One if by Land, Woo if by Sea

This is the teaser for my crowdfunding campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/ss29jrfk. I’d very much appreciate your support, whether that means a donation, advice, or sharing the link. Any or all of those would be appreciated! And great big thanks to TSZ and its gracious host for letting me share it here.

Do you believe in acupuncture, alien abductions, ancient aliens, chi, crop circles, entity possession, “forbidden archaeology” or “forbidden religion,” homeopathy, near-death experiences, occult Nazi super-weapons, planet x, poisoned vaccines, spiritual channeling, the new world order, or illegal immigrants from Zeta Reticuli? Do you go to bed worrying about the New World Order, the Vatican, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, NASA, the WHO, the CDC, the UN, space aliens and/or demons conspiring against you and all right-thinking people? And are you convinced that the world is ruled from the Bohemian Grove, a secret bunker under the Denver airport, Bilderberg meetings, the Council on Foreign Relations, Buckingham Palace, alien worlds or other dimensions?

Probably not. But thousands of people do believe those things, and other things stranger than you can imagine. This January, dozens of experts these fields will gather together on a cruise ship called the Ruby Princess. It’s called, honestly and cleverly enough, the Conspira-Sea Cruise. They’ll spend seven days explaining, discussing, and even demonstrating their beliefs. Some of them are fairly famous, like Andy Wakefield and Sherri Tenpenny, who will be sharing their theories on vaccines. Others are relatively obscure, like Laura Magdalene Eisenhower, great-granddaughter of the former president, who claims to have been recruited for a secret Mars colonization effort and that stargates began opening around the Earth in 2012. For a full week, conspiracy theorists, dreamers, and snake-oil salesmen of every stripe will be preaching and peddling their wares.
Cruise0
I want to be there.


WHO AM I?

My name is Colin McRoberts. I’m an attorney and a consultant in the field of negotiation and persuasion. Fringe beliefs and their believers fascinate me. And for the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the outside world relates to those beliefs. I’m writing a book, tentatively titled “The Good Fight: Engaging Irrational Ideologies.” It looks at how and why people come to believe irrational things like, well, like all the beliefs that will be represented on the Conspira-Sea Cruise. I’m also explaining how to engage with someone who believes in things like that, either to understand them better or to try to help them see why their beliefs are irrational. (Since that requires understanding them and their beliefs anyway, understanding is the critical step here.)
To better understand people who believe things I can’t believe people believe, I’ve interviewed some very interesting people for the book. I’ve also done a lot of research on the people who wouldn’t or couldn’t grant an interview. That’s been educational, but the Conspira-Sea Cruise is an unprecedented opportunity. When else will so many prominent believers in so many strange beliefs be gathered together for the explicit purpose of explaining themselves?

Epic humility.

WHAT DO I WANT?

I want to be there.

Specifically, I want to attend the lectures and workshops. I want to ask questions. I want to have those conversations. And I want to tell you about it. I’ll be writing up my experiences, both for the book and a series of posts on Violent Metaphors. (It’s not my blog, but I’ve already begun blogging  about engaging irrational ideologies constructively  and other science communication issues.)

Here’s what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to start fights. I don’t want to be disruptive. I don’t want to make it about “us vs. them.” I subscribe to the theory that people set their opinions largely by listening to what their friends, family, and peers believe. So while I think the world would be better off if fewer people believed that vaccines cause autism or that Obama is a communist homosexual Muslim infiltrator (two things that real human beings believe), I don’t think we’ll get there by abusing or mocking believers. That kind of pressure, while it can have some good effect, just encourages people to get defensive and focus on the fight, rather than being open to really considering the evidence.

In fact, getting people to change their minds about cherished opinions is fantastically hard. I don’t expect to sway many people with rational arguments, and I don’t intend to try on the cruise. No part of this will be about starting arguments or looking for the one perfect cutting comment that would make someone reconsider their faith in alien abductions. I want to understand. I want to know how people came to form their opinions, and what they think those opinions are based on. I want to know how they see the mainstream, and how they think the mainstream sees them. I want to know more about what it’s like to be a conspiracy theorist. And don’t you?

WHAT DO YOU GET?

The most common reaction I’ve seen to the cruise is curiosity. (And mockery, sure.) Plenty of people have said, “Oh, I should crowdfund this so we could hear more about what goes on there…” I’m doing it. And because I’m doing it, you’ll be getting the access you wanted. I want to share reports from the ship, and write-ups of my impressions. I take pictures reasonably well, and I’ll be taking a couple of cameras.

In other words, you’re getting—and helping provide for others—a window into some very unusual viewpoints. These are beliefs that most of us experience at arms’ length, if ever. It’s very easy to assume we know how such people think, but in my experience their beliefs are much more nuanced and personal than outsiders really understand. So if you have ever wondered how someone could believe that crystals cure cancer or that aliens built the pyramids, but don’t have any opportunity to ask a believer yourself, this is the campaign for you.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

With money! Every little bit helps. I’m likely to wind up using my own money for this cruise, I know, and that’s fine. I’d like to defray those costs as much as possible.

I’m asking for financial assistance to cover the cost of the cruise, and that’s all. Meals, excursions (some of the lectures have an additional cost), travel and lodging incurred getting to and from the port, and any other expenses are all on me. That’s because I don’t know how much those things will cost, and I’d rather not set too ambiguous a target.

As it is, the target is a bit of a guess. As I write this, the cheapest possible ticket costs USD 1,749. That’s with a randomly-assigned roommate. Ideally I’d like to have a cabin to myself, which raises the cost to USD 2,398. (Edited to remove dollar signs, which seemed to cause formatting problems.) That’s not just because I like to sleep in, but also because it would be much easier to write up the day’s events every night with some privacy. But I’m not fancy—I’d take a roommate to defray costs if necessary. And if you’re a decent roommate, and interested in coming along, let us know!

No donations will go to cover anything but the ticket price and whatever obligatory fees and taxes come with it. If we happen to raise more money than we need, the excess will be refunded or donated to Make-A-Wish International ( www.worldwish.org).

YOU SAID YOU WERE A LAWYER. WHERE’S THE FINE PRINT?

I think a few disclosures are always in order. I’ll put them in a Q&A format, because …

Because it draws the reader in and makes you seem more sympathetic? Yes. See? Disclosing things already.

Are you a shill? What evil corporation, government, alien race, or cryptohominid is paying you to do this? No, and no one. I am not receiving any money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, for this project. The only exceptions are (a) what you pledge through this page, (b) whatever ad revenue comes from posting write-ups on the blog afterwards, and (c) whatever I earn from writing a book. The donations are just to cover costs, and unfortunately I expect any earnings to be minimal. I’m doing this because I’m fascinated, because I want the experience, and because I want to share that experience with you. That means you aren’t just donating to help someone make money!

What happens if they find out you’re coming and tear up your ticket? I assume the cruise organizers and at least some of the speakers will hear about this. They probably already assume someone would do it. That’s OK! I intend to go to learn, not be disruptive, and based on my experience interviewing the sort of people who are represented on the cruise, they’ll be very receptive to that. They want to share their beliefs! And they understand that most people don’t get them. That doesn’t mean they won’t keep me from attending, but I think they will be happy to accept another paying customer.

Who will you see on the boat? The organizers list their “tentative speakers”here , and emphasize the “tentative.” Some of them, like Wakefield, are big names. Be aware they might drop out before the cruise starts.

Can I get involved? Sure! Pledge a few bucks. And also give me your thoughts and opinions, encouragement or criticism. Suggest questions, tell me stories about your experiences with these beliefs, give me advice on engaging with the believers—I’d love for you to get involved.

Can I come? Sure! Tickets are still available, obviously. And if you’re a decent roommate, maybe we could cut the cost a bit by splitting a room.

That picture at the top doesn’t look like Mexico. And that doesn’t look like a question. It’s not Mexico, it’s Alaska. And that’s a cargo ship, not a cruise ship. But I’ve never taken a picture of a cruise ship, so that’s the closest I could come. Also I wanted to show that this isn’t something I’m doing just to go on a cruise. This is work, not play, and I’m not asking you to finance a vacation.

Will there be donor awards? I’d like to provide them, I just don’t know what would be practical and valuable to people. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

January is a long way away. Can you recommend something to read to tide me over? I strongly recommend “Them: Adventures with Extremists” by Jon Ronson, the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats. He travels and talks with extremists, such as Klansmen, conspiracy theorists and Alex Jones. His style of sympathetic, honest and very constructive engagement is one of my inspirations for this project. That’s not an affiliate link, I just think everyone should read his book.

Can I follow you on Twitter? Yes you can.

Why Make-A-Wish International? Because they do great work, and because I’ve worked with them before and respect them very much. Make-A-Wish International is basically the international arm of the organization; it grants wishes to children with life-threatening conditions in dozens countries around the world. If you can’t help fund me, why not donate to them? Or hey, do both.

114 thoughts on “One if by Land, Woo if by Sea

  1. William J. Murray:
    Neil said:

    ROFL!!

    ROFL!!! No, Glen, that’s not what I said.

    No, that would be a direct claim, and you’d need to support it. You’d rather just fault people for saying that something is irrational or woo without actually showing that it is not irrational or woo, even though the evidence tips the scales toward such judgments.

    Attack, just don’t bother doing the heavy lifting needed to make sound judgments. It’s the ID/wooist way.

    Glen Davidson

  2. I would point out that one good general reason for judging the Conspira-Sea Cruise to be populated by irrational beliefs and wooists is that it’s a big tent over a lot of beliefs having varying levels of incompatibility between each other. Some might not clash with others at all, but many fit poorly together, or are incompatible in one or more ways–especially the conspiracies controlling the world. You might put a few together, like having the Illuminati in control of the Vatican which in turn controls the UN (whatever), but clearly all of the conspiracies aren’t going to be compatible in most minds.

    That’s one way you know that you’re not dealing with rational concepts coming from the evidence (or at least only a few could be). Same with ID/creationism, on the one hand IDists want to be seen as distinct from YECs and scientific to boot (no 6000 y.o. earth, for instance), and on the other they deliberately avoid criticizing YEC claims that even many of them consider to be bad science. That is not how a real scientific discipline would work, of course, even if they didn’t like antagonizing the YECs. But between the politics and the sense that they’re both opposed to how science actually operates today (they really do want to change the standards), they accommodate those whose claims they actually don’t consider to be correct.

    Glen Davidson

  3. Colin,

    Here are some freebies regarding demons and UFOs that require no funds for a cruise. Check out the comments section, especially the account of Wes Clark.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/boldly-going-where-no-man-has-gone-before-will-we-find-ets-or-are-we-alone/

    and

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/creationist-ra-herrmanns-id-theory-the-last-magic-on-steroids/

    Additionally:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/28/latoya-ammons-demon-possession_n_4681127.html

    I know the book you’re writing might appeal to certain audiences, but well, I personally think what you view as irrational has a little more traction with the people that actually experience the crap of stuff like alien abduction.

    >http://www.angelfire.com/on2/ce4/premise.html

    Then, Jordan and Clark remembered an interview they had made with an experiencer a few months before. He related an experience that made them stop and take a closer look. The experience he related would eventually blow the lid off the mystery of alien abduction phenomena. This man was able to stop his abduction cold, which, as far as they knew, had never been done before, and the way he did it is very extraordinary.

    What follows is the case of Bill D. Bill’s experience took place in Christmas, Florida in 1976. His abduction started out typically, ie., late at night, in bed. Earlier in the evening he saw some anomalous lights through his living room window over a forest north of his house. He assumed it was a police helicopter searching for drug runners or something. Whatever it was, it agitated his dogs for several hours thereafter. He eventually went to bed.

    He was lying in bed, kept wide awake by the barking dogs, when paralysis set in. He was unable to cry out. He could see nothing but a whitish gray, like a mist or fog,
    although he sensed someone or something was in his room. His Wife didn’t waken. The next thing he knew, he was being levitated above his bed. He then had the sensation he was being suspended by what felt like a pole inserted into his rectum. By this time, he was alive with terror, but he couldn’t scream.

    Here is where the story becomes very interesting. The following is an excerpt taken directly from the transcript of Mr. D.’s interview:

    “I thought I was having a Satanic experience; that the devil had gotten a hold of me and had shoved a pole up my rectum and was holding me up in the air… So helpless, I
    couldn’t do anything. I said, ‘Jesus, Jesus, help me!’ or ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!’ When I did, there was a feeling or a sound or something that either my words that I thought or the words that I had tried to say or whatever, had hurt whatever was holding me up in the air on this pole. And I felt like it was withdrawn and I fell. I hit the bed, because it was like I was thrown back in bed. I really can’t tell, but when I did, my wife woke up and asked why I was jumping on the bed.” (5)

    This man was able to stop his abduction. Until this point, Jordan and Clark had assumed Abductees were taken, willingly or not. To stop an abduction was something
    they had never heard of, and this gentleman did it by calling upon the name of Jesus. This particular case was astounding. This case seemed to involve some kind of spiritual aspect. The spiritual element of UFO/abduction phenomena was well recognized as a contributing factor by many researchers in the past, however to their knowledge, no one had ever done any specific research into the spiritual element itself. Could there be other similar cases? CE 4 began a systematic search of the UFO/abduction community, through the Internet, and the published findings of other researchers. The premise of spiritual warfare was beginning to develop.

    While CE 4 were researching the spiritual angle of abduction phenomena, Rita Elkins, a staff writer with Florida Today newspaper, began gathering material for an article entitled “Spiritual Warfare.”(6) As CE 4 Research Group was already developing a presence within the UFO/abduction community in East Central Florida, Ms. Elkins contacted Jordan and Clark, interviewing them extensively.

    The resulting article drew a large number of responses within the local area. Many of those responding gave accounts of their own experiences, happy to have someone to relate them to. Most of the respondents were Christians and the subject of spiritual warfare is not one organized religion prefers to deal with, and they didn’t feel comfortable discussing their experiences with UFO investigators due to the New Age inclination of many UFOlogists. As the number of cases mounted, the data showed that in every instance where the victim knew to invoke the name of Jesus Christ, the event stopped. Period. The evidence was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

    As John Mack at Harvard Medical school observed, it seemed people with similar stories were credible witnesses.

    http://www.ufoevidence.org/topics/JohnMack.htm

    Personally, I believe UFO phenomenon are often demonic.

    But there could be other explanations. One of my personal favorites, in terms of sheer entertainment:

    THE NAZI UFO CONNECTION!!!!

    http://www.history.com/shows/ufo-hunters/videos/ufo-hunters-nazi-ufos

  4. GlenDavidson: No, that would be a direct claim, and you’d need to support it. You’d rather just fault people for saying that something is irrational or woo without actually showing that it is not irrational or woo, even though the evidence tips the scales toward such judgments.

    No, Glen, just no. Just stop, you don’t have a clue. What I was pointing out had nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not what those people believe is “woo”, or whether or not anyone in general should characterize what they believe as “woo”.

  5. William J. Murray: No, Glen, just no. Just stop, you don’t have a clue. What I was pointing out had nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not what those people believe is “woo”, or whether or not anyone in general should characterize what they believe as “woo”.

    Says the one who regularly avoids the real issues in order to save his baseless accusations.

    Usual useless blather from William.

    Glen Davidson

  6. If you and others around you whom you trusted repeatedly had the experience of being visited and abducted by what appeared to be alien creatures in some sort of craft, would it be irrational to believe that “alien abductions” in fact occur?

    It may not be what happened – it could be a mass delusion or group hallucination, but I hardly think such a belief would be “irrational” under the circumstances. Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean an individual’s belief in it is necessarily irrational.

  7. Learned…er….Colin:

    Do you believe in…illegal immigrants from Zeta Reticuli?

    Well then, explain the the reticular activating system. Huh? Huh?

    When it activates, well, you just wait.

  8. William J. Murray: If you and others around you whom you trusted repeatedly had the experience of being visited and abducted by what appeared to be alien creatures in some sort of craft, would it be irrational to believe that “alien abductions” in fact occur?

    If it was happening to you, Captain Obvious, then of course it’s rational to believe it’s happening. It is, after all, happening.

    But me and you, we know better don’t we. We know it’s not really happening, whatever anyone says.

    But what’s *your* best guess William as to why people claim it is and seem to believe it?

    William J. Murray: It may not be what happened – it could be a mass delusion or group hallucination

    It might be. Or it might be something else. What do you think?

  9. But me and you, we know better don’t we. We know it’s not really happening, whatever anyone says.

    We don’t know. Astronaut Charles Duke, American hero, walked on the moon, became a millionare, had it all. Became a Christian after hitting rock bottom despite fame and glory and wealth. He prayed for a blind girl in the name of Jesus, within minutes she had her sight back. Coincidence? Maybe, but one can’t say it’s irrational to believe Jesus had something to do with it. You can’t tell that to the formerly blind girl or to Duke despite all the challenges James Randi and others pour out.

    As far as alien abductions, here is Harvard medical professor John Mack:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/philosophy/the-capriciousness-of-intelligent-agency-makes-it-challenging-to-call-id-science/

    Interview with John Mack
    Psychiatrist, Harvard University
    NOVA: Let’s talk about your own personal evolution from perhaps skepticism to belief …

    MACK: When I first encountered this phenomenon, or particularly even before I had actually seen the people themselves, I had very little place in my mind to take this seriously. I, like most of us, were raised to believe that if we were going to discover other intelligence, we’d do it through radio waves or through signals or something of that kind.

    Quote: I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery

    The idea that we could be reached by some other kind of being, creature, intelligence that could actually enter our world and have physical effects as well as emotional effects, was simply not part of the world view that I had been raised in. So that I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery. In other words, that I—I did everything I could to rule out other sources, or sexual abuse. Some of these people are abused. But they’re able to tell, distinguish clearly the abduction trauma from other forms of abuse. Some forms of psychosis or people making up stories—I could reject that on the basis that there was no gain in this for the vast majority of these people.

    …. I’ve now worked with over a hundred experiencers intensively. Which involves an initial two-hour or so screening interview before I do anything else. And in case after case after case, I’ve been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of feelings connected with this, the self-doubt—all the appropriate responses that these people have to their experiences.

    NOVA: So tell us, please, how literally you intend people to take this? Are you suggesting people are really being snatched from their beds by aliens and experiments on board a spaceship?

    MACK: Just how literally to take this, is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of this. And I want to walk through that as clearly as I can. There are aspects of this which I believe we are justified in taking quite literally. That is, UFOs are in fact observed, filmed on camera at the same time that people are having their abduction experiences.

    People, in fact, have been observed to be missing at the time that they are reporting their abduction experiences. They return from their experiences with cuts, ulcers on their bodies, triangular lesions, which follow the distribution of the experiences that they recover, of what was done to them in the craft by the surgical-like activity of these beings.

    All of that has a literal physical aspect and is experienced and reported with appropriate feeling, by the abductees, with or without hypnosis or a relaxation exercise.

    ….There is a—I believe, a gradation of experiences and that go from the most literal physical kinds of hurts, wounds, person removed, spacecraft that can be photographed, to experiences which are more psychological, spiritual, involve the extension of consciousness. The difficulty for our society and for our mentality is, we have a kind of either/or mentality. It’s either, literally physical; or it’s in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for—or we have lost the place for—are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world.

    So the simple answer would be: Yes, it’s both. It’s both literally, physically happening to a degree; and it’s also some kind of psychological, spiritual experience occurring and originating perhaps in another dimension. And so the phenomenon stretches us, or it asks us to stretch to open to realities that are not simply the literal physical world, but to extend to the possibility that there are other unseen realities from which our consciousness, our, if you will, learning processes over the past several hundred years have closed us off.
    ….

    I would not judge Mack to be irrational. It’s possible his data and interpretation mislead him, but being a trained psychiatrist he pointed out the victims showed no evidence the experiences were due to mental pathologies.

    And what about Walter Veith? What was in it for him to make up stories? Whatever naturalistic explanation one may come conjecture, one can’t blame Walter for believing his son was possessed, then exorcised, and then changing his mind about special creation.

    If Colin wants to search for quacks who are truly quacks, then I’m sure he can write an entertaining book to make skeptics smile. If that’s the case, he’s coming to the right venue to solicit donations.

    However, if he wants to search out those who are otherwise respected citizens, then the book won’t be so entertaining, it might even be quite disturbing, occasionally inspiring.

    FWIW, Colin, I have no problem with you writing this sort of book. It’s human nature to get some amusement from the nutty ideas others come up with. I get a kick reading the claims of evolutionary psychology.

  10. stcordova: FWIW, Colin, I have no problem with you writing this sort of book. It’s human nature to get some amusement from the nutty ideas others come up with.

    No kidding! Just look at all the anti-ID books.

  11. WJM, you’re the first to have a hostile reaction, but you make up for it with the strength of that reaction! It’s based on very unrealistic assumptions, though.

    As I said above, I’ve had these conversations already. Not everyone will react well to the idea, but to date no one has been offended. People with way-out-there ideas know how they’re seen by the outside world. Even if they don’t like being seen as irrational or woo-ish, it’s no surprise to them that it’s how they’re seen. They enjoy getting into discussions of their ideas. “Non-confrontational” means listening, seriously and respectfully, as they explain why you’re wrong to think they’re irrational–not pretending you don’t think they’re irrational.

    You suggested that I look for “neutral alternatives” to “irrational” or “woo.” Great! What are they? “Out of the mainstream” is the best I’ve been able to come up with. The problem with such terminology is that it is, and sounds like, an evasion. People willing to get into a conversation about their ideas already know how they sound, and are capable of predicting what you think of them. Being wish-washy about it doesn’t help. It comes across as deceitful and disrespectful. My professional expertise is in negotiation; I see this all the time. It’s far better to be open and honest about your own opinions; pretending to some kind of impossible neutrality is far more offensive than simply being honest about what you think about their beliefs.

    That would be a problem if what I thought was, “You’re crazy!” But I don’t. I think it’s very common for bright, sane people to adopt irrational beliefs, and as I discussed above, it’s a pretty subjective determination. I try to make it as objective as possible by focusing on people who make predictions that don’t come true, or claim abilities they can’t demonstrate. They never agree with me, but they’re willing to talk about why we disagree about the empirical question. (For example, the sovereigntist I mentioned above thinks he has a killer argument that will get him out of trouble with the IRS. I think he’s wrong because that argument has never worked in court. He thinks I’m wrong because he’s not in jail. I think that’s wrong because it only means the IRS hasn’t got around to him yet. He thinks they have because they sent him a letter years ago. Etc. etc. ad infinitum.)

    That kind of open, frank discussion is much more effective in (a) understanding people, (b) building relationships, and (c) persuading people to change their mind. Not least because (c) depends on (a) and (b). Consider Jess Ainscough, a moderately famous victim of the Gerson Protocol. She had an exotic cancer of the arm, which doctors suggested amputating. She refused, and instead gave her parents’ life savings to the Gerson Institute, which told her she could beat cancer with vegetable juices and coffee enemas. Her cancer killed her.

    A friend or family member trying to persuade her that the Gerson Institute was lying to her would have a hard time doing it by pretending to be neutral. I understand why that sounds like a good idea, but people who adopt these beliefs are not stupid. I see negotiators try this all the time, and it almost always fails. Pretending to have a neutral, unbiased perspective is lying, and most people aren’t very good liars in the long term (and most persuasion happens in the long term). Someone trying to save Ms. Ainscough’s life would have been far better off telling her what they thought (that her ideas were wrong) and what they wanted (to change her mind). The goal is to understand where the irrational ideas come from and what they mean to the believer, and to build a relationship with them. It’s very hard to bring yourself around to agreeing with someone who you don’t respect, or who you think doesn’t respect you. Saying that someone is “irrational” or believes in “woo” isn’t necessarily detrimental to that relationship. Treating them like a child is.

    In other words, you can say “I think your ideas are irrational” and still have a long, fruitful conversation about those ideas. No one’s going to change their mind about them right away, but by building a good relationship and exploring what those ideas mean to them and where they come from, you’re building a base that might help them change their own minds later on. What you can’t do is say, “I don’t have an opinion, I just want to learn,” or some such artificially neutral pablum. No one should, or will, buy it. Honesty is always the best approach.

    Which makes me wonder why you keep saying this approach is “duplicitous.” What’s the duplicity? Or are you just cranky?

  12. OMagain said:

    But me and you, we know better don’t we. We know it’s not really happening, whatever anyone says.

    I certainly don’t know “better”. On the contrary, I’m actually pretty sure it is going on based on my personal experiences and the personal experiences of my wife and friends.

  13. William J. Murray: I’m actually pretty sure it is going on based on my personal experiences

    I suppose the thing I don’t understand (top of the list!) is the qualifier. You are “pretty” sure? If such was happening to me I’d be sure one way or the other it seems to me. For instance, I’m as sure as I can be that it’s not currently happening to me. That’s much more then “pretty sure”.

    How are you not sure if you are being abducted by aliens? In what sense do you feel like it might be happening but might not?

  14. Colin said:

    You’re the first to have a hostile reaction, but you make up for it with the strength of that reaction! It’s based on very unrealistic assumptions, though.

    It’s not based on any assumptions, It’s based on what you yourself have written.

    You suggested that I look for “neutral alternatives” to “irrational” or “woo.” Great! What are they? “Out of the mainstream” is the best I’ve been able to come up with.

    Radical beliefs. Ridiculed beliefs. Bizarre beliefs. Strange beliefs. And those are just off the top of my head.. None of those terms carries with it the implication that the belief is false or logically incompatible with that person’s own experience and knowledge like “woo” or “irrational”.

    Perhaps you’re just a bad writer, so bad that you don’t comprehend the implications of calling someone’s beliefs “irrational” and “woo”.

    Consider Jess Ainscough, a moderately famous victim of the Gerson Protocol. She had an exotic cancer of the arm, which doctors suggested amputating. She refused, and instead gave her parents’ life savings to the Gerson Institute, which told her she could beat cancer with vegetable juices and coffee enemas. Her cancer killed her.

    Or, consider my wife. Diagnosed many years ago wtih terminal cancer and advised to get Chemo treatments so she could extend her life by about 5 years or so (back when chemo treatments were about as likely to kill you as the cancer). Instead, she goes to a faith healer she knew. The tests that came back after that visit all showed she was completely free of cancer and stayed that way for 25 years. That’s not the only faith healing I’ve seen occur.

    Sure, it could be coincidental. I could be delusional. Faith healing doesn’t always work and I have no idea what is actually going on. It could be a massive placebo effect. I don’t believe in that god. I was an atheist/materialist at the time. But it would be irrational of me to insist it was something else and that I hallucinated what I have seen and experienced.

    In other words, you can say “I think your ideas are irrational” and still have a long, fruitful conversation about those ideas.

    If you say that to me before you even know how I came to a belief, you wouldn’t have a long or fruitful conversation about my beliefs because (1) there’s just no way you could know if my belief was irrational until you knew the particulars, and so (2) I would conclude you are already biased against the views I have, and so (3) like hell I want my views and beliefs being represented by someone like you in some book you’re writing.

    Saying that someone is “irrational” or believes in “woo” isn’t necessarily detrimental to that relationship.

    Bullshit. But, it’s not my problem.

    Treating them like a child is.

    You can treat people with radical beliefs with respect by not presupposing that what they believe is “woo”, and by not presupposing that their belief is “irrational”. If you can’t come up with alternative, respectful terminology that doesn’t carry the dismissive baggage (whether you’re using the term that way or not), then you’re a pitiful writer.

  15. William J. Murray: You can treat people with radical beliefs with respect by not presupposing that what they believe is “woo”, and by not presupposing that their belief is “irrational”.

    Not likely.

  16. OMagain said:

    How are you not sure if you are being abducted by aliens? In what sense do you feel like it might be happening but might not?

    I haven’t been personally abducted as far as I know/remember. I have physically encountered one of those “greys” in my house. My wife had multiple experiences with all the characteristics of abduction, as did her son. At one point she was in the early stages of pregnancy when the fetus disappeared overnight from her womb after she had a nightmare about little creatures with clown faces coming out of a closet and taking her away. There’s also considerable more personal evidence, but that’s the main stuff.

    So yeah, I’m pretty sure abductions occur, even though I’ve never actually seen or experienced it firsthand that I’m aware of. In my philosophy, the only things I say I know as facts are those things I directly experience first-hand. For example, I know those “greys” are real, whatever they are. I just don’t know what they are.

  17. William J. Murray: But it would be irrational of me to insist it was something else and that I hallucinated what I have seen and experienced.

    But what did you actually experience? You went some places, people said some words and ! no cancer.

    You neither “saw” nor “experienced” any cure, even if such happened there and then. You would have to be there with a PET scanner in real time to even get close. Here’s the cancer before the healing started. Here it is during the healing – look at it shrink, and here it is after, gone!

    It’s a card trick is all. I saw someone on T.V who could say without hesitation what card you had just taken. But he had just said the same card until he got the “right” answer. They only showed the video when he got the right answer!

    Your “faith healer” friend only needs one “hit” and you’ll spread the word forevermore. The dead are not around to dispute his powers….

    William J. Murray: Faith healing doesn’t always work and I have no idea what is actually going on.

    It never works. This is easily demonstrable. Take two similar hospitals. Allow one to have faith healers tour the wards. Another not. Will there be any statistically significant difference in remission rates?

    If faith healers healed we’d all be visiting them. They don’t. We don’t. Only the desperate and/or gullible do. And you are directly supporting those charlatans by spreading your miracle faith healing tale (as I’m quite sure you repeat it in other venues) and causing others to have false hope, hope that is dashed at precisely the inverse rate of remission….

  18. petrushka: Not likely.

    Well, I agree that it’s not likely that Colin can, or that you and most others here can, but I meant people who are capable of actual humility and reasonable skepticism.

  19. Now come on, Colin, be as nice and neutral as William Murray is:

    And that’s the problem; a lot of us don’t realize we’re in a war, a war where reason, truth, religion and spirituality is under direct assault by the post-modern equivalent of barbarians. They, for the most part, have no compunction about lying, misleading, dissembling, attacking, blacklisting, ridiculing, bullying and marginalizing; more than that, they have no problem using every resource at their means, legal or not, polite or not, reasonable or not, to destroy theism, and in particular Christianity (as wells as conservative/libertarian values in general). They have infiltrated the media, academia and the entertainment industry and use their influence to generate narratives with complete disregard for the truth, and entirely ignore even the most egregious barbarism against those holding beliefs they disagree with.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/can-we-afford-to-be-charitable-to-darwinists/

    See, just accuse them of dishonesty and unrelenting efforts to destroy theism (or whatever you presume is being illegitimately attacked). You don’t need evidence, you just need bile and a whole lot of baseless accusations.

    Can you imagine how much better at negotiations you’d be if you used William’s approach?

    (Shorter, do these people ever have small moments of self-knowledge, or is that too much to hope?)

    Glen Davidson

  20. William J. Murray: Well, I agree that it’s not likely that Colin can, or that you and most others here can, but I meant people who are capable of actual humility and reasonable skepticism.

    I think it’s consistent with skepticism to think you are a crank and a loon.

    In fact, jesus has revealed this to me in a way that makes it impossible for me to doubt.

    So be consistent. Respect my revealed knowledge.

  21. William J. Murray: all the characteristics of abduction

    That seems like a strange phrase to use. I can’t find anything specific on that, what are these “characteristics of abduction”?

    I can see stuff like this with symptoms: http://evelorgen.com/wp/articles/medical-and-scientific-aspects-of-alien-abduction/common-symptoms-of-abduction-chart/

    Abrupt change in sexual
    status ( i.e., hypersexual, no sex drive or change in sexual orientation

    But surely the main charestic of abduction is actually being abducted? And you don’t need a phrase like “characteristics of abduction” to describe that. You just say “I was kidnapped”. Or am I missing something here…

  22. Omagain said:

    You neither “saw” nor “experienced” any cure, even if such happened there and then.

    To be fair, I also don’t see medicine curing any illnesses. What I experience is the sequence of (1) diagnosis, (2) introduction of a supposedly intervening, curative element, and (3) cure. For all I know, it’s all the placebo effect.

    As I said, It could have been a coincidence that in the 2 week span between test results she (1) had a complete remission of all traces of cancer that had spread throughout her body, and (2) just happened to have gotten a faith healing in that same period. Or, I could be delusional.

    But, based on that experience and other faith-healing experiences I’ve had, my perspective is that sometimes it appears to work, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know what is going on, and I’ve developed some theories on it that I have used for the apparent benefit of myself and my family.

  23. William J. Murray: As I said, It could have been a coincidence that in the 2 week span between test results she (1) had a complete remission of all traces of cancer that had spread throughout her body, and (2) just happened to have gotten a faith healing in that same period. Or, I could be delusional.

    There are lots of possibilities based on your description of the sequence.

    Let’s see if you are capable of listing a few other options. You’ve had 25 years to think about it. What other possibilities are there?

  24. William J. Murray: You can treat people with radical beliefs with respect by not presupposing that what they believe is “woo”, and by not presupposing that their belief is “irrational”.

    I treating them with respect, by recognizing that they have a right to be irrational and out of touch with reality.

  25. OMagain said:

    That seems like a strange phrase to use. I can’t find anything specific on that, what are these “characteristics of abduction”?

    Specific kinds of nightmares, unexplained new scars appearing overnight, lost time, etc. But, you really don’t care about it.

    Or am I missing something here…

    The capacity to admit that there might be more going on in the universe than that which fits nice and neat into the evolved-by-happenstance brain of a tiny, insignificant little primate on some insignificant planet in the middle of nowhere?

    You guys are awful sure of yourselves, given that you believe your minds are happenstance agglomerations of chemical interactions strained through the filter not of logic or truth, but rather survival and reproduction.

  26. Neil Rickert: I treating them with respect, by recognizing that they have a right to be irrational and out of touch with reality.

    I do not wish to interfere with the right to believe nonsense, but I withhold respect.

  27. William J. Murray: As I said, It could have been a coincidence that in the 2 week span between test results she (1) had a complete remission of all traces of cancer that had spread throughout her body, and (2) just happened to have gotten a faith healing in that same period.

    You don’t go around telling people that your wife had a remission by coincidence though, do you? You tell them the faith healing story, right? With the emphasis on the “healing”.

    William J. Murray: Or, I could be delusional.

    Delusional about what? That it happened? In your belief that it was this faith healer?

  28. OMagain: Delusional about what? That it happened? In your belief that it was this faith healer?

    I would say superstitious rather than delusional.

    Superstition is generalizing from anecdote.

  29. The really great thing, William, is that you have personally (or second hand) experienced the whole panoply of woo. Faith healing, extraterrestrials, spoon bending, and more.

    I lead a deprived life. In seventy years, with hundreds of aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, I have missed all of this.

    It must run in families.

  30. William J. Murray: Specific kinds of nightmares, unexplained new scars appearing overnight, lost time, etc. But, you really don’t care about it.

    I’m always interested in hearing it first hand from a true believer.

    William J. Murray: The capacity to admit that there might be more going on in the universe than that which fits nice and neat into the evolved-by-happenstance brain of a tiny, insignificant little primate on some insignificant planet in the middle of nowhere?

    Oh, I have that. The trouble is you don’t have anything on sale that a insignificant little primate on some insignificant planet in the middle of nowhere could not have thought up.

    William J. Murray: You guys are awful sure of yourselves, given that you believe your minds are happenstance agglomerations of chemical interactions strained through the filter not of logic or truth, but rather survival and reproduction.

    Awfully sure of ourselves about what, precisely?

    Have I said what is and is not possible in the universe? No.
    Have I said that aliens don’t exist? No.
    Have I said that it’s impossible alien abductions have/are happening? No.
    Have I said that I am the arbiter of what can and cannot be? No.

    Just because I don’t nod my head and agree with you that your wife is being abducted by aliens does not automatically mean you get to assume that I don’t have any capacity to think there may be more going on in the universe, that we don’t know everything and that probably there is more left to discover than what we already know. How do you join those dots? You make some leaps. But then again, you would not be the person you are without making those leaps of illogic.

    So, yes, keep an open mind. Ever consider why reports of UFO abductions seem to map precisely to getting t.v.?

    William J. Murray: You guys are awful sure of yourselves, given that you believe your minds are happenstance agglomerations of chemical interactions strained through the filter not of logic or truth, but rather survival and reproduction.

    And what’s yours then? Who or what “created” your mind William?

    And by the way, those “unexpected absences”, those “strange red rashes” and similar your wife reports? She’s having an affair, dumbass. She knows how gullible you are and plays on it. That’s a far more logical explanation then aliens have traveled across the universe to stick probes up her. Fool.

  31. petrushka said:

    It must run in families.

    I think it does actually run in groups, often families. I think there are reasons for that.

    But, that would just be more woo to you. 🙂

  32. William J. Murray:
    petrushka said:
    I think it does actually run in groups, often families. I think there are reasons for that.
    But, that would just be more wooto you.

    I was thinking more of a cultural phenomenon. I see no reason to disparage your intelligence. As far as I can tell, everyone posting here has high intelligence.

  33. William J. Murray: But, that would just be more woo to you.

    If you are going to talk about it, talk about it. It’s all woo from the start to end, so don’t let that matter.

    So, why do you think this runs in families? Mental illness can run in families, are you saying it’s a similar sort of mental change that can be passed on genetically, a cognitive enhancement of some sort that lets you perceive things that others cannot (i.e. these aliens?)?

    Are families of such people aware of other families that also have it? Do you intermarry?

  34. Woodbine,

    alien abductions jesus christ

    I saw demonic possession mentioned in a thread here in all seriousness over the weekend.

    I’m hoping for chemtrails soon. What’s on your Bingwoo card?

  35. Blackstrap molasses cures.

    Also, I understand there will be an epic battle between Nessie and the biggest yeti during the next solar eclipse.

  36. Radical beliefs. Ridiculed beliefs. Bizarre beliefs. Strange beliefs. And those are just off the top of my head.. None of those terms carries with it the implication that the belief is false or logically incompatible with that person’s own experience and knowledge like “woo” or “irrational”.

    I think they absolutely carry the implication, “I don’t believe what you do,” and even, “You’re wrong to believe what you do.” Why would a true belief be “bizarre”? What else do you mean when you say it’s “bizarre” for someone to believe something, if not that you think the belief is unjustified? And if you ask to talk to someone about their “strange beliefs,” you think they don’t understand that you disapprove of those beliefs? Again, these people are not stupid. The most offensive thing you can do is treat them that way.

    Perhaps you’re just a bad writer, so bad that you don’t comprehend the implications of calling someone’s beliefs “irrational” and “woo”.

    Anything is possible… but if you’re suggesting replacing “irrational” with “bizarre,” then I think you aren’t making any progress towards finding a better term.

    Or, consider my wife. . . . That’s not the only faith healing I’ve seen occur.

    I’m glad your wife recovered!

    But it would be irrational of me to insist it was something else and that I hallucinated what I have seen and experienced.

    No one ever thinks their own beliefs are irrational. (Well, very rarely; I’ve documented just a few exceptions.) What’s irrational would be to say “this was a faith healing,” in the absence of actual evidence of a causal connection (and the presence of evidence of remissions in other contexts). You don’t have enough data to form a solid, rational conclusion, do you? You know the difference between correlation and causation.

    If you say that to me before you even know how I came to a belief, you wouldn’t have a long or fruitful conversation about my beliefs.

    Would you prefer that I call your beliefs “bizarre,” as you suggested? I’d be surprised. And as I said above, is it such a stretch to say your beliefs aren’t founded in logic? You don’t seem too confident yourself that what you experienced was a miraculous event, so “it was a faith healing,” if that was your belief, hardly seems like a rational conclusion. (“I don’t know what happened” seems neither irrational nor bizarre to me; same with “I’m open to the possibility of it being a faith healing.”)

    Also, would you say that you’re more or less cantankerous than the average person? You certainly exploded much faster, with much less basis in fact, than anyone who’s ever heard about this project—ever. Including people who know they’re being written up.

    If you can’t come up with alternative, respectful terminology that doesn’t carry the dismissive baggage (whether you’re using the term that way or not), then you’re a pitiful writer.

    I think my term works quite well, in principle and in actual, factual practice. And frankly, I doubt there’s much any person could do to challenge your beliefs (whatever they happen to be) without provoking your ire.

    In the meanwhile, if my experience is a valid sampling, I can expect very many pleasant, non-confrontational conversations in which both parties agree only that the other person is completely wrong, and irrational, without getting all het up about it. And I can probably expect a few people who will get worked up… but no one’s making them talk to me. I train people in de-escalating emotional confrontations, and I’ve had an awful lot of experience with it. I don’t anticipate any particular difficulties. If I encounter any, I’ll learn from them and incorporate them in the project—including if the organizers rip up my ticket.

    Thank you for your thoughts. I hope you’ll stay tuned for the write up of the conference. In the meantime, I sincerely hope you and your wife remain well and untroubled by alien and/or demonic visitors.

  37. GlenDavidson,

    Wow, that’s quite a rant.

    And that’s the problem; a lot of us don’t realize we’re in a war, a war where reason, truth, religion and spirituality is under direct assault by the post-modern equivalent of barbarians.

    You know, of the people I’ve talked to, even the ones who think we’ve literally been attacked (by the CIA flying remote-control bombs into the twin towers, globalists putting poison in the vaccines, whoever leaving chemtrails all over the place, etc.) very few feel like they’re in a “war.” They use the language, but they don’t behave as if it’s true. They treat their beliefs like a hobby, never staking much on them.

    There’s a couple of interesting explanations for this. One is the “rational irrationality” theory I mentioned above. Basically, irrationality is a good like any other, and people consume as much as they can afford. Talking like you’re in a war is cheap, and fun. Acting like you’re in a war is much more expensive, in terms of relationships and the respect of the outside world if nothing else, so fewer people do it. Those that do have an incommensurate taste for irrationality, and/or whatever benefits it brings them.

    The other, which is not incompatible, is the expressive irrationality theory. Talking about conflict this way is an identity badge like any other. It helps create and cement communities in a way people find helpful; to extend a metaphor I was using a while back, it’s a very aggressive and powerful way of building walls. We are under attack by them, and we are the people who value reason, truth, religion, and spirituality while they are barbarians.

    Obviously my project can have the same effect; trying to minimize it is important to me. To whit, it’s important to remember that people with irrational ideas tend to value rationality just as much as anyone else—they often simply have different goals. Identifying with a creationist peer/family group is more important than reaching the most probably true beliefs about origins, and being a creationist is a rational means of accomplishing that. You can articulate the belief in terms of expressive irrationality, and draw a price/demand curve in terms of rational irrationality.

    Having conversations like this one helps, too. I don’t think WJM is going to accept that my approach is acceptable, but it’s helpful to learn why. (Saying that it would be better to call people’s beliefs “bizarre” rather than “irrational” doesn’t give me very good advice, but it tells me a lot about where the criticism is coming from.) And I really appreciate your putting into greater context. It’s helpful to remember that WJM is an outlier in a lot of ways: more devoted to a war he sees himself waging, and less devoted to concepts like truth. (Which, onlookers who haven’t encountered WJM before, is not to say he’s a liar. If I recall right, he explicitly doesn’t care whether his ideas are true or not. But don’t call them irrational!)

    Can you imagine how much better at negotiations you’d be if you used William’s approach?

    I’ve seen it. I teach people how to deal with it (basically, flag the problem and move on). It doesn’t work if your goal is to get a good, value-additive deal done. It does work if your goal is to beat the other party. If you can live with making the other guy walk away, or play the same game by treating you disrespectfully, that feels like a win to a lot of people. That creates an incentive to destroy the conversation; I think it’s what motivates some of Barry Arrington’s antics. It’s tough to deal with in real-life negotiations! But it also tends not to last long in an environment where actual progress is valued and rewarded over stagnation or pointless conflict.

  38. Thanks. It looks like the user claims to be pro-vax but opposed to mandatory vaccinations–is that about right? It’s an interesting approach, and while I support SB277 that kind of opposition actually doesn’t fit my definition of “irrational.” (Because the opposition is based on a principle, rather than an unsupported factual belief.)

    That raises the question of whether the poster is actually pro-vax or just staking out a moderate position. But I prefer not to question stated positions unless absolutely necessary–too complicated, too divisive, and too often wrong.

    I’m going off of a skim of the comments, though. Think I’ve misread them, or missed something?

  39. OMagain: Have I said what is and is not possible in the universe? No.
    Have I said that aliens don’t exist? No.
    Have I said that it’s impossible alien abductions have/are happening? No.
    Have I said that I am the arbiter of what can and cannot be? No.

    Well there you go. You must believe in Intelligent Design then.

  40. Patrick: I saw demonic possession mentioned in a thread here in all seriousness over the weekend.

    I can see why you’d want to avoid that topic.

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