I (Don’t) Want To Believe

Pic: Albert Herring (CC)

Pic: Albert Herring (CC)

Nick Redfern at Mysterious Universe:

So many people in Forteana profess to being open-minded on whatever happened at Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of 1947, the true nature of Bigfoot, whether or not life after death is a reality and…well, the list goes on and on. But, that’s actually not so – unfortunately. Time and time again I have seen researchers – in pretty much all aspects of Forteana – take that arms-folded, barriers-up approach when their cherished theory is questioned or doubted.

Are these people for real? Indeed, they are. I’m not saying I’m anything special, because I’m most certainly not. But, correct me if I’m wrong, the reason why Mysterious Universe exists, the reason why books are published every year on a mountain of mysteries, and the reason why paranormal-themed radio and TV shows exist is specifically because we don’t have the answers. If we did, I wouldn’t be writing these words right now, because I wouldn’t need to! Instead of having answers, we have beliefs.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with belief – it does, after all, fuel every single religion on the face of the planet. But belief – in a deity, in a Heaven or Hell, in aliens, in Bigfoot or in anything else of a potentially supernatural nature – should be recognized, and more importantly admitted, for what it is: an acceptance that something exists without hard, definitive proof of that existence or its nature.

Now, of course people see UFOs, encounter lake-monsters and giant hairy ape-man, and have profound near-death experiences. But, this is all very and vastly different from having proof that UFOs are specifically alien spacecraft, Bigfoot is without doubt an unknown/unclassified ape, or that there really is a God and a Devil. The former are unusual events and experiences that require explanations. The latter are beliefs constructed to try and explain and rationalize those same experiences and events.

Is that a problem? Well, again, not if there’s an admittance that any explanation is theoretical and belief-driven. The problem, however, surfaces when a demand is made (consciously, deliberately or otherwise) that belief equals fact. It doesn’t. Or, it shouldn’t. But, for so many, it sadly does.

I very well remember the fury that erupted in 2005 when my book Body Snatchers in the Desert was published, and which suggested the events that occurred in the desert outside of Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of 1947 had far less to do with careless aliens in need of a few good lessons in flying, and far more to do with dark and dubious military experimentation.

While debating the book at a conference in Roswell itself in the summer of 2007, it became very clear to me – and very quickly, too – that whole swathes of people didn’t just disagree with the data contained in my book. They clearly – from an emotional and an “I want to believe” perspective – just plain did not want the alien theory threatened. Why? Because the ET angle was exciting, reinforced their hope that there’s more to life than just birth, school, work and death, and made them feel that researching Roswell, and the bigger UFO issue, hadn’t been a big waste of time.

But, here’s my point: if we solved Roswell and it was proved to have been an alien event, well that’s great. Ufology is vindicated. But, if it’s one day proved not to have been an ET encounter, then why is that a problem? For me it isn’t. Research should be about finding answers, no matter whether we like those answers or not, and no matter if they utterly shatter our preconceived beliefs or add significant weight to them.

Read more here.

18 Comments on "I (Don’t) Want To Believe"

  1. Daniel Gill | Dec 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

    Christian theology that instructs belief as oppose to gnosis through the infilling of the holy spirit is only one face of that religion. There’s A LOT of people who belong to a church with a wholly other [sic] perspective on divinity. If that’s not you I pity you. Research the religious experience. Experience it yourself. I don’t give a fuck if scientists have proven it or not, those experiences are still available to you, and they’re not Fortean at all. Fuck.

    Educate yourselves. Read. Study. The truth really is out there. These experiences are available.

    If you want to be one ask one.

  2. From my perspective, mysteries are interesting because they are mysteries. Solve them and they become commonplace facts.

  3. heinrich6666 | Dec 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

    Reading this article left me with: Does the Pope shit in the woods? Is it really supposed to be a somehow provocative blog post? Everybody has an emotional investment in their own vision of the world, from scientists to cranks. I thought it was an abundantly obvious fact — but now we have an article telling us so.

    • Ellen Joyce | Dec 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

      I think you give people more credit than they’ve earned. Trying to honestly identify your personal emotional or belief system filters takes a bit of courage and ruthlessness with self. I don’t know how many people watching Dancing with the Stars make the effort.

      • heinrich6666 | Dec 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

        Well, people trading in outsider knowledge ought to have some experience with things getting rejected out of hand — if they’re not brainless hypocrites. I’d rather see an article with more about the actual psychology of belief, why it is that people refuse to change their views, than just another post lamenting the fact.

        • Ellen Joyce | Dec 31, 2013 at 9:10 am |

          What makes people refuse to change beliefs, or why they only include evidence that supports their beliefs It’s a great question, and I’d definitely read your take on it!

          • heinrich6666 | Dec 31, 2013 at 9:40 am |

            Hrm. Now you put me on the spot, and I rarely make known my views when sober. I think our interaction with the world is based on belief — where ‘belief’ is provisionally defined as a subjective relationship to knowledge where that knowledge is both: a) reinforced by its relationship to other pieces of knowledge; and b) emotionally cathected because it gives us satisfaction, and affects our anticipations, expectations, and fantasies. For example, I ‘believe’ that a country called China exists. You could say I have no *hard* evidence for that. I’ve never been there, never set foot on its soil, never stuffed its soil in its mouth. But I have thousands of pieces of corroborating evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony, video, Chinese restuarants, and so on. –Bearing in mind, I ‘choose’ to believe all that. It’s not a willful choice, it’s a de facto choice. It wasn’t consciously undertaken. It was because the mind is oriented to ‘accept’ its world as true unless shown otherwise.

            So it’s natural for people to demonstrate a certain inertia when it comes to beliefs. For one, simply at the level of knowledge, what they ‘know’ is self-reinforcing. Facts are incorporated into the general body of knowledge only to the extent that they ‘fit’ with other facts. Second, since people are emotional beings, and relate emotionally to their world, for some fact to be ‘wrong’ when it is an important one, serving as node in the network of knowledge once it’s all mapped out, they experience emotional resistance. They attempt to reject on logical grounds, using rational arguments with greater or lesser success, whatever it is that is threatening to transform their body of knowledge. Oftentimes, though, they’re found out: they’re just attacking the person presenting them with the offending knowledge (shooting the messenger, ad hominem attacks).

            The only antidote that I’ve found, as you put it so well, is a certain ruthlessness toward self, a strong conceptualization of what one’s own emotional attachments are. And an emotional desire — not to be *right* — but rather *not to be wrong*.

  4. Daniel Gill | Dec 28, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

    My point is I will emphasize again

    a lot of people who get involved in this sort of thing, if not all of them, necessarily have to reconcile their experiences with their prior understanding of reality, and they have to come to accept with what living with a lucid notion of the noetic is like .

    a secularist *knocks on the table* trusts their experience , and so on

    a shaman , woo woo, trusts their dreams, their invasive thoughts, and so on.

    reality becomes inversed.

    A lot of people, are DISTURBED, by religion.

    It’s not a simple matter of right or wrong, belief or non belief.

    it’s a matter of reconciliation , acceptance, a lot of the time

    and i will urge you all, if you want to learn the most about religion, research the cultural formation of spirit possession, wherever you find it. you will find disturbed and honest people.

  5. Daniel Gill | Dec 28, 2013 at 4:50 pm |

    I caution anyone who would get involved in these matters uninterested in reconciling with the requisite knowledge and research required for living with such a condition. If you develop and interest in shamanism, and other woo woo that is out there, and you don’t trust your dreams? if you work against that and you disbelieve it instead then you’re in for a downward spiral.

    And I encourage everyone and anyone to involve themselves with such profoundly moving religious experiences .

    Keep the mysterious mysterious at your peril.

  6. BuzzCoastin | Dec 29, 2013 at 12:34 am |

    Life should be about finding answers, no matter whether we like those answers or not, and no matter if they utterly shatter our preconceived beliefs or add significant weight to them.

Comments are closed.