Strange Responses to a Skeptical Article

March 3, 2009

On average I write between three and five articles and columns each week, most of them skeptical in nature. I cover the gamut from UFOs to the latest lake monster sighting, ghost video, or dubious statement made in the news. The nature of skeptical (or critical) inquiry is that sometimes people won’t like what you say. For example, if I write a piece pointing out that predictions made by psychics for 2008 didn’t come true, psychics get upset (a few months back, one threatened to sue me).

So it didn’t surprise me that I got some angry feedback from a recent column I write for LiveScience.com, "Why Evidence for the Paranormal Doesn’t Improve." I wrote in part:

It seems that every month or two some new piece of evidence surfaces that promises to shed light on an unexplained mystery: A miraculous healing story here, a Borneo river monster photo there. Yet like the proverbial carrot before the donkey, final evidence is always in sight but never obtained.

  For decades, UFO buffs have claimed that conclusive proof of alien life is just around the corner. They believe that the "truth will be revealed" — either by extraterrestrials finally making themselves known (a visit to the White House lawn or Times Square might be on the agenda), or by the world’s governments ending their conspiracy of silence and letting the public see the real evidence and alien bodies they’ve had on ice since 1947.

  For decades, New Agers have heralded the coming of, well, a New Age. Some may remember the "Harmonic Convergence" that took place in August 1987, when thousands of people gathered at supposedly sacred sites around the world (including Stonehenge and the Golden Gate Bridge) to help usher in a global era of peace, brotherly love, and unity. Unfortunately — despite two days of song, prayer, and dancing — the world’s wars, genocide, terrorism, and catastrophe have continued unabated.

  Time and again, conclusive evidence is promised and fails to materialize; in fact it follows a predictable pattern. First, a non-scientist or layperson claims to have discovered some important new piece of evidence (such as the discovery of Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat in Turkey or the discovery of a Bigfoot track). News media then pick up and broadcast the story, sensationalizing it in the process. Then, as public interest mounts, the original promoters promise that scientists will examine the evidence and prove their claims.  

I thought it was pretty fair-minded and stuck to the facts, nothing to get exercised about. Below are three responses I got from readers.

  The first was from a Henrik Mattson, titled, "Your Yahoo News Garbage" :

I’m an ordinary guy from Finland with a poor academic education (music) but with a


pretty nice bookshelf, fast internet and keen interest to find out for myself and


not going with the ‘thinking of the day’...

  I must say that reading your very short " why evidence for the paranormal doesn’t  
  improve" on yahoo news made me very sceptical you’re a real sceptic after all.

  Have you bothered to read anything on these subjects? There is ALREADY a massive body of evidence (physical, e.w. accounts, official reports, whistleblower books, stories and tales) including mass-sightings, widely  
  broadcast incidents where you have multiple hightech equipment from ground to air  
  plus eyewitness accounts of the same UFO etc…that leaves us with the only really  
  interesting question:

  Why is there not any public debate on a global level on these very interesting and  
  highly current issues? ( By the way: I saw an UFO up close just a few days ago, and  
  I didin’t see it once, I saw it trice)

  Sincerely up yours, Henrik  

I replied:

Hello Henrik

  Thanks for writing. You asked if I have bothered to read anything on the  
  subjects in my piece. The answer is yes, in fact I have conducted  
  first-hand investigation into these topics for over ten years. I have  
  researched UFO claims, Bigfoot, psychics, ghosts, lake monsters, crop  
  circles, miracles, and many other topics. I have written three books and  
  hundreds of articles on the paranormal, so I think I have a solid  
  background in the issues. If you believe I missed important  
  information or my facts are wrong, I’d be happy to hear about it.

  all best

  Ben Radford

  p.s.  Up yours too.  

  The second, from a Bob Singleton, had as the subject line, "You’re a government schill," and contained only two words:

drop dead.

I replied,

Dear Bob,

  1) the word is "shill," not "schill"

  2) If I’m a government shill, where’s my check?  

 
  The third, from a Mr. Lin Liangtai, came with the heading, "US$10,000 for you to call my unbelievable article bad science"

Dear Sir,


 


I just read your website on bad science. So, I will pay you US$10,000 to call my


article bad science, disproving it publicly.


 


Attached is my article entitled "A study on a Carboniferous Human Femur Fossil".


 


Sincerely,


Lin Liangtai

I didn’t even know what to say to this guy. Never heard of him and I have no idea why he would pay me to call his article "bad science." If anyone else out there wants to read his article and call it bad science publicly, it might just be worth your while…