Hayley is a Ghost

If Cox is a “nobber” then so am I*

Posted on: July 12, 2011

Roy Stemman has been not at all childish in calling Professor Brian Cox a “nobber” in retaliation for Professor Cox daring to say on twitter…

“Just heard we got complaints about lack of BBC balance about ghosts – there are some utter nobbers out there! Here is my official statement, which also has the benefit of being fact. There are no ghosts, so it would be silly to believe in them.”

ZOMFG!!! HOW DARE HE! HOW DARE HE SAY SUCH HORRID, UNTRUTHFUL, NASTY THI-

Oh wait… there is nothing to suggest ghosts exist, so it WOULD be silly to believe in them. So what’s the problem?

Well, Roy says in this article on ‘Paranormal review’:

Particle physicist Brian Cox has angered many by mocking people who believe in ghosts and the afterlife. He did so on Twitter after learning that the BBC had received complaints that Infinite Monkey Cage, the Radio 4 show he hosts with comedian Robin Ince, was unbalanced in an episode dealing with the paranormal.

Which is where Roy is very wrong because Brian didn’t mock anyone who believed in ghosts – he mocked the people who had complained to the BBC about there being no ‘balance’ in the science comedy show when they spoke about ghosts.

People have a right to make complaints to the BBC, but you have to admit that it’s a bit silly to demand that a science panel show bring in ‘balance’ to a discussion about ghosts, when to do so would go against the whole theme of the show and wouldn’t really do anything for the target audience.

I’ve blogged before about ‘bringing in balance’ to such environments and discussions, and how ‘balance’ in these situations is sometimes an illogical request and I genuinely believe this is one of those times.

Roy’s post is actually really sarcastic in nature, and quite embarrassing to read because it is filled with glaringly obvious logical fallacies and assumptions such as:

Brian Cox is sceptical of the paranormal, as were the guests on the very entertaining programme that caused offence: psychologists Richard Wiseman and Bruce Hood, and actor and magician Andy Nyman. Which is fine, of course, and their views shouldn’t be taken too seriously; after all, the programme’s concept is to inject comedy into science and make it a fun subject to discuss. [emphasis mine]

True as it is that the show is comedy, their views are actually valid. It IS possible to be factual while being funny, believe it or not…

The Twitter pronouncement, on the other hand, was delivered as a statement of fact, based on the assumption that Cox knows the truth of such matters better than anyone else. Has he become God? Does he believe that his scientific credentials are sufficient to allow him to pass judgment on other areas, in which he has no expertise?

No Roy, What Brian has done is look at the available evidence that supports that ghosts exist and, like most people, has come to the conclusion that it is at best weak, at worse, laughable.

Roy then goes on to name Peter Sturrock, a scientist who has studied anomalous phenomena and remains open minded about the subject. He compares Sturrock’s work to Brian Cox’s and seems to conclude that Brian has no right to say anything about ghosts.

Roy, pick up your toys and put them back in your pram. It’s embarrassing. Brian isn’t being closed-minded, and, although I don’t speak for him as I’ve never met him and don’t know him, I’m willing to bet that he’d change his mind if evidence came along that showed ghosts existed in some way or another. Just as Sturrock is open minded, so is Cox and other skeptics too (if they’re not open minded, they’re not truly skeptical).

*edit*

I should point out that I do not believe a great way of communicating with people who hold opposing belief systems is to mock them, I do not think that what Brian Cox did deserves such wide criticism. It’s barmy!

*yes, I am aware that the title of this blog post will allow people to call me a ‘nobber’, but it just gives me an excuse to judge people for using Ad homs again. Not that I need an excuse to judge them…

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47 Responses to "If Cox is a “nobber” then so am I*"

I did blog on this too — http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/cox-and-nobbers/

As to the evidence for “ghosts” whatever they may be, I am as always willing to debate that at any time. πŸ™‚ I think we all agree that people have “ghost experiences”, and that such experiences have a multiplicity of explanations, but whether dead guys or something paranormal (outside of current science) or supernatural is involved is the key issue. I’ll happily make the case in a debate if any one wants to argue the sceptical position against me, cos it’s what I happen to do…

There’s no denying that people experience odd things, what is open to personal interpretation and misinterpretation is what causes these. I don’t think it’s justified to say “ghost” with each experience when we have no proven definition for what a ghost is.

If you disagree I’d be keen to hear your points.

[…] Roy Stenmen (who beat me to it by ages!) and Hayley Stevens have blogged on this issue. The links will take you to their rather divergent […]

It is a sad day when we cannot tolerate humour and commentary on a radio show and people are seeking to muzzle a Professor.

It would be boring radio show indeed if every comment had to have a balancing comment and not allow the listeners to use their intelligence.

I listened to the show and am frankly at a loss to understand why anyone would be offended by Prof Cox or disagree with him.

No Roy, What Brian has done is look at the available evidence that supports that ghosts exist and, like most people, has come to the conclusion that it is at best weak, at worse, laughable.

Do you have evidence for that statement Hayley?

Now that you’ve seen from Romer’s reply (he’s far too modest) what kind of reading is required to get a serious handle on this subject — do you think his slim 8-volume biblio is anywhere near Cox’s bookshelf? Personally I doubt it. I think he is indeed ‘like most people’: thinks he knows but has not done the work. Do you get a different impression?

Surely a program based on rational thought, by it’s very nature provides its own balance. Introducing a ghost hunter or similar into the program would not bring balance, it would bring unjustified credibility to the beliefs and create a program which would inevitably then be criticised for Cox et al. not taking his beliefs seriously.
Interestingly, balance is seemingly never demanded on dedicated religious programs. Prof Cox to co-host Songs of Praise perhaps?

EXACTLY! This is the problem I have with ‘balance’. Where does balance end? Homeopath brings balance to a show about medicine? Spirit detective balance to a show about crime scene forensics?

Balance is only important to the extent that there are valid arguments supported by comparable evidence on each side of an issue. When all the evidence is on one side and only ‘belief’, however fervently held, is on the other, balance is meaningless.

‘Songs of Praise’ doesn’t claim to be rational, nor objective, nor evidential. It is for believers only. If what you are saying is that the same goes for this radio show, I tend to agree — cj romer’s reply would lend weight.

Rev Matt, can you actually think of any assertion for which there is NO evidence? I can think of few, unless it’s “gumblechinks are wazzamus” – and in making the claim I may have produced evidence. I wonder what we mean by “ghosts”here?

For apparitions being something other than hallucination/misperception, my discussion here may be of interest — http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/are-ghosts-hallucinations/

Andrew raises a good point. I happen to be vaguely religious, but for a long time i have supported the inclusion of Humanist perspectives on that acid test of “balance”, the show Thought for the Day. If any reader of Hayley’s blog is not aware of the controversy, do look it up.

I think the outrage actually stems form a fairly simple issue — the advertising by the BBC for the show, which was to be frank, misleading. It’s on my blog entry on this but for the sake of convenience i will repeat it here…

β€˜Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by actor Andy Nyman, psychologist Richard Wiseman and neuroscientist Bruce Hood to investigate popular claims of supernatural events, and debate whether a belief in ghosts and psychic abilities is harmless fun, or if there are more worrying implications.’

The claim this was to be a “debate” is what has led to calls for balance, because apparently some people who were not familiar with The Infinite Monkey Cage (and presumably had never heard of the guests) expected said “debate”. I don’t think that is fair as a critique of the show, but it certainly is what the advert would have led one to expect…

all the best
cj x

“and debate whether a belief in ghosts and psychic abilities is harmless fun, or if there are more worrying implications.”

There was no mention that they would debate the existence or otherwise of ghosts, rather whether the belief in them was harmless or not. I don’t see how this can be called misleading advertising by the BBC.

surely they did in the bit immediately before the bit you quote — let’s expand the quote to “investigate popular claims of supernatural events, and debate whether a belief in ghosts and psychic abilities is harmless fun, or if there are more worrying implications.’”

The “investigate popular claims of supernatural events” bit appears crucial here?
cj x

Reading this on my phone and there is an ad at the top for free psychic readings, targeted advertising at it’s best. Lol

Oh and Twiiter traffic on this is tagged #ghostnobbergate !!!

The problem arises, I think, when a scientist states something as fact when the evidence one way or the other is inconclusive. Science has many occasions where people have stated “we haven’t seen (XYZ) but we believe it exists and are looking for it” so where does the problem lie with “ghosts” or the supernatural. My guess would be that it has something to do with the supernatural or spiritual not falling within normal scientific boundaries, but should this make it an impossibility?

I would consider myself a spiritual sceptic. I find shows like most haunted laughable, and take a large pinch of salt with other ‘documentaries’. However I firmly believe that I have a photo of something which cannot be explained, is not some blurry image, vague ‘orb’ or wind affected mist, and posted this on the proffs timeline but had no response. I cannot be shaken in my understanding that the picture has something in it that can’t be explained. But I’m still sceptical.

right… but it’s the leap of ‘unexplained’ = ‘ghost’ that people don’t see as illogical when it is. Send me your photo, btw, I’m curious and would love to study it.

Sent to your twitter

Sure it’s unbalanced!

Ghostyboo believers shouldn’t listen to Science shows to hear about the paranormal in the same that you shouldn’t watch Jeremy Kyle to gain relationship advice.Both I.M.C and J.K are a bit of a statement saying “There’s a lot of proof AGAINST the paranormal being real. Therefore we find it incredible and unreliable.” as well as “There alot of proof against these idiots ability to commit to one person or… to go to the dentist”

p.s I’ve had a dream of my mamma, she then died, our pet dog, he then died, and my grandad, he then died. in each dream i saw details in the way the day would go and in each one i say goodbye at the end. And when i woke the days went as i saw during sleep. In each case, this would be the last time I saw them. She was rushed to hospital while i was in class, dog was hit by a car, pa’ lost his fight to leukemia.

Also I went on a ghost walk – it’s a bit of fun, and funny, like sharing spooky stories at a sleepover- and a couple of the silly photos from one area in “haunted” lincoln had “orbs” in them. though i saw nothing at the time.

Despite this, i really doubt such things exist. But I haven’t the expertise to explain such things =P

Well the orbs are explained on my site if you look on the ‘ghost research’ page. The other personal experience isn’t something I can comment on.

Cherise captures my point perfectly. Balance (if indeed balance is always required) in this case is presented by virtue of the show being a rational discussion. The case of balance is not well served by balancing the rational with the irrational

I certainly agree on your other point about balance over a wide spread of programming, and still think the problem here arose from the show being misadvertised. However one COULD have a perfectly rational discussion about ghosts without becoming irrational, with perfectly sane people from the pro-ghost camp.

Or one could discuss Wiseman et al – the same Wiseman who appeared on the show — research in to “ghosts” at Hampton Palace, where it was as I recall demonstrated than members of the public could identify the haunted areas,suggesting some environmental agent at work — http://www.richardwiseman.com/resources/hampton.pdf

The paper is Wiseman, R., Watt, C., Greening, E., Stevens, P. & O’Keeffe, C. (2002). An investigation into the alleged haunting of Hampton Court Palace: Psychological variables and magnetic fields. Journal of Parapsychology, 66(4), 387-408 and clearly follows from Gertrude Schmeidler’s work on quantative investigation of hauntings, and is similar to Jason Braitwaitses facinating research on magnetic fields strength and variability involvement in alleged hauntings in a bed at Muncaster Castle, that was published as I recall in the EJP in 2008.

Read the concluding paragraph carefully. If you wanted rational balance, why not ask Ciaran O Keefe, Emma Keening or Paul Stevens to comment? Professor Archie Roy, Professor Bernard Carr, Professor Alan Gauld? It was concievable; i may not have been deisrable. Wiseman’s publications in the journal literature are often far more nuanced than his popular appearances, and perhaps given the fact a sizeable literature exists — see Wiseman’s bibliography for details — it seems that claims it’s all bunk are at least somewhat premature?

I don’t think balance is necessary – it was a comedy show — but the fact people have chosen to be so dismissive (and I do not include Hayley who is a fine researcher you in this generalization, or , because I actually think you are a good critical commentator from what I have seen on here) bodes badly for British Scepticism. 😦

So does this mean songs of praise should include atheists annd satanists to include “balance” to the religious debate?

@scillysnowprincess – that would be the logical and ridiculous conclusion from the complaints. More appropriately, balance is of course best served by media such as the BBC being a broad church (forgive the expression). One should see Monkey Cage as balance for “Britain’s Most Haunted” or “Songs of Praise” and it is down to the individual to either confirm their own biases by carefully selecting their choice of program or to enjoy a more diverse range of programming and to learn, challenge and ultimately accept, adopt or dismiss the information and opinion expressed.
The freedom to express an opinion must always be accompanied by the right of others to criticise it – but i’m OK with songs of praise not having a section for me to express my views on their beliefs!
Last of the Summer Wine is a different matter and should be banned immediately πŸ™‚

[…] doing wrong? Roy Stenman’s blog Paranormal Review has attracted outraged Cox fans — and Hayley Steven’s get her blog post on this retweeted by Professor Cox? And what do I get? Ignored. I made specific critiques of what […]

I feel a lot of the problem with using the word ghost, is that to many believers the word is synonymous with the word spirit….the so called the life-force or soul of the departed…

What catchy word could people use to describe these experiences?

I think calling these experiences ‘anomalous phenomena’ or somesuch, is a bit pretentious and too much of a mouthful. Also ‘anomalous phenomena’ is more of a catchall term for overall weirdness.

To me, in the paranormal field, ghost just explains an experience in that someone thought/believed that they have seen the dead, be that a dog, cat, human or aardvark, doesn’t mean that they actually have but that they believed that they had, in time when (and if) science and psychology can explain these experiences doubtless a catchy name will be found for the ghost phenomena.

One meaning of ghost from Oxford English Dictionary is;

“an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image: the building is haunted by the ghost of a monk”

So the OED states that a ghost is a matter of belief, so anyone who ‘believes’ they saw a ghost is perfectly correct in the use of the word. Is it time that scepticism took on the OED too?

Any one noticed that people only complain about balance when their beliefs are challanged?

Let’s get off of our highchairs here and admit that in a show where people are openly criticizing and attacking an entire group of people together, completely disregarding the idea anyone has any potentially viable or good reasons for their belief, should be subject to some response from the people they are attacking.

Don’t tell me that you don’t hate it when you see Pat Robertson or any of these other right-wing nuts slandering or “just comedically joking” (what a load of trife) about atheists without any chance for you to defend your position, knowing fully well there are many people out there who will listen.

Skeptics, get the fuck over yourselves and pretending like you’re “the rejected atheists”. How about someone out there who really was quite skeptical and evaluated things with a strong self doubt, and now have a reason to believe what they do. They’re probably struggling for recognition or the money for any experiment to put their observations into test while these egotistical pricks say, “You have no reason! Look, this woman believes in ghosts because her door closed by itself one day! See, you have no reason! All people who believe in anything we’ve decided we hate are idiots automatically!”.

You’re creating so much more of what your “kind” sought out not so long ago to eliminate – the inhibition of people’s ability to think freely about reality through social dogma, and creating another generation of narrow-minded superficiality instead of people who are willing to listen and learn.

Um… well, no, see, had you even bothered to look around this site… even int he description on the side bar to the right, you would have seen that I take paranormal experiences reported by others very seriously. I would very much like to know what my “kind” is… and what I am creating that my “kind” tried to eliminate. Go learn what skepticism is, go learn how evidence works and that have the audacity to come onto my site and tell me to “get the fuck over yourselves”, until then, shut up.

Because you somehow have the gut to defend this man. Hence my post.

Ah, the concepts of ‘free thinking’ and ‘narrow mindedness’. Free thinking is not about believing everything you experience, but being able to think rationally about your experiences and come to conclusions based on all available evidence. It is the narrow mind that thinks “it was a ghost!” without considering other possibilities. Cox et al (or more fairly Stevens et al, I don’t recall our Brian doing any ghost hunting) reach their conclusions after scientific enquiry, employing the scientific method.

BTW do other skeptics think that the existence of ghosts is possible? If you define a ghost as a spiritual manifestation of a dead person, I would say that their existence is impossible, but of course I’m always open to new evidence.

Hi Tom.

I don’t know if you chaps would define me as a skeptic or not, but certainly I’m a methodological sceptic — it is after all pretty much the scientific method, to question and attempt to ascertain facts. I defended the “ghosts as dead guys (or consciousness operating at a distance) claim over in my fave forum, RationalSkepticism (the one founded by ‘exiles’ when Dawkins closed his web forum down). It’s not over, but you can see some fun scepticism in action as my own experiments shoot down one of my claims here — http://www.rationalskepticism.org/formal-debates/formal-debate-existence-of-ghosts-apparitions-t6927.html (I’m Jerome…)

The classic parapsychological theories for apparitional experience do not favour survival. That may have a great deal to do with the historical animosity between the Spiritualist and psychical research camps, certainly after the 1888 split. The majority of apparitional experiences are clearly hallucinations (perception of something not there) or misperception (mistaking something for something else), but there appears to remain a hard core of “veridical” hallucinations, where the person seeing the “ghost” recieves information (such as a death or other event) that they could not know by normal means. The classic research in to this was the Census of Hallucinations, and the 1894 \Report thereon, but there have been modern studies – my girlfriend’s PhD is a pseudo-replication, and she is writing up now.

So how do parapsychologists explain the remaining “veridical” cases? Mainly by explaining one mystery by another; invoking telepathy. The idea is a telepathic impulse is transmitted from the ghost – and a surprising number of ghosts where the identity is known to the percipient are of people alive and in good health — to the percipient, the person seeing the ghost, who then hallucinates an apparition as a way to transmit that information to their conscious self. Gurney & Myers proposed variations on this in the 19th century, and Tyrell in his classic 1948 book Apparitions, which is well worth a read. These theories are clearly unsatisfactory – they are also riddles with philosophical problems – Stephen E Braude has written much on this I believe, worth checking out his books.

The best case for some kind of discriminate consciousness or remote operation of a living mind is provided by the poltergeist cases. While the area is immensely complex, by far the best overview I have seen if you want to seriously grapple with the literature is Tony Cornell & Alan Gauld’s 1979 book Poltergeists.

Cox’s argument (and Hood also said in the show) that ghosts were “scientifically non-viable”) appears based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and is based on an old claim by Milton A Rothman in his Physicist’s Guide to Sceptisicm (prometheus Books, 1988: highly recommended), which is horribly flawed. I listed some of the reasons in my last blog post, but there are other theoretical problems with the claim I could have gone in to; just this morning I read an interesting critique of the concept in Braude (1997) The Limits of Influence: Psychokinesis and the Philosophy of science (also recommended).

Are there sceptics who believe in ghosts? Undoubtedly, including at least one JREF moderator. But the identification of apparitions with “dead dudes” is extremely problematic, and rival theories invoking psi to explain the events as down to remote operation of human consciousness are equally difficult and er, imaginative, at this stage in our knowledge. The whole thing may well be naturalistically explicable, and that must always be our default assumption. I do not believe that Hood and Wiseman have as yet come close to a theory that can explain a lot of the actual evidence though, though certainly Anomalistic Psychology has made great gains in our knowledge.

Hope helps, I’m always happy to chat about these things!
cj x

This is an extremely interesting reply, thanks CJ. I think it’s worth pointing out that I personally am fascinated with cases where interactions are experienced. I think such things warrant further investigation and certainly need researching. My main issue is the ‘explaining a mystery with another mystery’ thing. I too do not believe it is a valid way to approach the experiences.

Thank you for posting this though, it’s a good outline of how things stand πŸ™‚

p.s. have you read ‘Six Feet Over’ by Mary Roach? She ends by saying she believes ghosts exist, but not in the “spirits of the dead people” sense. It’s a v. interesting conclusion.

Thanks for that Chris. Correct me if I’m wrong, but It seems to me that all instances of ‘veridical’ apparitions are anecdotes, and as such are open to misunderstandings, interpretations and plain old llies. Scientific evidence to support the existence of ghosts would require something repeatable and testable. It’s certainly not scientifically satisfactory to explain one untestable phenomena with another! If ghosts are everywhere and have existed for the duration of humanity, they would be testable.

Tom, it’s simply not acceptable to dismiss such experiences because they ‘could’ be open to such things without examining them further. That’s dismissive.

Also, your comment about ghost existing sounds a bit too closed minded…

I’m just saying that you can’t use anecdotes as scientific evidence for anything, because they aren’t repeatable or testable and they are open to interpretation. Sorry if that sounds closed minded, but that’s how science works. Us skeptics don’t allow anecdotes as proof of efficacy for homeopathy, so why make exceptions for ghosts?

Strictly speaking I can’t rule anything out, but the dead existing as some sort of spirit form is an extra-extra-extraordinary claim that would require extra-extra-extraordinary evidence. I’m not being closed minded, I’m being realistic.

Tom, I know how skepticism works, ta.
I am also not talking about making exceptions, I am talking about not presuming that eye-witness testimony is anything but anecdotal. Sometimes it’s not that simple.

I too am being realistic.

Hey Tom, you ask are the “veridical” cases anecdotal? Sort of. Anecdotal evidence is one of the most fought over areas in epistemology, the area of philosophy which deals with claims and evidence for beliefs and how we know stuff, because it’s a very slippery and often misapplied concept.

Are they based upon human testimony? Yes. However the testimony of a direct witness to an event is not, in the normal sense, anecdotal. If I say I read Hayley’s blog and responded to you on it, that is not anecdotal. if my girlfriend says he heard I read Hayley’s blog and commented, that is. Otherwise all doctors treating depression or migraine or many other illnesses would have to go would be anecdotal evidence – the self report of the patient of their sensations and experiences. Indeed taking to it’s logical extreme where some sceptics it seems do go, every science experiment and every peer reviewed paper in Nature would be would be anecdotal, being reduced to human testimony as to reading of instrumental readouts and observations of human percipients!Furthermore all field work, from geology to astronomy to biology would be brought in to disrepute: because they are based on observations and report of what was discovered.

So yes human testimony is incredibly fallible; but it is rarely in the matters we are addressing here “anecdotal” in the correct sense. But I completely accept your point, so let us address it.

The “veridical cases” offered by the 1894 report and later collectors were initially based on signed depositions. If I saw a green lady just walked through my walls, we have no case, that is clear – but I say that she was my aunt, who I subsequently find died within a few minutes of the experience in Greenland (this is an example, not a paranormal claim btw!) and I had no way of knowing till her death was discovered ten hours later, we may have a veridical case. However, if I did not RECORD or TELL OTHERS about this until after the death was discovered, then my evidence is sadly lacking.

It was for this reason that the SPR investigators amassed supporting paperwork, viewing death certificates, diaries, retrieving letters, and collecting supporting testimony. One of the cases regarded as veridical subsequently fell apart when carefully investigated by SPR member Richard Hodgson, and many more were binned as dubious, but some seem to have been at least “suggestive” in the admirably measured therms they applied. Could such cases be explained by coincidence, as doubtless many precognitive dreams can? Perhaps.The issues raised are extremely complex, as I keep saying. The SPR certainly sought out physical evidence, and made sure they interviewed the percipients carefully, that is true.

There has been a considerable amount of work on experimental production of apparitions over the years – I playfully cover some of it here — http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/how-to-see-a-ghost-at-home/ — but clearly there are massive issues with the lab recreation of all kinds of established natural phenomena – the Big Bang and Evolution of life on Earth being the two text book cases usually cited, but not much ornithology is experimentally supported for obvious reasons. As such we have to be careful not to try and limit all science to “repeatable and testable” phenomena – the great advocate of falsification, Sir Karl Popper dismissed evolution as unscientific for many years for exactly this reason, we can not recreate it in the lab or easily falsify it, but clearly it is a solid scientific theory based in reality. That it is desirable to test every hypothesis under controlled conditions i agree, but often we are forced to instead test epiphenomena supportive of the central tenet until such a time as we can make a confident assertion that as with evolution, science supports the claim and it is scientific.

Hope I have addressed your points, but always happy to chat as I said on these matters
cj x

Yes I have, her book is excellent. It’s particularly valuable for the debunk of the Chaffin Will Case, another classic I used in my debate but where it is now clear that the will could have been forged, throwing extreme doubt on the testimony of the “ghost”. I don’t think Roach’s explanation of event quite works, but she is certainly on the right track. πŸ™‚ My next debate post will include some discussion of this.

I certainly agree that invoking mysteries to explain mysteries is a pretty didgy operating proceedure: to be fair tot he SPR pioneers, when they created their teleapthic theories of ghost they felt the evidence for thought transference (Myers coined the term “telepathy” while writing his theory btw) was overwhelming. That has proved a very dangerous assumption!

There are other ideas like the philosopher H.H.Price’s “psychic ether” hypothesis, but none of them are a very good fit for the actual records of the phenomena or what actually happens in spontaneous cases. I’ll be talking about this in my talk at the ASSAP conference in September, but I believe you are gallivanting off to talk in Austria, you lucky thing you! πŸ™‚

I’m always wary of commenting on blogs cos i get carried away and write far too much, so thanks for the kind words!

cj x

I appreciate the input, to be fair. I think a lot of assumptions are made about paranormal experiences and as someone who has seen a “ghost” and heard “a ghost”, I find the assumptions tend to happen from both those who disbelieve, and those who don’t. It’s quite frustrating.

One link I would recommend to sceptics interested in parapsychology is an interview about the KPU course at Edinbugh Uni, published in CSICOP’s The Sceptical Enquirer here — http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/a_skeptic_gets_schooled_an_introduction_to_parapsychology

I wish more skeptics would take an interest like Hayley does in these matters, rather than simply dismissing them; as you say it is deeply frustrating. However its pretty understandable when we live in a world of “celebrity psychics” and reality gjosthunting shows! But here si your chance to sign up for a reputable online learning course that will make it easier to have an informed perspective on all these issues people?

I’ve never done the course — like Coventry Uni’s excellent MSc in parapsychology ( http://wwwm.coventry.ac.uk/ptshortcpd/pgpt/Pages/pgpt.aspx?itemID=151 ) I have simply never had the money, but I wish I could. I think people should donate for Hasyley to do the KPU course — it costs Β£200, and I will open with an offer of a ten per cent – Β£20 — as I have no income I can’t do more — as I think she would hugely enjoy it, and the opportunity to formally study a field she has such a huge knowledge of. She would also bring a huge amount of sceptical know how to it. Any other sceptics interested in supporting funding Hayley for September 2011? It’s an online course, and she already puts so much hard work in I’m sure she would excel and find the time? http://www.koestler-parapsychology.psy.ed.ac.uk/teachingDistanceLearning.html is the course.

So if nine sceptics match my donation, Hayley would you enjoy it?

cj x

Oh Cj, I won’t take money. Let me look into the course and think about it (I was thinking of studying with the OU but we’ll see…)

Oh you should definitely do an OU degree, as someone who has taught in UK universities I am constantly astonished by how brilliant OU degrees are, far better than those on offer in some institutions that will from next year (to my disgust) charge twice as much! They are absolutely excellent courses — I have seen three now, all at undergrad level, and the course materials are beautiful, the essays thought provoking and the support from many tutors appears absolutely first rate. I’m a huge fanb of the oU, and would certainly employ an OU graduate over those of many traditional bricks and mortars unis. First rate stuff! The Life Sciences course in particular is absolutely awesome. πŸ™‚

But this little course won’t take long, and honestly I’ll happily stump up twenty quid for your fees (and more if I get a decent job), as I think you’d love it. Caroline is Richard’s partner, he thanks her in Paranormality, and I think you’d really really enjoy it. Yes do have a look at it!

Hi CJ (and all) Just adding a brief note in relation to your citation of the Wiseman et al. (2002) “Hampton Court Haunting” research. A forthcoming article in the Skeptic magazine by Jason Braithwaite reviews the current evidence on Magnetic Fields, Hallucination & Anomalous Experience and, in passing, pretty much debunks the Wiseman paper. (Cordially of course).

To sum up, the amplitudes and variations in Magnetic fields measured by the Wiseman team were only a tiny fraction of those which have shown to have effects on the brain in laboratory studies. No time-based information about the nature of the magnetic waveforms or their heterogeneity over time was provided and no frequency components were identified (and these measurements are crucial for neuro-magnetic accounts so should have been recorded…) Additionally, the equipment used to measure the magnetic fields was not appropriately sensitive in terms of sampling speed, so the results lay themselves open to being written off as measurement error.

And oh yes, Tom Williams, since I can’t directly reply to you for whatever reason…

It seems ironic then that you’d say “if ghosts exist they’d be testable”, when we wouldn’t be testing for ghosts, we’d be testing for a supposed phenomena under a precise description, such as “a test of the claim human voices occur independently within a precise location” or “A test of “guessing” ability to spike during certain times” or something of the type. A test would isolate it from all other possible sources. Either the claimed phenomena will be explained away during the process, or it will be left on haitus for further research if it can’t be, or maybe, just maybe it will be proven to be occuring, just as the claimant observed it.

We simply haven’t found the appropriate way to test them, largely in part because the paranormal is an extremely oppressed subject by scientific communities and struggles badly to find the right kind of recognition. This is largely in part due to the mocking, shaming, name-calling, accusational and slanderous nature of many of today’s skeptic groups, which somehow Hayley has found a way to excuse. It’s one thing to be skeptical, and directly explain why you’re skeptical of someone’s claims or play the devil’s advocate, it’s another thing to smear and attack people, which is precisely what Mr. Cox alongside Randi and others do. Diehard atheists and skeptics complain about Christians telling lies of them all the time, but of course that demand for respect disappears when it comes to themselves.

They make a mass presumption, combining the fraud and lies with people who may be telling the honest truth, instead of respecting the simple fact that not everybody is the same and that we live in a world of variability by thoroughly investigating somebody’s claim and deciding to further investigate based on the nature of the details provided.

Someone out there may have the actual ability to make a provable claim ghosts or a “Sub-phenomena” of the similar sort exist but they will never be able to prove it to anyone because skeptics “blame” them for not being able to controllably reproduce it – before going on to smear them, thus making it less likely they’ll be able to ever find anyone in case they think of a way to, since no “Respectable scientist” will give their “proven ridiculous” claims a fair shake. The cycle goes on. The paranormal loses legs.

And of course, people don’t want to lose face. I hope those who have already will realize they’re never going back and will instead go all the way with their goals to prove their life’s work was worth it in some way.

By the way, if you want to argue with all of us, feel free to come back to our forums, lest you get backstabbed maliciously and secretly by another one of us. We promise, we’ll give you more of a chance than the Randi Fans ever have for us. Which is saying a lot, I feel quite sorry for “inconvenient facts” since I know what he’s been through.

Oh, you’re from the PSICAN forum boards. Now I know how seriously to take you. Which is ‘not at all’. Cheers for the clarification.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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