By E.F Nicholson
If you bother to take an interest in the community of atheists and sceptics, you will find quite a vibrant on and offline community. At heart, it appears as if sceptics are committed to debunking pseudoscience and to point out the illogical premises of many of the world’s religion. The scientific model is their yard stick of truth and if something can’t be confirmed by this method then it is often seen as “bunk”.
In this community, there are a number of leading voices advancing the cause, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Bill Mahler just to name a few. As sceptics I guess they see their job is about telling what’s not true, as opposed to what is. In doing this recently, Harris, Malher and Dawkin have been labelled as bigots, as they single out Islam to be the worst of the worst when it comes to religions. They see Islam having violence imbedded into the essential core of the religion. They consider violence and conflict being a natural outcome of those who follow the Koran. So, as far as they are concerned, religion is really bad but Islam is by far the worst.
Now I don’t side with sceptics on many issues. Regarding religion it’s very easy pickings to mock born again Christians or anyone on the extreme fringe of a religion. When it comes to the mystical traditions that exist within all religions, such as Sufism, Zen, Gnostism, Kabbalah etc. there is less vitriol, as there just isn’t the outright stupidity compared to those who take religious scripture so literally. Regarding Islam, it just seems incredible they single this religion out when under the Christian bible and the Star and stripes flag, the US and its allies have unleashed a colossal level of violence and death on the very same people who are being accused of extremism and violence, namely, Muslims. I’m not even sure if that’s ironic or just plain hypocritical absurdity. The fact that this eludes them doesn’t fare well for the badge of logic and reason they parade around with such pride.
Yet although I don’t see eye to eye, I do think there is a value to scrutinising untruths and revealing them to be empty of any validity. For me, at least, I can handle the arrogant attitude but what bugs me are the targets of their contempt. In addition to religion and scary Islam, there seem to be other favourite targets. It looks like psychic phenomena is another area they love to debunk, with Randi James being the frontman in the war against psychics. Then you see alternative medicine getting a good grilling and going over. Homeopathy, it seems, has been given a particular focus, getting the full force of their disdain.
I guess they see their mission to “out” people who are either deluded themselves or deluding others. They see harm coming from people putting trust and money into things that are completely false and phoney. So maybe, they see themselves as intellectual vigilantes, with their swords of reason and axes of logic going around tearing down all that does not adhere to truth in their eyes. Yet I can’t help wonder as to why such contempt couldn’t be directed towards institutions and organisations that exert far more damage and impact on society, on a much larger scale, compared to homeopath and psychic readings.
It doesn’t take a lot to look around and see we are bombarded ceaselessly with lies and mistruths. The media and advertising would be an easy target to reveal how manipulative and untrue the constant messages, that people are being given, actually are. The mainstream news continually pumps out lies and acts as the propaganda arm of the state. Their community of feisty cynics would have a field day taking apart and breaking down the endless flow of bias and bullshit that is thrust on the public, all being sold as unbiased facts.
Then they could have a go at the financial sector, a sector that seems to own our government, and has done so over the last 40 years, stripping the working and middle class of any wealth it once had. The fact that they can create money with interest is a privilege based on very questionable logic and fairness The creation of debt peonage really does need some force and focus for it to start getting discussed and debated. They could be the leading voice that the current status quo is not the natural evolution of the markets rather a carefully constructed framework to enrich a certain class of people and impoverish another.
Then we have our government spending on defence. This is just a blatant obscenity that is looked over constantly. Take the renewal of the trident nuclear submarines in the UK. Where is the logic and reason behind spending 100 billion in the next 10 years to update something we will never use? The sceptics could use there razor sharp reasons to “out” how none of it is about “security” and is all about ego and enriching their chums in the defence industry. Which pretty much goes for any war we have been involved in. Instead of putting signs on the London buses that say God doesn’t exist, maybe they should have signs saying the department of defence needs to change its name to the department of attack.
Then you could have a field day with the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on mental health. Compared to alternative medicine, Big Pharma exerts for more power, damage and impact than any acupuncturist or Rekei healer ever could. Over the last 20 years, they have broadened the diagnosis and symptoms of mental illness, creating a wider and wider net to justify making a pathology for just being human. There concerted campaign of lies have enabled them to achieve astronomical increases in profit. We have seen an escalation in people being prescribed anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and ADD medication by 400%. They have managed to have, somehow, rigged it so the supply is actually driving demand. Regarding anti-depressants alone there have been numerous studies debunking the science behind what they are peddling. Yet this fact seems to go by unnoticed. Then the whole process of how something gets characterized as a” mental illness” is totally facial, as it is determined by a show of hands at one of their DSM conferences held every few years as explained by Jan Eastgate
President Citizens Commissionon Human Rights International.
The “science-by-vote” procedure is as surprising to a layperson as it is to other health professionals, who have witnessed DSM voting meetings. “Mental disorders are established without scientific basis and procedure,” a psychologist attending the DSMhearings said. “The low level of intellectual effort was shocking. Diagnoses were developed by majority vote on the level we would use to choose a restaurant. Then it’s typed into the computer. It may reflect on our naiveté, but it was our belief that there would be an attempt to look at the things scientifically.”
How is this science? How does this appear to go overlooked by those who pride themselves of purveyors of reason and truth? How can debunking Psychic Sally Morgan get more attention than this flagrant piece of garbage?
The list goes on; Income inequality, privatisation, criminalising dissent, erosion of civil liberties and climate change are all real problems that have been created by well thought out lies and illusions. These lies need serious attention and scrutiny. Why isn’t Randi James offering 1 million dollars to anyone that proves mental illness is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain? Although I dislike Richard Dawkin’s approach, I can’t disapprove of the fact that he does have a very sharp and intellectual mind. I would love to see a mind like that being put to some better use as he reveals the fallacies underpinning our financial systems or proves, beyond a shadow of doubt, how privatisation doesn’t make industries more effective, it just makes their owners filthy rich. Why does he rally their community of ardent followers to let go of lampooning psychics, healers and those who hold some religious belief? Instead, they could direct their sneering ridicule at the criminals and opportunists who are running out entire countries?
Yet this does happen. Actually, Sam Harris seems to validate many of the propaganda talking points our governments tout, as Glenn Greenwald logically points it out. Glenn Greenwald, himself, is an example of what can be done when their razor sharp intelligence is directed at the real causes of harm. I have been reading his articles and blog posts for years and just love the way he presents these very air tight articulate arguments, taking apart, piece by piece, the absurdities our governments sell as normality. The web site Medialens is another example of how intelligent and through analysis reveals the fraudulent and destructive nature of what is churned out as “news”. There are many other highly intelligent people who do the same like Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and countless others who show, in concrete terms and evidence, the power and importance of the citizenry knowing the truth. I have no doubt that if Glenn Greenwald directed his mind to debunking psychics and revealing the fallacy of religious belief, he would be extremely good at it. Yet, unlike Dawkin, Harris and Mahler, he has chosen a harder target but a target that really needs to be exposed. It is here that I just can’t help thinking that the emotive and illogical belief system sceptics are constantly exposing, is going on right under the nose. Debunking energy healers is emotionally easier and more appealing than debunking the prolific propaganda we are surrounded by. With reason alone, it is become obvious as to what kind of truths hold more importance and sway with our society. If they really are meant to be crusaders of rational and reasoned thinking like they applaud themselves to be, the bigger problems would be addressed first and get the most of their attention and focus. As it is often the case that those who preach can become sightless to their own failings and blind spots.
I do think we need sceptics. We need intelligent people to show unequivocally what the facts really are. Yet if they are really sincere in the mission to educate the masses and herald a new age of enlightenment, they really need to get there priorities straightened out for themselves. As they do hold a powerful weapon in the fight against illusion, I just wish they would direct it against the falsehoods and trickery that cause the most harm. As doing what they do, just ends up another distraction away from the serious abuses and corruption that’s hidden from us in the clear light of day.