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28 November 2008

James Randi Educational Foundation Forums

So, I finally decided to register for the JREF Forums and get more involved in that community. For a forum that is supposedly a beacon for skeptics and intelligent people, there sure are a lot of "wooists" there. Enough to almost depress me at how many there are on that forum alone!

Is "wooism" a form of mental illness? In reading some of the posts by the wooists there, I can't but help to thing that these people are deluded worse than the most foaming at the mouth lunatic. I know a lot of people like to believe in strange thing, but seriously? Some of the topics are just short of full blown paranoia and hallucinations! What the fuck is with some of those people? And the worst part is that you can't reason with them. Not in the slightest! If they said that sky was green, and you took them outside to show them a blue sky; they would find a way to deny it. So basically, all I can really conclude is that they are mentally ill.

As an aside, I must say that I really like the word "Woo" to describe the fringe lunatics. It's perfectly dismissive of their level of actual intelligence (versus the crafty intelligence they display with their woo). Although that lunatic fringe seems to be way too big for my liking... It's probably a result of the lack of critical thinking and the easy access to woo on the internet.

I guess that is why I ended up actually registering at the JREF Forums. We all need to take an active role in fighting the woo. So, what can we do?

Well, for one, take an interest in the public displays of woo. In most cases, people just don't know better, and just go with the thing they see the most. What we need to do is give people more access to critical thinking skills and real information. I suppose one thing to do is to get folks to watch Here Be Dragons: An Introduction to Critical Thinking. Okay, that's my help to the skeptic community for today. Please do your part.

1 comment:

Larian LeQuella said...

By the way, even though I am atheist, the JREF Forums are not atheist. As they say in their FAQ:

This is an important, personal, message to all my readers. There has been a heavy discussion going on in the JREF Forum about a basic question introduced by Hal Bidlack, and I quote forum member prewitt81 here:

If, upon my first arrival to this website, the main page of the JREF had declared the foundation to be an atheist society, I would've closed the window and probably never came back. Fortunately, it didn't and I wasn't instantly turned off.

After spending some time here and listening and learning from people with different viewpoints – it is an educational foundation, is it not? – I found out that atheists/agnostics were not the evil or immoral people I had always been taught they were. Nor were they sad and depressed because they “lacked a purpose in life that only faith in a creator could give.” I began to change the way I looked at things. I started questioning my beliefs and trying to rid myself of those that didn't stand up to scrutiny. It is an ongoing process, but I have taken some big steps in what I feel is the right direction. The “me” of yesterday would feel so sorry for me today because of some ideas I have given up, but I look back and feel bad for the little boy who was afraid of an angry God and an eternal Hell. I am happier now.

Leaving the doors open to everyone is, in my opinion, the only way to go. If we turn people away at the door, even inadvertently, we're missing out on a wealth of new potential skeptics. I don't want to even imagine where or what shape I'd be in now, had it not been for the JREF. Once we've offended those that need us most, all that's left is the choir to hear the preaching – if you'll pardon the analogy.

Thank you, Hal. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this, but it inspires me to clear the air on this subject in relation to the JREF. I want this fully understood: the James Randi Educational Foundation is not an atheist organization; it is an organization dedicated to offering down-to-Earth, rational, explanations and discussions of the so-called paranormal, supernatural, and occult happenings and claims with which we are constantly bombarded by the media and by groups – including religious groups – who try to convince us of such matters. While I, as JREF president, and those presently working in our office, are declared atheists, there is no bar against others taking positions with us, appearing on our web page or forum, doing business with us, or attending any of our functions. My personal stance is that religious claims are of the same nature as any other claims made without supporting evidence, that is, they are superstitious claims; if those claims come up for examination by the JREF, they must undergo the same sort of analysis as any others.

I’ve said it before: there are two sorts of atheists. One sort claims that there is no deity, the other claims that there is no evidence that proves the existence of a deity; I belong to the latter group, because if I were to claim that no god exists, I would have to produce evidence to establish that claim, and I cannot. Religious persons have by far the easier position; they say they believe in a deity because that’s their preference, and they’ve read it in a book. That’s their right.

The JREF has a stance against any claim for which no evidence is offered, and that must of course include religious claims. However, if any when anyone claims they have proof of any religious miracle or fact, we ask that it be presented, accepting such a claim in the same way that we accept any other. Religious claims are supernatural claims. If they are offered for examination, discussion, or consideration, or as possible applicants for the JREF prize, they must go through the regular procedure, with no special allowances or exceptions.

We are not, as an organization, atheists – any more than we are Caucasians, Americans, or Republicans. We are citizens of the world who are trying to understand that world, and who challenge irrationality; each of us decides for themselves what we wish to investigate, and what is irrational – and we will disagree productively in that respect. Personally, but not on behalf of the JREF, I look upon religious claims as superstitious in nature; but that does not exempt them from consideration.

I must observe that about 40% of my acquaintances consider themselves to be religious. I don’t often argue the matter with them, but I’m admittedly impatient with them when they try to get me to accept their philosophy merely because it’s easier, or because I can’t prove it to be wrong. We agree to disagree on that subject, but these friends offer me the same delight and satisfaction that I receive from my atheist friends. I mean that, sincerely.

I do not, and I will not, allow my serious atheistic beliefs to interfere with the operation of the JREF. My rationality and my sincerity will not allow me that conceit. The JREF embraces persons of many different varieties of philosophy; there are even two Buddhists among us, though I doubt any Holy Rollers have joined our ranks. We don’t ever ask about religious preferences, because we recognize that all persons have value in the overall picture of our population.

Most definitely, however, I will not change nor soften my statement that I am a concerned, forthright, declared, atheist. I'll never waffle in this respect, and I trust that those who read and/or hear my words will accept and believe that my personal convictions do not alter my dedication to reason, fairness, tolerance, and logic.

I hope that this better explains what we’re all about….