Why Belief Is Wrong

Posted by: Nick Redfern on May 22nd, 2012

In a new article at Mysterious Universe – titled I (Don’t) Want To Believe – I begin as follows…

“Just a few days ago, I was chatting with a colleague in the field of Cryptozoology about what the creatures of Loch Ness, Scotland really are – presuming they do exist, of course! I found it pretty enlightening that he got quite defensive over my remark that maybe the beasts are not still-surviving plesiosaurs – as so many, including pretty much the entire Scottish tourist industry, want or hope them to be. When I suggested the possibility of giant-eels roaming the deep waters of the old loch, a distinctly frosty atmosphere developed.

“Why? I’ll tell you why: because I had dared to question his carefully developed and nurtured belief system. And, for him, the image of giant eels swimming around was nowhere near as exciting and as engaging as a colony of plesiosaurs on the loose.

“As we’ll now see, belief – whether relative to Nessie, UFOs, ghosts and the rest of the world’s many and varied paranormal puzzles – is a very dangerous thing.”

And here’s the link to the complete article where you can learn why, in my opinion (if no-one else’s!), belief – in anything of a Fortean nature – is plain wrong.

Nick Redfern About Nick Redfern
Punk music fan, Tennents Super and Carlsberg Special Brew beer fan, horror film fan, chocolate fan, like to wear black clothes, like to stay up late. Work as a writer.

15 Responses to “Why Belief Is Wrong”

  1. Sophie Wilder via Facebook responds:

    Excellent article. I gave up following ufology because it got sidetracked into this mystical quest for the holy grail of crashed saucers.

  2. Sophie Wilder via Facebook responds:

    Still, we got the X Files out of it…

  3. Simon Anglim via Facebook responds:

    I agree that this is excellent, and timely. You only have to watch ‘Finding Bigfoot’ to see what happens when belief gets out of hand.

  4. naus responds:

    One should definatly not let their beliefs get in the way, not if they want to follow the paper trail that leads to the truth.

    I just stumbled upon some evidence in caverns cauldrons and concealed creatures by Michael Mott that turned my beloved Sasquatch into just a dumb old troll. Which I guess can be cool in its own right, but I liked sassy the way he was, a human like apeman that was really good at hiding. But that’s how it goes in this field, things are always going to change. It happened with the UFO phenomenon, when the Anunnaki entered into the equation, which is part of the ancient alien theory.

    All in all, if one is serious about entering into this field, they should always remind themselves that until the subject they are researching goes from unknown to known, it will continually change dramatically through out the course of the research and even after it is know it will change, for nothing is ever completely known.

  5. DWA responds:

    Nick: Nice. Two things.

    1) Couldn’t agree more, about things science can prove. I have had my beliefs about sasquatch and yeti challenged, and supplanted, more than once. (I try not to supplant them with new beliefs but new openness of mind.) It seems like it’s an ape. But without a specimen for review, no one can make that call. Shoot, the Yowie might be a marsupial for all we know. And Nessie is so all over the lot that plesiosaur and pinniped seem as much romantic notions as backed by any evidence.

    2) We might need to think, though, about those things science can’t get at with its current tool kit yet. High Strangeness may be associated with some sasquatch sightings. But not only is that a rather small fragment of the overall evidence on file, but it’s something that, without the help of whatever is generating the strangeness, science can’t (and OK, it might be won’t) research, or prove. There seems to be more than enough evidence that whatever Bigfoot is, it is basically like other animals – indeed, other primates – that the search should continue along those lines until other lines become both necessary and available to search.

    The state of “so open-minded that one’s brains fall out” is characterized by juggling so many plates of possibility that one is, well, stuck juggling. It might be best to grab what appear the most likely plates and march forward with them in hand.

  6. mandors responds:

    I think the difficulty sometimes is semantics (What’s the definition of “is” again?). In my opinion, it’s okay to “believe” in Bigfoot in the sense that you “believe” that the totality of the evidence, photos witnesses, etc., point to a phenomenon that is not fully explainable by theories such as hoaxes and misidentifications. Just as I think it’s okay to “believe” that based on the record, witnesses and extensive government expenses in successive explanations, that something out of the ordinary happened at Roswell, NM back in 1947. (The only Nuclear Bomber Wing on the planet wouldn’t recognize a weather balloon? Really?)

    Does that mean that Bigfoot is a gigantopithicus or that aliens crashed in the desert? No, but “belief” in the sense of open mindedness, I think is better that the nihilism and laughable explanations that so many skeptics, especially the skeptics for profit, proffer. On the other hand, unquestioning belief in a completely unsubstantiated theory that Nessie is plesiosaur, is frankly kind of scary.

  7. Desertdweller responds:

    Belief is not “wrong”. But to profess open-mindedness while clinging to a belief is intellectually dishonest.

    UFO studies run into a problem not generally found in BF research. In the case of UFO, you encounter two colliding beliefs.

    On the one hand, you have “true believers” in UFO’s. On the other hand, you have “true believers” in government denials of UFO activities. Neither side can be called “open-minded”.

    I once saw a UFO while driving with a co-worker across the empty plains of Eastern Colorado. It was about sunset, and I saw an oblong object suspended in the air at about a 20 degree angle. We both saw it, backlit by the setting sun.

    At first, I thought it was a small plane, viewed from astern, and banking into a shallow left turn. The oblong shape would be the top of the wing, with squared-off wingtips. But the thing never completed its turn. It just hung there.

    It soon became apparent it was not an airplane. I wondered about this until several years later, when I saw on the TV news photos of an experimental spy plane photographed over England. This thing would just hang in the sky, sending pictures back, a spy drone.

    It was obvious this was the same thing I had seen in Colorado.

    Now, if I had been a UFO “believer”, it would have been easy to imagine this thing had dropped in from outer space to spy on the prairie dogs. And if I had been a government “believer” I would have had to convince myself that we had seen nothing real.

    The truth lies in between.

  8. PhotoExpert responds:

    Nick, many of us here appreciate you taking on this subject.

    I read a few recent posts here where posters wrote about their beliefs and not the facts at hand. Every time that happens, I cringe. One belief is no more or no less valid than the next. However, facts are facts for the most part, unless you are running for political office. LOL

    Anyway, it was nice to see you address the issue of “belief” here at Cryptomundo. Nice job and well done!

  9. Loren Coleman responds:

    The carefulness that many readers and bloggers practice here regarding even the use of the terms “believe” and “belief” is self-evident. As long ago as 2006, Craig addressed this issue directly in his short essay, Bigfoot Believers.

    But Nick, I’m afraid you are mixing up your arguments. You are discussing this as if it is all about “belief” in such and such feelings, when you are actually talking about disagreements, in most of your posting, between theories about the data. The data are rather clear, most of us think. And what do we think? That there is something there worthy of studying. When humans start to try to then dissect the data, then we run into problems. Whether one thinks the Loch Ness Monsters are prehistoric marine reptiles, as most British cryptozoologists use to think, or like you Nick that they are giant eels, or as considered by most American cryptozoologists, forms of ancient mammals, those thoughts really have nothing to do with “belief.” That’s all conjecture on what we consider the data is telling us.

    Take this statement of yours on the linked posting:

    It’s the same with Bigfoot. Most researchers of the phenomenon support the “unknown ape” theory to explain the many sightings that have been reported for so long. But, the fact is that there is barely a Bigfoot enthusiast out there who has not come across at least one case of Bigfoot high-strangeness in the course of their research. That’s to say where the witness has reported the creature vanishing in the blink of an eye, when the beast has been seen at the same time – and even at the same location – as a UFO, or when something else, but equally mystifying, occurs.

    But, so often, these rogue cases are dismissed as mistakes and hoaxes. Or, worse still, they are just outright ignored. Why? Because they threaten the orderly belief-system that Bigfoot is just an unidentified large ape and nothing else.

    You, Nick, are doing what you are calling into question, in reverse. You are excluding too quickly decades of hominological thought because it does not agree with your high strangeness theories. But, please note, you are not talking about whether or not Bigfoot even exists. Merely what it is, or what it means, or what it reveals.

    Blind faith without looking critically at the evidence, skeptically at the individual details of the cases, is the dangerous quicksand we must conform in “believing.” Not whether or not one theory is supported over another.

    I’m afraid your considerations are not about “believing,” but about “theorizing.” And just because your theories, which you consider more significant and more grounded in reality than someone else’s is merely just another point of view. It is not that you have confronted a “true believer,” necessarily.

  10. springheeledjack responds:

    Belief is one of those things that I think people get confused about–especially in this arena (the cryptozoological that is).

    What I think most of us intend to say when we say we “believe” in Bigfoot, IS that we believe that people are indeed seeing something that doesn’t fit with the usual animals lurking in the woods, something that is bipedal, larger than your average human (most times), hairy and of course, not a human.

    However (god, I love that word), what happens is that we all have our own ideas and theories about what Bigfoot may really be, and when you get into a discussion (especially a heated discussion), it gets very easy to take ownership of that belief and it shifts into a “belief” of the entity known as Bigfoot as is popularized by the Patty film and every other form of social media. And when you get into those hot debates with the scoftical crowd, everyone who believes there’s something more to the phenomenon than seeing bears and tricks of the eyes, we all tend to polarize into “believers” and non-believers. Then you get lumped in with the crowd that believes Bigfoot is a big undiscovered ape/missing link, even though each one of us may have different ideas about what we really think Bigfoot may be based on the data.

    When the arguments start flying it’s hard not to align with one camp or another and over time it’s easy to get entrenched and lose that open mind that got you interested in this stuff in the first place.

    I also think there’s a distinction between believers who look at every video or photo or account and take the assumption that it’s legit and real, and those who “believe” something out of the norm is going on and look at photos, accounts and vids and assess whether it fits the parameters of a legitimate sighting or if said “evidence” could be something more mundane, or just made up.

    I’m asssssuming Nick, you were referring more to those who are steadfast and stuck in one belief about a particular cryptid–that Nessie is indeed a living plesiousaur. Instead of keeping an open mind and saying, “yes there’s something large, long necked and swimming in the loch and I’m looking for the answer” whether it turns out to be a plesiosaur, eel, pinniped, tullywurm, or my long lost inflatable viking shaped canoe that got lost back in the 1930’s.

    I think your point Nick, is that belief in something can be a slippery slope, especially once you decide you know what the cryptid is without having all of the facts (which we don’t or we wouldn’t have a cryptid). I’d say I agree full heartedly. I have my own opinion about what I think Nessie is based on my interpretation of the evidence I have in front of me, BUT, having said that, the minute I absolutely rule out another possibility, I too am in danger of just being a blind, “believer” who could easily ignore real evidence just because I’m so dead set on my own idea of what Nessie is or isn’t.

    It is an idea we should all keep in the back of our heads when we’re investigating, reading and analyzing. It keeps us honest, and in the long run, helps keep everyone else honest too.

  11. fooks responds:

    giant eels.

    hmmmmm, i don’t know about that.

  12. Nick Redfern responds:

    I believe that I agree with some of the comments above, and I believe that I disagree with others. Yes, that was sarcasm (or so I believe).

  13. Desertdweller responds:

    I think the problem here is a confusion of terms. We can speak of “belief” as a logical conclusion drawn from the evaluation of empirical evidence.

    We can also speak of “belief” as something based on faith. Faith does not require empirical evidence, although it can certainly be supported by it.

    Because of this dual meaning, I try to avoid using the word “belief” in discussion of crypto subjects.

    For example, I believe in God and Christ. I believe They have a direct influence on peoples’ lives. I also believe the sun comes up in the morning, and will continue to.

    Conversely, I don’t believe in Bigfoot. But I do think it is more than likely Bigfoot exists. I am willing to concede it is very possible they exist, but I am not willing to take this as a matter of faith. It is a conclusion based on empirical evidence. So, while I don’t “believe” in Bigfoot, I do think they exist.

  14. AZCRO_ALEX responds:

    In case you didn’t already know it, I’m a bit of a skeptic myself about all things Crypto or Paranormal . I’m a tough sell whether it be my own data, my groups or someone else’s. I don’t “believe” anything, when it comes to the Paranormal realm! I follow Occam’s/Ockham’s Razor. Usually the most likely answer is the right answer.

    Even when I see something myself (Objects in the Sky, Bigfoot, etc.), I am open to my minds interpretation to what I have seen, but I don’t necessarily believe it! It’s much harder to understand this concept when one has actually seen a particular cryptid. Without a sample (a body) and a known classification (a body) to compare it or it’s DNA to, then you can’t be sure what you saw or think you saw and thus shouldn’t “BELIEVE” or have a “BELIEF IN” anything ~ That is, If you are truly trying to be Scientific!

    There’s a fine line when it comes to this stuff too!

    If you’re open to the existence of something and research all possibilities; you are a credible researcher or scientist.

    If you BELIEVE in something you stop researching with an open mind, you start researching from the premise that this cryptid does exist and you know what it is. Your research is no longer VALID or CREDIBLE (at least to those with any view but your own)! Why? Because it’s tainted, one sided and incomplete.

    So often I try to explain this to people, even those closest to me and they can’t grasp the concept.

    That’s why when I saw Loren explaining this concept recently to a relatively new, but quickly becoming very popular researcher from his home state of Maine, I totally understood what Loren was saying!

    An example of this concept in the field; there are a few people out there making Videos of themselves walking into the woods and then inevitably seeing Bigfoot behind a tree, bush or in the shadows created by the thick branches of the trees. They then add some Orange, Yellow, or Red (John Madden MNF) circles, “BOOM!” and say what they are showing you is Bigfoot. I’m not referring to anyone person; there are people doing it in all 4 corners of this country. There are people doing it with Ghosts, UFOs and any other cryptid they want to see or “Believe In”.

    Over and over when I receive these types of photos and hear these stories, I have one response; What did you do next? Did you get some comparison photos?

    I want photos from all angles. I want photos of the location the subject was in and the person taking the photos. I want photos with the same camera and with different cameras. I want photos at the same time and at different times. Basically I want to see that person try to prove to me that it couldn’t be anything else. At least to see that he or she didn’t just see what they want to blindly “Believe”. Not once has anyone sent me one follow up picture~~~NOT ONCE! Why, because they immediately get defensive about me challenging their beliefs. They are not open to discussion at all. I have offended their honor and pride?????? Hence why they are considered two of the deadly sins~~~They blind you to the truth!

    Here in modern times there is another angle too, everybody today thinks they are going to get rich off every photo they take or their eye creates. Also combined with that greed comes the miss-trust and fear of being ripped off. I call this the – Biscardi Syndrome. I have seen how certain alleged researchers make promises and imply things that they know will most likely never happen.

    You might think these two concepts are not related, but one drives the other.

  15. Cass_of_MPLS responds:

    Just so you know…

    I believe for every drop of rain that falls

    Something gets slightly damp….

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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