Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Problem I Have With Skeptics

Let me hasten to add that I think of myself as a skeptic, but I'm of the "okay, now prove it" variety. I think professional psychics tend to be con artists, and these folks can do a lot of psychological damage to people who take them to seriously.
 
On the other hand, I've experienced many examples of uncanny intuition in my own life and have witnessed some in others. But I don't think of myself as psychic. I tend to think there may be something to the "morphic resonance" thinking of Rupert Sheldrake.
 
I think animals tend to be highly attuned to their environment and are forced to rely on their senses more than we human animals. In a sense I believe we have drowned out the resonance with too many distractions (loud music, cell phones, television, etc.).  If you disagree with my proposition here I will not be offended. Nor would I be willing to press hard for its acceptance. It's just my way of trying to make sense of things which have happened in my life.
 
Last week a story broke about Pam Ragland, who experienced visions and by them helped investigators locate the body of a missing and now murdered 11 year old. Interesting. Maybe a bit suspicious. I would like more information about this. I'm not ready to point to this story as "proof" of anything. I just say if it is legitimate it would fit into my above suggestion.
 
While poking around the internet looking for stories on this thing I came across a true skeptic's blog No, Psychics Can't Help Solve Murders by Justin Peters.
 
Therein Mr. Peters flat out says this was not a case of psychic powers. How does he know this? Because, he says:
 
Because psychics don’t exist. Psychic powers are not a real thing. A psychic cannot help a detective solve a crime, because there is no such thing as a legitimate psychic.
 
Now I'm not going to argue that he is wrong about that. The problem I have, however, is that - like Bible Creationists, who take a preconceived idea and then try to bend all evidence to fit that idea - Peters isn't open to the possibility that there are things yet to be discovered about the Cosmos. He starts with a preconceived idea and is unwilling to looking beyond it.
 
One needn't lapse into supernaturalism or supernormalism (or as skeptics like to suggest: magical thinking) in order to accept "psychic" episodes. Sheldrake's morphic resonance provides, I think, a reasonable natural explanation.
 
Because Peters rules out psychic intuition out of hand, he is left to explain this as
 
Maybe she wasn't as involved as she says. Maybe it was coincidence, or luck, or a really good guess. Maybe she is actually skilled at reading landscapes and guessing where bodies might be buried.
 
Perhaps.
 
But for my part, I must remain an open-minded skeptic. And I will withhold judgment on this particular instance and just say that I find it interesting and not outside the realm of what I think might be possible.
 

17 comments:

  1. Take a look here if you want a better skeptic look on the whole Pam Ragland stuff:

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/the_new_best_case_for_psychics_did_intuitive_visions_locate_missing_boy/

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  2. @ Shen-Du,

    Thanks for providing that link. I had not seen it even after doing an internet search. I agree that it is a better skeptical look. And thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post a comment.

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  3. I see what you are saying, however I find myself having much sympathy with Mr. Peters' stance.

    I see if from the point of view of, if you can't prove it, it's not valid. You can't be open to the possibility of something if there is no proof. Someone claiming they did something special doesn't count, it needs to be more robust.

    A line needs to be drawn somewhere otherwise any old claim from any one with a belief would have be accepted as possible. I don't think that's a good position to be in so I'm happy to take the harder line that until there is evidence worth following, the claim is false.

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  4. @ limey,

    When it comes to the matter of premonitions and "gut feelings" that turn out to be true, there really is a ton of anecdotal "proof." And if you've ever had the experience yourself, you are less inclined to dismiss it out of hand as reality. On the other hand, I feel Peters goes beyond skepticism to being outright dogmatic: it just ain't so because it can't be so. And that's a position I don't feel comfortable being in. I think how high we place the bar of what constitutes good evidence is largely a matter of taste and personal conviction. Thanks for reading and commenting' it was nice to hear from you again.

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  5. Also wanted to add this:

    Pam Ragland has some serious trouble with the US Bank:

    In 2002, Pam Ragland refinanced her home mortgage through Downey Savings and Loan Association. In April 2008, she asked Downey Savings to modify her loan to decrease her monthly payments. While attempting to do so, a Downey Savings employee told her not to make her April payment. Although Ragland planned on making the payment, she cancelled it based on what the employee told her. Later that month, Downey Savings notified Ragland that her loan was delinquent. By June, Ragland received a letter informing her the Downey Saving was beginning foreclosure proceedings on her home. After she lost her home, she sued Downey Savings, alleging negligent misrepresentation, and other claims.

    Its from this site: http://livinglies.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/us-bank-gets-banged-for-forcing-homeowner-into-foreclosure/

    She even talks about it on her blog:

    I was busy getting ready for two court cases—one with US Bank I’ve been fighting for 5 years and is FINALLY going to a trial I’ve fought long and hard for, and another small claims where an ex Felon stole my rental deposit, and forced my family to live with Termite poop in our dishes and water cascading on our heads for months.

    The address:

    http://pamraglandsblog.com/setting-some-facts-straight-about-finding-the-missing-autistic-boy-terry-smith-part-1/

    I wanted to add this because if it would be more then a lucky guess by her then she would not be living this way. If she has psychic or intuition powers then she would save herself from such a tragedy that she is living now that means she would know in advance about the theft and not to trust the bank clerk. Therefore I am also with Mr. Peters.

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  6. @ Shen-Du,

    I don't think that logically follows.

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  7. I believe I am psychic. I have never tried to find a missing person. I did, last, no 2 Halloweens ago see in a crystal ball precisely where a woman had lost her engagement ring at. You know my many stories of my experiences, however here is what I think: My brain, like all others can, picks up bits of info unconsciously, then the brain attempts to formulate solutions, attempts to "make sense" of it all. In the fast pace of daily life, we often miss out (consciously) on tiny details, but our brains take it ALL in. I spent a lot of my childhood around my great aunt who did that, took in tiny details, making outcomes (predictions) the rest of us simply missed. The brain does a LOT of guessing, extrapolating, and often goes way of course, ergo--dreams. That is my opinion.

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  8. @ Doug B:

    What do you mean? I just wanted to say to be precise that I am with Mr. Peters because I also think that psychics are just liars or pretend they are something that they are not.

    As for Pam Ragland if she were a psychic like she claims she would have a better life I think because her psychic powers would warn her from the wrong paths in life. Pam Ragland claimed in one interview that she felt "strange" about the half-brother who is now identified as the killer but in real life she could not feel strange by the bank clerk who was lying to her? So this bring big doubt to this whole. Not to mentioned she had prior knowledge that the last person who was seen with Terry Smith was his half-brother(according to her facebook page) and it does not take a detective that the half brother would be the prime suspect - its even used in the movies.

    Sorry for the confusion..I hope now its understandable to get what I was trying to say.

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  9. @ Diane,

    I believe that, surely. But may I suggest you read Rupert Sheldrake's book "The Sense Of Being Stared At" - buy a used copy at Amazon or get it through an inter-library loan - and let me know what you think of his ideas.

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  10. @ Shen-Du,

    I understood you okay the first time. I just don't believe "if she were a psychic like she claims she would have a better life I think because her psychic powers would warn her from the wrong paths in life" is necessarily true. Maybe it doesn't work that way or is a sure thing. Maybe it is something that gets drowned out by noise and the cares of life.

    You might as well say that if someone has genius-level IQ he/she will be enormously successful financially and will never suffer relationship problems in life. It just doesn't necessarily follow, in my opinion.

    But then we all have opinions, don't we?

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  11. @ Doug B:

    I agree that we have both other opinions. I am not here to persuade you or something like that. I just wanted to say this and show this:

    High IQ is not paranormal powers. That are two different things like apples and bananas. Several people have high IQs but are not rich or successful because you cannot see the future with high IQ but with paranormal powers you can like Pam Ragland is telling. She even claims that she can see the future:

    Ragland said she has not always embraced her abilities. She said she once dreamed that President Reagan was going to be shot. The next day, he was. Worried she might have accidentally caused the attack, she said she tried to turn her abilities off.

    from this link: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-menifee-child-found-by-woman-with-visions-20130712,0,1525439.story

    Therefore when she can see the future why she cannot see hers?? Why has she such a miserable life? Therefore I don't believe her. She had just luck a nothing more.

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  12. @ Shen-Du,

    No, my friend, I'm not comparing apples and oranges, high IQ versus paranormal powers. I'm comparing assumption to assumption.

    You assume intuition ought to work a certain way and then because it doesn't seem to work that way you say there is no such thing. I offer as a counter example the assumption that a person with genius level IQ ought to be intelligent enough to make enough smart financial decisions so as to be highly successful financially and avoid all the pitfalls of traumatic personal relationships. IN BOTH CASES I'M SUGGESTING THOSE ASSUMPTIONS ARE NOT NECESSARILY TRUE. I'm not saying the assumptions are unreasonable in and of themselves, just that other factors can counteract basic assumptions.

    I don't think you're skeptical so much as simply dogmatic. But that's okay, because as I said: We all have our opinions.

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  13. @ Doug B:

    I am only dogmatic because I think that these people are lying to earn money and fame? Sorry Doug this is not fair from you calling me a dogmatic because of this opinion. Also I have not seen any evidence besides anecdotal evidence(that was debunked several times by skeptics) that proves there is some psychic phenomena in the world which is not enough for me.

    " I offer as a counter example the assumption that a person with genius level IQ ought to be intelligent enough to make enough smart financial decisions so as to be highly successful financially and avoid all the pitfalls of traumatic personal relationships."

    - This is wrong and its not logical because when the genius is only a genius in one science discipline like the arts, philosophy or mathematics and what has philosophy to do with money and relationships? Genius doesnt equel seeing the future.

    A genius is a person makes errors and is human like we are he is not claiming any paranormal stuff. The genius claims only things he can do and knows about.

    However psychics claim they can see the future however their lives have the same problems like we do. When someone had the ability to see the future his life would be great. However the genius people cannot see this - even Einstein had problems in life and could not calculate his future.

    Also you don't need to reply. I now see what your point is - you want to fight for the psychics and paranormal stuff - you made your point because I didnt called you dogmatic or things like that but you did it.

    I dont want to persuade you belief what you want Doug and dont feel threated by me replies. I am only saying what I think.

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  14. @ Shen-Du

    Friend,

    You take exception to my calling you dogmatic yet you admit as much in your opening sentence.

    But I think you aren't reading me carefully. What I've suggested about this matter is that, if true, it doesn't fall outside the realm of what I conceive being possible. Now if you can't agree with that and think that what you call psychic and paranormal are simply impossible, well, that makes you dogmatic on that point. I'm not trying to be nasty or anything, but that is dogmatism. You have your mind made up and aren't open to changing it.

    I prefer to retain both my skepticism and my open-mindedness.

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  15. This is my last post:

    It was a nice discussion and I like your title post that you leave it opened for both sides of the discussion open. However I am for the skeptical side here. Its true I am a skeptic because life has changed me into one..(Now burn me and kill me..lol)

    I even had talks with believers(I was a number one believer back in time). I apologize for the dogmatic but I hate this world because its a believer tactic that when you don't agree, then believers will start calling you dogmatic, stupid etc..

    As for Pam Ragland. She claims on her blog which she posted here even that she was also right on the hitch hikers in some way..

    I am saying only that she is acting like she was right in every instance she was searching for someone and even claimed that she can see the future in Reagans case.

    I am against this because she was not right in her life stuff and this makes me a skeptic of her claims because she is a normal human like I am or you are and therefore when I don't have psychic powers why do other people have them??

    I am also open-minded but I need more evidence not a lucky guess and her claims that is all. This case also does not prove psychic phenomena like others have said. If I will get more evidence then I have no problem to be a believer again.

    Take this for example why I am skeptical and will be:

    "In an eleven-hour session Wells 'broke the bank' twelve times, winning a million francs. At one stage he won 23 times out of 30 successive spins of the wheel. Wells returned to Monte Carlo in November of that year and won again. During this session he made another million francs in three days, including successful bets on the number five for five consecutive turns. Despite hiring private detectives the Casino never discovered Wells's system; Wells later admitted it was just a lucky streak. His system was the high-risk martingale, doubling the stake to make up losses."

    This is from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Wells_(gambler)

    Wells has not said he has paranormal powers..

    I am not saying that my skepticism cannot change but so long so far I doubt that this will be possible in a way because the more we go further the more we find ways that there are no psychic abilities. Just take a look at Sean M. Carroll and his videos why he doesn't believe in psychic phenomena.

    Ok I am done here. Thanks for the discussion..

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