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Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures

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posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 07:24 AM
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This was an article that I, somehow, never saw before today. I found it a very interesting read, and it opened my eyes up a bit:

www.csicop.org...

The quick story, it's from a woman, Karla Mclaren who used to be heavily involved in the new-age movement. She has since pulled herself out of that world, and evidently now identifies with the skeptical and debunking community. She lays out some very important points that I figured were worth sharing I did a search and this was posted, once, 8 years ago (that I could find, I searched "bridging the chasm"

Considering there are many different people around ATS these days, and I didn't want to get involved in extreme necroposting, I decided to just make this thread.

Here are a few small sections of the article:


I think I've finally discovered the central issue that makes communication so difficult. It is not merely, as many surmise, a conflict between fact-based viewpoints and faith-based viewpoints. Nor is it simply a conflict between rationality and credulity. No, it’s a full-on clash of cultures that makes real communication improbable at best. I know this firsthand, because as a former member of the New Age culture, I struggled for years to decipher the language, the rules, the attitudes, and the expectations of the skeptical culture. Yet for a great while, all I could hear from the skeptical culture was noise-and confusing noise at that.



I couldn't find myself in the skeptical lexicon. I couldn't identify myself with the uncaring hucksters, the wildly miseducated snake-oil peddlers, the self-righteous psychics, the big-haired evangelists, or the megalomaniacal eastern fakirs. I couldn't identify my work or myself with the scam-based work or the unstable personalities so roundly trashed by the skeptical culture, because I was never in the field to scam anyone—and neither were any of my friends or colleagues. I worked in the field because I have a deep and abiding concern for people, and an honest wish to be helpful in my own culture. Access to clearheaded and carefully presented skeptical material would have helped me (and others like me) at every step of the way—but I couldn't access any of that information because I simply couldn't identify with it. Until now.


In the interest of full disclosure I'll say I would put myself pretty far into the skeptic zone. Debunking isn't exactly a hobby of mine, but my posting history might show otherwise to some. I'm not looking to attack people in the new-age movement with this thread, and actually it's aimed more at the skeptics and debunkers, as I feel the methods used by me and many others are falling on deaf ears, precisely for the reasons that Mclaren lays out.

When I see discussions of various new agery, honestly I get angry. My gut reaction is that I'm experiencing people embracing ignorance, and that makes me furious. It's not specific to the new-age subject either, it's the same for me whenever I see or hear ideas and concepts being promoted that seem to horribly fail the critical thinking litmus test. This is a weakness of mine that I've been aware of, and am trying to control, but Mclaren's article really helped me to solidify an idea of the behavior I want to strive for. The article made a pretty big impact on me, and I think it's something that will pop into my head every time I begin to post aggressive rebuttals in the heat of the moment.

I'd really prefer this thread NOT turn into any sort of argument about the legitimacy of the new-age movement; it's not about that. It's about how new-age followers and skeptics communicate, and more specifically about how skeptics communicate to new-age followers.

Attack the message not the messenger is a good start, and is a common theme people repeat. But it doesn't go far enough, because attacking the message is very close to attacking the messenger when someone is so vested in their ideas.

This part stuck out to me:


We have a different language and different references, but we share these basic human needs. I would ask you to respect our humanity, and approach us not as if you are reformers or redeemers. I would ask you to approach us as fellow humans who share your concern and interest in the welfare of others. I would ask you to be as culturally intelligent as you are scientifically intelligent, and to work to understand our culture as clearly as you understand the techniques, ideas, and modalities that have sprung from it. We are a people, not a problem.


The type of language and attitude skeptics use is not effective. I avoided using the term "newager" in this thread simply because, at least to me, it seems to have a derogatory feel to it. In the same way "birther" or "truther" have that same feel. This is just a random example I thought of, but a few word choice errors can totally change the tone of a message, and breed hostility where otherwise there would be none.

I'm going to bring up Phage here, since I remember a thread somewhere where a poster called out Phage for having an attitude. Personally I don't see attitude when I read Phage's posts, I see someone trying to be clear and concise, which is exactly what his reply was to that person. But, my culture (in the way the word is used by Mclaren) is far more similar to Phage's than that of the other poster. The poster was saying that Phage should try to be more sensitive in his posting, which shows their "culture" was quite similar to that of new-age followers (I suspect they were, but can't remember)

The other poster took offense, where as I am pleased because I get to read a post that cuts right to the point. I think Mclaren is absolutely right when she says that the arguments between the two "sides" don't happen simply because of a differing opinion, but because of a differing of culture. The ways that either camp communicates and understands each other is vastly different, which is bound to cause issues.

I think both sides should work to better understand each other. Not being well versed in the new-age world I have no ideas or suggestions that would help them better community with "us" the skeptics. But having been in both places, I think Mclaren makes some excellent points on things the skeptics could do better.

Anyone else find this article as interesting as I did? I'd welcome your thoughts on the subject!




posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 08:23 AM
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reply to post by James1982
 


A lot of the debunker type people misunderstand my posting style. I don't believe a lot of the topics that I seem to be supporting. Really all I am doing is standing next to the OP first. I have to get to where they are, then I ask questions. It may seem to the untrained eye that I am asking those questions for me, but I'm usually not. It's for them. You want somebody to see the truth, well they have to see it with their eyes not yours.

The main anger is that you Do Not Know everything (general you).. When you come in all combative people will only build bigger walls. It's similar to the global problems leading into warfare.

You have to try and see people the way the see themselves, and then you will know how to steer them away from what you may think is ignorance.

You still have to let them choose, and many times debunker types come off like they want to control others. In truth many do.. This is a sickness as much as having cult like beliefs can be.

What get's me angry is seeing disrespect, and that's when someone gets to feel my wrath.


I havn't read the article yet, just your post. Reading it now.
edit on 9/12/2013 by Dustytoad because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 08:36 AM
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Im not a 'newager', but what I dont understand is why you feel it so important to voice your skepticism over a belief you do not share? Have you been hurt in some way by this belief?

Why not accept we are different and believe different things. Why do you feel it necessary to try to 'debunk' others beliefs? I have never understood this in people. If a belief makes someone happy, be happy for them. Dont try to tell them it is wrong. We are different yet so many people fail to recognise this. We should take joy from learning others beliefs and cultures. Not turn against them for no apparent reason. If you see any reasons why the belief system is wrong.....so what? You are not being forced to believe it. Just accept it and walk away.

Sorry, I never understood why some people are like this.

Why would a new age believer want to work with you just so you can trash their beliefs?
edit on 12-9-2013 by greavsie1971 because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 09:41 AM
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greavsie1971
Im not a 'newager', but what I dont understand is why you feel it so important to voice your skepticism over a belief you do not share? Have you been hurt in some way by this belief?

Why not accept we are different and believe different things. Why do you feel it necessary to try to 'debunk' others beliefs? I have never understood this in people. If a belief makes someone happy, be happy for them. Dont try to tell them it is wrong. We are different yet so many people fail to recognise this. We should take joy from learning others beliefs and cultures. Not turn against them for no apparent reason. If you see any reasons why the belief system is wrong.....so what? You are not being forced to believe it. Just accept it and walk away.

Sorry, I never understood why some people are like this.

Why would a new age believer want to work with you just so you can trash their beliefs?
edit on 12-9-2013 by greavsie1971 because: (no reason given)


Many people simply value truth, for truth's sake. We will never know everything, but gaining and sharing knowledge is something valued by cultures across the globe and throughout time. If a person sees something they believe to be false, and have evidence to back up that it's false, it only makes sense to offer a correction. This may again trace back to the totally different mindset and "culture" that different groups have.

There are also quite a few practical reasons for debunking. On medical issues, there is the very real possibility of new-age ideas causing real physical harm, and even death. If you saw someone about to swallow a vial full of nuclear waste because someone told them it would cure their baldness, would you not say something? And to go further, if that person supported and spread the idea of drinking nuclear waste to cure baldness, wouldn't you want to debunk the idea in order to potentially save lives? That's an extreme example buy the concept is the same.

When it comes to political issues, there are real legitimate reasons for debunking as well. We (in theory) control our government, and the knowledge of the population can directly influence the government, when then influences the rest of the population. In my opinion a person does not have the right to remain ignorant about subjects which influence their vote, as their vote affects me. Regardless of what political ideals you follow, I think most of us can all agree that the US is in bad shape right now. I think many people would also agree it's in such bad shape because the American people remain incredibly ignorant about so many important issues. Debunking goes a long way to help avoid people making choices based on false information.

If I said Obama eats kittens for dinner, and millions of people didn't vote for Obama because of that, there would be real life consequences because so many people believing my incorrect claim. If someone would have been around to debunk that idea, the outcome could be very different. Again an extreme example (and personally can't stand Obama) but it's the exact same concept.

The whole point of debunking is getting to the truth. I'd hope there are very few people who are actually against truth, so how could someone be against debunking?

People have their beliefs, but don't people believe those things because they think they are true? How can someone be sure of their beliefs, if their belief is never tested? I have opinions and ideas on things like everyone else, and I welcome people who challenge those ideas. When people challenge my ideas, either I find relevant information with which to defend them, in which case my beliefs grow even stronger, or I realize I was wrong, and change my mind. That seems like an excellent way to live life and form ideas, wouldn't you agree? A person going around in their own little world, only listening to their own echo isn't going to find truth.

As far as why I would expect new-age followers to work with skeptics and debunkers? I don't really. I had mentioned in my OP that this thread was more aimed at the skeptic community than anyone else. But I would like to see both sides try harder to listen and understand what the other is saying.

New-age followers are, I'm assuming, searching for truth. Skeptics and debunkers are also looking for truth. Their goal is the same, the two groups just have very different ways of going about it. If a new-age person's true motive was truth and understanding, they should be open to examining their own ideas, and thinking critically about them. If skeptics and debunkers are looking for truth, they should do the same thing.

That is why I said I don't identify myself as a debunker, because my goal is not to destroy ideas or change minds. My goal is to find and share the truth. If someone has a convincing argument that their truth is more accurate than mine, I'll change mine. If someone proposes a truth that lacks evidence, I'll provide one with evidence.

I also find that debunkers often times are extremely dismissive about concepts that don't have hundreds of years of proven work behind them. There not being evidence for something, and that something not actually existing are not the same at all. I'm open to alternative ideas, but that alternative idea has the same burden of proof as the "mainstream" one. There are aspects of the new-age philosophy that seem to be backed up by at least anecdotal evidence, and which science has yet to explain. I'm very interested in these ideas, and would never dismiss them or attack someone proposing such beliefs. But at the same time, I wouldn't accept their interpretation as concrete fact without more evidence.



posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 10:13 AM
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Building of such a bridge is possible if BOTH parties care to listen to the other, reciprocate and try to understand the other, and themselves.

Often I find debunkers, sceptics AND followers of the new age alike, being rather stuck in a tunnel-vision.
This leading to bashing of each other because ideas of either party doesn't fit in the others model.

To get rid of said tunnel-vision, one is advised to have patience, to have a good way of explaining your own and being able to ask questions, so that one can understand the others model and the proofs relevant to it.

Once there is a certain understanding established, one should compare their own model with the other. See if it has points where the models touch each other. If it does, then it'll be easier to understand the other even more so. If not, one could either try:
to think a bit more open and see if one model could be (partially) a kind of allegory or metaphor for the other;
simply letting the two models be.

Lastly, if you do care to convince the other of your own model, do this after you have understood each other, so that both parties know what you are working with. And if something does seem to be a more efficient or simply better way to explain, then try incorporating it into your model or like previously said, keep the mind open and let the two models be. And switch between the two when needed.

Man fears the unknown, so let them get used to it and understand the unknown a bit, making it something known.

Remember: sometimes, there is more than one way to approach the truth.




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