I go into these phases where I research a topic deeply for a while, a few months or so, to feel like I have a pretty good handle on it.
So far this year, I have been researching the state of psychical research or parapsychology. I used a classic book, Ray Hyman’s The Elusive Quarry to see what an objective, knowledgable person’s first hand take on it was. Then I followed up with Ray and others’ views of the current state of the field with the essay anthology: Debating Psychic Experience edited by Krippner and Friedman. This book had an array of opinions and arguments by psi advocates and counter advocates. I plan to write this up for my next Sounds Sciencey piece because it’s REALLY interesting. But what I can tell you is that it hasn’t gotten ANY BETTER for psi research. As much as advocates wave their arms and shout, make excuses and complain, there is NOT a stronger case for psi than a century ago. Something is wrong there. I have my notes all out to compare and examine. Why do this? Because if I’m going to weigh the evidence, I actually have to listen to the advocates and counter-advocates and see who makes the better case and not just parrot what others say off the cuff. I really want to know if there is something there. Seeing the two groups interact in print has been hugely informative and I’d like to bring this example to light for others to discover for themselves.
So, I finished my reading on psi research when a new topic dropped into my lap. A paranormal researcher that I met at RavenCon asked me what I thought about ley lines (as a geologist) relating to earth energies. I admitted I didn’t know enough to comment intelligently so off to the Google I go. Luckily, I also have access to a university library (and the nifty Kindle lending library) to track down some good references on the history of ley lines. Discovery of the concept is not that old and has everything to do with archaeology and anthropology, though I am checking out a possible connection with lineaments and fracture traces (real geologic features). Is there a connection? I don’t know yet. But again, it’s almost a guarantee that when you look into these things, you uncover some cool surprises. I plan to write-up what I find when I pull enough info together as well as share what I learned with the paranormal advocates. Maybe they might appreciate the opinion. And possibly ignore it, like has happened, disappointingly, with cryptozoologists…
I have made a rule for myself to no longer discuss topics on Facebook cryptozoology groups (with the sole exception of Monster Talk group). It’s pointless and I end up villified and misunderstood. No skepticism is allowed. Speculation is the game there. The level of intellectualism is low nearly across the board. There certainly are rare exceptions of cryptozoologists to want to apply critical thought to their beloved beliefs. But they don’t seem to speak up a whole lot.
For the same reason I could not stomach a tour of the L. Ron Hubbard house (run by those who think of him as the “prophet”), I can’t manage to tolerate the know-it-alls in these groups, who have read all the pop books on Bigfoot, telling me what’s wrong with me. I can think of far more productive things to do such as focus on the public.
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