What's so SUPER about the supernatural?  

UdderPuttyBiped 37M
35 posts
7/20/2006 7:47 am

Last Read:
7/26/2006 1:05 am

What's so SUPER about the supernatural?

Okay last time I promised I would discuss the supernatural and my skepticism of it. If you are not the sort of person who finds this at all interesting, you should turn away now. I know this is a sex website and I should be talking about sex, but if and when I actually meet someone here I promise I'll post about it. Until then, I'll talk about whatever I dang well want to!

I am what is called a skeptic. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, is my basic philosophy. I understand that a lot of people take things like this on faith, but I am not one of those people. Faith (to me) is just believing in the stuff you want to be true...wishful thinking in other words.

In today's society it is taken as almost a given by many people that there exist such things as ghosts, psychics, mediums, mind-readers, etc. A smaller but significant number of people believe in extra-terrestial visitation, alien abduction, faith healers, and so on. There is even a good chunk of people who believe in bigfoot and mothman.

Frankly, I'm just not sure why this is. Perhaps it is because so little attention is payed to the history of magic? It's only in the last couple hundred years or so that Magicians have been organized and recognized as entertainers who possess no real magical abilities. Legitimate magicians will tell you right to your face that they are using trickery on you to simulate mind-reading, remote-viewing, esp, what have you. But before they were entertainers, magicians were charlatans who made a credulous public believe that they were possessed of supernatural abilities. There are still many people out there who are using simple, centuries old magicians tricks to fool people. The only, ONLY difference between a medium and a magician is that a magician will tell you it's all fake. But I promise you that any skilled magician can perform any feat that any so-called psychic or medium can do.

The Amazing Randi is a magician who has spent his life to disputing the claims of supernatural powers by people (www.randi.org). He pretty much knows every trick imaginable, or can figure out what trick they are using by observing them in action. He has used his own knowledge of the magicians trade to perform "impossible" feats such as sealing the winning lottery numbers in an envelope which was then given to a neutral party, locked in a safe, and then removed after the drawing (at no time was he allowed to handle the envelope after he had placed the numbers inside). Lo and behold the correct numbers were written inside. Why didn't he just win the lottery if he knew the numbers? Because he couldn't, it was a trick.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has put up a one million dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate a genuine paranormal ability under scientific conditions. This money has sat in trust for over 30 years, and nobody has even come close to collecting it. Feel free to read the terms of collecting the money on his website, they are not unreasonable. He also has written several books which will reveal to the curious reader the various methods that psychics, mediums, telepaths, and other such folks use to fool you.

The worst are the faith healers. These scum feed off of the pain and desperation of others, giving them nothing but false hope and occasionally death in return. A couple of years ago I saw a ABC news special about a Brazilian healer calling himself "John of God", and it incensed me. At no time was this so-called news show remotely incredulous about this man's claims. The methods he used are not much different than any of a number of so-called "psychic surgeons" who use slight of hand and simple theatrics to effect useless cures.

Another class of faker that upsets me are mediums, like John Edwards and his ilk, who claim to talk to the dead and grow rich off of other people's loss and grief. They use various methods, but the most common method is the "cold-reading" and "shotgun" method, where they spew out a lot of different information and then focus on the things that the person reacts to. By continuing to throw things out and focus on the "hits" that they get, they can quickly get to a point where the person they are doing the reading for is providing them nearly all the information they need without even realizing it. At the end, the person has filtered out all the "misses" that the medium made and remembers only that they "knew things they couldn't possibly have known!"

I could go on, but I feel that I am not properly framing the argument and this is getting long. So what I would like to do is have any of my loyal readers out there (all 3 or 4 of you) ask me questions and/or make counterpoints for me to address. You can bring up anything that you beliebe may be evidence for the paranormal, and I will try to give you counterevidence or at least some explanation as to why it is not good evidence for the paranormal.

Also included in this are things like "biorythms", "astrology", "homeopathic medicine" "naturopathy" "osteopathy" "chiropractic" (yes, chiropractic, it's junk people), and of course "scientology" which is one of the biggest scams ever concieved.

Go ahead, ask away (or fire away)!

BaronessK 52F

7/20/2006 10:12 am

I have never seen a show with John Edward {not EdwardS, BTW} where he went by hints, vague sayings to get hints, etcetera. I have only seen a dozen or show of his shows, but that is enough for a generalization of his technique {and for me not to lump him in with Sylvia Brown, et al}.

Why is homeopathic medicine and such on your list? A lot of the 'old' medicine is based on fact, that our present day science no longer wishes to recognize. I am not saying that every 'natural medicine' in the local 'health' shop works...but SOME of it DOES. As for chiropractic...you didn't say {once more} what you were basing your 'conclusion' on that this was 'junk'. I go to a chiropractor regularly; he is of the 'new' school {no physical popping, etcetera}, and even with my high pain tolerance I have to go see him {and he gives IMMEDIATE relief AND fixes the problem with my neck/hip}. So called 'regular' doctors merely want me to pop pills; *I* can handle any/all pain, I do not want to put pills/chemicals into my body, and I want the problem fixed rather than smothered by unnatural 'remedies' {pills, etc.}.

Supernatural, as a word..."subject to explanation according to natural laws" or what? Paranormal is basically "not understandable in terms of known scientific laws and phenomena". There are a lot of things that don't seem to have an explanation, that do not seem to be understandable {at least at this time}. While it is obvious to me that magicians have a 'trick' to what they do, that does not mean that real magic is impossible...just that I assume that there is a trick to what I see.

I do not go on faith; I ponder things based on the possibility and probability, and even then am not considering it a 'done deal' or whatever. However, there are things that I do consider as not only possible and/or probable but as 'IS'. My belief is not based on faith; I did not 'believe' then see these things {although, again, I am open to possibilities/probabilities of just about anything}. Telepathy, mind reading, ghosts...I have seen it happen, and I KNOW for a FACT that these things happened. There was no trick, no way of contact, no way of knowing beyond telepathy and such what had happened hundreds and hundreds of miles away. In one particular case, I was in AL and the guy was in CA; there had been no contact for months, until after the incident -- and at that time, I got confirmation from him way before I ever even hinted at why I wanted to know what was going on with him.

I have seen ghosts, not just 'believing' or going by hearsay. I cross-examined myself, as to wakefullness, possible delusions, and everything else that I could think of. There was no way that I could have saw and/or otherwise experienced the things I did due to former knowledge, delusions, sickness/fever, pain medication {including sinus, etc.}. I can tell you, in detail, what happened and all; that doesn't mean that I expect you to take it on faith. For me, I do not have to take those on faith...because I was there, and I know what I experienced, and I know the things that those experiences could NOT have been.

UdderPuttyBiped 37M
102 posts
7/21/2006 7:54 am

Wow, that's a lot of stuff to answer at once. Okay, I'm going to start with homeopathy, as in some ways it is the most ridiculous of the many forms of "alternative medicine". The problem is that most people, including you, misunderstand what exactly homeopathic medicine is. It is not simply "natural" cures for your ills. Most people think it is something akin to herbalism, but it is not.

Classical homeopathy is generally defined as a system of medical treatment based on the use of minute quantities of remedies that in larger doses produce effects similar to those of the disease being treated. Samuel Hahnemann (who invented it in 1810) believed that very small doses of a medication could have very powerful healing effects because their potency could be affected by vigorous and methodical shaking (succussion). Hahnemann referred to this alleged increase in potency by vigorous shaking as dynamization. Hahnemann thought succussion could release "immaterial and spiritual powers," thereby making substances more active. "Tapping on a leather pad or the heel of the hand was alleged to double the dilution"

Homeopaths refer to "the Law of Infinitesimals" and the "Law of Similars" as grounds for using minute substances and for believing that like heals like, but these are not natural laws of science. If they are laws at all, they are metaphysical laws, i.e., beliefs about the nature of reality that would be impossible to test by empirical means. The law of infinitesimals seems to have been partly derived from his notion that any remedy would cause the patient to get worse before getting better and that one could minimize this negative effect by significantly reducing the size of the dose.

Despite the fact that of the hundreds of studies that have been done on homeopathic remedies the vast majority have found no value in the remedies, some defenders of homeopathy insist not only that homeopathic remedies work but they claim they know how they work. It seems, however, that scientists like Jacques Benveniste, who claim to know how homeopathy works, have put the cart before the horse. Benveniste claims to have proven that homeopathic remedies work by altering the structure of water, thereby allowing the water to retain a "memory" of the structure of the homeopathic substance that has been diluted out of existence. Benveniste even claims that a homeopathic solution's biological activity can be digitally recorded, stored on a hard drive, sent over the Internet, and transferred to water at the receiving end.

In other words, a homeopathic cure takes some substance that has never been clinically proven to cure anything, dilutes it in water until the substance is no longer even present, just it's "vibrations", and then sells it to you at what must approach an infinite profit.

Okay, now on to chiropractic, one of the biggest scams ever pulled on us. The basic idea of chiropractic is that "subluxations" are the cause of most medical problems. A "subluxation" is a misalignment of the spine that allegedly interferes with nerve signals from the brain. Chiropractors think that by adjusting the misalignments they can thereby restore the nerve signals and cure health problems. This idea was first propounded in 1895 by D.D. Palmer, a grocer from Davenport, Iowa. There is little scientific evidence to support the idea. Most support for the idea comes from testimonials of people who claim to have been helped by chiropractic. Whether they were helped because nerves were "unblocked" is not always that clear. Most of these have been people with back pain that has been alleviated by spinal manipulation. This is not to say that chiropractors don't help people with aching backs, including people with chronic back problems. It is the notion of subluxations that has not been supported by scientific studies. The model of subluxations maintains that all health problems are due to "blockage" of nerves. You say you get immediate relief, this I do not doubt. There are a number of reasons why people feel good just after a chiropractic adjustment.

It feels good to get a massage, it can certainly relieve stress and pain at least temporarily. Spinal manipulation can also cause the release of endorphins to cover the pain, this also makes you feel good for a while. Also, there is the expectation of relief. You believe that you will feel better, and therefore you do for a while. However, you say you want the problem fixed, but you keep having to go back over and over again. This is not a problem fixed, this is a problem that is simply temporarily alleviated. I do not understand why people have the notion that pills or chemicals are somehow "unnatural". It would be impossible to create something unnatural, as all the elements of chemistry are found in nature. Whether a chemical is artificially created in a lab or by an organic process of some sort is irrelevant to it's actual properties and effects. It seems possible to me that by avoiding scientific medicine, you are in fact avoiding a possible cure for your problem and instead accepting temporary relief.

As for John Edward, allow me to quote Salon magazine:

"But Edward, a 32-year-old native of Long Island, has not fessed up to all of his talents. As it happens, he is more than a psychic medium; he is also a master statistician. The smoke and mirrors behind his self-professed ability to communicate with the dead is a simple application of the laws of probability. Basically, if you keep trying something whose results are independent, your odds of getting your desired result increase.

For example, the odds that you will roll a 3 on any one roll of a six-sided die are 1 in 6, about 17 percent. After six throws, the chance that you will have thrown at least one 3 has increased to about 67 percent. After 12 throws, it's nearly 90 percent.

Lucky for Edward, most audience members on his television show are too hopeful and trusting to pull out a calculator and expose the charlatan behind the prophet.

The temptation to believe that Edward, a self-professed medium, can connect with the deceased and foretell future events is great, especially for those who are vulnerable and in need of comforting. Many members of the show's audience, hoping to connect with deceased loved ones via Edward, are mourning recent losses. They come with the expectation, no doubt, that being "read" by Edward on national television will yield healing revelations from those who have "crossed over." Inevitably he reports that the dead are at peace, happily and lovingly watching over those left behind on Earth."

The audience is coached on the rules before they ever get on the show:

"Have no expectations. You may REALLY want to connect with one specific relative ... but there is a good chance they may not come through. Keep your mind open and welcome whoever comes through during the reading. We don't want you to be disappointed or broken-hearted if your chosen loved one doesn't come through. As John says, 'Please do not put earthly expectations on a heavenly experience.'"

So each audience member becomes, in effect, a throw of the die, and each of Edward's guesses is the number he's trying to roll. Symbolically translated, where P = probability: P(Aunt Mary comes through) + P(Grandma's first poodle comes through) + P(Jen's ex-brother-in-law comes through) + P(a person who will eventually die comes through prematurely) + P(an unknown ancestor comes through) + P(Edward can talk himself out of anything) = Damn close to 100 percent."

The audience prep goes on:

"Validation is important! Since John does not know your friends and relatives, it is very important you give feedback. A simple nod of the head, a yes or no answer goes a long way in a reading. Please don't give more information than John asks for."

Translation: John will throw out guesses until you indicate he has hit on something, and then he'll run with it. Should his ramblings contradict your reality, do not correct him."

The other thing to remember when watching his shows are that you have no idea what has occurred before taping begins. A common trick for any of these charlatans is to mingle with the audience and chat with them before the show, pretending casual conversation but actually storing up useful tidbits for later use.

Now, as for the other things such as the telepathy and ghosts, you say you know for a fact these things happened and that there was no possible trick. The intellectual hubris there is staggering. Just because you cannot imagine what the method of trickery used was does not mean there was none. One thing that James Randi has proven over and over again is that intelligent people are often easier to fool that others. So confident are they in their ability to see through deception they are easily misled.

You have to understand the nature of perception and memory to truly see how foolish the statement "There was no way that I could have saw and/or otherwise experienced the things I did due to former knowledge, delusions, sickness/fever, pain medication" is. You don't have to be sick or delusional to misinterpet your perceptions. In fact the brain cannot possibly process all of the stimulation it is recieving at any particular moment, and is always filling in it's own data around the chunks that it is processing.

Memory too is notoriously unreliable. What you devoutly believe is what you saw and heard now may bear little semblance to what actually ocurred. James Randi has taped performances by certain paranormalists, then asked the audience to describe to him what occurred. Afterwards he showed them the tape and amazed the people with how different the actual events were from their memories.

And this was immediately after...studies have been done where people where asked to write down their experience of a certain event. Then 7 years later they were asked to write another account of the exact same event. When showed the previous accounts, which were often quite different from the later ones, most people insisted that the account they just wrote was the correct one, and they must have been mistaken when they wrote the first one. Our memories are our reality, but they usually are not THE reality.

eclecticsoul4u 57F
942 posts
7/21/2006 1:52 pm

Just out of curiosity how to you account for the advances in science that were viewed as "voodoo" and just scientific speculation until the process to proof the "voodoo" as correct were developed? Where in your na say philosophy does speculation have a place?

UdderPuttyBiped replies on 7/23/2006 6:26 am:
I'm not exactly sure I understand what you mean by this. Can you give an example of something that illustrates what you mean?

Speculation of course is the basis for the scientific method. But one MUST be able to test it through experimentation, and the experiments must be repeatable and gain the same results under the same conditions regardless of the experimenter, in order to be considered valid.

As of this time, no ghosts, telepathy, dowsing, precognition, remote viewing, or any other of such phenomena has ever been validated by scientific method.

On the other hand, countless incidents have been uncovered as fraud, hoaxes, or simple misunderstanding of the phenomenon. Therefore Occam's Razor tells us we must assume that such things are fake unless it can be definitively proven otherwise.

BaronessK 52F

7/22/2006 6:54 am

I have heard homeopathy used so much interchangeably for herbalism that I misunderstood, then.

Regarding the chiropractic, there is no spinal manipulation, per say -- the minuscule machine, 'popper' thingy, is for getting my neck bones totally back into alignment, which in turns forces my hip and all back into alignment. There is nothing that 'regular' medicine could or can do to 'fix' this problem as it is due to my use/misuse of my body {prolonged typing, heavy lifting, prolonged standing and not doing so correctly, broken foot from USMC, etcetera, including earlier surgery for removal of a tumor on my lower neck/upper back which permanently messed up 2 vertebrae}. The closest that 'regular' medicine could come to a 'cure' would be to, possibly, do something with the 2 vertebrae, but that would not stop the problem of my hip going out of alignment/socket {and the spine itself is fine, as in no more degeneration since that was caused by the pressure of the tumor}.

There has been no massage since the first 3 visits, nor other kind of treatment such as TENS, etcetera. Short of something as drastic as installing pins or whatever into my hip, there is no 'cure', not even 'taking it easy'. 'Regular' doctors have also stated that even such drastic 'remedy' would not preclude that 'cure' causing additional problems due to the change in mobility, strain points, etcetera {and actually stated that such drastic steps would almost positively lead to causing other, worse problems}. At the most frequent, I have to visit no more often than once every 3 months {usually every 4 to 6}. Chiropractic treatment resets the hip into its proper place, and at the same time releases pressure on the nerves in that area {of which the causes of the nerves being pressured is a pain straight down the side of my leg into my ankle, etcetera}.

I have read elsewhere that Edward does not have any type of contact, conversation, etcetera with the audience; that article also said that that goes for his staff as well. So, since I have not really looked into the man more specifically, I was not saying whether I believed in his 'power' or not, just that it was a 'possible' type thing, based on reading an article of the type that you quoted.

I did not imply that I could not imagine what kind of trickery might have been in play...because I was totally alone {fact}, under no medication and wide awake etcetera and no possibility of hallucination and so forth. Even while the events were happening, I was analyzing it all. I realize that the more intellectual a person is the easier it is in actuality to fool them in this area...but again, I had no need, wish, drive, etcetera to see/know these things, and could have had no possible way of knowing any 'background' {because I had just met the person who owned the house, long list of 'etcetera'}. I also wrote down the incident, in detail; later, I went back after writing about it in my blog, and the details {every one} was exactly the same, although I did not find my original writing on the event{s} until quite a bit after I wrote about it in my blog. This is still not anything to do with filling in details later, making the previous situation as it happened 'fitting' later recollections. People, in general, do not pay attention to much at all, so that is circular logic, there; I am not 'general' people, though. The ghosts, for example, were of no relation to me, had never been mentioned, and so forth. Just because I can not see or explain something {take rain coming from clouds for example} does not mean it does not exist. It does not mean that it does...but it does.

UdderPuttyBiped 37M
102 posts
7/23/2006 6:50 am

As to your experience with the chiropractor, I can only say that I don't doubt that they can make you feel better for a while. And actually there is a "rift" in chiropractic right now between the more modern realists and the old school chiropractics who believe in the ability of it to cure all ills. "Subluxations", like reflexology and it's ilk, is completely unfounded. I am curious as to what exactly your chiropractor does if he doesn't massage you or manipulate your spine?

Oh, and yes, most people don't really know what homeopathy really is, however I must warn you that with any product labeled as homeopathic, the producers mean specifically the process I mentioned. Don't make the mistake of actually thinking that the ingredient listed is actually IN the product, the number beside the "active ingredient" is the number of dilutions to the power of ten. In other words, a C400 product has 10 to the power of 400 parts water to every part of the "ingredient". Mathematically, after 10^23 the odds of there being even a single atom of the substance in the water are divided by 10 for every power thereafter. I have seen Randi down an entire bottle of homeopathic "sleeping pills" before a lecture with no effect whatsoever...because there is nothing actually in them.

Edward...well, all I can say is pretty much every psychic makes that claim and it usually turns out to be a...misrepresentation.

If I read your blog will I find a description of the event you keep referring to in your own life? It's hard for me to comment on it without knowing any details. In my opinion however being unable to see or explain something pretty much does mean it doesn't exist...if something does exist then there must be a way to detect it and share it with others, and the must be some process by which it occurs.

eclecticsoul4u 57F
942 posts
7/23/2006 3:44 pm

I wasn't necessarily speaking of the "paranormal" topics you mentioned but scientific evolution. How do you account for scientific evolution where new concepts are treated as voodoo and when the technology is developed to proof the voodoo it becomes fact. Do allow to entertain the possibility of the voodoo or do you dismiss it out of hand because the type of empirical proof necessary doesn't exist?

UdderPuttyBiped replies on 7/24/2006 6:04 am:
I am hard pressed to think of an example of the phenomenon you are speaking of. Perhaps in high-energy physics, where the particle accelerators powerful enough to test some of the theories don't currently exist...but in that case they still know what sort of tests they need to do to prove the hypothesis even if they can't do them yet.

Scientific knowledge builds upon itself...you take what you know to be true and then expand on that knowledge by testing further. This cannot be done with the so-called paranormal "sciences" because there is no basis from which to build. With the real world, science takes note of a particular phenomenon and then tests out hypotheses that will explain why it occurs and under what conditions. With the paranormal, it can't even be proven that it is a phenomenon, let alone why or how it occurs. And no experiment ever done to test the existence of such phenomena has ever held up.

It seems odd to me that in roughly 350 years of scientific exploration using the scientific method, we can have come so far as to prove the existence of quantum particles which cannot even be seen by microscopes, but we have yet to even find one proven example of a ghost (for instance, among many other supernatural things).

All it would take is one single person to prove under controlled circumstances that he or she has a paranormal power, and they will recieve one million dollars and show the world it is real. And yet the money still sits there in trust, untouched.

BaronessK 52F

7/24/2006 4:46 am

I'll get back to you; did a search and it isn't coming up. I can type it out, and post it a bit later since I am way past my sleep time tonight/this morning. I have you on watched list, so you won't disappear or anything!

eclecticsoul4u 57F
942 posts
7/24/2006 1:52 pm

I don't have the same intensity of emotional charge on the existence/non-existence of paranormal powers as you do. People believe what they need to believe and always find the "evidence" to proof themselves right pro or con. Just as there have been incredible advances in physics I think one day we will see equally incredible advances in the understanding of the functioning of the brain. Since we still only use a small portion of the total capacity of our brains I'm sure there is speculation within the scientific community as to what additional capabilities would become available to us if we used more, within that speculation there are probably a whole range of possibilities. Some of them emerging along the lines of what we know now and some in completely unexpected areas and no I'm not saying they would be of the "paranormal" variety or at least what we currently identify as being "paranormal."

I recently had a conversation with a research scientist who was talking to me about the 12 principles of the scientific throught process. I must confess that it was late and I had had a couple of glasses of wine. Do you know what I am referring to? If so does it have a proper identifying concept name? I ask you because I run into this person infrequently and I'm interested in exploring this further.

UdderPuttyBiped replies on 7/25/2006 2:40 am:
Hmm, no actually I am not sure I know what he was referring to, though if you do find an answer I would be interested. The scientific method is always being refined and improved, so there is no doubt to me that a person actively involved in research probably has a firmer grasp on the current philosophies and methodologies than I.

I can say that in general the scientific method involves:

1) Description: The information you use must be reliable, replicable (it can be repeated over and over) and relevant to the question.

2) Prediction: The information must be valid for all observations of a particular phenomenon, past, present or future.

3) Control: You must actively and fairly test the range of possible occurences if at all possible. Passive gathering of data gives rise to the possibility of empirical bias.

4) Identification: An understanding of the cause or causes of the phenomenon must be reached to the best extent possible, establishing cause and effect and eliminating other alternative explanations.

MothmanProphet 56M

10/12/2006 9:37 pm

Only the future is certain

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