Para-Debunking on Debunking Day

Today, in honor of Debunking Day, which is held on March 11 annually (starting in 2005) I thought I’d introduce a new word. It’s Para-Debunking and you won’t find it in the dictionary, at least not in our brand-new hardcover Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. It was just delivered yesterday. We needed at least one physical dictionary for when we play Scrabble. We’re also waiting for an official Scrabble Dictionary, also on order. The heft of a real dictionary feels really good, by the way.

Anyway, the definition of “debunk” is “to expose the sham or falseness of” something.

Before I give you my definition of para-debunking, I should say that it’s a spinoff of the word “paranormal.” I know it doesn’t really make sense, but hang on, I’m getting to that.

You’ll never guess how I even found out it was Debunking Day today. Sena found out yesterday that a radio DJ was planning to observe the holiday by looking up something on MythBusters, another TV show we used to watch a lot.

That led to Sena finding a couple of X-Files episodes (a big-time paranormal TV show in the not-so-distant past): Sunshine Days and The Rain King.

If you can pick any topic to find debunkers always ranting about, the paranormal would be one of them. I’m not out to actually debunk it, so you can put your guns down. But the two X-Files episodes made me think of maybe something more important than just garden variety debunking.

Sunshine Days, an episode in the 9th season, originally aired in 2002, with Agents Doggett, Reyes, and Scully investigating two murders at a house that is off and on tricked out as the Brady Bunch house. This is the accidental result of the staggering psychokinetic powers of the homeowner, Anthony, whose psychic talents were studied when he was a child by a parapsychologist, Dr. Rietz. Anthony developed an attachment to Dr. Rietz and created doubles of the Brady Bunch (gaaahhhh!) because his family life was bad.

The agents take Anthony to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and convince Assistant Director Skinner and a scientist that Anthony’s powers could change the world. But as Anthony demonstrates his powers by levitating things, including Skinner, the strain of it makes him deathly sick. Skinner is no lightweight.

As he lay dying in the hospital, Dr. Rietz realizes that Anthony loves him like a father and that relationship is more important than using him for his paranormal powers to change the world since it would kill him. Paranormal power is not debunked, but the real power is the power of love. That’s para-debunking, which doesn’t have a holiday but should.

The other X-Files episode is The Rain King, which aired in the 6th season in 1999 and features Agents Mulder and Scully investigating a guy named Daryl in Kansas, who claims he can make it rain whenever he wants, thereby controlling the awful drought that has plagued the area for months. I think it’s important that this is set in Kansas. As usual, Mulder believes that somebody is making it rain, but maybe not Daryl. Scully is skeptical as usual and tries to debunk the whole thing.

It turns out that the local weatherman, Holman, is responsible for the crazy weather because he’s been in love for decades with Sheila (who had been engaged to Daryl but he was not down with the plan). But Holman just can’t work up the nerve to tell her. He even creates a tornado that tosses a cow through Mulder’s hotel room ceiling. Holman finally convinces Sheila that he really loves her, which brings back the sunshine. The moral of the story is that we should be nice to each other because you never know when somebody will direct their paranormal ability at the skies and clobber us with flying cattle.

Just kidding. The idea is the same as it was for the Sunshine Days episode. It’s more important to feel our feelings and share them with others as long as that doesn’t involve hurling livestock at each other.

Get the idea? The paranormal is not debunked, but para-debunked in favor of focusing on the important stuff humans can achieve on earth without paranormal involvement. Maybe we can treasure what we already are capable of doing.

OK, let’s vote. Who wants to add Para-Debunking Day to our long list of holidays?

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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