Welcome to another edition of Woo Enthymemes. My previous post covered much of this in relatively elaborate detail, but for this, I will strive to keep things simpler and more direct.
Contrary to popular belief, being smart, being right, and being a scientist is not about sheer brain power. You don't have to be a large-brained genius to make a breakthrough discovery, though it often helps. It can also hinder.
One cynical stereotype skeptics like me often face is the idea that we think we're right because we're smarter. Let's ignite that straw man before someone claims their 200+ IQ, MENSA membership, PhD, or whatever "proves" them to be smarter. It's never a matter of who's "smarter" or has the largest brain mass. Intelligence, wielded incorrectly, can be a great hindrance as well as it can be a great asset when used correctly: Intelligent people often have a great ability to rationalize bad decisions after the fact.
Parapsychology is a field with many intelligent people backing it. Early in my growing passion for skepticism, I read the Skeptic's Dictionary entry on "psi-missing" and similar rationalizations. I did have some sympathy for parapsychology, but it shrank greatly when I saw those "explanations" for failure. I already dismissed "big" performances of psychic power thanks to a particular Nova special. A magician could replicate the big tricks, and now I knew the "subtle" psychic powers were the result of some self-deception and statistical legerdemain.
My brain did not grow that day. I simply learned some new ways to look at things. People are often prone to forming layers of rationalization, and if you don't question yourself on all those layers, no enormous number of IQ points is going to help break you out of a bad idea.
Sometimes it takes a child to point out that the emperor has no clothes. As a skeptic, that's often what it feels like I'm doing: Stepping out of all the expectations I've grown up with and go over all the disconnects I see when I allow myself to be an outsider. I am not afraid to ask fundamental questions like "can you prove psi even exists?" Once I asked that question, I refused to allow myself to accept the word of others who just appeared smart.
When I did the same with science, the answers tended to be enamoring tales of elaborate experiments producing unexpected results. It didn't matter who did it so much as how they did it, and how mixing all those new pieces of knowledge produced something I took for granted. When I asked similar questions of psi-believers, I instead got venomous insults, evasions, and appeals to authorities.
Knowledge isn't just about your Intelligence score. You need the Wisdom to be cautious about your assumptions. And I just needed some Charisma-filled firebrand skeptics to excite my mind into realizing that.