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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14 responses to “Mike Hallowell on the Jinn–A reply

  1. Skeptic:
    First of all, thanks for your detailed reply – and also for doing something that I don’t recall you doing for a very long time, if ever: specifically addressing issues and not simply sweeping over them with vague, one-size-fits-all ad hominem attacks. We’re off to a good start, then. Now my replies:

    “I know that hanging was the usual punishment in England, but I referred to the UK in general, not England in particular”.
    Actually, you didn’t. You said “in this country”:
    “In this country we are quite lucky…”
    The UK is not a country. It is a collection of countries; namely, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales & England. England, in which you and I live in relatively close proximity to each other, is a country. Either you did indeed mean England or you were just a bit sloppy with your terminology.
    “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”.
    I think you’re missing the point. No one is arguing against the fact that Newton made his discoveries on the basis of science. However, every discovery he ever made was, by his own determination, compatible with his faith. Therefore science and religion are not incompatible as you claim. For example the Bible teaches that the earth is circular in appearance. As a devotee of science you’d have to agree even though the statement came from a religious source, because both the statement and science are at one on the issue.
    “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”.
    Well, whether he went off the rails or not is a matter of opinion, and it was precisely because his research (into turning base metals into gold) seemed so credible to some at the time that such severe penalties were introduced as the ability to produce gold at will would have caused massive socio-economic instability.
    “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”.

    Well, I don’t personally subscribe to the young earth theory – Neither the Qur’an or Ahadith (recorded words of the Prophet Mohammed) contains any statements on the age of the earth or its inhabitants. However, as you know there are scientists who do subscribe to it and would argue that the notion is not incompatible with science. Now I admit that you could argue Creationist scientists are in the minority, but that in itself is no proof of anything as Evolutionists were in the minority within Academia at one time. It all comes down to interpretation of the evidence and data. You read it one way, they read it another and both sides believe themselves to be right and the other side to be wrong.

    “Faith healing does not cure disease – medical science does”.

    Well, that’s just an opinion and it’s not one supported by science, I’m afraid. There is growing evidence that strong belief in healing, the power of God or whatever can influence the body’s immune system and encourage healing. Studies have shown that religious patients who pray tend to have a higher and speedier recovery rate. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103201245.htm)

    Now the religious would argue that they make a better recovery because God Has answered their prayers. Sceptics would argue that any positive effect has its origins in psychology and the power of belief to affect the body. Either way it doesn’t matter. Faith-healing works.
    “Prayer does not suspend the laws of physics in favour of the person who prays”.

    Well, again that’s simply an opinion which will always have its supporters and detractors.

    I am not “condemning religion on the basis of what some psychopathic extremists once did,” (and still do, for that matter)”.
    Good, but I never suggested you did. If you look at my comment I simply posited a rhetorical question.
    “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”.
    Okay. Now it’s possible that if Stalin had been a religious person he may not have killed the millions whose deaths he was responsible for. On the other hand, his megalomania may have been fuelled by perverse religious zeal and he may have killed even more. We’ll never know. My point was that religious people don’t have a monopoly on mass murder.
    “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”.
    Or indeed in the cause of a materialist, anti-religious, socialist philosophy.
    “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”.
    Often that’s true, but sometimes science does dictate policy, the most awful example being the two nuclear devices exploded over Japan. Here, policy – and even rhetoric – was almost completely governed by scientific advice.
    “You mention religious-minded scientists again, but again, those religious scientists get their results from using scientific methodology…”
    As above.
    “… not prayer.”
    A debatable and disputed opinion.

    “One man’s superstition is still superstition”.
    Unless, of course, you don’t believe it’s a superstition in which case we can say – and we can both agree this is true, I think – that one man’s superstition is another man’s absolute reality.
    “’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”.
    Well, I agree that the earth is unlikely to be just 6,000 years old. As to whether its 4.5 billion years old I have no clue. Current scientific wisdom gives that estimate, but as we know science is quite capable of doing U-turns. Things may change.
    “I do not try to curtail anyone’s free speech”.
    Right…
    “I’m not on a campaign to have your Shields Gazette column stopped, nor do I try to prevent you from publishing your books”.
    I presume you’re offering this reassurance without prompt, as I have no recollection of suggesting either, a) because to my recollection you’ve never made such a threat, and b) I don’t believe if you were to wage such a campaign it would have the remotest chance of success. In any event, I know (and have on more than one occasion been told) by skeptics that they would indeed like to see people like myself legally prevented from promoting a belief in the paranormal. My wife and I, along with several colleagues, attended a conference where one academic, often seen on TV, openly stated that no one should be allowed to publicly comment on one particular paranormal enigma unless they possessed at least a Degree in one of the sciences. Another stated that membership of certain populist research organisations should also be restricted in the same manner. On another occasion, a lofty pontificator called Darren and I and those like us, a “cancer” that should be poisoned or cut out of society, “like any other cancer”. You may not wish to curtail free speech, and if that’s so I commend you, but don’t kid yourself that all of your sceptical colleagues are of the same mind-set.
    “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”.
    I appreciate you publishing my comment – you could have simply removed it – and I appreciate even more your publishing it in full, although editing it may well have ended up with you being severely criticised. Regardless, you didn’t and for that you deserve credit.
    “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”.
    And this is where we hit an almost insurmountable problem – and one which seems to elicit the most rigorous response from skeptics. Try to follow my reasoning here:
    1) You believe that Creationism is unscientific.
    2) Creationists believe that Creationism is scientific.
    3) Both of these opinions are based upon different interpretations of the evidence and data. Both sides believe the other side is wrong.
    Currently, Evolutionists hold the reins steering the direction of scientific teaching in our places of learning, It was not always so, and there may come a time when it will not be again. Now from a purely personal perspective, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if the teaching of the theory of Evolution disappeared overnight as I am an open Creationist, albeit from an Islamic perspective. However, I accept that many, many people believe in the theory of Evolution, and that this is not an Islamic country. The academic authorities are not going to stop teaching Evolutionism in our schools, colleges and universities, but in a true democracy that really values free speech popular alternatives to the teaching of Evolution should be available to those who want them. Let both Evolutionists and Creationists both go to our places of learning to have access to the facts, then, but don’t punish either side purely on the basis of how they interpret them. The whole problem can be summed up in one word; intransigence. Unless Evolutionists are prepared to accept that Creationists should be allowed to teach Creationism as a credible alternative to Evolution (whether or not they actually think it is credible), and unless Creationists are prepared to abandon the employment of fascist tactics to harass Evolutionists, which some do, we aren’t going to get anywhere. The issue I have with Evolutionists is that they often say, “Look, the evidence is so overwhelming that Evolution is true we simply can’t allow Creationism to be taught as a credible scientific doctrine. It isn’t even debatable. Creationism is not and cannot be true, and therefore should not be taught academically”.
    The problem here is that Evolutionists are allowing their own certainty to cloud both the freedom of speech of others and their own objectivity. No matter how certain you may be that Creationism is not scientific, the plain fact is that many people, including some scientists, disagree. You might not like it, others might not like it, but that’s the fact of the matter.
    “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”.
    I appreciate that you believe in it, but I wasn’t referring to those who believe or disbelieve what I write, but rather to a comment you made regarding them on another site.
    “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.”
    At the risk of sounding aloof, I think I’m more qualified to comment on this sort of nuance as it’s a subject I’ve studied for many years. As I’ll demonstrate in just a moment, I’m certainly not playing with words, as you put it.
    First of all, let’s imagine that a person is found badly injured lying in an alley. What happened to him? I don’t think bystanders would be too impressed if a police officer was to comment, “Well, he could have been trampled underfoot by an elephant or the victim of a hit-and-run driver, but it doesn’t really matter; he’s dead, and that’s it”. Or, let’s imagine that a doctor was to comment to a patient, “I haven’t a clue what’s wrong with you, but I’m going to give you these tablets and keep my fingers crossed that they’ll do some good”.
    The point of these two analogies is that in both cases the professionals involved are focussing entirely on the outcome and ignoring the causes. When dealing with cases of alleged possession, adopting such an attitude is no less flawed.
    I know that you don’t accept the reality of either Jinn or demonic possession (I don’t believe in the latter either), but for the sake of argument just bear with me and try and look at things from the perspective of one who does. According to Islamic teaching (and non-Islamic teaching in some areas) God created three types of creature; angels, the Jinn and human beings. Angels were created from light, the Jinn from a substance that the Qur’an describes as “smokeless fire”, and humans from “black clay”. Now I know this will all sound as nonsense to you, but to one and one-half billion people it isn’t, so let’s exercise a little patience and stick with the story a little longer.
    First, only a tiny minority of Muslims believe in “demons” or “demon possession”, and some, not being completely au-fait with correct terminology, use the term “demon” when they really mean Jinn. A demon is a fallen or rebellious angel. The Qur’an teaches that angels have no free will and are absolutely incapable of rebellion. So, when I say that the different between the Jinn and demons is important it most certainly is because almost all Muslims deny that demons actually exist or even can exist. But why is it important? It’s important because if one looks at the process of demonic possession as described by Christian theology and the process of Jinn possession as found in Islam the two are completely different. Demons do not possess physical bodies and are regarded as “spirits”. The Jinn do have physical bodies as real as yours and mine. It’s just that in their natural state they’re invisible to humans. The difference is as important as a person having either a ghost in their home or a burglar hiding in the wardrobe. Both may be invisible, but beyond that one commonality the differences are immense.
    Secondly, the process of possession is completely different. In Islam, the Jinn can manipulate human beings in one of three ways. The first is to manipulate the circumstances around a person to force them to modify their behaviour. The second, often called being “touched” by a Jinni, involves the Jinni coercing the victim subconsciously to behave in uncharacteristic ways, but without entering their body. They are, I suppose one could say, being manipulated from “the outside”. The third is full possession where the Jinni enters the person and takes complete control of their body and mind. In Islamic thought, unlike in the Christian concept of demonic possession, it is believed that the Jinn actually reside within a person’s bloodstream. In short, we have two entirely different types of being who possess their victims in entirely different ways.
    Finally, the process of exorcism in both cases is entirely different too. I have seen Catholic priests attempt to exorcise a Jinni, which they insisted was a demon despite much evidence to the contrary. I made it clear from the outset that the exercise was doomed to failure and urged them not to attempt it. It failed miserably and, in my opinion, simply made matters worse. The diagnosis was wrong and the treatment was wrong.
    Taking all of the above into consideration, then, it certainly isn’t simply “playing with words” to say that the Jinn and demons are different any more than one could say it was “playing with words” if a veterinary surgeon was to insist that there was no meaningful difference between a pit bull terrier and a parrot.
    “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”.
    Well, I have no interest in proving the existence of demons as I don’t believe in them. As for the Jinn, I and many other Muslims have attended conferences on Jinn possession and seen what, to us, is incontrovertible evidence of their existence. In addition, I have seen people fully possessed by the Jinn and do things that, to ordinary humans, are physically impossible. This touches on the latter part of your question regarding how one differentiates between a mentally ill person and a Jinn-possessed person. People suffering from mental illness may act in irrational or bizarre ways, but in cases of Jinn possession they may also a) demonstrate a knowledge of facts and circumstances that they could not have been aware of, and b) can perform physical feats beyond those humans are normally capable of. Let me give you just one example. I and several colleagues once attended the home of a small, Jinn-possessed woman who threw a relative who had taken hold of her arm across a room like a rag doll. The man must have weighed twice as much as the girl, and yet, with one deft movement of her arm she hurled him across the room as if he weighed no more than a tennis ball. The pupils of the woman’s eyes changed shape from circular to elliptical, her (or the Jinn’s) voice echoed around the room in a way that seemed to be impossible and at one point a growth appeared at the top of the woman’s stomach, It looked like a tennis ball under the skin. The growth slowly moved up to the region of her throat, she coughed and within a split second it disappeared.
    Now as a skeptic you’ll probably find this impossible to believe, but I and another five witnesses were present and we know what we saw. I know of no mental illness that can produce such bizarre symptoms – if you do please enlighten me as I’d like to hear of it. We aren’t lying, we weren’t deluded or hypnotised and we know what we saw. And we aren’t the only ones. I know many Muslims, including respected Muslim clerics whose integrity I believe to be impeccable, who have witnessed similar things and worse.
    In cases where the diagnosis is questionable, I personally presume that mental illness is the cause unless I have reason to believe otherwise.
    “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”.
    If you read my statement in context you’ll see that I was referring specifically to demons, not the Jinn.
    “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 I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. I have a right to believe what I believe and the right to voice my beliefs. It’s not up to me to supply “facts” either, then, unless I wish to. I have the right to voice my opinions without having to “prove” them to anyone. If you want the facts, then actively bury yourself in the subject and examine them for yourself, as I and others have done, instead of passively asking others to present them to you. Were you to do this, then your claims that such things “don’t exist” may carry more weight. The truth is, though, that you haven’t actively researched the subject to that degree (at least to my knowledge) but have instead simply made a judgement from a distance based upon your own materialist philosophies.

    “But you said that you agree that there is no objective evidence to support your claim”.

    No I didn’t. I said I believed that there was no objective evidence (to my mind) that demons exist . You have taken a statement I made regarding one specific phenomenon I do not believe in and applied it to phenomena I do believe in. I have never said that there is no objective evidence for any of the phenomena I DO believe in mentioned within either my article or my above comment.

    “By your own words, you are saying that you cannot prove the claims you are making.”

    Where on earth did I say that?

    “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”.
    This is just a re-hash of claims you have made previously, and they are as wrong now as they were then. So, once again, I will ask you to provide evidence that I have a) stated that I was sending evidence away for analysis, and b) led my readers into a sense of false expectation that I would release the results of such analysis of them. You have previously stated categorically that I did make such promises. Now you are admitting that I did NOT make such promises, but simply that I led my readers to expect them. To date you haven’t produced a single shred of evidence to support your allegations. And remember, you also stated that I had been engaging in this sort of activity for over a decade. I challenged you to produce just one example – which should have been easy if I’d been doing it for as long as you claim – and the only one you came up with was the case of the hairdressing salon. I went through your example line by line and proved that every single allegation you made therein was baseless. As I’ve said, I’d be happy to post both your allegations and my responses to them here so readers can see just how wrong you were.
    “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:

    “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:

    “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”.
    Firstly, it’s not “entirely different”; there is no material difference between the phrase “startling” and “extremely interesting”, as both are saying the same thing, so changing one for the other in some perceived attempt to knobble your claims doesn’t stand up. However, the links in question certainly do one thing; they prove the inaccuracy of your own statements. Instead of me promising to write up “startling” (or extremely interesting) results in a subsequent newspaper article, as you falsely claimed on one occasion, the screenshots show that what we did aspire to do was “hopefully” detail them in a forthcoming documentary. There is a big difference between “promising” to provide results to readers and “hoping” to see them aired in a documentary. Why not point to a genuine example of your allegations instead of completely bogus ones?

    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”.

    Well, as I’ve already detailed some time ago, the Gazette reporter made an assumption – not an unreasonable one, I agree – that when I said the photographs would be analysed I was indicating they would be sent off somewhere for analysis. This was not what I said, as I always do my own analysis as well as for newspapers and other publications (the Sun for example) so had no reason to send them anywhere. You picked up on an innocent error made by a reporter and repeated it. When I pointed this out to you, instead of simply saying, “Okay, I read the statement in the Gazette and naturally assumed it was correct, but I now accept it was wrong” (there would have been no loss of face there) you kept repeating the false allegation over and over again despite my pointing out to you that it was incorrect. That, if you recall, was what I found so irritating in your postings – you simply wouldn’t accept with good grace that you were mistaken. (Well, you did on one occasion, but then for some reason quickly retracted your admission).

    Why didn’t I demand a retraction from the Gazette? Firstly, the biggest error was yours when you falsely attributed an article to me that had actually been written by a Gazette reporter! To me, the reporter’s error was of such minor significance that demanding a retraction would have been absurd. I had no idea that it would take on such huge significance to you. In any case, when it comes to demanding retractions, the allegations you made about me were of far greater significance than the one, miniscule faux pas in the Gazette. I demanded retractions from you, but apart from the hastily retracted one above I never got them. The words “kettle”, “pot” and “black” come to mind!

    “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”.
    Let me explain. When I and/or Darren update our websites, we do just that. We change things, we remove things and update things. If you go to one of our pages and find that something has disappeared or been altered, then that’s just too bad. However, let me make two things clear. Firstly, whatever appears on our websites – past or present – we stand by. Secondly, please don’t assume that just because we change or remove something we are doing so because we are trying to hide something or trick you. We have no hidden agenda, and it doesn’t bother us one whit if you take a screenshot of every word we type. It might be sad, but you can’t get locked up for it.
    “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”.
    Unfortunately, they don’t. One of the things I’ve come to realise about you when we engage in on-line dialogue is that if I fail to spell something out explicitly there is a high likelihood that you will misread it (as I’ve already shown above, when you accused me of admitting I had no objective evidence for the things I believe in, when in fact I said no such thing).
    When I said, “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?” what I was referring to were those people who have no expert status in the eyes of anyone other than themselves. Yes, I referred to Darren and I as “experts in the field”, but that wasn’t something we decided to call ourselves. We have been referred to as experts by others, and, without being bombastic, agree that in some areas the description is fitting as we have carried out extensive research. Richard Freeman, Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology (you should attend their annual conference; you often got top-flight skeptics speaking there and I think you’d enjoy it – seriously.) described me as “one of the finest Fortean researchers of the last fifty years”. The renowned journalist, author and criminologist Colin Wilson, who has written forewords for two of our books, including the forthcoming Contagion, described our book The South Shields Poltergeist as, “one of the great, classic works on the poltergeist phenomenon”. We aren’t “self-proclaimed” experts, then, so your example is spurious. Nice try, though!
    “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”.
    “…amateurs like Mike and Darren…” (Guy Lyon Playfair)
    I think you’re verging on paranoia about the changes to our pages. I hope this isn’t going to turn into another cause célèbre – let me make it doubly clear; we are NOT making any changes to our websites to hide anything.
    “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…”
    Okay, let me nail this one down while we’re on.
    1) Neither Darren nor I have any control over or influence regarding the Gazette website whatsoever. I write for the Gazette, but contrary to popular opinion I am not employed by the Gazette. I haven’t visited their offices since May, 2008, in fact. I’m a freelance journalist and work from home, and the only contact I normally have with the paper concerns my weekly submission of my WraithScape column.

    2) Neither Darren nor I have ever approached the Gazette, directly or indirectly, and asked them to change, add or remove anything on the paper’s website. Specifically, nor have we ever asked the Gazette to delete any comments posted, by ourselves or others. To do so would not only be impertinent but both unprofessional and immoral.

    3) If comments have been removed, I can only presume that they were either deleted as part of a spring clean when the website has been updated (a huge archive of my past articles was removed, actually) OR the comments contravened the paper’s policies regarding posts. If you want to find out why any posts were deleted, then the only thing I can suggest is that you contact the Gazette and ask them as neither Darren nor I were even aware of their removal as far as I can remember.

    4) If you’re determined to believe that there was/is some sort of dark conspiracy at play then there’s nothing I can do to convince you otherwise, but I can assure you that we haven’t the slightest interest in whether your comments stay up or are taken down.
    “…but here are a couple of screenshots): I asked you what qualifications you had, and you told me that qualifications are not necessary:

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

    No I didn’t. What I said was, a) that one wasn’t REQUIRED to have any formal qualifications, and that one is entitled to call oneself a Paranormal Investigator without them. That is absolutely correct. b) That Darren and I weren’t scientists. That is also correct. However, that doesn’t mean that we are incapable of being experts in a particular field. Having formal qualifications does not automatically make one an expert, and a lack of them does not necessarily make one a dunderhead. To the best of my recollection I never decried a lack of “relevant” qualifications, for some indeed would be, but only a necessity to possess them.

    “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.”.

    I’ve already dealt with this false assertion twice above. I NEVER SAID that the “supernatural beings” I referred to had no objective evidence to prove their existence. I made this comment specifically about demons, and demons alone.

    “And Playfair describes you as amateurs on your own website”.

    Which should tell you something. Firstly, the fact we posted his comment demonstrates that we have no negative thoughts about it. When we started visiting Guy he was aware that Darren was only a part-time author and employed in another capacity from 9-5, so to speak. I think Guy assumed that I was in the same circumstance, when in fact I had actually been a full-time freelance for some time. It is in this capacity that Guy referred to us as amateurs – i.e., not full-time writers and researchers – without any denigration of our professional skills. Had he had any doubts about our expertise in the field, do you think he would have written the foreword to the book? Do you also think he would have invited us down to lecture to the Society for Psychical Research on the case?

    It’s interesting that you cherry-pick your quotations from the website, and carefully omit to mention the findings of Barrister Alan Murdie and others who, after examining the evidence, expressed their belief that the case was genuine.

    “I don’t claim to be an expert in the paranormal”.
    Just enough of one to be able to dismiss just about every paranormal discipline, from poltergeists to UFOs, as so much hogwash.
    “On the other hand, I recognise a claim that doesn’t fit in with what science knows about the universe”.
    That would be fine if you just stopped there, Skeptic, but you don’t. First, science changes. What is heralded as an inviolate truth in one century can be turned on its head the next. Secondly, there are phenomena that you have decried not because they don’t fit in with science, but just because you don’t like the idea. There is absolutely nothing within science that mitigates against the inhabitants of other planets developing modes of transport that can bring them to earth. Just because something is beyond our own scientific capability doesn’t mean it’s incompatible with science per se. You once claimed that there was no evidence that UFOs had visited earth (or words to that effect) and yet there is simply no objective way anyone could make such a statement. At best all you can say is that there is no evidence to your knowledge. You’re not the only blogger to make such this assertion recently, and it is, to be honest, arrogant in the extreme.
    “I know that when people talk about supernatural energy, or whatever, then the well established laws of thermodynamics, for instance, are being challenged.”
    Well, first let me say that nothing gets my dander up more that New Age talk of “energy” and “vibrations”, so we are truly at one on that score. However, we have a problem; as no one can really explain just what these vibrations or energies are, it’s difficult to dismiss them. Unless we understand the nature of something we can’t with any confidence denigrate it.
    “But again, it is up to the person who makes the claim to prove it”.
    Look, why is it that when a believer in the paranormal – or religion for that matter – voices an opinion or makes a claim, skeptics feel they need to demand proof or evidence? Has it ever occurred to them that believers may have no interest whatsoever in spending their time digging up proof to satisfy the desires of skeptics? Has it ever occurred to them that believers may not have the slightest interest as to whether skeptics believe them or not? Further, has it ever occurred to them that many believers don’t really care about the opinions of skeptics? True, if believers have no motivation to scuttle around at the behest of skeptics collating evidence then we can’t blame the skeptics if they don’t believe what we say, but the cold truth is that many of us really don’t care. Again, this demonstrates the arrogance of many skeptics who actually believe that we’ll automatically jump to attention when they make their demands. Further, it is illogical to say that a phenomenon doesn’t exist just because one hasn’t seen any proof. As the saying goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    “Anyone who makes a claim that contradicts well established science is likely to be challenged”.
    Maybe. But many of us don’t believe such a contradiction necessarily exists, or simply aren’t bothered.
    “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”.
    A very sensible stance. More of the same, please!
    “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”.
    Just as all the books and bleatings of evolutionists don’t prove their case, either. I agree completely that popularity in the media is the last criterion that should be used to prove a point – if you’re trying to prove on at all, that is.
    “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”.
    Actually, it’s not so much that many of them believe possession is real, but that many who don’t believe in possession still believe that exorcism rituals can help psychologically.
    “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”.
    Actually, there are a small number that I know of who do make such referrals, but do so on the understanding that their anonymity is strictly preserved.
    “No, I haven’t read the Qur’an (well, not much of it, anyway). But any holy book is self-referential”.
    Only partly. The Qur’an refers to itself, but that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t know of any Muslims who believe the Qur’an to be true purely because the Qur’an claims to be true, but almost exclusively on the quality of its contents.
    “Every religion refers to its own religious writings to support its beliefs”.
    Of course it does. It would be distinctly odd if that wasn’t the case.
    “Everything makes sense for the religious when they view the world from their particular religious perspective…”
    Well, it should do, otherwise they should be looking for another religion.
    “…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”.
    Spot on.
    “Your reference to Doctor and Egyptologist Maurice Bucaille is a simple appeal to authority”.
    No; it’s an example. You’ve used this “appeal to authority” argument with me before – pretty much any time I mention anyone else, in fact. I don’t believe anything on the basis of what someone else believes, but I reserve the right to point to such examples as just how persuasive the evidence may be.
    “So what if he thinks the Qur’an is scientifically accurate?”
    So what if you don’t?
    “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”.
    Look, what binds Muslims is a belief in the truthfulness of the Qur’an and its value as a final Court of Appeal when it comes to issues of spirituality and theology. Do Muslims believe that the Qur’an is scientifically correct? Yes, but when it comes to matters of science not all Muslims interpret the evidence in the same way. One Muslim may believe that the Qur’an teaches the earth is flat. Others (all the ones I’ve met) believe that the earth is round and that such a belief is also harmonious with the content of the Qur’an. One of the problems that non-Islamic readers have when they make this assertion (and a few Islamic ones, too) is a poor grasp of the Arabic language which is as subtle and complex as any on earth. When the text of the Qur’an is understood correctly, the “flat earth” bits largely disappear. Others are obviously meant to be understood metaphorically.
    Another tactic of anti-Islamic critics is to point to Muslims of old who expressed a belief in the flat earth, as was the accepted stance of their day. This is pointless, as in Islam these scholars are not accepted as absolute religious authorities. One should also remember that Muslims accept the Old Testament as scripture, and the OT teaches that the earth is circular.
    A brief introduction to this issue, and what the Qur’an really says, can be found at Yahya Snow’s blog:
    http://yahyasnow.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/does-the-quran-teach-a-flat-earth-no/
    “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”.
    Actually, I’m up for both. Why not take the lead from the late Christopher Hitchens, who I’m sure you revered? He never dodged the chance of a good debate before a live audience, even with his own brother. I did wonder if your reluctance might really have been due to your desire to remain anonymous; a stance which I find disappointing. I think you’d gain more respect if you stood up to be counted and identified yourself, but as we’ve been down this road before and your usual tac is not even to comment on the matter let alone offer an explanation, then readers will have to make our own minds up as to why you prefer to hide in the shadows.
    “And, of course, you will be able to copy and paste screenshots and anything else I post…”
    You’re the expert.
    “…and use it against me at a later date”.
    Mmmm…saying things you couldn’t back up has got you into hot water before so I can understand your nervousness regarding this. 
    (And I probably won’t even threaten to sue you for doing so.)”
    And as a reciprocal gesture of goodwill Darren and I won’t sue you for posting our copyrighted picture of Guy. Maybe we’re both mellowing as the years go by… 
    “You are wrong when you say my mind is completely closed to the possibility of Jinn possession”.

    Okay…but I’m struggling here…

    “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”.

    Again, you’re missing the point. Of course they aren’t going to change their minds – as long as they’re Muslims! However, anyone who does change their mind can do so, as long as they understand that their volte face may remove them from the precincts of Islam.

    “As for your suggestion that I remove this post, the answer is no”.
    Which is good to hear, as I never suggested it in the first place. What I did do was point out to you that it was an option available to you – I wasn’t for one moment putting it forward as a good idea.
    “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”
    That seems reasonable.
    “I don’t see how I could be any fairer than that”.
    Nor do I. In fact, you could have been less fair and simply not allowed my post. Thanks for doing the right thing there.
    “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”.
    Okay. First of all, I have never threatened legal action against anyone who holds “opposing opinions” to myself Never, ever. You can apologise for this false allegation in your next post. (holds breath in anticipation…)
    However, if anyone writes anything derogatory or inaccurate about me I’ll defend myself by posting rebuttals. As you should know by now, whatever you think of what I write or broadcast I certainly don’t run away from my detractors. It is my detractors who refuse to engage in public debate with me, not the other way around. Any rational person can see, then, that my default setting is to defend myself directly and not through a third party.
    On rare occasions there is a line that can be crossed at which I may feel that some comments posted publicly are actually defamatory. In cases like that, I will – as you know – challenge my detractors to publish evidence to support their allegations. If they fail to do so, then the mature thing for them to do is withdraw those unfounded allegations with good grace. If they do so, then that’s fine.
    But what happens if my critics keep repeating allegations that I believe to be defamatory and yet still refuse to produce evidence to support them? What happens if they also simply ignore my rebuttals? In such a circumstance I may argue that it is unfair to allow such posts to remain in the public eye when a) I have categorically proved them to be false and/or b) the poster of those comments refuses to retract them and simply ignores my responses. I believe it is morally wrong for those who host websites to allow the continual posting of defamatory, unsubstantiated claims. Posters who do this should be told, “Look, if you’re going to keep posting these allegations against X, Y or Z then come up with some evidence to support them or I’ll be forced to stop you posting on my site”.
    In the past, under such circumstances, we have written to site owners and suggested this to them – again, trying to avoid more formal manoeuvres. Sometimes, people hosting such pages may respond and ask me, in private correspondence, if there are certain posts that I would like removed due to their contentious and possibly defamatory nature. If that’s the case, then I’ll answer in the affirmative – also in private correspondence. If the posts are then quietly removed the problem is resolved with the minimum of fuss. Which is the way I like it. Unfortunately, sometimes the content of such private correspondence may end up being published on the Internet without any consultation with me or any prior warning – which I personally believe to be highly unprofessional as, in my opinion, it can then have the opposite effect and inflame matters even more. Maybe with some individuals that’s the intention all along, who knows?
    There have been occasions when we have identified some comments as libellous, but not threatened legal action. We have simply pointed out their contentious nature to those who have allowed them to be posted hoping that common sense would prevail.
    In the past, as now, you keep flagging up this issue of litigation and it seems to me that some of my detractors are quite happy to paint a picture of someone who runs off to consult his lawyers at the drop of a hat. Actually, there are only three circumstances to date when Darren and I have either threatened or taken legal action – none of which have involved the posting of “opposing opinions”. The first is when what we believe to be damaging, defamatory comments are published about us and all attempts to find an amicable solution have failed. In such cases, and as a last resort, we may threaten legal action. And why not? Why should our detractors be allowed to publish lies and inaccuracies about us and be allowed to get away with it, particularly when they’ve been given numerous opportunities to provide evidence to support their assertions and have dismally failed to do so?
    The second circumstance is when our copyright has been breached. Those who don’t work within journalism or the media often don’t appreciate the damage they can cause – financially and in other ways – when they publish written material, footage or images belonging to others without permission. Darren and I have been in this circumstance when material relating to the South Shields Poltergeist case was published on YouTube without permission. The material concerned was to be used in a documentary about the case and documentary makers almost always prefer exclusive material that hasn’t been broadcasted before. Illegally copied and distributed material loses its exclusivity, and can severely compromise the making of such programmes. The irony was that, in the case in question, those who were screaming for the material to be aired in a documentary were often the very ones who criticised us for complaining when our rights were breached – the very thing likely to capsize the making of the documentary they wanted to see!
    Contrary to the opinions of some, we do NOT run off and whine to our lawyers every five minutes and threaten all and sundry with legal action at every opportunity. It is done only as a last resort, and with great reluctance.
    The third circumstance is when threats of physical abuse and/or harassment are made or even carried out. We have been forced to threaten police action against certain individuals in this regard and I am sure you would agree that it is perfectly reasonable to do so.
    Darren and I are not litigious by nature, and snide insinuations to the opposite are both untrue and unfair.
    “Of course you let your readers know who you are – you need publicity because of the very nature of what you do”.

    I don’t “need publicity”. For the first few months I penned my column under a pseudonym. The reason was that then I was only a part-time freelancer, and there was concern that readers would be popping into my place of work every five minutes with their ghost stories. That never happened, and eventually I asked the Gazette to start publishing my column under my real name. To claims that I wanted to be anonymous for the same reasons as yourself, I would point out that, other than those few months of columns in the Gazette, every other book, column or feature I’ve ever had published was published under my real name. If I “needed publicity” I could have carried on getting it just as easily under my pen name – using my real name was of no advantage in that regard.

    “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…”

    Now you’re just being silly, Skeptic. There’s a world of difference between someone who posts under a fictitious pseudonym, which is what you are suggesting, and someone who posts under the real name of a living person. If my critics consistently posted under someone else’s identity how long do you think they’d get away with it? Brian Paget posts under his real name (although he didn’t always) but no one would suggest that it might not really be him, would they? Despite the fact that he has been one of my most severe critics I’ll grant him this; at least he has the courage to let people know who is criticising them. You don’t, it seems, and until that changes you’ll have to expect that some people will see that as cowardly. I know I do. Your above statement is half-baked, makes little sense and strikes me as a desperate attempt to avoid acknowledging what most people have probably figured out: you’re just too scared to go public.

    Which brings me to another, related point. You talk about my presumed “need” to be publicly identified. You talk about the possibility that I may not know who all of my critics really are. The one thing you don’t address, and I think it’s extremely telling, is just why YOU don’t identify YOURself. You can philosophise all you like about why other people may or may not shroud themselves in anonymity, but until you explain to my readers and yours just why YOU choose to hide in the shadows your words will have a distinctly hollow ring to them.

    Many moons ago, you stated in the Gazette something which actually would make sense of your desire for anonymity. I’ll be kind to you and not post it here – if what you said was true then you’ll certainly have no trouble recalling it but I’m not sure you’d want it repeated. Still, if you choose to be an opinionated skeptic then you should do what most of your brothers-at-arms do; publish and be damned.

    “…just like I don’t know the identity of the improbably-named ‘Fred West’…”

    Have you checked on Google and Facebook and seen just how many people in the UK are called 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”.

    By “astonishing”, I take it you mean “deliberately engineered”. What troubles me is this curious obsession you seem to have about a computer glitch which made several repeats of one of my posts. The first thing is that, despite your apparent weird suspicion that something Machiavellian was going on back then, I can assure you that I haven’t a clue why it happened. Nor do I know why it happened to Mr. West. Think about it; what purpose could it have served for me to repeatedly post the same message several times? The only effect, as far as I can see, would be to irritate readers – something which it is decidedly not in my interests to do. Please allow me to feed your seeming paranoia further. A few weeks ago Brian Paget posted a comment under one of my columns. I responded, The post just wouldn’t go up there, i then stupidly hit the back button and my entire response disappeared. I wrote the damned thing out again. The same thing happened. I tried to post a response several times and was eventually successful – every post went up. All of them. Guess what my first thought was? “Great. If Skeptic sees this he’ll have a field day and I’ll never hear the last of it”. There was no conspiracy, no point in my doing it deliberately. It just happened, and I really don’t know why. All I know is that I didn’t do it deliberately and it served absolutely no purpose for me to do it. Why on earth such an event – irritating, but essentially pointless – would consume you so is an even bigger mystery. For a skeptic, you certainly have a predilection for seeing mysteries where they aren’t any; changes to our websites, computer glitches…wow. You don’t think I could have been the guy on the grassy knoll, do you?
    “No, I’m not a coward, but your name-calling doesn’t strengthen your arguments”.
    How can it not be cowardly to spend years denigrating and attacking someone on various websites, and making completely unsubstantiated allegations about them, but not identifying yourself so that both the person you’re attacking and those who read those attacks have no way (you’d think) of knowing who you are? Does it not strike you as shameful and immoral to launch such attacks whist hiding behind a cloak of anonymity? Don’t you think that if you want to engage in such activities you should at least allow yourself to be tried in the Court of Public Opinion? Apparently not. You seem devoid of any ability to even see why such activity is reprehensible, or “disgusting” as one of my readers put it. You say that I’m simply “name-calling”, and that you aren’t a coward. Well, if that’s the case, can you explain just why you aren’t a coward and just what your real insistence on anonymity is based upon? Forget my lack of anonymity. Forget whether Fred West was posting anonymously or not, and forget anybody else. Just explain why YOU don’t want anyone to know who you are.

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  2. Mike,

    There are so many words there, but so little substance.
    If my readers have the time – and the patience – to wade through all of that, then there are at least two conclusions they can reasonably draw: your honest sincerity can’t be doubted; nor can your scientific illiteracy. But as you say yourself, you are not a scientist.

    I don’t have the time to deal with every point, but I don’t think I need to – your comments speak for themselves, but I don’t think they say what you think they do. I’m sure my readers will be able to work it out.

    One thing I find slightly annoying is your misrepresentation of my words and meaning again. You are employing an inductive fallacy – a straw man – to make me seem as though I am saying something I am not saying at all. I did not say or imply that you were talking about “demons.” I said specifically that whatever these alleged entities are supposed to be, they are certainly assumed to be some kind of supernatural beings, whatever anyone wants to call them. You have not proven the existence of any such entities so it is pointless for you to go on about about the difference between supernatural beings that have not been proven to exist. If someone wants to prattle on about the difference between fairies and elves, for example, it is necessary to prove their existence before anything meaningful can be said about them
    .
    A lot of what you wrote reads like a religious sermon. It has to be believed on faith alone. I’m more interested in things that can be objectively demonstrated. Clearly, you have failed to do that.

    Scientists who are religious tend to be deists – those people who believe that their god created the universe and set everything in motion, but takes no further part in running it. They see themselves as merely unravelling what they believe their deity put in place, and they do it without invoking miracles in lieu of mathematics. On the other hand, theocratic “creation scientists” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) reject everything that science has discovered if it contradicts their belief system. They want their faith to be given equal time in science classes, but they are not campaigning for any other religion’s creation stories to also be given equal time. And I can’t think of any religion that would allow science to be taught in their place of worship as an alternative to faith.

    Science is for science classes, and religion is for places of worship.
    The number of people who believe something, is irrelevant as to whether it is true or not. There might well be 1.6 billion Muslims who believe what you believe, but that leaves 5.4 billion people on Earth who believe you’ve got it wrong. Quoting the numbers of people that believe in something adds no strength whatsoever to an argument – it’s just another inductive fallacy (the appeal to popularity). I would guess you won’t change your mind just because the rest of the people in the world outvote you by a massive amount – unless you want to take your implication that the more people who believe something makes it more true, to its logical conclusion.

    But there’s still the problem of exorcism. It just doesn’t seem to bother you that even in this country, in the 21st century, people are still being killed each year by it. Saying, as you do, “Unfortunately, it is the failures that hit the headlines,”just tacitly endorses it. Unfortunate? That’s one way of putting it. “Criminal” would be another.

    You did say, “No right-thinking person, Muslim or otherwise, would countenance such behaviour.” But what do you say to the people who perpetrate such acts? They think that they are the ones who are right-thinking, and they might disagree with you
    .
    As far as copyright goes, you should know that anyone is entitled to use small amounts of other people’s work for the purpose of critique or analysis. You’re not doing me a favour by letting me know you are not taking any action over it.

    As you know, the worst that anyone will get from me is a logical critique of their illogical claims. For irrational people, of course, that hurts most.

    Anyway, you’ve provided me with a lot of fodder for some future blog posts, so I thank you for that.

    One final thing: you are having the most extraordinary bad luck again when posting your comments; this one turned up twice (so far). I’m sure you won’t mind if I publish just the first copy that came in.

    Like

  3. “There are so many words there, but so little substance”.
    You’re entitled to your opinion. But may I remind you that you are the one who is running away from a public debate and insists on carrying on our dialogue in this way. You want to debate via blogs – but then criticise me for making my posts too long. Brilliant.

    “If my readers have the time – and the patience – to wade through all of that, then there are at least two conclusions they can reasonably draw: your honest sincerity can’t be doubted…”
    Well, that’s appreciated.
    “Nor can your scientific illiteracy. But as you say yourself, you are not a scientist.”
    Not much of a point there then, is there?
    “One thing I find slightly annoying is your misrepresentation of my words and meaning again”.
    You’re the expert in that field.
    “You are employing an inductive fallacy – a straw man – to make me seem as though I am saying something I am not saying at all. I did not say or imply that you were talking about “demons.”
    Really? I think your accuracy whilst writing is faulty, then; but there again, you really aren’t a writer:
    “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.”
    The inference is clear, then; I might not use the word, “demons”, but by avoiding it I’m simply “playing at words”, to use your phrase. In other words, whether I use the word “demons” or not, that’s really what I’m talking about. Or, as you put it, “It doesn’t really matter what you call them.”
    You’re the one playing with words, here.
    “You have not proven the existence of any such entities so it is pointless for you to go on about the difference between supernatural beings that have not been proven to exist.”
    Well, it’s only pointless to you because you say you don’t believe in them. However, if it’s “pointless to go on” about “beings that have not been proven to exist”, why do you discuss them at length in on your site? If they don’t exist, shouldn’t you be refraining from talking about them to?
    “If someone wants to prattle on about the difference between fairies and elves, for example, it is [sic] necessary to prove their existence before anything meaningful can be said about them? [sic] ”
    Firstly, It’s fascinating to see how someone so obsessed with science is happy to use such loaded terminology like “prattle on” instead of “discuss”. Still, you never have displayed any inclination to follow the rules you like to impose upon others.
    Secondly, your syntax is so bad here I can’t even work out whether this is a statement or a question. Are you saying it is necessary to prove the existence of elves and faeries before one can say anything meaningful about them, or questioning whether it is necessary? If it’s the former, then folklorists may as well pack up and go home now, for much of what they deal with is fictional. Is the study of folklore academically redundant, then? If it’s the latter, then you’re acknowledging that it is acceptable to discuss the differences between things even if they’re not proven to exist. If you don’t believe in invisible supernatural entities and therefore think it’s a waste of time discussing them, then talk about something else. However, just as I wouldn’t have the arrogance to tell you not to discuss things just because I don’t happen to believe in them, you should be the same.

    “A lot of what you wrote reads like a religious sermon. It has to be believed on faith alone. I’m more interested in things that can be objectively demonstrated. Clearly, you have failed to do that”.
    “Clearly” to you.
    “Scientists who are religious tend to be deists – those people who believe that their god created the universe and set everything in motion, but takes [sic] no further part in running it. They see themselves as merely unravelling what they believe their deity put in place, and they do it without invoking miracles in lieu of mathematics”.
    Okay. So now we know what deists are. As if we didn’t already.
    “On the other hand, theocratic “creation scientists” (an oxymoron if ever there was one)…”
    Actually, they’re called scientific creationists, as the phrase, “creation scientists” is not and cannot be an oxymoron. Never mind.
    “…reject everything that science has discovered if it contradicts their belief system”.
    No they don’t. They don’t reject anything science has discovered; they just interpret the evidence differently. The whole point of scientific creationism is to prove that science and creationism do NOT contradict each other, so the idea that scientific creationists would reject anything “science has discovered” is, to coin your own phrase, an oxymoron.
    “They want their faith to be given equal time in science classes…”
    No they don’t. Let’s be clear here – they don’t want their faith taught in science classes, but rather a science that is harmonious with their faith. If you can’t appreciate the difference then you’re less of a scientist than I am. This will seem rather nonsensical to you, because you aren’t a “person of faith” (apart from your devotional reverence to science), but as you seem utterly incapable of accepting that any opinions other than your own carry any weight, it’s futile to labour the point.
    “…but they are not campaigning for any other religion’s creation stories to also be given equal time.” Well of course they aren’t! Why would they? Each faith will naturally promote and defend its own creation beliefs, not those of others.
    “And I can’t think of any religion that would allow science to be taught in their place of worship as an alternative to faith”.
    You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Firstly, places of worship are there, by definition, to facilitate the religious practices of one particular religion or denomination. Places of education are not so bound. They are there – allegedly – to promote truth whether it is found in any religious environment or none. Religions – other than a few extremely liberal ones – do not exist to question their own beliefs but to perpetuate them. I’ve never heard of any brothels, sports arenas, telephone kiosks or portaloos in which “science is taught as an alternative to faith”, either – that’s not what they’re there for.
    “Science is for science classes, and religion is for places of worship”.
    True, but you can’t simply throw out scientific theories because they happened to be built on a faith foundation. As a scientist – allegedly – you should be looking for truth wherever it is found. You simply reject anything that has a religious aspect to it without really considering the evidence for its veracity.

    “The number of people who believe something, is irrelevant as to whether it is true or not”.
    An argument which I presume you apply to the belief in evolution within the academic community as rigorously as I think you’re now going to apply it to religion…
    “There might well be 1.6 billion Muslims who believe what you believe, but that leaves 5.4 billion people on Earth who believe you’ve got it wrong”.
    Possibly, although it’s much more likely that there are many non-Muslims who simply aren’t bothered whether we’ve got it wrong or not, and an equal number who don’t even know what we believe about the origins of the universe.
    “Quoting the numbers of people that believe in something adds no strength whatsoever to an argument”
    You’ve already made that point.
    “it’s just another inductive fallacy (the appeal to popularity)”.
    I’ve never argued that the popularity of a belief strengthens the likelihood of it being true. However, if you’re talking about evidence as opposed to belief, surely even you would agree that if enough witnesses claim to have seen something extraordinary (not believed something extraordinary, which is different) the possibility of what they claim to have seen being true has to be taken more seriously than if there is just one, singular witness.
    “I would guess you won’t change your mind just because the rest of the people in the world outvote you by a massive amount…”
    Well of course I won’t, and you’d be the first person to tell me NOT to abandon a belief just because it’s a minority opinion. After all, it was you who just said, “Quoting the numbers of people that believe in something adds no strength whatsoever to an argument; it’s just another inductive fallacy (the appeal to popularity)” wasn’t it? I thought it was.
    “…unless you want to take your implication that the more people who believe something makes it more true, to its logical conclusion”.
    What, you mean “a massive” number of people “in the world” who “outvote” me, you mean? Perish the thought.
    “But there’s still the problem of exorcism. It just doesn’t seem to bother you that even in this country, in the 21st century, people are still being killed each year by it”.
    Of course it bothers me, and I’ve said so repeatedly, as you know. In my original Gazette column, I stated specifically: “There’s been a clutch of high-profile cases recently where people have died during exorcism – or worse, been murdered. No right-thinking person, Muslim or otherwise, would countenance such behaviour”.
    Now, what part of the above statement implies that such activity, “doesn’t seem to bother” me?” I’ll be interested to see your answer to this one, if you have any. (Just spotted what looks like one below. Hang on…)
    “Saying, as you do, “Unfortunately, it is the failures that hit the headlines, ”just tacitly endorses it. Unfortunate? That’s one way of putting it. “Criminal” would be another.
    No, my statement doesn’t endorse it as anyone who can read will pick up. What I said was “unfortunate” was not the killings that occur as a result of botched exorcisms, but merely the fact that it is these failures, as opposed to the successes, which tend to hit the headlines. It is media bias which I clearly labelled as unfortunate, not the criminal deaths behind the headlines. Read what I say carefully and stop putting words in my mouth. If anything, what is “criminal” here is your complete inability to read plain English.
    “You did say, “No right-thinking person, Muslim or otherwise, would countenance such behaviour.”

    So you acknowledge, then, that, in complete contradiction to what you’ve just said above, such behaviour DOES bother me?
    “But what do you say to the people who perpetrate such acts? They think that they are the ones who are right-thinking, and they might disagree with you”.
    Blimey, as if that would be a first. What would I say to those people who perpetrate such acts? How about, “You should be in jail”? “You’re a disgrace”? In fact, I’m a firm believer in capital punishment, which I suspect may be well appropriate in many of these cases. Would you go that far? Or am I taking the moral high ground here and advocating a severity of punishment that you would shy away from? As for those who perpetrate such acts “disagreeing with me”, I don’t think their killing of innocent people gives them much right to complain do you?
    .
    “As far as copyright goes, you should know that anyone is entitled to use small amounts of other people’s work for the purpose of critique or analysis”.
    As every writer knows.
    “You’re not doing me a favour by letting me know you are not taking any action over it”.
    Actually, your argument doesn’t apply to photographs. What you did was a breach of copyright, clear and simple. However, the really sad thing is that you failed to appreciate that my comment was simply wry humour and not a serious threat to prosecute you. I hardly think it likely that a misappropriated picture of GLP would rake in a fortune in the courts, do you? You really do need a humour transplant.
    “As you know, the worst that anyone will get from me is a logical critique of their illogical claims.”
    Well I’m glad you pointed this out as I’d be glad to hear your opinion on the following. What would you say about a blogger who criticised, say, the colour of someone’s clothes in a photograph? Or the camera angle that made it appear as if they were looking down their noses? (If you’d like more examples please let me know). Do these sort of fatuous remarks fall into the category of, “logical critiques of…illogical claims.”? In your opinion they must, I would venture, and I’m sure both your readers and mine will be interested to know why.
    “For irrational people, of course, that hurts most”.
    Which is pretty much anyone who disagrees with you, methinks.
    “Anyway, you’ve provided me with a lot of fodder for some future blog posts, so I thank you for that”.
    My pleasure. Would you be terribly upset if I post detailed responses to them?

    Like

  4. Mike,

    You’re being very pedantic. And petty. And completely missing the point.

    You claim that possession is real, and that exorcism will cure the problem. You have also said that an exorcist will refer a person to a doctor if he believes that that person is suffering from a mental ailment rather than possession. That raises some questions that you should answer.

    How does an exorcist decide that someone is suffering from a mental illness rather than possession?

    How does an exorcist decide that a person is possessed by one of these supernatural entities?

    Those are precise questions that leave no room for interpretation or equivocation.

    Anecdotal evidence and personal testimony are the weakest kinds of evidence (i.e., worthless in terms of trying to prove something so important where people’s lives are at stake), so please supply something substantial rather than your usual evasiveness. If it is real, then you should be able to demonstrate it.

    Just to be clear: you claim that possession and exorcism are real. Prove it.

    Like

  5. “You’re being very pedantic….”

    No examples given.

    “And petty….”

    Still no examples.

    “And completely missing the point…”

    Which is…?

    “You claim that possession is real, and that exorcism will cure the problem”.

    Not always, but often.

    “ You have also said that an exorcist will refer a person to a doctor if he believes that that person is suffering from a mental ailment rather than possession”.

    Not always, but responsible exorcists will do that, yes.

    “That raises some questions that you should answer”.

    Fine.

    “How does an exorcist decide that someone is suffering from a mental illness rather than possession?”

    Unless he’s also qualified in the area of mental health, he can’t. As you stated above, I said that a responsible exorcist will refer a person to a doctor if he BELIEVES a person is suffering from mental illness, in the same way that you, not qualified in medicine as far as I know, would call the doctor for someone you BELIEVED may have had a stroke even if you aren’t medically qualified to be absolutely sure.
    So, what might make a person, an exorcist, believe that a person MIGHT be suffering from mental illness? The best answer I can give you is this.
    a) There are symptoms that present as mental illness, and not of Jinn possession, which a doctor would recognise.
    b) There are symptoms that present as Jinn possession, and not mental illness, that an exorcist would recognise.
    c) There are some symptoms of both mental illness and of Jinn possession that are very similar or even identical.
    d) If the symptoms presenting themselves are of categories A and C, then evidence of Jinn possession is weak to non-existent. In cases like this the person should be first referred to a doctor, as the likelihood is that they are mentally ill.
    e) If the symptoms are only those found in category B, then the exorcist will probably presume that the person is possessed and proceed accordingly.
    f) If the symptoms are from categories A and B, then the exorcist will likely work on the presumption that the person is both mentally ill and possessed. He then has the option of treating the possession before referring the person to a doctor, or referring the person to a doctor and then, at a later date, exorcising the Jinn. Which of these two options he takes may be influenced by one factor, which I will now explain.
    In Islam, it is believed that the Jinn can actually cause mental illness in human beings. In such cases, both the exorcist and the doctor would agree that the person is mentally ill. The doctor will likely (but not always) attribute the mental illness to conventional causes accepted in mainstream medicine. The exorcist will attribute the mental illness to the effects of Jinn possession. In short, both agree on the patient’s state, but will likely differ on the cause of that state. Treating the possession first may well remove the mental illness simultaneously as it is the possession which is sustaining it. I know of numerous cases where this has happened. In fact, I detailed one in my column on Thursday.
    My personal feeling is that, in such cases, it might be advantageous to also involve mental health professionals from the outset. To what degree they should be involved depends on numerous factors as each case is different. For me, the only time mental health professionals need not necessarily be involved (and even then the exorcist has a choice) is when the affected person displays some or all of the symptoms of Jinn possession but none of the symptoms of mental illness.
    Naturally, each exorcist has his own unique approach and method of treating possession, and I can’t say that they all follow the above, which are simply practices and procedures I’ve seen in use during
    I don’t think I can be much clearer than that, but if you have any further questions on this matter feel free to ask me.

    “How does an exorcist decide that a person is possessed by one of these supernatural entities?”

    To list all of the symptoms would take forever, so if you don’t mind I’ll restrict myself to some of the more common ones. These generally fall with a number of broad categories; a) lifestyle, b) environment, c) state of mind, d) state of body/health, d) behaviour , e) abilities and f) reactions.

    Lifestyle: There are certain modes of living, largely (but not exclusively) cultural, which can make a Jinn vulnerable to Jinn possession. Some such lifestyles could be described as hedonistic and self-indulgent, and may (but again, not always), involve the use of alcohol and drugs. Another common “lifestyle” factor is when a person is going through a period of religious doubt or inner conflict. This is not a subtle reference to Islam here, as, contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of Jinn-possessed people are not Muslims. There are others.
    Environment: The Jinn favour certain types of environment. These environments may differ depending of the species of Jinn involved. Most favour remote places away from urban areas, or, within urban areas, derelict or abandoned buildings. Some environmental factors which definitely attract the Jinn are baffling, as they would usually be repulsive to most humans, but nevertheless they are widely recognised. For example, the Jinn are attracted to unclean and/or untidy places, and homes which fall into this category are definitely more vulnerable to the attentions of the Jinn. Other factors include the presence of certain animals. Although we do not know exactly why, most species of Jinn have a close affinity with dogs, specifically black ones. This association has been recognised right throughout history. Hence, keeping a black dog within your home also increases your vulnerability. To what degree depends on many factors, and I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who owns a black dog will also have a Jinni hiding in the closet. All I’m saying is that it is one more factor that can alter the odds.
    State of mind: Jinn-possessed people can be recognised by sudden changes in their outlook and disposition. These changes are always negative, or at least bizarre. They may behave normally most of the time, but can develop an aversion to certain food or beverages, refuse to wear clothing of particular colours and avoid going to specific geographical locations. Personally I do not think that such symptoms are evidence of Jinn possession in isolation, and need to be supported by other kinds of evidence.
    State of body/health: Some Jinn-possessed people continue to look “normal”, but in the majority of cases both their health and appearance deteriorate – sometimes alarmingly. Their skin may change colour (family members often report that the skin of the possessed person becomes distinctly darker), the eyes may change colour or shade (or again, be described by witnesses as looking much darker), they may sweat profusely for no apparent reason. Their bowel habits may change. Defecation becomes much more frequent and their faeces is often described by witnesses as having a pungent, unique, unbearable odour. The skin may also give off an unpleasant odour which cannot be attributed to any known medical cause. Witnesses often report that the voice of the possessed person changes, and it is common to hear witness say things like, “His/her voice isn’t the same. It just doesn’t sound like them. It’s like listening to a different person”.
    Behaviour: Jinn-possessed people often become moody and sullen. They will suddenly behave in a negative way to people (often family members) with whom they formerly had extremely close relationships. They may become obsessive in very specific ways.
    Abilities: Jinn-possessed people may display startling abilities that have no conventional explanation. These include impressive displays of physical strength, the ability to speak foreign languages that they have not studied, a knowledge of facts that they could not have gleaned by conventional means and the ability to know what is currently taking place in remote locations.
    Reactions: Jinn-possessed people commonly display specific reactions to certain environmental stimuli. They will, for example, leave a room in which a person is praying or reading scripture. They may refuse to eat food or drink beverages offered to them by specific people, and may refuse to eat food or drink beverages which contain certain substances to which the Jinn have an aversion. The Jinn-possessed person will almost always react violently in the presence of an exorcist, and will hurl abuse at them, using expletives and derogatory phrases. They may also wrongly accuse the exorcist of engaging in criminal or immoral activity, shouting such things as, “Did you enjoy yourself with that whore the other night, human?”

    Most of the above criteria would not be taken in isolation, but collectively as evidence of Jinn possession.

    “Those are precise questions that leave no room for interpretation or equivocation”.

    It’s a first, but I’d have to agree.

    “Anecdotal evidence and personal testimony are the weakest kinds of evidence (i.e., worthless in terms of trying to prove something so important where people’s lives are at stake)”

    This is something that skeptics throw up with regular monotony, and although it’s repeated to the point of tedium it’s a flawed assertion. Why? Because it incorporated the idea that all anecdotal evidence and personal testimony is weak, when this may not necessarily be the case. In law, the difference between strong personal testimony and weak personal testimony is recognised. Sometimes a person may be convicted on the testimony of others because their evidence is powerful and persuasive. Other times the person may not be convicted because the eyewitness testimony is contradictory or flawed. Courts use discernment when assessing personal testimony – a quality notably lacking in many skeptics.

    “…i.e., worthless in terms of trying to prove something so important where people’s lives are at stake.”

    Okay; you’ve made your position clear – ALL personal testimony is worthless in terms of trying to prove something. Let’s put that to the test, then. Let’s imagine that tomorrow you are walking down the street and a man staggers out of an alley with a knife in his ribs. He collapses and dies in front of you. There are at least a dozen other people there who witness the event. Just before he dies, the man exclaims, “It was Hieronymus Smythe who did it! He stabbed me!” The witnesses look down the alley and see a man, who then turns and runs away. He’s subsequently arrested, and identified as Hieronymus Smythe. At the line-up, every one of the witnesses positively identifies Hieronymus Smythe as the man in the alley. At the trial, all the witnesses testify that the victim testified that Hieronymus Smythe was his assailant.
    Now all you really have there is eyewitness testimony. Anecdotes. Would you seriously suggest that such evidence is useless?
    In the arena of possession and exorcism, I know of cases – some of which I’ve been personally involved in where the possessed person has exhibited the most extraordinary symptoms of possession – symptoms which skeptics like yourself would find it almost impossible to accept, as they involved events that defied conventional scientific wisdom radically. Present at one such event, as a random example, were two journalists, five researchers , four family members and four friends and neighbours. Every single one of them witnessed what happened, and one of the journalists – a radio presenter – left the house and refused to come back inside as he was so scared.

    Now as far as I can see there is a very limited cache of possibilities to choose from. They were all lying – me included – they were all hallucinating, or they were all telling the truth. Would you seriously suggest that such eyewitness testimony is “worthless”? It may not provide scientific proof that the event occurred, but no rational person would surely deny that the events occurred as described, particularly when all the eyewitness testimonies are consistent and to date not a single person has retracted what they testified to. The problem isn’t so much the quality of the evidence, but the irrational refusal of skeptics to acknowledge what all those present ardently assert occurred. Skeptics are the ones who have the problem, for they are in the invidious position of having to deny something that patently did occur, even though they weren’t there at the time. If the testimony of the eyewitnesses who WERE there is useless, of what value are the denunciations of the skeptics who WEREN’T there and haven’t a clue what went on?

    “…so please supply something substantial rather than your usual evasiveness”.

    I don’t think you really want to start throwing allegations of evasiveness around, Skeptic, for a trawl through our previous encounters demonstrates that your skills in this regard are nothing short of legendary. I can point to time after time where I repeatedly asked you to answer specific questions and my appeals were met with a deafening silence. Just look at our interchanges above, and count the number of points I’ve raised which you have studiously ignored. As you know, I always answer ALL your points, one after the other, with no omissions. You don’t. You ignore many, twist the contents of others and provide poor answers to the rest.

    “If it is real, then you should be able to demonstrate it”.

    Well, I and many others have seen such demonstrations and we’re convinced. That leaves you and your sceptical brethren, to whom I’d make the following points:

    “Being able to demonstrate it” sounds as if we’re able to create cases of possession to order under laboratory conditions. Possession occurs without warning, spontaneously. So you and I are already aware that you can’t stick someone in a room full of skeptics, wave a magic wand and utter the incantation, “Be possessed!” with guaranteed positive results.
    So, if you really want to be convinced of the reality of possession, what should you do? You need to spend time studying the evidence yourself. You need to interview those who have been possessed, those who have seen the results of possession first-hand. You need to study the works of scholars ancient and modern who have investigated the phenomenon. You need to put aside your inherent disdain for exorcism and try to be truly objective. These are the things you need to do, but what you are trying to do is something else altogether.

    People like you are extremely arrogant, nauseatingly aloof and incredibly narrow-minded. You seem to think that we owe you proof, that we are under some sort of moral obligation to do your research for you whilst you sit at home doing something else. “You claim that possession and exorcism are real. Prove it.” You say. Why the hell should I? Prove it for yourself by doing your own investigative work instead of demanding others do it for you. Your attitude highlights the problem that is endemic amongst extreme skeptics. They seem to think that those who believe in possession/exorcism/ God/ Creationism/the paranormal or whatever feel some sort of need to convince others. Some might, but most don’t. Now we fully accept that if we don’t jump to attention and collate the evidence you require you might not believe what we say, but that’s the point – we really don’t care. We’ve seen enough evidence to convince ourselves, and if you want to do your own research and convince yourself then please feel free to join our happy band of investigators. Don’t, though, assume that we hold you and people like you in awe and feel we have to satisfy your every sceptical whim by spending precious time providing you with evidence regarding things which WE are already convinced of and which YOU have patently made your mind up about. If you took the time to collect the masses of documentary evidence and scholarly writings on the subject – I can point you to them – and study them yourself you might get somewhere. No one else is going to do it for you, I think.
    Seeing as you feel so passionate about possession, and the way in which you say it endangers people’s lives (it does, but only when practiced by charlatans and the unlearned) then I would suggest that you are the one with an obligation resting upon your shoulders. You should be fighting to get exorcism banned. But of course, you’d first need to become some sort of authority on the subject, or at least have some idea what you’re talking about, which as yet you patently don’t. Otherwise, what validity would your arguments and protestations have if the only source of evidence you can point to is the Almighty Google? No; if you’re going to launch a crusade it would be awfully helpful if you had an accurate understanding of what you’re crusading against. So, if you’re so motivated, do what the rest of us have had to do; get out there and do the legwork instead of asking others to do it for you.
    Now I’m fully aware that you’ll almost certainly ignore the spirit of what I’ve written above and say that our refusal to scuttle around collecting evidence for you to examine is really only an evasive tactic because we really don’t have any. To abort that notion before ‘ born, then, let me make you an offer. I have a substantial library of books on Jinn possession, audio and video recordings and other materials. I also have a large list of contacts; scholars who truly are experts in the field, organisations and institutes who organise conferences on the subject, etc.; now if you’re really sincere in understanding the possession/exorcism phenomenon, and getting to know what it’s really like before pontificating about it, why not come and see me and you’ll have a head start when starting your research? I’m happy to spend time with you in this regard if you want, but I’m not going to engage in never-ending tit-for-tat exchanges here. So, are you sincere in wanting to get to grips with the possession/exorcism phenomenon, or are you happy to continue doing what you’ve done up till now; exercise your skills as an anonymous keyboard warrior?

    The offer is open and the choice is yours.

    Like

  6. Mike,

    If someone is acting strangely, it is not up to anyone who professes to be an exorcist to decide whether someone is possessed or not. The first thing to do is refer that person to a doctor. If an exorcist decides that someone is not mentally ill, but concludes that that person is possessed and “proceeds accordingly,” then he is making a medical diagnosis. That is illegal, and anyone who makes a medical diagnosis without having the necessary medical qualifications is committing a criminal offence. No ifs or buts. You know exorcists who do that, don’t you?

    Anecdotal evidence or personal testimony is limited in its usefulness. If, as you suggest, a crime is witnessed, then keep in mind first of all that crimes are real. They do happen and there is no dispute about that. But human memory is not like a video recording that is simply replayed. Memory is a complex phenomenon that can be affected by many different factors. It is fragmentary and has to be reconstructed – sometimes with totally wrong results. There have been many miscarriages of justice because of mistaken witness testimony (the innocent being convicted; the guilty walking free)
    .
    Science is NOT decided in a court of law, it is decided by verifiable hypothesis testing that can be replicated by independent researchers. Science would not get very far if it depended on some clever lawyer being able to convince a lay jury that one scientist’s theory should be accepted rather than another’s.

    But whichever way you look at it, observing a phenomenon does not say anything about what is really going on. One person might see a UFO/alien space ship if they believe in them; another person, like me, might see only what can be observed – a strange light in the sky, but without making assumptions that go beyond the observations.
    The same goes for possession: if that’s what you believe, then that is what you will see.

    This is the reason why many people think that psychics are real. I’ve met a lot of people who are convinced that some psychic told them things “they couldn’t possibly have known.” I, however, recognise the cold reading tricks that are used by such people. A lawyer might convince a naive jury that psychics are real, but it would take a series of properly controlled scientific tests to convince science that psychics have the paranormal powers they claim. So far, psychics have all failed properly controlled tests, and the famous ones tend to refuse to take part in such tests. Is it because they can foretell their failures, I wonder?

    Even if anyone wants to claim that any paranormal pnemomenon has been proven – by some of the most famous names in parapsychology – it is still a fact that remote viewers do not find survivors in the rubble after an earthquake; psychics do not solve crimes; dowsers do not clear minefields; and possession is not proven except to the satisfaction of those who believe in it anyway. It’s standard procedure by believers in any kind of paranormal phenomenon to claim that this stuff is spontaneous, etc., and any other excuse they can think of for why it can’t be tested. If, as you imply, there are mental health professionals who believe in possession, then they must be relying on the scientific evidence published in peer reviewed academic journals. You don’t need to trouble yourself showing me the non-accredited research you have; post the references for the scientific papers and I will be able to access them through the internet or the university library system.

    Anyway, you’re entitled to your faith; I’ll stick with evidence-based research.

    One more thing: there is an old saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” You should keep that in mind when you are criticising the grammar of others. All over the internet, when you are answering your critics, you have a tendency to pick bits of other people’s posts and pepper them with the term “sic.” OK, that is meant to indicate that the relevant passage should be read as it is written, and you use it liberally to indicate what you think are mistakes made by others. Personally, I accept that small errors and typos can creep into anyone’s writing – even my own – but I do not see the need to highlight trivial points as long as the other person’s meaning is still clear. Doing that as much as you do marks you out as a wannabe intellectual.

    Is your own grammar satisfactory? There is one phrase you use regularly,so it isn’t just a typo, which usually goes, “Darren and I’s book…” What a howler. Why don’t you look it up and find out how to refer to yourselves properly in that context?

    Should I give examples of your own mistakes even just on this thread? You said, for example, “Lifestyle: There are certain modes of living, largely (but not exclusively) cultural, which can make a Jinn vulnerable to Jinn possession.” Oh, did you really mean that a Jinn can be vulnerable to possession by another Jinn? Or were you referring to the possibility of a PERSON being vulnerable to possession by a Jinn? I took that just to be a typo, and not worth picking out as a mistake due to ignorance or carelessness, but if you insist, I will treat it accordingly: “Lifestyle: There are certain modes of living, largely (but not exclusively) cultural, which can make a Jinn vulnerable to Jinn possession.” (sic)

    Or just the standard, “Possession is real.” (sick)

    Like

  7. “If someone is acting strangely, it is not up to anyone who professes to be an exorcist to decide whether someone is possessed or not. The first thing to do is refer that person to a doctor”.

    And a doctor – or to employ your own superfluous interjection, “someone who professes” to be a doctor – possesses what qualifications, exactly, to decide whether a person is possessed or not?

    “If an exorcist decides that someone is not mentally ill, but concludes that that person is possessed and “proceeds accordingly,” then he is making a medical diagnosis”.

    Spectacular oxymoron. You can’t diagnose an illness that doesn’t exist. You can’t diagnose that a person “is not mentally ill”, only that they ARE mentally ill. (See for example, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/diagnose).
    Read my last post: “Unless he’s also qualified in the area of mental health, he can’t. As you stated above, I said that a responsible exorcist will refer a person to a doctor if he BELIEVES a person is suffering from mental illness, in the same way that you, not qualified in medicine as far as I know, would call the doctor for someone you BELIEVED may have had a stroke even if you aren’t medically qualified to be absolutely sure.”
    As I made very clear, I said nothing about an exorcist DECIDING that a person was NOT mentally ill, then, but merely referred to a situation in which an exorcist referred someone to a doctor when they believed that a person MIGHT be mentally ill. Two completely different scenarios, in which you cleverly imply that I supported one when in fact I did completely the opposite. I made it quite clear in my post that whenever the slightest signs existed that a person just MIGHT be suffering from mental illness then medical intervention should be sought. I want you to think about every single person you’ve seen today since getting out of bed. Were they all mentally ill? No? And what gives you the right to decide that, exactly? According to you, you’ve just made a diagnosis. Go turn yourself in.

    “That is illegal, and anyone who makes a medical diagnosis without having the necessary medical qualifications is committing a criminal offense. No ifs or buts”.

    Actually, there’s at least one very big “if or but”. To pronounce that a person IS mentally ill is to make a diagnosis. To look at a person and find ourselves unable to see any signs of mental illness, and therefore to work on the assumption that they aren’t, is not illegal and is something that we all do every day. If a person goes to see their chiropodist, and they appear completely sane and rational, is the chiropodist committing a criminal offense by assuming that they aren’t mentally ill and therefore not putting them on the next bus to the doctor’s? I never once said or implied that exorcists should make a diagnosis of mental illness. What I did say was that if the person displayed symptoms that a medical layperson – such as an exorcist – would reasonably consider to be potential signs of mental illness they should seek medical intervention.
    This is not diagnosing mental illness. This is referring someone to a professionally competent person who is able to make such a diagnosis. In fact, this course of action, far from being illegal, is exactly what health care professionals recommend:

    “Diagnosing a mental health condition can only be done by a qualified health professional. But there are some symptoms that may raise awareness that there’s a concern brewing. Knowing more about the symptoms of various mental health conditions, and how they are diagnosed, can help you better understand if you or a loved one is in need of help”. (http://mentalhealth.about.com/od/problems/Mental_Illness_Mental_Disorders.htm)

    You may also be interested to know that there are no tests that can be carried out to diagnose mental illness. See for example: “…while people are led to believe a diagnosis of mental illness or having a mental disorder is based on medical evidence or tests that these disorders are legitimate medical conditions, the fact is they are simply based on checklists of behaviours”. (http://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-disorders/)
    Blimey, Skeptic, what a disaster! Even medical professionals can only diagnose mental illness by observation, which reduces them to the rank of eyewitness! All we have is their anecdotal testimony of what they saw when they examined the patient! Mental illness can’t be examined or proved by science in a laboratory! I suppose that’s good news in a way, because if mental illness can’t be proven by science then, according to you, it can’t exist. Or at the very least, we should work on the assumption that it doesn’t exist.

    Again, by cherry-picking some of my words and grossly distorting their obvious meaning, you’ve proved a) that you will stoop to any lengths to win an argument, and/or b) that you are incapable of understanding plain English.

    “You know exorcists who do that, don’t you?”

    What? Exorcists who don’t make assumptions that a person may be mentally ill when they don’t appear that way? Yes. I know florists, farmers and refuse collectors who do exactly the same thing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who acts differently.

    “Anecdotal evidence or personal testimony is limited in its usefulness”.
    Okay, so now you’re back-pedalling furiously now. You started off by saying, “Anecdotal evidence and personal testimony are …. worthless in terms of trying to prove something so important where people’s lives are at stake)”. I proved you wrong, so now you’ve modified your stance and instead of labelling personal testimony as “worthless”, you now say that it is merely “of limited usefulness”.
    “If, as you suggest, a crime is witnessed, then keep in mind first of all that crimes are real”.

    Breathtaking. Why didn’t anyone realise this before? I presume you believe that crime is real because we can collect forensic evidence that would satisfy your obsession with scientific validation. But you also believe in mental illness, for which there are no “tests”, but merely interpretations based upon eyewitness testimony. So, when hundreds of people, including astronauts, scientists and military personnel say that they have seen proof that UFOs exist, should their testimony not be accepted? Not according to you, for you only allow such testimony to be classed as valid when it supports something you personally believe in. You’re happy to accept the eyewitness testimony of health care experts when they assert that a mental illness exists, but not the eyewitness testimony of other experts when they affirm that UFOs exist. More cherry-picking, Skeptic, as anyone who reads your blog will have confidently come to expect.

    “They do happen and there is no dispute about that. But human memory is not like a video recording that is simply replayed. Memory is a complex phenomenon that can be affected by many different factors. It is fragmentary and has to be reconstructed – sometimes with totally wrong results. There have been many miscarriages of justice because of mistaken witness testimony (the innocent being convicted; the guilty walking free)”.

    True, and yet despite its failings eyewitness testimony plays a very important evidential role. In any case, you’re completely missing my point – that eyewitness testimony can be very weak or incredibly strong depending on its nature; something that you studiously avoid commenting on or responding to. That’s a very rocky road for you to go down, though, isn’t it, for to do so would dictate you should perhaps accept the reality of paranormal phenomena which have strong anecdotal evidence attached to them. If a large group of people testify unanimously that they clearly saw Person A stab Person B, then only an idiot would disallow such evidence in court, or suggest that the nature of human memory is so fickle that such testimony can’t be relied upon. Human memory may not be perfect, but it isn’t that bad.

    “Science is NOT decided in a court of law, it is decided by verifiable hypothesis testing that can be replicated by independent researchers. Science would not get very far if it depended on some clever lawyer being able to convince a lay jury that one scientist’s theory should be accepted rather than another’s.”

    But we aren’t talking about lawyers. We’re talking about witnesses. If I say that I’ve seen a living extraterrestrial creature in an underground government bunker, and you say that I definitely haven’t, the truth isn’t going to be decided by science – it’s going to be decided by the simple revelation of the evidence. Is the creature there or not? No one suggested that science could ever be decided in a court of law – you introduced one of the “straw men” arguments that you’re so keen on throwing at others, there – my argument was that anecdotal evidence can be important in deciding whether an event occurred or not. Please do try to read my statements before responding to them.

    “But whichever way you look at it, observing a phenomenon does not say anything about what is really going on”.

    Except in the case of mental illness, when merely “observing a phenomenon” is accepted as validating it in your opinion. Cherry-picking yet again.

    “One person might see a UFO/alien space ship if they believe in them; another person, like me, might see only what can be observed – a strange light in the sky, but without making assumptions that go beyond the observations”.

    And the credible eyewitnesses who have gone public and admitted they’ve actually seen or touched these craft and on occasion even entered them – just what were they “mistaking”, then? In any event, why should I believe you when you say you saw a light in the sky? After all, that’s just useless anecdotal evidence, remember?

    “The same goes for a possession: if that’s what you believe, then that is what you will see”.

    Unless I see something different, of course. Just because I believe in the reality of possession doesn’t mean that I’ll “see” it every time. Actually, YOU are the one with that problem, All you’ll see is mental illness, because that’s the ONLY explanation you believe in. And it’s all you’ll ever see, because you don’t have the vision to consider that anything other than what you choose to believe in might have any objective reality. You can’t say that about exorcists, of course, the vast majority of whom – at least those I know and know of – acknowledge the reality of mental illness. Exorcists are rational enough to consider other possibilities – unlike the skeptics of your ilk who at best pay lip service to them only.

    “This is the reason why many people think that psychics are real. I’ve met a lot of people who are convinced that some psychic told them things “they couldn’t possibly have known.” I, however, recognize the cold reading tricks that are used by such people”.

    As do I and my colleagues, but not all instances can be explained away this easily.

    “A lawyer might convince a naive jury that psychics are real, but it would take a series of properly controlled scientific tests to convince science that psychics have the paranormal powers they claim.”

    That’s fine. Neither psychics nor paranormal researchers will be screaming with anguish at the thought that most scientists don’t believe in their abilities. You have set your stall out. You will only believe in things that can be proven by science, despite the fact that the beliefs and teachings of science keep changing. I’m happy when science proves things, as I’m not anti-science, but I also believe that there are ways of proving things beyond the arena of science. Strong, harmonious testimony from multiple credible eyewitnesses is valuable in establishing the veracity of things, even if they can’t be “tested” scientifically. Sometimes we can only rely on this, as scientific tests simply don’t exist in that circumstance.

    “So far, psychics have all failed properly controlled tests, and the famous ones tend to refuse to take part in such tests. Is it because they can foretell their failures, I wonder?”

    Alas, your own psychic powers seem to have deserted you, for numerous skeptics, including Uri Geller (I presume he’s “famous” enough for you), have been so tested, sometimes with impressive results. Some famous magicians have accused Geller of fraud – to their cost – but others have investigated his claims and reached different conclusions. Back in the 1970s, William Cox organized a committee of members belonging to the Society of American Magicians to ‘investigate false claims of ESP’. It’s obvious that from the outset they were sceptical, then. However, Geller was tested by Cox and his associates and, despite their careful, professional scrutiny, they could find no fraud. On one occasion Cox held a thick, metal key with one finger on a table and watched as it bent with Geller standing nearby.

    Geller did better than this when I and a fellow columnist interviewed him. He bent my own door key (to the point where it was unusable) without it even being taken from my pocket. Please don’t even think about suggesting that Geller managed to surreptitiously remove my key from my trouser pocket – it was attached to my belt by a chain – bend it and then return it without my knowledge. My colleague and I, amongst others, were witnesses to this, but as this is all just anecdotal evidence then we can’t prove it “scientifically”. Mind you, that shouldn’t stop you trying to explain it scientifically – please feel free to have a stab at it.

    “Even if anyone wants to claim that any paranormal pnemomenon [sic] has been proven – by some of the most famous names in parapsychology – it is still a fact that remote viewers do not find survivors in the rubble after an earthquake…”

    Well, it has been claimed that psychics have located bodies in other types of disaster – but none of them would satisfy your rigorous standards of proof, of course.

    “…psychics do not solve crimes…”

    Actually, this just isn’t true. Psychics have indeed helped solve a number of cases. True, some later turned out not to be as spectacular as they first seemed (although there was no suggesting of hoaxing) but many have never been explained away. Here’s just one article I selected at random. The last case is quite interesting (pp. 2-3) http://www.wmtw.com/Special-Report-Psychics-Playing-Role-In-Solving-Crimes/-/8792672/9569362/-/oiodvcz/-/index.html

    “…dowsers do not clear minefields…”

    No, but they do find water and other substances underground.

    “…and possession is not proven except to the satisfaction of those who believe in it anyway”

    This has to be one of the most unscientific, nonsensical statements I’ve ever read – even by your standards. If this assertion were true, then not a single person would have ever gone from being a disbeliever to a believer in possession, to which thousands upon thousands of people have given the lie. I know many myself. They have seen the proof and been convinced by it.

    “It’s standard procedure by believers in any kind of paranormal phenomenon to claim that this stuff is spontaneous, etc., and any other excuse they can think of for why it can’t be tested”.

    Well, many paranormal phenomena do occur spontaneously. Cryptids such Sasquatch and Ogopogo do not normally announce their forthcoming appearances in the press – but then again nor do any other animals. When was the last time a seagull sent you a postcard telling you just when it was going to fly over your house? Psychics who have dreams do not normally get a warning that they’re going to have them and told to have a notebook ready. But then again, how many dreams do YOU have where you receive advanced warning of them? When UFOs invade our skies, they do not warn us in advance. But then again, when foreign powers of a terrestrial nature invade the airspace of others they don’t advertise it in advance either.

    In other words, most paranormal phenomena occur spontaneously just like their non-paranormal equivalents. You refer to this spontaneity as, “this and any other excuse they can think of”. This proves that you really have no desire to study paranormal phenomena or possession objectively, for you inherently ascribe base motives to those who believe in them. By accusing them of making “any excuses they can think of”, you’re actually stating that they deliberately spend time TRYING to think of ways to avoid the truth. Actually, this is “standard procedure” for die-hard, narrow-minded skeptics: “If all else fails, just assassinate their characters and accuse them of deceit – that should do it”.

    “If, as you imply, there are mental health professionals who believe in possession, then they must be relying on the scientific evidence published in peer reviewed academic journals”.

    Why “must they”? Because Skeptic deems that it must be so, and thus it is? Mental health professionals may believe in the reality of possession for any number of reasons.

    “You don’t need to trouble yourself showing me the non-accredited research you have…”

    Your psychic powers have returned, then. In any event, it’s no trouble.
    “…post the references for the scientific papers and I will be able to access them through the internet or the university library system”.
    Another little hint at your academic status, there! You often accuse me of “appealing to authority”. It seems the authority you appeal to most, directly or indirectly, is yourself. Can you point to where I said the material I had comprised of scientific papers? No; more disingenuity. If you want to see the materials I’ve collected then come and do just that. I made you a genuine offer, and now you’re trying to dictate the terms of how it’s going to operate. That won’t do. Remove your head from your cauldron of science-obsession and try to stop reducing everything down to numbers. Why not take up my offer as it stands? Oh, I forgot; because you think I don’t know who you are, meeting me personally would compromise your anonymity, wouldn’t it?

    “Anyway, you’re entitled to your faith; I’ll stick with evidence-based research.”

    Mmmm…except that the only things you ever seem to accept evidence for – at least to date – are things you already believe in. Which, ironically, is what you accuse people like me of doing.

    “One more thing: there is an old saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.””

    I know I’ve heard it. (Mind you, that’s just my anecdotal evidence, so I could be telling fibs).

    “You should keep that in mind when you are criticising the grammar of others. All over the internet, when you are answering your critics, you have a tendency to pick bits of other people’s posts and pepper them with the term “sic.” OK, that is meant to indicate that the relevant passage should be read as it is written, and you use it liberally to indicate what you think are mistakes made by others.”

    Correct up to now, apart from the nit-picking bit, which is purely your subjective interpretation of my motives. You have more than anecdotal evidence to support this assertion, I presume?

    Let’s just pause for a moment. Just how do you know that those appearances of “sic” which you say appear, “all over the internet” are my doing? The answer, of course, is that when I write something I have the courage of my convictions and always put my name to it. Unlike you, who refuses to do so. I admit I’ve repeatedly criticised your policy of hiding in the shadows, and it’s interesting that whenever I raise the issue your normal tactic is simply to ignore it completely. (It will be interesting to see if you do that here). No response. No justification. No explanation. Just silence. If I irritate people in my writing then they know who to criticise. If I make errors, grammatical or otherwise, they know who to blame. That’s because I’m honest and open. I’m prepared to put my hands up and say mia culpa if I mess up. You don’t. When you’re proved wrong, you just ignore people’s rebuttals when you can’t offer a valid response. To avoid this becoming obvious, you try to deflect attention from your fault by unjustly accusing others of the same thing. You accuse me of being “evasive”, and yet a trawl through our correspondence shows that I always answer your criticisms head on and never avoid them. You, on the other hand, have evaded dozens of my points. You’re right, Skeptic; people who live in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones. In your case, it’s a glass house with whitewashed windows so no one can peek in and see who you really are.

    “Personally, I accept that small errors and typos can creep into anyone’s writing – even my own – but I do not see the need to highlight trivial points as long as the other person’s meaning is still clear”. Doing that as much as you do marks you out as a wannabe intellectual”.

    No, it actually marks you out as a wannabe writer. In any event, if you are a real intellectual, and I’m only a wannabe, why do you continually run away from my offer of a live debate? Such an event would be a “no contest”, surely? Unless, of course, you’re not really as confident in your own intellectual prowess as you make out…

    Of course errors can creep in. They creep into my work too; the unintentional use of colloquialisms, errors of syntax…it happens to the best of us. The Latin sic erat scriptum simply means “thus it was written”, and is merely used to indicate that the error was in the original text, and was not introduced by the copier. Amateur scribblers like yourself always seem to take this as a criticism, as if its introduction is meant to belittle the original writer. It isn’t. It simply helps the reader understand where the original error occurred; something that is crucial when engaging in research. Mind you, I’m sure you already knew that, being such an intellectual and all.

    “Is your own grammar satisfactory?”

    Yes, of course it is. It would have been hard to operate as a freelance journalist and author for over a quarter of a century had my grammar not been satisfactory. As I proofread for authors and publishers, it can’t be that bad. Is my grammar brilliant? No. Better than many professional journalists, just possibly, but I’m not heralding myself as the best language technician that ever lived. I’m just much better than you, that’s all, even though you seem to be one of the brightest stars in the intellectual firmament.

    “There is one phrase you use regularly, so it isn’t just a typo…”

    Of course it isn’t a typo. A typo is when you hit keys inadvertently when you meant to hit others. What you are referring to is not a typo, but an error. Okay; so far all you’ve demonstrated is that you don’t understand the meaning of the word typo. Moving on…

    “…which usually goes, “Darren and I’s book…” What a howler…. Why don’t you look it up and find out how to refer to yourselves properly in that context?”

    I don’t have to, as I already know. What you fail to appreciate is that many “cardinal sins” of grammar and syntax – do you want me to point out your own “howlers” which demonstrate that you don’t know the difference between the two? – are no longer hanging offences. For example, it is now standard practice only to capitalise the first letter of an acronym (Nasa instead of NASA) which irritates me immensely. The phrase you quote would make the hair of many a conservative editor curl; and others not even blink an eye. Paste the phrase into the following on-line grammar checkers and you’ll see that they don’t even recognise it as an error now:
    https://ed.grammarly.com/register/signup/report_pale/?newv=1
    http://www.free-grammar-check.com/spell-checker/
    http://www.reverso.net/spell-checker/english-spelling-grammar/
    The following suggests – and if you try it you’ll see that it is only a suggestion – we use, “Darren’s and my book” instead.
    http://spellcheckplus.com/

    Technically the phrase, “Darren and I’s book” breaks convention, but like many other technical breaches of the “rules” of grammar it is steadily losing its “criminal” status. When writing, three things need to be taken into consideration; making the text accurate, making the text readable with the minimum of effort on the part of the reader And making the text grammatically correct. The three need to be balanced. Sometimes phrases may be grammatically correct, but just don’t sound right. They are, to use a journalistic term, “awkward”. Take the word “family” for example. Technically the word family should be rendered in the singular: “When I interviewed the family, it said..” which is awful. The options are to reword the sentence as, “When I interviewed the members of the family, they said…” or, “When I interviewed the family, they said…” Now the latter is technically incorrect, but a writer may use it either because he or she is on a tight word budget or because it just sounds better. Do we write “its” or “it’s”? Some now say one or the other constantly, other say it depends on the context. Opinions differ. In the possessive, do we add an “s” to the end of a name which already ends in an “s”, such as, “I found Mrs. Roberts’s purse…” or simply write, “I found Mrs. Roberts’ purse…” Opinions now differ.

    Sometimes, the rules of grammar can be suspended for the sake of fluidity. Personally, I find the phrase, “Darren’s and my book” awkward, and prefer, “Darren and I’s book.” It’s perfectly clear what the words mean, but if you want to make a big issue out of it go ahead. You’re correct, technically, and if you let your readers know how many books, articles and columns you’ve had published we’ll be able to assess your experience in this area.

    “Should I give examples of your own mistakes even just on this thread?”

    As you have singularly failed to address many of the important points raised in my last post, and have as yet failed to answer any of them successfully, you may as well abandon the issue of possession and shift to grammar and syntax. That’s what people do when they’re desperately trying to hang on to their credibility whilst losing a debate, so go knock yourself out.

    “You said, for example, “Lifestyle: There are certain modes of living, largely (but not exclusively) cultural, which can make a Jinn vulnerable to Jinn possession.”

    That was an error, plain and simple, caused by a brief lapse in concentration. My bad. The word should have been “person”, obviously.

    “Oh, did you really mean that a Jinn can be vulnerable to possession by another Jinn?”

    No. It was a mistake. An error.

    “Or were you referring to the possibility of a PERSON being vulnerable to possession by a Jinn?”

    Yes.

    “I took that just to be a typo…”

    Which it wasn’t. It was an error.

    “…and not worth picking out as a mistake due to ignorance or carelessness…”

    But you should do, and have every right to; not to intimate that it was done out of ignorance or carelessness (although it was admittedly the latter) but simply to point out to readers that the mistake was mine and not yours. Again, you demonstrate your ignorance in this field by assuming that to do this involves some sort of personal attack.

    “…but if you insist…”

    It was more of a handy hint from a professional writer to an amateur one, really, but don’t get upset about it.

    “I will treat it accordingly”

    Fine.

    “Or just the standard, “Possession is real.” (sick)”

    My, how I laughed. It must have taken you an age to think that one up. What a comedian. I wouldn’t give up your day job just yet, though.

    Like

  8. Mike,

    You have a talent for sophistry, but most of my readers will be able to see through your wall of obfuscation. What you have written is just
    a variation of what is known as the “Gish Gallop.”

    http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4815973437146973&pid=1.7&w=175&h=141&c=7&rs=1

    “The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half truths, lies and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time.”

    That’s the general definition, although I wouldn’t accuse you of telling lies; I really do think you genuinely believe the stuff you write.
    Whichever way you look at it, though, the only thing you have proven is that you have failed to prove the reality of possession. That’s what this is about, of course. I think it is clear by now that your stance on alleged possession is a faith-based position that you cannot back up with either testable evidence or proof. Why not just admit that? I don’t criticise people for having faith, I criticise them when they promote faith or belief as though it is the same as fact.

    You have also proven that you have no understanding of logic.
    And why are you so obsessed with the idea of having a public debate? People we rely on – doctors, as an example – do not qualify on the basis of audience applause, after all, they qualify only by proving objectively that they can do what they were trained to do.

    Then again, that is why mental health professionals MUST work within the boundaries of the scientific training they have had. If they relied on subjective beliefs rather than empirical evidence they would soon find themselves struck off the medical register. That’s not a problem in your line of work, of course – there is no governing body in place to test the competence of paranormal investigators or maintain professional standards. Or is there? Who licenses and supervises you?

    You gave a link to a newspaper article that says that some psychics helped to solve some crimes. Was that a joke – or were you being serious? If that was a serious effort to provide evidence, then you really have no idea why rational people criticise you. I realise that you expect your readers to accept the things you claim just because you say so, but that isn’t good enough when something as important as people’s lives are at stake.

    In any case, I have exactly the same qualifications you have in relation to all matters paranormal, i.e., none at all. There are none to be had, as you told me on another website. You say it is real; I say, prove it. But you obviously can’t; that is the basis of the criticisms you come in for, not just from me, but most of the others who criticise you. This, for example, from a website that actually believes in the paranormal:

    http://www.ghosttheory.com/2009/06/18/a-year-later-where-is-the-south-shields-evidence

    Yes – where is the evidence? (The four consecutive comments there from your colleague Darren are really illuminating. You should get over there and correct his grammar and admonish him for making an anonymous comment as well. Anonymous? We can’t have that, can we? And while you’re at it, give him permission to post on this blog. We don’t mind a laugh here at Skeptic Central, even though you made a snide comment about my own sense of humour.)

    But there is an important point you are missing. You often say that you have studied the paranormal for over forty years, and you suggest that those who have not put in that kind of study have no right to complain. You are forgetting one very important thing – you have spent all that time studying something that is not proven. If it were proven, then there would be no controversy.

    Seriously, though, I sincerely hope that you do not find yourself involved in one of the many exorcisms that result in the death of some unfortunate victim of your particular superstition. Some people have already found out that they cannot talk their way out of a murder or manslaughter charge on the basis of their unsubstantiated beliefs.

    Anyway, I don’t doubt that you truly believe that the former stage magician Uri Geller (one of my favourite psychics) has paranormal powers. And you obviously believe that you can’t be fooled. Believe it or not, there are even some people who think that if Geller is not allowed to control the situation, i.e., use his own spoons, or at least have access to the various objects he uses in his repertoire before a performance, then his powers just fail to appear. Perish the thought!

    And this:

    I would like to see Geller confound all of his critics by submitting to a properly controlled series of tests, but he won’t. And your own personal anecdote just won’t do, because it cannot be verified.

    Then again, I and many others would like to see YOU confound your critics. So why not just cut the blather and prove your claims in a way that can be objectively tested?

    Like

  9. “The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half truths, lies and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time.”
    And here’s me thinking you were just lazy. Of course, if you didn’t write so much tosh I wouldn’t have to go into such detail refuting it. Thank you for expanding my repertoire of scientific terminology, Skeptic. I like Gish Gallop. It’s so precise.
    “Whichever way you look at it, though, the only thing you have proven is that you have failed to prove the reality of possession.”
    Of course, using your own, tailor-made criteria. In any case, as I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t have any interest in proving anything to you as what you think really doesn’t matter to me that much. Those of us who have seen the reality of possession don’t need any convincing.
    “ That’s what this is about, of course.”
    No its not. Its about you making fatuous, ill-founded critiques of what I write, and me shooting you down in flames every time you do so.
    “I think it is clear by now that your stance on alleged possession is a faith-based position”.
    My stance on it is faith-based, yes, in part, but my belief in it is based upon my research and what I’ve observed.
    “… that you cannot back up with either testable evidence or proof.”
    Of course, I offered to meet with you and help you access material that might very well convince you, but for some strange reason you were reluctant to accept my offer. For someone who ostensibly seems so keen to get to the bottom of the possession enigma that’s odd. Unless you’re just paying lip-service to being a crusader for truth.
    “Why not just admit that?”
    “What, that I offered to meet with you and let you see my library of material on possession, but you didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to agree?
    “I don’t criticise people for having faith”.
    I’ll not start, as I might not be able to stop.
    “I criticise them when they promote faith or belief as though it is the same as fact.”
    And that’s where you fall down, for faith can’t be reduced to a collection of provable facts. Faith wouldn’t be faith if that was the case, as it also contains a significant element of human experience. Faith touches upon such things as emotion, one’s perception of reality and the purpose of existence. People like you can’t deal with that, as all you’re good at is number-crunching. You accuse people of faith of stretching things beyond the reach of scientific proof. The truth is that your imagination is incapable of stretching beyond the boundaries of materialistic dogma. You make unrealistic demands for proof; proof by science in matters of faith. People who have faith don’t need such proof, and usually have little interest in looking for it simply to satisfy the whims of those who appear incapable of accepting that there are things that their beloved science simply can’t accommodate.
    “You have also proven that you have no understanding of logic.”
    Well, so you say. I suspect that it’s not my lack of understanding that’s the issue, but your lack of vision.

    “And why are you so obsessed with the idea of having a public debate?”
    Oh, it isn’t an obsession. The only reason I’ve had to repeat my offer of a public debate is that you have spent so much time running away from it.
    “People we rely on – doctors, as an example – do not qualify on the basis of audience applause”.
    I’ve suspected that for a while.
    “…after all, they qualify only by proving objectively that they can do what they were trained to do”.
    And this has what to do with you and I having a public debate, exactly? As I thought, nothing. Despite your convoluted excuses for not having a debate, the reasons I’d like one are simple. You keep repeating the same old mantra that I make claims for which there is no proof. You accuse me of “appealing to authority”, whilst you are the most guilty of all. You appeal to your own assumed authority and that of your deity, science. You belittle much of what I write, and accuse me – with absolutely no proof – of evading your challenges. In fact, I respond to all of your challenges. You evade mine. I’ve proved categorically that you’ve made false claims about me and challenged you to either admit your mistakes or prove me wrong. Now I’m prepared to go head-to-head with you, in public, and sort all of these issues out in front of an audience. If you’re so confident that you have both the high ground and the advantage on these matters, there’s simply no logical reason why you shouldn’t accept my challenge and humiliate me in public. But you won’t accept my challenge, for you know full-well that it would be you who would come off worst in such an exchange. So, let me make it simple for you. I’ll agree not to embarrass you by pointing out all of your false allegations about me, if you’ll agree to debate me on just one topic. My suggestion – and that’s all it is – would be the UFO enigma, as it is topical, of interest to the public and one regarding which you’ve made the most belligerent statements in our exchanges. What have you got to lose? You’re the educated, scientifically-orientated academic and I’m the deluded paranormalist, right? It should be a stroll in the park for you. No obsession there, then – just an attempt to get you to man-up and put your money where your academic mouth is. Or, you could just continue to run scared and keep coming up with more ingenious excuses.
    “Then again, that is why mental health professionals MUST work within the boundaries of the scientific training they have had. If they relied on subjective beliefs rather than empirical evidence they would soon find themselves struck off the medical register.”
    Actually, that’s not quite true. As I pointed out in a previous post, the diagnosis of mental illness relies heavily on subjective opinion and eyewitness testimony.
    “That’s not a problem in your line of work, of course – there is no governing body in place to test the competence of paranormal investigators or maintain professional standards. Or is there? Who licenses and supervises you?”
    Do you really want me to list the vast array of subjects that many authors specialise in – authors who aren’t supervised by any governing body or licensing authority , but who, through decades of hard work and research, have become both competent and knowledgeable in their fields? Why would I need to be licensed, and who would decide whether such a license was necessary or whether I was entitled to one? Don’t tell me; scientists and academics, right?
    “You gave a link to a newspaper article that says that some psychics helped to solve some crimes. Was that a joke – or were you being serious? If that was a serious effort to provide evidence, then you really have no idea why rational people criticise you.”
    Actually, it’s you who really has no idea how to string two consecutive thoughts together – or grasp what those who take you to task are really saying. The reference was not offered as proof or evidence. As I specifically stated, that was just, “one article I selected at random”, and the only comment I made about it was that, “the last case is quite interesting”.
    As usual, you resort to your well-rehearsed tactic of putting words in my mouth and making inaccurate assertions. It’s all you can do, isn’t it?
    “I realise that you expect your readers to accept the things you claim just because you say so…”
    Well you need to get your deductive powers taken in for an MOT, then, for I have NEVER claimed that I want my readers to accept ANYTHING “just because I say so”. I have consistently taken the stance that I will provide my readers with material concerning which they must draw their own conclusions, which is why I often end my columns with phrases such as, “Well, what do readers think?” Yet again you’ve made a completely baseless accusation for which you have no proof – strange, considering you spend so much time demanding proof from me. Double standards, I think.
    “…but that isn’t good enough when something as important as people’s lives are at stake.”
    Okay, let’s look at what you’re saying here. You state that I want “readers to accept the things [I] claim just because [I] say so”, and infer that by doing so I might potentially be compromising the lives of other people. Now the first statement is untrue, but even if it was true I challenge you to reference just where I’ve done such a thing. I suspect you’ll try and justify your statement by reverting to the possession issue, but if you recall I laid down very specific criteria in this regard, so can you show me a) where I have asked people to believe something “just on my say so”, and/or b) where such an assertion put people’s lives at risk? No? Thought not. I’ll add your retraction to my list of overdue apologies.
    “In any case, I have exactly the same qualifications you have in relation to all matters paranormal, i.e., none at all.”
    Excellent! So if we’re both on an even footing on that score, you have even less reason to avoid a debate on some paranormal phenomenon.
    “There are none to be had, as you told me on another website.”
    Happily that has now changed, I’ve been told. There are qualifications to be had. Not that you’d accept them as having any value, mind you…
    “ You say it is real; I say, prove it. But you obviously can’t…”
    This just gets better. If you’re right, and I can’t prove “it” (whatever “it” is) then your victory in any forthcoming debate is categorically assured.
    “…that is the basis of the criticisms you come in for, not just from me, but most of the others who criticise you. “
    So let’s get this straight for the record. I write about things, but make no demands upon my readers that they believe them. You and others demand proof of what I say, and also assume the right to lay down the criteria for what sort of proof will be acceptable, even though I have no interest in providing you with such proof and am under no obligation to do so. You then say, “Well I won’t believe you, then”, to which I reply, “Who cares?”
    This has the makings of a scintillating argument.
    “This, for example, from a website that actually believes in the paranormal:
    http://www.ghosttheory.com/2009/06/18/a-year-later-where-is-the-south-shields-evidence
    Yes – where is the evidence? (The four consecutive comments there from your colleague Darren are really illuminating. You should get over there and correct his grammar and admonish him for making an anonymous comment as well. Anonymous? We can’t have that, can we? And while you’re at it, give him permission to post on this blog. We don’t mind a laugh here at Skeptic Central, even though you made a snide comment about my own sense of humour.)”
    I’m devastated. Where do I go from here? You’ve printed someone else’s assertion that Darren’s grammar isn’t perfect. Then – I love this one – you repeat a statement that Darren made ONE anonymous posting on that website. Would you like to enlighten your readers as to just how many ANONYMOUS postings you’ve made over the years? More to the point, would you like to tell us how many you’ve made that WEREN’T anonymous in comparison? Have there been any, in fact? You’re a piece of work, Skeptic, you really are. You say that this is “a website that actually believes in the paranormal” (There’s a paranormal first – a sentient website that actually possesses self-awareness and the power to formulate beliefs) yet in the quotation you post they describe themselves as “Skeptic Central”! They obviously share your sense of scientific objectivity, then. No wonder they’ve got you impressed.
    “But there is an important point you are missing. You often say that you have studied the paranormal for over forty years, and you suggest that those who have not put in that kind of study have no right to complain. You are forgetting one very important thing – you have spent all that time studying something that is not proven. If it were proven, then there would be no controversy.”
    This is an interesting assertion, apart from the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever. According to you I’ve said and/or asserted that I’ve “studied the paranormal for over forty years”. This is true, but you then say I’ve asserted that, “those who have not put in that kind of study have no right to complain.” Now I’m not saying that I didn’t say this, but I’d like you to provide a reference so that I can see the context in which I allegedly said it. Complain about what? Reference, please.
    But here’s the nonsensical bit: “You are forgetting one very important thing – you have spent all that time studying something that is not proven”.
    You really just can’t get it, can you? For all your posturing about academic understanding and scientific reasoning, you are utterly incapable of latching on to the most simple observation; that just because something isn’t proven to your satisfaction, it does not mean that everyone else will be of the same opinion. You are also incapable of understanding, apparently, that others may have different criteria when it comes to deciding what constitutes proof. So, to correct you, no, I haven’t spent over forty years studying something that isn’t proven. I’ve spent over forty years studying something that is proven to my satisfaction, but just not to yours. It irritates you that I will accept the reality of something and choose my own criteria in preference to yours. Well, you’ll just have to live with it.
    “ If it were proven, then there would be no controversy.”
    I’m still not sure what the “it” is you’re referring to, but in any case you’re wrong. You seem to be living in some bizarre Never-Never Land where things are either proven or not proven to the unanimous satisfaction of the entire populace. Nothing is ever “proven” to this degree. There are still people who believe that the earth is hollow. To you, of course, it was proven long ago that this isn’t so. But not everyone accepts that. You’ll say they’re wrong, but they’ll go on believing it anyway. Just because something is “proven” to you, or even the vast majority of people, the controversy won’t have ended, because you can bet your boots that someone out there will still think otherwise. Nothing has ever been proven to the degree where all controversy disappears, Skeptic.
    “Seriously, though, I sincerely hope that you do not find yourself involved in one of the many exorcisms that result in the death of some unfortunate victim of your particular superstition.”
    When you say, “involved”, just what do you mean? How do you know just how I “involve” myself in such cases, or what role, large or small, I might play? And how would you know that such involvement may be connected to the type of exorcism where deaths occur? In fact, how do you know that I involve myself in that type of exorcism at all? You say that these people are the victims of MY particular superstition. That’s a big accusation to make, Skeptic, particularly when you have so little facts at your disposal. Just exactly what “superstition” is it that you are referring to, and exactly what is it about that superstition that you believe to be dangerous? I can tell you straight away that you are completely wrong here, but I await the proof of your assertion so that I can refute it. If you don’t post your evidence for this serious accusation here – I mean, you hardly ever do, do you? – then we can all safely assume it’s just another one of your bogus allegations. (Don’t forget to check Skeptic’s response to this post, readers, to see if he can prove this assertion. He can’t, and he won’t).
    “Some people have already found out that they cannot talk their way out of a murder or manslaughter charge on the basis of their unsubstantiated beliefs”.
    My, that’s so true. The Nazi scientists found that out to their cost at the Nuremberg trials.
    “Anyway, I don’t doubt that you truly believe that the former stage magician Uri Geller (one of my favourite psychics) has paranormal powers. And you obviously believe that you can’t be fooled.”
    Another false allegation. I’ve never claimed that I can’t be fooled. However, I can categorically state that Uri Geller bent a key that never left my pocket, and he did it in front of witnesses. You’ve still to explain how he did that. Oh, I forgot – you don’t have to believe that he did it because I can’t prove it, can I? Well, at least not to your satisfaction.
    “ Believe it or not, there are even some people who think that if Geller is not allowed to control the situation, i.e., use his own spoons, or at least have access to the various objects he uses in his repertoire before a performance, then his powers just fail to appear. Perish the thought!”
    Perish the thought exactly. When he appeared at Newcastle a few years ago he walked into the audience, most of whom had brought spoons to bend, watches to fix, etc. Uri has told me he sometimes gets bored with doing this, but does it anyway as he knows the audience enjoys it. One man handed him a sturdy if somewhat battered spoon with a very thick handle. The man said, “Here you are – bend that!” Uri asked the man to balance the spoon on his upturned, outstretched index finger. He then placed the tip of his other index finger over the top of the handle and, after a minute or so, it slowly began to bend. There was no doubt about it; it BENT. Fortunately, Uri had asked the chap, a local businessman, if he would make a substantial donation to a local charity if the spoon did indeed bend. He agreed, and after the show the donation (I think it was £1,000, but I can’t be absolutely sure) was taken to a local hospital (a children’s unit of some kind as I recall). My colleague and I were only two feet or so away from the action, so to speak, and were as impressed as the spoon’s owner, who I don’t think would have parted with his dosh if Uri hadn’t come up with the goods. Of course, just because it LOOKED bent to everyone doesn’t count for anything does it? I mean, we’d have to MEASURE it and TEST it wouldn’t we, just to, you know, make sure? I mean just because a spoon LOOKS as if its REALLY bent counts for nothing – that’s just eyewitness testimony, and that’s useless, right? So no, Geller doesn’t always “use his own spoons”. And the key in my pocket wasn’t his either. And it still bent. Well, that’s what I reckon.
    “I would like to see Geller confound all of his critics by submitting to a properly controlled series of tests, but he won’t. And your own personal anecdote just won’t do, because it cannot be verified.”
    Of course.
    “Then again, I and many others would like to see YOU confound your critics. So why not just cut the blather and prove your claims in a way that can be objectively tested?”
    Why don’t you just cut he blather and post proof of YOUR claims about ME? Better still, stop hiding in the shadows and debate me in public? Nah, you’d need to think you had a chance of winning to do that, so it’s never going to happen, is it? Don’t demand proof from me when you simply can’t come up with any of your own.
    Oh, and seeing as you like good witnesses, here’s something for you to think about…

    Like

  10. Mike,
    That is the longest straw man argument I have ever encountered.
    It is also the longest red herring I have encountered.
    Let us get this back on track: you claim that possession is real, and that exorcism is a real method for solving that problem.
    Prove it.

    Like

  11. One of the fascinating things about your kindergarten-level abilities to carry on a debate is the woeful techniques you are forced to resort to in the absence of anything better. First, your use of unsubstantiated attacks in the vain hope that if you repeat them enough someone might actually believe them. Instead of dealing with specific points, you can do nothing other than repeat hackneyed lines, and phrases such as “straw man”, “red herring”, “prove it”, “blather” ad infinitum and yet you rarely if ever point to the straw men and red herrings you allude to. You just keep throwing out the phrases, devoid of all substance and support. You cherry-pick which of my challenges or arguments you respond to – when you do respond to them, that is – and yet ignore those regarding which you have nothing to offer. In my previous post I warned readers to look out for your response (or lack of it) when I pulled you up on one of your growing list of false allegations in the full knowledge that you wouldn’t have a response to offer. I was right. You just did what you always do; ignore it. I ask you for references, which as an alleged academic you should feel duty-bound to supply, particularly when you purport to be quoting the very person you’re attacking. Do you provide them? Nope, of course not. Do you have references to the things you allege I’ve said? You do? Great, then “prove it”.

    You have the gall to keep demanding “proof” from me, and yet when I invite you to see it personally you decline. You set parameters regarding proof which cannot be applied in isolation to issues with a faith-based aspect to them, run like a scared rabbit when asked to display your supposed intellectual superiority in a public debate and repeat with mind-boggling monotony your, “You believe this, so prove it” line even when I have given detailed explanations as to why the laboratory-table “proof” you demand is both inadequate and unreasonable. As usual, you ignore my responses and just repeat the mantras. If I keep my posts brief you accuse me of dodging, if I make them detailed you whine like a toddler that they’re too long.

    No wonder you prefer to remain anonymous. You bluster with confidence from behind your keyboard because you know its the only place you can debate from without opening yourself up to being dismantled at every turn. I even offered to turn over one of my columns to you so you could criticise me in detail before my own readers. What did you do? Run away again as usual; stalling and prevaricating whilst yelling, “Proof” Proof!” I’ve heard talking dolls with a better repertoire of stock phrases than you, and they usually make more sense.

    Keep throwing out your busted, implausible demands, Skeptic, along with your wet-tissue excuses for not letting people know who you really are. And while you’re on, don’t forget to ignore my request that you even tell your readers WHY you won’t tell them who you are. Keep repeating your tired, old mantras and ignoring questions you aren’t capable of handling. Keep scuttling away from my challenge to debate in public. All the snide comments, illogical arguments and non sequiturs .in the world won’t stop people from realising what the real reason is. If you really had any confidence in your stance, or in your ability to defend your corner against someone you clearly see as several rungs below you on the intellectual ladder, you would take up the gauntlet. You won’t because you can’t. You are a number-crunching reductionist who can’t cope with anything that can’t be poured into a test-tube. Do you have any guts at all when it comes to debating, Skeptic? You do? Really? Well, to coin that precious little mantra of yours again, “Prove it”.

    Like

  12. Mike,

    Those last comments of yours were completely off-topic. This thread is about alleged possession and exorcism. You have ignored that, and instead hurled a lot of abuse; that’s not very professional. Amateurish would be a better description. I suspect your live debating technique is the same.

    I will say this: if a phenomenon is real, it can be tested. Making excuses or offering ad hoc rationalisations about why certain phenomena cannot be tested is just an acknowledgement that you cannot prove the claims you make about supposed possession. You might as well admit it. You believe it on faith; that’s it.

    In the meantime, this sort of thing will continue:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-19993795

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19437130

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-17770794

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17255470

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6284688.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4269312.stm

    Just a few random examples, but the list goes on and on and on. Injury and death at the hands of exorcists is quite common.

    Death by mumbo jumbo.

    You can believe it all if you want to, that is your right, but you are using your access to publishing to condone – and even promote – a superstition that causes unnecessary suffering and deaths around the world every year. You are obviously not going to prove your claims, and people are going to continue dying as a result of exorcisms.

    If hurling abuse is the best you’ve got, it doesn’t seem like this dialogue can go any further.

    The fight for rationality will, however, go on.

    Like

  13. “Those last comments of yours were completely off-topic”.
    Reminds me of some of your comments about clothing, cameras and pitchforks.
    You’re the one who strayed off-topic, as you have often done. As for abuse, see my answer above. I won’t bore you with other examples. I know you don’t like long posts.
    “This thread is about alleged possession and exorcism. You have ignored that, and instead hurled a lot of abuse; that’s not very professional. Amateurish would be a better description. I suspect your live debating technique is the same”.
    Well, you’ll never know, will you, because you don’t have the courage to face up to me in a live debate. So all you can do is make wild assumptions.
    “I will say this: if a phenomenon is real…”
    It’s THE phenomenon. Possession. Not ”a” phenomenon or any old phenomenon. Be precise and stay on-topic.
    “… it can be tested.”
    Providing that an adequate test has been devised.
    “Making excuses or offering ad hoc rationalisations about why certain phenomena cannot be tested is just an acknowledgement that you cannot prove the claims you make about supposed possession.”
    No, it just proves that if you’re creative enough you can restrict your testing criteria in such a way your obsession with disbelief won’t be shaken.
    “You might as well admit it. You believe it on faith; that’s it.”
    Wish away…
    In the meantime, this sort of thing will continue:
    “Just a few random examples, but the list goes on and on and on. Injury and death at the hands of exorcists is quite common”.
    Of course, you could only say this if you knew a) how many exorcisms take place within a given space of time, and b) what percentage of them result in injury or death. Give me the stats to prove your comment has any value and isn’t just another of your usual baseless, cheap shots.
    “Death by mumbo jumbo.”
    And you call me abusive. Anyway, I like it. What a great title for your new improved blog when this one runs out of steam.
    “You can believe it all if you want to, that is your right…”
    Why, thank you.
    “… but you are using your access to publishing to condone – and even promote – a superstition that causes unnecessary suffering and deaths around the world every year.”
    Well, it’s only your opinion that its superstition, and I’ve already challenged you to prove this allegation in a previous post by providing references. As usual, you can’t because you just like flinging mud without any valid reason. The problem is that exorcism and possession are such broad fields that unless you are prepared to be more specific with your allegations and provide both proof and examples your assertion is baseless.
    “You are obviously not going to prove your claims, and people are going to continue dying as a result of exorcisms.”
    Keep mentioning “my claims”, “exorcisms” and “deaths” in the same sentence Skeptic . For someone who doesn’t believe in the Devil you certainly love using rookie-writer tactics to demonise people who don’t bow the knee to your pet ideas.
    “If hurling abuse is the best you’ve got, it doesn’t seem like this dialogue can go any further.”
    “If making completely false allegations about people and repeatedly refusing to justify them is the best you’ve got, then you don’t deserve for it to go any further.
    The fight for rationality will, however, go on.
    Cue trumpet blast with man thrusting the Sword of Truth aloft in background to thunderous applause …

    Like

  14. Mike,

    It’s not up to me or anyone else to disprove the extraordinary claims made by you and others. The burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim. That is especially true when people’s lives are at stake.

    You claim that possession is real, but you offer nothing to support your assertion. It has to be believed on faith.

    You claim that exorcism will cure possession, also with nothing to support your assertion. That, too, has to be believed on faith.

    That’s just not good enough when people are dying as a result of this – yes – mumbo jumbo.

    Like

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