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Trust No One, Especially Yourself: A Parable

In his treatise debunking claims of a pre-Lovecraft Necronomicon, Dan Harms provides seven guidelines that are not only valuable to the evaluation of Necronomicon hoaxes but any extraordinary claim:

1. Be your own worst critic.
2. Get back to the original sources.
3. Go to alternative sources for corroborating information.
4. Break the rumor into smaller parts, and verify each part individually.
5. If you aren’t certain, assess the possibilities.
6. Recognize your limitations.
7. Don’t burn bridges for others.

Perhaps most important is the first, be your own worst critic. On that, Mr. Harms goes on to say: “The key to investigation is not to avoid believing anything, but to use your beliefs as a springboard. Examine them critically, and be prepared to argue for and against them…This provided a number of interesting avenues to explore, and left open the possibility of finding information that contradicts that which we hold dear.” Indeed, without the first guideline the rest are useless.

Human beings do not like to be wrong. We are naturally drawn to that which will confirm our beliefs, not challenge them. Such a behavior is not one that lends itself to the truth but to an insulation of belief. If you are not willing to critically examine your beliefs and accept the facts that challenge them, you will seek only what shields your beliefs.

Do not take this as a skeptic lecturing believers on how they should think and act. It is a flaw all humans possess, even those who think they are arguing for the cause of science, even those who should be embracing skepticism.

Case in point: a minor scandal that has developed within the Green movement. During a recent debate on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! broadcast, on the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on future of nuclear power, environmental activist George Monbiot asked his opponent, anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott for the sources to back up her statements. When she provided these to Mr. Monbiot what he found disturbed him. He wrote in the Guardian:

“The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong.”

Mr. Monbiot found that Dr. Caldicott’s claims about the dangers of nuclear energy were based more on opinion and hyperbole than scientific evidence. What scientific studies were citied were either twisted to fit Dr. Caldicott’s beliefs or completely contradicted them. Dr. Caldicott even cited a conspiracy as being responsible for inconsistencies between her beliefs and the data. Because this evidence, to use the term in the loosest and most perverted manner, fit a pre-established belief, the anti-nuclear-movement accepted it without question. As a result, purposeful and unintentional at the same, the movement misled the public and themselves. (Dr. Caldicott seems to have a history of making outrageous claims with little to no scientific-backing, such as that 300 Space Shuttle launches would destroy the Ozone Layer; as there have been some 130 shuttle launches combined with the many more other rocket launches since the beginning of human space-exploration, we can see how ridiculous this claim is)

Mr. Monbiot goes on to say:

“Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don’t suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.”

This should also seem very familiar to anyone who has spent any amount of time wading through the waste that pollutes the fields of conspiracy and UFO studies. How often do we see what Mr. Manbiot described above? Instead of embracing the evidence, how often do we see someone insulate themselves from it? The maxim taught to us by The X-Files remains true still today, even if they left off the most important part, “especially yourself.” We are our own biggest obstacle in pursuit of the truth. An unwillingness to examine your own beliefs and that which confirms them, only leads to self-delusion masquerading as “truth”.


The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend, by Daniel Harms and John Wisdom Gonce III.
"Evidence Meltdown", George Monbiot.

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