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Commentary Archive 6
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Commentary archive #6

Entries from: March 2006 to May 2006

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Index for this page

31st May 2006
Skeptic bites postman?
Other News

25th May 2006
Homeopathy and other debates
The Baby Mind Reader

8th May 2006
Joe Power

22nd April 2006
More Detective Work?

14th April 2006
21 Grams

9th April 2006
Selfridges and The Philosopher's Stone

2nd April 2006
Watching the detectives
Important announcement (No.80's new address)

12th March 2006
Education, Education, Education

 

 


25th May 2006
Skeptic bites postman?

What would it take for the media to consider a skeptical view of the paranormal as worthy of reporting? In my last commentary I bemoaned the lack of skeptical television programmes. I’ve checked and the last overtly skeptical programme on British television was “Secrets of the Psychics” (Open Media) which I’m told was broadcast in August 1997 (24th August to be precise). Among others we had contributions from Mike Hutchinson and Ian Rowland.

I remember meeting up with Mike, Ian and Lewis Jones in a Chinese restaurant near Euston station shortly after the show was aired. There the director, Alex Marengo, told us just how difficult it was to get this programme made. All sorts of obstacles were put in his way and some material didn’t see the light of day for legal reasons.

Contrast this with the veritable assault of paranormal drivel we are bombarded with now.

Most of this codswallop could be comprehensively dealt with if a comparable amount of air time was given to a skeptical examination of these ludicrous claims. I don’t just mean on television either. Here’s an article run published by the East London Advertiser.

Psychic tells police death fall girl was murdered

DETECTIVES are to reopen a five-year old case after a psychic claims that the girl was raped and thrown to her death from a tower block.

A leading psychic has confirmed to the grieving mother, Janet Spencer, a hairdresser from Bow, what she always suspected, that her daughter Marissa was brutally murdered by people she knew and trusted.

The medium Helen Davies, from Barking, described how a gang including a woman and two men were involved in the rape and death of her daughter.

She said Marissa was killed and then thrown off the tenth floor block on the Gascoyne Estate in Homerton, in a bid to make it look like suicide.

"The gang, who are involved in some sort of drug dealing," said Ms Spencer, " They put a picture of Marissa's nine year old daughter into her pocket to try and make it look like she was feeling depressed and wanted to die."

"After throwing her body off the block, the gang visited her home in Hackney Wick to clean it and remove any forensic evidence" added Ms Spencer at her home in Bow.

Assuming this is accurate I find the report very disturbing. Perhaps the tragic death of Marissa wasn’t suicide, I really don’t know, but there is nothing new in the above report to suggest it wasn’t.

Why is it that a) psychics feel entitled to meddle in police matters and b) when they do it gets them uncritical press coverage? I suspect it is deemed newsworthy only because a psychic is involved rather than simply because the case has been reopened. There is no comment from a police spokesman confirming that this is the case and I therefore conclude the story originated either from the family or the psychic. I accept from the family’s point of view that whatever gets the case re-examined is considered a good thing but any evidence provided by a psychic could just as easily incriminate innocent people as guilty ones. Crimes are solved by evidence not psychics.

So can we assume from this that the police pay serious attention to psychic claims? If so why? There is no evidence to indicate psychics have any real ability and even if there was it wouldn’t automatically follow that this particular person was in fact psychic. My own hypothesis is that they (psychics) are ordinary people who just basically make things up, but despite their lack of scientific credibility the media is ever eager to pass on what ever piffle leaves their mouths.

As Jam once sang, “And the public gets what the public wants..” Well at least 43% of it does.

Other news
BBC News reports, “More than half of Britons believe in psychic powers such as mind-reading and premonitions, a survey suggests.” Well not exactly, 43% of 1006 Reader’s Digest subscribers believe – which is probably not the same thing. Could it have read, “Less than half of Britons now believe in the paranormal”? It would have been just as correct.

The Sun tells us of a minor skirmish between magician Derren Brown and Derek Acorah in the Ramada Jarvis Hotel, Swansea . Derek is reported as asking Derren, “Why are you always slagging me off?” Derren’s response we are told was, “That’s the way I am. I’ve never seen your show but I’ve reservations about you.” Harsh words indeed. Just in case Derek and I meet again let me be clear, I have seen his show and I think he has the psychic ability of a peanut. My own observations lead me to believe that he is nothing more than a mixture of poor acting and a fertile (or is that febrile) imagination.

But enough of my moaning. If you have a thirst for reason check out the following;

The View from Number Eighty. Michael Shermer has switched from being a environmental skeptic to the position that global warming is being driven by human activity. This goes to illustrate that skeptics are not close-minded but listen to the evidence. Good for you Dr Shermer.

The Skeptic Express. Read a great interview with James Randi.

Double Exposure. Read ‘The Eureka moment’. Like Derren Brown Yvette Fielding seems to have doubts about Derek Acorah and you can hear her saying so.


25th May 2006
Homeopathy and other debates
As we are constantly being reminded the National Health Service (NHS) does not have an infinite supply of money and therefore doctors can find themselves in the unenviable position of having to refuse their patients of possibly life saving treatment simply through lack of cash. This provides we skeptics with an alarming example of our inability to insulate ourselves from the stupidity of others.

Imagine being told that Herceptin could save your life but alas the money has already been spent on an unproven treatment that as far as current scientific research goes could not possibly work. Of course it’s never put in such black and white terms but if the NHS, which of course is funded by the British tax payer, continues to waste money on this mythical treatment, it is a realistic example of what is already happening. Hence a group of eminent scientists and physicians has finally had enough and has written to a letter asking NHS Trusts to think again before wasting valuable resources on unproven treatments.

On the same day the Prince of Wales, who is unlikely to ever be refused treatment for lack of cash himself, is urging them to do just the opposite.

But despite this temporary blip the enduring myth that homeopathy actually cures illness seems set to continue. On Radio Four this week there was a brief debate between Professor Michael Baum, a leading breast cancer specialist at University College London and Dr Peter Fisher the clinical director at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. As I listened to this I began to wonder what influence this might have on other members of the public. If you haven’t taken the trouble to look into this subject then it probably sounded like there were equally valid arguments on both sides. Just as Professor Baum (rightly in my view) pointed out the lack of credible evidence for homeopathy Dr Fisher simply argued that there was evidence a plenty. So Joe and Josephine public could be forgiven for coming away thinking “the argument rages on”.

This seems to be how the media works these days. If there is any given topic up for discussion then the first thing they do is get in two opposing experts and get John Humphries (or whoever) to play the Devil’s Advocate with each expert in turn. Now unless one of them turns around and says, “Actually that’s a good point. I’ve changed my mind, ‘subject X’ is a load of nonsense after all”, the debate inevitably ends in indecision. Robert Kilroy-Silk’s daytime television programme worked exactly this way and never felt obliged to come to a conclusion; which was just as well as the same old subjects came up week after week.

Perversely this apparent even-handedness has its own built in bias. Let’s say I have developed a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome that requires my ‘patients’ to bathe in icy cold water for 1 hour a day whilst sipping elderberry wine. The media get wind of this (probably from me) and invite me on their show, but in the interest of balance Professor Jones is asked for his expert opinion. At this point the debate itself is largely irrelevant because regardless of the scorn heaped on my crackpot treatment by Jones I have succeeded in getting valuable air time for something that is entirely worthless. And all I have to do to counter Jones’s scientific analysis is throw in a few anecdotes and I’m home dry.

The same goes for ghost hunters, witches (white or otherwise), mediums, faith healers or anyone else with a slightly dotty story to tell.

Why are there no televisions programmes thoroughly examining such claims from a sceptical standpoint? According to Randi when he did the ‘Psychic Investigator’ series in 1991 believers wrote in in droves to complain and thus it was condemned to a single series. For the foreseeable future this continued regurgitation of palpable nonsense seems set to continue. As ever scepticism doesn’t sell, instead more detritus is going to be heading our way in the shape of the Baby Mind Reader. Good grief!

Million Dollar Babies
Derek Olgilvy claims he can read the minds of babies. If he could prove it he could win a million dollars but no matter because today GMTV kindly provided him with 10 minutes of free publicity to help the viewing figures for his new series and boost the sales of his book. He was ever-so-politely interviewed by Lorraine Kelly and rather than give him a real test they got him to give a demonstration to a member of the public (Tamara Winkworth). Sceptic Mark Duwe was in attendance and given but a short time to try and restore some sanity. Can we hear what Derek actually said to Tamara? Of course not! Instead we just hear her impressions of the reading and anecdotal stories from Derek about just how good he is from this Mark is supposed to be able to come up with a critique.

The fact that as evidence this is entirely worthless doesn’t seem to matter and once you have a TV series you’re pretty much immunized from further criticism in the media. The only thing that will get you off air are bad ratings - not science.


8th May 2006

Joe Power
On the night of the Lennon séance I took part (briefly) in a discussion on Anita Anan’s show on Radio Five Live. Also taking part was Joe Power who was the medium on the nauseating Lennon ‘pay per view’ séance. At the time Mr Power couldn’t tell us the wonderful message that he felt couldn’t fail to impress Yoko Ono. As we now know the trite message was, “Peace… the message is peace”. So we are supposed to accept that John Lennon’s spirit responded to a pay per view TV show and basically told all of us to give peace a chance. Complete pap!

Knowing I might be speaking with yet another psychic claiming to be a top UK medium I had a look at his website. The home page humbly states, “Joe Power is the UK 's finest psychic medium profiler who is renowned for his involvement in helping police solve high profile crimes. ” An impressive claim indeed. He actually helps the police solve cases then? Alas his modesty is such that he doesn’t provide any further details of the murders he helped solve. I also couldn’t help wondering if he ever worked on low profile cases, perhaps they aren’t worthy.

This is fairly old news of course but then an article appears in The Daily Mirror ( 06/05/06 ) with the headline,

“TV PSYCHIC: SALLY ANNE TOLD ME KILLER'S NAME”.

Joe Power goes several steps ahead of medium Ben Murphy (see below) and actually names the killer of Sally Anne Bowman. The Mirror story tells us,

Mr Power, 39, has told police the killer could have the surname White and first name Stephan or Stephen. He might live in a block of flats by railway lines and have been in a park before the murder.

And Mr Power believes the killer, who he thinks is a delivery driver aged between 24 and 26, met part-time hairdresser Sally Anne through the friend of a friend.

If the Mirror quotes Power accurately then it’s worth emphasising some of the wording.

“… the killer could have the name…” So he could have a different one?

“He might live in a block of flats…” But then again he might not.

“… who he thinks is a delivery driver…” So what if he thinks it.

Psychics, unlike the police, seem to be unencumbered by any responsibility in issuing such details.

Suppose there is a “Stephen White” who lives in Croydon? His name has now been brought in to the public arena and may already be considered guilty as charged by some. Are people now actively seeking someone with that name?

The police are quoted as saying, "We don't actively seek the help of psychics but we never turn down information of any sort."

Which to me sounds like police will feel obliged to waste their precious time following this up.

I’m gaining quite a file on psychics professing to give valuable information to help solve such mysteries. So far none of the following have managed to provide information that has cleared up an unsolved case.

Update 28th April 2007: Joe Power II

Warren Oates
Diane Lazarus
Ben Murphy
And now Joe Power (early days though eh)


22nd April 2006
More Detective Work?
As a skeptic I find some things hard to talk about because I really don’t want to cause offence. A case in point was the endorsement of psychic Dennis McKenzie by Kevin Wells in his book ‘Goodbye Dearest Holly’. A parent who has lost a child is understandably emotionally raw and I don’t think any skeptic would want to deliberately add to their distress, but misinformation about the effectiveness of psychics in assisting the police is a growing concern.

Once again another psychic feels compelled to ‘assist’ the police by providing information that they cannot know and will, at the very least, serve as a distraction. The latest case is a medium called Ben Murphy who has made certain remarks about the murder of Sally Anne Bowman and having made them Sally Anne’s mother is now begging the police to take heed of his words of wisdom.

Following a group meditation session which involved staring into flames he is reported to have said;

"Sally first showed me how a man grabbed her from behind.

"He was wearing gloves and a hooded top, but his face was blanked out. He had stabbed her quite a few times.

"She then showed me a handbag with some writing on the side and also some of the things from her bag - a phone, some keys.

"At this stage, the members of the circle were listening and three or four of them mentioned a lipstick or lip balm. Sally Anne then showed a man in his bedroom taking a clear bag containing a few of her personal items out of a wardrobe.

"From the bedroom she showed me a park. In the park she showed me a small hill where there was a tree and a man kneeling down at the tree.

"She said that these items are buried here and the man comes back to look at them.

"I was also given the name Justin while in meditation.

"She gave me the actual experience of being covered in blood.

"I was lying at an angle as if my back was in arched position and the blood running up my face and into my hair.

"She also showed me a shoe print which had been left in blood."

The police, quite rightly, have not acted on this and are relying on more fact based detective work e.g. asking a number of local men to voluntarily submit to DNA testing.

If we look at the information provided by Mr Murphy and his group what have we got?

Well a vague description of how Sally Anne was attacked along with comments about “a handbag” (but not actually specified as belonging to Sally Anne). Then we are told about a “man in a bedroom” but no precise information like an address. I think we can assume that the murderer probably has a bedroom.

"From the bedroom she showed me a park. In the park she showed me a small hill where there was a tree and a man kneeling down at the tree.

Does this mean you can see the park from the bedroom? They can see a small hill and a tree but are awfully light on further detail. However we are given a name, but only a first name “Justin” and it is by no means clear just who “Justin” is, only that he was “given the name”. If by some chance anyone involved with the crime is called Justin this will be claimed as a massive hit whether it be the murderer, his brother, father, uncle, landlord or postman.

I’m sure Mr Murphy and his fellow spiritualists are sincere in wanting to help but despite public perception that psychics help solve crime the actual evidence is that they do not. In fact they never have.

A police spokesman said: "We get a lot of calls from spiritualists, but we deal in fact."

In a way it’s lucky for the spiritualists that the police do not take them seriously - otherwise they might find themselves arrested for trying to pervert the course of justice.

The original report from This is Local London

I have written previously about psychics providing their insights;

Diane Lazarus on missing Martin Kelly. Sadly still missing. (Family website)

Warren Coates on the disappearance of Lisa Dorrian. Also still missing. (Family website)


14th April 2006
21 Grams
I recently took part in a debate with Ross Hemsworth (see: Audiomartini) hosted by Rick Wood. During the debate Ross mentioned that something on this website was incorrect. Surely not? Specifically Ross drew my attention to the following;

Mia also seemed to think that immediately after death the human body weighs just a tiny bit less. This weight loss being due to the departing of the spirit body. Chris French assured her this was not true.” (Original commentary here)

The point I made at the time was that this is absolutely correct in that Chris French really did assure her this wasn’t true. However I confess I didn’t really know much about the actual research Mia Dolan was alluding to – so I decided to look into it.

The original experiment was carried out by Dr Duncan MacDougall who worked in Haverhill , Massachusetts . The experiment was carried out in 1907 (not 1926 as Ross thought in the interview) when the good doctor set up a weighing machine and a specially converted hospital bed. He ran six human experiments in all having carefully selected patients who were unlikely to thrash about while they were dying.

His basic premise was that ‘souls’, if they existed, should have substance because if they hadn’t then how could the personality survive with nothing to support it. In his own words it had to be a “space-occupying substance”. Interestingly it was a similar question posed by myself that lead Ross to mention this example. The problem is whether the ‘soul’ (and indeed much paranormal phenomena) is physical or non-physical. If it is non-physical how can it interact with physical material? How could a ghost reflect light so that you could see it or a spirit cause a change in temperature? Alas, despite all the mediums in contact with the dead, this has never been explained. On the other hand if the soul is physical, and if it weighs 21 grams it must be, why can it not be detected by science?

Dr MacDougall results were not entirely consistent. His first patient showed a loss of three quarters of an ounce (which I make 21.26214234375 grams). The next was somewhat difficult to ascertain as he was unsure as to the exact moment of death, nevertheless a small weigh loss was recorded. The third lost and ounce at the point of death but, strangely, lost another ounce a few minutes later. He felt the forth test didn’t provide accurate data and the but the fifth was rather interesting in that the patient initially lost three eighths of an ounce when he died only to put it back on again. Subject number six was also declared null and void as the patient rather inconsiderately died before the weighing machine was ready.

So in essence this piece of paranormal folklore boils down to not very much. In fact only the very first experiment seems to fit the description so often quoted.

One other aspect worthy of mention is that most spiritualists claim that animals also live on after death (Derek Acorah certainly does) but this does not concur with Dr MacDougall’s own findings. He did the same experiment using 15 dogs (which were obviously destroyed as part of the experiment) and found there was no corresponding loss of weight.

Questions have inevitably arisen as to the accuracy of this experiment. How do you decide the exact point of death? How accurate was the equipment? And so on.

However it should be pointed out that even if the body is shown to loose weight at the point of death it cannot automatically be assumed that this is due to the departing of the soul. If such a loss does occur and we aren’t sure why then all that can be claimed is ignorance. However this small scale experiment conducted 100 years ago doesn’t really allow any meaningful conclusion to be drawn but that won’t stop people from doing it.

The term ’21 Grams’ comes from the film of the same name starring Sean Penn. In this we are told, "They say we all lose twenty-one grams at the exact moment of our death. Everyone, twenty-one grams. The weight of a stack of five nickels. The weight of a chocolate bar. The weight of a hummingbird."

Poetic but not true.

Lots of links on this subject.

Snopes.com

The Age (theage.com)

Original experiment can be found here

Blogcritics.org


9th April 2006
Selfridges and the Philosopher’s Stone
It seems Selfridges & Co are now offering psychic services, at least they are in their Oxford Circus branch. They have retained the services of Jayne Wallace and Christine Murray who they collectively refer to as “The Psychic Sisters”. As far as I know this is the first time a company with a reputable name has ever been involved in the tainted world of the psychic industry.

Psychic phenomena, of any kind you care to name, has never been scientifically proven. For those of you who come out in a rash at the mention of science let me put it another way, psychic phenomena has never been shown to exist at all. There are plenty of people who think it might be true and there are others who are utterly convinced it’s real – but it isn’t. To those devoted fans who help prop up the psychic industry in all it’s forms ask yourself why no one has ever succeeded in winning the JREF $1 million. Devotees will unthinkingly regurgitate the words of their heroes and claim, “it isn’t fair” or, “the money doesn’t exist”. Well they are wrong on both counts.

Taking the above into account surely this means that Selfridges are taking money from their customers (at the rate of £1 per minute) whilst not providing the service as described. Of course if they promoted them as “The Opinion Sisters”, women who for a price would give you their opinion on any subject of your choice, then things would not only be truthful but legal, decent but honest as well. The trouble is that no one would be mug enough to pay £40 for 40 minutes of ill-informed drivel and guesswork. Therefore it is essential to persuade punters that this pre-enlightenment poppycock has some mystical basis.

I can see no refuge in the usual cop out that this is simply entertainment. Not that I can find anything in the available literature to indicate that it is. I think it shows very bad taste to have a medium contact your dead relatives simply for idle amusement.

I find myself wondering how they decided which psychics would be suitable. Did they test them? Who did they ask to design the tests? Of course if they didn’t test them then that would indicate that they really don’t care whether they are psychic or not. Still, it’s not too late. I hereby offer to test them free of charge. I envisage the test going something along these lines. I find four subjects, two male and two female, and get them to fill out a questionnaire stating the names of significant people in their lives (living and dead), what they do for a living and a few facts they consider impossible for anyone else to know. This will be translated into a list of specific questions that the psychics would then be required to answer. Any other information offered by the psychic would not be considered valid. The subjects would not be permitted to speak until the end of the test. Unfortunately I can't suggest a pass mark until the psychics actually make a claim as to their accuracy.

Tricky for anyone just guessing but not too difficult for a gifted psychic surely? It wouldn’t be definitive but it would have the merit of being objective. So instead of, “They’re showing me the name Paul” they would have to answer the question, “What is the name of the subject’s brother?

I have a high expectation that this offer will not be taken up.

The Philosopher’s Stone was believed to turn base metal into gold, in a similar fashion some might suggest Selfridges are trying to turn something utterly worthless into money. Personally I think they’re just stupid. I hope their customers show a bit more nous.

Currently this topic is being debated on the JREF forum as well as that of BadPsychics (registration required). John Jackson has also written up his own commentary here.


2nd April 2006

Watching the detectives
If someone really is in touch with the dead and in regular contact with various spirit guides, it makes sense that they offer a unique opportunity to solve murder cases even if no body has been discovered. I have heard many a medium providing people with the most detailed, although usually pointless, pieces of information such as, “I’m being told there’s a birthday in the family” or perhaps, “They’re telling there’s a financial matter that’s causing you concern.” Apparently spirits can even see into the future, “He’s saying not to worry because it’s going to turn out fine. You’ll be getting a windfall sometime around April/May…”. With access to such a power mediums might reasonably be expected to warn people of approaching danger but at the very least provide valuable clues about what happened to the police and as a result crimes could be rapidly solved.

The Pink Fridge tells us,
There are many examples of psychics helping the police with crimes. Psychic detectives are particularly useful for locating missing people or trying to help solve murders or any other crime where there are no witnesses. Often they can pick up information about the victim's last hours which can shed light on who the criminal might be.

 

Unfortunately they don’t provide us with any examples. In fact I can’t find any documented case of “psychic detectives” ever actually solving a crime. Nevertheless they claim to assist in police investigations.

For example psychic, Anne Owen, who says she has lectured at Scotland Yard also tells us.

"Using her psychic abilities, Anne Owen has helped the Police investigate various crimes when conventional investigation methods fail."

Medium Dennis McKenzie is documented to have helped in a number of occasions although not necessarily at the behest of the police. Most famously he was involved with Kevin Wells during the disappearance of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells (see here). However he has been called in on other cases such as 6 year old Elliot Forde who was tragically killed in a hit and run accident and missing army cadet Blake Hartley. I’m willing to be proven wrong but as far as I’m aware none of these cases has since been solved.

Winner of ‘Britain’s Psychic Challenge’ Diane Lazarus states on her website;
Media & Police
She has worked with both media and police, and has given guided information on several high profile investigations including the Jill Dando murder.

 

The Jill Dando case and the psychics is also mentioned here: It says,
"Clairvoyants and psychics offered advice to Scotland Yard. But one year after Jill's death, the police appeared no closer to catching her killer.”

Diane has recently been called in by the family of Martin Kelly who went missing in the docks area of Belfast on January 1 st 2006. (BBC report here)

Now if you don’t know, Diane displayed amazing accuracy at finding people in two of the tests during, ‘ Britain’s Psychic Challenge’ (see report here). She homed in on them with almost laser like precision. Sadly this success was not repeated in the case of Mr Kelly. Diane is quoted as saying, “I know he's in the water, I just know he is.”

The BBC report continues…
“On the quayside nearby, Ms Lazarus said she has a strong feeling that Martin's body was in the River Lagan. ‘He's close to a wall that's full of green moss. I just know he is,’ she said. ‘What I'm visualising is a wall with a lot of green moss, but as you go down, it would be like an arch or a cove,’ . She said she believed a dive in the two places she described would lead them to Martin's body.”

 

Martin is still missing.

Although he is assumed to have met with a tragic accident this has not been confirmed and the family continue to hope. We are surely entitled to ask why the spirits are so unwilling to part with anything approaching useful information?

If anyone reading this does know anything then go to the family’s website here.

So far then I can find mediums being ‘involved’ in various cases but nothing to give me a fix on their success rate. As so many claim to help solve crime I thought I’d ask the police for their view and contacted the Metropolitan Police. In the past I have found them to be somewhat unforthcoming about the use of psychics but this time I received a reply Here’s part of it,

Dear Mr Youens

Thank you for your recent enquiry concerning the use of psychics by the police, which has been forwarded to me by our Public Access Office.  We have conducted a search of our indexes but have been unable to identify any relevant records relating to any official use of psychics.

Really! How very interesting – if unsurprising. Yes psychics are called in, not by the police but by families who are at their wits end. I have stated this before but I think it’s worth reiterating again: I am not making judgements about people who are desperate for information about their loved ones. Their actions are entirely understandable. That said I do find it distasteful that mediums a) take part and b) use the fact to promote themselves.

I can already anticipate the emails from enraged believers who think I should keep my opinions to myself. How dare I question the powers which they offer out of a sense of public responsibility? Well I do dare and please don’t bother writing unless you can come up with something vaguely evidential. The whole psychic industry spins on anecdote and you’ll need more than that to convince me.

Meanwhile there’s a glimmer of hope for the believers. The above email continued....

There is, however, a historical case where this played a major part.  This case related to the disappearance of....

I am now looking into this case and will let you know the result. But for now be assured it doesn’t apply to any of the above.

See also:
Ciaran O'Keeffe's site: Psychic Detectives
UK Skeptics forum: A survey of British police forces and their use of psychics
SkepticWiki: Psychic Detectives
Skeptic Dictionary: Psychic Detective

From someone who knows what it's like. (A must read)

And on this site:
Christine Holohan
The unpleasant world of the psychic detective

Important Announcement:
Fans of "The View from Number Eighty" may like to know that it now has a new address. Click here: http://www.number80.co.uk/ for the voice of reason.


12th March 2006

 

Education, Education, Education
The idea that the world was created in six days by an all powerful supernatural being can never be the subject of scientific enquiry. The supernatural lies now and forever outside the realms of science. To believe that Genesis can be taken literally shows such a blind determination to ignore overwhelming evidence that surely anyone so minded has no place teaching evolution at all. And yet it seems they do.

According to BBC News.
Creationist theories about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.”

The OCR website has made its own announcement part of which states;
In our Gateway Science specification, candidates are asked to discuss why the opponents of Darwinism thought the way they did and how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence.

Knowing about what people believed prior to Darwin can teach us nothing about biology. It is entirely possible to learn about evolution by natural selection without going anywhere near a religious text. So why teach it in a biology class?

On the Education Guardian website we’re told,
The new biology syllabus in England does not require the teaching of creationist views alongside Darwin 's theory of evolution, but it opens the way for classroom discussions in science lessons and pupils will be assessed on work they do on this topic.

The schools standards minister, Jacqui Smith, said in a parliamentary answer that pupils were encouraged to explore different views, theories and beliefs in many different subjects, including science.

As applied to science I can quite see the benefit of pupils being “…encouraged to explore different views, theories…”. For example discussing both the Steady State and Big Bang theories of how the universe began and showing the how latter became the accepted view. But if the “Let there be light” hypothesis were included as it would add nothing of any use. A discussion of other theories such as Lamarckism might also give useful background. But theories that include talking snakes have never been science and are irrelevant.

Those of us who do not have a religious view of the world are entitled to feel more than a little worried about the religiosity of our current government. We’re still getting over the fact that Tony Blair seemed to think praying to his God had some kind of bearing on whether we went to war. For the spiteful God of the Old Testament it must have been just like the good old days with smiting aplenty.

Even more infuriating is the fact that if you have a couple of million to spare you can get funding for your own religious school and stop atheists like me sending their children to it. Many parents resort to feigning religious belief just to get their children into their local school, probably in the mistaken belief that they will attain some sort of superior moral code.

And yet experience tells us that Tony Blair will not listen. The Iraq War is illustration enough. A march of over a million people in this country alone was ignored. His closest European allies were against him, even the church was against him. There were no weapons of mass destruction but we joined in the bloodbath just the same. Many warned of the mess that would result from this reckless warmongering but this Labour government thought it knew better, and it thinks it knows better now.

That Creationism will gain a toe in the door of the science classroom will not have come from any request by scientists, so where has it come from? I can only assume Tony has been praying again?

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