Revised October 7,2001
Section I: Critique of GeneralSkeptical Arguments Against The Paranormal
Argument # 1: "It is irrational to believe anything that hasnt been proven."
Argument # 2: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
Argument # 3: The Occams Razor rule.
Argument # 4: The "invisible pink unicorn / dragon in the garage" false comparison tactic.
Argument # 5: The "anecdotal evidence is invalid" argument.
Argument # 6: The memory malleability argument to dismiss anecdotal evidence.
Argument # 7: "The burden of proof is on the claimant."
Argument # 8: "There is no hard evidence to support any paranormal phenomena."
Argument # 9: Science is the only reliable method.
Argument # 10: "Paranormal and supernatural phenomena arent possible because they contradict all known natural laws gained from science."
Argument # 11: "Unexplainable does not mean inexplicable."
Argument # 12: "Skeptics dont have beliefs. They/I base our views and judgments on the degree of evidence."
Argument # 13: "A common myth is that Skepticism is cynicism. It is not. Skepticism is a method of inquiry."
Argument # 14: "Believers in the paranormal are thinking in primitive, irrational, childish and uninformed ways."
Argument # 15: "Skeptics are defending science and reason from a rising tide of irrationality."
Section II: Critique of SkepticalArguments Against Specific Paranormal Phenomena.
Argument # 16: "Psychics and mediums use a technique called cold reading to amaze you with accurate hits, not psychic powers.
Argument # 17: "Experiments that show evidence for psi must be replicable in order to count as evidence."
Argument # 18: "No psychic phenomena has been demonstrated under controlled conditions."
Argument # 19: "Miracles are impossible and defy everything we know about science and anatomy."
Argument # 20: "Alternative medical practices only work due to the placebo effect."
Argument # 21: The Skeptical explanation for answered prayers.
Argument # 22: The Skeptical explanation for precognitive dreams.
Argument # 23: The Dying Brain Hypothesis for Near Death Experiences.
Argument # 24: "There is no such thing as a soul or spirit that lives on after you die. Consciousness is purely neurological and nothing else."
Argument # 25: "Spiritual experiences only exist in your mind, not in external reality."
Argument # 26: "New Age philosophies are just childish fantasies for dealing with a cold uncaring world."
Argument # 27: "There is no evidence to support the existence of UFOs or the notion that we are being visited by extraterrestrials."
Argument # 28: "Since Evolution and natural selection are sufficient to explain the origins of life, there is no need for God to fit into the equation."
Argument # 29: "It is just as irrational to believe in God as it is to believe in Santa Claus."
Argument # 30: "Atheists dont hold the belief that God doesnt exist. An Atheist is one who is without a belief in God, or lacks a belief in him. Therefore the burden of proof for God is on the theist, not the atheist."
This article rebuts the most commonarguments made by skeptics regarding psychic phenomena and theparanormal, and shows the flaws and limitations in their thinking andmethodology. I've listed their common arguments one by one andpointed out the problems in them based on years of experience indebating and discussing with them. Skeptics who use thesearguments include honest doubters, cynics, debunkers, Atheists,Humanists, certain scientists bent on materialistic reductionistworld views, those for whom science is their God (even though theywon't admit it), scientific materialists, haters of religion,etc. With the exception of sensational pro-paranormal programs,these skeptics are often given the chance to present their argumentsand explanations in the media, national magazines, and certaintelevision programs, without rebuttal from the other side, even whentheir explanations contradict the facts of the case. As aresult, there is often an imbalance in the presentation of paranormaland psychic phenomena in the media, leaving most viewersuninformed. This article attempts to counteract the imbalanceby providing sensible reasons, arguments and facts that most skepticsfail to consider. It is written both for the education andknowledge of the believer who deals with skeptics, and for skepticswho are willing to hear counterarguments to theirpositions.
First though, a little aboutme. My name is Winston Wu and I am a researcher, explorer andskeptic (honest inquirer, not cynic) of paranormal and psychicphenomena, metaphysics, quantum physics, consciousness research,realms of higher consciousness, and religion/philosophy. I'vealways had a sense of adventure and interest in esotericthings. I started out during childhood as a Christianfundamentalist. After a slow deconversion when I turned 19, Ibecame Agnostic for a while (you can read the story of mydeconversion at http://www.thrivenet.com/schizo/stories/wwu.html). Realizing that there were way too many phenomena that couldn't beexplained by conventional explanations, I started looking for otheranswers and non-organized forms of spirituality. After muchresearch and questioning, I discovered many fascinating things suchas new paradigms that fit the unexplained data, a more comprehensiveview of reality and spirituality, and that there is indeed powerfulevidence (some of which is irrefutable) that many types of paranormalphenomena do have a basis, both scientifically and in terms ofanecdotes. To try to gain an understanding of the other side,(which is what you should do when you want to learn something indepth) I went to skeptics to ask what they had to say and also readsome of their literature. I found that what they had to say madesense on the surface, but was very different than what I heard fromthe literature about paranormal phenomena, accounts of paranormalexperiences from credible people (some of which I know and trust),and my own experiences. In order to try to make sense of suchdifferent but arguable views, I weighed the evidence against theirarguments. What I found was that although both skeptics andbelievers can be closed-minded and tend to rationalize away what theydon't want to believe, in either case the objective evidence for theparanormal was incredibly strong in many areas. The skepticalarguments could not dismiss or vanish the mountain of evidence forthe existence of paranormal and psychic phenomena. The only waythey could try though, was by touting a very extreme type of closedphilosophy system which was often manipulative as well. Although the weaknesses of their arguments were apparent, to mydismay I could find no article or book that critiqued the argumentsof organized skepticism in depth, one by one. I wondered whyfor every other type of philosophy and belief system, there existedin-depth critiques, but not so with organized skepticism. Afterall, its flaws, fallacies, and insufficiencies were very apparent tome, so why hadn't anyone put together a more concerted effort toeducate others on that? Well, since I had debated skeptics fora long time and knew the weaknesses of their arguments, I figuredthat I might as well be the one to write such an articlethen.
As I found more evidence for variousparanormal phenomena, I presented them to skeptics both on messageboards and internet newsgroups. What resulted was an endlesscharade of arguments on both sides, with each side bringing up factsthat support their side while denying the facts of the otherside. This is typical of debates in general no doubt, but sincethere were so many types of paranormal phenomena, the topic range wasbroad and diverse enough to make continuous and interestingdiscussions. While debating them, familiarizing myself withtheir arguments and reading their websites (such as Bob Carroll's"The Skeptic's Dictionary" at http://www.skepdic.com),I heard about every argument they had and saw thestrengths/weaknesses of them, as an experienced chess player sees thestrengths/weaknesses of the positions of his opponent's pieces. For almost three years now, I have debated skeptics ranging fromhonest doubters looking for truth (like me), to those who are clearlycynics masquerading as skeptics having already made up their mindsbefore looking at the evidence. What I've learned is what Iwant to share with you.
Although the main focus of thisarticle is to critique skeptical arguments, the evidence for theparanormal will often be addressed as well. (If you have anyquestions about a particular phenomena or want to know the evidencefor some of them, feel free to email me at the address above underthe title, and I will try to respond.)
Before I begin, I want to clarifythat I have nothing against honest skepticism. It is good tohave a healthy dose of skepticism to protect one from scams, conartists, misleading advertising, misleading claims, jumping toconclusions, etc. It's when that skepticism turns to cynicism(without them realizing it even) and closes one's mind so thatanything that doesn't fit into their world view is dismissedautomatically as misperception, delusion, or fraud, that it's takentoo far. That's where I draw the line between healthyskepticism and pseudo-skepticism, or closed-minded skepticism. Of course, every skeptic is going to say that they are open-mindedand not cynical, but the proof of the pudding is in their actions andway of thinking. After a while, one can recognize these cluesthat distinguish a true skeptic and a cynic. One of thetell-tale signs of cynics and closed-minded skeptics is in the wordsthey use when describing believers, such as: "delusional,irrational, gullible, charlatans, superstitious, wishful-thinking,primitive and child-like thinking", etc.
Watch out if you see someone or anauthor frequently using words like that to describe what they don'tunderstand. These kind of skeptics also tend to belong toorganized Skeptics groups fighting to suppress paranormal evidence,such as CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claimsof the Paranormal), Australian Skeptics, ISUNY (Inquiring Skeptics ofUpper New York), and many others. Skepticism should be a tooland method of inquiry to help one learn things and find truth, not asa cover to defend one's own paradigms and cynicism. Doubtingthings and looking for answers will help one learn things, but tryingto debunk everything outside your world view does not lead tolearning. Therefore when I critique skepticism here, I'm notreferring to honest healthy skepticism, but the cynical kind thattries to debunk everything outside of the materialistic world view,publishes or reads one-sided magazines like "The Skeptical Inquirer",belong to organizations like CSICOP (Committee for the ScientificInvestigations of Claims of the Paranormal), and who consider JamesRandi's unwon million dollar psychic challenge to be proof that noone is truly psychic. This type of cycnicism masquerading asscience is especially prevalent in the attitude of the popularskeptical newsgroup Sci.Skeptic. Not everyone who calls himselfa skeptic fits into these categories of course. The trueskeptic though, should be skeptical of his own beliefs and positionsas well of others. In debating skeptics, I've noticed somecommon flawed tactics that they use. Theseinclude:
1) Ignoring facts and evidence that don't fit into their preconceivedworld view, rather than updating their beliefs to conform to thefacts, which is more logical. (e.g. "It can't be, therefore itisn't!")
2) Trying to force false explanations to explain a paranormalevent regardless of whether they fit the facts. In essence,cynical skeptics tend to prefer inventing false explanations ratherthan accepting any paranormal ones. For example, using "coldreading" to explain the amazing accuracy of a psychic reading when noknown cold reading technique could account for the facts andcircumstances. (see Argument # 16)
3) Moving the goal posts or raising the bar whenever their criteria forevidence is met. For example, a skeptic wants evidence for psiin the form of controlled experiments rather than anecdotalevidence. When this evidence is presented, he will then raisethe bar and demand that the experiments be repeatable by otherresearchers. When this is done, then he will either attack theresearchers integrity and character, attack their methods, or demanda report of every detail and minute of the experiment or else he willcontend that some unmentioned lack of controls must have been theculprit to explain the positive psi results, etc. He willalways find some excuse due to his already made-upmindset.
4) Using double standards in what they will accept as evidence. For example, when a psi experiment shows well above chance results,they will not accept it as evidence against psi. But when a psiexperiment only shows chance results, they will accept that asevidence against psi. In the same fashion, they will not acceptanecdotal evidence for the paranormal because they consider it to beunreliable, but not surprisingly they will accept anecdotal evidencewhen it supports their position (e.g. "Others never reported anyparanormal activity in the area"). 5) Attacking the characterof witnesses and undermining their credibility their evidence ortestimonies can't be explained away. As we all know, whenpoliticians can't win on the issues, they resort to characterassassinations. Unfortunately, this is also what skeptics anddebunkers tend to do as well. When evidence or testimony fromkey people can't be explained away or are irrefutable, skeptics willfind ways to discredit them such as character assassinations orgrossly exaggerating and distorting trivial mistakes. This hasespecially been done with the direct eyewitnesses of the 1947 RoswellIncident, as Roswell author Stanton Friedman often pointsout.
6) Dismissing all evidence for the paranormal by classifying it eitheras anecdotal, untestable, unreplicable, or uncontrolled. Skeptics who wish to close their minds to any evidence, even afterasking for it ironically, tend to do so by classifying it into one ofthe categories above. If the evidence is anecdotal, they willsay that anecdotal evidence is worthless scientifically anduntestable. If the evidence is in the form of scientificexperiments, they will then say that it is unreplicable oruncontrolled.
(For more on skeptical tactics suchas these, go to http://www.eskimo.com/~billb/pathskep.html,and http://www.primenet.com/~lippard/stupid-skeptic-tricks.txt)
Based on these common tactics, itshould be apparent by now that these people's skepticism is aphilosophy, not a science (and a pretty useless one at that, but thenagain is philosophy much of any use anyway?). Even Bob Carrollof The Skeptic's Dictionary admits this to his readers on his site:(http://www.skepdic.com/comments/psicom.html)
reply: Ithank you for you kind comments. I agree that my skepticism is notscientific. I am not a scientist and I am not doing science. Myskepticism is philosophical.
These illogical ways of thinking arestrange coming from people who pride themselves on their logic andrationality! Of course, flawed thinking such as the above cancome from both believers and skeptics. That is why it is goodto point them out to keep both sides in check. Please enjoythese rebuttals and keep an open mind. (Note: I have assignednumbers to each skeptical argument below so that I can makereferences to them throughout this article.)
Section I: General SkepticalArguments Against The Paranormal
Argument# 1: "It is irrational to believe in anything that hasn't beenproven."
This is the main philosophy behindmost skeptical arguments. As Dr. Melvin Morse, Seattle pediatricianand author specializing in child NDEs (Near Death Experiences)said:
"The notion that 'It is rational to only believe what's been proven' somehow got twisted into It is irrational to believe in anything that hasn't been proven." (Video: "Conversations with God")
By "proven" skeptics mean provenaccording to the scientific method, which they consider to be theonly reliable method. There are several problems with thisargument:
1) First of all, just because something hasn't been proven and established in mainstream science doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't true. If it did, then nothing would exist until proven or discovered. Bacteria and germs would never have caused illnesses until they were proven and discovered, smoking would not cause cancer until it was proven, the planet Pluto would not have existed until it was discovered, etc. Anyone knows that this simply is not so. For instance, when Acupuncture was first introduced in the West, skeptics and certain scientists claimed that it had no basis and only worked due to the placebo effect because they couldnt understand how it worked. This reflected the typical false thinking of skeptics that anything they dont understand must be due to superstition or chance. However, practitioners and believers knew otherwise and were later validated by extensive studies have been done to show that it indeed does work for treating various ailments and getting results which placebos cant account for. An extensive listing of these research studies can be found on the Med lab website. In fact, the AMA (American Medical Association) has already declared that Acupuncture works and is an effective treatment, proving the skeptics wrong. The point is that Acupuncture worked before it was proven to work, not after.
2) Second, just because something hasn't been proven to established science doesn't mean that it hasn't been proved firsthand to certain people. Established views are not the dictum of all reality. Many types of paranormal phenomena have been proved firsthand to eyewitnesses and experiencers. For example, even though the cases of NDEs don't prove the existence of an afterlife (at least not yet), those who have experienced them claim that the experience of the separation of body and spirit is firsthand proof to them of an afterlife, just as riding in a car is firsthand proof that cars exist, and they fear death no more. Those who have OBEs (Out of Body Experiences) also make similar claims, and they need no proof nor do they need to convince anyone. These claims are further supported by the fact that in many documented cases the subject could hear conversations or see things in other rooms and other places, which are later confirmed and verified to be remarkably accurate. Who's to say that they're wrong just because we haven't had the same experiences? That would be equivalent to saying that because Ive never been to Japan, everyone else who claims to have been there is mistaken or deluded. The same goes for eyewitnesses of ghosts, UFO's (Unidentified Flying Objects), alien abductions, Bigfoot, etc. These sightings and encounters range from the obscure and distant to ones that are crystal clear and at point-blank-range, making them much harder to dismiss.
3) Third, many research experiments and studies conducted under the scientific method HAVE passed with positive results. For example, experiments in micro-psychokinesis done by Dr. Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunn at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research labs (PEAR) using random generator machines to measure subjects PK influence on them, obtained positive consistent results for over 20 years. These were done under proper controls and scientific procedures, even according to prominent skeptic Ray Hyman, who investigated the Prince experiments in person and conceded that he could find no flaws in the methodology. The small but consistent results achieved by PEAR over 20 years are calculated by chance alone to be 1 in 1035. (For more on PEAR, see their website at www.princeton.edu/~pear/index.html). Likewise, the Ganzfeld experiments in telepathy done in the early 70s also had repeated success, with receivers in 42 controlled experiments scoring an average of 38 to 45 percent compared to the chance rate of 25 percent. (See Argument # 17) The odds of that occurring by chance are less than one in a billion. More recently, controlled experiments involving four prominent mediums accuracy were done by Dr. Gary Schwartz of the Human Energy Lab of the University of Arizona. (See Argument # 16) These mediums achieved a hit rate 70 to 90 percent, even when in one experiment they were NOT allowed to ask any questions of the sitters or see them! Skeptics repeatedly continue to ignore this fact! (See the Jan 2001 edition of the Journal for the Society of Psychical Research) A list of studies that produced psi results can be found in Dean Radin's book The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. Many researchers will tell you that these studies prove that telepathy and micro-psychokinesis exist at least on the micro level. The skeptics, of course will say that those tests yielded impossible results and therefore were not done under properly controlled conditions, or else the researchers overzealous desire to get psi results botched the results. But this of course reflects their bias and a priori dismissal of facts that dont fit in with their beliefs. It is not logical to deny the facts that dont support your beliefs, it is more logical to update your beliefs to account for the facts. Nevertheless, new scientific discoveries tend to pass through stages first before being accepted (see last paragraph of Argument # 8)
4) Fourth, just because something is irrational to skeptics doesn't mean that it is irrational to others who know or believe that it is real. Skeptics and scientific materialists do not have the monopoly on rational thinking. Lots of rational intelligent intellectual people believe in God, spiritual dimensions, or that there is more to reality than the material world. The skeptics' system of rational thinking is not the dictatum by which all things that exist must conform to. This can easily be demonstrated by all the things that skeptics have been wrong about before, such as flight, laws of physics, quantum mechanics, giant squid, etc. proving their fallibility.
Argument # 2: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinaryevidence."
This seems to be the mantra of hardnosed skeptics. One common way it is presented goes likethis:
"If my friend told me that on theway here he was delayed because his car got a flat tire, then I wouldbelieve it because it is an ordinary claim. However, if he claimedthat on his way here he was temporarily abducted by aliens in a UFO,then I would not believe his claim because it is extraordinary innature. Extraordinary claims require extraordinaryevidence."
Now it would help if the skeptics whoproclaim this argument specify what they would accept asextraordinary evidence. Otherwise, arbitrarily stating this argumentgives one an out no matter what evidence is shown. While it isreasonable to expect a higher standard of evidence for moreextraordinary claims, there are nevertheless 6 difficulties to keepin mind.
1) First, although this rule is good as a general guideline, the fact that 3 possible alternatives exist make this rule fallible.a) It is possible for something to exist without leaving behind collectable evidence as a souvenir to us. For example, planes, radio waves, electromagnetism, and light move around without leaving "hard evidence" yet they exist. Therefore, extraordinary phenomena can easily exist without leaving behind extraordinary evidence.
b) It is possible for something to exist yet the evidence for it hasn't been found or understood yet, which is the case for almost every discovery in history from fire and wheels to gunpowder and gravity, to planets, atoms and electromagnetism.
c) It is possible that the evidence is already there but that it's subject to interpretation, making it controversial. This is true for instance, of the alleged mysterious implants found by doctors and surgeons in alleged alien abductees. So even when something leaves a trail, residue or mark, they are subject to interpretation anyway.
Of course, skeptics have argued that all these things are possible but not probable, hence the requirement for extraordinary evidence. However, in order to really know all that is probable and improbable in the universe and reality, it would require that one have complete knowledge of every dimension and reality that exists in the universe and beyond. No one, neither skeptic nor believer, has that kind of knowledge, at least not consciously. Therefore, it would be more accurate to state that:
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to convince skeptics, but not necessarily to exist in objective reality."
2) Definitions of "extraordinary claims" vary based on prior beliefs and experiences. Not everyone agrees on whether a claim is extraordinary or ordinary. Suppose we were fishes for example, and lived underwater our whole lives without ever seeing or hearing about land. The claim of land existing above water would be an extraordinary claim to us, though not to the creatures living on the land above. Now obviously just because the claim of land is extraordinary to us as fishes does not mean that the land doesnt exist. The point is that extraordinary claims are not extraordinary to everyone. What is extraordinary to some is ordinary and natural to others depending on their experience and level of consciousness. For example, the internal body energy of chi gong (or quigong) is mystical to Westerners but has been a natural everyday part of life for thousands of years in Asia. Chi is used, felt, and observed by its practitioners much the same as the effects of gravity are felt and observed by us. Likewise, the concept of Astral Projections and Out of Body Experiences is extraordinary to those who have never experienced them, but for those who experience them regularly, it is an ordinary thing to them that they know is a reality. In the same way, our cars, radios and cell phones are extraordinary to tribal natives in remote parts of Africa, but ordinary to us. The best solution, in my opinion, is for everybody to put their cards on the table by honestly specifying their prior beliefs. This sets the standards for what is to be expected and leads to a better mutual understanding of each other.
3) Different people have different standards for what is "extraordinary evidence." Depending on your definition, it could be said that we already have some extraordinary evidence for certain types of paranormal claims. Take the following 4 types of phenomena for instance.a) UFO's (Unidentified Flying Objects): It can be said that there is extraordinary evidence to support the existence of UFO's from unexplainable photographs, video camera footage, multiple eyewitness sightings, abduction reports, Air Force radar reports, etc. All of these constitute convincing evidence for some people, but not for others. Although much of it can be explained as misperceptions, natural phenomena, weather balloons, aircraft, birds, balls of lightning, luminous Earth lights, etc. there are still many cases which are unexplainable and display features not known of any natural phenomena. One example is the White House Merry Go Round Incident of July 1952 where Air Force fighters repeatedly chased UFOs that kept appearing on Air Force radar was never adequately explained. Even skeptics admit that some cases are unexplainable, though they claim that unexplainable does not mean inexplicable. (See Argument # 11)
Since its not always possible for extraordinary things to leave behind some type of tangible evidence, if I saw a UFO at close range and didn't have my camera with me and then it flew away, how am I expected to have extraordinary evidence? Am I supposed to be able to call that UFO back as if it were under my command or chase it like Superman? The fact that this event happened without our control makes us unable to satisfy this criteria. The same goes with ghosts and other things.
For hard nosed skeptics though, even good evidence will not be enough, since their mentality is to debunk rather than to discover and learn. You see, even if I had a piece of a crashed flying saucer and showed it to them, they would just say that it is probably just a piece of top secret military aircraft that we don't know about yet. They would want the full saucer itself to be convinced. Then if I found a whole saucer and showed it to them, that would still not be enough because then they could say that there is no proof that the saucer is extraterrestrial in origin and that it could just be a secret type of aircraft invented by the military. Of course, if they had real alien bodies in front of them, then it'd be much harder to dismiss <g> but you get the idea here. They will continually raise the bar. It's their mentality that causes them to close their minds and ignore everything that doesn't fit into their viewpoint.
Just recently in fact, a press conference for the UFO Disclosure Project (http://www.disclosureproject.com) took place in Washington D.C. at the National Press Club on May 9, 2001. At the conference, over 20 government, military and scientific officials testified that they had known of the reality of UFO's for a long time and the secrecy behind them imposed by the government. You can view a two hour video broadcast of the conference over the internet at http://www.connectlive.com/events/disclosureproject/ (I strongly recommend it) So far, all the skeptics and CSICOP have had to say about this conference is "so what?" Obviously, they'd rather pretend that it didn't exist. But then again, who likes to be proven wrong?
b) Ghosts and Spirits: The same goes with ghosts. There are many credible witnesses who have seen ghosts and experienced unexplainable things taking place in haunted houses, such as sudden apparitions, the feeling of an unseen presence, unnatural movement of objects, frequent displacement of things around the house, sounds, voices, etc. Paranormal investigators have even used geiger counters that detected electrical activity in a haunted area. Plus, there are also countless stories of hauntings in all around the world from the mundane to the incredible and uncanny. Although these claims are largely anecdotal, we must understand that while anecdotal evidence is not completely reliable, it is not completely unreliable either and is considered to be evidence in societal functions depending on various factors. (See Argument # 5 regarding the validity of anecdotal evidence) In addition, the amount of anecdotal evidence is also relevant because the higher the number and the more credible the witnesses, the stronger the evidence.
However, die hard skeptics will not consider anecdotal evidence to be valid evidence regardless of the amount. To them, credible evidence has to be measurable in some conventional way and reproduced at our beck and call. The problem with this is that what we can measure is limited to our level of technology. For instance, before we had the technology to measure seismic-activity in the Earths crust, they still existed even though they couldnt yet be measured. Furthermore, since we cant see radio waves, electromagnetism, air, gravity, magnetic force, etc. but they exist anyway, it is logical to assume that there are other things that could exist but arent yet measurable. Our technology may not be up to the level to measure other things that could be there. Or it may be that our technology can only detect things of the physical plane and not the spiritual plane. Looking for physical evidence of something spiritual is like looking for evidence in the ocean for the existence of Mars rather than looking for it in space.
c) ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) and Telepathy: This is also especially true for ESP and telepathy. Experiments under controlled conditions have been done that revealed consistent well above chance results, which strongly point to the conclusion that ESP and telepathy exist at least to a small degree. (See Dean Radins The Conscious Universe and Bernard Gittelsons Intangible Evidence for more specifics) These experiments, particularly the Ganzfeld and Autoganzfeld experiments done from 1974 to 1997, were repeatable too, with 2,549 sessions showing above average results. (See Argument # 17) The problem is that not all scientists and researchers are able to produce the same results. Skeptics usually point to the failures of psi experiments and ignore the successes. They will accept the failed psi experiments as evidence against psi, but not the successful psi experiments as evidence for psi. This is an obvious double standard, which is typical of closed-minded skeptics. One skeptic I debated did not consider the high success of the Ganzfeld experiments as evidence for psi. She pointed out that the few failed experiments invalidated the other successful ones! She wanted a 100 percent success rate. (and even if she got a 100 percent success rate, she would obviously have moved the goal posts and charged fraud! Very few things are 100 percent!) Of course, not all skeptics are that closed-minded, but this gives you an idea of the mentality of closed-minded skeptics. Im not saying that we should only pay attention to the successes and ignore the failures either, but that we should take them both into account, and when we do so, there is in fact strong consistent evidence that psi exists, both from scientific experiments and overwhelmingly large anecdotal evidence. It is possible of course, that some scientists skew the psi results because they are eager to find evidence for psi, but why do skeptics automatically assume that it must be that? Obviously its because of their preconceived beliefs (which they will not admit). If ESP and telepathy exist, it doesn't mean that it has to be controllable at our beck and call like some raw energy. We've only begun to scratch the outskirts on the nature of the whole thing anyway.
Besides experiments, countless accounts of psychic experiences abound, both documented and undocumented. Studies show that about 2/3 of Americans claim to have had psychic experiences, making them quite common rather than "extraordinary". The most common type of psychic experience is telepathy, such as when loved ones and close friends from vast distances apart know at the exact time when something traumatic happened to the other. Sometimes, every detail of the traumatic event is observed or felt from afar. They are extremely powerful personal proof. I've had a few of these kind myself. Often, what was suddenly felt out of nowhere about what happened to the loved one is later verified to be true, occurring at exactly the time it was dreamt or felt. This suggests some subconscious telepathic link between people who are close. Experiences of this kind are in fact very common. Skeptics of course say that these kind of things are nothing but pure coincidence, but this is unsubstantiated and a rush to judgment. They just dont realize that just because something happens that they cant understand doesnt mean that it MUST be coincidence or chance. In the same manner, if someone spoke Spanish and I didnt, that doesnt mean that the person speaking Spanish is speaking random gibberish. If someone living in a tribe in Africa saw me turning channels with my remote and didnt understand how remote controls work, that doesnt mean that my pushing buttons on the remote and the channels changing are just a coincidence!
d) Mystical Experiences: And what about mystical experiences, spiritual enlightenment, being "born again", Near Death Experiences and Out of Body Experiences? These can also be said by those who experience them to be extraordinary evidence as well, because they are often self-authenticating and life changing in themselves. As the 1994 New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia states under Mysticism:"Mysticism in general refers to a direct and immediate experience of the sacred, or the knowledge derived from such an experience.··. First, the experience is immediate and overwhelming, divorced from the common experience of reality. Second, the experience or the knowledge imparted by it is felt to be self-authenticating, without need of further evidence or justification. Finally, it is held to be ineffable, its essence incapable of being expressed or understood outside the experience itself··. the experience itself is always of an Absolute that transcends the human efforts or methods of achieving it." (New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1994)
Experiencers will describe theseexperiences not as faith-based, but an "inner knowing." The fact thatthese type of experiences are dramatically life changing makes them"extraordinary evidence" themselves simply because ordinaryexperiences don't alter people's lives in this way. To say that theseself-authenticating, life changing experiences are just pureimagination is closed minded to say the least. As Faith, apractitioner of Shakti Gaivism and one who has had all-pervasivecosmic transcendental experiences of God in Unity state, constantlyreminds us on my email group:
"But remember .. there is "Belief" a chosen activity of mind... and there is an actual Knowing... via direct experience. They are 2 differnt things. I never could accept chosen Belief.. THAT is why I was an Agnostic.
I like the example of the person working in an inner office with no windows. A co-worker could come in and tell them it is raining out. IF they accept That as truth... it is ONLY a chosen belief. But.. If they were to go outside themselves and stand in the driving rain and get soaking wet... then that is no longer a chosen belief... that would qualify as an actual Knowing.. by Direct experience.
Your Mind is Limited... but "YOU" are far greater than your mind... you are ALL that is..... you just cannot see it yet. Mind keeps you contracted.... but You can go beyond individual mind and tap the All Knowing. The only way you can KNOW this... is by experiencing it. I am not talking about "Belief" here... but direct experience. IF you were to accept what I say here.... THAT would be a Belief.... No Good in my book or yours either I am sure. So... I will NOT be disappointed if you do not ACCEPT what I say.... on the other hand..... You cannot really know that what I say is really illogical babble either...... I think the fairest thing to do is... stay open to the possibilities.... That there are things beyond the scope of Science, things that your current logic based min has not been exposed to.... but that are none the less Possible." - Faith (FaithRada@aol.com)
4) "Extraordinary evidence" is subject to perspective because those who have firsthand direct experience of the phenomena already have their "extraordinary evidence" while others who havent, dont. (See Argument # 5 regarding anecdotal evidence.) For instance, those who have had full blown OBEs already have a realization and knowing that separation of body and spirit can and has taken place, and that there is life after death, especially if they are able to witness specific details at a distance which are later verified as accurate. For them the experience is as apparent as it would be apparent to you whether you were in your own car or house. Similarly, those with transcendent mystical experiences describe it as an "inner knowing" that transcends all description and removes all doubt. In the same fashion, those who have seen Bigfoot or ghosts firsthand at close point-blank-range also have their "extraordinary evidence."
5) The argument is based on an unproven premise. It is based on the premise that paranormal phenomena are either impossible or extremely improbable. The reason it reflects this premise is obvious. Someone who believes that paranormal events are impossible is obviously going to need a lot more proof than someone who believes that they are possible and normal. However, just because miracles, ESP, sightings of apparitions, or OBEs haven't happened to skeptics doesn't mean they haven't happened to others. Likewise, just because I havent been to Spain doesnt mean that everyone who has is mistaken or deluded. In order for one to know what is impossible or improbable, one would have to be an all knowing creator of the universe who possesses every knowledge that there is. But none of these hard nosed skeptics are anywhere near that level, so their assumption that paranormal events are impossible in my view is baseless. As scientist and author Arthur C. Clarke states in his first law:"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
6) The argument favors conservatism or retaining the established theory in spite of contrary evidence. This has its pros and cons. Obviously, it makes sense to retain what works until something better comes along. However, when it comes to modifying our paradigms or world view we also tend to resist change, even when the data calls for it. This argument I fear, is used as an excuse for those who resist change. But if we never abandoned theories or expanded them, then science would not make progress. History has shown that progress comes with new discoveries and abandoning old outdated theories that no longer fit the new data acquired. This skeptical rule does not specify a sufficient condition for sufficient evidence. Therefore, rules should be established to clarify whether a competing theory is promising enough to warrant further research so that when those rules are satisfied, excuses cant be used to try to dismiss the evidence off hand. Otherwise, as Ron Pearson says in his article Theoretical Physics Back Survival: (http://www.ozemail.com.au/~vwzammit/afterlifech33.html#Heading34)Science, however, cannot progress by theory alone; it requires a synthesis of theory and experiment. When observation runs ahead of theory to provide anomalies which seem inexplicable, then as history has shown by repeating itself over and over, the anomalies are avoided, ignored or discredited in order to maintain the status quo: to avoid the need to injure existing intellectual vested interests.
Argument # 3: The Occams Razor rule.
Typical usage: "When there are twocompeting explanations for an event, the simpler one is morelikely."
This argument is a principle thatskeptics often misuse to try to force alternate explanations to aparanormal events, even if those explanations involve falseaccusations or do not fit the facts. This principle was popularizedby scientist Carl Sagan in his novel turned movie "Contact", whereJodie Foster quotes it while during a conversation with a theist todefend her belief that God doesnt exist. (Ironically, at theend of the movie it is used against her in a public interrogation bya National Security Agent.) However, an analysis on the facts andassumptions of this argument reveals some obviousproblems.
1) First of all, Occams Razor, termed by 14th Century logician and friar William of Occam, refers to a concept that states that "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." It was not intended to be used to evaluate claims of the paranormal as skeptics today use it for. As Phil Gibbs points out in "Physics FAQ": (http://www.weburbia.com/physics/)"To begin with we used Occam's razor to separate theories which would predict the same result for all experiments. Now we are trying to choose between theories which make different predictions. This is not what Occam intended··..
The principle of simplicity works as a heuristic rule-of-thumb but some people quote it as if it is an axiom of physics. It is not. It can work well in philosophy or particle physics, but less often so in cosmology or psychology, where things usually turn out to be more complicated than you ever expected. Perhaps a quote from Shakespeare would be more appropriate than Occam's razor: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
"The law of parsimony is no substitute for insight, logic and the scientific method. It should never be relied upon to make or defend a conclusion. As arbiters of correctness only logical consistency and empirical evidence are absolute."
Even Isaac Newton didnt use Occams Razor like the skeptics of today do. His version of it was "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances." (see same Physics FAQ) Obviously, he was referring to explanations to explain natural phenomena, not paranormal or supernatural phenomena!
2) Second, what is "simpler" is often relative. As Phil Gibbs points out in the same Physics FAQ:"Simplicity is subjective and the universe does not always have the same ideas about simplicity as we do."
3) Third, even if we take Occams Razor at face value the way skeptics use it, just because one explanation is more likely doesnt mean that its always the correct one. For example, if I toss a die, it is more likely that I will get numbers 1-5 than it is that I will roll a 6. But that doesnt mean that a 6 will never come up. Therefore, occasionally an unlikely explanation can be expected to be true sometimes. However, skeptics treat Occams Razor as if it were an absolute rule and use it as an excuse for denying any claim, no matter how valid.
4) Fourth, while Occams Razor may be a good rule of thumb, the problem with it is that skeptics tend to use it as an excuse to insert false explanations over paranormal ones. They will do this even if it means denying the facts and assuming things that arent true or didnt happen. For example, if someone had an amazing psychic reading at a psychic fair (not prearranged) where they were told something very specific that couldnt have been guessed by cold reading, skeptics would start inventing false accusations such as: "Someone who knew you must have tipped off the psychic in advance", "A spy in the room must have overheard you mention the specific detail before the reading", "You must have something in your appearance that reveals the detail", "You must have remembered it wrong since memory is fallible", etc. Even if none of these accusations are true, skeptics will still insist on it simply because its the simpler explanation to them. Similarly, when someone during an NDE or OBE hears a conversation or witnesses something many miles away and later upon verification, it turns out to be true, the skeptics will say that the simpler explanation is that the patient knew about the detail or conversation beforehand but forgot it. Likewise, if someone has a close up encounter of Bigfoot, skeptics will use Occams Razor to claim that it is more likely that the experiencer was either lying or hallucinating. Even if none of those alternate explanations are true, skeptics will still insist on them anyway, using Occams Razor as justification. Hence, they prefer a false non-paranormal explanation, even if untrue, rather than accept the truth that it happened the way described. This is clearly a case of bias rather than objectivity. What skeptics dont seem to understand is that reality is not confined or measured by Occams Razor, and the use of Occams Razor in this manner does nothing but impede progress and learning.
Argument # 4: The "invisible pink unicorn / dragon in the garage"false comparison tactic.
Typical Usage: "Of course I can'tprove that God, spirits, UFOs, paranormal phenomena ormetaphysical realities don't exist, but you can't prove to me thatinvisible pink unicorns don't exist either."
The comparison used in this skepticalargument is notoriously common, yet severely flawed and ludicrous. Itis often more of a belittling tactic than a reasoned logicalargument. Used when skeptics are challenged to disprove a paranormalclaim, they often state it like this: "Of course I can't provethat God, spirits, UFOs, paranormal phenomena or metaphysicalrealities don't exist, but you can't prove to me that invisible pinkunicorns don't exist either." Other similar variations of thisare "but you cant prove to me that there wasnt adragon hiding in my garage either" and "but you cantprove to me that little green gremlins arent stealing penniesfrom my pockets either," etc. The premise behind this argument isthat if a claim is unprovable, then its in the same category aseverything thats been made up or fictionalized. However, it isa complete straw man argument because it falsely redefines theopposing position in terms that make it more easily attackable, usingfalse comparisons. A simple examination revealsthis.
1) First of all, the biggest problem with this argument is that what people actually experience is NOT the same thing as what a skeptic deliberately makes up for satirical purposes! To compare the two is ludicrous and illogical. Since the skeptic using this argument hasnt really experienced invisible pink unicorns himself, everyone knows that he is deliberately making up something fictitious to put down something he doesnt believe in while the experiencer or claimant is not. Comparing them would be like comparing my real life experience of visiting a foreign country to any fictitious story you can find such as Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz. That simply makes no sense, even if misperception was involved on my part in my experience. Not only would that be nonsensical, but also both downgrading and insensitive.
2) Second, what someone sincerely believes is NOT the same as what someone knowingly makes up. Since the skeptic who uses this argument dont believe in invisible pink unicorns himself, it is pointless as well as inconsiderate to compare that to what people genuinely believe and experience, such as God, spirits, or ESP. Of course, just because someone genuinely believes something doesnt make it true, but to compare an honest person to a deliberate fraud is not a valid comparison.
3) Third, if like paranormal, psychic, religious, and spiritual experiences, there were millions of credible intelligent people out there claiming to have seen or experienced invisible pink unicorns or dragons in their garage, then this comparison would have some merit. But there arent, so this comparison is without merit.
4) Fourth, the significant difference between experiencing God, the divine, or the mystical, and the fictional example of invisible pink unicorns is that throughout history millions of honest, sane, intelligent people have experiences with the former which resulted in life changing effects, but the same can't be said for invisible pink unicorns.
5) Fifth, just because something is unprovable does not automatically put it in the same category as everything else that is unprovable. For example, I cant prove what I ate last night for dinner or what I thought about. Without witnesses, I cant prove what I saw on TV or how high I scored in a video game either. But that doesnt mean that these things are in the same category as every story in the fiction section of the library.
The bottom line is that while it istrue that no one can disprove the existence of invisible pinkunicorns, the evidence to support God, spirits and psychic phenomena,although mostly anecdotal, is vastly greater, more significant, morerelevant, and more sincere than the evidence to support invisiblepink unicorns and other fictitious examples deliberately made up byskeptics.
Argument # 5: The "anecdotal evidence is invalid"argument.
Typical usage: "All that we haveto support paranormal claims is anecdotal evidence, which isunreliable and not valid evidence for paranormalclaims."
Corollary: "Anecdotal evidence isworthless as scientific evidence."
The "anecdotal evidence"classification is one of the main categories that skeptics putparanormal evidence into in order to dismiss it. (Another categorybeing the "unreplicable / uncontrolled" group that scientificexperiments supporting Psi are often put into. See Arguments # 17,18) Skeptics who use this argument often claim that the evidence wehave for paranormal claims is largely anecdotal and thereforeworthless as scientific evidence. They claim that anecdotal evidenceis invalid because it is largely untestable and subject to error.Some skeptics will even go so far as to say that anecdotal evidenceis zero evidence. Not surprisingly though, skeptics tend to quoteanecdotal evidence when it supports their side! (anotherdouble standard) Therefore it appears that classifying evidence as"anecdotal" is simply a dismissal tactic to try to discredit evidencethat skeptics cant explain away.
One of the ways that skeptics dismissanecdotal evidence to classify witnesses as either mistaken, lying,or hallucinating. This again reflect bias and pre-judgment on theirpart. Skeptics dont really know that a claimant must fitone of the above categories, they simply put them there to keep theirmental model paradigms intact. This is further evidenced by the factthat many skeptics will continue to insist on one of these threecategories even when they are shown to be either impossible or toounlikely to consider. This reflects cynicism rather than trueskepticism.
While it may be true that paranormalevidence is largely anecdotal in nature, that by no means makes themworthless or untrue. Not only is anecdotal evidence mostly reliablewith regard to everyday things, but its reliability can furtherbe measured based on several factors. Consider thefollowing.
1) Anecdotal evidence is mostly reliable in regard to everyday things. The main problem with the "anecdotal evidence is invalid" argument is that anecdotal evidence IS in fact mostly reliable with regard to everyday mundane things. Most of the stories and things I hear about tend to check out. If a tourist who visited France described the details of the Eiffel Tower to me, I could easily check it out by looking up books or brochures on it. When I hear that there is a sale going on for something at the local store, it is validated if I go and check it out. Once, when I heard that a new Star Wars movie was coming out, a year later the movie Star Wars The Phantom Menace came out. When I hear secondhand that something happened on the news, all I have to do is to turn on the news later and what I heard will be verified, often with regard to specific details such as names, number of victims, price hikes, etc. So we do see that anecdotal evidence is reliable in general. My experience has shown that over 90 percent of things I hear about check out later on. Now since anecdotal evidence is reliable and trustworthy for the MOST part with regard to everyday things, why should it be any different for paranormal phenomena just because it lies outside the skeptics belief system? With skeptics, what is mostly reliable suddenly becomes worthless zero evidence. This is because this argument is a dismissal tactic, used by pseudo-skeptics who prefer to lump all paranormal claims into the small percentage of instances that anecdotal evidence is mistaken or fraudulent. What they dont realize though, is that if skeptics were right about anecdotal evidence being unreliable, then most of the things I hear about with regard to everyday things would check out to be false, but in fact the exact opposite is true as I just mentioned! This alone seriously damages the dogma of this argument.
2) Anecdotal evidence is dependent upon perspective. My firsthand direct experiences are anecdotal evidence to others, while their direct experiences are anecdotal to me too. Therefore, whether something is anecdotal or not depends on whether or not you are the experiencer, rather than on it being true or false. Obviously, just because something happens to someone else doesnt mean that its false. This is not to say that what everyone says is true, but that just because my firsthand experience is anecdotal to someone else does not diminish its validity, especially if I am telling the truth. Of course, since closed-minded skeptics tend to prefer any explanation rather than a paranormal one, they will consistently use this dismissal tactic.
3) Important variables increase the reliability of anecdotal evidence. The degree of reliability of anecdotal evidence can usually be measured by variables such as:a) The number of eyewitnesses.
b) The consistency of the observations and claims.
c) The credibility of the witnesses.
d) The clarity of and proximity of the observation.
e) The state of mind of the witnesses.
That is why anecdotal evidence is commonly accepted in many societal functions, such as in the court of law, with the strength of evidence directly proportionate to the number of eyewitnesses. If it was no evidence at all, the courts wouldn't be using it as such, but they do. Job interviewers rely on anecdotal evidence when they screen applicants by checking their references and former employers. If anecdotal evidence was worthless, they wouldnt be doing that. Most of us rely on anecdotal evidence when we get feedback from others about which brand of products are worth buying, which restaurants have good service, etc. (Of course, we consider this evidence more valid when it comes from people we know and trust.) In addition, psychiatric treatments and new medications are often evaluated based on anecdotal evidence.
Here is a further elaboration on the variables that determine the degree of reliability of anecdotal evidence, and how they have been more than adequately met for many paranormal phenomena.a) The number and amount of eyewitnesses, testimonials and claims. The more eyewitnesses and testimonies there are, the greater the weight of evidence. If one person told me something amazing, Id doubt it. But if a considerable number of people told me the same thing including people I know and trust, then I might think that there could be something to it. To put it simply, something is MORE likely to be true if a lot of people can attest to than if no one attested to it. This criteria is definitely met in the case of psychic phenomena and divine experiences. Surveys show that two-thirds of Americans claim to have had psychic experiences (mostly in the telepathic area) which is a significant number ranging over two hundred million in this country, not counting the rest of the world!
b) The consistency in the observations and claims of witnesses. The consistency in the reports we get is also significant. If people were lying or hallucinating, then it is unlikely for there to be consistency in their claims. Of course, consistency in observations and experiences does not mean that what was perceived was really what occurred, but it helps rule out fraud for the most part and points us in the right direction. This criteria is also met for some paranormal phenomena. In multiple witness sightings of ghosts and UFOs for instance, there are accounts of several or more people witnessing the same thing and describing the same details. Even more striking is consistency among people who dont know each other nor live near one another. For example, in the case of NDEs, we have great consistency among experiencers in the form of seeing their body below them, moving through a tunnel, going to a great light of love that some call God, going through a life review, returning with permanent life changes, etc. Of course, skeptics see this consistency as supporting their side because they see it as pointing to the similar brain structure that we humans have, which shuts down in a way that produces similar NDEs. More on NDEs will be elaborated in Argument # 23.
c) The credibility of the witnesses. The credibility of those making the reports and claims is also significant. Factors that influence credibility include integrity, character, whether theyve been known to lie before, education and expertise, mental stability, how well we know them personally (obviously you would place more value in the claim of someone you know and trust as opposed to a stranger), etc. We definitely have anecdotal evidence from this group for various paranormal/psychic phenomena. That is indisputable. Doctors and scientists of esteemed reputations have attested to miracles or paranormal phenomena. Trained radar personnel and Air Force observers have observed UFOs both on radar and in the sky. Accomplished quantum physicists have found quantum evidence that make psychic phenomena more plausible, such as the discovery that particles behave differently when observed as opposed to unobserved, the nonlocality and connectedness of twin particles that are split, etc. (see Fred Alan Wolfes Taking the Quantum Leap and Michael Talbots The Holographic Universe) Prominent Psychiatrists such as Dr. Brian Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters, have discovered and documented clinical evidence that past life memories are real and can be verified. Besides experts, people that we know and trust also claim to experience or observed things of a paranormal nature. Note that Im not saying that an appeal to authority means that its right, only that it carries more weight.
d) The proximity and clarity of the observation. How close and clear an observation or experience takes place also an important factor. If someone thinks they see Bigfoot as a speck in the distance, then it could be dismissed as almost anything. However, if they saw Bigfoot at close-up point-blank-range, then it would be much more compelling and harder to dismiss. For the person to be mistaken at point-blank-range, he/she would have to be either lying or greatly hallucinating and in need of help. Otherwise, the skeptics should do some serious thinking about their beliefs! Again, this criteria has been met for some paranormal phenomena such as Bigfoot, UFOs and apparitions, which have been reportedly seen at point-blank-range in crystal clarity. Any research into will reveal lists of testimonials of this close-up nature.
e) The state of mind of the witness at the time. Another relevant variable is the mental state of the witness, which include factors such as their alertness level, fatigue level, intoxication level, emotional level, fear and panic level, etc. This criteria has also been satisfied for paranormal/psychic phenomena because many of the witnesses were sober, awake and sane at the time of their observations and experiences.
f) What the witnesses/experiencers stand to gain from their testimony or claim. Whether the witnesses profit in any way is also a factor to consider. What one stands to profit puts doubt on their sincerity since they have ulterior motives which might skew their objectivity. On the other hand, if they have nothing to gain then they are less likely to be manipulating us unless it was out of their genuine belief. This is especially so if theyve suffered ridicule and damage to their reputation for their claims. The latter has been true for both paranormal experiencers as well as those who made new discoveries that validated paranormal phenomena. Esteemed scientists and experts in their fields have risked their reputations to share their discoveries. These include physicist David Bohm (a protégé of Einstein and author of Wholeness and the Implicate Order) who postulated consciousness related quantum physics theories that contradicted the reductionist views of the universe, Miami Chair of Psychiatry Dr. Brian Weiss (author of Many Lives Many Masters) who endured ridicule and criticism from his peers for his clinical reports and discoveries in past life regression, and others.
Now of course not all of the evidence for every paranormal and psychic phenomena have met all these criteria, but many of them have met some or all of them. Therefore we can conclude that the evidence is overwhelmingly strong, and certainly not zero evidence like the skeptics claim.
Ordinarily, anecdotal evidence thisstrong is accepted as valid evidence in most circumstances, so whynot in regard to paranormal or psychic phenomena, especially whenits so common? The reason is because skeptics and certainscientists dont think these things are possible, therefore theyassume that the fallibility of anecdotes must be the cause. In myexperience with skeptics though, no matter how much better evidenceyou give them, they will still find excuses to reject them, even ifit means imposing double standards, denying facts or preferring falseexplanations over paranormal ones. It is apparent that closed mindedskeptics arent looking for evidence, but ways to shut it out toprotect their views. After all, if theyre really looking forevidence, then why would they shut it out every time it comesup?
Even arch skeptic Bob Carroll ofThe Skeptics Dictionary (http://www.skepdic.com) saysthat while anecdotal evidence may not be proof, but it helps point usin the right direction. (http://www.skepdic.com/comments/ndecom.html)This isnt saying of course, that we should believe everyanecdotal claim out there. That would be foolish. This is just sayingthat just because an anecdotal claim doesnt fit onesworld view, doesnt mean that it must be due to mistake,fraud or hallucination. The bottom line here is that although lots ofpeople saying something doesnt mean its true, (the adpopulum argument) it at makes it MORE likely to be true compared toif no one at all said it was true.
Finally, it can also be said that theskeptics subjective dismissal of anothers experience isjust as unreliable as any anecdotal evidence. Greg Stone, director ofthe film "A Campaign to Remember" with Ted Koppel and anNDE/consciousness expert, makes some intriguing points about howskeptics treat anecdotal evidence: (taken from his email tome)
(referring to the writings of Skeptic Paul Kurtz):
"I suggest that rather than rejecting the eyewitness accounts of so many as unreliable, that he understand that his offhand subjective dismissal of anothers experience is equally unreliable. What is missing is his attempt at understanding what is -- based upon the accounts. That they are laden with the complexity of personal observation does not mean the underlying phenomena are not actual and real. The confusion of the scientist in sorting out complex evidence does not itself render the phenomena unreal...it only means the scientist lacks the insight or tools to do the work. Only a fool of a scientist would dismiss the evidence and reports in front of him and substitute his own beliefs in their place."
Argument # 6: The memory malleability argument to dismiss anecdotalevidence.
Typical Usage: "Memory ismalleable and unreliable. People can remember a highly edited versionof what occurred, making anecdotal evidenceunreliable."
A common skeptical sub-tactic to tryto further discredit anecdotal evidence (covered above in Argument #5) is to attack the reliability of peoples memory. Skepticsargue that since memory is malleable, then the memory of paranormalexperiencers is unreliable and therefore not to be trusted as validevidence. This is related to the concept of False MemorySyndrome. Skeptics also try to justify it by using OccamsRazor, claiming that inaccurate memory is a more probable and simplerexplanation than any paranormal one. However, two significantproblems with this argument reveal that is not only weak, butinapplicable as well, making it one of the least convincing of theskeptical arguments.
1) The main problem with this is that although memory isnt perfect and doesnt work like a tape recorder, the majority of what sane people remember IS reliable and can be checked out and verified. (See criteria 1 of Argument # 5) This is easily demonstrable. I could make a long list of things I did yesterday, last week, or even last year. And I could also make a long list of events that happened from yesterday to years ago. The vast majority of these things (I would bet over 95 percent of them) could easily be verified by other people, records/receipts, news articles of the events, etc. No one of course remembers every detail of every second of their life, but what we DO remember tends to be accurate and can be verified. This simple fact is severely damaging to the false memory dogma of this argument. Of course, there are bound to be a few details that are fuzzy that I may not remember correctly, but these are addressed in the second point below.
2) Where memory tends to be unreliable the most is in the area involving details that the brain considers too insignificant to remember (which is the category that most things go into such as the colors of the cars you saw on the way to work this morning, number of steps on a staircase, etc.). Thousands of details we perceive everyday which our minds consider useless and insignificant are discarded. Unfortunately for skeptics and debunkers, paranormal experiences dont fit into this category because they tend to be significant, shocking, and revealing. As we all know, significant life-altering events in our lives make the biggest impression in our memory and tend to be remembered immediately with clarity, not years afterward. Since paranormal/psychic experiences belong in this category, this further damages this already weak argument even more. In fact, people describing shocking or traumatic events from long ago tend to say, "It was years ago, but I can still see it as if it were happening right now." These memories are often the same way years later as they were the day they occurred. This means that the memory is consistent and reliable. Its not like I just thought of an event from years ago that made no impression on me back then and suddenly realize upon reflection that it was paranormal! Therefore memories of paranormal events are not likely to be created by memory malleability. Such was demonstrated in my own case when a psychic who sensed from my "vibrations" that there was a tragic period in my life when I was 9 years old. When a skeptic challenged the reliability of my memory of it, which only occurred a year and a half ago, I easily met his challenge by showing him a post I wrote up about it the day after it occurred, which contained the SAME details that I remember now. (its ironic these days when science and technology helps us prove skeptics wrong!)
Therefore, based on the two pointsabove, the memory malleability argument is not only too weak to useto dismiss significant paranormal claims but also inadequate andinapplicable as well.
Argument # 7: "The burden of proof is on theclaimant"
Typical Usage: "Skeptics don'thave to disprove anything because they're not the ones making aclaim. The burden of proof is on the claimant."
When Skeptics who dismiss or deny arechallenged to disprove something, they typically respond with thisargument which states that since they are not the ones making theclaim, they don't have to disprove anything, but that the burden ofproof is on the claimant. This argument is similar to the"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" requirement ofArgument # 2 (see rebuttal for that section). While this may be soundsensible on the surface, it poses some problems for the skeptics'pursuit of knowledge.
1) First of all, as said before, justbecause one is unable to prove something to others doesn't mean thatit is false or nonexistent. For instance, I can't prove what Idreamed about or thought about yesterday, but that doesn't mean thatit didn't happen. Also, I can't conclusively prove that I saw acertain movie last month either. The skeptics could say that my savedticket stub was stolen or forged, that my memory of the movie wasobtained from hearing about it, that the people that were with me inthe theater only constitute testimony and not proof, etc. You see,there is no way it could be proven 100 percent. Anyone who wants todeny can always find a reason to. The burden of proof may be on theclaimant for the scientific and skeptical community to accept it,which is fine and understandable. But this argument is no grounds touse to dismiss claims and explain them away with alternateexplanations, which skeptics like Michael Shermer tend to do. Thatwould be more of what a cynic does. After all, why is a debunker'ssubjective dismissal more credible than one's direct experience?Skeptics can dismiss all they want, but they never seem to understandthat they are doing it on purely subjective and speculativegrounds.
2) Second, this argument does nothingto aid the skeptic's understanding of the paranormal. All it does ismaintain the status quo of their own beliefs. If skeptics want someproof for something, they have to go find it themselves. Though notall paranormal experiences and encounters can be found by thosewilling to seek, some of them can at least. But asking a claimant tohand over proof on a silver platter isn't really going to leadanywhere. That's not how it works. How would one hand over proof ofghosts, UFO's, mystic experiences, or telepathic experiences, to askeptic? Can one take a piece of a ghost and bring it back? Skepticswho want to investigate ghosts and UFO's should talk extensively tothe eyewitnesses and perhaps spend some nights over in a hauntedplace, rather than just sitting back and thinking up their ownexplanations for it. Even the well-liked late Carl Sagan, whodismissed alien abductions offhand in his book The Demon HauntedWorld, never bothered to interview any abductees to learn aboutthe abduction experience. That's certainly not the action of someonetrying to understand something or looking for the truth. If a skepticwants proof of metaphysical realities through mystical experiences orOBE's, they will have to do the work required to experience itthemselves. There are a variety of techniques for inducing OBE's andastral projections. However, most skeptics are unwilling to do thesetype of things because they consider it a waste of their time sincethey don't think it's real. Instead, they lazily offer this argument,which makes sense scientifically, but progresses them nowhere intheir knowledge or exploration. In fact, not bothering to investigateor experience something yourself, but just sitting back lazily andusing this argument makes no sense.
3) Third, the claimant who alreadyhas his/her proof doesn't need to prove it to others to validatetheir experiences. NDEers often emphasize this. Their personal prooffrom their experience or encounter is a blessing, gift or messagemeant for them, not for the skeptics. In other words, the claimants,if sincere, have already proved it to themselves. Whether or notskeptics accept the proof is inconsequential to them. Skeptics canbelieve what they want, but what they think does nothing to changethe reality of a paranormal phenomenon. The skeptics who only want tosee proof from other people without looking for it themselves istotally missing out on their own transcendentalexperiences.
Argument # 8: "There is no hard evidence to support any paranormalphenomena."
This is a vague argument because itdoesnt define what constitutes "hard evidence." If by hardevidence they mean something solid and tangible, then it would not bepossible to obtain this from certain things like UFOs, ghosts,spirits, or ESP. since they are intangible in nature and possiblyinvolve other dimensions we dont fully understand yet (couldalso be the case with UFOs). By this standard, we have notangible evidence for stars, galaxies, black holes, or nebulas thatare light years away either, although we can observe them. (Skepticscould argue that theyre just holographic images on a giantmovie projector.) In the same manner, although we cant reachout and touch UFOs, we have observed them hovering in the skyand outmaneuvering our best aircraft. Even if all the photographs andvideo footage of UFOs were hoaxed, there are still many casesof sightings that were observed by whole cities or towns, such as theMexico City mass sighting of January 1995. This indicates thattheres "something" there causing these mass sightings. Ofcourse, this "something" could be a whole range of things besidesalien spacecraft, but at least its not zero evidence and notdue purely to imagination. Though UFOs show up far lessfrequently than the other astronomical phenomena mentioned above,infrequent doesnt mean nonexistent. The possibility of winningthe lottery is also very infrequent too, but not nonexistent. Thesame could also go for ghosts, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster,apparitions of the Virgin Mary, etc.
If by hard evidence they mean thingsthat we can test and measure with experiments, then this would bedifficult to do with ghosts and UFOs since they are out of ourcontrol, but this has already been done and replicated for psychicphenomena like telepathy and telekinesis (See evidence in Arguments #17, 18). We have the vastly replicated Ganzfeld and Autoganzfeldcontrolled telepathy experiments, the 20 year consistency of thePrinceton Random Number Generator PK experiments, the controlledtests on psychics such as Uri Geller that he succeeded in, the recenttests on mediums by Dr. Gary Schwartz, and others. Skeptics need toclearly define what they want as hard evidence, rather than beingvague about it and then raising the bar when anything ispresented.
Argument # 9: Science is the only reliable method.
Typical Usage: "The only reliableway to know about anything is through the scientific method. Allother methods are unreliable."
This statement is usually made byskeptics who glorify and worship science as their God, even thoughthey would never put it in those terms due to the connotations ofthem.
1) First, this is an absolutist statement since there is not just one single way to know everything. Other ways of knowing things include direct observation, personal experience, textbooks and articles, and advice from those who are wiser and more experienced than us. There are countless real things I can experience that dont need to be proved by the scientific method. Even mundane examples can demonstrate that. For instance, I can see rainbows by direct observation even though I cant bring them back to scientists, though they can see them too if they chose to go look. I can learn parenting through the experience of being a parent, and swimming by the experience of going into the water. Marketers and businesses learn the marketability of their products through surveys. We can also learn valuable things from wiser and more experienced people too, despite the fact that we didnt use any scientific method to check them out. In addition, I cant prove where I was yesterday either with the scientific method, but that doesnt mean that any claim of where I was yesterday is false. Neither can I prove what I dreamed last night with the scientific method either, but that doesnt mean that I dont know what I dreamed about. Likewise, if Acupuncture or some alternative medicine technique works for me, then I know that it works for me regardless of whether its proven by the scientific method or not. Not everything has to be official for it to be true. (See rebuttal to Argument # 1 for more on that.) The scientific method is a tool for testing hypothesis and finding out things, not for defending ones own paradigms.
2) Second, since successful psi results have been achieved in tests conducted under the scientific method, (See Arguments 17, 18) it can be said that evidence for psi has been gained from the scientific method anyway. Not surprisingly though, skeptics tend to only accept results done with the scientific method that show the results they want, which is no psi results and only chance results.
3) Third, things dont have to be proved by science in order to be true. (as explained in Argument # 1) Many things were true and real before science discovered or proved them. Though the converse of this is also true, why should we consider the skeptics subjective dismissal as being more reliable than ones direct experience? Besides, without direct experience, how would we know anything at all? A member of my discussion list, Greg Stone, put it very well when he posted:"But balanced against science's supposed lack of evidence one finds the DIRECT EXPERIENCE of those who report. And the reports are consistent and voluminous. Thus, while science, according to Kurtz, cannot weigh in definitively on either side of the equation, the DIRECT EXPERIENCES are a fact. And, as everyone knows, we do not need to check with science to confirm all the aspects of our daily lives...we did not need to wait for science to properly define and experiment with the atom before we could manipulate things made up of atoms."
"Experience, direct knowledge, is of a higher order of understanding than mere subjective speculation without experience. If one were to accept your argument that experience is intrinsically invalid as a way of knowing, then you undermine your entire position as you have nothing else upon which to base ANYTHING. Thus, we see the weakness of a position that replaces firsthand knowledge, firsthand experience with the SPECULATION of someone who has no experience."
"Which one does the real scientist consider more valid... the report of a direct experience (make that volumes of consistent reports) OR the musings of someone with NO experience, only their speculation?"
Now I dont dispute that scienceis our best way of collecting knowledge, testing theories, ordiscovering how things work. The point is that it is not the ONLYway. And since science has not disproved the existence of God, lifeafter death, spirits, or psi, then there is no point in skepticstrying to use science to dismiss those things. Furthermore, the bestmethod of knowing things also depend on the kind of knowledge one isattempting to acquire. There are many issues and problems everydayfor which empiricism is impractical or impossible. We make manyrational daily decisions both individually and as a society that arebased on no empirical observations. Sometimes common sense and directobservation are all that are required.
Dean Radin points out in thebeginning of his book The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truthof Psychic Phenomena, that new scientific discoveries tend to gothrough stages. He writes: (page 1)
"In science, the acceptance of new ideas follows a predictable, four-stage sequence. In Stage 1, skeptic confidently proclaim that the idea is impossible because it violates the Laws of Science. This stage can last for years or for centuries, depending on how much the idea challenges conventional wisdom. In Stage 2, skeptics reluctantly concede that the idea is possible but that it is not very interesting and the claimed effects are extremely weak. Stage 3 begins when the mainstream realizes not only that the idea is important but that its effects are much stronger and more pervasive than previously imagined. Stage 4 is achieved when the same critics who previously disavowed any interest in the idea being to proclaim that they thought of it first. Eventually, no one remembers that the idea was once considered a dangerous heresy.
The idea discussed in this book is in the midst of the most important and the most difficult of the four transitions - from Stage 1 into Stage 2."
Argument # 10: "Paranormal and supernatural phenomena arentpossible because they contradict all known natural laws gained fromscience."
First of all, natural laws as wedefine them are based on our interpretation of empirical testing andobservation. Therefore, they are subject to constant change as newdiscoveries are found which challenge or contradict our models.Throughout history, we have constantly updated and expanded ourunderstanding of the laws of how the universe works. In the past, itwas said that things like heavier than air flight and going to themoon were impossibilities. Skeptics of those things were proven wrongof course. At one time, according to the law of aerodynamics, ahummingbird shouldnt be able to hover, yet it did, so we had tofigure out why and revise our laws of aerodynamics. When AlbertEinstein discovered that light travels at a constant speed (e.g. ifyoure traveling in a car and shine a flashlight forward, thecars speed is not added to the lights speed), andformulated his theory of relativity (time slows down as you gofaster), and postulated that gravity involves distortion of space,all these things contradicted the Newtonian laws of physics at thetime, yet they were eventually validated. As of now, specialrelativity and quantum mechanics are at odds with each other, andphysicists are seeking a grand unified theory to unite them both. Ashistory has shown, we constantly update and expand our laws ofphysics to fit the data, not deny the data and new discoveries justto protect our beliefs.
In fact, new discoveries in quantumphysics each year are shattering the materialistic reductionist viewwe had of the universe, making psychic phenomena and other dimensionsmore plausible. These include the non-locality (meaning distance andspace dont exist) of twin particles (discovered by Alan Aspectin 1982), string theories that postulate several other dimensionsbeside our own, the discovery that particles behave differently whenobserved (making psychokinesis more probable), etc. (See Fred AlanWolfes Taking the Quantum Leap and The SpiritualUniverse) Each new discovery seems proves the skeptics wrong andmoves us further from their views and closer to metaphysicalparadigms. This is obviously not a good sign for their case. Itappears that the skeptic camp is a sinking ship that one should getoff to avoid embarrassment. Just the discovery alone in quantumphysics that all matter is a form of vibrating energy makesparanormal and psychic phenomena much more plausible andunderstandable.
Finally, good theories try to unifythe data. As Ron Pearson notes in his article Theoretical PhysicsBack Survival:(http://www.ozemail.com.au/~vwzammit/afterlifech33.html#Heading34)
"Theories make sense of the experiments and show how apparently unrelated phenomena are aspects of the same thing. Good theories provide unifications. For example, magnetism and electricity were separate fields when science was in its infancy. As understanding grew it was found that magnetic effects could be produced by electric currents and the converse also applied. Now we speak of electromagnetism as a single force; one of the four forces of nature. Theoretical physicists hope ultimately to join these by a unified field theory arising from a single 'superforce'."
Argument# 11: "Unexplainable does not mean inexplicable."
This phrase is emphasized by archskeptic Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe WeirdThings. This argument means that just because something isunexplainable does not mean that paranormal forces must have beeninvolved, only that we havent found the explanation for it yet.However, skeptic who use this should also remember that the followingconverses are true as well:
1) Just because something happens that they think isnt possible doesnt mean that it didnt happen. To do so would be to deny reality.
2) Just because something happens that they think isnt possible doesnt mean that it must be due to misperception, fraud, or hallucination.
3) Just because a natural explanation hasnt been found for something unexplainable doesnt mean that only a natural explanation could exist.
4) If a natural explanation doesnt explain all the facts, that doesnt mean that you should insist on it anyway just to protect your belief system.
Take the following example. In thereincarnation cases investigated by Dr. Ian Stevenson in his bookTwenty Suggestive Cases of Reincarnation, none of the naturalexplanations account for the data and facts of the cases, such asbabies and children having accurate detailed memories of their pastlives which couldnt have been obtained in their environment,but are later verified to be true. Dr. Stevenson concludes that thereincarnation hypothesis best fits the data he personallyinvestigated. Though the skeptic is free to insist that a naturalexplanation must be the culprit anyway, (and often does) he does soby flatly denying the four converse rules above. Would Shermerapprove of that, I wonder? (For more on the reincarnation phenomena,check out Twenty Suggestive Cases of Reincarnation andReincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery.)
Argument # 12: "Skeptics dont have beliefs. They/I base ourviews and judgments on the degree of evidence."
Some skeptics on the extreme end evengo so far as to claim that unlike the rest of the world, theydont have "beliefs" but reasoned judgments based on pureevidence alone. Not all skeptics claim to be immune to beliefs, butthere are some that do. This is plain silly though, becausestatements of belief can be found in almost anything someone says. Weall do things and say things based on assumptions we have, which areformed in part based on beliefs. These assumptions are sometimes inthe line of beliefs because they are not always based on hardevidence, but our world views, predisposition, and naturaltendencies. Beliefs are especially found in the skeptical argumentsdiscussed so far, as most of the skeptical arguments in this articleare clear statements of a priori belief, such as "It isirrational to believe anything that hasnt been proven"(Argument # 1) and "Extraordinary claims require extraordinaryevidence." (Argument # 2) Further common skeptical beliefs include"Believers in the paranormal are irrational", "Psi is improbable","Psychics and mediums prey on the gullible" and "Psi experiments showno better than chance results when proper controls are put intoplace".
Though skeptics will claim that theirviews are based on the evidence that theyve examined, theyrarely apply their skepticism to their own beliefs, which any trueskeptic would do. Furthermore, upon close scrutiny its obviousthat they prefer false explanations to paranormal ones, resort tocharacter assassinations, and ignore data that doesnt fit theirhypotheses. Strange behavior for people who dont have beliefs!Rather, I think that skeptics are using this "I dont havebeliefs" argument to excuse themselves from having to defend theirviews, while shifting the burden to believers andparanormalists.
Argument # 13: "A common myth is that Skepticism is cynicism. It isnot. Skepticism is a method of inquiry."
This statement is usually found inintroductions or FAQs sections of skeptical websites and books.Here is an example from the website of The Skeptics Society:(http://www.skeptic.com/faqs.html)
"What does it mean to be a skeptic? Some people believe that skepticism is rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse "skeptic" with "cynic" and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideasno sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position."
What these skeptics dontunderstand is that people in general dont have misconceptionsabout skepticism as a concept. The cynicism that people see in socalled "skepticism" is not due to their misunderstanding of the worditself, but due to the cynical WORDS and ACTIONS of the PEOPLE whocall themselves skeptics. When pseudo-skeptics make cynicalstatements such as in the arguments presented in this article, theyportray to others a cynical closed method of thinking, dismissinganything that they dont understand or consider possible.Thats where this impression comes from. Cynics who masqueradebehind science and skepticism often reveal their cynicism throughtheir words, thinking methodologies, closed system of beliefs, anddogmatic assertions. The six common flawed tactics described in theintroduction of this article are the kind of things that give othersthe impression of cynicism. This is why even some of the well knownskeptics and leaders of organized skeptic groups are perceived ascynics, including James Randi (the famous magician, author, debunker,and nemesis of Uri Geller), Michael Shermer (editor of Skepticmagazine), Joe Nickell (one of the leaders of CSICOP), MartinGardner (psychic debunker), Susan Blackmore (University of LondonPsychology Professor and proponent of the Dying Brain Hypothesis ofNDEs), etc. These people use closed ways of thinking to dismissdata that dont fit into their hypotheses, which is prevalentfrom statements made in their articles/books. Therefore, these closedminded skeptics are the ones that have the misconception of mistakingtheir cynicism with true skepticism.
Argument # 14: "Believers in the paranormal are thinking inprimitive, irrational, childish and uninformed ways."
This statement is often made by themore extreme and opinionated type of skeptic. Fortunately, manyskeptic groups have realized the extremity and folly of these type ofstatements and have stopped making them in public. The fact is, manywho hold spiritual beliefs or metaphysical views came to them afterresearching all the data and examining the different explanations,making informed conclusions.
Nevertheless, it can also be arguedthat closed-minded skeptics who are out to debunk everythingparanormal are thinking in irrational and uninformed ways becausethey simply refuse to consider the data that support strongparanormal phenomena cases, but instead dismiss it on a priorigrounds. If they are not up to date on the evidence, then they arethe ones who are acting uninformed. How can one be truly informed ifthey only wish to look at the data that support their views?Rationalizing away facts to defend ones paradigm is not anexample of rational thinking.
Furthermore, people who holdparanormal or other non-empirical beliefs may simply be expressing acultural, personal or spiritual view, and nothing more. This does notmean they are less intelligent, more irrational or childish thannon-believers of the paranormal. In fact, these people are usuallycapable of applying rational and intelligent thought to a widevariety of everyday situations when it matters, and no doubt do thiseffectively and rationally.
We have to remember that basically,it is simply our a-priori beliefs that affect our acceptanceof the data for paranormal phenomena. Closed minded skeptics anddebunkers know going into an investigation that there is a naturalexplanation, and are firmly committed to finding it. The problem isthat it can (and has in some cases) lead to incorrect or prematureconclusions. It also doesn't do much for skepticisms reputationwhen a researcher goes in (falsely, and obviously so) proclaimingneutrality when the reality is otherwise. Why not just be honest andsay "I don't believe it. It is possible to convince me, but I don'tthink that is going to happen because in my experience, the worlddoesn't work that way.'"?
Argument #15: "Skeptics are defending science and reason from arising tide of irrationality."
This phrase has often been used inarticles and websites of skeptical organizations and magazines,including CSICOPs Skeptical Inquirer and others.Fortunately, this phrase is now critiqued by skeptics themselves, andused less. Michael Sofka of ISUNY and author of the article Mythsof Skepticism, (http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/talk/talk.html) pointsout that CSICOP often uses it in their fundraising requests.Folklorist Stephanie Hall comments on this in her article Folkloreand the Rise of Moderation Among Organized Skeptics:(http://www.temple.edu/isllc/newfolk/skeptics.html)
"Another change advocated by many Skeptics is in the choice of language used to represent skepticism to others. For instance, a phrase that has commonly appeared in articles by Skeptics and in statements in the brochures or Web sites of skeptic groups was an expression of concern about "the rising tide of irrationality." But although this phrase became an identity marker demonstrating alliance with organized skepticism and a statement of shared concern, it has increasingly been criticized by Skeptics themselves. At the NCAS Millennial Madness workshop in May 1999, Chip Denman critiqued this phrase as, perhaps, skepticism's own bit of Millennialism, asking questions such as, "What do we mean by irrationality? How is it measured? How do we know it is rising?" It seems that this phrase, as a marker of skeptical identity, may be going out of fashion.
These events are an indication to me as a researcher that Skepticism is going through changes as it grows, as we might expect in any social movement, and that local groups are beginning to discover the things they have in common. Perhaps because the movement has steadily grown and this may inspire confidence and stability, Skeptics also seem increasingly willing to critique themselves and express strong views on the ways they do and do not want skepticism to be presented to the public. This self-analysis is, of course, a good thing, for any rational endeavor should be willing to critique itself."
Chip Denman, quoted above by Hall,makes a good point. The statement fails to define what is consideredto be irrational. Most likely, what they mean by irrational isanything others believe in that doesnt fit their world view orhasnt been proven their way. Therefore, this is more astatement of bias and faith, rather than fact. If by irrational theymean unproven, then this is false too as there is strong evidence formany paranormal and psychic phenomena (See Argument # 1)
In fact, there does not seem to beany evidence of an increase in irrationality or superstition. I wouldchallenge any skeptic to show me a mass poll where a high percentageof people admit literally that they believe in "superstition andirrationality". There probably arent any, because most peopledont label their beliefs as superstition or irrationality. Itis the skeptics who label paranormal beliefs as such.Thats an important thing to remember. Even the polls publishedover the years in Skeptical Inquirer indicate at most a shiftin emphasis as one belief replaces another in the popularimagination. Moreover, to the extent that polls have been done wefind church attendance dropping, and people shifting from organizedreligions to less formal or more individualized forms ofspirituality. In the traditional religious sense, our society is moresecular now than before.
It appears that on the wholeirrationality, belief, and credulity are at about the same level asthey have always been, just distributed in different ways. Whatprobably is going on is that this phrase is used to describe new andexpanded beliefs (i.e. New Age type beliefs) versus establishedbeliefs in society, with the new beliefs appearing as though there isan increase.
Section II: Critique of Skeptical Arguments Against SpecificParanormal Phenomena.
Argument# 16: "Psychics and mediums use a technique called cold reading toamaze you with accurate hits, not psychic powers.
This is a common skeptical argumentagainst professional and non-professional psychics and mediums.Skeptics claim that psychics and mediums use cold reading to pick upclues about clients and amaze them. First, let me explain what coldreading is. Then Ill explain why it does not account for allpsychic readings. Cold reading is an umbrella term for aseries of techniques used by magicians and mentalists (specialists inmind reading tricks) to employ a variety of methods to gaininformation and clues about a client for a reading. These methodsinclude but are not limited to: fishing for clues by askingquestions, listening to everything a client says to get clues, makinggeneral or vague statements that most people interpret as hits,observing facial expressions and body language as you makestatements, analyzing clues from a persons dress and demeanor,and other mentalist tricks, etc. (despite what politically correctpeople say, it is a fact that there are many things you can tellabout a person based on their looks, even from a photograph) Even thesmallest things can give a trained cold reader important clues aboutyou. In conjunction with cold reading, another technique known as"hot reading" can also be used. Hot reading is the techniqueof investigating a persons background and records prior to apsychic reading to obtain specific information about them. Mentalistsperforming in stage shows often use hot reading to obtain priorinformation about audience members beforehand, such as maiden names,former addresses, etc. Cold reading can be used both consciously andunconsciously. Some cold readers knowingly use and develop their coldreading techniques like a skill or art. Others may subconsciously usecold reading techniques, attributing it to intuition or psychicabilities, thus deluding themselves as well as theirclients.
Although it is true that there aremany frauds out there who use cold reading the way mentalists andmagicians do, it doesnt mean that every psychic is a fraud.That would be like finding some counterfeit money and concluding thatall money was counterfeit. Magic tricks and genuine psychic abilitiesare two separate fields, rather than the same as skeptics like Randiwould have you believe. Of course, frauds and con artists are part ofevery kind of business, not just in the psychic medium field. Theproblem with the cold reading/hot reading explanation is that formany accounts of psychic readings (including some of my own) thetechniques do not account for the specific information attained. Forexample, some psychic can tell you very specific things about youwithout asking you any questions, which rules out the "fishing forclues" technique. If neither they nor any of their accomplices talkedto you beforehand, then that would also rule out the same technique.If the clues they gave could not have been gained from anything inyour appearance, then that would rule out the "visual clues"technique as well. For instance, if you were told the location yougrew up in, your former last name, or an event in your past thatdoesnt show in your appearance, then the visual clues techniquecould not account for it. In addition, if the psychic who told youthese things didnt know you were coming beforehand, as in awalk-in psychic fair, then that would rule out hot reading too.Unfortunately for skeptics, there are many cases of psychic readingswhere all of the above were ruled out. Therefore, cold/hot readingcannot account for every case. In such cases, the skeptic is leftwithout explanations, but often continue to insist that the clientmust have given away some kind of clue, and demand that this bedisproved first before imposing any claim of genuine psychic abilityat work. However, if it was a past event, it is impossible to proveeither way unless you could travel back in time, so the skeptic hastheir excuse to deny once again.
Let me give some examples of psychicreadings that I know of where cold reading was either impossible ortoo unlikely:
1) One of my own examples is from a psychic reading I got from my acting teachers mom about a year and a half ago. During rehearsals one time, I heard that my teachers mom, Pearl, did psychic readings as a personal favor to people. A fellow student mentioned that she was amazed because Pearl told her that she had a certain tragedy when she was 5 years old. Curious myself, I decided to go up and ask for a reading too just for fun to see what would happen. Up until then, none of the psychics I went to before impressed me with anything specific. And since she was not a professional psychic, I didnt think she would have any incentive to use any fradulent cold reading tricks. Pearl agreed to it and we sat down. All she asked me for was my birth date (a common question by psychics to supposedly open up the Akashic records that contain your karmic history), then she looked at my palm for a while. She did NOT ask any leading questions or fish for clues. To my astonishment, she said that she sensed that I had a tragic period in my life when I was 9 years old. Somehow she could feel the emotional scars there, not from my palm lines she said, but from the vibrations she felt. This was very true because that year was the worst year of my life, besides the year that I was 16. Random guessing, although possible, was unlikely because if she had guessed any other year beside 9 and 16, she would have been wrong. By guessing, she would have had a 2/25 chance of being right. Furthermore, guessing was even more unlikely since she guessed the tragic year of the girl before me correctly too. Generalized guessing was also unlikely because if Pearl had guessed the age of 5 like she did for the girl before me, it would have been wrong. The day after this occurred, I wrote an account of it on a message board post, asking the skeptics to explain this. They insisted that either cold reading or chance guessing was used. When I mentioned that all I was asked was my birth date, they insisted that facial expressions and body language were part of cold reading too. But when I challenged them to explain how my facial expressions or body language told her that I had a tragedy at 9 years old, they had no explanation except to repeat the same thing again and dodge the question. They were stumped! What the odds that Pearl gained such hits from guessing for both me and the girl before me? More recently, a skeptic suggested to me that since this occurred a year and a half ago, my memory of the events might not be accurate. However, I debunked his false memory theory on the spot by stating that I still had the message board post I wrote right after the event, which contained the SAME details that I remember now. After his case was blown, he suggested that if they were a school, they would have records of my past. When I told him that it was not an actual school, but a community theater acting class that had no records on me, (and didnt need them either) he was at a loss for explanations and challenged me to prove that I had an accurate memory of every detail that happened, including the color of the drapes, chairs, etc. and that I had a detailed transcript of the whole thing, or else I could not rule out that all other possible non-psychic explanations. This was of course ridiculous because it would be like asking someone to remember the license plate number of every car that they drove by this morning, or what they did 257 days ago at 3:15pm, for instance. He was obviously getting desperate for explanations here and to go so far as to challenge me to prove trivial things to put the burden of proof on me. This was obviously the work of a closed and biased mind. Besides, Pearl was the kind sincere simple next door granny type and anyone who met her would laugh if they heard the claim that she was a cold reader.
2) These next two accounts were recently related to me from my dad. The first one involves a psychic that he, my mom, and her friend met a long time ago back in Taiwan (I think it was during the early 70's, before I was born) While they were passing through a city that they rarely visited, they came upon a line of people waiting for a reading from this blind psychic who gave readings based on voices he heard. My mom decided on the spur of the moment to get a reading from him too. Without fishing for any clues, one of the first things that he told her was that when she was a child, her mom tried to give her away for adoption to another family, but she later ran back home, which was TRUE! My mom was very amazed at the time, and her friend was so amazed that she tried to push my mom aside to get a reading too. He also told her other things that were true too. Now, being given away for adoption and then running back home is not a generalized guess that would fit anybody, only a few people. Both my parents and my mom's friend can confirm this story, so its not like it was made up out of obscurity. Furthermore, since this reading was on the spot and not prearranged, there was no possibility of hot reading or background checking. And since this was in a city where she rarely visited, there wouldnt have been people who knew her there that could have told the psychic about her beforehand. The skeptics I related this to tried to claim that since this occurred decades ago, the memories of the three people involved cant be counted on to be reliable. However, as mentioned in the rebuttal to Argument # 6, since this was a shocking event, the memory of it is the same it was at the time it happened (as in my own example above). Furthermore, since these type of amazing psychic readings already occur in modern times anyway, why couldnt they have occurred back then as well?
3) Here's the second story that happened more recently. A few years ago, my dad and a coworker, Eileen, went to a psychic fair. They picked one of the psychics there for a reading and sat down. Immediately the psychic told Eileen that "You are in the process of moving" which was true because Eileen had already sold her house and was in fact in the process of moving. Struck with amazement, they arranged for a personal reading later on with the psychic. Skeptics I told this to claimed that the phrase "You are in the process of moving" was vague and could be interpreted in many ways related to changes in life. However, whenever Ive heard that phrase used, it usually referred to moving residence. In either case, even if it was a general phrase, that still doesnt mean that it was just a guess.
4) This recent case I heard on my email discussion list is probably the most extraordinary one yet. A wise lady named Edith (Edithlaq@aol.com), whom has a history of giving good spiritual advice, related this story:"I went to a Psychic fair in Chicago, all by myself, on the spur of the moment, then looked around and saw a little old man sitting all by himself, a bit away from all others. I walked over to him, asked him how much he charges, and sat down. He did not even ask my birth date or any other question, and began to talk about my children.
He said I had two children, a boy and a girl. I told him that this is not true, that I have two girls. He said that he knows different, which really upset me. He went on saying that the boy died right after his birth, and that my girl had died a few years back in a tragic incident, and that the second girl is not my own girl, but is adopted. He was right, because I had to admit that I no longer thought of my little boy any longer as a son.
( he was born 37 years earlier, prematurely in the 6th month of pregnancy, and had only lived 25 minutes.)
He then told me that I am writing a Novel, and began to outline the story, naming the character in the Novel by name, their roles, and how they related to each other, and the time frame of the story. He was right in the smallest detail, better than I could describe myself, having written it.
He told me that I would be teaching many people, and that people will come to my house to ask for lessons, but it would be out of the State, in the South.
(The South was the last place on earth I would want to live at that time. Neither would I want to leave my job, or my dream house that I had purchased only a short time before. It was months later that my husband was suddenly transferred to Georgia. Here I had an Art exhibition in Atlanta, and people had approached me to teach Art, especially oil painting.)
There were many other events he told me from my childhood, early adulthood, my former marriage, all accurate in every aspect and every little detail. He described the house I was born in, a house I had never again seen in over 46 years, and I had to look on an old photograph to check the details he described, of which I was no longer aware of.
He was correct. He took a pen and wrote my father's name, in my father's handwriting. (The old German script, which is no longer in use, called: Hohe Stolze.)
Now, I don't expect you to believe me, and I don't care one way or another, whatever explanation you come up with for all that, it does not change one tittle.
Just remember one thing: I had never been in Chicago before, other than driving through. Chicago was 45 miles from where I lived, and I knew NO ONE in that city, nor did anyone know that I would be going to Chicago that day, and I had no idea that there was a Psychic Fair to begin with, but rather stumbled on it in one of the Malls.
But most of all, that it was I who chose this particular Psychic among all others.
I had been to other Psychics, at different times, in different States and different countries, all without appointments, and without recommendations by anyone I knew, who had been most accurate in everything they said, three of which described the same Novel I spoke of earlier, one spoke of a book I had written many years earlier, even how many pages the manuscript was, how many chapters, and the general contents of it."
As you can see, the facts in theseincidents dont suggest in any way that cold/hot reading wasinvolved. Psychic reading accounts like this are abundant and comefrom people of all walks of life. Anyone who does a little researchcould come up with accounts like these.
Just recently some famous mediumswere tested under controlled conditions by Dr. Gary Schwartz of theHuman Energy Systems Laboratory at the University of Arizona, whichrevealed some astonishing results. The experiments involved a groupof mediums and sitters who were not told each others identitiesbeforehand. Separated by a cloth screen, the mediums were onlyallowed to ask a few yes or no questions before giving theirreadings. Their readings turned out to average between a 70 to 90percent accuracy rate, far above the chance level of 33 percent! Theodds of this happening by chance, according to Dr. Schwartz, are onein trillions! Even more astonishing, in the second experimentinvolving a different group of mediums and sitters, the mediums werenot allowed to ask anything at all, yet they STILL retained the samelevel of accuracy as the mediums in the first experiment! A report onthese experiments was published in the January 2001 issue of theJournal of the Society for Psychical Research. The report,Accuracy and Replicability of Anomalous After-Death CommunicationAcross Highly Skilled Mediums, which you can obtain by emailingDr. Schwartz himself at GSchwart@u.arizona.edu, contains thefollowing key excerpts:
"In a replication and extension experiment, mediums average accuracy an initial ten minute period that did not allow yes-no questioning was 77%."
"The data suggest that highly skilled mediums are able to obtain accurate (p less than one in ten million) and replicable information. Since factors of fraud, error, and statistical coincidence can not explain the present findings, other possible mechanisms should be considered in future research. These include telepathy, super psi, and survival of consciousness after-death."
"It can be seen that the mediums varied in the number of total items they obtained and the number of questions they asked. Medium 1, in particular, generated over 130 specific pieces of information yet asked only 5 questions, 4 of which (80%) were answered yes."
"Medium 1, who obtained the lowest score (80%), only asked a total of five questions. Hence, it is impossible to claim that medium 1s percent accuracy ratings (see below) were due to "cold reading" and "fishing for information.""
"Though names were rated least accurately, the magnitude of the accuracy was still surprisingly high (67% for sitter one and 76% for sitter two). Initials received higher percent accuracy scores (90% for sitter one and 100% for sitter two). Personal temperament information was very accurately reported (95% for sitter one and 93% for sitter two)."
"For the first ten minutes, the mediums were instructed to receive whatever information they could about the deceased and share this information out loud. They were not allowed to ask any questions of the sitters. The sitters were instructed to remain silent................. The content of these two readings was dramatic. Information about the deceased son and dog were again replicated by both mediums. However, both mediums also received information about the recently deceased husband. Medium 2 reported being confused, saying "I keep hearing Michael times two, Michael times two." The fathers name was Michael, the sons name was Michael, Jr."
"The two right bars display the percent + accuracy ratings for the silent and questioning periods, combining the data for mediums 1 and 2. The average accuracy for the silent periods was 77% and for the questioning period, 85%. The total number of items received during the silent period was 64, the total during the questioning period was 157. The difference between the silent and questioning periods in percent accuracy was not statistically significant."
"The accuracy of mediums 1 and 2 was replicated, including during a ten minute silent period when no questioning was allowed. New information about the deceased husband was received by both mediums. More information was obtained during the questioning period than the silent period, and the accuracy ratings were somewhat higher. However, detailed information was obtained during the silent periods when no "cold reading" was possible."
"These two experiments provide quantitative data that are consistent with the hypothesis that some form of anomalous information retrieval was occurring in these skilled mediums. Traditional hypotheses of fraud, subtle cueing, and statistical coincidence, are improbable explanations of the total set of observations reported here."
"The present findings do not speak directly to the mechanism (s) of anomalous information retrieval observed. However, the apparent desynchrony of the mediums ECGs with the sitters ECG during the reading periods compared to the baseline periods is inconsistent with a "telepathy with the sitter" interpretation of the findings."
"...........However, it is important to mention that the mediums spoke remarkably quickly and generated a surprisingly large number of specific facts."
"For the first sitter, all five mediums obtained information about a deceased son. Three of the five mediums heard the initial M for the son, one said the name Michael. None gave a false initial or name for the son. Also, none obtained information about a deceased daughter (her son did die, her daughter was alive)."
"Qualitative Example II: Receiving accurate information days before the readings
One of the mediums purportedly received communication from the deceased mother of one of the sitters a few days before traveling to Tucson. The mother purportedly conveyed to the medium a favorite prayer that she had regularly recited to her daughter as a child. Moreover, according to the deceased mother, the daughter was secretly continuing to offer this prayer for her. An assistant to the medium was instructed to locate the prayer, have it laminated, and gift wrapped.
When the reading was about to begin with the sitter, the medium unexpectedly reported to the experimenters that he had forgotten to bring into the laboratory a present he had brought for this sitter from her deceased mother. Surprised by the claim of such a gift, we instructed the medium that he could have his assistant bring it in after the reading had officially ended and the formal data had been collected.
The gift was brought into the laboratory at the end of the session and passed around the screen to the sitter. Upon opening the present, the sitter, in tears, confirmed that this was a special prayer her mother had taught her as a child. Moreover, she shared that she silently continued to say this prayer for her deceased mother.
Since the medium purportedly did not know who the sitters were ahead of time, and also did not know who was behind the screen, the observation of the medium receiving anomalous communication three days before the experiment and giving this particular sitter this particular gift raises challenging questions......."
Argument # 17: "Experiments that show evidence for psi must bereplicable in order to count as evidence."
Corollary: "I wont considersuccessful psi experiments as evidence of psi unless the results arereplicated by other scientists and peer reviewed."
This is another category thatskeptics tend to use to dismiss evidence. If they cant it intothe "anecdotal evidence is worthless category," then they put it intothe "unreplicable category" (and by that they dont just meanreplicable by a few other scientists, but by every scientist in theworld!). While this standard may seem reasonable scientifically, itis usually just another tactic to try to raise the bar, because nomatter how many times a successful psi experiment is replicated, theystill will demand a never-ending higher rate of replication! (If the2,549 sessions of the Ganzfeld and autoganzfeld experiments from 1974to 1997 by different research laboratories which produced abovechance results doesnt count as replicable, then whatwould?)
Nevertheless, the first problem withthis is that just because something hasnt been replicateddoesnt mean that it didnt happen. For example, if Trackand Field gold medalist Carl Lewis breaks a world record, and otherathletes cant repeat it, that doesnt mean that Lewisdidnt do it in the first place. Likewise, if I won a slotmachine jackpot or threw a quarter and it landed on its edge andstayed that way (this is possible but there are astronomical oddsagainst it), but couldnt repeat it again, it doesnt meanthat it never happened the first time. Similarly, phenomena such assupernovas, balls of lightning, and comets are not replicable by usbut are acknowledged to exist anyway. Therefore, replicating theappearance of UFOs or ghosts may not be possible because theyare out of our control, but that doesnt mean they never happenor dont exist. All it would take is one genuine case of a UFOor ghost to prove that they were real and possible. As an unnamed lawI found says: "If it happens once, then it must bepossible."
In fact, the very nature of psychicphenomena makes them not easy to replicate. Dean Radin, Ph.D,Director of the Consciousness Research Laboratory at the Universityof Nevada, and author of The Conscious Universe: The ScientificTruth of Psychic Phenomena, lists 8 reasons why this is so: (page40)
"Psi effects do not fall into the class of easily replicated effects. There are eight typical reasons why replication is difficult to achieve: (1) the phenomenon may not be replicable; (2) the written experimental procedures may be incomplete, or the skills needed to perform the replication may not be well understood; (3) the effect under study may change over time or react to the experimental procedure; (4) investigators may inadvertently affect the results of their experiments; (5) experiments sometimes fail for sociological reasons; (6) there are psychological reasons that prevent replications from being easy to conduct; (7) the statistical aspects of replication are much more confusing than more people think; and (78) complications in experimental design affect some replications."
The second problem with this argumentis that successful psi experiments definitely have beenreplicated by different researchers and laboratories. One famoussolid example is the series of telepathy studies known as theganzfeld experiments, in which subjects guess target images whilesitting with ping pong ball halves over their eyes and listening torelaxing white noise designed to deprive them of sensory stimuli toheighten their intuition and psychic abilities. Dean Radin, in thesame book quoted above describes the replicability of the Ganzfeldexperiments: (page 78-79)
"At the annual convention of the Parapsychological Association in 1982, Charles Honorton presented a paper summarizing the results of all known ganzfeld experiments to that date. He concluded that the experiments at that time provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the existence of psi in the ganzfeld··.. "
"At that time, ganzfeld experiments had appeared in thirty-four published reports by ten different researchers. These reports described a total of forty-two separate experiments. Of these, twenty-eight reported the actual hit rates that were obtained. The other studies simply declared the experiments successful or unsuccessful. Since this information is insufficient for conducting a numerically oriented meta-analysis, Hyman and Honorton concentrated their analyses on the twenty-either studies that had reported actual hit rates. Of those twenty-eight, twenty-three had resulted in hit rates greater than chance expectation. This was an instant indicator that some degree of replication had been achieved, but when the actual hit rates of all twenty-eight studies were combined, the results were even more astounding than Hyman and Honorton had expected: odds against chance of ten billion to one. Clearly, the overall results were not just a fluke, and both researchers immediately agreed that something interesting was going on. But was it telepathy?"
Radin further elaborates on howresearcher Charles Honorton tested whether independent replicationshad actually been achieved: (page 79)
"To address the concern about whether independent replications had been achieved, Honorton calculated the experimental outcomes for each laboratory separately. Significantly positive outcomes were reported by six of the ten labs, and the combined score across the ten laboratories still resulted in odds against chance of about a billion to one. This showed that no one lab was responsible for the positive results; they appeared across-the-board, even from labs reporting only a few experiments. To examine further the possibility that the two most prolific labs were responsible for the strong odds against chance, Honorton recalculated the results after excluding the studies that he and Sargent had reported. The resulting odds against chance were still ten thousand to one. Thus, the effect did not depend on just one or two labs; it had been successfully replicated by eight other laboratories."
On the same page, he then soundlydismisses the skeptical claim that the file-drawer effect (selectivereporting) could skew the meta-analysis results in favor of psi:(page 79-80)
"Another factor that might account for the overall success of the ganzfeld studies was the editorial policy of professional journals, which tends to favor the publication of successful rather than unsuccessful studies. This is the "file-drawer" effect mentioned earlier. Parapsychologists were among the first to become sensitive to this problem, which affects all experimental domains. In 1975 the Parapsychological Associations officers adopted a policy opposing the selective reporting of positive outcomes. As a result, both positive and negative findings have been reported atg the Paraspsychological Associations annual meetings and in its affiliated publications for over two decades.
Furthermore, a 1980 survey of parapsychologists by the skeptical British psychologist Susan Blackmore had confirmed that the file-drawer problem was not a serious issue for the ganzfeld meta-analysis. Blackmore uncovered nineteen complete but unpublished ganzfeld studies. Of those nineteen, seven were independently successful with odds against chance of twenty to one or greater. Thus while some ganzfeld studies had not been published, Hyman and Honorton agreed that selective reporting was not an important issue in this database.
Still, because it is impossible to know how many other studies might have been in file drawers, it is common in meta-analyses to calculate how many unreported studies would be required to nullify the observed effects among the known studies. For the twenty-eight direct-hit ganzfeld studies, this figure was 423 file-drawer experiments, a ratio of unreported-to-reported studies of approximately fifteen to one. Given the time and resources it takes to conduct a single ganzfeld session, let alone 423 hypotheitcal unrepoted experiments, it is not surprising that Hyman agreed with Honorton that the file-drawer issue could not plausibly account for the overall results of the psi ganzfeld database. There were simply not enough experimenters around to have conducted those 423 studies.
Thus far, the proponent and the skeptic had agreed that the results could not be attributed to chance or to selective reporting practices."
Another skeptical argument againstthe ganzfeld studies is sensory leakage. Radin addresses this aswell: (page 81-82)
"Because the ganzfeld procedure uses a sensory-isolation environment, the possibility of sensory leakage during the telepathic "sending" portion of the session is already significantly diminished. After the sending period, however, when the receiver is attempting to match his or her experience to the correct target, if the experimenter interacting wit the receiver knows the identity of the target, he or she could inadvertently bias the receivers ratings. One study in the ganzfeld database contained this potentially fatal flaw, but rather than showing a wildly successful result, that studys participants actually performed slightly below chance expectation···
Despite variations in study quality due to these and other factors, Hyman and Honorton both concluded that there was no systematic relationship between the security methods used to guard against sensory leakage and the study outcomes. Honorton proved his point by recalculating the overall results only for studies that had used duplicate target sets. He found that the results were still quite strong, with odds against chance of about 100,000 to 1."
Where skeptic Ray Hyman disagreedwith Charles Honorton was in the role of randomization flawsaffecting the ganzfeld results. However, as Radin points out, theconsensus of the experts on meta-analysis is against Hymanshypothesis: (page 82-83)
"A similar concern arises for the method of randomizing the sequence in which the experimenter presents the target and the three decoys to the receiver during the judging process. If, for example, the target is always presented second in the sequence of four, then again, a subject may tell a friend, and the friend, armed with knowledge about which of the four targets Is the real one, could successfully select the real target without the use of psi.
Although these scenarios are implausible, skeptics have always insisted on nailing down even the most unlikely hypothetical flaws. And it was on this issue, the importance of randomization flaws, that Hyman and Honorton disagreed. Hyman claimed that he saw a significant relationship between randomization flaws and study outcomes, and Honorton did not. The sources of this disagreement can be traced to Honortons and Hymans differing definitions of "randomization flaws," to how the two analysts rated these flaws in the individual studies, and to how they statistically treated the quality ratings.
These sorts of complicated disagreements are not unexpected given the diametrically opposed conviction with which Hnorton and Hyman began their analyses. When such discrepancies arise, it is useful to consider the opinions of outside reviewers who have the technical skills to assess the disagreements. In this case, ten psychologists and statisticians supplied commentaries alongside the Honorton-Hyman published debate that appeared in 1986. None of the commentators agreed with Hyman, while two statisticians and two psychologists not previously associated with this debate explicitly agreed with Honorton.
In two separate analyses conducted later, Harvard University behavioral scientists Monica Harris and Robert Rosenthal (the latter a world-renowned expert in methodology and meta-analysis) used Hymans own flaw ratings and failed to find any significant relationships between the supposed flaws and te study outcomes. They wrote, "Our analysis of the effects of flaws on study outcome lends no support to the hypothesis that ganzfeld research results are a significant function of the set of flaw variables.
In other words, everyone agreed that the ganzfeld results were not due to chance, nor to selective reporting, nor to sensory leakage. And everyone, except one confirmed skeptic, also agreed that the results were not plausibly due to flaws in randomization procedures. The debate was now poised to take the climactic step from Stage 1, "Its impossible," to Stage 2, "Okay, so maybe its real."
Even after the successful replicableseries of ganzfeld experiments, further replicability was found inthe computer-controlled autoganzfeld experiments, designed to be evenmore efficient and controlled than the original ganzfeld experiments(although not shown to be significant as mentioned above). This timethough, two magicians who specialized in mentalism were brought in tocheck the protocals for cheating loopholes, as Radin describes: (page86)
"In addition, two professional magicians who specialized in the simulation of psi effects (called "mentalists" or "psychic entertainers") examined the autoganzeld system and protocols to see if it was vulnerable to mentalist tricks or conjuring-type deceptions. One of the magicians was Ford Kross, an officer of the Psychic Entertainers Association. Kross provided the following written statement about the autoganzfeld setup:In my professional capacity as a mentalist, I have reviewed Psychophysical Research Laboratories automated ganzfeld system and found it to be provide excellent security against deception by subjects.
The other magician was Cornell University psyhcologist Daryl Bem, who besides coauthoring a 19954 paper on the ganzfeld psi experiments with Honorton, is also a professional mentalist and a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association."
Radin summarizes the results of theautoganzfeld experiments as follows: (page 86)
"The bottom line for the eleven series, consisting of a total of 354 sessions, was 122 direct hits, for a 34 percent hit rate. This compares favorably with the 1985 meta-analysis hit rate of 37 percent. Honortons autoganzfeld results overall produced odds against chance of forty-five thousand to one."
Further replications beyond theganzfeld and autoganzfeld experiments include the following: (page87-88)
"The next replications were reported by psychologist Kathy Dalton and her colleagues at the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. The Edinburgh experiments, conducted from 1993 through 1996 (and still ongoing), consisted of five published reports and 289 sessions using an improved, fullyl automated psi ganzfeld setup. It was based on Honortons original autoganzfeld design and implemented in stages first by Honorton, then by psychologist Robin Taylor, then by me, and finally by Kathy Dalton. Other replications have been reported by Professor Dick Bierman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Amsterdam; Professor Daryl Bem of Cornell Universitys Psychology Department; Dr. Richard Broughton and colleagues at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina; Professor Adrian Parker and colleagues at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden; and doctoral student Rens Wezelman from the Institute for Parapsychology in Utrecht, Netherlands.
While only the 1985 meta-analysis, the autoganzfeld study, and the Edinburgh study independently produced a hit rate with 95 percent confidence intervals beyond chance expectation, it is noteworthy that each of the six replication studies (after the autoganzfeld) resulted in point estimates greater than chance. The 95 percent confidence interval at the right end of the graph ois the combined estimate based on all available ganzfeld sessions, consisting of a total of 2,549 sessions. The overall hit rate of 33.2 percent is unlikely with odds against chance beyond a million billion to one."
Finally, at the end of the chapter,Radin concludes what the findings of the ganzfeld experiments andothers before it suggest: (page 88)
"Now jointly consider the results of the ganzfeld psi experiments, the dream-telepathy experiments of the 1960s and 1970s, the ESP cards tests from the 1880s to the 1940s, Upton Sinclairs experiments in 1929, and earlier studies on thought transference. The same effects have been repeated again and again, by new generations of experimenters, using increasingly rigorous methods. From the beginning, each new series of telepathy experiments was met with its share of skeptical attacks. These criticisms reduced mainstream scientific interest in the reported effects, but ironically they also refined the methods used in future experiments to the point that todays ganzfeld experiments stump the experts."
Thus from all this, it isindisputable that we have solid scientific and statistical evidencethat one of the most successful and controlled series of telepathyexperiments in history, the ganzfeld experiments, were definitelyreplicable. Therefore, the skeptical challenge of Argument # 16 hasbeen met, and its up to them to accept the obvious data orreject it. Radins book describes many other replicable psiexperiments as well, including ESP, clairvoyance, remote viewing, andpsychokinesis. So I highly recommend it. The book, The ConsciousUniverse: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, can beordered from Amazon.com. For more details about the ganzfeldexperiments, see the following detailed articles which can be viewedonline:
Argument # 18: "No psychic phenomena has been demonstrated undercontrolled conditions."
Corollary: "Whenever propercontrols are put in place, psi experiments only get average chanceresults."
This argument is often used by thosewho dont believe psi is possible, and that only inadequatecontrols and methods can result in above chance psi results. Again,this is based on another a priori assumption that psi isimpossible. This argument puts skeptics mindframe into a closedway of thinking. Any experiment that supports psi is automaticallyassumed by skeptics to be uncontrolled, and any test that fails isconsidered to be adequately controlled. However, this is simply notso because as mentioned in Argument 17 above, the successful ganzfeldand autoganzfeld experiments were controlled. For an in-depthdescription of the controls used, see the following articles. Theycan also be viewed online at the URLs listed below.
Bem, D.J. (1996). Ganzfeld phenomena. In G. Stein (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the
paranormal (pp 291-296). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus. Full text available at
Bem, D.J. & C. Honorton (1994). Does psi exist? Replicable evidence for an
anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 4-18.
Full text available at http://www.psych.cornell.edu/dbem/does_psi_exist.html.
Also, here is Daryl Bem's rebuttal toRay Hyman's critique of the ganzfeld.
Skeptics will say that an experimentwas uncontrolled even when they were never at the location of theexperiment. This happened with the Stanford Research Institutesexperiments on famous Israeli psychic Uri Geller. Psychic debunkerJames Randi (Gellers nemesis) and others who were not at SRIwhen Geller was tested, made a bunch of accusations against SRI suchas poor controls and deliberate skewing of the results on the part ofthe scientists there, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ. Since Randiand his skeptics were never there, all they have is speculation basedon their closed beliefs. As Harold Puthoff told me in some emailexchanges regarding Randis criticisms:
"Not true at all. They just quote Randi and his pronouncements, e.g., in his book Flim Flam. In Flim Flam, he gives something like 28 debunking points, if my memory serves me correctly. I had the opportunity to confront Randi at a Parapsychology Association conference with proof in hand, and in tape-recorded interaction he admitted he was wrong on all the points. He even said he would correct them for the upcoming paperback being published by the CSICOP group. (He did not.)
In case one thinks that it was just a case of our opinions vs. his opinions, we chose for the list of incorrect points only those that could be independently verified. Examples: He said that in our Nature paper we verified Geller's metal-bending. Go to the paper, and you see that we said we were not able to obtain evidence for this. He said that a film of the Geller experiment made at SRI by famed photographer Zev Pressman was not made by him, but by us and we just put his name on it. We showed up with an affidavit by Pressman saying that indeed he did make the film. Etc., etc."
"Geller did the same kind of remote viewing in our lab, that more than fifty others from the government and army have done as part of the 25 year remote viewing program. If the whole world has remote viewing abilities, why shouldn't Geller have some?"
"Again, these claims of inadequate controls are generally just repeats of what Randi says. The truth of the matter is that none of Randi's claimed suspected inadequate controls actually had anything to do with the experiments, which of course Randi was not there to know of. This has been independently reported by Scott Rogo somewhere in the literature, who came out specifically to check each of Randi's guesses about inadequate controls and found them inapplicable under the conditions in which the tests were conducted. In fact, all of Randi's suggestions were amateurish compared to the sophisticated steps we took, suspecting as we did everything from magician's tricks to an Israeli intelligence scam."
In fact, during the course of hiscareer, Uri Geller succeeded in 17 controlled experiments indifferent laboratories. Here are some quotes from the scientists whotested him. Notice the bold emphasis on the controls and strictconditions of the experiments.
"I tested Uri Geller myself under laboratory-controlled conditions and saw with my own eyes the bending of a key which was not touched by Geller at any time. There was a group of people present during the experiment who all witnessed the key bending in eleven seconds to an angle of thirty degrees. Afterwards we tested the key in a scientific
laboratory using devices such as electron microscopes and X-rays and found that there was no chemical, manual or mechanical forces involved in the bending of the key."
Professor Helmut Hoffmann (Department of Electrical Engineering,
Technical University of Vienna, Austria)
"Through intense concentration, Uri was able to bend a 3/8" cold rolled steel bar under controlled conditions, as he rubbed the top of it with his forefinger. I was sitting very close to him during this experiment. On another occasion, a radish seed sprouted and grew 1/2" as he held it in his hand. I watched this very closely as well. "
Jean Millay PhD. (Saybrook Institute U.S.A.)
"Uri Geller was tested in my laboratory at UCLA. During the experiments in Kirlian photography and after hundreds of trials, he produced three extraordinary photographs in which flashes of energy were clearly visible. What wonderfully welcome sights they were! I have also tested Uri's watch-fixing and metal-bending abilities. He has demonstrated
these to me under controlled scientific conditions, in a most convincing manner".
Dr. Thelma Moss (Professor of psychology at UCLA and one of the first
U.S. researchers to experiment with Kirlian photography - U.S.A.)
"Uri bent a strong heat-treated alloy bar held by myself and my assistant at each end. There was absolutely no pressure exerted by Uri while the bar was bending. All the controlled experiments I conducted with Uri Geller have been described in Sciences et Avenir, No. 345, pp. 1108-1113."
Professor Charles Crussard (Professor of Metallurgy, School of Mines,
Paris, and Scientific Director of Pecheney, France)
"Uri Geller, as a psychic genius, has been able to demonstrate the repeatability of controlled scientific psychic experiments. Thereby he has proved the reality of psychic phenomena (such as telekinesis, clairvoyance and telepathy)."
Professor P. Plum, MD (Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, University of
Copenhagen, former chairman of the Danish Medical Research Council -
"We have observed certain phenomena with the subjects [including Uri Geller] for which we have no scientific explanation. As a result of Geller's success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal, perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner." (The results of these experiments were published in the respected British journal Nature, Vol. 251, No. 5).
Dr Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ (Stanford Research Institute - California, U.S.A.)
"Laser physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff of Menlo Park's Stanford Research Institute admit their kind of research invites chicanery and trickery. They have taken special precautions, they said, to conduct the Stanford Research experiments under doubly strict laboratory conditions."
"Under these conditions, they said, no magician has been able to duplicate through trickery the psychic feat performed by Uri Geller and others. Some won't even try."
Los Angeles Times, Monday July 28, 1975
"I have personally witnessed and experienced on two occasions the metal bending abilities of Uri Geller. These experiments were conducted under rigorous laboratory conditions. In these two experiments the thick steel rod I was holding and observing carefully bent, and continued to bend, in my own hand. One rod bent to 90 degrees during a period of
approximately six minutes while I was holding it. The other steel rod bent after Uri Geller stroked it and continued bending on a glass table without anyone touching it. The steel rods were provided by myself. I consider the Geller effect to be a phenomena which should be studied seriously by science. "
"A scientist would have to be either massively ignorant or a confirmed bigot to deny the evidence that the human mind can make connection with space, time and matter in ways which have nothing to do with the ordinary senses. Further, he cannot deny that these connections are compatible with current thinking in physics, and may in the future
become accepted as a part of an extended science in which the description 'paranormal' no longer applies, and can be replaced by 'normal'."
Dr. Kit Pedler, (Head of the Electron Microscopy department, University
As you can see, the testimony ofexperts who tested Geller appears convincing indeed. Besides, thefailed psi experiments often cited by skeptics are almost always doneby skeptics and debunkers themselves. (Gee, how unbiased is that?)The results of real scientists, fortunately, are not so one-sided asskeptics would have you believe.
Argument# 19: "Miracles are impossible and defy everything we know aboutscience and anatomy."
This is an extreme claim and whilenot all skeptics adhere to it, there are some that do nevertheless.This claim is based on an a priori assumption that our knownphysical laws are all there is. How would skeptics know all that ispossible and impossible though? Our natural laws are ourinterpretation of how the universe works. These laws are subject tochange as new discoveries are made, which is how science has alwaysbeen. (See rebuttals to Argument # 10) Current scientific principlesonly reflect the current knowledge that has been tested andreplicated, not all that is or can be. In fact, what is considered tobe miraculous or supernatural at first has often turned out to benatural once its understood. Dean Radin elaborates on this inhis book The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of PsychicPhenomena: (page 19)
"But a few hundred years ago virtually all natural phenomena were thought to be manifestations of supernatural agencies and spirits. Through years of systematic investigation, many of these phenomena are now understood in quite ordinary terms. Thus, it is entirely reasonable to expect that so-called miracles are simply indicators of our present ignorance. Any such events may be more properly labeled first as paranormal, then as normal once we have developed an acceptable scientific explanation. As astronaut Edgar Mitchell put it: "There are no unnatural or supernatural phenomena, only very large gaps in our knowledge of what is natural, particularly regarding relatively rare occurrences.""
History has shown that those who usethe word "impossible" are usually proven wrong one way or another.Many things that were said to be impossible at one point were laterproved to be possible such as flight, travel into space, relativity,quantum theory, etc. As Arthur C. Clarke, inventor of thecommunications satellite and author of 2001 A Space Odyssey,states:
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
- Arthur C. Clarke's First Law
In either case, miracles do happen.Most doctors and nurses can attest to this. The question is, andskeptics like to point this out too, in how you define a miracle.Skeptics will usually accept miracles such as the miracle of life andscience, or miracles due to flukes and rare chance occurrences, butnot if they involve supernatural forces or divine intervention.Several possible explanations of miracles are supernatural forces,divine intervention, psychic abilities, unknown powers and healingabilities of the mind, spontaneous remission of illness, chance, ornatural causes not yet understood. Whatever the case, the "miraclesare impossible" argument is illogical because miracles havehappened already. There is ample evidence of this both fromanecdotals and hard evidence from X-Rays of the affected region ofthe patients body that were taken before and after the miracle.One famous documented case of a miracle is the case of VittorioMichelli. Michael Talbot in his book The Holographic Universedescribes the case:
"Perhaps the most powerful types of beliefs of all are those we express through spiritual faith. In 1962 a man named Vittorio Michelli was admitted to the Military Hospital of Verona, Italy, with a large cancerous tumor on his left hip (see fig. 11). So dire was his prognosis that he was sent home without treatment, and within ten months his hip had completely disintegrated, leaving a the bone of his upper leg floating in nothing more than a mass of soft tissue. He was, quite literally, falling apart. As a last resort he traveled to Lourdes and had himself bathed in the spring (by this time he was in a plaster case, and his movements were quite restricted). Immediately on entering the water he had a sensation of heat moving through his body. After the bath his appetite returned and he felt renewed energy. He had several more baths and then returned home.
Over the course of the next month he felt such an increasing sense of well-being he insisted his doctors X-ray him again. They discovered his tumor was smaller. They were so intrigued they documented every step in his improvement. It was a good thing because after Michelli's tumor disappeared, his bone began to regenerate, and the medical community generally view this as an impossibility. Within two months he was up and walking again, and over the course of the next several years his bone completely reconstructed itself (see fig. 12).
A dossier on Michelli's case was sent to the Vatican's Medical Commission, an international panel of doctors set up to investigate such matters, and after examining the evidence the commission decided Michelli had indeed experienced a miracle. As the commission stated in its official report, "A remarkable reconstruction of the iliac bone and cavity has taken place. The X rays made in 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969 confirm categorically and without doubt that an unforeseen and even overwhelming bone reconstruction has taken place of a type unknown in the annals of world medicine." (O'Reagan, Special Report, p. 9.)"
Some skeptics claim that miraculoushealings are due to flukes in the probability curve. Their reasoninggoes like this: "Most people who are seriously ill are prayed foror seek divine intervention. The ones that dont make it areconsidered tragedies and forgotten cases. The few cases that resultin a sudden complete recovery or go into spontaneous remission arethen noticed and attributed to prayer or divine intervention. Thesecases of course, are the ones that get media attention." However,this explanation is a lot like saying that anything we dontunderstand must be due to chance. Sure spontaneous remission happensas well, even to those who are Atheists and those that haventbeen prayed for. But even so, whos to say that spontaneousremission is solely the result of chance and luck? The bottom line isthat miracles do happen, that is a fact. How we interpret them is theissue.
Argument # 20: "Alternative medical practices such as acupuncture,homeopathy, psychic healing, etc. have no scientific basis and allwork due to the placebo effect or the power ofsuggestion."
This is a very presumptuous statementand a rush to judgment. It basically presumes that if we dontunderstand how or why something works, then it must be due to chance,the placebo effect or the persons own imagination. Since wedon't know everything there is to know about the body and mind, whyshould we assume that only what we understand is real and the rest issuperstition? There are already many functions, mechanisms andprocesses of the body and mind that we don't fully understand. Someexamples of these are photographic memory, the ability of people withautism to perform lightning mental calculations, extraordinary andgifted musical aptitude in child prodigies, certain mental disorders,dreaming, aging, consciousness itself, etc. Now if everything wedidnt understand was due to superstition, then nothing wouldhave really worked until we understood how it worked, which isludicrous and almost anything in nature can prove that wrong.Likewise, we still dont understand why women who live togethertend to menstruate in the same cycles either, but that doesntmean that its not true. Just because we dont understandwhy something works, doesnt mean that it doesnt work.Reality does not conform to what we are able to understand. There arenot two strict categories where either 1) we understand it, or 2)its just a placebo effect.
The important thing is that if analternative treatment works, then we should try to understandhow and why it works, rather than trying to put it onthe same significance level as placebos. Understanding the mechanismbehind the placebo effect is important, as it teaches us more aboutthe mind/body connection. Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders ofCSICOP (who broke away from it later due to its rising fanaticism),has emphasized this to me before. Michael Talbot also pointed out inThe Holographic Universe: (page 91)
"We now know that on average 35 percent of all people who receive a given placebo will experience a significant effect, although this number can vary greatly from situation to situation. In addition to angina pectoris, conditions that have proved responsive to placebo treatment include migraine headaches, allergies, fever, the common cold, acne, asthma, warts, various kinds of pain, nausea and seasickness, peptic ulcers, psychiatric syndromes such as depression and anxiety, rheumatoid and degenerative arthritis, diabetes, radiation sickness, Parkinsonism, multiple sclerosis, and cancer."
Besides, many alternative medicinepractices are based on the power of thought and visualization. Forthose, a case can be made for the validity of the mind over mattertheory since labs like Princetons PEAR research labs havepretty much proven that micro-psychokinesis exist (www.princeton.edu/~pear/index.html).Even before this, an abundance of medical research already provedthat a mind body connection exists far deeper than we had thought. Infact, studies have been done to prove the power of mentalvisualization techniques over the body. For example, Dr. O. CarlSimonton, a radiation oncologist and medical director of the CancerCounseling and Research Center in Dallas, Texas, did the follow studydescribed by Michael Talbot in The Holographic Universe: (page83)
"In a follow-up study, Simonton and his colleagues taught their mental imagery techniques to 159 patients with cancers considered medically incurable. The expected survival time for such a patient is twelve months. Four years later 63 of the patients were still alive. Of those, 14 showed no evidence of disease, the cancers were regressing in 12, and in 17 the disease was stable. The average survival time of the group as a whole was 24.4 months, over twice as long as the national norm. (Footnote 1) ··. Simonton has since conducted a number of similar studies, all with positive results."
Footnote 1 from back of book:1. Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, O. Carl Simonton, and James L. Creighton, Getting Well Again (New York: Bantam Books, 1980), pp. 6-12.
Although there are plenty of quackthings in alternative medicine today, the fact is that certain typesof alternative healing practices have already been proven to work.Skeptics are often misinformed on these. One strong example isAcupuncture. When first introduced in the west, it was thought to besuperstition and only due to the placebo effect. However, as it wasmore and more commonly practiced, doctors and the public came torealize that there was something to it after all. In fact, theAmerican Medical Association now says that acupuncture is aneffective form of treatment. There are also plenty of studies tosupport this. Michael Talbot describes some of them in TheHolographic Universe: (page 113-116)
"Although still controversial, acupuncture is gaining acceptance in the medical community and has even been used successfully to treat chronic back pain in racehorses.
In 1957 a French physician and acupuncturist named Paul Nogier published a book called Treatise of Auriculotherapy, in which he announced his discovery that in addition to the major acupuncture system, there are two smaller acupuncture systems on both ears. He dubbed these acupuncture microsystems and noted that when one played a kind of connect-the-dots game with them, they formed an anatomical map of a miniature human inverted like a fetus (see fig. 13). Unbeknownst to Nogier, the Chinese had discovered the "little man in the ear" nearly 4,000 years earlier, but a map of the Chinese ear system wasn't published until after Nogier had already laid claim to the idea.
The little man in the ear is not a just a charming aside in the history of acupuncture. Dr. Terry Oleson, a psychobiologist at the Pain Management Clinic at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, has discovered that the ear microsystem can be used to diagnose accurately what's going on in the body. For instance, Oleson has discovered that increased electrical activity in one of the acupuncture points in the ear generally indicates a pathological condition (either past or present) in the corresponding area of the body. In one study, forty patients were examined to determine areas of their body where they experienced chronic pain. Following the examination, each patient was draped in a sheet to conceal any visible problems. Then an acupuncturist with no knowledge of the results examined only their ears. When the results were tallied it was discovered that the ear examinations were in agreement with the established medical diagnoses 75.2 percent of the time. (Footnote 72)
(In the book, a diagram of a fetus shape in the ear is here)
(Figure 13 The Little Man in the Ear. Acupuncturists have found that the acupuncture points in the ear form the outline of a miniature human being. Dr. Terry Oleson, a psychobiologist at UCLA's School of Medicine, believes it is because the body is a hologram and each of its portions contains an image of the whole.)
Ear examinations can also reveal problems with the bones and internal organs. Once when Oleson was out boating with an acquaintance he noticed an abnormally flaky patch of skin in one of the man's ears. From his research Oleson knew the spot corresponded to the heart, and he suggested to the man that he might want to get his heart checked. The man went to his doctor the next day and discovered he had a cardiac problem which required immediate open-heart surgery. (Footnote 73)
Oleson also uses electrical stimulation of the acupuncture points in the ear to treat chronic pain, weight problems, hearing loss, and virtually all kinds of addiction. In one study of 14 narcotic addicted indiviuals, Oleson and his colleagues used ear acupuncture to eliminate the drug requirements of 12 of them in an average of 5 days and with only minimal withdrawal symptoms. (Footnote 74) Indeed, ear acupuncture has proved so successful in bringing about rapid narcotic detoxification that clinics in both Los Angeles and New York are now using the the technique to treat street addicts.
Why would the acupuncture points in the ear be aligned in the shape of a miniature human? Oleson believes it is because of the holographic nature of the mind and body. Just as every portion of a hologram contains the image of the whole, every portion of the body may also contain the image of the whole. "The ear holograph is, logically, connected to the brain holograph which itself is conected to the whole body," he states. "The way we use the ear to affect the rest of the body is by working through the brain holograph." (Footnote 75)
Oleson believes there are probably acupuncture microsystems in other parts of the body as well. Dr. Ralph Alan Dale, the director of the Acupuncture Education Center in North Miami Beach, Florida, agrees. After spending the last two decades tracking down clinical and research data from China, Japan, and Germany, he has accumulated evidence of eighteen different microacupuncture holograms in the body, including ones in the hands, feet, arms, neck, tongue, and even the gums. Like Oleson, Dale feels these microsystems are "holographic reiterations of the gross anatomy," and believes there are still other such systems waiting to be discovered. In a notion reminiscent of Bohm's assertion that every electron in some way contains the cosmos, Dale hypothesizes that every finger, and even every cell, may contain its own acupuncture microsystem. (Footnote 76)
Richard Leviton, a contributing editor at East West magazine, who has written about the holographic implications of acupuncture microsystems, thinks that alternative medical techniques - such as reflexology, a type of massage therapy that involves accessing all points of the body through stimulation of the feet, and iridology, a diagnostic technique that involves examining the iris of the eye in order to determine the condition fo the body - may also be indications of the body's holographic nature. Leviton concedes that neither field has been experimentally vindicated (studies of iridology, in particular, have produced extremely conflicting results) but feels the holographic idea offers a way of understanding them if their legitimacy is established."
Corresponding footnotes from back of the book:
72. Terrence D. Oleson, Richeard J. Kroening, and David E. Bresler, "An Experimental Evaluation of Auricular Diagnosis: The Somatotopic Mapping of Musculoskeletal Pain at Ear Acupuncture Points," Pain 8 (1980), pp. 217-29.
73. Private communication with author, September 24, 1988.
74. Terrence D. Oleson and Richard J. Kroening, "Rapid Narcotic Detoxification in Chronic Pain Patients Treated with Auricular Electroacupuncture and Naloxone," International Journal of the Addictions 20, no. 9 (1985), pp. 1347-60.
75. Richard Leviton, "The Holographic Body," East West 18, no. 8 (August 1988), p. 42.
76. Ibid., p. 45.
More recently, an experimentdescribed in Discover magazine (September 1998 issue) revealedthat neurological evidence from MRI scans of the brain supportedAcupuncture. Here are some excerpts from the magazine, which you canread online athttp://www.discover.com/sept_issue/acupunc.html:
"Cho's unexpected relief prodded his professional curiosity. As a physicist working in radiology, Cho develops ways to image the complex inner workings of the body; one of his inventions was a prototype PET scanner around 1975. How, he wondered, could inserting needles into seemingly random points on the body possibly affect human health? So he
decided to take a closer look, and what he found astounded him. While sticking needles into a few student volunteers, he took pictures of their brains and discovered that by stimulating an acupuncture point said to be associated with vision-but that is nowhere near anything
known to be connected to the eyes-he could indeed trigger activity in the very part of the brain that controls vision. There just might be something to this acupuncture thing, he figured·····
To test that premise, Cho strapped student volunteers into an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine. While standard MRI provides static cross-sectional pictures of structures in the body, functional MRI goes further to reveal how those structures are working. It measures minute changes in the amount of oxygen carried in the blood, which is presumably a rough measure of glucose uptake by various tissues and thus a good indicator of which tissues are active; the results can be viewed as colorful fmri brain activation maps.
Cho first stimulated the eyes of the volunteers through traditional means: he flashed a light in front of them. The resulting images, as expected, showed a concentration of color-an increase in activity-in the visual cortex, the portion of the brain that is known to be involved in eye function. Then Cho had an acupuncturist stimulate the acupoint VA1. In one person after another, the very same region of the brain-the visual cortex-lit up on the fMRI image.
As odd as it seemed, sticking a needle into someone's foot had the very same effect as shining a light in someone's eyes. And this was not the generalized analgesic effect, produced by the primitive limbic system, that was seen in the pain studies; this was a function-specific response occurring in the brain's cortex, the area responsible for such sophisticated functions as speech and hearing, memory and intellect. Moreover, the magnitude of brain activity seen on acupuncture stimulation was nearly as strong as that elicited by the flash of light.
"It was very exciting," recalls Cho. "I never thought anything would happen, but it's very clear that stimulating the acupuncture point triggers activity in the visual cortex." To eliminate the possibility of a placebo effect, Cho also stimulated a nonacupoint, in the big toe. There was no response in the visual cortex.
Next, Cho tried each form of stimulation over time, twisting the needle for a moment or flashing the light, resting, then repeating. As before, the fMRI images were remarkably similar for acupuncture and for light stimulation. The time-course study was also done using the three other vision acupoints on the foot. The results were again consistent: except in the case of VA2, each acupoint lit up the visual cortex exactly as the light stimulation had done. This time, however, Cho noticed something else. When the activation data were graphed to show the intensity of the response over time, he saw that there were two distinct reactions among the dozen volunteers. During the acupuncture phase, some showed an increase in activity, while others showed a decrease. In other words, in some people, oxygen consumption in that brain region increased, while in others, it decreased.
"I figured we must have made a mistake," says Cho. Repeating the experiment, however, he saw the same results every time. "Finally one of the acupuncturists mentioned, 'Oh, yes, it's yin and yang.'" Cho asked him which subjects were yin and which were yang, and without seeing the data, the practitioner correctly pointed out who had shown an increase in activity (yang) and who had had a decrease (yin) in 11 of 12 cases. "I don't know how to explain it," Cho says.
Like many preliminary scientific reports, Cho's small study raises more questions than it answers. Still, he has demonstrated new functional effects of acupuncture. "Classically, acupuncture was the ultimate in experimentation; people collected data for thousands of years," says Joie Jones, professor of radiological sciences at the University of California at Irvine and coauthor of the study. "They noticed that when you applied a needle in one position, it would have an effect in another part of the body. But the connection through the brain was never made. With these studies, we've demonstrated that for at least some
acupuncture points it goes through the brain."
Yet even if it does go through the brain, how does stimulating a specific point on the foot trigger activity in the part of the brain that controls vision? There is no explanation for that either, says Cho, although he suspects that the path is along the nervous system. If that
proves to be true, it's probably not the same pathway by which acupuncture causes the release of endorphins, says Pomeranz. "That endorphins are released by stimulating certain types of nerves in fibers anywhere in the body, that's understood. But that there is a specific
connection between your toe and your visual system is really bizarre. That's really mind-boggling."
Despite the absence of clear-cut explanations, acupuncture's clinical results are attracting interest from mainstream medicine. A panel of independent experts convened last year by the National Institutes of Health concluded that acupuncture is indeed effective in treating nausea due to anesthesia and chemotherapy drugs. It is also helpful in treating post-surgical and other forms of pain. Moreover, the panel noted, despite the pervasive belief in the superior clinical effects of Western medicine, plenty of conventional treatments for chronic pain show the same success rate as acupuncture-and often with harmful side effects.
One of the more provocative acupuncture studies used SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) to record images of the brains of patients with chronic pain. That study, by Abass Alavi, chief of nuclear medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, measured blood flow to the brain structures that are suspected of releasing endorphins in
response to acupuncture stimulus-the thalamus, hypothalamus, and brain stem. Comparing baseline images of people who were in pain with images taken after they received acupuncture treatment, Alavi found clear evidence of increased blood flow in the thalamus and the brain stem. He also found that treated patients felt less pain.
Like Cho, Alavi was not a believer inacupuncture or other forms of Chinese medicine before doing thisstudy. "I thought acupuncture was more or less psychological, not anobjective effect," he says. "I did this study just for fun. I figurednothing would show up.""
Some skeptics have agreed thatAcupuncture may be effective for some things, but they maintain thatthe theory of chi and meridians on which acupuncture is based, has nomerit. Skeptic Bob Carroll of The Skeptics Dictionary(www.skepdic.com) emphasized this in his entry on Acupuncture. Whatthey dont understand about chi though is that it not only worksand gets results, but those using it also feel its effects too, thesame way you would feel heat from a fire. In fact, this was shown onone episode of Bill Moyers Healing and the Mind series.Moyers himself experienced this firsthand. A chi gong healer put hisfinger near Moyers arm and Moyer smiled and said he definitelyfelt the heat go into his arm. I too have had this experience when Iwas in Taiwan. In the same episode, a chi master was also shown to beable to remain stationary while lots of other people tried to movehim. Chi practitioners can see and test chi at work just like we seegravity at work. Chi has been used by martial artists, tai chipractitioners, and quigong practitioners, to heal, moveobjects/people without touching them, strike hard body blows with alight touch, remain stationary when groups of strong burly men try tomove them, snuff out candles from across the hallway, and otherfeats. While everyone supposedly has chi, learning to control ittakes years, though some seem to be able to summon it naturally. Alla skeptic has to do to learn about chi is to visit a martial artsdojo where chi is taught and used. If they ask, a demonstration ofchi can be made either on them or one of the students. I have donethis myself and seen demonstrations such as masters sparring strikingblows onto students (apparent by the painful grimace on thestudents faces) without barely even touching them, if at all. Ihave also seen chi practitioners in Taiwan bend long metal steelpoles with just their necks, and I inspected the poles afterward andthey were made of steel alright. (I was told this was a common chifeat in Asia.) One time in a dojo, I held chopsticks in my own handswhile a student used the paper the chopsticks were taken out of, tobreak them. (I still have the broken chopsticks today.) It wouldreally be poetic justice I think, for a skeptic to feel the effectsof chi firsthand.
Finally, I would like to share somegood advice on how to approach alternative medicine and supplementsthat Ive gotten from a doctor who lives in our neighborhood,Dr. Frank James (who volunteers his time to treat patients in Indiaand Tibet as part of humanitarian projects, see for more on him andhis humanitarian projects). With alternative medicine we should keepone thing in mind. Although certain types of alternative medications,herbal supplements, nutritional supplements, etc. may not be provenby double-blind studies to work on the population at large, itdoesnt mean that its not effective for individual people.For example, some supplements, such as herbs, grapeseed extract, oranti-oxidants, may have phenomenal health benefits for some people,yet only proven to be as effective as placebos in most scientificstudies. What works well for some people may not in studies thatmeasure effects on the population at large. Therefore, each personhas to try out different medications and supplements (as long astheyre safe of course) to see what works for them. Conversely,medications and supplements that are proven effective in studies onthe population at large may not necessarily work for everyone either.Each persons physiology and biochemical reactions are differentand therefore each person needs to find out what works for them.
Argument # 21: The Skeptical explanation for answeredprayers.
Typical usage: "Prayer only worksbecause you selectively remember the answered prayers but not theunanswered prayers, which occur by chance andcoincidence."
This is argument is pure speculation.Again, just because skeptics cant see how a God could exist orhow thought intentions could affect external reality doesntmean that any claim of answered prayer is merely the result ofchance. There are several counter-arguments to this and compellingevidence that prayer works as well.
First of all, we don't even know whata coincidence really is or even if it really exists. Its just aterm to define something that behaves unpredictably or doesn't behaveaccording to a pattern that we can see. According to physicist DavidBohm, there may be two kinds of order in the universe, implicit andexplicit. (See his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order)Things that appear random may in fact contain a higher degree oforder that we can't perceive.
Second, as I heard one preacher said"If answered prayer is coincidence, then there sure are many morecoincidences that come up when I pray than when I don't pray." Forspiritual or religious people, praying results in a higher rate ofcoincidences that help manifest the desire or wish, often higher thanby ordinary chance. Of course, there are countless anecdotal accountsof prayer answered in miraculous or sometimes humorous ways. AsTheology Professor Greg Boyd of Bethel University told me in anemail:
"My wife prayed that God would honor a "deal" with her about who she would marry (this deal included her future husband saying a certain particularly unusual phrase), and despite all my frustration with knowing she had made such a deal, I said what was "included" in her deal with God without ever actually knowing what the phrase was, not only that, it was the last thing I said to her, several times, immediately before I distinctly felt God leading me to propose to her."
"The phrase was "It's good to be alive." This seems like a fairly unusual thing to say since it is so obvious at one level. Anyway, it is not something that I would be likely to say on an average day. On the day of our "engagement" I said it several times at just the right moment (during a prayer about our relationship) and actually the prayer (we were praying together) immediately followed a longish conversation about why I didn't believe in engagement periods at all. It seems God has quite a sense of humor at times."
Amazingly, there are those who getalmost every prayer answered because their motives come from a pureheart that is in tune with the values of their faith. What this meansis that Christian prayers seem to get answered a lot more when theyask for things that a Christian is supposed to want. Same withprayers from those of other religions. This has been the case in myown experience as well. When I was a devout Christian at 14, I wasthe only Christian in my family and had no one else to share my faithwith or go to church with. I felt lonely and incomplete about this.So one night I prayed and asked God to send me some Christianfriends. Two nights later, I got a call from an old friend that Ihadnt spoken to in over a year. Hes not the type ofperson to make phone calls either, so neither of us knew why he justdecided to call me. After talking a few times, we got to the subjectof church and religion. We were surprised to find out that we wereboth devout Christians! When I explained to him that I had noChristian friends or church to go to, he warmly invited me to anouting with his Church Youth Group which he attended on a regularbasis. That Friday night, we went to his Youth Group for an all nightouting. We went haystack riding, played miniature golf, cherades,Pictionary, kick-the-can and had a lot of fun. I liked the people inhis Youth Group, they were sincere and didnt have attitudes orpre-judgments. I felt very comfortable around them. From that pointon, I started attending the Youth Group regularly. Now a skepticcould argue that the friend called me out of coincidence, but Idont buy that because it was strange how this friend Ihadnt talked to in over a year suddenly out of nowhere keptcalling me a few times. Not even he knew why he did that. Yet it ledto my prayer for Christian fellowship being answered.
Third, based on conversations withsome Christian friends of mine, I have found that God doesntjust answer prayer through coincidences. There is a more amazing typeof answered prayer. Often, as in my own case above, a prayer isanswered with the help of other people who themselves dont knowwhy they are doing what theyre doing. (as if theyrehypnotized) Nick, a Christian friend of mine, related to me afascinating faith-transforming account in his life. After turningaway from his Christian faith for years, one day his fishing boatwent down in deep waters and nothing he and professional divers didcould get it out. After months of failed attempts, he and the diversgave up. Then a friend of his told him "You will get your boat back.God will see to it." Soon after, some stranger called Nick andoffered to help raise his boat for free. This guy said that he heardthat Nick needed help and went to great lengths to find Nicksphone number to contact him. As we all know, strangers donttend to go to great lengths to find you just to help you out for freeand for no reason! That does not seem like an ordinary coincidence.This stranger even offered to pay all the expenses of lifting theboat out! (Ive heard of random acts of kindness, but this isphenomenal!) It turns out that he barely got it out and it almostsank again after it was lifted, but the rescuer saved it just intime. The next day, a short story about his boat (the boatsname was mentioned in the headline) being "resurrected" from the seaappeared at the top of the front page headline, even above the storyof Pope John Pauls arrival in town! Astonished, Nick called thenewspaper to find out how his trivial story appeared on the frontpage headline since it was not a significant event to the public.However, no one there seemed to know why it was there or how it gotthere. (Very strange!) This served was such a powerful sign from Godand testament of faith to Nick, that from then on he led afaith-based life in God. Many other Christians have personal accountsof answered prayer similar to this of course. It would seem that Godsomehow hypnotizes people (for lack of a better word) intoanswering someone elses prayer, since these people dontknow themselves why theyre doing something that results inanothers answered prayer. But this happens nevertheless, and myown example in the above paragraph attests to this aswell.
In my experience with prayers, itseems that prayers from a selfish nature tend to get answered lessthan when they come from a desire for what is right and best for all.One metaphysical explanation for this that Ive heard is thatwhen desires come from an altruistic motive, they reach the energyfrom higher astral planes or levels of consciousness. These higherplanes are supposedly where more advanced spiritual beings reside,including Gods, Jesus, Buddha, etc. Perhaps prayers of a selfishnature cause a separation from you and your higher self that isattuned to the higher planes. This inner separation leads you to downthe path of ego and illusion rather than unification and wholeness.After all, a divided kingdom falls, even if its an innerkingdom. This theory is subjective and can't be proven scientificallyat this point, but it's one possibility to consider which wouldexplain why purer altruistic motives for prayer tend to result in ahigher rate of success.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly,recent studies on prayer done by Duke University and others haverevealed the effect that the power of prayer has on those who arecritically ill. Double-blind tests done have shown that those whowere prayed for recovered much more quickly and at a higher successrate than those not prayed for. As one of Dukes own articlessummarized: (http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/Med/MANTRA2.HTM)
"In a feasibility study conducted by the Duke University and Durham Veterans Affairs medical centers, angioplasty patients with acute coronary syndromes who were simultaneously prayed for by seven different religious sects around the world did 50 percent to 100 percent better during their hospital stay than patients who were not prayed for by these groups."
Of course, Christian prayers are notthe only ones that get answered. In fact, amazing accounts ofanswered prayers are common from all faiths and beliefs. This is eventrue of the spell work of Wiccans and those into witchcraft. Somepropose that rather than answered prayers being the result ofdeities, they could also be due to the psychic energy of the onepraying, in conjunction with the true intent of their higher selves.While we dont know for sure whether God or psychic mentalabilities are the force behind answered prayers, the bottom line isthat prayer does seem to work in ways that ordinary coincidencescant explain.
Argument # 22: The Skeptical explanation for precognitivedreams.
Typical usage: "The only reasonthat precognitive dreams come true is that you selectively rememberwhen your dream comes true but not when they dont, thusattribute it to psychic precognition."
We dont know that much aboutwhere dreams come from and what they mean to assume that theyrenothing but random thoughts and images. We understand how peopledream, but not why. Skeptics again are inadvertently claiming to knowtoo much to declare something false or coincidental. In addition, thefact that there is convincing evidence for psychic phenomena ingeneral such as telepathy from the numerous labs that did theganzfeld experiments, psychokinesis from Princetons 20 yearPEAR programs, and remote viewing/clairvoyance from SRI and otherresearch labs, makes precognition much more probable than otherwise.You see, when one form of psi is proven, it raises the plausibilityof the others by indicating that there are indeed paranormal powersof consciousness that we dont understand.
Argument# 23: The Dying Brain Hypothesis for Near DeathExperiences.
Typical Usage: "Near deathexperiences (NDE's) are simply hallucinations that stem from theresult of a dying brain that shuts down in a way that produces thoseexperiences. They aren't evidence of an afterlife."
This argument, called the Dying BrainHypothesis, is purported by many skeptics and materialists. NDESkeptic and University of London Psychology Professor Susan Blackmoreis one of the main proponents of this. Her book Dying to Liveargues that the NDE is merely the result of hallucinations from thebrain that erupt as it malfunctions and collapses. The main criticismof her work by other NDE experts tends to be that she dismisses thevast data that doesnt fit into her hypotheses. Kenneth Ringpointed this out in an article he wrote for the Winter 1995 issue ofthe Journal of Near Death Studies. Greg Stone, an NDE experton my discussion list, recently wrote an elaborate critique ofBlackmores book in his article A Critique of SusanBlackmores Dying to Live and Her Dying Brain Hypothesis,which can be read athttp://www.cinemind.com/atwater/zapsb.html
It should be especially noteworthy toskeptics that Ms. Blackmore herself, in response to Gregscritique of her book, admitted that her theories do not prove theDying Brain Hypothesis. This of course, is a big blow to the manySkeptics and CSICOP members who make such a claim on her behalf. Withher definitive statement on the record now, it should no longer be anissue. Here are her words:
I have not claimed that any of my work proves the Dying Brain Hypothesis. In fact no amount of research ever could. The most I could hope to do, and in fact what I tried to do in Dying to Live, is to show that we can account for all the major features of the NDE without recourse to such ideas as a spirit, a soul, or life after death.
Although many features of the NDE canbe explained by neurological or physiological processes, thisdoesnt explain the message being sent. In fact, theneurological effects could just be the result effects of the NDE,rather than the cause. Perhaps the TV/radio analogy to the NDE helpsexplain this best. As NDE researcher and webmaster Kevin Williamsrelates:
"Such reductionism, however, may only be explaining the mechanism of the near-death experience, not necessarily the near-death experience itself. In the same way, it is possible to reduce a television set to its basic elements such as electrodes and tubes, but one cannot satisfactorily explain the television show being played on it using reductionist terms. Concerning the chemical basis of the near-death experience and using this television analogy, if the brain can be thought of as a television set, then the near-death experience can be thought of as the television show being played on it. Science maybe able to quantify everything concerning the television set components (i.e. the brain), but science is unable to satisfactorily quantify the television show being played on it (i.e. the near-death experience)."
There are several convincingcategories of evidence to suggest that NDEs are not just merehallucinations caused by a brain that is shutting down. For more onthis, see http://www.near-death.com/experiences/skeptic1.html. Thesetend to be ignored or dismissed by Blackmore and others who supportthe Dying Brain Hypothesis:
1) First and most importantly, there are many well documented cases where the NDEer while out of body were able to see specific details and hear conversations in other rooms and far away places that they couldnt have known about beforehand, and yet upon returning to the body find that what they saw or heard was in fact verified to be accurate and true. This is a phenomena that skeptics and materialists still havent been able to explain away no matter how hard they try. Blackmore herself knows about these cases and even mentions them in her book, but she dismisses it simply by stating that she doesnt believe them. This of course reflects the closed mental model of skeptics who dismiss facts and data that dont fit into their hypotheses. If NDEs and OBEs were just dreams or hallucinations, then these perceptions at a distance wouldnt turn out to be accurate. The separation of spirit from body or the minds ability to remote view are the best hypotheses that fit this well documented data. One famous example of this is the case of a nurse named Kimberly Clark. Talbot describes this incident in The Holographic Universe: (page 231-232)"Such facts notwithstanding, no amount of statistical findings are as convincing as actual accounts of such experiences. For example, Kimberly Clark, a hospital social worker in Seattle, Washington, did not take OBEs seriously until she encountered a coronary patient named Maria. Several days after being admitted to the hospital Maria had a cardiac arrest and was quickly revived. Clark visited her later that afternoon expecting to find her anxious over the fact that her heart had stopped. As she had expected, Maria was agitated, but not for the reason she had anticipated.
Maria told Clark that she had experienced something very strange. After her heart had stopped she suddenly found herself looking down from the ceiling and watching the doctors and the nurses working on her. Then something over the emergency room driveway distracted her and as soon as she "thought herself" there, she was there. Next Maria "thought her way" up to the third floor of the building and found herself "eyeball to shoelace" with a tennis shoe. It was an old shoe and she noticed that the little toe had worn a whole through the fabric. She also noticed several other details, such as the fact that the lace was stuck under the heel. After Maria finished her account she begged Clark to please go to the ledge and see if there was a shoe there so that she could confirm whether her experience was real or not.
Skeptical but intrigued, Clark went outside and looked up at the ledge, but saw nothing. She went up to the third floor and began going in and out of pateients' rooms looking through windows so narrow she had to press her face against the glass just to see the ledge at all. Finally she found a room where she pressed her face against the glass and looked down and saw the tennis shoe. Still, from her vantage point she could not tell if the little toe had worn a place in the shoe or if any of the other details Maria had described were correct. It wasn't until she retrieved the shoe that she confirmed Maria's various observations. "The only way she would have had such a perspective was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe," states Clark, who has since become a believer in OBEs. "It was very concrete evidence for me."" (Footnote 8)
8. Bruce Greyson and C. P. Flynn, The Near Death Experience (Chicago: Charles C. Thomas, 1984), as quoted in Stanislov Grof, The Adventure of Self Discovery (Albany, N.T.: SUNY Press, 1988), pp. 71-72.
In addition, research studiesback up these claims as well. One example is the experiment done byCardiologist Michael Sabom. Talbot describes this as well: (page232-233)
"Experiencing an OBE during cardiac arrest is relatively common, so common that Michael B. Sabom, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Emory University and a staff physician at the Atlanta Veterans' Administration Medical Center, got tired of hearing his patients recount such "fantasies" and decided to settle the matter once and for all. Sabom selected two groups of patients, one composed of 32 seasoned cardiac patients who had reported OBEs during their heart attacks, and one made up of 25 seasoned cardiac patients who had never experienced an OBE. He then interviewed the patients, asking the OBEers to describe their own resuscitation as they had witnessed it from the out-of-body state, and asking the nonexperiencers to describe what they imagined must have transpired during their resuscitation.
Of the nonexperiencers, 20 made major mistakes when they described their resuscitations, 3 gave correct but general descriptions, and 2 had no idea at all what had taken place. Among the experiencers, 26 gave correct but general descriptions, 6 gave highly detailed and accurate descriptions of their own resuscitation, and 1 gave a blow-by-blow accounting so accurate that Sabom was stunned. The results inspired him to delve even deeper into the phenomenon, and like Clark, he has now become an ardent believer and lectures widely on the subject. There appears "to be no plausible explanation for the accuracy of these observations involving the usual physical senses," he says. "The out-of-body hypothesis simply seems to fit best with the data at hand." (Footnote 9)
9. Michael B. Sabom, Recollections of Death (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), p. 184.
Also significant are the studies done that support the validity of Out of Body Experiences (NDEs are considered a type of OBE). Rick Stack describes one notable example of these in his book Out of Body Adventures: (page 12-13)"A notable study by Osis and McCormick involved an out-of-body subject trying to view a target that was contained within an optical image device and could be viewed only from a specific location. The target was a picture composed of several elements. These elements were not physically together in any one place within the apparatus. If you looked through the viewing window from a point directly in front of the apparatus, however, the various elements of the final target came together as an optical illusion. The OOBE subject, Alex Tanous, was instructed to project into the room with the target, which was several rooms away, and to try to view it. Meanwhile, the experimenters attempted to measure physical effects at the target location (effects that may be caused by the subject's out-of-body presence). They placed sensor plates in a shielded chamber at the viewing location. The sensors were capable of picking very small movements, or vibrations, which would then generate electrical impulses in extremely sensitive strain gauges. These strain gauges, therefore, enabled the experimenters to note very minutes changes in the vibration of the sensor plates. Tanous was led to believe that the strain gauges were being used only for a subsequent task in order to reduce the possibility of his deliberately trying to affect the sensors while attempting to view the optical image device.
Osis and McCormick thought that the OOBE might be a state that fluctuated with respect to degree of externalization; that is to say, there may be degrees of clarity of intensity in the out-of-body state. It may be possible, for example, to be both partially out of and partially in your body. The investigators hypothesized that when the OOBE subject was most fully out and, consequently, able to view the target more accurately, there would be greater mechanical (physical) effect caused by the experient's out-of-body presence than there would be when the subject was less out and, therefore, less able to accurately view the target.
The results of the Osis-McCormick study supported their hypothesis "that ostensibly unintentional kinetic effects can occur as by-products of narrowly localized OB [out-of-body] vision." In other words, apparently unintentional physical motion or effects can occur when someone sees something at a specific location while feeling that he is out-of-body. The strain gauge activation level that occurred when the subject was viewing the target and scored "hits" was significantly higher than when the subject scored "misses." This finding lends some support to the concept that the greater vibration of the sensor plates was caused by some exteriorized portion of the subject's personality." (Footnote 2)
2. "Kinetic Effects at the Ostensible Location of an Out of Body Projection during Perceptual Testing" Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 74 (1980): pp. 319-329.
Another notable example was done by Charles Tart, where a girl known as Miss Z was able to identify a 5 digit number above her bed in a position that she could only have seen if she had floated up there. This experiment is described at http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/sci-docs/ctt68-apsoo.html
2) Second, NDEs usually result in permanent life changing effects whereas dreams and hallucinations do not. Usually, real experiences are what cause life changes, not imaginary ones. NDEers usually report that through their NDE they gain valuable insight into the universe, about themselves, what their lives are really all about and how were all really connected in a vast superconsciousness, etc. Many also report life reviews where everything theyve ever done flashes through in a brief moment and they feel the impact of their actions on others, which allows them to reevaluate their lives from a much higher perspective. As a result, many learn to love more altruistically and be less selfish. In addition, most NDEers lose all fear of death as well, claiming that theyve discovered that death is just a doorway, not an end.
3) Third, people have had NDEs while they were declared dead with flat EEG lines on their brain activity. Any activity in the brain/mind, even simple thoughts, results in some EEG activity. Therefore, it should be impossible (according to materialistic science) to have any kind of conscious experience while your brain shows a flat EEG line, yet this has happened with NDEs.
4) Fourth, some people have NDEs even when they were not in danger of death. Pediatrician Dr. Melvin Morse notes some of these in his article Are Near Death Experiences Real?: (http://www.melvinmorse.com/e-what.htm)"The experiences do not only occur to dying dysfunctional brains. The Journal of the Swiss Alpine Club, in the late 1800s, reported 30 first hand accounts of mountain climbers who fell from great heights and lived. The climbers reported being out of their physical body, seeing heaven, having life reviews, and even hearing the impact of their bodies hitting the ground. They were not seriously injured.
Yale University Pediatric Cancer specialist Dianne Komp repoorts that many dying children have near death experiences, without evidence of brain dysfunction. Their expereinces often occured in dreams, prayers, or visions before death. One boy stated that Jesus had visited him in a big yellow school bus and told him he would die soon. Others heard angels singing or saw halos of light.
The American Journal of Psychiatry, in 1967, reported the experiences of two miners trapped for days in a mine. They were never near death and had adequate food and water. They said that mystical realities opened before them in the tunnels. They also said a third miner who seemed real to them helped them to safety, but disappered when they were resuscued."
For more on NDEs, this websitehas the most extensive information Ive ever seen on the web:www.near-death.com. You can also go to www.spiritweb.com and select"Near Death Experiences". Also look for books by authors such asKenneth Ring, Raymond Moody, and PMH Atwater. In my opinion, thebiggest and most comprehensive easy to read book is PMHAtwaters The Complete Idiots Guide to Near DeathExperiences. In it, she writes of Blackmores Dying BrainHypothesis:
A parapsychologist at the time of her original work but now focusing on psychological research, Blackmore has written one of the most influential books on the near-death experience - Dying to Live: Science and Near-Death Experience - in which she presents a detailed version of the dying brain theory. Her aim is to provide a materialistic interpretation of near-death states.
Blackmores theory is too complex to present in its entirety here, but the following is a summary of it:· Anoxia can cause the occurrences of hearing music (by stimulating the cochlear region of the ear), seeing tunnels, and seeing a light.
· An inordinate release of endorphins at the time of death are the source of the euphoria associated with a near-death episode.
· The actions of endorphins and neurotransmitters cause such cerebral structures as the hippocampus (associated with memory) o release stored memories, resulting in the life review.
· The sense of timelessness is the result of the breakdown of ones sense of self at death (the self being the basis upon which we distinguish moments of time).
To respond to each of these points is not necessary. Instead, we can offer a rebuttal to the whole by quoting Dr. Kenneth Rings criticism from his excellent review of Blackmores book in the Journal of Near-Death Studies (Winter 1995, p. 123): "Does the brain state associated with the onset of an NDE explain the experience or does it merely afford access to it?" In other words, although many (all?) of the near-death-related phenomena may be traceable to our bodys responses to dying, does that mean that those responses explain the phenomena, or do they simply provide us with an interesting way of talking about them?
There is no answer.
To see this, consider the popular Psych 101 experiment of imagining that youre eating a lemon. Make that experience as vivid, as sensory-rich as you can. If you imagine it strongly enough, youll taste the tartness and youll begin to salivate - despite there not being any lemon in your mouth. So the imagination can produce the identical physical responses as an "objective" experience. Does this mean, then, that when youre eating a real lemon, its not the lemon but your imagination thats producing the physical sensations youre having?
Well, we know the answer to that.
Argument # 24: "There is no suchthing as a soul or spirit that lives on after you die. Consciousnessis purely neurological and nothing else."
This is the standard materialisticview of life after death. While at this point we can not proveconclusively whether or not there is life after death, there are manycompelling categories of evidence for it. A great summary of allthese categories can be found at the following website, which listsover 20 categories of evidence by a lawyer named Victor Zammit, withan essay for each category.
Here are the categories of evidencethat it lists:
A LAWYER PRESENTS
THE CASE FOR THE AFTERLIFE
The Irrefutable Objective Evidence
Revised Version © July 1999
Victor Zammit BA (Psych) MA (Hist) LLB. PhD
retired Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia
Psychic researcher and Lecturer in psychic phenomena
1. Introduction: essential information
2. What's wrong with being a closed-minded skeptic?
3. Respected scientists who investigated.
4. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)
5. Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC)
6. Recent advances in ITC- under construction
7. Rebutting the skeptics on EVP and ITC
8. Einstein's E=mc2 and materialisation
9. Other psychic laboratory experiments
10. Scientific observation of mediums
11. Leonor Piper- a US medium who convinced all skeptics
12. Two closed minded cheats
13. Materialisation mediumship
14. Helen Duncan- a magnificent British medium
15. Direct voice mediumship
16. A modern medium who confounds the skeptics
17. Irrefutable proof- Frederick Myers Cross Correspondences
18. Proxy sittings refute the allegation of mind reading
19. Science and the Out of Body Experience
20. Science and the Near Death Experience
21. Science and apparitions
22. Deathbed Visions
23. Science and the magnificent aura
24. The ouija board
26. Poltergeists and the failure of the (British) SPR
28. Summing up the objective evidence
29. Communicating with afterlife intelligences
30. What does happen when we die?
31. Bibliography for afterlife research
32. Links to similar sites
Theoretical physics backs survival
By British Physics analyst RON PEARSON- author, lecturer on subatomic particles
The Seven Laws of Psychic Energy by Dr Victor Zammit
Argument # 25: "Spiritual experiences only exist in your mind, notin external reality."
Since no one knows all that exists inall of reality, including skeptics, no one can say with infallibleauthority what exists and what doesn't. Even if we take something outof fantasy like unicorns and dragons, for instance, we don't knowthat those type of creatures don't exist in the trillions of otherplanets in the universe since we haven't even been to any othersbeside our own. Furthermore, string theory in physics suggest thatthere may be many dimensions, which if true may suggest other planesor levels of reality that we don't understand yet. These other levelsof reality could contain creatures or beings that we can't evenimagine, even unicorns and dragons. Even arch skeptic James Randi hassaid that to say that something doesnt exist is anextraordinary claim. When Eldon Byrd, the Naval Scientist who testedPsychic Uri Gellers effects on Nitinol, saw this argument in myarticle, he wittily remarked, "The lack of spiritual experiencesonly exists in the Skeptics mind, not in externalreality."
Argument# 26: "New Age philosophies are just childish fantasies for dealingwith a cold uncaring world."
This is another biased statement ofbelief. A lot of psychic experiences dont come as fantasies butas firsthand direct experiences. Often the experiencer doesnteven choose to have them in the first place, as in the accounts ofthose who have sudden NDEs or OBEs. Mature adults who arenot childish in attitude or behavior have had paranormal or psychicexperiences. There are also many tough people (both mentally andphysically) who believe in God too. In addition, even if a belief orreligion is used to cope with life, that doesnt mean that thatbelief or religion is false. I can use music or reading to relaxmyself too, but that doesnt mean that music and booksdont exist! (See similar rebuttal in Argument # 14)
Argument# 27: "There is no evidence to support the existence of UFOsor the notion that we are being visited byextraterrestrials."
See Argument # 2, point3a.
Argument # 28: "Since Evolution and natural selection are sufficientto explain the origins of life, there is no need for God to fit intothe equation."
Although evolution and naturalselection may explain how life evolved on earth with random mutationsresulting in beneficial characteristics more suitable for survival,there are many missing links in this theory. Any Creationist websiteor article can point some of these out. While I personally do believein Evolution, I do not believe that it explains everything nor do Ibelieve that it rules out the existence of God. Greg Stone, from mydiscussion list, put it eloquently when he said:
"Not only is there a residue of feeling, but there is a sound argument that Darwinian evolution is not big enough. It is not. Darwinian evolution deals with the specific nature of the evolution of biological forms on this planet. And it fails to account entirely even for that realm. It does not account for the overall evolution of complexity within the universe, which then leads to the "special case" of Darwinian evolution. It does not account for the origin of life forms, and most importantly it in no way accounts for the existence of the spirit and the spirit's effect upon the evolution of forms. Thus, Darwinian Evolution is incomplete when it comes to explaining life. And those, like Dawkins, Blackmore, Pinker, etc. who try to make Darwinian Evolution do more than it can will be seen in the long run to have been quite foolish."
Furthermore, it has been computed asimpossible for life to evolve by chance on its own because of theastronomical impossibility of the conditions for life being set up bychance. Theist J.P. Moreland presented the arguments for this, usingmath and science, in his debate against Atheist Kai Neilsen,described in the book Does God Exist? In his debate withAtheist Kai Neilsen, Moreland explains with math and science whychance alone could not explain how the conditions for life evolved.While this field is not my expertise, one can find plenty ofliterature on the Creation vs. Evolution debate in libraries andbookstores, as well as on the internet. The Evolution/Creation debateis a vast and complicated subject, but one thing the Atheists cannever explain is "Who set up the vastly improbable default conditionsfor life to evolve in the FIRST PLACE? Where did the matter to createthe universe and life come from? Why isnt the universe a giantvoid of nothing instead?" Its kind of like this. We know themechanics behind how and why a pot boils, but that doesnt tellus about the person who put the pot on the stove. Some Atheists alsolike to point out that the need for belief in God can also beexplained by Evolution. However, David Marshall, a Christianmissionary and philosopher rebuts that point well when he stated onmy email discussion list:
"To make the jump from "evolution can explain belief in God" to "there is no God" without involved argument would be the generic fallacy, again. To repeat my earlier example, even if you can explain the human ability to do math by evolution, that does not prove math is invalid. In theory, it should be possible (given your presuppositions) to show how the human faculty for mathematics arose through natural processes. That does not mean E=MC2 does not accurately describe real events in the real universe. The fact that evolution may have created an awareness of dependency on one's mother on a child's part, does not mean real mothers do not exist and do not care for their children. In the same way, even if you were able to describe the evolution of faith in God, it would still remain an entirely separate argument, whether God exists in fact or not."
Argument # 29: "It is just as irrational to believe in God as it isto believe in Santa Claus."
This is an absurd analogy much likethe invisible pink unicorn comparison in Argument # 4. (See rebuttalsunder that section for details.) Again, there are a lot of crediblepeople now and throughout history that have experienced Godpersonally in some way, while there are few if any people who claimto have seen Santa Claus flying around the night sky using a team ofreindeers. As former Naval Scientist Eldon Byrd told me about histheistic view, "I dont have to prove God exists. I KNOW heexists, just like I know how salt tastes though I cant prove itto anyone."
Argument# 30: "Atheists dont hold the belief that God doesntexist. An Atheist is one who is without a belief in God, or lacks abelief in him. Therefore the burden of proof for God is on thetheist, not the atheist."
Atheists like to remind others ofthis argument because they feel that people have a misconceptionabout their position. They emphasize that their position is not thatthey believe that "God doesnt exist", only that they dontbelieve in God. Using semantics, they point out that definition ofAtheism is to be without belief in God because the "A" in "A -theism" means "without" and "theism" means "belief in God". However,this makes little difference either way because their core philosophytoward God is still the same. The reason why they emphasize thisstrongly, I believe, is to put themselves in a less attackableposition. This way they can demand the burden of proof on the theist,who believes in God, while claiming that since they dont"believe" in God, they dont have to defend that belief.Its a political semantic ploy, I think. This is why mostAtheists prefer the term "I don't believe in God" to "God doesn'texist". You see, they cant really prove that God doesntexist because you cant prove a negative. Regardless of eitherdefinition, the Atheist obviously believes deep down that there isn'ta God or deity anywhere anyway, which is prevalent in their attemptsto debunk and refute every single argument for the existence of God.Therefore this trivial debate about the technical definition of theword "Atheism" seems pointless in substance.
As we have seen, these commonskeptical arguments are not as rational or sensible as they seem.There are many critical flaws and limitations in them. They also showa closed system of thinking as well, which reality does not alwaysagree with. Although some of these arguments serve as goodguidelines, they by no means are the dogma of reality. They are notall encompassing, nor do they account for every fact and anomaly. Infact, they can be rigid enough to close ones mind to newthings. The true skeptic should be skeptical of his own beliefs aswell as of others. NDE/Consciousness expert Greg Stone, a member ofmy discussion lists, sums up the skeptics mentality quite wellin terms I never would have thought of:
You see the subjective evaluation of a skeptic holds less weight than the subjective direct observation of the experiencer. What is needed, and sorely missing, is a real understanding of the nature and factors of subjective knowledge. Without this all such discussions will be foolhardy. The skeptic continually fails to understand and admit that he works on a subjective basis. And seems mystified when someone accepts someone's direct observation over the skeptics subjective evaluation.
Former Naval Scientist Eldon Byrdalso wittily comments:
What major contribution has any skeptic made to the betterment of humankind? How many Mother Teresas have they produced? How many great scientific discoveries have they made? Many of them are like movie critics--useless and usually wrong.
Regardless of what belief you taketoward the paranormal, the important thing is to keep an open mindand not rush to judgments based on our personal world views. A quoteby Hendri Poincare makes this point well:
"Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection." - Henri Poincare
After all, what you can accomplish ordo is not dependent on anothers beliefs, as Martin Caidinreminds us:
"What you believe someone else can or cant do hasnt got beans with the doing. Or lack of doing. Just go back through your history books and youll discover that just about everything you take for granted today in your daily lives was absolutely impossible not so many years ago." - Martin Caidin
Do we have all the answers to themysteries of the paranormal and of existence? Of course not. Neitherthe most rational skeptics nor the most evolved spiritualists do. Butwhat I can tell you is this. Based on my research and direct personalexperience, I know that psychokinesis, telepathy, prayer and spellsare real and they work. The question is how and why. The problem isthat although these things are real, they dont fit intoconventional paradigms of reality. Therefore, we definitely to updateour beliefs and world views to account for these facts and find newparadigms that account for them. In the meantime, we should keep inmind that the beauty of mysteries and paranormal phenomena lies notin finding the answers to every question, but in the awe andappreciation we have for them. Therein lies the great lesson thatthere is always "more to learn" and "something better out there". Letme close on this with three profound quotes which state this in apoetic way.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." - Albert Einstein
"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." - Mark Twain
"Let the mind be enlarged... to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind" - Francis Bacon
Thank you for reading myarticle.
Note: Comments about this article canbe sent to the author at WWu777@aol.com.