Skeptics are busy searching for their ‘tree of knowledge.’

Les Frazier

By A Contributor

Some people are leery of physics, the supernatural, reincarnation, ESP, UFOs and many other myths and superstitions, said Guy P. Harrison, author and owner of college degrees in history and anthropology. Even if you are leery, I think you want to consider reading this book. It is available at your local library.

I found “50 Popular Beliefs” well written, enjoyable enlightening, passionate and sometimes humorous. If only I could have read it at a young age. I grew up in Oklahoma as a southern Baptist and I was baptized in a creek with my mother at the age of 11. Like many others who were indoctrinated young, there was no chance to be skeptical. I was converted at a revival meeting where they were signing “why not now?” Much emotion existed with some people crying and pleading with me to be saved.

My first exposure to religious questioning was at a Quaker meeting in Wichita in 1942. I was 23 years young. My friend doubted the virgin birth and the raising of the dead. No one is born a skeptic, according to Harrison, but young people are natural scientists and like to soak up knowledge and experiment. Science does not support virgin birth or the raising of the dead, but I can be wrong. So called facts can be proven false. both religion and science have evolved. At one time, it was believed the sun revolved around the earth and some people were severely for believing otherwise.

Scientists can only hypothesize and search with reason and experiments. Some religious beliefs can not be tested by any science and they should not be. This includes the existence of god and spirit, said the anthropologist.

The writer wrote, “It’s hard to let go of an idea after we have been indoctrinated. But knowledge, when it is correct, builds over time and beliefs and opinions change.”

Still it’s hard because of our egos. We identify with them and if they are wrong, that means part of us is wrong. That is difficult to deal with, “Believing is easy, being skeptical is hard. It’s the road less traveled-there are pitfalls everywhere-things that would be so much easier just to wish away when we close our eyes.”

The author stated reality does not believe what you believe. It just keeps being real. When we believe in something that is false, others beliefs glom onto it, getting more complicated and harder to balance and reconcile.

We build on more and more on to it until contradictions get glaringly obvious. Our only choice is to either ignore them, compartmentalize them or let them come crashing down-as it did on me in 1942.

“The best thing about science - and its multipurpose tool kit, skepticism-is that they show you have the universe really is,” wrote Harrison. The universe can be scary, dark, and impersonal, but that’s ok, because it also can be marvelous, wondrous- and above all, beautiful. Beautiful is out there and all we have to do is stop believing in it, and start understanding it.

The author stated that his goal in presenting the book was to be positive and respectful-not to win arguments, take away anyone’s run or happiness.

Part of being human is falling for weird and unproven beliefs. and it happens to the best of us. We all believe silly things. To be a skeptic, education and intelligence are not enough.

The lack of skepticism is a largely unrecognized crisis. Harrison is trying to encourage critical thinking and spread the word that skepticism is important.

I put family planning and sexual contraception in this category.

The way some people believe about them causes millions of people to suffer and died of AIDs and have that children that are unwanted.

The author said psychics have techniques to convince you.

These include cold-reading skills, memorizing key trends and statistics linked to ages and gender; talking about people in general reactions to questions and guesses, rapid-fire comments and questions and questions for reaction, stereotypes, facial expressions, complimenting, taking advantage of people who already believe in psychics, and working on people’s hunger to be special. Psychics can be also motivated by a lot of money or a route to fame. it is not hard to be indoctrinated.

Psychics pretend to talk to dead relatives; forecast fortunes in money; give information on ghosts, astrology, health, murders, Atlantis, angels, UFOs, and even the end of the world.

The writer feels an obligation to speak up when he sees unproven beliefs that diminish someone’s life or causes harm to others. He wants to offer a helping hand because some beliefs are often dangerous and a drag on human progress.

“There are so many exciting experiences and important discoveries out there waiting on me that I don’t want to be distracted or waste time believing things that are unlikely to be true,” he said. He can embrace more life, not less. Skepticism helps us to exist fully as human beings. Not one precious moment should be willingly sacrificed to a lie or unproven beliefs.

It is possible the writer said, to be psychic, but don’t believe it until someone can prove it under controlled conditions. We need a theory that explains how it works. More than half of respondents in Britain say they believe in psychic powers. My idea is that it would be wonderful if psychics could predict tornadoes, the lottery, sporting games, illnesses, and accidents. Much suffering could be avoided and we would improve our fortunes.

Thomas Paine said, “it is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

Paranormal and supernatural beliefs are necessarily tied to education or intelligence state the author.

Jane Goodall, renowned scientist, for example is a big-foot believer.

A Gallup poll revealed that one in three Americans hold at least one belief in such subjects as astrology, ghosts, and reincarnation.

The author understands that it may feel uncomfortable to believe that invisible forces influence us, but it can also be comfortable to realize that we are smart enough and strong enough to face up to the universe as it really is and get on with our lives.

Anecdotes are not scientific evidence.

Parents could easily get a child to describe a fictitious past, but no one, according to the writer, has been able to show that human energy equates to a soul with thoughts and memories.

I remember being hypnotized to recall past lives. While under, I saw relatives in India and in the north Arctic. There are interesting stories of people speaking languages they never learned.

“The claim of reincarnation is exciting to imagine and a wonderful thing to hope for.” Unfortunately, nothing suggests that it is true,” said Harrison.

Thomas Kida, professor at Isenberg School of Management, wrote in his book, “Numerous ESP studies conducted over the years point to one overriding conclusion. Studies supporting ESP consistently flack proper controls and studies with proper controls constantly find no support for ESP.”

Psychic track record is dismal. Virtually every case can be explained as coincidence or gullibility, stated the author.

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer, at the SETI Institute said, “But after 60 years of UFO sightings, we still seem unable to come up with the good stuff: physical evidence, a taillight or a knob from an alien aircraft.”

Dr. James Harrison, professor at Columbia University, stated “I believe the biggest problem to solving global warming is the role of money in politics-often with intentional misinformation spawned by special interests.”

It is a case of conformation bias running amok. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck are not science experts -not even close. Harrison said, “I am convinced global warming is real and that our industrialized civilization is the cause or at least a key contributing factor-I do think it will be devastating for some and costly for all in one way or another.”

Dr. Phil Plait, formerly with physics and astronomy at Sonoma State University said, “There is harm, real harm in astrology. It weakens further people’s ability to rationally look at the world, an ability we need now more than ever.”

My horoscope, from the computer, said I should keep “an open mind.” This is good advice for many people, but I now take three skeptic publications and this book calls for an extremely open mind.

Also my horoscope said I should not force my views upon other people. Well maybe sometimes I do.

This also could be said of many persons.

“Turn my energy inward and bring to light hidden forces that can change my life,” stated Harrison.

Read astrology books and horoscopes critically. Look for the trap of remembering a few predictions that come true while forgetting the many that do not. If you see the real science of planets, astrology will wither and die. Good riddance.

Edgar Allan Poe said, “the boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where one ends and the other begins.” Near death experiences do not prove life after death. Our mind or subconscious can take us anywhere as illustrated in dreams. Sometimes when I wake up, it seems dreams have been real life.

Edgar Allan Poe said, “the boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague.

Who shall say where one ends and the other begins.” Near death experiences do no prove life after death. Our mind or subconscious can take us anywhere illustrated in dreams.

Sometimes when I wake up, it seems dreams have been in real life. A study in Europe of 13,000 people revealed nearly six percent had an out of body experience. Skepticism, said Harrison, is the skill and attitude that helps us navigate our way through an often crazy world, applied consistently and with force, it can help us lead safer, happier and more productive lives.

It helps keep our minds sharp by tossing away much of the irrational junk that would otherwise obscure our view of an amazing universe. When crooks, converters, and false scientists try to lead us down a costly and dangerous paths, skepticism, is the shield we need to fend them off. Some people, related Harrison, think skeptics are cynical and negative with close minds. Nothing is further from the truth. It means thinking clearly and thoroughly before making a decision about believing or joining something. It’s about sorting reality and false information and misperceptions.

What’s negative about that? Irrational beliefs bombard us from childhood to the grave. Are we to hard toward irrational believers?

How gentle must one be with so much misery and waste coming from unproved claims. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been thrown away on lies and fantasism. People literally suffer and die from infection of bad ideas and crazy beliefs.

The world is a maze of madness. Don’t be threatened by honest inquiry to church staff, government officials, or others.

The brain takes us into traps is the same brain that can free us; we only need to make the necessary effort.

Your brain is immensely powerful. Don’t underestimate your ability to separate yourself from the nonsense and danger out there. 

“Your life is yours,” stated Harrison. “Live it wisely.

Les Frazier is emeritus professor at Kansas State University in Organization and Leadership Development.

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