The Ghost in the Machine - More From 'Irreducible Mind'
Patricia Putt - Score for Sceptics

Uri Geller

Had a rather unexpected encounter with Uri Geller last week. He wants me to work on a writing project - nothing to do with the paranormal, but it should be interesting. He has an apartment in central London near the river, with a spectacular view across the city, although I don't think he spends much time there.  He was what I expected - tall and wiry, pleasant, outgoing, enthusiastic, intense, mentally sitting on the edge of his chair, as I was physically sitting on the edge of mine (his sofa was not made for comfort). No question, the guy relates on another level to most people: we parted with a hug, which doesn't often happen to me on an initial business meeting (OK, it's never happened).

It got me thinking about what a phenomenon Geller is. By chance I had recently read Jonathan Margolis's excellent biog, so his career is fresh in my mind.  To me, Geller is the tip of a very large iceberg, but for most people he is Mr Paranormal, there isn't really anyone else like him. I see him as the modern equivalent of Daniel Home, someone who caught the public imagination in a way that other psychics and mediums didn't quite manage. Both Home and Geller were investigated scientifically, but not in much depth: there is the Crookes experiments in Home's case, the SRI experiments published in Nature in 1974 in Geller's. The rest is mostly anecdotal, and it's the usual mix of enthusiasm, astonishment, confusion and disdain.

My views about Geller's abilities are a lot less complicated than some other people's. I do remember long ago sweating a bit over the SRI experiments where he successfully identified some drawings from an isolation chamber, and wondering, apropos of a ludicrous New Scientist article, whether he really was receiving signals via a radio receiver implanted in a gold tooth, or how much he could possibly have seen through a small hole in the wall, which James Randi claims - I think from the hostile gossip of some insider - was 34 inches high, but which someone who actually visited subsequently found was at floor level, in which case it would only have been any use if he had been asked to divine the colour of the experimenters' socks. But over the years my conviction that psi is a genuine entity became so firm, and Geller's abilities are quite clearly in a different category to anyone else's, it seemed simply the most logical conclusion to suppose that he is psychic.

The problem for a lot of people is that psychism is not a category that they recognise, or can attach any real sense to. It's a non-explanation. I think that accounts for the rather confused, incoherent nature of a lot of what gets said about him, particularly by professional mentalists and magicians  who have seen him at work. There are quite a few such comments here, and to me they make fascinating reading.

This just happens to be first on the list:

"So I came to my very personal conclusion that Uri Geller has some percentage of "abilities" although I am still convinced that he is using 90% of the time tricks. I searched all the years for an explanation but found none. Well, if something can not be explained it doesn't mean that there is no explanation....Psi or not..

Hmmm. If Geller has special 'abilities' (ie, is psychic), why would he need to cheat most of the time? Is it because it's easier to see him as a cheat - and the psychic stuff is just a little detail we don't need to pay much attention to? This doesn't make sense to me.

Also where did this speaker search for the explanation? Other conjurors? What does he mean by an 'explanation'?  What would have convinced him?

For me, as I say, psychism is a meaningful entity. To say that Geller is psychic is to say that he is connecting with something that exists in the universe, in ways that all humans potentially can, but that only a vanishingly small number actually achieve, for whatever reason. But if someone doesn't recognise psychism as a meaningful category, the only explanation that counts is one that he can relate to - ie, conjuring tricks.

That would change if one day science could explain how psychism works, or more likely come up with some fantastically complex quantum equation that a small handful of physicists and mathematicians say works, and the rest of us just go along with. Then the problem will magically disappear - yeah, sure, Geller is psychic, so are lots of people, so what. 

Or this:

"My original observation was made in 1975, long before the true research by the magic community of Geller's supposed 'powers,' However, my opinion has changed greatly. I NOW DO NOT BELIEVE THAT WHAT I SAW MR. GELLER DO WAS PARANORMAL. I simply believe that it was a "superior performance of a magic trick"...one that now, after becoming enlightened on the subject matter, is explainable."

This is a very common phenomenon in psychical literature (I discussed it in my SPR talk last October on sceptics' psychology). You see a psychic do his or her stuff. You absolutely can't explain it. You are totally gobsmacked. Then after a period of time elapsed you're no longer gobsmacked - of course, it was just a trick. But you haven't received any extra information, so there's no real basis for the change of view. The passing of time has merely 'healed' the dissonance.

One of the things that emerged strongly from the Margolis book - and also from the many comments on Geller's website and elsewhere - is that the spoons continue to bend after he has touched them. He rubs it and it starts to bend. Fifteen minutes later, in someone else's pocket, on the backseat of the car, on the sideboard, it is still bending. There are also instances where the metal proved to be too hard to bend before Geller got his hands on it, and where it bent at a point where there was little leverage. There are many cases of keys bending, which is tough to do with just your hands.

The magicians I relate to are the ones who engage with this, and can comment on what they experienced in a nuanced way. Like this comment from Canadian mentalist Paul Alberstat:

"Many of the top Mentalists in the world have no idea how Uri Geller can make a compass needle move. Since he does so in his bathing suit and has been checked over by ultra sensitive equipment for metal or magnetic radiation, he obviously is NOT using a hidden magnet to move the compass needle. Since reliable sources (and knowledgeable magicians) have not only witnessed Geller make spoons bend but have witnessed them to continue moving long after Mr. Geller has left, I would challenge these so called protectors and magic geniuses to explain how he does it. If they reply, "I don't know for sure" then they have no right to say that he is a fake."

Yet sceptical conjurors like James Randi insist there is nothing here that they can't do. I'm assuming they are talking about distraction and substitution, but I'd be more convinced by this if there was any evidence that these simple procedures (simple, that is, for a pro) actually have the same effect. Does anyone have knowledge of a sceptical magician who claims convincingly to have duplicated Geller's 'tricks'? Let me know.

Several magicians are prepared to acknowledge what the unthinking sceptics can't, that Geller really is in a class of his own. For example, this from Marvin Berglas: 'Let's say if he is a magician, he has got to be one of the best, if not the best, in the world.'  James Randi never gets that kind of response. Why is that? If Randi and other sceptics could really duplicate what Geller does, instead of just claiming they can, then surely that would be the proof - the enthusiastic acclaim of their peers.

Finally, the ethical dimension:

"Magicians get angry at [Uri] Geller because he is, we believe, a magician who does not admit to being one. That anger might be better directed at the fact that Geller uses his magic to promote only himself, leaving those who believe in him, and our world, no better off (and perhaps a bit worse than that)."

Not sure about that. Yes, he's a world class self publicist, and he's always been open about wanting to be a great celebrity. But one senses that it's more than just self-aggrandizement, he really does want to use his gift in a positive way. Unless he makes up the messages that take up eight pages on his website he has brought inspiration to a fair number of people. One thing's for sure - the world's a more interesting place with Geller in it.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

"If Randi and other sceptics could really duplicate what Geller does, instead of just claiming they can, then surely that would be the proof - the enthusiastic acclaim of their peers."

Actually the personality of the performer has a lot to do with how people react. A charismatic performer will come across as more talented than someone who is drab but a better psychic or magician. I learned this from sitting through many services at spiritualist churches.

There are a lot of interesting books on Geller's web site. Of particular interest are "The Geller Papers" which contains scientific reports by scientists who studied geller in the lab. Also "The Metal Benders" which is a by a scientist who studied children who could bend metal like Geller. It describes his experimental techniques and steps he used to prevent fraud. If Geller is a fake how come people who watched him on TV gained the ability to bend metal under controlled laboratory conditions?

"You see a psychic do his or her stuff. You absolutely can't explain it. You are totally gobsmacked. Then after a period of time elapsed you're no longer gobsmacked - of course, it was just a trick."

This also happens to people who have psychic abilities. People have to constantly remind themselves of their own experiences and the reports of others that convince them of the reality of the paranormal. You experience the material world all day every day, unless you refresh your memory about exceptional phenomena you begin to forget about them and their implications.

The interesting thing about the comparison of Geller to Home, which I agree with, is that Home believed in spirit influence in his work and Geller believes in alien/UFO influence. There are actually a lot of indications that spirit/ufo are part of the same phenomena. There seem to be a lot of paranormal phenomena that occur on the fringes of close encounters. Abductees have been known to remember past lives as aliens under hypnosis.

If you like Uri Geller also check out Ingo Swann's web site, his book "Remote Viewing - The Real Story" is a fascinating account about the history of remote viewing.

Ingo Swann was also studied at SRI but he took a very different approach than Geller. Swann shuned publicity, and made no claims about his abilities. He successfully protected himself from a lot of the vindictive publicity that Geller recieved, but Geller educated many, many more people about the truth that psychic abilities are real than Swann did.

Geller was a showman and self promoter but he also educated a hughe number of people through his shows.

I was going to mention a lot of things that the above commentator has already brought up, including the Geller Papers. I would like to add Guy Playfair's book 'The Geller Effect' which he co-authored with Geller is also available at his website in toto for free. This book is a must-read for anybody interested in Geller (and Playfair is of course a highly respected writer and researcher on the paranormal who was initially skeptical of Geller). This book shows up many of the lies and misrepresentations of the CSICOP crowd, including Randi's lies here that have gotten very little (if any) attention. Covers his life up to the mid-80s.

Interestingly many people who take psi seriously dismiss Geller, so glad to see paranormalia acknowledge him as the real deal. Geller has had so much mud thrown at him that even many people who take parapsychology seriously think Geller has been discredited. I think ultimately Geller became too famous, and since the status quo in the contemporary scientific priesthood and Western intellectual "culture" insists that psi does not exist, Geller had to be dismissed. I mean if they even acknowledged that Geller may be for real, their whole worldview of scientific materialism comes crashing down, and there is no way they could let that happen. So they had to lie about Geller, and so they did. And so people came to believe Geller must be a fake, and they could put themselves at ease that psi does not exist and only cranks and the gullible take it seriously.

Another reason that Geller was dismissed, alluded to above, is that Geller's psi is so way-out and extreme, so super-psi, that it simply crosses the boggle-threshold and you just want to throw up your hands and go "are you kidding me?" In other words as paranormalia points out, just like D D Home.

The best I have seen in terms of duplicating Geller's performances is the magician Banachek. I'm not sure if he does everything Geller does, but if anyone can, it's him. He fooled scientists into believing he was psychic in the 70s:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiXETE_jbzc&feature=player_embedded

I agree with Lawrence's comment that Geller had to be dismissed.

Another book on Geller's web site "Uri" by Andrija Puharich contains evidence that Geller was victim of a disinformation program organized by DARPR. When Geller was being tested at SRI computers working on a DARPA project on the next floor went haywire. This seriously upset defense department officials. If a psychic could influence electronic equipment, then any modern weapons system would be subject to sabatoge. Geller had to be discredited to minimize the possibility that anyone would be encouraged to develop military applications for psychic powers. The operation included a prominent skeptic and a U.S. weekly news magazine which brings into question the role of skeptical organizations and the mass media in supressing parapsychology. I discuss this idea in more detail on my web site:

http://www.geocities.com/chs4o8pt/suppressed_parapsychology.html

Another contrast between Geller and Swann is that Swann's discretion made him a much more desirable candidate for the government programs developing remote viewing as an intelligence gathering tool. This led to Swann being instrumental in developing the U.S. military remote viewing manual and much of the scientific understanding of psychic phenomena that came out of that program. While Geller made a large contribution through public educations Swann made a great contribution to scientific understanding.

Glad to see some intelligent discussion of Uri of which there hasn't been much lately. Lawrence has got it exactly right as has geocities (whoever he, she or they is/are).

Just a few brief comments:

I've got a list somewhere of about 20 magicians who have testified that they can't explain what Uri does . David (not Marvin) Berglas told me that Uri has to be one of two things - a genuine psychic, in which case he's the first (according to David) or a magician, in which case he's one of the best ever. Either way, David said, we should respect him, as he does - he and Uri have become good friends.

Yes, Ingo Swann's web site is required viewing for serious researchers, and includes an interesting chapter on Uri.

Watch out for the next Fortean Times in which I finally get around to writing up Uri's bending of a chrome vanadium spanner. Don't know if Mr Banacek or The Amusing Randi have ever done that. If they can repeat everything Geller does, why don't they? They could all become millionaires.


Totally (well almost) off topic so apologies. I have never read Fortean Times - in my ignorance I kinda had the impression it is a freaky journal - are you recommending it Guy? :)

With all due respect, Guy, Banachek and Randi don't make money off of paranormal claims because they have ethical reservations about calling what they accomplish through trickery paranormal.

One might ask why Geller doesn't do something more useful with his talents than bending metal or moving compass needles. It is at least deeply suspicious that Geller's claims are all things that can be accomplished through the art of magic. And even great magicians can be fooled when it comes to methods--that's why we have tricks called "magician foolers."

I would personally have deep respect for Geller if he proved he could do something psychic or if he simply called himself a magician--he is a good one, except for when his moves are caught on camera.

Oh, don't be so hard on Randi. He puts the cur in curmudgeon, the crotch in crotchety, & the crank in cranky old man. There has to be at least one in every crowd. I think it's a rule etched in the guidelines of social interaction.

His "skepticism" is the shadow twin of most folks blind "belief."

They're both constructed out of the same immaterial psychological residue & insecurity.

I'm also almost 100% sure that he keeps any baseballs little kids happen to hit into his yard.

Robert,

Hasn't Geller intimated recently that some aspects of his performances are manufactured, in particular his metal bending performances? I was under the impression his coming out (as it were) was part of a larger process of him being rehabilitated within the magicians guild.
M

Well, I've met Uri Geller several times, communicated with him by e-mail for half year and read a lot of information about him.

I was going to write an article or a e-book about Uri like about one of the greatest psychics of the world. But when I learned him better and watched him bending spoons, I began to doubt that he is a real psychic.

Though in any case I am still sure that he has some "abilities", but not sure that he uses them often.

Uri obviously doesn't pay much attention to develop the powers and to apply them to help people or even himself.

When Uri is in a traffic jam, he will suffer for some hours but will not even try to change the situation by his psi power.

Uri likes to say:"I am not a miracle worker" - though any person which just begins to work with psi can make his wishes and dreams true. Uri can't.

So, to my opinion, Uri Geller first of all is a good magician - mentalist which trained for a long time.

As you will see, Uri doesn't like to discuss supernature, he avoids to meet psychics and doesn't want to see them in his shows "The Next Uri Geller", they invite only illusionists (mentalists). Why psychic is looking for "successor" among illusionists?

When Uri came to Moscow with a stage show he invited our best illusionists to take part in it and watched their work very intently. Why, is he is a psychic, not a magician?

When a journalist asked him this question Uri answered:"I didn't tell that I have supernatural abilities, I am a mystificator".

If he is a real psychic it is very strange, right?

He also said that the illusionists Brothers Safronov which took part in the show could become world famous mystificators too. Though they never claimed to have a psi power.

Magicians - contestants of Uri's Russian TV show "Phenomenon" which could watch Uri Geller's perfomances and rehearsals close are also sure that he is a magician.

And the last thing which convinced me was the spoon. I have read and have heard a lot that Uri bends metal just by one look or easy touch and was very surprised to watch how hard and fast he rubs the spoon to bend it! It became clear that Uri trained his fingers for several years. Why, if he is not a magician?

If he would really bend metal by his mind, he would train mind, not fingers!

I have watched the spoon after, and it was not bending any more.

Of course I can't claim that it never happens, but I haven't seen any miracles.

So I refused from the idea to write an article or book about Uri but if someone is going to do it and needs information, please, contact me by e-mail Astranight@gmail.com, will be glad to help.


Funnily enough, been doing some reading about macro-PK. Picked up Steven Braude's 'Gold-leaf lady' from the SPR library.

One thing that interests me is the almost 'fractal ambiguity' of macro PK cases; one never seems able to resolve the phenomena to EITHER fraud or GENUINE, no matter what your level of examination. Maybe we are demanding clarity in a phenomenon that cannot provide it....

I personally think that George Hansen's comments about psi-superstars are germane here. His take is that it's the nature of paranormal phenomena to be linked to unstable conditions and shifting boundaries, which includes its association with 'Trickster' like individuals. In my experience, there is much truth in this, although I've no real idea why it should be so.

A suggestion; why doesn't someone hold a spoon-bending party and try to get some home-made PK going? The account of the, alas, late Michael Crighton's account has long intrigued me;

http://www.michaelcrichton.net/features-spoonbending.html

Happy bending!

Matt.

Seamus:

I don't think Guy is suggesting they pretend to be psychics. If they can do by trickery what Geller does, they can acknowledge themselves to be magicians and make their fortune performing.

I find it interesting that Randi has clearly made a living for decades "debunking". His fame is certainly dependent on it - would anyone know who is is otherwise? Let me turn your comment around - I would have respect for Randi if he would ever admit that he is genuinely puzzled by phenomena, or that at least a claim merited further investigation. Yet he never does. And his supporters never question his substantial economic motive to never give an inch.

Of course, as for your other question, "One might ask why Geller doesn't do something more useful with his talents than bending metal or moving compass needles" the answer is that he has. He has made substantial sums of money dowsing for oil companies, he has written novels and been a proponent of human consciousness development. He has submitted to laboratory testing. You can believe whatever you want about Geller, but you are clearly unfamiliar with him it you think spoons and compass needles are all he ever paid attention to.

Uri does a lot of very useful charity work and has raised a lot of money for abandoned greyhounds, kidney machines, etc. He does indeed do a lot more than bend spoons and make compass needles wobble.

Yes - Geller does more than just bending spoons - but the question was why does he not use psychic talents to help people? Everyone can do charity work and write novels, there is nothing phenomenal in it.

There was a very interesting show recently where illusionists proved that Geller cheats and repeated his tricks. You can read more about the show in my blog http://thenexturigeller2009.blogspot.com


Astra:

I find this statement incredibly perplexing:

"And the last thing which convinced me was the spoon. I have read and have heard a lot that Uri bends metal just by one look or easy touch and was very surprised to watch how hard and fast he rubs the spoon to bend it! It became clear that Uri trained his fingers for several years."

So if I understand you correctly, you believe that Geller's fingers are strong enough that he can hold a spoon at the end between his thumb and index strongly enough to bend it by applying pressure in the middle of the handle with the index finger of his other hand? That's what his training of his fingers allows?

Can you do me a favor? Go get a plastic spoon, hold it the same way (index finger and thumb down at the handle) and apply pressure with the other index finger in the middle. Tell me if you can manage to break it or bend it.

You can't. And if you tried the straining in your fingers and arms and the pressure applied would be obvious. If Geller could bend metal spoons this way, it would be one of the most incredible feats of strength ever seen. I'm not sure Olympic weightlifters could do it.

Are you seriously saying that is what he does?

Tony, I have bent some spoons and forks without any "power of Mind", just by hands, so, please, believe me it is not incredible:)

Sure. Can you do spanners as well?

I liked this one:

"When Uri is in a traffic jam, he will suffer for some hours but will not even try to change the situation by his psi power."

Is that really a reason for disbelieving someone has psychic powers? He may have the ability to read mines. He's not Obi Wan Kenobi able to bend people to his will.

Guy Lyon Playfair "Can you do spanners as well?"

Didn't try yet, but I don't dream to take a place of Uri Geller.:)


The Major


Good question.

You see, The Major, I know what is psi power, how it works and a mode of thought people who has it. I have some psi power myself and train it.

When a psychic (magus) finds himself in a hard situation his first idea is to try to solve the problem using his (her) power. It's a challenge! You concentrate or come into trance, imagine a resolution of the problem (for example, that there is no traffic jam any more, the road is free, and you can go).

Try it yourself! If your imagination is strong and you really believe, it can work!


When you just started to deal with psi or unconscious you have got a HABIT to solve problems and realize your wishes this way.


Major

"He may have the ability to read mines. He's not Obi Wan Kenobi able to bend people to his will."


Maybe you don't know that Uri is a hypnotist, and the main goal of hypnosis is "to bend people to your will."

I interviewed Uri Geller a few years ago and had the opportunity to see him bend a spoon up-close. Believe me, there's nothing especially remarkable about what he does. From my interview questions he knew that I wasn't some naive psi believer, and he pulled the old "it works better near metal" stunt to give himself the opportunity to move the spoon briefly away from my direct line of sight (I'd been watching it like a hawk). That's all it takes - a fraction of a second and the spoon is bent. Funnily enough, even before he'd told me that the spoon was bending, I could see that he was holding it in a very peculiar way (so I couldn't see that it was already bent). I did not see him physically bend the spoon, but I know he had a momentary opportunity. I think it's rather more likely that he fooled me than he broke the laws of physics.

He almost succeeded in wiping the dictaphone recording of our interview - not through any feats of mind-power, but by grabbing the dictaphone and pressing the record button!

You can read my interview with him here: http://www.simon-jones.org.uk/articles/uri_geller_interview.htm

And here's my write-up about how sceptics think he does it: http://www.simon-jones.org.uk/articles/uri_geller_how.htm

My Lyon Playfair - you've been championing these so-called psychics for years, but none of them have pulled off a really convincing demonstration have they? If this is the same spanner incident you wrote about in Autocar 10 years ago then it doesn't sound like you've applied much sceptical reasoning to this "miraculous" event. Did it perhaps occur to you that he could have brought along his own pre-bent spanner and then planted it? Not exactly a major feat for an experienced conjuror. There are other possibilities too, but jumping to the conclusion that he did it with his special psychokinetic powers is pretty dumb. You are relying on second-hand information by inexperienced observers who presumably are not conjurors and therefore don't know what to look out for (and even if they did, as my experience shows, you can still be fooled).

This discussion is interesting because it demonstrates how people with different world-views interpret basically ambiguous data. Also see Collins and Pinchs' 'Frames of Meaning,' (RKP, 1982)where they examine the paranormal metal bending (PMB) controversy of the 1970s and early 1980s.

I think that the problem with BOTH 'believers' and 'skeptics' is that they tend to overinflate individual instances and gloss over uncertainties in order to produce certainties that are in fact anything but. The reasoning on both sides is inductive. I see several examples of this above.

My own view: I think that anyone should approach macro-PK claims with a high level of caution, because of the subject's multiple associations with fraud. There is also the frustrating fact that many alleged demonstrations of PK remain ambiguous. See Stephen Braude's examination of the Gold-leaf lady, and others, for recent examples.

And yet I find it hard to dismiss PMB or other macro-PK completely. Reasons:

1. The best polt cases are reasonably well documented and are at least suggestive of intentions operating on matter, sometimes.
2. Some of the psychic 'superstars' do sometimes appear to have been able to produce effects on metal, etc. in conditions where fraud seems unlikely. for example, Ted Serios' thoughography, and some aspects of it, give me pause. And no, I do not think the skeptic's case against Eisenbud's research was completely compelling. But each person should look at the (totality) of the evidence in any individual case and make up their own minds.
3. I have heard anecdotes and read of feats at PK parties by people whose motivation for fraud seems to be low. Michael Crighton's account of the party he attended is an example, but I've heard others from people who attended them and had no reason to lie.

Finally, do I think that macro-PK is likely? It depends on the world-view one adopts, but I do not feel the emotional outrage evidentially felt by some about a proposed violation of the 'laws of nature' (e.g. models created by human beings projected onto the so-called real world). Maybe some people can bend metal by some unknown, mental means. Maybe not.

I think the evidence for PMB is at best suggestive and fraught with problems (e.g. the shyness effect, and fraud). However, I think that there is enough to justify further research -- another reason for getting off our backsides and actually doing practical research rather than arguing about the same old issues ad nauseam, which I think is largely fruitless.

"Did it perhaps occur to you that he could have brought along his own pre-bent spanner and then planted it?"

It's surely not plausible that Geller just happened to have with him exactly the right type of spanner to substitute for the one he was given. (He'd have to be psychic...) But the mechanic who apparently came up with the idea on the spot and handed the spanner to Geller could presumably have been a confederate who had been paid off Houdini-style. That does leave the claims that those present actually saw the spanner bending - can those be explained by deceit or exaggeration?

Good points, Matt. But I wonder whether further research actually is the way forward. There's loads of documented investigations of polts and psychics, masses of it. That's the base material. What's needed now is a thorough analysis of the responses it evokes, the controversies it generates. We need to understand the range of human responses to these claims, and sort out what is reasonable from what isn't. I think we'd start to see how these reactions themselves become confused with the data - eg, sceptics inventing bogus confessions and exposes, or treating allegations as fact.

I think a spoon bending party is a great idea. But on its own it wouldn't leave us any further on, it would just lead to exactly the same sorts of controversies.

What would turn it into a genuinely useful experiment is if, on the basis of this prior analysis, we were to predict the various responses, how believers inflate positive results, or overlook problems, while sceptics use tried and tested approaches to minimise it and explain it away. On the basis of past experience one could write the script.

Face it, we're never going to extract psi from the social and psychological context. What we can do is identify that, and show exactly how they interact.

Come to think of it, that would be a great bit of live drama, as well as a useful sociological experiment. Perhaps we should do it :)

Could I suggest you all wait until you've read the full story of the spanner episode, hopefully in the next Fortean Times, before coming up with any more nonsense about 'second hand information by inexperienced observers'? My story is based on first-hand information from F1 driver Ricardo Rossett, and if F1 drivers were not experienced observers they wouldn't still be alive.

PS to Mr Jones: I've never written anything in The Autocar.

Very well, I promise to buy the next Fortean Times. But I don't feel it was so wrong of me to tentatively throw out some questions in the meantime.

(Completely at a tangent: Mr. Lyon Playfair, are you related to Hugh Lyon Playfair the nineteenth-century Provost of St. Andrews?)

Guy L-P: maybe *you* didn't write the Autocar article, but you certainly referenced it in your book Mindforce.

I say again, there are other ways to explain this event that don't require unsubstantiated leaps-of-faith that overturn the laws of physics. Occam's Razor applies here. Also, just because Ricardo Rossett needs keen attention to survive Formula 1, doesn't make him any better at spotting a decent conjuring trick. When Uri Geller bent my spoon, I missed the moment he bent it (because he momentarily moved it out of my sight) despite watching it so closely I thought my eyes would pop out. However, unlike many observers of Geller's "feats" I didn't forget the exact sequence of events. Most people do forget minor and apparently irrelevant details, and it's those that are the key to understanding what's really going on.

Matt: differing worldviews on this are irrelevant - what's important are the facts. Anecdotes do not consitute good evidence. You need well-designed scientific studies with controls designed by conjurors (or scientists experienced in the techniques used by some paranormalists to evade the protocols). Anything else is worthless as scientific evidence.

Which is why we have no actual scientific evidence of the paranormal. Every time a well-designed study invedtigates a supposedly paranormal event, the "miraculous" effects melt away.

Oh please Simon

Have poltergeist disappeared or been explained since ancient Sumer?

What about Ian Stevenson's work on Reincarnation?

What about those all so pesky NDEs which continue to remained unexplained despite the best attempt of " skeptics" to ignore and misrepresent them away.

Etc....

I so would like something novel. I wish for once a skeptic would not be as predictable as you. Can your side try saying something beside study skepticism more and all paranormal disappears when rationally studied. I can assure you we do study skepticism and those pesky NDEs alone are enough to disprove your claim the paranormal disappears under proper study. If anything almost 30 years of study has made them even more difficult for your side to misrepresent then they were when they were first discovered.

Mr Jones also fails to mention the Ganzfeld experiments, which for more than 30 years have shown significant results even when done by sceptics.

No one is saying that you need to make a leap of faith or "overturn the laws of physics". The fate of parapsychology and psychical studies will almost certainly guarantee, one way or another, that current anomolus phenomena become integrated into other sciences.

The laws of nature are incomplete, any scientist worth their salt will tell you this. It is incredibly arrogant to assume that the current laws of nature explain everything, when they quite obviously do not.

So instead of singling out ESP, NDEs etc because they do not sit well with the current norm of science, why don't we single out things like string theory (which is unfalsifiable at present), black holes (which no one has ever observed and merely exist theoretically [please note, I'm not disputing their possible existence, just that we could be wrong about them, current data is very, very good] ), dark matter and dark energy (which are only termed so because we do not know what the hell they are, even though they make up 96% of the universe) or accept them alongside these things as quirky facets of nature that we currently do not have an explanation for and require more testing?

I'm not saying accept them blindly. I'm saying test them and follow the data wherever it may lead and so far, the data is showing something. Something that cannot, and should not be ignored.

I do consider the objection it violates scientific laws to be an odd one for the reasons stated by Lurker, we don't know all these laws and all the evidence seems that the ones we do know of do not apply on the subatomic level.

I will note all we have is Simon words of events so far. I hate to sound mean but I do not trust skeptics at face value. Trusting them with paranormal research is more then a bit like trust creationist with evolution. I am not saying they are all dishonest, but some, such as Michael Shermer have been caught in dishonesty. Others that have been on this site before reach conclusions on certain topics no sane person could possibly do. I am not saying Simon is dishonest but all we have is his word on things. Would he take the word of our side without hesitation?

Kris: polts are near the bottom of the credibility scale for paranormal phenomena. There is so much proven chicanery I'm surprised anyone still buys it. Joe Nickell's "Entities" provides a good study of polts, ghosts and other such nonsense. Kris and "A Lurker" are doing exactly what many True Believers do when challenged to provide proof - they change the subject to something else (NDEs, reincarnation, Ganzfeld). If I shot down those, you'd move on to yet another thing, making the argument endless.

It's incumbent on the believers to provide adequate proof, not on skeptics to prove that these phenomena do not exist (which is logically impossible). If a particular demonstration is debunked (e.g. Geller waving a magnet over compass and wowing everyone with his amazing PK abilities) then the response from the True Believers is either to say that, yes, Geller was caught out that time, but mostly he does it psychically, or to concede that Geller is probably just a magician, but - hey! - look over there at the *real* psychic. And so it goes on: claim, rebuttal, denial.

Regarding my point about breaking the laws of physics: I am not saying that there are no phenomena that don't fit within the physical laws as we currently understand them. If that were the case then science would come to a standstill. My point is that faced with a situation where either fraud or simple conjuring cannot be ruled out, is it sensible to assume that the laws of physics must be rewritten to account for it? Why go for the most unlikely and complicated solution, when the simple answer (but boring and therefore less likely to impress the woo-woo brigade) is more likely? Proper research needs to have the input of an experienced conjuror or a scientist with that background. Look at Randi's "Project Alpha" to see what I mean.

Hi Simon

Further to your comment, I'd like to make some observations.

I'll start with your comment about Kris and A Lurker shifting the argument. In all fairness, you dismissed paranormal en masse, not just the subject of Uri Geller. You yourself spread the field wider with your comment, so should not Kris and A Lurker have done this? How does disproving Uri Geller dismiss all paranormal phenomena?

I'll only briefly mention your dispararing style of speaking i.e. 'True Believers' and 'Woo woo Brigade' because, we're all adults here so we can talk plainly. However, I thought I'd just mention it just to make you aware of it.

You say that the phenomena is 'logically impossible'? You may say it is unlikely, but 'impossible'? Only within our current paradigm of science, and paradigms often change. I'm reminded of Arthur C Clarke's comments about when an older scientist says something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong.

I'm a bit confused about your argument with Uri Geller and shifting the focus to other psychics. So, let's say Uri Geller is caught out. Does this mean that all psychics are therefore frauds? When Michael Shermer deliberately misrepresented Pim van Lommel's research on NDEs, did this mean that all skeptics became liars? Certainly not. Should someone who accepts the reality of psychic phenomena simply roll over and change their viewpoint because of a few bad apples?

And I did enjoy the way you used the fraudsters as a fitting reason to dismiss the paranormal, and yet still referred to James Randi as being someone who can oversee a fair scientific experiment.

It's funny that you put me in the "true believer" catagory, when I have to say that I'm not entirely sure any of the aforementioned phenomena are indictive anything. All I'm saying is that there are some strange things that have been shown experimentally that require further investingation and that it's important to remember that the current understanding WILL be revised at some point. Now, I'm not saying paranormal phenomena will be the catalyst for that change but nevertheless it has to happen. We just dunno everything yet (some may argue we'll never know everything).

As for Uri Geller, I'm afraid I know little about the man, mainly what I've seen on TV and what I have seen I just can't take at face value. Indeed, Id go so far as to say that he and PK in general just don't interest me. Which is part of the reason why I brought up other anomolus phenomena. Simply put; I know more about them. I used them to highlight our lack of understanding about nature and how things work. Until someone tests PK in a lab, we can't just say "That can't work, therefore doesn't", can we? Things that happen in the real world are just as valid as things that are repeatable in the lab, imo.

I fail to see how my focus on other subjects I know more about is shifting the argument, when you dimissed all paranomal phenomena. It would be like someone claiming that all scpetics are idiots who don't wash. You can't just tar an entire set of data with the one brush now, can you?

Uri maybe guilty of fraud, and I can see why he's a huge target, as most PK seems to be. but you must remember, occams razor is not a crutch, indeed it's good for many explainations and as a guide but as any scientist knows occams razor sometimes just doesn't apply).

Understand the use of the tools you're using before trying to apply them. I remain agnostic on all things paranormal because the right experiments can prove them all wrong just as much as they may also prove them right.

Why do Poltergeist rank near the bottom of the paranormal scale? Just because you say so? Have you ever serious studied cases such as the Enfield Case or the Bell Witch for example? Are you telling us all cases can be explained by mistakes and fraud? Do you realize just how far back in antiquity this goes and how truly universal it is?

I think you fundamentally misunderstand why I mentioned NDEs and Reincarnation research. You specifically said all paranormal research when properly done disproves the paranormal but here are two areas where the proper research has been done and it is has strengthened the paranormal explanation, not weakened it.

Define adequate proof. I do acknowledge we have to prove our claims to the satisfaction of reasonable people but many, many people would question if the James Randi skeptical crowd is reasonable. Are evolutionist required to demonstrate evolution to the satisfaction of creationist for example? Do you think the KKK should be the final decider on the issue of racial equality? I have no obligation to convince something to your crowd that in all likelihood no amount of evidence will convince them. If I have to do this, why do I have to do this?

You can use fraud etc to explain anything you disagree with . Creationist do this all the time. It does not mean the fraud hypothesis is automatically correct. If I do recall about 100 years ago skeptics claimed fraud explained heavier then air flight and hypnotism.

Lastly I would highly recommend you drop the " true believers" stuff. It is distasteful, a dialog stopper, and you will also find almost everyone on this blog started off as skeptics and in many case remain quasi skeptical( this is how I started off). I cannot count the books I have read on the Paranormal, especially NDEs. Heck I subscribe to the IANDS journal just to learn more about this subject. As I type now I am taking a few minute break away from a reread of Irreducible Mind.

I don't like the idea of using any kind of Razor as a crutch.

I should note Occam's razor cuts both ways. For example it completely favors the afterlife hypothesis to NDEs against the dying brain simply because the dying brain theories cannot explain all the features of NDEs, for example vertical perception and people receiving new knowledge during their experience.

Again you have the same circumstances with Reincarnation studies. There remains an amount of core well documented cases which fraud or mistake is virtually impossible.

So if I was a "skeptic" I would be reluctant to always invoke Occam's razor because it eliminates many skeptical explanations because they cannot explain all the data.

Anonym- (Why are so many of you so coy about letting us know who you are?). You're certainly right to 'throw out questions' and when you've read my FT piece you're welcome to throw as many as you like at me and I'll do my best to answer them.

Hugh LP was my greatx3 grandfather. Nice to know he is still remembered. Thank you for that.

The Major: read my previous post and you'll see that I'm not saying that paranormal phenomena are logically impossible (I'd describe them as highly improbable). I said that it's logically impossible to prove that any of these phenomena doesn't exist. The onus is on the claimant to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their claim is true.

You may dislike my referring to true believers, but that's the way some of these responses come across. The hallmark of true believers, whether religious or not, is to dismiss rationalist explanations and theories and then move the subject on to other areas. I'm sure others would regard being called a "true believer" as a badge of pride. Many people have a fundamental need to believe in something - anything - outside the realm of our physical world. For some that might be a god or gods, for others it might be ghosts, fairies or the man in the moon. Doesn't mean that any of those things are true though.

As for the "few bad apples" point, that's a convenient way of ring-fencing the frauds to make the others look like the real thing. But how many bad apples does it take before you can reasonably assume that it's probably all nonsense? By saying it's a "few bad apples" you've rigged the game in your favour, because if I can show that Psychic A is a fraud, you can just "well, yes, he's a fraud, but these ones aren't". This sets up a never-ending game of "'tis, 'tisn't".

Kris: polts are unconvincing to me because the most celebrated cases have strong elements of fraud or misbehaviour. Joe Nickell has published some interesting studies of these cases (I mentioned his book Entities previously, which is well worth reading). Define adequate proof? Outside of mathematics there's no such thing, there are only shades of probability. I've yet to hear of a single reproducible phenomenon that can be demonstrated under conditions that prevent fraud or deception (including, regretfully, self-deception by scientists).

Guy L-P: Does your Fortean Times piece add anything to the F1 story that you haven't written about before?

I certainly concede the point about your saying the paranormal is logically impossible. I mis-read that part and see what you mean now.

With regard to your second point, I would like to say who are the 'True Believers' though? Even leaving aside your attempt to muddy the playing field by placing God alongside the Man in the Moon, I would say that many materialists' conviction that everything can and will be explained in materialistic terms often borders on pure belief.

Can you honestly say the likes of Michael Shermer and James Randi investigate such theories in a balanced and non-biased manner?

Even when evidence does contradict the materialistic view of the universe, it's often just waved away with the notion that it's unlikely.

Is Occam's Razor not becoming the defining tool for this? It has now become a statement often used to dismiss paranormal phenomena simply because 'the simplest solution' is probably correct, which is in a sense a violation of what it was meant to represent.

I can see what you're saying with regard to the psychics and frauds but the acts of one individual don't neccessarilly reflect on another. What about Gary Schwartz' experiments in the US regarding mediums? Am I to dismiss them simply because you didn't see how Uri Geller bent a key and therefore must have cheated?

Also, what does this mean for the skeptical community? With Randi and Shermer being caught blatantly mis-representing data, should we tar them all with the same brush?
In your own words "But how many bad apples does it take before you can reasonably assume that it's probably all nonsense?"

"Matt: differing worldviews on this are irrelevant - what's important are the facts. Anecdotes do not consitute good evidence. You need well-designed scientific studies with controls designed by conjurors (or scientists experienced in the techniques used by some paranormalists to evade the protocols). Anything else is worthless as scientific evidence."

With respect, Simon, the point is that 'facts' are inextricably embedded in whatever worldview one adopts. This is a non-controversial, basic point in the philosophy of science. Facts NEVER speak for themselves; they need interpreting.

Anecdotes are indeed not strong evidence, but in fact there's little consensus as to what good evidence should be, or for that matter where reasonable doubt becomes unreasonable. The history of the paranormal is littered with examples of demonstrations that some thought were clear-cut examples of psychic functioning, whereas others were unimpressed. The Serios photos are an example, as are the seances with Palladino and Home.

PK party; my main aim, at this point, is not to convince others, but to convince myself, or at least see something with my own eyes that is strongly suggestive that PMB occurs. I have not yet witnessed anything like this. Other people should make their own minds up!

Simon

Okay, I think this is probably going to be my last message to you. I can give you evidence for the paranormal all day long and you are free to dismiss it, that is the nature of things. Creationist do this, holocaust deniers do this etc. I accept that we do have free will and we are free to choose what we believe, or disbelieve. I want you to notice though how you are in situation in which you will not change your mind cause you will dismiss all the evidence possible as either fraud or mistaken. Very convenient.

Yes fraud and mistakes do occur but they occur in all things in life, not just the paranormal. However as some fraud and mistakes do not invalidate all things neither should it invalidate the paranormal.

You do have a system of beliefs, you just do not realize it. You believe the same universe which could create life, consciousness, human level consciousness, and at the subatomic level can create particles that exist at two places at the same time, travel faster then light etc. Certainly many paranormal claims seem tame compared to all the above! It is an arbitrary skepticism at best.

I do not dismiss rationalistic explanations, far from it I try to find the best explanation for all paranormal data. However, unlike you I arrived at the paranormal explanation as the best explanation cause I felt fraud and mistakes could not explain all the data. So I studied the subject for years and made my conclusions. I am highly doubtful you have put a tenth of the study into this that most of us have. You saying we do not take rationalist explanations is just sour grapes on your part and it is quite juvenile. What is a paranormalist " true believer " anyways. I do not attend church. I don't pray. I have no sacred scripture. Besides a different view on the paranormal I suspect our views on many things would be similar. Remember the rational explanation is the best one for all the data, not necessarily your pet philosophies view on it.

I would strongly recommend you list those instances of fraud and misbehavior in poltergeist. I would also highly recommended you realize most celebrated cases do not equal best cases. I would strongly recommended you take my advice about you can dismiss ANYTHING as fraud and mistaken, then read the reports coming in the from the people who directly dealt the with the poltergeist and ask yourself if it could truly be either fraud or a mistake.

I know you know little about poltergeist cause if you did, you probably would not hold the views that you do. You would realize just how unlikely critics such as French's explanations are. You would realize the universality and timeless of these cases. You would also realize just how destructive physically and mentally these cases are to all involved and realize they gain nothing from fraud besides ruined lives.

Two books I would recommend for you

Irreducible Mind
Is there an Afterlife- David Fontana

I particularly recommend the first cause it shows that dualism is much more robust of an explanation then many give it credit for.

Actually, Kris, I have been involved in the skeptical and paranormal movements for over 10 years. You seem to think I'm some know-nothing johnny-come-lately skeptic who dismisses these things out of ignorance. I can assure you that this is not the case. As for poltergeists I've read many of the classic cases, and I have to say they're not particularly impressive.

"However, unlike you I arrived at the paranormal explanation as the best explanation cause I felt fraud and mistakes could not explain all the data."

But what is the "paranormal explanation" anyway? It's no explanation at all. To call something paranormal is just to say "I have no way of adequately explaining this yet, given the reported description of the phenomenon". This might be because the reported facts are in error, or that a mistake has been made, or that deliberate fraud has occurred. In some cases it might be because it is a phenomenon unknown to science (but within the realms of the physical world). In the latter category I would put things like sprites (the lightning discharges above thunderstorms that were unknown until recently) and ball lightning.

Where we get into difficult territory is when people are involved as the subjects of the phenomena. This makes studying the phenomena more difficult, because any testing procols have to be acceptable to both the subject and the tester.

As I mentioned before, Randi's Project Alpha is a classic example of how lax experimental controls can allow simple conjuring tricks to bamboozle reputable men and women. The whole subject of parapsychology is littered with examples of poorly constructed experiments that are worthless in scientific terms. That's why parapsychological research so rarely gets published in peer-reviewed journals - not because there's some sinister cabal of scientists censoring their work. Susan Blackmore has some interesting things to say about the strange world of parapsychology.

I suppose we may have strayed slightly off topic as this thread was originally about Uri Geller.

I find the discussion about proof and evidence is interesting though. It seems to me that there is a great deal of evidence for so

called 'paranormal phenomena' however what constitutes 'proof' is a perhaps a different question.

One of the characteristics of evidence in the general sense is that, by nature, it is often susceptible to interpretation. Proof

is usually said to be achieved when evidence has passed a particular test. It occurs to me that proof that an event or phenomena

occurred, other than in the scientifically observed sense, is something of a moot point in many cases in day-to-day life. Often

the degree of our acceptance is a function of who is telling us, how they are telling us and what they are telling us.

Even when a phenomenon or event is observed there may still be debate about exactly what was observed and why it occurred.
Although I would not deny it's value of course, scientific proof in some of these 'paranormal phenomena' would be interesting and

useful, however I am not sure how much weight it carries against personal experience for those who have actually experienced

phenomena of one kind of another.It seems to me that scientific opinion itself is often subject to (sometimes furious) debate on

many matters when scientific 'proof' is asserted.

There are many things we experience from day to day which may not be repeatable and which we cannot adduce much, if any, evidence

for apart from our own observations. Does this mean they did not happen? No of course it doesn't. We can of course dismiss this

evidence by saying "I haven't seen any evidence that this phenomena is possible, therefore I don't accept that is possible,

therefore you didn't see what you thought you did or were mistaken about it or its origins". This seems to me to be a perfectly

reasonable view up to a point. There is however a built in assumption: 'I don't accept it is possible because I haven't seen it".
In the case of so-called paranormal phenomena there are many reputable people who claim they have witnessed them in circumstances

that preclude misinterpretation and,in many cases, fraud too unless we resort to the argument that since the phenomena are

impossible, even if we can't detect it, fraud or error must be the explanation.

To say there is no evidence would in my opinion be disingenuous. There is over 150 years of research by some of the most eminent

scientists of their day, Lodge, Crookes etc. To simply reject their evidence as based in deception or fraud is not reasonable.

Neither would accepting everything we are told by them or others without question be prudent, unless we knew them well (I don't

think there will be many of their contemporaries around now).

To claim that all reported phenomena are fraudulent or mistaken and that there is no evidence is not reasonable. To adopt such a

position weakens the argument of the confirmed sceptic for those who have examined the record. How one interprets the evidence is

I believe a personal matter. I don't think there will be an end to the debate until such time as some for of irresistible

explanation emerges and even then I suspect some will not accept it.

I would be interested to know what research you have conducted personally Simon and what the result was. There are a lot of

armchair paranormal researchers (myself included) who say we have researched the subject but what we mean is that we have read a

lot and thought a lot about it. I suppose that is a form of research but it seems to me to be simply forming an opinion about what

others say they have seen and done. There is no substitue it seems to me for personal experience, however difficult it may be for

others to accept the outcome.

As for scepticism, I think that is a healthy approach to take. But taking a sceptical position does not guarantee correctness. In

fact it seems to me that unless strong personal evidence is experienced, scepticism can develop into a position it is difficult to

move away from without powerful direct experience which may never come along in one's lifetime.

sorry for the layout I thought I had fixed it but when I pasted it screwed up.

I consider you a Johnny Come Recently cause you make Johnny Come Recently style arguments.

You resort always to fraud and error. You fail to realize this can refute any subject. You do not realize you have to show how this happened, not that it was possible to have happened. How seriously would you consider this:

Coin Hoard discovered, however it will not be excavated because someone possibly created them as fakes. That is your exact attitude.

A paranormal explanation is this. We have eliminated the following:

a.) fraud
b.) error

Something odd is happening. We do not understand the exact mechanism of the events occurring but they certainly are. Therefore this event needs to be investigated and it possibly might be what it seems to be ( for example NDES). If we get enough events like this we will have to modify scientific knowledge.

Lastly you argue with arguments through assertion. Truthfully I am still waiting for you to back up any claim you make with any evidence or examples. Tell us of a case of fraud in a poltergeist case ( or tell us why you think something was fraudulent) . Describe to us one of these poorly done experiments, and explain to us why a possible flaw invalidates it. ( flaws do not always invalidate experiments).

I consider Susan Blackmore to be a sloppy researcher myself. By her own admission in her book Dying to Live she simply does not believe any NDEr who makes claims of vertical perception during an NDE. This show she is placing a theory before evidence, engages in fining and how in blazes can you research something by rejecting some data arbitrarily.

The above is what I am looking for. I made a claim and backed it with evidence. Doing that removes you beyond Johnny Come Recently status in my book.

"But what is the "paranormal explanation" anyway? It's no explanation at all. To call something paranormal is just to say "I have no way of adequately explaining this yet, given the reported description of the phenomenon". This might be because the reported facts are in error, or that a mistake has been made, or that deliberate fraud has occurred. In some cases it might be because it is a phenomenon unknown to science (but within the realms of the physical world). In the latter category I would put things like sprites (the lightning discharges above thunderstorms that were unknown until recently) and ball liightning."

I imagine he means that it is a phenomena that is unexplainable under the current scientific paradigm. No one knows yet in what direction it takes us, but it's an understand that we do need to move in a different direction.

Simon, just out of interest, but what problems do you have the Ganzfeld and auto-Ganzfeld tests?

Have Geller's alleged abilities been conclusively verified under scientific conditions though Kris? Much of it is anecdotal - just like the Enfield Poltergeist case that someone refers to.

Playfair himself is not immune to controversy. After all, why did he put Anita Gregory's thesis on the Enfield saga out of bounds? That kind of action is very suspicious and quite unpalatable in a democratic country that values free inquiry.

Define verified? Many scientist have concluded he has done unusual things, however skeptical scientist have not. However I will observe the KKK does not consider racial equality to be proven, does this mean racial equality stands on less firmer reason? Does Geller truly have to convince those who will never be convinced. If so, why so? Do you think the Theory of Evolution is weaker cause Creationist do not consider it verified?

Very few things are not immune to controversy. I would imagine poltergeist cases are even less immune. However this does not make the controversy to be warranted nor does it prove fraud in any manner. When the Wright Brothers first flew that was considered controversial, however it wasn't fraud.

This is what David Fontana has to say about Anita Gregory:

"Anita Gregory had no experience of poltergeist phenomena, and her "misgivings", set out most fully in her PhD thesis, were considered so ill-informed that the thesis was withdrawn from the SPR Library. Surely I cannot be expected to repeat material of this kind."

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-32880098_ITM

However I am sure if you want you can get a copy of her PH.D Thesis to verify this for yourself. Historically SPR has accepted skeptical research and conclusions so it is highly unlikely they would withdraw it for just that reason.

Free Inquiry does not require one to include substandard inquiry in the research and reports, does it? Does one have to include holocaust denial when discussing World War II for example?

Incidentally the vast, vast majority of the evidence we use everyday is anecdotal. Just because something is anecdotal does not mean it is flawed or incorrect. The ebay uses feedback system is proof that in general it is a reliable means of evidence.

Are the Fontana comments on Gregory that you quote from the SPR library?

Gregory was an experienced investigator of psychic phenomena. I'm not quite sure I could get hold of Gregory's thesis, if Will Storr's failed attempts at procuring it are anything to go by.

Apparently, it was put out of bounds because Playfair felt it more or less accused him of lying, and that this would harm his reputation as an author and therefore sales. But Maurice Grosse alleged that Gregory herself lied. Rather than seek to suppress her thesis, Grosse and Playfair should have highlighted her duplicity in the public domain.

Then there was John Beloff, who apparently assured Grosse that he regarded the Enfield case as genuine but subsequently told Will Storr that he believed that he was unconvinced.

Besides, it seems that Gregory's beef was with Grosse and Playfair's research methods etc.

Curiously, it always seems to be the case that this sort of thing always becomes very convoluted and contradictory in the end.

I agree though, anecdotal evidence is not without value. But I just don't feel that the likes of Geller and other psi phenomena produce the kind of overwhelming confirmatory evidence that, say, the theory of evolution can.

It always strikes me as rather threadbare from an evidential point of view.

I think you miss my point to a degree. There are always those who will not be convinced of things regardless of the evidence presented , be the issue racism, science , history and a huge etc. I do think paranormal research is evidential ( and I do feel things like Ganzfield, NDEs, Ian Stevenson Reincarnation research fulfill this need) however I do not believe it has a need to convince skeptics such as Randi, Wiseman, etc. It has to be able to convince those who are open minded , not the close minded.

Those comments were by Fontana. The telling thing to me is that SPR removed her thesis from their library. SPR does accept skeptical work after all. It was in all likelihood very poorly researched so it isn't appropriate to use it in a serious discussion on the Enfield case.

I will observe different people respond to lies in different ways. Some feel the need to rebut them, some feel that they are beneath contempt to comment on. Does Richard Dawkin's respond to every negative comment on him?

I should point out the fact you cannot get her thesis is very telling. People don't go out of their way to conceal a good thesis after all.

It is impossible to get and SPR chunked it for being garbage. That speaks volumes , now doesn't it?

PhD theses used to be kept by the University awarding the doctorate. I would imagine if she actually completed it and the PhD was awarded, a copy of the document will be held at the appropriate academic institution.

My final message on this subject:

1. Do I have anything new to say about the Gellerised spanner in my forthcoming FT piece? Yes.

2. Why was Anita Gregory's thesis removed from the SPR library? Because it was highly defamatory, hence potentially libellous. Maurice Grosse challenged her to a public debate, but sadly she became ill and died before she had a chance to take part. We both attended her funeral. She was a fine academic researcher - her Rudi Schneider book is a classic, but she was not good at field research and in my opinion just could not cope with first hand evidence of anomalous incidents, which she certainly witnessed.

Odd my comments were never published. Oh well, it happens.

The comments by Fontana come from the SPR Library.

I have a feeling Anita's Gregory research simply is not reliable. A good hint for this is the fact you simply cannot get it. People do not go out of their way to conceal good research they have performed. Also consider the fact it was removed from the SPR Library. They do have skeptical works after all, so in all likelihood they would not remove it for it's skepticism, but for it's poor quality.

I am not sure if Grosse and Playfair are morally obligated to highlight her duplicity , it might have been desirable looking back on it but they could have had reasons not too. However, where is the evidence they tried to supress her thesis?

As for Beloff I don't know, however read this blog and it discusses how people change their mind on the paranormal.

Why rely make a deal out of the report when you have the researchers, or at least one of them here to talk to directly? Again this seems to me to boil down to how one assesses the witnesses to the events in question. GLP makes the occasional appearance on here and seems perfectly happy to answer questions. Ask him questions with a bit of respect and form your own view. I know I have :)

"As I mentioned before, Randi's Project Alpha is a classic example of how lax experimental controls can allow simple conjuring tricks to bamboozle reputable men and women." -- This is actually not the whole story of Project Alpha. It is perfectly true that the two teenagers managed to fool the researchers at the lab, but it is not true that the film of these demonstrations fooled the Parapsychological Association, where they were shown. Randi also behaved very dubiously in this case, as he has done in others. The lab, BTW, was as a consequence CLOSED DOWN.


"The whole subject of parapsychology is littered with examples of poorly constructed experiments that are worthless in scientific terms." -- I would say that *some* experiments in parapsychology are like this, but certainly not all; most of the experiments in para are better controlled than in 'normal' psychology, simply because they have to be. Parapsychologists have also responded to criticism by tightening controls, etc. It seems to me that this statement simply ignores these processes, and is actually rather unfair and sweeping.

"That's why parapsychological research so rarely gets published in peer-reviewed journals - not because there's some sinister cabal of scientists censoring their work."

One does not need to invoke a 'sinister cabal' of scientists to see that a sort of scientific censorship happens in the mainstream everyday. It's more subtle than that. Simply put, there are areas of research that are considered on the whole worthwhile and those that are not. The reasons range from good (e.g. this field might allow us to cure cancer) to mediocre (e.g. Professor X loves this topic and he has several research studentships) to bad (e.g. this neuroscience research might allow us to sell another useless product to those poor suckers). Science now is in the main a career and a profession, not a quest for truth.

The mainstream has gotten (1) very, very narrow indeed and (2) very good at excluding alternate viewpoints, and not just 'fringe' viewpoints like parapsychology. Check out this book on the search for life on Europa;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unmasking-Europa-Search-Jupiters-Ocean/dp/0387479368/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1242637204&sr=1-1


"Susan Blackmore has some interesting things to say about the strange world of parapsychology."

-- I've read pretty much ALL of Susan's books, and I think that her observations are mixed. Some are intelligent and insightful, and some are very sweeping generalizations. Whilst I respect her point of view, I think that her position is by no means the only 'reasonable' one that one can take on parapsychology.

Susan is VERY charismatic but her statements should not be taken as gospel. She has made a lot of noise about being an ex-parapsychologist, but surely, if this is a reason to listen to her, one should also listen to others within the parapsychology community? The news is by no means uniformally negative.

On the subject of Anita Gregory's thesis: it would be difficult to argue that the SPR covers up research that it doesn't agree with - it has published comment by sceptics from Frank Podmore and Theodore Besterman to Trevor Hall, Richard Wiseman and Susan Blackmore. Even researchers who are convinced about psi have been vigorously critical of each others' work. For instance, the recent Scole report by Fontana et al., was strongly contested by Alan Gauld and other senior members.

As I understand it, Gregory's work crossed the line between serious research and outright abuse. I haven't seen it, but someone who has says it contained highly defamatory material and untruths, for instance accusing the investigators of coaching a witness they had never met or contacted in any way. The lengthy personal attacks seemed inappropriate in a PhD thesis and quite irrelevant to the main topic of it. The investigators challenged Gregory to debate it publicly, and get the issues out into the open, hardly the actions of would-be censors, but she fell ill and died before that could happen. Also, the decision to remove the thesis from the SPR library was taken by its council and not the investigators.

Oh I did publish my comments!

Sorry folks didn't know this was multi page!

Hi everyone,
I've just formed a group to counter CSICOP, it's called SCEPCOP, and it hosts my treatise and essays debunking pseudo-skeptical fallacies. I invite you all to come take if you want to know what SCEPCOP stands for, at:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com

I will be linking this great blog to it soon too.

Thanks,
Winston

To the owner of Paranormalia, would you like to join SCEPCOP? If so, contact me through http://www.debunkingskeptics.com

Thanks,
Winston

Winston
What's the connection with Victor Zammit?

Connection? He's just a guy I've corresponded with before. Check out my site's content. I put all the stuff together.

Thank Winston that's most helpful. Kind regards.

When speaking of Uri Geller it comes down to a matter of trust. It has in fact been proven that he has faked a few things. So how can you ever trust anything he does?

That's just common sense.

i live here in park hills,missouri
united states
our pet dog was missing around year 2000
remembering watching uri gellar on tv from the 60's.i went on his web page and emailed him.i asked him if he or his friends were psycics ,he said yes.he told me to send him a map of the area of were i lived and he told me to send this map to his address in england.i did this.he didnt email me back
so i contacted him back by email curious if he had any knowledge of were our dog was.
he just sent me his regards .i got mad because he didnt say anything about my dog.so i emailed uri and told him to bend this.i dont hate uri because of his not knowing.i just dont believe anyone can find something missing.they just guess

The comments to this entry are closed.