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February 19, 2010

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interesting, this deserves further study at the least.

no doubt, they will hire rentaskeptic Wiseman, or French, who will proclaim null results, with a "told you so" manner. The results being plastered in popular science magazines: Twin Telepathy Debunked, or similar.

Michael - Rentasceptic Wiseman has already done just this,in a dreadful BBC programme a few years ago presented by Robert Winston. For a good recent article by someone who, unlike them, knows what she's talking about, as a mother of twins, see www.paranormalscience.com and look for April Slaughter's article on twin telepathy.

ah that website doesn't appear to be anything beyond advertising GLP

At some point neuroscientists decided that there can be no "wireless" communication between brains. They see nothing strange about electronic wireless communication, but when it occurs between brains they say it's impossible.

For now, we are stuck with this outdated view of the brain. It prevents most neuroscientists from even thinking about the possibility.

They know that the brain is an electronic device, and they know that electronic devices can be wireless. Yet "telepathy" is scientifically impossible?

The "skeptics'" attitude really has nothing to do with skepticism or science or logic. If telepathy became scientifically acceptable, they would have to stop looking down their noses at people who believe these kinds of things.

And if telepathy is real, than all kinds of "magical" ideas might also have some validity.

So they only fool themselves into thinking they are scientific. This world is strange and spooky and magical, whether they like it or not.

If the mind is a quantum product as some have argued then such things should be expected.

realpc comment -"They know that the brain is an electronic device, and they know that electronic devices can be wireless. Yet "telepathy" is scientifically impossible?"

Let us know when you record a signal and we'll accept your point. Till then, a useless analogy.

Hey Log

This is close to what you are asking for

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganzfeld_experiment

Guy Lyon Playfair – Can you give some further details?

Are you referring to Richard Wiseman PhD? That Richard Wiseman is a respected researcher who is well qualified to talk about alleged findings in paranormal research. Perhaps you were talking about someone else?

Are you also referring to Lord Robert Winston, a worldwide renowned figure who is also a scientist specialising in fertility treatments, and who has also enabled childless couples to have the family they could not have had without his scientific (and verifiable) intervention?

Can you also give – at least – the title of the “dreadful” BBC documentary you refer to? It would give me a chance to find out more about it.

Would you also be kind enough to give an updated reference to the lady you refer to who “knows more” than those (qualified) researchers? You refer to this woman as “…someone who, unlike them, knows what she's talking about, as a mother of twins…” The reference you quoted leads only to an outdated website that appears to be for sale. Obviously, April Slaughter’s article is therefore not available. And can you also cite her published research?

I’m not convinced that a downmarket tabloid like The Sun should be given any credence, given the fact that it is well known for sensationalising any old trivia, being sued for libel when it gets its stories wrong, and even better known for page 3 photographs of young women showing their knockers to the world. Is this what passes for a scholarly reference in the world of the paranormal nowadays, or am I missing something?

And of course, I have to ask: are the Californian supermodel Barbi sisters really an authority on the subject of alleged “twin telepathy?” I am not aware of any research articles they have published, or of any published research they have been the subjects of. No doubt you can enlighten us?

Harley:

"That Richard Wiseman is a respected researcher"

Respected by whom? By people who happen to agree with him or by people generally?

"Lord Robert Winston, a worldwide renowned figure who is also a scientist specialising in fertility treatments, and who has also enabled childless couples to have the family they could not have had without his scientific (and verifiable) intervention"

Professor Lord Winston (as he is properly known) may well be all of these things; but does he know anything about psi research?

"I’m not convinced that a downmarket tabloid like The Sun should be given any credence, given the fact that it is well known for sensationalising any old trivia, being sued for libel when it gets its stories wrong, and even better known for page 3 photographs of young women showing their knockers to the world."

Your snobbish put-down of the working-class (the people who read "The Sun") says a lot about you, Harley, but nothing about the subject under discussion. Oh, and Harley, what do you think about Randall Zwinge being sued for libel when he gets his stories wrong?

Your approach is flawed. You seem to be saying that if people have letters after their names what they say must be accepted as true. If they are working-class, or appeal to the working-class, their claims should be disregarded without further inquiry. These are appeals to authority, and as such are illegitimate and irrelevant. What is at issue is whether or not Playfair's contention that identical twins are more likely to exihibit telepathy than people generally is true. Can you fault Guy's work? Thus far, you have not even attempted to do so.

As someone who grew up on a council estate in an ex-mining town, am I (as what some would still call a "working class" person) allowed to say that the Sun is full of crap? As it is, I don't see any snobbishness (directed at the working class anyway) in Harley's post...

Other than that, Robert Winston (who I've always enjoyed watching for several reasons, not the least that he resembles a Mario Brother) as Sesenco said may be an expert in many things, but he isn't a paranormal researcher. On the other hand, Wiseman is, and his critisism might be worth linking to so we can see if it's any good.

Breanainn, perhaps I should have been more clear about the point I was trying to make. Well, I was really making two points.

Firstly, atheist materialists do tend to have a rather unpleasantly dismissive attitude towards people they regard as intellectually inferior, and I like to point this out whenever I see an illustration of it.

Secondly, the fact that something is published in a newspaper - even one with a poor reputation for accuracy - is no reason to dismiss it.

The reality is that many of the stories that newspapers run are taken from press agencies to which the publication subscribes, are lifted off the internet, or if we are lucky are put together at breakneck speed by hard-pressed reporters trying to please a bullying editor and with little knowledge of the subject matter.

A story in a newspaper is a starting point, and sometimes a very useful one. Harry Price was sent to Borley Rectory by a newspaper, and Grosse and Playfair got involved in Enfield by a similar route. Newspaper stories may not in themselves be evidence, they are a route that in some cases leads us to evidence. So we should treat them with interest rather than derision.

As for Wiseman (and sundry media debunkers), I always (or nearly always) know what they are going to say in advance - and I am not relying on precognition! I could write the script for these people every time they open their mouths - they are that predictable.

The Wiseman/French "research" flowchart: (i) write the conclusion, (ii) plan the "research" with a view to obtaining negative results, (iii) find devious ways of dismissing positive results that one has failed to design out of one's "research".

I don't think it's fair to accuse Harley of simply believing people because of their academic credentials - if he did he would accept what Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir William Crookes reported. :)

Thanks, Sesenco for making points I would have made. You're absolutely right about the newspaper industry - we might never have heard of the Enfield poltergeist if the Daily Mirror hadn't run the story which as I was soon able to discover was 100% accurate. The Houghton twins story I mentioned was originally published by the Manchester Evening News (March 23), a paper considerably further up-market than The Sun.

Now for Mr Harley's grumbles:

1. Richard Wiseman is not respected by me or by the vast majority of serious psi researchers. He was booted out of the PDL (parapsychology discussion link) some years ago, which amounts to being rejected by the psi research community. He is not a psi researcher, but a self promoter.

2. The programme presented by Prof Lord Winston was 'The Secret World of Twins' (three parts, BBC1, 1999). Yes, Winston is a highly respected authority on fertility, and medicine in general - the series on BBC radio he did on illnesses of great composers was radio at its best, and he clearly knows his music as well as he knows his medicine. His programme on Schumann's manic depression added enormously to my understanding and enjoyment of Schumann's music.

However, if he knows anything at all about telepathy or psi research he kept it well hidden.

3. The mother of twins I referred to was Anna Powles, whose experiences are to be found in my book (Twin Telepathy, 2nd edition).

4. Barbi twins - they may not have science degrees, but they are the world's leading authorities on at least one subject - themselves.

5. April Slaughter article. Can't help there. I managed to find it at the address I gave.

GLP

Now for my 10 cents :)

I sincerely like Harley, he has a commendable never say die attitude :)

Seeing no grumbling was directed at me I will say just that :)

Paul – you are quite correct that I do not accept a person’s academic qualifications per se, as if that makes anyone immune to criticism; on other websites and blogs, I have also been disagreeing - even fighting against - established researchers who are wrong (sometimes dangerously so). An example would be the current anti-vaccination campaign begun by Andrew Wakefield who is, at the moment, in deep sh*t and very likely to be struck off the medical register in the near future. Children are becoming ill and even dying as a result of his so-called research, which has even been taken up by celebrity endorsement. Have a look at this, for example:

http://www.jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html

I admit that celebrity endorsement carries little weight with me, although it seems to carry a lot of weight with the general public. (I think I asked about the Barbi sisters) Now we have a Playboy Playmate endorsing anti-science – what more do we need to make it true?

If I were ever to find out that Wiseman or any other researcher that I respect had been falsifying data, you can be assured that I would be after him even faster than anyone here.

Sesenco – you have completely missed my point. I have letters after my name, but I also regard myself as working class (I have to work to earn a living). I find your comment rather astonishing, though. I have been called many things on this blog, but even though I did not say anything about “the working class” I am also now, apparently, being accused of bashing “the working class.”

It seems to me that it is you who has some self-conscious issues to deal with.

People here who are familiar with my comments might notice that I am not, this time, arguing against a proposition put forward by the poster (Guy Lyon Playfair). Guy has posted a brief essay/advertisement for his book that claims that twins – particularly identical twins – have an innate telepathic ability that might be greater between some twins than others, but nevertheless a telepathic communication system. The post I made earlier was just a series of questions I think I am entitled to ask of Guy. The claim has been made, and I would like more information.

Will Guy Lyon Playfair answer my questions, or will I have to put up with Sesenco and others just automatically jumping to his defence?

******

As I am about to submit this post, I notice that Mr Playfair has made a response. I also notice that he has not answered my questions.

I will reply to Guy’s evasions in the next day or two; in the meantime I think Sesenco will feel honoured enough by Guy’s acknowledgement of him or her to leap in at this point.

Harley:

(1) Dr Andrew Wakefield

I think it is more than a little hypocritical of you to condemn Dr Wakefield for his misguided attacks on childhood vaccination, when atheist materialists such as yourself campaign against alternative therapies, such as homeopathy, which have been shown to save some lives. If anyone is putting lives at risk, it is surely ideological bullies and bigots like Dawkins, Wolpert, Ashby, et al. As I have pointed out elsewhere on this blog, if corporate science lies about psi (as it does), it is difficult to expect people to believe what it says about other matters of controversy, such as vaccination.

(2) The Playboy Playmate

Why do you need a Playboy Playmate to endorse "anti-science", when you have the people I have just mentioned doing it?

(3) Wiseman falsifying data

Wiseman actually has falsified data: (i) his (successful) replication of Rupert Sheldrake's study of the dog, Jaytee; (ii) his psychometry "test" with Chris Robinson; (iii) his "re-examination" of Honorton's meta-analysis of ESP experiments; (iv) his exploratory "experiment" with Nadia Demkina.

Guy is right to say that Wiseman enjoys little or no respect among psi researchers. There is also evidence that his standing with mainstream science is none too healthy. Both Wiseman and French applied for the Koestler Chair at the University of Edinburgh, following the death of Bob Morris (an appointment made by the University's governing body). Neither was shortlisted. I wonder why?

(4) The working-class

Like most atheist materialists, you exhibit an unpleasant contempt for people whom you regard as intellectually inferior. This is a common trait among academics, but people of your persuasion are the worst.

What is this talk about "self-conscious issues", whatever that means? Atheist materialists claim that consciousness and self don't exist. Or is that only when it suits them?

Having Wiseman appointed to Koestler Chair would be like having the KKK appointed to investigate Black intelligence. I am glad such an absurdity did not happen. The conflict of interests is obvious.

Sesenco - Correction: French and Wiseman were shortlisted for the Koestler chair, though nobody has yet been appointed. I wrote up this mysterious business in Fortean Times 224 (July 2007).

Can anyone see a benefit to those heading up a parapsychology chair. Why chair something you think doesn't exist unless to stifle inquiry.

Or make money - I presume there are not that many professorial posts for parapsychologists genuine or otherwise.

But they aren't even parapsychologists. Those two are just psychologists who get a bit extra to create how it could have been scenarios on the side.

Fair comment.

If you want to be skeptical that is fine in my book. But don't misrepresent, that is the biggest problem I have with skeptics such as French.

I do not agree with creationism at all for example but I try to be nice enough to represent their views properly.

I must admit I did think what I have seen of Wiseman as misrepresentation too. I wondered whether it was his intention or whether it was the producers of the TV programme.

This is a comment Hyman made

The SAIC experiments are well-designed and the investigators have taken pains to eliminate the known weaknesses in previous parapsychological research. In addition, I cannot provide suitable candidates for what flaws, if any, might be present. Just the same, it is impossible in principle to say that any particular experiment or experimental series is completely free from possible flaws. An experimenter cannot control for every possibility--especially for potential flaws that have not yet been discovered.

Well we know no matter what the evidence is Hyman will not accept it, but at least in this case he did not misrepresent it. He has placed his hopes on a unknown flaw to be found in the future. A more honest skeptic if you ask me.

GLP - My apologies for being behind on this story. My information came from a well-known psi-researcher about six years ago, presumably before the fuller facts emerged. Can you provide a link to your "Fortean Times" article? The failure to fill this post is extraordinary.

The rationale behind Wiseman and French applying for the Koestler Chair (and Wiseman for the Lund Chair) is likely to be twofold: (1) to afford them a more prominent platform from which to pursue their propagandising activities; (2) to deprive psi research of the few opportunities it has to further research within academia.

Wiseman does have history in this respect. He has been the recipient of huge tranches of Perrott-Warrick money which he has used to carry out his phoney "research" and tour the world proselytising his denialist message. Likewise Blackmore. And the odious Professor Nicholas Humphrey, who actually carried out no research at all with the Perrott-Warrick boodle, but wrote a propagandistic tract. Thankfully, the Perrott-Warrick Fund is now in safe hands and is being used for the purposes intended by the testators.

French tells blatant lies, if he thinks he can get away with it. I once caught him claiming that no magician had attended Scole seances. I put the meeting right on this point, much to French's annoyance.

Whence came this bizarre misapprehension that French is "nice" and "reasonable"? Why do serious, honest psi-researchers allow themselves to be duped into "collaborating" wioth this oleaginous trickster?

By the way, can anyone explain why French is so coy about his background? His Goldsmith's College website is silent on the matter of his educational history and qualifications. Why? Believe it or not (and this may be wholly uinconnected) I am unable to find any record of a "Christopher C French" born in England and Wales in 1955 or 1956, but I guess there is a perfectly innocent explanation - like someone's sloppy handwriting.

I found the following information about Chris French:

Christopher C. French
Position held:
Professor of Psychology, Co-ordinator, Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Postgraduate Exams and Regulations Officer, MSc CCN Programme Monitoring Committee.

BA PhD CPsychol FBPsS FRSA

Psychology of paranormal beliefs and of ostensibly paranormal experiences, cognition and emotion.

Research interests:
My current research focuses on two main areas. The first is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and of ostensibly paranormal experiences. Although a large proportion of the population believes in the paranormal, the evidence presented to support paranormal claims is generally not very convincing in scientific terms. It would appear that on most (and perhaps all) occasions when individuals claim to have directly experienced the paranormal, plausible non-paranormal alternative explanations can be found. These alternative accounts often rely on the imperfections in human information-processing studied by cognitive psychologists, such as those related to memory, perception, and judgement. The psychology of deception and self-deception is also of relevance in this area.

I often appear on the television and radio offering a sceptical perspective on a variety of paranormal claims.

I have recently set up the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit within the Department to act as a focus for research in this area. You can find out more about the Unit's activities by checking out the website at http://www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/apru/

My second major area of research is the relationship between cognition and emotion, particularly the effects of anxiety on a range of psychological processes including attention, implicit and explicit memory, the interpretation of ambiguous stimuli, and the use of imagery. This research examines the ways in which anxiety can bias information processing, in particular the processing of threat-related stimuli. I have been funded by both the ESRC and the MRC for research in this area.

In total I have authored or co-authored around one hundred articles and chapters on these and other topics, and I have co-edited three books.

Grants & awards
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEMORY FOR PSYCHIC READINGS AND PARANORMAL BELIEF
£32324 (subject to revision in light of any increase in academic pay scales) from the Perrott-Warrick Committee to fund one-year junior lectureship to relieve me of teaching and administrative duties for one year and to work collaboratively on the above project.
CLINICIANS’ BELIEFS ABOUT CHILDHOOD ABUSE, MEMORY AND HYPNOSIS
£9200 from the Odin Trust. Application submitted jointly with Dr James Ost, Dr Lorraine Hope, Mr Simon Easton (Portsmouth) and Dr Daniel Wright (Sussex). Dr Ost named as Principal Applicant. Awarded April 2006.
AN INVESTIGATION OF DOWSING
£1472 from the Society for Psychical Research. Application submitted jointly with Dr Elaine Beattie. Awarded August 2006.
French, C. Psychological and parapsychological investigations of alleged alien abductees: Phase 1. Bial Foundation. €36000 (£23.5K approx). (Nov. 2002).
Haque, U. HAUNT. Sciart. £14,985. (French, C. as scientific adviser).
Allan, K., French, C. & Gabbert, F. On the relationship between reality monitoring and belief in parapsychological phenomena: Neurophysiological studies. Bial Foundation. €45,080 (£28K approx). (Nov. 2004).

Precisely. Not a word about who awarded him his qualifications, or where he worked before he went to Goldsmiths. CVs don't tend to leave out those kinds of details. HR departments insist on them. How much lecturing does French do? Clearly not much while he is gallivanting round the country pushing his message or moonlighting for TV companies. And what kind of an examiner is he? My father was Chief Examiner in Physics for the University of London for many years, and it took up a great deal of his time.

Oh, and spot the Perrott-Warrick money that French has wangled. The way that this fund has been misappropriated is an absolute scandal. The Humphrey award should have been referred to the Charity Commission and, indeed, the Serious Fraud Office.

I wondered if you would notice the Perrott-Warrick reference.

The Perrott-Warrick Fund is administered by Trinity College, Cambridge. Apart from the Koestler Chair at Edinburgh University, it is the largest source of financial support for psychical research and parapsychology in Britain.

In 1937, as a memorial to F.W.H.Myers, who had been a Fellow of Trinity College, Frank Duerdin Perrott made a bequest to the Masters and Fellows of the college “absolutely for the purpose of psychical research.”

He defined psychical research as, “The investigation of mental or physical phenomena which seem prima facie to suggest (a) the existence of supernormal powers of cognition or action in human beings in their present life, or (b) the persistence of the human mind after bodily death.” In 1956, the fund was increased by a further bequest from Frederic Walmsley Warrick.

My piece on the Koestler mystery 'One of our professors is missing' appeared in issue 224 (July 2007) of Fortean Times.

Sesenco –

(1) It’s not just me who condemns Andrew Wakefield, his own profession has condemned him:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article5683671.ece

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/02/lancet-retracts-mmr-paper


Further to that:

http://www.care2.com/causes/health-policy/blog/andrew-wakefield-resigns-from-thoughtful-house-is-vaccinegate-finally-over/


You think that homeopathy saves lives? I suggest you have a look at these links:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2666411.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/jul/14/medicineandhealth.lifeandhealth

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jun/01/world-health-organisation-homeopathy-hiv

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/45.pdf

And worst (or best, depending on your point of view):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/28/homeopathy-baby-death-couple-jailed

That last link is just one of scores I could supply to illustrate the dangers of homeopathy (and many other quack nostrums). Homeopathy might be a good treatment for hypochondria, but it will not cure any real diseases. If you do happen to have an imaginary illness, then an imaginary cure is all you need, obviously; but if you have a real ailment, you should see a real doctor.

(2) Glamour models and Playboy Playmates might have big tits, but that does not qualify them to talk about scientific matters. The people you have “just mentioned” are, in fact, qualified academics and scientists. They might not have big jugs, but they have recognised expertise in their respective – accredited - professions.

(3) You have given no references that I can check, and I am not willing to spend time searching. Give me the relevant references to the potentially libellous claims you have made about Richard Wiseman and I will come back to you.

(4) The working class. You mentioned “the working class,” not me. If you happen to be “working class” (by your own definition, whatever that might be), I have no argument with that. I have no disagreement with the “working class”, mainly because I work for a living and regard myself as “working class.”

I admit that I could be correctly described as “academic,” but I would be interested to know what you mean by “people of my persuasion.”

With regard to “self conscious issues”, I leave that to you to work out for yourself.

I am, indeed, an atheist. I am also what you would describe as a materialist. But I do not claim that consciousness and self don’t exist; I am conscious, sentient and self-aware. Cogito Ergo Sum, as they say. Having said that, however, I do not agree with Descartes’ dualism. Once we snuff it, that’s it, mate. (Is that terminology working class enough for you?)

Then again, I suppose my “snobbish, anti-working class, materialistic, atheistic and “superior” views” won’t cut any ice with you. Personally, I would have been more impressed if your argument had been composed of substance rather than insult. (Don’t worry, though, I will just add your infantile ad hominem attacks against me to the ever-expanding list of insulting names I have been called on this blog. That list might become definitive of how dissenting visitors to this blog are regarded)

We are all visitors to this blog Harley. Put your cross down. :)

And my two cents. You have earned every lash many of us have given you Harley.

Christopher C French, born Quarter 2 1956, Runcorn, Cheshire, mother's maiden surname, Bowman; married Anne Richards, Greenwich, 1993.

That's the most basic pieces of biographical data out of the way. Now for his educational background. Can anyone help? I note that his first degree is a BA, not a BSc. Did he start off in an arts subject, and move over to psychology at postgraduate level?

Sesenco - I found the following extract from a Skeptico interview:

Dr. French, thanks again for joining me here today on Skeptiko.

Dr. Chris French: My pleasure…I hope. [laughs]

Alex Tsakiris: [laughs] Okay, you know, where I thought we’d start, and I was in preparation for this, I saw a YouTube clip, a little interview in the pub that you did…

Dr. Chris French: Uh-huh (yes).

Alex Tsakiris: …and I think I picked this up that you actually used to be a believer, I think, as you said, so…

Dr. Chris French: Absolutely true, yes.

Alex Tsakiris: I didn’t know that. I thought maybe you could tell us a little bit about your background, and particularly about this sordid part about being a believer.

Dr. Chris French: [laughs] Um, I think like lots of people, as I grew up I was interested and intrigued by tales of the paranormal. I wouldn’t say I kind of spent a huge amount of time, but I certainly read books around it, I’d watch TV programs about it. I mean, one thing back in those days, you know we’re talking a long time ago now, unfortunately, is that the wasn’t really such a thing as an organized skeptical movement. Now how happy or otherwise you might be about that, we can talk about later.

But I think — I mean anybody would agree that the vast majority of the coverage then was very uncritical. It was all very pro-paranormal. And so it was perfectly reasonable anybody who had an interest in those things in those days would assume it was all true. I did a psychology degree and this kind of thing was not really touched on at all, in those days by psychology degrees. The only example I can think of where it was actually covered was – and things were a lot more laid back in those days, happy times…

Alex Tsakiris: [laughs]

Dr. Chris French: …my tutor said to me and a friend, “What would you like to cover?” We said, “Oh, I don’t know, ESP?” “Okay, then.” He asked me to prepare the case for, and my friend to prepare the case against. I could find lots of material. My friend couldn’t find any. You know, I won the argument hands down. I proved that ESP was real. And it wasn’t really until I was doing my Ph.D. It was James Alcock’s book, Parapsychology: Science or Magic? that really marked the pivotal moment for me where I realized there was another way of thinking about these things and that maybe some of these non-paranormal explanations were actually quite interesting and I found them quite convincing.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that I had realized there was a skeptical literature out there even though it was quite hard to get your hands on then. There was this publication called The Skeptical Inquirer which I kept hearing about and eventually started to subscribe to. And I think it’s fair to say I went from being a believer to being an extreme skeptic. I think I took on the idea that all parapsychologists are incompetent nincompoops who wouldn’t know how to design experiments if their lives depended on it. I now don’t hold that position. I’d now like to think of myself as being a more moderate skeptic.

I mean, I know lots of parapsychologists personally now, which of course I didn’t at that time. I know lots of them are very intelligent, very rational people, and they hold their beliefs for very good reasons. And you know, we disagree insofar as I think that if push comes to shove I would say I’d bet against paranormal force as existing. They would say that they’re not sure that paranormal forces existed but they would bet that they do. And I think it’s more a matter then of us trying to decide what’s the best way forward. So I think that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

French has never ceased to be a believer in the reality of the paranormal. As an undergraduate doing an arts psychology degree, he acknowledged it. As a professional academic, he realises that he can pursue a lucrative, high profile career by denying it.

How do I know this? I am not so sure that this is the place to dicusss the law of knowing receipt of property dissipated in breach of trust or other fiduciary duty (though Nicholas Humphrey has some expertise in this area). For those versed in such things, I would recommend the obiter dictum of Peter Gibson J in Baden Delvaux v Société Générale [1993] 1 WLR 509 which sets out five categories of knowledge. The first is actual knowledge (French and Wiseman). The second is wilfully and recklessly turning one's eyes from the obvious (Dawkins, Wolpert and Ashby). Baden Delvaux No 2 (as it is sometimes known) is a dishonesty standard. It is not sufficient to impose criminal liability, but is more than sufficient to attract civil liability.

"Glamour models and Playboy Playmates might have big tits, but that does not qualify them to talk about scientific matters".

I thought this sort of elitist snobbery had been out of fashion for some time. Anybody, whatever the size of their tits, is better qualified than anybody else, including this boring Harley person, to talk about their own experience.

Guy Lyon Playfair – I’m obviously not boring enough for you to ignore. And elitist? We’ll see who is elitist.

In a sense you are right that people are qualified to retell their experiences, but you are quite wrong to imply that what they report must be correct. What someone experiences is not necessarily what actually happened. If someone sees a magician saw his glamorous assistant in half, is that what must have happened – or is it possible that it was an illusion? When someone sees a spoon bender in action (me, for example) has the spoon been bent by psychic means, or is it possible that trickery was involved? And how does one work out whether it was psychism or deliberate illusion? Is there a specific methodology you would recommend for anyone who wants to sift out what they think they saw from what actually happened?

Let me illustrate your own double standards for you. I recall that you dismissed me in a previous thread on this blog with a simple “Over and out, unless anybody has a relevant and coherent question.” What you said at the time is here:

http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/2009/05/the-geller-spanner.html?cid=6a00d8341c6d8553ef011571686ac3970b#comment-6a00d8341c6d8553ef011571686ac3970b

The point I was raising at the time was that personal testimony is not reliable. You think it is, but only when it suits your own purpose. But under different circumstances, personal testimony is not good enough for you. In fact, when you have something at stake, you seem to want actual – (gasp) – evidence! You are well known as a critic of the Randi Million Dollar Challenge – a challenge that requires evidence, not anecdotes; but you will not accept anecdotes for your own challenge, you want evidence! Read your own words here:

http://www.zem.demon.co.uk/glp1.htm

Just one paragraph from that article:

“We now have three separate witnesses to this [Geller spanner bending] incident - driver Ricardo Rosset, Autocar columnist Eion Young (or his source) and one of the Tyrell mechanics. If there is still anyone around who insists that "magicians can repeat the entire Geller repertoire", as was alleged in that infamous 1997 Channel 4 programme, Secrets of the Psychics, here is your chance to win £500. That is what I will give to anyone who can straighten out by hand the spanner bent (normally) at Imperial College with the help over nearly 600 kilos of shove as measured on their strain gauge. There is a catch - as there always is on these occasions ... you have to be on your own, watched by me and wearing a sleeveless T shirt. And if you fail, you pay me £500.”

You appear not to have been there yourself. It seems you are relating others’ anecdotes. You name Ricardo Rosset.

Then you name “Autocar columnist Eion Young (or his source).” But is it Eion Young? Or is it “his source”? Who is his source? And which of them was it? You don’t seem to know. You accept an anecdote without even knowing for sure who is supposed to be a crucial witness?

And the third crucial witness is “one of the Tyrell mechanics.” Unnamed, of course.

So, you weren’t there, and your evidence is just a report you’ve read or been told about, with one named person, someone else who might or might not be another named person, and someone else who is not named at all. Yes, I can see why you think Randi’s challenge is not winnable; he, too, wants evidence before he will part with his million dollars. (He doesn’t, however, demand that he be paid the same amount if a claimant to the prize fails; that, I think would be sneaky, and some might accuse him of inserting that kind of clause just to deter anyone from applying. Wouldn’t you agree?)

Some questions arise:

If you require verifiable evidence for your own challenge, why do you not require the same standard of evidence for spoon (or spanner) benders, and twins who claim to be psychic?

In the book you are currently plugging, is there, in fact, evidence to support your claim of twin telepathy that would pass the standards of evidence you set in your own challenge?

If you have such evidence, will you be making a claim for the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge?

If personal testimony is reliable, as you think it is, why is it that several witnesses to an incident commonly give conflicting accounts of what happened? And what does that imply for witnesses to alleged paranormal phenomena?

What do you think about the many well publicised cases of miscarriage of justice where innocent people have been punished for crimes they have not committed, based on mistaken eyewitness testimony? And what does that imply for witnesses to alleged paranormal phenomena, given the fact that such witnesses are not routinely giving evidence under oath? (You will be aware, of course, that those who perjure themselves leave themselves open to dire consequences; the same does not apply to casual claims of paranormal events)

I have said numerous times on this blog that I don’t mind if the existence of the paranormal can be proven, and that is still true, but which of your two standards of evidence do you think is most appropriate to apply? Or does it depend on whether one has a book to sell?

How many people have applied for your £500 challenge? And how many do you think would apply if you allowed the same standard of evidence you regard as sufficient to validate Uri Geller in your example? Just how many people would you hand over £500 to if their best evidence was second hand testimony of one named person, another named person who might not be that person but someone else, and a third person whose name is not even supplied?

Is name-calling acceptable in lieu of testable evidence?

Is there any reason why intelligent, educated people should take you seriously?

I expect that you have – or will – present your findings on “twin telepathy” at the Society for Psychical Research. Should we expect you to also be presenting your findings at The Royal Society in the foreseeable future?

When people duck out of answering criticism by replying with a casual dismissal and name calling, would you describe them as boring? And would you call someone with that attitude elitist?

Oh dear. It looks as if I have got Harley riled. My comments must have hit home. Yes, the truth has a habit of hurting.

"It’s not just me who condemns Andrew Wakefield"

Would you be so kind as to point to where I said that?

"the dangers of homeopathy"

If homeopathy really were dangerous, as you maintain, then would we not expect homeopathic practitioners to find it difficult to get professional liability insurance? Perhaps you could tell us what the typical premium is relative to non-homeopathic medical professionals?

My cousin, Dr Douglas Morris Borland (1885-1960) was a celebrated homeopath. He was a doubter initially, but took the trouble to look into it (he studied homeopathy in Chicago during the winter of 1911-12) and discovered that it really does work. I am unaware of anyone having claimed to have been harmed by his treatments.

"if you have a real ailment, you should see a real doctor"

I did, and the real doctor said there was no cure. So I asked a train shunter to attend to it and he cured it within seconds.

"Glamour models and Playboy Playmates might have big tits"

Like many atheist materialists, you seem to have a nasty streak of misogyny. Terms like "big tits" are not the language of scientific discourse (which you affect to pursue), but the argot of third-form ribaldry.

"They (Dawkins, Wolpert and Ashby) might not have big jugs, but they have recognised expertise in their respective – accredited - professions."

But do they have any expertise in psi research? Wolpert quite evidently does not, because when he "debated" with Rupert Sheldrake at the Royal Society of Arts he refused to look at Sheldrake's figures, or indeed engage with any of the data. Rather like Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen. For Sheldrake, the great Wolpert was a pushover (there is an audio on Rupert's website, so you can listen to Wolpert's humiliation).

"I will just add your infantile ad hominem attacks against me to the ever-expanding list of insulting names I have been called on this blog."

I suppose "big tits" is really grown-up and not at all insulting to women?

"and I am not willing to spend time searching"

Then you can languish in ignorance. Or is it a case of not wishing to be confronted by the truth?

"But I do not claim that consciousness and self don’t exist;"

Then you are NOT a materialist, because you are admitting to the validity of mentalistic concepts. You are buying your materialism on the cheap, as John Beloff would have put it. If the materialist theory of mind is correct, human beings are no more conscious than a lawn-mower.

"Cogito Ergo Sum, as they say."

My goodness, Harley, you have just driven a stake through the heart of the materialist theory of mind. Death by friendly fire.

"however, I do not agree with Descartes’ dualism"

How to spot a pseudo-intellectual poseur, lesson 1: the unnecessary citation of a philosopher. A gereration ago, afficionados of the atheist materialist cult were characteristically Marxists, and would go into the world armed with a Sartre SWOT book and the "Thoughts of Chairman Mao". These days, with the Soviet Union a piece of history, they are more likely to be free market "libertarians".

"Once we snuff it, that’s it, mate."

Harley, there is a distinction between what one wants the truth to be, and what the truth actually is. One day, you will have to answer for your present behaviour.

"Then again, I suppose my “snobbish, anti-working class, materialistic, atheistic and “superior” views” won’t cut any ice with you."

You are dead right, Harley (oh, do forgive the pun). I consider you a very poor advocate, though the extreme weakness of your case doesn't exactly help you. As you have no doubt noticed, no-one contributing to this blog has had the slightest difficulty batting off your "arguments". The CSICOP Propaganda Ministry is unlikely even to give you an interview.

I don't want to steal Guy's thunder, but I cannot let this one pass:

"What do you think about the many well publicised cases of miscarriage of justice where innocent people have been punished for crimes they have not committed, based on mistaken eyewitness testimony?"

(1) How many miscarriages of justice are attributable to mistaken eyewitness testimnoy, as opposed to Police perjury, perjury by prison grasses, misuse of scientific evidence, etc?

(2) How does someone's mistake as to the identification of a stranger (usually encountered fleetingly) relate to the witnessing of ostensibly paranormal events?

(3) If human eyewitness testimony really is as bad as you say it is, how do we manage to drive round the M25 each morning without crashing into each other? (How many UFOs did I hallucinate this morning, and how many smashes did I cause by dodging them?)

(4) Do you know anything about the law of perjury, Harley? Tell us, if you will, what the mens rea is?

(5) If the materialist theory of mind is correct, miscarriages of justice are caused by the Big Bang, not mistaken eyewitness testimony.

Harley is right when he says witness testimony is notoriously unreliable. In court its weight it affected by a number of considerations. It would be true to say that the testimony of a witness having a brief view of an event which is not corroborated would not be given much weight - it certainly would not be sufficient on its own to safely convict a person.

If the evidence presented by witnesses to support survival is of the same quality then Harley would be right to treat it as being of little value to those who did not also see the event.

Much of the recorded evidence supporting survival is not like that though. Much of this evidence and subsequent testimony is from established scientists, lawyers, engineers and medical professionals (ie professional observers); is corroborated; occurs over a period long enough to examine the phenomena at close quarters; is often repeated many times by the observers.

It is not the same as a fleeting glimpse of an event which no-one else saw in an uncontrolled environment.

Although I am not saying that such testimony should automatically be accepted as the whole truth, I do not think it is reasonable to disregard it.

Rather surprised no one pointed this out.

The Randi Million dollar prize is a Fraud.

Randi Determines who will be tested

Randi determines the test

Randi Determines the outcome.

Who in their right mind would take such a challenge.

http://www.mind-energy.net/archives/163-About-the-James-Randi-Million-dollar-challenge.html

I challenge Harley to prove his alive.

Here are the rules.

I get to determine the admissible evidence.

I am make the final decision.

Using that standard Harley could you prove you are alive?

I should have posted this yesterday.

Harley, take a look at this challenge.

http://www.drdino.com/read-article.php?id=66&c=17

Do you know accept evolution is bunk cause no one has met this challenge?

Facts are determined by evidence, not pseudo challenges.

It is also worth pointing out that even if Zwinge's phoney "challenge" were genuine, it would be scientifically worthless. A single demonstration of X is not sufficient to prove that X exists. Independent replication (and usually quite a lot of it) is required.

you mean like the replication done at the Rhine Institute :)

Sesenco – it’s very kind of you to rush to Guy’s defence; I’m sure he appreciates it. But you are missing my point entirely. If you are familiar with other posts I have made here, you will know that I do not assume that people who believe in – or promote - the paranormal are not sincere in their beliefs or even that they are being dishonest, merely that the standard of evidence they regard as sufficient to prove their belief falls below what is necessary to establish their hypothesis as a fact in scientific terms.

With regard to Guy Lyon Playfair, I believe he has not proven the existence of any paranormal phenomena that would pass scientific scrutiny because he is not applying the scientific rigour that is necessary, even if he thinks he has. As a sceptic, however, I am willing to be shown that I am wrong. But I am sure he can defend his position without your help (I suspect he might think that your well-meaning intervention is not particularly helpful, however).

If he or anyone else states that the paranormal is a fact, then the evidence presented has to stand up to scrutiny. In this case it does not, and when someone contradicts themselves, I feel entitled to ask for clarification. There is probably a sound reason why Guy will accept anecdotes as evidence in one situation, but in another situation feels it is necessary to be sceptical about someone’s claims; I just can’t see what Guy so clearly does. I am willing to be enlightened.

If you think anecdotes and ad hominem attacks constitute sound evidence, fine.

Is seems obvious that you did not follow the links I provided with regard to homeopathy. That particular quackery does not, in itself, cause anyone any direct harm; after all, a practitioner is not actually administering anything that could possibly do anyone any harm, any more than it can do them any good. The danger is in the fact that some people who need scientifically proven treatments for serious conditions sometimes seek out those treatments only when it is too late. It is particularly more egregious in the case of parents who allow their faith in this quackery to lead to the deaths of their own children, who are unable to do anything for themselves. If you believe that is acceptable, OK.

I at least provided links to support the point I was making, will you do the same? Can you provide any links to any bona fide scientific research that has established homeopathy as a valid cure for anything? I know it is well established as a placebo, but I do need evidence of actual cures of actual physical ailments. The fact that there is no such evidence is why there has been scrutiny by the British government, and also why the National Health Service is cutting back, and will very likely cease funding altogether of homeopathy at the taxpayers’ expense.

The rest of your blathering must make much more sense to you than it does to me; you’re obviously cleverer than I am.

By the way, here’s the latest quack to hit the headlines:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/8565482.stm

One other thing: you refer to “Zwinge.” How sad. You are obviously a fan of Victor Zammit; maybe you are Victor Zammit. Your posts are as inane.

Paul – we are almost in agreement here about the fact that personal testimony is not definitive on its own, and that there are many factors that have to be considered when deciding what weight to give to that testimony.

You might remember a few months ago I related the case of a friend of mine who was convicted of a serious criminal offence on the basis of eye witness testimony alone. Later, it was found out that CCTV footage that proved he was innocent had been withheld by the police, who had no other suspects. Sometimes, eyewitness testimony might seem very compelling, but I still say that on its own it is suspect, however honest and sincere the witnesses might be. I think that in serious criminal cases eyewitness testimony alone should not be allowed without supporting evidence. And I would say that in the case of extraordinary paranormal claims the same should apply.

Kris – you’ve quoted a couple of (what appear to be) parody websites. No, I’m not going to fall for it. I’m sure you would like me to take you seriously and spend time composing a lengthy rebuttal to your joke post. Your first link is to a paranormal propaganda website that is simply absurd; and your second link is to “Dr Dino” aka Kent Hovind – whose alleged PhD he bought from an unaccredited diploma mill. Hovind is currently serving ten years in jail for tax evasion: the jury at his trial apparently didn’t believe his personal testimony that the money involved was in fact God’s, and that God does not pay tax. If you really think that a crook like Hovind is someone to be relied upon, that just says a lot about your grip on reality.

Your caricature of Randi’s challenge is way off the mark. The reason no one has won the challenge is simply that no one has been able to demonstrate their paranormal claims under the conditions they have mutually agreed. A number of people have agreed terms with Randi and then failed. But claiming that the challenge is a fraud doesn’t wash. It’s just sour grapes on the part of the believers. If it gives you some comfort to believe that psychics are being short changed by the million dollar challenge, then good for you.

One other thing: I do not intend to try to prove to you that I am alive; I don’t mind whether you believe I am or not. I leave it to YOU to prove that I am not just a computer algorithm created by a secret cabal of nerds who are experts within a hitherto unknown conspiratorial project to release artificial intelligence into cyberspace. And I will not even impose on you the absurd conditions you would apply to me; you have the freedom to use whatever means are at your disposal. YOU prove that I am NOT alive. Are you going to take up my challenge? If anecdotes are really all it takes, though, I can supply them by the cartload, so I suppose that by your own standards, my existence is already proven, and you lose your own challenge before it even begins. QED.

Hi Harley

I don't want to get too close to agreeing with you :).

In the example you cite, evidence was it appears, deliberately hidden. It is difficult to determine the quality of the witnesses based on the detail you gave. There is nothing to indicate any possible motivation of the witnesses, or any prejudice or preparation that may have occurred. For the Police and the Crown to deliberately attempt to convict a person KNOWING they are innocent by withholding evidence is evidence of criminal activity in itself. How it reflects on the witnesses in this instance is anybody's guess. I don't think it is a helpful analogy. Any more than suggesting the collusion of scientists in the past, sometimes on a large scale, means that we should view scientific discoveries with an assumption that they are either wrong or fraudulent, or that even if we can't show fraud or error we should disregard them anyway.

There is also very clear guidance on the extent to which unsupported eye-witness testimony can be used to convict in a Court. It is however admissible as evidence, which is of course what we were talking about in the first place.

It also depends who the witness is. If the witness is a trained observer and/or reporting matters in which they have expertise, this also might change the value of the evidence given. I understand the CCTV case you mention but without knowing who the witnesses were, what their motivations could be, what they saw and for how long and how many times and the fact that evidence known to the Police was witheld one wonders how this could reasonably be seen to be relevant to the matters we are discussing. Were the witnesses telling the truth about what they saw or did they convince themselves that it was the truth or were they knowingly telling lies?

Evidence given to support survival is much stronger than this. Much of it is gathered by those qualified to observe phenomena, in controlled environments, many times and corroborated by others or similar qualification. It isn't the same as witness evidence in the example you cite and should be treated accordingly.

Harley

Why don't you actually read the material. If you actually read it for once you will see my description of the Randi challenge is dead on. Also why don't you read responses direct to you. The reason I linked to Dr Dino is cause he is a known con artist and his challenge is no different then Randi's.


Randi determines what events will be evaluated, Randi determines what is acceptable evidence, Randi determines if the event is a pass or fail. Do you think this pseudo challenge affects any research that has been mentioned at all? Do you think the Van Lommel Study on NDEs is weaker now cause of this? How about the Rhine and Ganzfield studies?

Of course I do not intend to take your challenge, for the same reason you don't intend to take mine. The challenges are absurd. If you would read my post carefully you would see that.

Would you willing accept any challenge in which one person is the judge, jury and executioner? I wouldn't, I know you wouldn't I neither should paranormalist or evolutionist or anyone who is sane.

If you want people in here to take you seriously, you at least have to read what we write.

Harley wrote:

"merely that the standard of evidence they regard as sufficient to prove their belief falls below what is necessary to establish their hypothesis as a fact in scientific terms."

(1) The correct term is "standard of PROOF", not "standard of EVIDENCE".

(2) What standard of proof is necessary to "establish a hypothesis in scientific terms". (I ask , because this is something that deniers never tell us.)

(2) You have a history of sedulous avoidance of the core scientific studies (ie, the Rhine and Honorton studies) that prove beyond a scintilla of honest doubt that psi is real. Are you familiar with these studies? Have you found any flaws in them that lead you to doubt the conclusions to which they inexorably point?

"With regard to Guy Lyon Playfair, I believe he has not proven the existence of any paranormal phenomena that would pass scientific scrutiny because he is not applying the scientific rigour that is necessary,"

On what basis do you make this claim? Can you be more specific? Are you familiar with Guy's work, which spans a period of nearly 40 years? Have you read any of his books, or examined in detail the case studies in which he has had involvement?

You are good at making vague and non-specific generalisations learned by rote (like the two cited supra), but very weak when it comes to engagement with actual data.

"If he or anyone else states that the paranormal is a fact, then the evidence presented has to stand up to scrutiny."

It does. The reality of psi is a scientifically etablished fact as the best studies show us. If they don't, then tell us the flaw.

"In this case it does not, and when someone contradicts themselves,"

Can you justify this statement?

"As a sceptic, however, I am willing to be shown that I am wrong"

Self-evidently false. You have been shown that you are wrong on numerous occasions but remain firmly rooted in denial. A true flatearther.

"There is probably a sound reason why Guy will accept anecdotes as evidence in one situation,"

There is. Everybody accepts "anecdotes" as evidence, even deniers when it suits them. The world could not function if this were not so.

"It is particularly more egregious in the case of parents who allow their faith in this quackery to lead to the deaths of their own children, who are unable to do anything for themselves. If you believe that is acceptable, OK."

What I believe is unacceptable is for people calling themselves scientists to deny the validity of proven complementary treatements such as homeopathy, when they know that their propaganda could cost lives.

Your hero, Dr Richard Wiseman, actually has cost lives (albeit indirectly). A consequence of his fake "experiment" with Chris Robinson was that the Police and security services stopped dealing with Chris. Wiseman's behaviour in that instance actually did cost lives (3,600 of them). When Chris dreamed (very specifically) of 9/11, he told the US Embassy straight away. If Wiseman had not lied about Chris, perhaps security might have been tightened up at US airports. Does it bother atheist materialists that their actions do sometimes cost lives? No, I don't suppose it does, any more than it would bother the most famously honest and consistent atheist materialist, Ian Brady (who understood the moral implications of his belief system perfectly).

"One other thing: you refer to “Zwinge.”"

The man's name is RANDALL JAMES HAMILTON ZWINGE. That is what is written on the Candaian birth certificate of this failed children's entertainer. If we allow ourselves to be suborned into using his stage name, then we go along with his self-cultivated image as a harmless buffoon. I refuse to give him that ground. I do find it a little droll that you should treat someone with no educational qualifications whatsoever as an authority on science, when you will not allow a woman with "big tits" to be an authority on her own experiences!

"The reason no one has won the (Zwinge) challenge is simply that no one has been able to demonstrate their paranormal claims under the conditions they have mutually agreed."

The reason is that anyone with an ounce of sense knows that Zwinge will set them up. Even if the claimant does succeed, Zwinge always has an "out", as he told Denis Rawlins.

Note the following:

(1) Even if a claimant "won" Zwinge's challenge (something Zwinge would never let him do) it would be scientifically worthless. Science requries repeatability and independent replication. As a self-styled defender of science, I am amazed that you are unaware of this.
(2) There is no need for phoney pseudo-challenges. The reality of psi has been established as fact beyond a scintilla of honest doubt by careful, scientific studies to which you have never raised a single objection despite being challenged so to do.
(3) Does Zwinge have $1 million dollars?

Harley, I stand by my assessment of your abilities as an advocate. Your technique is to parrot off weak nonsense claims over and over again, ad infinitum, long after others have refuted them (somewhat in the manner of the tobacco industry). You never make specific objections to the case of psi, only trite and ill-informed generalisations: studies can only be accepted if they are published in journals of your choosing; the whole case for psi collapses because Arthur Conan Doyle endorsed the Cottingley Fairies; "anecdotes" (meaning data gathered outside the laboratory) are inadmissable; etc. etc. Cut out the drivel, and there is nothing left.

I think your heroes will be pleased by your crashingly tedious behaviour, not because you cut the mustard as an advocate, but because you succeed in wasting psi acknowledgers' time answering your posts and you divert our attention away from the real purpose of the blog, which is to further psi research.

Paul – we’re still at an impasse regarding personal testimony. In the example I gave, there was not collusion between the police and the Crown, it was just the police, although I don’t know how many individual officers were involved. What I do know is that when the truth came out my friend was awarded a fortune in compensation (I don’t think the police officers are still police officers, though).

But let me see if I can further explain my point about personal testimony. I don’t think a court analogy is really useful. If a witness is asked in court, “What did the defendant do after he said he was going to hit the deceased over the head with the baseball bat?” then in that scenario, a witness is being asked about matters of fact, assuming there is no doubt about there being a dead body to be accounted for.

Claims of the paranormal are different, however. When someone is relating what allegedly happened when a ghost or poltergeist appeared, and what it did next, they are doing so without it being established that ghosts or poltergeists actually exist. A local hairdresser was featured in my evening newspaper about a year ago, claiming that her salon was haunted (unexplained noises, etc). Even more spooky, her tumble dryer in the back shop was turning itself on and off with no-one being anywhere near it. Even spookier, a well known local ghost hunter became involved and declared the events “unexplainable.” Ta Daaa!

You might think I’m just being cynical if I point out that this business got free publicity in the middle of a recession with a ghost story that appeals to the believers. But having said that, I recently bumped into a friend of mine who was rather upset that he was going to have to buy a new tumble dryer; guess what – he had the same problem, (turning itself on and off for no reason) but in his case the thing burst into flames and almost burned his house down. He, however, did not make a paranormal connection: from his point of view he had a faulty piece of machinery that caused a big problem that had to be resolved. Or do you think he was wrong and should have gone for the ghost hypothesis? Bear in mind, however, that electrical faults are a common cause of major fires; but I have yet to hear of any fire investigator claim that after analysing the evidence there is reason to believe the cause is paranormal.

In both cases there is a similar claim. There is eyewitness testimony in both cases to the fact that a tumble dryer was switching on and off at random times. In the first case there was a paranormal claim publicised in the local newspaper, and that claim was also supported by a well known ghost hunter who declared it “unexplainable.” In the second case, the same thing happened, but without a paranormal claim. How would you decide whether either of these claims has a paranormal basis? Is it possible that in the first case it was just publicity seeking by a business badly affected by the recession, and a paranormal “expert” who is also a publicity seeker who is going to take advantage of the situation and write up this episode in his next book?

Is it also possible that in the second case there was a paranormal component that was just unrecognised as such? Could the second case be an unrecognised genuine haunting? How would you tell?

All we have, again, is personal testimony. What weight does it deserve? If we stick with the courtroom analogy, how would Guy Lyon Playfair’s evidence of Uri Geller’s alleged spanner bending hold up?

Suppose a witness to a crime were in the witness box. It turns out, however, that he was not a witness to the crime. He claims he was told that a named person was there; that another named person was there, but it might not have actually been that named person but someone else whose name he does not know; and there was also another witness who is not even named. Should a person be convicted of a serious crime on the say so of someone who was not there to see what happened? If not, can you tell me why Guy’s account should be accepted at face value (without even a cross examination)?

Do you think it would be better if the three actual witnesses could be identified and be in court in person? And do you think that their testimony would be more convincing if they could confirm that they had applied Guy’s “£500 test,” so to speak. That is to say, equivalently, that they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Geller had performed his paranormal feat in front of them, on his own, wearing a sleeveless tee shirt? (Guy’s own conditions for his own challenge)

Actually, when I first came across Guy’s challenge, I considered applying for it myself. He doesn’t, after all, stipulate that an applicant for his prize cannot supply his or her own spanner. He also (obviously, therefore) does not say that he would want to examine said spanner – either before or after the demonstration. That would be a doddle for any amateur magician. Guy seems to think his test would be foolproof, but if he were willing to let it go ahead strictly on the terms he has outlined, he is going to lose money (but only £500 – not very much nowadays). I would ask him if he is so sure of his challenge would he be willing to put up a million pounds (without the claimant having to pay the same amount upon failure)

Basically, the Randi challenge is a personal challenge to those who claim to have psychic abilities. It just happens to be more sophisticated than Guy’s. If someone claims to be able to bend a spanner, for example, by psychic means, then the challenge is arranged such that cheating is not allowed. Guy was trying to apply the same conditions, surely. After all, for him to hand over £500 he wants to ensure that no cheating is going on. I think that is quite fair. And he is not willing to accept the “evidence” he accepts for Uri Geller. I agree - I think it would be silly to do so – he would lose his money. Any genuine psychic could pass Randi’s challenge.

Let me put my argument in concise terms:

Guy Lyon Playfair has stated in his article that so-called “twin telepathy” exists on the basis of anecdotal evidence.

There is no obvious way that those anecdotes can be tested, or recreated so that they can be re-tested. We have to take his word for it (but that does not bring his sincerity into question; I have little doubt that he is being honest in his reportage).

In a separate article (that I have already cited), Guy will not accept similar claims on the basis of anecdotes. He has issued a Randi-esque challenge of his own and he wants testable evidence for that challenge.

He has dismissed me yet again, this time as “that boring Harley person,” but he is nowhere to be seen at the moment to answer what I think are reasonable questions. It’s this simple: anecdotes or verifiable evidence – which is it, and under what circumstances do either apply?

Kris – you say, “Randi determines what events will be evaluated, Randi determines what is acceptable evidence, Randi determines if the event is a pass or fail.”

Now substitute “Playfair” for “Randi.” Playfair has determined what events will be evaluated. Playfair has also determined what is acceptable evidence. Playfair also determines if the event is a pass or a fail. From what you say, Guy Lyon Playfair offers exactly the same conditions as Randi for his own challenge. Oh, no! Does that mean you think Guy is as much of a fraud as you claim Randi is? If so, then I think Guy might have some non-complimentary words to say to you (or not).

Your assessment of the Randi challenge is totally wrong, of course, mainly because the results are not judged by anyone – they have to stand on their own merits, clearly and unambiguously. There is no “judging” involved. If the best you can manage is just a weak caricature of the reality of the situation, you are clearly in no position to criticise my reading skills. I am never too sure what point you are trying to make at any given time here, and I’m not confident that you are, either.

Sesenco – I’ve been able to have disagreements with sensible people here - Paul, for example, and The Major, and also Robert McLuhan and some others. I imagine they must cringe as you pour out your nonsense to the whole world. Your defence of the paranormal is infantile and reeks of desperation without substance. Then again, if any rational people reading this thread take you as a typical defender of psi, then psychism as a proposition must be doomed.

This thread alone consists of attacks against established researchers – and some of those attacks that include allegations of outright fraud could be construed as libellous, to say the least. But instead of attacking those researchers with unsubstantiated claims of fraud, why not instead quote positive research in favour of the paranormal that has been published in mainstream scientific journals? I will give you a clue – there is no such research. Scientific research has to be verifiable. If you don’t believe me, ask Guy Lyon Playfair – he has a challenge that requires evidence before it is accepted. (Except when anecdotes are enough, (or not) but it seems that he decides what kind of evidence is acceptable, and under what circumstances) But I am still waiting for Guy to clarify my query. Perhaps I am just too boring for him to bother with.

You mention Chris Robinson – hang on a minute until I stop laughing – oh, yes. Is that the same “Dream Detective” Chris Robinson who has a website where he is asking people to donate money through his PayPal button to support his psychic “research?” I can’t help noticing that this person you claim predicted 9/11 doesn’t seem to be able to just dream next week’s lottery numbers to fund his research. If he can predict major disasters with stunning accuracy as you claim, winning the lottery should be a doddle. And if you go to his website, you can even see his claims that he has photos of angels, etc. Err... um... OK.

But for you to accuse Richard Wiseman of being responsible for the 9/11 deaths is just contemptible.

You are obviously unaware that Chris Robinson was tested by the Society for Psychical Research and was unable to exhibit any alleged psychic abilities whatsoever.

(Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 60, 322-324)

And now that the SPR have found no evidence that Robinson has any psychic ability, I suppose you will condemn them too, because they did not get the results you so desperately want.

With regard to Rhine and Honorton, you should read what the rest of the scientific world has to say about them. The reality of psi is not an established scientific fact, as you claim, and I notice you have not supplied such references to any scientific journals as I asked for earlier.

There are no “proven complementary treatments such as homeopathy.” There are, however lots of dead people to attest to how effective homeopathy really is. (Have a look at the links I provided earlier)

To be honest, though, I have just realised that I am actually spending time responding to you as though your meandering inanities were worth anything. They are not, and I should chastise myself for falling for it.

Tell you what, Sesenco, carry on doing what you do best – throw out lots of insults in lieu of rational argument. It’s all you have, and your inane ramblings will do more to discredit psychic research than I or any other sceptic could ever do. BTW – are you and Kris twins? Is this – dare I say it – “A Twin Thing”?

I cannot prove that psychism is not true, and the supporters of that hypothesis can provide no irrefutable evidence that it is. In the meantime, I will reserve my time to respond to the more sensible people I have met here.

Our atheist materialist friend, Harley, seems to have flipped his lid.

Like Mervyn Griffiths-Jones in the Lady Chatterley trial, I have counted his silly, puerile personal insults (against Guy, Chris Robinson, myself, and goodness knows whom else), but cannot claim to have added them up correctly! If you really want to persuade people of your (extremely weak) case, Harley, you will have to learn to avoid antagonising them.

Very little of Harley's latest trollbaiting ramblings warrants my repsonse, but there are one or two nasty little factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations that I cannot allow to pass.

(1) Wiseman and Chris Robinson

"I can’t help noticing that this person you claim predicted 9/11 doesn’t seem to be able to just dream next week’s lottery numbers to fund his research. If he can predict major disasters with stunning accuracy as you claim, winning the lottery should be a doddle."

A gross misrepresentation followed by a non sequitur.

I didn't say that, Harley. You are putting words in my mouth. Chris has a record of having premonitions of SOME natural disasters. Not ALL natural disasters, as you seek to impute. BTW, I have myself tested Chris Robinson so, unlike you, I happen to know that his powers are real.

Why should Chris be able to pick winning lottery numbers? How does that follow from his proven ability to have premonitions of some natural disasters (and other kinds of event)? Are you not aware of the qualitative difference between an event of high emotional significance and a number? Anyone familiar with psi research knows that ESP is need orientated, and is very poor at recognising numbers. In any event, Dean Radin's research had demonstrated that psi can indeed influence gambling.

It is Wiseman's behaviour that it contemptible, Harley, not anything I have said. Wiseman, fearing that Chris's dream notes would correspond to the object in the box (as they did), changed the experimental protocol mid-experiment in order to ensure that Chris failed. Wiseman cheated.

"You are obviously unaware that Chris Robinson was tested by the Society for Psychical Research and was unable to exhibit any alleged psychic abilities whatsoever. "

I am very much unaware of this. Chris has NEVER been tested by the Society for Psychical Research. Check your facts, Harley.

"And now that the SPR have found no evidence that Robinson has any psychic ability, I suppose you will condemn them too, because they did not get the results you so desperately want."

Like Walter Mitty, you are trapped in a dream world. The reality is that Chris has been tested by numerous psi researchers, including Gary Schwartz, Keith Hearne and Montague Keen, all of whom have found that Chris has genuine premonitory powers. Chris has only ever "failed" when fitted up by one-off stunts staged by psi-deniers. I say "failed" in quotes, because in Wiseman's stunt, Chris actually succeeded.

"With regard to Rhine and Honorton, you should read what the rest of the scientific world has to say about them. The reality of psi is not an established scientific fact, as you claim, and I notice you have not supplied such references to any scientific journals as I asked for earlier."

Harley, if you tried to argue this way in court, you would (1) irritate the judge so much that he found against your client anyway, and (2) you would be in trouble with the Bar Council.

Who is the "rest of the scientific community"? The queue waiting to board the 408A bus from Guildford Town Centre to Merrow? The customers at the "Burn Bullock" public house on Mitcham Common? Whom are you talking about? Ah, right. You must mean the likes of Wiseman, Gardner, Hyman, et al, professional propagandists for the denialist cause, and proven liars all. Now, do note, I'm not listing French among these, because French is on record as admitting that he can find no fault with Honorton's research. The truth is that few scientists are even remotely familiar with Rhine and Honorton's work, so their opinion on it, positive or negative, are worthless. I suggest you go away and familiarise yourself with this work, as I have challenged you to do on several occasions. But you won't, will you? Because you are terrified of being confronted with the truth.

"There are, however lots of dead people to attest to how effective homeopathy really is."

Any names? Any findings of negligence by the courts?

"why not instead quote positive research in favour of the paranormal that has been published in mainstream scientific journals?"

You are appealling to authority, Harley. The forum of publication is irrelevant. Facts are facts, whether they are published in the "Icelandic Journal of Beekeeping" or the "Daily Sport".

Following on from what Kris said in a recent post, demanding that psi research be published in a "mainstream scientific journal" is like Roland Freisler saying to Karl Goerdler: "You dirty old man, why are you holding your trousers up?" - knowing full well that the Gestapo had confiscated Goerdler's belt.

Now, I've said my piece, Harley. From now on I will deprive you of the attention you clearly crave.

Sesenco – When I said, "There are, however lots of dead people to attest to how effective homeopathy really is," you ask in reply: “Any names? Any findings of negligence by the courts?”

Earlier in this very thread I gave this link, and I repeat it here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/28/homeopathy-baby-death-couple-jailed

The first paragraph of that article in The Guardian reads:

“A husband and wife were jailed today for the manslaughter of their baby, who died after they chose to use homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medicine to treat her severe skin disorder.”

I will just underline that by pointing out that the couple were JAILED. For ALLOWING THE DEATH of their own child. By putting their FAITH in homeopathy. By failing to request medical (scientific and proven) treatment. And homeopathy failed to save a child’s life. That is just how good it really is. That child died a horrific death.

That link required only a single click of a mouse button to confirm my claim. Obviously you have not followed it up. (Just a mouse click, which was all it would have taken, and you didn’t bother; and you imply that you are a researcher?)

I assume your “testing” of Chris Robinson was equally thorough. Is that really how paranormal research is conducted nowadays?

I also quoted the SPR journal reference regarding Robinson. I am almost tempted here to give a link to an online article that outlines the procedure that was followed in that testing. However, you do not feel the need to follow links that I give to support my comments, so it would obviously be a waste of my time to do so.

I am so pleased that you are going to deprive me of your further attention. I will add only that despite the bleating of Guy Lyon Playfair I do not regard myself as one of the “elite.” Vis-a-vis your good self, however, I will make an exception.

I am still waiting for Guy or anyone else to explain to me why anecdotes are acceptable as proof of the paranormal in one situation, but in another, it is necessary to introduce controls to avoid any trickery.

I don't want to have to reply to this tedious troll, but it looks as if I have to. There is no way I can allow his lies about Chris Robinson to pass unchallenged.

(1) Your imputation that Chris deceives the public into giving him money.

What is wrong with asking the public to donate money towards psi research? The funding should be available from the public purse and private industry, but due to the corrupt and ideologically perverse character of science in the Western world, it isn't, so psi resarchers have to raise it inter alia by appealling to the public.

(2) Your imputation that Chris publishes fake pictures on his wesbite.

Chris takes many photographs which contain anomalies. What is he supposed to do with these? Suppress them? If you, or anyone else, can find non-paranormal explanations for these anomalies, then fine. The ball is in your court. Impress us with your ingenuity.

(3) Your misrepresentation of papers published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

It is many years since the SPR has tested a psychic claimant. It has certainly never tested Chris Robinson. What it has done is publish papers by Blackmore and Wiseman (in that order) that purport to be scientific tests of Chris's powers, but are actually in both cases fraudulent and scientifically worthless one-off stunts.

Blackmore's stunt actually did yield results that were above chance, but she used mundane targets (surprise, surprise) and far too few trials. Blackmore lied about the outcome of the exercise, in much the same way that Wiseman lied about his successful replication of Sheldrake's study of Jaytee. Rather like the tobacco industry. When a liar holds the megaphone, the truth rarely gets heard, even if it stares one in the eyeballs.

I have already adverted to the Wiseman stunt. Chris succeeded in this exercise, because his dream notes matched the target. Wiseman, fearing that this would happen, changed the protocol and required Chris to tick a list of forced-choice questions.

Neither of these experiments was conducted by the SPR, and in neither case did the SPR, as a corporate body, declare that the results indicated anything about Chris's psychic abilities. Indeed, the Society's Articles of Association do not permit such pronouncements.

So, am I going to attack the SPR? Sorry to disappoint you, Harley, the answer is NO!

(4) My own experiments with Chris Robinson.

You can assume what you like, Harley.

What I will say, is that unlike Wiseman, I compared Chris's dream notes to the target, and unlike Blackmore, I did not use mundane targets.

Now, Harley, I am still waiting for your critique of the Rhine and Honorton studies. What is your justification for dismissing them? Your claim that the "scientific community" dismisses them is fatuous, and transparently so. As far as I am aware, most of those scientists who have made a direct study of the data have concluded that nothing in those experiments is at fault (including, in the case of the Honorton studies, Chris French). So, come on, Harley. What is wrong with the Rhine and Honorton studies? If the "scientific community" knows the answer, then presumably you do too. Enlighten us.

Now, before I go, I will deal with your ludicrous attack on homeopathy. Do you know anything about the law, Harley? Judging by some of your sillier outpourings, it would seem not. No homeopath, as far as I am aware, has ever claimed that homeopathic remedies always work, or that patients should not seek the assistance of conventional medicine in the first instance. Conventional remedies don't alwatys work, either. Does this case prove that homepathy doesn't work? Of course it doesn't.

Yes, Harley, your misunderstanding of the doctrine of negligence indicates that your ability to comment on matters legal is somewhat limited!

Sesenco – it is clear that your attachment to all things paranormal and pseudoscientific has clouded whatever it is you try to pass off as logic or basic reasoning.

I am not accusing Chris Robinson or anyone else of fraud or deception (I leave that sort of thing to those who have nothing to support their paranormal claims. You, for example; you’re very good at calling qualified scientific researchers fraudulent, but no good at providing evidence to support your supernatural claims.) I think that, like others who promote the so-called paranormal, Robinson is honest in his belief, but that he is wrong in ascribing paranormal causes to whatever it is he experiences. And I think that your belief in the paranormal is so strong that you are unable to analyse any paranormal or supernatural claim objectively.

I am not going to fall for the paranormalists’ standard ploy of shifting the burden of proof. You are quoting Rhine and Honorton and expect me to go searching. No, it doesn’t work like that. You are making the claim, you prove it. It’s so easy to throw out names and claims – anyone can do that. Some of the believers here do it all the time. If all it takes to prove a point is to give a list of names, I can do that too, but would it really prove anything? Is it the longest list that wins? You seem to think so. You also seem to think that name-calling and accusing people of fraud is a sound argument: personally I think it illustrates only that you have no argument: I think that someone who resorts to such low tactics is merely parading their ignorance. Go ahead and prove me wrong – but with verifiable data and references, rather than name-calling, if you can.

Why bother saying, “As far as I am aware, most of those scientists who have made a direct study of the data have concluded that nothing in those experiments is at fault (including, in the case of the Honorton studies, Chris French)”? But numerous people here have already claimed that Chris French is a fraud; isn’t it a bit disingenuous to call upon someone already claimed to be a fraud to support your point? You are saying, in effect, “This person is a fraud and he supports my paranormal hypothesis. Therefore the paranormal is true.”

If you rely on people you regard to be frauds to give credence to your beliefs when it suits you, fine.

I am interested in your research into Chris Robinson’s abilities, however. If your research stands up to scrutiny, then I can be converted into a believer. Where can I find your published research? I am keen to know your experimental protocol; how your experiments were conducted; your method of analysis; how you controlled for variables; how you guarded against type I and type II errors; your randomisation method; etc; etc; etc. No doubt this has been published in an accredited journal, and perhaps online: at least the abstract of that research should be available?

If you want to make a paranormal claim then it is up to you to prove it. If you want me to respond to whatever it is you think Rhine and Honorton have done then you should at least tell me what it is you are specifically referring to. Tell me what their research concerned, what it involved, and outline the relevant subject; specifically, what it is you think proves their point. Give a point by point critique, and tell me why you think their claims are sound. And specific references are also required. If you will do that then I shall give that information the same consideration you have given to the references I have supplied to support my own points.

You claim I have made a “ludicrous attack on homeopathy.” You asked specifically, “Any names? Any findings of negligence by the courts?” I gave the same reference a second time and you still appear not to have understood it (it is not clear to me that you have actually taken the trouble to read it, either). Instead, you have gone into a full apologetics mode. You asked for the reference; I supplied it; you ignored it. Now all you can do is sidestep the issue and go on about how homeopaths don’t make this or that claim. But they do, and people believe it and avoid proven treatments, sometimes until it is too late. But again, I am willing to consider evidence that contradicts my own beliefs. If there are any proven cases of anyone being cured of cancer, malaria, or any other serious ailments with homeopathy, please supply the relevant scientific references that confirm your belief and I will eat humble pie. (I am, of course, referring to bona fide scientific journals)

I am not a lawyer, but I have been closely involved with the British legal system in my time. I will say no more than that at this time; perhaps your friend Chris Robinson will be able to dream up the relevant information for you and you can come back to me with the details. Perhaps he can even identify me. (In your dreams, I think)

One final thing: you called me a troll (and tedious, to boot). I will tell you that I started to comment here after I read a post by Robert McLuhan that had the title “Skeptics Welcome.” I took that to be an honest invitation to people (like me) who have a different viewpoint. I realise that I might be a thorn in the side, as it were, but at least most of the discussions I have had with some other commenters have been robust, perhaps, but mostly civil.

You are the perfect caricature of a believer that some sceptics would promote as a typical “woo.” You do your side of the argument no favours.

Ringing in my ears is the injunction screamed at me from all quarters: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!

So I will confine my reply to three short points:

(1) Yes, Harley, you are very much a troll, and you are also exceedingly boring.

(2) Yes, you did impute dishonesty to Chris Robinson. Your method for so doing is known as a "false innuendo". See what Lord Reid had to say on the subject in Lewis v. Daily Telegraph Ltd. [1964] A.C. 234; [1963] 2 W.L.R. 1063. If you have an above average knowledge of things legal, you will be familiar with it.

(3) No, I am not going to copy out Rhine and Honorton's work on to this blog, a job that would take me months to complete. If you had any genuine objections to it, you would be sure to tell us. Your continuing obfuscations say it all.

That's it, Harley. The rest of your ramblings I will leave for the midden men to collect.

Sesenco – I don’t need to say anything much else. I’ve supplied links to support my points and you have ignored them (or to be more accurate, you have no answer – you know you are wrong).

You make claims and provide nothing to support them.

I’ll answer your points:

No. 1: You keep on coming at me even though you said earlier that you were not going to. I am therefore not boring you, or you would not be answering. Personally, I find you very entertaining, and a perfect spokesperson for everything paranormal and pseudoscientific.

No. 2: No, I did not impute dishonesty to Chris Robinson, but you obviously have no qualms about imputing dishonesty to anyone who disagrees with you. You should see “what Lord Reid had to say on the subject in Lewis v. Daily Telegraph Ltd. [1964] A.C. 234; [1963] 2 W.L.R. 1063.”

No. 3: Of course you’re not going to copy out Rhine and Honorton’s work. Which is not what I asked for. You are also not going to supply a link to their work, either (that would have been sufficient). You are simply not supplying any evidence to support your claims - rather like my request for scientific evidence to support you claims about homeopathy. It might be a truly efficacious treatment for all of the ailments claimed for it, but I would like to see the evidence. As it happens, homeopathy in the UK is in dire straits, with the likelihood that the remaining NHS facilities are going to be closed down in the very near future. (As a taxpayer, I say, “Hooray!”)

I would have thought that your “research” into Chris Robinson would be something you would want to publicise – you know, to put people like me in their place, as it were. But it turns out that you are making unsubstantiated claims. When people like you make paranormal claims and provide no evidence whatsoever to support them, you should not be surprised when those claims are summarily dismissed. If you want anyone to believe that you have done any valid research into the alleged abilities of Chris Robinson, then you have to let us know what that research was.

And you say, “That's it, Harley. The rest of your ramblings I will leave for the midden men to collect.”

It’s a long time since I’ve heard that “working class” term. But I don’t think you will be able to resist responding. When you do, I will regard you as the “midden man” personified. I think you will reply, and I will say, “Told you so.”

Anyway, we are getting far away from the point here. This started out as a post about alleged telepathic communication between twins. I was wanting to know why Guy Lyon Playfair will accept anecdotal evidence in one situation (he is selling a book), but demands (sceptical) evidence in another situation (he is offering £500 for his own challenge). No-one (including Guy) has addressed that point, and by now I don’t think anyone will.

Harley, before you return to the kindergarten at the end of your lunch-break, I will take this opportunity to note with interest your admission that you do not know enough about the Rhine and Honorton studies to point to any flaws that they might have. You merely take the alleged word of the "scientific community", whoever they might be, that they do not prove the reality of psi. Thank you for that concession.

Now, as Karl Marx said to Tariq Ali: "Kindly leave the stage." Oh, and do take your crude misogyny with you - terms like "big tits" are no appreciated by civilised society.

You know, one of the oldest trolling techniques on the internet is to call a guy you disagree with a troll...

Anyway, the guy above seriously does not speak for the pro-psi community.

I told you so, Sesenco (and I’m not even psychic – just like everyone else).

I do not claim to have deep knowledge about Rhine and Honorton – that was why I was asking (it’s called honesty – look it up). But it’s always the same, isn’t it? You make claims, I ask for further information, you sidestep it. Any reasonable person can now conclude – after your continual failure to back up what you claim – that you know nothing about them, either. (I make that assertion on the basis of inductive reasoning, but I won’t ask you to prove me wrong – I’ve done that too many times already, and you fail every time.)

By the way, the “scientific community” has now proved, as a scientific fact, that the paranormal does not exist; it is complete fantasy, believed only by the terminally gullible, and the evidence for its non-existence is incontrovertible. If you would like me to supply you with that evidence, just ask – and I will follow your own tried and trusted method of dodging the issue at every opportunity, calling you names and implying uncharitable characteristics about you. (Only kidding – you make yourself look foolish enough without any help from me)

You say, “As Karl Marx said to Tariq Ali...”? I do not believe that Karl Marx said anything at all to Tariq Ali. I also do not believe that they ever met each other or communicated directly with each other at all. And I will not waste my time asking you to supply any evidence either; you have nothing up front (as the Actress said to the Bishop).

And will you stop going on about tits? You’ve taken my original comment out of context (a standard ploy for those such as yourself), but now after so many repetitions I think you have me psychologically conditioned: you’ve got me to the stage that I can’t open The Sun at page three without you and Robinson coming to mind. It’s upsetting my karma. I shudder to think what effect this is all having on the Akashic Record. It’s lucky for me that we Leos don’t believe in astronomy (or astrology, or whatever).

And I suppose you will ignore this post too (except you probably won’t). Or you might. Or not. But I think you will come back – have you noticed that you and I are the only people still arguing? Everyone else must be wondering what is going to happen next. But whatever you think, I am an honest person. I will make no further comments on this particular thread - you are free to swim in your own venom.

D. S. Layton – there are, however, some commenters on this blog who are actually interesting to chat to. I don’t think I’ll bother very much with Sesenco again, though.

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