A Silent Morton, More Junk Physics, Creatures Revisited, The Jasker Device, Edward's Producer Speaks, Hasted Deceased, Christ-In-The-Field, Florida "UFO," and A UK Healing Group....
When attorney Jorge Caporazo Mendes wrote me from Brazil on April 26th three weeks ago demanding that I meet the famous "psychic" Thomas Green Morton there and hand over the million-dollar prize, I responded immediately and asked that Morton fill out the application form. Well, I've not heard a word since, from Mendes or from Morton! Isn't that exceedingly strange! Morton is a loud chap who goes about shouting "RA!" and producing flashes of light not one of your major wonders, in any case. Kids just getting into the magic business have been using this corny trick for the last ten years. The biggest TV network in Brazil, TV GLOBO, is standing by to cover the event, but Mendes and Morton are apparently in hiding somewhere.... Hey, guys, I'm all ready! Let's go! Hello? Flash! RA! Anyone there....?
In reference to the item last week on the Bearden scam, I was contacted by two students who were dismayed to see a favorite professor's name on the site of a prominent physics web-page, "Foundations of Physics Letters," as an advisor/editor. They felt that he should have offered objections to the report on Bearden. Well, he did. Leslie E. Ballentine, physicist at Simon Fraser University, wrote to FPL asking:
Is "Foundations of Physics Letters" to distinguish itself as the only mainstream physics journal that accepts papers on perpetual motion machines? I am referring explicitly to the paper in the Feb. 2001 issue of FPL, p.87, by Anastasovski et al. The first sentence reads, "Bearden et al. recently produced a device ... which outputs more energy than is input by the operator..." This impossibility is "explained" in the abstract thus: "Magnetic energy is taken directly ex vacua and used to replenish the permanent magnets of the MEG device, which therefore produces a source of energy that, in theory, can be replenished indefinitely from the vacuum."
They remark that this would be impossible according to Maxwell-Heaviside electrodynamics (which I would say is entirely to the credit of Maxwell and Heaviside).
I would have thought that any competent referee would raise a red flag at the sight of such statements. It is universally recognized by competent scientists and philosophers that extraordinary claims (such as, that the vacuum can be a source of exploitable energy) require extraordinarily strong evidence. Such a claim can not be said to "meet the requirements of scientific rigor" merely on the basis of the poorly controlled and poorly reported experiments of Bearden et al. and Naudin.
FPL exposes itself to ridicule by publishing such papers. . . .
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinarily strong evidence," before they can be accepted. If anyone wishes to defend Bearden et al. and Naudin, I have only one thing to say. Do they still buy their domestic electricity from the power grid? If so, then I refuse to take their claims seriously.
Thank you, Dr. Ballentine. You're rightly concerned. Your students' alarm was the result of the assumption that all advisors, editors, etc., read and approve in advance every item that is published. Not so, of course. Dr. Ballentine's prompt and strong objection perhaps along with other similar comments from others in the academic community about whom we cannot know resulted in the withdrawal of the Bearden material.
But remember that last week I wrote this:
On Sunday, April 28th, I sent this e-mail inquiry to scientist Jean Louis Naudin:
Dear Sir: an inquiry....
(1) A photo appears at http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/meg.htm referred to as a photo of "[your] MEG replication model." Does this show the MEG device actually lighting an electric bulb, or is this only a simulation of what the device should do?
(2) Is the electric light bulb shown in the photo being powered by the device, or by another source of power not seen to be evident in the photo?
Thank you for your kind attention to these two questions.
That was now 19+ days ago. Strangely (?) I've had no response. Will Naudin be answering me? If not, we may certainly assume that the answers are: no, yes, no, and yes. And if that's the case, this is an outright fraud. Is there anyone out there who cares to do anything about it? Dr. Naudin's silence is indeed very interesting, and perhaps suggests what his answers might be, if we were ever to hear from him.... Today, I re-sent my inquiry to this scientist.
[sound of crickets heard]
Readers might wish to copy the letter above and send it to JNaudin509@aol.com
And as if we needed any more proof of just how silly Bearden's rantings are, I direct you to www.cheniere.org/images/weapons/index.html for further nonsense. The man gives himself away by the inane conclusions at which he arrives.
Here's something I heard long ago, written by someone named "Anon"....
A short history of medicine:
"I have an earache..."
2000 BCE: "Here, eat this root."
1000 CE: "That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer."
1850 CE: "Prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion."
1940 CE: "That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill."
1985 CE: "That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic."
2002 CE: "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root."
Reader Paul Cardinale tells us, re the "Creature" photo from last week,
There's a point left out of your description of the photo. The camera was set to a mode often referred to as "night" mode. In this mode, the flash fires (to illuminate clearly subjects in the foreground) and the shutter is held open long enough to register a much dimmer background. That's why the image of the person has very little smearing due to camera motion (imaged almost entirely by the brief flash) and the pilot lamp is severely smeared (imaged entirely by its own illumination during the long exposure). In night-mode you are much more likely to get both clear and smeared images than with an ordinary time exposure.
Thanks, Paul. Quite right. Now comes reader Henrik Herranen, a Software Developer for an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) design company in Tampere, Finland, who with the help of his wife Emma, prepared this interesting report for us. I've shortened it and added some bits of my own....
How to Make "Energy Creature" Photos
Note: I noticed another very faint trace (of the same pattern of course) that can be seen just below the pale blue dot I've added here to Hendrik's photo. This is caused by another much less bright LED on the third stack shown. Henrik continues:
I became interested in recreating the creature that a Russian chess player had had such luck in photographing. I used a Canon digital camera to achieve the following images. No editing has been done to the photos except edge cutting, and rescaling. The "energy creatures"are exactly as the camera captured them, made with ASA 50 sensitivity setting.
This first photo shows how a photo should be shot if there is sufficient light. Here, all room lights are on, as can be seen from the reflection in the monitor. Note the green LED as indicated by the arrow and my finger.
Second photo. The room lights have been shut off so that the room is relatively dimly lit. In such a situation, one can use the camera's built-in flash.
There are some shadows on the walls, but the image still looks good.
Because the flash is the dominant light source,
colors are good and neutral, pretty much as in the picture before. For this picture, I reduced the amount of light entering the camera by using a much smaller aperture, but I increased the exposure time considerably. So, by jiggling the camera while taking the picture, a bright light source can be made into an exciting "energy creature." Ouch! As can be seen, the creature is nipping at my fingertip, and it seems to like the reindeer, too!
What happens here is that first the flash fires, and most of the picture is exposed. However, during the 2-second total exposure time, when the camera is jiggled, both the LEDs and to a lesser extent the rest of the picture, is still being exposed. This results in a somewhat blurry and often yellowish exposure, much like the original photo of the Russian chess player. The yellowness comes from the fact that typical room-lights [tungsten] are yellowish compared to the quite bluish flash. Thus, if the picture color temperature is set to give natural colors with a flash, all other lights will appear yellowish, or even orange.
If the light source were a bit brighter, this very same effect could be realized with much shorter exposure times. Some years ago, I tried to photograph a bat in a sauna with 1/60-second exposure time, and got quite similar results to this, sans the energy creature. Saunas don't have LEDs!
What Henrik was involved in with a bat in the sauna, is something that may haunt me for years to come. But, knowing how much of their lives the Finns spend boiling themselves and beating one another with branches, I'd rather not know.....
On the same item, reader Adam Bradley kindly sent us this digital photo of a dusty room, expressing at the same time his dismay that we had destroyed his faith in a house full of spiritual beings (Just kidding! Just Kidding!) by our "orbs" solution. There are plenty of orbs here to be seen....
I'll let reader Dave Zlock have the final word on this whole "creature" matter:
I have been employed for nearly two decades in the photo finishing industry as a senior technician, working on numerous types of optical photofinishing equipment, and now, digital photofinishing equipment. While the transition from optical to digital has been expensive, expansive, and frustrating to say the least, I am confident that our industry can withstand the new challenges facing us. After reading the portion of Swift concerning the Russian chess player's complete and rather sudden departure from logic and common sense with regard to his misunderstanding of the images captured with his camera, I was ready to explode with frustration!
For years, optical photography and photofinishing have been plagued with countless image anomalies caused by static discharge, dust, chemical activity, "light fogging" and many other problems. Digital photography, as well as digital photofinishing, have resolved many of these problems, but in the process, have caused many others. In addition, the digital format now allows for manipulation of the image, discrete or otherwise, like never before! How could such a man, whose superior knowledge, intelligence, logic and planning are so obviously displayed through the game of chess, be so foolish, while a common layman such as myself can see the obvious for what it is? But then I found my answer in your most brilliant conclusion to this article; thank you, sir, for so eloquently articulating my thoughts on this matter!
We've discussed here various silver-halide anomalies that have titillated the public for so many years, and as reader Zlock indicates, now that photography appears to be going digital, we're only changing the terminology and the actual causes of the ghostly "creatures" that show up. Sigh.
To those of you who may have wondered why I have spent so much space on this obviously silly item, I point out that it is just this sort of claim that gets picked up by naive folks out there, amplified into a major miracle/proof/example, undergoes "improvement," and becomes a permanent part of the paranormal literature. This is an excellent example of how simple examination and investigation can and will vaporize such a claim if done early and strongly enough. Had spoon-bending been jumped upon early enough by real scientists, we'd be far better off for it, in my opinion.
An aside: I was scolded by a reader who objected to my characterization of chess players as perhaps a bit unrealistic. I responded by citing Kasparov and Fisher as examples. I apologize to any others who were offended. My comment on the tendency of Slavic people to embrace mysticism has been amply supported by my observations over many decades.
Yes, the Internet is just chock-full of nutty inventions looking for buyers and investors. Last week we presented you with the Tom Bearden scam. Now reader George Spearing of New Zealand calls our attention to www.jasker.com where you will see the most pretentious, vapid, uninformative site of this nature that I've ever seen. There's a mass of words there that will bore you to tears, but will tell you nothing! That's an art in itself, of course.
The Irish inventor of the Jasker, anonymous, he says, to avoid other crazies from pestering him (?), says that once powered-up, his magical device can run indefinitely or at least until the parts wear out. He says that he has supplied all his own domestic power needs free for seventeen months, an amazing claim that surely should be checkable. Typically, he carefully avoids the claim that he's tapped into the age-old secret of perpetual motion. Says he,
Perpetual motion is impossible. This is a self-sustaining unit which at the same time provides surplus electrical energy.
Hold on! That's the precise definition of perpetual motion! Damn! I gotta rush out and buy me some of this, or some of whatever the man is smoking. I suggest you look at the site, to understand just how well nothing can be said, and appear to be scientific.
The website closes with an encouraging admonition:
Be Patient! All will be revealed presently!
Gee, I hope these guys and Naudin aren't related to Sylvia Browne, or "presently" could be equivalent to "eventually," and "never"..... Reuters News Service commented on the claims, suggesting, "If the Jasker men really are onto something, it could be the most important Irish invention since Guinness."
Reader John Powers (also a JREF member, which should be the status of all readers, in my opinion) sends us this rather revealing chat:
Unfortunately, some people in my family are John Edward fans and even subscribe to his newsletter. I was looking through the disgustingly pulpy content and came upon an interview with Paul Shavelson, the executive producer of the program. Most of the interview is silly babble about this guy's first meeting with Edward, what food he likes to cook, and so on. The following excerpt is reproduced as printed. His first statement is utterly meaningless, and the most impressive cover-ups come in the very last paragraph.
Interviewer: A lot of critics have accused the show of editing for content, for doing "homework" about Gallery [audience] members, etc. As a producer, how do you handle these attacks on your credibility?
Shavelson: Well, the irony here is the more we get criticized, the more we know how well John must be doing, because the information is so accurate. We have an open door policy here! Nothing to hide. I mean, the Time magazine attacks were totally discredited. . . there was no substance to any of this information, it was the worst piece of journalism. I would have been fired long ago if I was producing something like that with such a lack of due diligence. We edit the show for time. The information that is not included in the show is some of the best psychic medium stuff that happens! It just doesn't fit into that particular 22 minutes, but it'll find its way into another 22 minutes. You know, in the 3 hours that we shoot, we are pulling on average 5 or 6 shows out of that. How many hours of TV is that? We're basically putting on air close to 85% of just the tape that's rolled! Now what's that 15% that's not going to air? I'll tell you what that is. Say, if John asks someone if they are comfortable about sharing with the TV audience a deep, dark family secret, that maybe their little child doesn't even know about, we're not going to air that. That's edited out.
What else is in that 15%? Well, if someone goes brain-dead on John and doesn't remember that "Joe" is their dad, and John stays on this person for 20 minutes before that person says, "Oh! That's my dad!" Yeah, we might take that down to 4 or 5 minutes, because the rest of us at home might pick up the TV and slam it on the ground because this person is so brain-dead! [laughs] We're sparing people that agony that John goes through! If you look at that 15% that doesn't make it to air, believe me, on my children's lives I swear this is not to make John look more "psychic." Am I clear?
Perfectly clear, Paul. The tape that does not air would make John look less psychic. I doubt that the figure is a meager fifteen percent, but Edward must be performing his act pretty badly! His own producer has now confirmed it.
You know, I'm very pleased to see that readers are providing a good proportion of this weekly update! It shows that we're getting through, and that people are learning not only from what we print here, but from doing their own analyses! That's great!
Sadly, I must report the death of a gentleman who was one of those who totally believed in and endorsed the "miracles" of Uri Geller. In fact, he wrote a very positive book, "The Metal Benders," in 1981. Professor John Barrett Hasted, 81, was one of Britain's leading physicists, heading the experimental design section of the physics department at Birkbeck College, London. He also enjoyed an international reputation as a folk-musician and he played both the 5-string and the 12-string guitar. He rather alarmed his scientist colleagues toward the end of his career when in 1974 he considered the spoon-bending demonstrations of Geller and stated:
I have been able to validate the metal-bending (not the metal-softening) phenomenon on a number of occasions by visual witnessing, chart-recording, "impossible" tasks, and brittle metals.
An obituary from the UK stated:
It was a characteristically brave thing, as a lifelong Communist and materialist, for [Hasted] to remind his colleagues that it was their business to investigate the apparently unexplainable: "Why is metal bending important? Simply because we do not understand it."
I made a serious attempt to show John that it was not all that difficult to understand. In the 70's, during his rapture with Geller and other spoon-benders, I called him at Birkbeck and told him that I was doing a story for TIME Magazine on the subject which I had been asked to do by one of their editors. Hasted met me at his office, and showed me a drawer full of broken and bent spoons, each labeled with names and dates. He agreed to do an interview with me; he did not recognize me, nor my name, since at that time I'd not come to the attention of the UK as a serious sceptic of paranormal matters.
We sat in the tea-room at Birkbeck and chatted. At one point I took the teaspoon from his saucer and asked just how Geller had stroked a spoon. He averred that I was holding it "just right," and when it sagged and then fell in two, he snatched the pieces up from the table in astonishment and tried to fit them together. He removed a lens from his pocket and peered at the fracture with fascination. When I then admitted to him that I was a magician, he suddenly stood up, walked to a trash can, and threw in the material. Returning to the table, he told me that he'd almost wasted his time investigating a trick, and he was very angry with me. I pointed out to him that regardless of whether it had been a trick or not, he should have had an interest in comparing the "trick" pieces with the "real" ones.
Subsequent to this encounter, after discovering who I was and how strongly I'd expressed my opinions, Hasted dubbed me "a fanatically sceptical conjuror."
Next week, I'll run an account of another meeting I had with Hasted in June of 1977. It will illustrate the thinking of this gentle man in regard to his acceptance of miracles and other related situations. Hasted died still convinced of the truth of paranormal spoon-bending, without knowing just how easily 12-year-old junior magicians now do it at parties.... By trickery.
Robert Woodhead comments about last week's Christ-face in the soccer-field:
I think it somehow likely that some imaginative soul is having a little fun with the application of fertilizer. Hmmm... A fertilizer spreader + gps [global positioning system] + computer control of the spreader gate would permit one to print patterns on lawns. Sounds like an interesting project. If I get around to it, I'll make sure to use your photo as the test image... Note that the layout of the image on the field is aligned to the axes of the rectangle, which is what you would expect if someone were putting down the image by hand, it would be easier for them to get it right if they did it that way.
Seems like a lot of work for very little. But then there are the crop circles....
Via the May 8, 2002, edition of "Filer's Files," #19-2002, copyrighted by George A. Filer, who is the Director of Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) Eastern, we find this item listed as one of the recent "Top UFO Sightings":
Florida Football-Shaped Object.
MARIANNA, Florida On April 4, 2002, an object shaped like an elongated football was spotted at 3:30 PM. The witness states, "It appeared to be chrome or silver with no windows and looked like a football except narrower in the center. It was about 300 feet in the air to the north of Interstate 10, moving east in front of me, and I was actually moving faster at 75 mile[s] an hour than it was. It was moving strait [sic] eastward alongside the interstate. There were many cars on the road at the time going in both directions, but no one stopped to look.
Now let's see if a more parsimonious identification can be suggested here. We're given no information here about the witness, so we cannot know whether he's familiar with that area of Florida, a state in which lighter-than-air craft are frequently seen. Advertising blimps, video blimps, and sightseeing blimps are all over the state, particularly along Interstate 10. Why there? The Marianna airport (yes, there's an airport right there) tells us that I-10 is used as a reference guide by blimp pilots making their way east and west between Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville. And the Marianna airport, being in a wide open area, is often used as a tie-down point for these craft. Blimps usually travel between 25 to 40 miles per hour, so that also falls in line with the account being of a blimp. The reported silver color indicates that it was one of the many Goodyear blimps, which at that time were returning from the west ("moving east") to the hangars in Orlando; they're the only such craft that are still silver in color. I have a request in with Goodyear to determine what specific blimp that might have been, so that eventually I'll even be able to give you the name of the pilot. I'm not much surprised that of the "many cars on the road," "no one stopped to look." Blimps are fun, but not traffic-stoppers.
Happily, Mr. Filer advises his readers that
These reports and comments are not necessarily the OFFICIAL MUFON viewpoint. . . . CAUTION, MOST OF THESE ARE INITIAL REPORTS AND REQUIRE FURTHER INVESTIGATION.
Mr. Filer, this is a "further investigation," one that you could have easily done, I think. Since airports only keep flight plans for 15 days, we cannot easily know at this point in time that this "UFO" was a blimp, but all observations provide us with an opinion that it was far more likely a blimp that an extraterrestrial spacecraft.
See? Research is pretty easy and straightforward. Anyone can do it. If they want to.
I strongly suspect that the following interview is fictional....
Reporter: Maharishi, you state that one can learn levitation "complete mastery of the skies" in your brochure.
Maharishi: (giggle) Yes that is true.
Reporter: As the guru of your organization, I trust that you can do everything that you claim to teach.
Maharishi: (giggle) Certainly, I can. If I could not do it, how could I teach it?
Reporter: Then tell me why you bother with commercial airlines when you travel. Why don't you just levitate yourself to wherever you want to go?
Maharishi: (giggle) I tried it for a while, but it didn't work out.
Reporter: What was the problem?
Maharishi: (giggle) I kept losing my luggage.
Walter Beals tells me that survivalscience.org recently banned 27 of their members simply because they were also members of the JREF Forum. He was one of those banned, and he says he never even had a chance to post a message. I'm flattered that we're so feared.
UK reader Simon Nicholson wrote me last month:
I wonder if you would be so kind as to give me some advice. I find myself in a position to investigate first hand the claims of a psychic healer, but wish to go about this in a sensible and ethical manner. I have sustained a minor injury to my shoulder, nothing serious, but a colleague noticed me wincing and asked what the matter was. He instantly gave me the number of an alternative healer, urging me to give them a call as soon as possible. They could, he claimed, begin the healing process over the phone without even seeing me. I understand that this person normally charges for healing sessions, but may be disposed to give me a discount as I have been recommended by an existing client.
I am of course intrigued by this extraordinary claim, and I am sorely tempted to investigate further. I am concerned that my colleague meant well, and was completely sincere in trying to alleviate my suffering, so I am anxious not to rush into a gung-ho debunking crusade. I would very much appreciate any advice you could pass on, and of course would be happy to share any results and revelations with the readers of your commentary.
I answered by asking Simon, "What do you want to know?" It seemed a rather fuzzy inquiry, in need of an entire book to satisfy it. He wrote back:
Thank you for responding and I apologize for the long delay in getting back to you. In part it was due to the weird and convoluted nature of my "investigation." In answer to your question "what do I want to know?" Well, It was very cheeky of me to approach you in the first place. What I suppose I wanted was a concise "Step-by-step guide to investigating claims of extraordinary powers while still remaining an impartial `nice-guy.'"
Actually, shortly after mailing you, I decided that I was being very lazy in trying to tap into your experience without doing any research of my own, so rather than pester you again I set about searching the archives of your own foundation, and the materials put on-line by CISCOP and other Skeptic organizations, and I found some very sound guidelines and examples of similar investigations to the one I hoped to conduct. Armed with these I decide to proceed.
I contacted the "alternative healer" and arranged an appointment. Well, I've been deep into Ga-Ga land. It was certainly an interesting experience, although things didn't work out as I planned. The first problem I encountered was that she [the healer] wasn't just someone my colleague knew, she was his partner. So instead of a "clinical" appointment, I had what was in effect a social engagement. Even when aware of my skeptical predisposition, she was extremely nice and friendly. She even empathized with my skepticism, claiming there were a lot of fakes out there that needed exposing.
My comment: This last statement is one almost always offered by the performers. They, of course, are not among the fakes.
As I grew to know her and her circle I became aware of a certain Orwellian "double think" prevalent in their attitudes; they welcomed and claimed to embrace "scientific methods" without, I think, having the slightest inkling of what the scientific method really was and poured scorn on exposed fakes. For example, they had no time for Mr. Geller and his antics, yet at the same time could come up with the most arrant nonsense and justify it on the grounds that "science doesn't know everything," and "there are things scientists just don't want you to know," etc. etc. In other words, they placed themselves inside and outside of the realm of scientific investigation according to the mood of the moment.
The main problem was that the group I encountered simply did not lend itself to the sort of rational investigation I had hoped to conduct. By "group," I mean there was core of half a dozen individuals whom I actually met, who lived locally, and were in regular contact, and they told me there was a wider network of people throughout the UK who met up periodically to practice their "alternative healing." There was no rhyme or reason, no coherent pattern, to what they believed.
Because each of these people describes themselves as an "Alternative Healer," and considers themselves to be practitioners on a par with qualified medical Doctors, I assumed that there must be an "Alternative" school of medicine for them to be practitioners of. I had thought that there would be some structure, some background model of their universe, however bizarre, that could be examined and challenged. This was not the case. They embraced almost anything that could claim the tag "alternative." They have cheerfully plundered cultures and belief systems from around the globe and throughout history, abstracting anything and everything that tickled their fancy and mixing it altogether in a non-contextual and often self contradictory morass of hedgewitchery.
They reminded me of nothing so much as the character Magrat Garlick from Terry Pratchet's "Discworld" novels, who is deeply into "Folk" Wisdom and "Folk" Medicine, and who seems to think that wisdom is somehow wiser if it is imported from afar, and that the word "Folk" somehow means something other that the collection of clods and idiots you see around you every day.
Anyway, to give an example of medicine as practiced by this bunch: you may recall that I was suffering from a strained muscle in my shoulder, and had been told that this alternative healer could ease my pain over the telephone. In the initial conversation, the healer summed up my symptoms with impressive accuracy. Impressive, that is, until I discovered her partner had already briefed her. Oh, and she got the wrong shoulder, but I let that pass.
She said that she was concentrating on directing my body's healing energies into the right area. She could do this without actually being present because talking to me on the phone had established a "link" and she could visualize my aura. She could "see" the damaged muscles as a red spot in my spiritual aura. I was intrigued as to why she couldn't also see the much more worrying diabetes and liver disease I suffer from, but perhaps that only shows up on a different aura. Now that the link was established, she could focus positive energy into the affected area.
I wanted to know more, so we arranged to meet in person. When we did, about a week later, her partner and several friends were there. We ended up down at the pub, and as I said, it turned into something of a social event. However, I asked a lot of questions about this aura and the energies involved; I am not just a nasty cynic, I am genuinely interested in what people believe and why they believe it. I did not get many straight, concise answers. Frequently, an answer was just a re-phrasing of the original statement, for example:
Healing is achieved by the channeling of the body's natural energies.
What energies are these?
Natural energies within the body.
Er, yes, but what kind of energies?
The body's natural energies.
How are these energies detected? Can they be measured?
Yes, they show up in the body's aura.
What is the aura?
It's the aura of the body's natural energies.
When pressed for scientific and clinical evidence, the group became very anecdotal. Sure, "research" had been done, and everything had been "proved," but no one could say exactly where, when, or by whom. "Scientists have found" and "It has been proved" were dropped into the conversation as if they were phrases that were to be accepted on faith. The ancient Chinese were dragged into the argument frequently; they believed in "Chi"and such, so it must be true because everyone knows how advanced and infallible they were. Kirilian photography was brought up, along with the infamous "orbs of light."
Ultimately, proof was supposed to be found in the fact that the healing worked, and again, this was very anecdotal. Everyone had their own catalogue of successes, of remarkable cures, especially with people on whom conventional medicine had "given up." Then, of course, I was trotted out as irrefutable proof. "Your shoulder is feeling better, isn't it?" I was challenged. I could not deny that it was much better, but I also pointed out that it was now ten days or more since the injury, and surely it would be getting better anyway. Cue for smug, knowing looks. I came to realize that although these people talked of medicine, what was really going on was magic. Between them, they practiced everything from laying-on-of-hands, burning different incenses, waving crystals, and sticking candles in your ear, to homeopathy and magnetism.
One guy did offer a "scientific" explanation, or started to. "I've made a study of quantum physics," he declared. "I think everything can be explained in terms of quantum physics." Unfortunately, when I pressed him, it became clear that he didn't know an awful lot about quantum physics beyond the term "quantum physics." He was equating "energy states" of electrons with "energy flow" within the body. I think he must have read "The Tao of Physics" and gotten a little lost. Anyway, I asked him if he knew of any research that suggested that quantum effects could apply on a macroscopic level, and he mumbled the familiar refrain that he was certain that "it had been proved" but would have to go and look it up.
I intend, when time permits, to write up my experiences with this group in a more formal and coherent fashion. The people concerned, I must reiterate, were all very friendly, very nice to me, and seemed very sincere. However, I was left feeling unnerved and worried, not just that such medieval mind-sets could exist in the twenty-first century. What frightens me is that these people do not just meet for mutual navel-contemplation and to exchange transcendental twaddle; they practice healing. They set themselves up as legitimate alternatives to genuine medicine, when what they are offering is, at best, a placebo, and at worst, damaging. In the semi-detached sitting rooms of middle England, harm is being done.
Thank you very much, Simon. I'll look forward to seeing that account.
Next week, the Hasted encounter with Julie Knowles. It's taken from my book, "Flim-Flam!" an excellent volume which should definitely be in every library, public and private.....
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