The Larger Picture of Skeptics and Debunkers
Ingo Swann (20 Jan 96)
A more expansive treatment of this topic will be rendered in a forthcoming mini-essay entitled "Remote Viewing and Skeptics of the Twentieth Century."
It should be stated that this topic is fairly complex. It involves much more than the very tiny minority who opine that our sentient species does not possess superpowers of bio-mind --- such as intuition, telepathy, remote viewing and various forms of creativity and "higher-mind" functioning.
Earlier psychical researchers and parapsychologists have sometimes inadequately addressed this topic in brief papers. But no lengthy examination has ever appeared.
During the mid-1970s, however, one of the agencies of the intelligence community requested a lengthy examination. I was involved with a number of professional consultants in its preparation and the report was duly produced under the working title "Social Resistance to Psi."
Three of the major observations of the report established the following:
(1) Since doubt is considered a legitimate function within intellectual processes, the role of those who doubt is given more legitimacy than those who do not doubt. Were this not so then the meaning of doubt would become vague.
(2) When doubt is superimposed on direct human experiencing, then the doubt assumes a priority because of its perceived legitimacy. The superimposition then results in a subtle shift of focus away from examining the direct human experiencing and reinstalls the focus within the contexts of the various intellectualisms that have become involved.
(3) The history of intellectualisms demonstrates (a) that they have relatively short terms of social fashionability, and (b) that they tend to be elitist in nature because the larger populations either do not, or cannot, share in them.
Combining these three observations results in a fourth: that doubt is relative to social enclaves and is thus only transitory against larger issues that remain permanent within the direct experiential thresholds of our species.
Reducing these four observations to a possibly crude level, skeptics and debunkers come and go --- but the experiencing thresholds of the species remain the same. The experiencing thresholds are therefore perpetual. Skepticism that advocates doubt regarding something perpetual is relevant only to the transitory intellectual boundaries within which it has arisen.
As an apt illustration of the above, Albert Einstein introduced his special theory of relativity in 1905 while he was still a student and working in the patent office in Switzerland. The skeptical responses regarding the theory, and him as a scientist and man, were not only noisy but exceedingly voluminous.
By 1925, historians appraised that the Einstein "debate" had accumulated the largest printed paper volume ever.
When the special theory was proven correct between 1927 and 1929, it was shown that relativity was perpetual --- naturally existing and true. The skeptical and debunking responses were shown as transitory, however ardent and voluminous they had been. None of the names of Einstein's skeptics are remembered. And this is the ignominious fate of most skeptics --- because the times and tides of discovery march on and forget they existed.
Some of you who chance to read this may wish to consider the existence of our species superpowers of bio-mind merely as theoretical. Fair enough.
But an equally fair appraisal shows that the superpowers in different formats have manifested throughout our species from time immemorial, regardless of culture.
What has differed is how they have been intellectually and socially treated and dealt with in terms of tolerance and intolerance, in terms of acceptance or rejection. As will be discussed in a later paper, the intolerance and rejection has ranged along a spectrum from genocide, extermination, and anti-psychic mind-programming to lesser forms of alienation such as media ridicule and Machiavellian debunking.
The sciences and academe of the modern West have never moved full-force behind researching the superpowers. It has even been stated in the past, especially by many noted scientists, that the superpowers are not worthy of scientific interest.
So when modern skeptics protest, it is not really possible to isolate and identify what they are protesting about. That our species does possess superpowers of bio-mind can't really be doubted. Even if only temporarily so, such superpowers often appear in naive children for goodness' sake, and often spontaneously appear and disappear in so-called "normal" adults.
The actual issue, then, is the real extent of human sentiency, the actually existing rudiment faculties of the superpowers within our genetic species.
If this is accepted as the virtual reality issue, then skepticism and debunking regarding it become sub-issues attached not to the virtual reality itself, but to varieties of antagonistic hearsay that infect many intellectualisms. It is this antagonistic hearsay which accounts for social resistance to our species' superpowers of bio-mind.
Western skepticism of the modern period thus utilizes hearsay before the facts of investigation and research. For example, "there must be some other normal explanation." And this falls more within the range of emotional sentiments than logic and reason based upon discovered fact.
I am also led to understand that this topic is of some interest in the new discipline of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) which examines the treatment and engineering of knowledge by social enclaves within science and the social sub-set enclaves appended to it as is the case with skeptics and debunkers.
What will serve as an objective and legitimate access point into this complex topic is difficult to determine. In the first instance, though, it appears that there are confusions regarding basic terminology.
The term "skeptic" is taken from a Greek word meaning "thoughtful; to look, to consider in the context of having a mind open enough to do so."
"Skepticism" is defined as the method of suspending judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism until something can be decided upon based upon identifiable facts. Any area which is neither proven nor disproved falls into this category.
In their accepted academic sense, these definitions prevailed until about 1890, at least in philosophy and science, and are still given in most dictionaries.
During the early twentieth century, however, both terms in popular usage took on meanings having to do with opposition to something. The contexts of having an open mind and suspending judgement until facts are ascertained were therefore abrogated in popular usage.
A "skeptic" and his or her "skepticism" were thereafter assumed to mean "opposed" or "opposition." The phrase "I am a skeptic" was then taken to mean "I don't believe it exists, or is true, or is possible."
The verb "debunk" means "to expose the sham of falseness of something." Debunking is therefore a valuable function and always has been --- in that certain specimens of our species like to engineer sham and falseness in order to benefit from them.
Implicit in the term, however, is the distinction between (1) exposing --after the fact of examination, and (2) accusing --before the fact. In this double sense, the term can take on Machiavellian efficiency.
"Machiavellianism" refers to Machiavelli's political theory that politics is amoral and that any means however unscrupulous can justifiably be used in achieving political power or purposes.â
The introduction of Machiavellianism into skepticism and debunking runs counter to their original ethical function and sets up lachrymose contexts so labyrinthine that very few can negotiate them. Indeed, Machiavellianism can only be effective provided the labyrinthine contexts cannot be unravelled.
As but one example of Machiavellian debunking, though, I refer the truly interested to the paper entitled "Science Versus Showmanship: A History of the Randi Hoax" by Michael A. Thalbourne just published in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (Oct. 1995, Vol.89, No. 4).
The largest possible background issue regarding skeptics and debunkers of remote viewing is whether our species possesses superpowers of mind --- of which remote viewing would be just one. Unless consideration is elevated up and into the contexts of this larger background issue no amount of lesser argumentation will suffice to get anyone anywhere.
The second larger background issue concerns the fact that there is nothing essentially wrong with researching the superpowers, both to confirm their existence or not, and if confirmed to identify their particular functions of mind.
Resistance to such research before the facts of the superpowers can be ascertained is therefore puzzling.
The only possible explanation must involve not discoverable facts which could speak for themselves but motives and agendas.
Most of us recognize that this is the usual case regarding most human confusions --- assuming that mere stupidity or lack of knowledge are not involved as the first instance. But the introduction of motives and agendas further complicates this particular situation already lamentably labyrinthine in its overall character.
The etymological history of the term "skepticism" shows that it has undergone several definition formats and social applications since it was first coined in ancient Greece --- down until today when it is almost exclusively taken as referring to someone opposed to the "paranormal" and anything resembling them.
During the Renaissance period, when the schism between science and religion started up, skepticism was largely taken as referring to "doubt concerning basic religious principles" such as immortality, providence, revelation, the existence of the soul, etc. This is to say that skepticism was then used almost as a synonym for anti-religion on behalf of sequestering the evolving sciences from it.
During the nineteenth century, elements of early psychical research did deal with spiritualism --- that enormous cultural phenomenon having to do with scientifically analyzing communications between the living and the dead. So-called "scientific skeptics" objected to this type of research because they feared a reintroduction of religious-type phenomena into science proper.
This fear has continued to overwhelm more accurate estimations of what the whole of early psychical research involved. An analysis of all published psychical research materials clearly shows that spiritualistic-type research reports account for only about one-tenth between 1880 and 1910. The remaining 90 per cent of the materials was focussed on elements having to do with powers and superpowers of the human biological mind.
At best, then, anti-religious skeptics who wish (as they still do today) to insulate science from religion can object to only about one-tenth of the whole of psychical research --- while psychical research, by definition, came to an end during World War I.
When it became possible during the twentieth century to examine elements and attributes of the human mind of and in themselves, it would seem that this particular skeptical format was no longer applicable regarding the mapping of the human powers of mind of and in themselves. At least the principal and vividly stated goal of the modern sciences was to map everything of and in itself.
Discussing and arguing the pro and con mapping of the powers and superpowers of mind has been going on for over 140 years --- even though most of the pro and con polemics are not only turgid and redundant but are based in past concepts which have been obsolete since at least the end of World War I.
It is much more fruitful to look at the social landscapes within which the discussions and arguing took place. Some of those earlier landscapes, especially science-centered ones, accepted as valid the concept of "anti-psychic skepticism" --- even though the term "psychic" has never achieved a stable or concrete definition.
But if the basic definition of skepticism
is accepted in its correct meaning --- "open to consideration and examination"
--- then the phrase "anti-psychic skeptic" is an oxymoron.
The ethical, and even logical goal of the true skeptic is to resolve doubt by identifying facts, not to reinforce doubt in the absence of discovered facts --- and certainly not to underwrite Machiavellian debunking tactics to prevent the needed research.
True skepticism does not begin by
being anti-anything. The processes of open consideration and examination
(i.e., research) will ultimately establish whether something exists or
There is hardly no other way via which doubt, belief, or confusions between them can be resolved on behalf of acquiring increases in knowledge. And this is especially true as regards the true extent of human sentiency --- for sentient beings have an inalienable bio-mind right to know of the true extent of their sentiency.
To round out this position paper, even a cursory examination of the "conflict" between the existence of our species superpowers and the existence of skepticism regarding them shows these two factors as different and separate issues.
In the first instance, if the superpowers didn't manifest throughout our species then skeptical resistance to them would not come into existence either. Nothing becomes resisted unless it is there to be resisted. It is because the superpowers do manifest that resistance to them is engineered into visibility.
Whether the superpowers manifest in formats involving Siberian shamans, Greek or Egyptian clairvoyants, Maya far-seeing, or contemporary remote viewing as an espionage tool, none of the formats would be possible if their fundamental faculties were not part of our species "equipment," so to speak. Phenomena along these lines that recur regardless of culture and down and through each human generation ought to be accepted as existing.
Modern skeptics, however, defined these faculties as abnormal, illusion, mental derangement, or psychopathological in origin. Mis-identified and prejudiced as such, the faculties were then open to the assumed legitimacy of debunking.
But are these modern definitions correct ones? And if correct, how was the correctness established?
Well, it is open knowledge that the mainstream sciences and philosophies, by their own admission, have not researched the superpowers of bio-mind.
Based, then, on a near complete absence of researched information regarding the superpowers, it is necessary to inquire into the nature of the information data bits an "anti-psychic" skeptic is using as his or her intellectual processing grids.
If such a skeptic is utilizing the conventional definitions of the modern mainstream sciences and philosophies which have neither considered nor researched the superpowers, then such a skeptic is utilizing nothing at all except hearsay or prejudice based on it. Clearly those who have attempted to research the superpowers know more about them than those who never have made the attempt --- just as conventional modern scientists and philosophers have not.
It is quite easy to show that the topic of our species superpowers of bio-mind has been bowdlerized or "bleeped" from the lexicons of the modern sciences and philosophies. This leaves experiencers of some element of the superpowers without a leg to stand on --- leaves them helpless --- for there is no help to be found within the social precincts which have bleeped the superpowers to begin with. There is no organized, supportive social structure to which the experiencers can appeal --- even to protect their full rights as sentient human beings.
Here is the basis for a pogrom. A "pogrom" is defined as "an organized massacre of helpless people." Such a pogrom regarding "sensitives" took place during the Inquisitions of the Middle Ages. Some historians estimate the high body count at 9 million over a 300-year period. Ridicule and defamation during modern times of sensitives and researchers of the superpowers is a kind of pogrom, especially when supported in the mainstream media.
It is interesting indeed why in our scientific times there should be such a pogrom that victimizes our species superpowers of bio-mind with its marvelous spectrum of sentiency. It may be that someone somewhere doesn't want that marvelous spectrum to be identified and DEVELOPED.
Comments, anyone? (End)
The foregoing has been adapted from my book in preparation entitled: REMOTE VIEWING - THE REAL STORY! Insider Tales of America's Superpsychic Spies (The Discoveries; The Rise and Fall; The Political and Technical History; the Saga and Soap Opera; The Subsequent Sane and Weird Proliferations)
This book will be a documented autobiographical
--- Ingo Swann
** Copyright 1995 by Ingo Swann. Permission to redistribute granted, but only in complete and unaltered form. **
** Distributed by Thomas Burgin **
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