Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Wanting to Believe

Yesterday I heard the accusation that skepticism is somehow prompted by skeptics not wanting to believe…

Believing in something doesn’t make it true, but I’d love it if alternative medicines were efficacious, if there was life after death, if there was solid evidence for Bigfoot, and if ghosts existed.

What do you want to believe in?

What paranormal and pseudoscientific phenomena do you want to be true?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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  1. I want to believe that Dogs (and only dogs) really have ESP – y’know, the kind that lets them know you’re coming home before you get there. That would be cool.

  2. Well life after death – especially one that allowed me to continue to learn new things – would be great. But so would remote viewing. What teen didn’t want to be able to turn invisible and walk through the walls and spy on the cutie he was too shy to talk to in real life?

    That sounds creepy now… Whatever.

    In real life I think I want to believe that everybody is capable of learning new modes of thinking – even though the evidence is against it. There seem to be people who really don’t want to learn new stuff and the optimist in me wants everyone to be open-minded and curious.

    Really it seems like people are more like the characters in the classic Twilight Zone “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” than I’m comfortable with.

  3. Who doesn’t want to believe in communication with beings in some form of afterlife. The comfort of knowing what happens after death, and furthermore knowing that there is some continuity there is definitely appealing.

  4. Alternative medicines, yes. It would be awesome if a liter of distilled water could cure cancer, or a pinch of the right herb could prevent the spread of HIV.

    Ghosts? Not a chance. I can’t imagine anything worse than being sentenced to hang around after I’m dead and talk to a cocknoodle like James van Praagh about all the unfinished bullshit in my life, or all the anxiety that my family is going through now that I’m dead. I’d sooner believe in hell.

  5. I would looooooove love love for ghosts to be real just for the thrill of it. Also, every once in a while, I wouldn’t mind having angels looking over me when I’m overwhelmed.

    And I’d love to believe in some sort of ESP, but more of a heightened intuition, not the total invasion of privacy type of psychic powers.

  6. I wish ghosts were real. There are plenty of people who’ve passed on that I wish I could still see and check in with from time to time. That’s, of course, assuming that anyone would even want to visit me in ghost-form.

    I’ve even found myself wishing – only in times of hardship, mind you – that there was a higher being. Some situations would be so much easier to deal with if you could just turn your face skyward and say, “Screw you, a-hole,” or be able to ask for help that you wouldn’t be able to find otherwise. That wish never goes beyond longing for someone to blame, though. I prefer looking at the world from a non-believers POV because it is more amazing to think about how everything came to be without just thinking it was all made by someone.

    And being someone who has serious trouble taking medicine, it would be nice if I could go get a foot massage and magically heal anything that ails me.

  7. I would love it to be true that aliens are visiting this planet.

    Then maybe we can find out why our anal probe technology is so far ahead of theirs. I mean really the colonoscope seems to be so much more advanced then anything E.T. crammed up Whitley Striebers butt.

  8. Very good question, while I seldom think in the grey area between the sides of Reality and Fantasy when regarding what I believe in, I would love to see solid scientific proof of a actual living Bigfoot.

    Such definitive evidence of it existing, and potentially creating another puzzle piece of evolution, I would hope that it takes another stone out of the wall of the strict dogmas around the world that deny science and all that comes out of scientific fact.

    Without an easy way to cover up the proof that Bigfoot exists, and no bible verses to explain it, the Churches would show their wrongness. This would leave their followers, and all those who don’t follow any form of religion, a world where logic and science and reality become the building blocks of everyone’s lives, and all the money of the Vatican would go to REAL causes and REAL studies.

    That is what I would want to believe, however unlikely it were to ever happen. Because honestly, a world where every person is a pro-science Skeptic and/or Atheist, that would kick so much ass.

  9. I don’t want to *believe* in anything.

    I would like for it to be true that there are super advanced aliens out there and someday we’ll make contact with them.

    I would like for it to be true that the multiverse theory were correct.

    I think it would be insanely cool if things like ESP, any of the cryptoids, or telekenesis were real. Even an afterlife would be a nice thing.

  10. I wish fae were real. (shup, I’m a little girl at heart.)

    Or genies. I’d like a wish or three.

    On the side of the actually possible, I’d really like to be able to lucid dream.

    Oh oh oh wait I just thought of a better one. I want the Doctor to be real. (And I’d like to be his companion. Tennant or Eccelston version, please.)

  11. I really hadn’t heard much of alternative medicine before I learned about it through skepticism, so though although I think it would be cool, I don’t know if I actually want to believe in it in the manner you describe.

    Most things that I did believe in at one time, I don’t miss all that much: ghosts, god, afterlife, angels, etc. Really I could take them or leave them.

    I think I can echo @Tim3P0 and @teambanzai with the Bigfoot/UFO stuff, because these would be an expansion of stuff that I already think is cool in science! So yeah, I don’t know if I’d like to believe in them, since I still want evidence. But if they were real, that would be so cool.

    Maybe add to that list the myth that we only use 90% of our brains. If there were more cognitive abilities to unlock, such as psychokinesis, that would also be fascinating. Or maybe not “unused brainpower” but “higher evolution” or something like that.

  12. Well, I hope that life, preferably intelligent, exists somewhere in our universe. I don’t think that it has visited us or built flying saucers, but I like to believe it exist somewhere else in our gigantic universe.

  13. I’d really like it if the universe were teaming with aliens that just happen to be conveniently humanoid-shaped.

    Free energy machines would be nice too.

    And, why not, how about some telekinesis too?

  14. I want them to find fantastical sea creatures….like the coelacanth but bigger and more exotic….creatures they thought were extinct but really have been living in the deep ocean… that would be great!
    My Granny believed in Fairies. Irish fairies are horrible scary little creatures that steal your children, they were very ‘true’ to her and she was terrified of them. I was forbidden to play near the ‘fairy fort’ on her farm (actually just a geological feature left over from the ice age but it still gives me the creeps thinking about it.) Playing near that fort was as dangerous to her as playing near the farm machinary.

  15. Perpetual Motion.

    Then I could drive my truck, fly my airplane and get to orbit cheaply. All without carbon emission. And think of all the extra beer money I’d have!

    Yup, that’s what I’d want. Perpetual motion.

  16. Just had a random thought. Isn’t it true that skepticism itself means not wanting to believe? But instead wanting to see with evidence?

    That doesn’t stop us as individuals from wanting to believe things, or wanting for things to be true. But belief and belief without evidence are two different things, maybe? And both different from simply wanting something to be true.

    Crap, I can probably talk myself in circles with this one… it’s, it’s Friday…

  17. I wish the following were true:
    1. ESP
    2. Telekinesis
    3. the loch ness monster
    4. hollywood endings
    5. Last and most importantly, Santa Claus.
    I really REALLY wish Santa Claus was real.

  18. Faster-than-light travel. I would love to actually be able to explore the universe without feeling trapped on this tiny planet that thinks so highly of itself. Not that Earth isn’t a great place and all, but it’s full of crazy people!

  19. An afterlife so I could spend more time with my wife and kids. Even when I’m 1,000,035 and my kids are 1,000,008 and 1,000,006 I don’t think I’ll be tired of them, they’re just the coolest.

  20. I want frogs to have the paranormal ability to turn themselves into fake frogs in order to withstand boiling water until the earth cools down again.

    I want genetic food to really change human DNA, so a couple of million humans are already resistant to disease, more fertile and able to take root in dry lands as well as wet ones.

    I want to be able to fill emotions into water because then I’d go and poison my colleagues beverages with random emotions. Nothing better than the manager getting a dose of generosity right around paycheck time.

    Finally, I want there to really be alternate universes because then there would be at least one, hopefully, where I didn’t screw things up with my last girlfriend. And where she wasn’t a cook who believed every weird thing under the sun. Mostly, the latter.

  21. Sometimes I wish that those magic weight-loss bullets really worked. It would be great to eat Ben & Jerry’s every night and then just cancel it out with a pill the next morning.

  22. An afterlife, and psychic powers are both things I wish were real, but the big one I wish could really work is positive thinking (Aka Affirmations). While positive thinking can help us out mentally. I wish I could create lucky events by thinking about them really hard.

    Also, I wish chi were real, because who doesn’t want to be able to use martial arts knowledge to knock people over without touching them?

  23. This sort of goes along with the ESP and telekinesis crowd, but I wish that The Force were real. If it were, I would try to be some sort of (Jedi-ish) superhero.
    I would just have to remember to take my hood off when I go to Trader Joe’s.

  24. I’d definitely want afterlife. Due to HIV, a lot of people have died in my life that I really didn’t get enough time with. I’d love to have more of that.

    If not, then I’d love magic powers.

  25. Unicorns!!!!
    Wow, that came out faster in and in a higher pitch of voice then I expected.
    I think it would have to be all the little magical creatures of my youth. Fairy’s, dragons, and unicorns. And I would be their shiny princess in pink and purple and we would save people from evil.
    And I would have a wand and a cape.

  26. I wish that Meteor Crater were the government conspiracy nuclear test site I was certain that it was, when I visited there at age 16. Because anything else means that I wasted that great science-y experience being grouchy and teenager-y.

    Oh, and the Ghost Hunters. I can’t help it, I just love Grant Wilson.

    Oh, and MacGyver. Nom.

  27. @catgirl: Magic Weight Loss Bullets. Heh.

    “Eat all you want and just take one of these immediately after.”


    Actual results may vary.

  28. Honestly? I think it would be great if the good version of God were real . . . if there were clearcut rules you could follow and be guaranteed success and happiness. It would be very comforting to me to know I had the power to choose a path to enlightenment and reuniting with all that is. /sigh I have a couple of bands on my Pandora rotation that do those songs that could either a girlfriend or god and sometimes I am reduced to tears by the desire that it be real.

    But I’m an untreated (no insurance) bipolar, your mileage may vary. :D I should do a blog about how hard it is to be atheist and crazy.

  29. I have a bit of luck superstition…well…bad luck superstition. I believe I’m a walking broken mirror. Anything I want I won’t get. So, in order for me to get what I want, I convince myself I don’t want it. Then, the universe, since its mean to me, will give it to me.

    I wish majick worked. Then, you could manipulate the world to suit you best. Of course, you would want to give only happiness-because whatever you send out comes back to you three times as much. So, if there was a school bully, you would want to give the people he picks on good luck-to get back at the bully.

    Does reverse psychology count as a psuedoscience, because it seems like I’m just full of that.

    Do I need to get in the corner?

  30. @MiddleMan: Totally! Of course, I was thinking Jurassic Park type stuff (without the velociraptors and maybe a virtual T-rex or something), but yeah, I’m with you.

    I’d also like it to be true that humans had the ability to read minds. The women in my life seem to think that I *should* have that ability already. Could someone explain this to me? No, wait…maybe if I just concentrate real hard it will come to me.


    @ekimbrough: ROTFLMAO!

  31. Sometimes I wish praying would help. Like when I hear that a friend is sick.

    But other than that, talking animals at midnight on Christmas. I don’t want them talking all the time, their brains are fairly simple. But once a year for an hour would be awesome.

  32. @ekimbrough:
    I found a ‘male enhancement’ product that really works. Its a topical cream. Of course I was skeptical at first, but now I’m a believer. I followed the directions, rubbing it in good for thirty seconds and, “Oh my god, it’s getting bigger. IT WORKS.

    I am a Hedge

  33. I’d love to believe that humans could develop a consciousness that evolved past their selfish and rapacious genetic roots. As it stands, we are descended from the most aggressive and exploitive strains of DNA from within our species as that is the basis for our success against other competing species (Nice guys finish last – by design).

    That is why (at least according to some anthropologists) Cro-Magnon doomed the Neanderthals when survival pressures increased. These elements responsible for past success are now actually counterproductive to our survival through mutual cooperation. Just look at the predator/prey model in most business ventures to see how little true progress we’ve made and how “thin” the thin veneer of civilization truly is.


    I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.
    The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

    Carl Sagan “In the Valley of the Shadow” PARADE magazine (10 March 1996)

  34. @gwenny:

    I agree that a “good” God’s existence could be established if evidence of actual directing and enlightening took place through unmistakable instances of positive reinforcement and protection from the random senseless cruelty that all living things currently experience.

    As it stands, as an atheist, I can take some satisfaction in knowing that if I do good or “the right thing”, it is for its own sake and not the promise or threat of divine reward or punishment.

    Sorry about your healthcare dilemma gwenny. You hang in there. One aspect of being bi-polar is the not always undesirable traits of sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and introspection.

  35. Oh, that’s what I missed. I want flawless, risk-free teleportation, plx.

    (And while I’m at it I’d like the UK to repeal the retarded law that says you have to be 21 to immigrate on a fiance or spouse visa. IT MAKES NO SENSE and doesn’t seem like it would actuallly do what it’s intended to, which is stop sex slavery of young asian girls. Er. Sorry about that. )

  36. Really I would like my conscience to be free from my body, so I would be essentially just energy, able to explore the entire breadth and width of the universe.

    On the up side, sometimes I barely feel like I am hanging on as it is.

  37. I don’t think there’s anything I want to believe. That is to say, I don’t think there’s anything I want or need to add to what I currently believe. If I wanted to believe something strongly enough, I probably would.

  38. @busterggi: I’m almost certain that sex is a myth of some sort, perpetrated on the lonely to make us feel the need to interact with others in some way shape or form. Although I have seen some video evidence, it is grainy and appears staged.

  39. I wouldn’t mind finding a lost world of dinosaurs. Time travel and faster than light travel or a stargate would be cool. I’d love to stick around to see what we discover about our universe over the next 1000 years.

  40. 1) Tactfulness from others and good wishes for me.

    2) Paranormal and pseudo-scientific phenomena are to our culture what synesthesia is to a baby; a normal, rational artifact of the development of perception. Just as synesthesic representations are real and accurate, so are paranormal and pseudo-scientific phenomena. Further, they help make perception more accurate in the long run because of their developmental effects.

  41. I wish aliens would visit and tell us that humans were a genetic splicing experiment with indigenous animals. That they hung around for a while, but left when humans developed enough civilization to build temples and start worshiping them. The whole God thing started when there didn’t seem to be any other explanation for everything God people attribute to God. Final proof that there is no God!

    But then again, all those mindless sheeple would just start worshiping the aliens as their creator, so nothing would change.

    Personally, that theory works better for me than either the climbing out of the ooze one or that we’re some offshoot of Grape Ape.

    Simply, absolute irrefutable PROOF of where humans came from.

  42. Alternate dimensions. Not in the mathematical sense, but in the “Sliders” or “Rifts” sense… other worlds, that can be accessed, where some of the sci-fi/fantasy I love so much has a basis in reality.

  43. The charge of not wanting to believe is probably fair. I don’t want to believe anything beyond what the evidence can support. That’s a big shift from when I was a believer and I wanted to believe regardless of the evidence. So yes, my personal skepticism is motivated by a desire not to believe without evidence, or in other words, to believe what the evidence indicates.

    Oh yeah, and one thing that would be nice is life after death. It’s a comforting idea.

  44. I didn’t pick magic because of one simple thing: Real-world magic is kinda boring. If I get magic in my world, I wanna be able to toast the idiot driving 40 in the left hand lane with a fireball.

    On the other hand, make Shadowrun true, and I’ll be happy.

  45. “I don’t want to believe. I want to know.”
    Carl Sagan

    That point being cleared up:
    * True, non-humanoid intelligent alien life, preferably peaceful towards us (No Martians need apply…”Acccck akkk aaaaKKK!)

    *FTL travel without ridiculous power requirements and no time dilation issues

    *Life extension technology a la “rejuvenation,” where we can have our body’s age turned back to whatever age we want repeatedly while keeping all our hard-won experience and knowledge

    * Star Trek-style medical technology freely available to all

    *Star Trek-style transporter/replicator technology available only to the responsible parties in society

    *Oh the Hell with it – I want ALL of ST-TNG’s technology!

  46. Due to some mystery health issues I have that seem to have no real treatment, I’d love for alternative medicine in all it’s forms to work. I’d love to think there are so many more medical options out there, that the right one just one wacky therapy away.

  47. All of it except the traditional God figure. I don’t mind the pre-Christian idea of Gods as simply super-powerful meddlers, but the idea of one all powerful being that controls everything, yet for some unfathomable reason permits such crap to exist in the world would be really depressing.

    As for the rest, psychic powers, ghosts, alien visitation, various magic powers. It’s all good. I’d love that. Then it would be possible for me to hitch a ride on a spacecraft, come back after I die and haunt my friends and loved ones, etc.

    If I had to chose one, you might as well ask me what kind of super-power I’d like to have and it would be telepathy… hands down. I’d love for people to be able to read my mind and I’d love to be able to learn it. I think that after a few uncomfortable non-misunderstandings that kind of power would actually make people understand each other a lot better than they do now.

  48. The irrational belief that I most wish were true is the notion that everyone is capable of changing their minds.

    It doesn’t look promising, though.

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