Polter-Censored???


I have been horrendously busy recently, and amusing myself with stuff like the 1st Cheltenham Paranormal Festival, so the blog has fallen rather quiet. There was one odd little incident, exactly the kind of thing one forgets. After my talk, during the ghost hunt, I walked in to the auditorium gents, and was struck on the shoulder by a button. My leather jacket has a strap on each shoulder with a button – since before Christmas the one on the left had been missing. As I walked in, it suddenly returned – and struck me lightly, before clattering to the floor. I was the only person in the gents, and there was no button I could find before in the jacket to replace it, as it annoyed me as the strap flapped free. Perhaps it had been caught up in my jacket for months – I guess it must have, or I had a very inconsequential and trivial poltergeist experience!

Anyway, today I’m moved to post by something a little odd — it seems some sceptics may be actually getting as loony as some believers can be, or maybe it is just — I don’t know, I just don’t get censorship on scientific issues. I guess the people who do these things would deny it was science –call it pseudo science. So what am I on about?

Martyn McLaughlin in The Scotsman on Sunday published a piece on Dr Barrie Colvin’s research. I’ll quote a bit of it here, for ease of  reference —

Ghostly rapping can’t be faked, research shows

Published Date: 30 January 2011
By Martyn McLaughlin
THEY are unexplained phenomena that have baffled scientists and sent chills down the spines of unwitting bystanders.

But the eerie knocking sounds allegedly made by poltergeists could not be made any other way, according to new research.
A lecture taking place this week at the University of Glasgow will present evidence for a strange audio pattern common to paranormal incidents.

(Read more)

Now as it happens I disagree. I was a strong advocate of the research, but in experiments conducted last year with friends from Rational Skepticism forum I found no difference between the waveforms of poltergeist sound files provided by Dr Colvin, and those I made by banging on furniture, under certain conditions. There has been a long and technical discussion on this blog – I have been fascinated since the first, and still think the JSPR paper was very important, but I am frustrated I could not replicate the findings. I am now waiting for others to try, and see what they find.  If you have not been following the discussion, my original article on the JSPR paper is here, followed by our experiments and critique  here, and a further piece on the polt raps here.

As one would expect, there has been a fair exchange of views, lots of speculation and refinement of hypotheses, and ultimately I think we all agree that more experimentation and as Dr Colvin said in his original article more good recordings from cases are needed. I think we also need to agree on what constitutes a slow attack, that is a sustained rise to maximum amplitude.  Still, so far I seem to be one of the few “critics” of the research – ironically given my admiration for Dr Colvin et al, and my firm commitment to poltergeist research.

Anyway today I saw the Scotsman on Sunday piece, and tried to link it to my Facebook. I received a message from Facebook saying that link had been reported as spam, and was therefore blocked. I was incredulous. I have written to Facebook using the report, asking the article be un-flagged – but was puzzles me is why it was flagged as spam in the first place. I may disagree with the article, but that is just ridiculous – censorship.

I am going to be paranoid here, and say that I think it was reported as spam by a sceptic, probably someone who sees themselves as a scientist, and who has never even read Dr Colvin’s paper.  Why do I believe this, rather than blaming some dour Scottish religious type? Well firstly religious types tend to welcome evidence for “supernatural” manifestations, especially polts which are often demonic in their attributes and behaviour and the fear they instil, even if not demonic in essence – whatever demonic may mean, exactly. Secondly, bitter experience of people refusing to listen when I discuss rationally evidence for “paranormal” claims. However for me the clincher was when I was trying to edit the Society for Psychical Research‘s and other parapsychological organisations wikipedia articles, often vandalised in the past, and edit after edit was rejected. Many times that was fair – I had messed up the edit – but eventually I realised that even though my edits were on historical matters and referenced, they seemed to arouse considerable hostility and raw emotion in some people.

The worst example I ever saw of this was after a well known parapsychologist and biologist was physically attacked and wounded, when on a sceptic’s  forum (the JREF) I saw someone post a horrific  comment praising the action, and hoping – well you get the drift. When people get so angry they say things like that, something is wrong.  Now let’s be fair – the comments were edited away, the JREF mods quickly acted as I would expect of them (I have come to know many of them through the forum as good people, and it is VERY well run usually) – but honestly, the couple of nutjobs who displayed real hatred scared me a bit.

Now every forum has nutjobs, and as recent experiments in social psychology has shown, attitudes harden rather than being softened in a group forum which faces outsiders posting contrary opinions.  In fact in the case of the JREF, the people who posted the material I found offensive were NOT regular forum types; my experience of sceptic forums is that people become far mellower and nicer over the years, ditto pretty much any forum, as they get used to the forum environment, and communicating on the interweb.

So I suspect that this latest piece of vandalism was just an aggrieved nutcase with a lot of faith, who KNEW this was pseudo-science, who therefore hit a spam button to stop this pernicious threat to their cosy FAITH go unseen by the eyes of poor gullible dupes like all of us. Such people just annoy the hell out of me — because they are not sceptics, they are simply bigots. Still I could be wrong – maybe there was some other reason for The Scotsman on Sunday being blocked – but somehow I doubt it.

It’s a sad,  sad world when people on either side of the great paranormal debate can’t even listen to one anothers opinions and try to formulate a rational critique 😦

cj x

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3 Comments

Filed under Editorial, Poltergeist Research, Poltergeist Talks

3 responses to “Polter-Censored???

  1. Steve Hume

    CJ
    In 1996 I spent quite a lot of time researching the militant skeptical movement – about eighteen months, all in all. Since then there has been much comment about the movement as a socio-political/ideological phenomenon, although, no doubt, Skeptics would merely say ‘scientific’. I wouldn’t use that latter term necessarily. But although the overall tone of ‘skepticism’ can conjure up images of ideologically motivated carpet-chewers, there have been some relatively thoughtful bod’s associated with the movement in the past. Even there though, the tone of ‘moderate’ (or ‘wet’ – the term used by ‘hard-line’ skeptics) output sometime tends to be merely patronising rather than angry. The number of well known skeptics I can think of who do not appear to have emotional/ideological issues obscuring their ‘scientific’ vision is very small indeed. The only one that I had personal experience of who seemed to have perfectly rational and balanced doubts about the issue of psi in general, and actually had genuine knowledge of, and interest in, the evidence for the various categories of phenomena was the late Marcello Truzzi – who expressed his doubts exceptionally well and actually contributed a great deal to the field, in my opinion.

    My aim with that research was merely to see if claims that skeptics deliberately distorted the issues around psi to mislead, rather than educate, were actually true. At the time I thought that these complaints were probably unjustified whingeing on the part of people who’d been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, so to speak. As it turned out, however, I came to the conclusion that most skeptics and those who they term ‘True Believers’, ironically, suffer from exactly the same malady: gullibility to a degree that is truly slack-jawed in its severity. In other words, skeptics tend to ‘believe’ uncritically anything that another skeptic says or writes without checking the facts, as do tree-hugging types re UFO’s etc. However, as skeptics appear to be attempting to claim some sort of moral/scientific high ground, I feel that they have rather less excuse in that regard.

    After a while I realised that I might be starting to suffer from this malady myself when my ex-wife started to use me as a spirit level – that new shelf was ok if I dribbled equally out of both sides of my mouth whilst sitting on it.

    I remember articles in the Skeptical Inquirer about everything from serious PSI research to alleged ‘False Memory Syndrome’ that were usually wide of the mark factually and at least a bit distorted, sometimes mind-bogglingly so. The same could also be said of many of the books published by Prometheus (the publishing arm of CSICOP – sorry, ‘CSI’). There was much that was worryingly extreme in tone. I remember one article in particular from the UK Skeptic magazine in which the author recommended (something like) ‘psi-mongers’ ‘..should be dragged kicking and screaming into the laboratory’. Another article in SI amounted to an recommendation that skeptics infiltrate ‘paranormalist’ groups to, effectively, disrupt them – I remember the term ‘It’s Fun’ was used in the title.

    Then there is the culture of the ‘rant’ (a term skeptics use themselves). Some skeptics place great kudos on how effectively they can ‘rant’ i.e. constantly interrupt (often in rather a high-pitched, pythonesque, hectoring tone) with sarcastic, ill-informed, egregious but highly targeted rhetoric in an attempt to wrong-foot a ‘claimant’ (of any sort).

    To cut to the quick though: Although you could well be being paranoid, they may be out to get you anyway. Skeptical groups have been notorious in the past for attempting to prevent everything from lectures about academic psi research at universities to local psychic fairs. Fundamentalist Christian groups have also indulged in the latter activity, of course. CSICOP (sorry again, ‘CSI’) and its progeny have long encouraged skeptics to indulge in letter writing campaigns against any event they deem to be encouraging of ‘belief’, or the ‘transcendental temptation’, ‘disease of gullibility’ etc.

    Apologies for the lack of references in the forgoing (and any generalisations of my own that may be judged to be rather sweeping) – I’m not at home and in a hurry. But I’ll supply you with some stuff if you want.

    In the meantime, see this article by Guy Playfair re some of the ideological roots of Skepticism, which goes some way to explaining some of the movement’s more irritating aspects: –

    http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/Observeskeptics/CSICOP/30yearswar_5.html

    • Chris Jensen Romer

      Thanks Steve. I have not had a chance to read the link to Guy’s article yet but I shall make sure I do so. My experience as a “believer” (in my case both a theist and a “paranormal believer”, given to a belief in post mortem survival and possibly psi (though I still am not strongly convinced)) on sceptic forums is that it takes an awful lot of time and effort to get taken seriously, because of the obvious prejudices of such a community against those whose opinions are sharply divergent.

      Fortunately there is common ground; the appeal to science, reason and logic, and after many years I have made some excellent sceptic friends (at UKSkeptics, the JREF and especially the Richard Dawkins forum before his purge, and now Rational Skeptisim, and have enjoyed some fair minded discussions, even when I am the one doing the ranting!) Some sceptic groups do seem utterly impregnable, and impervious to evidence, but many are very willing to look at evidence, if you can find the sincere and intelligent individuals and make your case carefully. But yep, it can be a painful struggle, and i can see why some have given up on attempts at dialogue.

      cj x

  2. Chris Jensen Romer

    Oh and just to make clear, it was the Scotsman article on Dr Colvin’s research that I was unable to post,and that had been labelled as spam. I found that outrageous. If it was somethging on this blog I would not have minded at all!

    cj x

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