The Insecurities of Debunkery

Recently in a couple of arguments with a pair of self-styled experts in the revealed wisdom of the current order, we were told in no uncertain terms that the writers of this publication were not qualified, academically speaking, to dis­cuss the topics which they have dared to do in these pages. Since both gentlemen seemed rather irate, we, in the in­terest of peace, referred one of them to those among our ranks who hold high degrees from exalted institutions, but before we tried that approach with the other, we paused to reflect on just what we were getting into here.

We were, we realized, being bullied into accepting as a rule for our argument, their appeal to authority (an ad homonym fallacy) which is unrelated to, and should be separate from, any discussion of the actual logical merits of the cases being considered. The intention, obviously, was to trap us. We would be, if you will forgive a sports meta­phor, conceding the home field advantage to the opposing team. It is clear that any such debate over credentials would divert attention from the actual issues which we believe need to be exposed and which, we insist, become per­fectly clear to any reasonably intelligent person—expert or not—when the case is properly and honestly made.

The real question, which should be answered by these custodians of the conventional wisdom, is: what exactly has them so upset? If they are so certain of the plausibility of their case, what possible concern can they have over the rantings of a little publication like ours. Methinks they may have doubts about their own position, which they would rather not get into.

In a recent on-line debate over the reality of the afterlife, the defender of the skeptical position declared to his op­ponent, “I don’t know that it (the afterlife) doesn’t exist, but you don’t know that it does.” We have seen similar com­ments on bumper stickers. The general implication seems to be that anyone claiming knowledge which exceeds that of the “skeptic” cannot possibly be sincere and, thus, must be lying, with ulterior motives to boot. This kind of rheto­ric from the debunker hit squads has become standard fare in many fields—from the afterlife to intelligent design, from zero point energy to antigravity—and it is pursued with an emotional fervor which is hard to ignore. Just what, we wondered, should be inferred from such behavior?

Could it be that the institutional mystique, which evokes such awe from the media and much of the public, is nothing so much as an elaborate subterfuge intended to disguise the weakness and the blindness of these entrenched elitests—something which, like the emperor’s new clothes, even a child could perceive? We’ll leave the conspiracy an­gles to others, but it seems apparent that, at least on a subconscious level, much of the posturing, if not the bullying, betrays what is at best a deep insecurity about the actual validity of their claims. The very speed with which some of the more outspoken take offense at any suggestion that the basic paradigm of materialist reductionist science can be questioned betrays, we suspect, deep-seated doubts in their own ability to discern, much less discuss, the truth.

Let’s put it another way. Suppose the so-called “debunkers” and their brethren were colorblind, and realized their disadvantage versus those who could actually see color. Their need to level the playing field—to deny the reality of color, and to demand that those who could perceive objects and relationships which they could not (like when traffic lights were red, not green) be labeled as charlatans, or worse—might be understandable, but it would not be defensi­ble. The tactic would, of course, lose out as long as these color skeptics were out of power, but if their tribe were to take over and then prop up their weaknesses with the force of law, wouldn’t all who could see rainbows become out­laws?

So far, this magazine remains free to promote awareness of the many hues which adorn our world, some of which may be hard to see unless properly pointed out. But, an activity like ours could be very threatening to those who per­ceive the world as strictly black and white—or, at best, shades of gray. Let us hope they are not permitted to enforce their insecurities.

BY J. DOUGLAS KENYON

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