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Sunday, April 3, 2016

There is No Mountain of Evidence That Will Persuade a Hardcore Skeptic

Today's hardcore skeptic is far more than just a person reluctant to believe in any of a set of phenomena that skeptics have declared to be taboo and unacceptable. The hardcore skeptic is someone determined not to believe in any such phenomena, no matter what evidence is presented. The hardcore skeptic seems to be boundlessly skilled in inventing excuses for not believing in things he doesn't want to believe in.

The hardcore skeptic is not just someone who will not believe in ghosts even if he sees one. The hardcore skeptic is someone who will not believe in ghosts even if he sees no one other than transparent ghosts for the rest of his life. Rather than believing in ghosts, such a skeptic will persuade himself that there is some problem with his eye that is causing him to see people as transparent.

Of course, the hardcore skeptic will not believe in UFOs even if he sees a UFO in the sky. But it is also true that the hardcore skeptic will not believe in UFOs even if he looks up and sees the entire sky filled with a hundred big bright UFOs. He will instead make all kinds of ingenious excuses for rejecting the testimony of his senses, such as claiming that he is starting to develop cataracts that are causing him to see things in the sky, or that overhead of him is some kind of lingering dust storm that just looks like a sky full of UFOs. He will use the same type of excuse even if he sees the sky filled with UFOs for every night of the rest of his life. 

Presented with evidence that the fundamental constants of the universe are astonishing fine-tuned, and that the proton charge and the electron charge equal each other to twenty decimal places, and that the cosmological constant seems to be fine-tuned to sixty decimal places, the hardcore skeptic will insist that this is not the slightest reason for thinking there is some design or plan behind the universe. Instead he may say these facts are explained by some crazy theory that dying stars squirt out new universes.

A hardcore skeptic will completely reject decades of compelling laboratory experiments indicating that ESP exists, saying they are all due to fraud or error. Clearly a hardcore skeptic will not believe in ESP even if he has a convincing ESP experience. But he also will not believe in ESP even if he suddenly develops the ability to read the minds of every single person he meets. The hardcore skeptic will tell himself that he is merely hallucinating. If any evidence appears proving the accuracy of his telepathy, he will dismiss that as just a coincidence.

Similarly, if a hardcore skeptic throws up two fistfuls of coins in the air, and they fall to the ground very neatly spelling out the words, “Hi from God,” the hardcore skeptic will not regard this as any evidence of some divine hand. He will dismiss the incident as being a coincidence. Should the same thing happen ever single time he tries it, the hardcore skeptic would still regard it as just a coincidence.

If a hardcore skeptic sees with his eyes an angel or an extraterrestrial, he will dismiss this as just a hallucination in his mind. If he is with a group of 50 people, and every single one of them says they saw the same angel or extraterrestrial, the skeptic will dismiss the incident as just a case of mass hysteria.

Given very compelling photographic evidence of some type of paranormal phenomenon, the hardcore skeptic may dismiss it as a fake. If it happens that thousands or millions of people all over the world are producing the same type of photographs of this paranormal phenomenon, the hardcore skeptic will prefer to believe that this is a large conspiracy of people who are coordinating their faking activities with each other – or that the similarities are all just coincidences.

If a hardcore skeptic gets a bad case of cancer, and his doctor tells him his whole body is filled with cancer, and if someone prays for his health and he then recovers fully, being restored to perfect health, the hardcore skeptic will think this was merely a coincidence. If the same thing happens to millions of people across the globe, he will just call it a series of coincidences. If it is pointed out that we should not expect such a series of coincidences to occur even once in the earth's history, the hardcore skeptic will describe some hypothetical multiverse of a billion trillion universes, and claim that we would expect to see such a thing at least once in the history of all those universes.

If a hardcore skeptic has an accident while walking in the mountains, and plunges 500 feet to his death, and then finds his soul floating out of his body, and then ascending to some indescribably beautiful heaven filled with deceased humans who fly about like angels, the hardcore skeptic will convince himself that this is all just a vivid dream, and that he is actually just sleeping safely back in his tent in the mountain campsite.

A hardcore skeptic will not believe in Bigfoot if he sees an animal looking like Bigfoot right in front of him. If explorers discover a vast underground cave realm of 10,000 Bigfoot creatures, the hardcore skeptic will maintain that they are just 10,000 humans wearing Bigfoot costumes.

If a hardcore skeptic sees a message from God written in the sky, the hardcore skeptic will of course dismiss this as being merely a coincidental cloud arrangement. If the same message appears in every corner of the sky, on every cloudless night for the rest of his life, the hardcore skeptic will start speculating about multiverses and parallel universes, and convince himself that this is just what we would expect to coincidentally see in at least one universe in an infinite collection of universes, merely because of some weird feature of quantum randomness.

Some people mistakenly think that hardcore skepticism is about setting a high evidence threshold, a high level of evidence that must be presented in order to persuade. But instead hardcore skepticism is about not having any evidence threshold for anything you don't want to believe in. The hardcore skeptic is a person who has made a list of things that he has very firmly decided not to believe in, regardless of what evidence is ever presented. The hardcore skeptic does not merely have a closed mind; he has closed his mind, put a padlock on it, and thrown away the key to the padlock. There is no mountain of evidence that will ever persuade the hardcore skeptic to believe in any of those many things he has so firmly resolved that he will never ever ever believe in.

 Hardcore skeptics have lists like this in their minds