Zen and the Art of Debunkery
By Daniel Drasin
So you've had a close encounter with a UFO. Or a serious interest in the subject of extramundane life.
Or a passion for following clues that seem to point toward the existence of a greater reality. Mention
any of these things to most working scientists and be prepared for anything from patronizing
skepticism to merciless ridicule. After all, science is supposed to be a purely hardnosed enterprise
with little patience for "expanded" notions of reality. Right?
Like all systems of truth seeking, science, properly conducted, has a profoundly expansive, liberating
impulse at its core. This "Zen" in the heart of science is revealed when the practitioner sets aside
arbitrary beliefs and cultural preconceptions, and approaches the nature of things with "beginner's
mind." When this is done, reality can speak freshly and freely, and can be heard more clearly.
Appropriate testing and objective validation can--indeed, *must*--come later.
Seeing with humility, curiosity and fresh eyes was once the main point of science. But today it is often
a different story. As the scientific enterprise has been bent toward exploitation, institutionalization,
hyperspecialization and new orthodoxy, it has increasingly preoccupied itself with disconnected facts
in a psychological, social and ecological vacuum. So disconnected has official science become from
the greater scheme of things, that it tends to deny or disregard entire domains of reality and to satisfy
itself with reducing all of life and consciousness to a dead physics.
As the millennium turns, science seems in many ways to be treading the weary path of the religions it
presumed to replace. Where free, dispassionate inquiry once reigned, emotions now run high in the
defense of a fundamentalized "scientific truth." As anomalies mount up beneath a sea of denial,
defenders of the Faith and the Kingdom cling with increasing self-righteousness to the hull of a sinking
paradigm. Faced with provocative evidence of things undreamt of in their philosophy, many otherwise
mature scientists revert to a kind of skeptical infantilism characterized by blind faith in the
absoluteness of the familiar. Small wonder, then, that so many promising fields of inquiry remain
shrouded in superstition, ignorance, denial, disinformation, taboo . . . and debunkery.
What is "debunkery?" Essentially it is the attempt to *debunk* (invalidate) new information and insight
by substituting scient*istic* propaganda for the scient*ific* method.
To throw this kind of pseudoscientific behavior into bold--if somewhat comic--relief, I have composed a
useful "how-to" guide for aspiring debunkers, with a special section devoted to debunking
extraterrestrial intelligence--perhaps the most aggressively debunked subject in the whole of modern
history. As will be obvious to the reader, I have carried a few of these debunking strategies over the
threshold of absurdity for the sake of making a point. As for the rest, their inherently fallacious
reasoning, twisted logic and sheer goofiness will sound frustratingly familar to those who have dared
explore beneath the ocean of denial and attempted in good faith to report back about what they found
So without further ado . . .
Daniel Drasin, San Francisco 1994. Copyright: Colin Andrews 1994.