(Investigator 100, 2005 January)
Investigator tries to get skeptics and believers in religion, the supernatural and the paranormal to argue their disagreements out and thereby settle their differences.
The rationale is that after both sides have presented their evidence, readers will have a better idea of who's right and who's wrong. This more-informed position will, if heeded, lead to better decision-making. Alternatively if promoters of certain beliefs won't defend them, that speaks for itself.
Potentially better decisions include:
- People heading into exploitative cults could turn aside;
- Gamblers trusting in "good luck" can reconsider;
- Money paid to learn levitation or to psychics can be saved;
- Get-rich schemes that really lose money can be rejected;
- Superstitious conduct that decreases freedom can be identified;
- Time wasted on any of hundreds of untenable beliefs can be more-profitably used.
Being taken in by stupid beliefs and imagining they're beneficial is not limited to the uneducated. University graduates and high-status people are vulnerable too.
For example, in October 2004, Vietnam's former deputy sports minister Luong Quoc Dung was sentenced to eight years for having raped a 13-year-old girl to rid himself of bad luck. (The Advertiser 2004, October 30, p. 61)
Dung, 52, was vice chairman of the State Committee for Physical Training and Sports until dismissed by the Prime Minister after being arrested.
Dung had asked a woman to procure him a virgin because he believed that sex with a virgin would end an unlucky streak he was experiencing.
The rape took place at a hotel after which the woman gave the teenager a morning-after contraceptive pill and $320. However, the victim told her parents who went to the police. Dung bribed the parents to withdraw the accusation but the police still proceeded with the case.
Reports of equally gross conduct, where silly beliefs lead to silly decisions and even to crime, appear in newspapers every week.
However, people who are informed regarding which beliefs are untenable have more motivation to give up such beliefs and not act on them.