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Cheers for the mention Michael!

I've spent quite a while on the site and I think it's pretty good, it's well written, balanced, and has information on loads of topics, many of which I knew next to nothing about.

Definitely worth checking out and I'm glad you posted it on your blog :D.

Thanks for giving us a heads-up about this, Michael. Those guerrilla skeptics have always made my stomach churn, and it's great to see a site that counters their attempts to erase the evidence.

I agree - it's a great start. Re Wikipedia - they're doing far more egregious things than removing psi references as you probably know - including traducing those who have researched it.

This new psi Encyclopedia is strongly biased in favor of the paranormal and ignores most of the negative evidence and does not cite much of the skeptical literature like Wikipedia does. Wikipedia is more reliable because it covers all of the literature from both camps, not just one point of view.

I will give you one example. Stephen E. Braude has written the entry for the medium Henry Slade. But Slade was caught in fraud many times (for example by the ASPR member Stanley LeFevre Krebs utilizing a secret mirror, and by John W. Truesdell writing on the slates with his toes. Both Krebs and Truesdell wrote at length exposing Slade's methods yet Braude deliberately chooses not to mention Krebs or Truesdell. This is quite dishonest considering his article on Slade attacks skeptics for ignoring strong cases of evidence.

Mrs. Sidgwick in the journal for the Society for Psychical Research (1) wrote a detailed criticism of Slade and his trick slate writing methods, yet Braude does not mention her paper anywhere on the article. Yet this is supposed to be an Encyclopedia representing the SPR. We must acknowledge the negative studies published by the SPR members as well.

The article on Daniel Dunglas Home is also very incomplete. It does not attempt to counter the skeptical objections. It does not even mention the Merrifield controversy, yet that allegation of fraud against Home was published in the SPR journal (2). This paper is not cited anywhere on the article (not even in the bibliography).

I am sure even your readers here Michael will agree my points are valid.

References:

(1) Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick. (1886–87) Results of a Personal Investigation into the 'Physical Phenomena' of Spiritualism. With Some Critical Remarks on the Evidence for the Genuineness of Such Phenomena. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 4: 45-74.

(2) Frederick Merrifield. (1903). A Sitting With D. D. Home. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 11: 76–80.

The new website is simply superb.

That's awesome!

Oh Bill, you've been missed. I would agree that the skeptical case (if it has any merit) should be presented in each case so that the reader may make up his or her own mind.

Since the website is new and I'm sure the articles are going to expand, it isn't yet clear that the website is trying to *avoid* presenting the skeptical case.

Actually, you might be able to become and editor of the website and suggest such changes (seriously).

By the same token, the positive perspective should be allowed on Wikipedia in each case.

"This new psi Encyclopedia is strongly biased in favor of the paranormal and ignores most of the negative evidence and does not cite much of the skeptical literature like Wikipedia does."

And you're strongly biased in against of the paranormal and ignore most of it the positive evidence. We have already discussed above.

Bill,

This encyclopedia is new, so it's logical to assume that it will grow as time passes and more articles are added and expanded. If they follow the template of showing both criticism and counter-criticism, I would expect some of your points will be addressed.

With regards to Wikipedia, I think all individuals and organizations are biased in one way or another, no matter how hard they try to remain neutral, and a look at most of Wikipedia's articles about the supernatural/paranormal show a strong bias against them. They cite plenty of evidence against various phenomena, but seem to pay little to no attention of evidence for it. Coupled with the Guerrilla Skeptics group and their work to essentially censor and remove information about anything supernatural, and I'm convinced that Wikipedia is no longer reliable when it comes to researching the supernatural.

That's not to say that counter-sites should be trusted completely, either: honest seekers of truth need to learn to be skeptical of both sides and seek to be critical, but also open-minded and willing to change their views, which so many pseudo-skeptics don't seem to be (who, in my experience, are far more vicious and outright mean when it comes to debating those who don't share their beliefs).

Wikipedia certainly is not more reliable. There is a great deal of evidence that positive results for mediums and psychics are continually removed from entries and it is entirely negative about the efforts of those who have investigated it. It does exactly what you are claiming is wrong in the SPR articles. The article editors are completely unaccountable.

You might benefit from reading Craig Weilers book.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Psi-Wars-Wikipedia-Internet-Controversy/dp/1494389002

Bill

I thought you said you weren't coming back here?

I can't comment on the entries you cite, because I haven't had time to read them yet. But, if you have complaints about bias in the SPR resource, then I suggest you do the following:-

1) Don't post egregious comments under a temporary Facebook ID on the SPR Facebook page under the name 'Leon Kennedy' (oh, my aching ribs) , only to delete them shortly afterwards before popping up as 'Bill' again here. However substantive, or otherwise, your points may be, that sort of behaviour is hardly likely to lead to you being taken seriously. It's more likely to just get you labelled as a troll.

2) Contact the SPR (preferably under your real name, or at least one not associated with the aforementioned behaviour), and make your points. I'm sure, that if you're making sense, then you'll be listened to.

Nice work, Robbie. Thank you!

The PSI website is nice-looking but I was hoping that the articles would not be opinion pieces. For example the Patience Worth article was written by Professor Stephen Braude and copied in many places word for word from his chapter about Patience Worth in his, now dated, book "Immortal Remains". The background information about Patience Worth and Pearl Curran is OK I guess but the article ends-up with the same old tired opinion of Braude that Patience Worth was a case of dissociated personality. There is much more to the Patience Worth case than Professor Braude will entertain. But since Braude has the credentials to validate his opinion I guess that his opinion is the one that will be cited over and over again by any other article about Patience Worth.

What a disappointment! -AOD

Hi Michael – thanks for posting this. I was about to do so myself on Paranormalia (and will do so soon), but you beat me to it! As it happens, I’ve been dealing with a lot of technical stuff that comes with launching two websites simultaneously, so have got behind.

As regards readers’ comments:

1) it can’t be seriously argued that Wikipedia is is any sense reliable or balanced. The claim that it ‘covers all of the literature from both camps’ is risible. On the Leonora Piper page, for instance, the list of references is almost exclusively to sceptical comment. I could be wrong, but I think that, in what is now a very long article, there’s not a single reference to a primary source!

Part of the purpose of the Psi Encyclopedia is to redress this. There’s no intention to copy Wikipedia by ignoring one side of the argument. On the contrary, I’ve encouraged writers to refer to sceptic claims and arguments, and have sometimes enlarged on it in my edits. I don’t necessarily think it’s as complete as it might be in some cases, and am open to making insertions.

That said, there’s no point swamping articles with lists of undifferentiated claims, allegations and hypotheses, as happens on Wikipedia. A lot of this stuff can be described generically, as in Michael Tymn’s piece on Piper (‘Scepticism and Controversy’).

http://psi.circle-interactive.co.uk/articles/leonora-piper

2. The point about opinion versus objective fact is a very valid one. At the outset, I decided that it was appropriate for an encyclopedia article to describe the facts, and refer to the opinions of different players as facts, rather than to identify with a single opinion or argue a case.
That is in fact how the great majority of articles are structured. There are in fact two articles on Patience Worth – the other, by Michael Tymn, represents what many might consider the received view.

However, this is a bit limiting – some matters really do need to be teased out, as in Braude’s piece on the overlap between mediums and multiple personality. So I left the way open for the creation of a separate section at a later stage, in which writers who are equipped to do so to express personal (and possibly conflicting) viewpoints. That has started with several of Braude’s articles, which unsurprisingly are the ones that seem to be attracting the most comment.

For this purpose I’d intended to create a separate ‘analysis’ category (the others are ‘article’, ‘case study’ and list’, and there may also be ‘book review’ at some point). But this began to seem rather unwieldy, and in any case does not provide the necessary separation. So I scrapped it, while identifying some articles as ‘analysis’ in the titles. This clearly isn’t enough, and I will need to think how to structure it, and how to flag up the fact that a few articles represent a personal viewpoint.

Glad to hear any ideas, and indeed any other comments.

"With regards to Wikipedia, I think all individuals and organizations are biased in one way or another, no matter how hard they try to remain neutral, and a look at most of Wikipedia's articles about the supernatural/paranormal show a strong bias against them. They cite plenty of evidence against various phenomena, but seem to pay little to no attention of evidence for it. Coupled with the Guerrilla Skeptics group and their work to essentially censor and remove information about anything supernatural, and I'm convinced that Wikipedia is no longer reliable when it comes to researching the supernatural."

Wikipedia does not ignore the evidence for the paranormal, it has to cite it, before it debunks it.

To debunk the cases skeptics have to read into them first like I have. Therefore the naturalistic skeptic viewpoint found on Wikipedia is actually more open-minded because its proponents actually read the literature written by paranormal believers to debunk them.

"Glad to hear any ideas, and indeed any other comments."

Can you please create articles for skeptics of the paranormal, i.e. Harry Houdini, Joseph Rinn, Edward Clodd, Joseph McCabe, Stanley LeFevre Krebs, Charles Arthur Mercier, Joseph Jastrow, Joseph Dunninger, Milbourne Christopher, Rose Mackenberg, C. E. M. Hansel, Martin Gardner etc.

I want to know why you consider these skeptics to be unreliable. List any errors you can find in their works and post counter criticisms to their publications. Get Steve Hume on board or Benjamin Steigmann if possible. This is the sort of thing I am interested in seeing. If you have legit criticisms published in reliable sources I could get it put on Wikipedia for you eventually. Cheers.

Mr. McLuhan,
I didn't mean to denigrate the PSI site. I realize that it is a 'work in progress' and appearance-wise I think t looks very good and undoubtedly you have put a lot of work into it. Thank you for all you have done so far. It is encouraging that you have several thoughts about other ways to contribute and expand the information.

Perhaps personal opinions are reasonable to include if more than one opinion is provided and positive opinions are balanced with a few negative ones. Clearly, I have my sensitivities when it comes to information about Patience Worth and Pearl Curran and I admit that I have been disappointed with Professor Braude's write-off of Patience Worth as a dissociated personality of Pearl Curran. His chapter in Immortal Remains in my opinion is not the best template on which to base a PSI Encyclopedia article as I believe his reasons for relegating Patience Worth to a dissociated personality of Pearl Curran are very weak, e.g., no evidence of her writings has been found in England.

This is not the place for me to go on and on about Braude's treatment of the Patience Worth case. I guess that I should be happy that she found a place in the PSI Encyclopedia. - AOD

Perhaps one difficulty that the SPR might have is that they usually take the line that they have no organisational opinion on psi phenomena.

I don't think that's at all wrong, but It may affect the type of material that is made available on their website. I would think the SPR would like to avoid material being seen as their official opinion or as some kind of endorsement.

Just a thought.

Anybody else get the feeling Bill is one of the Wikipedia editors who are deleting parapsychological citations?

Bill said,
"Can you please create articles for skeptics of the paranormal, i.e. Harry Houdini, Joseph Rinn, Edward Clodd, Joseph McCabe, Stanley LeFevre Krebs, Charles Arthur Mercier, Joseph Jastrow, Joseph Dunninger, Milbourne Christopher, Rose Mackenberg, C. E. M. Hansel, Martin Gardner etc."

Uh, Bill? Isn't there a Wikipedia article about each of these magicians? Why do more articles need to be created on a PSI site? Apparently you have some 'in' on Wikipedia. Why not use your influence on that site to state your case there? Just link us to the articles that you think are relevant.

Some of these people you listed have no more credibility to intelligently discuss evidence for parapsychology that any man or women off of the street. Why should I care about what they have to say?

I think you need to get your own website and then you can get anyone you like to discuss any thing you like. This blog site is not for you. It will only frustrate you and ruin your day. You are not going to convince anyone here of anything unless you produce solid evidence and not just old outdated hearsay opinions - AOD

"Wikipedia does not ignore the evidence for the paranormal, it has to cite it, before it debunks it.

To debunk the cases skeptics have to read into them first like I have. Therefore the naturalistic skeptic viewpoint found on Wikipedia is actually more open-minded because its proponents actually read the literature written by paranormal believers to debunk them."

That may be true, but just like believers, skeptics are not above ignoring evidence that runs counter to their beliefs, or even fabricating counter-evidence. To the best of my understanding, Harry Houdini, upon finding no evidence of trickery when he tried to debunk Mina Crandon, apparently resorted to planting a ruler via an assistant to discredit her. Not only does it make him seem like a vindictive man with an axe to grind, but it makes me doubt the quality and motives of his other debunkings (though to be fair, he did expose many frauds, and Ms. Crandon apparently wasn't above doing it herself).

A more personal example comes from a book I once reviewed titled, "50 Popular Beliefs People Think Are True" written by Guy P. Harrison. It's fairly standard skeptical fare, including a chapter about James Leininger, a boy who claimed to be a WW2 pilot who was shot down in the Pacific, whose case is commonly cited as the most persuasive argument in favor of reincarnation. Mr. Harrison said that the boy was most likely influenced by his parents, books, and trips to museums, and made his whole story up. However - and I'm paraphrasing from my review - he did NOT bring up several intriguing facts about the boy's story:

1. James' father set out to research his son's story with the intent of debunking it, but the more he studied, read, and interviewed veterans who flew with the dead pilot, he came away (reluctantly) convinced that his son was telling the truth.

2. James named three of his GI Joe figures Leon, Walter, and Billie, after friends who greeted him in heaven. Turns out, there were three men named Leon Connor, Walter Devlin, and Billie Peeler from James' ship who had died before him (and even shared the correct hair color on their respective GI Joe doll).

3. The pilot's surviving friends verified information James told them about events during the war, such as his plane getting shot down from a hit on the engine.

4. James actually talked with the pilot's only surviving sister, Anne Barron, and, among other things, revealed her childhood nickname, that they had matching portraits done when they were children, what job they had, and that she was mortified at a job their mother took. Mrs. Barron confirmed that he was right, noting that James came up with information he couldn't have possibly known.

Did Mr. Harrison leave these points out on purpose? Either he didn't know about them, or deliberately left them out. If that's true, then he intentionally misleads the reader, and with that in mind, how am I supposed to trust what else he says, or the information he presents?

Perhaps I'm jaded, but it's examples like these that make me distrustful of Wikipedia or other skeptical encyclopedias. They can cite all the sources they want, but my automatic thought is, "Yes, but what material did you NOT study?" For me, personally, the evidence the supernatural puts out - NDE's, Deathbed visions, and spirit communications that reveals information previously unknown - is much more convincing than what skeptics say, no matter how many books they cite. All it takes is one white crow to prove that not all crows are black, and thus, all it takes is just one veridical interaction with spirit to prove that it's more than just tricks of the brain.

Bill - It's hard to take you seriously if you won't accept that Wikipedia is seriously biased against anything 'paranormal', anything from parapsychology etc. It gives far too much credence to the skeptical viewpoint (James Alcock saying there might have been sensory leakage in the Autoganzfeld, doesn't mean there was or that that's a legitimate viewpoint for example).

I also don't get why skeptics who barely who do any actual primary research carry such much authority and weight, but the people who actually do the research - what they have to say doesn't count. It's ridiculous and it wouldn't be on in any other field of inquiry.

At the end of the day Parapsychology is a legitimate science, anybody who wants to contribute it should do so in good faith, they should make any criticisms constructive and relevant, they should do primary research and should be aiming to get positive results if they do (as you would in any other field) and they should be aiming to 'debunk' it, unless it's a medium that is clearly a fraud and taking advantage of people.

Too many mistakes in my last comment!

They *shouldnt* aim to debunk it.

And 'if they want to contribute to it'.

Apologies!

"Therefore the naturalistic skeptic viewpoint found on Wikipedia is actually more open-minded because its proponents actually read the literature written by paranormal believers to debunk them."

But it is not, because Wiki only shows skeptical opinions, no reasons to believe in psychic phenomena, which are also there.

Ian,

Great comments!

Bill wrote,

||This new psi Encyclopedia is strongly biased in favor of the paranormal and ignores most of the negative evidence and does not cite much of the skeptical literature like Wikipedia does.||

Here's the thing. There is set of phenomena that can be labeled "paranormal"; either these phenomena are happening, or they are not. The starting point for Skeptics is that they are not happening at all. The starting point for us "believers" is that they are happening, and we have now moved onto the stage whereat we are trying to understand them.

It's easy to forget that there were times in history when a particular truth we now consider obvious was debated by smart people on both sides. Atomic theory and the germ theory of disease were both not fully accepted by the intelligentsia until well into the 19th century.

From a ton of personal experience (basically, experiencing psi every day by myself and with psychic friends) and a ton of undeniable evidence beyond personal experience, including laboratory evidence, I *know* that psi exists. That's my starting point, as it is for many other people at this point in history. Skeptics are standing athwart progress and screaming "No no NOOOOoooo!" at the truth, but it's only a matter of time before they lose.

||Wikipedia is more reliable because it covers all of the literature from both camps, not just one point of view.||

Wrong. Sadly, the Wikipedia editors have formed their own culture that is quite exclusionary. It's heavily male (and misogynist) and atheist. It's a very self-righteous, close-minded culture, not just on the matter of psi but a lot of things, and it's earned a nasty reputation.

Because it is both atheist and self-righteous, it does its best to minimize the positive case for psi and paranormal phenomena on Wikipedia. Personally, I don't know much about the Wikipedia edit wars on this topic, but I do know that the content about paranormal phenomena is pretty poor on Wikipedia, and that is not for a lack of proponents of same on this planet.

||To debunk the cases skeptics have to read into them first like I have. Therefore the naturalistic skeptic viewpoint found on Wikipedia is actually more open-minded because its proponents actually read the literature written by paranormal believers to debunk them.||

LOL. If you are setting out to "debunk" something, then in what way are you "open-minded"?

Michael and others have frequently and accurately commented that Skeptics, in general, are characterized by their *ignorance* of the evidence--ignorance that seems willful. They are operating from the base assumption that paranormal phenomena, all of them, are absolutely impossible. For this reason, and based on the psychology of people who become Skeptics in the first place, they really *really* don't want to see the white crown. Recognizing any one single thing as real or valid instantly destroys their entire worldview.

You clearly have read a lot. That's good! I think your reasoning based on what you have read is absolutely terrible and the conclusions you draw grossly unwarranted, but I will grant that you at least give a dang about the literature. Most Skeptics are not at your level of study and are making due with the blunt weapon of "nya nya nya, it can't be TROOOOoooo!"

Er, they don't want to see the "white crow."

The White Crown is something that Donald Trump is trying to win for himself.

Before I complain, it is important for all of us to note that the new SPR initiative can become a potentially important resource for people seeking at least reasonably balanced information about many things paranormal.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to balance paranormal articles as an editor in Wikipedia, it is clear to me that a successful encyclopedia must be closed to public editing and that all contributors and their qualifications need to be clearly identified.

With that said, my first reaction to the new encyclopedia was a letter to the webmaster as:

"Concernng The FEG article at http://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/felix-experimental-group. The author is using the article to continue his attack on the character of his research subject concerning suspected fraud that supposedly occurred outside of the protocol. This is both unethical and harmful to the research subject and the community.

"There will be a lot more that will be said about this and the SPR should not be seen as supporting the attack. My main concern is for the precedence this sets. None of us, including Braude are in a position to know there was fraud with sufficient certainty to allow such public and continuous attacks.

"I might also mention that the same author was used for the Postmortem Survival article at http://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/postmortem-survival. The EVP/ITC section at the end is only about 15 years out of date and completely uninformed. Allowing such "debunk by innuendo" tactics of its authors can only harm the SPR. Now, not only do we have to deal with the anti-paranormal bias of Wikipedia, it is also necessary to deal with the anti-survival bias of the SPR."

To be clear, a doctorate does not make an expert in everything and it is not okay to express facts undercover of academic authority without there being a means by which the comments can be vetted.

There is a clear super-psi leaning in the SPR literature and unless some form of public vetting is made possible, this new effort is going to end up as just another hindrance to survival studies.

@Robert McLuhan
Congratulations on getting this launched!

Tom Butler:
Well said! - AOD

Robbie et al I accept Wikipedia is biased against the paranormal sorry If I did not make that clear, that is the whole point. It a pro-science Encyclopedia. But I am saying it is more open-minded when it comes to covering the topic because it actually debunks the paranormal literature not ignore it. If you want to read about negative evidence in parapsychology Wikipedia covers it. Paranormal believers on the other hand tend to ignore the negative evidence.

In real life there are no paranormal or magical powers, or God/s. When we are dead we are dead. All of the mediums in the past were caught in fraud, some of them very funnily with rolled up pieces of cheesecloth, gauze, magic props, secret panels, doors, hidden accomplices etc. It is very useful to read about these exposures on Wikipedia.

In response to Michael Prescott I will confess I have edited Wikipedia in the past as a syop but now I mainly contribute behind the scenes. I have no connection to Susan Gerbic or her group. Take care.

AOD, no offense taken, I just wanted you to be aware of Michael Tymn's piece on Patience Worth, which I think you'll find more acceptable. I'm not sure how far I'd agree with Braude's view, in fact reading it inspired me to write a rebuttal, which of course I never got round to! But I thought it was well argued and a useful contribution to the debate.

Tom, I replied to this directly, so won’t go into detail here, except to point out for the benefit of other readers (since you raised it publicly) that the SPR’s first concern is to carry out scientific research, not to promote belief in survival. I think most readers will find Braude’s article on Kai Mügge to be quite balanced – he believes the phenomena he personally witnessed was genuine, but also thinks there’s strong evidence that Mügge sometimes cheats, and as a researcher has an obligation to say so.

http://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/felix-experimental-group

‘Can you please create articles for skeptics of the paranormal, i.e. Harry Houdini, Joseph Rinn, Edward Clodd, Joseph McCabe, Stanley LeFevre Krebs, Charles Arthur Mercier, Joseph Jastrow, Joseph Dunninger, Milbourne Christopher, Rose Mackenberg, C. E. M. Hansel, Martin Gardner etc.
‘I want to know why you consider these skeptics to be unreliable. List any errors you can find in their works and post counter criticisms to their publications.’

Good plan! We might start with Martin Gardner – see
http://dailygrail.com/Essays/2010/11/Skeptical-Skeptic

which lists his errors in glorious detail.

But yes, the Encyclopedia will eventually contain a number of articles about psi scepticism and about individual sceptics.

I just started a new Twitter account @psiencyclopedia, which I’ll use to give info about newly posted articles, reviews, and other developments.

Tom Butler said:

"the anti-survival bias of the SPR"

Tom and others: I haven't yet had a chance to check out the site, though I'm eager to do so. But is this a fact? Is the SPR, in general, reluctant to accept survival? Or are you just reacting to what you see in this article?

Matt said:

"If you are setting out to "debunk" something, then in what way are you "open-minded"?

Thanks, Matt. I was looking for a good way to say this. :)

I wish Bill had told me there was no survival before I started studying the evidence. I could have saved many years of effort and expense.

Bill wrote, "I accept Wikipedia is biased against the paranormal sorry If I did not make that clear, that is the whole point. It a pro-science Encyclopedia. But I am saying it is more open-minded when it comes to covering the topic because it actually debunks the paranormal literature not ignore it."

This useful statement shows us the whole problem with the Skeptical mindset in a nutshell. Wiki is "biased" but also "open-minded." It is "pro-science" because "it actually debunks the paranormal literature."

The assumptions are that parapsychology is a pseudoscience, not a real science, and that science itself is a body of belief rather than a method of investigation. Science, then, consists of an approved set of conclusions about what is and is not possible, and it's the job of scientists and their cheerleaders to debunk anything that falls into the "not-possible" category. Since the subject matter of parapsychology lies almost entirely in that category, the entire field must be vigorously debunked. That's what it means to be "scientific."

The deeper assumption is that we just know how the world works, at least in broad outline, and so all reported anomalies that threaten this world-picture must be the result of fraud, incompetent investigation, or mistaken interpretation. There is no chance that science, in its overall set of conclusions, could be wrong or seriously incomplete. So it's okay to be biased against the paranormal because that just means you're biased in favor of science.

But what if the current scientific world-picture is not, in fact, entirely true and complete? What if parapsychological anomalies point to actual problems with this worldview, just as the anomalies of black box radiation and Brownian movement pointed to problems with Newtonian physics? What if the things Bill and other Skeptics learned in college are not the be-all and end-all of reality? To ask such questions is to be "unscientific," while to dismiss such questions is to be "open-minded."

There's a certain internal logic to this way of thinking, which forms a neatly closed loop. But the structure thus formed is surprisingly fragile; any recognition of an actually unexplainable anomaly will shatter it. Accordingly, such recognition must be prevented at all costs. This is why Skeptics are not telling the truth (perhaps even to themselves) when they say (as some do), "Why, of course, I'd love to believe in life after death. Who wouldn't? But I'm afraid there's just no evidence." The truth is, they would not love to believe it. To believe it would be to shatter the mental structure, carefully built up over years, in which the ego is nested. And the ego will protect itself from that kind of shock by any means necessary.

Incidentally, the claim that parapsychology literature ignores Skeptical objections is simply wrong. If anything, parapsychologists have spent too much time responding to (or anticipating) every imaginable Skeptical argument. I don't know of any other field that devotes so much effort to meticulously parsing the objections of its critics.

Mr. McLuhan,
I have had an opportunity to read some more of the articles on PSI encyclpedia and I sincerely want to say to you that I really really do like the site. I appreciate all of the effort you have put into the site coordinating the articles and writers. I think it could make a big impact on the way that the general public views paranormal or psychic phenomena.

I have to say however that it is difficult for me to tolerate some of the things Stephen Braude writes in his articles. I object to his treatment of Patience Worth not only in his article about her but in other articles where he inserts Patience Worth into the conversation. For example; in one article he says that,

"One famous case, albeit of mediumship, but reinforcing that concern, is that of Helene Smith (see Flournoy, 1900), who ostensibly channeled messages from inhabitants of Mars, and who did so by means of a subconsciously created, elaborately detailed, and thoroughly consistent, written and spoken Martian language. Similarly, the American medium Pearl Curran, ostensibly channeling messages from a seventeenth-century Englishwoman named Patience Worth, wrote many novels, poems, and other works, all of which displayed abilities and knowledge well beyond any training she had received and well beyond any abilities she had displayed beforehand. That case, too, provided nothing even close to verifiable information about a person answering to the few details given about ‘Patience’."

(Braude used this same comparison in his book "Immortal Remains" and he seems to get hung-up on finding verifiable evidence that someone named Patience Worth really lived in England---I have found at least two in England in the 1600s and two in the American Colonies--- and that she left some of her writing lying around in the 1600s just waiting for someone to find it in the 21st century. )

I am just besides myself when I read this comparison between Helene Smith and Patience Worth. There is noting similar between the two cases. It is a laughable comparison to me but maybe that was Braude's intent to associate Patience Worth with something so ludicrous as Smith's Mars language and alphabet that Patience Worth would be tainted by the comparison. This comparison is simply not fair, and in no way accounts for the quality differences between Helene Smith's writing and the writing of Patience Worth ---or Pearl Curran if you please.

This is my last comment about the PSI Encyclopedia site and I know this comment in inappropriate on this blog. I just hope the Stephen Braude is not allowed to dominate the PSI Encyclopedia site but like so many other things I guess it will develop a life of its own and there is little or nothing I can so or say to direct its course. - AOD

Why would your comment be inappropriate AOD? I'm sure Rob wouldn't say that the Enpsiclopaedia (I love that) is the last word on the matter or inerrant.

The SPR itself isn't the sole repository of truth on all aspects of psi, though it's often a good source of information, particularly historically. As far as I know it holds no corporate view of psi so the Enpsiclopaedia is the author's view of what's relevant not the SPR's official view (unless I have misunderstood the SPR's approach to such matters).

"But I am saying it is more open-minded when it comes to covering the topic because it actually debunks the paranormal literature not ignore it. If you want to read about negative evidence in parapsychology Wikipedia covers it. Paranormal believers on the other hand tend to ignore the negative evidence."

Open-minded does not have to do with debunk something. You're closed minded because you do not consider the reasons for accepting psychic phenomena. Worse, you're a troll shit to be certain about that. First, God and the afterlife are two separate things. And second, there is empirical evidence although circumstantial there is a personal afterlife.

"Science, then, consists of an approved set of conclusions about what is and is not possible, and it's the job of scientists and their cheerleaders to debunk anything that falls into the "not-possible" category."

I couldn't agree more with this statement Michael. Science shows us what is possible and what is impossible. Science is not about belief, it shows us through empirical investigation was is likely and what is un-likely to happen.

Anything 'paranormal' or 'psi' is not scientifically possible, there is absolutely no empirical evidence it exists. It contradicts everything we know about the way reality works through years of empirical experiment and investigation. It is actually narrow-minded to say paranormal powers exist because all evidence from science has shown us they possibly cannot do.

Physicist Milton Rothman explains this:

"One of the myths of popular culture is the claim that “Nothing is impossible.”

Nothing can be farther from the truth. Modern physics clearly enables us to know what actions are possible and what are impossible. Particle physics as we know it now is based on the standard model of particle physics, first elaborated in the 1960s and 70s. Although this model is not complete, it has no known discrepancy with any experiment to date."

"Experiments using very high energy accelerators give results that positively tell us there are no more than the three families of particle physics mentioned above. Thus, knowing the properties of these known particles, we can make definite predictions about what is possible and what is impossible.

For example, if you tell the UFO believer that no real UFOs exist on this planet, he will say that you just have not looked in the right place at the right time. The realist, however, has positive proof. The realist says that if the UFO is described as traveling to earth at a speed faster than light and hovers in the air unsupported by mechanical means, then it simply cannot exist. It is not really necessary to look for evidence for or against this UFO, for faster-than-light travel does not exist, and antigravity does not exist. (All particles attract each other by the gravitational force; there is no way to arrange them so that they do anything else.)"

This is why spirits, psychokinesis, anti-gravity claims, ESP and other magical or superstitious claims of phenomena from parapsychology do not exist, they contradict known laws of science. Science shows us what is possible and impossible.

The long history of psi history has shown us the rational explanation that all such experiments can be explained by cognitive biases, deception, fraud or wishful thinking. We do not ignore Occam's razor for miracles if known possible naturalistic explanations are possible.

What these researchers are actually finding in my opinion in the field of parapsychology are naturalistic psychological explanations for phenomena (in recent years Chris French has promoted this as 'anomalistic psychology').

As for the open-mindness. Rothman explains this in one of his books:

"Any scientist who refuses to waste time poring over the blueprints for a proposed perpetual motion machine is accused of having a closed mind. Any scientist who ignores claims for ESP or UFOs or faster-than-light travel is accused of a deficiency of imagination. I suggest that the opposite is true. It takes very little imagination to believe naively that anything is possible. Any ten-year-old child can believe this. It takes a great deal of knowledge to know what things are possible and what things are impossible." (2)

References:

(1) A Physicist Examines the Basis for Belief by Milton Rothman

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/10-11-03/

(2) Milton Rothman. Science Gap: Dispelling The Myths And Understanding The Reality Of Science, 2003.


"Debunking" far too often is a laughable farce that would only be persuasive to someone who already agreed. In reading Skeptical attacks on the paranormal, one will detect very little in the way of proof or counter evidence. The debunking effort mostly consists of merely suggesting alternative hypotheses that are themselves unproven or unprovable. The Leininger case in instructive in this regard. The common Skeptical objections are that James confabulated the entire thing after seeing a Vought Corsair in the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Texas in the year 2000. The unusual gull-winged aircraft triggered an elaborate fantasy. The family, being a bunch of rubes who cling to the idea of an afterlife out of fear, bought into it, encouraged James' wild imaginings and sold the story to make money. They enlisted the aid of the gullible pseudoscientist Jim Tucker (of course he's gullible, he believes this nonsense. And of course he's a pseudoscientist, he researches it) to provide a "scientific" backing to sell the story to legions of backwards, credulous imbeciles.

Notice how precisely none of this is proven. Notice how it all neatly reinforces the Skeptic's self-image and comports with their metaphysical position. It is tiresome to have to remind Skeptics that the mere fact that their arguments align with their metaphysics is not evidence their arguments are true. When pressed further, the Skeptic will shield himself with Occam's Razor, arguing that the simpler explanation is to be preferred. Of course, Occam's Razor is not a logical proof, and to treat it as though it is is to commit to a fallacy that equates an argument's simplicity with its correctness. The larger problem is that "simplicity" here refers again to metaphysics, not evidence. This leaves the Skeptic free to reason as he does, in a circle, and to accept explanations that are ludicrously convoluted and hopelessly profligate in their proliferation of entities so long as those entities fall within that metaphysics. When you've determined in advance that such and such thing is impossible, any evidence for it must result from fraud or delusion, the strength of the evidence merely being indicative of the depth of the delusion or sophistication of the fraud that produced it.

Lastly, Skeptics "read" cases only as far as they need to find anything they can use to indict them, even if what the find is flimsy or simply untrue. Example: Skeptics object to the Leininger case on the grounds that James saw a Corsair in the Cavanaugh Flight Museum when he was about 2, which triggered his elaborate confabulation. Leaving aside that this argument bears nothing in the way of proof and says nothing about the strength of the case's features, the initial statement upon which the entire causal chain is based isn't true. The museum had a Corsair, an F4U-4, registered as N712RD, which was destroyed in a ground collision at the EAA Airventure Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on July 27, 1999. The museum acquired a second Corsair from Britain, an FG1D, registered as N451FG, in 2002. James visited the museum at 22 months, in February 2000. Even a Skeptic should be able to reason that the plane wasn't there when he was, which vitiates the entire argument. Now let them ad-hoc rescue that any old plane will do. This simply shows the paucity of Skeptical thought. They "investigate" only so far as they need, and once they find something that plausibly (to them at least) weakens the case, they say "well there you go" and whatever semblance of investigation and critical thought there was evaporates like a morning mist.

Bill

Having now read the articles on Slade and Home, I'd agree (with some qualifications) that greater detailed emphasis could have been given to the claims of critical writers. I have to say, though, that I am very impressed by the balance shown by the other articles that I have read - e.g. those re Enfield and Borley.

However, you can't have failed to notice that, in the case of Slade, practically at the head of the article Braude writes: -

'However, he [Slade] was controversial, and today he is primarily remembered as a trickster. To some extent, no doubt, that reputation has been deserved, because there is ample evidence that Slade cheated on occasion, perhaps especially in his declining years.'

So, the reader is left in no doubt whatsoever that there is good evidence that Slade cheated, and should therefore place the rest of the article in that context. Others may have been more explicit, but I don't really see that you are really justified in claiming:-

'This is quite dishonest considering his article on Slade attacks skeptics for ignoring strong cases of evidence.'

As far is Home is concerned, you write: -

'The article on Daniel Dunglas Home is also very incomplete. It does not attempt to counter the skeptical objections. It does not even mention the Merrifield controversy, yet that allegation of fraud against Home was published in the SPR journal. This paper is not cited anywhere on the article (not even in the bibliography).'

That could be because, in Home's case, the 'skeptical objections' are so weak. Braude does include (in his bibliography) reference to 'The First Psychic: The Peculiar Mystery of a Notorious Victorian Wizard' by the Skeptic, Peter Lamont. Lamont discusses the merits of these allegations (including that of Merrifield - pp.256-259). Lamont's analysis gives the distinct impression that he doesn't really feel that the allegations carry much weight. So, with the Merrifield example, if Braude had made any reference to it, then he would have been bound to mention (like Lamont), that it was 1) first made anonymously, 34 years after the event 2) Merrifield only identified himself after Podmore (another critic of Home) admitted that the anonymous nature of the accusation weakened it fatally 3) Merrifield knew Robert Browning (perhaps the most famous of Home's critics), so why had Browning himself never mentioned it, especially as Merrifield claimed to have written to Browning about the séance in question?

Lamont concluded, re Merrifield, that 'All these questions made the testimony suspicious, as testimony always is when it conflicts with what one already knows.'

So, again, although others may have spiked the guns of criticism in advance by giving a full account of the strongest evidence against Home (that is what Lamont, a Skeptic, considers the Merrifield allegation to be), that could well evoke the question, in the mind of many readers: "If that's the strongest evidence against Home, then I'd hate to see the weakest".

Indeed, Bill, although your objections are valid, strictly speaking; I'd be tempted to suggest that you be careful what you wish for, in a sense. Overall, as far as I've seen so far, the SPR resource is light years ahead of Wikipedia in terms of academic balance, reliability of sources, accuracy and overall knowledge of the subject matter displayed by the writers. In fact comparing the two, to me, might be analogous to comparing a well serviced SUV to a knackered old bicycle with skewed handlebars, and two flat tyres.

Which brings me to the subject of Rinn, Clodd, Jastrow, Gardner, et al.

You ask: -

' Can you please create articles for [surely, that should be 'about'?] skeptics of the paranormal, i.e. Harry Houdini, Joseph Rinn , Edward Clodd, Joseph McCabe, Stanley LeFevre Krebs, Charles Arthur Mercier, Joseph Jastrow, Joseph Dunninger, Milbourne Christopher, Rose Mackenberg, C. E. M. Hansel, Martin Gardner etc.

I want to know why you consider these skeptics to be unreliable. List any errors you can find in their works and post counter criticisms to their publications.'

I'm sure that wish could be accommodated at some point. And if part of that onerous responsibility should fall on my shoulders, then I promise faithfully that I will do my best although, as Rob knows, I'm not capable of doing that much at the moment, and haven't been for quite a while - although I'm hoping that situation will be remedied soon.

You already know my opinion of Clodd, as you've read my brief account of why 'caution' needs to be adopted with his writings from Paranormalia three years ago; and Melvin Harris (curiously absent from your list) from late last year, here.

But, in the spirit of what you suggest (and, I admit, a bit of fun), let's have the briefest crack at Rinn, shall we?

The only substantial work that Rinn ever produced is, of course, his 1950 book 'Sixty Years of Psychical Research…'

Therein, Rinn claims to have been a member of both the UK and American SPR (joining the latter in 1885). He also claims, throughout, to have had dealings with leading figures from both organisations (e.g. Hyslop, Barrett, Hodgson), and indeed to have been '…one of the oldest members of the Society for Psychical Research' (p.470). Yet, as mentioned by L.A. Dale in his review of the book in the 'Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research' (April 1951)…

'Throughout the book Mr. Rinn repeatedly states that he was a member of both the British and American Societies for Psychical Research. On p.15 he says he joined the American Society in 1885, after having heard a lecture given by Sir William Barrett; a search of the membership lists of both societies discloses, however, that Mr. Rinn first joined the (then) American branch of the S.P.R. in 1897 - a discrepancy of only 12 years! He was never at any time a member of the English Society, and remained a member of the American Branch for only four years, that is, until 1901, at which time his name ceased to appear in the membership list.'

I do not have a copy of Rinn's book to hand (I'm sure I still have one somewhere), but I do not anticipate that anything will ever replace it in my memory as being the worst book (written for adults), on any subject, that I have ever read.

That, on it's own would be enough reason, for most people, I'm sure, to avoid citing Rinn as a 'reliable source'.

But, if you want a more extensive (though hardly exhaustive) list of the inaccuracies, demonstrable falsehoods, misspellings, idiotic statements, and examples of mind-boggling (and spectacularly unjustified) hubris in Rinn's book, then consult either Dale's review (see above), or that by W.H. Salter in the 'Journal for the Society of Psychical Research' (May 1951).

BTW - in case you're wondering, I did check the accuracy of many of the claims against Rinn made in these reviews myself many years ago. I don't remember any examples of Dale or Salter being wrong. Another curious point, mentioned by Dale, is that many of the misspellings of Clodd, whom Rinn appears to have held in high regard, 'are faithfully reproduced' (cough).

Bill, you have just identified the major problem that ‘believers’ are trying to get across to you. Once materialists establish a category of “not possible” they have declared that they have biases and are so omniscient that they know and have determined how and why the world---physical reality, in all of its minutia, works as it does.

It may be true, that a “possible” category is reasonable because as science advances what is possible is discovered but there is no way for current scientists to declare what is impossible because that remains to be determined at some future time, if ever, as additional knowledge is gained. Scientists cannot show us what is impossible because they do not know enough to declare with certainty what is impossible.

And yes I do think that science to a certain extent is about ‘belief’; belief that science has all of the facts and the facts are valid, that experiments and observations were reliable and that reporting bias was excluded. Examples of scientific beliefs might include beliefs about ‘black holes and dark matter’, ‘antimatter’, “the big bang theory and origins of the universe”, cold fusion, age of the universe, origin and descent of humans, creation of species by evolution and survival of the fittest, brain as origin of consciousness, beliefs about how the body works, and many many other ‘scientific’ beliefs about reality.

You say that anything that is ‘paranormal’ is not scientifically possible. That’s a very all-encompassing biased statement the meaning of which is not clear. This general statement is difficult to discuss without specific examples. You say that, “It is actually narrow-minded to say paranormal powers exist because all evidence from science has shown us they possibly cannot do.” To the contrary I think that it requires an expanded broad intellect to be able to consider what you call “paranormal powers’. It is the narrow minded people who cannot move beyond physicalism to see possibilities of other realities. It was those narrow-minded flat-earth people, scientists included, who could not see that the earth was a sphere and not the center of the solar system or universe.

You say that, “This is why spirits, psychokinesis, anti-gravity claims, ESP and other magical or superstitious claims of phenomena from parapsychology do not exist, they contradict known laws of science. Science shows us what is possible and impossible.” Well, yes, they do seem to contradict the known laws of science but it is presumptuous for anyone to assume that at the current stage of scientific knowledge all laws of science are known.

And again you say, "The long history of psi history has shown us the rational explanation that all such experiments can be explained by cognitive biases, deception, fraud or wishful thinking." Who is the “us” you keep referring to? It certainly does not include me. It’s you and who else? What “such experiments”? And all of them? How can anyone respond to this incomprehensible statement. Many many examples of psi functioning cannot be explained by cognitive biases, deception, fraud or wishful thinking as you claim. How about giving some examples so that I and others can respond intellilgently to you.

And yes I agree with Rothman that it takes a great deal of knowledge to know what things are impossible. Until someone has all of that knowledge I would say that 'anything is possible'. - AOD

Bill said:

"Anything 'paranormal' or 'psi' is not scientifically possible, there is absolutely no empirical evidence it exists."

And how can we know for certain that none of the claimed evidence is valid? Because psi is not possible.

There you have it, folks. The pseudo-skeptical approach in a nutshell.

"Science is not about belief, it shows us through empirical investigation was is likely and what is un-likely to happen."

Then you'll have to recognize that they may fail to consider something possible as impossible.

"Anything 'paranormal' or 'psi' is not scientifically possible, there is absolutely no empirical evidence it exists. It contradicts everything we know about the way reality works through years of empirical experiment and investigation."

There is evidence that psi exists and there is no scientific knownledge that in contradiction with psi. What is in contradiction with psi are certain metaphysical conceptions of the reality.

"This is why spirits, psychokinesis, anti-gravity claims, ESP and other magical or superstitious claims of phenomena from parapsychology do not exist, they contradict known laws of science."

Say one natural law that conflicts with the claim that individual consciousness survives after biological death at the fabric itself of reality, as proposed Hameroff:

http://www.newdualism.org/papers/S.Hameroff/QSoulchap.pdf

Michael said:

"I don't know of any other field [besides parapsychology] that devotes so much effort to meticulously parsing the objections of its critics."

Good point! But really, that's what parapsychology is all about: wrestling with the illusions that make physical reality seem like the only game in town.

Paul said:

"I wish Bill had told me there was no survival before I started studying the evidence. I could have saved many years of effort and expense."

I agree! If only we had known all along that survival was impossible, we could have devoted this forum to some truly worthwhile endeavor, like pseudo-skepticism.

Great comments, Michael Prescott and Michael Vann!

Bill,

You sound like a parody of a Skeptic. Smh. With all due respect to people who have Asperger's Syndrome, but when I say that many Skeptics seem to have this condition, you are a prime example. You show no ability to discern how your audience will react to your statements and shape them in advance so as to be more convincing. In fact, you don't even seem to recognize doing so as a possibility. I have known people who self-identified as having Asperger's, and they would simply harangue one with their favorite topic, completely oblivious to the social situation they were in.

Now if you do have Asperger's, I have compassion and do not wish to beat you up about it. But regardless of the cause, I would have you know that you come across in a very negative way in the comments here. IMHO.

With respect to your actual assertions, here's the big problem: Skeptics deny phenomena that others believe exist based on many solid observations, including those made under laboratory conditions.

There is a joke in the movie, "A Guide for the Married Man," in which Robert Morse counsels Walter Matthau that, no matter to what degree is caught in an affair, even if it is flagrante delicto, he should, "Deny. Deny. Deny." Matthau starts to suggest exceptions, but Morse cuts him off, saying, "DENY!"

That is our perception of Skeptics. Deny. Deny. Deny. Observation by a credible witness? Deny! Multiple witnesses? Deny! Laboratory experiment with a positive result? Deny! Photographic or video evidence? Deny! People having similar unexplained experiences across the decades, centuries, or millennia? DENY!

Science is ultimately based on the observation of phenomena. If you deny a phenomenon that doesn't fit your worldview, then you are practicing a type of dogmatic religion and not science at all. We see you as playing whack-a-mole with the phenomena, constantly whacking and whacking at each critter that pops up its rude noggin. And you think you've won, but to us, you seem absolutely ridiculous and pathetic in your unwavering belief.

That's all bad and leads to conflict and so on. But the layer on top of that is that Skeptics seem constitutionally unable to even understand how we perceive the the world and perceive you Skeptics; whereas, on the other hand, we really do make an effort to understand you and where you are coming from.

And I think that there are three main reasons that most Skeptics are unable to perceive our side of things and address our objections accordingly. The first is that, you have developed a very rigid culture that refuses to accept or include anyone who recognizes the legitimacy of a paranormal belief. Thus, anyone who *can* see our side of things gets kicked out of the community.

The second reason, related to the first, is that your community enjoys making fun of others and feeling superior to others. This precludes taking an empathetic stance toward the beliefs of others. Thus, people who are able to be empathetic are likely to sniffed out and kicked out.

Hence, the third reason: people with Asperger's Syndrome tend to be rigid thinkers who have a very difficult time understanding the emotional states of others and thus empathizing with others. And the nature of your community's belief system and its negativity toward others will tend to attract people who can fit into that without too much cognitive dissonance. Add in the fact that many people with Asperger's have a high IQ and can appreciate science at a high level, and you are going to attract many people with Asperger's. Doing so will further reinforce the nature of the community.

By the way, I am certainly not saying that people with Asperger's are negative and self-righteous at a level higher than others, or even that they are less psychic or less believing in psi. I am stating, however, that those who *are* negative and self-righteous and who do not experience psi will have a very hard time understanding how anyone else could have a different experience or thinking differently than they. Such people will then be perfect members of Skeptic community and will tend to gravitate toward it.

I think it's instructive to read Bill's comments, because he makes no bones about his absolute certainty as to the impossibility of psi, as well as his steadfast conviction that mainstream science must be essentially right in all its conclusions. (That is, there may be room for fiddling at the margins, but there is no chance that anything needs to be fundamentally reexamined.)

I doubt most scientists would agree with such all-encompassing dogmatism. Many of them recognize the limitations of their fields. As a general rule, the more deeply someone delves into any scientific topic, the more questions and doubts arise, a fact that tends to foster humility, not hubris, in those who are truly expert. This is why most Skeptics are not working scientists at all, but more like science fans or science groupies.

As for what Bill means by "debunking," I'm pretty sure I know. A few years ago I was pestered by a guerrilla Skeptic who was intent on debunking every medium and psychic in history. Every few days he would email me with another list of famous names he'd debunked. How could he do it so quickly? Well, all he had to do was find an article or web post somewhere that expressed doubts about the individual in question. Voila - debunked! It never occurred to him that some of these opinions might be wrong. As far as he was concerned, if anybody anywhere at any time had cast doubt on a given psychic or medium, then that psychic or medium had been debunked, end of story. He was very proud of his track record and did not understand how anyone could question his results.

Now, I'm not saying Bill is as unsophisticated as that person. He's not. But I do think Bill's default position is that a Skeptical takedown of any paranormal claim should be granted a great deal of credence right off the bat. After all, Bill already "knows" that all paranormal phenomena can be explained away, so *some* version of the Skeptical argument must be right. If one form of the argument is shown to be flawed, then he'll just hunt around for another.

The trouble is that so many Skeptical arguments are of poor quality, even though they may be taken as authoritative by the faithful. Martin Gardner, for instance, wrote an opinion piece claiming that Leonora Piper had "bamboozled" (Gardner's term) William James and others. The essay continues to be cited by Skeptics, even though Gardner seems only superficially familiar with Piper's career, cites no primary sources, omits many salient facts, and gets important details wrong.

Greg Taylor wrote a long and well-researched rebuttal, available here:

http://www.dailygrail.com/Essays/2010/11/Skeptical-Skeptic

I wrote my own post on Gardner's essay:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2007/08/how-martin-gard.html

Nevertheless, these and other objections are mostly ignored by Skeptics, who are content to let Gardner have the last word. As far as they're concerned, Piper has been "debunked." They're convinced of it, in very much the same way that my tenacious email correspondent was convinced he had debunked every medium and psychic in history.

Weird. Taken with the one directly above it, my comment reads like a reaction to one I had yet to see. Woooooooo.

"Science shows us what is possible and what is impossible. Science is not about belief, it shows us through empirical investigation was is likely and what is un-likely to happen."

A stealthy transition has been made here from unlikely to impossible. An event happening once is sufficient to establish said event is possible, even if it is exceedingly unlikely.

Rothman's article is standard Skeptical fare, well written but containing several problems apparent to a critical read. Most notably, he tells us:

"Particle physics as we know it now is based on the standard model of particle physics, first elaborated in the 1960s and 70s. Although this model is not complete, it has no known discrepancy with any experiment to date. "

Except all the parapsychological ones that are dismissed irrespective of the strength of their evidence because they are presumed to be impossible. But the point is, he tells us the Standard Model is incomplete but then proceeds to reason as though it were:

"The part of physics that underlies all other knowledge is particle physics: the study of elementary particles and how they interact. If we know all the types of particles that exist, and if we know all the ways in which they interact,"

Which you just admitted we don't...

" then we can predict what activities are possible and what are not possible. Particle physics does not allow us to predict all the complexities of life in the biological sphere,"

So, does particle physics underlie all other knowledge or does it not. Because if the complexities of life cannot be accounted for in terms of particle physics, then it doesn't underlie all knowledge. The same thing would hold true of consciousness even if you accepted it as a mere epiphenomenon. If analyzing patterns of electrochemical synaptic exchange is not sufficient to account for all conscious actions, then electrochemical synaptic exchange does not underlie all consciousness.

"but it does allow us to stipulate what actions cannot possibly take place, and so it gives us a simple tool for identifying claims of the paranormal."

"Idealists, on the other hand, believe in the primacy of their own ideas. When told that the laws of physics forbid ESP and faster-than-light travel, the invariable answer is: you do not know what advanced civilizations will discover a thousand years from now, as though the nature of the universe is going to change in that time. The idea — the wish — is stronger than the facts."

It's the invariable answer because it's unanswerable by Skeptics. The question at issue is whether your understanding of the nature of the universe is complete. You admit it is not. And the further question is whether the laws of physics actually forbid such things. It is not a wish, it is an admission that what we know is subject to change as technology improves our ability to examine the universe and reexamine our theories, which is about as uncontroversial an idea as I can think of. To disagree, you would have to embrace the notion that we here in the year 2016 (or 1993 when he wrote it) have already penetrated into the very womb of impervious nature herself (RIP Gene) and seen all there is to see. I don't think it at all beyond my station to dismiss that notion as absurd.

"The realist says that if the UFO is described as traveling to earth at a speed faster than light and hovers in the air unsupported by mechanical means, then it simply cannot exist. It is not really necessary to look for evidence for or against this UFO, for faster-than-light travel does not exist, and antigravity does not exist. (All particles attract each other by the gravitational force; there is no way to arrange them so that they do anything else.)

We are allowed to make statements like this because it has been established that all normal matter is made of quarks, electrons, and electron-neutrinos. Therefore anything that happens in the world must be allowed by the standard model of particle physics and by the properties of the four forces that control all the things that take place in the world. Conversely, anything not allowed by the standard model cannot happen."

"It is not really necessary to look for evidence for or against."

This all rests upon the assumption, common to generations of Skeptics since there have been Skeptics: that Science has provided irrefutable answers to questions on the deepest operation of the Universe that cannot be challenged by succeeding generations no matter how sophisticated their theories, technologies or philosophies become. This is notably the same delusion shared by members of every generation of great scientists, all of whom felt confident in declaring such and such a thing impossible based on the laws of physics as they understood them. That phrase appears in some form several times in Rothman's article and the assumption that what we know or understand now can never be challenged or expanded is the central tenet of Skeptical thinking.

Michael Prescott wrote,

||As a general rule, the more deeply someone delves into any scientific topic, the more questions and doubts arise, a fact that tends to foster humility, not hubris, in those who are truly expert. This is why most Skeptics are not working scientists at all, but more like science fans or science groupies.||

Exactly. It is another example of how Skeptics are oblivious to how others perceive them. They have arbitrarily assumed the status of the Teutonic Knights of Science, battling all who threaten the Citadel of Truth! Sadly, the media seems content to accept their self-knighthood at face value a lot of the time.

It is also a pseudo-skeptic mistake put in the same bag all the phenomena that seem weird "spirits, psychokinesis, anti-gravity claims, ESP". Each statement should be examined by itself; some of these will not exist, others exist. I focus on the psi phenomena and the afterlife, and yet I have not seen a natural law that conflicts with any of these. Particle physics does not prohibit one afterlife, but says nothing about that, but are metaphysical assumptions, ie, not scientifically provable, which are in conflict with the existence of the afterlife, plus there is evidence at the level of the social sciences that there is an afterlife.

Congratulations to all for using the concise, non-inflammatory, capitalized form of "skeptic" to refer to the capital-S (card-carrying, so to speak) version thereof. Let's hope this form is adopted more generally.

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