The Perils of Skepticism (There Isn’t Any)
If you’ve ever used Google Alert, you know the jolts it can deliver. Whenever anyone in the blogosphere decides to blow a poison dart your way, Google is happy to deliver the news, along with the more positive mentions, of course. Most of my stinging darts come from skeptics. Over the years I’ve found that ill-tempered guardians of scientific truth can’t abide speculative thinking. And as the renowned Richard Dawkins has proved, they are also very annoyed by a nuisance named God.
Statistically, cynical mistrust is correlated with premature sudden death from cardio vascular disease. Since the skeptics who write venomous blogs trust in nothing, I imagine that God will outlive them. In the interests of better health, these people should read a scripture, or at least a poem, twice a day. Doctor’s orders.
I’ve debated skeptics, including Richard Dawkins, (I spoke with Dawkins for over 90 minutes on camera in Oxford. He extracted 30 seconds from the dialogue and dubbed me as the enemy of science.) and am amazed that they mistake self-righteousness for happiness. A sort of bitter satisfaction is what they reap. No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others. Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads “You’re Wrong” so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin, can gain the benefit of their illuminated skepticism. For make no mistake, the skeptics of the past were as eager to shoot down new theories as they are to worship the old ones once science has validated them.
It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists. Especially for scientists. Einstein insisted, in fact, that no great discovery can be made without a sense of awe before the mysteries of the universe. Skeptics know in advance — or think they know — what right thought is. Right thought is materialistic, statistical, data-driven, and always, always, conformist. Wrong thought is imaginative, provisional, often fantastic, and no respecter of fixed beliefs.
So whenever I find myself labeled the emperor of woo-woo, I pull out the poison dart and offer thanks that wrong thinking has gotten us so far. Thirty years ago no right-thinking physician accepted the mind-body connection as a valid, powerful mode of treatment. Today, no right-thinking physician (or very few) would trace physical illness to sickness of the soul, or accept that the body is a creation of consciousness, or tell a patient to change the expression of his genes. But soon these forms of wrong thinking will lose their stigma, despite the best efforts of those professional stigmatizers, the skeptics.
Published in the San Francisco Chronicle