'An Honest Liar' and the tendancy for society to believe in the supernatural
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24-12-2012, 09:58 PM (This post was last modified: 24-12-2012 10:08 PM by Endurance Swimmer.)
'An Honest Liar' and the tendancy for society to believe in the supernatural
For those who aren't aware, this year should include the release of the documentary "An Honest Liar" - the story of James "The Amazing" Randi. I'm extremely excited about this production, particularly as it should further promote critical thinking whilst at the same time being a very well deserved salute to Randi, who has spent much of his life teaching skeptisism and promoting critical thinking. The guy is an international treasure and I'm sure most of you who know of him feel the same way. For those who haven't heard of him I highly recommend frequenting his site the 'James Randi Educational Foundation' (JREF), watching the various videos and the preview of "An Honest Liar". I'm going to be sure to take a good number of friends to see it when it comes out.

Also on the subject of Randi, just yesterday I finished his book "Flim Flam" which he wrote in 1982. In addition to "The Demon Haunted World" by Carl Sagan and "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins I would highly recommend it as a source for critical evidence based thinking (there are of course many others, but the diversity of these 3 I've found to be a great basis for me in really getting started). However what I was amazed to find out when I was trying to source it, was going to a major bookshop in South Australia (where I live), they had nothing of Randi's in stock, nor could I find anything on skeptisism or the debunking of alleged psychic phenomena or pseudo science. Has anyone else found it difficult in sourcing such material? Indeed surely such books should be in every school library and be required reading in many educational institutions, such is the importance of skeptisism going hand in hand with learning. In contrast it was alarming to see a whole section on New Aged nonsense. Clearly magical thinking sells, whereas a cold hard dose of rationality does not. I find this to be a very sad state of affairs and it makes it all the more important for organisations like JREF to be supported. Their contributions to society are huge, as is the work promoted by Richard Dawkins, Seth Andrews and many others who most of us respect hugely. For the first time I find myself very keen to play an active part in promoting these organisations, both by action and by financial donations and within a week I had a cheque in the mail addressed to JREF, with more to follow to other similar organisations (which will of course include 'The Thinking Atheist'). It is heart warming to be in company of many others who feel a similar way.

I've also found that many people, even those who are otherwise extremely intelligent, find it hard to resist the lure of the supernatural. In debating such people and by asking for some objective evidence to support their wild assertions (or sympathetic views to such beliefs), I've found many of these individuals get quite upset about it (it seems to be the old 'respect all beliefs' stance - even if they have no merit and are not supported by evidence). Not sure why society has become this way where one would think that the default view in the abscence of evidence should be one of skeptisism until it is forthcoming. It would seem that the default view instead that society chooses to adopt is one of accepting all these views as having merit based only on people's individual subjective experiences or the authority of others. It's a view I find hard to stomach or reconcile with the evidence that is available and one that I find hard to supress my frustration with. Anyway I'd love to hear other people's experiences dealing with others (perhaps friends, colleagues and family members) who embrace or are sympathetic to the supernatural. In my experiences it can create a certain amount of tension, but I feel it is an important subject and non-evidence based beliefs based on superstition should be challenged at every opportunity. Thoughts?

"Nothing Great is Easy" - Des Renford (English Channel Swimmer)
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24-12-2012, 10:40 PM
RE: 'An Honest Liar' and the tendancy for society to believe in the supernatural
Nice post. Worth reading (don't let the length put you off, guys*).

Thanks.

(24-12-2012 09:58 PM)Endurance Swimmer Wrote:  ...
Has anyone else found it difficult in sourcing such material?
...

It's hard enough finding a book shop here. Most have closed down. I have none in walking distance anymore.

(24-12-2012 09:58 PM)Endurance Swimmer Wrote:  ...
Anyway I'd love to hear other people's experiences dealing with others (perhaps friends, colleagues and family members) who embrace or are sympathetic to the supernatural. In my experiences it can create a certain amount of tension,
...

Do you know Tim Minchin's 'Storm'?

If the subject gets raised in my company, I get looks from people who know me that express "Don't go there, please don't go there."

Wink



* Erx, please don't be predictable!

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25-12-2012, 04:21 AM
RE: 'An Honest Liar' and the tendancy for society to believe in the supernatural
Agreed with all of that.

And I don't like how people expect everyone to respect their choice to believe nonsense without evidence. In all other areas of life, you're allowed to ask questions and ask people to tell you WHY they belief what they do.

In the past, I avoided these conversations with people. Now, I just don't give a shit if they get upset. I'm not the one being irrational, I have nothing to apologize for.

I tell them that, as a nonbeliever, the assertion that god simply isn't testable by science seems like the biggest copout in the history of the world. Then they usually say they simply "feel" god is real. When did "feelings" become evidence of anything? To me, that sounds like they're saying they find it comforting and don't want evidence, and indeed, will spit in the face of evidence and reality.

I have read a lot of books specifically trying to understand why people seem predisposed to believe in woo, yes. It really causes me to have a hard time understanding and relating to people.

There are those who say you should avoid the topic because you should value people's friendship and feelings, etc. Maybe I'm a dick, but respect goes both ways, and I'll respect a belief based on evidence more than one based on myth and "feelings." Lots of people have stopped talking to me because I'm honest about my lack of belief in woo, and honest about how silly I think their belief in woo is. If they won't talk to me because I won't accept their beliefs without evidence, they are insane/deluded and not worth talking to anyway, IMO. (On the other hand, I do have theist friends, but they aren't the kind that flip out when you say you're an atheist.)
[/rant]

As for bookstores, it's pretty hopeless around here. I order everything from the internet.
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26-12-2012, 09:23 PM
RE: 'An Honest Liar' and the tendancy for society to believe in the supernatural
I will have to check out that book. Yes im obviously amongst like minded people here which is extremely refreshing. It seems incredible to me in 2012 that so many nonsense belief systems are thriving. I pick my battles sometimes, particularly at work but sometimes one cant resist and the voice of reason has to be exercised. Just recently however i had to listen to a colleague talking about the virtues of applied kinesiology being used to diagnose people within Chiropractic treatment. Given it was her sister who is the chiropractor i chose not to say anything but i seriously had to bite my lip. What a load of non evidence based nonsense.

"Nothing Great is Easy" - Des Renford (English Channel Swimmer)
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