Pop Culture & The Paranormal

Written by Matthew James Didier

I am a fan of a fiction style known widely as "Science Fiction".

I enjoy it because it mixes fantasy with reality... what "could be" or even "might be".  Most Sci-Fi writers stay up-to-date on science in one way or another and tend to use what's "upcoming" in technology to further their plot... or borrow from hypothetical theorem to allow their characters to do the impossible.  In many ways, the best "lies" are the "lies" that have a vein of truth to them, and Sci-Fi offers escapism with usually a grain or more of truth... in fact, many Sci-Fi tales are very much attempts to view a possible "future" of sorts.

This is not to say "fantasy" and "fiction" have been removed... but to further the concepts, bits of things are added from "the real world", so to speak.

That said,Sci-Fi fans have a bad reputation... because they know enough about things like quantum mechanics and upcoming technologies to be, effectively, kind of brainy and annoying to some... well, that and they tend to know more about the characters and developers of their favourite creations more than many other fans of other mainstream genres.

Lately, certain Sci-Fi blogs and sites have taken it upon themselves to also delve into things that are seemingly Sci-Fi (and horror, as the two are somewhat related on certain levels,) related, but more in the ideas of paranormal things...

They tackle things like ghosts, UFOs, and even the occasional cryptozoological topics. Even theism is tackled because of the way Sci-Fi and religion often go hand in hand... and as Arthur C. Clarke, (scientist and yes, science fiction author,) correctly pointed out in his famed third law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Granted, what's happening is the convenient removal of Clarke's first law... which is "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

This is because it seems when someone mentions things like a UFO sighting or even a "ghostly encounter", the commenters (and indeed, sometimes even the article writers,) mock the living heck out of it.

I've even seen people have a "go" at the work of Dr. Kevin Warwick and Dr. Hugh Everett as "looney".

What's amusing... and a touch disturbing... is that their very field of "entertainment" obviously somewhat embraces the possibilities of these things... but they themselves don't.

My question is, do these Sci-Fi fans see all their entertainment as comedy then?

Sadly, my answer seems to be "no".

What it seems to stem from is a hive-mentality cult of wishing to appear intellectually superior... of course, in doing so, they completely negate their understanding of science as a whole.

Effectively, in mocking what they do, they show an advance misunderstanding of Clarke's first law... and the concept of all areas of the scientific.

They neglect, as many so-called sceptics do, the concept of hypothesis.

They go directly from "Question" to "Answer" bypassing hypothesis, experimentation, and observation... and completely dismiss the idea of possibility in favour of what they feel is "probability".

They worship not knowledge, but what's dictated to them by people who seem to have an agenda of "not looking into things"... which always begs the question, "Why?"

People do experience things out of the norm... no one would ever say that isn't happening... whether your interpretation of what they experienced is one thing or another is completely subjective unless you follow proper scientific disciplines... which, indeed, are neutral... not slanted away from what doesn't jive with precious faith or belief... or non-faith and non-belief.

In arguments with those who have said things like, "So, you believe you should look into everything regardless, eh? Well, what if I told you there was a purple monster underneath your bed playing blues on a saxophone! Would you look into that then???"

I've replied, "It wouldn't hurt to listen to see if I heard the music... and to look under that bed, would it? Chances are it will be nothing, but how much better to give evidence to the claim that indeed, there's nothing there instead of scoffing at you instead?"

"Long ago, men tried to explain to other men that there were 'animals' that could not be seen with the naked eye that were likely culprits in illness and disease... and they were told by those who were seen as 'educated' that it was nonsense... until they proved it with empirical evidence... why should I or anyone making any other claim not be held to as high a standard?", I continue...

Regular readers of my missives are tired of re-reading this next bit, but it's important...

The late Carl Sagan used to have a mantra that became the group-mantra of sceptics and non-believers... "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Trouble is, he didn't coin this term... the late Marcello Truzzi did.

Truzzi was one of the founding fathers of the original CSICOP (The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal)... and Truzzi left that organization when he himself decried them as becoming "deniers not doubters".

Truzzi also wished he'd been able to travel in time and amend his comment... to simply say, "Claims require evidence."

Any claim, regardless of it's "weight" or which side of any spectrum it's on, needs to be proven empirically... or it must be caveated as simply either an untested hypothesis or a belief or faith.

Science does not say anything does or does not exist without evidence... proper evidence... evidence that is empirical, not from cherry-picked sources where auto-debunking is easy... because, indeed, science isn't easy.

A vocal few people in the Sci-Fi forums and blogs neglect this... they deny, rather than properly debunk. They mock without evidence. They don't bother to look into things... they "know" (because their "betters" know,) that it's all nonsense, so let the mocking begin!

Yup, 'tis easier to burn the heretics and continue saying that the Earth is the centre of the universe and everything revolves around us than accept the concepts of some looney and a telescopic device looking at shadows.  After all, our "betters" told us so!

Oh, you shouldn't be thinking I'm giving a free pass or carte-blanche to certain "paranormalists" either... in my opinion, their claims require evidence as well!  There is a huge difference between saying, "I saw a weird shadow moving in a room where I'm sure that no person was in." to "I saw the ghost of my grandfather walking in that room over there."  just the same way there is a marked variance between "I looked up and saw something flying which didn't look or act like any airplane I know of." to "I saw a spaceship from the planet Nebulon 6 overhead."

That said, if someone puts out a concept of what might have happened... "I think it was my grandfather." or "I'm pretty sure it was an extraterrestrial craft.", then it is up to those that say it's "true" to prove the veracity... conversely, it's up to those who feel it's "false" to prove what was experienced or happened instead.

What's neglected by so many, especially the people I've found on the Sci-Fi blogs and forums, is that most witnesses don't offer more information than what they experience... and then, on occasion, offer conjecture as to what that experience was...

...and, apparently, according to these wonderful arm-chair investigators and "scientists", the proper response to these witnesses is mock and ridicule... or, if they're lucky, simple and utter dismissal of their experiences. "It cannot be, therefore it could not have happened."

The entire scientific method of discovery cut down to "Question" and "Answer"... with no stops in between... and rarely delivered without snark and outright stupidity by those who tower in their intellectualism.

This is all because these folks "am smrtr than them other folks"...or so they'd like us to believe.

The hilarity for those of us with an IQ above the average bit of plankton is how their own entertainment... that subject that delves into the concepts of "what if..." is pretty much diametrically opposed to what they preach when confronted with a report of something that might actually be "real" instead of "fiction".

I suppose that perhaps, my old ideas of "learning" through story telling is not accurate... at least, not as long as those who revere and worship preachers of a particular faith... er, non-faith... have them drinking the Kool-Aid that in order to be brainy and clever, you must knee-jerk deny anything outside your accepted parameters of what's "known"... in essence, why advance? Why investigate? Why explore? We know everything about everything already!

They don't want to look into possibilities... best to go immediately to "probability"... at least, as probability fits into their paradigm.

Scary by true.

In that effort to seem clever, they buy into other snake-oil... one that says, "All is known! Anything outside the norm can't possibly exist!"

...this despite many excellent bits of modern evidence to suggest this tact is incorrect. (As an example, the life forms found on our planet at great ocean depths that were once considered completely uninhabitable.)

Still, the snake-oil salesmen tell them that only fools and idiots buy into "bunk" (even when the situations have not been properly debunked,) and then point out that they're "sceptical" ranks are filled to the gunnels with scientists and doctors...

Granted, the ranks of Global Climate Change deniers can also claim the same... as can the ranks of those who are actively working on and accept the idea of Global Climate Change.

Real science is neutral... and waits for empirical evidence to make a call as a rule... but the "betters" of these denizens of the forums and blogs need not the arguments... as stated, and to paraphrase Stanton Friedman, "Why investigate? It has been proclaimed!"

...and in doing this, prove that many lovers of Science Fiction are lovers of fiction... Science? Not so much.

Funnier still, aside from going against many of the tenets of their own favourite genre, they prove how little they understand things... and indeed, how easily they are led when the head of their flock drags them to their favoured philosophy.

Again, I feel like a "one trick pony" here... in the fact that this feels like a strict diatribe against strictly the non-scientist fans of supposed science... but honestly, "Claims require evidence"... and I do point out that I feel the same way about people that lock onto any philosophy, faith, or untested hypothesis as "fact"... realistically, these folks remind me very much of the stereotype male in a car who's "apparently" gotten lost in his direction... it's as if saying the words, "I don't know..." would kill him.

The idea that there's things we don't understand or may not know about is an anathema to both "true believers" and "true non-believers" alike... and neither one is usually wise enough to set aside their faith and philosophy to accept even the idea that perhaps, just maybe... they might be wrong... or, as stated above, they don't know everything.

Before parting, I would like to point out that this is not indicative of everyone who enjoys Sci-Fi... I enjoy Sci-Fi... many people I know enjoy Sci-Fi... and they don't seem to be as non-scientific and as closed minded...

...but damned if some of the more vocal lot of Sci-Fi fans on certain forums and blogs can be the most unscientific and blindered people we've come across in some time.

...because, in their opinion... which apparently is the opinion of highly intelligent folks just like them... anything is possible... only in the pages of fantasy.

Otherwise, the Sun revolves around the Earth, bad smells spread disease, and the best cure for illnesses is bleeding to allow a balancing of the humours... because that was the accepted word of science and our betters way back when... so why did we question them then... and how dare some of us question them now???

Oh, remember too... Arthur C. Clarke's second law...

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

I suppose this would never jive with, "Why investigate? It has been proclaimed!"... so Clarke's laws really should be ignored.

Enjoy the comedy, folks!