Skeptics need a good PR expert. The popular media tends not to portray them at all fairly, especially when the story is angled towards the believers — whether light-heartedly or seriously. I think there is this general public perception that skeptics want to take all the fun and mystery out of life, and just leave us with boring facts. Totally untrue and unwarranted of course, but then, public perception rarely involves the truth.
When someone like Oprah or Larry King does a show on any paranormal subject, the token skeptic is treated in a rather off-hand manner, (sometimes with barely-disguised derision) and given about one tenth the air-time that the paranormalist gets. Debunking just doesn’t make good television. Which is a shame; the truth should be made more digestible than fantasy.
A good case in point is Richard Dawkins, and his brilliant books and TV documentaries on belief in God and New Age philosophies and practice. With regard to religion, I find myself agreeing with almost everything he says — after all, most of his attacks are on fundamentalism, which is not very spiritual at all. The trouble is, he suffers from an image problem. He is not the warmest of hosts, and comes off a little too academic and, well, nerdy.
Mr Dawkins is in sharp contrast to messrs. Savage and Heinemann from the Mythbustsers (and not forgetting Tory, Grant and the delectable Kari), who are more than happy to throw their scientific hats into the paranormal or alt.lifestyle ring. They are quirky, funny and a joy to watch.
Two entirely different approaches to dispelling fantasy with facts — opposite ends of the spectrum, one might say — yet neither is really heralding any fundamental change in the public perception of applied critical thinking.
So the answer to the question in the header is very simple: skepticism is not cool because ‘what might be’ is always more interesting than ‘what is.’
And to make skepticism ‘cooler’ and therefore the more desirable option, there is a solution, that is just as simple.
“What is’ needs to adopted as the more useful, and valuable, spiritual choice. Not a logical, or even responsible choice, but a spiritual one.
How this might be attempted will be the subject of future posts.