Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mike Hallowell on the Jinn–A reply

 

In my last post, here, I wrote about possession, and I referred to this Shields Gazette article written by Mike Hallowell. In it, he details his belief in possession, but I disagree with him that it is a real phenomenon; at least there is no objective, confirmable evidence to support it.

Mike has replied to that post, but in order to give him a full reply, I have to do so by creating this new post. That’s because images I need to use to support my points cannot be embedded in the comments thread.

I would recommend that you read my previous post (and Mike’s reply) and the Gazette article before you go ahead reading this reply of mine to Mike.

My reply to Mike Hallowell:

Mike,

 
I know that hanging was the usual punishment in England, but I referred to the UK in general, not England in particular. Scotland was the place to go for the burnings. In any case, crimes against the state were so often synonymous with crimes against the church.

Some religious people have, of course, made great scientific leaps forward, but they did it using science, not religion. Isaac Newton was a devout Christian, but he did not explain his findings in terms of divine intervention in the movement of celestial bodies, he explained their movement with mathematics, even if he thought that a god existed and created the laws of physics he was measuring. He also went off the rails with his pursuit of alchemy, but he kept that research quiet until his death because he knew that he himself would face execution if anyone found out about it.

Science and religion are incompatible. Young Earth creationists insist that the Earth is no more than between six and ten thousand years old. They are wrong – demonstrably so. Faith healing does not cure disease – medical science does. Prayer does not suspend the laws of physics in favour of the person who prays.

 
I am not “condemning religion on the basis of what some psychopathic extremists once did,” (and still do, for that matter).

As for the Soviet Union – you might even be thinking of Joseph Stalin, an atheist – you might also like to note that even he did not kill the millions he undoubtedly did in the name of atheism. He killed millions because he was an evil dictator. Now look at all the killings being done around the world right now in the name of religion.

I will go along with your notion that extreme acts are done by psychopaths who might not necessarily be representative of most of their contemporaries. They are also done by otherwise sane people who believe they are carrying out the will of their particular deity.

As for the use and misuse of science, scientists do not make political policy. Science has been warning of the dangers of man-made global warming, for example, but some countries – the USA in particular – are going ahead with policies that are making things worse. The world does indeed suffer from poverty, crime and so on, but that is despite science, not because of it.

You mention religious-minded scientists again, but again, those religious scientists get their results from using scientific methodology, not prayer. One man’s superstition is still superstition.

“Antiquated” opinions are those old ideas that are held despite evidence that disproves them. The Earth is not 6000 years old, for example, it is more than 4.5 billion years old.

I do not try to curtail anyone’s free speech. I’m not on a campaign to have your Shields Gazette column stopped, nor do I try to prevent you from publishing your books. You might even notice that I have published your comment here in full and without any editing of it. And I’m also not demanding that you stop expressing your opinions.

Teaching the paranormal and creationism in schools and universities? Not in science classes. Science deals with hypotheses that can be measured and tested objectively. Faith is not required.

You mention free speech again, but I’m all for it. As for your readers, they are not all the same. Some of them probably believe everything you write, others are more discerning.

You are playing with words when you say you do not believe in demons. You are certainly talking about alleged supernatural beings that supposedly invade a person’s body and/or mind. It doesn’t really matter what you call them. If, as you claim, demons and the Jinn are entirely different phenomena, I look forward to you demonstrating first of all that they exist, and secondly how you tell the difference between someone who suffers a mental health problem and someone who is possessed.

Then again, I said that there is no objective evidence that these alleged entities exist, and your response was, “To the best of my knowledge this is correct.” If you agree that there is no objective evidence that these things are real, then there is no need to believe in them.

Yes, indeed, I said, “If someone has the right to promote superstition, then others have the right to challenge it.” But it’s not up to me to supply any facts; you are making the claim, so it is up to you to prove it. But you said that you agree that there is no objective evidence to support your claim. By your own words, you are saying that you cannot prove the claims you are making. That’s what I’m getting at. But prove it and I will change my mind.

Regarding your “certain local blogger,” are you referring to me? I know you have never “promised” to release your evidence, but the fact that you keep on claiming that you have evidence supporting your claims gives your readers a sense of expectation that never seems to be fulfilled.  That’s sort of the point, really; you never do promise to reveal your evidence. And you have certainly claimed to have sent evidence away for analysis, and which has returned startling results.

 
In fact I did prove it with a link on another blog. Unfortunately, since then, on your web page I linked to, your reference to “startling results” has  been changed to  “extremely interesting results.” Here are the screen shots:

Before:

Startling results 01

“Can you tell us more about the audio recordings?”

“Some of the audio recordings have already been subjected to analysis with startling results, which will hopefully be detailed on the forthcoming documentary.” (Emphasis added)

And after:

Startling results 02

“Can you tell us more about the audio recordings?”

“Some of the audio recordings have already been subjected to analysis with extremely interesting results, which will hopefully be detailed in the forthcoming documentary.” (Emphasis added)

Why did you change it? Anyone following my link to there would see something entirely different to what I directed them to.

 
As for the “salon ghost,” here’s a link to the original newspaper item:

http://www.jarrowandhebburngazette.com/news/local-news/is-this-the-face-of-the-salon-ghost-1-1303932

The reporter wrote:

“Mr Hallowell has sent the pictures off to be analysed, and an overnight vigil is to be organised to gather more evidence from the salon.”

Any reasonable person would take that to mean that you yourself told the reporter that your pictures had been “sent off to be analysed.” (Emphasis added) If the reporter has misreported what you said, or worse, just made it up, then you should take that up with the Shields Gazette and demand a retraction.

Like you, I keep records too. I found out a while ago that your website is unreliable as a source to link to. Apart from the fact that you have changed a crucial point that I referred to earlier, many of my bookmarks now go to dead pages (error 404) or have different content entirely. But I make it routine to archive every web page I visit. The same goes for video.

I like this point of yours:

“Oh, and as for those “unqualified, self-appointed” experts you speak of, as you’re presumably an expert yourself could you give me just one example of such a person who has truly proclaimed themselves as an expert as opposed to being lauded as an expert by others?” (Emphasis added)

Yes, Mike – you. Have a look at this comment you made on Curly’s blog:

http://curly15.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/exorcisms-on-the-rates/#comment-23600

“…we’re experts in the field and you’re not.”

As you requested, just one example. And they are your own words, answering your own challenge.

That’s something of a paradox, though. On your own website, the veteran paranormal writer  Guy Lyon Playfair describes you as amateurs. I’m including a screenshot before you change that page as well.

Experts Playfair

“…amateurs like Mike and Darren…” (Guy Lyon Playfair)

And remember, on the Shields Gazette website:

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/community/columnists/wraithscape/we_re_worlds_apart_on_ufos_1_3441571

(All of the comments are now removed for some reason but here are a couple of screenshots): I asked you what qualifications you had, and you told me that qualifications are not necessary:

Expert 03

“…as we live in a democracy, one is entitled to call oneself a Paranormal investigator without having a single qualification at all.”

Expert 05

“For your edification, Skeptic, paranormal investigators do not have any “authority” and do not need any, just as you don’t need any “authority” to engage in any of your own interests and pass-times [sic].”

Additionally, you say here about you and your colleague, Darren Ritson, “Well we are not scientists and have never claimed to be”:

http://pelicanist.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/south-shields-view-from-minefield_25.html

(Just scroll down to the section, “Findings should be presented in a calm, scientific manner…”)

So, in your own words, you have no relevant recognised qualifications or authority, and yet also in your own words, you claim to be an expert. You also say in your own words that you are not a scientist. In response to me saying that the supernatural beings you refer to have no objective evidence for their existence, in your own words: “To the best of my knowledge this is correct.”  And Playfair describes you as amateurs on your own website.

I don’t claim to be an expert in the paranormal. On the other hand, I recognise a claim that doesn’t fit in with what science knows about the universe. I know that when people talk about supernatural energy, or whatever, then the well established laws of thermodynamics, for instance, are being challenged. But again, it is up to the person who makes the claim to prove it. Anyone who makes a claim that contradicts well established science is likely to be challenged. That’s OK, though. Sometimes there are some theories in science that turn out to be wrong – or, more likely, incomplete rather than totally wrong – but if you can overturn what science thinks it knows, I don’t mind if you can prove your claims of the supernatural, paranormal or anything else you write about.

The number of books and articles and radio and TV shows and all the rest of it that you take part in is neither here nor there. The fact that you write about weird things does not make them real.

I know there are some mental health workers who consider the possibility that possession is real, but I see that as an indictment of some faulty training they must have had. When you get down to it, though, no psychiatrist is going to diagnose possession in a person and then refer them for an exorcism. If you know of any who do, please report them to the General Medical Council. Urgently.

No, I haven’t read the Qur’an (well, not much of it, anyway). But any holy book is self-referential. Every religion refers to its own religious writings to support its beliefs. Everything makes sense for the religious when they view the world from their particular religious perspective, but there are thousands of religions in the world, and all of them think they have it right and everyone else is wrong. They can’t all be right.

Your reference to Doctor and Egyptologist Maurice Bucaille is a simple appeal to authority. So what if he thinks the Qur’an is scientifically accurate? Perhaps you can tell me what you think of this video of an Islamic scholar explaining that the Earth is flat and that the Sun revolves around the Earth and the Sun is smaller than the Earth, and a number of other things. His authority is the Qur’an, so do you believe it? I’m not sure what to make of it myself; he is saying something that is directly opposed to science.

The Earth is flat–Islamic science from the Qur’an

 

Thank you for your offer of a public debate, but I will decline it. I think it is much better for us to put our views in writing rather than have everything we say forgotten or misremembered by a live audience. Having our “good-natured and civilised debate” like this on blogs and websites is much better.

And, of course, you will be able to copy and paste screenshots and anything else I post, and use it against me at a later date. (And I probably won’t even threaten to sue you for doing so.)

You are wrong when you say my mind is completely closed to the possibility of Jinn possession. I’m a sceptic and you can change my mind by proving what you claim. It was you who said that Muslims are the ones who are not going to change their minds.

As for your suggestion that I remove this post, the answer is no. You had the right to publish your views on the subject in the Shields Gazette; I have the right to criticise it; and you are quite welcome to post your rebuttals here. I don’t see how I could be any fairer than that. Free speech is a valuable commodity, and I protect my free speech by helping to protect the free speech of others – including you. If you think your arguments are sound, then there should be no need for you to request, demand or even issue legal threats to have opposing opinions removed from here or any other website or blog.

Of course you let your readers know who you are – you need publicity because of the very nature of what you do. But those critics of yours who put a name to their posts could be anyone – anyone at all. You don’t know who they are, either – just like I don’t know the identity of the improbably-named “Fred West” who sprang to your defence on the above Shields Gazette UFO article, and who, by the most remarkable coincidence (it could almost make one believe in synchronicity, even), had the same problem you suffered: his same comment being repeatedly posted. Astonishing.

No, I’m not a coward, but your name-calling doesn’t strengthen your arguments.

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