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PostPosted: July 9th, 2004, 10:08 pm 
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Hi, Jean.

Have I got that correctly?

Yes.

Let's start with number one:

OK.

If you do not believe that a "loving, caring 'God' " exists, am I then to assume that, for your part, a "hating, removed 'God' " DOES exist? OR that NO entity which one could name as "God" exists? Please clarify.

Oh, people call all kinds of things God.

Some people call the laws of physics God.

I don't believe in the biblical God - an entity that created humanity, that is conscious, that cares for us, controls events, knows about the sparrow's fall etc.

I don't believe in a 'hating, removed God' either.

In my opinion, there's no Daddy in the Sky watching over us - neither of the good, nor the bad variety.

2) Since it is completely impossible for any one person to witness every single event happening in every single corner of the known universe, I would assume that -- rather than you saying "Spirits, ghosts, and the soul do not exist." (A statement which would, I'm sure you'll agree, be most egocentric in its implication...) -- you mean to say, "I do not find any physical proof which I can verify that tells me that spirits, ghosts, or souls exist." Yes?


Correct. That's why I qualified my original post with the footnote: * To be more exact (and more scientific), I guess I should say I find these things extremely unlikely.

The fact that many different and diverging human beings have witnessed or other experienced encounters which they describe as 'ghosts, spirits, or the souls of those who have departed this earth through death' lends more creedence to the existence of these entities than it does not.

No, it doesn't.

This is simply a version of the logical fallacy known as the Ad Populum Argument. Fifty Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Sorry, but they can be wrong. The number of people claiming to believe in something says nothing at all about the truth or falsity of that belief. Popularity simply isn't relevant.

"Just because I have never been to China, does not mean that it does not exist."

There's a difference between China and God/Spirits, Jean.

If someone says to me: 'There is a country called China,' and I reply - 'No, there isn't!'

... they can take me there. I can meet the Chinese. I can eat with chopsticks.

The claim that China exists is not a fantastic claim - and it's easy to prove.

Claims for God & Spirits don't fit into the same box at all.

Your entire argument rests on the shifting sands of Personal Experience, Jean.

And personal experience simply doesn't cut it, I'm afraid.

Sure, millions of people claim to personally know God through an inner spiritual experience - and millions claim to have seen ghosts, spirits etc.

But such experiences point to nothing outside the mind. Mysticism can be explained psychologically. It's not necessary to complicate our understanding of the universe with fanciful assumptions. We do know that many humans habitually invent myths, hear voices, hallucinate and talk with imaginary friends.

We do not know there is a god, and we have no objective evidence for spirits.

Gods and ghosts can be explained in terms of human needs and human psychology.

(I make the same argument for the case of precognition, ESP, clarivoyance, etc. as the above...)

And your argument fails for the same reason, I'm afraid.

Over to you, Jean.

John


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 Post subject: Counter point
PostPosted: July 10th, 2004, 4:41 am 
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Dearest John,

Your argument which dismisses personal experience in these matters as proof of their existence has a glaring flaw...

As you said, were you to doubt the existence of China, someone could take you there and show it to you...

Would, then, you not be basing your acceptance of the existence of China upon your own "personal experience"? (Because, as you say, you would then be confirming its existence by personal observation...)

In addition, your supposition that these phenomena which many people have experienced can be explained away by "psychological" factors is simply too broad and too non-specific... What kinds of "psychological factors" are you citing? Hallucinations? Psychosis? I assure you, I am neither prone to hallucinations nor psychotic... and neither are many of us who have witnessed these things for ourselves...

As far as "God" goes, of course I do not believe that there some whizened, white haired, bearded man sitting upon some throne somewhere directing the "falls of sparrows", either... My definition goes something more like:

"Each spark of life that exists in any dimension, upon any plane of existence and on the face of any planet, collectively, are like the cells that make up the body of an entity many choose to call 'God' ."

Your dismissal of the possibility of the phenomena we have been discussing sounds incredibly like those of past "scientists" who (in dismissing the possibilities of activities we now find commonplace) said such things as:

"Man could never orbit the Earth in some type of projectile! He would: (take your pick) a) freeze in the coldness of space b) never survive the thrust it would take to propel him there c) be burned up by the infrared light of the sun, etc. etc. etc."

OR

"It is simply impossible to transmit images from one place to another without paper or some other medium which we can touch being involved..."

OR

"There are no other planets orbiting sunlike stars outside of our own solar system..."

OR

(the more recent) "There never was any water on Mars..."

And if you found my analogy between "China" and "Spirits" outlandish... You might imagine that I found your analogy between those of us who have experienced this type of phenomena and "Elvis sighters" condescending... Let us try to keep the tone of our remarks a tad less sarcastic, shall we?

Thanks ever so --

Warmest regards,
jean

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PostPosted: July 10th, 2004, 5:41 am 
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Hi, Jean:

Hmm... how to phrase this?

In your very first post to me (dated July 7th) you said:

If you're still around and you still wish to carry on a lively (but totally NON-emotional) intellectual discourse about the existence or non-existence of spirits, ghosts, life after death or the paranormal in general, let me know...

It seems we both have a habit of, somehow, offending those with whom we think we are having a debate...


I wasn't around, so you contacted me and invited me back.

I'm glad to be here. As I said, I enjoy discussions like this. And I thought we were about to have a debate

But there's a problem - and one that genuinely surprises me.

Despite your statement that you want to 'carry on a lively (but totally NON-emotional) intellectual discourse about the existence or non-existence of spirits, ghosts, life after death or the paranormal in general...'

... your response to my post is very emotional.

You're angry - and it shows.

Examples:

What kinds of "psychological factors" are you citing? Hallucinations? Psychosis? I assure you, I am neither prone to hallucinations nor psychotic... and neither are many of us who have witnessed these things for ourselves...

and...

You might imagine that I found your analogy between those of us who have experienced this type of phenomena and "Elvis sighters" condescending... Let us try to keep the tone of our remarks a tad less sarcastic, shall we?

Now, please be assured that I'm not:

a) calling you psychotic
b) being sarcastic

I'm trying to be very clear and careful about what I say.

One of the main planks in your argument so far is that having many, many people believe something lends more creedence to the existence of these entities.

That simply isn't so, and I used the fact that many people believe Elvis is alive and well and walking amongst us to show how superficial (and easy to demolish) that argument is.

I'd like to address your other points - but I don't want to proceed until we've cleared up this (emotional) misunderstanding.

I'll wait for your comments.

John


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 Post subject: Angry? Poppycock!
PostPosted: July 10th, 2004, 4:40 pm 
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My dearest John,

I am so very sorry that you came away with the mistaken impression that I am angry with you, John -- I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth!

If and when I "get angry" -- believe me, there will be no doubt in anyone's mind... ;o)

No, I'm afraid I'm as calm and congenial as could be... Sorry... I merely asked you to be more specific about exactly what "psychological" conditions you were referring to which might cause my own eyes and ears and intellect to be in such gross error as to have seen, heard, and felt things which you assert to be nonexistent... (I'm still waiting on that one...)

Additionally, I wished to call your attention to the "Elvis sighting" analogy you made because I felt certain that, being the gentleman I know you are, you would not have intentionally said something like that had you been aware of its distinctly dismissive & superior tone..

If I had drawn a similarly snide analogy to you or your point of view, I would be grateful that you had pointed out my less-than-respectful behavior BEFORE the situation snowballed into anger... And this was all I was attempting to do. I bear no ill will toward you about it. Matter forgiven and forgotten..

Now, that business being disposed of, onward (one hopes) to "loftier" discussion...

I do not base my belief in "spirits" (there are other areas, but I will speak for the moment about that phenomena which many people call "spirits", "ghosts", "hauntings", etc...) solely upon my own experiences (although psychological and physical examinations have never revealed any reason why I should doubt my own senses...) nor those of the many, many people that I have known who have experienced similar things...

Surrounding these phenomena, there is also other physical evidence which is measurable and "scientifically observable" (by anyone) which would suggest that some type of activity is going on that does not (at the moment) have a "scientific" explanation...

I speak, of course, of evidence in the forms of registers of high levels of electromagnetic waves (that seemingly have no point of origin in the "physical" sense), indeterminately caused light anomalies on digital photographs, mechanically recorded sounds and anomalous hot and cold areas in infrared photography -- all of which have been recorded in areas which we ("the misguided millions...") have claimed to have experienced "ghostly" phenomena...

(You don't suppose Elvis was, secretly, an Electrical Engineer, do you?) :o)

Warmest of all possible regards,
jean

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PostPosted: July 10th, 2004, 6:55 pm 
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OK, Jean.

I don't accept that the Elvis analogy was either snide or lacking in respect - it was simply a clear illustration of my point (many people believing something that is not the case) - but if the misunderstanding is cleared up, we'll move on.

Your argument which dismisses personal experience in these matters as proof of their existence has a glaring flaw... As you said, were you to doubt the existence of China, someone could take you there and show it to you... Would, then, you not be basing your acceptance of the existence of China upon your own "personal experience"? (Because, as you say, you would then be confirming its existence by personal observation...)

You've interwoven at least three related threads here, Jean. For the sake of clarity, they need unweaving:

Thread One. In one sense, all experience is 'personal experience' - because the only way we can experience the world is via our (notoriously unreliable) senses. We see, hear, touch, smell and taste.

Clearly, if I'd doubted the existence of China and someone had taken me there and placed me on the ground, I'd have to rely on my senses to get an appreciation of the reality of China into my consciousness. There's no other way I can do that - I have to use my senses. So I'd look around me, grab a handful of Chinese soil, smell the vegetation specific to the region etc. All of this would be 'personal experience' - but would it prove China exists?

No, it wouldn't. As Descarte pointed out a long time ago, our senses can be fooled.

But what I can do is corroborate my personal experience by checking it against the experiences of other people. I can turn to the bunch of friends I've brought with me and say: 'Do you see that Chinese temple?' And they can confirm that they do. And they can describe it.

'Do you hear that odd language these people are speaking?'
'Yes, we do...'

If what they say matches what I see and hear, does that prove China exists?

No, but it makes it more likely that the sensations I'm experiencing reflect, to some degree, the real world. Other people seem to be experiencing the same things. That makes it more likely that there is indeed a place called China, and I am standing in it.

But China isn't 'proved'. Hardly anything (perhaps nothing) can ever be 'proved' with 100% certainty.

However, there are degrees of certainty.

I am 99.9% certain that I have a wife called Astra who is currently sitting on the sofa under the window, reading a book. I am 99% certain China exists. I am perhaps 70% certain that there was once a preacher called Jesus who lived in Nazareth - although I doubt he was anything other than human. I'm 0.01% certain that there's any form of life after death, or ghosts, or spirits.

Thread Two. Even though such personal experience is not total proof, the person who told me China exists can at least arrange for me to have it (the experience of China). That appears not to be the case when people try to prove the reality of the spirit world to me. A friend tells me a ghost visits his bedroom every Saturday. I turn up, only to find his ghost is having a Saturday off. Saturday after Saturday after Saturday... And the people I've brought with me fail to see the ghost, too.

Ghosts and spirits get shy in the presence of skeptics, it seems.

That's why the James Randi prize remains unclaimed, I guess.

Thread Three. When you compare doubts regarding the reality of China with doubts regarding the reality of a spirit-world - you're not comparing like with like.

There's nothing fantastical about claiming that a country called China exists. Countries are commonplace, everyday things. We all know that many, many countries exist, so it comes as no surprise to discover another one called China, and that discovery doesn't bend or break any known physical laws.

But the spirit-world isn't like that. We do *not* all experience that world, so the claim that it exists is fantastical to people like me (especially as spirits, ghosts etc. defy many known and trusted physical laws).

In short, your China / Spirit World analogy breaks down badly because the former is a commonplace, but the latter is extraordinary.

And as I'm sure you know, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.

In addition, your supposition that these phenomena which many people have experienced can be explained away by "psychological" factors is simply too broad and too non-specific... What kinds of "psychological factors" are you citing? Hallucinations? Psychosis?

Before I answer that, let's be clear that we're talking about paranormal experiences here. In other words, the kinds of experiences you and others visiting this forum report are, by definition, removed from the set of 'normal' experiences.

Now, when someone reports a paranormal experience, there are all kinds of possible explanations.

* They may be hallucinating
* They may be lying
* Saying they have such experiences may make them feel special
* Somebody else may be playing tricks on them
* They may have some kind of problem with their sight, hearing etc.
* They may have neurological problems
* They may be in need of sleep
* They may be drunk or drugged

(The list goes on and on...)

* Or, their paranormal experience may be an experience of reality. The curtains twitch because a spirit twitched them, the ghost actually *is* moving the planchette on the board.

My problem with accepting that the true answer is the final one (the spirit is there, the ghost exists) is a philosophical principle called Occam's Razor. All of the other explanations are simpler and more likely, because they have clear, well-understood causes and they don't demand a shattering of any known physical laws.

Accepting paranormal explanations, however, means accepting a different universe to the one I live in and experience every single day. That's an awful lot to swallow, just because some people tell me they experience paranormal events.

I assure you, I am neither prone to hallucinations nor psychotic... and neither are many of us who have witnessed these things for ourselves...

I accept that. But perhaps (like my mother, who claimed my dead sister visited her) there are other factors driving your experiences.

It comes down to economy of explanation, Jean. As Richard Dawkins says:

'If you hear hooves clip-clopping down a London street, it could be a zebra or even a unicorn, but, before we assume that it's anything other than a horse, we should demand a certain minimal standard of evidence. It's been suggested that if the supernaturalists really had the powers they claim, they'd win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental physical forces hitherto unknown to science. Either way, why are they wasting their talents doing party turns on television?'

Just to clarify the ground we've covered so far, do you accept that your first argument - that the number of people claiming to believe in something says it is likely to be true - is a poor argument, or are you still using it to support your case?

More later - unless I get booted out of the forum.

John


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PostPosted: July 11th, 2004, 2:45 am 
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OK, it's later. Here's a little more.

Re your definition of God.

"Each spark of life that exists in any dimension, upon any plane of existence and on the face of any planet, collectively, are like the cells that make up the body of an entity many choose to call 'God' ."

So your fundamental definition of God is simply 'the total collection of living matter' ?

Fair enough. I'd just call it the total collection of living matter myself - but I guess calling it God means less typing! Does God (as you define it) have anything to do with the afterlife that you appear to believe in?

Your dismissal of the possibility of the phenomena we have been discussing sounds incredibly like those of past "scientists" who (in dismissing the possibilities of activities we now find commonplace) said such things as: "Man could never orbit the Earth in some type of projectile! He would: (take your pick) a) freeze in the coldness of space b) never survive the thrust it would take to propel him there c) be burned up by the infrared light of the sun, etc. etc. etc."

Where did I dismiss the possibility of such phenomena? I didn't. I just said there are other explanations worth considering first.

Scientists are human beings, and some of them have said some very silly things - but that doesn't negate the scientific method. They said these silly things because they strayed from the scientific method.

I don't dismiss the possibility of anything, Jean.

Almost anything is possible (with, perhaps, the exception of square circles and round triangles).

It is possible that there is life after death.
It is possible that there is a loving, caring God.
It is possible that people can move objects by the power of their thought.

What I do say is that I see no evidence at all for any of those things - and when people make paranormal claims within those areas:

a) They're never able to demonstrate their paranormal powers under controlled conditions, and
b) I can always see alternative explanations for those claims that are far easier to accept than the paranormal explanations.

Surrounding these phenomena, there is also other physical evidence which is measurable and "scientifically observable" (by anyone) which would suggest that some type of activity is going on that does not (at the moment) have a "scientific" explanation...

If this convincing evidence is there - why hasn't (as Dawkins suggests) someone presented the findings to the scientific community and won, if not a Nobel Prize, at least substantial funding? After all, if such evidence exists, it points towards very fruitful areas of research. Successful researchers could rewrite the physics textbooks!

John


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 Post subject: Professor Irwin Corey
PostPosted: July 11th, 2004, 3:30 pm 
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Dearest John,
I don't wish to belabor the point of semantics in regard to the "Elvis" thing -- suffice it to say, what makes any statement disrespectful is how it makes the person you're saying it to feel -- NOT how you felt when you said it. But, since such things, to me, are "water off a duck's back" (as my mother used to say) -- 'nuff said.

I just loved your dissection of my statement about a person going to China to verify its existence by "personal experience" being a "three part question" ! It reminded me so much of a former-day comedian named "Professor Irwin Corey", whom I just adored!

"Professor" Corey was known for his rambling, disjointed discertations on lofty topics which, at the outset, gave the impression of a highly intellectual mind; however, invariably his tirade would dissolve into a string of convoluted logic and verboseness with just a tinge of lunacy... He was hilarious!

He would come onstage -- his hair slightly disheveled -- wearing "tails", a string tie and starkly contradictory (wardrobe-wise) high-top basketball sneakers, inviting the audience to ask him questions on any topic. After a series of ramblings occasioned by questions like "Why is the sky blue?", "How high is up?", etc., predictably, someone would shout out "Why do you wear tennis shoes?"

Forefinger aloft, he would declare:

"THIS is a two-part question! First part of the question: 'why?'... 'Why' is the question that has plagued mankind since the beginning! From the moment primative man crawled from his cave, raised his gaze into the heavens and asked 'why?'! Why the pyramids? Why the Colossus of Rhodes? Why are those giant heads on Easter Island? .... And, to answer the second part of your question: 'Do I wear tennis shoes?' The answer is: YES! Yes, I DO wear tennis shoes! -- Next question."

(I just loved Prof. Corey... I wonder what ever happened to him?)

My question was very simple and had only ONE, clean, pointed thrust.

However, I shall paraphrase each point made in turn both of us in this particular "thread" of our discussion, in the order it was made, to help make it very clear for you... and, pretty please, let us try not to get lost in semantics and rhetoric, k? :o)

Point One made by you: "I cannot confirm any of this stuff exists and I refuse to use any eyewitness accounts by anyone claiming to have experienced these things as any sort of 'proof'."

Point Two made by me: "I've never personally seen China, does that mean I can't take other people's word for the fact that it exists?"

Point Three made by you: "Not the same thing! I could always go to China and confirm its existence for myself!"

Point Four (the point we're talking about, and it HAS only ONE 'related thread'!) made by me:

"If you did that, would you not then be using "personal observation" (a method which you have already said that you do not accept) to do so?"

Now, in following the analogy, your rebuttal proceeds to make the assertion (paraphrasing again...) that you would NOT believe your own sensory input (because, you say, "our senses can be fooled" -- oh, terribly sorry, my error -- Descarte said it...;o) ) but would (and, this time, I'll use your EXACT words):

" ...corroborate my personal experience by checking it against the experiences of other people [MY emphasis]. I can turn to the bunch of friends I've brought with me and say: 'Do you see that Chinese temple?' And they can confirm that they do. And they can describe it."

There you have it, John. The crux of the point I made with only ONE 'related thread'... In all of the "Corey-like" rhetoric, one shard of common ground and logic comes shining through... Even if you refused to trust your own five sense, you, like anyone else on the face of the planet, would turn to the experiences of others for confirmation of what you, yourself, have observed...

And so would I.

As always,
I remain,
jean

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PostPosted: July 11th, 2004, 4:44 pm 
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Ha!

I thought you'd pick up on that, but I'd hoped you'd address the other points I made, too. Here they are again:

1. Does God (as you define it) have anything to do with the afterlife that you appear to believe in?
2. Where did I dismiss the possibility of such phenomena?
3. If this convincing evidence is there - why hasn't (as Dawkins suggests) someone presented the findings to the scientific community and won, if not a Nobel Prize, at least substantial funding? After all, if such evidence exists, it points towards very fruitful areas of research. Successful researchers could rewrite the physics textbooks!

Instead we get all the Professor Corey stuff.

Anyway...

Here's the difference.

I'm in China, looking at a temple.
In case my senses are fooling me, I ask the people I'm with to describe what they see.
As I said, if they describe the same thing I see, that is data that adds strength to (but does not prove) my theory that I'm looking at a temple in China.

My friend Jean has a paranormal experience.
She tells me other people also have paranormal experiences - and indeed other people *do* say they have paranormal experiences.
She says that constitutes data that adds strength to (but does not prove) her theory that paranormal experiences are real.

But again your analogy falls apart, for the following reason.

I'm using the reports of other people to confirm my own sense-impressions when we're all gathered together having the same experience - looking at the same object. In this case, a Chinese temple.

You're using the reports of other people to try to build a foundation of belief in phenomena that are, by definition, outside the realm of normal investigation. That's why they're called paranormal.

In order for you to be using those reports in the same way I am, you'd have to have a bunch of people experiencing exactly the same paranormal event at exactly the same time, and reporting its details independently.

As I said, your China / Spirit World analogy breaks down because the former is a commonplace, but the latter is extraordinary. And extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.

Oh, and the logical fallacy known as the Ad Populum Argument doesn't negate getting independent confirmation from other observers. It specifically states that a belief is not more likely to be true simply because large numbers of people hold it.

By the way, your logic is also faulty here:

I don't wish to belabor the point of semantics in regard to the "Elvis" thing -- suffice it to say, what makes any statement disrespectful is how it makes the person you're saying it to feel -- NOT how you felt when you said it.

If person A makes a statement with no ill intent, but person B is upset by that statement (for whatever reason) - B's reaction can't alter A's intent.

What makes a statement disrespectful is the intention of the person making the statement, not the reaction of the person hearing it.

John


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PostPosted: July 11th, 2004, 10:07 pm 
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So, in other words, John, I could call you any name in the book and it would be okay if I have "love in my heart"?

Interesting postulation -- not real practical, though, in the "real world"... (and could even potentially endanger the health of the "caller"!)

;o)

Namaste'

jean

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 Post subject: Oh! (Almost forgot...)
PostPosted: July 11th, 2004, 10:58 pm 
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Onward and ever upward!

One tiny point -- in your "Thread Two." paragraph, (and I'm not quite certain whether you were citing an actual incident or merely pontificating... but, I feel certain it was probably the latter...) you say:

"A friend tells me a ghost visits his bedroom every Saturday. I turn up, only to find his ghost is having a Saturday off. Saturday after Saturday after Saturday... And the people I've brought with me fail to see the ghost, too.[sic]"

I DO hope you were hypothesizing, because, first of all, I daresay I have difficulty believing that anyone (at least, anyone not suffering from some form of dementia) would ever say that "a ghost visits my bedroom every Saturday night"!

I don't believe that I have (in my four score or so years of study) ever heard of a ghost who keeps a scheduled appointment book! (Rather a good thing, too, because my concept of what the next plane of existence might be like might would surely be put to the test if one did!)

Additionally, I would question the sanity of anyone who would, after being told that, show up with the intention of actually viewing a ghost the FIRST time... Much more so one who shows up "...Saturday after Saturday after Saturday..."!

Further, while I can easily imagine possible motivations for one of us "breathing beings" to be anxious to occasion an encounter with one of the "non-breathing" types -- Try as I will, I cannot seem to come up with even ONE plausible reason why one of them should be similarly motivated...

I'd like to comment on your assertion that for one to acknowledge the existence of a "spirit" would "shatter known physical laws".

That's just it, John -- "KNOWN physical laws"! I'm sure you would agree that the possibility exists that there is a great deal of knowledge that probably exists, but that we aren't, collectively, in possession of! (Unless it is your contention that, as a species, we "own" every, single crumb of knowledge that exists in the universe! I DO hope that we're not going to have to debate THAT point... :o) )

Evidence, in scientifically controlled environments, which in some way or another supports the existence of ESP, psychokensis -- and, in some cases, even the possibility of ghosts -- have been carried out by Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University, Dr. Paul Bjerre, Sven Turck, Dr. Thelma Moss, Professor Torben Laurent of the Stockholm Technical High School, Professor Sune Stigsjoo, Professor Olle Holmberg, Professor Preben Plum, Berndt Hollsten, Dr. Eric Dingwall, Poul Thorsen, Dr. J. G. Pratt, Dr. Karlis Osis, David Techter, Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Edward Cox, Dr. Genady Sergeyev at Novosti in Moscow, Dr. Motoyama at the Institute of Religious Psychology in Tokyo, the The Brain Pantheon in (former) Leningrad, Dr. Sergey V. Sperunksi of the Novosibirsk Medical Institute, Dr. Vladimir L. Raikov and the Psychoneurological Clinic in Moscow, Dr. W. H. C. Tenhaeff, Luke Salmon, Dr. Gertrude R. Schmeidler of the International Association of Neuropsychiatry, G. W. Fisk, the Edgar Cayce Institute, AND even the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (am I going too fast for you?) -- and that's not even scratching the surface! I could go on naming them for pages!

Thousands upon thousands of clinically-controlled experiments have been conducted in universities, laboratories, institutes, medical centers and private institutions all over the globe and you will find that the majority of the results of these cases support findings which, at minimum, claim that there are forces at work which science, at the moment, cannot fully explain using those "known physical laws" of which you seem to be so fond.

And, in the first place, I would respectfully disagree that one must "bend or break" any "known physical laws" in reaching the conclusion that such things exist!

For example, the tightly controlled and well-documented experiments of Dr. Genady Sergeyev with liquid crystals proved that molecules of humid air vapor are "changed in structure" by the electromagnetic impulses of human thought (the more intense the thought, the greater the change and the longer it lasts) and, further, when water vapor in the air in a room settles upon objects (like the floor, tables, chairs, etc.) in liquid form, those molecules so affected stayed in that transmuted state (as far as he was capable of measuring in his experiments) up to 4 days!

Sergeyev also carried out a series of experiments in which he had completely sterile coins encased in plastic wrappers which he then had test subjects touch (through the wrappers) with their finger and, after carefully unwrapping the coins and subjecting them to the Kirlian method of photography, "imprints" left by the subjects clearly showed on the coins! Not only that, he also found that these "imprints" were far clearer and lasted far longer when the subject who touched the coin concentrated intensely or was under great stress!

To me, the results obtained by Sergeyev clearly illustrate that it IS possible that the intense thoughts and emotions of a person experiencing a violent death, could permeate their surroundings with some sort of "imprint".

It's not difficult to imagine that an "imprint" such as this might actually fall within the human visible spectrum if atmospheric conditions were conducive and the emotions and thoughts of the individual were sufficiently strong. And I don't have to be "Madame Blavatsky" to further postulate, that such an "imprint", visible to the human eye, has the possibility of resulting in phenomena which we may have learned to call "ghosts" or "hauntings".

The electromagnetic impulses of the brain are well-documented.

This is not "fantasy" -- it is scientific fact.

Further, the experiments conducted by Sergeyev and others doing similar work would appear to suggest that these impulses can affect at least one type of molecule found within our atmosphere.

This is not "paranormal", either -- it is clinically documented "known" science.

Infrared photos taken in reportedly "haunted" places have, in many well-documented and controlled cases, clearly shown anomalies of heat and cold.

Infrared technology is not "extraordinary" -- it is quite commonplace.

So is electromagnetic energy and the detection devices used in measuring it. These devices, too, have repeatedly shown verifiable anomalies of such energy in "haunted houses" and other sites where "paranormal" activity has been observed taking place.

So, you see, John, I do not depend on a huge "leap of faith" in the formulation of my opinions in these matters, nor do I depend upon, simply, my own observations and those of others in whom I have confidence... I utilize a method which is accepted by just about every legal system on the planet: "A preponderance of the evidence".

A "scientist" starts by first observing some "thing" for which there is no current provable explanation. S/he then keeps observing and testing and documenting until s/he can postulate what s/he believes to be a plausible explanation based on what s/he knows to be true or has reason to believe is true.

That "scientist" then keeps testing and tabulating the results of their tests -- then, by logically interpreting those results, advances a theory that s/he believes best "explains" the "thing". Then, only by being able to obtain predictable results time after time, test after test, does s/he ultimately prove or disprove this theory.

I submit to you that -- with respect to what we now call "the paranormal" -- collectively, we are only one step away from that ultimate goal of proving or disproving its existence. If you are not aware of the bulk of provable scientific evidence which exists in support of what I have said, I suggest that you spend some more quality time on research... The proof is out there -- by the bucketloads...

This brings us back to the "original" question you asked, oh so many weeks ago here on this very forum: "Why, then, has no one claimed the prize offered by James Randi?"

Elementary, my dear John, when all other possible explanations fail, what is left, no matter how improbable, MUST be the truth! And, as I see it, that "truth" is:

"No one has claimed Mr. Randi's prize money because, apparently, his criteria of what he considers as 'acceptable evidence' of 'proof the paranormal' is SO restrictive -- it could better be classified as COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE for ANYONE to provide."

Hugs,
jean

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PostPosted: July 11th, 2004, 11:11 pm 
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I'll get back to you on that... soon... :o)

Best wishes,
jean

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PostPosted: July 12th, 2004, 2:20 am 
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So, in other words, John, I could call you any name in the book and it would be okay if I have "love in my heart"?

Calling someone 'any name in the book' implies that the name-caller is aware that the name being used may upset the hearer. So the name-caller uses the name, even though s/he knows it may cause offence.

That wasn't what I was doing when I said:

'This is simply a version of the logical fallacy known as the Ad Populum Argument. Fifty Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.'

I was introducing a concept from the world of logic, and adding an obvious example to illustrate it.

I was genuinely surprised when you reacted to that in an emotional fashion.

John


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PostPosted: July 12th, 2004, 2:36 am 
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Hi, Jean:

Glad to see we're getting to the meat of the argument now.

Re the Saturday Ghost - I was using that as a specific example of a general truth. Ghosts & Spirits refuse to show up whenever the chance to publicly prove their existence arises.

Given the fact that people have been claiming to see them for thousands of years, and given the fact that genuine undeniable proof that the spirit world actually exists would be HUGE scientific news, on a par with splitting the atom and the discovery of quarks - don't you find that a puzzle?

I certainly do.

If dramatic paranormal events are as common as they seem to be (judging by the posts in this forum and the stories people tell in popular newspapers) - why has it been impossible to get the truth of the paranormal world accepted by any respectable scientific body?

The philosopher David Hume pointed out that we should accept the paranormal only if the alternative – hoax, lie, illusion or whatever – would be even more miraculously unlikely. Usually such alternatives are all too likely.

Thousands upon thousands of clinically-controlled experiments have been conducted in universities, laboratories, institutes, medical centers and private institutions all over the globe and you will find that the majority of the results of these cases support findings which, at minimum, claim that there are forces at work which science, at the moment, cannot fully explain using those "known physical laws" of which you seem to be so fond.

Re your list of researchers - we could bat names around for ages, and I could come up with many more scientists who reject the paranormal than you could who support it. Because science *does* reject the paranormal. If more scientists accepted it than rejected it, it would be the established scientific view, and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

After she had a near-death experience, here's what Dr Susan Blackmore had to say about ESP and the paranormal.

'I decided to give up a sensible career in psychology, and devote myself to parapsychology instead - to the disgust of my academic teachers and the horror of my parents. The story of what I found is familiar (I wrote about it in In Search of the Light: The Adventures of a Parapsychologist, Prometheus, 1996). I found that many of my assumptions were wrong; ESP was not round every corner, scientists were not trying to suppress evidence for it - there just wasn't any evidence that stood up to scrutiny. I had to change my mind. Interestingly, having changed my mind in such a dramatic way once, I have little fear of having to do so again. This is why I say that if any convincing evidence for the paranormal, or for life after death, comes along I will change my mind again. So far it has not.'

If you want to check out her credentials, here they are:

http://www.memes.org.uk/meme-lab/BLACKMOR.HTM

Many of the researchers you point me towards engage, not in science, but in pseudoscience.

Here's an interesting list of questions designed to help distinguish a pseudoscience from a true science.

1. Has the subject shown progress?
2. Does the discipline use technical words such as "vibration" or "energy" without clearly defining what they mean?
3. Would accepting the tenets of a claim require you to abandon any well established physical laws?
4. Are popular articles on the subject lacking in references?
5. Is the only evidence offered anecdotal in nature?
6. Does the proponent of the subject claim that "air-tight" experiments have been performed that prove the truth of the subject matter, and that cheating would have been impossible?
7. Are the results of the aforementioned experiments successfully repeated by other researchers?
8. Does the proponent of the subject claim to be overly or unfairly criticized?
9. Is the subject taught only in non-credit institutions?
10. Does the proponent of the claim use what one writer has called "factuals" - statements that are largely or wholly true but unrelated to the claim?
11. When criticized, do the defenders of the claim attack the critic rather than the criticism?
12. Does the proponent make appeals to history (i.e. it has been around a long time, so it must be true)?
13. Does the subject display the "shyness effect" (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't)?
14. Does the proponent use the appeal to ignorance argument ("there are more things under heaven … than are dreamed of in your philosophy …")?
15. Does the proponent use the appeal to popularity argument ("millions believe it, so it must be true")?
16. Does the proponent use alleged expertise in other areas to lend weight to the claim?

Interesting how many of the above apply when I talk to people who believe in spirits, ghosts, esp etc.

The fact that many different and diverging human beings have witnessed or other experienced encounters which they describe as 'ghosts, spirits, or the souls of those who have departed this earth through death' lends more creedence to the existence of these entities than it does not. (See point 15)

I don't believe that I have (in my four score or so years of study) ever heard of a ghost who keeps a scheduled appointment book! (Rather a good thing, too, because my concept of what the next plane of existence might be like might would surely be put to the test if one did!) (See point 13)


For example, the tightly controlled and well-documented experiments of Dr. Genady Sergeyev with liquid crystals proved that molecules of humid air vapor are "changed in structure" by the electromagnetic impulses of human thought (the more intense the thought, the greater the change and the longer it lasts) and, further, when water vapor in the air in a room settles upon objects (like the floor, tables, chairs, etc.) in liquid form, those molecules so affected stayed in that transmuted state (as far as he was capable of measuring in his experiments) up to 4 days! (See points 6 and 7)

etc.

I submit to you that -- with respect to what we now call "the paranormal" -- collectively, we are only one step away from that ultimate goal of proving or disproving its existence.

You may be right - but I'd be willing to bet my pension on the outcome. It will be (in so far as proof is possible) disproved.

However, people will still believe in the paranormal, even when the evidence against it is even greater than it is now (and I'd argue that currently, it's utterly convincing).

They'll believe because the need to believe is so great.

'What should be the posture of the scientific investigator about paranatural survival claims? Clearly, we need an open mind, and we should not reject a priori any such claim; if claims are responsibly framed they should be carefully evaluated. After a century and a half of scientific research, what are we to conclude? I submit that there is insufficient reliable or objective evidence that some individuals are able to reach another plane of existence beyond this world and/or communicate with the dead. As far as we know, the death of the body entails the death of psychological functions, consciousness, and/or the personality; and there is no reason to believe that ghosts hover and haunt and/or can communicate with us.

I realize that this flies in the face of what the preponderance of humans wish to believe, but science should deal as best it can with what is the case, not with what we would like it to be. Unfortunately, scientific objectivity today has an uphill battle in this area in the face of media hype and the enormous public fascination with paranormal and paranatural claims.'

(Paul Kurtz)

John


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PostPosted: July 12th, 2004, 8:33 am 
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Jean, thank you so much for calling me back to have this discussion.

In the course of checking out some of the people you mention above (the researchers into paranormal events) I found the following link:

http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Chapters/Kurtz.htm

Please read it.

Here's a brief extract from near the end:

As the founders of psychical research perceived... if ESP and PK exist, our minds have the power to reach beyond the body with its ordinary senses and physical limitations. Much of psychology and neuroscience must be wrong because they are entirely founded on the assumption that physical transfer of energy and information is required to produce behaviour, understanding and awareness. If there is personal survival of death then we humans must have some kind of soul or inner self that can survive independently of the body. Some form of dualism must be true, however inconceivable that seems to our present day science and philosophy. The implications are immense...

But what if they don’t exist? Then each of us is a biological creature, designed by natural selection for the survival of our genes and memes; here for no reason at all other than the dictates of chance and necessity, and unable to contact or influence anyone else except through the normal senses and physical processes. Our consciousness, and the perceived world around us, emerge from the complex interactions between brains and their environment, and when those brains decay then our awareness stops.

Living in a world like this is truly scary.


That expresses better than I ever could most of the paranormal-related issues I've been thinking about for years now.

If, after reading the above, you still hold the views you hold - then we're in for an interesting debate!

Thanks again.

John


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PostPosted: July 12th, 2004, 8:25 pm 
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"Jean, thank you so much for calling me back to have this discussion."

John... Sweetie

You're just so entirely WELCOME! And don't mention it... My pleasure...

Now, you'll forgive me if I take these rather out of order, won't you?

"If, after reading the above, you still hold the views you hold - then we're in for an interesting debate!"

Uhm... John... dahling... I find absolutely nothing in Dr. (it IS "Dr.", isn't it?) as I was saying, I found not one single blessed thing in your quote by Ms. (sorry, my mistake, "Dr.") Blackmore that I would even call "discouraging" to anyone who believes in the so-called "paranormal" -- much less evidence contradicting its existence!

So, I would suppose we ARE "in for an interesting debate", then -- funny... I thought it already WAS interesting... hm. No matter...

I shall breakdown my understanding of what Dr. (that IS right, isn't it?) Blackmore is saying, point by point... (this ought to be diverting):

First of all, she states:

"As the founders of psychical research perceived... if ESP and PK exist, our minds have the power to reach beyond the body with its ordinary senses and physical limitations."

Why, YES! EXACTLY SO! (So far, Ms. Blackmore has almost completely won me over... well... I would have inserted something like "known" or "presently known" in front of "physical limitations" -- but, why "split hairs"?)

However, this next part has me rather perplexed... Let's see... Well, the first part about "psychology and neuroscience" being "wrong" seems a trifle harsh, don't you agree? I mean, I wouldn't "throw the baby out with the bathwater" -- I'm certain there is SOMETHING valid in those two disciplines SOMEWHERE...But, if that's her opinion, that's her opinion!

I'm not certain at all what she means by "behavior, understanding and awareness" being "produced" by a "physical transfer of energy and information"... First off, it's not clear to me whose "behavior, etc. etc." she's talking about ... Hers? Everybody's? Or only "psychologists" and "neuroscientists"? (Whatever THEY are...;o) )

Secondly, I have absolutely NO idea what she means by "physical transfer of energy and information"??? Energy and information transferring physically? At the same time? Separately? And WHERE are they "transferring" FROM? (or, should I say "what" are they transferring from?... "whom"?) And TO what (where, whom) are they "transferring"?

Sounds, to me, rather like she's describing a battery recharging and a computer downloading, both at the same time... Which I might be able to grasp -- EXCEPT she then asserts that these actions are "required to produce behavior, etc. etc."! Now we're talking about people? Animals? And where does this "requirement" come in? What authority "requires" it? I'm certain I don't have the slightest idea WHAT she means by any of this... Just color me confused...

Then, she (at least in my eyes) redeems herself to a great degree by saying: "If there is personal survival of death then we humans must have some kind of soul or inner self that can survive independently of the body."

Amen, Sistah!

But, now again, in this next part, she loses me again... "Some form of dualism"??? I'm certain she's mentioned AT LEAST 10 different "things" by now... I thought "dual" meant "2"... But, then again, If she feels whatever it is "must be true" -- for her, I guess it must be! (Who am I to argue with her "feelings"?)

And, if by "the implications are immense" she's talking about the existence of a "soul" that "reaches beyond the body" -- Well...all I can say is: DUH!

She then appears to take a cue (well, actually, almost the entire soliloquy) from our dear friend, The Troubled Prince of Denmark, by launching into an all too familiar (but surprisingly faithful) rendition of a little number we like to call: "To be, or not to be..." Except, in this case, "...the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune..." become "...the dictates of chance and necessity..." Yada yada yada... "...and when those brains decay then our awareness stops..." ("...to sleep -- to sleep, perchance to dream...") Yada yada yada... Okay. Been there, done that... But, after all, who among us hasn't, at one time or another, contemplated these same questions? They are, however, only her questions -- not "assertions" on her part...

In the next part, though, I can't help but feel sorry for the poor lassie... (brings out my "maternal instincts"...) -- such a plaintive plea... It makes me want to scoop her right up and say, "There, there...Ms./Dr. Blackmore... Just go to that special 'happy place' in your mind and everything will be okay. You'll see, things always look better in the morning..."

I agree with her -- living in a world like that truly WOULD be scary... Good thing I don't have to.

What amazes me, John, is how you could ever conceive that this wobbly, rambling, hackneyed rehash of "Hamlet" would cause me to do so much as "blink" -- let alone sway me 180-degrees from a premise for which such a huge body of evidence exists, especially when you are well aware that that the "body" to which I refer includes that supplied by my very own senses!

Oh, puleeeze! I am sorely disappointed. Somehow I expected more from you, John...

Moving right along to this incredibly "handy" little list of factors you so thoughtfully jotted down in order to assist me in "distinguishing a psuedoscience from a 'true' science" -- Oh, John... Thanks ever so much, but you shouldn't have, really!

The craziest thing, though, about that: The totally amazing coincidence is that all of the researchers and research facilities that I provided on that rather lengthy list, earlier -- (and this is the amazing part...) fit almost PERFECTLY right into those VERY SAME criteria! (What ARE the odds?)

Oh, and speaking of results of testing by researchers and facilities whose experiments (you know, the ones that I felt met the standards of all of those cute little questions on the lovely "list" you made for me, or I wouldn't have bothered including them in the first place? -- those ones...) that, in one way or another, appear to lend creedence to the existence of what many people call "the paranormal" -- I seem to have overlooked your list which I'm sure you supplied in rebuttal... hm? (Unless you honestly believe that Ms./Dr. Blackmore suffices as "alpha and omega" on these topics -- and such a frail thing, too -- emotionally ...pity...)

Additionally, I could not help but notice that "what Dr. Susan Blackmore had to say about ESP, etc." was that it was HER "assumptions" regarding these areas that she found to be "wrong"!

I can certainly understand the logical thought processes that would lead her to that conclusion... Not even acorns are "around every corner"!

Further, there is a name for people who think they see vast "conspiracies" wherever they go -- carried-out by large, nefarious groups (of "scientists" -- or anyone else, for that matter) whose dark, clandestine plans include such activities as the deliberate, collective "suppression of evidence" gained through clinical experiments (although, for what possible purpose, I'm not sure...) -- I shall allow you to place the proper psychiatric label.

At any rate, I couldn't be happier that it would appear that whatever form of therapy it was that Dr. Blackmore participated in which aided her recovery "in such a dramatic way" from a state of paranoid delusions -- it worked well and she is, once again, amongst the sane...

Oh, and the statement: "Ghosts & Spirits refuse to show up whenever the chance to publicly prove their existence arises" hardly qualifies as "general truth", my dear, or any OTHER type of "truth"-- it is your supposition and nothing more. (Surprising, too, since it infers that you acknowlege, foremost, not only their existence, but apparently their ability to make and break social commitments as well...I find that extremely odd, John...)

S'Nuff for now...

With warm regards and genuine affection,
As ever,
I remain,
jean

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