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July 22, 2011


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Great post, Robert!

Thanks for the review Robert. I have found myself on your site a great deal over the past 9 months or so. I greatly enjoyed Randi's Prize...I was the guy on MP site who insisted on paying for your book when you were offering free downloads for a short period of time. You put a great deal of time and thought into that project and I found your book in the same category of two other writers on the paranormal that I admire,the prolific Colin Wilson and ex Blondie band mate Gary Lachman. It's interesting that they are both fellow members of your Isle, not to mention Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley!

Atleast we now have someone on this side of the pond in Steven Volk.

An interesting review of what looks to be an interesting book.

Judging from the bio on his blog, Steve Volk is a fairly mainstream journalist, writing for alternative newspapers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. His latest gig is apparently more mainstream, writing for the Philadelphia Magazine, "one of the last city magazines in America focused on doing real journalism".

The fact that he undertakes trying to write a fair-minded book at all is evidence (to me) of a paradigm shift in Western thinking that is slowly taking shape. Debra Blum never took a firm believer/sceptic stance in her book "Ghosthunters". I got the feeling that she, as well as Steve Volk live in a world where they can't imagine committing to a belief in spirits, dualism, psi as a paranormal force, etc... It's not as simple as job security, I believe it's the circles that they travel in.

Still, I found Fringe-ology to be a very informative and even entertaining book to read. Steve throws in a lot of original research and presents the evidence more fairly than any mainstream journalist (short of Debra Blum) that I've read lately*. I hope it is part of the renaissance in paranormal literature that I referred to in my Amazon review of Randi's Prize. Here's a link to his blog, and I think you'll see that he is still pursuing his quest.

Speaking of a mainstream renaissance in paranormal journalism, I listen to The BBC World Service on my local NPR radio station at night when I work. I was astounded by a program on their "Your World" segment that actually treated an Irish Medium with respect. It was entertaining, as radio must be in order to hold the audience, but there was no sensationalism, pandering or snide scepticism involved at all.
My favorite part is where the reporter has to turn her recorder off, because the Medium lapses into very personal details about her, coming from her deceased Father.

*Um, sorry Robert, we love ya, but you're not mainstream - just yet. But you will be in when the Paranormal Renaissance blossoms. :-)

"If humans are biologically uniform - which I believe is a given..."

I'm not sure what you mean by this, Robert. I mean, if we're biologically uniform how come a cyclist can ride the Tour de France and I'd be out of breath going from my house t' nearest corner shop? (I'm sure it can't be JUST the drugs...)

Point taken, perhaps I should say 'anatomically' uniform (I assume you have lungs) :)

Hah! A fair point.

Robert, I really appreciated this review. It's a great service you do, alerting us to the important books out there.

I got the book, read it, loved it, and finally wrote an Amazon review on it:


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  • ‘A brisk, bracing look at this continuing controversy, exhaustively researched .. a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in parapsychology and its critics.’
  • ‘‘Packed with accurate information while at the same time surprisingly engaging and fun to read.’
  • ‘‘This is one book that gives a completely objective review of skeptical debunking, and spells out in detail a clear pattern of chicanery which pervades a well-funded and organized campaign against all psi research.’

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  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

  • ‘I have noticed that if a small group of intelligent people, not supposed to be impressed by psychic research, get together and such matters are mentioned, and all feel that they are in safe and sane company, usually from a third to a half of them begin to relate exceptions. That is to say, each opens a little residual closet and takes out some incident which happened to them or to some member of their family, or to some friend whom they trust and which they think odd and extremely puzzling.’ Walter Prince, psychic researcher.

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. Arthur C. Clarke

  • ‘Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.’ Thomas Henry Huxley

  • We can always immunize a theory against refutation. There are many such immunizing tactics; and if nothing better occurs to us, we can always deny the objectivity – or even the existence – of the refuting observation. Those intellectuals who are more interested in being right than in learning something interesting but unexpected are by no means rare exceptions. Karl Popper, on the defenders of materialism.

  • If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative. Arthur C. Clarke.

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