Practical skepticism on “experience makes it real for me”

It takes me quite a bit of time to write a long post. First, I have to think about it, then I have to figure out what I want to say and then say it and then make sure I’ve said it so people can understand. Commenters, on the other hand, react and write their opinions often in a slapdash manner. They expect me to post them even if they make no sense. I often don’t. That’s my choice, to frame the discussion a certain way. I get that you don’t agree. The Internet has made it appear that everyone has an equal voice in every matter. That’s untrue. I’ve done considerable and careful research on most of the things I write about. But to some, their own personal experience trumps all that. Nope. And here’s why.

A VERY common comment I get when I criticize claims of the paranormal is this one: You’ve obviously NEVER experienced this. If you did, you’d change your mind.

Here is a real example that “Kenedi” submitted on my “Demon House” article from Doubtful News:

Just BC u haven’t experienced it doesn’t mean it isn’t real, I don’t fully believe in all the things that happen on ghost adventures but I don’t believe its all fak . I respect your opinion so you should kindly respect others

I’d counter that it’s not respectful to spell like that in a response. But, thank you for respecting my opinion – which is that Ghost Adventures and this whole “demon house” story is ridiculous. It was nice of you to say that which leads me to think she[?] actually read it. She was responding to my comment that said this was not just my opinion but that it reflected the consensus opinion of the scientific community. I do respect well-reasoned opinions that may differ from my own. That’s how we learn.

“Kenedi” says that you do not have to experience something to accept that it’s real. True. I have never experienced night terrors, for example. But I do not doubt they are awful though I think they can be explained by sleep paralysis.

My-Ghost-Story-Paranormal-Experience-Or-Sleep-Paralysis

My position is that this demon story as presented in the media is fatally flawed, and what Zak does on his TV show or documentaries about ghosts or demons is not an investigation, it’s entertainment. It has nothing to do with experience. There is no good reason for me to accept this demon house claim as real. In my last post, I answered “Lori’s” opinion that I was too closed-minded to experience anything. I described how it would be almost impossible for me to consider anything I experience as paranormal because, if you consider the definition of paranormal as something that appears to be outside normal, calling something paranormal is a cop-out conclusion. Instead, I would keep searching for a down-to-earth explanation even if all I could come up with was “I don’t know”. I would have readily gone into the “demon house” to investigate but my experience there would still not justify the conclusion that the story is flawed. “Kenedi” missed my point as well as strawmanning by making it out to be what it’s not in order to punch it down. I’m guessing “Kenedi” might be pretty young, so hopefully with age comes some additional wisdom in critically thinking about information you accept. And, I hope she comes to the realization that ghost shows like this are entirely fake, at least in the premise they sell to the viewers.

When I get this “experience” excuse, it falls flat. This ploy often comes up from people who insist that some treatment works if I’d only try it. But that is ALSO bogus since my experience is not indicative of whether it really works. It could be just chance that it seems to work. That’s why we use clinical trials, not “provings,” to judge whether it really works or not.

Nove Jobe (NJ) also made a point on experience:

My point is: do not judge when you yourself do not hold all the answers or experiences. This was a discussion, ideas and thoughts. No one wants to be in a conversation with only one person, with a single point of view is dominating the conversion. Yes this is your blog, if you do not others to reply remove that option.

It is entirely appropriate to judge a claim as to whether it is reasonable or not, especially as I can provide my arguments. Since no one knows everything, I can turn this argument right back around on the commenter, so it’s pointless.

It is annoying that some people accept everyone’s opinion as equally valid, because it’s not. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.  I already went over that. They don’t like my opinion, I’d bet, because it conflicts with theirs and cognitive dissonance has kicked in. They want room for their own views which usually go unsupported. I never stated I knew all the answers, but I apply a more objective method than personal experience. NJ also didn’t like that I deleted one of his comments that was not pertinent to the discussion. My blog is not a forum, it’s my website, I get to frame the discussion and not have it turn into a crapfest. I welcome comments that contribute to the discussion, but reject ones that derail it. His comment above about “a conversation with only one person” doesn’t make sense but he probably means that he feels I am controlling the point of view. I’m not sure what people expect, this isn’t an open forum. NJ had provided some gobbledegook about supernatural stuff (see last post about dybbuk boxes and Indians) and then moved on to my personal religious beliefs that had no relation to the topic. Deleted. Sorry.

I don’t feel great in using these commenters as examples but they epitomize the usual responses that I (and others who write emphasizing critical thinking) get on every post. People disagree but they don’t robustly defend why they disagree. Appealing to your own experience is weak.

We are not taught how to be critical about ideas in a useful way. That’s too bad. The current political discussion in the US certainly shows that we totally fail as a population in critical thinking skills. Relying on flawed ways of “knowing” is dangerous.

Practical skepticism on being “closed minded”
Practical skepticism on “science doesn’t know everything”

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news. Doubtfulnews.com SpookyGeology.com

0 thoughts on “Practical skepticism on “experience makes it real for me”

  1. Yes, personal experience may affect the person who had the experience but one can’t always trust one’s senses – unless we accept that everyone’s uncle who could pull a quarter out from behind someone’s ear really had magic powers.

  2. I can sympathize with your feelings of frustration when dealing with some of the responses to your comments. I’ve had personal experiences with these situations myself. Back in the dawn of the Internet I was with an organization that dabbled in research into the more extraordinary things that pop up: UFOs, the ‘alien autopsy’ video that popped up around that time, people ‘channeling’ aliens or spirits, underwater pyramids… In all of the cases we looked into we never found a single one that was not either an outright fraud, mistaken impressions by witnesses, etc.

    But one thing was almost always the same no matter what we looked at, and that was the inability of the ‘true believers’ as we came to call them, to admit that they’d been mistaken, made an error, didn’t understand what they’d witnessed… Even when confronted with hard evidence they refused to alter their beliefs. In the case of one fellow who believed a crop circle was created by aliens, we had photos of it being made, we had statements from people who were there, we had the people who actually made it. Didn’t matter. We were wrong, the witnesses were lying, the photos were faked… It was amazing the extent to which they would go to try to protect their beliefs, even in the face of irrefutable evidence.

    We constantly encountered the “but you weren’t there” argument, the accusations of us being frauds, conspiracy theories, that we were linked to government agencies trying to squash “The Truth”…

    I’ve always been interested in how people can rationalize their beliefs even in the face of irrefutable evidence. We ran some informal experiments back in the 1970s exploring that back in college in the 1970s and it was an eye opening experience. I should probably write that all up if I ever get the time.

    Thanks for your attempts to bring some rationality to the internet. It is very much appreciated.

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