This Thurday at The Amazing Meeting 10 at 4:00 I’ll be part of a panel and workshop about collaborating with the enemy. TAM is a conference of critical thinkers and skeptics, who rarely are quiet about the paranormal misinformation around them. The conference panel members are all going to share times when they have had to perhaps not “keep quiet” but at least be “diplomatic” and work with a person or paranormal group they do not agree with.
So just when does a skeptic collaborate and work with a non skeptic? My own example comes with my work with my web site “Badalien”. “Badalien” is a crazy, slightly over the top (seizure inducing some say) web site where people that think they have been abducted by aliens can start to find the support and help they need to feel safe. It’s not a site for skeptics. If you believe you have been abducted by aliens, it’s a friendly, if colorful, portal to contacting and starting a dialogue with me. I then help connect people that feel they have had an abductee experience with therapists, doctors, advice, and even other people that have also “survived” the feeling of having been abducted.
One unexpected source of recommendation for my site and my work, comes from the more hard core “nuts and bolts” UFO groups. The “nuts and bolts” UFO hunters have much in common with Big Foot hunters. They are looking for evidence of alien visitation. What they consider good evidence, and what I consider good evidence, differ. However, by keeping up a civil dialogue with them, and open communication, they feel comfortable referring people to me and my site. A person that feels they have had an alien abduction experience can be confused, and many “nuts and bolt” UFO groups don’t really know how to deal with the supposed abductees that contact them. I have talked to many UFO groups about how abductees can be suffering from many different illnesses, mental or physical. They can be suffering from a side effect from a perscription drug. Sleep and pain medication can alter sleep patterns or cause lucid dreaming. The part of my work I enjoy the most is helping abductees find what is often an easy and quick medical solution to something that causes them much distress. The UFO community that wants to be out collecting video and taking photographs isn’t heartless. Some alien abduction stories they find credible. Still, other stories seem to them to clearly be from people that need help.
This mutual trust works well for both of our groups. They know I don’t think they have truly good evidence, yet. They think some abductions are real, and that the evidence for UFO visitation is overwhelming. We do agree that somewhere out there, is intelligent life. That is a good starting point for our working together. I’m not someone that denies the possibility of alien visitation and life in the cosmos. I always try to look for shared hope I have with any paranormal group. If aliens do visit Earth, and there is truly good evidence of it, the UFO believers and I will be at the same party! No one could be happier than myself if aliens visit the Earth. Well until the aliens pull out the lasers and start enslaving us all. Even then I’ll be “wow, isn’t this cool?”
Their understanding that I think alien life, the possibility of UFOs, and astronomy and the universe is fascinating allows them to trust me enough to help them when they feel someone is a “Nut job”. I have actually helped them to stop referring to these people as “nut job” and we’ve settled on “confused”. Both sides feel happy when I’m able to report that a “confused” person is now doing much better. It’s often just changing a prescription, seeing a therapist, or going to sleep clinic that makes all the difference.
Sometimes “collaborating” with the other side results in a better life for a “confused” person. Also Joe Nickell writes of how simply listening and being respectful to someone with a different point of view, is a good way to meet really interesting people. You may not change their viewpoint, and you won’t change yours, but how many people do we agree with 100%? I also think seeing the “other side” as human, and not just “jerks that can’t see the evidence” (or “lack of evidence”) is the first step in figuring out ways to communicate the skeptic and critical thinking skills that are important for everyone to learn.
- Mass Alien Abduction Experiment in Los Angeles (prweb.com)
Categories: James Randi Educational Foundatioin - JREF, Skeptic
Good points there, Kitty. But, if all the other “trying to make some sense and accomplish something positive at the cost of doctrinal purity” efforts (Hal´s talk about beliefs, Phil´s Don´t Be A Dick speech) are any indication, you can expect whatever you say at TAM to sink without leaving as much as an oil slick to mark its passing. Sure, you´ll get applause, maybe even standing ovations, but actually cooperating with non-skeptics in order to help people isn´t quite as “sexy” as being a jackass in the name of skepticism, Penn Jillette style.
Well, what can I say? I´m a cynic.
You´re doing good work there, Kitty, and I wish you much success in your efforts – but I don´t think you should expect the skeptical community, other than a handful of heretics like me, to actually understand what you´re doing.
thanks, no I don’t expect to “change the world”. Then again, while the “jackasses” get a lot of attention…it’s not often reflected in any real change. Changing one life for the better, and knowing you had a small bit in that change is enough for me.(because honestly, any change is a group effort, with the most important effort from the person that is making the change…it takes great courage to go see a doctor or therapist and say “Aliens are abducting me”. Overcoming fear that the person will be “Locked up” for being crazy is a big part of what I do, and the people that help me.)
I think some people like the attention and the fuss. I interview badly, and have a rare, but rather odd accent, most people haven’t heard outside of a John Waters movie. My writing isn’t the best, and I am serious when I say the only reason I do write is that there is something I want to read someone hasn’t written about yet. It’s writing to fill a need I see.
Let the others bluster and fuss. I’m happiest, just trying to be a friend to people that really need one. Plus, my skeptic friends, almost all the non hot air type, have allowed me to speak a bit and further my passion for abductees, and also for my children’s skeptic books.
If only a few “get it” then that’s fine. I’m not into battles, I’m more into the far more boring “diplomatic” work that perhaps helps prevent battles….things like “Tolerance” and “we all share this planet, so let’s get along” are big with me. Though I do get pissy when people tell me NOT to do a workshop as someone else on it isn’t “the right kind of skeptic”. We all define our own life, and I respect people that have done that in the face of censure from others. The work we do defines us. This is my work.
I think it´s quite possible that you will change the world – one person at a time. You´re a skeptic, right? And you are open about being a skeptic while cooperating with believers? So, every one of them (well, everyone of the fair ones) you´ve dealt with comes away from the experience seeing that there´s at least one skeptic who is nice to them and listens to what they have to say without acting superior or treating them like a loonie. That may not be much, in the greater scheme of things, but, hey, every little bit helps.
Of course, it helps that you´re a genuinely nice person who wants to help, not someone out to put on a show, feed their oversized ego, or preach to the heathens.
I used to be quite the UFO nutter, too, back in my misspent youth; that was before the internet, so I didn´t get connect with a lot of people about it, though. Back then, getting in touch with someone like you would have done a lot more for me to consider the whole issue skeptically than any thousand Pen Jillettes or Claus Larsens. What actually did it, BTW, was Sagan´s “Demon-Haunted World” – he really brought across that he understands why people believe, and doesn´t condemn them for it, but instead presents an alternative that he thinks makes more sense. Because, in the end, skepticism isn´t an end unto itself, only a tool for dealing with the world that (hopefully) works better than the others.