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Can skepticism blind you to the truth ?


Posted on Monday, 31 March, 2014 | Comment icon 225 comments

Can blind skepticism be literal ? Image Credit: sxc.hu
Can a deeply ingrained skepticism of the paranormal blind a person to what's in front of their eyes ?
In a recent experiment, electrical engineer Prof Arthur Ellison decided to end one of his lectures a bit differently by inviting several volunteers to come and stare at a bowl of flowers on a table and chant "om" with the intention of making the flowers levitate in the air.

When the flowers actually did raise up off the table Ellison himself remained unshaken - not only had he known it would happen but he had himself set up an electromagnet underneath to ensure that the levitating effect could be turned on and off whenever he wanted.

The purpose of the experiment was to see whether those who had participated, many of which being hardcore skeptics of the paranormal, would react to what they were experiencing. Despite the expectation that nothing would happen, would those skeptics report the same thing ?

The most interesting result came when one of the participants claimed that they hadn't seen anything at all during the experiment - to them the flowers hadn't even moved an inch.

Can a hardcore skeptic literally blind themselves to the truth based on their own expectations ? The results of Ellison's experiment remain controversial, but the fact that at least one person failed to see anything happen at all does lend credence to the idea that a firmly held disbelief can have the potential to alter one's perception of what's in front of them.

Source: io9.com | Comments (225)

Tags: Skepticism, Belief

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #216 Posted by Beany on 6 April, 2014, 23:27
I think skepticism is a healthy attribute. In often compels us to research a topic and gather information usually necessary to making good, rational decisions. There's a lot of people out there who make a pretty good living off the gullible.
Comment icon #217 Posted by Beany on 6 April, 2014, 23:29
Apparently there is. There was an article about that a couple of months ago. Something about the mind of one having more folds or something. I'll see if I can find it. Not sure what you're referring to, but the article sounds interesting.
Comment icon #218 Posted by DieChecker on 7 April, 2014, 3:46
Not sure what you're referring to, but the article sounds interesting. I think he was referencing my question as to if Believers and Cynics have different brain chemistry.
Comment icon #219 Posted by Frank Merton on 7 April, 2014, 4:02
I am and will remain always a skeptic about most things people claim without hard evidence, and especially about my own experiences. I don't care if the ghost is sitting right in front of me sipping tea I will not "believe." Also, it is very hard to imagine evidence that would overcome the inherent unlikelihood of such a thing that would persuade me otherwise. Even it telling me where grandfather's fortune is hidden would not be enough since I would figure I knew it all along and just needed my subconscious to tell me. (Note to any ghosts carrying such secrets -- don't let that discourage you ... [More]
Comment icon #220 Posted by Mikko-kun on 7 April, 2014, 14:12
Life is one big experiment, we have all the time in our hands and without astrology there's already enough factors to separate us to different roads, though factors like school and having parents with certain mindset dont seem to explain everything, not to me at least because my brother's a more level-headed guy who "knows what he's doing" and I'm always out there on the edge, trying to find the outermost walls of my box. Not that my brother wouldn't too, but he ends up in taking interest in the earthly stuff and I the occult and the like, it's been like that ever since we learned to read. I t... [More]
Comment icon #221 Posted by RhiannonB77 on 17 April, 2014, 12:18
Interesting. I would like to see how the Amazing Randi would react.
Comment icon #222 Posted by Rlyeh on 17 April, 2014, 12:32
a my advice aimed at the skeptics is go to reading "the scientific evidence of life after death the scole experiment" ...senior members of the Society for Psychical Research has chaired and controlled under the most stringent scientific rules these sessions ...: many of these skeptical scientists at the end of the experiment have become believers, and this says it all in my opinion You must mean lack of controls.http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4179 Did you find Project Alpha convincing? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Alpha
Comment icon #223 Posted by Nenaraz on 22 April, 2014, 4:03
An odd experiment, done by a believer in paranormal phenomena, opens a few questions about how everyone perceives the world. We know that belief can blind people - but can disbelief do the same thing? http://io9.com/can-s...eringlis-arkell Yes, the skepticism is quite conservative. Unless the experiment doesn't follow the particular procedure of one skeptical individual, it's not "proven". It's really just a battle of ignorance and knowledge. For an example, take Astrology. The first sign to see that someone didn't research it is when they use precession to claim that astrology doesn't work. T... [More]
Comment icon #224 Posted by SpiritWriter on 27 April, 2014, 5:45
yes, this is very easy to see
Comment icon #225 Posted by Hawkin on 12 May, 2014, 0:04
IMO there needs to be a balance of skepticism and willingness to accept the possibilities. Sometimes the truth can be stranger then fiction.


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