Hayley is a Ghost

Maybe I was overreacting…

Posted on: August 29, 2010

After my last blog post I’ve recieved a lot of feedback on the blog and via twitter and facebook. I love blogging because of the points people make.

I’ve realised I have probably overreacted in the last blog post because although there are some serious image issues within skepticism as a movement or as a community or however you want to refer to it, there are good points as well and in my annoyance and anger I over looking these completely.

I apologise if I offended anybody, especially the decent skeptics out there that I am proud to be associated with and call my friends because that wasn’t my intention.

I was just gutted that last week people I thought of as my friends chalked me up as the bad guy in their minds because that isn’t the way I want to be seen. I saw a video from an antendee who said “I realised at the conference that not all skeptics are stalkers or trolls on forums…”

what a horrendous way to be viewed! I realise that a lot of the time we cannot help the way that people view us because in their minds anyone who opposes their beliefs is a bad guy.

But for people I think of as friends to think I was a skeptic and that meant I was mischievious was a bit upsetting. Since last weekend I have been a lot quieter on twitter and facebook and my blog because I been watching people and the way they talk about (and to) people who have beliefs or ideas that aren’t evidence based and it’s annoyed me to see some instances where skeptics (some of whom are the noblest of the noblest of skeptics) have been really quite nasty in their attitude and behaviour.

It’s really not my place to tell people how to act and I’m certainly not writing this and intending it to be part of the ‘don’t be a dick’ meme because that has been done to death.

However, I think it’s worth pointing out at this point how I came to be involved in skepticism. Somebody asked me if I had written about it and I couldn’t find anything on my blog.

In 2005 I started ghost research from a very belief orientated point of view (even though I didn’t think I had). I held beliefs in ghosts, an afterlife, reincarnation, angels, demons, possession, mediums, psychics, dowsing, seances, table tipping, glass divination, psychic protection curses…

Then one day a prominent skeptic pointed out that some things on the website of the team I belong to were factually incorrect and that if I went to some certain websites or read some certain books I would see how we’d come to the incorrect conclusions.

That’s a brief summary of the conversation, but there was no mocking – just a discussion.

To begin with I felt quite insulted but (thankfully) the seed of doubt had been put in my mind and a few days later I went back to that email and I started visiting the recommended websites and I bought or borrowed the books and I started to see that they were correct and I was wrong.

It wasn’t a nice feeling, in fact I felt stupid and I kept my findings between me and my co-founder until I could decide what we should do with the team. In the mean time we carried on investigating as we had done before. With all the silly methods and theories, and I saw first hand how we had deluded ourselves all along.

Is suddenly became clear that it was us moving the tables and the experiences we were having were influenced by our beliefs and expactations.

That was in July 2007, and here I am today.

There is a serious problem with skeptics as a collective, and that is that some people don’t know how to behave properly when dealing with people who don’t believe the same as they do. It’s a shame because they do harm for anyone who identifies themselves as a skeptic.

I’ll round this blog post off with some comments I recieved on twitter that are food for thought. You should also read the responses on my last blog post.

Although I overreacted, the points I made still stand. Skeptics have a real image problem and sometimes I am embarrassed to be associated with certain people who refer to themselves as skeptics.

EvilEyeMonster: @hayleystevens My skepticism is a method, not a position. Even the best skeptics have to remove their hats to truly enjoy a sci-fi movie.

HelenRBrennan: @hayleystevens I read your blog. I wonder if it could be summed up as “being right is no excuse for being rude”? 🙂

endless_psych: @hayleystevens it’s a difficult trick to manage to continue to criticise or challenge someones beliefs without generating some conflict

Ben_Hardwidge: @hayleystevens Your post has just shaken some sense into me and prompted me to apologise to someone I called an idiot last night. Thanks 🙂


5 Responses to "Maybe I was overreacting…"

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by chimbit, Hayley Stevens. Hayley Stevens said: Follow up blog post: Maybe I was overreacting > http://wp.me/pTazw-8T […]

Don’t give up. We need people like you to give a friendly face to skepticism. Unfortunately, the negative stereotypes and negative behavior of some rather prominent skeptics give the entire “movement” a bad name and we need ambassadors to the general public to change this perception.

At the grocery store in my town the other day I told a checker that I’d started a skeptic’s society in our county and she laughed and said “What’s next, the Negative Thinker’s club?” There is a LOT of work to be done. We can’t lose positive personalities such as yours.

[…] Both Frank and Hayley made these announcements because they do not agree with the behaviour or actions of certain members of the skeptical movement. Both these posts are well worth reading. Note that Hayley quickly posted a follow-up: “Maybe I was overreacting…” […]

Hang in there, Hayley 🙂
My comment is twofold:

1. as a member of the RI Podcast, you can’t really distance yourself from the Skeptics movement/community (or whatever)

2. you do seem to have a positive effect on the perception of our little community, so you have some power to dilute that tar brush that you don’t want to be painted with. I would say that is a positive point, don’t you think?

Just go on with business as usual. 😉

you rock!

I don’t think we are ever going to change how skepticism is viewed by the public. Whilst there are some people such as you and I who can be educated as to what skepticism is and does, there are those people who – for whatever reason – refuse to consider any idea which threatens their beliefs. It is very, very easy for them to throw out the emotional appeals. You and I know how this is fallacious but not everyone does. We’re always going to be the nasty nay-sayers in some eyes.

With regards to how some big name skeptics present themselves I agree with you to a large extent. But never ever forget that there are people with good people skills and bad people skills who are skeptics, agnostics or believers. They are by no means exclusive to skepticism. Even, if by chance, we all did become shining beacons of virtue I have a strong suspicion that those people who do not want their beliefs challenged would still cry foul.

I know that you’ve mentioned on Kash Farooq’s blog that debunking can make the skeptic look like a dick, but at the same time if something is utter rubbish I don’t see the harm in calling it as such provided that it is done so by use of sound reasoning and evidence. If that makes me a dick in the eyes of some people then it’s a price I’m prepared to pay.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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