Sensing Murder or Sensing Money?
I am a skeptic when it comes to psychics, mediums and anything to do with the ‘paranormal’. Over the last couple of years, I have watched perhaps four or five episodes of the popular show Sensing Murder, each time growing more annoyed.
These programmes are NOT harmless pieces of fun. In each programme you can see the anguish on the faces of the families that have lost loved-ones. I believe their emotions are being stirred up with deceit and lies.
The programmers probably make money, the psychics on the program certainly will get well paid, but, not only that, the participating psychics are now hot property hosting costly readings and work-shops creaming in thousands of dollars.
Last year, I offered Ninox Television, the producers of Sensing Murder the chance to participate in a psychic challenge, but had no reply. A few weeks ago, I again challenged the company to participate in mutually agreed tests and offered prize money of $400,000. They sent pleasant replies but refused to submit their psychics to such tests.
Do you know that this hugely popular program is financed (or partially financed) by New Zealand on Air, a publicly funded entity whose mission statement promises, “To consult and obtain qualitative and quantitative research so that funding decisions are well informed and audience preferences taken into consideration.”?
These programmes are not just entertainment as they lionise the deceitful psychic industry.
In many ways it is similar to gambling: both are harmless to the majority of the population but devastating to a minority. So why is it that the gambling industry is highly regulated and the psychic industry left alone?
Does anyone else feel aggrieved by such hypocrisy?
Visit www.psychicchallenge.co.nz to leave me a comment.
Stuart Landsborough Wanaka
(In a recent press release, Stuart adds: In a challenge of their own to Stuart and his skeptic contemporaries, he was instructed to watch the latest episode on The Kay Stewart case (Sept 9) as definitive proof of their abilities. Needless to say Stuart pored over what was dubbed, “The episode that will silence the skeptics” and found numerous examples of faulty logic, conflicting answers and the unbelievable fact that both psychics, Deb Webber and Kelvin Cruickshank have already worked on the case!
If a fourth season of Sensing Murder is produced you can bet that Stuart will be continuing discussions with Ninox to follow through with a test and prove, once and for all what exactly is being sensed.)
Dr John Welch suggests that those who oppose fluoridation of drinking water are pure water crackpots and that giving fluoride systemically to children can improve their teeth (NZ Skeptic 88). The 2006 National Research Council report on Fluoride in drinking water raises concerns about the safety of fluoridation including the effects on the developing nervous system and the thyroid. These are also referred to by Dan Fagin in Scientific American, January 2008, in an article on Second Thoughts about Fluoride.
Professor Vyvyan Howard, University of Belfast, noted at Toronto on 11 August 2008 that there was reasonable scientific evidence that fluoride could exert an epigenetic effect on brain development through impairing thyroid function and that fluoridation should be stopped on a precautionary basis (see www.fluoridealert.org). Dr Jennifer Luke, University of Surrey, also spoke at Toronto at the 28th conference of the International Society for Fluoride Research and noted that fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland and affects melatonin levels, resulting, in female gerbils, in earlier sexual maturity.
The principal invited speaker at Toronto, Professor AK Susheela, Fluorosis Research and Rural Development Foundation, Delhi, found that fluoride could affect both soft and hard tissues and that the problem of anaemia in pregnancy with low birth weight babies did not respond to prophylactic iron but improved markedly when the fluoride intake was reduced and dietary advice given emphasising the used of fresh vegetables and fruit.
I would welcome a review by Dr Welch of a short book I have written, Floride Fatigue, available free in pdf form at www.pauapress.com
Creationism not a conspiracy
I am religious, and the push for’Intelligent Design’ to be taught in the science curriculum annoys me as much anyone. The reason is simple: it is not science. Neither are science teachers metaphysicians; it is thus doubly inappropriate. What bothers me almost as much, however, is the ad hoc assumption that there is some conspiracy or sinister agenda behind the push.
Contrary to popular opinion, Science and Truth are not happily interchangeable terms. A degree of antirealism seems necessary for science to flourish, in fact, with some notable thinkers (such as Kuhn and Mach) openly advocating the discovery of mere instrumentally useful theories to be science’s key aim. The basic approach, as David Riddell pointed out in the last issue, is to try to disprove a theory, the failure of which allows it to be accepted tentatively. Thus there is a constant state of flux and development; nowhere is there any suggestion of final, deductive proof in a scientific theory.
Conversely creationism is untestable, unfalsifiable, and indemonstrable. It may be instrumentally useful as a ‘theory’, but being unfalsifiable it is a very poor one. (Indeed it reeks of sophistry.) It may have some truth-value, and its adherents genuinely and firmly believe so. However, in my experience this is generally by way of some other acceptable, but thoroughly metaphysical, reason. Metaphysics are not science – despite their propositions being subject to logical scrutiny.
And this is where I believe the confusion lies. There is a lay-assumption that science= truth and truth= science. Being convinced of the truth of their own metaphysical beliefs, creationists take the apparently reasonable step of demanding the ‘ theory’ of creationism to be taught alongside the theory of evolution. After all, they point out, evolution is a theory in crisis, riddled with anomalies. This betrays their ignorance. On this basis any scientific theory is a theory in crisis; this is how science works. The reason creationism is not a ‘theory in crisis’ is that it is not a scientific theory.
The next step is even more fallacious. It is common among the religious to cry ‘foul’ at his point, and shake sorrowful fists at the corrupt state, education system, and scientific community for suppressing valid, truth-tracking ideas in school science. There is no corruption, of course. The science community is sticking to science. And this is good: as a philosopher, I don’t want scientists teaching philosophy, particularly not religion, and especially not the brand of religion espoused by the philosophically and scientifically ignorant, ie scientific-creationists.
Equally, I submit, there is nothing inherently conspiratorial about the creationist movement. Ignorance and misunderstanding fuel it: which is annoying, disappointing, but not corrupt. To suggest anything stronger than a mistake among creationists is a technically invalid conclusion, and despite isolated counterexamples is an unfair reflection of creationist proponents in general. In my view, for either camp to suspect the other of having some sinister ideal is to miss the more basic point that they are simply talking past each other. Certainly, I know how irksome the barrage of ill thought out anti-evolution ‘ evidence’ can be, but what needs to be thrown back is not so much suspicion as education. Personally, I would like to see philosophy taught in schools, with standard Philosophy of Science taught alongside science proper. This would help clear myriad confusion among everyone.
That is why conspiratorial accusations and rhetoric among Skeptic literature bother me. It instantiates an equal fallacy. Neither camp is primarily driven by corruption; hence, I suggest future publications of NZ Skeptic avoid rhetoric such as ‘IDers [having] designs on NZ schools’, ‘a favourite ploy of creationists’, ‘blatant anti-evolution[ism]’, and so on. I believe the suspicion these imply is as unfounded as is the push for creationism in science classes, and rather unfortunate in a publication promoting unbiased, critical thinking.
Joel Gilmore Hamilton