New Developments and Research
Skeptiko Podcasts – A new podcast show that explores controversial science with leading researchers and their critics. Hailed in paranormal circles as very good at getting to the heart of the issues.
Afterlife Research Presented at UN Symposium – A group of MD’s headed by Dr. Sam Parnia announces to a UN Symposium that there is a possibility of life after death because they have seen patients with full blown NDE’s while their brain was on a flat EEG line.
Randi Backs out of Challenge with Homeopath George Vithoulkas – Further confirmation that the Challenge is a mere publicity stunt, not a serious investigation.
Dr. Michael Persinger, Neuroscientist, discovers telepathy in his magnetic field experiments
Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger of Ontario University, hailed by pseudoskeptics for his “God helmet” experiments that seem to debunk NDE’s being evidence of an afterlife, has announced the existence of telepathy to be an established proven fact. His controlled experiments involving two subjects in separate rooms reacting to stimuli at the same time has produced confirmatory results. Dr. Persinger says that all we know for sure is that thoughts are somehow capable of traveling outside of the mind through space and matter, but we don’t know how or why. He speculates that the Earth has some kind of magnetic field, which animals, fish and bird flocks use as a guidance system - that somehow human consciousness may be linked to.
Here is an interview with Dr. Persinger on Skeptiko:
Here is a video of a public presentation by Dr. Persinger where he announces his discovery of telepathy and the implications of it:
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s groundbreaking new research and findings into telepathy
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, a British biologist, has been doing some incredible widely acclaimed groundbreaking experimental research involving telepathy in humans, pets, and plants. His well-conducted experiments demonstrate beyond a doubt that telepathy is real, and has developed a theory involving “morphic resonance” to explain the phenomenon. You can see his website which is both groundbreaking and compelling, at http://www.sheldrake.org. His papers describing his experiments with people, animals, and plants can also be viewed at: http://www.sheldrake.org/papers/. He has also come out with a series of compelling books on his findings, such as The Sense of Being Stared At and Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. You can see a list of his books at: http://www.sheldrake.org/books/index.html.
Dr. Sheldrake participated in a live public
Audience charmed by the paranormal.
there is evidence of the power of the mind.
Scientists tend to steer clear of public debates with advocates of the paranormal. And judging from the response of a
Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist at University College London, made the case against the existence of telepathy at a debate at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in
Wolpert is one of
Sheldrake, who moved beyond the scientific pale in the early 1980s by claiming that ideas and forms can spread by a mysterious force he called morphic resonance, kicked off the debate.
He presented the results of tests of extrasensory perception, together with his own research on whether people know who is going to phone or e-mail them, on whether dogs know when their owners are coming home, and on the allegedly telepathic bond between a
An open mind is a very bad thing - everything falls out - Lewis Wolpert, University College London
Wolpert countered that telepathy was "pathological science", based on tiny, unrepeatable effects backed up by fantastic theories and an ad hoc response to criticism. "The blunt fact is that there's no persuasive evidence for it," he said.
For Ann Blaber, who works in children's music and was undecided on the subject, Sheldrake was the more convincing. "You can't just dismiss all the evidence for telepathy out of hand," she said. Her view was reflected by many in the audience, who variously accused Wolpert of "not knowing the evidence" and being "unscientific".
In staging the debate, the RSA joins a growing list of
1. Giles, J. Museum breaks mould in attempts to lure reluctant visitors Nature, 426, 6, doi:10.1038/426006a (2003). |Article|
Dr. Sheldrake caught Randi lying about him in several instances, explained in his account here.
My interview on Ghostly Talk
I was interviewed on Ghostly Talk Radio about this book in 2004 and 2009. The shows went very well and we all had great rapport. You can listen to the interviews which are archived on my Interview page here: http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/interviews.php
Susan Blackmore, a famous skeptic, recants her stance on NDE’s
Dr. Susan Blackmore, a proponent of the anti-spirit hypothesis for NDE’s, and author of the book Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences (which was critiqued by Greg Stone on my list in his article Critique of Susan Blackmore's Dying to Live) has recently confessed that her prior conclusions about the probability of psi and metaphysical consciousness existing being close to none, were not as conclusive as she thought. And that she was NOT justified in ruling out psi after all. Therefore, she has taken an honest “I don’t know” stance and left the issue at that. This is quite amazing, because very few career skeptics ever make such admissions to being wrong, both for reasons of human pride and the career status they’ve built up among their colleagues. Here are some relevant parts of the story, which includes some quotes from Blackmore herself.
The same journal issue also includes a response by Blackmore to Berger’s critique, in which Blackmore conceded “I agree that one cannot draw conclusions about the reality of psi based on these experiments.” Near the end of his critique Berger had written “During my aborted meta-analysis of Blackmore’s published work, I was struck by patterns in the data suggestive of the operation of psi…. Without a serious meta-analysis of the original unpublished source material, complete with weighting for flaws…the issue of whether the Blackmore experiments show evidence for psi cannot be resolved.” Presumably eager to nip this embarrassment in the bud, Blackmore hastened to say “I am glad to be able to agree with his final conclusion - ‘that drawing any conclusion, positive or negative, about the reality of psi that are based on the Blackmore psi experiments must be considered unwarranted.’”
It is interesting to examine Blackmore’s writings before and after Berger’s critique. Two years earlier, in an article for the Skeptical Inquirer entitled “The Elusive Open Mind: Ten Years of Negative Research in Parapsychology” she wrote:
“How could I weigh my own results against the results of other people, bearing in mind that mine tended to be negative ones while everyone else’s tended to be positive ones? I had to find some kind of balance here. At one extreme I could not just believe my own results and ignore everyone else’s…. At the other extreme I could not believe everyone else’s results and ignore my own. That would be even more pointless. There would have been no point in all those years of experiments if I didn’t take my own results seriously.” (emphasis added)
In another article written at about the same time she wrote:
“The other major challenge to the skeptic’s position is, of course, the fact that opposing positive evidence exists in the parapsychological literature. I couldn’t dismiss it all. This raises an interesting question: Just how much weight can you or should you give the results of your own experiments over those of other people? On the one hand, your own should carry more weight, since you know exactly how they were done… On the other hand, science is necessarily a collective enterprise…. So I couldn’t use my own failures as justifiable evidence that psi does not exist. I had to consider everyone else’s success.
I asked myself a thousand times, as I ask the reader now: Is there a right conclusion?
The only answer I can give, after ten years of intensive research in parapsychology, is that I don’t know.”
Although after Berger’s critique Blackmore was willing to concede in an academic journal that “I agree that one cannot draw conclusions about the reality of psi based on these experiments”, her writings in the popular press have not reflected this admission. Commenting on the ganzfeld experiments in a newspaper article in 1996, she wrote:
“My own conclusion is biased by my own personal experience. I tried my first ganzfeld experiment in 1978, when the procedure was new…. Of course the new auto-ganzfeld results are even better. Why should I doubt them because of events in the past? The problem is that my personal experience conflicts with the successes I read about in the literature and I cannot ignore either side. The only honest reaction is to say “I don’t know”.”
Wouldn’t a more honest reaction be for Blackmore to admit in the popular press that “one cannot draw conclusions about the reality of psi” based on her own experiments, and that a scientific opinion should be based only upon a critical evaluation of other peoples’ published works?
But perhaps this is asking too much. After all, Blackmore pursued a PhD in parapsychology in order to become a “famous parapsychologist”. Having failed to produce research supporting the psi hypothesis, she evidently decided to try to make a name for herself by attacking the psi hypothesis, which must at the time have seemed to be an easy target. Apparently, though, in a recent article she claims to have given up. “At last, I’ve done it. I’ve thrown in the towel”, she wrote.
“Come to think of it, I feel slightly sad. It was just over thirty years ago that I had the dramatic out-of-body experience that convinced me of the reality of psychic phenomena… Just a few years of careful experiments changed all that. I found no psychic phenomena… I became a sceptic.(emphasis added).
So why didn’t I give up then? There are lots of bad reasons. Admitting you are wrong is always hard, even though it’s a skill every scientist needs to learn. And starting again as a baby in a new field is a daunting prospect. So is losing all the status and power of being an expert. I have to confess I enjoyed my hard-won knowledge.
…None of it ever gets anywhere. That’s a good enough reason for leaving.
But perhaps the real reason is that I am just too tired - and tired above all of working to maintain an open mind. I couldn’t dismiss all those extraordinary claims out of hand. After all, they just might be true …”
We’ll miss you, Susan
For details, see the excerpts from the article link below:
it or not," Robert Roy Britt writes in the
issue of LiveScience, "according to a new study higher education is
linked to a greater tendency to believe in ghosts and other paranormal
Even though researchers Bryan Farha at Oklahoma City University and
Gary Steward of University of Central Oklahoma admitted that they had
expectations of finding contrary results, their poll of college
students found that seniors and graduate students were more likely to
believe in haunted houses, ghosts, telepathy, spirit channeling and
other paranormal phenomena than were freshmen.
Although the results of the survey are not surprising to long-time
researchers in the metaphysical/psychic fields, what is startling is
the fact that the poll analysis is published in the January-February
issue of The Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the journal of true
unbelievers. While the poll may have been conducted with expectations
of demonstrating that as students became more educated they dropped
questionable beliefs in favor of more skeptical attitudes, The
Skeptical Inquirer must be congratulated for publishing results that
they really did not wish to find.
Farha's and Steward's survey was based on a nationwide Gallup Poll in
2001 that found younger Americans more likely to believe in the
paranormal than older respondents. The results of the Farha/Steward
poll discovered that gaining more education was not a guarantee of
skepticism or disbelief toward the paranormal. While only 23% of the
freshman quizzed professed a belief toward paranormal concepts, the
figures rose to 31% for college seniors and 34% for graduate students.
The complete results of the survey may be found in the January-February
issue of The Skeptical Inquirer. The percentages are rounded, and I
have indicated the Gallup Poll 2001 figures in parenthesis, the
Farha/Steward percentages in bold:
Belief in psychic/spiritual healing: 56 (54)
Belief in ESP: 28 (50)
Haunted houses: 40 (42)
Demonic possession: 40 (41)
Ghosts/spirits of the dead: 39 (38)
Telepathy: 24 (36)
Extraterrestrials visited Earth in the past: 17 (33)
Clairvoyance and prophecy: 24 (32)
Communication with the dead: 16 (28)
Astrology: 17 (28)
Witches: 26 (26)
Reincarnation: 14 (25)
Channeling: 10 (15)
It is in the "Not Sure" column that the researchers found that the
higher the education level achieved, the more likelihood there was of
believing in paranormal dimensions and the possibilities of a broader
spectrum of reality.
Belief in psychic/spiritual healing: 26 (19)
Belief in ESP: 39 (20)
Haunted houses: 25 (16)
Demonic possession: 28 (16)
Ghosts/spirits of the dead: 27 (17)
Telepathy: 34 (26)
Extraterrestrials visited Earth in the past: 34 (27)
Clairvoyance and prophecy: 33 (23)
Communication with the dead: 29 (26)
Astrology: 26 (18)
Witches: 19 (15)
Reincarnation: 28 (20)
Channeling: 29 (21)
Why do skeptics find it so difficult to believe that individuals who
achieve a higher education may still maintain a belief in the
paranormal? The world of the paranormal is one where effect often
precedes cause, where mind often influences matter, where individuals
communicate over great distances without physical aids, and where the
spiritual essence of those deceased may be seen. Why, especially in an
age of new theories embracing quantum physics and other dimensions,
should skeptics find it difficult to believe in a world that lies
beyond the five senses and the present reach of science?
For those of us who have been researching and writing in the
paranormal, UFO, and spiritual fields for many years, the repeated
allegation that we and our readers must be undereducated and unaware of
the science and technology of our contemporary culture becomes very
annoying. As early as 1965, when I was researching ESP: Your Sixth
Sense--which, in addition to becoming a popular book became a college
and high school text, complete with workbook and study guide--the
pioneering work of Dr. Gardner Murphy, Dr. Montague Ullman, Dr. Stanley
Krippner, Dr. Henry Margenau, and many others had already demonstrated
that contrary to common assumption, intelligence has little connection
to paranormal abilities or beliefs. Neither is it the "odd" or poorly
adjusted members of society who most often demonstrate high degrees of
psychic ability. Quite the contrary appears to be true. Those
individuals who are well-adjusted socially and who are possessed of an
extraverted rather than an introverted personality are the ones who
score consistently higher in ESP tests.
conducted by Jeffrey S. Levin, associate professor at
Levin said, although only 5% of the population have such experiences
often [that's around 15 million people], such mystical encounters "seem
to be getting more common with each successive generation." And very
interestingly, Levin added, individuals active in mainstream churches
or synagogues report fewer mystical experiences than the general
The November 1993 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology announced
the finds of psychologists at Carleton University of Ottawa, that
people who report seeing a UFO or an alien are not any less intelligent
or psychologically healthy than other people. Their findings clearly
contradicted the previously held notions that people who seemingly have
bizarre experiences, such as missing time and communicating with
aliens, have "wild imaginations and are easily swayed into believing
Dr. Nicholas P. Spanos, who led the study and administered a battery of
psychological tests to a large number of UFO experiencers, said that
such individuals were not at all "off the wall." On the contrary, he
stated, "They tend to be white-collar, relatively well-educated
representatives of the middle class."
Becoming More Common
Psychiatrists Colin Ross and Shaun Joshi have affirmed that paranormal
experiences have become so common in the general population that "no
theory of normal psychology which does not take them into account can
It may well be that we are turning into a nation of mystics regardless
of the frustration of organized science or organized religion. And we
might add, a nation of intelligent mystics.
inclined student is a happier student." According to a national study
of students conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the
one's sense of psychological well-being.
"A high degree of spirituality correlates with high self-esteem and
feeling good about the way life is headed," Sarah Hofius wrote of the
study that took place at forty-six wide-ranging universities and
colleges, encompassing 3,680 third-year students. "The study defines
spirituality as desiring to integrate spirituality into one's life,
believing that we are all spiritual beings, believing in the sacredness
of life and having spiritual experiences."
Another survey that should have offered an enormous amount of proof
that one can achieve a higher education and still believe in the
paranormal was released on
medical doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73%
believe that miracles can occur today. Sixty-seven percent of the
doctors encouraged their patients to pray; 59% admitted that they
prayed for their patients.
The national survey, conducted by HCD Research and the Louis
Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of the Jewish
Theological Seminary, polled 1,100 physicians throughout the
Institute, doctors "although presumably more highly educated than their
average patient, are not necessarily more secular or radically
different in religious outlook." Perhaps because of their frequent
involvement with matters of life and death, medical doctors do not lose
their belief in the miraculous as their level of education increases.
A Believing Skeptic
In 2002, the National Science Foundation found that 60% of adults in
psychic powers or extrasensory perception (ESP). In June 2002, the
Consumer Analysis Group conducted the most extensive survey ever done
in the United Kingdom and revealed that 67% of adults believed in
psychic powers and that two out of three surveyed believed in an
In my opinion, humankind's one truly essential factor is its
spirituality. The artificial concepts to which we have given the
designation of sciences are no truer in the ultimate sense than dreams,
visions, and inspirations. The quest for absolute proof or objective
truth may always be unattainable when it seeks to define and limit the
Soul. And I truly believe that one can achieve a high level of
education and still maintain a firm belief in the unseen world.”
Skeptic Richard Wiseman concedes that remote viewing/ESP has been proven by normal scientific standards
Skeptic Richard Wiseman, a die hard critic of psychic phenomena, has finally conceded that the case for remote viewing and ESP has been proven by standard scientific criteria! For more info, see these blog entries: