Focus magazine on scepticism.

Focus Magazine
August 1997

ESP Science

Hippies might be way-out. But some people will reject anything that challenges their world view.
By Robert Matthews

The nutters who shut their minds off to the paranormal

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time with scientists who do something ‘serious’ academics are never supposed to do: investigate the paranormal. As I report in this month’s issue, researchers like Professor Bob Morris and his colleagues at the Koestler Institute at Edinburgh University, are now getting some very interesting results. But I know just what both Prof Morris and I will-get within days of this issue hitting the newsstands: piles of letters from real putters.
No, I don’t mean those kaftanwearing pot-heads who think they were Bilbo Baggins in a previous life. I mean those prissy suit-wearers who will refuse even to consider the possibility that there might just might – be some things that even science cannot explain.
I got a letter from one of them the last time I wrote about ESP. Here’s what he said, or, rather, ranted:”I feel sure that the vast majority of your readers will have been appalled by your article. It is perfectly clear to me that all this crap about telepathy and ESP is fringe-science hogwash. If you do not forthwith publish a recantation of your absurd story’ I fear I shall be obliged to switch to other and more sensible journals.”
You can’t please everyone – and there’s certainly no pleasing people like this; with their kneejerk reaction to anything remotely challenging their own world view, they’re just as irrational as slackjawed hippies who gormlessly accept everything they see or hear.
Psychologists have spent a lot of time studying people who believe in the supernaturalthe assumption being that there is obviously something very ‘wrong’ with them. What I’d like to see is some research into what’s going on in the minds of people who reject anything remotely unusual as a fraud or a hoax. Sure, there’s a place for Sceptics, but with some of these types, their scepticism seems more like comfort-blanket insecurity than intellectual rigour.
Author Robert Matthews is a fellow of the RoyalAstronomical Society


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