Last Update: 05 Feb 00
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PSEUDOSCIENCE AND THE PARANORMAL
From ghosts to ESP to astrology to Uri Geller and so on, ad nauseum, there seems to be no end to the garbage that can find a legion of adherents. What's probably even more shocking is how many people are willing to believe in nonsense without any evidence to support it and despite all the evidence against it while, at the same time, refusing to believe (or even understand) the findings of "real" science that come backed by mountains of supporting evidence.
It probably all boils down to what excites the average person. It's certainly more intriguing to believe in reincarnation, for example, than to accept the fact that death is final. It can be more reassuring to think that one's future can be foretold by the apparent motions of the planets against the background stars than it is to have a solid understanding of celestial mechanics and astronomy. If one feels that his life is a bit on the dreary side, a belief in something exciting can boost his spirits (no pun intended).
We've all believed in some form of nonsense at some point in our lives. Normally, this is when we are kids and get all wired up about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, etc. This is perfectly harmless and normal and we all (most people, anyway) tend to outgrow that stuff as we get older. However, as we abandon our childhood fairy tales and become adults who are, more or less, supposed to be able to understand the way the world works, we may need something to replace those things that enriched our lives as children. We also need to have answers to questions about the world around us and hate to say "I don't know" when asked about something.
Enter pseudoscience and the paranormal. In reality, what are they but exciting explanations for things that we don't otherwise have ready answers for? On the surface, this wouldn't be any worse than believing in Santa Claus to explain how those presents got under our tree. Unfortunately, too many people take the nonsense far too seriously. Often, it gets to the point where they reject reality off-hand while choosing to keep believing in their new fairy tales.
That's the dangerous part. Eventually, pseudoscientific and paranormal stories end up having their own corps of proselytizers much as do religious groups. With the seemingly growing disregard for science education in this country, the nonsense threatens to become widely-held beliefs. Will the day ever come when more people would believe in astrology than in Kepler's Laws? Hard to say -- especially if you've ever watched late-night television. It's something to think about, however, when you see how many people read Jeanne Dixon instead of Isaac Asimov.
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