I prefer to think of this more as a general expression of concern and dismay than an angry rant. Anger doesn't really enter into it. Frustration? Yes.
Certainly. Disappointment? Sure. And a little sadness, as well.
Anyone who has read my posts, I hope, should realize that I am a strong proponent of skeptics and believers (if you even choose to adhere to those
labels) getting along. I am not derisive of people or ideas. If I don't agree with someone, I say so, but I always make sure I add that I respect
everyone else's views. When something is uncertain or not yet proved to be fact, I still acknowledge it as a possibility despite remaining skeptical
(which is not the same as asserting that something is or isn't true or real, which I do not do without proof.) I say that not to pat myself on the
back, but just to underscore the fact that I believe in honest, respectful, civil, and if at all possible, friendly dialogue, even between those who
disagree, and that I believe in being as patient as possible, and giving people every benefit of the doubt, always. The reason for that is simple. If
we're here to try to find the truth about something - anything, regardless of what it may be - then communication is one of the most if not the most
powerful tools in our arsenal toward that end. I'm not going to learn anything by making assumptions or yelling at people in my opinion.
Therefore, with that in mind, I unfortunately have to admit that my recent experiences on ATS have begun to disappoint and frustrate me. I only
mention it at all because those experiences, more and more, seem to be part of an expanding trend. A trend which was, at least in my experience, not
in evidence over six years ago when I joined this site. (At least not to this degree.) I'm not talking about just the last few weeks or months, but
the last year or more. I can reduce those experiences into three basic thread types (although I'm sure there are more.)
1) The Hit and Run Thread.
In this thread, someone posts a premise or theory, and asserts it as fact. They may or may not offer evidence to
support it. They will doggedly defend this theory or premise as fact against all skepticism, often offering sources which they claim provide proof of
the claims. When thoroughly researched however, this theory or premise is found to be unsupported by evidence, and the sources of the evidence they
claimed existed turn out to be dead ends, or unsubstantiated assertions made by individuals on the web or elsewhere. It remains a possibility,
and as I said, I will never assert that something is not true or real without proof. However, the topic creator will, when faced with this lack of
evidence, then stop replying (often after arguing for their position for many pages, and receiving many, many stars and flags, elevating the thread to
the front page of the site, crowding out other topics.)
Despite making it clear that I or others are not discounting the possibility and are not attacking the topic creator, the lack of evidence is never
acknowledged, and they simply vanish (often to start up another similar thread in the future.) This is not to say that someone isn't free to post or
not post, let alone in their own thread. Of course they are. I've created topics that I stopped posting in, or which simply died out. But I've never
just ignored evidence or the lack thereof presented if it conflicted with my views. This is frustrating.
2) The Potentially Mentally Unstable Threads.
This is a very touchy subject, for obvious reasons. Having a radically different
worldview, unusual experience, extreme beliefs, etc. does not make someone crazy. I think that there needs to be a very, very, very high threshold
when even considering someone's mental stability, especially based solely upon someone's words on the internet. However, there are some threads -
especially in light of recent tragic events - that I don't think raising the possibility
would be unreasonable in. Philosophical, religious,
political, emotional, cerebral, and intellectual differences - of which I am extremely tolerant and even celebratory - notwithstanding, some people's
writing here at times clearly meet the criteria for representing possible
signs of serious mental illness.
I am not being a close-minded skeptic who thinks conspiracy theorists (of which I am one, incidentally) are crazy. I am trying to be very careful to
avoid that interpretation of what I'm saying here. I'm just saying that, in my opinion, certain threads here - not the norm, by far - may
indicate the possibility of mental illness, and I think it's reasonable and responsible to raise that possibility
in those threads.
Unfortunately, no matter how gently you introduce that notion, even when careful to remind the individual in question that you do not think
they are mentally unstable, but are merely raising the possibility, people tend to be highly defensive about this. The result is usually that they
outright ignore or dismiss you, and plow ahead with their (to me at least) frighteningly disjointed discourse. This is saddening and frightening.
3) The Incredible Leap Thread.
In this thread, the topic creator asserts that a connection exists between myriad subjects, places, objects,
people, and events. They provide no evidence for this save for tenuous coincidences such as similar or identical names. Nevertheless, in their mind,
the association and correlation between these disparate factors is self-evident, requiring no further explanation or specificity. When requesting
further elaboration, they simply respond that if you cannot see the puzzle pieces falling into place, then you must be ignorant, close-minded, or
blind. When clarifying that you are not discounting the possibility that they are correct, but merely ask that they explain how
are connected, they dismiss you as not having examined their evidence (even if you confirm that you have.)
It would be one thing if they made an earnest attempt to explain further and I simply failed to comprehend it. In that case, I would concede that it
was simply above my head or beyond my capacity to understand fully. That isn't what I'm talking about, though. I'm talking about a potentially
incredible leap being made to a conclusion and a persistent expectation that everyone simply make the same leap, with no further explanation,
description, or specificity. Sometimes a laundry list of links purporting to provide evidence will be provided, but after perusing them yields no
clear correlation between them, requests for further clarification are shot down summarily. Needless to say, this is highly frustrating and
disappointing as well.
It is my sincere hope that I haven't offended with the above posts. I have avoided specifically referring to individual posters, because 1) I don’t
believe that’s right, and 2) anyone who reads this and thinks I'm talking about them should be aware that they are not the only ones by a long shot.
This has happened many, many times over the last year or so. Recently, it seems to be proliferating and accelerating, however. It is not my intention
to offend, belittle, condemn, or invalidate any person, belief, position, theory, thought, idea, or feeling. As I said when I began this thread, and
as I always try my best to reiterate as often as I can, I respect everyone's opinions and feelings. I am not telling anyone that they are wrong.
Nor am I suggesting anyone abandon their beliefs, or that they are mentally unstable, wrong, or irrational.
I am simply expressing my own personal
frustration, disappointment, and frankly, sadness, at the nature of certain discussions lately. Or, more to the point, the lack of discussion; the
cessation of meaningful and considered conversation in favor of instead ignoring the mere suggestion of other possibilities.
If I am willing to entertain even the most unusual of claims, is it so much to ask that people making such claims consider in turn those alternative
possibilities raised by skeptics who try their best to be open-minded, considerate, and polite despite their skepticism? I think believing in
something - even something that hasn't been proved - can be a rewarding and even beautiful thing, as well as a useful tool. It's a different mode of
thought and logic. But there is a reason belief is distinguished from fact, and the refusal to even acknowledge the possibility of being wrong about a
belief - especially when the one suggesting that possibility is actively entertaining the possibility that your belief may be reality - is a
frustrating and disappointing turn of events that seemed much less prevalent when I first joined the site. There was a time when skeptics and
believers could have stimulating, vigorous, thought provoking, friendly conversations and exchanges of ideas. Lately that seems to be on the decline,
though. I hope I'm wrong.
This was the only forum I felt this was appropriate to post in. Thank-you for reading, and peace.
edit on 1/17/2011 by AceWombat04 because:
Sentence in wrong location due to spellcheck editing.