Saturday, January 14, 2006

Indigo Children: Fact or Fiction?

represent the newest big thing in parapsychology. The story (courtesy of the ) relates that these children, with their indigo aura,
share traits like high I.Q., acute intuition, self-confidence, resistance to authority and disruptive tendencies, which are often diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder, known as A.D.D., or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D.

And they're also here to save the world.
Of course to skeptics the issue is not when these children are going to eradicate the world of terrorists and reverse global warming. It is whether the notion of indigo children, and for that matter parapsychology, has any basis in reality.

In an attempt to avoid any further backsliding into epistemic uncertainty (especially after my recent confusion concerning , , and even "") allow me to assume, for the purposes of this post, that we have an adequate degree of competency in distinguishing those beliefs or assertions which have compelling evidentiary warrant from those that do not.

Evidentiary warrant is distinct from “truth.” For instance, we have good inductive evidence in support of the belief, often framed as a form of knowledge, that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow. By contrast, most of us could posit little support for the proposition that on Sunday, when the sun appears over the horizon, it will be wearing a giant pair of sunglasses. The former has a basis of some sort in reality; the latter is just amusing to think about.

So into which category do "indigo children" fall? All evidence points squarely in the direction of giant solar shades. Which is to say, there is nothing that a scientific empiricist would accept as support for the claims made on behalf of indigo children.

I understand, of course, that many people believe in claims for which there is decidedly little empirical support -- a belief in a certain instantiation of god chief among them. And I'm not suggesting that all beliefs held in the absence of a proper evidentiary basis are ultimately and fundamentally wrong. Quite to the contrary. It is (very) occasionally the case that some such beliefs are later discovered to have quite a firm footing in reality.

For instance, the of species by way of natural selection is attributed, more or less, to the work and thoughts of . Which is as it should be. But Darwin was certainly not the first to propose a theory of evolution, or to suggest that human beings did not appear on Earth in their present form.

The pre-Socratic philosopher (c. 611 BC – c. 547 BC), for instance, offered the theory that man and the other species had come to exist through a process of transmutation. Man himself was thought likely to have evolved from some other, aquatic, species of animal. Needless to say this notion did not gain popular acceptance for more than two millennia.

Am I suggesting, even for a moment, that this business of indigo children, and colored auras and whatnot, is well-grounded in reality? In a word, definitely not.

But history suggests that there are perhaps a handful of ideas and beliefs floating around out there that most rational people would find to be entirely incredible and yet, when all is said and done, will prove to have a much more substantial grounding in reality than would have ever been suspected.

Is this anything more than an accident of statistics? Probably not. But it's interesting to ponder which conspiracy theory, which pseudo-science, which mysterious story about will be vindicated with time.


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