It is important to understand when you should suspend your disbelief. You may want to do so to (1) let a hypothesis sink into your head for analysis or, (2) when you are engaging with fantasy. But, certainly not when you are about to decide if you will accept something purported as a fact.
I saw the movie Avatar some time back. It was one of those times when I suspended my disbelief — as the White Queen so aptly puts it, “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast“. Must remember to avoid turning into a sheep after that though.
That reminded me of a book I had stumbled upon earlier at a local bookstore. It was on the subject (or rather the art) of Dowsing.
This is a concept (not a technology, I emphasize) apparently used to find many things ranging from water to explosives (and even jade in some cases; particularly stolen jade, it seems).
When I read the authors plea to suspend my disbelief, red flags turned up in my head. We are not discussing Star Wars; there has to be more explaining to do here. One cannot get away with statements like “But, we don’t understand enough about gravity and black-holes either“. There is a lot we do understand and we have many reproducible results.
Reproducibility is important — try walking off the edge of a cliff. No matter how many times you survive to repeat that, the results will always be unsurprisingly similar. You can do it in the dark, on a Monday or in stormy weather and still not get surprised.
So, when we do not understand anything about say, working of Homeopathy, and there are no recorded reproductions, we cannot leave the argument to a future breakthrough in science (sic) and continue to suspend our disbelief…
Many of us think “so what if I don’t understand how it works as long as it gives results. Someday science and medicine will be advanced enough to understand it“. Well, that was the case for Bloodletting too, and we know what happened there. Yet, phlebotomy is used in specific conditions today, just like Homeopathy might be used for its placebo effects in very specific conditions (and I reserve my objection to that).
We don’t do the same simple mistakes again — things get more complicated. While bloodletting was fatal, it appears that Homeopathy has no such harmful effects. However, using and promoting Homeopathy is like suppression of good medicine and science. Every time it is used and a placebo success is registered, there is a false-positive win for Homeopathy that will very likely be used to push it further (as a medicine; which it is not). The harm is ever present and much more subtle to be detected now.
Let us remember that there are no true-positive records of its success over the years it is has been in practice; nothing without a suspension of disbelief.
Here is an interesting couple of contexts in which the phrase “suspend disbelief” has been used and I invite you to look at the actual works from the references given alongside. I found the juxtaposition of these two quotes amazing! Depending on your interests you might find one or both of the books a very good read in various respects.
A quote from the introduction chapter,
One of the fascinating things about dowsing is that virtually everyone can do it, provided they are prepared to suspend disbelief. I have proven this numerous times in my own classes. Many people experience a dowsing response right away, and are enthralled with their success. Some, however, fail to get any response. I ask these people to pretend that they can dowse. To their amazement, they find that by imagining they can do it, they really can. Their expressions of surprise and disbelief are a joy to behold.
A quote here from another book, Dowsing for Beginners by the same author.
“Funnily enough, children usually find it easy to dowse. It is only adults who find it hard. Once they are willing to suspend their disbelief, it suddenly becomes easy for them as well“.
The Art of Avatar
By Lisa Fitzpatrick, Preface by Peter Jackson.
The book has an opening chapter “Suspension of Disbelief” with these words,
“The suspension of disbelief”. That phrase has long been used as a way of describing the necessary relationship between filmmaker and the audiance. It’s a quaint, slightly cynical concept, in which both participants admit that “we know this is a lot of nonsense, but let’s forget about that for a couple of hours and allow ourselves to have some fun”. The suspension of disbelief is an unspoken contract that has served the needs of moviegoers and moviemakers for over one hundred years.
ps: please respect my strong resistance to comment around these two quotes.
Starter references on Detection of explosives with Dowsing.
The Device: ADE_651.
One short interaction at the DowsingCommunity – -you’ll find a lot more if you look around.
News and discussion on the Dowsing Rod Bomb Detector.