Skeptical of the Skeptics

Little did I know when my husband asked me to write on this subject that not only has it already been done, it’s been done by skeptics. Skeptical is website reports on psychic phenomena and other experimental science. These are not Christians. The Amazing Meeting (TAM) London October 16th-17th 2010 is an article by Graham Nicholls , a veteran Psi researcher and investigator who reported on this meeting.

Concerning speaker Susan Blackmore, Nicholls says, “She [said] … people will ‘hate you’ for saying that life after death does not exist or that psychic powers are not real. …  I couldn’t help but feel that this same anger and vitriol was expressed throughout TAM towards those who do believe in the existence of psi or other phenomena.”

Nicholls points out what believers in Christ and the Scriptures have experienced from these same people. But he speaks as a scientist, a researcher with years of experience in his field and, he maintains, credible. Yet he says, “… Many skeptics continue to say more research is needed, which seems little more than a way to avoid having to support psi.”

Ever try to talk to a “scientist” who calls belief “opinion” and faith a “leap in the dark?” He says you have to prove God is real and produce evidence. The authority of the Scriptures? He’ll laugh at you. Attesting miracles? He’ll call you a kook. No amount of evidence will convince him.

The next speaker Nicholls reviewed was Richard Dawkins. Clearly he admires “the poetry that Richard Dawkins can sometimes evoke,” but he points out that when dealing with Rupert Sheldrake ” … Dawkins declined to discuss evidence and blindly refused to engage with the research Sheldrake has done over many years.” But Dawkins is the idol of atheists, skeptics, and “scientists.” “As everyone focused on the stage I watched intently as Dawkins attempted to evoke in the audience an almost spiritual reverence for evolution and the genius of Charles Darwin.” Dawkins chose to accomplish that, Nicholls reported, by spending most of his speech attacking a religion. Islam is a touchy subject even as religion goes, but Nicholls asks, “Would we overlook this kind of attitude … without the eloquent language and pretence that these views have something to do with science?” “Scientists” like Dawkins present hatred and attack speech as their “scientific evidence.”

“It seems that the skeptical community represented at TAM creates a division between the public and science. They champion a form of science that [bears] little resemblance to the free inquiry that I have been so inspired by. In fact actual science was hardly mentioned during the conference, it was clear that what was being championed here was activism aimed at fighting the religious, alternative or credulous.

Nicholls does not stop at accusing these not-so “fellow” skeptics of being unscientific. He charges them with dishonesty. One of the speakers, James Randi, once “claimed that he had repeated Sheldrake’s experiments and found no evidence of telepathy in animals. Yet when Sheldrake … challenged him to prove it he made excuses and failed to show the experiments … This is far from the behaviour [of]… a real supporter of science, at the very least we expect fairness and honesty.”

Nicholls is not the only one who sees TAM as something other than scientific. “TAM is in dubious territory, as one skeptical blogger at pointed out, it is not an outreach event or an academic conference, ‘so that leaves the fact that it is a show. A piece of entertainment.’ He goes on to say ‘A 1,500 seater venue of skeptic celebrities preaching to the converted whilst raising money for their organisation of choice is a church. …  A Megachurch. Caspian Jago made the same criticism using the term ‘The TAM Mega Church’

“TAM was an event of bravado, childish prejudice and hollow generalisation, with a few moments of genuine sincerity … Much of the most cutting criticism of this event has come from within the skeptical movement itself. I can only hope that skepticism … in the future seeks to champion inquiry and science instead of this circus-like celebration of disbelief.”

Richard Dawkins and the crowd at TAM (with the possible exception of the final speaker, Alan Moore, who apparently “worships an ancient snake deity”) would probably agree to be called Secular Humanists. We have said for years in our writings that Secular Humanism is a religion. We have been insulted, called liars, accused of being non-thinkers, but these excerpts from this article are, if you can accept it, steps in a scientific investigation. Nicholls has a theory. He follows the scientific method of observation, repeated testing, peer review. His theory holds.

This schism in the ranks of the skeptical crowd saddens Nicholls, but this blog deals with tough stuff believers need, not ammunition for skeptics in a civil war. The Apostle Paul was saddened when he saw a schism in the church of Jesus Christ. We might not agree with either of the skeptical points of view presented here, but we should care that what we do believe is based on truth, honesty, and evidence, just as Nicholls desires from scientists. Paul saw the corrupting influence in the church in much the same way Nicholls saw TAM.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4

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