Saturday, January 3, 2009

Skeptical stories

When talking to other people who are into skepticism, I often think, "Why don't I have any skeptical stories?" I have hardly any personal anecdotes relating to skepticism. I guess skepticism has never really affected my personal life in any deep way.

For instance, I don't have any acquaintances who are 9/11 troofers or relations who are into feng shui or anything like that. Well, I probably know lots of people who believe weird nonsense, but I just don't go out of my way to look out for that kind of thing, or do anything about it if I see it. Come to think of it, my mother has a thick book of traditional and herbal medicine that I'm not sure she's ever looked at. I think I told her that whatever good there might have been inside, it was mixed in with plenty of bunk. And that was that. Also, she's always telling me to take vitamin supplements and I'm always telling her that I think they're unnecessary. If I were a different person, might I have made a skeptical story out of it?

And you know what? I was never into paranormal phenomena like UFOs, cryptozoology, and psychics. I did not find them really exciting as a child, and then later become disillusioned at how much bunk they are. No, paranormal phenomena were just boring. Maybe they were a fad (many weird beliefs behave like fads), and I'm simply the wrong age group. No, when I was young, the current fad was pokemon. Come to think of it, I did have one book that had a bunch of "strange stories" about haunted this and that, cursed objects, unusual coincidences, and so forth. I think I found it vaguely interesting, but any underlying paranormal beliefs just rolled off of me. If I were different person, might I have made a skeptical story out of that? (Hey, maybe it'd be cool if I could get my hands on that book again!)

Other things that have never happened to me: I know of no relative who sought alternative medicine in the face of grave illness. I have never argued with the various hellfire preachers, LaRouchians, or other strange types that appear on campus (though I've encountered a few cranks online). My high school never taught creationism or even avoided evolution.

Maybe this is why I'm so apathetic?

It's sort of sad, in an ironic, ambiguous way (this is our favorite kind of sad). Is it even supposed to be sad? I don't need to have skeptical stories, after all. It's as if I were musing about how I've never personally seen much poverty. I guess that would actually be a good thing. Or maybe it's my own fault for not looking out for it. What do you think?

There's one little exception, of course. I grew up Catholic, but now I'm not. My deconversion experience was fairly tame and undramatic, but it's still an anecdote I could tell. And though I've previously stated that skepticism and atheism are two different things, I would still call deconversion a quasi-skeptical story. A skeptical story that has personally affected me. If there are a lot of skeptics in the same boat as me (and I suspect there are) this could go a long way in explaining why so many outspoken skeptics are atheists and vice versa.