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He sees dead people.
July 31, 2001 9:59 AM   Subscribe

He sees dead people. (NYT link) John Edward, host of Sci Fi channel's "Crossing Over", can "read" his audience and pass messages from the deceased. Or is it just like a game of 20 questions? After a few questions he can make guesses and be close enough to right that people believe it. Have you ever seen the show, and do you believe him? Have you ever been read by a psychic? Do you have psychic powers yourself?
posted by msacheson (60 comments total)

 
I'm with James Randi.
posted by binkin at 10:06 AM on July 31, 2001


I don't have to watch the show. It's crap. Psychic powers are crap. Even if they didn't violate the laws of physics, he has failed the basic test - he hasn't stepped up for the million bucks.
posted by UncleFes at 10:06 AM on July 31, 2001


Binkin, you fast posting fool! :)
posted by UncleFes at 10:07 AM on July 31, 2001


Isn't that how a lot of "psychics" work anyway? I always thought they were just very observant, shrewd detectives. Ask a few choice questions, make some basic conjectures with the right hokey words attached, and anyone with the predisposition to believe in "psychic powers" will believe it's true.

Not that I disbelieve psychics wholesale. There are a lot of things out there that cannot be explained. But I firmly believe a lot of so-called "mediums" are nothing but shysters.
posted by starvingartist at 10:08 AM on July 31, 2001


I'm with Miss Cleo.
posted by ry at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2001


Edward is a sort of magician, doing the old mind-reading technique.
posted by tranquileye at 10:19 AM on July 31, 2001


And on a related topic, i.e. astrology:

"Now you may find it inconceivable or at the very least a bit unlikely that the relative position of the planets and the stars could have a special deep significance or meaning that exclusively applies to only you, but let me give you my assurance that these forecasts and predictions are all based on solid, scientific, documented evidence, so you would have to be some kind of moron not to reaize that every single one of them is absolutely true." - Weird Al Yankovic

My girlfriend believes in astrology. ::shameful grimace::
posted by starvingartist at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2001


this is mostly 'cold-reading' the art of making generalities that can cut both ways.

You are an introvert, but at times you like to take charge. You are trusting, but
there are secrets you hold close to you.
posted by brucec at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2001


I've seen this guy, and like the rest of you, think he's nothing more than a gifted con artist.

Still, it's cool to watch such a gifted artist in action. He's really quite skilled at what he does, and the impressionable audience members really eat it up.
posted by aladfar at 10:31 AM on July 31, 2001


Some mediums are real, some (like John Edward) are frauds. The same thing goes for doctors, attorneys, ministers... the presence of poseurs does not preclude the existence of the real thing.

A real scientist should know one can't prove a null hypothesis.

Check out http://www.cassadaga.org/. You can take classes to learn to be a medium. A great story for the budding trust fund based journalist or maybe your employer has a continuing education benefit. What's more continuing than life after death?
posted by username at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2001


They tape that show on 9th and 54th, about 1 1/2 blocks from where I work in NYC. For about 1/4 mile radius from the door, there are signs for "The really really really long distance call" and his smiling face. I just thought I would add that, being that I see those posters about 83 times a day.
posted by remlapm at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2001


From the article: "As Edward sees it, there are three types of people: the 20 percent who believe no matter what, the 20 percent who will never believe and the 60 percent who keep an open mind, and this 60 percent can be won over."

I am surprised there are (so far) no believers posting to this thread. I am not commenting on the beliefs of those who have already posted; it is just surprising to me that there have not been any believers making themselves known out there. Come on out, we won't hurt you. Personally, I guess I belong to the 60% that can be won over. I've surfed by "Crossing Over" a couple times and have watched a little bit, and what I believe is how strongly the audience members he reads believe him. Got that? Not that I believe psychic powers strongly myself (yet), but I do not doubt that these people believe.

On a lighter note, I love that scene in the movie "Ghost" with Whoopi Goldberg, when a deceased man says, through Whoopi's character, "Girl, what'd you do to your hair?"
posted by msacheson at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2001


As he decompresses, Edward analyzes the day's shows, which he calls the ''worst in a while,'' apologizing not for his performance but for the audience's ''refusal to validate'' his statements

You know, I would find talented jamokes like this a lot more amusing if they weren't such fucking ghouls. He feeds off of people's memories and dreams, and then pisses on their shoes when things don't go his way.
posted by Skot at 10:43 AM on July 31, 2001


Some mediums are real, some (like John Edward) are frauds. The same thing goes for doctors, attorneys,
ministers... the presence of poseurs does not preclude the existence of the real thing.


I don't disagree with your statement, but not precluding is not enough. That is especially true when there is a monetary incentive for a person to claim to have these powers. The existence of the skill must be proven to be useful. So far, there is little evidence that these psyhics do anything more than blurt out an incredible number of leads so that they have decent chances of getting a 'hit.'
posted by brucec at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2001


I'm with Dionne Warwick
posted by bob bisquick at 10:48 AM on July 31, 2001


Perhaps the voices from beyond can explain his spooky resemblance to Billy Joel.
posted by davebush at 11:16 AM on July 31, 2001


My Psychic Story: I had a professor that I did some work with who was a total believer, especially in past life regression; she said I simply had to try it. I was skeptical, because everyone is (of course) some royalty, some famous person, it's total bullshit. Anyways, the past life regressor lady sits me down and starts obviously trying to hypnotize me - for some reason, I have never been able to be successfully hypnotized - and so it doesn't work. In response, she dubs me a "new soul" (meaning I'm on my first life) and, in addition, a "psychic dead zone," meaning that I am not part of the "continua" and that I have no psychic abilities and others' abilities (most people have them to a certain extent, except me purportedly) will have no effect on me.

So for all you psychics out there trying to read my mind - jokes on you! Bwahahahahahahaha!!! What a pantload.
posted by UncleFes at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2001


From what I've been told from countless articles upon him and his "talents", there are microphones displayed above the audience area for the general purpose of picking up sounds during the taping. What the audience doesn't know, however, is that the microphones are on during Edwards' "thinking time", which occurs twenty or thirty minutes before the show as the audience is being seated and waits. Of course, being in a situation as that will cause the audience to obviously talk about why they're there and who they're trying to contact, thus giving some background information to the waiting Edwards. It's the mere idea of paying attention that counts.
posted by GirlFriday at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2001


UncleFes: I can't believe that you threw away such an amazing hoax opportunity!
posted by aramaic at 11:43 AM on July 31, 2001


Fes - she still took your money, though, right?
posted by starvingartist at 11:44 AM on July 31, 2001


I can't believe that you threw away such an amazing hoax opportunity!

I was nervous! :) I kept waiting for something to happen, and by the time I figured out that what was happening was, uh, nothing, it was too late. I'll give her that - once she figured out that the whole thing was destined to failure, she moved right in with "bullshit phase two."

she still took your money, though, right?

Bet your ass she did - $30! All to learn I was a "psychic dead zone." I got three or four ex's who have told me the rough equivalent for free :)
posted by UncleFes at 11:55 AM on July 31, 2001


Awwwwwwwww, girlfriday, now I'm disappointed. I thought he was one of the really good cold readers! Feh, he's not even that if he has microphones during thinking time. I used to do phone psychic work, and you guys are right about how it works. You just slowly nudge them in the right direction, and then you make them think they've made a mistake when you guess incorrectly. Nine times out of ten, they'll think of a way to explain it for you, and that just gives you more information to build on- and keep them on the phone, of course. (I hated it, and eventually quit it because even though I couldn't convince the callers to stop calling, I could quit being complicit in their delusions. The world is a sad, sad place at 2 am for 2.99 a minute.)
posted by headspace at 1:05 PM on July 31, 2001


I mean complicit in furthering their delusions. They were just ordinary people who wanted reassurance that their boyfriend wasn't cheating on them or wanted to know uncle Ernie made it to the other side okay, and really thought a psychic could help.
posted by headspace at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2001


John Edward is a punk.
posted by quirked at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2001


I had a massage once from a co-worker who told me she could sense something was bothering me. She said I was upset and confused by a secret my mother had told me, and that it had something to do with a sibling. Two days earlier, my mother informed me I had an older brother from
an affair she had before I was born. He had sent her a letter, and wanted to meet us. I had told no-one about this at the time I got the massage.

This co-worker never claimed to be psychic, but she said she could sense when things were bothering people and often thought she knew why. It freaked me out, still does.
posted by culberjo at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2001


My mother believes fairly strongly in everything; astrology, psychic readings, reincarnation, ghosts, etc. I believe in almost nothing, including god. But I enjoy having tarots and getting my palm read for the entertainment value. Yeah, I know I'm being "taken," and that even if I frustrate the psyhic seer I'm still getting taken, but I love watching them squirm.
posted by honkzilla at 1:28 PM on July 31, 2001


I predict I am going to post another message right after I post this one.
posted by bilco at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2001


Hey, I was right.
posted by bilco at 1:44 PM on July 31, 2001


I like to watch magic shows. I don't think they are sawing a lady in half. Though it would be a cool trick for surgeons to not have to bother stitching you back up. They just throw a silk sheet over you, say a few words, and Shazam!
posted by john at 3:15 PM on July 31, 2001


Okay, I'll step up to the plate:

John Edward is a fraud. Let's clear that right off the bat. I will not defend him at all.

However.

Psychis phenomena cannot be dismissed out of hand. These things do exist, just not as they're popularly recognized. John Edward is a marketed, slick, good-looking fraud, but there are many other mediums who regularly commune with the dead. The difference is, they don't have television shows.

Miss Cleo, John Edward, every schnook and scam artist out there claiming to be psychic - they piss on the real art of the medium, magician, and shaman, which is to be an intermediary between the material world and the others, be them the surround of the dead (thank you JM) or the celestial realms of the gods, angels, loa, orishas, etc.

James Randi's offer is as dishonest as John Edward's: come into a situation that Randi sets up, controls, and prove yourself to Randi's satisfaction for a million bucks. In other words, to borrow Leary's jargon, Randi controls the set and setting. Thus, the "trip" - the shared experience between shaman and supplicant - is already horribly biased against the psychic. And do you think that if a psychic beat whatever test Randi had to offer, that Randi wouldn't try to disprove the results? That Randi would abandon every tenet he's clung to in his life and just accept the results? Somehow, I doubt that he'd let that million dollars go without a fight.

Real psychics don't advertise. Real magicians don't go on TV. They have no need to "prove themselves" to minds that would never accept them anyway. "Skeptics" - which implies a detached, non-committed viewpoint - are nothing of the sort: they're demagogues and reactionaries who pick easy, obvious targets like Miss Cleo. Why should they beg Science for recognition, when what they do is so beyond the purview of Science? Why do Amazonian shamans have to get their certificate of authenticy from James Randi? They've been working their path for thousands of years - if the burden of proof is on anyone, it's on ignorant Westerners.

UncleFes, I'm not entirely sure how she was trying to hypnotize you, but I'm curious as to how she attempted to. If she actually tried to hypnotize you, then she's probably a bit shady. If she was simply trying to get you to relax, then that's something different.

In order to enter the psycho-magical-imaginative space of the psychic/shaman/etc., you must at least accept the possibility that they might be right. I hate blind belief, that New Agey crystal-waving acceptance of any hokum that comes down the pike. They'll swallow anything, really. But in my experience and observation, it is necessary that the person going to the psychic be receptive to what he/she's saying without just giving themselves over totally to them.

By the way, when I use imaginative in the above paragraph, I'm not referring to made-up shit - I'm referring to this shared mindspace we all have whereby we create the world through our five (and beyond) senses. And that if you're not in the space, you won't get anything out of it.

So please don't dismiss the possibility out of hand because of a few obnoxious charlatans.

P.S. I've found that astrology is synchronous with psychology. That is, there's not necessarily a causal relationship between the position of Venus and one's attitudes regarding beauty and love, but there sure as hell seems to be a correlation.
posted by solistrato at 3:18 PM on July 31, 2001


Why should they beg Science for recognition, when what they do is so beyond the purview of Science?

Nothing is beyond the purview of science. Those that claim to be "beyond the purview of science" are frauds.
posted by kindall at 3:38 PM on July 31, 2001


Oh, I'll never dismiss the possibility. I'll just dismiss the actuality of what you just said because there isn't a shred of evidence for any of it.

And could you please share the "correlation" between where Venus was when I was born and my feelings on love and beauty.

Just today at work a co-worker said "I do think that names have a power, that you come to fulfill your name, and that being a "Mark" means something."

I asked "ok, what is the common theme between you and all the other Johns." He's still trying to think of an answer. (He's also trying to decide if Ivan's and John's share the same traits or if there is a language barrier with fate.)
posted by obfusciatrist at 3:39 PM on July 31, 2001


James Randi's offer is as dishonest as John Edward's: come into a situation that Randi sets up, controls, and prove yourself to Randi's satisfaction for a million bucks.

Nonsense. Have you bothered actually reading the application for the test? From the application:
"Applicant must state clearly in advance, and the applicant and Mr. Randi will agree upon, just what powers or abilities will be demonstrated, the limits of the proposed demonstration (so far as time, location and other variables are concerned) and what will constitute both a positive and a negative result. This is the primary, basic, and most important of these rules."
and
"Tests will be designed in such a way that no "judging" procedure is required. Results will be self-evident to any observer, in accordance with the rules which will be agreed upon by all parties in advance of any formal testing procedure taking place. No part of the testing procedure may be changed in any way without the express agreement of all parties concerned. Mr. Randi, though present at formal tests, will not directly interact with the materials used."

Doesn't sound like Randi making up tests and being the judge to me.
posted by binkin at 3:51 PM on July 31, 2001


Psychic phenomena: human beings are extraordinary pattern-matching machines. It is in our nature to identify patterns, we're wired for it. One side effect of this, however, is a tendency to spot patterns where none exist -- this is well-established in statistics (esp. in gambling).

Why, then, should I believe in psychic phenomena when there is an existing (and vastly simpler) explanation?

For example: premonitions. Sure, people have them. However, they are handily neglecting the 99% of "odd feelings" that don't turn out to be a premonition of anything. They forget the 99 times that they think "oh, something bad has happened to my mother" and only remember the one time that they were right.

...this is, not coincidentally, one reason why stock scams work so well.
posted by aramaic at 4:00 PM on July 31, 2001


what solistrato said.
posted by tolkhan at 4:04 PM on July 31, 2001


solistrato: what I hear you saying (correct me if I'm wrong) is that James Randi's controlled, scientific test interferes with the shaman's ability to bring his supplicant to some kind of spiritual enlightenment. My answer to that is, Randi's test isn't designed to measure spiritual enlightenment, because that is necessarily a subjective experience. I don't think Randi wants to debunk spiritual guides any more than he wants to debunk psychologists. The experiments are designed to get concrete, objective proof that someone can receive information by some means other than the five senses. If John Edward could tell me what my dead relatives told him about me after he's been sitting in a soundproof booth without talking to anyone, and without asking any questions, I might be inclined to believe him. Whether he can or not, though, has nothing to do with my state of enlightenment.
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:11 PM on July 31, 2001


solistrato, well put. It makes for great TV to get a psychic medium against some CSICOP member. Lots of bickering and sensationalist crap. The credulous get their fix and the psuedoskeptics get to see their fire and brimstone heroes. Its a win-win situation.

I'm content watching these two groups go at it so often that I don't mind the convoluted arguments anymore as long as people who want to evaluate their psyche through traditional "shaman" means or through more modern methods like neuro-linguistic programing or my toy of exploration of late - the mind machine, are left alone.

As for the Randi challenge, its really a scam. The recently quoted "no judging" eliminates statistical scoring in favor of just a yes/no response, which gives an incredible advantage to Randi. Its also more than a little suspicious that no independant observers outside of the chosen group of "experts" are allowed to have a say, especially for such a large amount of money. Also, he's only giving out 10 grand, the rest are from pledges who give no written legal guarantee that they will pay up.
posted by skallas at 4:37 PM on July 31, 2001


"Since I know nothing for sure, nothing is unthinkable." (R.A.Wilson)
posted by spandex at 4:45 PM on July 31, 2001


"but there are many other mediums who regularly commune with the dead"

Prove it.

It should be such a simple thing to prove - yet it never happens. Until there is evidence, or even a reasonably good throry to allow for it there is no more reason to believe in this than the Easter Bunny.

It's not a shock that belief persists of course - lots of people believe crop circles are really aliens even after the hoax is shown.

Belief is hard wired into the genome.
posted by soulhuntre at 6:09 PM on July 31, 2001


As for the Randi challenge, its really a scam. The recently quoted "no judging" eliminates statistical scoring in favor of just a yes/no response, which gives an incredible advantage to Randi. Its also more than a little suspicious that no independant observers outside of the chosen group of "experts" are allowed to have a say, especially for such a large amount of money. Also, he's only giving out 10 grand, the rest are from pledges who give no written legal guarantee that they will pay up.

Oh what a scam, to defeat a scam...

You're just pissed when anyone doesn't automagically lick your anus and call you Krishna.

A magic nondemonstrable is a magic nonexistent.
posted by DogLink at 6:56 PM on July 31, 2001


Belief does not make truth. Sorry folks, but that's the way it works.

I can believe I can fly all I want, but when I jump off that bridge I'm a dead man. Anything else is mere sophistry, and I invite anyone to demonstrate my premise by taking the leap of faith....
posted by aramaic at 6:59 PM on July 31, 2001


Skallas:
As for the Randi challenge, its really a scam. The recently quoted "no judging" eliminates statistical scoring in favor of just a yes/no response, which gives an incredible advantage to Randi. Its also more than a little suspicious that no independant observers outside of the chosen group of "experts" are allowed to have a say, especially for such a large amount of money. Also, he's only giving out 10 grand, the rest are from pledges who give no written legal guarantee that they will pay up.


You're wrong about the money:
[link] 9. At the formal test, an independent person will be placed in charge of a personal check from James Randi for US$10,000. In the event that the claimant is successful under the agreed terms and conditions, that check shall be immediately surrendered to the claimant, and within ten days the James Randi Educational Foundation will pay to the claimant the remainder of the reward (total US$1,000,000 as of June, 1998). One million dollars in negotiable bonds is held by a major financial house, in a special "James Randi Educational Foundation Prize Account," as surety for the prize funds. Validation of this account and its current status may be obtained by contacting the Foundation at: 1-954-467-1112, fax 1-954-467-1660.

As for a simple yes/no answer:
Actually, that seems like a better vehicle for a winner. You either bend the spoon without touching it, or you don't. As far as testing what your dead grandmother says - well, we can't very well test that. So the things to test are things like predictions, astral projection, telekenisis, etc. Again, these can be set up in ways that are binary.

Believing in psychics is as harmless as believing in any religion. Maybe there's something to it - but it's not ACTIONABLE. If it were actionable, then we WOULD have psychics working ininvestment houses. And with the state of the markets, they would probably do no worse. Various militaries have done experiments with it, and we still don't have battlefield psychics telling people where the land mines are. This stuff gets applied to smooshy human stuff - that's all it's good for. I don't want a psychic making the decisions about my health care plan or my 401k investments.

As to this "talking to the dead" guy - all you have to do to fake this kind of thing is to listen, think, and be empathetic. Truth is people don't do much of any of these three. They find a guy or gal who does these, and they're inclined to fork over some bucks in the context of Tarot, or palmreading, or whatever.

Now, I will admit that there are phenomena we don't understand - take the prediliction of some animals to seem to able to predict earthquakes - that's some interesting sensory shit. And the birds who no matter where you take them, they manage to return to their starting point. Magnetism and Gravity and X-Rays and electricity were all once magical and mysterious things - now we have a relatively useful grasp on how they work. Maybe psychics will get folded onto that list someday - but I somehow doubt that John Edward is gonna be the poster boy for that breakthrough.
posted by artlung at 7:45 PM on July 31, 2001


I can believe I can fly all I want, but when I jump off that bridge I'm a dead man.

Oh yeah? Well, maybe if you really believe, when you jump of the bridge, the convinced part of your soul scurries into a parallel universe where you are, indeed, flying like a happy hawk in a thermal updraft, while the skeptical part of your soul, stuck in this universe, splats on a flat rock.

Didja ever think of that, scientific-method-boy? Huh? Go ahead, prove me wrong. I dare ya. Can't do it, can ya? Ergo, I must be right!
posted by Opus Dark at 8:02 PM on July 31, 2001


Now, this ain't strictly psychical kinda stuff (and I've got some ver-ry scar-ry tales of terror there too, but never mind) : has anyone else ever had this happen?

Perhaps it's covered by statistical probability, but, all over the damn world, at least three or four times a year for the past 20 years or so, I'll be walking the nightbound streets, and a streetlight ahead of me will flicker out as I approach it, then switch back on after I pass by. This, needless to say, always freaks me out somewhat.
Of course, for the last 20 years or so, if I was walking around at night, I tended to have a reasonably robust blood-alcohol content, so it never freaked me out that much.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:16 PM on July 31, 2001


Some animals detect certain siesmic waves that humans can't detect (the P-waves, I think), allowing them to "predict" earthquakes, because they're already happening, but not yet in a human-detectable fashion.

I believe the birds were demonstrated to use magnetism. I'm not sure about that one, though.
posted by Ptrin at 8:17 PM on July 31, 2001


stavrosthewonderchicken writes:
[...]I'll be walking the nightbound streets, and a streetlight ahead of me will flicker out as I approach it


Well, my brother drives a huge white van, a Ford, I think, and when he drives about at night he is constantly blinking out street lights. Has to do with some indiscriminating photo-sensors in the lamps themselves, I think. So, stavros, are you a huge fellow who dresses like Tom Wolfe?
posted by Opus Dark at 8:39 PM on July 31, 2001


You're just pissed when anyone doesn't automagically lick your anus and call you Krishna.

Ah, a good rational detached scientific thought. Glad to have you on board!

"but there are many other mediums who regularly commune with the dead"

Prove it.


I can't. And that's the point of this entire argument. I can never prove to you that someone is actually talking to the dead. There is nothing anyone could do that could prove, to your satisfaction, that someone is speaking with a ghost.

If someone sat down in front of you and told you about your great-aunt Helen or whomever, you would accept any explanation, no matter how far-fetched and paranoid, except the one that this person is actually communicating with the spirit of your great-aunt. You might be converted, but you will never be convinced.

And the fact that you'd be convinced that he's a fraud: that's just part of the trick. ;)

Believing in psychics is as harmless as believing in any religion.

If that's the case, then why the overwhelming venom that comes out whenever someone dares to profess belief in such things? This is one thing I've never understood about supposedly rational, scientific people: the glee and superiority with which they are filled with when tearing apart someone who believes in crystals or something similar. Like exasperated Christian missionaries, you shriek in horror and hope to change us "for our own good" and lift us "from ignorance." Um, thanks, but no.

Nothing is beyond the purview of science. Those that claim to be "beyond the purview of science" are frauds.

Oh, bullshit. Science does very well with large-scale cosmology and biology and other such things, but science cannot explain why Beethoven's 9th Symphony brings me to tears every time I hear it, or what really went on during the widespread UFO abduction epidemic of the 80s and 90s, or how stigmata actually worked, or a million and one other subjects from art, magic, anomalous phenomena, and the collective unconscious. If nothing is beyond the purview of science, then why is Fortean Times still in business?

The personal subjective experience cannot always be extrapolated into an objective scientific theory. That's just the way it is. Reality is not simply crude matter. Occam's Razor is a lie: the simplest answer is not the right one.

In my opinion.

Which you're not likely to change, just as I'm not likely to change yours. So really, this whole discussion is moot.
posted by solistrato at 9:52 PM on July 31, 2001


UncleFes, I'm not entirely sure how she was trying to hypnotize you, but I'm curious as to how she attempted to. If she actually tried to hypnotize you, then she's probably a bit shady. If she was simply trying to get you to relax, then that's something different.

She had this really loud-ticking mechanical clock in the studio. She had me lie down on the couch thingee (it was one of those shrink's couches, the proper name of which escapes me), she told me to "concetrate on the ticking of the clock" and then continued talking nonsense to me in this droning, monotone voice. It never got to the "you are getting verrrrrrry sleeeeppy" part, but it was pretty close :)

a streetlight ahead of me will flicker out as I approach it, then switch back on after I pass by.

Stav! The same damn thing happens to me! Most of the time, they never come back on, at least while I'm there. WTF is that all about? For the record, I'm of average height and build, and rarely wear white.
posted by UncleFes at 9:52 PM on July 31, 2001


solistrato
If that's the case, then why the overwhelming venom that comes out whenever someone dares to profess belief in such things? This is one thing I've never understood about supposedly rational, scientific people: the glee and superiority with which they are filled with when tearing apart someone who believes in crystals or something similar. Like exasperated Christian missionaries, you shriek in horror and hope to change us "for our own good" and lift us "from ignorance." Um, thanks, but no.


You're 1000% right. But take care of lumping all rational scientist types together. It's just as dangerous as lumping all religious people together.

Buddy of mine is big into horoscopes - it would be unseemly to harp on my disbelief in such things. And that's what that gleeful and superior voice is - rudeness. And that jes' ain't right.

Just goes to show - tolerance is a virtue everyone needs some lessons on.
posted by artlung at 10:08 PM on July 31, 2001


science cannot explain why Beethoven's 9th Symphony brings me to tears every time I hear it, or what really went on during the widespread UFO abduction epidemic of the 80s and 90s, or how stigmata actually worked, or a million and one other subjects from art, magic, anomalous phenomena, and the collective unconscious

You mean science hasn't yet explained these things. Science is aware, for example, that people have subjective experiences, such as your reaction to Beethoven's 9th. Science has taken some baby steps toward understanding how brains work and it's likely that even greater strides will be made in the next century. It is not inconceivable that eventually science will be able to answer that question, while at the same time explaining why it doesn't do much for me.

Just for the record, science has also not yet explained how the Beatles communicated to Charles Manson through their music. Here is something that is within the realm of possibility -- the Beatles did demonstrably exist, Charles Manson did demonstrably exist, the Beatles did record songs, Charles Manson did demonstrably hear those songs. We are not being asked to believe in an afterlife or "mediums" here, but in something that could conceivably have happened. Would you reject this scenario out of hand, even though it's vastly more plausible than communicating with the dead?

If nothing is beyond the purview of science, then why is Fortean Times still in business?

Because an alarmingly large number of people are stupid, lazy, undereducated, and/or gullible? This is easily demonstrable, unlike psychic phenomena, and a much more plausible explanation than any of the alternatives.

The personal subjective experience cannot always be extrapolated into an objective scientific theory.

True. When it can't, that probably means it's all in your head. Because that is where subjectivity originates. If something is subjective -- that is, experienced only by certain people -- then it is not a part of reality, because "reality" is by definition that which can be experienced by me as well as you. If you experience something, and I (at the same place at the same time) do not, then you are hallucinating (or, perhaps, I am). If you can't reproduce something that happened to you, your brain has tricked you.

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is taller than it is wide, right? No, in actuality it is about as wide as it is tall; its perceived height relative to its width is an optical illusion. You can't always even believe your senses and you certainly can't always believe things that come to you from beyond your senses. You can probably hear Beethoven's 9th "in your mind's ear" right now, if you want to. That does not mean that Beethoven's 9th has come to you by some paranormal means. (It has, strictly speaking, come to you by extrasensory means: memory is not a sense.) We are familiar with these kinds of experiences (as well as things like dreams and just plain coincidences) and have them all the time. We do not consider them supernatural. Yet let us have a particularly vivid or emotionally affecting experience of this sort, and suddenly it's the voices of the dead or the alignment of the planets.

Occam's Razor is a lie: the simplest answer is not the right one.

It's not a lie, it's a rule of thumb, like "human beings are about six feet tall." "Human beings are six feet tall" is much more true than "human beings are a hundred feet tall." Similarly, "do not multiply entites unnecessarily" is much more true than "any entity is as good as any other entity." It is a tool for winnowing high-probability hypotheses from low-probability ones. If you have a hypothesis that doesn't pass Occam's Razor, you need more proof than "I saw it." Because we know for a fact that sometimes, people just see things that aren't there. You need to find a way to reproduce the phenomenon so that others can duplicate it and see it as well. This is why science has been so successful -- it is a tool for working around the inherent unreliability of our own consciousness.
posted by kindall at 10:50 PM on July 31, 2001


UncleFes and stavrosthewonderchicken:

Well, if your reflectivity is not the answer, I suspect you are...

...descendants of the ancient clan known as The NightSprite Eaters of Fabrizzi Down.

You see, the NightSprites are invisible faeries who come out to frolic at night. They have few enemies - if left unchecked, their population might eventually clog up the faerie world. So, many years ago, a couple of the elder faeries, Gag and MoGag, infused a power into all males who belonged to or would descend from the human clan known as The NightSprite Eaters of Fabrizzi Down. This power gives each clan member the ability to suck NightSprites into his body with every breath, where a bit of old school magic safely disposes of them. The members of the clan were never made aware of their power, though they did often wonder why they were known as he NightSprite Eaters of Fabrizzi Down.

The NightSprites soon decided that they could really use an alarm that would warn of an Eater's approach.

The solution?

Of course! Flicker a light!

So, if ever you find that as you walk through the night, lights tend to flicker as you pass, it can only mean that a gaggle of NightSprites has discovered your approach, and that you are descended from the ancient clan known as The NightSprite Eaters of Fabrizzi Down.
posted by Opus Dark at 11:47 PM on July 31, 2001


Now you're scaring me!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:35 AM on August 1, 2001


It hasn't been said yet, but it should have been...

Science and the "paranormal" are not mutually exclusive.

It is only the two groups trying to prove their own point which makes them try to disprove the other.
posted by fooljay at 1:26 AM on August 1, 2001


> I had a massage once from a co-worker ...

You can do that where you work? Just the neck and shoulders? Or the full treatment?

-----------------------------

Anyway, about this psychic malarkey: don't be fooled. There are no psychics, just many, many people ready to be taken in. Some of the credulous are themselves the supposed psychics who have tricked themselves into believing they have special powers.

Here's a fairly easy one:

Most street lights stay on steadily, so you don't notice them. Sometimes, though, one burns out or starts to flicker. Most of the time, no one is looking when they blink out, so you don't notice them either. But the ones you would notice are of course the few that go off as you are nearing and facing them.

So of all the street lights in the world staying on or blinking out, you will notice and remember only the ones that blink out as you approach them.

And the sort of people who would make a big deal of these burned out bulbs, who would remember them for a long time and talk about them at parties as if these events were mysterious wonders, are just the sort of PR people a wacky theory needs. So it goes on. Other credulous people start to remember the times lights went out when they were strolling (or staggering) about at night. Because people like to think they are special.

What's the alternative? That you alone, among all the people walking the night streets, are exuding an invisible force unknown to science. How much have you been drinking?

That's my theory, anyway. Here's what Cecil has to say about it.
posted by pracowity at 2:23 AM on August 1, 2001


Damn, Pracowity. My job offer as Official Bullshit Detector when I become Overlord still stands.

I do have to admit, though, them Nightsprites is tasty :)
posted by UncleFes at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2001


I think you need a holiday, pracowity.

Me, credulous? Pshaw - I was just tellin' stories there - not making claims to exuding invisible forces (other than my bull-mountain-gorilla-in-the-full-heat-of-primate-sexuality irresistability and charm, of course).

I do have to thank you for the link, even if the credulity crack was a bit out of line. Until UncleFes chimed in, I'd never heard of the streetlight thing ever happening to anyone before. Now I know the truth of the matter. Thanks for making my world just that little but less magical.

But you call me credulous again, and I'll hafta get medieval on yer ass.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2001


Maybe I should sell tickets for the Battle Royale when UncleFes and aramaic fight it out for ultimate control of the world...
kindall: Amen.
posted by darukaru at 7:17 AM on August 1, 2001


> But you call me credulous again, and I'll hafta get
> medieval on yer ass.

You and what rectal pear, Chr..., I mean, Stavros?

[No, no, no. I was mainly talking to those other credulous folk who believe the ol' streetlight magic. There were at least three in this thread and you sounded as if you only half believed it. Medieval, you say?]

But do I need a holiday? Yes. And soon.
posted by pracowity at 7:51 AM on August 1, 2001


Most of the time, no one is looking when they blink out

then how do you know they're blinking out?
posted by tolkhan at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2001


Maybe I should sell tickets for the Battle Royale when UncleFes and aramaic fight it out for ultimate control of the world...

We've already settled that - aramaic and I have cut a deal whereby he will take the Eastern Hemisphere (as "Grand Emperor"), me the Western (as the aforementioned "Overlord"), and we will sortie our respective forces against each other for our own callow amusement.
posted by UncleFes at 9:22 AM on August 1, 2001


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