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Well, I did say on Paranormalia recently that it's time 'the other side' upped their game and haunted a few of the major skeptics. ;)

I think this is actually a really big deal. Skeptics are pretty much all-or-nothing in their worldview, and Shermer risks complete ostracism by making this admission of believing in a medium-sized (by the standards of our host and commenters here) phenomenon. Like you, I give him credit.

OTOH, I feel like also sayin, "Ohhh, so you pissed on others 'anecdotes' for decades, but now that something's happened to you, it means something. Riiiight."

But the reason it's a big deal is that it's a crack in the dike. Once big media skeptics feel comfortable about recognizing phenomena, then the phenomena are going to be recognized.

Very cool, Michael! And I'm pleased that Scientific American was willing to print it.

It's long been a fantasy of mine that certain people--especially some hardcore skeptics and certain friends and relations--might have an experience that would force them to re-consider their beliefs.

(In certain respects, this even includes people like you who, as I see it, go only so far in your grasp of Source and Oneness. But maybe that's just *my* fundamentalism rearing its head!)

This story certainly fits that fantasy, and won't it be interesting to see where Shermer goes from here.

It may sound silly (or not, actually :p)... but I had a precognition, or I don't know how to call it, I somehow "felt" that I was going to read an article like this somewhere. An iconic skeptic talking about a meaningful and beautiful paranormal experience he had... and opening his mind to the possibility that it was something more profound that just a coincidence.

I thought about this a few days ago, and wished for it to happen. I'm glad it did :)

Now that is true, authentic skepticism (both the main post and that last comment): Not accepting everything at face value, but being open to new possibilities, and - more importantly - being willing to change your mind. If all materialistic and religious skeptics were like this, the debate on faith and science would undoubtedly be more constructive and peaceful.

This kind of experience is much more common than people think. When I talk to friends about "weird" experiences, invariably there'll be someone who will describe something strange that either happened to them or someone they know. In my own case, I have a friend whose mother "reads" palms. She told a mutual friend that her brother needs to be very careful around water. Two years later the brother died by drowning. Having said that my friend's mother has also been wrong about many things as well (she is annoyingly correct about the bad stuff though). I consider myself a skeptic and really find it very hard to believe in the paranormal. I'm convinced there will be a scientific explanation. It happens in this world therefore it is not "unnatural". We just don't have good scientific evidence for it because it does not happen on demand, nor is it reproducible in the way that science demands and therefore science cannot test it today with the tools it has. I've found though many skeptics are determined not acknowledge that inexplicable things happen in this world. They will twist themselves into pretzels in order to give bizarre explanations. I had an argument (if one can call it that) on a skeptical forum about Patricia Pearson's book. You can see it at the link. The so called "skeptic" has explained away everything without even reading the book. In fact he "debunked" the whole thing without initially even having an idea of what exactly he was "debunking". He was so ill informed about the book that it was shocking. The funniest part in the link below is that they told me to listen to Michael Shermer to "educate" myself. I think that's called Karma (which of course is "woo")
http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=23454. Of course the fact that I posted on this blog will forever label me as a "woo believer".

Remember this story from earlier this year? An atheist has a deeply profound spontaneous transcendental experience, doesn't know how to process it, and calls for further study.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/opinion/sunday/a-rationalists-mystical-moment.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=1

I haven't heard from her since.

@ e-book so had to resign in.

It's often the odd phenomena that people can't take seriously.

Some years ago shortly before my dad passed away, he told my mother she would need to get a new torch (kept by her bed), as the battery and connections were rusted.

Several months later he died, and in the early hours of the next morning my mother awoke to the torch light shining on the opposite wall. It never went again.

I feel my dad was trying to tell my mum in the simplest way he could, that he was still around. As she was an atheist at the time.
Lyn x.

Inexplicable things DO happen in this world, and they may not be "unnatural", but they surely contradict what we would expect from a purely materialistic worldview. And they may not be scientifically explainable... why would they? Universe does not behave the way science wants it to do, it behaves on it's own, and it may contain some phenomena that will never be scientifically testable by any means...

At least you find it "very hard" to believe, iw1, while others simply are unwilling to do it no matter what evidence they find.

"The so called "skeptic" has explained away everything without even reading the book. In fact he "debunked" the whole thing without initially even having an idea of what exactly he was "debunking". He was so ill informed about the book that it was shocking." iw1

It's the confidence of ignorance, and it's embarrassing, isn't it? I sometimes cringe when I read the volumes such 'skeptics' have to write on matters they know absolutely nothing about. Have they no shame?

These scoffers live in their heads. Witness testimony is just words and symbols to them--mere empty phrases. Anyone who testifies to a strange experience instantly loses all credibility in their eyes, because he's a "believer." It doesn't matter that he wasn't a believer until the experience. Catch-22.

But when it happens to a friend, they're really baffled and shocked. On BigfootForums about six years ago a regular poster from Ontario, who was polite but dismissive of all sighting reports, related that an acquaintance at a dinner party had just told him that she'd had a sighting. He was really staggered, no longer his old scoffing self. He showed none of his old scorn for "anecdotes."

He suffered until that point from an inability to realize that witnesses consisted, mostly, of persons he would have considered just as trustworthy as his acquaintance, had he known them. Persons who'd interviewed witnesses had testified to their seeming believability and reputable backgrounds, but he'd just waved that aside. He was too much into his black-and-white reality tunnel, too unable to be comfy with the ambiguity of the twilight zone.

Great post, Michael. This is really cool. As always, love your title :-)

It doesn't have to all be true. Even if only a fraction of these reports are true.... it changes everything, especially the meaning of life. Like William James said, it only takes one white crow to prove that not all crows are black!

I was unimpressed by the anecdote from Michael Schermer. Thawed by the emotional glow of infatuation with his new bride he suddenly has an experience similar to those experienced by thousands of people who have been trying to tell him over and over again that there is more to existence than atoms on the periodic table. I myself have had a least four experiences similar to his. I do have to give him credit for publically sharing his anecdote. It makes me think a little more highly of him. Maybe he will be less likely to discount 'anecdotes' of other people in the future.

Forty years ago Scientific American was the go-to reference for me when I was writing my thesis but recently a friend sent me a gift subscription and I was bowled over by the deterioration in the publication. When I saw that Michael Schermer had a featured column I immediately knew that I was looking at a magazine edited by an 'Amazing Randi' clone and more like the National Enquirer Magazine at the check-out counter at the grocery store than a scientific journal of any repute.- AOD

I think that's a little harsh, AOD. Consider the courage it took for Shermer to post something like this. He knew he was opening himself up to ridicule, invective, ostracism, etc., yet he went ahead anyway. I think this shows considerable personal integrity. It takes a big man to make an "admission against interest" this powerful.

That said, I admit there's a *small* possibility it's a hoax, and that in the next issue of SA he'll reveal he made up the story to test people's gullibility. I don't expect this to happen, and I sincerely hope it doesn't, but anything is possible.

Apparently I am more skeptical that Shermer, because we have to be careful to relate events that might not have relationship. Moreover, there is much stronger evidence for an afterlife and psi phenomena.

It's the confidence of ignorance

I couldn't agree more. It's also quite common unfortunately.

In July 2011 I posted this comment on this site:
--------------------

Incidentally, . . . [in 2008] Michael Shermer attended one of Houck’s spoon-bending parties and managed to fold the bowl of a spoon—something no non-musclebound human can do without the aid of PK. This was “caught on videotape” (it’s on YouTube somewhere), and his wry smile as he held up his spoon was something to behold.

He tried to explain it away by saying that his adrenaline level must have been elevated. But that is easily disposed of by the fact (I presume) that people who are injected with adrenaline still can’t bend such bowls. Or they can do so only with a lot of straining and position-shifting to employ leverage and reduce discomfort, none of which successful party-participants exhibit.

(And I suspect that testing successful party-participants would show their adrenaline levels to be only slightly elevated.)

If Shermer were really curious about proving his explanation correct, and disproving spoon-bending for good, he would volunteer to be injected himself and “show the world” on videotape or live TV.

But he may feel that he’s entered the twilight zone and:

“Don’t turn on the lights,
‘cause I don’t want to see no more”!

-----------------
Scoftics tend to obfuscate what's meant by spoon-bending, insinuating that all that's involved is bending the handle of the spoon forward or backward, which can be faked by pre-weakening it and/or by secretly applying sudden force to it. Debunking that feat is attacking a strawman.

What they don't honestly address are cases where the handle is twisted, and sometimes bent at multiple locations along its length, or where the bowl is folded back on itself. Those can't be faked--but participants at Houk's PK parties manage those feats.

PS: Here's a July 2008 comment I posted on MP's blog. It contains the link to the party that shows Shermer with his bent bowl.
-------------

If you want to see a plethora of jerkish comments from the scoftics' peanut gallery, click on the "View all 270 comments" line at the bottom of the YouTube video of Michael Shermer's participation in one of Jack Houck's PK Parties, here:
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=h3X9h1WlQpA&feature=related

You can do the same by clicking on the View All Comments line beneath a Norwegian spoon-bender's video here:

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=69GMr3RlpgU&feature=related
--------------

Shermer "debunked" the spoon-bending further by a microscopic analysis of the grains in the metal of the bent spoons, which shows a pattern consistent with forcible bending rather than bending attributable to heat. But no one claimed the spoons were heated, so he defeated a strawman.

Houk's disgusted/skeptical look when Shermer tried to explain away his bent bowl as due to adrenaline was priceless.

Must say Mr. Shermer went up *hugely* in my estimation too following his candid confession. What's that saying about intelligence being measured by the ability to hold to conflicting ideas in mind and still function . . . . . or something? :)

IMO, revealing it was a hoax after those beautiful words about "savoring the experience more than the explanation", and emotional interpretations granting significance to one's subjetive experiences, would say nothing about people's gullibility and a lot about Shermer's own jerkness (not trying to be rude here).

Anyway I think there's little to no reason to wait for that to happen.

Ps. That should have read 'two'conflicting ideas. :)

I agree that Dr. Shermer deserves a lot of kudos for publishing his experience - assuming the whole thing isn't a hoax.

What interests me is how he will respond to now being on the receiving end of the inevitable glib dismissals and self-satisfied sneering from those people who fancy themselves as 'critical thinkers'.

You know the sort - the ones who already know EXACTLY how the whole universe is allowed to work.

The same ones who would have heretofore regarded Dr. Shermer as a figurehead of their religion.

While the thought of Shermer taking a barrage of angry flak from supposed fellow-skeptics does not give me any sense of satisfaction - because I like the guy - I think it might do him a power of good. He might find the level of their intolerance, closed-mindedness and arrogance quite surprising - which in turn might make him question his own beliefs more closely.

The problem I have with Michael Shermer's account is that he didn't ruled out the natural explanations first as he claims he is a skeptic then why not rule the natural explanations first for his experience?. Then go from there.

My god!Decades of debunking peoples out of this world experiences and it finally happened to him.How wonderful.

As you said Michael.Invented the story to get a message across of gullibility.A silly,unfair tactic if it is the case though.

Riffing on what some others have said... What I find humorous about Shermer's experience is

1) It's a lot milder than some of the things our commenters have described here. There is an element of, *This* is what finally did it for you?

2) It's actually something that *might* have a material explanation, whereas many of the experiences the commenters here have had are 100% paranormal if true. (By the the standards of the skeptics--I don't actually divide Reality into normal and paranormal. Thus, it could have an ostensible material explanation and still be a communication from the Afterlife. This is certainly true of many dreams. They are dreams but also communications from elsewhere.)

If one is open and has friends that are also open, then one hears about the kind of experience Shermer had all the time. But he doesn't seem to realize that and thinks that his experience is something really rare and special. (Not that I would discount it in the least.)

Thus, the overall effect is "smh."

On Steven Novella's blog, I've read some comments about Novella's article titled: The brain is not a receiver. One person saw a link to this blog and said "These people are believers disguised as skeptics". It really turns my face red.

"One person saw a link to this blog and said 'These people are believers disguised as skeptics'."

You mean they said the people posting on this blog were "disguised as skeptics"? I haven't heard that one before. I don't think we've ever pretended to be a branch of the skeptical community.

"If one is open and has friends that are also open, then one hears about the kind of experience Shermer had all the time."

I doubt many people would volunteer such stories to Shermer, since they'd assume he would scoff.

Personally, I find Shermer's story quite powerful, given the circumstances - a long-broken radio that starts playing minutes before the wedding and stops again, permanently, by the next day; a strong personal link to the grandfather; even the detail of romantic music on the radio. What are the odds that the tuner would have been set to any receivable frequency, given that the radio was shipped from Germany and never worked in the US? And if by chance it was tuned to a usable local frequency, why not news, talk, sports, hip-hop, or something else that would have been inappropriate?

So I find it a strong case. But I've also noticed that it's often hard to see other people's experiences as meaningful or convincing. I feel that way myself about most reports of physical and materialization mediumship, as well as some OBEs. And it's true of many other cases. That's one reason I haven't reported the details of the successful sittings I've had with mediums (there have been two or three). I know the "hits" that impressed me can easily be shrugged off by a third party. Something about having distance from the event makes it easier to discount it, even on the part of people who are inclined to believe such things in the abstract.

i cannot help but read this admission by shermer in the light of recent accusations of sexual misconduct.

it seems like some smokescreen, an intense way to deflect his revealed predatory tendencies at the conventions.

"You mean they said the people posting on this blog were "disguised as skeptics"?"

Well, that's kind of an off hand compliment in a way and I think it's valid. The posts here are typically well balanced and comments usually follow an analytical path. Sure, sometimes anecdotes are shared and sometimes the comments stray far afield, but they remain somewhat analytical. Nobody here believes everything.

"Personally, I find Shermer's story quite powerful, given the circumstances ..."

I do too.

"That's one reason I haven't reported the details of the successful sittings I've had with mediums (there have been two or three). I know the "hits" that impressed me can easily be shrugged off by a third party. "

Agreed. I know that when I attempted to describe my successful sitting with G. O. I found it necessary to go into far more personal detail than I wanted to in order to convey why the hits were significant and even then I could have written many more detailed paragraphs and no doubt still failed to effectively set the stage for elucidating the power of the hits.

"I feel that way myself about most reports of physical and materialization mediumship, as well as some OBEs."

I do too. I've experienced these things myself (not physical mediumship per se, but physical manifestations), yet I am skeptical of others' accounts; especially ectoplasm and such, even though it is well documented by serious people.

If only this stuff would present on command, in a laboratory, in bright light.....

"Personally, I find Shermer's story quite powerful, given the circumstances."

Michael, I totally agree. I think it's *clearly* a meaningful experience. I'm not putting down his experience or suggesting he was overly impressed by something small. My "smh" is contextual, based on his having a career in which has essentially blown off even larger experiences by others.

I have been using the echovox app and seemingly responses come through.

"... it seems like some smokescreen, an intense way to deflect his revealed predatory tendencies at the conventions."

I don't see it that way. If anything, this post will alienate Shermer's fan base and make it harder for him to find support.

Shermer is certainly sticking his neck out and I admire him for that.

MP said: I've also noticed that it's often hard to see other people's experiences as meaningful or convincing. I feel that way myself about most reports of physical and materialization mediumship, as well as some OBEs. And it's true of many other cases. That's one reason I haven't reported the details of the successful sittings I've had with mediums (there have been two or three). I know the "hits" that impressed me can easily be shrugged off by a third party. Something about having distance from the event makes it easier to discount it, even on the part of people who are inclined to believe such things in the abstract.
Very good. It's hard to "imagine what we know (abstractly)," so other people's accounts seem thin rather than full-bodied.

Shermer's grand point is that the subjective holds great power, whether true or not. It is part of the chorus of atheists trying to rebrand themselves as "not being dicks"--and respecting people for their experiences is one such step in this direction. However, it is difficult to rebrand in this way successfully without alienating the militant cult aspects of their movement.

(Not a "movement", really, they are the echo chamber of the materialist mainstream. More like a vanguard than a movement. However, they see themselves as a movement.)

A friend of mine has a great saying: "who feels it, knows it". As with a lot of life's experiences, it is very easy to be clinical and dissect the reports of others, however personal experience has no substitute IMHO.

Bearing in mind Matt's comment, it would be interesting to know how he squares this experience with dismissals of the equally pursuasive experiences of other people.

It seems appropriate to mention here something that happened in my family this weekend.
On Saturday afternoon the TV was on in the kitchen when I went there to say something to my husband, Gerald. He replied, "It's a pity but . . " whereupon a man speaking on the TV immediately said, "It's a pity but". I left the room and little while later, when I again said something (I can't remember what offhand) a voice from the TV immediately repeated those two or three words exactly. I always take notice when that kind of thing happens, as it has occasionally in the past, and felt the two occurrences were synchronistic; possibly heralding something out of the ordinary - but I kept my thoughts to myself.
In the early hours of the next morning we got a phone call to say that my mother-in-law, Molly, had died. Despite the fact that she was ninety-years-old her death wasn't expected.
Later that morning one of my brothers-in-law, Andrew, called and told my husband that staff at the nursing home where Molly was resident had handed him a note list of details, including hymns, that she wanted at her funeral. The list had been compiled some time ago and put away for safe keeping. Andrew went back to his car and glanced down the list. One of the hymns was 'Morning Has Broken' and he thought it an unlikely choice for a funeral. Then he turned on the car radio and the hymn 'Morning has broken' was playing.
But that's not the only coincidence. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was on our yard doing morning stables, when two lines from that very same hymn came into my mind: 'Sweet the rain's new fall sunlit from heaven, like the first dew fall on the first grass'. Within five minutes Gerald came out from the house to tell me of Andrew's experience. Chance or synchronicity (meaningful coincidence). Any thoughts?

Julie, I find that transitional periods in life are the time when these kinds of synchronicities happen the most often and the most powerfully. A death in the family is a transitional period. What it all means (if anything) and how it all happens is beyond me.

To hazard a guess, I suspect it has something to do with the transition itself - a breaking down of our old paradigms and situations (or habits) and the open possibilities for the future. The stopping of the old patterns (= ego control) allows the larger psychic mind to open up and extends in its search for a new way.

Morning stables......ah another horseman (in my neck of the woods women who work with horses like to be called "horsemen"....so no gender based offense intended). We have a lot of Brits coming over to our town to fox hunt since that sport has been done away with in your country. We have one of the oldest continuous hunts in the US right in our town. I'm a race horse guy, but my wife takes the retired horses and makes hunters out of them (we are too old for the steeple chase now; pity).

I love horses, always have. They understand what is largely unknown to us. Methinks they must think we're pretty stupid in our pedestrian ways.

Julie, I've had several of these coincidences as you describe, not many, but I've been remembering a lot of them.

My strangest was when I was going to school, my last class was U.S. International Relations. After I left this class, I called my friend, but by mistake, I guess dialing, because of all "people," I reached the U.S. Pentagon. Yes, they answer,"The Pentagon."

I've heard it expressed that there's a force "responsible" for making everything appear random, but sometimes it screws up and we see a kind of order that really exists.

Expect continuation of consciousness.

I know what you mean Julie but I can never see what purpose that kind of event would have or how it would come about. Do you have a view?

I know you didn't asked me Paul, but I like to think is their way to say "I'm fine" :)

Thanks Luciano
I guess I mean how would things like that be manipulated in that way. I mean like a TV broadcast etc?

"I know what you mean Julie but I can never see what purpose that kind of event would have or how it would come about. Do you have a view?" - Paul

Yes, I do Paul. I am convinced that life continues beyond physical death. And I think such phenomena are orchestrated by the deceased and that they are constructed to make us laugh at the why we take life so seriously while we're here in the physical. A kind of cosmic sense of humour?

My mother sent me a very similar message after she died some fifteen years ago.

"Methinks horses must think we're pretty stupid in our pedestrian ways."

Hey, Julie! Actually, I'll bet judgements like that reflect the sort of false pride only humans are capable of. :)

And I'll bet you're right, Bruce! But in their quiet and reflective moments. ;)

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