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skeptical conversion and urban legends

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  • Eric Krieg
    Hi folks, John said I could post his personal comments about what he has learned in his shift towards skepticism: Hi, Eric. Thanks for your interest. Let me
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 13, 1999
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      Hi folks,

      John said I could post his personal comments about what he has learned in
      his shift towards skepticism:

      Hi, Eric. Thanks for your interest.
      Let me clear up one misconception, caused no doubt by the hasty condensation
      of my experience in the post to Steve. I did not "convert" to Skepticism
      (capital "s") after one reading of SI. As someone who was interested in
      things paranormal, I couldn't help but notice magazines like SI, and later
      SKEPTIC, on the newsstands (not hard to find in the Bay Area at all). I first
      ignored them on the usual "what do they know?" grounds, but as experience
      eroded my dogmatism I became as likely to pick them up for their interest as I
      might buy "Yoga Journal" or "Gnosis"; they were all about subjects that
      interested me, just from differing points of view. I soon noticed that the
      skeptic mag articles were cogent and well-reasoned, while the newageish mags
      had no real content and were filled with ads for products the articles
      effectively promoted. I was always interested in science as a child, and had
      early developed great respect for the scientific method as a way of
      establishing reality. I'd just forgotten about that.
      I do regret the years wasted on untenable belief systems, but I don't
      really resent the people who "sold" them to me. Nearly all of them believed
      in what they were selling, and were as deluded as I. I never got into truly
      fraudulent cults like EST or Scientology because I do have a good sense for
      phony schemes, but I do not so easily detect the proneness to error of true
      So I think my experience has made me potentially effective as a voice for
      rational discourse on these issues, but don't sign me up as promoter of a
      "gospel" of anything. My position is basically that having strong opinions
      about these things is not really necessary, and unconducive to one's mental
      health. Going from one strong set of beliefs to exactly the opposite belief
      is not grounds for equal dogmatism. All the mistakes I made were my own, and
      from that I have learned a little moderation. Believing and disbelieving are
      not what life is about.
      But I don't ignore the naive newageism of friends. The question "How do
      you know that?" can be most effective for raising the questions we want to
      raise. I doubt that I've ever converted anyone, but I still sow the seeds.
      You never know the ultimate results of your actions, so it's best to be
      rational but kind.
      I still meditate because I like it and think, but cannot prove, that it's
      helped bring about my change of attitude. I have "psychic" experiences every
      once in a while, but relegate them to my default position of skepticism. It's
      hard not to believe in ESP or that the universe is not driven by a
      teleological force. But, who knows? I can live with uncertainty.
      John Thomas

      ==================== The following urban legend compendium is amusing:
      I Know This Guy...

      I know this guy who's neighbor, a young man, was home recovering from
      having been served a rat in his bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. So anyway,
      one day he went to sleep and when he awoke he was in his bathtub and it was
      full of ice and he was sore all over. When he got out of the tub he realized
      that HIS KIDNEYS HAD BEEN STOLEN and he saw a note on his mirror that said,
      "Call 911!" But he was afraid to use his phone because it was connected to
      his computer, and there was a virus on his computer that would destroy his
      hard drive if he opened an e-mail entitled, "Join the crew!" He knew it
      wasn't a hoax because he himself was a computer programmer who was working on
      software to save us from Armageddon when he year 2000 rolls around. His
      program will prevent a global disaster in which all the computers get together
      and distribute the $600 Neiman Marcus cookie recipe under the leadership of
      Bill Gates. (It's true, I read it all last week in a mass email from BILL
      GATES HIMSELF, who was also promising me a free Disneyworld vacation and
      $5,000 if I would forward the email to everyone I know). The poor man then
      tried to call 911 from a pay phone to report his missing kidneys, but reaching
      into the coin return slot he got jabbed with an HIV-infected needle around
      which was wrapped a note that said, "Welcome to the world of AIDS." Luckily
      he was only a few blocks from the hospital, the one, actually, where that
      little boy who is dying of cancer is, the one whose last wish is for everyone
      in the world to send him an email and the American Cancer Society has agreed
      to pay him a nickel for every email he receives. I sent him two emails and
      one of them was a bunch of X's and O's in the shape of an angel (if you get it
      and forward it to twenty people you will have good luck but ten people you
      will only have OK luck and if you send it to less than ten people you will
      have BAD LUCK FOR SEVEN YEARS). So anyway the poor guy tried to drive himself
      to the hospital, but on the way he noticed another car driving along without
      his lights on. To be helpful, he flashed his lights at him and was promptly
      shot as part of a gang initiation. And it's a little-known fact that the Y1K
      problem caused the Dark Ages.

      Thanks to our Mcd131!! :-�

      Eric Krieg

      eric@... fax (215) 654-0651
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