randi's "Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge", which has achieved a kind of undeserved status as a benchmark for "paranormal" phenomena — which is utterly absurd on its face for the simple reason that, were the challenge to be beat and the one million dollars to be successfully claimed, the pseudo-skeptics would appeal to Occam’s Razor and assume that Randi (or his panel of judges) must have been fooled — as Loyd Auerbach points out. "If someone beat Randi’s challenge once, how does this meet the criteria of repeatability? What does this prove?"

The article The Myth of the Million Dollar Challenge explains the problems with this so-called "challenge" itself:

For ten years, the modern skeptical movement has wielded a cudgel against claims of the paranormal: the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge. In many debates over the possibility of psi abilities, the Challenge provides a final word for one side... "has so-and-so applied for the Challenge?" The financial reward offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation is seen by many skeptics as providing an irresistible motivation for anybody with paranormal ability - after all, if someone could genuinely exhibit such powers, surely they would step forward to take the million?

However, after ten years, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) says nobody has even got past their preliminary testing.

[...]

Dr Michael Sudduth of San Francisco State University also pointed out to me a wonderful irony in one of the rules. Challenge rule #3 states: "We have no interest in theories nor explanations of how the claimed powers might work." As Sudduth puts it: “Curiously, Randi's challenge itself is saddled with assumptions of this very kind. The challenge makes little sense unless we assume that psi is the sort of thing that, if genuine, can be produced on demand, or at least is likely to manifest itself in some perspicuous manner under the conditions specified by the challenge.”

[...]

All in all, it's rather easy to see why 'psychic personalities' would ignore the Million Dollar Challenge, irrespective of anyone's opinion as to whether their talents are real or fraudulent. It asks them to risk their careers on a million to one shot (assuming they are not fraudulent), putting all the power into the hands of a man they distrust - and who has been antagonistic towards them over a number of years - with no legal recourse available to them.

[...]

It would seem the modern skeptical movement has all bases covered. If you don’t apply, it shows you have no evidence of the paranormal. If you do apply and fail, ditto. If you put your career on the line and apply, beat initial odds of 1000 to 1, and then 1,000,000 to 1, to win the Challenge, then it still offers no proof of the paranormal.

Ironically, paranormal investigator Dr Stephen Braude agrees with Ray Hyman about the merits of the Challenge: “The very idea that there could be a conclusive demonstration to the scientific community of psychic functioning is fundamentally flawed, and the suggestion that a scientifically ignorant showman should decide the matter is simply hilarious.“

Skepticism is certainly demanded in examinations of paranormal claims (not to mention, in all facets of life). However, the JREF Challenge seems to be primarily aimed at providing the modern skeptical movement with a purely rhetorical tool for attacking the topic of the paranormal. In a recent newsletter, James Randi says as much: “The purpose of the challenge has always been to provide an arguing basis for skeptics to point that the claimants just won’t accept the confrontation.”

Randi, who is an illusionist, has managed to create the impression that his "Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge" is in cash, when it appears that it is actually in the form of bonds held by unspecified sources, which might well be worthless. When politely asked about it, Randi replies with "Apply, or go away." His appointed lackey handling the "Challenge" edits out the "go away" part and other details when posting it publicly on the JREF forums, in order to make Randi look much more polite than he is in private conversation.

I don’t take the prize seriously, and above all I don’t trust Randi since I’ve found him to be dishonest... He is not a scientist, has no scientific credentials, and is essentially a showman and an expert in deception.

Rupert Sheldrake

Deepak Chopra — one of the pseudo-skeptics' favorite target — reverses the idea:

Deepak Chopra's One Million Dollar Challenge to the Skeptics

I challenge the non "amazing " Randi & his professional debunkers & skeptics to explain normal experience & offer them a $1 million prize.

Militant atheists

Militant atheists are like Jehova's Witnesses — except that they are arrogant jackasses who speak of "fact", rather than soft-spoken respectful proselytizers who speak of faith, when attempting to impose their beliefs on everyone else. It's only what they believe is fact, which is why their fanaticism ranks up there with Jewish supremacism, Christian Identity, Christian Zionism, and (the real kind of) Islamic jihadism.

So militant they are, that they are opening churches — yes, church-like congregations — around the world: the New Atheism churches.

Religiously atheistic Richard Dawkins

Perhaps the most famous (i.e. prominently promoted by the mainstream media) of the militant atheists is Richard Dawkins, known as "the world’s most prominent atheist" (after the media's promotion of his 2006 book The God Delusion) and by more open-minded British scientists as Britain's most dogmatic scientist. At this level of dogmatic reductionist thinking, even a 2nd density consciousness can put up a challenge: Richard Dawkins vanquished by a parrot.

A close friend of Dawkins is physicalist philosopher Daniel Dennett, whose intellectual reductionist efforts, reflected in his book Consciousness Explained [Away], probably represents the most advanced effort to explain consciousness as emergent from insentient matter.

Another of the most prominent of the militant atheists was Christopher Hitchens, now deceased. While otherwise seemingly intelligent, he was absolutely convinced that the premise the people who wage war (i.e. the media and government) use — in regards to "terrorism", Islamic fundamentalism, and the Middle East — is essentially true, and even too conservative — and thus that war is legitimate and moral, and the only way to "save Western civilization".

Another prominent rabbi of New Atheism is Sam Harris, a warmongering ultra-Zionist Jew. Despite his relaxed voice (in stark contrast to, for example, Alan Dershowitz or David Horowitz), Harris has been described as perhaps the most warmongering of the militant atheists, advocating war against Muslim nations at every opportunity, as Theodore Sayeed illustrates — despite not being a true believer in the fundamentalist-materialist paradigm due to having had psychedelic experiences. Harris worships the Jewish people first, and the state second. Harris seems honest but is operating within some very dogmatic and narrow beliefs, relating to his sense of being "Jewish", thus restricting the sources of information he exposes himself to, thus attracting Jewish supremacist information, thus greatly skewing his perspective of "the Jewish state" and the supposed moral differential of Muslims and Israeli Jews. Some of his Jewish supremacist sources of information include some that think of their "Shoah" as their authoritarian G-d's response to Jewish assimilation, leading other Jewish supremacists to call him a "self-hating Jew" (see for example: Atheist Sam Harris: Jews Brought Holocaust on Themselves).

Ultra-reductionism

Going even beyond the typical pseudo-skeptical reductionism, the site Hmolpedia attempts to reduce everything — or, rather, their already-reductionist definition of "everything" (i.e. that which is believed to be "real" by "authorities") — to thermodynamics, chemistry and physics. The etymology of the odd name is explained this way:

Hmolpedia is a portmanteau "hmol", referring to either one human molecule (a person defined as a molecule), a mole of human molecules (a metric system or mass of human molecules), and or the hmolsciences (human thermodynamics, human chemistry, and human physics) in general, and "encyclopedia" and was introduced in early 2011 as a new representative name for the content of the two-thousand plus articles hosted at EoHT.info all centered around the subjects of chemistry, physics, and thermodynamics applied to the study of human existence.

Yes, "a person defined as a molecule"! An ontology so reductionist as to be fundamentally dehumanizing. According to the definitions they are using, Hmolpedia is an encyclopedia of "eliminative materialism, a type of extreme materialism". On the home page it has an image with this caption: "Above: depiction of reduction of all of human existence and experience into the methodology of chemistry, physics, and thermodynamics, pure and applied."

It even suggests that life isn't "real", using Tesla's (probably DMT-induced) realization that the demarcation between insentience and sentience (i.e. the life/nonlife materialist conundrum, or "great problem of natural philosophy") is an illusion, but replacing Tesla's expansionist idea (termed panbioism) with the absurdly ultra-reductionist "defunct theory of life".

Needless to say, no disagreement with current perceived authority figures can be found on Hmolpedia aside from further reduction(ism) of that which is already believed into a subset thereof.

Similarly, there exist ultra-reductionist attempts to dismiss even the most agreed-upon meanings of quantum mechanics, such as the idea of "superdeterminism".

A dystopian future ruled by the ideology embodied by the Hmolpedia might look like that in the film Equilibrium (2002). It depicts a rigidly-controlled year 2072 in which feeling (and artistic expression) has been outlawed under the pretext of preventing war and man's inhumanity to man. The population is forced to take Prozium, a drug that eliminates the capacity to feel, under the threat of "processing" (death by fire) if caught "sense offending". In the film, the government of Libria ("free land") states in its propaganda that the origins are in "the revolutionary precept of the hate crime".

Redefining pseudo-science

Anything not within the pseudo-skeptic's artificial ontological parameters for what is possible is automatically dismissed as "pseudo-science", but what this label really means, when used by pseudo-skeptics, is "heresy", because it is the religion of science — scientism — which is pseudo-scientific, due to operating within unquestioned initial ontological assumptions which are effectively dogmas.

The website Skeptical About Skeptics does a phenomenal job of exposing the dogmatic nature of the pseudo-skeptical mindset and the most prominent of the Skeptics cult members. Other sites, such as Winston Wu's "SCEPCOP" ("Scientific Committee to Evaluate PseudoSkeptical Criticism of the Paranormal"), do a superficially good job but treat all of that which pseudo-skeptics label "woo woo" (i.e. any non-mainstream ideas) as equally true. Whether some of these anti-skeptics sites are false opposition as part of some disinformation effort, such as the Sunstein-type program apparently led by Jim Fetzer, or whether they really do believe the "everything is fake" meme spearheaded by Jim Fetzer's parody "conspiracy theorist" character — or whether those memes may even be subjectively true in their realities — the effect of this pseudo-skeptical anti-pseudo-skeptical "debunking" could only be further reinforcement of pseudo-skepticism in the minds of "fence-sitters" on the pseudoskeptical/skeptical fence.

Short of joining Skeptics Anonymous, TBP would suggest that self-described "Skeptics" be willing to skip the 12 steps and simply take the 13th step (i.e. definitionally upgrading the dimensionality of causality, thus giving oneself permission to more easily let go of beliefs that are out of alignment with one's true self).

The effect of pseudo-skepticism on consciousness

In the cutting-edge epistemologies of the objective reality metaparadigm, it seems to some researchers of the control system and paranormal phenomenology that the idea of skepticism has been hijacked by a clique of ultra-rationalists who are unknowingly decelerating human progress. In the subjective reality metaparadigm, however, the pseudo-skeptics will simply go on to experience exponentially-increasing degrees of limitation as they branch off into the transhumanist timelines (and perhaps eventually become something like the Greys) as human consciousness splits into two distinct types of experiential realities (the ones on the ascensional timelines operating at a higher harmonic level of experience).

Quotes

Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.

Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)

The door of a bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly.

Ogden Nash, poet (1902-1971)

In school, you are taught that "critical thinking" means to refute and ridicule anything that opposes the establishment or status quo, but never the status quo itself. A true skeptic can rise above that and apply skepticism and critical thought toward established orthodoxy, but a pseudo-skeptic cannot. Instead, the pseudo-skeptic follows the school system's form of "critical thinking", applying it only to those who oppose orthodoxy in defense of the status quo.

In that sense, they are in reality "establishment defenders" rather than true skeptics. That is why they NEVER challenge, criticize or scrutinize their government or any part of the establishment, including the pharmaceutical companies, CIA or FBI, even if logic, facts, evidence or moral cause dictates that they should.

To these establishment defenders, authority = truth, and as such is always blameless in their eyes. That is their religion, so hence, all their skills, talents and knowledge are used to serve their true God - orthodoxy. In their view, establishment authority can do no wrong, even if they murder, traffic drugs, steal, lie, stage terrorist attacks, start wars by funding both sides, etc.

[...]

The key fallacy that pseudoskeptics make is lumping the scientific process and the scientific establishment into one, and assuming that they are one and the same. That is the major fallacy of the organized skepticism movement, which consists of the JREF, CSICOP and Michael Shermer type crowd.

In doing so, they falsely assume that the science and medical establishment is objective and unbiased, and free of politics, corruption, control, censorship and suppression. That’s where their major mistake is. And as such, they deem the science and medical establishment as an unassailable authority that is not to be questioned or challenged. In that sense, they treat science as a religion. So even though they claim that science is not a religion, they still treat it as such, by holding the views of the science establishment as an unquestionable authority.

Winston Wu

Well, let me explain how it works: It's the oldest trick in the book to say that somebody has been discredited or debunked, and saying it is a lot easier than doing it, so nowadays, most people skip the actual investigative research and scientific background required to debunk something and just skip ahead to the part where they SAY something is debunked. And they just repeat it a bunch of times, try to make it viral, and then keep repeating it over and over as time goes on, until it becomes a meme, and you get a whole army of brainless idiots who go on endlessly repeating that somebody or something is discredited, because they saw somebody else say it and for some reason, it stuck with them, and now like any of the many commercial jingles they heard once before, it comes out of their mouth from time to time, because these people find their own voices soothing. And if you ask them who is discredited and why, you'll find out that they have no idea. So they say, "I don't know, I don't remember all the details, but I read some article." And it's like, "Oh, so you read an article that you don't remember! My, how very fucking scientific!"

Marshall Banana

I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.

Carl Jung

The unwillingness to be wrong, the inner belief that one’s worldview is the only right worldview, the lack of self examination of one’s own ideology, and the inability to learn from those on the “outside” of one’s group are sure signs of indoctrination. If a community doesn’t encourage you to think for yourself and learn from those outside of that community, it prizes conformity far more than it does your own education and freedom of conscience.

Beedy Beedy

This is not an easy journey, because, as children, none of us were taught how to tap into our own inner guidance systems and trust our inner knowing/intuition, and as a result of this disconnection we are all are wounded and conditioned to varying degrees. In fact, most wounded people yearn to belong – to be a part of a group, or identify strongly with a nationalistic or spiritual identity. Sometimes, such desires result in outbreaks of unconscious trauma bonding, where belief in government (or other external authoritarian constructs) generates this unhealthy “connection” pathology on a macro level, the ultimate Stockholm Syndrome.

We are all traumatized/wounded/conditioned to varying degrees, and these psychological states serve to cut us off from our own inner knowing and inner guidance, and even disconnect us from basic critical thinking skills – hence why many people look for guidance outside of their own innate gifts, from someone whose perceived ‘authority’ bestows them with the right to tell them what to do and what to think. People also are programmed to feel safer when there are others who “follow” in the same manner that they do – the ‘herd/pack mentality’ that has contributed to a great deal of suffering on the planet.

Bernhard Guenther

When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.

Richard Dawkins

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

William Paley, Christian apologist (1743-1805)