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Michael, have you tried to contact Michael Thalbourne? This should be interesting.

On Alpha Project, Marcello Truzzi wrote: "In no way will his project teach psychic researchers a lesson and make them more likely to trust to magicians' advice. Quite the contrary. This outside policeman thing sets up magicians as the enemy"

Truzzi's complete criticism of Alpha Project was published in Zetetic Scholar in 1987, under the title "Reflections on "Project Alpha": Scientific Experiment or Conjuror's Illusion". But there is not a free online version of it.

The stunt was an attempt to embarrass parapsychologists by exposing them as insufficiently rigorous and gullible. Does it? Consider this line in the email Michael shared:

“The testing became tighter after the convention due to the feedback they [the parapsychological community] received. They were surprised that others did not accept their findings and wanted to produce the phenomena in such a way to convince others of what they believed.”

Whatever the flaws of the scientists doing this particular experiment, that sounds like evidence that the community is rigorous in reviewing the work of its members.

It seems pretty clear - despite attempts to trick the parapsychological community, and despite incredibly strict protocols (especially on the Ganzfeld!) - the findings of parapsychological research aren't going away.

I find it interesting how Banachek, a professional magician, finds your blog to be "good stuff." Perhaps he was just being nice, but I think the whole magician taboo of psi is not as strong as the Randi crew would make it seem.

Also, I find it probably misguided that parapsychologists test "mentalists" or self-proclaimed "psychics" at all. The best evidence in parapsychology comes from getting the average Joe to do the tests, no matter how convincing the professionals appear.

"I find it interesting how Banachek, a professional magician, finds your blog to be "good stuff." Perhaps he was just being nice, but I think the whole magician taboo of psi is not as strong as the Randi crew would make it seem."

It's true John. Randi, Martin Gardner and other magician-skeptics were the most active promotors of the idea that magicians are more competent to test psi phenomena than parapsychologists, or the false idea that "psychics" don't use their powers in front of magicians, or that all magicians are skeptics. All that is false:

Psi researchers have been dealing with the topic of deception since many years, and it have been discussed many times in parapsychological journals:

It's true that, in many cases, the help of a professional magicians is neccesary. For example, I think that in case of materialization mediums, a professional magician should be present at the seance.

This research may have a flaw. What if the people pretending to be psychics actually have some psychic abilities that would show up on a test?

When Swartz used a group to test to check against his mediums of exceptional ability the group I think had a 35% hit rate. That was an average some could have been much higher.

When doing research it is very difficult to control all the variables. We all I suspect have some psychic ability and some people seem to have more than others.

I have not researched this case but if Randi had anything to do with it I doubt if he factored in the idea of these fake psychics have some level of psi abilities.

After seeing the research done with the Russian girl and former research where a skeptical organization actually lied to protect their cherished paradigm my trust level is near zero with these folks.

"Perhaps he was just being nice, but I think the whole magician taboo of psi is not as strong as the Randi crew would make it seem."

There is an interesting sociological phenomenon here.

If you survey magicians -- or even more so, psychic entertainers -- a high percentage indicate some or even a strong belief in psi phenomena. However, a relatively few high profile individuals, who present their negative beliefs as not only their personal stand but a natural or even almost necessary one for any magician/psychic entertainer leads those magicians/psychic entertainers to believe (along with just about everyone else) that they are a tiny minority, who do not speak publicly about their beliefs for fear of ridicule or seeming to be unprofessional.

You'll find almost the identical pattern among scientists.

I'm not sure it will directly relate to this thread, but for those who wish to be set straight about things in general I just noticed that Michael Shermer is scheduled on Tavis Smiley's PBS show tonight.

Check your local listings.

I wonder if James Randi ever reads your blog? I guess one must be careful what one says......

I wish professional skepticism was not a faith but just protocols

Well, I for one think Banachek is fantastic!

Did any of you read the PDF article on his journey from young punk in South Africa to becoming Magic Producer on the Criss Angel's MINDFREAK? What an amazing story. I hope it does become a movie.

Banachek, in case you read these comments, I want you to know that I am a professional medium who loves mentalism and isn't offended by the tricks you do.

In fact, last year I kind of half concocted a hair brained idea called the Cairo i2i challenge that would put me up against a mentaslist like you to see who could do a better job at reading Polaroid's of people's shoes.

The original post for Cairo's i2i challenge.

In case you are interested in attempting my i2i challenge, or have any other "fair" challenges up your sleeve, drop me a line.

Just curious what you guys think of this exchange between Keith Augustine and "Hrvoje Butkovic"?

I just can't see where Keith is coming from. It honestly sounds like he's just plugging his ears and going "la-la-la" about some of the strongest evidence, whereas his arguments are kind of all air. As the neurobiologist David Presti said, we know about 2-10% of the brain, and NOTHING about how it creates/transmits consciousness. Keith Augustine is not a scientist. I don't know why he thinks he's better off than the scientists in talking about this. The fact that Augustine invokes super-esp or morphic resonance is just plain ridiculous. If I would say so myself, it almost seems like Augustine is SCARED of survival.

Oh no John, I disagree. This guy has a large internet platform, where he claims that naturalism means the same as a proof against an afterlife. The last two journal issues of the IANDS are regarded to him and his conversations with leading NDE researchers like Jan Holden, Charles Tart,.., where he critisizes from point to point the NDE research and their conclusions. For everyone, who is interested in NDE research and the question about dualism, should study these journal issues. Very important. I recommend to read KA s website. He is a young guy. Although I think that his conclusions are partly bull-shit, it is interesting to read. I have learned that there remain more open questions in NDE conclusion then we think.

I'm not sure I agree with Augustine in general though. I simply don't feel like his arguments can properly combat the findings of survival.

I like Chris Carter's article here:

"And no rational person maintains that the parapsychological evidence has shown survival to be true by scientific standards."

John: this is the most common statement made by a skeptic. One if you believe in survival you are not a rational person and two an attempt to hide behind science. Scientism.

The skeptic will almost always resort to these two conclusions when all other arguments fail.

Anyone see this near death account an atheist experiencer has a nde but still believes that nde are a product of our brains

He probably only doesn't believe because he ties survival to religion. If he realized that it's likely a natural phenomena, he'd probably be more open to it.

Leo, did you notice that he repeatedly states that the, “experience was definitely real. I judge my experience as something fantastical without equal.”

Yet he attributes it to his subconscious.

I’d suggest he’s right, though I don’t think he understands what his ‘subconscious’ really is.

“Have you shared this experience with others? Uncertain /////////////////////////////”

His story sounds like a very mild NDE but this above statement is confusing to me. His NDE has most of the qualities of a valid NDE. This may have not been a profound enough experience to change his system of beliefs.

If I had to rely on NDE’s to prove life after death I would be hard pressed to say that there is a high probability of life after death.

This may be a case of beliefs that can overwhelm even experiences. My first questions would be is he a member of a skeptical organization and what is his religious background.

“I’d suggest he’s right, though I don’t think he understands what his ‘subconscious’ really is.”

Good point Michael H.

We can probably argue with conviction that the fear of "dualism" is due to misconstruing it with religious belief. Those afflicted with scientism seem to continually make this false assumption. Reported NDEs cut across the spectrum of religious convictions, and the numerous (and reluctant) recountings by atheists reinforce the notion that post mortem survival of consciousness is NOT a proof or endorsement of any particular set of religious beliefs. People like Augustine flatter themselves by their own "beliefs", in this case that they are standing like bulwarks against an "irrational" horde of berserking "believers", unable to see their own irrationalities. The ego defends itself. A quick story to illustrate: a reknowned scientist is working with a horribly disfiguring disease in hopes of finding a treatment/cure which will secure his place in the history of medical science. In his haste and hubris, he accidentally infects himself. Upon viewing his resulting disfigurement in a mirror, he says:"Ah, but on ME it looks GOOD!"

Banachek's book "Psychophysiological Thought Reading" should be required reading for any investigator/researcher of paranormal claims. Shows how some quite amazing things can be done via the ideomotor reflex.

While Banachek is probably not a household name, it would not be overstatement to say he is a legend in magical circles. Kind of the 'genius in the shadows', designing new tricks, or reinventing old ones. Penn and Teller's famous 'magic bullet' catch originated with Banachek.

Kind regards,


Nice to see you actually talk about the subject at hand. Most people on here have been having the same debate for eons.

It doesn't really matter what Michael posts, the usual suspects will continue their conversation from months back. I think it's rather amusing.

I sometimes think it would be funny for Michael to post a pie recipe and see how the conversation is weaved back to dualism, a holographic universe, skeptics or what have you. :-)

Anyway, thanks for the reference to Banacheck's book.

I have already contacted Michael Prescott and pointed out that contrary to Michaels description in the first post Thalbourne himself (in the pdf file above given) did not suspect fraud.
The reason both subjects were dismissed lies in the fact that after the PA convention Philipps were expected to implement much stricter controls which both magicians were then not able to penetrate.
So Thalbourne and Philipps were disappointed that they were not able to replicate their results and this failure no more excused the expensive invitations of both subjects (Even small sums add up in the long run).
The people who really did dig themselves into the trap were the outsiders Schwartz and Upphoff.

As Banachek said that there were mistakes and accusations I would be glad if he could be more precise. General accusations are always easy to state and hard to disprove, therefore unfair to state at all. I don't want a list of all inconsistencies, but some examples to see that the accusation is justified.

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