episode, I have some bonding moments with my new friends in the skeptical community. Then I take a look at the tale of a mysterious nightmare that predicted a disaster. And finally I answer my fans and critics by looking at emails and comments.
I've been looking through paranormal type books trying to find interesting quotes for my next podcast. In my search, I've found something that's not suitable for a quick quotation, but is definitely worthwhile posting.
If you listened to my appearance on Karl Mamer's Conspiracy Skeptic podcast, you'll remember that I found an interesting quiz to see if you were descended from aliens. I kind of made fun of it for having questions that could apply to a very broad range of people. Well, I found a quiz on a similar topic that takes it a step further. It's hilarious to look through these questions and just notice that many of them apply to pretty much everybody on the planet - or at least to the ways that they probably see themselves. The rest of the questions are so specifically targeted to the kind of person who's likely to read this book that it's pretty much a self selected sample.
I got this quiz from the book "A Wanderer's Handbook" by Carla Rueckert, but apparently it's reprinted from the book "Universal Vision: Soul Evolution And The Cosmic Plan" by Scott Manedlker . As far as I understand it, a wanderer is somebody whose soul is from another planet. Through hypnotic therapy they've managed to regain memories of their lives on other worlds. Here's the quiz, answer for each either Yes, Somewhat, or No:
Hey, guess what I just found at my local Dollarama?
Score!! Paranormal programming from back before it was all taken over by the reality TV format! There should be some great material for the blog in there!
Back then they didn't feel like they had to do some sort of BS investigation where they walk around in spooky settings and jump at every noise they hear. Nope! It was purely an exercise in making unsubstantiated claims and filming hokey re-enactments!
I've been talking with some people about this show, and there seems to be a little bit of a division of opinion. Some people think that it's at least a step in the right direction, in that they do actually solve some paranormal phenomena. On the other hand, many people feel that the show's often shoddy methods, as well as their willingness to just call something paranormal if they can't explain it, override any good that the show does by solving cases.
I'm leaning towards the latter, but I was curious as to what Ben Radford thought, so I sent him an email. He called my attention to a video created by his fellow Monster Talk host Blake Smith (a.k.a Doctor Atlantis), who analyzed footage from another episode of the show:
So a guy sitting at his computer was able to solve this mystery more effectively than a group of "professional investigators" who actually went out and investigated. They weren't able to replicate the video, and concluded that it's probably paranormal.
Good stuff. But I also ran across this article by Ben's other Monster Talk co-host Karen Stollznow. Apparently, a group of skeptics faked a paranormal video as a promotion, and they were contacted by the people at Fact or Faked:
Along came John Maas, producer of Fact or Faked. Scouting for
paranormal footage online, Maas and his staff discovered the video and
thought it perfect “evidence” for an episode of the show. But the
footage wasn’t fantastic enough. Without ever asking if the footage was
fact or faked, Maas asked the group to re-film the scene to emphasize
that no string or magnets were used, but… to also show the planchette
moving more dramatically across the board. The producer of Fact or Faked was asking the group to fake the video.
That just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, doesn't it? I was willing to give these guys the benefit of the doubt before and assume that their shoddy investigation of those lights in the sky was due to incompetence.
I did wonder if they faked the video, but I didn't want to make that accusation right up front. Now that I have evidence of the show's shady methods, however, I think it's reasonable to strongly suspect that they actively faked that video of the moving light.
It does seem quite convenient that they caught something on the one night that they just happened to show up, doesn't it?
Of course, this isn't proof that the video was faked. It could very well be that there's some common atmospheric phenomenon that would reliably generate these kinds of effects, and that you'd stand a good chance of spotting it on any random night.
But to me, this evidence of the show's culture of deception seriously impedes my ability to give them the benefit of the doubt. Whenever they happen to capture what they claim is evidence of the paranormal, I'm going to have to seriously wonder whether they're dealing honestly or just faking stuff.
I came across this interesting looking show the other week, and it looked like it would be a great opportunity to record it to my computer so that I could analyze it at my leisure and see what I have to say about it.
The show is called Fact Or Faked: Paranormal Files
In concept, this is very much the kind of television programming I'd like to see more of. This is a group of six investigators gathered together by a former FBI agent in order to investigate paranormal claims. This stalwart band of paranormal sleuths is introduced during the opening credits as follows:
Ben: Former FBI Agent Bill: Lead Scientist Jael: Journalist Larry: Effects Specialist Chi-Lan: Photography Expert Austin: Stunt Expert
I'm a little concerned by the "Lead Scientist" designation for Bill. Without any more information, calling somebody a "Lead Scientist" is absolutely meaningless. What's his expertise? What are his credentials?
One of the questions discussed was that of whether magic tricks should be revealed in order to show people how they can be fooled. They didn't really resolve the issue, and the panel wasn't set up to really have a good argument about that. But some interesting points were raised and it's been going through my mind.
James Randi is a known proponent of showing people the trick but not telling them how it's done. He believes that this is the best way to convince people that they can be fooled. He believes that telling people the trick will leave them overconfident in cases where con men use a different method.
This is a valid concern. In the panel they used the term "half smart" in order to describe the phenomenon. If we're trying to spread critical thinking, we don't want to leave people only half smart, overconfident and unprepared for different methods than the one they've been told about. But I think there's more to this issue that needs to be considered.
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