Friday, October 8, 2010

Science: Helping People Across the Divide

Science is a powerful way of understanding the world. Science isn't the only way to understand the world though. You can look at the world as a mysterious place full of forces and energies that aren't yet understood. You can understand the world as a mystical place or a place full of unproven wonders.

When these other views of the world co-opt scientific terminology and try to sound scientific they often miss the mark. These completely unscientific and unproven ways of looking at the world that try to sound scientific are called pseudoscience. It may sound like science but it isn't science.

The various pseudoscientific disciplines that make up much of the New Age movement have been criticized by scientists and skeptics. After all these beliefs and disciplines are trying to wear the respectability and importance of science. Skeptics debunk these claims and do their best to deny these groups this respect. If you aren't playing science by the rules of science you have no claim to call yourself scientific.

There is a problem though. Criticizing, challenging, and dismissing these disciplines isn't very constructive in bringing the believers into the realm of true science, reason, and critical thinking. In fact it seems that adherents of these New Age beliefs tend to switch beliefs quite readily. If one isn't working or has been 'obviously' proven wrong they're more likely to move on to something else just as unscientific.

Karla McLaren was a devoted believer in New Age mysticism. She is a published author on the subject. Over a long period she changed her mind on her beliefs in these areas. She's slowly turned into one of the skeptics. But being a person who has some insight into the mindset of New Agers she's written an piece for CSICOP called Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures.

Karla doesn't have a solution to the problem of bridging the gap yet. She's looking hard for one though. What she does have is a powerful insight into the mindset of this group of people. They want answers. They want insight and information and yet are able to easily hold conflicting and contradictory ideas in their minds without issue. Her own journey and the journey she's witnessed in others is revealing to people like myself who wonder exactly what people find in New Age beliefs. She also has insight into the skeptics. Insight into their integrity and their concern about people who hold completely misguided ideas and beliefs.

People like Karla who have been able to see both sides of the chasm may be the people to help bridge it. Here's hoping she finds a way to introduce more New Agers into the wonders and mysteries of the universe as it is and not just as people want it to be.

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