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Commentary archive #5

Entries from: December 2005 to February 2006

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Index for this page

26th February 2006
A small audience with Uri Geller

22nd February 2006
GMTV Psychic Fraud
Britain's Psychic Challenge - again

19th February 2006
Freedom of expression
Christine Holohan
James Randi

29th January 2006
Hey we're stupid too!
Palm reader in court
Derek and a lost cat
Britain's Psychic Rip-off

12th January 2006
Ghosts still don't exist
Britain's Psychic Challenge
View from Number 80 - News

7th January 2006
Stars of Nursing
Audiomartini
Sylvia Browne
80
Don't Miss

18th December 2005
Unintelligible Design
Britain's Psychic Challenge
Jerry Springer: The Opera

 


26th February 2006

 

A small audience with Uri Geller

I must be getting nostalgic. Already this year I’ve seen two shows that have whisked me back to the Seventies. The first was Saturday Night Fever starring the incredibly fit and talented Sean Mulligan and the second was An Audience with Uri Geller.

 

I and the rest of his audience saw Uri Geller at The Palace Theatre in Mansfield Nottinghamshire. One big difference between now and the Seventies was that this was a small (but nonetheless charming) theatre and there were plenty spare seats.

It was a strange evening in that much of the time was spent listening to just what a tremendously special person Geller was - according to Geller. Among other famous names he mentioned his pal John Lennon and even told us he would be seeing Condoleezza Rice next week. We were all clearly very privileged to be there.

Much of the show consisted of Geller holding up newspaper cuttings to a video camera to help illustrate aspects of his life. For example we learnt that when he was only four years old a spoon melted in his hand whilst he was eating soup. I can only think that the soup must have been very hot indeed because doing it psychically is impossible.

By his own admission his 'act' has changed hardly at all over the years. This we were told was because whilst a magician can introduce new tricks he could only perform his genuine stuff. He also acknowledged that magicians could duplicate his feats. Yes I can.

In a demonstration of telepathy a female volunteer was asked to write the name of a colour on a flip chart whilst Uri had his back turned. She wrote 'PINK' and we the audience had to transmit this information to him telepathically. Alas he couldn't get 'PINK' so he asked her to choose another colour ("a primary colour") and write it much larger, as to why this might help our joint telepathic efforts wasn't really explained. She wrote the word 'RED' and this time he managed to tune into our collective consciousness successfully. I was amused by the fact that he said magicians could duplicate this feat by having someone signal this to him in the audience. Now you mention it I imagine that would be one way to duplicate this exactly. Curiously we never saw a demonstration the drawing reproduction that he sometimes does on television. Pity, I would have volunteered for that myself.

We also had the 'four people lifting a man from a chair' demonstration. Four people were invited up on stage and the largest asked to sit in a chair. The idea is to see if you can lift him by having two people put their hands under his armpits (nice) and two others placing their hands under his knees. According to Uri this is impossible unless you first hold your hands in a special way above the seated person’s head. I saw him do this on TV years ago and nothing had changed. Personally I beg to differ with his basic premise that four people cannot lift one man. His explanation that the person seated actually became lighter is, well ridiculous. I think he should research this a little deeper.

In a similar vein he had one person hold their arm straight out and think positive thoughts, amazingly Geller could not bend his arm. Yet when he did it with his other arm and thought negative things Geller moved his arm with ease. Golly it just shows you doesn't it.

Of course it wouldn't be a show without fixing watches and bending spoons so sure enough watches were collected up and thrown into a box. Then they were thrown out onto the floor and, after Geller picked some up to inspect them, thrown back down again. The audience had to go through the "1,2,3, WORK!" nonsense and some watches, we were told, had started to tick. The watches were not handed back immediately so we don’t know if they stopped again 30 seconds later. Of course throwing the watches around for a bit may have started them anyway but then again maybe all it takes is to say "1,2,3, WORK!"

Next it was the turn of the spoons. We saw one spoon break in two and another bend. In the first instance this was shown in close up using the video camera. Unfortunately Uri's fingers covered the exact spot where the spoon "melted" so it was difficult to know if it had already been weakened or if Uri's mind power interfered with the structure of the metal at the sub-atomic level. In bending, as opposed to breaking, a teaspoon he moved quickly into the audience, a diversion which unfortunately meant not everyone could see the bending as it happened. However I did see it bend while Uri was holding it in both hands. Perhaps his hands must somehow help focus his mental energy.

While this was going on the two women sitting next to me were gently rubbing their own spoons to no avail. I asked if I could have a go and managed to put in a very slight bend. When I showed it to her it looked just as it did before and so she carried on rubbing merrily away. Then she compared it with her friend's spoon and noticed it had moved slightly. Wow! The person to my left offered me a teaspoon which, after a little rubbing, actually melted in two. Wow again.

To be entirely fair Geller did try to turn the whole thing into a positive motivating experience. He signed, and then auctioned, the bent teaspoon, the proceeds of which was to go to a local charity. Two people bid over £100 and Geller invited them both to his home and said he would try to get Madonna to visit at the same time. He also got a number of people up on stage who wanted to give up smoking. Aided and abetted by the audience he went to each in turn and told (i.e. shouted at) them to give up. He breathed cigarette smoke into a hanky to show them what was going into their lungs. There was one amusing moment when a man holding aloft his cigarette packet affirmed he was never going to smoke again. Geller told him to crush the box and as he showed clear hesitation everyone laughed. He had little choice but to squash the packet.

The show finished with the moving compass needle trick and the germinating of a radish seed. Uri's powers obviously have a similar effect to compost. The seed itself was generously given to a small boy who was told it would grow into a nice big radish. What a lucky guy.

Afterwards I got Uri to pose with me for a photo on my mobile phone. He seemed more than a little suspicious at my request and immediately asked where I and my friend came from. He also quizzed us about what we did for a living. I felt these questions were not asked simply out of polite interest. I answered truthfully and he duly posed for the photo. I managed to flash the small 'JREF' logo on my T shirt but the quality wasn't particularly good.

As we left the theatre I noticed one of those pledging to give up smoking had immediately lit up outside. Still the evening wasn't an entire loss, it was his son who had been given the germinated radish seed. He expressed some doubt that it would grow. So did I.

 


22nd February 2006


GMTV Psychic Fraud
 

There was an interesting item on GMTV this morning. A cautionary tale of psychic fraud. They even went to the trouble of getting in an authority on what a good psychic should be like. Sounds like something not to be missed.

 

Before the expert is consulted there is a brief bit of VT in which the reporter gives some excellent advice.

 

“…but anyone can claim to be a psychic, healer or even a clairvoyant. Perhaps that fact should make us ask questions before we part with our hard earned cash.”

 

Even a clairvoyant? You just can’t trust anyone can you? Anyway GMTV can obviously spot a genuine psychic as they got one in the studio and what better choice than Colin ‘Trumpet’ Fry.

 

It’s a funny old world that’s for sure.

 

Britain’s Psychic Challenge - again

I know I’ve been banging on about this (here if you missed it) but now the series has come to an end I want to make a point. I actually think programme’s like this do society a disservice which some will find a bit of an over the top statement but here’s my point.

 

The series, despite trying to appear impartial has unavoidably promoted the idea of psychic ability and I suggest deliberately so. Those who work in television, and indeed the media generally, are on the whole, very bright people. If they had wanted to they could have achieved a very different result. But what matters is what sells and psychic wins over skeptic every time.

 

How does society make up it’s collective mind about what is or isn’t true? Do they study scientific reports and carefully weigh up the evidence? No they read, hear and see stuff that floats about somewhere ‘out there’. Dr Michael Shermer made this point well in Rick Wood’s latest Audiomartini. Once upon a time you just read about psychic stuff in books but then it spread to radio and now finally to television. Mediums (such as Mr Fry mentioned above) go on tours and people like Derek Acorah are carefully promoted and no amount of exposure dents their fan’s devotion.

 

Britain’s Psychic Challenge has just chucked another small bucket of water into the flood of idiocy that is washing over our culture. As they all walk away and move onto new projects I’m sure they are very proud of their contribution to society.

 

I for one am not.

 


19th February 2006

 

Freedom of expression

By now just about everything that could be said regarding the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons of Muhammad probably has been said, but I feel the need to made a some comment on this latest outburst as it is of much concern not only to defenders of free speech but to those who hold reason in high regard.

 

In essence I fail to see why a group of people, however large the group, should have the right to impose their religious beliefs onto those that do not share their view. If you are a Muslim it seems you shouldn’t go round drawing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad and that’s fine by me. But telling others that they mustn’t do it either is totally unacceptable and doesn’t become more acceptable in proportion to the depth of feeling.

 

Religion, especially Islam, is not known for its tolerant attitude. Reports on the way women are treated in some Islamic countries are extremely worrying and the attitude to homosexuals is even worse. The hanging of two young boys convicted of homosexuality in Iran a while ago is a reminder of just how barbaric religion can be. Now I think about it they don’t have many kind words for atheists either.

 

And yet the word “Islamophobia” is used as some kind of accusation that people’s concerns are simply irrational fears and no more but if we had hoped that the kind of hysteria shown at Salman Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses was a thing of the past this has been a sharp reminder that it isn’t.

 

That said, the peaceful demonstration by British Muslims was encouraging and in stark contrast to the wild and offensive placards used by the extremists. Peaceful protest is a basic human right and if Muslims want to boycott Danish products to make their views felt then they are equally entitled to do so. Freedom of expression cuts both ways.

 

On this website I exercise my own freedom of expression and just to make that point I do not believe in the supernatural, including any gods, and I do not regard any characters from religious texts as sacred and deserving of special treatment.

 

Christine Holohan

On a lighter note I’m amused by the story that psychic medium Christine Holohan has been accused of illegal dumping. She protests her innocence but her psychic powers are unable to find the true culprit.

 

Ms Holohan says,

“I’d have to be very stupid to plonk my rubbish in front of a CCTV camera. I’m an innocent person in all of this. I’d even take a lie detector to prove my innocence. If I was guilty why would I make such an issue over it.”

 

She added that she had not been shown any evidence of any items with her name on it allegedly found by the council in the waste.

 

Perhaps a psychic pointed the finger?

 

James Randi

As you will know James Randi underwent and operation on his heart recently. To say I am relieved by his continued progress is a huge understatement. He is a friend, hero and legend all rolled into one. I wish him a speedy recovery and long to hear his voice once more. Cards may be sent to Randi care of; JREF, 201 SE 12 Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL33316.


29th January 2006

Hey, we’re stupid too!
According to the BBC News site nearly 50% of Britons who took part in a Ipsos MORI survey were unconvinced by evolution.

When asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

  • 22% chose creationism
  • 17% Intelligent Design
  • 48% The Theory of Evolution
  • the rest didn’t know.

In the US the promoters of Intelligent Design have just lost a court case in Dover , Pennsylvania where they tried to pretend ID was real science and offered a genuine alternative to the Theory of Evolution.

In the 139 page document explaining the ruling Judge John E. Jones called the ID proponents liars,

“It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy."

But what are things like over here? Thanks to the Reverend Tony Blair religious schools are increasing rapidly and if you think back when he was challenged about Emmanuel College teaching creationism he just waffled his way out. Perhaps he didn’t want to upset Dubya?

Tony Blair seems to want to have it both ways. On the one hand he expects us to be able to make sensible judgements about scientific evidence as in the case of the MMR triple vaccine but on the other, allows the teaching of flaky, unscientific gibberish in British Schools. As ye sow….

But please don’t take my word for it, ask anyone of school age to explain the Theory of Evolution and see what you get. “We evolved from monkeys” is a likely answer. Someone told me they heard this in a recent radio programme, “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” D’uh!

I believe there is such a thing as society and letting it wallow in ignorance is a bad idea and eventually it will affect on all of us. As John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.”

Palm reader in court
I’m heartened by the following story although as things stand you would think cases like this would be taking place on a daily basis.

Naseem Mohammed from Chester found himself in court accused of deception. He is facing seven charges of deception and another under the Trades Descriptions Act for recklessly making a false statement that he was “able to perform paranormal phenomena guaranteeing to restore the physical relationship between her and her ex-boyfriend”.

Presumably had he stuck to the old refrain that whilst he was indeed psychic sod all might actually happen, there wouldn’t have been a problem. Based on every medium, psychic and purveyor of paranormal powers I have ever met I’d say they were all as useless as each other.

If you, or anyone you know, have been told things that turned out not to be true then perhaps it is worth doing something after all and maybe ‘psychics’ will be more careful with their claims.
Read story here.

Derek Acorah and a lost cat.
Talking of useless psychics, Derek Acorah has been recruited by cat owner Peter Crompton to find his lost moggy ‘Smokie’. He is quoted in IC Liverpool.co.uk as saying, “Derek is an extremely kind and gifted man with an extraordinary psychic ability."

Yes of course he is, “I’m getting something to do with a mouse that’s no longer in the physical plane. In fact he’s in the cat. What’s that Sam? Something about a litter tray. I don’t want this to sound like a question but does the name Tiddles mean anything to you please?

Having seen Derek in action I suggest that if I were Peter I wouldn’t buy too much cat food. He might even end up with George Galloway.

Britain's Psychic Rip-off
I have reported on this dreadful series here but don’t intend knocking myself out every week covering the latest farcical tests in minute detail. But I would like to acknowledge what a great job Chris French and Philip Escoffey are doing. Alas I think as time goes on it seems inevitable that they will begin to look more and more like petty nit-pickers despite being nothing of the kind. Meanwhile Jackie Malton continues to distance herself from all logical thought. She’s less of a Sherlock Holmes and more of a Conan-Doyle.


12th January 2006

Ghosts still don't exist
I appeared in “Central Extra” this week, which for the uninitiated is a monthly TV discussion programme. Taking part was also my good friend and skeptic par excellence Professor Chris French, Mia Dolan and her spirit guide ‘Eric’, ghost hunter Phil Whyman and Lorraine, a very nice lady who believed her house had been haunted. I say “had been” because good old Mia had managed to get rid of it.

I think my view on ghosts can be taken for granted but a couple of things were said in the programme that are worthy of comment, if only because I’ve heard the same nonsense elsewhere. These bits were omitted from the final programme.

The first was raised by Phil Whyman. He suggested that whilst he couldn’t prove that ghosts existed we were pretty much even as I was unable to prove they didn’t. At this point skeptics will be rolling their eyes and groaning. My retort was that neither could I disprove the existence of elves, goblins and Unicorns and that as he was making the claim ghosts were real the onus was on him to prove it. Later he defended his point by saying that people were not going around saying they had seen elves, etc. but they were saying they had seen ghosts. Chris pointed out that in fact many people had at one time believed in fairies and mentioned Arthur Conan Doyle as being among their number.

But let’s take the basic point about not being able to prove a negative. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim. Thus if someone states that they believe ghosts exist then they presumably have some reason for doing so. If this is compelling then, unless we are the bigoted close-minded species that believers often accuse us of being, we will be won over.

Now it could be argued that I am making the claim ghosts don’t exist and therefore have a similar burden of proof placed upon me. But my belief is at least partly based on the fact that there is a dearth of evidence in its favour. Ask yourself why you don’t believe in Unicorns. If you met one you might want to think about it but you haven’t have you. So you can’t really point to any positive evidence that would support your lack of belief.

I once heard this burden of proof argument put this way. You say that you have evidence that ghosts exist and challenge me to prove they don’t. I then say I have a suitcase full of evidence that proves conclusively that they do not exist. You laugh heartily at my claim, but I respond by challenging you to prove that the suitcase doesn’t exist. As a cold clammy feeling starts to make its way up your spine you retort that you too have a suitcase and it proves my suitcase is full of hogwash. Thus we are doomed to an eternal regression into infinite suitcases. At this point I must add that this is not original to me, but I can’t remember where I read it and secondly the person who originally wrote it was probably more eloquent than I but it makes the point. Doesn’t it?

The other aspect of this is Phil’s comment that people are not reporting elf sightings but there are plenty of ghost sightings.

In essence the problem is that lots of dodgy evidence doesn’t add up to one big lump of really good evidence. This is a very common mistake. There are hundreds of reported UFO sightings so must we assume from this alone that UFOs are real? There are huge numbers of alien abductees, there are Bigfoot sightings, angel sightings, Loch Ness Monster sightings – but no compelling evidence. It’s true, extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence. Anecdotal tales of wondrous events are just not good enough. Of course I agree that the eyewitness testimony of dozens of independent witnesses would go a long way in court but even then it would probably have to be backed up with something else.

So no, anecdotes do not amount to proof.

The second thing that came up during the programme was an allusion to the first law of thermodynamics. Mia Dolan (Egged on by 'Eric' no doubt) questioned me in the following Rumpolesque manner.

“Bodies have electricity in them”

True enough.

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed”

Yep.

So when you die where does the energy go?”

At this point I assume I was supposed to start flustering and looking bewildered having fallen into her cunning trap.

Incidentally a similar thing was once suggested to me by Uri Geller and on that occasion, like this one, my reply was edited out. Not unreasonably perhaps as we are discussing dead bodies after all.

However my answer was simply that the electrical energy was probably changed to a small amount of heat energy which in turn dissipated into the surrounding air. 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.

So to summarise you can’t prove a negative and the laws of thermodynamics do not support the spirit body hypothesis.

Britain’s Psychic Challenge
You may remember this nonsense prior to the holiday period. Well it’s back on Sunday and this time Norwegian Psychic Deborah Borgen is taking part, not to be tested herself but to offer support and encouragement to the would-be psychics taking part.

Regarding Deborah Borgen I am told by a Norwegian contact that, “she seems to be involved in teaching courses in Silva Mind Control (she is registered as an instructor, country supervisor, and trainer with "Silva Ultra Mind"), and it is probably in this capacity that she travels around the country, teaching people to unlock their psychic ability.”

There does seem to be a conflict of interest here but that won’t matter as long as she remains unaware of what the psychic being tested is supposed to be coming up with.

If it turns out that she is present during the tests and is also aware of the required result then this would immediately invalidate the test. I do hope they haven’t been so naïve as to commit this error.

We can but wait and see.

View from Number 80 - News
Public service announcement: Fans to The View From Number Eighty (which includes me) should be aware that 80 is having some update problems. I suggest counselling to help you though this difficult time. Normal service will be resumed shortly!


7th January 2006

Stars of nursing
I don’t know if many readers of this commentary get Nursing Standard but it boasts that it’s, “owned by nurses: run by nurses”. Indeed it sports the Royal College of Nursing logo on its front cover.

In the current January 2006 issue (Volume 20, No 17) it carries many articles presumably of much interest to the UK’s nursing profession. One such article describes how certain segments of the population are prone to specific illnesses. Did you know for example certain groups have problems with the neck and thyroid gland whilst others are predisposed to bladder, urethra and rectum difficulties?

Just what are these classifications? Perhaps it’s the ever popular ‘North/South divide’? On the one hand we have poor Northerners working 18 hour days in dark satanic mills, starting each morning with a breakfast of fish and chips and ending with a good fry up followed by a pint or two before retiring at night. On the other hand the Southerners all run their own businesses and make shrewd investments on the stock market. They rise at 09:30 and after leisurely downing a couple of glasses of Buck’s Fizz head off to the gym.

Such stereotypes are laughable, you couldn’t point to all the overweight people with calluses on their hands and say, “look a Northerner” with any more than a 50/50 chance of being right. So imagine my surprise when I discover the Nursing Standard article is based on something even more laughable….. astrology. Arghhhh!

The article is peppered with all the usual guff about people being governed by ascendant signs which it claims, “….affects health issues and the sorts of illness you may experience.” Nothing to do with genetic make up or exposure to bacteria then? What’s the betting that all the patients who contracted MRSA are Virgos?

To pretend this ancient poppycock has some basis in fact the article’s author, Rupert Sewell, informs us that Tony Blair’s horoscope suggests, “…nerve irritation and cardiac activity”. To be fair Tony Blair does cause me some nerve irritation from time to time but personally I’m all for cardiac activity, it’s cardiac inactivity that bothers me.

Why is it that editors think this sort of thing is either useful or interesting? It’s tripe. I just hope nurses found it as embarrassing to read as I did. In the field of human health we have more than enough nonsense already (I hope His Royal Highness is paying attention) without adding to it.

Audiomartini
As you may know I help run the UK Skeptic group the Association for Skeptical Enquiry (ASKE) and they have recently taken over sponsorship of Rick Wood ’s Audiomartini from BadPsychics. BP was built up from nothing in a surprisingly short space of time by Nik and Jon Donnis and we cooperated on a number of things together. I’d like to take the opportunity to wish them both well.

If you haven’t listened to Rick’s weekly Audiomartini podcasts before then you’re in for a treat.

Sylvia Browne
I try to confine my ramblings to subjects in the UK but Ms Browne has made such a phenomenal psychic error that I feel she deserves a special mention. All the details can be found on the JREF home page.

The View from Number Eighty
As huge parts of the world have just celebrated the birthday of someone who probably never existed Eighty has devoted ample webspace to Jesus. A Damascene conversion by Eighty perhaps? Probably not. 80

Don’t Miss
The Root of All Evil. Starts Monday 9 th January 2006 Channel Four.


18th December 2005

Unintelligible Design
I feel a need to be seasonal. I was handed a copy December’s issue of Evangelical Times (ET?) the other day. It tackles deep philosophical questions such as, “Does God exist?” the general view being in the affirmative. It should come as no great surprise that Christmas gets the thumbs up too.

However it was the comments about evolution that really caught my eye. It received a brief mention by research zoologist Sheena Tyler and over a full page by her hubby David J. Tyler who has a degree in physics and a PhD in Management Science.

Here in the UK many of us watch with stunned incomprehension at the collective stupidity of those in America who still cling to the creation myth. They constantly find new ways to pass off fable as science and Intelligent Design is their latest stab at weaselling their way into the science class. In order for this to succeed they must appear to distance themselves from religion and they carefully avoid any mention of the ‘G’ word preferring to use words like creator or designer.

However the Evangelical Times doesn’t waste time pussyfooting around with such niceties and Mrs Tyler boldly states that as a zoologist she finds the “scientific data supports the biblical account of life on earth”. Really? Maybe she is referring to Genesis 20 – 21,

And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky. So God created great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

This is supported by the scientific data eh?

Mrs Tyler tells us there is, “a profound absence of transitional forms between the basic types of living things”. She accepts there is much hybridisation between the basic types but baulks at the idea of speciation. In other words she thinks ‘microevolution is fine but ‘macroevolution’ is just not acceptable. Such distinctions are entirely artificial. Small changes in the short term are difficult to deny, even for readers of Evangelical Times, but given enough time lots of small changes eventually add up to great big changes. For anyone interested I suggest a visit to Talk Origins and in particular this FAQ. I marvel at the fact someone can work as a research zoologist and be so incredibly ignorant of the fossil record.

Then, in an article “Life in Focus”, husband David takes us for a paddle in the murky waters of Intelligent Design (ID).

By way of a brief diversion it’s worth asking why exactly evangelicals don’t like neo-Darwinian evolution. After all, the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. One reason is that it pretty much does away with the need for a creator at all. Second it means the Bible is wrong and by extension if it’s wrong about this then it might well be wrong about everything else. Thirdly, even it we regard evolution as some how being God’s unfolding plan, it means that God developed an unbelievably cruel system that is entirely based on the death of the weak and helpless. Infant mortality is evolution’s prime mover because only by killing off creatures (including us) before they are old enough to breed can natural selection work. For the religious God has got to represent supreme niceness whereas if evolution is true (and it is) it means he is a pretty nasty piece of work. Obviously evolution must be suppressed no matter what.

The basic idea of Intelligent Design is that some things are so irreducibly complex that they cannot have evolved. If one piece of the machine is removed then it is useless and for evolution to work it must confer a competitive advantage at every stage of development. The eye used to be an oft cited example but now convincing explanations exist showing how it could evolve and provide benefit at each stage. See here for an exBlood cellscellent explanation.

So people like Michael Behe forget about eyes and move on to bacteria, specifically flagellum that can ‘swim’. Another favourite is the human system of blood clotting. You would think that the mere fact we have haemophiliacs might count against this but seemingly not. These two are popular because it’s difficult to demonstrate exactly how they evolved. But attempts are being made, noticeably by Russell Doolittle. See here.

Pro-evolutionists point out that nature can only work with what it’s got. For example bones in our jaws have been co-opted by evolution to provide parts of the human ear but take one away now and you won't hear very much. So looking at what something does now and trying to reverse engineer it by removing parts one at a time simply doesn’t work.

Meanwhile back to D.J. Tyler. He talks about ‘codes’ and, using the analogy of man-made computer ‘codes’ (i.e. software), suggests that DNA is also a code and therefore must have come about through purposeful design. So you can’t have a really complicated thing like a human being without an Intelligent Designer, but you can have a really complicated thing like an Intelligent Designer without another Intelligent Designer. This is commonly referred to as having your cake and eating it.

But it seems Management guru Dr. Tyler is not alone. He writes,

“Darwinism has always claimed to explain the origin of complexity. However the more scientists look at the data the less it appears that evolutionary theory has anything helpful to say on the subject.”

Apart from being untrue it begs the question as to what light Intelligent Design throws on the “origin of complexity”. Even the briefest assessment of the human body shows that it is not without faults. The human eye could be vastly improved – we have blood vessels on the inside of our eyes which means if they rupture we go blind. Why not put them on the outside instead? Teeth rot, backs ache and children are born with defects some of which are fatal. We also get a thousand and one other problems including cancer, not to mention piles of junk DNA. We might expect this in nature but not if we are the blueprint of an omnipotent designer.

Throwing caution to the wind Tyler goes further than his American counterparts, he writes,

Believing in the Bible does not mean that we become irrational.”

So when Mr Tyler is talking about ID we can be pretty sure who he thinks is the designer in question. I accept it doesn’t mean you are clinically insane or that every decision you make is irrational but in my own humble opinion believing the Bible has anything scientific to say on the origin of life’s rich diversity is, well… irrational.

By the end of the article scientist David J. Tyler is freely discussing God, Jesus and quoting scripture. None of which has the remotest connection with science.

All life on Earth is related and evolved from a common ancestor: a fact that is no less wonderful for having come about by a natural, as opposed to a supernatural, process.

Afterthought: You would think that mediums would be able to clear this one up once and for all. I mean surely dead people can ask someone higher up? Ancient spirit guides must know something about this surely?

Britain’s Psychic Challenge
Already discussed in Randi’s own Commentary but I have another couple of observations. The first test with the "psychics" trying to find a ‘body’ in the boot of the car had many faults but one not mentioned so far was the possibility of cheating. The first person to try had to hand over her mobile phone. Why was that exactly? Obviously to stop her communicating anything to the other contestants. By the time the last woman arrived it was already dark, are we supposed to believe that none of them had their phones handed back until after the test? Personally I doubt it.

What should have happened was that all six psychic claimants should have handed in their phones and been kept separated from each other until the whole series of tests were completed. As has been pointed out it would have helped if a different car had been randomly chosen each time.

Now I have no way of knowing if any cheating actually went on but the mere fact that it could have is indication enough that the test design was poorly constructed. Presumably as I write auditions are taking place for the seven shows planned for next year. How well are these tests constructed and who designed them? Bear in mind that in all the years the JREF $1 Million Challenge has been running no one has ever passed the preliminary stage. If similar high standards were applied to the auditioning process then there would probably not be any future programmes at all. So my own assumption is that the tests in the auditions will be as hopeless as the one’s we saw on the pilot show.

Jerry Springer the Opera
It seems Woolworths and Sainsburys have stopped selling the DVD of Jerry Springer the Opera following ‘complaints’ (A fact I first discovered at No. 80). I wrote to Woolworth’s and told them just what I thought of their spineless stance and assured them I would forever boycott their store. Similarly I have ceased to shop at our local Sainsbury’s. On a more positive note I have purchased tickets to see the show live.


 

 

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