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I talked with a skeptic last night. He’s a friend and a reasonable guy, genuinely interested in connecting to me. It was a pleasant discussion, not an argument. Today, I want to share some things I figured out about talking to reasonable skeptics.
“I Don’t Know”
He asked about energy healing, and asked what mechanism I think it operates by.
I thought for a bit. Magickal terms weren’t what he was looking for — a discussion of ethereal software and energy signatures was the wrong entry point. He knows standard science, and he was looking for an explanation that connected energy healing to standard science.
I don’t know how to do that. So I told him, “I don’t know how it operates. This is too immature of a field to have the kinds of answers you’d expect from physics, medicine, or even psychology.”
I felt a bit sheepish admitting that. But it turned out to be just right. It surprised him, got him to pay attention. He didn’t poke holes in ideas about how it might work in the way that someone would attack a false “expert” explaining “the ways of the universe.” It was a really pleasant conversation.
How Many Joules?
With skeptics, call it chi rather than energy. He said that, whenever someone talks about energy, he wants to ask how many joules it has.
He asked about visualizations and tai chi, and we did an exercise that creates tingly feelings. The tingles were clearly proprioception and suggestion, not magickal energy.
I explained that people use the term chi to refer to a lot of different phenomenon, including proprioception, hypnotic suggestion, and also this other phenomenon that I’m interested in. Point being, just because someone else mistook proprioception for chi doesn’t mean we’re all making that mistake.
Keep in mind, your skeptic has probably run into energy healers making all sorts of inaccurate claims. Accepting this gives you credibility.
Don’t Try to Convince
At one point, my skeptic pressed me about ethereal structures. He pointed out that it’s very unlikely that there’s another form of matter that interacts with cells but not other materials. And he’s correct, it is unlikely. My reply: “These ideas originate with the things I’ve experienced. It’s not that I think it’s super likely that another form of matter exists. It’s just my best attempt to explain how these things might work.”
Another time, I explained that this needs to start as its own field, and mature a good deal before we can connect it to other fields like physics or medicine. This is a perfectly reasonable stance, takes the pressure off you to have all the answers.
At one point, I even said, “If I hadn’t had these personal experiences, I wouldn’t be studying this either.”
If you don’t try to convince them, they won’t feel such a need to convince you, either.
Skeptics Are Often Right
Many things called energy healing really are just suggestion. Many claims made by energy workers really are false. Some of these things really are unlikely. When skeptics say that, they’re correct. So agree with them. You’ll come off as reasonable and intelligent, and they’ll be more open to the ideas you actually do care about.
Got your own experiences and tips? Leave a comment.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.