Comment by David, 23 Jan, 2007
Hi, I have just arrived at your website and am enjoying it. My wife is in the other room scared stiff by haunted houses. I'm tired of this dribble and gullible people being fleeced. One prime example is that cold reader Wilson. I watched her shows and read some of her book. I do believe that there is a telepathic ability in humans. I know the concept has been demonstrated in controlled conditions and John Edwards I believe uses a mix of cold reading and telepathy. I don't think he talks to dead people.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jan, 2007
Hi David, thanks for your comments regarding our website. I quite agree that much of what mediums and psychics do can be put down to cold reading. John Edward appears more impressive than your neighbourhood medium because he is very experienced at cold reading and also uses warm and hot reading. But his big advantage is TV editing. He films for hours then cuts it down for his show, carefully removing all his many mistakes. John Edward appears to get personal information from people in the same way that magicians appear to cut people in half. It's all a trick. In the same way that magicians won't do a trick if the audience insists on looking up their sleeves and watching them from every angle with high-speed cameras, mediums likewise refuse to perform if they think someone is testing them. John Edward bans all recording devices from his shows so that you can't compare the original readings with those that go to air. We know why magicians refuse to be watched too closely, they admit it's only a trick, but why don't psychic mediums want us to look too closely?
As for the telepathy bit, I'm not so sure about that. To my knowledge there is no good evidence that supports any sort of ESP, that is, communication by means other than the physical senses. Most acceptance of ESP results from not understanding statistics and the likelihood of coincidences. If someone who you were thinking about rings you, at odds of 20 million to one, people say you must be psychic. Yet if you win lotto at the greater odds of 38 million to one, no one says you cheated by using psychic powers, you're merely lucky. Actually you're neither psychic or lucky. Some things just happen. They may seem weird and out of the ordinary, but there are no psychic powers involved. While I'm sure there are some who say they have demonstrated telepathy under controlled conditions, remember that psychics, mediums, energy healers and numerous other paranormal practitioners all say exactly the same thing about their abilities as well. There is the odd scientist such as Rupert Sheldrake and Gary Schwartz who insist that they have proven that telepathy and communication with the dead is real, but most everyone else sees their research as severely flawed and no better than pseudoscience.
I believe there are good scientific reasons why ESP doesn't work, indeed even why it can't work, but that aside, I think the most damming reason why ESP is fraudulent is that no one uses it in real situations. Psychics are happy to give you your lucky lotto numbers (which are anything but lucky), but never win themselves. Why do they toil away on 0900 phone lines when they could win themselves a fortune and retire young? Why can't they foresee problems in their own lives? Why was this notice posted on a real psychic's shop: 'Closed due to unforeseen circumstances'. Why are psychics often from the poorly paid, poorly educated sector of society? With the advantages gained from their psychic abilities, shouldn't they be running the world?
If you go to the James Randi Foundation in the USA and demonstrate any sort of paranormal ability under controlled conditions, you get to take home $US1,000,000. This challenge — and many others — has been available for years, but not one person has even passed the preliminary testing, let alone gone on to the test proper. In the US alone there are around 300 million people, many of which claim to have psychic abilities — John Edward, James Van Praagh and Sylvia Browne for example. Even if only 0.1% of the population are psychic, that still means that there are 300,000 Americans who could all claim the $1,000,000. But none do. And that's just the US. How many of the world's 6 billion are convinced they have paranormal abilities? Yet again, none are interested in demonstrating that these powers are real and/or collecting the prize. Even the likes of John Edward refuse to take the test. Even if he doesn't need the money, surely he can think of a worthwhile charity that he could donate it to.
If you know anyone who is sincerely convinced of their paranormal abilities, ask them why they won't take one or all of these challenges? Ask them why they don't want to validate their powers and prove to a skeptical and doubting world that they're not deluded or greedy scam artists. If they're not interested in the money, tell them we'll make good use of it. Likewise ask them if they really have these amazing abilities that could make a life and death difference in the world, why do they waste their time giving readings on 0900 phone lines? Advising people unlucky in love or idiots wondering whether they're going to travel or where they lost their keys. Why aren't they locating missing children and identifying murderers?
Comment by David, 03 Mar, 2007
Hi again John, and thanks again for your comments. I was meaning to comment on your statement "Most acceptance of ESP results from not understanding statistics and the likelihood of coincidences". I have actually found a few studies where robust statistical analysis does seem to infer a greater than chance mechanism going on in various esp studies. And yes the scientific community are quick to jump on the statistical analysis and argue shortcomings. Even though these same statistical procedures are robust enough to provide undisputable evidence in other experiments. We both know that about 80% of society will believe any rubbish based purely on emotive reasoning. Even if these quite obviously clash with reality. Just look at every religion. But I have also noticed that the skeptic has completely blinkered vision and you demonstrated this when you stated "I believe there are good scientific reasons why ESP doesn't work, indeed even why it can't work, but that aside". Well of course this is true at our current level of understanding. There are numerous examples of new discoveries in science that were ruled impossible by the understanding of the day. I was told in my 3rd year genetic paper that cloning was impossible, could not be done. Simply because our understanding of genes at that time ruled it out.
I am yet undecided if ESP is possible but I still think it may be a possibility. And I would be interested in what brain function would rule it out as being possible with our current knowledge of the brain. I also have to state that by esp I refer to is the ability to project and receive information. A person with this ability would not necessarily be able to locate the hidden money in Wanaka's 'Psychic Challenge' for example. He (the host) may be no good at projecting it. Would he be interested if a sender was told where it was and given the opportunity to transmit that data to a receiver. I've attached a paper dealing with the critics of the stats behind some of these studies which have demonstrated a greater than chance result. I'm still waiting for a UFO to land on the lawn or a ghost to appear but I have had some experience of possible ESP, I'm not talking about voices in my head.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Mar, 2007
Hi David, you said:
"I have actually found a few studies where robust statistical analysis does seem to infer a greater than chance mechanism going on in various esp studies."
I agree that some parapsychologists believe that they have statistically demonstrated ESP. To date I don't find their reliance on statistics, which is their sole evidence, convincing or persuasive. If scientific tests have shown that telepathy did occur, they've also shown that the subjects were completely and utterly unaware of when it occurred. They've also shown that if telepathy did occur, only after complex statistical analysis did its effect become apparent. Telepathy is NOT obvious.
Thus the type of telepathy described as occurring in the labs is a completely different beast to that described in the outside world. When people talk about observing telepathy in action they are generally talking about demonstrations that are obvious to everyone. Even you suggested that mediums like John Edward could be using telepathy. To his audience telepathy is blatant, consistent and irrefutable. The producers of the show do not need to perform complex statistical analysis to make the effect of telepathy become apparent. If he's not cheating then telepathy is clear for all to see. But not to the parapsychologists in the labs it seems.
When parapsychologists run experiments to test for telepathy, even when they use Edward as a subject, telepathic ability is never obvious until they perform their complex statistical analysis, and even then the effect of telepathy is always extremely minor. Thus I don't believe that one can use 'statistically significant' scientific results that may support minor, unreliable, unpredictable and unrepeatable examples of telepathy and suggest that they give credence to major, reliable, predictable and repeatable examples of telepathy as allegedly demonstrated by the likes of John Edward. Saying that telepathy may exist on the extreme fringes of our senses is a million, million miles away from what the general public, fantasy movies and people claiming telepathic powers think of as telepathy. Even if this level of telepathy exists, and it may, it in no way explains or supports what average people think of as telepathy.
Your comment continued:
"But I have also noticed that the skeptic has completely blinkered vision and you demonstrated this when you stated "I believe there are good scientific reasons why ESP doesn't work, indeed even why it can't work, but that aside". Well of course this is true at our current level of understanding. There are numerous examples of new discoveries in science that were ruled impossible by the understanding of the day."
Many people fall into the trap that skeptics must be closed-minded because they dismiss their pet belief. Most everyone holds strong beliefs on various subjects. Some beliefs, like religion for example, are believed on faith and certainly fit the blinked vision description in my view. However as a skeptic I'd like to think I don't have blinked vision. Over the years there are many things that I used to believe in that I now completely reject. God, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and cute talking animals are the most obvious, through to more complex things like believing that an omniscient god meant no free will for humans. Now I tend to ask, 'What is the evidence that supports that view?'
Science has most definitely thought things impossible or improbable and later shown to be wrong, but these are few and far between these days and an enormous amount of evidence is required before scientists will revise their theories. Telepathy may exist, as might leprechauns, but the evidence just isn't there at present to seriously support belief in either. Science will not advance if scientists start factoring in possible interference from telepathy or leprechauns. Until experiments can show that telepathy really does exist, it's reasonable to believe it probably doesn't.
You mentioned that our knowledge changes as a result of new discoveries in science, suggesting that what is considered impossible today might be found to be possible tomorrow. Quite true, but you must remember that this works the other way too. What is deemed possible today (telepathy by you), might be found to be impossible tomorrow. If anything, science has shown that the innumerable things that mankind thought was possible aren't. The sun doesn't go round the earth. The earth isn't flat. Lightning isn't caused by the gods. Having sex with a virgin doesn't cure AIDS. For every single claim where modern science got it wrong — something thought false was actually true — there would be thousands of claims that our ancestors thought were true which we now know to be false. I suspect that in the near future we will look back on telepathy in the same way that we look back on fairies. And remember that it was no so long ago that educated people — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of 'Sherlock Holmes' for example — thought fairies really did exist.
You go on to ask:
"I would be interested in what brain function would rule it out as being possible with our current knowledge of the brain."
People used to think that memories were stored complete in the brain, that is, input from our sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch were all stored together. But we now know that images are stored in an area of the brain known as the visual cortex, sounds in the auditory cortex etc, When we conjure up a memory the mind collects elements from different parts of the brain to build up the memory in our 'mind's eye'. Likewise there is no real 'mind's eye', no 'you', no 'soul' sitting somewhere in the brain viewing the outside world on a little flat screen TV with surround sound. I get the impression that throughout history people have thought that reading someone's mind simply meant somehow getting access to that little theatre in the brain and merely watching the images on the screen and eavesdropping on that little voice that we all think we hear in our heads. But this is a fantasy. These images, sounds, smells, emotions etc don't actually exist in the brain or the mind. We know that thoughts and memories are produced by electrical and chemical changes between neurons. We know that the brain generates trillions of impulses in any instant, all fundamentally the same, so the belief that someone using telepathy could somehow pick the correct several thousand isolated groups of impulses from these trillions is totally unrealistic.
Another problem as I see it is that the difference between one thought or memory and another thought or memory is merely the pattern of synaptic potentials between neurons. There are billions of neurons each with thousands of connections so the number of possible patterns is astronomical. We also know that every human brain is unique, and while they're all made up of neurons, the exact neuron distribution and synaptic connections will be vastly different from brain to brain. This is what makes us different people. By this I mean that if I form the image of a cat in my brain and you do the same in yours, the exact neurons used and the synaptic pattern employed will be completely different. If our brains were able to transmit thoughts, our brains would all be speaking a different language, and a signal from mine would be foreign to yours. For our brains to be able to communicate fluently they would have to be identical, neuron for neuron, and we know they're not. If they were identical we would both have the same thoughts and memories, all the time. Expecting all brains to transmit the same signals, with identical fields translating to the same thought or image is as ridiculous as expecting visiting aliens to speak English. So I think the more we learn about brain function the more it seems to rule out telepathy.
From an evolutionary perspective, those with telepathic abilities would most definitely have an advantage over those without. The ability to sense when their companions were in danger, whether a stranger was lying or was a threat, to communicate on the hunt without speaking, to send warnings to other tribe members of dangers etc. If telepathy had evolved in some humans, then by now it should be prevalent and very noticeable in society. It's not.
We know that telepathy doesn't use electromagnetic fields or any known energy field or particle. We also know that it can't use extremely weak fields or difficult to detect particles like neutrinos since these couldn't cause a change in the neurons in the brain. And we need the neurons to change to generate the image or thought. The field or particle must be powerful enough to physically affect the brain, and supposedly do this at any distance without getting weaker, since telepaths claim it works across the room and across the planet. If you can generate a signal from your mind that affects a few thousand neurons on the other side of the planet we should easily be able to detect that signal. We can't, and yet we have instruments magnitudes more sensitive than any human senses.
Rather than ask what brain function would rule telepathy out, parapsychologists need to tell us what brain functions would rule it in. They need to point at the brain and tell us which parts would allow telepathy to work.
I agree with you that telepathy may exist, just like I agree with others that God may exist or that life on earth could have been engineered and placed here by advanced aliens doing a large scale lab experiment. They're all possible. However I don't believe they're very probable based on what I accept as the best evidence available. This may change in the future and I'll change my view accordingly. I'm not dogmatic and I'll go wherever the truth points. I hope I'm not wrong about ESP, because while I could save a fortune in cell phone charges if it did exist, I'd hate the thought that people could read my mind while playing poker or watch me remotely while I'm having sex.
Here are some links to a few articles on ESP that I found very informative, and one on "cynical skeptics":
'What Can the Paranormal Teach Us About Consciousness?', Susan Blackmoore
'May the force be with you - electromagnetic fields generated by human thoughts', Lawrence M. Krauss
Miracle on Probability Street, Michael Shermer
'Why People Believe in ESP for the Wrong Reasons', Sharon Presley
'Coincidences: Remarkable or Random?', Bruce Martin
'Worlds in Collision: Applying Reality to the Paranormal', Benjamin Radford
'Why Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof', Ed J. Gracely, Ph.D.
'Physics and the Paranormal', Gerard 't Hooft
'Are Skeptics Cynical? Popular Misunderstandings of Skepticism', Phil Mole
Comment by Anonymous-1, 01 May, 2007
My name is [bleep bleep], a reporter for [bleep] magazine. I stumbled across your website when I was researching Jeanette Wilson for a story I am writing about people who believe Jeanette speaks to the dead. I am a skeptic when it comes to these sorts of topics but I must put my feelings aside to write fair stories. However, many of our readers are convinced mediums, like Jeanette Wilson are the real thing. Have any of your group had bad experiences with a medium you would be willing to share in an article to back up your claims? [bleep] magazine has a real stories section that is hugely popular and reaches nearly one million people. As a reporter, I am always interested in writing stories about different people with diverse life experience and views. I look forward to hearing from you.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 May, 2007
Thanks for your request re medium Jeanette Wilson. The quick answer to your question is no. None of us have had any bad experiences with mediums, mainly because we don't believe what they say and therefore don't seek or act on their advice. Of course we have friends and family that have consulted mediums and psychics but even their readings have been so bland that they had no real impact, good or bad, on their lives.
I don't envy your position, being skeptical of these things but realising that many of your readers would burn you at the stake for expressing these views. I agree that you need to put feelings and emotions aside to write balanced articles, but no doubt you'll realise that this doesn't mean putting aside reason, critical thinking and common sense as well. Not to mention integrity.
Comment by Adrian, 02 Jun, 2007
And just what is it that you are so scared of? It is billed as entertainment so why all the fuss, you would do well to get out more and stop watching TV. For most of us life after death matters little, how to survive through this one is enough for the day. The only possible reason to create such a who-ha is you are a catholic or an evil bugger, in which case you will soon find out, when you snuff it.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Jun, 2007
What am I scared of Adrian? Snakes, spiders, crocodiles and alligators are high on my list. You don't say exactly what it was that annoyed you so, but you mentioned 'life after death'. If that's the case, why would I be afraid of something I don't believe exists? How could some imaginary thing harm me?
According to most religions the quality of your existence in this "afterlife" depends on your actions in this life, eg heaven or hell. As important as this should be to you, you nevertheless claim that life after death matters little to you, even though you obviously believe in this fantasy.
If anyone should be scared it should be you, lying awake each night worrying over whether you've done enough, whether you've led a moral life, a proper life, one that will guarantee you a happy afterlife and not a torturous one, an afterlife which will be eternal. Eternal bliss or eternal torture? Even wondering whether you're worshipping the right God, since whatever religion you follow, the great majority of people on the planet say you're wrong. Thankfully I don't have this fear gnawing away at me, day after day, night after night.
Since you accuse me of possibly being a Catholic you obviously haven't read any of our essays on religion, otherwise you'd know that I'm an atheist. I do agree with you that many Catholics (and Christians in general) — now and throughout history — have been and are 'evil buggers', but simply being able to recognise a scam does not make me evil. You no doubt used to believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus? (I'm assuming you no longer do.) Does this realisation that these beings don't exist, that adults lied to you, make you evil? Or does it simply make you wiser?
Comment Jim, 01 Jul, 2007
Hi, I just read your excellent Jeanette Wilson article (she is going to visit my local town of Buxton, Derbyshire) and looked at your links pages, I have a suggested additional link: James Randi Educational Foundation
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Jul, 2007
Hi Jim, thanks for the comment on our Jeanette Wilson article. I hadn't realised that she had gone back to your part of the world to perform. You can keep her.
Comment by Karen, 30 Aug, 2007
Hi there, I went to your show in Wanganui a few months ago, I would like to book a appointment with you some time , I go up to Taranaki often to see my son and visit my hair dresser, [bleep] is my ph number. Cheers.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Aug, 2007
Say what, Karen? Me thinks someone is a little confused over what this site is about?
Comment by Clayton, 04 Oct, 2007
Hi John, thank you for your website. I enjoyed reading your article on Jeanette Wilson and in particular your observations of the implications of what mediums tell us about dead people and the afterlife.
I have been to one of Jeanette's shows out of curiosity and was perplexed as to how she did what she did. A very good friend of mine and fellow sceptic told me about a personal reading he and his wife did with Kevin Cruickshank (in which he named a child they had lost during pregnancy among other things); which put the willies up him.
Like you, I don t relish the thought of a Christian afterlife; but I haven't put my finger on the trick or phenomenon as well as I would like. Thank you again for your articles.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Oct, 2007
Thanks for your comments re our Jeanette Wilson essay. You mentioned a reading your friend had with Kelvin Cruickshank and the thing I normally find with these is that what was really said between both parties is often very different to what is recalled later. People normally can't remember exactly what was said during the reading and this can be very beneficial for psychics. For example a psychic may say something vague such as 'Your father might have been in the navy or something' and the client later relates this to friends as the psychic saying 'He correctly told me my father was in the navy'. Yet he didn't. The client has conveniently forgotten the words 'might' and 'or something', which could have meant the army or airforce or sea cadets or even the Post Office. The omission or addition of one word can change greatly what a psychic actually said, and can make him appear more accurate than he actually was. This is why they say you should always record a reading. You often find that people unknowingly drop hints and the psychic mentions it later into the reading. The client forgets that he may have given the answer and is suitably impressed. Skeptic Vicki Hyde relates an incident where she was masquerading as a psychic and amazed the client by describing her child. The simple explanation was that she saw her walk in earlier with a young child and made the assumption that it was hers. The fact is that the client provides most of the information in psychic readings and the psychic merely feeds it back. The client then focuses on the positive bits and completely forgets all the mistakes the psychic made. You'd find that if psychics didn't have the client in front of them giving them clues then their readings would be meaningless. This is demonstrated in a reading scientist Richard Dawkins had where the medium passed on messages from his father from the "other side". Dawkins refused to give clues as to how the medium was performing. She made several comments along the lines of 'Your father says he is well'. Dawkins finally replied 'Yes I know he is. He was around for dinner last night'. By not getting feedback from Dawkins, and based on his age, she assumed his father was dead. He wasn't.
If these people really had a 'gift' then there is far more valuable things they could be doing for society and humanity than charging your friends to tell them things they already knew, like finding a lost child.
Comment by Clayton, 05 Oct, 2007
Hi John, most likely you are right of course. They kept an audio tape of the interview. However, it would be much too private to ask for a copy to hear for myself. I understand Mr. Cruickshank provides tapes. BTW I ruled out prior research of my friends in light of the minimal $300 fee charged. It would hardly seem economic to spend time investigating their private life. But not having known for myself how the questioning went I can't draw any definite conclusions either way. The skill of the psychic does impress me. I really wasn't able to explain myself how Jeanette did her tricks even having some idea of the techniques used going in. I am of the opinion that there is more to be learned from the phenomenon of psychics and peoples fascination with them than is achieved by simply dismissing the people as gullible and the psychics as shysters. Not that there are supernatural explanations but that there are things to be learned about humans, what they are driven by and what they are capable of. Why do some psychics seem to genuinely believe in what they are saying they do? This still seems to me to not be entirely explained by the explanation that this is learned shysterism. Perhaps I am being too generous to the psychics. I don't think we have achieved the complete understanding of psychics because the "genuine" psychic and the careful scientist have never been able (or willing) to sit down together to work it out. (Perhaps that is an answer in itself?) I think there might be something interesting to come out of that discussion. It's a shame there is not more material on television, like Penn & Teller, giving the other side of the argument and the debunking of the popular myths. That is why I was so grateful for your site, when I wanted to see if there were answers to the questions I had. Thank you for your time and investment in providing very useful discussion material.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Oct, 2007
Thanks for your interesting comments. You mentioned 'the minimal $300 fee charged'. Good grief! Is that how much these morons charge? Believers have suggested I have a reading and then I would believe but it's not going to happen at that price.
You wrote 'The skill of the psychic does impress me'. Certainly psychics have a skill, but then so do magicians, and everything psychics can do magicians can do. As one magician (whose name escapes me) said, 'If psychics have to use psychic powers to do their tricks, they're doing it the hard way'. I don't understand how most magic tricks are performed but I still think the most reasonable explanation is that they are tricks. Believers often challenge skeptics to do what psychics appear to do if we think it's fake but this is missing the point. I know David Copperfield making an elephant disappear is a trick but I haven't got the knowledge or skill to do it. We're not saying what psychics do is easy, we're saying it's a trick.
You asked, 'Why do some psychics seem to genuinely believe?' Many psychics do indeed believe they have a 'gift'. They're not all frauds. They are sincere but I also believe they are deluded. I believe one explanation might be the following. When you or I hear voices and see images in our head we know they're being created by our own mind. Many psychics don't, they believe spirits are talking to them. When psychics hear these voices and pass on "messages from granny" we think it's cute and pay them money. When our neighbour hears voices from beyond who tell him to clean the guns, there's killing to be done, we say he's got a mental illness and lock him up. Why does a mental problem cause his voices and not the psychics?
Of course having a mental illness is one thing but even so, how do they seem to get basic info during a reading? I know people, as no doubt you will, that are great with intuition and reading body language. After meeting people they say things like 'She's lying' or 'He's cheating on his wife, I just know it' or 'She's putting on a brave face but she's depressed'. If you asked them how they knew these things they would say they don't really know, they just feel it. They say, "It wasn't what they said, it was how they said it." I believe many psychics are like this, they just have an innate ability to get more information out of an encounter than you or I might. Psychics don't realise they have this ability and believe their 'intuitions' are being provided by spirits. It has been shown many times that psychics fail miserably when they don't have a client with whom they can interact. If it was solely the psychic chatting with the spirit, the client is superfluous. And of course for every 'fact' they seem to get right, they get a dozen wrong, which the client usually fails to notice. As you are probably aware, this trick of getting the client to unknowingly reveal information is called 'cold reading', and I suspect many psychics can do it without knowing they're doing it. Magicians and fakes know they are manipulating the client, "genuine" psychics don't. And of course constant praise from their gullible clients only reinforces their delusion. I agree with you that there is more to it than just outright trickery. The psychology of the psychic and the client plays a major part.
You mentioned that 'the "genuine" psychic and the careful scientist have never been able (or willing) to sit down together'. Actually there have been many cases where 'genuine' psychics have attempted to demonstrate their powers to scientists and skeptics but they've all failed. Of course believers then claim that these psychics can't have been 'genuine' psychics if they failed. No matter how many psychics step up to be tested and fail, they will all be deemed to be fake by believers. And these tested psychics might be classed as more 'genuine' than the rest since they were so convinced of their powers that they were prepared to demonstrate them under controlled conditions. The famous psychic mediums of today like Jeanette Wilson, those on 'Sensing Murder' and US mediums like John Edward refuse to be tested. Would we believe a scientist who said he had a cure for cancer but refused to let us test it, or an athlete who said he could beat the world's best but refused to prove it? So why do people believe psychics who say they can do things but run a mile when asked to prove it?
Finally, it's great to hear that you watch 'Penn & Teller:Bullshit'. Unfortunately we're in the minority, as none of our friends or family watch it. They're too busy watching 'Sensing Murder' and 'The Ghost Whisperer' or reading their horoscope and the psychic column in the 'Woman's Weakly'.
Comment by Ra, 19 Oct, 2008
While searching for more information on Jeanette Wilson's programmes I stumbled on your article. It looks well researched and has a very emotional approach to it. Nothing any believer can say will change a view as strong as yours. While you believe Mediumship (or Jeanette's work) is a scam there are many sick people out there who are looking for the comfort and support Jeanette gives them (whether 'In your opinion' it is a scam or not). Yes you do appear to have evidence to prove your theory and I am sure if Jeanette could be bothered with wasting her time justifying her work she too could come up with an article such as yours to convince people that her work is genuine.
I am someone who currently doesn't know what to believe. Am I mentally sick??? Or do I have a gift of being able to support others as a medium??? Why do I only receive messages every now and again??? If I had such a gift, wouldn't I be seeing and hearing more often??? Is it because I am in the early stages of my mediumship that I don't quite know how to handle it??? Life, living, thoughts, feelings and opinions are all made up of life experiences and things you hear. I applaud you and your effort with this report but I support the efforts of people who can make a difference in someone else's life like Jeanette. She is who she 'Dares to believe' she is, and that is her life's choice. At the end of the day we have a whole heap of people to convince towards the right and wrong of mediumship or not. I would rather believe in what I believe and make an effort to help people before it is too late rather than wasting time downing the belief of others. Going the way you are - no one gets help, hope or healing. Going the way Jeannette is working, everyone gets hope and a chance to be happy (Whether they 'Believe it or not!')
Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion. Good luck in your work and if I was convinced that you would believe in other beings or the other side I would say 'God Bless'. As you don't I am saying to you - 'All the best!'
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Oct, 2008
Thanks for your comments Ra. It's always enlightening to hear opposing views, especially one who admits "I am someone who currently doesn't know what to believe." I'll try and explain why we've taken the stance that we have.
You say that "Nothing any believer can say will change a view as strong as yours." This is a common belief regarding skeptics, but it is generally false. I am not skeptical of spirits and the afterlife because skeptics have nice uniforms or great Xmas functions. I am not against religion and their gods and spirits because some priest abused me. I am not against mediums because I'm jealous of their apparent abilities. I honestly wish guardian angels were looking out for me. I have taken this view not to make me popular but because this is where I believe the evidence points. In fact my integrity means I am sometimes despised, pitied and insulted for my views, and as an atheist I am in a definite minority. Being both an atheist and skeptical of the paranormal makes me more enemies than friends. I don't hold this strong view because it gives me some advantage, I hold it because no one will give me good reasons to reject it and adopt their view. And as you say, mediums like Jeanette Wilson can't be bothered.
There is certainly nothing that any medium has already said that has caused me to change my view, but they could make me reconsider tomorrow if they would only produce one thing — evidence. That's all I ask for. Like you I'm also a "believer", only the things I choose to believe in are evidence, facts and scientific theories. Every day that mediums refuse — as you say — to be bothered with wasting their time justifying their work, is another day that I have no good reason to believe in them. We all want our doctors, scientists, politicians, teachers, councillors etc to be able to justify their work, so why don't we expect the same from mediums? Would you accept treatment from a doctor that wasn't prepared to justify whether it would actually work? Why are people so forgiving of mediums' mistakes and so willing to believe them on no good evidence? Why are they just the opposite with scientists for example, demanding evidence that cell phones are safe, that GE isn't dangerous and that global warming is really happening? Why the double standard?
A few years I attended one of Jeanette Wilson's shows and the first thing she did was to launch into a lecture on the horrors of genetic engineering. This annoyed many of the audience, with a few even walking out, stating that a medium and ex-bank manger was not qualified to lecture them on the complexities of GE. At this time Wilson was actively protesting GE and her show's proceeds were going to fight GE in NZ. My point is, your medium Jeanette Wilson was skeptical of the claims of geneticists and insisted that they should either prove that claims of GE safety and efficacy were true or stop all GE work completely. Every show she spent time — as you say — "downing the belief of others". She insisted that scientists must support their claims, that they can't just say 'Trust us'. And I support her stance 100%. Yet when other people issue her the same challenge, that she proves her claims are true or else stops her shows, she — and her supporters — dismiss these challenges as unworthy of consideration. Why must scientists and skeptics always prove their claims or else desist, but this doesn't apply to believers in the paranormal? Again I ask, why the double standard?
You say that "there are many sick people out there who are looking for the comfort and support Jeanette gives them". Are you suggesting that these "sick people" can't handle the truth and that lies and falsehoods are OK as long as people gain support and comfort from them? This might be appropriate for a few mentally or physically ill people where the truth might actually do them harm, however once we leave the old folks homes it's a different story.
I'm not a fan of hiding the truth from people, especially when it implies that I can handle the truth, I am mature and intelligent enough, but certain other people aren't. They must be told fantasies.
Let's imagine a young man is working overseas and is suddenly killed in a road accident. He had been in email contact with his sister and when she gets the tragic news, what should she do? Should she tell her parents that their son is dead, or should she pretend that he is still alive and well? She can say she is still getting (email) messages from him and that he is well and enjoying life. Her parents will be comforted in the (false) knowledge that their son is well and sends his love. They can spend their lives believing their son is living the good life in a foreign land, rather than having to deal with the traumatic knowledge that he is dead. How do you think they would feel if they discovered late in life that it had all been a lie, that their son had died many years earlier and all the messages had been invented by their daughter to comfort them? How would you feel? Could you handle the truth of a death or would you rather be told comforting lies?
Confronted with the above choice, I believe that there would be few people that would lie to their parents or friends in this way, and probably fewer still that would want to be lied to. They would want to be told the truth — that the person had died — and they would accept comfort and support from family and friends to help them deal with this reality.
Yet while people don't want to be lied to regarding whether a death has occurred or given false messages pretending they're still alive, when it comes to what actually happens to dead people, it all changes. Suddenly they're not really dead after all. They're "alive" again in some foreign land and we're getting messages from them stating all is well and they still love us. And if we want to support and comfort people that have lost loved ones, this is the only way we can do it, by lying to them. People that had accepted that a loved one has died suddenly change their mind. They're not 'dead' after all, they've just moved addresses and they're still sending us messages of support.
When soldiers died in the World Wars families were told. No government pretended they were still alive and backed it up with bogus messages. There would have been moral outrage if this had occurred. No sane, moral, caring person would insist that lying to people about death is the best way to comfort and support them. And yet mediums do it every day.
Regarding your belief that you receive occasional messages, the fact is that all mediums make occasional guesses that turn out to be true. However most things that mediums say are wrong or so vague that they would apply to most everyone. You're just being honest that you're more often wrong than right. A professional medium won't admit this, although it's plainly obvious if you sit through a reading. The following statement that you made actually explains what is happening: "Life, living, thoughts, feelings and opinions are all made up of life experiences and things you hear". The mind is taking in far more than we realise. This leads to something called intuition. Some people are very good at observing their surroundings, body language and conversations and reaching accurate conclusions. This is subconscious and is improved by experience of life. Intuition lets us make decisions very quickly without "thinking" about them, especially in cases of potential risk. When you meet someone for the first time or watch an interview on TV everyone makes judgements about what the person is really like, of whether they can be trusted and what their background might be etc. This is completely normal and everyone does it to varying degrees. Unfortunately some people confuse these correct flashes of intuition and educated guesses with messages from the dead. That's why you feel you can "only receive messages now and again." Like everyone, when you guess wrong you realise it was you that got it wrong, yet when you guess right you mistakenly think you've received a message, since how else would you know that? You should give yourself credit for making a correct guess. Your dead granny isn't helping you. It's all you. If you think you can help people, ask yourself what it is that you say that helps them. Do you give them advice about relationships, about budgeting, about employment or what might make them happy? None of this has anything to do with dead people, and would be no different from the advice a psychologist or counsellor would give. People don't really go to mediums to see if the afterlife exists, since they already believe this. They go for advice and it is you that gives them advice, even if both you and your client believe it's actually dead Aunt Mildred telling you whether they should go on a trip to Europe. If people say that a reading with you has helped them, it is your words, your empathy, your undivided attention that has helped them. Don't give the credit to dead Aunt Mildred who doesn't even know what your client's full name is, where she lives, when her kid's birthday is or who her husband works for.
Dead people never tell us important things. Neither you or any other medium can tell me personal things about me or any member of our group simply because you don't know anything about us. Yet dead people in the afterlife are watching us and could tell you all manner of stuff, but they never do. Why do they never relay this info to mediums? Everything a medium reveals is coming from their own mind, and since their mind contains no information on me, it's all vague guesswork. You could prove me wrong by emailing me specific information that an enormous number of souls supposedly know. For example, what's my middle name, what's Rachel's surname or Gordon's, what's our ages, what careers do we work in? But since mediums can't tell us any real info, this is when they make the excuse that messages aren't always reliable, that sometimes the spirits don't play ball. How convenient. This is why mediums in general and Jeanette Wilson in particular can't "be bothered with wasting her time justifying her work", she knows she can't. Proving her claimed ability would give her worldwide fame, wealth and revolutionise the world of science. And in fact she has tried. She has written at least three books trying to justify her work. None were successful. She's still a little known medium.
You mention that mediums like Jeanette and yourself provide "help, hope or healing... and a chance to be happy". I don't believe in an afterlife, yet I am happy and content with my life. I don't need help with anything, but if I did, I have caring friends and family to turn to. I have plenty of hope for a happy and rewarding future, and I certainly don't need any mental or psychological healing. So why is it always believers in an afterlife that need "help, hope or healing... and a chance to be happy"? Shouldn't their belief in a paradise where their loved ones are waiting give them peace of mind, bliss and contentment? Why does my belief in a natural universe bereft of gods and an afterlife bring about happiness and contentment, yet believers in a loving and helpful God are often wracked with problems? Shouldn't their knowledge of heaven and help from their God give them a dream run? Why is their god giving me, the person who doesn't believe in him, all the good breaks? The believer needs to spend hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars consulting mediums to be happy and hopeful. I get the same peace of mind for nothing and can spend the money saved on a trip to Aussie or a big screen TV. Why is your god giving me the best deal?
Stating that you were going to finish with "God Bless", you obviously believe in a god, but since the Bible states that no one should consult a medium and that mediums must be killed, you can't be a Christian, Jew or Muslim. Thus I'm curious as to what god you think has created this afterlife that you believe in, and what evidence you might have to support your view? I'm amazed that mediums always refuse to describe what the afterlife is like or what god is running the place. They're continually chatting with people in the afterlife yet they are never tempted to ask, and dead souls aren't in the slightest bit interested in telling them either. Just the opposite to people who return from overseas holidays and who insist on telling us all about it, with photos. Is the afterlife so terrible that no one wants to talk about it, is that why dead souls are always spying on us here on earth? Is the afterlife so boring that what colour we're going to paint the kitchen is the most riveting thing that spirits have to fill in their day? If the afterlife existed, I would fear spending an eternity in it as an old man spying on my grandkids. And mediums only reinforce the view that this is exactly what dead souls do all day. And of course hardly any spirits ever get to communicate with their loved ones through mediums like Wilson, so most must be horribly frustrated that they can never pass on their words of wisdom. It must be like screaming at the hero on TV "Look out, he's behind you". The more I think about the afterlife, the more it resembles Hell.
I wish you well in your experimentation with mediumship, but I implore you to honestly question whether these messages you believe you're getting are really coming from spirits or from a combination of your own mind and the client's replies and body language. Question why the messages are so vague or why the spirits are passing on information that your client already knows. Ask why the spirit often gives you false information and why they clam up completely when important things need to be revealed. Try and find out which god runs the afterlife, since people from different religions all claim to have a connection. Are Muslims and Hindus deluded when they believe they talk to their spirits, and if they are, why aren't Christians?
I'm searching for the truth of the matter. At present I believe naturalism offers the best explanation, but you — or any medium that could be bothered — could potentially convince me otherwise.
Comment by Trisha, 10 Nov, 2008
Hi! Whatever your beliefs....mine were completely changed in October 1998. I had had a severe fall back in the August and damaged the ligaments in my ankles. My legs were bruised up to my knees.....I still have the photos to prove this. I couldnt drive and moved around my house with a Stool - crutches were no good of course. I climbed my stairs on my knees and became quite muscular on my upper body from having to pull myself up on door handles etc. After 8 weeks of this I was getting pretty desparate - no improvement and just numbing the pain with Painkillers. Then I met someone on a course for work - I had been picked up at my house and driven down south to a training course. I was in agony - any wait I put on my feet made them bleed under the skin.......grown men winced at the sight of my ankles! This person, the trainer said he knew someone who could help - this turned out to be Jeanette - a girl about the same age as me in Matlock, Derbyshire UK. I called her and I remember my Mum drove me there. I hobbled in, after painfully cleansing my feet - they were still very bruised - and sat in the room with Jeanette. My Mum came in too. I was no believer but I was at the stage I would try anything! I was in that room for over an hour. Jeanette never touched me, just held her hands over each ankle. The feeling was amazing - like a real deep massage. When I left there, my ankles, which had previously felt as if they had chains around them felt as if I could walk on air. All I can say that something happened in that room. The doctor could not believe that the bruising went completely.......and I started to walk again without pain.
I saw Jeanette once after that maybe a year or so later when I had got shingles and was suffering from dreadful headaches. Again I was cured. There is something in it all. All you have to do is now open your mind up to it.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Nov, 2008
Hi Trisha. While we did briefly mention Jeanette Wilson's claimed healing skills, our article was written to demonstrate that her claims of talking to dead people are bogus. That said, we do believe her claimed healing abilities are equally bogus.
As for your recovery from an injury, I'm glad you're better, but the body does heal these injuries given time and I don't find it unusual that your bruises disappeared, or that your headaches and shingles cleared up. That's what bruises etc normally do. Now if Wilson could heal people with a hole in their heart or cancer or AIDS or cause a missing limb to grow back, then I would be impressed and take her seriously. What little fame Wilson has in NZ and Britain is as a medium, and she obviously thinks she can make more money by pretending to talk to dead people than in healing the living.
You also ask us to open our mind, but unfortunately opening one's mind to the extent required to blindly believe in Wilson is the same type of open mind that allows people to be sucked into Nigerian Bank scams. When believers in the paranormal and other flakey topics suggest I'm not open-minded, I take this as meaning I'm not gullible enough and that I put too much trust in reason and evidence, and that I should forget these things and believe on desire and faith alone. If everyone ignored the way the world really works and instead put their faith in new age healers and those talking to ghosts, we would still be living in the Dark Ages.
Comment by Clive, 18 Nov, 2008
I and my wife have jointly had a reading on one of Jeanette Wilsons shows and to say that she cold reads is just a lot of garbage, Jeanette asked us nothing, not even our names, and her reading was beyond anything that could be guessed at, 100% correct, even to communication from a very beloved dog. Yes dogs, cats and horses exist on the human plain in the afterlife. You have got to be silly to think that when you die and go to heaven or whatever you may call it as it pleases you, that you take your injuries with you, your body does not go to heaven your Soul does, your soul does not have a broken spine or a twisted arm, your body is only the vehicle for your soul to work through in your earthly life. Take a light bulb turn the power on and it flows through the filament and you have light, the filament blows and you have darkness, the body has died but the power is still there but has no vessel to work through, just like our soul still remains, a piece of sheer energy which you cant touch or see but you can tap into if it wants to be tapped into. I pity these scientists and disbelievers who have such a limited knowledge that they will not believe in anything they cannot see or touch or provide logical explanation for.
They may challenge me to provide proof that the afterlife exists, I counter challenge them to prove that it doesn't, and being much more knowledgeable than me, they should be able to, but they can't, all they do is spout useless stuff about neutrons and things to try and disprove the light at the end of the tunnel stories and the plain fact is that they CANNOT prove anything anymore than I can.
I am afraid your little bit of doctored tape proves little or nothing the otherside does not communicate with voice so much as description and therefore can sometimes be difficult to follow, as for guardian angels I sincerely believe that if it wasn't for them I would have been dead long ago as there has been a few almost accidents that I shouldn't have come out off but I did. Coincidence or —?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Nov, 2008
Hi Clive. I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you. No information that Jeanette Wilson provides during a reading is of any value whatsoever. If it were she wouldn't be a little known, two bit medium pedalling her wares through town and village, she would be a highly paid and valued consultant to governments and universities and really making a contribution to our world. If she can convince you and your wife of her abilities, why can't she convince scientists and other academics? Why can she only convince those that don't try and examine her claims? And please don't say that academics are closed-minded. Scientists would love to discuss theories with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Historians would love to question Alexandra the Great and the Egyptian pharaohs. Theologians would love to talk with Moses and Mohammed. Why does Jeanette only contact granny and none of these people? Perhaps because Jeanette can't speak German or ancient Egyptian or Greek or Arabic and therefore couldn't put on a believable act? But strangely enough, when other mediums do pretend to channel ancient people, they always speak English, so that shouldn't be a problem. Perhaps Jeanette knows nothing about Einstein's theory of relativity or quantum mechanics, or ancient Egyptian, Greek or Arab history and knows her proclamations on these topics wouldn't fool anyone? Is that why Jeanette only passes on messages about things she already knows about? If Jeanette was really talking to dead people with a wealth of knowledge that she didn't have, she would amaze everyone with her messages from beyond the grave. Instead she passes on inane comments to loved ones and bores the rest of us.
During your reading you said "Jeanette asked us nothing, not even our names", and no doubt she wasn't able to provide your names either, was she, even though she was in communication with people that knew you well? And what about the full names of the "souls" she was communicating with, I suspect she didn't provide those either? You believe that our whole being is tied up in the soul, so why do these souls become so mentally retarded when the body dies? They are unable to remember their names or their occupations or where they lived and are only able to transmit vague messages like "Tell my daughter — whose name I can't remember — that I love her". And how did your dog communicate with you? He NEVER spoke to you while he was alive, so how could he now that he's dead? How would you recognise that a message was coming from your dog and not millions of others? Did he say "Hi Clive, it's Rover here, your cocker spaniel that died in March 2006"? Jeanette couldn't have described him since you claim there are no bodies in the afterlife, only souls, and since you state that souls can't be seen, neither you nor Jeanette could recognise an invisible soul. And since most families go through several pets in a lifetime, what a crowded place the afterlife must be. When I die I'm going to be stuck with a hell of a lot of cats. And even more dogs, a couple of horses, a few pigs, several lambs and calves, some ducks and even a couple of budgies.
I agree entirely that "You have got to be silly to think that when you die and go to heaven or whatever... that you take your injuries with you..." However you need to remember that it is not me that claims this, it is mediums like Jeanette Wilson that insist that they can "see" dead people. It's people like Jeanette that fill their spiel with comments like, "I'm seeing an elderly male, distinguished looking..." or "A young woman is standing on your left..." or "Your grandfather is showing me a walking frame..." or "He's showing me a paint brush... " Mediums spend a great amount of time describing the people they're talking to in the afterlife, hoping that people like you will recognise them. Jeanette herself said she only became a medium when she realised that the people that she saw all around her were dead, and that only she could see them. When she described these dead people to their family members, she described their physical appearance. When she described people that had died young, they were STILL young, and those that died in old age still looked as they did when they died — old! You may believe that mediums can't see dead people, but Wilson would disagree. The "bodies" Wilson sees may only be an illusion — maybe created by some god to aid identification — but when mediums describe a dead person they look exactly like they did when they died. When Wilson describes someone's grandmother she never describes a teenager in a bikini, she describes an old woman, because most people wouldn't recognise their grandmother as she appeared as a teenager. Women especially spend a great amount of time, money and effort when they're alive to try and look younger than they are, so why when they die are they happy to present what they looked like when they died? Why don't they show a younger version of themselves? If as you say people that die with injuries or deformities don't appear to mediums with their old earthly body, why can they give themselves a healthy body and yet others can't give themselves a younger, and usually healthier, body? The fact is that if you believe that mediums CAN'T see dead people, since only their souls remain and they are invisible, then you should accept that much of what Jeanette Wilson says must be lies. Your views of the afterlife and Wilson's contradict one another, so at the very least one of you must be wrong. I believe both of you are.
And why do mediums even resort to these vague charades? They could simply say "I'm communicating with Diane Jean Smithers, born 1 Jan 1930, died 20 Aug 1985, last address 12 Any St, Jonestown. She wants to pass a message to her daughter Shona McBride who's sitting at the end of the third row in the red dress." Simple really. Mediums insist they can communicate with the dead, yet this communication reveals nothing of interest, no detail and nothing that couldn't be guessed at. Mediums, including Wilson, could change this but they prefer to limit their act to vague displays to gullible people in town halls and over 0900 psychic phone lines. They are like vampires, fearing and fleeing the light of reason.
Regarding the soul, your analogy of the light bulb is flawed. Electrical energy can have an effect on the filament because they are both part of the natural world. Likewise for souls to have an effect on material bodies they must also be part of the natural world, yet believers in souls insist that they are spiritual and immaterial and exist in the supernatural realm. This is why we can't detect or measure souls they claim. But if souls can't react with material atoms in a scientific detector, they can't react with material atoms in a brain either. We've all seen ghosts in movies walk right through walls as if they weren't there, this is what would happen to an immaterial soul if it tried to interact with a material brain and its body. The soul would just float right through and have no effect. If souls did exist, they must react with matter, and we would be able to detect them. Clive, you say that you "pity these scientists and disbelievers who have such a limited knowledge that they will not believe in anything they cannot see or touch." Personally I wouldn't describe scientists as a group who have "limited knowledge", and the fact is that scientists believe in a great many things that they can't see or touch, eg black holes, neutrinos and magnetic fields. What they won't believe in is what they have no evidence of, eg fairies, leprechauns and souls. You will have read in our article that even Jeanette Wilson tried to use scientists to prove the existence of souls. People only ridicule scientists when they reach conclusions that they are not happy with. You give the soul a scientific, natural, material description — "a piece of sheer energy" — yet at the same time insist that it's not part of the natural, material world. But since no one has detected or measured a soul — scientist or believer — you can't describe it as "a piece of sheer energy". This means nothing more than claiming souls are made from supernatural candyfloss. You can't use scientific terms like energy to describe souls unless you can back it up with scientific evidence, otherwise it's just cloaking ignorance with scientific respectability.
And think about it, if souls can lead a much better existence in the afterlife without bodies — for all eternity — why do they need bodies on earth? If they can see, taste, feel, hear, smell and lead much richer and more fulfilling "lives" without bodies, why don't they dispense with them on earth? If someone has a stroke and can't speak anymore or becomes paralysed, the soul isn't damaged, it's still fully functional, so why doesn't the soul take over completely? Why does the soul retreat and pretend it isn't there, sometimes for decades? We know the frustration that people suffer when they can't easily communicate their thoughts and feelings, so why does the fully functional soul just sit in the background and cause the body to claim that it's frustrated? Mediums claim the soul can communicate without the body, so why doesn't it? Why aren't mediums used as interpreters for people in comas or paralysed through a stroke or neurological disease or those born deaf and dumb? Surely communicating with the soul of living people that can't speak is more important than dead people? Why don't mediums and psychics do this? Perhaps because they would quickly be exposed as frauds, since family members wouldn't be content with the usual vague statements. They would want detailed information from the person sitting right in front of them that they could act on.
You challenge scientists to prove that the afterlife doesn't exist. This is a bogus challenge, one that you wouldn't accept on different matters. There is a concept called 'the burden of proof'. This puts the onus on the person making a special claim to provide the evidence. For example I claim that the natural world exists, you agree with this but make an additional claim — that the afterlife also exists. Since you are making an extra claim, the onus is on you to provide evidence for this additional claim. Our justice system works this way. For example if you claimed that you were an heir to billionaire Bill Gates' fortune, it would be up to you to prove this by producing a valid will or other documentation, it wouldn't be Bill Gates responsibility to prove he didn't even know you. Likewise, if I said that there are invisible fairies in your garage you would insist I prove my claim, and would ignore my insistence that you prove they aren't there. The 'burden of proof' is on the person claiming that they are Bill Gates' heir, that there are fairies and that souls are real. To insist that it works the other way around is impractical. No one could ever prove that Bill Gates has never met you or that fairies and souls aren't real. People only issue this "counter challenge" as you call it when they realise that the evidence for their claim is non-existent.
You state that scientists "have such a limited knowledge" yet you then go on to say that they are nevertheless "much more knowledgeable than me". However you next seem to see yourself as an equal to scientists with the claim "the plain fact is that they CANNOT prove anything anymore than I can." I think you'll find that scientists can "prove" a great many things more than you or I can.
You claim that "the otherside does not communicate with voice so much as description". What does this mean? If mediums can't see or hear souls, how is this "description" communicated? Imagine trying to describe to me who you are, where you live and work etc without using your voice or anything visual. No charades, no sign language, no drawings. And you can't telepathically plant an image in my mind either. If you could do that you could show me your business card detailing exactly who you were, and souls can never do that. You could perhaps telepathically plant some audio in my brain, saying your full name, occupation etc, but it seems souls can never do that either. And really that would just be using your voice even though it misses out my ears. So how does a soul communicate this "description" without using visuals or sounds?
As for your "almost accidents" and your guardian angels, of course it's just coincidence. It amazes me that people think that their god is going out of his way time after time throughout their lives to save them, but that he couldn't care less about saving famous names from history. People such as Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, President JF Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Princess Diana, nor does he care about the millions of babies that die each year from malnutrition and preventable diseases. What's so important about you that god keeps you safe while ignoring billions of others dying horrible deaths? I've had a great life so far, and I've also experienced some events where I was nearly killed. Yet I'm an atheist, so why has your god allocated me of all people a guardian angel? The fact that you and I are still alive has nothing to do with invisible angels. The fact that many good, innocent people die early deaths every year and many evil, corrupt people live long, successful lives suggests that there are no guardian angels. If there are, then they allocated randomly and it has nothing to do with whether you contribute to society or even deserve to live a long life. If good people die young they say it's because god needed another angel in heaven, yet equally if good people lead long lives they say it's because they had a guardian angel looking after them. In fact it's just people lying to themselves.
And really, what do these mediums actually achieve at the end of the day? They never provide valuable information from the afterlife that can be acted on. They never tell us where bodies can be found or the identity of murderers or where lost items that could be used by living family members could be found. Do they just bolster the confidence of pathetically insecure people? — "My mother who has passed on says she still loves me. I can sleep easy tonight." Some say mediums, while their messages are all very vague, do provide proof of life after death, but this is as silly as saying children's belief in Santa provides proof of his existence. The one thing that mediums consistently refuse to provide is proof, avoiding examination by scientists and skeptics like the plague. Until they get the stamp of approval from scientific evidence they have proved nothing, and their silly proclamations will sit alongside those from astrologers, tarot card and tealeaf readers.
Comment by Clive, 21 Nov, 2008
John, thank you for your reply which was much appreciated but unfortunately your reply is based on the one track of "What I can't see or feel does not exist", so theoretically you can't see or feel the air so you can't be breathing it. I would beg to differ on the fact that scientists aren't closed minded although I agree that that statement is probably a bit strong. You say that they would like to talk to Einstein and other famous people. Sorry doesn't work that way, Jeanette and others like her cannot call people up. People come to her if they want to when they have the chance, and why would Einstein want to come through? He has moved past this earthly existence to something better. Why would he want to talk to us?
I reiterate there are no bodies only sheer energy which can take any form it needs to and it is no good showing you a 30 year old man when all you remember is a 4 year old boy who died, would you recognise him? And you are right they do not talk to the mediums, they communicate as you would say telepathically. How many names would you think there are in the world, and yet asking no questions this woman managed to come up with our oldest son's exact name. I suppose you would say coincidence, I'm afraid that would be far too big a coincidence for me to believe. I suppose you are one of these people who think dogs and cats and other animals are just mindless playthings and you have them around just for the sake of it. Me, I believe in the beauty of this earth that is the animals, and yes our beautiful dog did talk as they all do with their eyes, their expressions and their voice, all of which a true animal lover can understand, but she had this way of sitting down which was quite ungainly, hence sometimes she got lovingly called slobbo. When Jeanette was talking to us she stopped for a couple of seconds then slumped down in her chair in a ungainly way and started scratching her head quite hard. After a few seconds she said you had a dog, I don't usually communicate with dogs, I think her name is something like Mandy, whoops, she was wrong, but only by one letter, it was Candy. Now here's another remarkable coincidence, out of all the dog names and she's only one letter out and of course the way she slumped down and started scratching didn't mean anything either, just another coincidence?
Could you please tell me your definition of your brain because I believe the brain is sheer energy. There is nothing mechanical about it, it controls your body by electrical energy and nothing else so here you have sheer energy controlling physical muscles and yes, I can use those words because scientist's and doctors can measure brain waves and therefore who's to say they aren't measuring the soul.
You say if souls have a better life up there why do they need bodies? Simply this, we erupted from the primeval ooze goodness knows when and earth is our first stop, kind of a testing ground for higher things. As for people who have strokes and things like that the soul remains with them until there is no hope, but it cannot make the broken body whole and eventually it leaves and they become brain dead.
I think you are twisting things a bit when you say the burden of proof should be on me. I answered this not because you claimed that the normal world existed, that's silly, we all know that. Your actual claim was that the supernatural world didn't exist, that's what your column is about and therefore the onus is on you to prove this and so far I have seen absolutely nothing that proves anything in your column.
You mentioned that you and a friend went to one of Jeanette's shows and were amazed at how gullible the audience were, I see it more as how closed minded you were. If a ghost had jumped out and bitten you it would have been a hallucination in your mind, nothing whatsoever would have made you open that closed mind, the conclusion was inevitable!
As for guardian angels there's an old saying 'There's a time to live and there's a time to die'. I believe in this, so I live life to the fullest with my beliefs of a better life still to come.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Jan, 2009
Hi Clive. Thanks for your reply. Sorry for the delay in replying but as you'll no doubt have guessed, this isn't my real job.
I'm afraid nothing you said made me change my stance even slightly, but I will try and explain this.
You asked for my definition of the brain. I see it as basically organic matter that receives input from your senses such as eyes, ears and organs. It analyses this data and then transmits signals to organs and muscles to initiate bodily action. It is in the billions of neurons or nerve cells that make up the brain that consciousness resides, where our memories are stored and where thought and emotion occurs. There is certainly energy consumed by the brain, obtained from food, but it is not "sheer energy". It is entirely physical, and the actions of neurons have been explained in physical terms. It is not "electrical energy and nothing else". Yes, neurons do transmit electrical pulses but only within the cell body. Synaptic connections between neurons are solely chemical. Likewise the electrical pulses are generated by chemical actions of the neuron. Also the creation of new neuron connections, the breaking of old connections, the maintenance of the brain eg supply of oxygen and nutrients, are all purely mechanical. Yes scientists can measure brain waves, but this is solely because they are physical phenomena, easily detected and explained. This is evidence against a soul, not for it. We can see exactly what is causing brain waves, we don't need to make up an invisible source for the radiation. We know it is caused by nerve impulses, and when those neurons stop or die, the radiation stops. But since the soul never dies or gets ill or old and weak, if this radiation were coming from the soul, it should never stop. Yes, you could claim that the soul is causing the neurons to fire, but this is just as empty as saying fairies are causing the neurons to fire. There is no evidence that neurons need something external to make them work. Think of a chicken that gets its head cut off. Why does the soul leave the chicken's brain, which lies motionless on the ground, and go into the body and make it run around the yard? Of course it doesn't, this is good evidence of nerves working without a brain, or a soul. It's purely natural and physical.
The physical brain is an immensely complex organ and yet you believe it is still incapable of generating the mind and controlling our bodies. And yet you claim the soul is made of a just a single thing — "sheer energy"? How could something as simple as "sheer energy" store memories, see, hear and touch? Logically if a complex thing like the brain can't think and isn't intelligent, then the soul must be far more complex. Intelligence doesn't increase as things get simpler otherwise bacteria would be more intelligent than we are. It's inconceivable that the soul is simpler than our brain, because seemingly it can do everything our brain supposedly does and much more. Our brain isn't immortal, can't survive without food, can't float around the room, can't communicate over enormous distances etc. And who told you the soul is "sheer energy"? No medium has shown this to be true or even why it would be likely. No doubt someone stole this idea of intelligent energy beings from some science fiction movie, since even in true science this idea makes no sense. I don't understand how the soul could be composed solely of one simple thing — energy — and yet be astronomically complex. It's like saying the space shuttle is made of hydrogen, and only hydrogen. The wings, the engines, the fuel, everything is pure hydrogen. However our experience is that things that do complex things are themselves complex. It's unbelievable that the soul could be made of only one thing and yet be more complex than anything we know of. You can say souls are made of "sheer energy" but this makes no more sense and has no more support than claiming that souls are made from invisible candyfloss. You need to provide proof of this claim since simply claiming it is not enough.
Another problem is the belief that souls contain all our thoughts, memories and emotions and control all our bodily actions. If this is so, then why does science falsely believe that it has good evidence that our memories are stored in our physical brain, that our thoughts and emotions occur when certain neurons become active, that certain parts of our brains control our organs and other parts receive sensory data from our eyes etc? People that believe in souls believe that the soul does all these things. The soul can see and hear without eyes or ears. All our memories reside in our soul. All our thoughts and actions are initiated in the soul. When the soul floats around the room in an out-of-body experience or the body dies, it can still see and hear, still think and understand speech and it retains all its memories. So why does it need the brain? Why does it store memories in the brain as well as the soul? Why the duplication? We know the brain stores memories because brain damage can affect these memories. Why does the brain think as well as the soul? Why the duplication? Again we know the brain thinks because physical brain damage can affect our thinking. We can watch a brain become diseased and observe its cognitive skills reduce. Old people suffering from a brain tumour or Alzheimer's get progressively worse as their brain physically deteriorates. This would suggest that humans use the physical matter in their brains to think and remember with, not some soul. If the soul existed, there is no reason people's memories should fail, since their memories are perfectly intact in their soul, regardless of the state of the brain. If they can still speak, and if the soul is running the show, they should be able to remember perfectly. Why would the soul voice the claim it can no longer remember something just because the back-up memory has been lost from the brain? If this were happening, it would suggest that the soul has just been an observer throughout your life. All your thoughts, actions and memories were coming from the physical brain and the soul wasn't getting involved. If the soul and not the brain were controlling your thoughts and memories in your teenage years, why does it opt out and leave you to your failing brain in your old age? Conversely, if when your brain was young and fit it didn't need a soul to help it out, why when it gets old and decrepit and really needs a hand does the soul refuse to help?
And why don't souls remember what happened when you're unconscious or in a coma? When most people get knocked out they have no memory of what happened while they were out. It is physical trauma that causes this so the non-physical soul can't be affected, so why don't people remember if their soul is really doing all the thinking and remembering? In reality when their brain stops, their sensory input stops and thus their memory stops. When they recover they say they remember nothing. This is obviously their physical brain talking by accessing their physical memories, or lack of them. If it were their soul talking, then they would remember everything, as those that claim to have out-of-body experiences say they do. So again, even if we did have a soul, it is letting the physical brain and mind do all the work. It is superfluous. We obviously don't need one. Perhaps one might say that the soul must work through the physical matter of the brain, and if the brain is damaged then the soul is limited to what the brain can do. This would make sense if the nerves that control speech were affected, thus a person can't speak even though the soul isn't damaged. Yet what about blind people? The soul can see everything perfectly clearly, it doesn't need the eyes, so why doesn't it communicate what it sees to the physical brain of the blind person? Why does the blind person insist they can't see anything? Should they even know that they are blind, since their soul sees perfectly clearly? Why does their soul lie to them? Why can't their mind see the images that their soul sees, and why doesn't their voice describe to us what their soul sees? Again, it must be the physical brain of the blind person that is communicating with us — the one that is blind — and not the soul that can see clearly. Again, if there is a soul in the blind person's head, it's of no use to him. His physical — albeit damaged — brain is doing all the work. And if a physical brain can see and hear and think, why do we need a lazy soul sitting in the backroom with its feet up? And please don't say a soul isn't "allowed" to override the capabilities of the physical brain, ie, if the brain is unconscious then the soul must pretend to be unconscious too. The soul does want it wants according to those that have out-of-body and near-death experiences. If it can be the eyes of an unconscious person on a hospital bed why can't it be the eyes for a blind person? And if granny's soul isn't allowed to talk to her while she's alive, why is it allowed to talk to us when she's dead?
You say souls initially utilise bodies since "we erupted from the primeval ooze goodness knows when and earth is our first stop, kind of a testing ground for higher things." This is just silly. What evidence do you have to support this claim? Since the great majority of humans throughout history have died young, many just after birth, then you must also believe in the reincarnation of souls, as Hindus and Buddhists do. Since the bodies of these souls died young they therefore had no chance to learn these lessons needed for "higher things" to come so would have had to keep going back for another go. Yet humans seem no different now to what they were thousands of years ago. Certainly our accumulated knowledge has increased and our cultures have changed but our behaviour hasn't. People could be just as kind, thoughtful, cruel, caring, jealous, immoral, loving, curious, inventive, playful and gullible then as they are now. There's no evidence that souls are learning anything as they go from body to body. Souls must be dumber and harder to train than your average vacuum cleaner. What or who decides when one of these souls has advanced sufficiently to move up the ladder of life, eventually getting to run a human body? And when do souls finally stop recycling and eventually get a room — or kennel — in heaven? When do they reach the Buddhist equivalent of Nirvana? Does the claim that people can chat with their dead granny and you with your dog mean that their souls have reached perfection? If the souls that Wilson contacts are the acme of souls why are they all so vague and bloody boring in what they choose to chat about?
Since you claim that these souls have been practising for "higher things" since life arose from the "primeval ooze", and since we know life actually arose some 4 billion years ago, this must mean that bacteria and amoeba were the original homes for souls. Since nearly everything that was once alive is now dead, this means that souls must have been reused an astronomical, innumerable number of times and are needed to run even the most primitive life form. An insignificant few have progressed from bacteria to worms to fishes to reptiles to dinosaurs to mammals to humans. Since the number of humans compared to all other life is so minute it can almost be ignored, then obviously nearly every soul has spent what must seem like an eternity jumping from animal to animal. And nearly every soul is still in an animal, especially bacteria, rather than a human. Why doesn't my soul remember anything of its time as an amoeba or a triceratops or a chicken, and if it does, why isn't it letting me take advantage of these past lessons? What's the point of learning lessons if these are going to be suppressed from body to body? It's obvious that nearly every soul is destined to spend eternity in animals and will never reach these "higher things" that you say they were created for and conceivably can only reach by getting to spend time inside a human's brain. Why is only one in a quazillion souls ever permitted to reach heaven? But then this raises the problem of what your dog's soul was doing in heaven? Why didn't his soul need to run a human body and learn certain lessons before hopping off the reincarnation treadmill?
Souls just seem like an unnecessary complication. It's like understanding what causes lightning, that's it just nature, but then still insisting that invisible, undetectable weather gods are working in the background. Unlike our primitive and ignorant ancestors we know what causes minds and lightning, we don't need to continue to believe in immaterial souls and vengeful weather gods as well.
As regards why Wilson can't communicate with the souls of important people, you ask "why would Einstein want to come through... Why would he want to talk to us?" You jest surely? Are you suggesting that Einstein, one of the greatest minds in history, a man who campaigned against nuclear weapons and a scientist fascinated about the universe would have nothing to talk about? And yet your dog does? Einstein has had over fifty years to think and discuss his scientific theories with other great scientific minds, and you're saying there's nothing he would want to tell us, especially the scientific community? And yet your dog has got important things to pass on? Important things like telling you her name was really "Mandy". And when did your dog learn how to communicate in English, or how to possess humans and force them to perform doggy charades? What a pathetic excuse if mediums are insisting all the really interesting dead people have better things to do and that the only souls they can talk to are our boring relatives, and our pets. Why aren't our relatives content with the afterlife, its other inhabitants and recreations? Why are they obsessed with us here on earth? If I were a medium, I'd find it depressing knowing that only the deadbeats of the spirit world hang around to talk to me, with all the other souls off doing more interesting things, with the likes of Einstein. The fact that mediums can't communicate with anyone that can pass on valuable new information just demonstrates that they are losers talking to losers. Actually souls can seldom even pass on information known to them. You said Jeanette came up with "our oldest son's exact name". I guarantee she didn't come up with his surname did she? I guarantee your son's spirit didn't reveal your name and your wife's, his father and mother? It's funny how souls forget that sort of thing.
You believe that my view is based on what you "can't see or feel does not exist, so theoretically you can't see or feel the air so you can't be breathing it." On the contrary, I've already said that scientists (and me) believe in many things we can't see or feel, like black holes, neutrinos and magnetic fields. What I suspend belief in are those things for which there is no good evidence. I believe in "air" because I can see the effect on my body if it is lacking, eg underwater. I don't believe in weather gods because I see no evidence for them and science provides simpler explanations for the weather, explanations that are well supported by evidence. I believe consciousness exists in my head, even though I can't see or touch it. In many respects this is little different than your concept of a soul — it's invisible, it works through the brain, and controls our actions. So in essence my belief is not all that different from yours, it's just that my invisible controlling agent is natural and generated by the brain, whereas yours is supernatural and generated by some invisible god.
I was a little disappointed but perhaps not surprised that you expressed the myth that believers in the paranormal are open minded whereas skeptics and scientists are close minded. You made the comment, "You mentioned that you and a friend went to one of Jeanette's shows and were amazed at how gullible the audience were, I see it more as how closed minded you were, if a ghost had jumped out and bitten you it would have been a hallucination in your mind, nothing whatsoever would have made you open that closed mind, the conclusion was inevitable!". Think about this for a second. Imagine you were walking along the lakeshore at Queenstown and thought you saw a crocodile gliding past, would you immediately say it must be a crocodile? Or would you instead say that there is no evidence that crocodiles are in the lake, or anywhere in NZ, so it's more than likely your are mistaken? Maybe it was just a log? Maybe a hoax? Any intelligent, rational person would look at what the most likely answer was and see what the evidence supported. Did others see it? Could a crocodile even survive in the lake? Only a fool would simply jump to the conclusion that it was a crocodile and refuse to consider anything else. If a stranger told you this story, would you believe their crocodile sighting, or would you conclude that they were most likely mistaken and that they provided no good evidence to support their claim? Would you think them a little gullible — as we did with Jeanette's audience — or would you use your "open mind" and immediately believe them?
It's the same situation if I suddenly thought, as you described, a ghost had jumped out and bitten me. There is no good evidence whatsoever that ghosts exist. There is no evidence whatsoever that ghosts have appeared to the audience at Jeanette Wilson's shows, or at any mediums' show. There is no evidence or even suggestion that ghosts go around biting people. Never before in the history of man have we had a confirmed incident of a ghost even jumping out, let alone biting people, thus I would be extremely gullible if I was to immediately believe this had suddenly happened to me. The most intelligent stance is to assume I am mistaken regarding the ghost, and that there is a rational explanation to what I saw and felt. Perhaps it really was a ghost, but without first examining all the other more likely alternatives only a fool would immediately assume this. This fool would be a true example of a closed-mind. He has seized on the first answer that popped into his head and refuses to consider anything else. His mind is closed to other answers, whereas an open-minded person, like myself, would say, "It certainly looked a bit like a ghost, but that answer goes against everything we know about the world. We need therefore to consider other possibilities as well. Did other people see it? Can they describe it? Did they photograph it? Is someone playing a joke on me? Am I dreaming? Am I suffering delusions? Have I been drugged? Did someone just accidentally pinch me as they moved behind my chair? I will examine the evidence for and against a biting ghost and only then will I make a decision. However, if forced to make an immediate assessment, the most sensible provisional answer is that it wasn't a ghost." This is how I would approach a weird incident at one of Wilson's shows, yet you say I have a closed mind. On the contrary, I am what it truly means to be open minded. I am willing to consider all possibilities, even those I consider unlikely. I am looking for the best answer, not the answer that I want be correct. I've gone to watch and listen to mediums. I've watched their TV shows, read their books and analysed their claims. I've also listened to and read the views of scientists, philosophers and skeptics and analysed their claims. How does studying both sides of a debate make me close-minded? Have you done the same, carefully considered the arguments from both sides? Yes I now debunk belief in the afterlife, but this is not because I haven't considered it, but because I have. If Wilson or any medium were prepared to give me compelling evidence in support of their claim I would examine it. It is this examination that allowed us to write our article critical of Wilson, and the articles critical of the Sensing Murder mediums. Might I ask you why a person with a closed mind would even be at one of Wilson's shows?
Being open minded doesn't mean being receptive to beliefs rejected by science. Most everyone I've met that attends the shows of mediums like Jeanette Wilson believed in ghosts before they went, they believed during the show and they continued to believe on the way home. What other alternatives were they exposed to by Wilson, what other possibilities were they open to? In what way were they open minded? None openly looked at other explanations, they simply believed. Yes they are open to the possibly that ghosts might exist, but to be open minded they must equally be open to the possibly that they DON'T, which most aren't. They, like you, argue adamantly that mediums are correct and science is wrong.
You and I both believe one thing and reject the opposing view. However, my interpreting Wilson's statements as delusions evidently makes me closed minded, yet you interpreting the same statements as talking ghosts makes you open minded? Could you explain why? I'm a little peeved at continually having this insult thrown at me (and scientists and skeptics in general), when in fact the opposite is true. I'm impressed by the scientists' willingness to examine the claims of mediums, to offer to test them and give them the opportunity to explain and demonstrate their claimed abilities. I'm equally disappointed by the mediums' general refusal to be tested, their refusal to perform in a controlled setting and their unwillingness to explain their abilities in any detail. Mediums and their supporters accuse scientists and skeptics of being closed minded and yet they send them packing when they ask to observe their performance. Most mediums and their supporters refuse to entertain the possibility that they may be wrong, and usually dismiss curious scientists and skeptics with statements like "I'm not going to explain what I do or allow you to observe me because you're closed minded." If scientists were truly closed minded, they wouldn't try to examine mediums at work, they would simply stay in their labs and say, "They're crap. I don't need to test them to learn that." The mediums refusal to be tested or admit that they might be wrong is what closed minded really means. Scientists want to verify whether their stance is correct, why don't mediums?
You also said, "I think you are twisting things a bit when you say the burden of proof should be on me. I answered this not because you claimed that the normal world existed, that's silly, we all know that. Your actual claim was that the supernatural world didn't exist, that's what your column is about and therefore the onus is on you to prove this and so far I have seen absolutely nothing that proves anything in your column."
As I said, the burden of prove rests with the person who makes a positive claim. It is impractical and usually impossible to prove a negative claim. In the natural world it can (theoretically) be quite simple to prove something exists. This is proving a 'positive', proving something does exist. For example, if you claimed that black sheep existed all you would have to do is produce a black sheep and your job is complete. However trying to prove a 'negative' is trying to prove something doesn't exist. It's impossible in most cases. So who made the positive claim in this case? I did not claim souls exist, nor did I claim that the afterlife exists, nor did I claim that mediums can communicate with these souls. Jeanette Wilson did not come out of the woodwork to counter my claim that the afterlife doesn't exist. Wilson made the positive claim that she can talk to souls in the afterlife in her stage shows, on TV and in her books. She made the original positive claim that souls etc exist. The burden of prove rests with Wilson because she insists something exists, and she can plausibly prove this claim. I can not prove that souls etc don't exist. I can show that it's extremely unlikely that souls exist, but I can't provide the same level of proof that Wilson could easily do. I can and have proved that Wilson cheats, but that does not prove that souls don't exist. It would be a cinch for Wilson to prove beyond reasonable doubt that souls exist, therefore it makes practical sense that following this route would settle the debate.
Yet mediums, including Wilson, refuse to provide proof of their claims, or allow others to gather evidence. They just sit back and say, "You prove souls don't exist". But this would be fruitless. If I say I can't see souls Wilson says that's because they are invisible. If I can't weigh them Wilson says they are massless. If I can't detect them Wilson says they are immaterial. If I can't talk to specific souls Wilson says that's because they've moved on. If I say souls contradict Bible descriptions Wilson says the Bible got it wrong etc etc. No matter what I say Wilson can give answers as to why I can't detect any souls. This would go on forever. I could never prove souls don't exist, just like we can never prove the tooth fairy doesn't exist. Thus, regardless of whether you think it's fair or not, the only way we can get a resolution is for the person making a positive claim — that something does exist — to provide proof. When a scientist says atoms exist it is their job to provide proof, not the responsibility of plumbers or pilots to prove they don't. Likewise when mediums say souls exist, it is their job to provide proof. Imagine a doctor giving you a new drug and saying, "I think it's safe, but it's up to you to prove it isn't." You should always be suspicious of people that are unwilling or unable to support their claims. Most people go out of their way to provide proof that their claims are true, eg scientists, lawyers, teachers, but mediums don't. They simply say, "It's your job to prove I'm wrong". Why are they afraid to be tested? It's because the handful that have tried to provide proof of their abilities have failed miserably, and they realise that they are no better than these failures were. I'm forever amazed that believers in mediums think it is the skeptics' job to demonstrate that mediums are frauds. Why aren't they pleading with the mediums, "I know you're talking with ghosts, you know you're talking with ghosts, why won't you prove it to the skeptics? You tell me all this amazing stuff from the afterlife, why do you always clam up when the skeptic turns up? Why do you only pass messages onto believers, surely those in the afterlife would be "dying" to prove their skeptical offspring wrong?" Why isn't Wilson writing to us to defend her claims? Why do mediums leave it to their supporters to fight their battles? I believe Jeanette Wilson knows that this website exists and that we think she's a fraud. She supposedly understands about souls and the afterlife far more than you or I, so why is she leaving it up to you to defend her reputation? She could email me with some intimate details gleaned from the afterlife that, if it didn't convert me in an instant, would at least make me question my stance. But she doesn't, nor does any other medium. Why are mediums only willing to discuss these issues with believers?
So Clive, why not put your effort into convincing Jeanette Wilson and her fellow mediums to stop hiding behind their supporters. They have the power to make me eat my words. You saying they can do wonderful things achieves nothing. Would you believe me if I said I had a friend who could turn herself invisible? No, you would hopefully want my friend to prove it to you. Likewise Wilson must demonstrate her abilities in front of skeptics, not just those that blindly believe in her. And anyone saying that the mere presence of skeptics interferes with her powers or that no one in the afterlife wants to talk to skeptics is just being childish.
Comment by Bob, 02 Jun, 2009
I am passing on an interesting ghost story which you might like to tuck in your scrap book. It shows how difficult it can be some times to disprove claims of the supernatural while conversely bolstering the believers.
Back in either the 1880s or 1890s a Lord So & So with a large estate and mansion died. A few years afterwards a photographer took pictures of the house including pictures of every room. When they were developed one photo of a living room showed the figure of a transparent man sitting in a chair. The photographer was puzzled as he was sure the room was empty when he took the picture. He showed it to the family and staff and all agreed it looked very much like the deceased lord and assumed it was him. The photo then did the rounds for many years especially among the seance and clairvoyant crowd who used it as proof of the existence of ghosts and existence on the other side. It became a standard for psychics right up until recently.
It is a while since I read this story but I think it was in the 1990s that a sceptical photographer saw it and assumed there had to be a logical explanation. Double exposure seemed to be out partly because single plates had to be inserted unlike modern cameras which could be rewound. Also the original photographer's word had to be taken that the rooms were all empty. The sceptic then hit upon a possible explanation. Before 1900 cameras had to have a long exposure time to register on the plates. Those old family shots showing serious faced subjects came about because the people couldn't keep up a smiling face for 5 minutes while they stood still. The sceptic assumed the photographer set his camera up focussed on the room then went away and left it. The room was empty when he left and empty when he came back. The sceptic however felt sure someone had come into the room sat for a minute or so in the chair then left again. The long exposure time could not capture the fast movement of the man reaching the chair then walking away only the time spent sitting. To prove it he set up a camera on open aperture then walked to a chair sat then walked away again. The result was the same.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Jun, 2009
Thanks for that ghost story Bob. It's always interesting to consider how they might be explained. My first guess would have been that it had been faked, especially at a time when faked photos at seances of spirits and ectoplasm etc was rife, and people believed that these new fangled photographs never lied. It's amazing that they did believe them but they did, although the one you describe seems more realistic. Assuming it wasn't faked, then the long exposure scenario is the more reasonable explanation. It also provides another easy method of faking the shot, effectively a triple exposure. Say the full exposure takes 3 minutes, then open the lens for one minute with an empty chair, then put a cap over the lens and put someone in the chair. Open the lens again for another minute, then cover it again and remove the man. Then expose the chair for the final minute. The room has had the full exposure but the man has had a limited exposure rendering him transparent. Years ago my parents had a camera that would take picture after picture on the same piece of film. You had to remember to wind it on each time, and so I accidently got several weird double and triple exposures. Modern cameras automatically advance the film but my SLR has a 'multiple exposure' button that cocks the shutter but doesn't wind on the film. I'm not sure if digital cameras have any way of accidently getting a double exposure. Of course they can be easily created afterwards on the computer. Photos are no longer the good evidence they once were.
Comment by Nicky, 16 Jul, 2009
My good god,
you have actually created time in your life to write this rubbish?! Don't you have a day job? leave mediums alone, you have persecuted one medium, educate yourself before you write any more crap. you poor poor soul!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Jul, 2009
Nicky, we have actually exposed many mediums as fakes and fraudsters, not just Wilson. Try reading our 'Sensing Murder' articles. Since you imply you have read our 'rubbish', why do you not mention even one piece of evidence in defence of your view? I don't understand why believers usually only go so far as saying we are wrong, and seldom attempt to explain why. Since you no doubt believe that you have knowledge that 'proves' we are mistaken in our view, why have you not produced it? You want us to stop 'persecuting' mediums, so why are you not willing to put in the time and effort to help us see the light? Don't you want to see us alter or even delete our article? Surely you don't believe that questioning our intelligence and a simple demand to desist will be sufficient? Could it be that you know your 'evidence' would not be all that convincing in the real world?
Of course I also wonder why the actual mediums are never willing to defend their claims, they all rely on supporters like yourself to fight their battles. Wilson supposedly has the skills and knowledge to astound and amaze me with intimate details that would prove her claims, yet she leaves it to you to contact me and tell me to back off. Why? Why won't mediums stand up for themselves? Are they too busy ripping off their clients to be concerned about trying to defend their reputation?
As for how I found time to write our article, it doesn't actually take much effort to see through these deluded mediums and their silly stage acts and write down our conclusions. I suspect you have 'wasted' far more time listening to mediums and reading their fictional books than we have debunking them.
And you needn't pity me as being a 'poor, poor soul'. Maybe that's one reason why you can't see through these mediums. You see, I don't actually have a soul. And neither do you. Souls are no more real than angels and fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Comment by Tracey, 29 Sep, 2009
You're an idiot to be so angry about what she does. Let her do her thing & if it gives people closure so they can move on so be it. Do you know what it's like to carry around words that should have been said to a person & then they suddenly die???????????
At least she doesn't force it down people's throats like some other people in this world. Leave the women alone & get yourself a life!!!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Sep, 2009
It sounds like you're the angry one Tracey, I mean, did you really need to use 11 question marks? It doesn't really surprise me that supporters of nonsense can only ever respond to criticism with insults and threats. Is there honestly nothing that you could think of saying that might cause us to believe that what Jeanette Wilson does is real? Assuming you read our article, is there nothing that we wrote that you might want to challenge?
You can't convince us that our view is false by simply telling us to back off. That's like the Catholic Church telling people to mind their own business when child sex allegations arose.
You simply say, 'Let her do her thing'. We have in no way physically prevented Wilson from running her scam, so I assume you believe we are reducing her customer numbers by proving to people that she is ripping them off. I hope you're right.
You talk about people needing closure, so do you believe what Wilson does is just a trick to console people with psychological problems, or do you really believe an untold number of ghosts are following us when we go to the toilet?
And think about it Tracey, if the dead really are continually watching over us as Wilson claims, often standing right behind us it seems, then they can see everything you do and hear everything that you say. You don't need to pay Wilson an exorbitant amount to let some dead relative know what you should have said when they were alive. If you have to direct your comments to something physical rather than just thin air, then go and talk to your garden sprinkler. It will be just as effective as talking to Wilson and her ilk, and free. And if you want to imagine them talking back, then do so, after all, that's all Wilson does. Of course your neighbours might think you're nuts, but surely no more than seeing you talking to invisible ghosts at Wilson's shows.
And FYI, I have got a life, and a small part of it is exposing people like Jeanette Wilson who lie to their clients, and then rely on those same clients to defend her.
Comment by Angela, 06 Oct, 2009
Hi John. I respect your opinions on Jeanette but I must disagree with you. I have been to a few of her shows, at the first one my mum was called up on stage. The FIRST thing Jeanette said to my mum was "Your dad says thank you for the bag pipes". My grandfather had passed a couple of years earlier and we had a lone bag piper playing bag pipes at the cemetry as we took him in. There is NO WAY Jeanette could have known that. My husband (on a different occasion) also got called on stage with Jeanette — Jeanette asked him why he hadnt found the name of a missing ancestor yet — before my husbands grandmother passed she told him to make sure he found the name of this family member to help complete their family tree. If you believe Jeanette to be a fraud could you possibly explain these two instances?? Kind Regards, Angela.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Oct, 2009
Thanks for comments Angela, and it's good to see someone presenting reasons for why they believe in the likes of medium Jeanette Wilson. However, without experiencing the actual sessions you talk about, to have observed who said and did what, it's difficult to really know what transpired. It's like a UFO spotter saying they saw a flying saucer and challenging me to explain what the light in the sky was if it wasn't a flying saucer. Of course many natural things could explain what the light was if we only had more information. Likewise your belief that 'There is NO WAY Jeanette could have known that' is not something a skeptic like myself would immediately accept. There are many ways, some unlikely but not impossible, that she could know things about you. She may by mere coincidence have witnessed your grandfather's funeral. Or one of her minions might have known you or have witnessed the funeral, and spotting you in the audience, passed the information on to Wilson. Like some mediums have done in the past, she may have hired an investigator to dig up some information on people that she knew were planning on attending her show. She or one of her minions could have overheard your family talking prior to the show, and people at these shows do generally talk about those they wish to contact, not global warming or the Iraq war. As has been proven in the past with many mediums, and Wilson, she may have simply cheated. But let's assume that in these cases she didn't cheat by having information given to her by the living. What might explain Wilson's apparent successes?
I believe these shows are all about vague statements, interpretation and selective memory. A medium will say something vague and then the person will rack their brains trying to find a connection. With your mother it was 'bagpipes'. But why would Wilson mention bagpipes? Is there something about your mother to suggest a connection with Scotland and bagpipes? Did Wilson know that her name was Campbell or McLean or Jean? Was she wearing tartan? Does she have an accent? You said, 'The FIRST thing Jeanette said to my mum was... ',but I suspect some words had already passed between Wilson and your mum before she reached the stage. Mediums do love to occasionally suggest something a little less obvious and when a member of the audience accepts it, everyone is impressed and remembers it, yet more often than not these claims with more detail fall flat. Thankfully for the medium the audience soon forgets them, but when they work people are amazed, so it's worth the risk to occasionally go out on a limb.
But as regards your mother's experience, with Wilson saying 'Your dad says thank you for the bag pipes',while she did make a connection, it's more revealing to look at what she didn't say than what she did. If she had said something like, 'Your dad, Angus Donald Campbell, previously of 12 Somestreet, Auckland, says thanks for having the lone piper play at his funeral at the Metropolitan cemetery on the 12 July, 2003, because he's always loved the bagpipes',then I would sit up and take note. But she didn't. She didn't know what your grandfather's name was, when he died, where he was buried or that there was a piper at the funeral. It was your mother that merely assumed that the mention of bagpipes must relate to the funeral. If there hadn't been bagpipes there, then she would have tried to find another connection, such as, maybe your grandfather merely enjoyed bagpipe music and your mother didn't and he was thanking her for putting up with them. If she couldn't make a connection then the comment from Wilson would be promptly forgotten and never thought of again. People remember the odd hit Wilson apparently makes and forget the many misses.
Think about this. If I made 20 predictions or statements about you and 19 were wrong and one correct — let's say I correctly said you were a teacher — would you believe I was in touch with a dead relative of yours, or would you assume that it was just a lucky guess or that I had cheated somehow? I hope you'd go with lucky guess or cheating, since if I was really relaying information about you from someone who knew you intimately then I should have a wealth of details about you — your name, birthday, favourite food, music and movies, husband's and children's names, address, occupation, hobbies etc. And not only that, I could tell you the same intimate details about the person who claims to know you, e.g. Granny — their name, birthday, hobbies, appearance etc. And yet mediums like Wilson can NEVER do this. Why not? The dead people can communicate quite clearly when they're talking about bagpipes and missing ancestors, so why do they clam up when it comes to talking about important details, like their full name? Why does Wilson always describe them as an elderly man or woman, or your grandfather or a friend? Why do dead people never reveal who they are, but feel compelled to tell us about bagpipes?
So, rather than a long list of amazing revelations from Wilson about your grandfather, this is the only one you mention. So I can but assume that this is the only surprising thing Wilson said, the rest must have been wrong or so vague and mundane that even you are not willing to bring them up. Why when your grandfather supposedly had such a clear chance of communication with his daughter, and since he is no longer there to offer support, why did he not wish to offer some advice to her? Parents have plenty of opinions about how their kids and grandkids are running their lives when they're alive, so why do they lose this urge to offer advice when they die?
It appears to be the same with your husband. Like your mother he was called on stage but you only mention one thing that Wilson said that impressed you. So again I must assume her other statements were wrong or just too mundane. You said 'Jeanette asked him why he hadn't found the name of a missing ancestor yet'. You say your husband connected this to his grandmother and researching their family tree. As for why Wilson mentioned finding the name of a missing ancestor, I would need to hear exactly what she said to ensure that your husband didn't just interpret a vague statement as perhaps having something to do with his family tree. Did he know Wilson was communicating with his grandmother at this stage, and remember he has two, or did Wilson's statement cause your husband to say, 'My grandmother was interested in our family tree'? More often than not people unknowingly give the information to mediums and then the mediums pretend they knew it was the grandmother all along. And anyway, most people have some knowledge of their family tree, and all have missing information about their ancestors. If Wilson had said that statement to anyone of my immediate family it would make sense to us all personally, meaning it's a worthless statement that applies to many people. Wilson could have made it special and unique by saying, 'Your maternal grandmother, Agnes Mavis McTavis, asks why you haven't yet found out who was the father of Robert James Zimmerman, who died in Blackpool in 1743, as she asked you to do back in July 1998 at her home in Lower Hutt'. Your husband could no doubt provide this information, since he knows what information he was searching for, so why can't his grandmother who set him this task? Like his grandmother, will he too forget all the details when he dies?
But let's think about this for a minute. Why didn't his grandmother just tell him what the missing name was? His grandmother is now supposedly in the very same place as all these ancestors, having tea with them. It would be a cinch for her to simply ask her relatives, who remember are right there with her, what all their names and connections are and pass the information on to your husband. But no, even though her ancestors surround her she merely puts the task back onto your husband, without even the slightest hint of where to start looking. What sort of grandmother would do this, especially now that she has her 'family tree' around her and the search for her has ended? Why is she even still concerned about things she now has the answer to, especially when your husband isn't, and yet not concerned about anything else in his life?
The fact is that the messages from dead people would suggest that they are all a little senile. Even when they can see we are struggling to understand their cryptic comments passed on by Wilson, they still don't offer to explain. They simply jump to some other unrelated topic. Would you act this way if you were dead and had a single chance to pass messages to your loved ones?
Let's think of a real life scenario. Imagine you have been overseas for two years in a mysterious country with no contact with your family and friends. Suddenly you encounter a stranger who has access to a satellite phone who generously offers to call your family and pass on some messages. What messages would you write down? Would you say something simple like, 'Thanks for the movies',by which you mean the DVDs that your family gave you at the airport when you departed? Or perhaps, 'I love country music'? Would you waste your only chance with communication with silly comments like this, or would you say something meaningful, like telling them what the country you're in is like, what the people you're surrounded by are like, what work you're doing, why you're haven't been able to contact them before this and where you hid the keys to your car so they can give it a run while you're away? Would you also identify not only yourself by name, but also your family, so that they would know that the messages really were from you? You no doubt have had real conversations with people you haven't seen for years. Are they really as banal and vague as the conversations that dead people take part in? These people were intelligent, lively, inquisitive human beings when they were alive, yet in death they turn into boring zombies. Old people think life in rest homes is boring and mind destroying, yet the afterlife seems far worse judging by what dead people want to talk about. Why does not one single dead person want to talk about the afterlife, about what they do each day, what it looks like, who's in control, why they don't communicate with their loved ones and why they can't remember our names? If living members of our family communicated in the same childish, vague, banal, forgetful way that dead people do, we would seriously consider putting them in protective care.
The challenge is to not just think about what Wilson tells you, think about what your dead relative knew before they died and all they must now know by watching you and the world from the afterlife, and think about why they might refuse to reveal this vast knowledge. The next time you're with a medium, make the conversation two-way. Ask your dead relative some simple questions to prove that it's really them talking, and not just the medium making things up. Like what is their full name, what was their precise occupation, what are their kids' names, when was their birthday? We expected them to be able to easily do this when they were alive, now healthy and pain free in the afterlife, it should be no problem.
Even if some people do believe their dead relatives are communicating sensibly with them, why do the dead relatives of skeptics like myself refuse to get in touch? Many of my relatives were believers, and certainly are now if they're in the afterlife, and would no doubt love to prove me wrong, so why aren't they fighting their way to the front of the queue to make me look a fool at these shows? Why does the medium's powers desert her when confronted by a skeptic? Why do they even actively hide from skeptics? They're like magicians who refuse to perform a trick if you want to check their sleeves first or won't stay in front of them. We all know magicians have things to hide, but why do mediums shun scrutiny? Magicians don't demand to be tested by scientists to prove their powers because they openly admit it's all a trick, but why don't mediums want to prove they're not just fooling us and lying through their teeth? Why is Wilson willing to let me call her delusional and/or a fraud and not taking me to court or asking me to test her so she can prove me wrong and so demand a public apology? If she can easily prove it to hundreds at her shows, why isn't she willing to risk it with me? Mediums claim to have the power to prove me wrong, but none want to for some reason.
Remember also that mediums claim to have the power to reveal information not available on Earth, but they NEVER do. You already knew your grandfather liked the bagpipes and that your family tree had missing details. So what did you learn that was a revelation? Nothing. The medium told you nothing that you didn't already know. When the mediums start telling us things that we don't know, knowledge that dead people took to their graves with them, then they might have something to rave about. In your sessions you weren't surprised by the knowledge itself, merely that the medium was privy to that knowledge. You see this as prove that Wilson was getting that information from your dead relative, yet skeptics see it as mediums getting that information from their clients. A person exclaiming, 'How did the medium know that?',is little different from someone exclaiming, 'How did the magician do that?'
At the end of the day, you saying that Wilson is revealing unknown information means little. It's no different than my cousin insisting that his neighbour has fairies at the bottom of his garden or has travelled to another galaxy with aliens. My cousin's view is just his opinion of his neighbour. His neighbour would need to be willing to show skeptics and scientists these fairies or provide evidence that his intergalactic journeys really happened, otherwise, since they go against everything we think we know about the world, we should assume that his neighbour is deluded. Likewise, until Wilson herself decides to let scientists test her claims, we have to assume she is deluded or a fraud. Asking a believer in mediums if Wilson is real is as worthless as asking a Christian if God is real. Just because Christians believe in God doesn't mean God is real, any more than kids believing in Santa makes Santa real. Sincere testimony from believers is insufficient, we need evidence from the mediums themselves, evidence that they seem loath to provide.
If someone knocks on your door claiming to be a policeman yet they can't or won't answer questions that a policeman could and should easily answer, you should suspect an impostor. Likewise if a dead parent or grandparent won't tell you what their full name is, or what your name is, even though they have evidently been queuing up hoping to talk with you, again you should suspect someone is trying to fool you. And that person will be the medium.
So Angela, even though I would love there to be another wonderful life after this one, the trick that mediums perform for us is not a good reason to believe that this is likely to be the case. So make the most of this life.
Comment by Angela, 08 Oct, 2009
Well John, I see you are very strong in your convictions. I really do hope one day that science will "prove" the existance of the human soul and the afterlife. I recall a time when science thought the earth was flat and society mocked Darwin's ideas.....anyway, there is nothing I can say to convince you and seeing as it is something I believe (therefore, have faith in rather than scientific proof) it doesn't really matter does it. Believing in an afterlife and the ability of those that have passed on to communicate with the living gives me hope...it sure beats the idea of rotting in the ground, lights out, door closed, finished. But yes, it is just a belief and I really do hope that one day sceptics find something beyond this world to believe in too. I wish you all the very best, Angela.
Oh p.s. you took a stab in the dark that I was a teacher.....you must be psychic, because I have been a school teacher for 6 years lol
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Oct, 2009
Hi Angela, thanks for your reply. You say you wait for the day that 'science will 'prove' the existance of the human soul and the afterlife', when science will admit it was wrong, and you give the example of the false belief in a flat earth. However we need to remember that it was religions, those that invented souls and the afterlife, that thought the world was flat. Even the ancient Greeks knew the earth was a sphere. Likewise it was again religion that mocked Darwin's science. This two nil defeat of religion by science does not bode well for belief in souls.
You say there is nothing you could say to convince me, but actually there is a lot you could say and do that could convince me. Simply give me good reasons and show me good evidence. Perhaps you have neither, basing your believe solely on hope, but surely the mediums that you support have good reasons and good evidence in abundance. I can't understand why they refuse to divulge it. You hope that science will provide proof of souls, but why don't you tell the mediums to stop being so secretive and do it themselves?
As for your hope that 'one day sceptics find something beyond this world to believe in too', I don't understand this dissatisfaction with life. I am perfectly content in believing in this world. There are untold wonders, mysteries and joys in this life without forever yearning for another life. You imply that it would be horribly depressing if you don't get another life after this one, that it's just 'lights out'. Yet do you get depressed when you realise that you didn't have a life previous to this one, that the universe has been around for billions of years and you haven't? You didn't exist before you were born, so why are you so insistent on existing after you die?
As for my correctly guessing that you were a teacher, you said that I 'took a stab in the dark'. Not at all. I deliberately said 'teacher' since you had unknowingly revealed that information. I wanted to show you how I could reveal something about you that you no doubt believed I couldn't know. Just like a medium, I 'cheated'. I gleaned a snippet of information from the real world and fed it back to you to surprise you. Lest you think anyone can say that in hindsight, I'm also 'sensing' that your husband might also be a teacher. Amazing aren't I?, and my reading is free.
I likewise wish you all the very best, but I implore you to put all your efforts into enjoying this life. Don't make the assumption that this is just a dress rehearsal for the next life, and that you can correct mistakes or catch up with old friends the next time around.
Comment by Kim, 09 Oct, 2009
It is wonderful to see that Jeanette Wilson has vanished from our tv screens and as you say she is still little known. Thank you for explaining your point of view with calm and logic and for the time and work that you put in to help people truly open their minds. Believing in a higher power is not the same as believing in Jeanette Wilson. I am sad for the 'believers' who write in although I am glad that they do. I hope that you are getting through to them. At the very least you provide a place online for those sensible enough to do some research before they give this con artist a cent.
Thank you very much
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Oct, 2009
Thanks for your comments Kim re medium Jeanette Wilson. It is great that she has returned to obscurity, although unfortunately those other mediums on Sensing Murder are due to return to our screens shortly. You're right in that we just try to use reason to explain our point of view, and of course we could be wrong. However it's a shame that 'believers' and especially the mediums themselves won't explain how they believe this afterlife functions, especially since they've had numerous intimate contacts with its inhabitants. I suspect they can only maintain their belief if they don't actually think about it too deeply. It's like kids starting to think about Santa — 'Wait a minute! How can a fat guy get down a chimney?'
Comment by Angela, 10 Oct, 2009
hi John, yes I see my two examples of a flat earth and Darwinism probably weren't well thought out lol. Im just suggesting that perhaps we, as humans, don't know everything about everything as yet and that it isnt outside the realms of possiblity that a human soul and an afterlife exist. You say that I don't get depressed about not having a life before this one, you're right, I don't, this being because I believe I have been here before. I believe that this life is just one of many that "I" (or my spirit if you like) have and will experience. I don't have, as you put it, a dissatisfaction with this life ... I just find the idea of people we have lost etc waiting for us on the other side. Yes, all of this is my belief; therefore, I havn't any proof. I don't know if anyone could really prove the existance of spirit to someone who refuses to believe. It could be perhaps the same as someone trying to prove the equality of all people to a racist ... no matter what anybody says, the racist is never going to believe that everybody is equal. A question I have for you John, do you want to believe in an afterlife and spirit? Or would you prefer that people that do believe ... didn't? Would you like someone to give you evidence? Or would you like to provide evidence that spirit doesn't exist? Anyway, I must say, although I don't agree with your views, I do enjoy discussing opposing ideas as it makes you think more deeply about your own beliefs.
And ... how did you know my husband and I were both teachers? Im interested to know lol
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Oct, 2009
Hi Angela, thanks for your comments and questions, which I shall try to answer.
I certainly agree that we 'don't know everything about everything', but we certainly know a lot more than we did when the idea of souls were first conceived, and much of what we thought we knew back then has been convincingly shown to be wrong. Unfortunately this argument that something 'might be possible' lets us claim that anything and everything might exist. If souls and supernatural beings might exist, then so might leprechauns and fairies, centaurs and griffins. The question is not whether something might exist, but whether it is likely that it exists, whether there is any good evidence that it might exist. There might be an invisible alien from Betelgeuse standing behind you right now, but would you change your behaviour based on this possibility? I suspect that you would require some pretty strong evidence before you would start worrying about this alien and your safety. Yet it is possible that he really is behind you. Obviously the 'mere possibility' of something shouldn't be enough to influence our beliefs and behaviour. If we're going to let a belief influence us, we need to have confidence in its truthfulness. Rather than simply saying that something may exist, we should give reasons why something may exist. From a scientific perspective, there is plenty of evidence that what you call your soul or 'I', is your consciousness, which is created by the activity of your brain. Damage to the brain clearly impacts on the functioning of your consciousness , and death causes it to disappear completely. If there is a soul in there as well, it does nothing to make its presence known to you, and would be little different to a spy sent by god.
You say that you believe you've lived before. Like souls and the afterlife, I see no evidence for reincarnation or past lives. Apart from a handful of people, out of the entire population on the planet no one remembers a past life. Of the few that claim to, none of their stories have passed scrutiny. Even though they claim to have lived in ancient times, none could speak the ancient languages or correctly describe the culture of the time. Whether they were an ancient Egyptian, Roman or Viking or maidservant to Napoleon's Josephine, they could only speak English, and their descriptions of the time matched romanticised versions from Hollywood movies, not true history. The majority of people that believe in past lives have no memory of them, they simply believe that souls are recycled. Since people remember nothing of previous lives, this means that in future lives you will remember nothing of the lessons you have learnt in this one. If your memories are wiped clean each time, then this is no different than not having lived before. An old soul with a blank memory is no different from a brand new soul with a blank memory. The idea that souls learn and mature on each reincarnation would only work if we could remember those lessons, but we don't. If this is the purpose of souls, to slowing improve humans by giving them multiple lives, then the process is broken, since no one remembers.
Another problem with reincarnation is the 'afterlife' or heaven. If upon death your soul is reincarnated into another body, then who is floating around in heaven talking to Jeanette Wilson and pretending to be your granny? Your soul either goes to heaven for an eternity of praising god, as Christians believe, or it infuses another life back on earth. How can granny be watching you from heaven and at the same time be starting a new life in Alaska? It's no good saying there is a stand down period spent in heaven before going back to earth because mediums have supposedly conversed with souls in the afterlife that died hundreds and thousands of years ago. Likewise it's no good saying that these souls have learnt all their lessons from past lives and have reached nirvana, since we've already decided that souls don't retain their memories or lessons learnt. Also, since there are more people alive now than there ever have been, it's obvious that every soul ever made would need to be in a body somewhere. None could be spared to loll around in heaven. So if souls really are recycled, then there is no need for an afterlife to exist. There is no afterlife in the sense of heaven since your soul is immediately plugged into another body, where it is completely out of reach of mediums like Jeanette Wilson. You say that you like the idea that people we have lost are waiting for us on the other side, but if you believe in reincarnation then they won't be waiting for you. Their souls would have gone on to their next life. Why would your family and friends be allowed to break the cycle and hang around drinking lattes waiting for you?
I don't accept this assertion that skeptics 'refuse to believe'. Would you accept my claim that regarding souls you refuse to disbelieve? I could equally say, how could I prove the existence of a naturalistic world to someone like yourself who refuses to believe. It is also entirely plausible to take a racist, educate him and cause him to see the errors of his ways, just as many devout Christians have been exposed to new arguments and turned into atheists. I agree that there are people that are blinkered in their views and refuse to consider anything that might shake a strongly held view. However there is a huge difference between blindly holding a belief through ignorance and adopting one after careful examination of the evidence and then taking the most rational stance. I don't believe in souls because I see no evidence for souls or need for souls, that is, my understanding of the naturalistic universe doesn't require souls for it to function or for me to type this paragraph. I suspect that many people, such as mediums like Jeanette Wilson, must resort to claiming that I 'refuse to believe' simply because they can't offer any evidence to support their case, and thus must insist that my unwillingness to believe is down to my stubbornness, not their pathetic argument. It's similar to their complaint that skeptics never come to their shows so we shouldn't criticise, yet when we do turn up they run and hide or they and their audience vilify us. I have changed my mind on many things over the years — I used to believe in God — and presented with evidence and good arguments I will change it again. Can believers in mediums and souls say the same?
You ask, 'do you want to believe in an afterlife and spirit?' There's insufficient information in that question for me to answer yes or no, but first let me say that my believing in something does not come down to a personal choice. I believe that many things exist, like poverty and murder, that I wish didn't. I try not to let my desires influence my beliefs. However, the simplistic vision of the afterlife, of a paradise of unbridled joy, only sounds inviting if you don't think about it too deeply. Mediums and the like refuse to give away much information on the afterlife, but it seems that if you die as an old man on crutches or as a six year old, then you stay that way for all eternity. You can't age because then you'd die, but you're already dead. Spending a couple of decades living as an old age pensioner can be very difficult and even unpleasant by all accounts, having to spend an eternity that way would be a nightmare.
If we assume that the Christian view of the afterlife is correct, then my being an atheist means their loving god is sending me straight to hell. So yes, I'd rather there wasn't an afterlife. However, by all accounts hell is more fun than heaven anyway, which is just fill of Mormons according to South Park. Did you know there is no sex in heaven or marriage? There is no getting back together with your wife or husband. Sure you can be friends, but nothing more, for all eternity. The Christian God does not condone belief in reincarnation, so you wouldn't be in his good books, and He finds mediums abhorrent and instructs his followers to kill them. Assuming you've disobeyed these commandments I'll probably see you in hell for an eternity of torture. Let's remember that Christians, Muslims and Jews believe that they will, if they've been good, go to the afterlife, the paradise that is heaven, for all eternity. They don't think they'll only get to spend a few months or years there and then their soul gets whisked off to live another life on earth as another human, or if Hindus are running the show, maybe as a rat or grasshopper. If the monotheist religions are correct, then there is an afterlife but definitely no reincarnation. You can't believe in both. You may have seen videos of caged animals pacing their cages and slowly going mad because of the repetition. No matter how many fun things you could think of doing in heaven, and no sex remember, you would also go mad long before eternity was up. And don't get me started on the continual praising of God that is required by all. That's going to get tiresome very quickly.
Of course the Christian God might not be running the afterlife, and remember that some intelligent being must be in charge or else there would be chaos, it might be the Muslim god or an Aztec god. Being a male I would fare better than you if Allah were in charge, you would simply be converted to a virgin (read prostitute) for the incoming martyrs. However since neither of us worshipped Allah while we were alive, I guess it's back to hell. The Aztec gods were known for demanding an horrendous number of blood thirsty human sacrifices so I can't imagine their afterlife is all that pleasant. And again, I doubt if women have all that much equality in an Aztec heaven. So wishing for an afterlife depends on how one was taught to perceive it.
As for spirits, again what mediums tell us indicates that the 'personality' of spirits freeze on the body's death. Spirits that die as six year olds stay as six year olds, old age pensioners don't revert to teenagers. Spending all eternity as a peeping tom or voyeur, spying on your extended family and yet unable to help them or give advice would soon become very boring. Living humans might think it would be fun to spy on women in the shower or couples arguing, but remember that spirits wouldn't experience sexual feelings or enjoy watching conflict, this is heaven. This is simply living humans placing their desires on the afterlife as if it were a TV soap opera. And if reincarnation is real, and spirits are continually recycled into new bodies, having your memories wiped each time means that you have no knowledge of past lives or of even being a spirit. And as I've already said, if souls really are recycled, then there is no need for an afterlife to exist.
I suspect that many people hope for an afterlife that they have fashioned from their own desires, not what religions say is on offer. I don't think they grasp what a religious afterlife would really entail or just how long eternity really is. From my knowledge of religions and eternity, I would hope that the afterlife is a fantasy, otherwise we are all in deep trouble. After all, you can't commit suicide in heaven.
Would I prefer that people that didn't believe in souls etc.? People can and will believe what they wish, but I would be happier if people always had good reasons for holding their beliefs. I look on beliefs that are held for no good reason as limiting the freedom of that person. Just as I would strive to release a person from physical slavery, I also feel compelled to free a person's mind if I detect what I believe are falsehoods. As a teacher, don't you feel you have a duty to open up the minds of others to the world of knowledge? You mentioned racism, would you prefer that people didn't think certain races were inferior? Like me challenging the belief in souls, I'm sure you wish that some people didn't think this way and you challenge them when they do.
As for producing the evidence for and against spirits, you can only prove that there are spirits, not that there aren't. You can provide scientific evidence that demonstrates how the mind works, of how it doesn't need a soul, of how a non-corporeal soul couldn't influence the brain, of how the mediums fail to prove their case, but you can't prove spirits don't exist, anymore than you can prove leprechauns don't exist. You can only show that it is so unlikely as to be just a fantasy. However mediums can very easily prove that spirits do exist. In fact they claim to do it at all their shows, they just won't do it when the skeptics are there, and they refuse to take their evidence to a scientist's lab for verification. To hark back to your mention of a racist, would you put much faith in his argument if when asked why a certain race was inferior he just replied, 'It's obvious' or 'They just are' or 'It's just something I believe in and hope is true, even though I haven't got any proof'. Would you be tempted to become a racist too based on this level of argument? I suspect you would demand better reasons than this from a racist, and likewise I demand more from a medium.
How did I know about you and your husband being teachers? As I said, like a medium, I cheated, and no doubt if Jeanette Wilson had said it you would have seen it as proof of a spirit connection. I wanted to show you that people can find out things about you through perfectly natural ways and then casually drop them into a conversation to illicit a response. Let's just say that you should probably look at reducing how much information you place about yourself on the internet.
Like you I also enjoy discussing opposing views. I am always curious as to why some hold views opposed to mine. Have they been exposed to an argument or evidence that I haven't? Trying to justify your stance to others is also a great way to see if you really understand it and that it actually makes sense. Too many people hold on to beliefs, such as religion or racism, simply because their parents taught them those beliefs. Of course on top of thinking deeply about beliefs important to you, you must also be prepared to go where reason dictates and be willing to ditch beliefs that you can't support. To date I have not been impressed with the unwillingness of mediums to provide good reasons or evidence to support their claims. On the rare occasion that they do attempt to provide a brief description of how the afterlife and spirits work, I've found them confusing, contradictory and often ridiculous. I'm surprised that people accept a level of argument and evidence from mediums that they wouldn't think of accepting from their doctor or lawyer, and dare I say it, their teacher.
Comment by Gerald, 12 Oct, 2009
Hello John, I found your website very interesting.
I would say to you that you have no fear of your grandmother watching you have sex or having a good crap as you do the cross word on the lavatory.
Mediums do not teach well. Often they cold read and are frauds. That said, there are many levels of consciousness in what is called the spirit world. We do not all end up together in one place. Much depends on how you have developed spiritually in your earth life.
You quote the bible and will have a better grasp of it than I have. Jesus supposedly said "In my father's house there are many mansions. I go before to prepare a place for thee". This is probably not word accurate. In my view the human mind being so incapable of broad thinking took this to mean a big house, no doubt with a lovely garden :-) My interpretation is 'The Mansions' are levels of consciousness. Energy cannot be destroyed. Science has proven this beyond doubt, so when we die we simply could not disappear. It is my view, at present, that we go to a level of consciousness that befits us.
The mediums seem content to entertain. Who the hell cares what granny thinks of the colour of their kitchen. Mediums should take their sitters to the plane of consciousness where those who have died are actually existing.
With my kindest wishes, Gerald.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Oct, 2009
Hi Gerald, I guess you won't be surprised that I have a few issues with your description of the spirit world. I see no evidence that what we call our consciousness — and others call souls or spirits — can leave our bodies or survive our deaths. I believe that our consciousness is generated by the complex interaction of physical neurons in our brains, and if those neurons are damaged or die, then our consciousness is impaired or dies. It is perfectly evident from observing people that have suffered brain damage that their mental faculties are degraded, which indicates it is the physical brain that is generating consciousness. If consciousness existed separate from the brain, then damage to the brain should have no affect on a person's consciousness. Indeed, this is your very argument, that the brain can be destroyed completely and yet our consciousness or soul is not harmed in any way and carries on 'life' as normal. I'll just call it 'soul' from now on to avoid confusing it with our physical consciousness.
If our memories, our reasoning abilities, our personalities and desires, the very things that make us individuals, are all generated and stored in our soul then there is no need for our brain. If our souls existed before our physical bodies existed and will happily exist after they die then the brain is superfluous. We think of the brain as the control room for the body, receiving input from our senses, making decisions and causing the body to act accordingly. Yet if the soul is doing all this rather than the brain, then our heads should be empty and a fraction of their size. In fact if the human head weren't so large there would have been magnitudes less deaths during childbirth throughout history. Why did the brain evolve to do things that the soul could already do a million times better? If your soul has existed for 14 billion years, the age of the Universe, why has it waited until now to experience life as a human being, and for what will be a fleeting existence? What was it doing to fill in the days for those billions of years, after which it was felt that it still hadn't devolved spiritually enough to go to the next level? If the goal is for the soul to develop spiritually while controlling a human body, why is all knowledge of this task wiped from its consciousness when the soul takes possession of us as babies? Imagine how poorly you would have progressed at school if at the end of each year your memories of the previous year's lessons were wiped from your memory, and you were never told of your purpose for attending school.
I agree that energy is involved in consciousness, but not that consciousness is energy. The static charge you generate walking across carpet and the enormous force behind nuclear bombs are all energy, but there is no consciousness involved. Energy is not consciousness. I also agree that the energy involved in consciousness, and even the actual atoms making up the brain's neurons, are not destroyed when the brain dies and decomposes, but the consciousness it used to create and sustain has ceased to exist. The energy and matter is returned to the environment, but the consciousness is lost forever. It's like taking a sledgehammer to a computer. You haven't physically destroyed the computer hardware, it's still there, albeit damaged beyond repair, but the software that used to run on it has now ceased to function.
To believe in this spirit world fill of different levels of souls or consciousness, I would need to see evidence that it actually exists, or at the very least, very good arguments as to why it needs to exist. I believe consciousness can be adequately explained without invoking spirits that have built an enormous artificial universe filled with husks of bodies that they test drive for a few years. I would like to think that my existence is real, that the choices I make are my own, that I'm not just a simulation that some remote non-corporeal entity is running, that I'm not just a piece of software that it's debugging.
I'm sorry Gerald, but mediums that claim to be talking to granny in heaven and those that call this spirit world another plane of consciousness are really no different in my view.
Comment by Matthew, 13 Oct, 2009
Hi All, this comment is really directed at Angela than at the Silly Beliefs team as she seems to be reasonably open minded & intelligent unlike many of the other venomous 'believers' that responded. Angela, I used to be just like you in so far as I was raised believing in the afterlife and thought that it gave me comfort but it wasn't until my late teens, early twenties that I began to ask some questions about it and think it through a little more deeply. Like most intelligent people, the more you think it through and analyse every possible option the more you start to feel like a six year old who is figuring out for themselves that the likelihood of there really being a Santa is pretty remote (I am currently witnessing this myself with my own child!). But do not despair, its actually really great on the other side and letting go of all those superstitious beliefs that are held together with the flimsiest arguments that never hold up to the hard questions is very liberating! Now I know that my future is an unwritten book and every good thing I do, I did myself and every bad thing I do was my choice and my responsibility. I make the most of those living around me right now as when they are gone they are gone and I am always a little quicker to forgive now than I used to be as there'll be no time for it later.
I urge you to think about the questions that John has raised and sit and discuss them with your husband over a wine one night. The 'age' question has always been one that believers will dance around or change answers to suit the person asking. It's a no win situation depending on the circumstances. Imagine for a moment that in the afterlife you do not age and then consider the scenario of a mother losing her child at a very young age (say 2 years old). The mother will continue to age but her child will not - she will forever be 2 years old, the brain never developing the kind of intelligence that allows empathy, complex thought or understanding. When the mother finally dies at 80 and floats up to heaven she see's her child but cannot convey any of the love or sorrow she feels to her eternal toddler. This sounds more like hell to me. The alternative is that you do age in which case her daughter, waiting for her in heaven is now 60 years old and has 'grown up' in heaven. Given you are a teacher you would appreciate more than most the impact our formative years have on what kind of adult we become and not just the nice stuff but broken hearts, being naughty and sometimes getting caught and sometimes not, making friends, losing them, learning, discovering sex, puberty, drinking, finding a passion and so on...none of which happens in heaven...or does it? And what kind of person grows from that upbringing? Certainly one that would be a total stranger to the now dead mother.
Seeing loved ones in the afterlife is a pleasant idea in a snapshot thought but becomes decidedly unpleasant when thought through. Especially when you consider that loved ones don't always love back. In the afterlife do you get to choose who meet and who meets you? Imagine poor Michael Jackson, recently deceased and finally able to get some peace discovers that any fan that wants to meet him in person is now able to! Or will he join Elvis in the celebrity section of heaven where he can't be pestered and security angels stop the ever increasing mobs from asking for one final concert. And its not just celebs - if you wanted to take a more sinister and serious angle you would have to ask if child molesters can meet the children they molested, do murderers get to meet their victims, do jilted lovers get to spend time with partners who have long since moved on, kids that hate their parents but the parents never stopped loving them? On earth we can take steps to avoid meeting those we don't want to but in an afterlife that lasts forever I assume that's not an option. I have a religious friend who on discussing this decided that there are either multiple heavens (one for every person) where you meet whoever you want or there is one heaven but god clones those people you wish to meet but don't wish to meet you. Brilliant.
Most 'afterlife' believers I talk to these days will shy away from the question of hell or if they do think it exists it really is only for the worst of the worst and pretty much everyone gets to go to heaven eventually by doing time or coming back to earth to be nice and redeem themselves. I'd invite you to make a list of everyone who you think gets sent to hell forever and post it here as a comment so it can be discussed - you might find its harder than you think. I'll start you off with child molesters - the worst of the worst in my book. But tragically most of them were molested themselves or were born with a brain that never matured past that of a child so do they still deserve an infinite time of torture. What about the reformed molester who served his time, took a course, realised what a vile act it is and has spent the rest of his life trying to reform other molesters and stop it being repeated by others. Does he deserve to burn in hell for eternity ... I'd guess you'd say no but wasn't it only luck that he lived long enough to try to make amends or be in a country where those programs exist? I look forward to your 'who goes to hell list'. There's a reason why the bible keeps things simple ... because afterlife arguments fall to pieces when confronted with real life complex examples.
You say you believe in reincarnation which I've always thought was a wonderful idea and fuel for so many great stories. Especially reincarnation that allows us to come back as other species as well as humans. What a cool concept but that doesn't really make it likely does it. If you do truly believe in reincarnation then I suggest you start taking an active role in pushing for human rights in China. Currently they make up 20% of the worlds population so there is a huge chance you will be coming back Chinese and sadly, very poor. If not Chinese then probably in another populous, poverty stricken country like India or Pakistan. If, like you say, we keep coming back, then this increases the odds even higher that eventually you and your loved ones WILL be coming back impoverished and potentially making T-shirts for 50 cents a week. You might not even be able to discuss reincarnation openly without fear of imprisonment in your next life. So don't delay in writing to the Chinese embassy today about their human rights record as we all have no idea when we're going to die.
I'm happy with the conclusion I've come to that when we die, there is nothing. Just true and pure peace for each of us. Have you ever had surgery where they have used a general anaesthetic and you go from being awake to absolute nothing and then awake again - no dreams, no sense of time passing, nothing coming in from the 5 senses. Is it really that hard to believe that death is any different?
All the best to you and yours :)
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Oct, 2009
A brilliant response Matthew and some excellent points raised. If I weren't scared of being caught and going to hell I'd put my name to it. ;-)
Comment by Gerald, 17 Oct, 2009
Dear John, I have read and re-read your post. We could exchange emails forever and still not agree. I would never seek to say I am right you are wrong. Spiritual and Neuroscience does not yet know enough.
I have been thinking of some practical way that I could put my point across. One thing that occurs to me is that you could choose two animals where vets have said it is the end. I would with honesty do my best to bring the animals out of it.
Perhaps one way would be, if you are as opened minded as I take you to be, although somewhat fixed in places, that if you encounter a friend or relation or animal that is beyond all help from physical medicine that you email me and I will see what can be done.
I would have to say I could promise nothing. You would have to be straight and honest. How does that sound?
At the end of next week I am going away for two weeks, but after that should such a situation arise you may like to think about what I have said. I would prefer it to be someone or some animals where it affects you deeply that they are in the state they are in.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Oct, 2009
Hi Gerald. Your point seems to have changed from suggesting that a spirit or soul survives our death and goes off to reside on another plane, to now suggesting that you personally can entice your spirit — or maybe a spirit from this other plane of consciousness — to travel the world and heal the sick? Unless your techniques worked miraculously and consistently, and you imply they don't, then there is no way you could prove that you had any hand in someone's health improving. There are too many variables that you can't control for. If someone does recover, it could be for perfectly natural reasons or due to conventional medicine or alternative therapies that they've tried. Religious people would say it was because their family prayed for them and unbeknown to them an entire church may have prayed for a recovery. Furthermore, people that claimed to have these healing abilities, and their family and friends, should be specimens of perfect health. It should be blatantly obvious that they have special powers. Are you and your loved ones in perfect health Gerald? If you can't heal your loved ones, why would I believe you might be able to heal someone on the other side of the planet? I can't believe my spirit, if I had one, would go out during the night and heal someone in India and leave me with a bad back.
I think the important first step is that people need to prove that these spirits actually exist first. If they can prove they exist, then we can go on to see if these spirits can heal physical illness in other people remotely. But first we need to find one of these spirits.
Comment by Gerald, 22 Oct, 2009
Hello John. All that I can say is 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating'. I am not defending spirit, they can do that. I have not changed my view. I am not going to argue.
Of course people recover spantaneously without any spiritual intervention. Your spirit wouldn't have to travel anywhere to heal anyone. Spirit heals, not the healer.
On that note I would like to close the discussion as it is fruitless. You say there is no spirit or after life. I respect your view but disagree with it, however I would never attempt to change your mind. Your thoughts and views are yours and you are entitled to them. As for the arguements for and against. Been there done that got the T shirt.
If you are on your death bed drop me an email or get someone else to. LIke I said I can make no promises of reovery, but I would respond to you.
And now I go to the country for 2.5 weeks.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Oct, 2009
Gerald, you say you're not going to argue, but at what stage did our discussion turn into an argument? You also say that you would never attempt to change my mind, yet surely every comment you have made has been an attempt to change my mind? The experiment you proposed was an attempt to get me to believe in spirits was it not? Surely you didn't write just to inform me that some people do believe in spirits? I already knew that. You try to sway my view by mentioning fanciful and completely unsupported statements such as spirits don't have to travel anywhere to heal people and that these spirits can defend themselves. Yet those claims are as empty as me saying that leprechauns can heal people in NZ without leaving Ireland and Klingons can defend themselves.
You also say you're very conversant with the arguments for the existence of your version of spirits, even to the extent of getting the T-shirt, and while you initially seemed keen to convince me of these spirits, you don't present this evidence. You know full well that I don't believe in spirits and yet you break off communication when probing questions are asked. You say further discussion is fruitless, seemingly because I won't just take your word for the existence of spirits, nor will I accept poorly designed experiments that can be easily manipulated.
Have you actually considered what you're saying with your all-knowing healing spirits? Why would these spirits not know that I was on my deathbed until you get an email from me, and they from you presumably? Do they not know what is going on until you tell them? And even then, are you just asking them to save my life so you can win an argument? What sort of moral code to these spirits 'live' by? They won't lift a wispy finger to save me unless you explain that their spooky interference in the natural world would really annoy a non-believer? If I have to wait until I'm on my deathbed to hear from the only evidence you have to support your claims, then that sounds like an extremely weak argument.
No offence intended, but this attitude of attempting to challenge skeptics and then promptly withdrawing when we won't accept vague, unsupported statements is typical of believers in the paranormal. This claim that, 'We have the proof, we're just not going to show it to you', doesn't wash with me I'm afraid.
Comment by Ruth, 02 Nov, 2009
Re you comments about Jeanette Wilson. Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to check your facts about the NFSH and do more research. Your comment about a "bogus group" is quite unjustified as there is nothing bogus about them. They are the oldest healing organisation in the UK and have been in existence since 1954. Are a bona fide charity and are registered as such with the Charity Commission. We work in hospices and in hospitals alongside other therapists, and doctors in the NHS are allowed to refer patients to us. We have a nationally recognised training program and code of conduct and after training student healers must spend 2 years in self development while always being mentored, before going before an assessment board where they have to prove their ability as a healer and also that they have full knowledge of the code of conduct before becoming a full healer member. All this information can be found by "googling" the NFSH or The Healing Trust (our new working name). Perhaps after you check this out you would be good enough to set the record straight on your web site.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Nov, 2009
Ruth, I accept that perhaps I wasn't as clear as I could have been. By saying that "A 'qualification' from a bogus group such as the "National Federation of Spirtual Healers" is as worthless as the fake University degrees that you can order through the mail.", I didn't mean to imply that the NFSH didn't exist and that Wilson had merely invented a group from which to claim a qualification from. Regarding the beliefs of the NFSH and its members I meant 'bogus' in the sense of 'sham, pseudo, quack, false, fake, spurious, phoney'. That's why I said that ' "fully qualified" here carries as much weight as claiming that you're a "fully qualified" witch'.
You say that the NFSH is a registered charity but that is meaningless when it comes to your ability to heal, likewise the fact that you're allowed into hospitals. Christian ministers and priests, and Muslims in some hospitals, are allowed to wander the wards as well, but they are also only there to stroke the fantasies of the deluded. You also say that healers must go 'before an assessment board where they have to prove their ability as a healer'. No healer has EVER proved their ability as a healer, and this erroneous belief is just as silly as a witch claiming she had to prove her magic before she got her qualification. But 'prove' it to whom? Certainly not scientists, just to an 'assessment board' made up of other healers and witches who have little understanding of what scientific proof really is. The existence of the NFSH no more proves the ability of healers than the existence of the Flat Earth Society proves the world is flat.
Comment by Carol, 07 Jan, 2010
Not having seen Jeanette myself........your artical sounds like a person intent on disproving rather than getting the proof you require.
Having seen many spirits my self in my life I cannot proove to others that they exist and they wernt from hell believe me that was quite obvious.
The proof is in the seeing! And its not only the lost or spirts from hell that are around .....nor are they all watchingothers have sex.You seem to have a problem with sex as thats all you are on about.
Spirits can also be helpful ....I was warned of a pending accident many many years ago and the acident was avoided!
Its good knowing that one has seen ......clears up a lot of wasted time and energy as a sceptic does.. live on and let live.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jan, 2010
Hi Carol, you don't seem to be aware that untold people through the years have tried to find the proof for spirits and all have failed. And it is especially difficult for skeptics to prove their existence if mediums such as Wilson, who seemingly have such ready access to spirits, refuse to help. You claim to have seen many spirits yet still say that even you can't prove they exist, so what hope would a skeptic have of finding that proof, especially since spirits seem to be deathly afraid of us?
You say that 'the proof is in the seeing'. Sorry, but this belief is often very wrong. People that suffer delusions or see illusions are certainly 'seeing' things, but they are mistaken about what they see. People that 'see' a magician saw a woman in half or make an elephant disappear are also being fooled, likewise people that see mirages in the desert or aliens spaceships in the clouds. Seeing is not believing.
We think it is rather na´ve for people who believe spirits are watching over them, if they think these spirits are going to spend an eternity watching us do mundane things like reading a book or washing the dishes. Rather than having a problem with sex as you claim, we raised the idea that your grandparents are going to watch you have sex because most people consider this a very private act. They would not have sex in front of their living grandparents or their neighbours or some stranger, but they need to realise that billions of dead spirits, if they behave as mediums like Wilson say they do, will be spying on us. This idea that mediums push, that spirits watch us lose our keys but politely turn away when we undress is just silly.
You say that spirits you've seen 'wernt from hell believe me that was quite obvious'. But how do you know this, did they all wear 'We're not from Hell' T-shirts? If you've never seen a spirit from Hell, how can you know what they'd look like? And do you really think that your Devil doesn't have the power to disguise them? But then you seem to contradict yourself by saying, 'And its not only the lost or spirts from hell that are around'. How do know spirits from Hell are around if you've never seen them, especially since 'the proof is in the seeing'? And I have never heard a medium say she is talking to granny who has just popped up from Hell for a chat.
Yes, I agree that people believe spirits can be helpful, just as children believe Santa Claus can be quite generous in the giving of gifts. The fact of the matter is, if spirits can see the future and warn us of accidents and disasters, then ALL accidents and disasters for EVERYONE could be avoided, not just one concerning you 'many, many years ago'. Am I to take it you've never had an accident since, or have they just not bothered to warn you anymore? Do we only get one accident warning?
You finish with 'live on and let live'. I can never understand why believers in an existence after death want to live as long as possible, and in later years this often means through disability, frailty and senility, when there is a paradise waiting for them, of happiness and bliss and reunion with loved ones. I get the feeling that many are not that confident in their 'life after death' view after all.
Comment by Matt, 10 Feb, 2010
Regarding meeting people in the afterlife. My Grandfather is not particularly religious, but maried twice, two catholic women now both dead while he lives on. Whom shall he spend his afterlife with and will they fight over him? Doesn't bear thinking about really. Great article, the only thing I disagree with is the reiki healing, sure the airy fairy wave your hand over the picture stuff seems to be rubbish, but the other side of reiki, the touchy feely stuff is really good, for example the pressure points learned by one of my old karate instructors through reiki healing is very effective for implementing the temporary paralysis of limbs and the like, that part what we refer to as accupressure. So Reiki healing as an overall example is in my experience only a partial Wilsonism.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Feb, 2010
Matt, the problem we have with Reiki and similar therapeutic touch claims, is its claim to be a healing power administered by a god, whatever they understand god to be, and that most of these therapists never touch the patient. I agree that physical massage can be effective in some cases, but that's massage, not Reiki. Reiki practitioners are taking a recognised and proven therapy and marketing it as something mystical under a different name, and claim cures for diseases and disorders that massage practitioners would never claim. It's like taking an old Toyota, putting a Mercedes Benz badge on it and selling it as a Mercedes. It will still work as a car, so its new buyer may be perfectly happy with it, but most of the money they paid for the car was based on a fraudulent claim. Any healing that is apparently achieved through Reiki would probably have occurred without any treatment, or through simple non-Reiki massage.
Comment by Michelle, 20 Apr, 2010
Hi there, I booked a telephone reading when I lived in the UK with Jeanette Wilson.
Absolutely disappointing, she gave no clarity of the future, was so vague about a lot of things. She recorded it and posted me the tape and on hearing it a second time I just could not understand how she can be credible. At the time I was in the process of moving country, so you would expect family in spirit would come through and want to give some guidance and insight, but there was none of that, which as my father had recently passed away I was looking for.
I will NEVER buy a book or product of hers, and hope my experience is what others have had, and are prepared to share. Because people like this can really play on others emotions. I believe there are credible people such as the Scottish medium Gordon Smith. And I have his books, and have been to two demonstrations of his in London, and he is very genuine. People like Jeanette Wilson make a mockery of the good that people like Gordon Smith actually do. Stop this woman, please.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Apr, 2010
Hi Michelle. Thanks for your comment, although I'm sure you won't be surprised if we both agree and disagree with what you say. We agree that Jeanette Wilson is of course a complete con, that she is pathetic at what she does and that she plays on people's emotions. However, and this is where we disagree, all mediums fit this description. We have never heard of Scottish medium Gordon Smith, in the way that we have heard of Gordon Ramsey, Tiger Woods, Julia Roberts and Prof Stephen Hawking, so I guess Gordon Smith is not as famous as you believe, which to me suggests that what he does has failed to convince many people and consequently failed to launch him as a successful medium. If Gordon Smith's clients are more satisfied than those of Jeanette Wilson, it is only because Smith is better at fooling them, at manipulating their emotions. If Gordon Smith really could talk to the spirits of dead people, then the information he could provide would be earth-shattering, and he wouldn't be wasting his time writing boring books or giving demos in London. The fact that these mediums do have to resort to these silly shows, telephone readings and books to make money proves that their only skill is the ability to fool gullible people.
Comment by Trevor, 31 Jul, 2010
Hi John, I'm currently doing my Masters in Psychology - Health Psychology to be exact. Up until three years ago I was fairly firmly an Atheist - believing there was nothing to this life experience, but the experience itself. A friend invited me to a Jeanette Wilson evening and I went, primarily because I thought I would get to see an excellent example of cold reading.
What I saw and witnessed was something that made no logical sense. Having a reasonably logical mind (honed initially by an accounting degree and subsequently an MBA), I attempted to calculate the relative chances of Jeanette coming up with what she did. In two hours Jeanette gave around 40 readings and either this was an astounding example of collusion by a large number of people for my benefit, or Jeanette was getting information from some other source.
Also within the reading, I had an experience that was either a psychotic episode (without having any previous history and anything since) or an experience derived from something else. In Psychological terms it would have been classified as a soma form disorder - I felt things that weren't possible given the way facial nerves are arranged.
My experiences had to actually be experienced to be understood and my relating of them does not do them justice. As a result of my experience and others since, my whole concept of what our life experience is and how the universe is arranged has changed. I do not regard myself as gullible or stupid and can present a reasonable body of evidence and achievement in support of this contention.
From the outside it is easy to poo - poo things that make no sense logically - from my experiences I find I am having to accept things that make no sense in a rational, empiricist world.
I accept that Jeanette is the real thing, that she is what she says she is and that her experiences are what she says they are, and I'm clear that she doesn't understand all that she is given either. Refuting logically that which is inherently logical is a comparatively easy thing to do - I know your life would be quite a different and I suggest a more empowered experience if you were to actually get a reading from Jeanette.
Comment by Keri, 31 Jul, 2010
Trevor — are you an agent for Jeanette Wilson?
Your post gives NO substantial evidence for anything at all (just your selfperceived experience) and is truly irrelevant to all other people.
By the way, 'an accounting degree and... an MBA' does not — to me — bespeak a logical mind: it simply means you handle numbers & certain financial laws in an approved fashion.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Aug, 2010
Hi Trevor. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I guess you won't be surprised to hear that we haven't been swayed by your experience, and we'll try and explain why.
You say you went to a Jeanette Wilson evening and 'What I saw and witnessed was something that made no logical sense'. Yet I could say that exact same thing if I watched a magic show, that a woman being sawn in half and a disappearing rabbit makes no logical sense. But I, and probably you too, would reach the sensible conclusion that I'm being fooled somehow, that women don't normally survive being cut in half and rabbits, to the annoyance of high country farmers, don't simply disappear. But let's take this one step further, let's assume that the magician I observe insists that his magic is 'real', it's not a trick, not a subterfuge like other stage shows, he's using real magical powers, a la Merlin of King Arthur fame. He claims that the rabbit really does dematerialise and reappear elsewhere. And many of his audience believe him. Let's say that like Jeanette he does around 40 feats of magic, and not one single audience member is able to expose him as a fraud, they all express total amazement at his performance. Are we to believe that this is 'an astounding example of collusion by a large number of people for my benefit', or that this magician is working real magic? I would suggest neither, that this skilled magician — by the use of tricks, not magic — is simply fooling a large number of uncritical, gullible people who want to believe in real magic.
And we see exactly the same thing happening in Jeanette's stage shows, a skilled performer manipulating her audience to believe that she is getting information from some otherworldly source through mystical abilities. And Jeanette has a massive advantage over our magician. Let's remember that most everyone that goes to Jeanette's shows believes in souls, the afterlife, and mediums. They believe Jeanette really can speak to their dead granny, whereas almost no one goes to a magic show believing that they will witness real magic, and that the magician will be using real spells and has a real connection with some magical realm. Jeanette doesn't have to change anyone's beliefs, most are already converts to her powers. The odd skeptic is as unwelcome and despised as a pig at a Muslim wedding.
Let's try another comparison between our 'real' magician and Jeanette and her medium kin. Our magician claims to be able to simply throw a cloth over an object and — poof — it disappears, and he demonstrates this ability in stage show after stage show. Yet outside the hall or TV studio he has never once made anything disappear. Think how useful he would be to the likes of a bomb disposal squad or in mine clearance, and the lives that could be saved. Throw a cloth over the bomb, utter the magic spell, and danger is immediately averted. But no, our magician refuses to use his powers in the real world, to save real lives, and will only perform his magic to a paying audience on a stage that he can control. Might we begin to suspect that he has something to hide, or that if even his powers are real, he is a shameful example of a human being, unwilling to help others? Is Jeanette and her kin any different to this magician? They claim to have access to otherworldly knowledge, valuable knowledge lost to the living, and yet they only reveal worthless snippets to a paying audience — 'Your Mum loves you', 'Your Grandad used to be in the military or maybe the scouts', Your uncle died of a heart attack or something in the chest area'. Jeanette astounds her audience with her apparent ability to channel this useless information. And yet once she leaves the stage and enters the real world her amazing abilities, her mystical connection with this other world seemingly vanishes. At present the police are looking for several people who are presumed dead, and we have several deaths/murders that are unsolved. Why won't Jeanette use her abilities to help distraught families in their time of need? If Jeanette really can talk to dead people, then her refusal to do so outside her stage show, and without money changing hands, means she is despicable scum in our view. And please don't say that mediums must charge for their services, just like doctors. We've said this time and time again, someone wanting to know if their dead mum is OK in the afterlife might pay Jeanette $50 or even two or three hundred to find out, but families looking for a missing daughter or her murderer would pay thousands, and governments would pay millions to access the knowledge of the dead. If Jeanette can really do what she and you claim, why doesn't she put her talents to better use, really help people, and make a fortune in the process? The truth is that she can only fool the gullible in society, and the rare medium that has tried to up their game have all failed miserably. Look at the laughable record of the Sensing Murder mediums, not one murder solved worldwide. And the handful of mediums that have submitted themselves to scientific testing have all come away stunned that their powers had deserted them when it really mattered.
On the evening you attended you said Jeanette gave around 40 readings, and you imply that they all resulted in Jeanette making a connection and revealing surprisingly accurate information. We have all been to one or more of Wilson's shows and without exception they were all pathetic. Like yours, she did many readings, most of which were only one or two vague statements per audience member, and while the audience did seem generally impressed, we saw nothing that couldn't be explained by cold reading, lucky guesses and fast talking on Wilson's part. By far the worse reading was for a young woman who was at the back of the hall and reduced to tears as she inquired about her future and children. In the back and forth discussion where the woman did far more talking than Wilson, Wilson said she saw an improving future for her, and that she even thought she might have children within a year or two. However the woman already had a child who was seriously ill and she wanted Wilson to tell her if he was going to die. The amazing thing was that neither the woman nor Wilson realised that they were talking at cross-purposes. The woman thought Wilson knew she had a child and yet Wilson had no idea that a child was being discussed. Both expressed satisfaction at how the reading had went and the mystical information transferred, and yet it was all based on a misunderstanding. Even others we spoke to after the show mentioned how powerful that particular reading was, completely oblivious to how false it had really been. They were convinced that since both the distraught woman and Wilson seemed happy with the reading then it must have went well. They based their view of Wilson on the distressing emotion of the reading, not on what was actually said. The woman became increasingly distressed as the reading went on, which no doubt fooled people into thinking that she must be receiving distressing information from the afterlife, but she was becoming tearful because she was revealing more information about her ill son and his poor prognosis. Information which, probably because of the distance she was from Wilson, Wilson completely missed. To us this was a perfect example of a reading that believers used as proof of Wilson's powers when in fact a critical look at what was actually said showed it to be an embarrassing failure.
You obviously believe that Jeanette is continually proving herself to you and numerous others, so much so that you have rejected atheism and become a believer in souls, the afterlife and the whole God thing. As someone who claims not to be gullible or stupid, who thinks logically and critically, then one assumes you have amassed some solid empirical evidence or at least some strong reasoning to take your belief in Jeanette seriously. So what is it? And since your experiences of Jeanette's readings are minuscule compared to Jeanette herself, Jeanette must have a mountain of evidence supporting her claims. So why doesn't she front up with it? Why does she leave it to her supporters to defend her integrity? Aren't you a little peeved that she won't defend herself against claims of dishonesty from skeptics such as us, and that you have to go into bat for her?
You say that you're 'having to accept things that make no sense in a rational, empiricist world'. We find that if some claim or perceived experience is illogical and makes no sense in our rational, empiricist and scientific world, then that something is probably wrong, mistaken or delusional. To go ahead and accept it as true would require an enormous amount of supporting evidence and reasoning, none of which Jeanette and her fellow mediums are willing to provide. You say that 'From the outside it is easy to poo - poo things that make no sense logically', but let's remember that skeptics are more than willing to investigate Jeanette's claims from the inside. It is Jeanette that refuses investigation, that fights to keep skeptics at bay, while happily giving readings to believers. And skeptics have attended her shows, so in this respect they were just as much on the 'inside' as the hundreds of believers. In fact skeptics generally know far more about mediums and souls and the afterlife than believers do, or even the mediums themselves. This claim that skeptics criticise mediums through ignorance is bogus and a little insulting.
And if you or Jeanette does have evidence of her claims, why isn't it ever produced? Believers in an afterlife, psychics, mediums and their supporters have been screaming out for evidence for years. You may be aware that 'Puzzling World' in Wanaka offers a 'Psychic Challenge' with a prize of $100,000. Not worth the effort? Then how about the James Randi 'Million Dollar Challenge' for those with paranormal abilities. That's one million in US dollars!! Mediums like Wilson refuse to take these challenges, saying they won't be tested, that they're not performing lab rats, and yet they perform on stage night after night, with possibly hundreds watching their every move and hanging on their every word. Many mediums will even record your reading for you. Their abilities are publicly tested with every reading they perform, 40 or so on the night you attended. And yet they won't do one or two readings for a $100,000 or even a million. What are mediums afraid of? You understand psychology Trevor, does this behaviour really make sense to you?
If you've read our full article on Wilson and many of the comments we've made on this page, you're be aware of the many problems and contradictions that exist regarding souls, the afterlife, living for an eternity, reincarnation etc. If you accept Wilson's claims then you must also be able to explain away these problems, not just ignore them. Unfortunately Wilson refuses to quiz those she chats to regarding what the afterlife is like and is evasive and vague regarding God and religion. While she gives the deliberate impression of being a Christian of some description, some of her comments and healing claims suggest that she is more into New Age type spiritualism. No doubt she feigns a generic belief because she doesn't want to alienate potential clients or suggest that her beliefs might be different to that of her clients. Our point is that accepting that mediums talk to the souls of dead people is just the tip of the iceberg. This simple belief then opens up an enormous chasm of problems that need to be addressed. If you can't begin to answer those problems then you must consider that perhaps your initial belief is false.
So Trevor, if you have any evidence that supports Jeanette's claims or rational answers that explain the functioning of souls and the afterlife, we'd be happy to consider them.
Comment by Trevor, 01 Aug, 2010
In response to Keri — comment 56.
No Keri not an agent for Jeanette, but i do regard her as a friend.
The intent of my comment was not to provide irrefutable empirical evidence of the existence of a spiritual realm. For a number of reasons I'm not sure that this is actually possible.
The content of my MBA and other studies have incorporated economics, computer science, operations research and experimental research techniques — all had a fair quotient of logical method attached to them.
Comment by Tony, 01 Aug, 2010
Trevor: — "I do not regard myself as gullible or stupid"
Let's see how accurate Trevor's regard of his gullibility and stupidity is . . .
Trevor: — "something that made no logical sense" — But to Trevor it apparently made illogical sense (gullible and stupid).
Trevor: — "information from some other source" — Apparently assumed without credible reason by Trevor to be a spiritual source (gullible and stupid).
Trevor: — "an experience that was either a psychotic episode or an experience derived from something else" — Apparently assumed without credible reason by Trevor to be a spiritual something (gullible and stupid).
Trevor: — "things that make no sense logically" — But apparently to Trevor things that make sense illogically (gullible and stupid).
Trevor: — "things that make no sense in a rational, empiricist world" — But apparently things that make sense to Trevor in an irrational, non-empiricist world he believes he resides (gullible and stupid).
Trevor: — "Refuting logically that which is inherently logical is a comparatively easy thing to do" — This only makes sense if Trevor meant to say inherently illogical. In which case he is saying again that he believes in something that is inherently illogical. (gullible and stupid).
I guess one shouldn't expect a person that is so obviously gullible and stupid to be able to accurately assess their own gullibility and stupidity.
Trevor: — "can present a reasonable body of evidence and achievement in support of this contention" — Present away Trev . . .
Comment by Trevor, 03 Aug, 2010
The rational empiricist epistemology that you adhere so tightly does not work for all areas of knowledge and I cite the NICE (2007) report the demonstrate that empirical social psychological research techniques have yet to provide an adequate model for human health behaviours, despite significant efforts to achieve exactly that. Maybe there are other areas of knowledge where the same things apply.
Spiritual beliefs are an important area of research, there is a considerable body of research literature that shows that people with strong spiritual beliefs (regardless of which type of belief they subscribe to) do better and survive longer in the face of serious illness, than those who don't.
Assuming that all science is based on theory that exists until disproven, doesn't that mean that anything exists outside of what is currently known is likely to appear illogical? What I experienced is not possible in a rational world, therefore, some other explanation is necessary. Failure to consider alternate explanations or alternate theory in favour of only one explanation is poor science isn't it? Isn't that kind of irrational?
Comment by Trevor, 03 Aug, 2010
Apologies tony — I obviously need to proof my discussion points better — typos tend to take away from the argument somewhat.
You are correct about my previous message using the word illogical.
Revisiting message 60
The rational empiricist epistemology that you adhere to so tightly does not work for all areas of knowledge and I cite the NICE (2007) report which demonstrates that empirical social psychological research techniques have yet to provide an adequate model for human health behaviours, despite significant efforts to achieve exactly that. Maybe there are other areas of knowledge where the same thing applies.
Assuming that all science is based on theory that exists until disproven, doesn't that mean that anything that exists outside of what is currently known is likely to appear illogical? What I experienced is not possible in a rational world, therefore, some other explanation is necessary. Failure to consider alternate explanations or alternate theory to observed phenomena in favour of only one explanation is poor science isn't it? Isn't that kind of irrational?
Comment by Tony, 04 Aug, 2010
Trevor, the rational empiricist epistemology that you reject so gullibly and stupidly is the best (most observable, testable, repeatable, demonstrable, honest, factual, truthful, intelligent, common sense, etc.) method we have to pursue knowledge in a way that we can be most assured we aren't being gullible and stupid.
Spiritual beliefs only warrant research because so many people have them. Claimed spiritual abilities only warrant research because so many people claim to have them and so many people believe them. Claimed spiritual phenomena does not warrant research because there isn't a single piece of credible evidence to even suggest such phenomena may exist, let alone actually does. This is so despite the amount of people that make and believe spiritual claims and the length of time they have been doing so.
If people do in fact survive longer in the face of serious illness because they have some/any type of belief (I don't accept this claim), doesn't this suggest that it's the belief that's having some effect and not that which is being believed? (hint — merely a placebo effect). For those that believe in a "better place" afterlife why would they want this belief to prolong their suffering in this "worse place"? Surely a belief in an afterlife should hasten the death of a person with a serious illness, not prolong it? Perhaps on a certain level of self-honesty these people realise their beliefs are gullible and stupid.
All science is not "based on theory that exists until disproven". That would be merely theoretical science. Most of science is hands-on, actual, factual, observation, testing, experimentation and conclusion that is documented, repeated and subjected to peer revue. Science doesn't claim to know everything or that all current conclusions are absolutely correct. As someone once said: "If science knew everything it would stop".
If you have had an experience that you have no rational explanation for why do you gullibly and stupidly assume that any particular irrational explanation is any more likely to be correct than any other irrational explanation? (hint — you choose the irrational explanation that confirms your current belief and most provides you with emotional comfort). Just because you have no rational explanation it doesn't mean that a rational explanation doesn't exist.
This whole debate could be quickly and easily concluded if those that claim to have paranormal abilities openly and honestly demonstrated those abilities. Why do you think Jeanette Wilson and her kind never do this? (hint — because they can't and they know full well they can't. In other words, they aren't as gullible and stupid as you are).
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Aug, 2010
Thanks for those excellent observations Tony, and in the spirit of unity we'd like to add our voice in the support of science and reason.
Trevor, we fail to see what the failure of 'empirical social psychological research techniques... to provide an adequate model for human health behaviours' has to do with whether souls exist, and whether Jeanette is talking to them. Non-psychological empirical research can and has demonstrated that mediums consistently fail under controlled conditions.
And yes, some research surveys have shown that devout religious believers claim to be happier and live longer, although like Tony we're not sure about them surviving serious illnesses, but again this has nothing to do with souls or mediums. It's no different than imagining a survey that shows that children who believe in Santa Claus are happier and healthier than those who don't. You've reached a flawed conclusion over cause and effect. What is the cause of the happiness and health in both cases? Is it that God and Santa both exist and are actively interacting with these people, lifting their spirits and curing their ills, or is it simply the blind belief that an unseen, caring and rewarding entity is looking out for them that gives them hope and optimism for a better future? As Tony said, placebo effect. Blind faith that God or Santa will deliver is what makes these people happier, not the personal knowledge that God or Santa actually exist. The effect of increased happiness and longer life is real, but the cause is an unsupported belief, not gods or jolly fat guys. If these surveys did prove or even suggest that God exists, and by extension souls and an afterlife, then the same type of survey would do the same for Santa.
You ask that, 'Assuming that all science is based on theory that exists until disproven, doesn't that mean that anything [that] exists outside of what is currently known is likely to appear illogical?' No, not at all. Take continental drift, when it was first proposed few scientists took it seriously. But even though it was 'outside' accepted science of the time, no scientist rejected it because they thought it was illogical. They rejected it because they thought there was no good evidence for it or known mechanism to make it work. When further evidence was produced and the theory of plate tectonics was proposed, they accepted it. The heliocentric theory, germ theory, evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics and even meteorites from space, all these were at one time outside what was accepted science, but none were shunned because they were illogical.
As for your gripe with science, it actually spends its life considering alternate explanations or alternate theories, that's why we no longer believe the world is flat or made 6,000 years ago by a god, why we now believe the Earth goes around the Sun, why we believe in evolution and not Adam and Eve, why Einstein's theory improves on Newton's, why science now has astronomers rather than astrologers, why we have drugs to treat mental illness rather than exorcists, etc etc. In its history science has considered innumerable alternate theories and then adopted them, and we must remember that the current scientific belief that the mind runs the body and not souls was once an alternate theory widely discredited by intellectuals of the day. Necromancy, the practise of talking to the dead, has been the dominant theory throughout history, and only recently has one of your treasured 'alternate explanations' knocked it from its perch. Doesn't this prove that science is working exactly as you say it should?
You also say that 'What I experienced is not possible in a rational world, therefore, some other explanation is necessary'. Experience is subjective. It's like the stereotypical mental patient who believes he is Napoleon. While he sincerely believes weird, irrational and illogical things are happening all around him, the rest of us see none of it, and we conclude that he is mistaken. Furthermore we can explain rationally what he views as irrational, and we can detect brain imbalances that could be producing his delusions. Unless our Napoleon can suddenly start speaking 18th century French and reveal to us hitherto unknown and verifiable facts about his life, the sensible conclusion is that he is deluded. Likewise we have rational explanations as to how mediums perform their tricks and unless they also suddenly start cooperating and produce verifiable evidence then again the sensible conclusion is that they are deluded. Like Napoleon, the ball is in their court, they have the means to convince us, but they seemingly can't be bothered.
Comment by Trevor, 07 Aug, 2010
With reference to comment 62.
First point Tony, I wonder what the need is to resort to personal abuse. To call my attempts to explain my belief system stupid and gullible is simply disrespectful. Resorting to personal attacks is usually the resort of either the threatened or the arrogant. Lets attempt to keep this civil.
Two academic references for you on the research into religiousity and spirituality and health. Matthews et al 1998 found that there was a correlation between religious beliefs and church attendance and better physical health and mortality rates. Seemans et al 2003 found a positive link between religious belief / spirituality and physiological processes - particularly cardiovascular system functioning as well as endocrine and immune functioning. If you wish I can provide the article texts if you want to have a look at them. Research into the area of Psychoimmunology is yet to find a robust explanation for pathways between Psychological events and Physiology, but it is a considerable body of research that demonstrates one does impact the other.
You will get no argument from me that scientific research is a good way to gather and test knowledge on most topics. Empiricist research was developed and honed in the study of the hard sciences, Geology, Chemistry, Physics for example and is does an exceedingly good job. Its not quite so good in the area of human sciences, Psychology especially. For example there is currently no theorisation or modelling in the area of health beliefs that actually works - that is according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) a division of the UK NHS (NICE 2007). For the thousands of research projects into personal health beliefs, there is nothing that reliably predicts human behaviour in this area. Rational empirical science simply does not appear to work for this topic, maybe there are other areas where this way of gathering knowledge does not work either.
This website targets Jeanette Wilson for a great deal of personal slander and acrimony, from my experience of her I hold her in very high regard. Having hired staff, held executive positions in both business and community organisations as well as having had a measure of Psychometric training Jeanette is someone I trust implicitly.
You make reference to blind faith, I wish it was that easy. As someone who three years ago would have agreed with this site wholeheartedly, finding myself in the position of making a 180 degree turn in my beliefs has not been an easy path. Yes, I agree that personal experiences are subjective, but all human experience by nature is subjective - objectivity in humans is actually an oxymoron.
I have had a very personal experience of events and sensations that I can not explain in any logical fashion. There are people who have relayed things to me that there is no earthly way that they could have known and I have had physical sensations that were impossible given the structure of our nervous system. One potential explanation is that I suffer from the comparatively rare schizophrenic disorder - but this doesn't quite fit the symptomology.
My ongoing experiences have convinced me that there is more going on than meets the eye. I don't think its my job to convince you about my belief system, although your group seems intent to convince others of yours. What is it that so threatens you about Jeanette that has you dedicate so much time and vitriol on the topic?
Comment by Tony, 07 Aug, 2010
More than I have been challenging your claim that "Jeanette is the real thing" I have been challenging your claim that you aren't being gullible and stupid in your conclusion and belief that "Jeanette is the real thing". I can only do this by directly pointing out that you are being gullible and stupid in this regard by providing the reasons why you are. This is no more personal abuse or disrespectful than anyone telling anyone they are wrong and giving them reasons why.
In post #59 I listed reasons why your conclusion and belief that "Jeanette is the real thing" is gullible and stupid. You don't have a rational explanation for something so you accept someone else's irrational explanation. Why do you think that doing this not exactly what being gullible and stupid is?
Please explain exactly on what basis you "accept that Jeanette is the real thing". So far all we have to go on is that you claim to have had some experience(s) that you have no rational explanation for (and that you're not gullible and stupid of course).
Do you have a rational explanation for every magic trick you have every seen?
How do you know for sure that a rational explanation can't and doesn't exist?
How do you know that Jeanette's irrational claims are better explanations than any other irrational claims. Given you can't assess her claims rationally exactly how do you assess them?
How do you know that Jeanette isn't an alien from outer space that is reading and controlling your mind?
Why do you think other people (who also consider themselves not to be gullible and stupid) think Jeanette is a fake but their particular "psychic" is the real thing?
What "threatens" me isn't so much people like Jeanette who make paranormal claims as it is people that have paranormal beliefs and accept those paranormal claims. This gullible and stupid level of abandoning rationality, logic, truth, honesty, common sense, etc is potentially a very dangerous thing to myself and others. People don't fly planes in to buildings (and other atrocities) because they don't have a belief. Accept that Jeanette is the real thing if you must... but please don't drink the Kool-aid.
I don't belong to a "group" and I have a "belief system" like a person that doesn't collect stamps has a hobby.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Aug, 2010
Trevor, we initially failed to note in your comments addressed to Tony (#64) that you then started making criticisms on comments we had made, not Tony. So, for the third time, we fail to see why you keep mentioning that 'For the thousands of research projects into personal health beliefs, there is nothing that reliably predicts human behaviour'. We don't understand what the debate over the existence of souls and Wilson's ability to talk to them has to do with predicting human behaviour. Yes we are pathetic at predicting human behaviour, but we are brilliant at deciding whether unicorns exist and whether God created the world 6,000 years ago. Souls are in the unicorn category, not the human behaviour category. Let's stay focused on the topic.
Also you can't approach skeptics with the claim that you know there are spirits, that you know Wilson is genuine, that you know atheism is bogus, that you know that irrational and illogical things are happening, that you know this all means an otherworldly influence, and then when asked for reasons and evidence, hope to convince us all with the empty suggestion that these things might be unknowable. Similar to our ignorance in predicting human behaviour, you say that 'Maybe there are other areas of knowledge where the same things apply'. But if they're unknowable then how do you know them? You have said to us that 'It maybe that some things in this life are unknowable, things that do not exist in the realm of critical examination and repeatable testability'. But this is a contradiction, by saying that some things might be unknowable — implying souls — and at the same time insisting that Wilson and you have in fact experienced contact with souls, means that they are knowable. And yes some things might be beyond 'critical examination and repeatable testability', but not souls it seems, since Wilson critically and repeatedly examines souls with every reading she does. Wilson spends show after show and private reading after private reading 'proving' to her supporters that spirits are real, and yet she can't and won't do it even once for skeptics. And these believers are delivered a 'proof' so convincing that, like you, they go out and fight her battles for her. Don't you ever wonder why she always fails when a skeptic is present? Doesn't her refusal to be viewed under controlled conditions create even a little twinge of doubt in your mind? Why won't she defend her claims and her reputation, and prove a skeptical world wrong?
You say that we target 'Jeanette Wilson for a great deal of personal slander and acrimony'. When Ken Ring, who doesn't rely on supporters to defend his claims, also accused us of slander a reader noted that slander is oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation, whereas you actually mean libel, which is saying something about someone 'in print' that is false. The important point to note in either case is that the comments have to be FALSE. We have not (knowingly) published false comments about Wilson. She must certainly be aware of our website and she has never challenged any comments we have made about her. This is left to her supporters it seems, who just assume that a critical comment must be a false comment. In fact Trevor, you are libelling us with your statement, accusing us of lying in an attempt to destroy Jeanette Wilson. As for acrimony, our observations may at times be sharp, but we have no hatred of Wilson.
As for your holding Wilson in high regard, so what? Eva Braun no doubt held Adolf Hitler in high regard and trusted him implicitly, even committing suicide at his request. The same goes for the followers involved in the mass suicide known as Heaven's Gate. You need to put evidence before feelings. As for 'Psychometric training', this is one nonsense supporting another.
You say that, 'I have had physical sensations that were impossible given the structure of our nervous system'. Rather than suggest you're being touched inappropriately by spirits, we would answer that the more plausible explanations are either that you are mistaken about the nervous system, and I take it you're not an expert in this field, or else your mind simply created the experience for you. That is, in the same way that we 'experience physical sensations' as we dream, or the way that amputees experience phantom pain, physical sensations that are impossible given that the limb doesn't exist. It's like our mental patient 'Napoleon', is his identity real, or is it all in his mind, likewise your sensations?
In your original comment you said that, 'From the outside it is easy to poo - poo things that make no sense logically - from my experiences I find I am having to accept things that make no sense in a rational, empiricist world'. And now you go on to say, 'You make reference to blind faith, I wish it was that easy'. We take blind faith to mean: 'A belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, and may exist even contrary to the evidence'. This describes perfectly your belief in Wilson, and so like it or not, you believe because of blind faith.
You go on to say that 'all human experience by nature is subjective - objectivity in humans is actually an oxymoron'. Yes and no. We take subjective to mean 'taking place in a person's mind', and objective as 'having actual existence or reality'. If you tell your friends that the previous night you awoke and saw a ghost, that is a subjective experience since nothing except your mind has a memory of it. However, if while telling this story a rabid dog attacks you, while the experience of pain is subjective to you alone, it is also an objective experience since there are several witnesses, surveillance video footage, observable bite marks, real blood and a real dog to attest that this attack did happen in reality. Likewise, Wilson saying that in her mind she is in communication with Auntie Flo is purely subjective, but it can become more objective if she provides evidence that this communication is happening in reality. For example, she relates what Aunt Flo is saying and this information is beyond what Wilson might simply guess. A prosaic example might be that I could claim that I am mentally working on a maths problem that you set me. This is subjective since you don't know if I really am. However producing the correct answer would make it objective, since in reality I must have been really doing math to get the answer. As we've said, it is in Wilson's power to change her subjective experiences in objective ones.
In your concluding paragragh you say that 'My ongoing experiences have convinced me that there is more going on than meets the eye'. But that's our point as well. Wilson and her spiritual mates are not as they pretend to be. Like magicians they stage manage their performances, they refuse to let skeptics look up their proverbial sleeves or get too critical over their performances, and they fail to keep the act going when they leave the stage. You are so right to be questioning as to what is really happening, but you need to be considering far more than just their explanations. It's akin to asking the Pope if God exists. You just know what answer you'll get.
You then say that 'I don't think its my job to convince you about my belief system, although your group seems intent to convince others of yours'. Yes, we would like to convey to others our views on critical thinking, atheism and the marvels of the universe that science has exposed. But there is certainly no compulsion or coercion involved, if we can't persuade people with reason then we have failed. And if you weren't at all interested in convincing us that Wilson and her crowd are on to something that we've missed, why did you bother writing? Just to be spiteful or malicious? Finally you ask, 'What is it that so threatens you about Jeanette that has you dedicate so much time and vitriol on the topic?' We find that question no different from asking people why they have taken it upon themselves to expose a paedophile priest or a Nigerian bank scam or the Scientology religion? We are just trying to make people aware of others in society that are harmful and/or pushing false beliefs to gullible people. We certainly don't feel threatened by Jeanette and her invisible squad of geriatric souls. This is as laughable as Christians who ask us if we feel threatened by Satan. And we could equally ask you why you feel so threatened that you must rush to her defence, lest she be forced to defend herself? And we find it rich that you should wonder why we would spend time on this topic when you have entered a private communication with us to discuss this very topic. It's alright for believers to spend time discussing the afterlife, but not non-believers? You do it because you're interested, yet seemingly we only do it out of fear? We find that a little condescending. But let's look at it another way. Regarding the topic of the spiritual world, Jeanette Wilson has written at least three books, had her own TV show, and for several years has travelled NZ ( & Britain) performing shows and she earns her living providing spiritual readings and running courses, and yet you accuse us of spending too much time on the topic!!
Comment by Alexander, 27 Aug, 2010
Hello John, thanks for a very interesting article. I describe myself as a skeptic and open to all possibilities: existence — nonexistence of G-d(s) and afterlife, whether I like it or not. But I'd like to make a few points here:
1. I am too skeptical about what Jeanette Wilson does. But, suppose she (and the rest of mediums) IS a fraud — does that DISPROVE the existence of an afterlife? I don't think so.
2. I don't think we need to link existence of an afterlife to existence of G-d and doesn't have to do anything with religion. Here is a very interesing take from skeptical view: http://www.acampbell.ukfsn.org/essays/skeptic/survival.html
I quote: "If we had to do all this investigation for ourselves it would be a most daunting task, but fortunately we don't have to, for there exist several really excellent critical discussions. The best of these, in my opinion, are by C.D. Broad and Alan Gauld. Neither could be accused of gullibillity."
"It's important to say that the approach of both these authors is secular, not religious. For them, survival, if it does occur in any form, is part of the natural world. Broad was in fact quite hostile to religion, and Gauld, as far as I can see, is neutral towards it."
You may also check "Atheist Afterlife" by David Staume and "Immortal Remains" by Stephen Braude. Braude's book looks like continuation of Alan Gauld's book, and he also doesn't reach any definite conclusion.
2. I think we can distinguish 3 particular cases for an afterlife: a. It's guided by some kind of Higher Power in tradition monotheistic term. b. It goes like buddhism (i.e. self is impermanent, reincarnation). c. It is completely natural phenomenon (I regard this possibility very seriously), that we currently don't understand.
3. In case of 'c' that I described above (and maybe in other cases as well) I think we can safely take such appoaches:
Atheist Austin Cline: "What happens after you die? Who cares — the person that I am is dependent upon my memories and personality. Both of those are dependent upon my physical brain. When my physical brain dies, then both my memories and personality will disappear. When they disappear, then who I am as a person will also disappear. If something does "live" on after my physical death, it won't be "me" anymore and I see no reason why I should particularly care what happens to it."
Atheist Daniel Morris: "To conclude: I have a direct connection to my past and future in this world, and I understand how my current actions affect the future state of myself in this world. However, even if there is an afterlife, I see no connection between me and whatever creature or creatures follow me in the after-life. It is the same as someone making a clone of me — all very well, but I have no attachment to that clone. In addition, transferring or copying my soul into that clone doesn't build any direct connection to it."
Another quote from some forum: "any afterlife caused by means of such a soul would not really be for you, any more than you would continue to live if I cloned you and killed the original — your consciousness dies with your brain, and the being experiencing the afterlife is a completely different entity. Once your brain dies, "you" are gone."
I think it's all reasonable what these persons state.
4. And very nice summary of that is in James A. Keller's (who is Professor of Philosofy, and adherent of Christian Process Theism) "Problems of Evil and the power of God".
He analyzes the widespread hope in life after death in Western Culture, and although he by himself doesn't believe in it, he discuss in details, that even if life after death DOES exist, it DOESN'T solve problem of death for the very simple reason: in an afterlife of UNLIMITED duration your particular Self will dissappear, though the personality may endure. But it is the Self what is important, and he clearly distinguishes between two. I quote him: "If life goes on everlastingly ,eventually there will there would be no psychological connectedness between the self that exists in the far future and a self that existed prior to death".
You're welcome to read his book on Google, topic of an afterlife starts on page 150.
So, you see, even if these zombies DO exist in afterlife, it would not matter too much for the reasons described above :)
Seriously, I think topic of an afterlife is very complicated, but if we put aside Higher Loving Power who has plans for our afterlives (possibility that seems to me of low probability, but still possible), views of Austin, Danielle and James Keller seem to me pretty reasonable.
I would especially to encourage people to read James Keller. Maybe because we just are used to think in terms of survival/non-survival of after death. But do we realise that even if survival DOES occurs that eventually connection between pre-mortem and post-mortem entity is going to decrease approaching nil?...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Aug, 2010
Hi Alexander. Thanks for your comments. You're right that even if all the mediums are frauds this doesn't disprove the existence of an afterlife. Likewise the fact that kids are mistaken about Santa doesn't disprove his existence. But we must remember that nearly all of the 'evidence' supporting an afterlife comes from mediums, so if they are lying or deluded then all their 'evidence' is false and worthless. If there is no real evidence for a belief, and there is evidence against it, then it is far more likely that it is false than true. But you're right, science is not absolute, and it can never disprove the existence of an afterlife, or Santa. But I don't think we need to sit on the fence on either belief.
You say that we don't 'need to link existence of an afterlife to existence of G-d and doesn't have to do anything with religion'. (Just out of curiosity, if you write 'G-d', will God not realise you're talking about him?) But quite true, if our consciousness or mind was immortal and independent from the brain it could still be naturalistic, some type of undiscovered energy field perhaps. However the notion of souls and an afterlife arose because of religion and was elaborated on by religion. Religions created souls, the obvious presence of souls did not create religions. If we remove God and religion from the equation an enormous amount of the detail surrounding souls and the afterlife vanishes or is meaningless. Much of what is thought to happen regarding souls and the afterlife requires a god to make it work. For example, it would take a god to decide whether your soul went up or down a grade in reincarnation, or to heaven or hell. And since the number of life forms is increasing, and therefore new 'souls' are required to keep up, if there is no god then what is bringing these new 'souls' into existence? While it is conceivable, but highly implausible, that consciousness could blindly float or stumble from body to body like a virus, this is not how people that believe in souls see it happening.
If we reject god/religion and look for a naturalistic explanation for the survival of consciousness after death, then we must accept that the consciousness, memories, personality etc that survives the death of an 80 year-old man with dementia will match the mind that he exhibited when he was alive. We can't pretend that on death the 80 year-old consciousness with dementia simply vanishes and a young, sprightly, fully alert consciousness with all its memories and faculties working perfectly floats off in search of another mind to infect. Nor can we assume that this fully recovered consciousness seeks out some 'afterlife' where it suddenly develops the ability to telepathically communicate with the minds of the living. If people want to divorce god/religion from their explanations, then they also have to forget about perfect 'souls' that hide behind our consciousness and souls that can see, feel, hear and move without bodies. We can't have souls that are evidently as simple and natural as viruses yet seemingly as complex and knowledgable as god. To us it appears that some people are stuck with a foot in both camps, they still want there to be an afterlife even though they have lost their faith in God and religion. But without religion you don't actually need to invent an afterlife to explain anything. Religions say our souls live on, and so an afterlife is needed to explain where our new apartments might be. Reality says that you die. End of story. No forwarding address required.
We all agree that organisms die and cease to exist, so why is it so inconceivable that our mind can't also die and cease to exist? The only thing different about the mind is the unjustified importance that primitive religions place on it. Without religion meddling then the mind lives and dies with the brain. Religious people categorically deny that the universe and life itself is eternal — that they have always existed — and insist that they both had a beginning, but then they point blankly refuse to accept that they could have an end. A beginning is certain, but an end is impossible. This is not a rational argument.
We read the article you recommended (survival.html) but are not convinced. Suggesting that there is good evidence and research for the afterlife you quoted this statement from the article: 'If we had to do all this investigation for ourselves it would be a most daunting task, but fortunately we don't have to, for there exist several really excellent critical discussions'. However what preceded that statement is more revealing: 'Many of the nineteenth century founders of these societies... devoted a great deal of their time and energy to working with mediums... It is therefore mainly to the older records and material that we must turn if we wish to explore the evidence that bears directly on the survival question.' The article also noted that Broad and Gauld have both 'made detailed examinations of the material, mainly though not exclusively that obtained through mediums'. It speaks volumes that these two had to turn to mediums from the 1800s to find some 'evidence' of survival after death, and that the article's author completely ignored the latest scientific advances, especially in the likes of neuroscience, and the dismal failures of parapsychology.
Like you we also agree with atheists Cline, Morris etc, that you as a person cease to exist on your death. There is no denying that atoms and molecules from our body survive our death, and many will in the future help form another human or chicken, but this is not what most people think of as living on. An afterlife is a continuation of your life after your death. Even if reincarnation were happening, it's an obvious fact that no one remembers their past life or lives. The odd few that claim they do have consistently failed to prove it. And if we don't remember anything of our previous life before we were born (this time), why do some insist that we will somehow remember this particular life after we die? Experience shows that even if we live on after our death, we won't remember it. If you don't remember your past life then you are not continuing your life, you are merely starting someone else's life. You could equally argue that your 'reincarnated' soul was actually brand new (and in many cases it would have to be). What is the real difference — for you personally — between forgetting that you had lived before and not having lived before?
I'm not sure if I agree entirely with Keller's view: 'If life goes on everlastingly, eventually there will there would be no psychological connectedness between the self that exists in the far future and a self that existed prior to death'. I agree that the person from the distant past will be vastly different to the person in the distant future in regard to memories, experiences and outlook etc, just as I am psychologically vastly different from the person I was when I was two years old, but I am still the same person and my life has been a continuum from then till now. I may not remember my life as a two year old, but I still have a psychological connection with what happened to me all those years ago. This is me now, and that was me then. If my life continued after my death, then of course in the far future I would be psychologically much different to what I am now, but there would be no denying that I had survived my death, because if I hadn't there would be no future and past self to compare.
However, as we discussed in our Jeanette Wilson article and elsewhere, immortality creates much bigger problems than that our future self may not like or even recognise our past self. It's easy to believe in an afterlife but very difficult to explain how it might work. Fortunately for most people that say they do believe, they are happy to just leave it there and not get bogged down with the messy details. In fact it's often only their ignorance of the details, the problems and contradictions, that allows them to hold their belief in the afterlife. It's like kids and Santa, once they have the problems with Santa explained and they think deeply about it, their belief is destroyed forever. Believers in the after life must avoid that reflection to maintain their belief. We've had numerous experiences of believers keen to discuss the afterlife who suddenly break off communication when real threats to their belief arise. Ignorance is bliss.
We suspect that if an afterlife does exist, after a few thousand years of praising God ad nauseam and continual nagging from your in-laws who just won't die, you'll be wishing death really had been the end.
Comment by Alexander, 30 Aug, 2010
Thanks for posting my reply and your response, John. Though not being religious, I'm writing 'G-d' because it's according to Jewish tradition, and I'm Jewish myself :)
You: "But quite true, if our consciousness or mind was immortal and independent from the brain it could still be naturalistic, some type of undiscovered energy field perhaps."
You just got me here. I can say that while I'm undecided about an existence of an afterlife, I think that if it DOES exist then I give it much heavier chance to be exactly that: "undiscovered energy field" than of any Abrahamic version of it... While I agree with the author of "survival" article that "best evidences are difficult to reject out of hand" I have enormous problems with the existence of traditional monotheistic abrahamic 'G-d' (problem of evil and many others). From that I also have problem with traditional "souls" but quite open to "undiscovered energy fields". My point is surely not to defend religion, but to suggest that the Natural world itself might be needed to be revisited... and also such religions as Buddhism don't posit personal Creator.
Don't get me wrong - I'm just like you and C. D. Broad, regarding personal survival - I dislike it. But on the other hand, if (BIG 'if') there are facts pointing to that possibility, then I'd like to look at them as objectively as possible, no matter how I feel about it. And to me chances that afterlife, if it exists, is about like "praising G-d" is practically nil. I think that afterlife (again, if it exists, and again - BIG 'if') could be any number of things, most probably simply unconcievable to our minds now. As I read material about that on discussions/articles - such position is held by many open-minded persons. And some people maintain the view that survival can come not from the religion/metaphysics, but from ordinary physics/cosmology...
You: "We read the article you recommended (survival. html) but are not convinced"
But the author himself is not convinced, and he himself states in the end that in his most moods he thinks that we are just "dust to dust". He just thinks that issue "is not finally closed"...
You - "Like you we also agree with atheists Cline, Morris etc, that you as a person cease to exist on your death."
Exactly, but I quoted them to note, that they not only say that we cease to exist on our death. I quoted them specifically to indicate that they say more than that. In their opinion even if something of us DOES survive our physical death, even then it cannot be "us" in any meaningful way. THAT line of thinking I found interesting, and I think they give a good reasons to that.
Here the quote from another forum I liked:
"Or at least I seriously doubt there is any sort of afterlife as pictured in the theologies of the three Western religions. It's possible that some sort of energy lives on, but it wouldn't be "us" anymore and certainly wouldn't have a body with consciousness of previous existence. "
I couldn't say it better. . .
Where I disagree with you, is the existence of ESP. While existence of some kind of afterlife (not in traditional Western theistic sense) is an open question for me, existence of ESP for me is pretty much reality. Or maybe what we call ESP are simply undiscovered possibilities of our brain. Maybe information about the past events/people is stored somewhere in information fields around us - I don't know. But I'd like to quote Stephen Braude, person who does extensive research regarding survival (perhaps MOST extensive today):
"One of the things I came to understand from that is that we don't even have a firm grasp of what human abilities are. Until we really start trying to get a grip on what human abilities are, what limits human abilities are, what savants and prodigies are and so on, I don't think we're in a position to really answer conclusively whether we've got good evidence for survival, however nifty the cases may be."
You: "It's easy to believe in an afterlife but very difficult to explain how it might work."
Agreed. I would go to more extreme and say it's IMPOSSIBLE to explain how it might work
You: "after a few thousand years of praising God ad nauseam and continual nagging from your in-laws who just won't die, you'll be wishing death really had been the end."
Well, as I stated I rule out SUCH kind of afterlife. As for the rest - I can say NOTHING about what might going on there. I think we often do mistake trying to understand possible afterlife from our understanding of THIS world. But to say anything about (apparent) incorpoeal existence - I don't see how it's possible. Our conception of time HERE might not apply THERE. Who knows? Perhaps all our emotions are generated in our brain and may not be relevant if (BIG 'if' again) some our "postmortem energy" will exist outside of our bodies... As I stated it can be number of things, that we probably cannot imagine (again, praising G-d in heaven - aside. )
And, by the way, if we DO survive our physical death - who is to say that on the OTHER side all is immorta/unchanging/permanent? As in "survival" article, analyzing Gauld/Broad, there is: "Both Broad and Gauld find mediumistic reports which point to the possibility of temporary survival followed by a gradual fading away"
You: "I'm not sure if I agree entirely with Keller's view"
His main point is an argument that survival after death does NOT solve the problem of death for people who are troubled by the fact that they will die. He argues that what people fear most is the death of Self, but concept of everlasting life aplly to Person. He then distinguishes between Person and Self, for not to confuse between them. This is Self who hold all attachments, beliefs, and in one Person could be differnt Selves in different points of time. Seems much echoing Buddhism...
I would like to quote something more related to J. Wilson. There is a Gary Schwarz's book "Afterlife Experiments" and I will quote one reviewer's comment (who gave it 5 stars, btw):
"In my opinion, despite all the elaborate precautions taken by the author, all results could be explained by the mediums reading telepathically the mind of the sitter... the mediums saw the sitters' relatives as they were last physically seen by the sitters. The dead seem to rise from the frozen memories of the sitters. They showed no growth, change, or even reversion to an earlier and healthier physical age. They even wear the same clothes they wore in life. To me that indicates that they were constructions straight out of the sitters' minds. This indicates very strongly that we are dealing, as a minimum, with a situation of telepathy."
Sound a lot of common with Wilson. And I agree with the reviewer, that "that indicates that they were constructions straight out of the sitters' minds". I thinks same we can say about Wilson.
I'm just not ready to dismiss that we don't know what human abilities and limits are - therefore I cannot dismiss existence of telepathy and ESP in general.
Another reviewer stated:
"Are the results of these experiments interesting? Yes. Is there evidence that these "white crow" mediums are doing something extraordinary? Yes. Does that mean there is an afterlife? I don't think so."
I myself, while being skeptic, pretty much like many Buddhistic concepts, especially of impermanence ot evrything, including our "Self" (which might undergo radical changes in afterlife, if such exists)
What I find funny is that often proponents of survival give both arguments for afterlife and reincarnation?
But aren't they 2 mutually exclusive things? You cannot have it both way. Or that - or that, I think
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Aug, 2010
Hi Alexander, thanks for your reply. You're right, we disagree over the existence of ESP. We see no real evidence for any form of ESP whatsoever. Just as mediums and their supporters insist there is evidence for souls and an afterlife and yet are unable or unwilling to produce it, those that claim ESP powers are equally unable or unwilling to demonstrate them. Rather than repeat ourselves, if you're interested you can read our views on ESP in comments #2 and #4 at the top of this page.
You will of course realise that when I suggested that our consciousness or mind might by caused and maintained by some sort of 'undiscovered energy field', I don't for a moment believe that. We know only too well these days that our mind is generated by the brain, and if the brain is damaged so is the mind. It's inconceivable that an intelligent, independent soul — let's call it a soul to separate it from a mind — could exist that would severely handicap itself by pretending to be tied to the brain and our senses. And it does this for an eternity, moving from body to body. Let's remember that people that believe in souls — with religious or natural explanations — all insist that the soul can leave the body and travel around, sometimes huge distances instantaneously, perhaps even to other dimensions or planes of existence. And during this time it can still think and plan, it retains all its memories and personality, it can see, hear, smell, touch, communicate, move objects, experience emotions and desires etc. If a soul can do all these things why does it need a body? Anyone that believes an afterlife exists knows only too well that they don't need bodies at all, since there are none in the afterlife.
Why would a soul that can see perfectly well hide in the body of a physically blind person and deceptively present a black world to the person's mind? Why would a soul that can float around stay trapped in the body of a paraplegic? Why would a soul that has all its memories and faculties intact pretend to the world that they had Alzheimer's disease? If this type of soul exists then it implies it is under orders from someone to hide, or else the souls themselves are working to some greater plan, and we humans are mere pawns. And I don't buy the argument, often religious, that souls need physical bodies to experience life and learn. As I've said, souls are claimed to have all the senses, emotions, memories etc that fragile bodies offer, except that the soul version can't be damaged or grow old. Also souls don't need bodies in the afterlife, which is supposedly perfect and much better than life itself. If all these abilities that souls have, which let's be honest are nothing short of supernatural, really existed, then no intelligent soul would give up their godlike life to work in McDonalds.
Would a young, fit, intelligent, creative, personable human with enormous potential deliberately and severely handicap themselves physically and mentally for their entire life? What sane person would do this? And yet this evidently is what every soul does, rejecting their godlike abilities and hiding in the bodies of inferior humans.
We know that no one remembers a previous life, so if we reject the religious stories of souls and an afterlife and look for naturalistic explanations, what evidence is there that anyone has survived their death? If we reject gods why are we even looking? How could what we call the mind exist outside the brain? If it could, then what is the brain for? The existence of a brain would suggest a decoy, to hide the existence of the soul from us, but this just takes us back to the realm of gods again.
I think if people want to suggest a naturalistic explanation for souls, they have to first strip away all the religious and godlike qualities that they seem to possess. Too many people want to have souls as natural physical occurrences, like static electricity, but still want them to be behaving like gods.
You mentioned Gary Schwarz's book "Afterlife Experiments", we actually criticised him here in our debunking of cellular memory. He is a perfect example of authors that want to appear scientific and naturalistic while still walking hand in hand with God.
If we look at all this from a naturalistic perspective, without the motivation from religion that we deserve another life, what evidence is there that we survive our death? Or since you're far more convinced of ESP, what evidence is there of that, and why haven't I got it? Seriously, if ESP was at all beneficial to our survival, and obviously it would be, then evolution should have resulted in us all having obvious ESP powers. So why haven't we?
Comment by Bob, 26 Jan, 2011
On the subject of psychics, I was reading back on your article on Jeannette Wilson, especially on the segment 'How to spend eternity without going mad'. I'm going to be very serious here. Your article is of course tongue in cheek. However your description of the afterlife doesn't make sense. The reason is something is missing in the afterlife and that is time. To us time is normal. Yet it only exists here as a measure of change. The hands of a clock keep moving denoting time by changing position. The seasons follow each other and the earth keeps going around the sun. In the so called afterlife there is no change consequently no time. Christians will tell you God has always been. What does that mean in a timeless environment? He could have existed for a millisecond or a million years except there are no milliseconds or years. What does eternity mean? For a start it means no past or future. It is impossible to imagine existence without time. I found it interesting that your conception of life in the hereafter is a copy of life here. The only thing which makes any sense at all is that the universe popped into existence from timeless nothing and will return to nothing. In that context the permanent existence of a soul is meaningless. Permanence denotes permanent time which does not exist.
Imagine you were making up boxes to hold goods but had only two dimensions to work with length and width but depth didn't exist. It would be impossible to have boxes at least without things falling through. That is an analogy to existence without time.
These are ideas which get me confused trying to work out. I find the conjectures of theoretical physicists who are much smarter than me very interesting. But even they seem to go over the top sometimes. Those theories even lead to the idea of time travel.
To get back to Jeannette Wilson, a genuine psychic would probably not be game to give psychic readings. I watched bits of Colin Fry's programmes. He would tell a lady how lovable uncle Joe who died of a heart attack would go fishing, taking peanut butter sandwiches with him. The lady would sit there with a sweet smile on her face, nodding each time he said something right. What if in reality Uncle Joe was a dirty old man who molested children? What if Fry had to tell the woman her grandmother and aunt were fighting like cat and dog in heaven like they did in life? If he said those things he would clear the auditorium and kill his show. Yet if he doesn't he can't be genuine because real facts are truth.
If only we could get those people who believe in Jeannette Wilson and Sensing Murder to attend a talk on paranormal scams. But then they probably wouldn't listen.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jan, 2011
Regarding our description of the afterlife Bob, we were being serious, although you're right that the afterlife doesn't make sense, no matter what argument you use. First off though, you said that our 'conception of life in the hereafter is a copy of life here' and that our 'description of the afterlife doesn't make sense. The reason is something is missing in the afterlife and that is time'. Obviously, it is not our conception or description of the afterlife, but the notion put forward by believers, especially Christians. Our notion is that the afterlife doesn't exist. End of story. We don't have to have a rational view of how souls fill in their days since they're not real.
That said, it appears that you have hit upon an argument that hadn't occurred to us. You're correct that many Christians believe their god is eternal, immutable (unchanging) and transcendent, that is, he (it) exists outside time and space, outside the material universe. And you're right, it's impossible to imagine his existence in a 'place' where time and space don't exist. To formulate a plan, eg to create a universe with a talking snake, and to then go ahead and create it, requires the existence of time in god's realm. Before and after states require time. As you say, it is a measure of change. We humans can not comprehend an existence without time, but seemingly god has such an existence. It's also correct that many Christians believe that the afterlife is where they go after death to spend an eternity with their god. If you combine these two notions as you appear to have done, that there is no such thing as time where god resides, AND souls of the dead will go to the place where god resides, then time doesn't exist in the afterlife. Thus the afterlife as described by believers and mediums can not possibly exist in the way they claim it does. For time to exist in the afterlife would require it to be located in the material universe, or in another 'universe' specifically built to house the afterlife, or in another 'dimension', since the souls must still be in a position to spy on us night and day. If the afterlife exists in time, somewhere, then it can't be with god, if he exists outside time. Either the notion of the afterlife or of god must be wrong. In fact they are both wrong.
Believers argue about the origin of the universe and the existence of god and his transcendence, but they don't wonder how this might relate to the afterlife. Likewise believers explain the afterlife with no thought of god existing outside time, and in fact mediums seldom mention god at all.
The thing is, we have never encountered believers or mediums proposing the idea that time doesn't exist in the afterlife. And it is they that talk about it being a continuation of this life — a copy — albeit with no suffering, where they will renew relationships with departed loved ones, and watch over those left behind. Hence the terms 'life after death', 'eternal life', the 'next life' and the 'afterlife'. Their life will continue they believe, in a form far greater than their first go around. The messages we get from believers and mediums depict an afterlife totally reminiscent of this life, where old people still have their walking frames and they're still worried about our relationships and job prospects. This is the afterlife that the likes of Jeanette Wilson and the 'Sensing Murder' psychic mediums feed their audience. They definitely describe a place where time and space are part of their world. Many mediums are also very evasive when god is mentioned and often refuse to tie their description of the afterlife to any particular god or religion. To prove to them that time can't exist in the afterlife, you would first have to prove that the afterlife they claim to experience is run by a god outside of time. And of course only some believers argue that their god exists outside of time. And as we've stated, if the souls in the afterlife are communicating with mediums, then it can't be the Judeo-Christian god that's involved because he's dead against that sort of thing and wouldn't have given souls that new ability.
Religion continues to exist because of ignorance. Most of the qualities that Christians give their god, like all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere, perfect, all-good, unchanging, outside space and time etc, sound like good qualities for a god to have, but they all raise insurmountable problems if you start to think about what they would actually mean. Not that most Christians ever do. For example, god can't decide to create humans and then later decide to destroy them all with a flood. That implies a before and after state, that god is working within time. It also means that god didn't know that he would 'live' to regret creating humans, which means he's not all-knowing. There was also a 'time' when god was happy with his creation, and a later 'time' when he was pissed off with everyone. This means that god's 'mind' state had changed from happiness to genocidal rage. How is this possible if god cannot change? He also slaughtered untold innocent lives in his flood, which cannot be reconciled with him being all-good. God supposedly didn't observe Satan conspiring with Adam and Eve, didn't see Cain kill his brother Abel, and didn't see Catholic priests rape a single child, which throws out the notion that god is everywhere. Screeds have been written on how the notions of god just don't make sense. But while we have heard people argue about god being outside time, we have never heard believers in souls and heaven, including mediums, suggest that the afterlife is also outside time. And as you say Bob, if they did, (as if it wasn't already there), it would collapse into nonsense as well.
But as regards eternity, while eternal can mean to exist outside time, we don't view eternity as meaning 'no past or future'. We take it as meaning 'time without beginning or end; infinite time'. Time does exist, as does the past and future. Although again we can't picture what infinite time or infinite anything really means, nor can we comprehend how something can have no beginning. We're OK with having no end. Like you we can't understand how a god existing outside time would view a universe that contains time. Some say that the past, present and future would all exist as one 'instance' for god, not that this helps me at all. But for most believers, they know nothing of this 'outside time' argument, for them god is merely eternal, he has always existed and always will. He is immortal. They don't say he's outside time, merely that time doesn't change him or kill him. Like Coronation Street he just goes on and on. People in the afterlife would also be immortal (not eternal since they did have a beginning) and wouldn't age, but things around them could and would change. For example, Joe Bloggs was alive on earth yesterday, but died last night and is now in heaven today, moving into that empty apartment down the (gold paved) street. There is one more person in the afterlife than there was yesterday, change has occurred. Souls in the afterlife have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and man land on the moon, so their knowledge and memories have changed since they first entered the afterlife. Time exists in the afterlife believed in by the person on the street.
What we tried to explain was that the only description we have of the afterlife is passed on from mediums. Out of billions, not one single person has returned to describe it first hand, with pictures and HD video. The afterlife that mediums describe is just a very boring, monotonous, depressing version of life on earth. If mediums are to be believed, and their supporters certainly believe them, we tried to point out that this afterlife is something to be feared, not looked forward to. That was the version of afterlife they believe exists, so that was the afterlife we had to demolish.
And you're right about what Wilson and Fry et al tell their clients. They're all just safe, bland, comforting lies aimed at the fragile emotions of the living. They're no different than the deliberate lies parents tell naive, impressionable kids, that their dead dog has gone to the big farm in the sky, only these are directed at adults who should know better. And no, most won't listen if you try and explain the flaws in their beliefs. Our experience is that believers that enter into debate do so only to push their beliefs, and as soon as their cherished beliefs are threatened, they retreat to seek comfort and reassurance from other believers. It's like the mediums and their supporters who challenge skeptics to attend their readings and then vilify them when they actually turn up and ask questions. Seemingly it's all about belief, and the only questions they're comfortable with are of the form: 'Is Granny happy?'
Comment by Shamentha, 10 Apr, 2011
I have just read your website and its the most interesting article I have yet to read. In my demented state of not understanding what is happening with me and my life I chose to visit a number of psychics for guidance. Us humanly beings feel a deep need to understand and to be able to be spoken to, told and guided into decisions and paths. We cannot see God, Angels, Fairies, Ancestors yet we believe as this gives us hope, and its hope that allows us to continue living as human beings. According to some believes and I have studied most in my quest to understand better, it is believed that the souls of the Ancestors of the person, generally agreed that the closest Ancestor will watch over us. They do not have free will and cannot participate and be shown in daily lives yet they watch over us. I have believed this yet in my worst moment of darkness received no help from anyone, soul, God or Ancestor. The Xanax did help. Also your note of them watching us all the time and not help, assist, guide or participate truely makes me questions all believes.
Why in our continuous search for goodness do we resort to something and someone yet receive no help or assistance from the spiritual world?
I have made a discovery. We are everything, we are the soul, the spirit, we are Gods, we make our paths and choose of destinies. It was us all the time. When we die, we die. We leave behind loved ones, memories, heartache and bleak into nothingness. This is something far to scary for any human to imagine. Is this all for nothing? Why do we suffer? Why do we love the wrong people? Why do we think at all? There has to be a reason, we would never be able to fathom that there is none. Our minds are too limited to our boxes and the thoughts within our grasp. We should therefore, try to live as well as we can. Live so that we can be remembered and loved. Live so we make our mark on mankind in whatever menial way so that the world will continue to live through our genes long after we are gone. There is nothing after this.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Apr, 2011
We agree Shamentha, there is nothing after this, we're all there is. Spirits, gods and ancestors aren't helping us since there are none to help. Look at the near Biblical tsunami that recently struck Japan, where were their guardian angels? Why do we suffer and love the wrong people? Because we are part of nature, and that's how nature works. Nature isn't a thinking being that has a plan for us all. God's are believed to give life meaning and reason since we are made solely for their benefit and enjoyment, we are their toys, their pets, to do with as they see fit. If gods did exist then any meaning you saw in your life wouldn't be true meaning, but only the function that god had stamped on you. God would make you a human or a cow or a bacterium and you would live out the life he had designed for you. If gods exist then you have been made as a robot slave to their desires. Any meaning of life would be their meaning, not yours.
Without gods we get to decide what meaning we place on our lives. We can make our mark on the future by how we live in this life, by trying to lead a good life and changing the world for the better. We are not here for some god's enjoyment, servitude to a god's desires is not the meaning of life. The meaning of life is what ever we want it to be. And if we waste that valuable opportunity then that is a great shame. There is not another life where we can try again. Live for today, not an imaginary future.
Comment by Shamentha, 11 Apr, 2011
I am sure that you recieve a lot of negativity due to your beliefs. I believe that it is only the brave few who dare not believe in all these man made notions, but only the courageous who dares. All the best. There are many people who are starting to see the light, there are many people like me that dares to live by my own rules. Not bad rules but my own. I am tired of being a puppet assuming that God is holding the reigns.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Apr, 2011
While we do receive a few negative comments due to our view of the world, the majority are supportive, from people like us who also can't understand why others keep believing in stories that are plainly nonsense. We can excuse a primitive peasant from a thousand years ago for believing in gods and demons and ghosts, but educated people today that have free and easy access to vast knowledge on how things really work have no excuse except laziness and a childish desire to believe in magic.
Humans have always lived by our own rules. Every rule or law or commandment was invented by man, it's just that some men then tried to make those laws sound more powerful and threatening by pretending that they had actually received them from some god that would know when we broke them and would punish us severely. Codes of acceptable behaviour such as no killing or stealing and forgiveness and helping your neighbour were around long before religions tried to pretend that they had thought of them. And religions have had many rules that we know are very wrong, such as slavery, human sacrifice, subjugation of women, intolerance of outsiders, divine rule by kings etc. If people want to understand what it means to lead a good life we suggest they read up on ethics and philosophy, and steer well clear of the rules, commandments and so called 'morals' of religion. What is moral about persecuting women and homosexuals, or killing those that reject their religion, or refusing birth control or objecting to life saving vaccinations and blood transfusions? As you say, we're not puppets, either of some imaginary god or of their flesh and blood priests. It's time to show them that we can live better lives without them, that we can do the right thing and care for others without some god threatening us with eternal damnation.
Comment by Shamentha, 04 May, 2011
Can you please try to give me an explanation of how bodies were made so intricately and amazingly. That is just the one thing that boggles. How can science by so exacting?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 May, 2011
Yes, life is amazing, and our bodies are complex. Yet human bodies are no more complex than other animals, and in many ways we are inferior. We can't grow new limbs, we can't fly, we can't see in the dark like bats, we can't live under water, we can't outrun cheetahs, we don't have the strength of ants, we don't have the sense of smell that many animals have, or vision, or hearing. Perhaps the only thing that humans excel at is thinking, thanks to our large brain.
And while our bodies can do amazing things, any doctor could list a hundred ways that it could be vastly improved. We get sore backs because we weren't designed to walk upright, enormous numbers of babies and women have died in childbirth because of the narrowness of the pelvic opening, our eyes have no protective covering, people choke to death because objects accidentally block their windpipe, our body parts wear out as we age etc.
You ask 'how bodies were made so intricately and amazingly?' The thing is that our bodies weren't 'made', in the sense that a house or computer is. They weren't designed and built by anyone. Life evolved. The complexity of our bodies can be explained by what is called evolution by natural selection.
Religions tend to claim that humans (and all other modern life forms) just popped into existence fully formed. They didn't even appear as babies and grow up, they were already adults, eg Adam and Eve. Thus when the religious are presented with the claim that gods didn't create humans, they ask how they could have appeared as adult humans without the hand of some god. They assume that what we're saying is that nature somehow produced a fully formed human from thin air. But evolution is not a magical process like religion, it works naturally on very simple beginnings and very, very slowly over enormous time spans, step by small step life becomes more complex. But not in all cases, bacteria for example haven't evolved much at all, they're basically as simple now as they were billions of years ago. And most of the life forms that have arisen are gone. Scientists believe that around 98% of all species that once existed have gone extinct. We are the lucky few that survive, and not because we are complex, there are more bacteria on Earth than other life forms. The crucial difference between evolution and creationism (creation of life by gods), is that there is no intelligent being controlling and directing evolution. It is mindless, there is not a goal or purpose in mind, no one is making alterations or designing new life forms. It's like watching a rock roll down a hillside or a leaf float down from a tree, the rock and the leaf are not being directed by anyone, their movement is influenced solely by their surroundings, by nature. The fact that we humans are here now is an accident of nature, we weren't planned. As they say, if a comet hadn't wiped out the dinosaurs we humans wouldn't be here now. Their unfortunate demise allowed small mammals to evolve and millions of years and untold changes in body shape finally saw humans evolve from ape like creatures.
We can't explain briefly how life evolves without help from gods, but a very good book and one that we highly recommend is 'The Blind Watchmaker' by Richard Dawkins. This explains how life can start from very simple beginnings and slowly, step by step, more complex life forms can evolve. The complexity of bodies only requires a god if we believe they popped into existence fully formed. Nature working over vast time with minute changes can achieve the same result, very simply. We have flaws in our bodies solely because they weren't designed, because they were put together by a blind process that had no idea what it was doing and no goal in mind. We exist in a vast universe that is incomprehensibly huge, and yet the only place that we can survive is on this very small planet. The universe is also very old, and yet we humans only appeared on the scene 'yesterday'. The universe is so huge and so old that it should be obvious that it wasn't designed for us. If the universe was designed as our playground then humans should be everywhere, we should be able to live in space like fish in the oceans, we should be able to travel effortlessly from star to star and galaxy to galaxy rather than being trapped on a single planet. We should have existed for billions of years to enjoy the age of the universe, and we should be immortal so we can enjoy the billions of years yet to come. Instead we come and go in a heartbeat having never experienced even a small fraction of the universe that surrounds us, a universe oblivious to our existence.
See if your local library has 'The Blind Watchmaker', although we would recommend any book written by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, such as 'River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life' and 'The Selfish Gene'. There are many good books out there that explain evolution, but make sure you pick those written by scientists who are experts in evolution, and avoid those by religious fundamentalists who simply attack with ignorance any science that challenges their beliefs.
Comment by Shamentha, 05 May, 2011
U are amazing.
Comment by Matthew, 06 May, 2011
What a great summary of why the human body is so complex (and we're still discovering just how complex). I've always seen the complexity of the human body (or indeed most living organisms) as quite a good counter argument to the existence of a grand creator. If there was a god who could snap his figures pop us into existence then what would the explanation be for such things as 60 thousand different types of bacteria in our stomach, or an appendix we don't appear to need, or why I had to get my eyes lasered to get rid of my glasses ...was this all part of his grand design and if so, why? I'm fascinated by evolution and have read several of the Dawkins books written on the subject and am always pleased to discover that there is still a hell of a lot for us still to discover and understand ...but we have to careful not to implant god as the answer every time we get a 'we just can't explain that yet'. One of the more interesting debates is over where sex evolved from — it seems highly inefficient to at some stage, as a species, split into two and only be able to reproduce by "joining" again. Perhaps over time we'll evolve back to the point where a female can reproduce without the need for a mate ...but I hope not!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 May, 2011
Thanks Matthew. Yes, the term 'intelligent design' is really a ridiculous idea and name when experts explain just how poorly our bodies and the universe are put together if we were in fact deliberately built by an all-powerful and all-knowing creator. We've read a little about the ideas surrounding the evolution of sex and it is indeed fascinating. We're glad that we're a species that did go down that path, and that we're one of the few species that actually spend some considerable time enjoying it. Watching David Attenbourgh's latest TV doco 'Life', I'm surprised that even though mating is important to so many species, they don't spend much time relishing the experience.
Comment by Anonymous-2, 05 Jun, 2011
Dear John, I have only just discovered your website, oh dear, what an un-enlightened person you appear to be. I must admit for that the first 40 years of my life, I too could not find anything to believe in. I am not religious, have never been to church, and do not believe that a baby can be conceived without a male and female connection. [Jesus??} A crisis in my life at 43 led me, in desperation, to see a lady that was a complete stranger to me. I was bowled over when she gave me my mother's name and proceeded to relate my whole life story! That was a start of a whole new life for me. Since then I have had many experiences, couldn't even start to relate them... and you wouldn't read them anyway! When a person dies the soul leaves the body, it is perfectly natural to have contact. I have sensed, heard, and seen many things over the last 30 years, I have even solved some family history problems... and research has proved them right. Once the "third eye" opens [charkra] there is just no stopping. I am not a drinker or a druggie, am above average intelligence, and exetremely offended by your reference to people like myself [and my family] as being idiots! One day something will happen and you will know! Accept the fact that it is just not your "time", you still have a lot of earth's lessons to learn, and probably a few more incarnations. Next time you are referring to a "dead" person and you feel that prickly sensation... be aware it is probably some-one trying to make their presence felt. Perhaps we will meet one day... on the other side!!!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jun, 2011
Thanks for your comments. Firstly, why do you naively think that we can't 'find anything to believe in'? We believe in lots of things, we believe that the universe began in the Big Bang, that life evolved, that all religions are false, that there is no such thing as souls or chakras and that dead people aren't ogling us in the shower. We believe that psychics and mediums are either deluded or outright frauds and when you die it's over, you don't come back as a rodent to try again or waft off to some astral plane or heavenly abode. And what's more, we can provide good evidence to support all these beliefs. You talk of souls, a 'third eye' and multiple reincarnations, yet there is no good evidence that any of these things exist, and you certainly don't offer any. We are not lost, wandering in search of answers as you seem to believe. You imply that we will only become enlightened when we accept your beliefs, whereas we see enlightenment as being reached when the truth is realised, not when you simply accept a spiritual belief. Reading our website you bemoan 'what an un-enlightened person you appear to be', and yet you claim not to be religious, which implies you are a non-believer in gods and such. But so are we, so you actually appear to agree with us. So how can we be unenlightened if we are in agreement with you who presumedly are enlightened?
You state that 'I have had many experiences... I have sensed, heard, and seen many things... ', but how does this support your claims? We could tell you that we've danced naked with fairies on the back lawn, outwitted a one-eyed, one- horned, flying purple people-eater, and undergone the indignity of an alien anal probe, but would you believe us? Well maybe you would, but you shouldn't. Without evidence these claims are worthless. You say that you don't believe in religion or the virgin birth of Jesus, and you're right not to, because there is no evidence for it and much evidence against it. And yet millions of Christians claim to have 'sensed, heard, and seen many things' that they believe support their beliefs, but you still don't believe them. Possibly for the same reasons you don't believe them, we don't believe you. A Christian telling you to believe is not good enough for you, and likewise you saying that we should believe you is not good enough for us. If you have evidence that might convince us, by all means tell us what it is. But simply saying that you've felt a 'prickly sensation' when thinking of a dead person is rather empty. That's like saying Santa must exist because kids get an excited feeling when they think of him.
You state that 'One day something will happen and you will know! Accept the fact that it is just not your "time", you still have a lot of earth's lessons to learn, and probably a few more incarnations'. Sorry but we don't buy this. Perhaps one day something might happen and we may start to believe in spooky things, but that's most likely just old age dementia. Also it's not a 'fact' we all under go many reincarnations to learn 'earth's lessons'. There is no evidence that reincarnation is real. And even if there were, you can only benefit from lessons if you remember what you've learnt, but since no one, not even those that believe in past lives, can remember what they learnt as a medieval peasant or Roman gladiator then each new reincarnation appears no different than if we only lived a single life. Can you truly say that you remember what you learnt in your previous lives? Also no one we know is perfect, so everyone should be immediately stuck back in another body when they die to continue their climb towards perfection, so there should be no souls floating around for these silly mediums to talk to. Are you saying that your deceased friends and family members were perfect and have broken the cycle and are now souls that are... what?... what do you call heaven or nirvana when you're not religious?
And quite frankly we can't understand why a crisis in your life would lead you to seek the advice of a stranger? When you have a health concern or a legal concern do you just ask the advice of the first stranger you encounter? We doubt even you do this, so we suspect you actually consulted someone whom you believed was an expert in spooky things — a psychic or medium or tea leaf reader etc. We infer from this that you already believed in these charlatans, or else why would you have even went? We also doubt that she really gave you your mother's name or related your whole life story, although you may truly believe she did. If she could truly do this she would be famous by now and not just 'a lady' whom you obviously don't think we would have heard of.
You say that 'Perhaps we will meet one day....on the other side!!!'. There have been several famous people who believe as you do that promised upon their death to make contact and prove the existence of 'the other side'. But not a single one has bothered to keep their word. Why not? Is it as you suggest, that they have been promptly reincarnated, their memories of their life wiped and their soul slotted into some new body? And since you are not religious, could you explain what you actually mean by 'the other side'? And while you're at it, since there are no gods controlling earthly lessons and reincarnations etc, how does your supernatural world of souls and spooky sensations all fit together? Since you have 'sensed, heard, and seen many things' we're sure you must have been given some insight into these things. So please do enlighten us. We're serious here, we can't find the correct path if no one is willing to hand us a torch. We hold our present views because scientists and skeptics are willing to spend time explaining how they believe the world really works and why souls and ghosts are just make believe. And while many others are more than happy to tell us that this view is totally wrong, no one is able or even willing to explain why. Why don't you make an attempt?
Comment by Anonymous-3, 05 Jul, 2011
John, dear oh dear, you've really got yourself in a state over this.
Your arguments are as emotional as the believers, and lacking in the exact same proof.
There is a difference in being a non-believer and being a disbeliever. You fall in the latter category and as such you are not open minded.
Me...I like to be open minded except for 'god', which I do not believe in. Even if there was such a thing it is certainly something that does not warrant worship.
As far as 'the other side' goes, well who knows? Certainly not me, nor you.
I believe in evolution but where did the universe come from? Where is it and does it end? If so, where? If the 'big bang' theory is true where did that miniscule atomic particle come from? Why was there a black hole? Where was it? Why is there matter and anti-matter? Do we have a soul? Are 100 percent of paranormal activities explainable? Is there another side? Another dimension?
As far a I can see there are many unanswerables and as such I have an open mind. If you can answer just one of the above questions then your stance will hold more credence.
Please don't pretend that you are open minded as your emotional outbursts betray you.
As the old saying goes...fact is stranger than fiction.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jul, 2011
Thanks for you comments, however we can't really see how you have challenged our arguments. Our essay was about life after death, about whether psychic mediums such as Wilson can communicate with souls in the afterlife, and whether it is likely that souls and the afterlife even exist.
What evidence can you provide that the afterlife and souls exist? It doesn't matter that they might, just as Tooth Fairies might be real, what evidence suggests that they are real? We tried to show that Wilson and her ilk are mistaken, and even cheat, when pushing their view of an afterlife.
It doesn't matter that we might not be able to explain what was before the Big Bang or why we have antimatter, you can't say if we can't explain these things then we should remain undecided on the afterlife as well. You refuse to remain undecided on god, refusing to believe in him, and yet you berate us for refusing to believe in souls. You admit that you are not open minded regarding god, whereas we are actually open minded about god, and souls and other spooky things. We don't believe they exist, but we are open minded in our examination of them, and if believers would provide evidence and reasons to support their beliefs we would happily consider it and perhaps even change our views if it were convincing.
Like most people that criticise our arguments, you only say vague things such as 'Please don't pretend that you are open minded as your emotional outbursts betray you'. Please detail which emotional outbursts betray us, why they are flawed, and what evidence you have that the claims of mediums might be real. We are only swayed by evidence, not what might be real.
Comment by Anonymous-3, 06 Jul, 2011
Thanks for your reply to email sent on 5th July 2011.
An example of an emotive outburst: "...means she is despicable scum in our view".
Your replies in the comments are too long too wade through all of them again but there other examples.
You haven't understood the point of the first email. There are 3 options: You believe, you disbelieve or you are are skeptical but open minded.
You say: "....whereas we are actually open minded about god, and souls and other spooky things. We don't believe they exist, but we are open minded in our examination of them..." Hmmmm, sounds a bit contradictory. Make your mind up. There's nothing wrong with disbelieving, just stick to it and don't say you're open-minded.
You then say: "It doesn't matter that we might not be able to explain what was before the Big Bang or why we have antimatter...." A bit like the pot calling the kettle black there.
Don't forget the Big Bang theory is just that. Yet many people believe it.
I don't criticise your arguments, as I happen to accept they may be, or are more likely to be, true. But I also accept that they may be false.
Whilst I 'believe' that possibly all mediums are fake, I have no PROOF that they ALL are.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jul, 2011
Thanks for replying. In your initial comments you stated that our 'arguments are as emotional as the believers... your emotional outbursts betray you'. Now you give this example of one of these emotive outbursts: '...means she is despicable scum in our view'. In fact this comment doesn't appear in our essay at all, we can only find it in a reply on our comments page. And this comment is an opinion on Wilson's refusal to help the police, not an argument for why the afterlife doesn't exist. Regardless of our view of mediums and ethics, do you have any reasons that show our arguments are flawed?
You say that there are 3 options: belief, disbelief, or skeptical/open minded. We obviously don't view 'open minded' in the way you do. You claim you can't be disbelieving (or believing) and open minded. This means that everyone who is disbelieving of the claim that the world is flat can't be open minded, therefore they are closed minded. Everyone that doesn't believe that demons cause illness is therefore closed minded. Everyone that believes that democracy is good is therefore closed minded.
To us, open minded does not mean undecided. Your definition of open minded is one of professing ignorance. Open minded, in the way we use it, means: 'having or showing a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments'. A comment we found on the internet describes perfectly the way many people incorrectly use the phrase 'open minded': 'In my experience, people usually seem to think "open-minded" means that you will accept their opinion. If you disagree, you are close-minded'.
And we are receptive to new ideas or arguments. We have been receptive to the idea that gods don't exist, that antimatter exists, that Pluto isn't a planet, that men and women are equal, that homosexuality isn't a sin, that Mother Teresa is a scumbag, that superstring theory might have answers, that Santa doesn't exist. On all these and many other topics we have listened to new ideas and arguments and we have changed our mind. We were open to new ideas, and once we accepted them we didn't suddenly become close minded. We still remain open minded, and are still open to new arguments. We can believe something, or disbelieve something, without giving up the faculty of being open minded.
We're not sure why you have a problem with whether we can or cannot explain the Big Bang and antimatter. What does antimatter and the origin of the universe have to do with mediums and dead people watching us in the shower? It's a little like the police asking a suspect, 'Can you explain why the stolen money was found in your car?', and the suspect replying, 'No, but can you explain what happened before the Big Bang?'
Of course many of the things we believe may turn out to be false, but the most reasonable stance is to give conditional acceptance to those theories that have good evidence to support them. We will never be able to prove everything true, just as it is impossible to prove all mediums are fakes, or that tooth fairies don't exist, or that this isn't all just a dream. We must learn to ask, what is your evidence for that claim? If evidence can't be produced, it makes sense to suspend belief. No evidence has been provided to support souls or the afterlife, so it is reasonable to say they don't exist.
Comment by Anonymous-3, 06 Jul, 2011
This is my last post with a different explanation.
Compare the 2 statements below:
An atheist is one who denies the existence of...
An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know...
Please answer at least this question. Which are you?
I believe the populace consider the second group to be more open-minded. You obviously differ, but, hey, that's you.
What about aliens? With the billions of planets in the universe the odds that a planet like the earth exists must be high, and therefore a high chance that other life forms exist. The science points to this. But where is the proof? If science can't prove that they exist, then does that mean they don't?
I don't need to show your arguments are flawed as I don't disagree with them, I just accept that they may, in time, be proven not to be correct.
If you wish to be seen as impartial, and thus scientific, I suggest you change your website to 'unprovenbeliefs.com' or something similar.
'Sillybeliefs.com' hints at a bias.
But... here IS a fact for you: If I was to be given $1 for every scientific experiment or theory that has been proven to be wrong or flawed then I would be a multi-millionaire
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jul, 2011
Are we atheists or agnostics? For a start, we take issue with your definitions, see our article: 'Agnostics — Sanctimonious Fence Sitters'. But that said, we are atheists of the sort that do deny the existence of gods.
You say that you 'believe the populace consider the second group [agnostics] to be more open-minded'. But we know the 'populace' are overwhelmingly believers and not agnostic, therefore this means that the 'populace' acknowledges that they themselves are in fact closed minded. Are you saying that the populace is happy, like you apparently, to be identified as being closed minded? After all you imply that you are an atheist, not an agnostic, and admit you are not open minded: 'Me... I like to be open minded except for 'god', which I do not believe in.'
We disagree that agnostics are necessarily open minded. Again we repeat the dictionary definition of open minded: 'having or showing a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments'. It does not mean undecided. A believer or atheist can be open minded if they are willing to consider new arguments and change their views, just as agnostics can be closed minded if they are unwilling to consider that their noncommittal stance might be wrong. And let's remember that you claim that agnostics are in one sense 'believers', they believe 'it is impossible to know...' The fact is that only individuals can be open or closed minded, these labels can not be blindly placed on groups such as believers, atheists and agnostics.
Your stance is that since we don't believe in gods (or fairies or souls or Santa) then we aren't open minded, and you imply that believers that do believe in gods or souls are also not open minded. Your view seems to be that the only open minded people are those that profess: 'I don't know'. Evidently as soon as one takes a stance, to either believe or disbelieve, you cease being open minded. But as we've said, if open minded means ignorance — I don't know — then what advantage is there to being open minded? What advantage is there to going around saying 'I don't know' when people ask you whether there are demons, whether the world is flat and whether DNA exists?
You admit that you aren't open minded regarding god, and we suggest you aren't open minded (using your definition) about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, trolls, witches, gremlins, molecules, gravity, electromagnetism, viruses, nuclear reactors, Muslim terrorists and a thousand other things. By this we mean that you either believe or disbelieve in these things, which means you are not open minded about them, since you're not saying, 'I don't know whether viruses or Muslim terrorists exist'. But if you believe being agnostic about things, being open minded, is the best stance as supported by the populace, then why aren't you agnostic about most things, since there is almost nothing in this universe that we have absolute, positive proof of?
We don't understand why some people say that the only honest stance is to be agnostic about Jehovah or Allah but not about Zeus or Osiris, since it's obvious they don't exist. To us, agnostics are not open minded, they are just too afraid to take a stance, to make up their mind. They'll confidently say we don't know enough about god and/or science and history to make a call as to whether God exists or not, but strangely they don't have any problem with bluntly declaring that Zeus and Osiris don't exist. And yet no doubt they know even less about ancient Greek and Egyptian history than the do about the Bible and science. Not you though, you're not agnostic about gods, you evidently believe there is good reason and evidence to confidently move from the agnostic camp and say they don't exist. None of them. Regarding supernatural gods the evidence is abundantly clear and convincing, and yet, regarding spirits and the afterlife, that's supernatural spirits and the supernatural afterlife, you suddenly become hesitant and doubtful. But let's remember that spirits, souls and heaven are only imagined because of religion, and religion for most people only exists to describe and worship gods. If gods don't exist, as both you and we agree, then religion is describing a fantasy. If religion is a fantasy, then the things it proposes, such as spirits, souls and heaven, are also a fantasy. If as you believe, gods don't exist, why should the supernatural things that it is claimed that gods create and maintain, such as spirits and an afterlife, exist? Why should a supernatural realm still exist with no gods to inhabit it, or create it in the first place? Why can you see no evidence for gods and the things that go along with gods, such as spirits, but you can see no good evidence that the supernatural realm and spooky ghosts might not exist? You're unsure. Without resorting to scientific theories or religious beliefs, neither of which take your stance, what reasons can you offer that would make spirits and an afterlife plausible? Why should we become agnostic and suspend believe and disbelieve over mediums talking to the spirits of our dead relatives?
You ask, 'What about aliens... If science can't prove that they exist, then does that mean they don't?'. We assume you're making the following analogy. If science can't prove aliens exist and yet at the same time can say they might, then how is this different to mediums not being able to prove the afterlife exists, but insisting that it might? Why can scientists posit the possibility of aliens and be taken seriously, but mediums aren't allowed to do the same with souls? Of course both scientists and mediums can and do make claims without proof, the question is whether we should believe them. The point is that regarding aliens, even without proof, we have no good reason to believe that alien life couldn't or shouldn't exist. Aliens would be part of the natural universe, and we have vast amounts of evidence that alien life could exist wherever natural conditions were suitable. However, as for the souls and the afterlife, these are part of the supernatural, a realm that we have no evidence whatsoever even exists.
We know that the natural world exists, and thus there is no problem with suggesting that unseen natural things might exist in it. Alien life is merely a very small and simple extension to what we already know exists. We need break no physical laws or propose new ones for aliens to exist. However to suggest that souls and the afterlife exists we need to discover the supernatural realm and accept that this discovery would indeed break numerous well established physical laws and even show that we really can have no confidence in what we think we do know. Unlike natural objects and forces, of which we have enormous amounts of evidence, we have no evidence of even one single supernatural object or force. Not even one. If we had good evidence of even one supernatural thing, that these things can exist, then we would be justified in thinking that perhaps others might also exist. But we don't have this evidence, not in the slightest, so we have no justification to believe that supernatural objects and forces might exist.
This is why, even without proof, we can seriously belief in the possibility of natural aliens, but why we can not seriously believe in the possibility of supernatural spirits.
You go on to say that 'I don't need to show your arguments are flawed as I don't disagree with them, I just accept that they may, in time, be proven not to be correct'. But let's remember that your initial comments said our arguments were flawed: 'Your arguments are as emotional as the believers, and lacking in the exact same proof'. You may now say you don't disagree with our arguments, but it appears nevertheless that part of you hopes and believes that our arguments will eventually be shown to be flawed. In your language and your need to challenge our dismissal of mediums, souls and an afterlife, perhaps we sense a slight but perceptible desire to be rid of the barbaric gods and threats of eternal torment but a need to hang on to the promise of everlasting life?
You also offer this advice: 'If you wish to be seen as impartial, and thus scientific, I suggest you change your website to 'unprovenbeliefs.com' or something similar. 'Sillybeliefs.com' hints at a bias'.
We clearly admit to a form of bias, in that we are arguing that gods do not exist and that beliefs such as astrology, energy healing, homeopathy and alien abductions are false. We do not pretend to support the opposite views, we do not give equal time to their explanations, and we do not offer balanced for and against articles.
However we are not biased in the sense that we are prejudiced. To be biased or prejudiced is to make 'unreasonable preconceived judgments... without knowledge or examination of the facts'. We believe we are objective and fair. We are frank, honest and forthright in our views. We do not hide that we are atheists and are of a skeptical nature. We do not fabricate evidence, we do not quote opponents out of context or suppress arguments that expose flaws in ours. Our website is not called 'Proven Beliefs', we don't imply that science has been proven 100%, we merely claim that the beliefs that we examine are, in our view, silly.
The fact is that apart from a few mathematical claims, no scientific claim has been proven absolutely, and can never be. Every experiment can add more data and reasons to believe scientific claims are true, that increase our confidence in them, but none can be proven 100%. Some of our most cherished and most established theories could be overturned tomorrow with new unexpected data, so to follow your suggestion every science textbook would have to have the disclaimer 'Unproven Beliefs' stamped on their covers.
We believe that a basic knowledge and acceptance of science and the clear lack of evidence for the existence of gods, the supernatural, and the paranormal all suggest that the name 'Silly Beliefs' captures what our website stands for. We consider ourselves open minded and willing to consider new arguments, but to date no one has offered any cogent arguments. We've had people saying that our arguments are flawed, without saying why, or that they have personal evidence of the supernatural or paranormal, which they aren't prepared to divulge. Others say that they believe on faith, or simply say that when we die, then we'll realise how mistaken we were. These arguments do nothing to shake our confidence in our worldview. If we are biased because we openly admit to not believing in gods and spooky things, if a refusal to accept the conclusions of empty arguments suggests bias, then so be it.
In an attempt to apparently demonstrate how flawed and untrustworthy science really is, you finish with this claim: 'But... here IS a fact for you: If I was to be given $1 for every scientific experiment or theory that has been proven to be wrong or flawed then I would be a multi-millionaire'
It is true that there have been many scientific experiments that were flawed or showed that the theory was wrong, but this is how the scientific method works and why science is so successful. Science is willing to test it's claims and reject them when they are found to be wrong, and gradually scientific theories become more and more robust and closer to the real truth. Religious and paranormal believers however do not generally test their claims, or reject beliefs that others show to be false. Unlike science, they never rewrite their books to reflect new knowledge. That what you say is true, that science has corrected itself over time, is something science can be proud of, and society can be grateful for.
But let's change your claim slightly: 'But... here IS a fact for you: If I was to be given $1 for every religious or paranormal or spiritual or pseudoscientific claim that has been proven to be wrong or flawed then I would be a multi-quazillionaire'. I would be far richer than you based on these false claims. And unlike the false scientific claims that were exposed by scientists themselves, the religious and paranormal proponents never discover or admit to flaws in their beliefs, it takes outsiders to expose the false claims.
Thus it is obvious to us that while science has made mistakes, they admit to them and learn from them, whereas true believers won't learn from their mistakes because they refuse to even admit that there are any.
Comment by Phill, 08 Jul, 2011
Dear Anonymous-3, read your last comment and couldn't help by butting in.
'An atheist is one who denies the existence of...' Anonymous has suggested by this statement that there is something negative about atheism. An atheist is one who denies the existence of??? Well Anonymous, I am an atheist, I don't deny the existence of anything. But I refuse to accept the existence of things based only on faith or unreliable evidence. Does God exist? I would say based on my analysis no. Most of the proof offered of god's existence by believers tends to be circular (the bible says he does so he must) or miraculous events, (which can be explained by more prosaic means). Are there other intelligent life forms in the galaxy? It is quite conceivable, given the possible number of planets which can support life that exist — however, have they been seen flying around in our skies in space craft that resemble parts of old vacuum cleaners and dragging poor innocent victims up into them for strange sexual experiments? On the evidence presented no, again a much more down to earth explanation can be found.
'An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know...' what? How to boil an egg? Whether Spike and Buffy actually got it on in the last episode? Come on it's just begging to have fun with. To me it just sounds like an admission of failure. "Some things are not to be known my son". "Do not attempt to understand the workings of the flying spaghetti monster." I may well go to my grave not knowing many things, but it won't be for lack of trying. One of the joys of science is that of discovery, to attempt to understand the world and beyond, and it comes with the tools to do this. Science builds on what has gone before, but it also constantly questions — so that both old ideas and new ideas are constantly being tested as new information is found, or discovered. You have suggested that you would be a multi-millionaire if you had a dollar for every scientific theory or experiment that did not work as though it were a bad thing? Actually I would argue that it's Sciences great strength that no idea is sacrosanct, that new theories, and new understandings are constantly being put forward and tested. That at no point no one says "it's impossible to know."
Have a nice existence.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jul, 2011
Hi Phill, thanks for your comments and support. Readers should note that Phill's observations came in just as we were placing our own comments online, so it's pleasing to see that others can independently reach the same conclusions. We guess this means Phill that you critically examine the world for supporting evidence like us, or else you too are biased and closed minded.
Comment by Andile, 02 Nov, 2011
Thank you for this wonderful site. Wish had known about it a long time. I would like to know your take regarding beliefs that there are people with a 'calling' to heal other people and who get messages from the ancesters (perhaps might be similar to the medium issue you discussed). This is a common thing amongst Africans. If I dream things and they happen the way I dreamed of or have a dream talking to someone I know who died years ago telling me or warning me about something to happen in my life or someone I know or something that I must do — do you dismiss this as rubish? From my experience, I have had many dreams about things that happened in the past or that are going to happen in the future (it could be tommorrow or even months away). All of them have been 100% true! Every month I always have a dream maybe talking to someone (it could be a friend or someone I know from the community (like one old man who liked me because of the work I was doing for the youth in my community asked me in a dream why I did not attend his funeral! and I could remember that I was not present in his funeral) I know who died years back. I even once had a dream of how someone I know was going to die and he died exactly the way I saw it in my dream. The funny part, I am not a religious person and do not subscribe to any church! I am trying to understand this as some people seem to think that I have a calling to be a healer.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Nov, 2011
Hi Andile. Yes, we would see messages received in dreams as being similar to the messages mediums believe they are receiving from the dead. The followers of mediums consider untold messages and questions and from those select one or two that appear to have some relevance to them personally. They ignore the majority that are obviously wrong or that make no sense, and concentrate on the handful that can be twisted to apply to their life. It's like throwing darts at a dartboard. If you throw enough you will eventually hit the bullseye. The trick is to forget about all the ones that missed.
You say that 'I have had many dreams about things that happened in the past or that are going to happen in the future... All of them have been 100% true!'. To us this appears that you suggest that ALL your dreams provide information previously unknown to you that is found to be absolutely correct. And yet you go on to say that, 'Every month I always have a dream maybe talking to someone...', suggesting that these '100% true' dreams only occur roughly once a month. I personally have several dreams every night, let's say at least 100 every month. We assume you are similar, so that means that every month you have a dream that you feel is '100% true', meaning that the other 99 plus dreams are false and meaningless. Again, if you take a large number of dreams, by coincidence alone one or two will fluke throwing up something that might vaguely relate to events that happened in the past or the distant future. But you must ignore the fact that nearly every dream you have is false and concentrate just on the one that guessed right.
You say that 'I even once had a dream of how someone I know was going to die and he died exactly the way I saw it in my dream'. We've all had dreams of people we know dying, and yet it almost never happens, and we all dismiss them as just silly dreams. Of course if we know someone is deadly ill or works in a dangerous occupation, then their death is far more likely, so dreaming of their death that then actually happens is hardly prophetic. You say you have only ever once dreamt that someone was going to die and it happened exactly that way. And yet you will have had tens of thousands of dreams and from this only one correct death prediction? This shows it was a coincidence. If ancestors were really using you to warn people of upcoming deaths, then you should have had tens of thousands of amazing predictions and maybe one that you got wrong, not the other way around.
You also mentioned the dream where an old man who liked you asked why you didn't attend his funeral. We see nothing special about this. Something in your life could have easily triggered this dream, perhaps someone mentioned him and asked if you went to the funeral, or perhaps you've always felt guilty that you missed it. If I took notice of my dreams I would be in a mental asylum by now, fearful of attacking aliens and of turning up to work naked.
To us dreams are just our brains running amuck on their time off. Often they appear to have a connection with what is happening in one's personal life, mixed in with a huge amount of fantasy and nonsense. We suspect that some people that are more insightful and intuitive than most, might be able to better predict the behaviour of their friends and family regarding relationships, careers etc. This sixth sense of what might happen might appear in their dreams, but it is a real physical ability that is generated in their mind, they are not getting messages from dead ancestors. When I suspect from someone's body language that they are lying to me, I may not know specifically how I know this, but I don't think for a minute that a dead relative is planting a warning in my mind.
Regarding your dreams, you say that 'some people seem to think that I have a calling to be a healer'. And yet you haven't given any examples of your dreams healing or helping anyone. The person you saw dying still died. How does knowing what happened in the past or will happen in the future make you a healer? I know that a friend was killed at 20, but that knowledge doesn't allow me to change what happened. And if I knew someone was going to die of cancer in 20 years time, how could I prevent that cancer from occurring? How could I be a healer?
Knowing what terrible events were going to happen in the future would make you a prophet of doom, not a healer. And if you say you could prevent someone's future murder or death in an accident, then it's not really the real future if you change it and it doesn't happen. If it's just what might happen, then it's just a guess. If every ancestor is attempting to change the future to benefit their family, then the future is being changed every second, and any change you make today might be ruined by a change that your neighbour makes tomorrow. If you can alter the future then everyone can, and many are if these ancestors are really at work. You can only attempt to change the future if you know what the future will be. But since ancestors are continually using the living to change the future, we can never know what the future will really be, and whether we even need to change it. For example, suppose you get the warning from your ancestors that your daughter will be killed on her honeymoon flight to Hawaii. So you convince her to go to the Greek Islands instead. However your son-in-law's parents don't even agree with the marriage, and warned by their ancestors, they convince their son not to marry your daughter in the first place. So how could your ancestors see your daughter killed in a plane crash if she never even got married? If ancestors worldwide are all attempting to manipulate the future to suit themselves, then the future would involve chaotic change that could never be predicted and acted on.
Also, as for saying that you're not a religious person, in our view you are. While most people are familiar with mainstream religions such as Christianity or Islam, the belief that the spirits or souls of dead ancestors still exist somewhere and are able to communicate with the living is still a form of religion. Someone is religious if they have a belief in supernatural agents, whether it is gods, Jesus, Allah or dead ancestors.
Dreams are just weird or wonderful virtual reality movies created by our brains. They are not dead people talking to us.
Comment by Ted, 04 Nov, 2011
At the outset it has to be admitted that dreams are irresistably fascinating events, like consciousness itself, essentially a mystery. I have always been puzzled by the many people who claim they never dream, dream in black and white or in some other restricted mode. For many years I kept a dream diary and despite accusations from friends of morbid introspection I found it a most profitable exercise. I certainly agree with Carl Jung that ignoring a dream is like leaving a letter unopened. Of course not all dreams are of equal intensity or value. Some are just responses to simple physical occurrences such as digestive problems. Further up the scale are those useful ones which bring to our attention, usually through symbolism, issues we have ignored or overlooked, desires and inclinations we may not realise we have, and occasionally explicit warnings of likely future outcomes which may be undesirable. At the very top of the spectrum are those infrequent visionary dreams, completely unforgettable for a lifetime, nearly always lastingly beneficent in effect and dazzlingly surreal in their intensity. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that most people never experience this third category at all, which I find rather sad.
So what are we to say about correlation between data experienced in dreams and data witnessed in later reality? My own view, purely personal, is that it is analogous to the so called "birthday paradox" (not a paradox at all, but that is its popular name). Once a collection of people exceeds about 23 in number, the probability that some pair will share a birthday exceeds 0.5. In the conscious realm we have two colossal data sets, that in the mind and that in external reality; in addition, many millions of human beings experience both dreams and reality. I conjecture that what happens is that people apply a sort of false, intuitive sense of probability to dream and external data coincidences much the same as they do for the birthday situation. I suggest it would actually be surprising if mild coincidences did not occur with monotonous regularity for any given person, and that really striking coincidences did not occur reasonably often across all human brains and all human data.
Precognitive dreaming had the two main twentieth century advocates of J.B. Priestley and J. W. Dunne. The former's "Over the Long High Wall" and the latter's "An Experiment with Time" are absorbing reading, make no mistake, and both were highly intelligent men, but I really think they were deceiving themselves about precognition in any real sense of the word. My dream diary contained innumerable examples of "precognition", but 90% of them were a consequence of the brain's wonderful ability to make hypothetical projections I was not consciously aware of at the time of dreaming. The remainder, I think, were simply coincidences which appeared extraordinary by the same false perception as the birthday paradox. In other words, even within the mind of one human being, me, the external and internal data sets are so huge that, contrary to intuition, the probability of dozens of precognitive examples existing is actually quite high.
The propensity to attribute an appealing, mystical explanation to dreams, sometimes to the extent of making elaborate quasi-religious phenomena out of them is very common. I digress somewhat, but take the experience of dreaming that one floats out of the body and flies around all over the house, outside, everywhere. Religions, especially Eastern ones, have treated this simple, very common dream (I have always had many of them — they are very enjoyable) as something altogether bizarre. "I" do not actually float about anywhere, because there is no "I" capable of flying or floating "out there". Such a creature does not exist. It is a dream like any other, with my consciousness being firmly anchored to my physical brain on the pillow.
Anyway, I have rambled on for too long. I always pay scrupulous attention to my dreams because they are as valid a part of my consciousness as my waking perception. Some of them are unforgettably beautiful fantasies, and those that are not often teach me much about myself. But they lie squarely within my brain and its physical nature. True precognition, so called astral travel and the like are myths constructed to explain the functioning and nature of consciousness in an exciting but false way; rather like religion.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Nov, 2011
Thanks Ted. I enjoy many of my dreams, although some not so much. As a kid I had a few that I now recognise as the sort that leads some people to believe they have been visited by aliens and other scary beings, often called sleep paralysis. And the great majority of dreams I forget quite quickly. But yes, as weird and wonderful and confusing as our dreams can be, they are just a construct of the brain, and we need to be careful not to fool ourselves that they must have some supernatural or paranormal origin. Mysterious experiences doesn't mean spooky things are at work.
Comment by Anonymous-4, 01 Mar, 2012
I've just come across your website after my friend went to a healing with Jeanette Wilson last weekend. I was looking for more information about her. I think it's really silly and arrogant of you to besmirch other people's beliefs. It's also really sad. (for you)
The debate over whether or not there is a higher power and order in the universe has raged wars on our race for centuries. As did the theory of evolution for which many believers lost their lives for following its principals. Back in the day you'd probably have been an anti-darwinist as well!
I can't class myself as a believer or non believer — but one thing is for sure, I would never class anyone else's beliefs as silly. I am open minded enough to know that there are many many things about our universe that we don't understand or know. It's so easy to pick holes in someone else's achievements — be they spiritual, political or scientific — take global warming for example. It's much much harder to stand up for what you believe in, and put yourself out amongst people as a true believer — in something that brings many people hope, joy and peace. I'll bet if you came face to face with 'God' you'd challenge his credentials.
That's the thing about beliefs — they often don't need the stack of evidence you are looking for. They are this peaceful centre of yourself that doesn't require proof. And I challenge even the hardest non believer in a higher power not to make a silent prayer for everything to turn out okay if they risk losing everything they cared about.
Maybe if you spent as much of your time looking for the truth behind what these people say, instead of trying to expose it, you would find yourself in a much happier and more contented life.
Just a thought.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Mar, 2012
Thanks for your comments. We're always interested in any challenge to our views. So where do we start? You said you found our website while looking for more information on Wilson. Well then you should be elated that we, unlike Wilson and her supporters, are prepared to offer an alternative opinion on Wilson's claims, and the nonsense that is spiritualism. Surely this allows you to better judge what she does, and so reach an independent, informed decision as to her authenticity? Or following your friend's encounter with Wilson, have you already made up your mind? Rather than consider our points, you simply criticise us for speaking out (seemingly oblivious to the irony), telling us that it is 'really silly and arrogant... to besmirch other people's beliefs', and adding for effect that, 'It's also really sad. (for you)'. Jeanette Wilson is on record (as are other mediums) besmirching the views of skeptics, so have you written to her calling her silly, arrogant and sad? If not, why not? Contrary to your view, we think society makes progress when people examine and challenge silly beliefs, and if found wanting, relegates them to history's dustbin. We are not arguing that people have no right to hold silly beliefs, we're saying that they have no right to stop us from highlighting flaws in their beliefs if found to be silly. And exposing primitive nonsense and sharing this knowledge with others does not make us sad, we actually enjoy learning new things. Things that are true.
You claim that 'I can't class myself as a believer or non believer'. You admit that you don't know the truth of the matter, so you must realise that we might be right, so why do you criticise us as if you already know we are wrong? We sense, whether you realise it or not, that you are closer to a believer than a non-believer. You talk about God and about looking for the truth behind what mediums say, from which we infer that you believe they are indeed speaking the truth. On finding us and discovering that we didn't believe, you immediately wrote to silence us. Hardly a sign of someone claiming to be undecided. Even though you assert that you 'would never class anyone else's beliefs as silly', it's quite clear that you believe ours are, and are happy to tell us so.
You're right of course that the god debate has caused innumerable wars over the centuries, wars fought between believers in different gods we might add, not between believers and atheists, and you seem happy that this debate, and the resulting misery, continues. However we disagree with your claim that the debate over evolution has caused a single war or even a fatal skirmish. And please don't insult us by claiming that Hitler waged war over whether evolution was true of not. Were the Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals that the Nazis killed all evolutionary biologists? You say that 'many believers lost their lives for following its principals'. Do you mean believers in god or evolution? Please enlighten us as to which evolutionists have lost their lives while doing research or lecturing on the subject. And again, please don't insult us by claiming some white supremacists have died while insisting that evolution says that they can kill blacks, survival of the fittest. Let's remember that religion is one of the major causes of racism, the Bible for example clearly supporting slavery. Evolution, unlike the Bible, is a theory on biology and nothing more, not a philosophy on how we should treat others. And we can't for a moment understand why you believe that had we lived in Darwin's day we would have given up our atheism and attacked science. Religion was just as stupid and dangerous back then as it is now, and gods were just as imaginary. If we had attacked evolution it would have been only because we had been brainwashed by religion, exactly as it is today with Creationism and Intelligent Design.
We agree that there are many things about the universe that we don't understand, but that is no reason to step back and claim that we know nothing. We're sure that there are many beliefs — the earth is flat for example — and many gods — Zeus and Osiris for example — that you readily accept are false, and yet for much of history these false beliefs were accepted as true and believed by most everyone. While there is still much to learn, we now have a much greater understanding of how the universe works than did the ancients, the people that thought up gods and the idea of conversing with the dead. Contrary to what you claim it is not easy to pick holes in the claims of others if those claims are backed by strong reasoning and evidence. Try arguing that gravity doesn't exist, that kissing causes pregnancy or that Santa is real. No holes to be found. But it is extremely easy to pick holes in the belief that souls exist and that granny is talking to us from beyond the grave, because no evidence is offered, and reason suggests it is all ignorant superstition.
You defend the silence of mediums by asserting that 'It's much much harder to stand up for what you believe in, and put yourself out amongst people as a true believer — in something that brings many people hope, joy and peace'. But this is exactly what we do too. We stand up for what we believe in, what annoys you is that it's just not what you believe in. We have a website to promote our views, we wear 'Born Again Atheist' buttons and my car has atheist number plates. We are out amongst people, it's the believers in mediums and religion that are generally hiding their beliefs in public and who refuse to debate the topic. And belief in science and technology, and the benefits they deliver, along with the atheistic knowledge that no god will torture us for eternity when we die or will give us cancer if we masturbate or wants us to persecute believers of other faiths does in fact bring people hope, joy and peace in a secular world.
As for your claim that 'I'll bet if you came face to face with 'God' you'd challenge his credentials', well of course we would. We're not going to believe the first old guy in a robe that knocks on our door and says they're God. Surely you wouldn't either? The trouble is that any of the many gods from history could pretend they were the Christian God and there is no way you could prove otherwise. Even a sufficiently advanced alien bent on our submission could pretend to be God, how could you tell he wasn't? But unlike us, we guess you wouldn't ask or even suspect that he might not be god. We're not believers, so yes, we would challenge god on the pathetic job he's doing running the universe, ask where he's been for centuries and why he hates homosexuals so much. And we wouldn't accept the answer, 'I work in mysterious ways'. That's no answer at all, typical of what mediums offer when questioned. Keeping us ignorant will not cause us to believe in you.
You claim that beliefs 'often don't need the stack of evidence you are looking for'. Rubbish. What you mean is that beliefs seldom provide the evidence that is needed to change them from beliefs to knowledge. Beliefs need evidence, but they remain unfounded beliefs supported only by faith simply because they fail to find evidence. Saying that silly beliefs don't require proof in the way that real knowledge does is just another way of saying that there is no proof. Claiming that evidence and proof is not required for your belief to be accepted is an admission of defeat. No one outside the religious sphere would claim that their argument is all the more powerful because they have no evidence for it.
And what about this silly belief: 'I challenge even the hardest non believer in a higher power not to make a silent prayer for everything to turn out okay if they risk losing everything they cared about'. It's just a rephrasing of that old myth, 'There are no atheists in foxholes'. Would you accept it if a Muslim said that he reckoned you would offer a prayer to Allah in times of desperation? We suspect you would reply that you wouldn't suddenly forget about God or Jesus and start praying to Allah instead, and yet you claim that we would forget that gods don't exist and suddenly start begging your god to save us. Why do you have the strength of conviction to maintain your beliefs under duress, but you believe atheists don't? We think you confuse prayer with hope. Atheists may quietly say that they hope things get better, but that's not the same as praying to some imaginary being. And if we were to pray, which of the thousands of gods that have supposedly existed should we offer our prayers to? Your god I suppose, rather than your neighbour's?
It's strange that you challenge us to look 'for the truth behind what these people say', when that is exactly what we do, it's just that we never find any truth in what they say. That's their problem to explain, and yours, not ours. We assume you haven't challenged us without first reading and understanding our arguments, so please, don't hold back, rather than just saying we are wrong and that we should keep our views to ourselves, tell us exactly what in our criticism of Wilson and other mediums is flawed. What did we get wrong, what mistakes did we make, what assumptions are incorrect, what elements of science, history, philosophy or theology are misleading? What is the truth about mediums in your view? Wilson has never felt the need to write and correct anything we have written, so perhaps you could explain what you think we got wrong? Mediums will never defend or debate their claims, so why don't you since you feel so strongly? Or are you going to fall back on what you said earlier, that it's too hard for true believers to stand up for what they believe in?
And for your information, exposing these charlatans and understanding more about how the universe really works makes us far happier and contented than surrounding ourselves with comforting ignorance ever could.
Just a few thoughts, from the rational side of our brain.
Comment Alison, 18 Nov, 2011
Anonymous said: 'As did the theory of evolution for which many believers lost their lives for following its principals.'
To which my response, pretty much like that from the SB team, is: sorry, what??? I'm not aware of anyone who's been martyred for accepting the theory of evolution. The ToE's 'principals' would have to be various prominent evolutionary biologists & they don't appear to have led people into martyrdom either J More seriously, I can't conceive of how you could 'follow the principles' of the ToE in a way that would be life-threatening. It doesn't set out a bunch of rules by which you should live your life, or anything like that.
Back in the day you'd probably have been an anti-darwinist as well!
I suspect this might be an attempt to suggest that Darwin turned out to be correct & so (eventually) will be the mediums. The thing is, of course, that it's a false analogy, for Darwin had strong evidence in support of his ideas & mediums... well, they don't.
Comment by Anonymous-5, 07 Feb, 2014
We can only pray for a supernatural revelation of our Lord Jesus for Jeanette sad to say she is being used by the falseness of the powers and principality's of the darkness in the world, its a shame she does not see the light of Kingdom of God.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Feb, 2014
You feel pity for psychic medium Jeanette Wilson and pray for her, but make no mention of us, so I take it you haven't fully appreciated the nuances behind our article. We actually criticise Jeanette for believing in god and his silly afterlife, and we don't believe it's possible for her to see the light of your 'Kingdom of God' since it doesn't exist. We're not just saying that Jeanette is misrepresenting the afterlife, that souls are real but you can't talk to them, we're saying that the idea of an afterlife is utterly bogus.
And if your long dead carpenter was going to change his ways and give anyone a supernatural revelation, I think there are many more people that need to see the error of their ways far more than Jeanette, perhaps those planning a murder or rape? And might not North Korea's evil dictator benefit from knowing that Hell awaits if he doesn't change his ways?
And don't you think it strange that the powers of darkness (whatever they might be) are powerful enough to influence Jeanette, and concerned enough to even try, but the powers of the kingdom of god are nowhere to be seen? Either they are too weak, or they don't care, or — my pick — they simply don't exist. I really do find it a pathetic argument that some god really, really loves us, but can never find the time to show it.
Comment by Greg, 14 Jun, 2014
You made me laugh, so thank you.
If it were all this ghosty stuff that scared us, that we want science to solve and give us answers for, how could we even live.
It's about life and death and all in between. By the time the next substantial scientific discovery is made, we could be dust. And more will come after.
It is human to want proof of what we want to think is true. Things like life after death, that there is a continuity.
This is all about life and death. The in between is how much you appreciate what you have (=life), and how much you fear (=death). Even the most destitute of us has been given the gift of life. Listening to the Bach Brandenburg Concerto #3, they tell me he wrote it for two notes, giving anyone who then interpreted it freedom to do what they wanted.
It is dinner with the devil. If you talk about psychics and mediums and the paranormal, investigate it. Just like anything else, except the hook is our connection with some other. The connection with each other and most certainly, our imagination. I was raised with the bible and a bit more. I appreciate the gifts this gave me. If you believe any book determines your life, your existence, you are missing out. If you believe science is the
solution to your questions about life, you are missing out. If you have the courage to look into yourself to find answers, you are not on the right track, but simply exploring what it means to be alive.
Great pain in my life. And experiences you would not believe. I have affection for my fellow human beings, but if you want proof of what life is, look into yourself, as well as all the other tools we have : science, psychics, mediums, literature, all the stories. There all real. Each story you read informs you about some aspect of yourself. This is the way it works.
Whether the pscyhic talked about here is real or not, I have done this process. It is quite real and constructive. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
We are afraid of life, for the most part. Not death. But death requires our imagination. Science will not take care of you. Only you can take care of you. It is all about the connection we have, not only with each other but with something else I call the universe. All else. Use your imagination. Be passionate about what you do. Let science verify what we already know.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Jun, 2014
Well Greg, if I understand your comments correctly, I certainly agree that what we do during the period between our birth and our death is of the utmost importance. As the philosophers say, it is important to lead a good life, which of course requires understanding what is meant by a good life. But I see no reason to believe that psychics and mediums are real or that there is life after death. Nor am I afraid of life, or death, but I am afraid of dying and that I might suffer unnecessarily while religious types argue that my death is not mine to determine but some god's.
You say that ' Science will not take care of you. Only you can take care of you', but how does one do that in reality? I turn to science to keep me healthy, safe, warm, fulfilled and informed. And to a degree I also rely on family, friends and a just society to take care of me. You also don't believe that 'science is the solution to your questions about life'. I agree that science can not tell us how we should live our life or give some purpose to our life as religion claims to, but it most definitely can tell us why we are alive and why we die. Once science has explained why you're up and walking around, then it's up to you how you spend your living years. And as I see it, believing that there is another much better life to come, gives one no incentive to make the most of this life. What the hell, I'll do it in the next life. I'll have plenty of time then.
Comment by Michael, 29 Jan, 2015
Hi John. Jeanette has recently done some "workshops" at Orewa. I went with my wife to the first evening when Jeanette apparently healed two people by waving her arms and legs about and saying that spirit surgeons were working through her. The two "victims" seemed to feel a bit better, (the power of suggestion?). She then gave a demonstration of contacting spirits of the dead. She said something that I think she should not have said out loud, "I am going to try a common name, John, who is John?" Her victim said "that is my late husband" So Jeanette was able to say "Oh yes I have him now, he says he loves you, wants to apologise for something, what is that?" This went on with others, Jeanette asking questions to see how to proceed. Her victims seemed very pleased with her efforts. I decided that I could have done the same thing with a little practice as she never said anything that she could only have got from a "spirit". At that stage I didn't disillusion my wife who had already paid $330.00 for that night, a private "reading" and two evening workshops. My wife was persuaded to part with another $477.00 for various things. This included a small shiny metal pyramid for $149.00, (probably cost no more than $10.00!), it is supposed to help with sleeping, it doesn't of course.
I searched on the computer for Jeanette Wilson to see her website and noticed your mention of her so clicked on that. I printed out the relevant article from your site and showed it to my wife. She will not be spending any more money. She still believes she can do healing. I love your site and enjoy getting emails from you.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Jan, 2015
Hi Michael. Thanks for your astute comments. Firstly, as I often tell people, John is not a 'common' name, it's a 'popular' name. Big difference. But seriously, I once tried that trick with a friend of a friend as I was explaining to her that mediums just blindly throw out common names until one works. Since I already knew her first name, I said to her that a medium would say something like, 'I'm sensing that your middle name might be something like... Mmmmm... Margaret or...'. Her shocked look caused me to stop there. It seems her middle name was Margaret and rather than expose the tricks of mediums I accidentally convinced her that I had psychic abilities, but that I was in denial. This showed me how easy it was to appear to have psychic abilities, even when you aren't trying, so how much easier it must be for psychics who are deliberately trying to fool people, people who desperately want to believe?
We hadn't heard of Jeanette putting on her shows for ages, but after receiving your email I was having a coffee and reading a just delivered free weekly publication, and there was an advert for 'an extra-ordinary evening' with 'an extra-ordinary psychic', by the name of Jeanette Wilson. Is that spooky or what? Is it a sign? Of course not, it's just a coincidence. A sign would be if a real ghost suddenly materialised, walked through me a couple of time to get my attention, and then said,'What is it that you've got against us ghosts?' Although even that alone wouldn't make me reconsider, I'd probably just think, 'I knew I shouldn't have eaten those weird looking mushrooms'.
So Jeanette's back on the road with her carnival act, although at 'just' $45 these evenings are quite a bit cheaper than her workshops and private readings. Still, by travelling the entire country she must rake in quite enough to stay at home for a while, resurfacing when her funds get low. As for Wilson's claim that people are being healed through her efforts, of course there is no evidence or even vague suggestion that a single person has ever been healed of any affliction, not even a cold. If Wilson was healing people, I'm sure it would have made the news. I'm more than a little suspicious that Wilson and those that she has cured strive to keep her miraculous healing abilities secret, especially when she could alleviate so much suffering in the world by just going public, not to mention make a fortune.
And healing wise, why is Wilson promoting silly pyramid power with her $149 small shiny metal pyramids? It's amazing that people that believe in one silly belief can't stop themselves from collecting other silly beliefs, even if those beliefs conflict with each other. Wilson pushes belief in talking with dead people, which means, if you think about it, and most people don't, a belief in immaterial souls and heaven and God. It means that God is the power behind the universe and any healing that might happen. And yet confusingly, Wilson is also a Reiki Master, an NLP Practitioner and a believer in the healing power of pyramids, and who knows what else. But if God is real, then Reiki and pyramid healing is just bullshit, and if Reiki is real, then God — and souls and heaven — are all bullshit. They can't all be competing to heal someone. They can't all be real. And if Wilson has been fooled by the validity of some healing sources and can't see that they are nonsense and don't work, why should we believe that she is still somehow right in the belief that she can talk to dead people? Why don't her clients think to ask her, 'So tonight, should I direct my thoughts to God or to the pyramid?'
Wilson is seemingly not conflicted with her disparate healing methods and incomes, and neither are her followers. She, like all psychic mediums, is disingenuous. She promises a wealth of information and delivers zilch. Her advert tells us to expect 'An amazing and inspiring evening that will change your view of life after death and the nature of reality forever'. If I really thought that Wilson had an important insight into the nature of reality, I would happily pay to hear it. But I've already wasted good money on one of her shows, watched her TV program 'Dare to Believe' and read some of what she has written, and not once did she expound on life after death and the nature of reality, beyond uttering such inanities as 'there is life after death... and [they] watch over us on the other side of life'. And let's not forget, 'God bless, God bless', a phrase which unfortunately reveals nothing about reality. When pressed to elaborate on what heaven looks like and how it all works she refuses, when asked whose god she is referring to, she replies with something like, 'Whichever god you believe in'. When asked why granny can clearly say she loves me but can't remember her own name or mine, Wilson quickly moves to someone else. Is she even my granny or just some granny that died with Alzheimer's?
The truth is that if Wilson truly had an important insight into the nature of reality, or at least thought she did, she would be begging to discuss it with scientists and skeptics, she would be desperate to impart this amazing knowledge onto the world. And yet she shuns the attention of scientists and skeptics, choosing to speak only with those that already believe. But if this is all she does, what has she really achieved? If her followers already believe in the reality of life after death, then nothing has changed, and if skeptical questions are ignored, then no views are actually changed. Wilson's claim that she 'will change your view' is false, no views are changed. Believers leave still believing and skeptics leave giggling. Wilson's nationwide tours achieve absolutely nothing beyond topping up her bank account. The ratio of believers to skeptics doesn't change, and no one learns a single thing that they didn't already know. Wilson enlightens no one, not believer nor skeptic.
Why doesn't Wilson want the skeptical world to believe her? She is adamant that what she does is real, and yet she point blankly refuses to have her claims tested. Why? If people were publicly calling me a fraud, a cheat, a liar and accusing me of taking money from gullible, desperate people under false pretences, I would be loudly demanding the right to prove my claims and demonstrate my integrity and innocence. But not Wilson, or any other medium for that matter. Wilson meekly retreats into the shadows (counting her money), preferring to leave her reputation soiled and with skeptics like us saying that her behaviour suggests nothing but deceit.
Comment by Anonymous-6, 22 Feb, 2015
My daughter and I went to Wellington town hall for my daughters work. At the very end of her show in 2010? Jeanette described my mother as a Barbara Windsor type east end cockney. Her reading was 200 percent correct. My mother did cartwheels in the street on VE Day, and I was seriously I'll with a skin thing in my arm, I go on knowing for sure death is just finishing up with flesh, I too am a sensitive and Jeanette just confirmed what I Know. I get very low when I cannot share my feelings-
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Feb, 2015
I can almost guarantee that Jeanette never said, certainly not without some hints from you, that your mother was a Barbara Windsor type east end cockney, that she did cartwheels in the street on VE Day, and that you were seriously ill with a skin thing in your arm. Am I to believe that Jeanette knew all these things about you and your mother but she didn't even know your mother's name or yours? She probably wasn't even talking to you when she said she was sensing a 'Barbara Windsor type', she just directed it to the crowd and you put up your hand saying it was your mother. I've yet to see Jeanette or any psychic medium produce information that couldn't apply to many people in the audience. Simple nonsense like, 'I'm sensing your father was in the war... or if not, he knew someone that was... or had at least heard of the war?'
Presumably your mother has been dead for some years, and yet when she is given this rare chance to say something personal to you, something meaningful, something new and important, all she does is remind you that she was happy when the war ended (as if no one else was!) You say you get very low when you can't share your feelings, and perhaps you're a little like your mother, so can you seriously believe that if your mother could somehow get a message to you, she wouldn't have had something more interesting to say? Frankly if psychic mediums can indeed talk to dead people, from what I've heard they are, regardless of how interesting they were when they were alive, the most boring people one would ever want to talk to, and a complete waste of time. Not one can even remember their name.
You say that you 'go on knowing for sure death is just finishing up with flesh... and Jeanette just confirmed what I Know', but let's remember that centuries ago people knew for sure that the world was flat and even today young kids know for sure that Santa is real and Muslims know for sure that Allah is the one true god. The reality is that you, along with those young kids and Muslims, are only guessing. You have settled on something you would like to be true, and without any good evidence, you have blindly decided it is true. I'm sorry but the only thing that Jeanette has confirmed is that she can draw people into her fantasy.
Comment by Alastair, 02 Mar, 2015
I don't know this woman I was told about her today. Mar 3 15
I bet you and none of your commentators have researched what she does / claims.
It is less than good science to debunk another science pseudo or not without research. Hey and what the hell does it matter that the word question was wrongly spelt we all do typos.
I am a keen researcher ( Senior research fellow ) Now I am going to put my money where my mouth is and do some personal physical research and go and see this woman and see if what she claims she can do actually does work or not.
I am suffering from serious neuropathy am a Dr and have tried everything known to almost every science to become free of this pain. If this woman frees me of pain as she claims she can then I will let you know and then I can make a real claim that she a phoney or not.
Now that's the way you do it.
Someone mentioned the flat earth, well you know everyone believed that till someone got off his flat arse and sailed into the distance to find that earth wasn't flat. let's all do the same and stop debunking without honest robust research. Quoiting what you read is not good enough you need to prove personally that something is a fraud yourself, you have to experience the fraud before you can make honest comments.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Mar, 2015
Hi Alastair. To start with, our article is primarily exposing her work as a psychic medium, not as a healer, although both are equally bogus in our view. Regarding Wilson, you say that 'I don't know this woman I was told about her today'. But having just heard of her, you have apparently quickly 'researched what she does / claims' and have discovered that 'she claims she can' free you of pain, an offer which you're going to accept. I also assume that your research extended to reading our criticism of her claims, since you've now emailed us, and yet strangely you claim that, unlike you, we've done no research. You're even willing to bet that we haven't. By your own admission you've never met her or been to one of her stage shows, watched her TV shows or read any of her written material, whereas we have. If you disagree with our analysis of Wilson's silly act then you need to explain what the flaws in our arguments are, not simply say that merely reading something about Wilson is not good enough to expose her.
In our article we had noted that advertising for Wilson's TV show misspelt the word 'question' in the banner: 'SHE WILL CHALLENGE YOUR QUESTONS ABOUT LIFE AFTER DEATH', and you asked, 'Hey and what the hell does it matter that the word question was wrongly spelt we all do typos'. We mentioned this because it showed how little the program's producers had worried about accuracy (it's entertainment folks, don't take it seriously!), and we wondered why no one else had noticed the misspelling, especially considering that Wilson claims that literally billions of dead people were anticipating the show's screening, and would be watching from above. If I noticed why didn't one of these billions notice and tell Wilson to get it changed? Why are dead people so apathetic? But your gripe about typos misses our far more important point, that surely Wilson should have been challenging our views, not our questions.
As for our mention of a flat earth, we noted that her healing methods — Reiki and NLP — have as much scientific support as does the Flat Earth Society. This is a fact, and regarding the earth being flat, it's not quite true that 'everyone believed that till someone got off his flat arse and sailed into the distance to find that earth wasn't flat'. The ancient Greeks discovered that the world was spherical, and it didn't involve sailing off to look for the edge.
You seem to claim that the only way to do research is to offer oneself as a guinea pig, and that researchers 'have to experience the fraud before you can make honest comments'. I disagree, that's like saying you can't comment on Nigerian bank scams unless you've been ripped off yourself. It's like saying I can never know whether a doctor can cure Ebola if I don't first contract it myself. But of course I can. If said doctor with her experimental new cure goes to an Ebola outbreak and everybody recovers then clearly it would appear that the cure works, and testing it at further outbreaks would test this assumption. But if those afflicted die at the same rate as in the past, and the outbreak progresses as normal, then clearly the cure doesn't work. Anyone can judge the efficacy of a doctor or hospital or quack healer by simply counting how many enter ill and leave cured.
And what if you visit Wilson and feel better? What then? It's no good you writing back to me and saying that Wilson cured you, because you argue that it's not good enough to believe what I read, I have to experience it personally, but of course I can never experience your affliction or your reaction to Wilson's hand waving. So you essentially argue that I can never know whether Wilson is a quack unless she cures me of something. It seemingly doesn't matter that she has failed to cure untold other people, that apparently tells us nothing, it all revolves around whether she can cure me! And since I'm not ill, that means the question of whether Wilson can heal with her spooky powers must remain unanswered. Yeah right!
The reality is that even if your serious neuropathy cleared up after a visit with Wilson, the recovery of a single patient proves nothing, as many other things might have effected the change in your pain levels. An incidental change in diet or lifestyle, new medication, spontaneous remission, or the Greek god Zeus felt sorry for you and cured you. Only if many patients with serious neuropathy visited Wilson and left cured would the medical fraternity feel justified in looking at her healing methods. But clearly there is no evidence whatsoever of people mysteriously leaving Wilson's sessions cured of anything more than serious than a slight sniffle. If there is, perhaps you could point me to the appropriate medical journal.
Our view is that Wilson's silly claims of pretending to talk to the dead and being able to get god to heal people are totally bogus. And don't you think it's a little weird that god will only heal people once they have given Wilson a considerable amount of money? Why does god need Wilson's help before he can heal people, and why will he heal people that go to her but not to a hospital or even one of his own churches? What's going on here? Perhaps Alastair, during your session with Wilson, you could ask her?
Comment by Zafir, 02 Mar, 2015
Senior Research Fellow is a pretty big deal. Don't know what field you do your research in, but I would hazard a guess that it is not medicine.
It would be hard to think of a less robust method of testing a hypothesis than doing an uncontrolled non-blinded one off experiment on yourself. Especially when perception of pain is known to be affected by the placebo effect.
I don't always agree with John, I sometimes find him a bit harsh. On this occasion he could have been harsher.
Seriously what kind of an organisation are you a Senior Research Fellow for?
Comment by Ron, 11 Aug, 2015
Hi John. Another strange one for the psychic basket. Found a very sus story regarding the UK psychic Anne Stewart and her husband Jack. Anne has apparently had these psychic abilities for 30 yrs. She is revered almost. I cannot find any real negatives on her so far. She calls herself a healer, medium and channeller. Her spirit guide she tells us is the incarnate Harry Edwards, called the greatest healer since Christ. Why I'm writing about her is she tells the world that the spirit of the late princess Diana works through her. This started in 2011 when she dreamt of her one night and woke to find her standing next to her. There was this beautiful shimmering energy of love unlike anything I've experienced before. Diana asked her to be a channel to get her messages out to the world. Diana has supposedly told Anne she wants us people on the earth plane to wake up and look around at what is going on. If we do the world would change in a minute for the better of humanity. She has grave predictions for the future. (don't know what they are)
A longish message from D made me suspicious. It went over a lot of D's life most of us know already. Was boring and unconvincing. Not at all like one would expect from a spirit!!! What am I saying here!! The Stewart's set up a healing centre in Diana's name in England. So serious are they. They do make money out of all this (no surprises there) but say they are not in it for the money and are not fraudsters. Her husband used to be her greatest critic and sceptic. He says like most blokes. If they don't understand something we either fear it or take the mickey. A message for you John (ha ha). Seriously, the husband changed because Anne healed him of a back pain so bad he could not walk. Also a clincher was she predicted a plane crash 20 mins before it happened. Starting to change your thinking a bit now John? Seems that during a 45 min workshop Diana took over As body giving advice on finances, spiritual and earthly relationships. D offered wisdom and healing energy to all of us here. You too John. Husband Jack says spiritual healing is warmth thru his hands tapping into a higher realm. It affects the chemical reactions in the body because water has a memory and stores info. They fully believe Anne had worked with Diana in a previous life as members of a sect called the Essenes, existing before Christ (phew!) According to Jack, his wife's eyes have often changed colour to that of Diana's light blue. Anne has written a book related to all this called Diana: In the stillness, everything happens. Not sure what that means. Despite the Stewart's being described as incredible and being widely loved and respected plus the lack of any real proof of fraud I smell something unsavoury here. One thing that unsettles me is how convenient it all is cashing in on a very well known and loved, public figure like princess Diana. Hell, I hope dear Diana does not give me stick for writing this!!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Aug, 2015
Hi Ron. Geez, where do I start with Stewart's claims? First, while I've heard of many famous psychics, I've never heard of the 'incredible... widely loved and respected' UK psychic Anne Stewart. Clearly she is only well known in her ghost circle. Nor have I ever heard of 'Harry Edwards, called the greatest healer since Christ', which considering he's second behind Jesus is rather suspicious. Why hasn't the world heard of Harry Edwards? I don't find her story at all strange, it's near identical to stories told by thousands upon thousands of other deluded and deceptive folk that claim they're talking to dead people. Since there is no evidence whatsoever that the consciousness of a single dead person is still around somewhere, let alone pestering some person with a tenuous grasp on reality, then Stewart is clearly a fraud. If I, or any knowledgable skeptic, were given open access to Anne Stewart and her husband, I'm utterly confident that I could very quickly expose her as a fraud to any rational, intelligent person. Of course, rather than gleefully prove us wrong, these people flee on encountering skeptics, even though with the help of their ghosts they could easily make us look utterly foolish. But seemingly they love being called frauds and dishonest, and never take the simple steps to save their reputation.
If Stewart is such an accomplished and famous healer, why is there not a single proven case of her healing someone of something more serious than a cold or her husband's back pain? I mean really — back pain — that never gets better by itself does it? Where are the people being healed of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, motor neuron disease, missing limbs and even death itself? Uri Geller was world famous, with his own TV show, because he could seemingly bend spoons with his mind, in itself a pretty worthless skill, and yet Stewart can supposedly heal people with fatal diseases and yet still the world has never heard of her. Geller has since be exposed as a fraudster, but why aren't people taking Stewart seriously enough to even be bothered to expose her? Look at that middle-aged Scottish woman, Susan Boyle, who won that silly singing competition, overnight she became famous and rich. Just for singing someone else's songs. So why are these people that claim to have the powers of Jesus and Superman combined still living in a council flat in relative obscurity? I know if I publicly healed just one person of some fatal disease I would be on news items and talk shows around the world. People would be offering me millions to heal them, scientists would want to observe me to see if they could replicate my power and save millions of lives, and yet Stewart has been healing and revealing secrets of the dead for 30 years and yet still no one is knocking on her door. Clearly her success is all in her mind and the minds of her deluded followers.
As for her claiming to predict 'a plane crash 20 mins before it happened', this is as worthless as me now claiming that I predicted the outcome of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Am I lying, and if I'm not, isn't it likely that it was just a fluke, since I haven't correctly predicted a sports event since? Likewise there have been many plane crashes over the years, not to mention other disasters, so why has Stewart, if she has the gift, only ever predicted one? It's like astrologer Ken Ring claiming to have predicted a deadly Christchurch earthquake, but then never managing the feat again. Like Ring's bogus reinterpretation of what he really said, I suspect Stewart's prediction would have been likewise very vague. Actually the predictions offered by psychics and astrologers like Ring follow the same pattern, throw out large numbers of simplistic statements — winter will be cold, someone will die in an accident, it might rain or you might get the flu — and then when something very specific happens, say your friend Dolly dies or a plane crashes, hunt back through the predictions to find one that might suggest that you predicted it: 'someone will die in an accident'.
If Stewart had 'Harry Edwards, called the greatest healer since Christ', as her spirit guide for years, why has she now ditched him and taken up with Diana? As you suspect Ron, she's just 'cashing in on a very well known and loved, public figure', since no one has heard of Edwards. I looked up Edwards on Wikipedia, and the following paragraph confirms my suspicions, that like all so-called healers, he's a fraud:
But if Edwards was the read deal, and healing was really the goal rather than making money, then as second only to Jesus, surely Edwards could help Stewart heal far more people than a dead kindergarten teacher's aide? But of course other believers argue that neither Edwards nor Diana actually heal anyone, it's God that does the healing, so then why do we need the likes of Edwards and Diana at all? They're superfluous! And if Stewart's healing centre was in any way successful then doctors and hospitals would be turning away those with cancer etc and referring them straight to Stewart. As for her claim that 'she dreamt of her one night and woke to find her standing next to her. There was this beautiful shimmering energy of love unlike anything I've experienced before', clearly the more rational answer is that the entire experience was all a dream. How would this woman even recognise what the 'shimmering energy of love' would look like as she admitted it was 'unlike anything I've experienced before'. It's impossible to recognise something you've never seen before. As for the nonsense that 'Diana asked her to be a channel to get her messages out to the world', strangely she never ever relays a message that hasn't been said before untold times. It's always just simplistic messages that a five-year-old could think up — we need to help others, stop fighting wars etc. Oh wow, I would never have thought of that! Never do they tell us how to cure poverty or eradicate disease or solve our energy problems by getting nuclear fusion to work. They don't even warn us about upcoming deadly earthquakes or tsunamis.
A study in the British Medical Journal (Rose, 1954) investigated spiritual healing, therapeutic touch and faith healing. In a hundred cases that were investigated, no single case revealed that the healer's intervention alone resulted in any improvement or cure of a measurable organic disability. Edwards claimed he had cured about a hundred thousand people
in Britain but Rose could not verify a single cure by Edwards. Rose visited a healing session held by Edwards and observed that an old lady had claimed to have been cured during the session and had walked without her sticks, but by the time the session was over was walking with two sticks out of the hall.'
Stewart tells us that through her Diana was 'giving advice on finances, spiritual and earthly relationships'. Seriously, what the fuck would a spoilt princess with a million expensive dresses know about finances? And someone that marries someone she doesn't love and then screws around behind his back is the last person I'd be asking about 'earthly relationships'. Think of all the highly intelligent and very experienced people that have died over the centuries, from Einstein and Newton to Socrates and Ghandi, why the hell would God ignore them all and choose a blonde bimbo to save the world? Apart from flouncing around like a brain-damaged celebrity, in what way did Diana make the world a better place? Maybe the lesson that we should always wear seatbelts and not to let your playboy boyfriend drive drunk? But again, the intelligent among us already knew that.
We're told that 'D offered wisdom and healing energy to all of us here'. OK, so why hasn't it worked? Why aren't we all healed and overflowing with wisdom? Even if the effects only work for those in the room, the reality is that everyone leaves these meetings as unwell and as stupid as they were when they entered. What about the claim that healing works since 'It affects the chemical reactions in the body because water has a memory and stores info'? This is utter bullshit, so clearly husband Jack has not absorbed much wisdom, he's just as ignorant as ever to believe that. This 'water has a memory' claim is stolen from the homeopathy fools who invented it to try and explain why their bottles of plain water could cure any and all diseases. It's amazing that these nutters talk of supernatural healing and yet if pushed they all try and give a scientific explanation for what happens. They need to make up their minds, is it natural or supernatural? Surely God doesn't need to rely on chemical reactions to heal someone?
And as you say Ron, Stewart relating Diana's life story is just silly, we all know who she is! This is what all psychics do, merely recount the knowledge that is already known, they never tell us anything new and surprising that we can verify. But if they were telling the truth they should be able to amaze us with new information. If both Stewart and Diana had lived previous lives as members of the Essenes, then they should be able to speak the ancient language of the Essenes, and be able to fill in all the missing details about their group that historians have been trying to uncover. But strangely people that claim to have led previous lives can only speak modern English, or perhaps English with a French accent, and can never describe what life was really like back in ancient times. If they do attempt to fill in some details, they always match Hollywood movies which are woefully inaccurate regarding history. When they describe things that only happen in movies and never in history then clearly they are lying.
As for the claim that 'Her husband used to be her greatest critic and sceptic', I doubt this. It's as worthless as born again Christians saying that they used to be atheists, it's just something everyone says to make themselves appear more credible. They claim to have been knowledgable atheists or skeptics and very critical of this supernatural stuff, but what they've now seen has overwhelmed their doubt and turned them around. But in my experience none of these people ever had any real atheistic or skeptical knowledge to begin with. They may have technically been an atheist, in the same way that a baby is an atheist, or skeptical in the same way that I'm skeptical when people say I've won something, but if they hand over the prize I'm won over in an instant. I'm easily convinced. If her husband was an informed skeptic then he would have either debunked her claims, or have collected sufficient evidence to convince the rest of us skeptics that his wife, unlike all the other psychics, has some strange abilities that are not easily dismissed. He has failed to do either so he is no skeptic. He is as much a deluded fraud as she is.
Do either Anne or Jack Stewart engage with skeptics and allow themselves to be tested? I think we can assume the answer is no, if they had then either they would have been exposed as frauds or be now famous as the psychic healers the skeptics couldn't explain. So why hasn't Stewart tried to get skeptics (and then scientists, doctors, politicians etc) behind her? Let's recall that she claims that 'Diana asked her to be a channel to get her messages out to the world', and if this is true, I think it's obvious that God is really behind these messages. I doubt Diana is running the other side, or is the only one over there interested in helping us here on Earth. So God is telling Stewart to get his messages out to the world, so why isn't Stewart going down the obvious route to achieve this? Surely it can't be that Stewart is afraid that the world won't believe her, since she has God feeding her the answers and the miracles! Her reluctance to take her silly messages to the world clearly shows that she knows all too well that they're not coming from God and that she can not expect help from the spooky realm. And what respect should we have for God if the best plan he could come up with to inform and help the world is to send a dead celebrity to haunt some unknown woman in England? I'm continually surprised at how stupid and unimaginative people think God is. For Christ's sake people, we're talking about God here, if real he could heal the entire Earth's population with one wave of his tentacles and visit us all simultaneously to deliver his messages in our native language. Thousands of years ago he could create entire worlds, raise people from the dead and know when every sparrow fell, now he can't even figure out email or look up my phone number.
As for their belief that 'they are not in it for the money and are not fraudsters', since they do take money from others under false pretences, which would be pretending to heal and pretending to relay messages from spooks or God, then they are committing fraud. End of story. This might be when people look at me and repeat Jack's silly quote about blokes: 'If [we] don't understand something we either fear it or take the mickey'. That might be how Jack and his imbecile mates respond to something they don't understand, but did Aristotle, Copernicus, da Vinci, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and untold other examples from history summit to fear or resort to ridicule when they saw something about the world they didn't understand? When I don't understand something, be it people claiming to talk to dead people, people saying they believe in gods they've never seen, or others saying they've seen a flying saucer, I ask questions of said people. I don't cringe in fear or insult them. And yet almost without fail my genuine inquiries are rebuffed. It annoys me when psychics (and others) refuse to defend their claims, arguing that we skeptics are only challenging them due to fear of the unknown or for a laugh. This is just a childish excuse to cover their embarrassing inability to argue their case. Why should I trust someone that won't speak in their own defence? If someone challenges my stance on psychics, gods or aliens etc, then I'm more than willing to explain my reasoning. Why are psychics (and others) so terrified of putting their beliefs on the line? Because they know they're faking it. End of story.
Comment by Ron, 14 Aug, 2015
Hello John. Thanks for the fantastic response comment from you re. my piece on psychic Anne Stewart. You say it as it should be said, pragmatic, logical common sense. As you said, if only you had open access to the Stewarts you could soon expose them as frauds to those intelligent enough to listen. I believe that totally and wouldn't I love to witness it. What an enormous amount of bunk and thriving scams there are out there that brainwash millions. Sensible research via an enquiring mind could change so much.
Well, re. the Stewarts. Seems odd that Diana chose Anne, why not Sally Morgan, celebrity psychic who was Diana's psychic when she was on earth. She even predicted her death in a car accident. Di was also involved with a Hollywood psychic. So why the Stewarts? One cannot find any answers relating to their healing successes, etc. It is closed book or brick wall stuff. One obvious fact is they purchased the right to sell The Healing Codes in the UK from the USA founder, Dr Alex Loyd. A very overpriced book/course which is described as a simple, powerful self-healing form of energy medicine, touted to be the next frontier in medicine. It apparently removes all stress thus consistently removing all illness and disease in the body. One must practice it daily. If you miss a day everything gets screwed up. It has been criticized as old bunk recycled for profit. Dr Loyd says he has had no negative comments yet there are many strong ones out there with many saying they got nothing from it and some saying they got worse. He boasts clients in 143 countries. These healing codes the Stewarts are peddling came about when God told Dr L in a dream. But another story says a boy said in a dream a 'power' gave him 10 healing words. His parents received near miraculous healing so gave Loyd the words for free to share with the world and help many. Instead he turned it into an elaborate business. Like you, John, I've never heard of Harry Edwards either. The Stewarts continue to spout about Di's wisdom and teachings, how her intervention has made a huge impact on all they do and how privileged they are to be guided by Di. And husband Jack is meant to be a clever little man. He has a BA and MSc and FCIPD after his name. From sceptic/critic of his wife he now has her same titles, psychic, healer, etc. Boy oh boy, do you laugh or weep. All I can say is keep on keeping on in your excellent site. I'm sure you will.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Aug, 2015
Thanks Ron. I just can't understand why believers in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God who is apparently desperate to heal the Earth's population would think that the best way to achieve this is for God to go into business with an unknown quack called Dr Loyd? Do these morons not realise that God doesn't have to license his healing words with one of his servants for his powers to be felt on Earth? God wouldn't need turkeys like Loyd or the Stewarts to heal someone of cancer. And of course, even if he was using the likes of Loyd to heal people (perhaps God is scared of lawsuits?), there is no evidence whatsoever that Loyd or any of his franchises has cured a single person through spooky methods. Why are people so gullible when it comes to fraudsters like Loyd and the Stewarts who are essentially saying that they can do real magic and yet the same people won't believe that stage magicians can really make a rabbit disappear? They insist it must be a trick. Why does their reason and common sense desert them when confronted with psychic healers whose only skill seems to be at making their clients' money disappear?
Comment by Anonymous-7, 06 Oct, 2015
$190 for 2 half hr appointments with her, and yes...... i can confirm she is a fake. Myself and daughter came away hugely disappointed with all her rubbish she came out with. She gave us nothing but a hefty bill. well I've certainly learnt a lesson. she must be laughing all the way to the bank. I didn't even get a receipt for payment. i do however believe in Karma :)
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Oct, 2015
Well I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm sorry you had to waste $190 to discover the truth. Of course it's not just Jeanette Wilson that is a fake psychic medium, they all are, so please don't throw away yet more money by seeking another psychic medium that might be the real deal. There is no such thing. Spend the money on your lifestyle, not that of some fraudster, and concentrate on the living, not the dead.
Comment by Ron, 08 Oct, 2015
Hi there John. In reference to anonymous and comment (114) re. Jeanette Wilson. He/She could consider getting off lightly at $95 per half hour consultation. If that had been the great Blair Robertson, whom I've written about twice already on this site, who lives in Arizona, USA, he would have charged a whopping US$450 per half hour, or $750 for a straight 1 hr. In fact, John, this guy, who I despise, will charge USD1500 for a one on one 2 hour in depth consultation. "The most in depth and emotionally releasing reading you will ever have in your lifetime". Plus, if you want a full day with him it will set you back USD10,000, you can visit him at home or he will travel to you, for extra, no doubt. Staggering stuff, eh? How does this guy lie straight in his bed at night beats me. As I previously stated BR used to make weekly predictions and I was on his mailing list along with 20,000 others. These predictions are now annually only, but the newsletters continued as he pushes his "products" for money. I was axed 3 mths ago, probably because I never paid him a cent for anything and never would. Strong critics of his on the net generally disappear and are not heard from again. We are told in one site not to dismiss or rubbish this man as he got various predictions right ie Kate and Wills pregnancy, the 8.9 Japan quake, Whitney Houstons death, a train fire in India, the sinking of the Costa Concordia. I totally disagree with this. No psychic has been accredited with getting any of those correct. BR makes these non-specific vague so called predictions and ends up receiving enormous kudos and praise for any little tenuous link or co-incidental outcomes. Virtually none of the email predictions over a yr ever came to pass. His 2013 predictions were complete bollocks. Many could have been made by a primary school child after some research and some knowledge on various personalities. He is strong on celebrity predictions which I regard as utterly useless for mankind. I have his list of the main 19 predictions he made for 2012. All wrong except for 2 that were pointless anyway and a 7 yr old could have made them ie "I predict Middle East tensions will escalate in the fall" and "I predict Vladimir Putin will survive as Russian president". The Washington Times stated he is their favourite prognosticator. John, why are psychics not judged by what they don't predict? Lots of big things happened in 2012 and 2013 but were never mentioned by any psychics. Why did BR not mention hurricane Sandy that struck New York so savagely? Surely that could have helped many. The man is a true smooth operator and convincing to so many followers all over the states. Loving praise pours in constantly despite all the past failures. "Readings appear to be his forte now. People ask "can you do readings over the phone?". Yes, he says. "Spirit is not limited by physical boundaries. Regardless your loved ones (deceased) are immediately aware and can make their presence known". Oh, and he counts various Hollywood personalities among his clients. What do these incredibly over-priced readings deliver anyway. I am mystified.
His events diary is full. His popularity just grows. Some pieces from testimonials mixed from various individuals here. "You reinforced my belief that our loved ones remain with us in spirit after passing. You are an incredible spokesman for the departed. An incredible evening with an authentic psychic medium. BR is phenomenally gifted, a nice, caring, honest person. Carefully protects clients when delivering messages and future predications, skillfully tells only what he intuitively knows you are up to hearing. This is the sort of person I would pay again and again for a truly professional reading, I would say to anyone, trust B. My deceased father came thru with spot on validations, I will carry my readings for life". Etc. and on it goes, those snippets a mere tip of a giant iceberg of praise. Am I missing something here, am I misjudging this great man. Did I get into the wrong vocations during my working life? Why are the words naivety, gullibility, desperation, more money than sense and lives lacking, running around in my head.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Oct, 2015
Hi Ron. I agree, $95 for a half hour reading, while a complete rip-off, is cheap compared to what some famous psychics charge. As for your question, 'why are psychics not judged by what they don't predict?', most silly psychics will respond with the argument that they can only go public with what the spirits decide to tell them. If for whatever spooky reason the spirits don't send them a message about an upcoming event, then the psychics are left in the dark as much as you and I. But what they can be judged on is the messages they claim to have received, and the predictions that they then went public with. How many are genuine predictions that concisely and unambiguously forecast an unexpected event that goes well beyond an educated guess? And of these genuine predictions, how many actually came to pass? As you say Ron, predicting ongoing problems in the Middle East or a generally expected political outcome are not genuine predictions. Likewise predicting a hurricane on the east coast of the USA sometime within hurricane season is not a genuine prediction. For it to be genuine would require predicting, well in advance of the storm, the exact date it struck, the exact locations it struck, its intensity and precise details of the damage caused. Then to prove that it still wasn't just a weird fluke, you would need to predict the details of several more hurricanes.
Luckily psychics do detail many of their predictions, and without exception they all fail. Most of course are simply vague guesses, detailed predictions are very rare, but regardless, simple or detailed, they all fail. After the fact the will often try to claim that they predicted a real event, but if you can sight their original prediction you'll almost always find that they are being disingenuous. For example, take astrologer Ken Ring who repeatedly claims he predicted Christchurch's devastating earthquakes. While not a psychic, he twists his original prediction to match reality in the same way that all soothsayers do. After the fact he claimed, 'But I did predict the earthquake... a big earthquake in the South island'. But this is bullshit! When quizzed about the weather, here is the vague, all encompassing prediction that he gave the day before the first Canterbury earthquake: 'you'll be reading about floods and winds and earthquakes and snow over the next week or so, particularly the South Island'. Note that he didn't just predict an 'earthquake', he predicted 'floods and winds and earthquakes and snow'. Earthquakes were third down his list. He didn't say that they would be of disaster proportions. He didn't say 'big earthquake', as he later claimed he did, he just said an 'earthquake', which are happening all the time. He didn't say Christchurch or Canterbury, he said 'particularly the South Island', which also includes the North Island. He didn't say that a disastrous earthquake would strike Canterbury the very next day, he merely said that all of NZ, and particularly the South Island, would get 'floods and winds and earthquakes and snow over the next week or so'. He also predicted that floods, winds and snow would hit as well over the next couple of weeks. They didn't. And we must assume they were also to be of disaster proportion since his disaster earthquake prediction was among them.
Like psychics, Ring made lots of vague statements — 'floods and winds and earthquakes and snow' — 'particularly the South Island' — 'over the next week or so' — and then cherry picked an event that did happen while burying all his false predictions. After the fact he claimed, 'But I did predict the earthquake', even though he never predicted a disastrous earthquake, he never predicted Christchurch, he never predicted the date it was to happen on.
So psychics (and weather astrologers) only appear to have had some successes because they lie, and because their clientele are a trusting and gullible lot, they fail to detect the lies. Of course there are no doubt many believers in psychic abilities that are sincere and honest, and that truly believe spooky things are going on, but I seriously doubt that any of the famous professional psychics haven't finally grasped that it's all an act, that they can't see themselves making mistake after mistake and struggling to get a simple hit, and that they never get a message that a skilled charlatan couldn't have guessed. They never get to talk to a spirit who knows their own name or where they lived, or who can remember the name of their loved ones. Furthermore most professional psychics have been caught cheating, revealing that they know all too well that they can't rely on messages from their imaginary spirits.
Seeing the adulation and money that some psychics attract Ron, you ask, 'Did I get into the wrong vocations during my working life?' If you don't mind lying to people, shamelessly taking advantage of their misfortune, and taking money from them that they can often ill afford, all the while giving them nothing of real value, then yes, you've missed your calling. Of course I don't believe you, or any decent person, would voluntarily become a scumbag just to make some money, especially knowing that any adulation received wouldn't be deserved. You'd be living a lie, and while you may earn a good living and gain some ill-deserved fame, it's not the way honest, ethical people want to live or be remembered.
Comment by Anonymous-8, 08 Dec, 2015
your an idiot.because.yes.it.is.real
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Dec, 2015
By 'it.is.real', I assume you mean silly psychic medium Jeanette Wilson's claimed ability to converse with dead people? But then you probably think that about Santa Claus too? Perhaps you also believe the claim that the mean Grinch once stole Christmas too? The reality is that you shouldn't believe everything adults tell you, especially those that ask for money first.
It never fails to amaze us how you childish, na´ve, gullible believers can always find the time to send us an insult, but never the time to produce even a snippet of evidence for your silly beliefs. Do you really thing that conflicts of view are solved by you simply saying that you're right and we're wrong? We've provided evidence that Wilson is a fraud and arguments that show belief that dead people are talking to mediums and watching us in the shower is just nonsense, as well as downright creepy. If you have evidence to the contrary you need to present it, otherwise your stance is as empty as someone saying the Tooth Fairy is real, but refusing to explain why. Mediums like Wilson all refuse to prove their claims, as do their close supporters, and that embarrassing reluctance should worry you greatly, since it suggests that those closest to the medium business know it's all nonsense and that no evidence can be produced when there is none.
But go ahead, prove us wrong. Produce your convincing evidence. We await it with bated breath.
Comment by Mikaere, 08 Dec, 2015
Hi John. I know I shouldn't comment upon grammar and spelling and focus on the message but in this case I can't help but despair. What's with this full stop after every word? Is it some fashionable thing like vocal fry? Surely, if people want to insult someone, they're doing themselves no favours by mangling English. To me, the message was lost as soon as I read 'your'.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Dec, 2015
Yes indeed Mikaere. When someone makes an argument that someone else is an idiot, and that argument is simply a childish and poorly written insult, you have to wonder who the real idiot is.
Comment by Karen, 03 Jan, 2017
I thought you might like to add to your website that Jeanette Wilson now has a pyramid scheme in New Zealand selling PXP Enzacta purple rice. Just google it. She is ripping off thousands of people with this more than her physic thingys. It costs $144 a pop for one months worth then gets people to sign up as IBO's on her pyramid scheme to get more and more money.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Jan, 2017
Thanks for the info Karen. Of course it doesn't surprise us that Wilson is pushing yet another scam in an attempt to get rich. These sorts of people are either too stupid to recognise that they're promoting nonsense, and/or too devious to care. You're quite right that Enzacta is basically a pyramid scheme, or what is more accurately called Multi-Level Marketing (MLM). On Wilson's page where she promotes the crap, she talks of their 'Multi-Dimensional Marketing Plan' and being part of the 'Multilevel marketing industry'. If you Google 'enzacta pxp royale purple rice', nearly all of the sites that pop up are those promoting the scam, with titles such as, 'Review of Royal Purple Rice Heart Product - Ask a Healer'. There are no sites with legitimate claims such as, 'As recommended by doctors', or 'As proven in clinical trials'. However, I saw on one site that the magic rice was 'a product that could restore cellular energy' and 'he told me amazing stories of other people he had shared the product with who had recovered from major, major illnesses after taking PXP'. Amazing claims that never seem to make it on to the nightly news though! In my quick search I saw no sites supporting any of the bogus claims made for magical healing, and I only saw one site that exposed the magic rice for the bullshit that it is: 'Pure, Slick Pseudoscience' by Steven Novella. It's well worth a read, and his final sentence sums up Enzacta (and all silly healing claims) perfectly:
'No one has the secret to stop aging and cancer, and if such a marvel existed you would not learn about it through an MLM scheme.'
Comment by Jean, 28 Oct, 2018
Hi I believe yes there is life after death I have had proof right in front of my eyes .I have seen my deceased mother cats that I have lost ,I also see orbs in my house all the time with the naked I eye .They are real not dust ,The largest one I saw was a foot wide it was beautiful ,For people who thinks it's all rubbish ,have a big shock coming to them one day .
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Oct, 2018
Hi Jean. I've known people that believed Santa was real, because they had proof right in front of their eyes, in the form of presents. The same with the Easter Bunny because of yummy Easter eggs. I had an old uncle who swore that one of the space shuttles was parked in his bedroom, and the shuttles are much bigger than your orbs. As sincere as these people all were in their beliefs, I still thought it was all rubbish. Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this? If you're going to say something that sounds like complete nonsense, then you need to quickly follow with some pretty robust evidence for your claims, or else I'm just going to roll my eyes and view you as another nutter.
And what sort of useless god is running your spooky afterlife? With all the problems in the world that he could be attending to, he's apparently wasting his time implanting images of dead cats in your mind. Is that the limit of his power, or is he having too much fun torturing babies in Hell to care?
Comment by Anonymous-9, 22 Apr, 2019
Do me a favour, do not make jokes of my God. The fact that you comment and say that you do not know what to believe in just confirm how much help you need yourself....so how about you first find out what life and afterlife is all about before you try and disgard other people's believes and what they stand for. At least she is helping and for the woman that called Jeanette out for selling purple rice....come on!!!!! Purple rice has been around forever and is amazing for your body. Anyone with a brain will know that if they do some research and it is because of the fact that it's so great that the companies sell it by signing people up to do orders each month and yes it is very expensive cause it is a fantastic product.
It's people like you that is taking others happiness and hope and that alone says a lot about who you are. Afterlife exist if you like it or not, healing through people exist if you like it or not and no bruises do not heal in one day and even a child would know that so for you to say that this one guy's healing was normal is just you not knowing what to say when something amazing happens. God exist and He heals through people and nothing you say can change that. Nothing!!!!!!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Apr, 2019
Let's start with your last comment and why I'm clearly wasting my time communicating with you. You demonstrate that you're the textbook definition of a close-minded fool by claiming that, 'God exist [sic] and He heals through people and nothing you say can change that. Nothing!!!!!!'. I fear any communication would be like debating with my toaster, although to be fair to my toaster, it is willing to make some changes regarding timing. But perhaps someone that isn't totally blinded by primitive superstition will read my response so I'll continue for their benefit. Try and follow along if you can, I'll type slowly.
I'll accept that nothing I might say would change your view on god, but I've never claimed to be so dogmatic, so why is it that you, or no one else for that matter, is prepared to reveal something that might change my mind? Something must have convinced you that your god is real, so why don't you think that 'something' might also make me think twice? Apparently god believers all suspect their reasons for belief are rather flimsy and they'd rather not reveal them lest we demolish them completely. Easier, and safer, to just simply say that god exists, and ... umm ... sorry, that's all the detail I've got time for right now. Not surprisingly, this vagueness from believers doesn't shake my worldview in the slightest.
You beg me, 'do not make jokes of my God', and offhand I don't recall making any god jokes. I don't think I even know any. I mean, the notion that gods are real is a joke, a sick joke that's gone on far too long, but that in itself is not funny. And you don't actually say what god you believe in — Zeus, Jehovah, Apollo, Allah, Osiris, Yahweh, Thor etc — so you might want to be a little more concise. Calling your god God is like calling your dog Dog. Not much imagination involved. You do know people have invented more than one god, right?
With regard to silly gods and psychics and some imaginary afterlife, you say, 'The fact that you comment and say that you do not know what to believe in... '. That claim is utterly false and deceptive. I am an outspoken atheist, and only a fool could read what I've written and not realise that I don't believe gods are real, that I don't believe psychics are anything but delusional and/or dishonest, and that I don't believe the afterlife is anymore real than Harry Potter's Hogwarts. As convinced as you are that your god exists, I'm equally convinced that all this god talk, no matter which one you're enamoured with, is absolute bullshit. The difference between my conviction and yours is that my arguments are well supported by reason and evidence, since I have spent the time to find out, whereas yours are supported by nothing more than wishful thinking that fairies are real. Furthermore, unlike you claiming that nothing could change your mind, I openly acknowledge that I could be wrong, and if presented with new evidence I could be persuaded to change my mind. But to date, no religious believer, and this includes you, has managed to produce any evidence or argument that causes even the slightest hint of doubt in my mind. Some ignoramus simply saying that some god exists or that I'm wrong is as worthless as some na´ve young child saying that they know Santa Claus exists, and they have the presents to prove it.
I know all too well what the likes of Jeanette Wilson stand for, and it's to make money off suckers. The professed desire to heal and help the world is merely a front. Most people have never heard of Wilson or the magic purple rice and it's miraculous healing properties. And that's because neither can do what they claim to do, if they could, they would be as well known Elvis Presley and non-magic white rice. You do know that if magic rice could heal people then it would be found in hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets, not just in some scammer's garage? What decent company would ignore normal sales outlets and reject huge profits and instead stick with a few small time outlets that most people don't know even exist? And saying that purple rice 'has been around forever' is as naive as someone claiming that computers have been around forever. Please read a book that doesn't have 'holy' on the cover.
As for your talk of bruising and miraculous healing, the only person that mentioned bruising was a woman, not a guy, and she never claimed that her bruises healed in one day, only that they did heal, as most bruises do without any need of a god butting his nose in. This mistake on your part is a perfect example of believing something that never happened, of reading the woman's comments and reaching the wrong conclusion.
I find it quite revealing that you claim that I'm taking people's happiness and hope, merely by explaining why gods aren't real and that they're being fooled by devious and/or deluded people. I could only take way someone's belief in gods, miraculous healing and an afterlife if they accepted my arguments and realised they had been fooled into believing a fantasy. Apparently you realise that if people are exposed to the reasons why gods and the afterlife aren't real, some, at least the intelligent, open-minded ones, will likely admit that they were mistaken to have believed such nonsense. Clearly you see people like me as a real threat, I'm the equivalent of the adult telling young children that Santa isn't real. But if all silly believers were as close-minded as you claim to be, then there is no chance in hell that what I write could destroy their happiness and hope in their fantasy. It would be a useless as someone trying to convince me that the sky wasn't blue and the grass wasn't green. Yet your comments suggest that your own level of happiness and hope has taken a knock, that our arguments have created a little doubt, sufficient for you to feel annoyed enough to berate me for introducing some uncertainty into your worldview.
Another mistake you make is that you wrongly assume that to be happy and have hope means that you have to blindly believe in gods and magic and a fancy resort that awaits you when you die. That's as ridiculous as saying children give up any chance of happiness and hope when they stop believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Clearly people can still have plenty of happiness and hope in their lives after they reject childish fantasies, and that includes gods. If you can't find enough in this world to make you happy, if you pine for some afterlife instead, then it is you that has lost all hope for happiness.
Comment by R, 23 Apr, 2019
I can tell you for a fact, that only the physical form dies the soul however, lives on forever and indeed is indestructible.
Until, you have risen above the egoic incessant, mind and find/found 'stillness' within — the ego will ensure your continued participation in the pre-conditioned, judgemental role of your own mind created illusion.
Keep an 'open' mind. The truth is often stranger than fiction.
This website is full of it. Just because you cannot see the WIND does it mean it is not there? You feel LOVE but cannot, see it. Does it mean it does not exist either?
Find something better to do with your time other than focusing, judging and criticising others and "things" you clearly, know nothing about. Spirit is "real" whether you choose to believe it exists or not. In fact, YOU too are Spirit having a physical experience you are not, a physical form having a spiritual experience. When the physical form the body dies, you will be shocked to realise the "essence" (your spirit body) of who you are is still conscious. Do not, become lost between this 3rd dimensional world and the next because of it or you will become one of the millions of lost souls that roam this earth in disbelief of the multitude of lies taught by religion told by those in power at the time to control the masses eg. Do what we say, pay your tithe or when you die you will go straight to Hell. Bollicks!!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Apr, 2019
Ahh, finally, someone that is prepared to deal in facts and not just vague feelings and wishful thinking.
Although ... I am a little surprised you didn't even try and present a single piece of evidence or reasoning to support your claim that it's a fact that souls not only exist, but they live forever. Are we just supposed to take your word for it? Really, is that how it works in your world?
Would you believe a person on the street, a stranger, who was telling people that she knew for a fact that the Tooth Fairy was real? I'm hoping you wouldn't; that you'd realise that the mere claim by itself without any supporting evidence was quite worthless, and it made the person seem gullible and foolish. I'm hoping you'd ask her how she knew the Tooth Fairy's existence was a fact, and by fact we mean that robust evidence demonstrates that she is real. And if she didn't come up with some better answer than 'a feeling' or some money she found under her pillow as a child where her tooth once was, I'm hoping you'd explain to her that her silly belief is not a fact at all, it's merely a childish assertion that has no basis in fact. And then you'd walk away shaking your head in disbelief ... Tooth Fairy ... Good grief!
But since you're so open minded, maybe you would believe her, since you clearly expect us to believe your equally silly assertion, an assertion that stands alone in the wilderness with not a single piece of evidence to keep it company.
And really, you're going with the childish argument, 'Just because you cannot see the WIND does it mean it is not there?' We can't 'see' the wind with our eyes, but we can demonstrate that it's real by using other senses, such as the sense of touch detecting wind on our face, and by using tools that go far beyond our human senses. Ditto with love. We can show that emotions are real, we can even monitor them in real time in brain scans. We can't see infrared radiation, ie heat, coming from a fire, but we can feel it and measure it with thermometers and know it's real. Likewise, we can't see ionising radiation, but we can detect it with instruments and show that it damages living tissue. Our modern view of the world goes far beyond what our eyes can see, eg atoms and cells, galaxies and x-rays. We have hard evidence that they are real, and that they're a natural part of the universe. For things that we can't detect by any means, like souls and angels on clouds and the bogeyman, we assume they don't exist until someone shows otherwise. The ball is in your court.
Seriously, it really is such an infantile argument, and if its logic made sense, then I could say that, just because you cannot see fire-breathing dragons, and fairies, and gremlins, or the Easter Bunny, does it mean they're not there? If we have to believe in your silly souls because they're made in such a way that we can't see them, or detect them with any experiment or scientific instrument, then we also have to believe in dragons and fairies and a million other silly things that people have fantasised about over the millennia. Your argument opens the floodgates to a cornucopia of nonsense. You must believe in the Easter Bunny, even though you haven't seen him. You can't demand evidence that he's real, because the gullible child will simply say, 'Just because you cannot see the WIND does it mean it is not there?' You've opened yourself up to believing all manner of batshit, and turned yourself into the village idiot.
Rather than exposing the silly beliefs that so many people hold, you say we should, 'Find something better to do with your time other than focusing, judging and criticising others and "things" you clearly, know nothing about'. But I'm always surprised that silly believers like you apparently have nothing better to do with your time than focus on our views and then judge and criticise us over things that you clearly know nothing about. Although the terms judge and criticise are probably not the right words to describe what you do, since they imply that you have evaluated our arguments and have responded with constructive criticism, pointing out where our arguments are flawed and how your evidence better fits the observations. Of course you do none of this, you merely say you are right and we are wrong, and that we should trust you on this. You merely make baseless assertions — 'Spirit is "real" whether you choose to believe it exists or not' — and make not the slightest attempt to explain how you know that. With no argument to support your claim, it's as worthless as a child saying, 'Santa is "real" whether you choose to believe he exists or not'. Your problem, well, one of them, is that you can't see how silly it is to make such futile claims if you have no evidence to support them. And clearly you don't or you'd be rushing to explain it to me, and to win your Nobel Prize for showing that souls and spirits are real. Why are you not interested in proving to a skeptical world that we are the fools and not you?
I recently read a comment by Nils J. Nilsson in his book, 'Understanding Beliefs', that appears to describe your situation. He wrote that
"... it can be very difficult actually to change beliefs. It's easy to get trapped with beliefs that wouldn't survive critical evaluation. There are several psychological reasons for these "belief traps" as well as reasons that have to do with lifestyle. Let's look first at the obstacles to belief change caused by one's lifestyle and attitudes. Some people don't get around much. They don't read material that challenges their beliefs, and they don't participate in discussions with people who hold beliefs different from their own. The result of living that kind of a life can be belief stagnation.'
You clearly haven't read material that challenges your beliefs, or you wouldn't have embarrassed yourself by using the old, 'Just because you cannot see the WIND' argument, and you don't participate in discussions with people who hold beliefs different from your own, since you're clearly not interested in a discussion with us, you're merely having a rant — spirits are real and souls are a fact — and walking away feeling all high and mighty. Another heretic put in his place.
Oh, and one more thing confuses me. You say that, 'the ego will ensure your continued participation in the pre-conditioned, judgemental role of your own mind created illusion'. So if the world I perceive is an illusion of my own mind's creation, what the hell are you doing in it? Clearly you, and your silly beliefs, must be an illusion too, one small element of the larger illusion, but why would I create such annoying elements? Have I subconsciously conjured up such pathetic opponents just so I can feel intellectually superior? I guess there's no point in you replying to this conundrum, since it will of course just be me replying subconsciously under your persona. But if the world as I see it is an illusion, and you, as part of my illusion, assure me it is, then everything in it, including the notion of souls, must be an illusion too. After all, imaginary people don't need real souls to make them function in an illusionary world. But since it's you — an illusion — that's assuring me that my world is an illusion, then that assurance is also an illusion and can be disregarded. Clearly this talk of an illusory world that I have created to hide the reality of souls is nonsense, and it makes more sense to assume that the world I see is real, and that you are real and your views on illusions and souls are mistaken and delusional.
But please, prove us wrong, prove you can function in the grown-up world and tell us how you know for a fact that souls are real. You must surely realise that you have no hope whatsoever of challenging our disbelief if you refuse to reveal the evidence that convinced you that souls exist. You implore us to keep an open mind, but what use is an open mind if you never give us any new information to consider? Those that argue souls are not real, such as scientists and philosophers, are more than happy to explain their evidence and reasoning, and my open mind has evaluated their arguments. Unfortunately, those like you that know for a fact that souls are real, and thus must possess their own evidence and reasoning, consistently fail to present it. We're told the evidence exists, but that's apparently all we're allowed to know. We're freely given the case for souls not existing, but we never get to consider your side of the case. The cheque is always still in the mail. I just don't understand how you think that hiding your arguments from us will work. You believers desperately want us to believe you, but you refuse to give us any reason to, nothing beyond the childish wish that we should accept your word that souls are real. I'm sorry, but when we compare your simplistic and unsupported claim that you know for a fact that souls are real, with the well-supported claim that they're not, you lose badly. You don't even come a close second.
So, you either need to get into the debate and make a real effort, ie present evidence, or accept that you've lost and walk away. It's up to you whether you want to be taken seriously. I await your response. (Oh, alright, no I don't, as I know you won't reply.)
Comment by Doug, 24 Apr, 2019
I am puzzled by the use of commas in this response by R about the existence of our souls. Their randomness is puzzling and leads me to wonder how R's brain works. The lack of logic in her/his grammar is perhaps indicative of the lack of ability to organise logical argument, so you are on to a loser by expecting a logical response. But then, logic is not understood or accepted by most people: they do not understand it and its importance, until they are confronted personally by the consequences of illogical fallacies on their own lives — such as having to explain why they think that a rock thrown had to come from a certain direction because of the way it travelled when they observed it. That it bounced from left to right after landing probably means that it was thrown from the left is an example of the application of logic. They seem to deny this process is applicable to all phenomena: some, such as the existence of gods souls and santa claus apparently lie outside this need for logical thought processes.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Apr, 2019
Hi Doug. Regarding the commas, I blame texting, social media and our education system. And of course, I don't expect any sort of response, logical or otherwise. My experience with true believers, be it in souls, gods, ghosts, astrology, UFOs or a faked moon landing, is that beyond making some outlandish claim — souls are real or aliens probed me — they have nothing substantial with which to support it. Their ignorance on a topic that is supposedly so important to them astounds me. If someone is passionate about some belief they hold, you'd expect them to be well-informed concerning the evidence and reasoning that support that belief, also the arguments that challenge that belief, and why they believe they fail. And yet typically the knowledge possessed by most outspoken believers is abysmal. They stumble at the first hurdle when asked to justify their belief, foolishly believing that we would just take their word that souls are real. I fear that for them logical thought processes can do no more than inform them that they're screwed, that further communication would be futile and embarrassing, that exposure to opposing arguments might seriously damage their confidence, and that they should make a hasty retreat.
I know it's futile to expect any sort of serious and intelligent response concerning the claims these morons make, but it boosts my confidence in my worldview to be able to expose the nonsense behind their claims. If I couldn't present an argument that supports my stance and demolishes theirs, then I'd fear that my claim — that souls aren't real — was just as flimsy as theirs. Unlike them, I don't just want to believe something because it would be nice if it were true, I want to be very confident that it is likely true.
Comment by Ted, 12 May, 2019
Hi John, if we are permitted to substitute "consciousness" for "soul", and I don't see the difference myself, then a huge amount of speculation and research has emerged in the last century. Many respected and talented minds, not at all easily dismissed as crackpots, Peter Fenwick and Roger Penrose to name two, are inclined to think consciousness can exist separately from the physical brain. At the other end of the philosophical spectrum, we have Daniel Dennett and others just as eminent, who assert the opposite. And if we find the prospect of poring through their copious writing altogether too arduous, then there are always brilliant popular scientists like Douglas Hofstadter, who has proposed consciousness (he actually does use the word "soul", presumably to save typing) is a form of strange loop, closely related to mathematical self-reference.
Whatever consciousness is and whatever its implication, I have always found it deeply frightening that so many people would rather embrace a grotesquely ridiculous certainty, even if it is quite destructive and cruel, than simply say "I don't know" or "I might be wrong". Isn't that how knowledge of truth has advanced, by doubting? What is wrong with doubting? I submit it is the essence of a finely tuned creative and logical mind.
In the splendidly funny "Tentacles of Doom" episode of "Father Ted", Bishop O'Neill says, "Big demons sticking red hot pokers up your arse for all eternity? I don't think so!" And yet the fanciful certainties of belief I read in the paper every day are really no less ignorant. You know, I am sadly inclined to agree with Hawking, that if the human race comes to an end it will be through its own stupidity.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 May, 2019
Hey Ted. I know that for many people the terms consciousness and soul are interchangeable, and may not imply a supernatural element, but personally I always talk of consciousness, as the soul has the typical definition of something that is spiritual, immortal, immaterial and quite separate from the body and the natural universe. I don't believe there is any good evidence for that, and I don't want people to assume I might think otherwise by talking of the soul when I mean consciousness.
I agree that a few academics such as Fenwick, 'are inclined to think consciousness can exist separately from the physical brain', but this is little different to a child thinking that unicorns can exist unseen in their backyard. Thinking something and providing evidence that it is so are two different things, and currently all evidence clearly indicates that consciousness can be severely altered by injury to the physical brain and that it ceases to exist at all on the death of the brain. How the brain creates consciousness is still a huge mystery, but there's little doubt that it is the brain that's creating consciousness and not some god.
Fenwick's belief in souls seems to be due to his belief in near-death experiences, others believe due to psychic mediums claiming to talk to the souls of the dead, whilst others believe in souls because they need them to get to Heaven. Clearly there is no evidence for any of that, meaning it's nothing more than wishful thinking.
I quite agree Ted that doubt is a wonderful thing, it is what gave us the scientific age that we live in. People doubting what the authorities were telling them, usually religious authorities, and investigating whether there was good reason and evidence to believe their proclamations. I am perfectly comfortable in saying I don't know regarding an astronomical number of questions, and that I might be wrong in many of the topics that I believe I do have answers for. But regarding consciousness and souls, while there is no certainty in science and the closest we can get is to have high confidence in a theory, it makes good sense to adopt a view based on the best evidence currently available, and at present that evidence indicates consciousness is a natural creation of the brain, and that souls are an imaginary remnant of a superstitious past. I wouldn't say I have 100% certainty, but in casual conversation I'm comfortable in saying souls don't exist, in the same way I say Santa doesn't exist without qualifying my reasoning.
And regrettably, I too agree with Hawking, 'that if the human race comes to an end it will be through its own stupidity'. I'm continually astounded by the man and woman on the street that will argue vehemently for some silly pet belief while at the same time displaying utter ignorance of the topic. At the pub recently I was talking to a middle-aged couple at the bar while waiting for friends. They mentioned that neither of them believed in ghosts, but then added that they believed their house was haunted. By ghosts. There was no other explanation, they argued. How stupid is that, that you can seriously believe your house is really haunted by things you still don't believe are real! Then they got onto how they heard from a friend who read something on a website about strange problems concerning some photographs taken on the Moon, and therefore they now believe the Moon landing was a hoax. I asked if they had read anything about the Moon landing conspiracy from a skeptical and scientific perspective, and they said no. I offered them a book that explained why some photographs look strange to a layperson, and they declined. This couple was happy to adopt whatever silly notion popped into their head and weren't prepared to let facts get in the way. Look at the morons in NZ and worldwide that believe the world is flat or are refusing vaccines and are instead opting for alternative treatments that wouldn't have been out of place in the Dark Ages. And unfortunately, unlike in the Dark Ages, the morons now get a vote and their ignorance can potentially be our downfall. I don't think the human race will go extinct any day soon, but I can certainly see the potential of civilisation collapsing, where humanity regresses back to the Dark Ages and stories of man landing on the Moon or replacing a man's heart are seen as myths, spoken of in the way we speak of Atlantis, and the ruins of partially buried skyscrapers are seen as the work of the gods. When I look at primetime TV, all I see are home renovation shows, sports events, cooking shows, and celebrities ballroom dancing. There are no factual documentaries on science and history, no investigative shows looking at current events, and no informative debates discussing important topics, such as genetic engineering, climate change and voluntary euthanasia. And when the morons aren't watching TV, they're wasting time on social media by reading and spreading nonsense on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. When I was a kid and had a question, my parents would say go to the library and look it up. Now when questions arise, such as are vaccines safe, the advice given is to ask a celebrity on Twitter. And don't bother with an expert, since not only do they give complex answers which require a little thought, they say whatever the government pays them to say. Apparently.
Comment by Ted, 13 May, 2019
Hi John, your response raises some very salient issues, some of them rather disconcerting.
Firstly, thank you for pointing out the necessity of taking care with semantics. I suppose I tend to interchange "soul", "consciousness", and "psyche", simply because my life has lacked virtually all direct contact with religion, which I rejected completely as a child sixty years ago. Nonetheless, you are right in that I should realise that I am an exception rather than the rule. I continually find myself in hot water on music forums through extrapolating personal meaning into general common practice. It's a hard habit to break at my age.
I guess the word "doubt" is also a relative term, although not in quite the same sense. If we doubted absolutely everything we wouldn't get out of bed in the morning or put a finger to a power switch. We would be paralysed with our own uncertainty, shot in the foot with the starting pistol. Some things have to taken on trust, it is just a question of who and what to trust.
Of course, I personally find Fenwick's arguments considerably lacking, in that they all depend on the foibles and imagination of individuals, and any method of direct, replicable verification by way of experiment does not exist. Contrast this with, say, a theorem of mathematics. Although it might involve hard work and persistence, anybody anywhere, can verify the results. Penrose's physics is far beyond my understanding anyway. Hofstadter, like Martin Gardner, Ian Stewart and Richard Feynman, possesses the supreme gift of being able to communicate difficult ideas to laymen and entertain while doing it.
As I explained to the Jehovah's Witness lady who called last week and asked me what I thought would happen to me after I die, I am perfectly happy with oblivion. I was oblivious before my birth and I see no reason to think I shall be otherwise after death. Silly statement really, in a rather humorous sense, because "I" will simply not exist anyway.
In this context, it is worth remembering that some of the finest minds have harboured completely bizarre beliefs. Paul Erdos really believed that a divine "Supreme Fascist" existed, who was continually trying to thwart mathematicians' efforts to prove things. Ramanujan apparently thought at one stage that an Indian goddess was supplying him with proofs. I personally know several very brilliant scientific minds who have not hesitated to embrace the most crudely literal forms of Catholicism. While I think they would all be better off without anomaly, these contradictions apparently do reside in some highly intelligent people whether we like it or not.
I agree with you that television and social media are frighteningly and increasingly preoccupied with the catchpenny and the trivial. It is actually worse than that in the case of medical information, some of which is blatant quackery bordering on the criminal. But that takes us off topic a bit.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 May, 2019
Hi Ted. Thanks for your reply. I agree entirely regarding the word 'doubt' and knowing when to stop doubting. Doubting everything all the time would be ridiculous. But there seems to be a lot of confusion concerning doubt, as if you must doubt everything or nothing. Telling people I'm a skeptic raises a similar criticism I've found. Many believe skeptics doubt everything, whether it's a claim made by the pope or the scientific community or the government or a nutty neighbour. Worse still, it's thought that skeptics doubt whether the world is even real, and we'd argue with people if they said the sky was blue and the grass was green. In a book I read recently by Australian philosopher Graham Oppy ('Atheism: The Basics'), when discussing labels he wrote,
'At least roughly, sceptics claim that there is very little that we are rationally justified in believing. In particular, sceptics claim that there is very little that we are rationally justified in believing about the external world, other minds, the extent of the past, morality, modality, meaning, and so forth. Given that sceptics maintain that there is very little that we are rationally justified in believing, it is unsurprising that sceptics typically maintain that we are rationally required to suspend judgment about almost everything. For example, it is characteristic of sceptics to suspend judgment on the question whether there are fairies: if I'm not sure whether there are trees, cars, and other people, then it is hard to see what grounds I could have for being sure that there are no fairies. So it is unsurprising that most atheists are not sceptics: most atheists think that we typically have lots of rationally justified beliefs about the external world, other minds, the extent of the past, morality, modality, meaning, and so on, and most atheists believe that there are no fairies.'
While that definition might be what some ancient Greeks meant when they spoke of skepticism, I don't accept that it's what your typical skeptic means today. I'm an atheist because I'm a skeptic, meaning that I have a doubting attitude to any claim (in this case a claim about gods) that has no cogent reasoning and evidence to support it. I certainly don't 'suspend judgment about almost everything', in fact, I think there are a wealth of claims that we are 'rationally justified in believing'. Some label modern skepticism as 'scientific skepticism', meaning that we should consider claims from of a scientific perspective, and I'd argue that our skepticism only hovers over claims that fail to meet the scientific challenge, such as gods, UFOs, ghosts, alternative medicines, Bigfoot etc., we don't remain skeptical about evolution and antibiotics and 9/11. Yet when I tell people I'm a skeptic, they expect me to doubt everything they say, even if they said they had a dog as a child. They see skeptics as argumentative people that will disagree with everything they might say they believe in, and they often inform me that they could never be untrusting enough to be an annoying skeptic. And yet, most people are skeptics and don't know it. They're just not skeptical about the topics that skeptics normally are, such as gods, UFOs, ghosts etc. If you inform a so-called non-skeptic that you have it on good authority that aliens will attack the Earth next Wednesday, or that you've grown a banana that cures all cancer, I guarantee they won't believe you. They'll express doubt and demand answers and evidence before they'll trust what you're claiming. When a wife suspects her husband of cheating, or a parent suspects their kid is using drugs, or a voter doubts what a politician is promising, it's because they're being skeptical of the answers and explanations they're being fed. Anybody that doesn't want to be mislead or fooled or ripped off needs to question everything they're told, and while much of what we're told can be immediately accepted as true or likely true, some claims demand that we express doubt and call for more detail. Rational, intelligent people are all skeptics, and anyone who says they're not is a fool.
I have a few of Roger Penrose's books, but have avoided them as they're way beyond me too. As you say, there are other academics that are better able to get complex ideas across to those of us that don't have a PhD in neuroscience or particle physics. I love your explanation that the time after your death will be no different to the time before your birth. I can't remember where I first heard that argument, but I've found that it really shocks many believers, as most can readily grasp it, and can see how it could be true. Many simply can't imagine the possibility of not existing after their death, but this argument shows them that they can imagine it after all.
You're right that some brilliant minds harboured bizarre beliefs on the side. Isaac Newton wrote far more on religion and alchemy than he did on physics. And famous scientists such as Einstein and Rutherford made claims, that while they weren't nutty, were quite wrong. Just because someone can make great discoveries concerning some part of nature, doesn't mean that every view and opinion that they hold on other topics must likewise be correct. There are several scientists and philosophers, both historical and current, whose ideas and books on such topics as cosmology, evolution or ethics that I've learnt a lot from and really enjoyed. But at the same time these same scientists and philosophers expressed views on other topics that I disagree with. For example, some were religious, or sexist, or racist. Unlike many people, I refuse to idolise any particular academic, since while I may marvel at their scientific ideas I may not particularly like them as a person. That someone can discover a correct answer in cosmology is no guarantee that they'll believe the right answers in genetics or hold the best ethical views. When it comes to authorities we can likely trust, such as scientists, that trust only holds for answers they give on topics for which they are recognised experts. Their views on other topics are mere opinions and must be evaluated as critically as the views of any other layperson. Far too may people believe that if some scientist explains why gamma ray bursts are dangerous, then their views on homosexuality must also be valid. As you say Ted, the same mind can be brilliant in one area of inquiry and quite lost in others.
Comment by Anonymous-10, 23 Aug, 2019
I went to see her last night. I went with an open mind but clearly saw the power of persuasion and desperate people clutching at straws.
She appears to read people's lives ... but ... I had ... from the audience, pre read exactly what the audience member was going through. If you are intuitive ... you'd easily see what she said.
Then the sales patter ... micronized purple powder aka finely ground rice ... 80 quid !!!!!!! ... Glasses you can buy in eBay for 99p ... 10 quid ... A pendant with magic grounding powers (not sure why you need grounding) 150 plus quid ...
Telling half her story and mentioning her book to find out the rest
Lots of painful moments when her 'patients' desperately wanted to be healed, and her getting the audience to clap ...
On leaving I walked behind a lovely 92 year old age helped move her head ... after years of stiffness ... (Relaxation methods in my view)
The lady couldn't move any more freely on her walk to the car than pre her spirit surgeons doing their thing
Very much a large con ...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Aug, 2019
Thanks for your comments on one of Jeanette Wilson's shows. It seems she has moved more towards bogus claims of psychic healing and selling crap like the purple rice, rather than just the talking to dead people nonsense. Clearly she hopes this new strategy will make her more money. As you say, it's all about targeting 'desperate people clutching at straws'. Lowlifes like Jeanette Wilson really are quite despicable, conning money from vulnerable people while pretending to help them.
Comment by Anonymous-10, 24 Aug, 2019
Is anyone doing anything about her ????
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Aug, 2019
Unfortunately she operates within the law, and many in power that could potentially change the law, also believe in this superstitious nonsense. The most one can do is to expose her scam to friends, family and colleagues, explain how she rips people off and how her psychic surgery, energy healing and purple rice are all a lie and an utter waste of money. You won't stop the likes of Wilson fleecing gullible people, all you can do is try and limit how many people believe she has magic powers. Her shows are legal, she will only stop if her audience stays away. So spread the word, expose her as a greedy, devious fraud, and force her back into the gutter from whence she came. Wilson is like an old prostitute, well past her prime, she can only keep turning tricks if desperate people keep approaching her with money. Skeptical people need to speak up, if we educate her potential customers then Wilson and her ilk will go the way of the dodo.
Comment by Anonymous-10, 25 Aug, 2019
Ha ha she's deleted my comments and blocked me
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Aug, 2019
That's not surprising. That's exactly how these fraudsters respond to skeptical questions and embarrassing revelations, by censorship, by preventing their gullible followers from learning the truth. Many try to discourage or even prevent skeptics from attending their shows and workshops, they don't want anyone to challenge the ridiculous claims they are making. The silly believers only get to hear from other believers, unaware that critics have been banned from attending workshops, and that their comments have been deleted from online forums. It's a sure sign of a scam when the person involved refuses to rationally discuss their claims, never produces any evidence and blocks any further involvement.
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