Tag Archives: Featured

Comments on Steven Pinker’s view of the Paranormal

by Brian D. Josephson, Ph.D.

Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge
Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1973

Brian Josephson
Dr. Brian D. Josephson

In a talk in his BBC Radio 4 series ‘Think with Pinker’, Steven Pinker asked ‘why do so many of us believe in so much quackery and flapdoodle?’, characterising extrasensory perception as ‘paranormal woowoo’. I can imagine such language slipping out in the course of casual conversation, but on the BBC, in a programme where the text must have been carefully thought out in advance?

Something must have led to this being said in such an uncritical manner, so I thought I’d email Pinker to find out what had led him to speak in this way in regard to the paranormal. In response he came up with two arguments. The first has, at first sight, a degree of plausibility, and is the following: if there really are people with the claimed paranormal abilities, they could use these to win consistently at betting, and we would learn about that. However (as described in a recent Guardian article) it seems this does not happen, because when such people start to win significant sums of money the bookies take note, responding to the threat that they pose by imposing limits on how much they are allowed to bet. As a result, we cannot safely infer that there are no people who can use their paranormal abilities to win large amounts at betting.

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Call for Grant Applications from Researchers in Subtle Energy and Biofield Healing

The Biofield Research Fellowship Program

For researchers interested in exploring the science of subtle energy and biofield healing, the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is now seeking applications for a new grant/fellowship opportunity, which will provide six annual grants of up to $20,000 USD each, plus mentorship and community for emerging researchers across multiple disciplines.

Backed by a collaborative group of philanthropists and foundations called the Subtle Energy Collective (below), the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is funding rigorous examinations of biofield science with the goal of seeding a new generation of biofield researchers to advance the field and bolster its research base. In addition to grant funds, the Fellowship Program will provide Fellows with a collaborative community of emerging and established researchers and will pair each Fellow with a respected research mentor who has expertise relevant to their research. The findings derived from Fellows’ investigations will provide greater insight into biofield therapies and their applications for reducing suffering and promoting health and wellbeing.

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The Man Who Destroyed Skepticism

By Mitch Horowitz

Originally published on Boing Boing, Oct 26, 2020

James Randi
James Randi Sgerbic [CC BY-SA]

Several years ago I was preparing a talk on the life of occult journeyer Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1831–1891) for the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. Someone on Facebook asked sardonically: “Will James Randi be there?” My interlocutor was referencing the man known worldwide as a debunker of psychical and paranormal claims. (That my online critic was outspoken about his own religious beliefs posed no apparent irony for him.)

Last week marked the death at age 92 of James “The Amazing” Randi, a stage magician who became internationally famous as a skeptic — indeed Randi rebooted the term “skepticism” as a response to the boom in psychical claims and research in the post-Woodstock era. Today, thousands of journalists, bloggers and the occasional scientist call themselves skeptics in the mold set by Randi. Over the past decade, the investigator himself was heroized in documentaries, profiles, and, now, obituaries. A Guardian columnist eulogized him as the “prince of reason.”

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Wikipedia’s Culture of Editorial Chaos and Malice

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, June 19, 2020
© Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

Perhaps the greatest farce in the modern history of technology is the perception of Wikipedia as a legitimate encyclopedia. It has none of the qualifications as such but has all of the characteristics of a compromised propaganda machine disguised as an encyclopedia.

An authentic encyclopedia is transparent. Users can review the qualifications and expertise of its contributors. There is no personal animus or bias. If anything, these are people who are acutely conscious of the facts regarding any given subject. There is no whitewashing, no recasting or repurposing of negative content into positive opinions or vice versa. If an error is detected, it can be quickly corrected.

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Wikipedia’s Hate Campaign Against Ayurveda

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, October 31, 2019 © Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

Alongside Traditional Chinese Medicine, Indian Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medical systems still widely accepted and practiced today. It has managed to thrive and flourish for at least three millennia and has built up an enormous body of diagnostic methods and treatments for a wide variety of mild to life-threatening illnesses and diseases. Evidence-based medicine has yet to fully explore its riches. Unlike modern conventional medicine that dominates our healthcare, Ayurveda is a “whole” medical system that goes beyond standard disease management, but also incorporates sophisticated ways sustain health, prevent physical disorders as well as balance the body and mind to promote wellness.

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Reasons to Walk Away from Wickedpedia

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, December 23, 2019 © Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

It is that time of year for seasonal acts of compassion, kindness and giving. Again Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales has reached out to tens of millions of Wikipedia users to solicit donations to keep the Wikimedia Foundation’s small empire of information domination alive on the internet. It is rather outrageous that Wales, a professed atheist and a deep admirer of Richard Dawkins, a leading atheist guru and throwback to the 19th century mentality behind today’s modern Skepticism, would be motivated to disingenuously take advantage of Christmas tidings to further feed the encyclopedia’s billions of dollars in value.

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James E Alcock

James E Alcock
Sgerbic [CC BY-SA]

James E. Alcock, PhD, is professor emeritus of psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a fellow and member of the executive council of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and a member of the editorial board of the Skeptical Inquirer. In 1994 he received CSI’s highest honour, the “In Praise of Reason” award. In 1999, he was nominated by a panel of skeptics as among the two dozen most outstanding skeptics of the twentieth century. He believes that psi phenomena are impossible, and therefore the evidence for them must be non-existent. He therefore tries to explain away the evidence as based on wishful thinking, methodological errors, failure to fit in with the materialist paradigm and blind belief. Ironically, one of his areas of research in psychology is the nature of belief, as summarized in his book Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions are So Compelling.

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Modern Skepticism: Western Civilization’s Scientific Wahhabism

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, October 25, 2019
© Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

The history of scientific and medical research is pervaded with examples of denigration and suppression by a dominant scientific elite. In the absence of dissent, innovation and vision that promises progress and reform, a population succumbs to conformity and eventually stagnation. We only need to look at Iran under the control of ayatollahs, the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Wahhabi sect’s zealots in Saudi Arabia to get a snapshot of a repressive and ill culture that emerges when conformity is obligatory and dissent is outlawed and persecuted. Science, after it contorts into a secular religion unto itself, can likewise become totalitarian. Scientists are not less immune to bias, prejudice and fanaticism than the most staunch religious extremist. It is now time to make a concerted effort to expose the movement of modern Skepticism in its true colors.

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Wikipedia Editors: A Psychological Profile

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, August 22, 2019
© Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

In looking up information on alternative health issues using a legitimate, highly respected encyclopedia such as Encyclopedia Britannica we find a fair, balanced, and scholarly review of the available literature on topics such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, etc. Britannica and any of the other six (6) comparable encyclopedias name the editors and provide curriculum vitae demonstrating their expertise in the area of their editing. There is no debasement. There are no attacks. No sense that a person reading any entry should feel mentally incompetent for choosing a particular piece of information. Also, at no point in these highly revered encyclopedias is there character assassination, ridicule, mocking, or disparagement of people supporting any of the alternative and complementary medical approaches. The process is transparent, instructive, and a benefit.

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