Whole Cloth

This is being cross-posted from the Skeptical Analysis site.

I was looking for a title—something to call this. Help was on the way:

For example, a cotton shirt cannot be made until the cotton has been sown as seeds, then grown, harvested and woven, and from this fabric many types of garments can be made. Our baseline is like the cloth, a weave that runs through all.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 4248-4250). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

And that’s about the substance of this book. It has all the appearance of being cut from whole cloth—meaning it’s made up.

What got me onto this was something we covered 15 years ago for The North Texas Skeptics:

Before we get on to Wiley Brooks we need to talk about Ellen Greve. Greve is a former Australian business woman who now calls herself Jasmuheen. She is a New Age guru promoting avoidance of food. Her cult is said to have a following of 5000 world wide. At least one wiseacre has conjectured these may not be the same followers from one year to the next. Her followers tend to be claimants of the famous Darwin Awards.

Australian follower Verity Linn succumbed while attempting to follow Jasmuheen’s guidelines near Cam Loch in Scotland in September 1999. Prior to that in the summer of 1998 Lani Morris of Melbourne breathed herself to death, and Timo Degen, a German kindergarten teacher, did the same in 1997.

Yeah, people were dying under the false belief that, properly conditioned, a person can live without food. Interest in the subject picked up recently, and Greve updated her book. The previous title was Living on Light. You can still get a copy from Amazon from $1044 (paperback). The new edition is Pranic Nourishment, and I have the Kindle edition ($7.77). The much revised edition acknowledges the danger of actually practicing what Greve preaches.

March 2006 with Jasmuheen:

I feel guided to add additional points regarding caregivers …

At the end of the nineties an Australian women, Lani Morris, died in Brisbane Australia. Her caregiver said that she was experiencing many difficulties but refused to stop and that on day 7 she drank 1.5 litres of pure orange juice, consequently she collapsed into a coma and was later taken off life support. Her caregiver Jim Pesnak and his wife – a couple who were in their 70’s who I had never met – were arrested and charged with manslaughter and jailed. The court said that it was their duty to stop this woman from proceeding as soon as they noticed she had difficulty. At the time they felt that as a responsible adult it was her choice whether to go on or stop.

Personally I feel that the only caregiver we need is the Divine One Within and as I keep stressing, if its guidance and voice is not 100% clear and trusted by you then the 21-day process is not for you.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2389-2397). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Obviously Greve does not completely shoulder responsibility for the multiple deaths of people attempting to follow her advice. We are  left to believe fault lies with the caregivers.

Make no mistake. The principles of chemistry and physics still hold. Greve’s wacko ideas have no basis in fact and seem to have been  pulled straight out of a fevered brain or drawn from half-baked New Ageisms. Without digging into the book’s narrative, I  will just illustrate with some excerpts. Start here, first paragraph:

I have come to understand that the process that I – and many others – have undergone to allow the body to be sustained by light; is about utilising photon energy to sustain us via a process like photosynthesis. Rather than take the energy from the sun as plants do we have developed the ability to tap into and absorb the Universal Life force or ‘chi’ energy directly into our cells. This occurs via mind mastery where command and expectation utilizes the Universal Law of Resonance where like attracts like. Because I expect the pranic forces to nourish and sustain me having undergone the 21-day process as outlined in the latter chapters, it does.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 206-211). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Greve means that literally, “allow the body to be sustained by light; is about utilising photon energy to sustain us via a process like photosynthesis.” No. There is no evidence anything like that has ever happened or can happen. The hard, cold fact is that Greve is a fraud. The signature attempt by her to demonstrate her philosophy ended catastrophically:

In 1998, she appeared in her first film, a six-part direct to video documentary called The Legend of Atlantis: Return of the Lightmasters. The Australian television programme 60 Minutes challenged Jasmuheen to demonstrate how she could live without food and water. The supervising medical professional Dr Beres Wenck found that, after 48 hours, Jasmuheen displayed symptoms of acute dehydration, stress, and high blood pressure. Jasmuheen claimed that this was a result of “polluted air”. On the third day, she was moved to a mountainside retreat about 15 miles from the city, where she was filmed enjoying the fresh air, claiming she could now successfully practice Inedia. But as filming progressed, Jasmuheen’s speech slowed, her pupils dilated, and she lost over a stone (6 kg or 14 lb) in weight. After four days, she acknowledged that she had lost weight, but stated that she felt fine. Dr. Wenck stated: “You are now quite dehydrated, probably over 10%, getting up to 11%.” The doctor continued: “Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risk if she goes any further is kidney failure.” Jasmuheen’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly due to acute dehydration, despite her contrary insistence. Dr Wenck concluded that continuing the experiment would ultimately prove fatal. The film crew agreed with this assessment and stopped filming.

That was nearly 20 years ago. Greve continues with the nonsense to this day, as evidenced by the book. Fact is, a hot book (I purchased a copy) is strong motivation.

It’s also a hilarious display of the codswallop devoured by a sizable chunk of 21st century society. Examples abound:

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra in his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, every atom is more than 99.9% empty space and the subatomic particles moving at great speed through this space are bundles of vibrating energy which carry information and unique codings. He calls this “thinking non-stuff” as it cannot be seen by physical eyes.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 222-225). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

First of all note the reference to the equally delusional Deepak Chopra. If we accuse Greve of making all this stuff up, she can fall back on pointing out she is merely quoting another authority, disregarding that the other authority is just as whacked out as she is. More:

When a Being is vibrating at a lower frequency, it permits many other forms of energies to mix and mingle with its pool of energy and its cycles. When this happens, the thoughts have a tendency to get confused which causes a being to experience frustration.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 315-317). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

This is excerpted from a more expansive paragraph, yet it is significant. “Lower frequency?” Where does she get this stuff? Assume it’s not Deepak Chopra. There are no facts relating to “beings” (people?), vibrational frequencies, “energy cycles” that back this up. She’s pulling stuff out of the air. It’s the very definition of “whole cloth.”

There are said to be seven cosmic planes – physical, astral, mental, Buddhic, atmic, monadic and Logoic.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 339-340). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Don’t you just love it when a writer puts down, “there is said to be…?” Gives you a lot of confidence in what you’re reading. No, it doesn’t. It gives you confidence that stuff is being pulled out of the air.

This is an interesting concept and one well explored by the Theosophists among others. The exact midpoint between the in and out breath is said to be in the year 2012, this date is the last date of the Mayan calendar and is foretold by the Hopi Indians and many other civilisations. This year marks a time of wondrous change with multitudes awakening to their true divinity.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 344-346). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Hopefully it won’t be necessary for me to post any more clips from the book. Evidence is that Greve is making stuff up.

I can’t leave off this topic without opening a look into a remarkable bit of self-delusion—something revealing. Items of this sort are dropped, almost randomly, through the book.

So since June 1993, I have existed on tea and water, then for pleasure tasted ‘white’ food (a potato phase due to boredom and lack of mind mastery) or the odd mouthful of chocolateand regardless of these indulgences I know that the only thing that nourishes and sustains me is Light.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1453-1455). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

I began to exchange my pure fruit juice preference for the odd cappuccino or the odd mouthful of chocolate just because I felt like the flavour of something sweet but I also learnt to transmute these things.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2657-2659). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

For me, as an absolute food purist for some 20 years, the process was extremely liberating! To be nourished from pranic energy and then be free to have a stage of tasting chocolate, or to have a potato scallop now and then through winter just for fun was fun!

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2659-2661). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

And more. The woman is eating. Is there another way to spell fraud? Let’s go further. Her claims about food intake are demonstrably false.

Since June 1993 I have existed on an average of 300 calories per day which covers the calorie content of sugar and milk in my tea.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Location 1473). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Hard information has it that an adult human cannot subsist on that daily energy intake:

“The basal metabolic rate of a human is about 1,300-1,500 kcal/day for an adult female and 1,600-1,800 kcal/day for an adult male.”

Now it’s time for me to pull stuff out of the air and make statements without citing any references. The above figures are likely for an active person. Walking, talking, grocery shopping. If you slow down, do nothing, lie on your back, look at the ceiling, you can survive on maybe 900 calories per day. The history of war prisoners held by the Japanese in World War Two bears out that an active person cannot survive on 900 calories per day.

Greve can claim to tone her metabolism to 100% efficiency, but there are some physical facts that cannot be ignored. A grown person, merely living, dissipates energy at 100 watts. That’s 8,640,000 joules per day. At 4184 joules per Calorie, that’s 2965 Calories per day, in conflict with the numbers referenced above. That means my estimate of 100 Watts is too high, but not by that much. In order for Greve to turn down her thermostat and only put out 300 Calories of heat per day, she’s going to have to be stone cold. She is definitely at odds with some basic physics in her wild-ass claims.

Bottom line, whack job of a book, a few people dead, money in Greve’s pocket, 21st century public not much better off than their ancestors from 1000 years back. That’s progress.

Dying to Believe

This is a modified re-post from Skeptical Analysis.

Some readers complain… Actually, I don’t receive a bunch of complaints about this series, including nobody complaining when I blame Jesus. So, people must be cool with blaming Jesus on a bunch of untimely deaths. The facts being, Jesus is more often not to blame. Stupidity in the form of false belief is alive and well without the benefit of Jesus, as evidenced by the Breatharians:

Prior to her death Verity Linn had announced her intent to follow the Breatharian quest, and a copy of Jasmuheen’s book was found near her body. However, it is not apparent the notorious demise of Jasmuheen’s followers resulted in major hit on her popularity. Besides “Living on Light,” she has two other books, “In Resonance” and “Our Camelot,” listed on Amazon.

The book mentioned, “Living on  Light,” is now in its fourth edition and retitled Pranic Nourishment, with the subtitle “Nutrition for the New Millennium.” I just now purchased a Kindle edition, and you should be looking for a review (possibly not favorable) in the near future.

As mentioned in the referenced item from The North Texas Skeptic:

[Ellen] Greve is a former Australian business woman who now calls herself Jasmuheen. She is a New Age guru promoting avoidance of food. Her cult is said to have a following of 5000 world wide. At least one wiseacre has conjectured these may not be the same followers from one year to the next. Her followers tend to be claimants of the famous Darwin Awards.

The Wikipedia entry for Jasmuheen contains detail of additional interest:

Jasmuheen developed financial and business management skills working full-time in the finance industry. In 1992 she began combining her experience in business and finance with meditation, selling access to workshops and seminars on the topic and, by deed poll changed her name to Jasmuheen.

In 1998, she appeared in her first film, a six-part direct to video documentary called The Legend of Atlantis: Return of the Lightmasters. The Australian television programme 60 Minutes challenged Jasmuheen to demonstrate how she could live without food and water. The supervising medical professional Dr Beres Wenck found that, after 48 hours, Jasmuheen displayed symptoms of acute dehydration, stress, and high blood pressure. Jasmuheen claimed that this was a result of “polluted air”. On the third day, she was moved to a mountainside retreat about 15 miles from the city, where she was filmed enjoying the fresh air, claiming she could now successfully practice Inedia. But as filming progressed, Jasmuheen’s speech slowed, her pupils dilated, and she lost over a stone (6 kg or 14 lb) in weight. After four days, she acknowledged that she had lost weight, but stated that she felt fine. Dr. Wenck stated: “You are now quite dehydrated, probably over 10%, getting up to 11%.” The doctor continued: “Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risk if she goes any further is kidney failure.” Jasmuheen’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly due to acute dehydration, despite her contrary insistence. Dr Wenck concluded that continuing the experiment would ultimately prove fatal. The film crew agreed with this assessment and stopped filming.

Sadly, there are additional deaths due to people following Jasmuheen’s eternal wisdom. Her particular brand of idiocy is laid out for display in the aforementioned book:

February 1996:

I have come to understand that the process that I – and many others – have undergone to allow the body to be sustained by light; is about utilising photon energy to sustain us via a process like photosynthesis. Rather than take the energy from the sun as plants do we have developed the ability to tap into and absorb the Universal Life force or ‘chi’ energy directly into our cells. This occurs via mind mastery where command and expectation utilizes the Universal Law of Resonance where like attracts like. Because I expect the pranic forces to nourish and sustain me having undergone the 21-day process as outlined in the latter chapters, it does.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 205-211). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

There additional deaths due to Jasmuheen’s off-kilter philosophies. Look for more to come.

The Comfort Delusion

The North Texas Skeptics does not get involved in strictly religious matters. However, and this is crucial, when religious zealots, particularly creationists, make claims about scientific validity, they step into the purview of the NTS. That was the case ten years ago when creationists Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort elected to debate atheists on ABC Nightline:

Does God Exist? The Nightline Face-Off

“Proving the existence of God is actually a lot easier than you think,” said former child star Kirk Cameron, minutes before taking the stage for the “Nightline Face-Off.”

It was a warm Saturday night in New York City as a mixed crowd of atheists and Christians converged on Calvary Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan for the first “Nightline Face-Off.” And it wasn’t long before temperatures began to rise inside the auditorium.

The question for our debate was “Does God Exist?” and both sides went at the issue with a series of passionate declarations and critical attacks on the arguments of their opponents. It was a clean but unflinching contest.

Former child star Kirk Cameron and his evangelist colleague Ray Comfort had pledged to prove the existence of God, scientifically. Cameron and Comfort run an organization called the Way of the Master, which comprises a Web site and cable television show, all focused on preaching what they say is the truth of Christianity.

The atheists debating Cameron and Comfort were Brian Sapient and a woman identified only as “Kelly.” Kelly is Kelly O’Conner, and the two are members of The Rational Response Squad:

The Rational Response Squad, or RRS, is an atheist activist group that confronts what it considers to be irrational claims, made by theists, particularly Christians. The most visible member of RRS is co-founder Brian Sapient. The Rational Response Squad, along with the filmmaker Brian Flemming, made headlines in December 2006 with their Blasphemy Challenge.

Having been otherwise occupied ten years ago, I didn’t catch onto this until I came across a video on YouTube. There’s going to be a link at the end of this post.

So, Cameron made a short presentation, and then Comfort gave his spiel, and then Sapient gave a short critique and turned the argument over to O’Conner. She proceeded to counter Comfort’s points in turn, and there followed a session of questions and responses. That’s all I watched of the video, because it was the presentation by Comfort I found most astounding.  ABC News printed the text of Cameron’s introduction, which I’m reprinting here for your enjoyment:

Hi, I’m Kirk Cameron and my partner and I Ray Comfort come to you tonight not as molecular biologists or rocket scientists, but simply as an author and an actor, and we want to do two things that fly in the face of convention. One, we’d like to show you that the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith. And secondly, as a former atheist myself — an evolutionist — I want to pull back the curtain and show that the number one reason that people don’t believe in God is not a lack in evidence, but because of a theory that many scientists today believe to be a fairytale for grownups.

That last bit about “a fairytale for grownups” should by now be familiar. It must be particularly noted that Cameron proposed, “We’d like to show you that the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith.” I have highlighted the critical phrase.

Comfort than proceeded to demolish Cameron’s pledge. He started off with the typical argument from design. He held up a can of soda, Coca Cola. He gave what he considered the scientific argument for the creation of the can of soda. There was a big explosion and ultimately things fell into place, producing the can of soda. Voila! Ridiculous. The can of soda must have been created. Then he displayed a painting. If there is a painting, then scientist will all agree there must have been a painter. And so on. The logical conclusion, Comfort assures us, is if the Universe has been created, then there must have been a creator.

That seems to be Comfort’s critical flaw. We should not make the assumption the Universe was created. Just because it is here does not imply a physical act of creation. Readers might want to check out Lawrence Krauss’ book A Universe From Nothing, which I reviewed previously.

Unfortunately for Comfort, after he plays out the creation-creator argument, he veers sharply into a minefield. After arguing if you want something built you need to have faith in the builder, from the video:

The same applies with God. If I want God to do something for me, then I need to have faith in him.

Deep disappointment. Comfort has thrown away the promise to avoid introducing faith.

If you realize you need God’s forgiveness, and you seek his forgiveness through the Gospel, God, himself, will reveal himself…

The pro arguments concluded, Sapient addressed Comfort’s argument from design. If you want to see the creator of this church (Calvary Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan), then you can go see the builder. You can go to the city building records and see the documentation. When you want to see the creator of the Universe, who’re you gonna call? Besides, “If all creations need a creator, then who created God?”

O’Conner took the podium and reminded that we are all atheists, including Cameron and Comfort. Neither does Sapient nor O’Conner, nor Cameron, nor Comfort believe in Zeus, Apollo, Thor, and a host of other gods. Until the creationists can show us the Universe factory, then creationism exists only in the imagination and is not science. She further pointed out that postulation of evidence for a creator has no bearing on the existence of the God of Abraham and the divinity of Jesus. Any imaginary god could have created the Universe, if indeed it was created.

And that about concludes the meat of the debate. View the debate on YouTube, and look around at the associated videos. There is a shorthand version of the debate, and there are multiple videos of Cameron and Comfort. It’s good instruction for skeptics, besides being entertaining. Bring some popcorn.

See the video on YouTube.

Response from a Creationist

This is being reposted from Skeptical Analysis.

I post on a number of topics, and sometimes I obtain feedback in the form of comments posted by readers. Some of the responses are helpful—they fill in where I failed to provide adequate coverage, and sometimes a comment will set me straight on an error I have made.

Many of the comments I receive are from people who reject completely the point I am attempting to make, and on rare occasions these comments are thought out and well put. It’s the “rare” aspect that worries me. Too often the person so terribly offended is:

  • Completely fact-deprived and indicates no knowledge of the topic under discussion.
  • Knowledgeable, but nonetheless skilled in making his point.
  • Comes off as completely unhinged.

It is this last case I want to discuss. The example for today relates to a post from last July. The original post carries the title 44 Reasons Why Evolution Is Just A Fairy Tale For Adults. My post does not provide 44 reasons evolution is a fairy tale. The title is from an item posted by Michael Snyder on a site called D.C. Clothesline and subtitled “Airing Out America’s Dirty Laundry.” How this site came to be a vehicle for a creationism-oriented rant is a guess for somebody else. I felt it worth a response.

Snyder did list 44 reasons, and I (read the original post) took each of the 44 and penned a short response. Many of my responses reduced to stating that Snyder had not provided any evidence to support his point. He had quoted somebody else, and following  which he went on to his next point. My response to such attempts was to point out this fact and to note that repeating what somebody said in the past does not count for evidence in science. An example is Snyder’s point number 3. My reply is the bold text following Snyder’s point:

#3 Even some of the most famous evolutionists in the world acknowledge the complete absence of transitional fossils in the fossil record. For example, Dr. Colin Patterson, former senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History and author of “Evolution” once wrote the following

“I fully agree with your comments about the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them …. I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”

Again, it’s interesting to note that Colin Patterson said this, but again speech is not scientific evidence.

Anyhow, that has been out there for several  months, receiving one helpful comment almost immediately, and finally another one today. Here it is, exactly as posted:

idiot..i have one thing ti say…al the hearsay and lack of evidence you attack the writers of the article you were going after, you did as well. i can quote several times you didn’t explain..give examples…evidence…but guess what..just spoken or “written” words in your case. you did nothing and achieved nothing for most of this long article. also..you use circle reasoning thru-out, of which im sure you will use again to rebuttal this. asking some one to use evolution based world view foundation to disprove evolution or else anything said is wrong by inherent basis is like me requiring you to use creation based world view ” as the science is the same, just different world views direction how evidence is interpreted or rationalized”, to completely disprove creation. neither theory can be proven or disproved via the scientific method of observable and repeatable”,and neither are fact. where we get pissed of is your blind faith and enforcement of your theory as fact…when only reason you do so is cause the only other option besides everything made it self is some one else made everything.

In the past I have refuted people’s arguments and have been accused, in turn, of using condescending language. Here is an excerpt from a previous post. I had previously obtained a copy of Ben Shapiro’s small book How to Debate Leftist and to Destroy Them. Shapiro considers the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to be a leftist (his term) agenda, and he frets that leftists attack by calling their opponents stupid, mean, corrupt, and maybe all of the preceding. Here’s how the discussion unfolded earlier this year:

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

It’s that latter part that is critical. I found Dan taking the same stance Shapiro does. In point, Dan makes a completely ludicrous statement, one that galls the intellect. Then when somebody responds by pointing out the obvious, Dan comes back by chiding the other party for being condescending. And other terms. That’s what we are about to have here.

Snyder, in responding to my argument, appears to  have gone completely off the rails, beginning with a typographical monstrosity before settling down to a face-deficient rant. It’s usually at this point that I begin to become condescending.

I am not going to call Snyder a creationist nut case, partly because the phrase contains an obvious redundancy. My object is to approve his comment as posted and then allow it to hang out there as evidence of whatever anybody wants to conclude about Snyder.

After approving Snyder’s comment I sent him an email asking him if he would care to elaborate, hopefully to improve, on his comment. If ever I hear back from Snyder I will revisit the matter in another post.

There may be more to come. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Psychic Frauds

This is being reposted from the Skeptical Analysis blog.

The term surely must be redundant. On Friday ABC Nightline presented a segment titled Psychic Detective, featuring “psychic detective” Troy Griffin:

Griffin is a self-proclaimed psychic detective. Shunning the crystal ball, tarot cards and tea leaves of his fellow intuitives, he says he uses his psychic powers to solve crimes.

“I’ve worked on … about a 100 cases overall,” Griffin said.

He says he’s built a business out of bringing the paranormal into police work, charging up to $250 an hour for his investigative work.

He recently worked a missing person’s case that gripped the nation. Kelsie Schelling, 21, was eight weeks pregnant and disappeared in February 2013 after making a late night drive from her home in Denver to see her boyfriend in Pueblo, Colorado. Her family never saw or heard from her again.

[Emphasis added]

And Kelsie Schelling is still missing, despite all the efforts of psychic detective Troy Griffin.

His claim to have worked “100 cases” does not pan out. Local police have no knowledge of his working  with them.

The show also featured phony psychic Silvia Browne. Browne died over three years ago, but before that her damage became lasting. She famously declared dead a missing woman named Amanda Berry.

But psychic readings, especially those in the public eye, have not been exempt from scrutiny. One example was a 2004 reading famed psychic Sylvia Browne performed on “The Montel Williams Show” for the mother of then-missing girl Amanda Berry. Browne told Berry’s mother that her daughter was dead, but nine years later, in May 2013, she was found alive.

Berry’s phone call to police and the rescue of two other missing women held captive by a deranged man failed to dim Browne’s candle:

Prior to her death in November 2013, Browne released a statement saying in part, “I have been more right than wrong. If ever there was a time to be grateful and relieved for being mistaken, this is that time.”

Wrapping up for those who live on this planet is well-known paranormal investigator Joe Nickell.

Skeptical fans will be interested to know that Joe Nickell is still going strong. Originally from Kentucky, he apparently now lives in Buffalo, New York. His Wikipedia entry has additional information of interest about:

In late 2003, Nickell reconnected with his college girlfriend, Diana G. Harris, and learned he had a daughter, Cherette, and two grandsons, Tyner and Chase. Harris and Nickell married in Springfield, Illinois on April 1, 2006. Harris has assisted Nickell in his investigative work. Cherette had always been told that her biological father was her mother’s first husband, although she questioned the lack of family resemblance. On her wedding day, one of the guests mentioned that her parents weren’t married when she was conceived. Later Cherette asked her mother about her father and sensed an equivocation in the answer. More conversations with her mother and a DNA test proved that Nickell was her father. Nickell used his daughter’s claim that her search was the result of an intuition as the basis for an article on the unconscious collection and processing of data. Nickell concluded,

Wow! Even skeptics have interesting lives. I have touched on the endeavors of Joe Nickell previously. Follow the link.

The Age Of Embarrassment

The following is being cross-posted from Skeptical Analysis, with slight modifications:

Seventh of a series

The above political cartoon illustrates what a certain faction considers to  be legitimate rebuttal to the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW). I title this series The Age Of Embarrassment to reflect on our divergence from a different era, which historians now call The Age Of Enlightenment. I mainly concentrate on foolish arguments against anthropogenic global warming (AGW), but I am not required to.

Recently I did an  overview of a book (pamphlet) by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. The short title is How to Debate Leftists, and it deals with what the title indicates. In my review I bore down on some of Shapiro’s comments on AGW. He’s opposed. Which brings him into focus for this discussion.

From Wikipedia, “On September 21, 2015, Shapiro founded The Daily Wire and started serving as its editor-in-chief.” The result was that The Daily Wire appears to be a likely source to mine for Shapiro’s thinking on AGW. A rich vein it turns out to be:

The Most Comprehensive Assault On ‘Global Warming’ Ever

It made sense.  Knowing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that our industrialized world is adding a large amount of it to the atmosphere on a yearly basis, I accepted the premise that this would cause global temperatures to rise.  But one day about 7 years ago, I looked at the ubiquitous graph showing the “global” temperature of the last 150 years and noticed something odd.  It was subtle, and as I found out later, disguised so that it would be overlooked.  There appeared to be a period of about 40 years between 1940 and 1980 where the global temperatures actually declined a bit.  As a data analysis expert, I could not ignore that subtle hint and began to look into it a little more.  Forty years is a long time, and while carbon dioxide concentrations were increasing exponentially over the same period, I could not overlook that this showed an unexpected shift in the correlation between global temperatures and CO2concentrations. Thus I began to look into it a little further and here are some of the results 7 years later.

The author is an adjunct professor of physics and more. From the article:

Mike van Biezen is adjunct professor at Compton College, Santa Monica College, El Camino College, and Loyola Marymount University teaching Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, and Earth Science.

That should be impressive enough. Let’s see what Mr. Biezen has to say about AGW. There are ten points:

  1. Temperature records from around the world do not support the assumption that today’s temperatures are unusual.
  2. Satellite temperature data does not support the assumption that temperatures are rising rapidly:
  3. Current temperatures are always compared to the temperatures of the 1980’s, but for many parts of the world the 1980’s was the coldest decade of the last 100+ years:
  4. The world experienced a significant cooling trend between 1940 and 1980:
  5. Urban heat island effect skews the temperature data of a significant number of weather stations:
  6. There is a natural inverse relationship between global temperatures and atmospheric CO2levels:
  7. The CO2 cannot, from a scientific perspective, be the cause of significant global temperature changes:
  8. There have been many periods during our recent history that a warmer climate was prevalent long before the industrial revolution:
  9. Glaciers have been melting for more than 150 years
  10. “Data adjustment” is used to continue the perception of global warming:

I will go though these in turn, but the reader will need to go to the original article to get the complete wording. Start by noting that Mike van Biezen does not have a Ph.D. in any of the topics mentioned in his connection with his teaching at Loyola Marymount University. In fact, he does not appear to have a Ph.D. in any academic field. His current position is program manager for Raytheon Corporation, a company he has worked for since 1984. He is not a full time professor at Loyola. Not having a Ph.D. is not exclusionary. It is not required that Biezen have a Ph.D. for us to take his arguments seriously. All that is necessary is that he be right. He is not. Start with number 1.

Number 1. Contradictory to what Biezen says, temperature records from around the world support the conclusion that today’s temperatures are unusual, higher than in recent history.

The plot and the following are from NASA’s climate site:

This graph illustrates the change in global surface temperature relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2015 ranks as the warmest on record. (Source: NASA/GISS). This research is broadly consistent with similar constructions prepared by the Climatic Research Unit and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mr. Biezen provides his readers with misleading information:

The all-time high temperature record for the world was set in 1913, while the all-time cold temperature record was set in 1983.  By continent, all but one set their all-time high temperature record more recently than their all-time cold temperature records.

Start with the all-time high record:

On 13 September 2012 the World Meteorological Organisation disqualified the record for the highest recorded temperature, exactly 90 years after it had been established at El Azizia, Libya, with a measurement of 58°C. The official highest recorded temperature is now 56.7°C (134°F), which was measured on 10 July 1913 at Greenland Ranch, Death Valley, California, USA.

So, Biezen’s record high was recently eclipsed by a new record, which he failed to notice, but which does not matter in this discussion. Biezen’s all-time low record is still valid:

The lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K), which was at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica, on July 21, 1983. Analysis of satellite data indicated a probable temperature of around −93.2 °C (−135.8 °F; 180.0 K), in East Antarctica, on August 10, 2010; however, this reading was not confirmed by ground measurements.

After all that has been said, this turns out to be irrelevant. What matters to the global climate is the average taken over the entire planet. Individual highs and lows can occur in contrast to record high and low global averages.

Mr. Biezen has deliberately misled his readers, and Ben Shapiro, as editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, has facilitated this subterfuge by promoting Biezen’s scam.

Number 2. I’m not too sure I want to follow up on Biezen’s number 2. He uses the weasel word “rapidly,” as in “temperatures are rising rapidly” However, assuming “rapidly” means “rising,” here is a plot showing the rise, seemingly in contradiction to Biezen’s assertions:

Number 3. Here’s what Biezen has to say:

If the current temperatures are compared to those of the 1930’s one would find nothing remarkable.  For many places around the world, the 1930’s were the warmest decade of the last 100 years, including those found in Greenland.  Comparing today’s temperatures to the 1980’s is like comparing our summer temperatures to those in April, rather than those of last summer.  It is obvious why the global warming community does this, and very misleading (or deceiving).

Again Biezen is being intentionally misleading. If his deception is not intentional, then it is a result of gross incompetence. Had he been reading this blog he would have been better informed and not fallen victim to such false and misleading information. I wrote:

This is interesting. Government agencies, NASA (National Aviation and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), have been tweaking scientific measurements to give the false impression that global temperatures are rising. That would be scientific misconduct at best and criminal misuse of governmental authority at worst. If only it were true.

Besides already knowing the background, I picked up on an obvious clue in the last paragraph above. “[T]he hottest decade in the US was in the 1930s.” Taking first that the statement is true, how does this bear on average global  temperatures over the past hundred years or more? The world wonders.

From that point forward this item from Breitbart needs additional scrutiny. The facts may not be as interesting as Breitbart, but they have the advantage of being facts. The NOAA has posted an explanation of the process so recently assailed by that reputable scientific source, Breitbart. Here is an excerpt:

Monitoring Global and U.S. Temperatures at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

There are several factors that are important in monitoring global or U.S. temperature: quality of raw observations, length of record of observations, and the analysis methods used to transform raw data into reliable climate data records by removing existing biases from the data. An additional process takes the multiple climate data records and creates U.S. or global average temperatures.

Yes, this is the same Breitbart news outlet previously involved with Ben Shapiro. Here is a graphic from the previous posting:

Number 4. Biezen writes:

Many places around the world experienced a quite significant and persistent cooling trend to the point where scientists began to wonder if the world was beginning to slide into a new ice age period.

And more. Again, Biezen wants to point to regional trends, ignoring that the G in AGW stands for “global.”

Number 5.

It has been shown that nighttime temperatures recorded by many weather stations have been artificially raised by the expulsion of radiant heat collected and stored during the daytime by concrete and brick structures such as houses, buildings, roads, and also cars. Temperature records from around the world do not support the assumption that today’s temperatures are unusual.

For the fifth time, what Biezen says flies in the face of known fact:

Many global warming skeptics have long claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has skewed temperature measurements indicating that global warming is happening. The skeptics argue that efforts to curb global warming pollution are therefore unnecessary, citing their pet theory that surface temperature stations were swallowed by, or moved closer to, cities, thus skewing surface temperature records on the whole.

The BEST papers – which still must go through rigorous peer review – confirm what climate scientists have correctly stated previously, demonstrating without doubt that “very rural” temperature stations miles from any new “UHI” towns or cities have also recorded warming at 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last century.

Number 6.

Contrary to what would be assumed when listening to global warming banter or while watching An Inconvenient Truth, higher temperatures increase atmospheric CO2 levels and lower temperatures decrease atmospheric CO2 levels, not the other way around.  Any college freshman chemistry student knows that the solubility of CO2 decreases with increasing temperatures and thus Earth’s oceans will release large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere when the water is warmer and will absorb more CO2 when the water is colder.

And more. Really? Consider the Keeling Curve:

In 1958 Charles David Keeling started keeping a record of CO2 measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This is about 11,000 feet above sea level, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That annual cycle in CO2 levels in the atmosphere is due to the greening of deciduous plants in the Northern Hemisphere on a yearly cycle. The Northern Hemisphere land mass is larger than the Southern Hemisphere mass, and has more plant growth. When trees in the north put out leaves in the spring and begin to take CO2 from the atmosphere, the level goes down. When the leaves fall a few months later the CO2 extraction slows down, and the natural introduction (decaying leaves and dead plants) of CO2 into the atmosphere continues. At no point does the Keeling Curve support Mr. Biezen’s number 6.

Number 7. He says:

The CO2 molecule is a linear molecule and thus only has limited natural vibrational frequencies, which in turn give this molecule only limited capability of absorbing radiation that is radiated from the Earth’s surface.  The three main wavelengths that can be absorbed by CO2 are 4.26 micrometers, 7.2 micrometers, and 15.0 micrometers.  Of those 3, only the 15-micrometer is significant because it falls right in range of the infrared frequencies emitted by Earth.  However, the H2O molecule which is much more prevalent in the Earth’s atmosphere, and which is a bend molecule, thus having many more vibrational modes, absorbs many more frequencies emitted by the Earth, including to some extent the radiation absorbed by CO2.

Which is true, but again misleading. Water in the atmosphere accounts for much more of the greenhouse effect than CO2. This planet’s surface (oceans and atmosphere) would be many degrees cooler without the greenhouse effect of water vapor. As a student in college I was once required to compute the difference,, and I recall it was in the order of 40 C—other sources have 60 C. See the Wikipedia article on the greenhouse effect.

The problem with Biezen’s explanation is that it ignores that water vapor in the atmosphere has been a more or less constant factor for millions of years, and certainly throughout human history on this planet. The natural mechanism of rain removes water vapor from the atmosphere as fast as it is introduced, and the atmosphere is in steady-state with respect to water. This is not so for CO2, which does not have such a mechanism for removing it. Human activity is upsetting the natural level of CO2 by removing carbon from the surface (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) and introducing it into  the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane. The greenhouse effect of these gases is added on top of the existing effect of water, and that’s what the concern is all about.

Number 8. Biezen says:

Even in the 1990 IPCC report a chart appeared that showed the medieval warm period as having had warmer temperatures than those currently being experienced.  But it is hard to convince people about global warming with that information, so five years later a new graph was presented, now known as the famous hockey stick graph, which did away with the medieval warm period.

For the record, here are two plots of Earth temperature records:

The first of the above shows temperatures going back millions of years. The second is an enlargement of the right-hand part of the first, and it shows temperatures going back a million years (and beyond). Note the spikes, representing the temperature fluctuations concurrent with the history of the ice ages. Note the more recent period, following the previous ice age. There are fluctuations over a 10,000-year period, terminating in a recent up-tic. The spike at the right margin is a projection due to the effects of AGW. The second plot fairly well covers the Medieval Period.

This one, the so-called hockey stick plot, also covers the Medieval Period.

Regardless of any report from 1990, the best information available shows the up-tic in global temperatures due to human activity. Mr. Biezen continues to be dishonest in his presentation of the argument. He is lying.

Number 9. Biezen says:

The notion of melting glaciers as prove positive that global warming is real has no real scientific basis.  Glaciers have been melting for over 150 years.  It is no secret that glaciers advanced to unprecedented levels in recent human history during the period known as the Little Ice Age.

Let’s assume without verification that the above statement regarding glacier activity is true. Whenever has Biezen lied to us before? Glaciers are melting, but their melting is not necessary to demonstrate AGW. Biezen’s post is advertised as “The Most Comprehensive Assault On ‘Global Warming’ Ever.” His 9th argument hardly fills the bill, and I will stop here without additional comment.

Number 10. Biezen complains:

After years of painstaking gathering of data, and relentless graphing of that data, I discovered that I was not looking at the originally gathered data, but data that had been “adjusted” for what was deemed “scientific reasons.”

And more. Again, this is another issues that has already been addressed in a prior post, and Biezen completely ignores the facts of the matter. Here is what I had to say before:

Oceans make up more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, and NOAA is increasing its attention to sea surface temperatures. In years past temperatures were measured by pulling a bucket of water from the sea and measuring its temperature. Sea surface temperatures are now routinely obtained by measuring water at ships’ engine coolant intake. What was found when the two measurements were compared was that the bucket method produces lower temperatures than the intake method. In years past temperatures had been measured with a bias toward cooler rather than warmer. The plots show what happened when the measurement bias was removed. The heavy-line plot, showing a greater temperature rise, was replaced by the lighter-line plot, showing less warming with time. The plots are linked to a paper published by Smith and Reynolds, for those interested in reading the complete background.

If Breitbart is to believed, the NOAA has been caught fixing the data to make a warming trend apparent. In this case, the opposite has occurred. None of this is mentioned in the Breitbart news item. We can imagine Breitbart felt it unwieldy to burden its unsophisticated readers with a load of fact.

If these were the only data corrections, the evidence for global warming would be undercut. There is more. The NOAA also adjusted for bias caused by a shift from measuring temperatures in the afternoon to measuring temperatures in the morning. Obviously, temperature measurements are going to be higher in the afternoon than in the morning. The plots show a shift in the percentage of stations from afternoon to morning. See the following plots.

An associated plot, repeated from above, was included:

In his book, How to Debate Leftists, Ben Shapiro complains about how liberals (scientists?) put down people like Biezen (and Shapiro), who dispute AGW:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.

[Page 24]

Forget about his numbers 1 and 2. Biezen is corrupt. He is lying. By implication, so is Shapiro. With his stewardships of Breitbart and The Daily Wire, Shapiro has abetted the promulgation of lies against legitimate science and the people who support it.

People ask me (maybe they do not) why I am a liberal. My response has to be that one reason, and one only, is that being liberal gets me as far away as possible with what has become a political philosophy underpinned by corrupt thinking. In my younger years I became disgusted with conservative politics, because every time I saw a politician standing in the school house door blocking the entry of a black child, that politician was avowedly conservative. Ever time I learned the identity of racists who killed four black children in an Alabama church or murdered civil rights advocates, those people were avowed conservatives. More recently whenever I have seen a politician promoting the use of tax money and government authority to proselytize for religion, that politician has been an avowed conservative. My personal study of opposition to the modern science of biological evolution has revealed that conservative politicians and those who profess themselves to be politically conservative are the most inclusive of this movement. More recently the conservative contingent in this country has elected a politician who has demonstrated himself to be a habitual liar, and conservatives find no problem with this, even denying he has lied.

What was in the past a political ideal of limited government, individual freedom, and fiscal responsibility, has taken on the baggage of of the lowest levels of American society. Opposition to the science behind anthropological global warming is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dying to Believe

This is being reposted from Skeptical Analysis.

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Every con job it requires two to complete the deal. A con artist may be devious of mind and sharp of tongue, but if the mark does not perform his part, the thing falls through. Fortunately for this page that does not happen often enough to starve me of weekly material. It’s Tuesday again:

Six years ago, [James Arthur] Ray wouldn’t run out of a kitchen unless it was to speak to thousands of people—or the audience had paid four figures each for the privilege. After being featured in the book and movie of self-help sensation The Secret in 2006, Ray was propelled onto the national stage. At the time, he was touted as the latest in a long line of prominent self-help gurus who claimed to hold the keys to living a happy and successful life. Two appearances on Oprah followed, as well as his 2008 New York Times best seller Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want. The price of joining Ray’s World Wealth Society—a program of one-to-one mentoring—peaked at $90,000, and he bought a luxurious home in Beverly Hills. A glowing profile in Fortune magazine dubbed him heir to Tony Robbins’s motivational-speaker throne.

Then, in October of 2009, three of Ray’s followers died.

The good news, depending on how you define “good,” is that in 2013 the resilient Mr. Ray was released from prison, having served his two-year sentence for negligent homicide. On that fatal day in 2009 two people died immediately from heat stroke and another died nine days later of “organ failure.” The victims were among approximately 75 people who offered themselves to Ray’s cure, submitting to temperatures of 200 F inside a tent heated by rocks.

Back in business (as of March last year), Ray continues peddling “harmonic wealth.” It’s “the idea of energy fields attracting similar energy fields.” He will be successful so long as his dupes perform as scripted. He should not require much help.

Your Intelligence Insulted, for a Price

This is being cross posted from the Skeptical Analysis blog.

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I was headed back home from vacation on Thursday, and it was a new month and a new issue of the airline magazine. It featured a short item, see above:

Shut Eye, the drama that debuts on Hulu this month, is not a flattering portrayal of the L.A. psychic trade. The show, in  fact,  depicts a world whose foundation is trickery and greed, which is a very long  way from the view held by real-life Hollywood medium Fleur.

[American Way, December 2016. p39]

Before responding to writer Derrik J. Lang’s glowing depiction of the Los Angeles psychic trade, I pulled up the first episode of Shut Eye and gave it a look. True enough, the show depicts the psychic business as a deep and hardened criminal enterprise, with David Zayas as brutal Gypsy gangster Eduardo Bernal in charge.

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Gypsy gang leader Bernal in Shut Eye

With that in mind, it is interesting to see how Derrik Lang interprets the psychic trade. Apparently Fleur is not one of those phony psychics (redundancy alert). Fleur, we are told is “a six-year veteran,” working out of a West Hollywood office and “not under a neon sign.” Guess what, that appears to describe the psychics in the Shut Eye criminal enterprise. None of them work under a neon sign.

Fleur’s clients include Lana Del Rey and Emma Roberts, two people I would not have known existed were it not for Derrik Lang and American Way magazine.

We learn more about Fleur:

Fleur is also unfazed by the perception of storefront scam artists like those in Shut Eye. “I’ve definitely had people come in who are extremely skeptical—even cynical—and after a session have sad, ‘Well, you must have hired a private detective.’” Even if she wanted to pull such a stunt, she says with a sigh, she couldn’t afford to.

Fleur doesn’t bother debunking the doubters, but she does point to one ability that suggests she is for real: a knack for multilingual communication that she doesn’t posses in daily life. “”The spirit world doesn’t speak in language, it speaks in energy,” she explains. “So I can read anywhere; China, India, Germany. It makes no difference.” Fleur recalls a hospital stay, still fuzzy from anesthesia, when she effortlessly chatted with a nurse’s deceased Filipina mother. “I don’t even remember saying any of this stuff.”

[American Way, December 2016. p39]

My own experience with phony psychics (redundancy) differs from that of Lang’s. In 1992 Mike Sullivan of The North Texas Skeptics checked with local (Dallas) psychic Bette Epstein:

Mike Sullivan
The Skeptic Newsletter Editor
P.O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
(214) 746-3288 Day
(214) 492-8998 Evening

January 28, 1992

Betty Epstein
North Central Tejas Chapter
American Society of Dowsers
5409 Farquhar Dr.
Dallas TX 75209

Dear Ms. Epstein:

I found The Dallas Morning News article on January 24, 1992 about you and your Society’s recent convention in Dallas quite informative. The abilities claimed by dowsers in the article are truly incredible, Ms. Epstein, and The North Texas Skeptics are interested in seeing if you or any other dowsers can back up those claims with proof. We are willing to provide you with a public forum in which you can submit those claims to open inquiry.

The North Texas Skeptics is an all-volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt scientific and educational organization dedicated to scientific inquiry and the examination of extraordinary claims. As part of our educational efforts, we present a series of free public programs on a variety of topics involving science and scientific inquiry. We would be delighted to have you or another of you members speak at one of our meetings. I’m sure our members and guests would welcome the chance to hear first-hand about your claimed dowsing skills or those of others. We have openings in our program calendar throughout 1992 for your presentations.

If you are not able to speak at one of our meetings, perhaps you would care to submit an article about your claimed skills and the evidence you have to support your claims. We would be happy to provide space for your article in our monthly newsletter, The Skeptic. I have enclosed a copy of a recent issue for your review.

You or one of your dowsing colleagues may also be interested in our $2,000 cash award. We have a standing offer to pay $2,000 cash to anyone who can prove a paranormal effect under scientifically controlled conditions, and we promise to publish the results of all such tests regardless of the outcome. If you or another dowser can prove the locating powers claimed in the newspaper article, the money will be yours, or you may wish to donate it to a charity of your choice. Please contact me if you are interested so I can forward complete details of our $2,000 challenge.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Mike Sullivan

Interestingly, we received a response:

January 28

Ladies and Gentlemen … 

Well … that was a real nice invitation … for me to do show and tell for your group.

But … I must decline.

You see … I have been blessed with lots of money and a wonderful practice of hypnotherapy … and I tithe to my favorite charities on a regular basis … so I don’t need your money to give to them. And … I’m not at all competitive about the dowsing thing. It is not the least bit important to me that anyone else believe it. I believe it .. I know it … It is a vital part of my life on a daily basis and is as real to me as breathing. I would never degrade my other senses by proving to your group that I can see, smell, hear, taste or feel … and I wouldn’t need to prove to you that I have a well-developed sense of energies that surround me.

So … thanks for the invite. I will pass this letter on the national headquarters and they can re-print it in the quarterly if so deemed. There will probably be someone who will take you up on your offer … someone with a different value system about dowsing than I have.

However … if your club would one day like to have a lesson in dowsing so that they, too, can develop their gifts of the spirit … I am an excellent teacher and am offering my time to you.

May the most joyous days of your past be the darkest days of your future.

Bette Epstein 
5409 Farquhar Lane
Dallas, Texas 75209

Sadly, nobody ever took us up on our offer. Bette Epstein did offer to have her young daughter submit to evaluation by us, but we demurred. It was Ms. Epstein who interested us, and we were a mite off-put at the vision of a crowd of grown men grilling a young child.

Since about the time of that NTS newsletter item we have had a $10,000 (now $12,000) award payable to anybody who can demonstrate the kind of thing Fleur brags about doing. That’s over a quarter of a century, and in that time we have been approached numerous times by claimants seeking the prize. Nobody has ever brought us anything to test, and we still have our money. You can read about these cases in a section devoted to the NTS Paranormal Challenge.

Thinking back, I am considering the money Barbara Jean and I paid for our American Airline tickets on our recent vacation. I am thinking I shouldn’t have to pay that much to have my intelligence insulted.

 

 

 

Conspiracy of Lies

Review of a conspiracy theory video

This is a must see for skeptics keen  on conspiracy theory juice. It’s A Conspiracy of Lies: Flight 370 to 911, which came out two years ago. IMDb has a write-up on it, and there are other reviews out there. I’m going to just post some screen shots and a few comments. Here’s the opening title, just so you will know you are watching the right one.

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This is from Reality Films, produced by J. Michael Long, who also narrates.

You can get where  this is going from the title. Yes, they are going to talk about Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, and they are going to  talk about the 9/11 attacks. Yes, they are going to assert the Twin Towers were brought down by planted demolition charges, and then they are going on to  tell us WTC-7 was demolished by explosives after suffering no structural damage from the attacks.

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Lest viewers get the idea all of the stuff in this video is made up, there are some serious issues inserted. For example, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was real, and it lasted from 1932 to 1972. It involved identifying a group of indigent black men in the rural South who had contracted syphilis. These men were not told they had syphilis, and they were given free medical treatment, but not for syphilis. The aim was to determine the course of the untreated disease in black men.

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Yes, there are flying saucers, and aliens from  outer space, and people abducted by aliens, and sexual experiments performed on humans by aliens. Just look at the graphic below.

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We have, in case you did not already know, alien technology, gleaned from crashed and recovered alien craft made for today’s modern wonders. Without this assist, we would not now have such technological marvels as integrated circuits.

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Black helicopters! Yes, there must be black helicopters. No conspiracy story is complete without black helicopters. Of course, they don’t actually show a black helicopter, because nobody ever gets to see one and live. But they do show shadows of black helicopters. Here is one.

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Chemtrails! There needs to be chemtrails. Chemtrails are real. Here are some photos.

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Yes, chemtrails are real, and they are mentioned in official documents. Congressman  Dennis Kucinich has sought to have them banned.

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But wait. Everybody knows these conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks have been well and thoroughly debunked. We have done some of  that ourselves:

Forget about the hapless “tourist guy” of 9/11, the rigged photo of a parka-clad sightseer atop the World Trade Center, with his back toward the oncoming airliner. Forget about the four thousand Jews who didn’t show up for work that day. French author Thierry Meyssan spins a yarn that shades both these tall tales. According to Meyssan’s book L’Effroyable Imposture (The Frightening Fraud), American Airlines flight 77 did not crash into the Pentagon building. Instead, a crafty plot by the U.S. government employed a truck bomb or a missile strike to further the pretense of the Twin Towers attack.

Producer J. Michael Long’s contention  that no piece of MH370 has ever been found turned out to be refuted since his video came out. At least three pieces of wreckage or debris have been recovered, definitely from the doomed craft.

A problem with conspiracy theories is that as additional evidence comes out, the theories tend to become increasingly refuted. On the other hand, the longer a conspiracy theory can exist, the more witnesses die off, and the further from the truth the theories drift.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime Video, but it appears also on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOoxMNVgpQ8 by subscribing.

Woo-Woo!

A review of the video Remote Viewing.

I’m going to recommend all skeptics watch this. It dates from 2009 and is only 20 minutes. I was able to watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video. Of course you have to have an Amazon Prime subscription, however you can watch it on YouTube by paying $1.99. Call it $2.00. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rlgcSCLzaA

You’re going to see some people you recognize, so I will start out with a cast of characters:

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Charles Tart you are going to know for sure. He’s been familiar to the NTS for decades:

Charles Tart was a “parapsychologist” doing research at the University of California at Davis. He used a machine called a “Ten-Choice Trainer” (TCT) to help people with psychic ability improve their scores on tests for same. The test worked like this:

A sender in one room viewed a panel with ten playing cards, ace through ten. A randomizing mechanism would select one of the ten cards and would activate a light next to the card. The sender would then push a button, causing a signal to be sent to the receiver. This told the receiver that the sender was now looking at the selected card. The receiver would then turn a dial to select the correct card. The dial position was fed back to the sender in real time, allowing the sender to mentally direct the receiver to the correct card. Finally the receiver would select a card by pushing a button next to the card. If the receiver’s choice was correct, a chime would sound. This would provide positive reinforcement and would help the receiver to learn and to sharpen his extrasensory perception (ESP) skills.

Tart wrote a book describing his work, Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception, published by Chicago Press in 1976. In the book he claimed scores considerably better than could be expected by chance. He heralded his results a “breakthrough” in ESP research.

Came time for Gardner to review the book in 1977 for NYR, and he, as was his practice, went beyond checking for spelling and grammar. As Gardner reports, three of Tart’s colleagues at UC Davis wrote a critique of Tart’s experimental method. They had read Tart’s book and asked to see the raw data. Reviewing the data they realized, for one, the randomizer was not exactly random. They likened Tart’s protocol to a chemist using a dirty test tube and obtaining anomalous results, and they suggested that Tart repeat his experiments after fixing the problem of the non-random random number device.

Gardner saw an additional flaw in Tart’s technique. If the sender, subconsciously or deliberately, delayed sending his signal to the receiver, the receiver might pick up on this idiosyncrasy, and this could become a signaling path from the sender to the receiver. The receiver could pick cards depending on the amount of delay and could improve his score above chance.

Gardner also points out a finding by the mathematicians who examined the data. There is an unexplained absence of doublets. Not so many 2, 2 and 7, 7 sequences, for example, as one should expect. The TCT recorded only the receiver’s score, not the entire sequence of random numbers. This led to the possibility that the sender was hitting the send button a second time whenever the new number was the same as the previous number. The receiver could significantly increase his score by never choosing the same card twice in a row.

Wait, there’s more. The sender and receiver were in nearby office cubicles, and one sender, Gaines Thomas, revealed he would sometimes orally coax his own display of the receiver’s actions as he monitored them on his display. He would curse when the sender appeared about to stop on the wrong card. Whether the receiver was ever cued by these sounds coming from the sender’s cube is not known.

In response to the criticism, Tart revised his technique and repeated his experiments. He published his results as “Effects of Immediate Feedback on ESP Performance: A Second Study” in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.1 Gardner tellingly quotes a significant statement in the paper: “There is no evidence that more percipients scored significantly above chance than would be expected if no ESP were operating.”

Rather than admit the initial results were due to his own faulty technique, Tart, as Gardner reports, attempted to explain away this lack of success. Principally, there was a lack of ESP talent for the follow-up experiment. “In the last year or two, students have become more serious, more competitive, more achievement-oriented than they were at the time of the first experiment.” And more.

Tart asserted the results of the first experiment were so significant they could not be ignored. As Gardner comments, Tart could not reconcile that the first experiment demonstrated his failure as a scientist. Rather, his earlier results put the results of the second experiment into doubt. Gardner, and the reader, are dumfounded at the audacity. Not speaking for Gardner, I would add I am not in the least surprised by Tart’s reasoning.

The information I have on Lyn Buchanan may be stale:

Leonard (Lyn) Buchanan is the Executive Director of Problems>Solutions>Innovations(P>S>I) which started as a small data analysis company in the Washington, D.C. area in 1992 after Lyn’s retirement from the military.

In late 1995, when the US government declassified their Remote Viewing project, information became public about Lyn’s prior involvement with that project as one of the unit’s Remote Viewers, Database Manager, Property Book Officer and as the unit’s Trainer. Public demands for training and applications became great, and P>S>I moved into the remote viewing field full time, bringing with it Lyn’s extensive databasing capabilities. At the present time, P>S>I possesses the most complete body of data on the applications of remote viewing in real-world applications.

Major Ed Dames:

The world’s foremost remote viewing teacher, and creator of Technical Remote Viewing, Major Edward A. Dames, United States Army (ret.), is a thrice decorated military intelligence officer and an original member of the U.S. Army prototype remote viewing training program. He served as both training and operations officer for the U.S. government’s TOP SECRET psychic espionage unit.

Edward Dames is a ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Between 1979 and 1983, Major Dames served as an electronic warfare officer and scientific and technical intelligence officer.

In 1982, Ingo Swann, under the direction of Dr. Harold Puthoff, head of the Remote Viewing Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute, realized a breakthrough. Swann developed a working model for how the unconscious mind communicates information to conscious awareness. To test the model, the Army sent Major Dames and five others to Swann as a prototype trainee group.

The results exceeded all expectations – even those of Swann. In six months, Major Dames’ teammates were producing psychically-derived data with more consistency and accuracy than had ever been seen in similar intelligence projects using even the best ‘natural’ psychics. In late 1983, the team parted company with Swann. As the new operations and training officer for the unit, Dames took this breakthrough skill, dubbed ‘Coordinate Remote Viewing,’ and began a new phase of research, testing, and evaluation in order to both uncover its true capabilities, and to perfect its application to fit crucial intelligence collection needs.

Dr. Dean Radin:

Dean Radin, PhD, is Chief Scientist at the INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES (IONS) and since 2001 has periodically lectured at Sonoma State University and served on doctoral dissertation committees at Saybrook University and the California Institute for Integral Studies. His original career track as a concert violinist shifted into science after earning a BSEE degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For three decades he has been engaged in frontiers research on the nature of consciousness. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, Interval Research Corporation, and SRI International.

He is author or coauthor of over 250 peer-reviewed scientific and popular articles, three dozen book chapters, and three popular books including the award-winning and bestselling The Conscious Universe (HarperOne, 1997), Entangled Minds(Simon & Schuster, 2006), and a 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award, SUPERNORMAL (Random House, 2013). These books have been translated into 14 foreign languages, so far. His technical articles have appeared in journals ranging fromFoundations of Physics and Physics Essays to Psychological Bulletin and Journal of Consciousness Studies; he was featured in a New York Times Magazine ARTICLE; and he has appeared on dozens of television shows ranging from the BBC’sHorizon and PBS’s Closer to Truth to Oprah and Larry King Live. He has given over 350 interviews and talks, including invited presentations at Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, and the Sorbonne, for industries including GOOGLE and Johnson & Johnson, and for various US government organizations including the US Navy and DARPA.

Dr. Jessica Utts:

Jessica Utts (born 1952) is a parapsychologist and statistics professor at the University of California, Irvine. She is known for her textbooks on statistics and her investigation into remote viewing.

In 2003, Utts published an article in American Statistician, a journal published by the American Statistical Association, calling for significant changes to collegiate levelstatistics education.[3] In the article she argued that curricula do a fine job of covering the mathematical side of statistics, but do a poor job of teaching students the skills necessary to properly interpret statistical results in scientific studies. The argument continues that common errors found in news articles, such as the common misinterpretation that correlative studies show causation, would be reduced if there were significant changes made to standard statistics courses.

Utts was elected to serve as the 111th president of the American Statistical Association, with her term as President-Elect to commence in January 2015, followed by her term as president in 2016.

Up front be prepared to be impressed by the power of the mind and the remarkable phenomenon known as remote viewing. Lyn Buchanan asks, “Do you want the party line history, or do you want the real history?” Of course, we want the real history. And it is remarkable.

Being able to pinpoint a target anywhere on the globe within 35 feet. Locate terrorists, their hostages… We’ve been finding information that saved lives.

Folks, this is good stuff.

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It was necessary for our government to engage in this research, because the Soviets were making great strides. They may have possessed the ability to beam some sort of energy at President Reagan during his participation in the SALT negotiations, thereby clouding his mind and putting the United States at a disadvantage.

Stop for a moment at this thought. There are many of the opinion that President Reagan’s mind did not require additional clouding, but that’s beside the point. We were concerned the Soviets were taking the lead.

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This is not woo-woo stuff. The video shows actual hardware. We see what may be two large electrolytic capacitors, and if you have ever dealt with those, you know how dangerous they can be, what with their ability to store large amounts of electric charge at high voltage.

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Proof of the ability of the human mind to work miracles is also demonstrated. Here are two shots from the video in sequence. Please observe the salt shaker has definitely moved.

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Additional benefit was derived from this research when participants were asked to review satellite imagery from a site in Siberia. The remote viewer said there was a very large shed there, and the Soviets were building a huge submarine vessel. Officials scoffed until such day as the end of the shed was opened and the submarine was rolled out. The Soviets thereupon constructed a canal and floated the boat to the “North Sea.” I regret that my search of the Internet has failed to learn anything regarding a large Soviet submarine constructed in Siberia. I’m also having difficulty with this geography, because my impression has always been that no part of the North Sea touches Siberia.

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There have been scoffers. A book by Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, pokes fun at this kind of nonsense. That was in 2004. A subsequent film came out in 2009, staring George Clooney.

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And all that is just a preamble to the real substance: What is the truth behind remote viewing and the research that purports to support it? Some discussion:

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Start with the ganzfeld effect:

The ganzfeld effect (from German for “complete field”) or perceptual deprivation, is a phenomenon of perception caused by exposure to an unstructured, uniform stimulation field.[1] The effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals.[2] The noise is interpreted in the highervisual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations.[3]

It has been most studied with vision by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of colour. The visual effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is “seeing black”,[4] an apparent sense of blindness. A flickering ganzfeld causes geometrical patterns and colors to appear, and this is the working principle for mind machines and the Dreamachine.[5] The ganzfeld effect can also elicit hallucinatory percepts in many people, in addition to an altered state of consciousness.

Ganzfeld induction in multiple senses is called multi-modal ganzfeld. This is usually done by wearing ganzfeld goggles in addition to headphones with a uniform stimulus.

A related effect is sensory deprivation, although in this case a stimulus is minimized rather than unstructured. Hallucinations that appear under prolonged sensory deprivation are similar to elementary percepts caused by luminous ganzfeld, and include transient sensations of light flashes or colours. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation can, like ganzfeld-induced hallucinations, turn into complex scenes.[5]

The effect is a component of a Ganzfeld experiment, a technique used in the field of parapsychology.

Remote viewing is often associated with the ganzfeld effect. The viewer is subjected to sensory deprivation, typically by having halves of ping-pong balls taped over his eyes to completely obscure vision without blocking ambient light. White noise is played into headphones the subject wears.

Next, an agent goes to a remote place and at a specified time views the surroundings. And takes a photo. The subject—the viewer—is then asked to make a drawing of what the agent sees. Next, an independent referee is shown photos of what the remote agent saw and compares these photos with what the viewer drew. Also shown are photos from disparate scenes. The referee is required to pick the photo what most closely resembles what the viewer drew.

While some experimenters have claimed remarkable success, my own observation of these experiments leaves me unsatisfied. A healthy degree of rigor seems to be lacking. We at the North Texas Skeptics have engaged in what we consider to be more controlled studies, one of which was related to our Paranormal Challenge.

A few years back Rechey Davidson contacted us:

Thanks for your response. Sorry for having a “bad” subject line. I was just told to contact you. Mr. Kramer has my application and letter of explanation of what ability I have. His letter said the application was accepted for preliminary testing. His letter seemed to indicate he was forwarding you the necessary information. Am I just needed to contact you to arrange for testing. What is the next step now? Do we meet or what? From the Challenge Instructions, it sounds like you want me to resubmit my description to you. If so, do I just e-mail you or mail you a letter? Do I tell you what I can do and you draft something back?

Briefly, I have been able to dowse maps of people’s homes (Or other locations) where they have lost specific items and have been able to tell them where the item is. They have, so far, been able to verify they found the item where I said it was. This has happened even if I have never been to their home. Do I just need to submit more detail and suggest how to test this or what? Thanks. Rechey Davidson

This is not exactly remote viewing, but it illustrates the methods we employ:

I scanned in the builder’s floor plan for my house and labeled the major rooms with capital letters. I sent Mr. Davidson a link to the scanned image, and he printed it out. He said he was satisfied with that, and we got started.

The object of our affection was my Nikon digital camera. I chose that because I only have one like it, so Mr. Davidson would not have the problem of dowsing for one of several identical objects.

We got started in early September and finished up two weeks later. Each day or so Mr. Davidson would send me an e-mail telling me in which room the camera was placed, and I would record his score and move, or not move, the camera to a different room. Here is the result:

  • Test 01: 7 September 2004, Camera placed in B, Davidson called E
  • Test 02: 8 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called G
  • Test 03: 13 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called L
  • Test 04: 14 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called F
  • Test 05: 15 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called H
  • Test 06: 16 September 2004, Camera placed in J, Davidson called E
  • Test 07: 17 September 2004, Camera placed in G, Davidson called B
  • Test 08: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called B
  • Test 09: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called E
  • Test 10: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called J
  • Test 11: 19 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called B
  • Test 12: 20 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called D

We all found it remarkable, but not impossible, that Mr. Davidson scored absolutely zero in twelve trials.

I have long considered how we would do a remote viewing experiment. It would go something like this:

  • Start off as before, sensory deprivation or whatever the remote viewer claims to require. The onus is on the remote viewer to perform.
  • Completely isolate the remote viewer from the remote agent. The agent is expected to be at a site of his choosing, unknown to anybody else conducting the experiment, at a given time.
  • At the given time a phone call verifies the agent is at the site, and is taking the photo.
  • The remote viewer is told to visualize what the agent sees and to make the drawing.
  • The agent produces additional photos of disparate sites.
  • The agent brings a collection of images, five or more, back to the location of the experiment. The photos are given to a referee with no evidence of when the photos were taken. The referee is given the drawing.
  • The referee must pick exactly one of the photos that best matches the drawing. All other photos are discarded.
  • If the chosen photo is not the one associated with the drawing, the test results are determined to be negative. There is no second guessing.

This latter point is something I find missing in descriptions of remote viewing experiments that show positive results. There is typically such language as, “This one was my second choice, and it’s the one taken when the viewer had the vision.” Or, “The referee chose this one, but it also resembles this one.” It’s this kind of stuff that points out the bad experimental procedure associated with remote viewing research.

The Jon Ronson book would make for a good review. I will obtain a copy and do a review. Watch for it in the next few months. The movie, as well.