Matthew

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Burch's Law

Why is buying lottery tickets viewed as irrational while buying movie tickets rational?

Both are an opportunity for escapist fantasy. . . And you can buy one lottery ticket for each powerball drawing for a year for the cost of seeing 5-6 movies.

If someone wants to spend some of their booze and cigarette money in order to foster dreams of yachts and 40-caret diamonds - I don't begrudge them or look down at them for that. . .

Outside the Laboratory

From the Crackpot Index: "40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on."

Are you seeking truth, or seeking to confirm your current beliefs? Do you deny that the mainstream of the scientific establishment has sociological parameters and taboos, and that these are extremely hostile to the possibility of telepathy and related topics? In that case, you might find this essay by the editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, of interest (JCS is a mainstream journal a mainstream journal that publishes material from scholars like Daniel Dennett, in addition to a recent issue discussing some of Sheldrake's research):

http://www.imprint.co.uk/Editorial12_6.pdf

Rather than reading apologia from self-proclaimed guardians like Randi (who is not a scientist, but rather a successful entertainer and propagandist for an official version of truth, the very idea of which is anathema to science), why not read Sheldrake's papers for yourself and come up with your own criticisms? Sheldrake discusses some of Randi's attacks, which turn out to be totally off base or even fabricated. For example:

http://www.sheldrake.org/controversies/randi.html

I can only suggest that you read Sheldrake's published papers with an open mind, not prejudging that their results are "impossible" without reading his research methods and results. The papers are quite accessible, generally clearly written and straightforward, with a general lack of the masses of domain-specific jargon that mars so much journal writing.

A Fable of Science and Politics

"I have had this experience several times in my life; I come across clear enough evidence that settles for me an issue I had seen long disputed. "

What if you made an error in judgement at that point, not having access to all the relevant facts, and the particular matter under dispute is of great importance to discovering the truth about reality?

Isn't that "settles for me" exactly what we see happening when people are unwilling to look at facts that might challenge their current mental models? Couldn't this lead to a cul-de-sac?

The Proper Use of Humility

The sort of humility required can inculcated by an openminded and continuous study of the human propensity to develop systems of thought that are often sealed from the admission of evidence which might contradict them.

cf.:

http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/2005/10/how-to-become-crackpot.html

and:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2006/12/hypnotized_by_s.html

My own personal view is that this needed form of humility is even more lacking in self-proclaimed rationalists than the population at large, probably for selection reasons.

I discuss some very interesting fMRI research bearing on this question here:

http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/2006/10/confirmation-bias.html

To avoid this gaping pitfall to progress in our search for what is real, we ought consider deeply these words of Oliver Cromwell:

"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken"