A new skeptical book by Telegraph writer Damian Thompson titled Counterknowledge (Amazon US and UK) has been getting plenty of publicity in the UK lately, mainly through Thompson’s recent articles in the paper in which he rants about various aspects of the alternative genre, from ‘hidden history’ to conspiracies and alternative medicine.
In “Lies, Damn Lies and ‘Counterknowledge’“, and “How Da Vinci Code tapped pseudo-fact hunger“, Thompson goes on the warpath against us credulous and idiotic people interested in fringe topics, as well as publishers and authors who market and profit these apparent falsehoods. Graham Hancock gets his own mention, as do 9/11 conspiracies and Afrocentrism.
As part of my time as ‘Author of the Month’ at Graham Hancock’s website, I put forth my thoughts on Thompson’s views (in which I agree with some of his comments in principle, but take issue with plenty else). Graham himself stopped by as well, to give a response of sorts to his inclusion in one of the Telegraph articles. Graham writes:
As well as being skeptic-in-chief for the Daily Telegraph, it seems that the same Damian Thompson is editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald (see here: http://www.damianthompson.net/). Presumably to be editor of the Catholic Herald one must be a practising Catholic?
In that case then there is at least one large batch of “misinformation packaged to look like fact” that Mr Thompson must be obliged to take on faith — namely Catholic dogma. Or can one be a Catholic without subscribing to any of that?
As far as I can see, skepticism of the kind Mr Thompson promulgates is intended to deny the existence in the Universe of any mystery that “hard” materialist science cannot ultimately explain away. He must suffer from profound feelings of cognitive dissonance promoting this skeptical belief system about the nature of reality while at the same time continuing to function as a practising and believing Catholic.
I’d love to hear from Thompson himself on this. I also challenge him to participate in five Ayahuasca sessions conducted by an experienced Ayahuasquero and see whether his views about the nature of reality remain unshaken after that experience. I address the same challenge to Richard Dawkins. Anyone who admires and respects the scientific method surely cannot refuse to test their own belief system in such a simple and straightforward way.
As I point out in my post, one reason not to take Thompson too seriously is his obnoxious manner and possible lack of research – in a blog post on the Counterknowledge website, he describes Robert Schoch as an “amateur geologist”, and when called on this in his comments section, responded with a glib reply and failed to correct the original post.