• Paranormalia is written by Robert McLuhan, a journalist and author based in London. Please contact me at robertmcluhan@gmail.com

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June 07, 2014

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My heart felt congratulations on your new appointment, Robert! I'm sure you will make an excellent job of it!

"In the longer term, debunking sceptics – and the sceptical movement generally– will have to raise their game.":

There is more chance of me winning the euro millions 17 times in a row. :D

Your essay put me in mind of the following TV programme that was broadcast ;last Sunday:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E42FnKtm9jE

The three wise monkeys in the middle were characterized by their air of intellectual superiority and a faint whiff of myopia: the confidence of the ignorant. But until TV producers realize that Psi related phenomena carry serious scientific weight then little will change.

On the other hand, many people experience these phenomena and can therefore see beyond the blindness of such naive reporting. It's only in academic circles (and between would-be academics) that the conflict truly exists.

The truth is the truth, and will reveal itself given enough time.

'heart felt congratulations' - thanks, Julie :)

I'm so delighted to see this project finally coming to a head! A reputable resource, for folks ranging from everyday people to the press is desperately needed in the midst of all the cacophony (infobesity) of our era. And the SPR has an excellent reputation among those who pay attention.

I've consistently been of the opinion that, after being vetted by professional psi researchers and reasonable sceptics, all entries should be written by, or at least edited by professional journalists, writers and editors.

An important skill in the art of journalism is the ability to take a complex issue and distill the relevant data into information that is comprehensible to the reader, while maintaining enough integrity to withstand a thorough fact check. Some facts may be open to reasonable dispute, but that is usually acknowledged in the article.

It's great to see your hands assisting the steering of this project Robert. Perhaps Michael Prescott, Greg Taylor and others of that ilk could be recruited to contribute articles as well. Just a suggestion.

I wish this effort good luck, with prayers to put wind in the sails. I can't wait to see it come to fruition!

This is a welcome piece of reassuring news this morning. Such a challenge! Thank you for saying yes to taking it on.

good news robert
this initiative that you describe will be a welcome resource ... and that you've agreed to work on it merits congrats and blessings.

as rabbitdawg mentions : "Some facts may be open to reasonable dispute, but that is usually acknowledged in the article."

a section in each entry outlining popular or oft quoted dismissals and then followed by reasoned reply might be scads of extra work but will prove to be invaluable in the long run (my idealism shining through)

also, with you involved we can rest easy there won't be any pulsating alien heads or radioactive crop circle logos marring the design of the site ;)

i first returned to this site because of the tasteful and sober design...something i've often repeated is sorely lacking in many paranormal sites (that are still stuck in some black and lime green nineties hell of graphic design....because, y'know, paranormal!!)

i'll also pipe in re: sceptics. some will ease into the at-first uncomfortable reality the data reveals, other newer ones will be born, tactics and focus will change over time, today homeopathy, tomorrow who knows...
the wiki entry of the site you propose will be a doozy i'm sure.

in any case, honest thinkers know who they are.

ok, enough ramble, thanks for the news. good luck on the work load !

“there won't be any pulsating alien heads”

Aw…shucks, count me out then! ;)

Seriously, though: It’s interesting to see the reaction of skeptics when they ARE confronted by the facts, and there’s no way out.

Remember a few months back when I posted a clear example of banker Edward Clodd (whose books are often used by skeptics as a ‘reliable’ source on Wikipedia) effectively lying about Sir Oliver Lodge to portray the latter as a woolly-headed, gullible idiot? (See the comments section of ‘There Probably is an Afterlife’ posted on December 9 last year)

Ben Steigmann used that as a counter to ‘Leon’ who was doing the usual skeptic thing on Amazon in the comments section of the reviews page for Dean Radin’s last book. You know, publishing long lists of skeptic arguments (under a series of other nom de plumes) almost as long as the book itself that, on the surface would look plausible to anyone unfamiliar with the field.

‘Leon’s’ initial response was to tell Ben that I’d probably just used a, presumably unreliable, secondary source. When I popped up and informed him that I’d used primary sources (concerning Lodge, this was a peer-refereed journal) and that I’d quoted both Clodd and Lodge verbatim in full, his response was that it didn’t count because the ‘misrepresentation’ was taken from one of Clodd’s books on evolution. Obviously it would have been an entirely different matter if Clodd had been lying (or merely disingenuously sloppy) in one of his books attacking psychical research.

Leon, at some point in a very long (and pretty tedious debate) then deleted all his contributions, but popped up as someone else, telling Ben that using counter arguments contained in book reviews from the SPR ‘Journal’ didn’t count because the SPR holds no corporate opinion.

Ridiculous though it may seem, this is the academic standard that Wikipedia seems to find acceptable.

Naturally, the SPR funded resource will be properly balanced and will not promulgate any ‘corporate opinion’. It is ironic indeed, that skeptic commentators often like to give the impression that it was skeptics who first came up with the criticisms that they level at psi researchers, and the field in general when, actually, it was usually the active members of the early SPR, men like Lodge.

It's about time that the SPR grabbed this territory (reasonable, evidence based sceptism) back from these people.

One reason why highly intelligent people (who ought to be capable of superior reasoning) are loath to accept anything that contradicts their chosen world view is because they are so very good at self-rationalization. I learnt that (although, I didn't really need to be told) from correspondence with the late psychiatrist and author Robin Skynner.

As I've said all along, direct conflict with any kind of deliberately perverse mindset is a waste of energy. Just keep the truth out there and let it find its own way. There really is nothing else of lasting value that can be achieved.

Ps. By 'direct conflict' I mean any attempt at rational argument/debate. A metaphorical kick in the goolies is far more effective - and far less time and energy wasting. :)

Here, here Julie, although, you’d have to choose a slightly different metaphor for the most irritating commentator on that edition of ‘The Big Questions’ that you gave a link to earlier – the unfeasibly unctuous Deborah Hyde. The insidious wave of vacuous waffle that oozed from my laptop screen (from most of the believers and skeptics, alike) proved extraordinarily effective in dousing the last remaining sparks of energy from my ‘soul’ that remained after a hard day at work last night.

The only person on the program who is currently involved in serious research germane to the discussion, the chap from the cardiac unit involved in an NDE study, was virtually ignored. And Hyde, whose scientific and clinical credentials in this area are probably zero, was allowed to get away with brushing off his comments with the ridiculous assumption, supported by no evidence at all, that someone whose brain has effectively flat-lined is capable of ascertaining what had been done with her false teeth whilst in that state.

It may well be, as the host Nicky Campbell remarked, that we have something like 100 million neurons in the human brain – to say nothing of the interconnections between them. That being the case, though, I can’t say I saw much evidence of their use on that program. What a waste of electricity!

PS - for 'million' in the forgoing, read 'billion'. All of mine don't seem to have swung into action yet this morning either!

"The insidious wave of vacuous waffle that oozed from my laptop screen (from most of the believers and skeptics, alike) proved extraordinarily effective in dousing the last remaining sparks of energy from my ‘soul’ that remained after a hard day at work last night."

It had *exactly* the same effect on me, Steve. Just listening to discussions like that are enough to make me lose the will to live. What did occur to me about Deborah Hyde was that, like so many of the hard-line sceptics, although undoubtedly good looking there was nothing in the least bit attractive about her facial expressions. That, in itself, speaks volumes to me.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I need to get my head back in the gas oven. ;)

I've changed my mind about Deborah Hyde, Julie, I don't think she is that good looking :-)
She also got the denture case totally wrong. She was parroting Gerry Woerlee's propaganda...a version of the case that never happened. The case has been examined minutely and TG the male nurse and prime witness categorically stated that it was impossible that the man could have felt his denture being removed etc. He was stone dead at the time. Not only that he described many other details including a little wash basin which was concealed behind a curtain. The only way he could have seen this would have been from a position right up in the air (as he basically said he was)...here is part of the rejoinder of R H Smit and Titus Rivas.

At arrival in the [CCU] department [the patient had] wide light-stiff pupils, signs of serious oxygen deprivation in the brain, no heart rhythm capable of maintaining the pump function, but instead ventricular fibrillation from the moment of his arrival at the hospital up to the moment of [his] arrival at the [CCU] took more than five minutes. During that period the ambulance nurse could only run beside the gurney; hence resuscitation was hardly possible. It was only attempted to try to maintain some ventilation. In the old Canisius Hospital the distance between First Aid, where patients arrived, and the CCU was considerable. One even had to take an elevator to the third floor as it was there where the CCU was located.

So, much precious time was lost to reach the CCU and next resume the resuscitation procedure. Between the lifting of the patient from the gurney onto the bed, the installation of the heart massage pump,and the factual resumption of the resuscitation, much time was lost, certainly more than a minute.

In that period no resuscitation took place and there was definnitely no blood circulation. The dentures—and I say this with strong emphasis—were removed from the mouth BEFORE the heart massage machine was switched on

So it was impossible that Mr. B would have been conscious and could physically have observed his surroundings as Woerlee alleges he [Mr. B.] had done. Besides, as far as I know nobody has ever been conscious when his pupils did not react to light. In addition, to me it seems far fetched that during the resuscitation Mr. B would have observed his surroundings in the very brief moments that I opened his eyes to check his light-stiff pupils. (TG, 2008, p. 8; italics and bracketed material added)

So, once again, it is quite clear that Woerlee’s assertion has no ground in fact. His assertion was that shortly after the patient had been brought in, the Thumper was placed on the breast of the patient and switched on, which resulted in sufficient blood flow and a restoration of consciousness to the extent that patient B “felt” how his dentures were taken out, “heard” how they were put on a wooden shelf of the crash cart, and soon afterwards “saw” his surroundings, the face of nurse TG, etc. This assertion, then, does not square with TG’s testimony. Truly, we find it somewhat strange that Woerlee either overlooked or simply ignored TG’s statements in this regard.
..................
So...Mr B the patient observed the ramshackle crash cart (it was a cobbled together kitchen trolley) the (already) pulled out wooden shelf with bottles on it, where TG put his denture. He described a mirror and a cupboard, the concealed wash basin, TG and the two other female nurses, he saw TG sitting on his chest, saw and heard the nurses express the hopelessness of the case "What are we doing here, let's stop he is a goner etc) and all this while basically dead.
This is why I get so pissed off with sceptics.

For anyone even true sceptics who would like to read about the case, it's all here

http://www.merkawah.nl/nieuw/english

This piece from the corroboration of the denture case (Smit and Rivas etc) perhaps clarifies it even better.

The patient, B., from Ooy near the city of Nijmegen, had indeed been brought in on a cold night, more dead than alive, and had undergone the whole procedure as reported in A.A.’s interview with T.G., who
was adamant in stating that B. had not shown any sign whatsoever of
being conscious at the time. He was clinically dead, period: no
heartbeat, no breathing, no blood pressure, and ‘‘cold as ice.’’ The
ambulance personnel had tried to carry out some reanimation while
driving to the hospital, but without result. Most important, immediately
after B. entered the hospital, T.G. removed the dentures from
B.’s mouth and intubated him before starting up the entire
reanimation procedure. Therefore, as T.G. categorically stated, any
‘‘normal’’ observation by the patient of his dentures being removed from
his mouth was simply unthinkable [my italics].
In addition, the normal observation process could not have been the
basis of the patient’s detailed description of the crash cart as well as of
the entire resuscitation room. Once again, T.G. was adamant in that
regard, noting that patient B. had never before been in that hospital, let
alone in this resuscitation room, and that this particular crash cart was
absolutely unique, being a hand-made product of ramshackle quality
that had been stationed in that resuscitation room only and nowhere
else. To guess the precise nature of that cart and its contents on the
basis of auditory impressions, or through briefly opened eyes characterized
by fixed, dilated, unresponsive pupils, was impossible by all
accounts. T.G. asserted that certainly it would have been impossible for
B. to know precisely where T.G. had placed the dentures.

"I've changed my mind about Deborah Hyde, Julie, I don't think she is that good looking :-) "

LOL! I'd simply put it down to a matter of taste. :)

But while we're enjoying a spot of bitchiing, don't you think Richard Dawkins would be rather handsome were it not for the fact that his facial expressions are those of a petulant and menopausal maiden aunt? ;)

One of the few exceptions to the rule is Susan Blackmore who can be rather charming and attractive, at times. But where would her career be without her malignant scepticism? Come to think of it, even Dawkins has built his entire academic reputation on his God-bashing skills.

It seems to me that the prominent sceptics (and even the not-so-prominent, for that matter) want just that: prominence. I suspect it's a condition driven by the same impulse as the child who simply craves attention - and doesn't care over-much how that attention is expressed. I even have a giant schnauzer like that. He's called Biff and will steal and run off with anything to hand (brushes, combs, socks, tea towels) and appears to gain the utmost satisfaction from the chaos and confusion he creates. It seems that being shouted and sworn at, and having to dodge flying missiles, somehow makes him feel important. :/

Anyway, I digress. Not one of those sceptics on that dreadful Sunday morning TV programme had the foggiest idea what they were talking about. Which tells me that the programme researchers knew even less.

Surely anyone with an honest and enquiring mind will research the matter for themselves and formulate their own conclusions based on the copious amount of evidence available? And if they can't be bothered to do so then, as far as I'm concerned, they aren't worth bothering with.

I'm a lifelong horsewoman. And, on the subject of horsemanship,I think it was Alois Podhajsky who said, "I give the pupil 25% of all there is to know, and if he doesn't go and discover the rest for himself then he is not worth teaching."

I'm rather given to horsey analogies; there's one for almost every circumstance. :)

Ms Hyde is becoming a bit of a serial offender in the disingenuous misrepresentation stakes. A couple of years ago she could be found on UK national TV (‘This Morning’) engaged in a carefully worded attempt to give everyone the impression that Mary Rose Barrington of the SPR (in a report she and others compiled on the Enfield poltergeist) had concluded that the case was not genuine – all down to cheating, wishful thinking, blah di blah di blah). She had the nerve to do this in the presence of Guy Lyon Playfair (one of the two central SPR investigators) and Janet, who was the main ‘focus’ of the case.

I was watching and was astounded to hear that because, having read the report myself in the SPR Library many years ago, I was sure that Mary Rose et al. had reached the opposite conclusion i.e. that although there was some evidence of cheating on the part of the children (which Guy and Maurice Gross reported themselves), Enfield did show challenging evidence of genuine activity.

Needless to say, Mary Rose Barrington (a former barrister) had something to say about this. She demanded, and was given, the right to reply in 'The Skeptic', of which Hyde is the Editor.

You can read Guy Lyon Playfair’s account, with extracts of Mary Rose Barrington’s response here: -

http://whitecrowbooks.com/guylyonplayfair/entry/enfield_explained_again_the_hyde_version/

Mary Rose Barrington’s whole account, with further comments from Hyde are in The Skeptic, Volume 3, Issue 4.

Julie, in many ways Dawkins seems to model himself on Thomas Henry Huxley (1825 - 1895) who was known as 'Darwin's Bulldog'. Huxley, and others like him, did much to set the tone of modern, militant 'skepticism' or 'scientism'.

So, for quite a long time now, I've referred to Dawkins as 'Darwin's Yorkie'. A bit daft, I know, but it's those eyebrows that give him away!

"So, for quite a long time now, I've referred to Dawkins as 'Darwin's Yorkie'. A bit daft, I know, but it's those eyebrows that give him away!"

LOL! Even dafter is the fact that Darwin wasn't half as obsessive about his theory as many of its adherents. 'Tis a strange trait of human nature that we tend to make up our minds on any issue then adopt the evidence that fits our conclusions. But for sceptics it's a matter of ignoring and/or distorting *all* the evidence: a case of, "Pah! I spit in the face of evidence for NDEs and the afterlife!"

Don't ya just love 'em? ;)

One issue I haven't seen addressed yet is a provocative dilemma that will ultimately present itself - where do the editors draw the line on the paranormal subjects and issues covered? Or is it all wide open?
OBE's, Reincarnation, NDE's, energy healing and other "mainstream" categories are obvious entries, but what about UFO's? Bigfoot? The Law of Attraction and all sorts of other New Age propositions?

Where does one draw the boggle threshold line? That enchanted boundary is such a personal and slippery thing.

Julie Baxter | June 12, 2014 at 11:11 AM
"One of the few exceptions to the rule is Susan Blackmore who can be rather charming and attractive, at times."

You know of two Susan Blackmore's? :D

"You know of two Susan Blackmore's? :D"

I was being kind. :)

A great psi encyclopedia of the past, was the Unexplained magazine series subtitled 'Mysteries of Mind, Space, and Time' that ran from 1980 to 1983. It was republished in multiple book form by Orbis (each book revolving around different themes - ufology, hauntings, parapsychology etc.). This was a high-quality psi and Fortean encyclopedia, its senior editor was Peter Brookesmith and it covered everything and steered the middle-ground avoiding New-Age gullibility on the one hand and pseudo-skepticism on the other (it had good skeptical articles). Contributions from the Who's Who in psi research and Forteana from the 1970s and 80s.

Those books (never mind the single mags) have become more difficult to get hold of now, as you would expect as time passes. Occasionally you find some of the books and even the mags from this series in good second hand bookstores, but you need to be lucky. Yes I know there is Amazon now. It would be nice if that whole series could be made available online (it isn't online, not legally and not illegally for that matter. At least as far as I have been able to discover. A few articles yes, but just a few, and not legitimately).

Maybe somebody with clout could make inquiries of Orbis (is it still extant? Or has it been taken over by another publisher?), even of Brookesmith or other editors who worked on that series and are still alive; and see what can be done there... It really is such a valuable resource. I don't know who has the copyright with that series, I assume Orbis.

If you know that series (and what kind of self-respecting Fortean doesn't?), you will know that to have that series online, would be a big boon.

Agreed, Lawrence.

I've still got some of the mag's. I used to buy them in Selfridges in Oxford to stave off boredom as an 18 year old - while working nightshifts at Oxfordshire County Council Computer Department. There were a lot of good books out around then by some of the contributers as well - the likes of Playfair, Inglis and Wilson, who were all SPR stallwarts.

Those publications were, pretty much, responsible for getting me interested in this field and informed my approach from the start. Very influential indeed.

TV documentaries tended to be a lot more balanced and informed then too. I remember a Horizon about psi research from the early 80’s that was particularly good. It seems to me, looking back, that the difference was that the media tended to involve academic researchers more then – rather than merely filter psi claims through the distorting lens of media scepticism, or leave the claims largely unchallenged.

I think that the rise of lazy journalism in this area has a lot to answer for – perhaps even more so than the increased influence of skeptics on the media.

Nandor Fodor blazed some trails with his early encyclopedia of Psi categories.

www.spiritwritings.com/fodora.html

Apropos Sheldrake and the skeptics, I have just come across the following quotation by Maeterlinck:

"At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.”

Says it all really.

Quite, Rupert.

One could also, perhaps, quote Max Plank: -

'Science advances one funeral at a time'

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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.

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