When I was a teenager, Saturday morning was one of the few times I was allowed to watch television. One of my favorite shows was Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, the cartoon featuring teenage detectives and their lovable half-articulate dog. Of course, it was formulaic. Velma's glasses always got knocked off at a critical moment, Fred and Daphne always wore the same clothes, Scooby could always be induced to participate in some ridiculous plan by being offered a Scooby snack, Daphne could be depended upon to get nabbed by the bad guys, the kids' plan to trap the criminals was always ridiculously complicated and failure-prone, but succeeded anyway, and the villains always complained at the end that they "would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those kids and their mangy dog". But one thing I didn't realize that the time, and have grown to appreciate, is the subversive skepticism of the first two seasons.
Skepticism, because no matter how supernatural the mystery appeared at first glace (and they were usually populated with ghosts and vampires), the end result was always the same: there was a perfectly reasonable natural explanation, usually involving a plot to scare people away from a location where some nefarious activity was going on. (But never too nefarious; they didn't want to scare away the kids.) Ghosts weren't really ghosts; they were people dressed up as ghosts. Vampires were't really vampires; they were people with fangs on, together with bats bought at the local exotic pet store. And while Scooby and Shaggy were usually credulous, Velma and Fred used reason to solve the mystery. They didn't say to themselves, "Oh, it's a ghost, that explains it." They said, "Hmm, I wonder if there is some reasonable explanation." This was the best skepticism on television until MythBusters.
Subversive, because the underlying message was contrary to many, perhaps most, Americans' perception of the world. A recent survey shows that 32% of Americans believe in ghosts and 37% believe houses can be haunted. And of course, 90% to 95% of Americans believe in the ultimate supernatural folly, god. In always providing a natural explanation, the subtext was clear: the supernatural doesn't exist, and scientific reasoning is the best tool to ascertain truth. That's a message directly in opposition to an America populated by Pat Robertsons and George Bushes.
But like all good things, this subversive skepticism had to come to an end. A few years ago, when one of my kids was sick, and he didn't want to hear another story read to him by Dad, I rented a Scooby Doo movie to try to keep him entertained: Scooby Doo on Zombie Island. I was really horrified to see that the basic premise of Scooby Doo had been violated: this time, the zombies were real. My kid was so scared we had to turn the video off. While Zombie Island had some good points (making fun of the show's repetitive themes), I was saddened by the sell-out to the paranormal.
The first two seasons are still watchable, and can be found on DVD. If you know any young skeptics (or even young believers), buy them a copy.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
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How can 37% of people believe that houses can be haunted if only 35% believe in ghosts?
32%, not 35%
I too am a skeptic lover of Scooby Doo. It was not until I read your post, however, that I realized the delightful message it advances.
Also, there are the two big, recent Scooby Doo movies, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, among others. The biggest disappointment for me, beyond the generally poor quality of the script, was a metaphysical one: the monsters were real! I kept expecting them to unmask the creatures, or cut away to show that it was all a dream sequence, or something like that. I mean, Scooby Doo with real monsters? Scooby Doo with magic? What's the point?
Ah. No wonders my mom wouldn't let me watch Scooby Doo.
In its newest incarnation "Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated" gets back to its skeptical roots.
"And of course, 90% to 95% of Americans believe in the ultimate supernatural folly, god".
Perhaps some of them don't subscribe to the type of asinine conception of "god" that atheists invariably hold.
"I was saddened by the sell-out to the paranormal".
Well yeah. I used to love Scooby Doo. Pity they've changed it! However, it's utterly implausible that all apparitions have conventional explanations I'm afraid.
"Perhaps some of them don't subscribe to the type of asinine conception of "god" that atheists invariably hold."
Most of the atheists I know, including myself, used to be religious. I think I understand the concept of god that theists hold pretty well, thanks. My Jewish father used to read us the bible at dinner, and I attended the Episcopalian church for years.
As for Americans' conception of their god, my guess is that you haven't spoken to many Americans.
However, it's utterly implausible that all apparitions have conventional explanations I'm afraid.
Be afraid all you like. There isn't a single well-documented case of a supernatural apparition. If you disagree, present your three best cases.
It is rather silly to imagine that something doesn't exist merely because one doesn't have a well-documented case (and in saying this I am not thereby claiming there aren't such well-documented cases) . You -- and other nitwit so-called "skeptics" and materialists -- imagine that if something isn't scientifically shown to be true, then it doesn't exist. The notion that our beliefs should be circumscribed by what has currently been scientifically deemed to exist is one of rank stupidity.
Apparitions, psi etc has been reported throughout history and across all cultures. The experiences are characterised by very similar phenomenology, even where the percipients are unaware that others have experienced similar phenomena.
Of course, how we should interpret such experiences is open to debate. But the supposition that they are a mixture of hallucinations, exaggerations, outright fabrications and so on, is risible.
The problem here of course is that "skeptics" are convinced that some flavour of materialism is correct, and hence they assume that so-called "explanations" consistent with their metaphysic must be correct.
But not only can we cast doubt on materialism, but rather materialism cannot possibly be true. I explain all this in an essay. An essay which you refuse to read.
Perhaps it's just as well. I am satisfied you lack an understanding of the mind-body problem, and specifically the irreconcilable problems facing any flavour of materialism. Maybe if you read my essay you might get a clue, but I harbour grave doubts.
It is rather silly to imagine that something doesn't exist merely because one doesn't have a well-documented case
Hey, why should evidence matter to you? Feel free to imagine anything you like: unicorns, crystal healing, Bigfoot, UFO's, cupping, homeopathy. Evidence is overrated, right?
imagine that if something isn't scientifically shown to be true, then it doesn't exist.
No, I think that if there is no evidence, then there is no good reason to believe it. A little bit different, eh? You have no understanding of skepticism or materialism.
The notion that our beliefs should be circumscribed by what has currently been scientifically deemed to exist is one of rank stupidity.
You make a lot of assertions, but you don't back them up with anything. Why is it rank stupidity? And if we have no evidence for it, why should we believe it? There are billions of things that could exist, but for which we have no evidence. How do we choose among them?
But the supposition that they are a mixture of hallucinations, exaggerations, outright fabrications and so on, is risible.
Again, an assertion with no backing at all. You're very good at blather, but not so good at explaining why anyone should take your blather seriously. Do you also believe in witches? In talking animals? Both of those appear in lots of cultures, too.
but rather materialism cannot possibly be true
Very convincing argument.
I explain all this in an essay. An essay which you refuse to read.
Life is short. I like to read opposing ideas, but only if the people proposing them seem to have connected brain cells.
Maybe if you read my essay you might get a clue, but I harbour grave doubts.
Oooh, you have doubts. I am so crushed.
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