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I’ve been listening to the really excellent episode 108 of the Weird Studies podcast, on skepticism and the paranormal. They discuss the difference between skepticism (the practice of investigating claims in a rational manner) and Skepticism (the practice of believing nothing that cannot fit easily into the terms of scientific materialism). The former is a commendable practice, the latter is dogmatism. The discussion particularly engages with George P. Hansen’s book The Trickster and the Paranormal.

I looked up the book on the university library’s website but it’s currently checked out. However, another interesting book popped up in the search results: They Flew: A History of the Impossible by Carlos M.N. Eire, an investigation into levitation and bilocation in early modernity. The following, from the preface, seems to be on the same page as the Weird Studies guys:

To write a history of the impossible is risky for any scholar nowadays, especially if one suggests, even tentatively, that the assumed impossibility of certain events deserves closer scrutiny and some challenging. This is what I am doing here, in this book. Read on and see. Keep in mind, however, that I will be raising more questions than I dare to answer. The history of the impossible is all about questioning, about being evenhandedly skeptical—that is, being as skeptical about strictly materialist interpretations of seemingly impossible events as about the actual occurrence of the event itself. Counterintuitive as this might seem— given that the impossibility of certain events is deemed unquestionable in our dominant culture and that dogmatic materialists tend to think of themselves as the only truly objective skeptics—this sort of nonconformist skepticism is necessary if one is to claim any kind of genuine objectivity.

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