This is the first part of a three posts I am writing about this topical issue.
In this post I will introduce the problem.
- In the second post I will make some general points about what should be done, and why. I will also write why certain approaches are likely to be counterproductive – and potentially spiritually regressive.
- In the final post I will provide some more practical tools and strategies, and suggest how this entire situation can be of great benefit to anybody on a path of awakening.
There’s a story doing the rounds amongst the pro-psi crowd at present (The pro-psi folks are those who take the affirmative side in the debate about the existence of psi phenomena such as ESP, telepathy and clairvoyance – I include myself in that group). The story involves the recent activities of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia group. The guerrilla skeptics are a well-organised group of self-appointed online vigilantes whose prime mission is to attack and discredit all claims of the validity regarding spiritual, intuitive and alternative truth claims (including alternative and complementary medicine).
The notable issue with the guerrilla skeptics is the revelation that they have taken to Wikipedia in an to attempt to discredit wiki pages that they find contradict their way of seeing the universe. Robert McLuhan wrote a good account of the problem on his paranormalia blog about six months ago. Rupert Sheldrake and Craig Weiler, who have discussed the problem together, have recently written about the issue.
Sheldake is a favourite target of hard-core skeptics in general, and his Wikipedia page is one that has been targeted by the Guerrilla Skeptics. Here’s what Sheldrake wrote about them in his recent newsletter:
Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia have been subverting Wikipedia in areas concerned with spirituality, psychic phenomena and complementary medicine… a squad of guerrilla skeptics captured the Wikipedia page about me, and have controlled it… editing it in the most biased possible way. Several other editors have tried to restore a more neutral point of view, in accordance with Wikipedia policies… Wikipedia has strict rules against editors working in groups and against people advocating a particular point of view. The Guerrilla Skeptics have been flouting these rules for more than two years, coordinating their groups through secret Facebook pages. It’s time their activities are brought to a halt, because they are undermining the basic principles of Wikipedia, and rendering hundreds of entries untrustworthy.
Wikipedia is – in theory – publically owned and controlled. It portends to allow free editing of its pages, according to certain protocols. For example, if a credible citation is given, then one can challenge a point made on any given page. In this way alternative viewpoints are posited side-by-side.
As Sheldrake points out, here are guidelines on Wikipedia which are aimed at preventing vested interest groups in targeting pages in order to control and overpower free speech, or deliberately distort the information to suit their own agenda. For example, if a Japanese conservative group attempted to edit the Wikipedia page on the notorious Nanjing Massacre (which was perpetrated by the invading Japanese forces in 1937) and filled it with nonfactual propaganda, it would obviously be considered unacceptable. That would be a case of one group attempting to distort history because it did not have the moral courage to face up to the atrocities that its ancestors perpetrated.
The actions of the Guerrilla Skeptics are not dissimilar to the hypothetical case mentioned above. As Sheldrake writes:
The Guerrilla Skeptics are well trained, highly motivated, have an ideological agenda, and operate in teams… (There are now) over 90 guerrillas operating in 17 different languages. The teams are coordinated through secret Facebook pages. They check the credentials of new recruits to avoid infiltration. Their aim is to “control information”… They have already seized control of many Wikipedia pages, deleted entries on subjects they disapprove of, and boosted the biographies of atheists.
The actions of Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia are clearly inappropriate and contravene the site’s regulations. This is given more significance because the Guerrilla Skeptics appear to have connections with militant skeptics organisations like the James Randi Foundation. These are organisations which have a very clear agenda, and vested financial interests in ensuring that certain data and knowledge claims are not permitted free expression. Skeptics have a long history of deliberately distorting and misrepresenting information about psi-phenomena, spiritual experience, and alternative medicine. For example, Richard Wiseman, one of the most influential skeptics, appears to have deliberately misrepresented the positive results he obtained when he attempted to replicate a Sheldrake experiment. This involved an allegedly telepathic dog that seemed to know when its master was coming home, regardless of any sensory cues.
Given the political agenda of militant skeptics groups, they are about as far from being impartial arbiters of truth as is possible to imagine. I am in strong agreement with people like Sheldrake, Weiler and McCluhan that the situation is unacceptable in that it distorts information about a very significant realm of human enquiry. There needs to be a fair and open discussion of these subject matters, free from bullying, personal harassment and misrepresentation of the data.
The question that really interests me is this: what is to be done about this deliberate and aggressive attempt by the Guerrilla Skeptics to discredit ideas that contradict their worldview and beliefs? I will address this more clearly in my next post.
But before I sign off for today, let me make my general position on the issue of psi-phenomena, alternative medicine and so on quite clear (for those who have never read any of my work on the subject). After years of intensive first-person introspective investigation, working with some very gifted spiritual teachers, and having written and researched many books, papers and a doctoral thesis on the subject, I am now certain that psi phenomena like ESP, clairvoyance, precognition and so on are genuine. They represent perfectly normal human cognitive capacities, despite the fact that they are not readily on tap for most human beings.
I am hardly a neutral party in this anymore, as I now teach people how to develop what I call integrated intelligence – expanded intuitive perception which engages the extended mind.
It is my conviction that current mainstream psychology and neuroscience are founded on the false presupposition that consciousness in merely a product of neurochemistry. I maintain that consciousness has non-local properties which are essential to understanding the human condition and our place in the universe. Science has made tremendous progress in human understanding and technology since the 1700s, and the benefits are obvious. But we have become obsessed with technology and abstract cognition to the point that we have bought into a false universal story – that human beings are biological machines. I call this the Deckard Confusion, after Harrison Ford’s character in the movie Blade Runner. Deckard wasn’t sure whether he was a man or a robot (in fact it is somewhat ambiguous in Ridley Scott’s director’s cut).
Similarly, contemporary science has become deeply confused about the essential nature of consciousness and the human condition. Science and society have become obsessed with the machine, so much that it now confuses the entire universe for a machine. The mechanistic paradigm which dominates science and much of modern society is a direct result of this. Skeptics organisations and hardcore skeptics in general are thus a product of the modern era, and have bought into the Deckard Confusion at such depth that they have completely lost the capacity to access Integrated Intelligence.
They have lost touch with the human spirit.
The problem is not that science is intrinsically wrong or evil, nor that the so-called left-brained mental functions need to be erased. It’s all a question of addressing the limitations of science, and also of analytical reasoning.
And while the limits of science is often a topic for discussion amongst scientists (who are generally very interested in the topic), the issue is rarely addressed at the required depth within mainstream scientific institutions, and within mainstream education.
In part two of this discussion, I will say a little more about this as I address what can be done about the problem of Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia.