Archive for the ‘Paranormal’ Category

Logic

It all started with ghosts.

Actually it started with 9/11 conspiracy theorists, but then it moved on to ghosts. A friend of mine from Atheist Nexus, Edwin, said that he believe in ghosts. When asked why he basically cited anecdotal evidence. When it was explained to him why it was not the case that anecdotal evidence is good evidence he simply said “I’m just not as nihilistic as you guys”.

My friend Chris continued the conversation with him…

Edwin (Lahash) says:
you don’t know my logic
Nerdfighters [rawr] says:
that doesn’t mean anything, you’re just firing back comebacks so you won’t have to deal with me telling you the truth
Edwin (Lahash) says:
what truth?
Nerdfighters [rawr] says:
that your critical thinking skills are astronomically nonexistant and your logic is honestly severely flawed
and that sometimes, like now, you’re a moron
Edwin (Lahash) says:
no, they’re there
if you haven’t realized by now, I’m highly misanthropic
I try not to be though
but it usually doesn’t work
Nerdfighters [rawr] says:
what does hating the human race have to do with logic
what the fuck

I took over from there.

[23:10] Elles: K. Well if the Bible’s the word of God it’s true, and the Bible says that it’s the word of God so we know that it’s true.
[23:10] Edwin (Lahash): no its not
[23:10] Elles: Why not?
[23:11] Edwin (Lahash): something cannot prove its credibility by referencing itslf
[23:11] Elles: In my logic it can.
[23:11] Edwin (Lahash): well you’re logic is flawed then
[23:12] Elles: How do you know? It’s logical to me. What’s logical to me may not be logical to you but it’s logical to me.
[23:12] Edwin (Lahash): but it’s illogical in general
[23:13] Elles: What do you mean, “in general”? Do you mean to suggest that the same rules of logic applies to all people in all places?
[23:13] Edwin (Lahash): I don’t know
[23:13] Edwin (Lahash): well, I do, I just don’t know how to explain it
[23:13] Elles: Now you know how Chris and I feel.

So ends lesson one in critical thinking.

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In Which I Over-Analyze a Potential Poe

This morning I was having lunch in my school cafeteria. I took a seat at a sunny table by two students, a boy and a girl, who I didn’t know.

I started up a conversation which somehow involved talking about Wicca. Some playful things were said about “Wiccan curses” when the girl mentioned that her mother was a Wiccan, although she only worshipped “The Elements”.

“You mean like the Periodic Table?” (of SCIENCE!) I inquired in the manner which you use when you want to sound stupid because you have just realised that the person you’re talking to is probably not-all-there and you don’t want to be a jerk and just say that you don’t think they’re all there.

“No,” the girl responded, looking at me as if I were quite silly (I was being quite silly), “I mean the true elements which make up the universe.”

“Oh? And what would those elements be?” knowing full well that the answer would involve concepts I had learned in philosophy, not chemistry.

“Oh, like… water, fire, earth, spirit which makes up living things…”

“Carbon?”

“No, spirit. But an amoeba doesn’t have spirit because they’re not intelligent. Spirit is only in intelligent things,” she started saying.

“Oh. And how do you know this?” I interjected.

“Because we sense it.”

I found that the rate at which I was sticking french fries in my mouth was beginning to quicken. This act was interrupted, three fries short of a completed meal, by the boy speaking up.

“I just threw an energy ball at your face. You twitched but you didn’t notice it.”

This made me stop and think for a moment while I chewed the fried potato-bits. My first instinct was to think that the boy didn’t know what he was talking about as if I were to ask him what energy meant he probably wouldn’t have said “the potential to do work” but if you replace what he said with “I just threw a ‘potential to do work’ ball at your face and you twitched” it wouldn’t have been entirely nonsensical. Causing my face to twitch would involve doing work and would therefore require energy…

But when you think about it some more it’s still complete rubbish. What sort of energy would it take and how would it have been transferred? The only medium between me and him was the air which can transfer kinetic energy in the form of wind, heat energy, or sound energy. Sound energy probably can’t make my face twitch unless the sound was particularly offensive, however no such sound was uttered from him. The stimulus of heat or wind could have potential triggered a reflexive twitch-like response in my face, and although I should think I would have noticed feeling it it’s entirely possible that I didn’t feel it.

But that would still make this whole thing complete rubbish anyway as kinetic or heat energy could have been sent through the air any number of ways that do not contradict our current understanding of physical reality and is therefore entirely unimpressive.

But there isn’t any verification that my face did indeed twitch. There were at least four other students at the table and none of them reported noticing the event occuring. Not that it would have done any good as only the boy would have known the time at which he cast the alleged energy ball so there would be no way of telling if the event really was a direct result of an energy ball or if the boy was just saying that he had caused it after the fact.

Given the fact that these were high-school aged students it’s also more than entirely possible that they simply weren’t being serious, thus rendering this blog post entirely pointless as well as over-analyzed.

Well, hey, it’s my blog.

Materialism: Dropping Watermelons from Great Heights

Please give me instances which prove materialism?

-Dawkinswatch

You went to Dawkinswatch’s blog, you commented, he decided that the main reason we were all Atheists was because we were materialists, he wrote a new post.

Well… I think I should first make two things quite clear:

Materialism here does not mean the same thing as consumerism (just to make sure we’re all on the same page).

I’m an Atheist for the same reason why I’m a materialist. There is about as much evidence for a god as there is evidence fo ghosts. Nada.

It’s not that I’m an Atheist because I reject the possibility that there is a spiritual realm out of hand. It’s just as simple as this: If there’s a realm outside of our own, if it can affect our realm it will leave evidence.

Objection to materialism number one:

1) Many People Have Experience The Spirit World

People who have converted to Christianity have gone from believing in the non existence of God, to being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Well It is rather arrogant for those Atheists to dismiss their experiences.

Call me arrogant, but when Joseph Smith claimed to have experienced seeing twelve golden tablets conveniently shoot off into heaven I didn’t believe him, and neither did Dawkinswatch. Call me arrogant but when Travis Walton told me he experienced being abducted by aliens I didn’t believe him. Call me arrogant, but when the man standing on a street corner told me he had a vision of Puff the Magic Dragon coming and loosening destruction upon the Earth in 2012 I didn’t believe him. Call me arrogant, but people “experience” things all the time, not just the Holy Spirit.  Followers of voodoo have experiences similar to pentecoasts in that they try to be posessed by spirits. Muslims feel the spirit of Allah. New Agers feel “strange energy signals” from crystals and rocks. You dismiss all of those experiences, but choose to accept only those whose “experiences” support your beliefs.

Experiences are a part of empiricism and that’s all well and good as long as other people can verify your experiences. I’m perfectly prepared to believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn once you show her on a thermal camera, when you show me her footprints in the sand, and when I have eliminated all other possible causes of those phenomena.

While I’m at it… religious experiences, alien abductions, and ghosts can be induced by things other than gods, extra-terrestrials, and restless spirits. See article in Newsweek about Michael Persinger and his work.

2) Yoga and Eastern Religions are About Yoking with gods (spirits)

I have featured Yoga gurus claiming to have experinced visions of the Spirit world after opening themselves up to  the spirit world. Now to a materialist. this does not make sense, but I have been around when I felt the existence of spirits. Former guru speaksout on Yoga.

See above.

3) Muslims Meeting Jesus

In Fact this how many Muslims are converted they experience Jesus and see him. Muslims Visions of Jesus.

Again Materialists need dismiss everyone out of hand without giving reasons why that should be.

See above.

4) Have You Ever Seen A Hypnotic Show

Anyone who has studied hypnosis knows that it is Mesmer or animal magnetism.  Now mesmer was a magician, in these situations Atheist/Materialists see the physical manifestations and do not perceive what it is.

Er… Magicians don’t use spiritual or other-worldly thingies to make their trick work. They use slight of hand, psychology, etc.

Ever seen Darren Brown? Or for that matter, any magician? The good ones will usually tell you that they don’t use any psychic powers. Look up James Randi on YouTube, or Penn & Teller.

5) Theurgy

I have mentioned the likes of Sir John Dee, the astrologist to Queen Elizabeth I , was into Angel Magic and he once drew a grey alien called Lam who he was communicating with.

Now to make Freemasonry more acceptable his successor as the leader of the Rosicrucian, Sir Francis Bacon withdrew theurgy and cabala from the lower orders and reserved them for higher degrees.  Was Lord Bacon Shakespeare?

I once drew a picture of Harry Potter in my science class. Was I communicating with Harry Potter? I once wrote a horoscope and had a room full of people rate it’s accuracy and I averaged 4.1/5, but I’m not an “astrologist”. I just used a technique called Cold Reading (see this post).

As for the rest…

What the fuck?

6) Intelligence Experiments with Psychics

Well there is not demarcations between the world of intelligence and the occult some of the best spies were conjurers, Alister Crowley was a MI6 agent, Sir John Dee and Sir Francis Bacon were in valuable in the founding of British intelligence.  In “the Cold War”, both the KGB and CIA were heavily involved in psychic experiments.

Again, conjurers use non-supernatural methods.

Look, Bush got the intelligence agencies to say that there were WMDs in Iraq. I’m not all that impressed that the same people did experiments on psychics. Also, see Project Alpha.

Please give me instances which prove materialism?

Sure.

See your hand? What do you think it’s made out of? Phlogiston?

Take a watermelon to the top of a tall building. Make sure that nobody is bellow. Drop the watermelon. Record results.

In the mean-time, I think you’ll have to explain this comment you left on my blog last time…

– I should have really asked are you against the English Grand Lodge and in favour of Grand Orient Fremasons , the originators of Atheism.

The British believe in The Great Architech of the Universe.

Everything I’ve Ever Wanted to Say About Pseudoscience

Except I didn’t say it…

Via Skepchick, which was via Pharyngula

Update: Nevermind. Video got removed for whatever reason. I’ll try to poke around and see if I can find another video.

Update: I’ve replaced it with something that works!

Update: Apparently that has been removed as well. *sigh*

ZOMG ORBS!

First of all, this is a picture of Richard Dawkins in a trench coat shortly after he got out of the free screening of Expelled which PZ Myers was expelled from. Ignore the epicness of that picture and concentrate on the little things which I have circled.

What do those look like?

SPIRIT ORBS!

ZOMG, there are spirits around Richard Dawkins. The one on his shoulder must be whispering words into his ear which he then writes in his militant Atheist literature, the one at the top must be watching him and making sure that he doesn’t do anythign that Satan doesn’t like, and the one by his pocket must be controlling his hand gestures!

Or… they could just be the camera flash reflecting off of dust or water particles in the air.

Seriously, if you want a picture of a ghostly orb, go outside with a digital camera while it’s raining lightly and snap random pictures. I can virtually guarantee you’ll see some ghostly orbs.

And that’s my try-it-yourself recommendation for the day.

Carry on.

RAmen.

There Isn’t Hope for the World

A while back, I did a post titled There is Hope for the World” talking about how I’d seen a show which, for once, instead of presenting a bunch of pseudoscientific bull was actually debunking the tricks psychics had used to fool people. I had begun that post talking about how I was annoyed with the pseudoscience shows on the Sci-Fi channel which had ruined my enjoyment of Doctor Who every time they advertised that they were searching for the Yeti or something during the commercial breaks because I would have to cover my eyes and say “teh stoopid! it hurts!”

At least this wasn’t during Doctor Who.

Skeptics argue that ghosts do not exist and that all paranormal activity can be explained scientifically. However, TAPS has proven otherwise. TAPS has gathered scientific evidence of the paranormal, and the TV show has helped bring ghost hunting into the mainstream.

Er… wrong. Skepticism is not presuppositionalist like that. I don’t know, maybe there are ghosts. The possibility is very slim, though, and random static which sounds like people talking (an inconvenient effect of our brains being programmed for language) and lens flares and electro-magnetic fields (which can be generated by light bulbs) and whatever else they present on that show certainly isn’t evidence for the existence of ghosts.

Who decided that ghosts generate electro-magnetic fields anyway?

As for “helping” to bring ghost hunting into the mainstream, I point to one of the comments left on the blog.

Hello,

My daughter who will be 21 and lives in Salida Colorado has recently moved into a rental house. The house was built in 1904. Every since she has been there she wakes up in the night ( her eyes are open yet she remembers none of this) wakes up her significant other and tells him that there are two men in the room and to turn on the light. He in turn turnes on the light and she lays down, this happens on a nightly basis yet she remembers none of it. One of these nights she was crying during this not really awake state. She remembers nothing of this yet it is affecting her health where as she is not getting good sleep. I have been trying to research the town to see if I can find any documentation of strange deaths, etc. and am having a difficult time. I have found that Chaffe County Colorado and particularly Salida have very many hauntings yet very little information on the specifics. Can you lead me in any particular direction so that I may begin to feel at peace. I have asked her many many questions IE: is she waking up with scratches or bruises ever, does her dog or cats act strange, lots of things like that. She has indicated lights turning the color of flourescent bulbs and doors opening on their own. She has not experienced anything physically threatening. Please give me any advice that you can.

Thank you,
a very nervous believer mother
Robin Morrill

I feel the mother’s concern for her daughter, but seriously… Problems sleeping therefore ghosts? My mum tells me all the time that when she passes by my room at night she hears me talking in my sleep, and I, of course, don’t remember any of it. Sleepwalking isn’t unheard of. 18% of people in the world are prone to it.

No, I most certainly don’t think that the Ghost Hunters are “helping” us with their crummy evidence. The only thing that it’s “helping” with is to get people to make huge leaps of logic and see ghosts everywhere before fully investigating all possibilities with healthy skepticism.

There isn’t hope for the world.

But, wait. I just got back from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We were watching live video from NASA as we waited for Phoenix to land.

I was hanging around in Space Odyssey when I saw a boy looking bored. I asked him if he was having fun and he said that he was upset that he was stuck there. So, I started teaching him about the sun spots and he learned some real science about magnetic fields. Then I showed him a picture of the sun in infrared and I decided to take him over to the infrared camera to teach him some more about that. He learned some real science about infrared cameras. The boy thanked me about three times before he left. I think I turned his evening around.

It’s miraculous that we even do science at all and I just got back from a place that was built as a celebration of nature and science!

There is hope for the world.

Sorry to those of you who will read this by title only.

There is Hope for the World

Last night, the Sci-Fi channel TV shows Ghost Hunters (a ‘reality’ TV show about a team of ghost hunters who go ’round the United States hunting for ghosts) and “Destination Truth” (a show of the same nature except they go ’round the world looking for mythical creatures… their first episode was about mermaids) started up again.

I don’t have the Sci-Fi channel, so I didn’t watch, but I’m going to be presumptuous and assume that they didn’t find anything conclusive. I could be wrong, but my guess would be that the Ghost Hunters found something along the lines of video footage of lens flare orbs, or some random static that sounds like a person talking electronic voice phenomena. Likewise, I’ll imagine that on Destination Truth they might’ve gotten some fuzzy picture of something.

Of course, I don’t know, but from my experience with these shows, that’s probably what they found. Crappy, weak evidence leaving the viewer to ‘decide for them self’. And, of course, deciding for oneself, though a virtue of free thought, has no bearing on whether or not the phenomenon is truly a supernatural event. People, no matter how intelligent they are, are easily lead by weak evidence, and not nearly as quick to think about it skeptically.

And how do I know that they didn’t find conclusive evidence that would turn me into a believer in mermaids? If the guy from Destination Truth were really to find conclusive proof of the Yeti, would I be wrong to assume that zoologists and evolutionary biologists would jump on the finding, flock to the Himalayas, and begin studying this exciting, new species? Same goes for the Ghost Hunters. If they found conclusive proof, the scientific community would be buzzing with excitement.

But, humans are naturally gullible (I certainly am prone to gullibility so it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about) though it can be overcome. Maybe that’s one of the reasons it’s so hard for magicians to convince people that they aren’t truly psychic… perhaps there’s reluctance towards admitting gullibility. Or maybe it’s just the simple will to believe… Whatever it is, more often than not people hang on to their flimsy beliefs long after they’ve been demolished. “Oh, I know you did that through trickery, but real psychics can do it through magical powers” and stuff like that.

Last night, however, another TV show aired. This one was called Secrets of the Psychics Exposed. I was only able to tune in halfway through, but I saw a volunteer from the audience holding the psychic’s hand as he gave her uncanny details about her own house. It was later revealed that his assistant had visited her house the day before to collect those details, and he had memorized what she had said.

She admitted that she really believed he had powers at the time, but instead of clinging to the delusion…

“The next time I see those TV psychics, I think that I’ll know some of the tricks that they’re using. It’s a very effective con they’re running.”

Some sleight of hand tricks used in psychic shops were revealed, exposing how the psychics use trickery to hook customers and keep them coming back with more and more money.

At the end, the warm reading technique used by mediums was also exposed, and the volunteer from the audience said…

“I really wanted to believe that I was really going to talk to my grandfather… and I got let down. ”

Well said by both of them. Wanting to believe does not make it so.

Of course, for every one of these shows, there has gotta be 5 more supernatural ones trying to convince people that this junk is real… But there’s hope for the world.