It began as a bit of a gag for a guest service talk (given on Sunday at All Souls – you can download it if you click HERE). Last week during my prep, i needed an illustration for the sort of sceptic who assumes a conclusion before examining the evidence. The classic example is of the person who dogmatically insists that there is nothing more to this world than the material and so dismisses anything that smacks of the supernatural out of hand.
I couldn’t believe my ‘luck’ when i came across PESTS (which stands for Psychologists Educating Students to Think Sceptically). I am not a scientist, but actually found quite a lot on the site that i wanted to agree with. And i particularly enjoyed their description of a strange disorder called Credulous Personality Disorder (formerly known as Pseudoneurotic Gullibility). My only gripe was the inclusion of the supernatural into their long list of things that sufferers of this disorder believe. That is quite a jump to make and seems to me to be peculiarly unscientific. In fact, it is precisely the sort of jump that Alister McGrath observes Richard Dawkins making frequently – see post on 8th Jan.
So just for fun i inaugurated P.E.D.A.N.T.S. – which stands for:
Pastors Encouraging Doubters And Nonbelievers to Think Sensibly
A group for sceptics with an open mind
You see, as i was saying on Sunday morning, there is nothing wrong with scepticism as such – in fact it is quite an important characteristic because it is a defence-mechanism against gullibility and the con-artist. But it is also dangerous if it prevents one ever coming to evidence with an open mind and a willingness to change one’s mind. This is what i think THINKING SENSIBLY is all about. So my aim with P.E.D.A.N.T.S. is to cultivate healthy and open scepticism. Perhaps readers could email me examples from anywhere of people who appear to have prejudged a conclusion before examining evidence. By collecting them together, we can then perhaps stimulate better thinking (and i mean this amongst Christians as well as non-Christians – after all, there are a lot of gullible Christians around!). If this takes off, and we have enough contributions, i’ll set up a separate page within this blog to show them off. If you do send examples in, please give references details of where you found it so that others can follow up and verify. Ta!
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