What is zetetic?
Zetetic is the practice of giving a scientific explanation to apparently paranormal activity. In other words, zetetic is the art of skepticism and doubt, a tool for critical thinking, which researchers and popularizers use to bring reason into public debates.
The word zetetic comes from the Greek “zetein”, which means to look for. Humans have an inherent need to look for reasons and explanations about the world they live in. However, the human brain is not always smart enough to uncover the truth. Our perceptions and intuitions are often incorrect, which is what we know as cognitive bias. This is where zetetic has an important role to play. It’s a tool that can be used by any individual trying to understand and describe reality.
As far back as the ancient Greek era, Plato was lecturing about Socratic questioning, which looked to identify contradictions in a line of reasoning. But zetetic in the modern term isn’t simply about philosophical posturing. Rather, it’s a tool for critical thinking. Use of the term grew first among American researchers in the 1970s, then in France, where it was given a framework by professor Henri Broch. He defined zetetic as a “method of scientific investigation into so-called paranormal events.”
Broch wrote a lot about paranormal activity and pseudosciences, theories which are often disguised as science. We’re talking about astrology, homeopathy, UFOs and other myths. Broch oversaw the International Zetetic Challenge, which offered a large cash prize to anyone who could scientifically prove paranormal activity.