Entries from: December 2004 to February 2005
for this page
soon – The Dark Ages
Surgeons - an offer
predicts "big win"
a positive note...
Water and Bad Science
medicine – cancer treatment
More on EVP
A point about psychics & mediums
Courteney's "The Evidence for the Sixth Sense"
Electronic Voice Phenomenon
wiggle room for God
soon – The Dark Ages
we’ve seen a play cancelled because of violent intimidation
by Sikhs. This was shortly followed by the organisation ‘Christian
Voice’ in their attempt to have “Jerry
Springer the Opera” banned from our TV screens. As well
as legitimately making their views heard they also published the
addresses of BBC executives, no doubt in the hope that the thought
of their hordes protesting outside their homes would be sufficiently
intimidating to make them pull out. They also bullied a cancer charity
(Maggie’s Centres) into rejecting a donation of £3,000
because it was from "Jerry
Springer the Opera". Maggie's
Centres press statement says,
day before the performance, we were contacted by Christian Voice,
the organisation that lobbied against the BBC. They told us that
if we accepted the donation we would cause offence and that they
would take action against us, effectively blocking our ability to
work. They said that they would picket our centres, send out a press
release deploring our action and email their 50,000 members. We
felt that these actions would have prevented us from being able
to function effectively. We also came under similar pressure from
a second organization, UK Life League.”
isn’t that nice? What a morally bankrupt organisation.
But now they seem to have got the bit between their teeth. "Jerry Springer the Opera" is set to go on tour and once again 'Christian Voice' want it stopped. Quoting The Times again,
“A NATIONWIDE tour by the musical Jerry Springer the Opera is in jeopardy with a big investor considering pulling out because of threats by a militant Christian group. The backer, who was to have provided 40% of the funding for the tour, was targeted by Christian Voice, an evangelical group that has condemned the musical — based on the American television show — as “filthy and blasphemous”.
Threats! What kind of threats? What happened to “blessed are the peacemakers”?
the government bring out laws to prevent ‘Incitement to religious
hatred’ organisations such as 'Christian Voice' can continue
to persecute homosexuals. Their website has a section for gay members
of the police force. It boasts that in a letter to all the Chief
Constables of England and Wales the National Director “complained
about policemen and women marching in full uniform in the London
Gay Pride March 26/07/2003 and urged Chief Constables to stop actively
is all happening is what is predominantly a secular country and
now it seems 'Christian Voice' have decided to target abortion clinics.
The Times on 26th February 2005 says,
Green, 53, told The Times last night that his next target is abortion
clinics. “The taking of innocent blood brings judgment on
our land and cries to Heaven for vengeance,” he said. “The
presence of abortion centres in our towns is iniquitous. They should
be shut down. It would not take much: just a few prayer vigils outside
exactly is meant by ‘prayer vigils’ we have yet to discover?
anyone is offended by "Jerry
Springer the Opera" or "Behzti" then I would
defend their right to complain and express their disapproval but
bully boy tactics by religious groups of whatever denomination should
be firmly resisted. They have the potential to wreak more harm on
our way of life and our cherished freedom of speech than a 100 trumpet
like to end this piece by stating that I realise not all Christians
hold such bigoted and outdated views. Many want to see reform and
accept that practising homosexuals have a right to be treated with
the dignity and respect afforded to all human beings, and they don’t
target vulnerable women going to abortion clinics or threaten people
because they fund a play they happen to think is blasphemous.
if you would like to donate to Maggie's Centres and make up the
shortfall created by 'Christian Voice' then go here.
can also read about 'Christian Voice' at The
View from Number Eighty. Amusingly it suggests you type in 'Ignorant
bigots' in Google and see what you get. Thus there was no need for
me to provide any links.
Surgeons - an Offer
The cover of ‘Spirit & Destiny’ magazine caught my eye caught my eye this
month (March 2005) with the headline, ‘Psychic Surgery
con or cure’. I suspected the article might lean
towards the ‘cure’ end of the spectrum but not so. There
was a candid description of Stephen Turoff’s appalling ‘healing’
of a journalist’s fibromyalgia. (Some might argue that this
would be an ideal condition for any alternative therapy treatment
as its cause is unknown and there are no laboratory tests to confirm
diagnosis). It seems Turoff’s treatment is a ‘one size
fits all’ affair as his first instruction is, “Pop your
top off and lie on the couch” followed by pointless pummelling
of the poor woman’s abdomen.
Another part of the article deals with the ‘surgeons’ in the Philippines (Shirley MacLaine tells us she had some ‘negative energy clots’ removed). Alarmingly trips from the UK to visit these con men are frequently arranged. As if that isn’t bad a ‘bare hand surgeon' is coming over here to lecture later this year See here.
This is my hypothesis. The whole thing is a complete con and is never going to heal anyone of anything. This is a systematic ripping off of people whose lives have been blighted with serious life threatening conditions such as cancer. Therefore I’ll offer the following challenge. If anyone can conclusively demonstrate that they can put their hands into someone’s body and remove malignant (human) tissue and leave no physical mark on the person’ body I’ll pay them £3,000. This is not a vast some of money but it’s a lot to me. Any takers? Stephen Turoff?
Please don’t allow anyone to get ripped off by these human leeches.
while I’m on the subject James
Randi is discussing one such person ‘John of God’
at length in his commentary this week. This is an absolute must
read. Not only does the article explain the pointless ‘forceps-in-the-nose’ trick
favoured by many psychic surgeons but also illustrates how television
programmes with their own curious agenda help promote this drivel
and as a result no doubt swell the bank accounts of the surgeons
whilst at the same time managing to perpetuate the misery of their
patients. This is the media at its absolute worst, which is all
the more reason to appreciate the unbiased article in ‘Spirit & Destiny’.
pay a visit to View
from Number Eighty and 'Sleazy
Clairvoyant predicts ‘Big
media are excitedly reporting the news that single mother Sharon
Creighton has had a £9 million lottery win a month after being
told by a clairvoyant that she would have a “big win”.
I can hear the psychics jumping up and down with glee already.
what possible response can hapless sceptics come up with? Alas I
don’t have the full facts but let’s work with what we’ve
got. The good news came in the form of an unsolicited letter which
Ms Creighton sensibly consigned to the bin. The letter also told
her she would benefit from two “smaller wins”.
letter itself sounds very much like an advertising circular. Psychic
scams are not uncommon and the Consumer
Direct website quotes the following as being a typical example;
accidentally discovered this amazing secret. I wish to send it to
you free. In fact, I am convinced that over the next 30 days a ‘Miracle’ will certainly occur, one which could shelter you from need for
the rest of your days…”
sending out random letters to people telling them something good
is about to happen is not, in itself, exactly miraculous is it?
If you received the above and won £9m a month later you too
could be forgiven for thinking it was accurate after all.
factor is that we don’t know the full text of what was actually
written in the letter. We have only Ms Creighton’s memory
of one month ago, which may be somewhat imprecise. This is no criticism
of her, in similar circumstances my own memory would be far from
perfect by now.
let’s look at the terminology used - as reported. A big win!
“Big” is a relative term and £9 million is certainly
a considerable sum, in fact the word “big” doesn’t
really do it for me. I’d prefer “massive” or at
least “huge”. These are relative terms. If you go to
bingo once a week and occasionally win £25 then £1,000
would be regarded as “big”. Even £100 on a fruit
machine could be classed as a tidy sum.
we have yet to hear of the two smaller wins, but even if they happen
they can’t be assumed to validate the original prediction.
Spurred on by her recent success Ms Creighton can certainly afford
to buy quite a few scratch cards and the odds are that she will
win a couple of smaller amounts.
you do think this proves precognition then you might like to consider
how it affects the concept of free will. If you accept that the
future can be known before it happens, with no recourse to cause
and effect, then surely it is unchangeable (otherwise it’s
only one possible future and we can all predict one of those). Your
life is already written and the choices you make simply an illusion.
This means I can’t be held responsible for the begging letter
I’m sending off!
final words of wisdom can go to the Consumer
Direct website which says,
of this kind should be treated with exactly the same scepticism
as all other forms of unsolicited scam mailing."
thanks to ASKE
member Jim for bringing this story to my attention.
a positive note….
Last week the press managed to get their hands on what they thought
was a sample of Tony Blair’s handwriting and with a weary
inevitability they had it analysed by the palm readers of the pen
otherwise known as ‘graphologists’. One such cold reader,
Emma Bache, was quoted in The Times, "… the Prime
Minister’s surprisingly chaotic script indicates an aggressive,
unstable man who is feeling under enormous pressure."
Of course much to everyone else’s amusement it turns out that
the handwriting was in fact doodling by Bill Gates.
has it that some large companies (Barings was mentioned in the Times
article) use this dark art to aid their in staff selection process
and it is a forlorn hope that this might make people actually question
the validity of this unproven, pseudoscientific drivel. Still it
was nice to see graphology roundly condemned by Mark Henderson in
today’s edition of The Times (Body & Soul).
Bache in The Times, Monday 29th January 2005
Times online is at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk
If you do a search for Junk Medicine you should
get Mark Henderson’s piece on graphology.
Water and Bad Science
Another writer that you should never miss is Ben Goldacre who’s
column ‘Bad Science’ appears in the Guardian. Last week
he questioned the validity of Penta Water’s claim that it
was, “restructured micro-water” or “clustered
water” and this week it seems someone from Penta has been
in touch. To quote from Goldacre’s column, “…Sleep
well tonight and think about how and why you tried to fuck us over
and practice keeping one eye open." If this is their idea
of PR one can only assume the writer was selected after having their
hand writing analysed?
you’ve never read ‘Bad Science’ you are in for
a real treat. Ben Goldacre is a national treasure.
first mentioned in James Randi's Commentary
medicine – cancer treatment.
Lastly a report claims that a third of European cancer patients
are using complementary and alternative therapies. See report.
Popular treatments quoted were herbal therapies (plants), vitamins
and minerals (found in food I believe), homeopathy (water) and medicinal
teas (flavoured water).
effectiveness of any of these for cancer is likely to be somewhere
really close to zero but you can’t blame people for trying
anything that they think might help. I do think there is a lesson
to be learnt here for mainstream medicine. The NHS has the massive
task of treating us all for our various health problems and they
are under constant pressure to do so with ever increasing efficiency.
I’m sure patients begin to feel they are part of an assembly
line, no longer a person but an illness. We sit in queues and join
waiting lists and eventually undergo unpleasant and possibly painful
treatments. We read about MRSA. One thing we don’t seem to
hear is how many people are cured and by what treatment. How can
people decide between the effectiveness of chemotherapy and herbal
therapy? Is it any wonder that people look elsewhere?
information about cancer treatment visit Cancer
According to a report out this week (24th January 2005) carried
out for The
Diagnostic Clinic nearly 70% of British adults think that alternative/complementary
medicine can be as valid as conventional medicine. I can’t
help but wonder how many of these British adults have based their
belief on clinical evidence.
wrong with this claim? Of all the people in our office I have had
the least number of days off sick. This is despite being the oldest.
I am also the only one who likes to have a small whisky in the evening.
Therefore whisky is beneficial to health and should be available
on the NHS.
consideration is whether our British adults actually understand
what some of these treatments are. One mentioned is 'naturopathy'
which at least on the surface appears okay in a sound bite sort
of way. Natural treatments that allow the body to heal itself. According
to The College of Naturopathic
Medicine this “…includes approved natural healing
practices such as Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine as
well as the use of modern methods like Bio-Resonance, Ozone-Therapy
and Colon Hydrotherapy.” Really.
many people know what homeopathy actually is? My own anecdotal experience
would indicate not very many.
steady supply of homeopathic treatment?
Those I’ve asked, and I have asked quite a few, seem to imagine
that it’s tiny dilutions of some herb or mineral that when
taken triggers the immune system (a well-balanced one, see below)
into fighting the disease. Don’t take my word for it, ask
people. You would be amazed at the answers you get. Then tell them
about the ‘solution’ not having any of the original
‘ingredient’ left in it and about water having 'memory'.
They think you’re making it up.
Diagnostic Clinic website says, amongst other things, that, “In
the majority of cases, a well-balanced immune system is the best
healing mechanism available.” I wonder what a poorly-balanced
immune system is actually like? I thought children were supposed
to be better off building up their immunity by ferreting around
in the dirt. How about vaccination? Do naturopaths believe in vaccinations?
MMR triple jab? If they do they seem to be keeping quiet about it.
As far as I know measles, mumps and rubella can all be said to be
a previous commentary I responded to a Daily Mail article on Electronic
Voice Phenomenon. This was not meant to be a critique of a serious
scientific paper however it was enough to spark off a rant by Victor
Zammit. His tirade begins by describing me as a ‘close
minded debunker’ and then goes on to criticise my level
of analysis. As it happens I am trying to look at the evidence for
EVP but so far it’s looking shaky. Still Zammit has given
some helpful pointers. Evidently, and you need to pay attention
here, “Afterlife energies in EVP reduce their vibrations
to the physical level of the speed of light – that’s
why we can hear them. Try: Einstein’s E=mc2 and Materialization.”
Well it’s a start I suppose. Zammit also chides me in that
lovable way of his by pointing out, “… Tony shows
he has not done his homework on EVP or if he did he just does not
understand it. Clearly, he does not understand the energies operating
at different vortic speeds.” A fair point really because
I understand surprisingly little of almost anything he says on the
to reality for a moment, there appear to be two main aspects to
understanding EVP. There is the physics of radio transmission and
the cognitive psychology behind how we interpret the sound of ‘white
noise’ into meaningful words. I’ll be looking at both
of these in the future as I feel research in this direction will
bear more fruit than trying to grapple with “vortic speeds” and E=mc2.
point about mediums and psychics.
is something I think needs to be said and I can’t think where
else to say it. Skeptics and psychics (among others) disagree with
each other at a pretty fundamental level. We argue between ourselves
constantly. Whilst I do not consider it at all likely that such
powers are genuine I don’t necessarily think all psychics
and mediums are a bunch of evil bastards out to destroy the world.
I have met a number of such people and were it not for this one
area of disagreement we might well get on a lot better. So just
for future reference, whilst I shall continue to challenge psychic
claims as vigorously as ever, it doesn’t mean I think all
mediums, psychics and believers of such things are by default bad
people. Although it has to be said a few undoubtedly are.
Courteney's "The Evidence for the Sixth Sense"
This is a new book that I believe is due to be published next week.In
fact it's a sequel to Hazel
Courteney's earlier 'Divine Inspiration'. I was supposed to
be appearing on ITV's "This Morning" on Thursday (20th
Jan 2005) to discuss this very subject.
with hours to go the item was dropped in favour of something interesting
but by then of course I'd read most of the book. I could fill the
website with commentary about the strange claims mentioned in the
book, not least the pathetically designed 'tests' done by Gary Swartz.
If his efforts have been accurately reported then he should pack
up and find a proper job.
fact it's the accuracy that bothers me. Courteney refers to one
incident that I know very well indeed, namely the case of Christine
Holohan and the claims of her solving a murder. Adrian Shaw and
I investigated this as thoroughly as we could and you can read all
about it here. Anyway aspects of
the case are highlighted in this book and so far I can find little
that is actually correct.
says the murderer's nickname was 'Porkie' when
it was in fact 'Pokie'
She describes Tony Batters as "the detective handling the
case" when he was in fact the local Bobby who was kept
on to help with the administration. DCI Tony Lundy was in charge
of the case.
She said that Holohan told police to hang on to "Pokie's"
personal belongings". There is no evidence of this from anyone
in the police - including her most prolific supporter P.C. Tony
things worry me. She says Holohan started getting messages from
the victim on Saturday February 12th 1983. The body was not discovered
until Sunday 13th and Holohan was not interviewed by a Detective
(accompanied by Tony Batters) until Thursday 17th Feb 1983. Tony
Batters' notes record her a stating "Since Sun" and that
(incorrectly) the murder had taken place on Saturday 12th. She says
Holohan was aged 29 at the time whereas Tony Batters says she was
22. At least this fact should be verifiable.
There are many others things claimed by Holohan for which there
is no evidence but the one thing that is most alarming is the claim
that Holohan is currently writing a book about the case called 'Justice
From Beyond the Grave'. I can assure you that neither the victim's
family or the murderer's will want this unwelcome attention.
I didn't really plan to write this often but 2005 looks like being
a good year for all kinds of nuttery. Today's Daily
Mail has a two page article on EVP. The impetus for the article
being the new film 'White Noise' and no doubt its release will inspire
more pointless debate. The idea behind EVP is that you tune in your
radio (or whatever) to somewhere where nothing is (apparently) being
transmitted so that you should just be listening to the normal hiss
i.e. white noise. If you listen really carefully you should soon
hear the voices of the dead calling you across the airwaves. If
the Mail article is to be believed you can even hear the voices
of your own dear departed. Presumably they were watching you tune
in and seized their chance.
of course no one seems to have worked out a way of answering back.
Radio is still a physical medium (pun intended) so something is
causing your speaker to vibrate. If you can convert spirit 'energy'
into physical form then presumably you can convert it back. Research
into this subject has been going on for some time: The Mail tells
us it began shortly after the invention of radio in fact. Since
then things on this side of the astral plane have moved on a bit.
We have progressed from crystal sets to digital radio and yet in
all that time the voices have manged to retain their characteristicly
indistinct barely discernable quality. Whilst I can call almost
anyone on the planet via my mobile phone I still can't strike up
a two-way conversation with my dead relatives. An attempt to enable
this possibility was made at the end of the 1970's resulting in
the optimistically named 'Spiricom' but sadly only it's inventors
seemed able to use it. Today's mediums must be worried that technology
is about to make them redundant, which perhaps explains why they
don't pass on to us how we can build such devices. Luddites. I imagine
Colin Fry contacting Thomas
Edison, "He just wants to tell you he still loves and that
he's okay. Alright my love?". Ah well.
article also mentions a Dr Anabela Cardoso, described as one of
Portugal's most senior diplomats. Why her status as a diplomat helps,
the article doesn't make clear. Nevertheless she does give us some
insight into the afterlife. She is quoted as stating, "I
am told that everbody and everything survives death. All living
things be they plants or animals live on after they die." Immortality must be a real comfort to amoebas. What about yeast?
It must be piling up by now. The mind boggles.
Daily Mail pays token homage to the skeptical viewpoint by quoting
Professor Chris French. However Chris's explanation doesn't seem
to persuade the Mail reporter (Danny Penman) who finishes with, "The 'voices in the machine', it seems, cannot be explained
away just yet."
not surprisingly I disagree entirely. Everything we know about science
indicates that we are simply a highly evolved mammal. Whilst we
are fortunate enough to be self aware there is no indication that
the mind can exist separately from the brain. If you believe in
evolution can you think of a time, as we progressed from Homo Erectus
towards Homo Sapien, when we might have developed a spirit 'body'?
Doesn't make any kind of sense to me.
skeptic response to EVP is that it's probably a mixture of things.
Using our famed pattern seeking ability we construct words where
in fact there are none. Interference and cross modulation are other
possibilites. Add to this mix a dollop of wishful thinking and you're
almost done. Finally there are the increasingly likely possibilities
of deliberate hoax and fraud.
you want to read more about EVP then I suggest the following two
links as excellent places to start.
Skeptic's Dictionary and
Voice Phenomena, Voices of the Dead? by James E. Alcock, PhD
thanks to John Atkinson for bring this to my attention in the first
wiggle room for God
I have now read two articles in UK newspapers (The
Times on 1st Jan & The Mail on Sunday 2nd Jan) explaining
to us why the Tsunami and its awful destruction does not mean we
should doubt God's existence. In essence it seems this will first
test and then strengthen the faith of the believers. Those of a
religious persuasion we're told should not ask about why it happened
but how they can use God's (and/or Jesus's) love to help alleviate
the suffering. Poppycock!
still comes down to the fact that if God is all powerful and can
thus do anything and all good then by any standard He (if God can
really have gender) had the power to intervene and prevent this
wholesale destruction and yet chose not to. If any human could have
prevented this but chose not to they would be rightfully condemned
but somehow the apologists for God seem to think he can work to
a different set of rules. It's no longer politically correct to
suggest this is some punishment God has metered out to the wicked
so the refrain is that we mere humans are not in any position to
judge God's purpose. But if we are not capable of deciding what
is or isn't 'good' or 'bad' then how can we lay claim to saying
God is 'all good'? In our ignorance for all we know He is a nasty
piece of work. At best if He exists at all then He is supremely
indifferent to the suffering of humanity.
simple truth is that this is just how things would be were there
no God at all. Atheists have been no less forthcoming than believers.
We are thankfully motivated out of shear benevolence to our fellow
human beings and do not require the positing of a supernatural being
to show our humanity.
Not the sort of subject I would normally cover but this one of those
occasions when humanity must come together. This is a disaster on
an almost unimaginable scale. It's easy for such a high number of
deaths to become just a statistic.
These are people need our help urgently. If you want to make a donation
go to the Disasters Emergency Committee
website or phone 0870 60 60 900. The phone line is fully automated
and it pretty straightforward.
It seems there are over 170 faiths (belief systems) in the UK today.
This is the figure taken from the 2001 census figures. The number
one position is being held by Christians who weigh in with a figure
of 37,046,500. I wonder how many people filling
in the census form just ticked the "Christian" box? If
you contrast this with actual church attendance, which is estimated
to be 7% of Christians, we are left with around 2,593,255 and if you regard these as "true" Christians then they
would slip into 3rd place - just behind the category "None" who number 7,274,290. Curiously those who wrote "none" outnumber atheists who have a meagre 10,357.
Of course it might be a little unfair to manipulate the figures
like this, perhaps other belief systems just "ticked the box" or slapped down whatever took their fancy. Curiously it seems we
have 390,127 Jedi Knights which is more than we
have Sikhs (329,358). Which brings me to my next
Blunkett, the now ex-cabinet love machine, was keen to bring in
a law against incitement to religious hatred which seems to be asking
for trouble considering how easily religions take offence. The recent
victory for mob rule being a case in point. A number of Sikhs have
managed to have the play "Behzti", which apparently means
dishonour, cancelled by a Birmingham Theatre. An appalling attack
of freedom of speech. Following this despicable display of intimidation
I now profess to hate all Sikhs. Which means of course they have
incited me to religious hatred and as such should no doubt be prosecuted.
the risk of plagiarism, but in the interests of free speech, I offer
you the following short play.
1 (at a Sikh Gurdwara):
Priest violently rapes a young woman.
Priest( with brummy accent): "If yow know
what's good for yow, yow had bitter keep quouet about his."
Young woman: "Yow are a roight git but oil
keep me gob shut."
happen to believe that most people, whatever their religion, don't
actually get that worked up about this stuff. They are, like their
secular counterparts, happy to live and let live. They are the reasonable
silent majority who just want to get on with their lives and I,
like them, are satisfied to express my displeasure without resorting
to violent intimidation. It's just a pity that these more moderate
people are not in charge. Okay I don't really hate all Sikhs, that
would be irrational, but the more radical members of their community
will end up just creating fuel for extremists like the BNP who will
use this sort of incident to gain support. As for myself I'm considering
starting a new religion based on the teachings of Bill & Ted.
To quote, "Be excellent to one another". Simple
but we just can't seem to manage it.
believe but not in church. BBC report
becomes stage for tragedy BBC report
The View from Number
Eighty (who is expresses this much more eloquently than me).
show seems to have proven a bit of a winner for Living TV. Along
with its other psychic drivel "6ixth Sense" it seems to
have helped them corner the UK market for peddling psychic nonsense.
A piece of video tape has fallen into my hands recently showing
the "Most Haunted Live" team just prior to a seance at
Blackpool Tower . Now I confess I don't actually watch this show
(except occassionally on the Ftn digital channel),
partly because I don't have Sky television and partly because I
think it's complete bollocks, but in this rather revealing clip
we see presenter Yvette Fielding, medium David Wells, medium number
2 Derek Acorah, and finally just off camera, Karl Beattie who is
not only the only living Samurai Warrior (according to him) but
co-owner of Antix Productions.
sequence takes place immediately prior to a seance and you can hear
Y.F. saying "...we just want to get activity. That's the
only thing we want here.... noises.... activity..."
I say I don't watch the show but I am assured that Fielding's request
was heeded by the spirits. Can the dead really take direction so
this clip may well come to 'haunt' the team. If you would like a
copy send me an email and it's yours. Usual