This Is Getting Tedious

untitledThis post is fairly important to me, because I am allowing Mike Hallowell, who has, in the past, had comments I have made elsewhere about his paranormal and supernatural claims on the internet removed under the threat of legal action, the space to speak his own mind, uncensored, on my own blog. I believe in free speech, and I think that the way to counter a bad argument is with a better argument, not legal thuggery or any kind of threat or intimidation.

My last post detailed an actual weird experience I had that many other people would have assumed to be an actual encounter with a UFO (Alien Spaceship From Another Galaxy, for the dyslexic). But it turned out to be something more mundane; not the sort of thing a UFO “expert” wants to hear, of course, because rational explanations for extraordinary events are taboo for the woo fraternity. For them, the comforting belief in their fantasy is preferable to the objective reality that is actually out there, and if some of them can make some money from writing cobblers they truly and honestly believe, then that is the way it just happens to be.

I admit I included an “in-joke,” not intended for the casual reader of this blog, but with meaning to only a very small audience of sceptics who are “in on it,” although Mike Hallowell, self-proclaimed expert in matters paranormal (who has never proven any of his paranormal claims to the standards required by science or ordinary rationality), noticed it. And it seems to have hit a nerve.

Mike is rather sensitive when his various claims are exposed to scrutiny. It’s not just me who criticises him, of course, it must be almost a full time occupation for him chasing his critics around the internet, but in the process failing to recall the old maxim, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging!” (This is a good place to start if you want a flavour of what I mean.)

And so it is here. Mike submitted a comment to that last post, but I did  not publish his comment on that particular thread because it was, first of all, completely off-topic and did not address the subject of the post at all. It’s standard practice on blogs for the host to reject comments that do not contribute anything to the subject at hand. I think that’s fair enough, but I think it’s also fair to let him have his say while I demonstrate to him where he is going wrong with his petty outburst. Hence this new post.

Also, the comment he submitted included some of the false allegations that he has made numerous times in the past and seems to be prepared to continue indefinitely into the future. I think the best thing to do here is to nail those allegations once and for all, and maybe, if necessary, create a new section on the Bad Thinking blog to do that. For me, it will be much easier to have a specific area where my refutations of Mike’s comments can be dealt with for readers by clicking on a ready-made link, rather than me composing a new reply to old tropes every time Mike decides to go ballistic.

Here is Mike’s comment in full, with my responses, with my answers in red Times New Roman.

Mike Hallowell commented on My Very Own UFO

One thing that frustrates me when the woo folks have a tale to tell, i.e., some claim of the paranormal that sounds rather …

“Should I send it off for “expert analysis” and see if there are any “startling results” to follow?”

It doesn’t really matter, for in my experience you’ll have fibbers claiming you did this anyway even if you didn’t. I had an experience like this once, where a local” sceptic” made a similar claim about me. In fact, the accusation was drawn from an article written by another journalist entirely! You couldn’t make it up. The chap concerned claimed that I’d made such claims “many times” in one of my own columns. I challenged him to show me just one example, but he couldn’t, of course, as his accusation was complete fiction. I still read through our lengthy correspondence on the matter with fondness every now and then when my faith in the ability of our species to think creatively starts to wane.

Obviously, I am the “local sceptic” Mike is referring to. But he is being disingenuous here, and did not include a link to the article he means, nor did he quote me accurately. I have said elsewhere that Mike claims to send evidence away for analysis, and which returns startling results. That was sarcasm with a bit of hyperbole that went over his head. I have not claimed that he has made that claim “in one of his columns,” but he certainly has claimed to have sent evidence “away for analysis” and he has claimed to have received “startling results.” But his claims are empty anyway because he consistently refuses to release any of these alleged results for public scrutiny.

The article by “another journalist entirely” can be found here: Is This The Face Of The Salon Ghost?. That article appeared on 6th March, 2009 – more than five years ago. It is clear that the reporter interviewed Mike, whom she describes as a “Gazette columnist and ghost buster,” and there are several quotes by him. She also says, “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.” [Emphasis added] It appears to be a follow up article to this one about the same “haunted” salon published on 17th February 2009 (two prominent pieces of free publicity for a local business – not bad).

It is obvious that Mike must have said that to the reporter, even though it is not presented as a verbatim quote, and in any case it is standard journalistic practice to sometimes describe what someone has said without the need to put every single utterance into quotation marks. If Mike said to the reporter something like, “Oh, by the way, I’ve sent those snaps away to be analysed,” then reporting that he has said so is acceptable. At the end of the article, though, there is a direct quote from Mike: “Until they have been analysed further we can’t make any definite pronouncements…” Any reasonable interpretation of this article suggests that Mike Hallowell did indeed claim to have sent his snapshots away for analysis by some unnamed third party. (He did not say, “Until I have analysed…”)

Now here’s the problem: 1) Is Mike denying that he told the reporter that he has sent those pictures off for analysis? I have suggested to him in the past that if the reporter has misquoted him, or (even worse) just made it up (a serious ethical breach), then he should make a formal complaint to the Shields Gazette and demand a retraction and an apology. He could even threaten to sue them if they refuse to do so (he regularly threatens legal action against his critics, so this should be no different). If he is willing to let the article stand, then he is, by implication, accepting that it is a fair account of what he actually said. Assuming that The Shields Gazette and Mike Hallowell (freelance Gazette columnist paid money by that newspaper) are honest and dispassionate seekers and reporters of the truth, then there is no danger that The Gazette will refuse his request to retract or amend that article, nor will they drop his column if he wants to threaten them with such legal action to ensure that his personal integrity is maintained.

Then again, I’m a sceptic; I shouldn’t make assumptions, but you can if you want to.

Another problem: 2) I’m not aware of anyone – myself included – accusing Mike of writing that article. Where did that come from? There is no dispute that it was written by someone else. And so what? It is completely irrelevant. Also, I have not been able to find a follow-up article by the same reporter to tell us the results of the analysis of those photos that Mike told her he was sending away for that purpose, and I am also unable to find anything about them published by Mike himself. As I have also said in the past, when Mike says he has sent stuff away for analysis, no one, in my opinion, should be expecting to hear anything about them again. But you never know; after all this time the results of that analysis might be in now, so perhaps Mike will publicise it. (It is five years later, though, so personally I don’t really expect to hear anything about it again.)

And has Mike ever claimed to have had “startling results” returned from evidence that he has actually claimed to have sent away for analysis? Yes, indeed, although it’s not at all clear to me why this is such an important point to him – and it clearly is, because every time I refute it, he comes back with the same old trope as if it were the first time it had ever been brought up.

But here’s something sneaky: Mike challenged me some time ago on someone else’s blog to prove that he had ever made such a claim. I was happy to oblige, and I provided a link to his own website where it was stated that some audio recordings from one of his poltergeist investigations had been subject to analysis, and had returned, he claimed, startling results He says (above), “I challenged him to show me just one example, but he couldn’t, of course, as his accusation was complete fiction.” That is a false claim.by Mike. He challenged me to prove claims I made, even offering to pay £30.00 to charity if I did so. I did, but he decided that I did not and he therefore did not pay up. (The blog I am referring to is owned by my sceptical friend Brian, who has allowed me to identify him as the blogger who removed my comments under legal threat against him, rather than Mike Hallowell defeating me through logical argument. Although Brian focuses mostly on local political issues that might not be of much interest to people outside of South Shields, he is also a sceptic with an often  (Occam’s) razor-sharp insight into the world of woo. He and I discussed Mike Hallowell’s legal threat before he removed my comments, which he did with my agreement. But those comments of mine have been merely “unmodified.” They are still there in cyberspace and might be reinstated in light of the new Defamation Act introduced on 1st January this year. (The link I have given, if anyone is hardy enough to try to wade through it all, will not make an awful lot of sense in some places. With some of my comments removed at this time it seems a bit disjointed. When I contributed my comments, it was before I started my own blog, and I used to comment in various places under my old handle, “the skeptic.” After comments I made on the Shields Gazette website about the same article in the above link were removed, comments on Brian’s blog were removed under legal threat. That was the reason I started my own blog – my comments were taken down from Mike Hallowell’s newspaper column comments section for no good reason, and then other comments of mine were removed from someone else’s private domain through bogus legal threats. I decided to start my own blog where Mike Hallowell himself will not be censored (although he does that to others with threats of legal action in lieu of evidence to support his anti-scientific claims), and I will not be bullied into removing fair criticism of the unsubstantiated claims of uneducated people who claim expertise in subjects for which they have neither accredited training nor qualifications.) And before Mike Hallowell starts whining (again) that he had nothing to do with the removal of my comments from the Gazette website, I never did accuse him of doing so; it is just as likely that the Gazette removed them because they realised that my comments showed up their columnist as an ignoramus. Perhaps one might even consider the possibility that the technologically-savvy South Shields Poltergeist did it. Can anyone disprove a claim like that? No? It must be true, then, by Mike Hallowell’s own “logic” – the argument to ignorance – see below)

But did any of that resolve the issue? No, it didn’t, because after I posted the link, the words he complained about were changed on his website from “startling results” to “extremely interesting results.” Some people might think that that change is relatively minor and doesn’t make a great difference to the overall meaning, but it was obviously important to Mike, who has never let it drop. But the point is, when I rose to his challenge to show where he had ever said that evidence he had had analysed returned startling results, he changed the very words that would confirm what I had said.

Here are the before and after screenshots from his own website:

1_Before

1_After

Even in his magnum opus (The widely panned The South Shields Poltergeist) he says clearly (and get this if you want a laugh) that he sent  a copy of the alleged poltergeist’s handwriting away to a graphologist for, yes, analysis. (There is no copy of the graphologist’s analysis published, either. Startling results? Extremely interesting results? Mike has said before that he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone, so don’t expect too much.) And it’s pretty much the same with two “well qualified nurses” in the book who supposedly confirmed that the alleged injuries caused to one of the central characters in the same book must have been paranormal in origin. You might not be surprised to learn that these unnamed nurses, who did not give written testimony in the book as other witnesses did, have now transformed into the more vague, but still anonymous, “medical personnel.”

Hallowell snip 02

“The footage was reviewed by medical personnel experienced in treating such wounds and they stated categorically that it would have been absolutely impossible for such wounds to disappear in such a short space of time.”

Anyone who has seen this footage will know that it is poorly lit and of very poor quality; whatever is happening is indistinct at best, but “experienced nurses” or “medical personnel” had no problem with it. The footage that was on the internet shows, maybe, with a bit of imagination, some slight marks on the person’s back, but the “medical personnel”  presumably must have been able to discern the victim’s back being “slashed to ribbons,” as Mike puts it in the book. There’s not much chance of ever viewing it again, though, if you want to form an opinion of your own. After much criticism and laughter, Mike had it removed from the internet to save his blushes to protect his copyright.

Mike will probably want to come back on these points about his alleged book, but I hope he gives his underling colleague and co-author, Darren Ritson, permission to join in.

On a different note, I’d like to raise a couple of points about the following comment you made:

“The evidence for UFOs – Alien Spaceships From Another Galaxy (ASFAGs as I think they should be called) – is actually non-existent over and above anecdotal accounts.”

You claim (in opposition to many astronauts, pilots, police officers, astronomers, military personnel, scientists and others) that, “The evidence for UFOs…is actually non-existent over and above anecdotal accounts.” All those people who claim to have seen the hard evidence must be lying, I suppose. [Mike can suppose that if he wants to, but that is not my position on the matter. In any case, calling upon the status of those alleged witnesses is a fallacy called the appeal to authority.]

People like Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Major Gordon Cooper and others have reached their conclusion that UFOs exist because they have seen the hard evidence. [No, those astronauts have claimed to have seen the hard evidence. They have not produced it.] You have reached your conclusion that they do not exist based on a perceived absence of evidence when you are in no position to know. [I know that hard evidence of UFOs is not in the public domain. It would be pretty big news if it was.] I’m pretty sure I’m on safe ground when I say that their position is far more logical than yours. [No, it is illogical for people to believe extraordinary claims on nothing more than hearsay – whoever it might be who makes those extraordinary claims.]

Are all the expert witnesses lying, deluded or insane? [Perhaps some of them are; others are enjoying a lucrative income from the lecture circuit, writing Aliensabsurd books and articles and taking part in stupid TV programmes about UFOs, “ancient aliens,” and other assorted nonsense, also without producing a shred of testable evidence. They have motivation to be less than critical about the claims they make, even if they are sincere about it. Mike could have offered another possibility – are they, like many other people, merely susceptible to misinterpreting what they have experienced?] Many have said that they are prepared to testify before Congress regarding what they know at great risk to their careers. [I’d like to see it happen. They would be required to produce evidence to support their claims, but I think it’s unlikely that the American Congress wants to appear to the world to be giving a platform to a bunch of cranks.] The world awaits your judgement on the matter, although I think we already have a good idea what it might be. You once argued that witnesses like Dr. Mitchell could have been fed some rather dodgy info supporting the existence of UFOs to cover up a secret government project. [No, I didn’t “argue” that the US government was feeding “dodgy info” to anyone, I suggested that the US government might just not discourage people from thinking they have seen UFOs if they have actually witnessed top secret testing of new military projects. The military might even encourage people to maintain their false beliefs, although I think it is going a bit too far to assume they are actively “feeding” anyone “dodgy” information.] Not impossible in essence, but certainly impossible when one takes the evidence provided by Dr. Mitchell in its entirety; something you signally failed to do, if you recall, when you last tried to pour cold water on his testimony. [Mitchell’s testimony “in its entirety” is anecdotal, and not proof of anything: all talk, no substance.]

When Major Cooper testified before the UN to the existence of UFOs and their extraterrestrial occupants, was he fibbing too? [I don’t know. Did they believe him and then issue any kind of document, judgement or directive to confirm what he was claiming? Are his claims now official UN policy adopted and implemented by member countries? I didn’t see it if they did, and it is certainly the kind of thing the UFO people would publicise. I haven’t seen that, either.] Just what do you say to a veteran astronaut who states, “For many years I have lived with a secret…a secrecy imposed on all specialists in astronautics. I can now reveal that every day, in the USA, our radar instruments capture objects of form and composition unknown to us. And there are thousands of witness reports and a quantity of documents to prove this, but nobody wants to make them public. Why? Because authority is afraid that people may think of God knows what kind of horrible invaders. So the password still is: We have to avoid panic by all means”? [I think I would say something like, “Wow! That’s incredible! Show me all that evidence! (that you haven’t shown to anyone else).” And I might also say something like, “You, like all other military personnel of your rank, are entrusted with state secrets that you now want to blab about? Where I come from, that would be called treason. You are prepared to betray your military and your country? OK, then, give me all the documentation and I will pass it on to The Guardian newspaper while you make your escape to Russia and join your fellow countryman Edward Snowden, who also gave the game away (with incontrovertible evidence of his claims about the American government’s surveillance of not only its own citizens, but the citizens of countries all over the world.). Become a fugitive in the name of openness and truth and I will support you on my own blog. Oh, and pick up a million dollars from James Randi before you leave – it might come in handy.”]

Was Major Cooper lying when he said that a condition of secrecy had been imposed upon specialists in the field of astronautics? [Hardly; the Americans (and every other government) usually don’t want foreign powers to know what they are up to, so secrets “in the field of” just about anything is pretty normal. Non-governmental organisations (businesses for example) also require secrecy from some of their staff.] And why would such secrecy be imposed if these thousands of sightings were simply misattributions? [It might be because if the US government exposed the stuff that is nonsense, then what is left is (dare I say it) the truth – the very thing they don’t want people to know about, things like new military technology that has nothing to do with alleged aliens.] Why would US Navy witnesses with extremely high security clearance levels claim that huge a UFO had emerged from the sea in front of USN vessels before flying off at incredible speed? [It depends what is in it for them. Decades in jail, maybe, for giving away state secrets, or making money on the UFO circuit talking nonsense to a gullible audience, knowing that they are not in danger of prosecution because they are not giving anything away at all.]  Are they lying too? [I didn’t suggest that anyone was lying; they might be shrewd. Mike Hallowell has, in the past, said that he thinks it is the interpretation of evidence that makes a difference. Those shrewd navy witnesses might have an interpretation that just happens to have a superficial plausibility, acceptable to the believers even if their interpretation of the alleged evidence contradicts common sense, science, logic and reality in general.]

The only argument you have to fall back on is the old canard that we can’t rely solely on eyewitness testimony without “hard evidence”. [Eye witness testimony is often wrong; that is why it needs to be backed up with “hard evidence.” Mike once used a courtroom analogy with regard to personal testimony, but if he were falsely accused of, say, committing a murder, would he think it fair if he were convicted on the say-so of a couple of high-ranking, but mistaken, military personnel? He wouldn’t be able to prove them wrong; in that case I think he might suddenly want to rethink his strongly held belief in capital punishment.] The problem is that hundreds of professional people are now openly claiming to have seen just such evidence, which forces you into the uncomfortable position of having to argue that although you may not have seen the evidence yourself, they are either all making it up or are mistaken. [Here are two logical fallacies in one sentence: the first is the fallacy called the appeal to popularity, and the other is called a false dichotomy.  The truth value of a claim is not determined by how many people believe it, and Mike offers only two possible alternatives regarding why the claims have been made, but there are other possibilities.] How can you “mistakenly” see a UFO in a USAF hangar? [If it is Unidentified, how can you know what it is? Could it actually be a new and very secret military project? What does an actual alien space ship look like? (Hint: it probably doesn’t look like a blurred smudge (BS) – the typical “evidence” produced on photographs and film/video that the UFO buffs seem to have orgasms over.) But go ahead and show the evidence.] How can you “mistakenly” be associated with secret governmental projects, as was Dr. Mitchell, in which the hard evidence is examined and evaluated? [He says he was; show the evidence.] How can you “mistakenly” film a UFO hovering over a military base and then have it confiscated by the security services the next day? [It’s easy to make a claim. Show the evidence.] Were they all dreaming? You can deny the eyewitness testimony all you want, but to pit yourself against such a large array of respected experts in so many different fields is bordering on the bizarre. [No, believing big claims with no evidence is what is bizarre (and in this case is still the fallacious appeal to popularity and the appeal to authority). In fact, it is irrational.] Your very own Dr. Carl Sagan once said, quite rightly, that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Your stance flies in the face of this maxim, but with you it’s worse; you don’t even have any evidence that the evidence is absent! [Carl Sagan, one of the most influential scientists and sceptics of the 20th century, is described in this article by Mike Hallowell as being “not very rational.” So it’s interesting that Mike quotes him here to try to support his case. But the fact is the burden of proof is on the person making a claim. Absence of evidence is still absence of evidence. The only people who can provide the evidence are those who claim to have it. To paraphrase the late Christopher Hitchens, “Assert something without evidence, and I can dismiss it without evidence.”] Here are two hours of testimony from those who have indeed seen the evidence. Perhaps you’d like to tell us whether these are all lying or deluded too: [Yes, testimony. I’m not going to waste two hours watching talking heads unless they are presenting testable evidence. I’ve done that many times in the past; if this is just “personal testimony,” it is not of much value.]

http://www.youtube.com/watchfeature=player_detailpage&v=7vyVe-6YdUk#t=549

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that you don’t have to believe in the ET hypothesis. But what you really need to do is at least take a stance of detachment and withhold judgement considering the quality of the witness testimony arraigned against you. [There is no “quality” witness testimony arraigned against me. Just witness testimony for which there is no testable or confirmable evidence to support it. Testimony is not the same as proof. The woo brigade would like nothing better than for sceptics to “withhold judgement,” in other words, “shut up.”]

I really do find your stance quite intriguing, and would like to ask you on what evidence you make this assumption. I mean, unless you personally visit every building on the face of the planet large enough to house such an object you really wouldn’t know, would you? [The same argument applies to Mike, unless he has personally visited every possible location where an ASFAG (Alien Spaceship From Another Galaxy) might be hidden. I don’t, however, claim to “know,” I claim to doubt.] It doesn’t seem very scientific to me to deny the existence of something just because you haven’t personally seen the proof. [Mike Hallowell is a science denier anyway, but has Mike personally seen the proof? If so, then like his heroes, he has not presented it. To be fair, Mike does not claim to have had the same access to secret information as he thinks some astronauts have had, he just believes what they say, and that’s good enough for him. His readers should just believe him, in the same way he just believes what some astronauts say, and what other writers on the subject say they say. I do not believe that this planet is being visited by space aliens. However, I hold that opinion tentatively and if anyone can prove their claims then I will accept it. In the meantime, the probability that aliens are here is vanishingly small, given the fact that we still have only claims but no tangible evidence.] Wouldn’t a truly objective person withhold judgement on the matter rather than take a sceptical standpoint based on nothing more than a personal opinion? [What – as opposed to someone believing extraordinary claims based on nothing more than their own personal opinion formed from hearsay with no confirmable evidence to support it?]

Please explain to the world just how you KNOW that there is no evidence for the existence of UFOs other than anecdotal accounts. [I don’t claim to KNOW there is no evidence for the existence of UFOs (if that means extraterrestrial vehicles) but I know that the only evidence I have ever come across is anecdotal, not testable or confirmable. The burden of proof is still on the person making the claim.] It’s no good arguing that no one has seen such evidence, for that would just be yet another wild assumption on your part too, wouldn’t it? [I’m not arguing that no one has seen it, but if they’ve seen it, they should show it. Making claims about evidence for UFOs is rather like making claims about evidence for poltergeists: those who make the claims but refuse to prove their claims come in for justifiable criticism. Refusal to show the evidence or just making excuses for not doing so makes the claimant look rather foolish – except to the believers, who keep them in business.] Again, how could you possibly know? You are essentially arguing that because you haven’t seen something then it can’t possibly exist. [This is a straw man fallacy. (I’ll do a new post on the subject.) I am not “essentially” arguing that something I have not seen cannot possibly exist. I’ve explained the straw man fallacy to Mike some time ago.] Is this how true sceptics condition themselves to think? [Sceptics try to think logically, not Mike’s distorted version of what he thinks they think.] I’d be delighted to see a step-by-step explanation in your blog as to how you reach a position of disbelief when you could not possibly have determined whether such evidence exists or not. [This logical fallacy is called the argument to ignorance. Mike’s implication is that if one can’t disprove a claim, then it should be accepted. In fact, if a claim cannot be disproved, that is no basis for assuming its veracity.] You chide bad thinking, so please enlighten us as to how you reached your conclusion by utilising good thinking. [What conclusion is Mike referring to? He posted his comment on a post where my “conclusion” was that an apparent UFO I saw turned out, after investigation, to be nothing more than an optical illusion. I explained it in detail in that post.]

Mike is a regular critic of sceptics, science and the scientific method, so he will no doubt be able to tell me where I went wrong when I perceived what initially seemed to be an alien spaceship taking off from out at sea but then investigated it further to find out what it actually was.

Maybe I should have sent my account to him for possible publication in his Wraithcrap column, and seen it published with this kind of analysis:

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/opinion/columnists/wraithscape/a-close-encounter-of-the-ufo-kind-1-6338120

Long story short: a fellow wakes up at 3.30 am and looks out of the window to see a saucer-shaped object; he gets his friend, who comes into the room and also sees it; it then shoots away at high speed. The fellow contacts Mike Hallowell thirty-odd years later, while it is still fresh in his memory, to tell him about it. Mike’s conclusion is:

“It was a UFO, obviously mechanical in nature and under intelligent control.”

An “expert” like Mike doesn’t, apparently, need to wonder how accurate a person’s memory of an event is more than thirty years later, nor how reliable that memory is from a person woken up in the middle of the night and still partially asleep. As Mike says:

“The question I would pose to skeptics is: On what basis should we disbelieve him – or for that matter, any of the other thousands of experients who have had similar encounters?”

It turns out you don’t even have to be a former astronaut to come out with a story that Mike will swallow believe, support and verify – at least to his own satisfaction. I could pose a question to Mike: how does he know that some of the tales he gets from his readers aren’t just made-up stories sent in to see if he would fall for it? (I’m sure it wouldn’t make any difference to him anyway; he writes up the drivel his fans send him and then trousers the cash for regurgitating it in the Shields Gazette and presumably other publications. You can probably read a version of that bilge in the next issue of UFO Wankfest Quarterly, or whatever).

For me, however, when I had a “UFO experience,” I decided to investigate it and found an answer that was consistently repeatable. What I found was an optical illusion, and in the light of that, there is no rational reason to believe that what I experienced was a UFO taking off from its secret underwater base.

I spent several weeks replicating what I found, also spending many hours doing so. But that’s a bit too sciencey for some people. I guess I could have saved my time and sent my initial observation off to Mike, just to see if he would publish it in the Shields Gazette. At first glance it certainly did look like “a UFO, obviously mechanical in nature and under intelligent control,” but in reality it was nothing of the sort. I don’t think Mike, in this instance at least, is going to contradict me, even if he can quite willingly publish outlandish claims from anyone else who sends him an uncorroborated claim that he, himself, did not witness, but which he can confidently validate as “a UFO, obviously mechanical in nature and under intelligent control.

At the end of the day, I still think it’s better to try to confirm or disprove things rather than take someone’s word for it. You look silly otherwise.

I’m bored now.

 

Advertisements

10 responses to “This Is Getting Tedious

  1. Wonderful to hear a voice of reason. I’ve never come across this guy but it does sound like deflection, confirmation bias and lack of skepticism are the very basics of what he’s lacking. I think one of the major issues is that the scientific process is very transparent and the vast majority of paranormal groups and “para-celebrities” (for lack of a better word) don’t understand that and take it as some kind of erroneous assault on them for making outlandish claims without evidence. I haven’t been in this area for long (refuse to call it a field now), but I’ve so far only met one other team that agrees there is no viable scientific proof the paranormal exists. But yes, it certainly is tedious to keep covering the same ground.

    Great work, keep it up. Apologies for the waffle lol

    Sally Barnes.

    Like

  2. Sally,

    Thanks for commenting.

    My own point of view is fairly straightforward: I don’t believe the paranormal is real, but I don’t mind if anyone can ever prove that any paranormal phenomenon actually exists. If they can do that, then it will become a legitimate area of scientific research.

    Any such demonstration of such claims, however, is going to be achieved by someone who understands and uses actual scientific methodology. The results so far, however, are pretty dismal. Amateur researchers who do not understand science will never be able to prove their claims with anecdotes and science denial. In fact, I think that genuine research into the alleged paranormal can only be harmed by meddling from “researchers” whose self confidence exceeds their ability.

    And what can one make of researchers who refuse to show the evidence they say they have to prove their claims? They can’t be taken seriously.

    Best regards.

    Like

  3. Why do pro and ant paranormal people spend more time bitching and scoring points against each other than doing good science and either proving beyond doubt or otherwise? It’s like listening to a load of primary school children rather than scientific investigators. Please grow up one and all!!

    Like

    • Mike Hallowell

      I agree.I’ve just submitted an appeal to Skeptic/Swiftsure which makes exactly the same appeal. I do not know whether he will publish it. If he does, then I’d like to see your opinion of it, Kompani.

      Like

  4. Kompani,

    The grown-ups are trying to discover the objective reality that is out there, and some of us are also trying very hard to defend rationality so that they might have a chance to do so.

    Like

  5. Mike Hallowell

    “This post is fairly important to me, because I am allowing Mike Hallowell, who has, in the past, had comments I have made elsewhere about his paranormal and supernatural claims on the internet removed under the threat of legal action, the space to speak his own mind, uncensored, on my own blog.”

    Well, that’s very kind of you. You may recall that I offered to turn over to you one of my own columns in the Gazette so that you could inform readers of just how, when and where I was as deluded as you make me out to be. You didn’t take up my offer. In that column you would have been able to speak YOUR own mind. The only comments I have ever asked to be removed are those that were factually inaccurate and, in my opinion, damaging to my reputation. I have never asked for anyone’s opinions to be removed – only factually inaccurate statements. So, let’s be clear about that.

    “I believe in free speech.”

    And so do I. Provided that it does not promote or contain lies.

    “…and I think that the way to counter a bad argument is with a better argument…”

    I agree with you here, also. Unfortunately, it’s not always an effective method of counteracting lies and factually inaccurate statements. The best way to counteract those is to ask for them to be taken down, which I did.

    “not legal thuggery or any kind of threat or intimidation.”

    It is not legal thuggery, threats or intimidation to ask for lies and/or factually inaccurate statements to be removed. If lies or inaccurate statements are published in any media, what is wrong with asking for them to be removed? Skeptic, you can express as many irreverent, rude, nasty bile-filled comments about me as you like –s is your want – and as long as they are merely personal opinions about me you are entitled to them. However, if you should drift into the arena of making unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims about me then I’ll pull you up about them, and there is nothing improper about doing so.

    “My last post detailed an actual weird experience I had that many other people would have assumed to be an actual encounter with a UFO (Alien Spaceship From Another Galaxy, for the dyslexic). But it turned out to be something more mundane; not the sort of thing a UFO “expert” wants to hear, of course…”

    On the contrary, real UFO researchers love to read this sort of material, because it provides a potential rational explanation that can be added to those we already possess. Contrary to what you seem to think, we don’t all become fretful and gloomy to hear that what may have been something more exotic was really something mundane. Unlike some sceptics who positively hate to see powerful arguments put forward for the existence of UFOs (and by that I mean other-worldy aircraft), most of us are very objective. Last year I and two others were asked by a magazine distributed internationally to analyse some pictures of an alleged UFO taken in Eastern Europe. My two colleagues – experts in the field by anyone’s standards – left an open verdict. I was the only one to suggest they were fakes. So, we can be objective, Skeptic.

    “because rational explanations for extraordinary events are taboo for the woo fraternity.”

    Then you need to get out more. Instead of making broad, sweeping statements about people you don’t know, and using silly phrases like “the woo fraternity”, grow up, show little respect and, who knows, you may then get some in return. Have you ever been invited to some of our conventions? I doubt it (well, it would be pretty hard to seeing as you’re reluctant to let anyone know who you are), but some very respected sceptics are. Why? Because they treat those in “the woo fraternity” with respect and have the intelligence to accept that not everyone who believes in the existence of paranormal phenomena is a raving idiot. They believe in civilised dialogue, and aren’t afraid to allow themselves to be identified. You’re just nasty, so we don’t rate you very highly. However, should you ever grow a spine and want to engage in such a debate, you know where to find me. On that point, wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out that one of the reasons you have attempted to hide your identity is because we’ve actually met?

    “For them, the comforting belief in their fantasy is preferable to the objective reality that is actually out there, and if some of them can make some money from writing cobblers they truly and honestly believe, then that is the way it just happens to be.”

    Your psychic powers amaze me. You can actually get inside the head of everyone you’ve just condemned above and work out their motivation. You can call “cobblers” books (most of which I presume you’ve never even read) The truth is that you’re nothing but a keyboard warrior who loves to lambast people from behind a curtain, but hasn’t the guts to do it publicly.

    “I admit I included an “in-joke,” not intended for the casual reader of this blog, but with meaning to only a very small audience of sceptics who are “in on it…”

    Well, if it’s only a very small audience it isn’t for the lack of effort on your part. Or perhaps no one bothers to read your stuff.

    “…although Mike Hallowell, self-proclaimed expert in matters paranormal…”

    Actually, it wasn’t me who first claimed I was an expert in the paranormal, but others. Is there something immoral in being an expert in something, Skeptic? I mean, if, say, a neurosurgeon claimed to be a neurosurgeon on his or her CV, would that make them a self-proclaimed expert too? And if my expertise is as faux as you seem to think, then the answer is in your own hands. Engage me in a public debate and expose my lack of expertise to the world. Should be easy for a real expert like you. Which brings me to another point. Are you an expert on the paranormal? If you aren’t, then you aren’t qualified to judge my level of expertise. If you are, then that makes YOU a self-proclaimed expert in the paranormal, too. What accredited qualifications do you have in the field of paranormal research?

    “(who has never proven any of his paranormal claims to the standards required by science or ordinary rationality)”

    Well, you have no way of knowing that, have you? To which your response will be, “But if you have proved it, why aren’t you announcing it to the world?” You have no idea who we have given our evidence to for analysis for the most part, but don’t let that stop you making baseless assumptions. And the truth is that we really don’t care, for we aren’t as narrow-minded as you when you proclaim that the only evidence that means anything consists of “the standards required by science or ordinary rationality.” If you wish to reduce your perception of evidence so myopically, then go ahead – but don’t get so upset if others aren’t impressed.

    “And it seems to have hit a nerve.”

    Well, I have good news and bad news for you: Yes, you have indeed hit a raw nerve, but alas, it was not because of the reasons you imagine. What truly irritates me is your lack of civility. You can’t stop at simply disagreeing with those who believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena, you have to attack them in the most venomous way. Name-calling, acidic ad hominems and cheap put-downs are your stock–in-trade. Your posts are filled with them, and there simply isn’t any need for it. It serves only to expose your juvenile personality and immaturity.

    “Mike is rather sensitive when his various claims are exposed to scrutiny…”

    Not at all; in fact, if I didn’t journal my claims in the media no one would be able to scrutinise them, so the fact that you can do so – albeit cack-handedly – means you have me to thank.

    “It’s not just me who criticises him, of course, it must be almost a full time occupation for him chasing his critics around the internet…”

    Actually, I spend very little time doing it. In fact, you are the only sceptic I ever respond to, now as a rule. You see, Darren and I don’t mind being criticised as long as the critics offer some rationale alongside their posts. As long as our critics are respectful and don’t publish untruths about us then we have no problem being criticised at all.

    “Mike submitted a comment to that last post, but I did not publish his comment on that particular thread because it was, first of all, completely off-topic and did not address the subject of the post at all. It’s standard practice on blogs for the host to reject comments that do not contribute anything to the subject at hand. I think that’s fair enough, but I think it’s also fair to let him have his say while I demonstrate to him where he is going wrong with his petty outburst. Hence this new post.”

    I think you could have just shortened this to, “I refuse to post anything which puts me in a really bad light”.

    “Also, the comment he submitted included some of the false allegations that he has made numerous times in the past and seems to be prepared to continue indefinitely into the future. I think the best thing to do here is to nail those allegations once and for all…”

    That’s a great idea. Go for it.

    “and maybe, if necessary, create a new section on the Bad Thinking blog to do that.”

    I’m going to get my own section? Wow.

    “For me, it will be much easier to have a specific area where my refutations of Mike’s comments can be dealt with for readers by clicking on a ready-made link, rather than me composing a new reply to old tropes every time Mike decides to go ballistic.”

    Well, let me offer you another suggestion, then: Take up my offer of a debate in my column. Then you’d get a much bigger audience.

    Here is Mike’s comment in full, with my responses,..

    “Obviously, I am the “local sceptic” Mike is referring to.”

    You are correct. Just as I was the person that you “jokingly” referred to.

    “But he is being disingenuous here, and did not include a link to the article he means, nor did he quote me accurately. I have said elsewhere that Mike claims to send evidence away for analysis, and which returns startling results.”

    You did, and I challenged you to give examples of the “many times” you claimed I’d done this over the period of a decade.

    “That was sarcasm with a bit of hyperbole that went over his head.”

    Pity you didn’t tell everyone that at the time. Back then you made the claim and asserted it was true. You never claimed any use of hyperbole, which makes it appear as an afterthought to get you off the hook. Which I really think it is.

    “I have not claimed that he has made that claim “in one of his columns,” but he certainly has claimed to have sent evidence “away for analysis.”

    Well, let’s look at this assertion, and break it down into two parts. First, it is true that you (to my recollection) may not have identified some of my columns explicitly, but I think you did implicitly. The only sources of information you could have gleaned your “many” examples from would have been a) my newspaper columns, b) my books, c) my blogs, or d) my media appearances. Now I would have thought that if you’d gleaned your “many” examples from books, you’d have remembered which ones. Of course, as I’ve never made such claims in my books, they couldn’t have been your sources. Had they been you would have trumpeted that fact to the world. What about my blogs, then? Well, if I’d made such claims there you’d have been able to search and find then quite easily, I imagine, for the vast majority of them are still up there. If I’d made such a claim on TV or radio then you’d easily have been able to identify that too. So that leaves my columns; the only source left to you which would have been difficult for you to research. Why? Because you claimed that I’d made these alleged claims over the course of a decade, and it cannot be coincidence that my Wraithscape column is the only one which – conveniently – had been running for that length of time when you penned you false claim. Further, it would also have been difficult for you to research my columns without looking through filed hard copies. All ten years’ worth, in fact.

    And this is why, I think, you delayed and dodged for so long when I asked you to provide just ONE example to support your claim. I think you were referring to my Wraithscape column specifically, but you couldn’t find but a few on line and none of them contained examples to bolster your assertion. You were stuck, having made a claim you were left without a shred of evidence to back it up.

    Now let’s look at how your second assertion stands up, specifically, “but he certainly has claimed to have sent evidence “away for analysis.”’

    Salvation seemed to have come your way when you found an article Is This The Face Of The Salon Ghost?.

    “That article appeared on 6th March, 2009 – more than five years ago.”

    It is clear that the reporter interviewed Mike, whom she describes as a “Gazette columnist and ghost buster,”

    “You’re right up to now…

    “and there are several quotes by him.”

    No, there are several quotes OF me. Let’s get things straight.

    “She also says, “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.” [Emphasis added] It appears to be a follow up article to this one about the same “haunted” salon published on 17th February 2009 (two prominent pieces of free publicity for a local business – not bad).”

    “It is obvious that Mike must have said that to the reporter…”

    No it isn’t. When I told the reporter that the photographs would be analysed, she made a natural but erroneous assumption that I was going to send the photographs off somewhere for the analysis to be done. As my colleagues know, I was not only analysing my own photographs at that time but also doing the same thing for provincial, regional and national newspapers and other publications. The reporter who penned the article didn’t know this. Had she, then I think it is highly likely she would have asked me whether it was I or someone else who was going to carry out the analysis. When I talked to her about this later, she responded exactly as I expected her to. She had made an understandable error, and it was hardly the journalistic crime of the century. The mistake you made was in assuming that the claim was exactly as it appeared to be, and you embraced it wholesale. Your bad, and, unlike you, I have witnesses who were there at the time to prove it.

    The point is that I never intended to send the pictures anywhere for analysis and can prove it. So, the one instance you could point to of me allegedly “sending things off to be analysed” never happened. What was truly strange was your reluctance to point to any of the “other “many” instances in which you say I made this claim.

    “…even though it is not presented as a verbatim quote, and in any case it is standard journalistic practice to sometimes describe what someone has said without the need to put every single utterance into quotation marks.”

    So even though you admit that no quotation appeared in the paper, you still went on to accuse me of saying those words. Let me give you some advice about journalism: It is also “standard journalistic practice” to check your sources. You didn’t, and ended up tripping over your own feet.

    “If Mike said to the reporter something like, “Oh, by the way, I’ve sent those snaps away to be analysed,” then reporting that he has said so is acceptable.”

    Very true. The only problem is that I’d never said those words.

    “At the end of the article, though, there is a direct quote from Mike: “Until they have been analysed further we can’t make any definite pronouncements…” Any reasonable interpretation of this article suggests that Mike Hallowell did indeed claim to have sent his snapshots away for analysis by some unnamed third party. (He did not say, “Until I have analysed…”)”

    What desperation. If I were decorating my kitchen, and said, “Until the painting has been finished”, as opposed to, “Until I’ve finished the painting”, would you seriously suggest this was proof positive that someone else was decorating my kitchen and not I? Both responses would be entirely appropriate, and your suggestion otherwise is patently ridiculous. The fact that you have to scrape the barrel for such tissue thin arguments just goes to show what little evidence you have to back up your false claim. I can produce witnesses to prove that I always analysed my own pictures. I can bring forward witnesses to prove that I intended to analyse the pictures taken at the salon from the outset. Why, on this one occasion, would I want to change a long-standing practice and ask someone else to analyse my pictures when I’d NEVER done so before and have NEVER done so since? What can you bring to the table? Nothing except a false assertion based upon an innocent mistake made by a fellow journalist. As always, you were never there, and so have no first-hand knowledge of what was said. Not that that’s stopped you pontificating in the past, of course. You always seem to know what happened better than the eye-witnesses.

    “Now here’s the problem: 1) Is Mike denying that he told the reporter that he has sent those pictures off for analysis?”

    This doesn’t even make sense. How could I deny that I had told the reporter I’d already sent the pictures off for analysis (“has sent”, past tense), when you also quote me correctly as saying, “Until they have been analysed further we can’t make any definite pronouncements…” (future tense)?

    “I have suggested to him in the past that if the reporter has misquoted him, or (even worse) just made it up (a serious ethical breach)…”

    But no one said she made it up. The reporter, as you have already admitted, did not “quote” me. Therefore, if there was no quote, there could not have been a misquote. You are trying to turn something simple, an innocent mistake, into an attempt to cover up a lie. There is no “problem”, other than the one you are trying to invent.

    “…then he should make a formal complaint to the Shields Gazette and demand a retraction and an apology.”

    Now you’re trying to stir the pot by making your non-existent problem into an issue between myself and the Shields Gazette. Here’s how it works. The only person who should be in a position to decide whether complaints should be made, or retractions demanded, is me. To do either over such a trivial mistake would be absurd. This small mistake made by that reporter is of no consequence to me. What is of consequence is your regurgitating of this incident, your distortion of the truth and your desire to make capital out of it to support your busted allegation. If I was to follow your bizarre advice I’d be laughed at, and rightly so.

    “He could even threaten to sue them if they refuse to do so…”

    Of course. You really are being ridiculous, and every sentence in this diatribe just makes things worse.

    “(he regularly threatens legal action against his critics, so this should be no different).”

    Really? I “regularly” do this? Evidence please. Another bogus accusation.

    “If he is willing to let the article stand, then he is, by implication, accepting that it is a fair account of what he actually said.”

    The article is indeed a fair account, and that fairness isn’t compromised by a simple error that you are blowing up into gargantuan proportions. That I have not dragged the paper I write for to every court in the land and beyond for such a trivial reason does not imply that I accept the minute error as not an error at all. Yes, it was a mistake. I have said so. So by arguing on the basis of some absurd philosophical platform that not to challenge the error is to accept it as truth is ridiculous. The reason I never challenged it was because it doesn’t deserve to be challenged. It isn’t anywhere near important enough. It was a simple, minor error – a mistake, but an understandable one.

    “Assuming that The Shields Gazette and Mike Hallowell (freelance Gazette columnist paid money by that newspaper)…”

    And the relevance of this is, what exactly? Are you suggesting it is immoral or unethical to be paid as a journalist? If not, why are you mentioning it?

    “…are honest and dispassionate seekers and reporters of the truth, then there is no danger that The Gazette will refuse his request to retract or amend that article, nor will they drop his column if he wants to threaten them with such legal action to ensure that his personal integrity is maintained.”

    Skeptic, you’re living in La La Land. The mistake never threatened my integrity. That someone of your supposed intelligence would suggest taking such a small incident to such absurd lengths is ridiculous. Had it not been for your desperate attempts to dig up some evidence to prove your false allegation about me, I doubt anyone would have blinked an eye over it. You are the one who has taken something of utter irrelevance and misused it. You have created an issue out of nothing. Why? Because you’re in the Last Chance Saloon with your specious allegation and this is the best you can come up with.

    “Then again, I’m a sceptic; I shouldn’t make assumptions, but you can if you want to.”

    Well, you did make an assumption; you assumed that an innocent mistake made by a good reporter was factually accurate, when there is evidence in abundance to prove that it wasn’t. You should have checked your sources. You made a mistake, and instead of putting your hands up and admitting it – which I would have accepted with good grace – you have gone to absurd lengths to defend it. Instead of perpetuating your stupid conspiracy theory you should just admit you made a simple mistake too.

    “Another problem: 2) I’m not aware of anyone – myself included – accusing Mike of writing that article. Where did that come from?”

    It came from you. You said it was a “follow-up” article. Now good journalists don’t do follow-ups on other people’s stories without consulting them. It’s a professional courtesy. Never once did you point out in your original posts that the article had been written by someone else. I’ve reviewed the posts, and guess who pointed out to you that it was penned by another journalist? Me. It’s in my list of errors, if you want to find it. NOW you say that the article appears to be a follow-up to the one written by the same reporter, but you conveniently omit to mention that there were not two, but THREE articles. If you take the three articles and look at them in context, you’ll see that your argument is unsustainable. I repeatedly pointed this out to you – and why – in our original exchanges and you never once made this claim then.

    “There is no dispute that it was written by someone else. And so what? It is completely irrelevant.”

    Well, you’d like people to think that, wouldn’t you? But of course it is of crucial relevance. If I had written that article, I’d have been quoting myself as saying that I was going to send those pictures away for analysis, and then I’d have to take responsibility for what was said. I would surely have been lying, for how could I quote my own self and then deny what was said? The fact that someone else penned that article proves all along what everyone except you, as far as I am aware, seems happy to accept: that the reporter simply read something into my words which weren’t there – an innocent and understandable mistake.

    “Also, I have not been able to find a follow-up article by the same reporter to tell us the results of the analysis of those photos that Mike told her he was sending away for that purpose…”

    Brilliant deduction. That’s because she didn’t write one.

    “and I am also unable to find anything about them published by Mike himself.”

    Which is interesting, for you then go on to link the case to two quotes from our website, as if this in some way justifies your bogus allegation. It doesn’t. First of all, this was a different case, and secondly, as everyone can see, I specifically stated that the results of the analysis of the audio recordings would HOPEFULLY be detailed in a forthcoming documentary. There was no categorical promise here – only a hope, so your attempt to use this to bolster your allegation fails also. Yes, we did change the words. Darren and I knew fine well that if you found the words “startling results” anywhere in our writing you’d jump the gun, ignore the context and attempt to make out that you’d found your evidential pot at the bottom of the rainbow. That’s what you’re good at. I’ve already shown why such an attempt would be bogus in this very paragraph, so we certainly weren’t trying to hide anything. We didn’t need to, as no categorical promises were made in it to publish anything in an article, follow-up or otherwise, and any future use of it in a documentary was clearly described as our desire, and not a categorical certainty. Nowhere did we promise to publish “startling results”, which is the very accusation you made.

    “As I have also said in the past, when Mike says he has sent stuff away for analysis, no one, in my opinion, should be expecting to hear anything about them again.”

    Well, that’s just your opinion. No evidence to support it has yet been forthcoming,

    “And has Mike ever claimed to have had “startling results” returned from evidence that he has actually claimed to have sent away for analysis?”

    But claiming to have received startling results is not the same as promising to publish startling results. I’ve received startling results on a number of cases, but what you have singularly failed to demonstrate is that I ever claimed to have received startling results, then made a promise to publish them and then broken my promise. The only “evidence” you have ever produced is your pot-pourri of bits and pieces from the salon case, carefully stitched together, and which I have proved are entirely bogus.

    “Yes, indeed, although it’s not at all clear to me why this is such an important point to him…”

    It only maintains a faux appearance of importance because you have given it one. If you’d never attempted to use it as evidence against me, and shot yourself in the foot, no one would be talking about it now. What does have some importance is your repeated use of this bogus argument even though I’ve shown it to be bogus many times. That’s unethical.

    You must be joking. Important to me? YOU are the one who raised the matter and has repeatedly offered it as proof of your accusation against me when it is nothing of the sort. YOU are the one who has trotted it out over and over again when I have demonstrated that it is bogus. YOU are the one making absurd suggestions that I should take action against the Gazette, sue them, demand retractions and apologies, etc. over such a trivial incident. You haven’t provided a single shred of proof that I made that claim alone – never mind the “many times” in addition to that. Where are those “many” other incidents, Skeptic? You said I’d repeatedly made those claims. When? Where? There never were any, that’s why you have refused to publish them, isn’t it?

    “…and it clearly is, because every time I refute it, he comes back with the same old trope as if it were the first time it had ever been brought up.”

    Actually, you’ve never refuted anything. I’ve done that. Every time YOU have used this bogus argument I’ve shot it down in flames. Any half-decent person would admit they’d just made a mistake, but not you. You persist in your error, creating a bizarre conspiracy theory to shore up your false claim.

    “But here’s something sneaky: Mike challenged me some time ago on someone else’s blog to prove that he had ever made such a claim. I was happy to oblige, and I provided a link to his own website where it was stated that some audio recordings from one of his poltergeist investigations had been subject to analysis, and had returned, he claimed, startling results He says (above)”

    But this is a lie. Your claim was that I had sent away photographs for analysis and promised to publish the results. I never did. In the extract from my website you refer to audio tapes, not photographs, and anyone who reads the text will see that we never promised anything. We hoped that the results would be used in a documentary – we didn’t promise to publish them in a newspaper. That’s a completely different thing. Who is being sneaky now?

    “I challenged him to show me just one example, but he couldn’t, of course, as his accusation was complete fiction.” That is a false claim by Mike. He challenged me to prove claims I made, even offering to pay £30.00 to charity if I did so. I did…”

    No you didn’t. What you provided was a bogus claim based on something someone else wrote in which there was an error – the very error upon which you made your false allegation. So, even your “one example” was without foundation, but you shouldn’t worry; according to you there are “many” more, so just post those instead.

    Speaking, of challenges, I also made another; that you and I should organise a live debate, the proceeds of which would be given to charity. Why didn’t you take up that challenge?

    “but he decided that I did not and he therefore did not pay up.”

    There was no decision to be made. Your “example was a complete crock, as I have repeatedly shown.

    You make a lot of my supposed “legal threats”, Skeptic. Anyone who didn’t know me would get the impression from your posts that I was some sort of tyrant making legal threats to all and sundry. You say I do this regularly. I don’t. In any event, you aren’t in any position to know, are you, unless you have access to the files of our legal representatives? In fact, we have only taken such action rarely, and in some cases it concerned police action due to harassment – criminal offences, not civil ones. The only time we have had to consider taking legal action was a) when we have been threatened, b) when our copyright has been breached, and c) when factually inaccurate information has been published about us which we felt damaged our professional reputations. We have no issue with people who repeatedly make derogatory comments about us, providing they aren’t making damaging false claims. If people want to make stupid comments – such as criticising the clothes we wear, or the way we look into a camera lens – then so be it. Being targeted by idiots goes with the territory, particularly when you express opinions that upset the status quo. But false accusations that make it appear as if you’ve made promises and broken them – that’s a different matter. We aren’t people who run to consult our lawyers at the drop of a hat. We simply ask that people do not lie about us. If this isn’t important to you as a matter of principle, then you are the one with the problem, not us.

    “…and I will not be bullied into removing fair criticism of the unsubstantiated claims of uneducated people who claim expertise in subjects for which they have neither accredited training nor qualifications.)”

    Well, you don’t have to worry on the “fair criticism” front, as we’ve never had a problem with that. As for our claims being unsubstantiated, I’d say that’s an unsubstantiated claim in itself. You don’t know, and couldn’t know, could you? All you can do is whinge that you haven’t seen the evidence personally, and therefore it is unsubstantiated to YOU. You refer to “uneducated people”, which I presume includes me. I am far from uneducated, as my colleagues are aware. I do have accredited qualifications, but none specifically related to the area of paranormal research. Why? Because there are very few to be had, and in any case, having qualifications does not make one an expert, and not having them does not make one incompetent. Decades of experience can be far more valuable. In any case, what qualifications do you have that give you “expertise” in this field? We’d love to know. Pray do tell.

    And before Mike Hallowell starts whining (again) that he had nothing to do with the removal of my comments from the Gazette website…”

    Actually, you were the one who did the whining – you whined because your comments were removed. All I did was point out that I had no knowledge of the fact and was not responsible for their removal. Neither did I at any time discuss their removal with anyone at or connected with the Gazette, before or after the fact. No whining there – just a simple statement of the facts to prevent any madcap allegations being made.

    “I never did accuse him of doing so; it is just as likely that the Gazette removed them because they realised that my comments showed up their columnist as an ignoramus.”

    Well, that’s a possibility, except that you didn’t show me up to be an ignoramus at all. You showed yourself up, and ever since you’ve rarely missed an opportunity to vent your wrath. If you simply stuck to sober, well-reasoned criticism I wouldn’t have an issue with you, but you don’t. You litter your posts with rants and vile put-downs as well as false allegations. I suspect it’s because you’ve never gotten one over on us, despite your best efforts, and that really riles you, doesn’t it? Every criticism you’ve ever made has been countered. Every wild swipe successfully rebutted. So you just can’t stop, and now you’re actually considering devoting an entire section in your blog to someone you consider to be an unlettered, uneducated ignoramus. Dramatic action from someone who considers me to be that much father down the evolutionary tree.

    “Perhaps one might even consider the possibility that the technologically-savvy South Shields Poltergeist did it. Can anyone disprove a claim like that? No? It must be true, then, by Mike Hallowell’s own “logic” – the argument to ignorance – see below)”

    Show me anywhere in our writing where we’ve argued that a claim that cannot be disproved must be true. You won’t be able to, of course, so let’s lower the bar a little to make it easier for you. Simply show us an example of our “logic” which would lead anyone to think we’d ever propose such a silly idea. You won’t be able to do that, either. Just another unfounded allegation, another babyish put-down.

    Even in his magnum opus (The widely panned The South Shields Poltergeist)…

    Well, it was also widely liked and applauded, but carry on being selective in your reviews – we’re all used to it by now.

    “ …he says clearly (and get this if you want a laugh) that he sent a copy of the alleged poltergeist’s handwriting away to a graphologist for, yes, analysis. (There is no copy of the graphologist’s analysis published, either.”

    Amazing. If we don’t submit our evidence for analysis we get clubbed. If we do, we get clubbed anyway. More proof that you aren’t interested in getting to the truth – just in attacking people who disagree with you regarding the reality of paranormal phenomena. We did not publish the FULL reports from the two (not one) graphologists we consulted as there was no point. We simply published the relevant points they made in their reports.

    “Mike has said before that he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone…”

    And that’s very true. I’ve never felt the need to jump to attention to fulfil the wants of arrogant upstarts who think that if anyone disagrees with them they can be hauled before an on-line kangaroo court for interrogation and trial. This makes you the biggest hypocrite of all, for you haven’t offered any proof of the biggest questions of all. Who indeed are you? How do we know that you are qualified to speak on anything? If you offered proof to us regarding your identity and qualifications, then we might be able to give some weight to your assertions. But you don’t. Very few of us know who you really are, so its absurd to demand that we need to prove anything to a person who hasn’t even established his own identity and bona-fides. Brian Paget and I have crossed swords on a number of occasions, but when he was challenged about his own self-imposed anonymity he at least had the courage to see that his stance was inconsistent and then publicly identified himself. You still prefer to hide.

    “And it’s pretty much the same with two “well qualified nurses” in the book who supposedly…”

    Supposedly? No, they really did. You weren’t there, remember.

    “…confirmed that the alleged injuries caused to one of the central characters in the same book must have been paranormal in origin.”

    Actually, what they confirmed was that wounds of that nature could not have disappeared as quickly as they did under any conditions they were aware of. Read the book.

    “You might not be surprised to learn that these unnamed nurses, who did not give written testimony in the book as other witnesses did, have now transformed into the more vague, but still anonymous, “medical personnel.”

    More paranoia. They were well-qualified nurses. They were also medical personnel. I think I can feel another conspiracy theory coming on…

    “Anyone who has seen this footage will know that it is poorly lit and of very poor quality; whatever is happening is indistinct at best, but “experienced nurses” or “medical personnel” had no problem with it.”

    That’s very true, they didn’t. Why? Because their opinion was also based upon good-quality photographs taken of the injuries. Yet another fail, Skeptic.

    “The footage that was on the internet shows, maybe, with a bit of imagination, some slight marks on the person’s back, but the “medical personnel” presumably must have been able to discern the victim’s back being “slashed to ribbons,” as Mike puts it in the book.”

    This is where your lack of good reasoning – and knowledge of the facts – really shows through, Skeptic. You see, if you read the book you’ll see that the wounds appeared on the man not once, but several times. You have seen one, small clip of footage taken on just one of those occasions. In fact, we have several hours of footage. And many still photographs. Now as you haven’t had access to all that material – unlike the nurses in question – the best you can say is that the minute amount of evidence you have seen hasn’t been enough to convince you, and that’s fine. You may not like the fact that you haven’t seen all the evidence, but that doesn’t give you license to say that none of it is valid. A truly objective person, not having had access to all the evidence, would simply reserve their judgement and say, “Well, it hasn’t been proven to me”. They wouldn’t say, “It hasn’t been proven at all”.

    “There’s not much chance of ever viewing it again, though…”

    You don’t know that.

    “After much criticism and laughter, Mike had it removed from the internet to save his blushes to protect his copyright.”

    Another silly strikethrough put-down. You’ve obviously improved your keyboard skills and now have another toy to play with.The footage was removed to protect our copyright, and for that reason only. A TV company we were negotiating with at the time said that the continued illegal copying of the footage on the Internet could well make them reconsider the viability of making a documentary on the case. If you have to ask why, then I’m sorry but you really aren’t as clever as you think you are.

    “Mike will probably want to come back on these points about his alleged book, but I hope he gives his underling colleague and co-author, Darren Ritson, permission to join in.”

    Let me ask you a question, Skeptic, and let’s see if – just for once – you can rise to the challenge and give us a mature, sensible response without any childish strikethroughs, etc:

    In your above statement, you say, “Mike will probably want to come back on these points about his alleged book, but I hope he gives his underling colleague and co-author, Darren Ritson, permission to join in.”

    Had you wished, you could have said, “Mike will probably want to come back on these points about their book, and I’d like to think his colleague and co-author, Darren Ritson, will also agree to join in the discussion.”

    But no; you describe our work as “my” book and an “alleged book”. That doesn’t make sense. Anything which contains pages and a cover is a book, whatever you think of its contents. You then take a cheap shot at Darren by calling him my “underling” and state that he would need my permission to join in the discussion. Darren was my co-author, has published far more books than me and doesn’t need my permission to do anything. More bile, more nastiness, more bitterness. And there was absolutely no need for it. Maybe you think it makes you look a bit swish to talk like that, you know…makes you look like a sceptical Gangsta. Good for kudos? Gets you Brownie points with your mates? Sorry, it just exposes you for what you are, and by now that doesn’t even need to be stated.

    “and he has claimed to have received “startling results.” But his claims are empty anyway because he consistently refuses to release any of these alleged results for public scrutiny.”

    Let me make one, final point, then. Do you recall the time when I invited you to my home to see the evidence? No? Well I did. Darren and I were more than happy to show you more of the footage and other material. You refused, am I right? Now if I’m wrong, tell me. Maybe I’m confusing you with some else. But if I’m right, then tell me on what basis you can argue that you haven’t had the opportunity to see the evidence.

    “On a different note, I’d like to raise a couple of points …[regarding] the evidence for UFOs…I know that hard evidence of UFOs is not in the public domain.”

    Oh, but that wasn’t what you initially said, was it? Twice you have said that no evidence existed anywhere, period. Now you’re qualifying your statement with a suffix: “in the public domain”. That’s called shifting the goalposts.

    “No, it is illogical for people to believe extraordinary claims on nothing more than hearsay – whoever it might be who makes those extraordinary claims.”

    No, it isn’t. It isn’t illogical to believe something when presented with such a large amount of solid eyewitness testimony.

    “Are all the expert witnesses lying, deluded or insane? [Perhaps some of them are; others are enjoying a lucrative income from the lecture circuit, writing absurd books and articles and taking part in stupid TV programmes about UFOs, “ancient aliens,” and other assorted nonsense, also without producing a shred of testable evidence.”

    But you then have to explain away all of the testimony. When Dr. Mitchell asserted that he had been involved with covert government programmes regarding UFOs, and had seen hard evidence for their existence himself (along with many others) then he was either telling the truth, or he was lying. It’s absurd to pretend that every single witness is mistaken, deluded, lying, in it for the money, or whatever. It’s an easy accusation to make, but where is your evidence to support it? Not having seen the evidence yourself then you are at liberty to say that the case for UFOs hasn’t been proven to you, but, once again, a truly objective person would simply say that and refrain from going further. You are – if you hadn’t realised it – standing against the very people you seem to revere – qualified witnesses, including many scientists. You can’t have it both ways, Skeptic. You can’t argue (well, at least with any credibility) that evidence must be verified by scientists, and then reject the testimony of the very scientists who claim to have verified it. There are sceptics who make a fat killing on the lecture circuits, too; so why should we believe anything they have to say? Don’t they get paid for writing their books? What a cherry-picker you are.

    “They have motivation to be less than critical about the claims they make, even if they are sincere about it.”

    But if they are motivated to consciously lower their critical standards then they can’t be sincere, can they? Do you ever read what you write?

    “Mike could have offered another possibility – are they, like many other people, merely susceptible to misinterpreting what they have experienced?”

    Sometimes, possibly, but not in many cases. If you listen to the testimony of many witnesses you’ll see that what they claim to have seen simply can’t be explained away as misattribution.

    “Many have said that they are prepared to testify before Congress regarding what they know at great risk to their careers.” [I’d like to see it happen. They would be required to produce evidence to support their claims…]”

    I’ve checked – testifying before Congress does not require the production of evidence. It is what it claims to be; the submission of testimony, pure and simple. Congress can, if it so chooses, order an investigation regarding evidence afterwards.

    “I think it’s unlikely that the American Congress wants to appear to the world to be giving a platform to a bunch of cranks.”

    I think you need to check out how the process of appearing before Congress works.

    “No, I didn’t “argue” that the US government was feeding “dodgy info” to anyone, I suggested that the US government might just not discourage people from thinking they have seen UFOs if they have actually witnessed top secret testing of new military projects. The military might even encourage people to maintain their false beliefs, although I think it is going a bit too far to assume they are actively “feeding” anyone “dodgy” information.”

    Which is odd, considering your comment was part of a rebuttal to Dr. Mitchell’s testimony that he had seen hard evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial craft and alien visitation to earth. If Dr. Mitchell was possibly hoodwinked, as you suggested, and then fed the same line to the public, what does that amount to? The feeding of dodgy information to the public.

    “I think I would say something like, “Wow! That’s incredible! Show me all that evidence! (that you haven’t shown to anyone else).” And I might also say something like, “You, like all other military personnel of your rank, are entrusted with state secrets that you now want to blab about? Where I come from, that would be called treason. You are prepared to betray your military and your country? OK, then, give me all the documentation and I will pass it on to The Guardian newspaper while you make your escape to Russia and join your fellow countryman Edward Snowden, who also gave the game away (with incontrovertible evidence of his claims about the American government’s surveillance of not only its own citizens, but the citizens of countries all over the world.). Become a fugitive in the name of openness and truth and I will support you on my own blog. Oh, and pick up a million dollars from James Randi before you leave – it might come in handy.”

    All of which would be fascinating – if you believe that, now so many people have gone public, the US and other governments are just going to freely hand over their hard evidence to Dr. Mitchell and others to walk away with. Do you think they can just hand over a cloakroom ticket and leave with the evidence in a brown paper parcel?

    “I didn’t suggest that anyone was lying; they might be shrewd.”

    Not lying, just “shrewd”. Of course. What weasel-words. Why don’t you just say what you really think?

    “Carl Sagan, one of the most influential scientists and sceptics of the 20th century, is described in this article by Mike Hallowell as being “not very rational.”

    More lies. I’d advise readers to click on your link, and you’ll see that as well as being very complimentary to Dr. Sagan, I actually said the following:

    “The problem with the Sagan Standard is the reasoning behind it; that extraordinary evidence should be produced to support extraordinary claims. With all respect to Carl Sagan, this is not a very rational approach, for the term “extraordinary” is a highly subjective one.”

    As you can see, I did not at all say that Dr. Sagan was “not very rational”. I focussed on one, solitary statement made by Dr. Sagan and said that I felt his approach on that – and that alone – was not very rational. Reading your twisted wrenching of my words, one would think that I was accusing Dr. Sagan of not being a rational person at all. But as you can see, I simply didn’t say that. Way to go, Skeptic. You not only lie, but you provide the link which proves it.

    “So it’s interesting that Mike quotes him here to try to support his case.”

    Why not? Does one have to agree with every single word a scientist utters before quoting him?

    “You can probably read a version of that bilge in the next issue of UFO Wankfest Quarterly, or whatever).”

    Just when you think the tone can’t go any lower…yup, a true Gangsta skeptic.

    “At the end of the day, I still think it’s better to try to confirm or disprove things rather than take someone’s word for it. You look silly otherwise.”

    Mmmm…but you never criticise those colleagues-in-arms of yours who assert that extraterrestrial craft do not exist, do you? No, just those who believe in them. I mean, you asserted that, but then quickly cobbled a suffix on the end when you realised you’d made an unsustainable statement.

    “I’m bored now.”

    Well, you wrote the blog.

    Like

    • Mike,

      You have submitted two responses to me and I have published both, although you thought perhaps I might not. I will answer this one now and come back to the other later.

      I don’t have much time available, which is why I don’t post as often as I would want to, not to mention some recent diversions that have prevented me from updating the blog, so I will address what I think are the most pertinent points, and the ones I don’t address are the ones you can claim later that I ignored – or avoided because you think I have no answer. There are many of my own points, however, that you did not (and never do) answer, so maybe it just balances out. Or maybe you can’t answer them.

      First of all, you have called me, yet again, a liar. I am not. Calling me a liar is something that you do regularly, but you are wrong. I have not told any lies about you, and everything I have said is factual, logical and reasonable opinion based on what you have said or claimed. My default position with anyone in the woo fraternity is to assume that what they claim is a sincerely held belief, but a mistaken view, not a deliberate lie. You will not find anywhere on the internet, or in print, any example of me calling anyone a liar, but you do it so casually against me, not even considering the possibility that I might be speaking honestly, but just wrong. (But I’m not. Or am I mistaken about that? Or lying about it?)

      I have never claimed that you promise to show the results of any evidence for any paranormal phenomena that you (or anyone else on your behalf) has analysed; any such allusion I ever make in that regard can be taken as mere sarcasm. I will repeat here what I have said elsewhere about all that: the whole point of this analysis business of yours is not that you have promised to publish those results, but that you never, ever, ever promise to publish any results whatsoever. You make a claim about evidence being analysed, it returns startling results (later changed on your website to “extremely interesting results), but so far you have not published those analyses. You are anti-science, I think, but you can prove me wrong: don’t “describe” the results of those analyses when (if ever) you refer to them, do what is required by science – publish any analyses in full, and wait for comments and criticism, which you can rebut later. You will not be able to get your “results” published in any accredited scientific journal, but you could publish them online for general criticism. You say you have shown your research to other believers, but what does that mean? Your alleged research and your alleged analytical results are known only within your own circle of fellow believers. Secret evidence and non-existent evidence look pretty much the same. Go ahead and publish it – online and, if you like, in print (much preferable, because you can’t change it later as you can with an online claim).

      You say you offered to show me – personally – the evidence you claim you have, but that I refused your offer. That gives the impression to any reader here that I simply refused to examine it. Why didn’t you also include the fact that I gave you specific reasons why I would not examine what you say is evidence for the existence of this alleged poltergeist? Surely you remember that I told you explicitly why I would not take up your offer? What you stated is misleading, to say the least. You are being disingenuous, although people less charitable than me might say you are being outright dishonest.

      For the benefit of my readers, I will explain what happened. You did, indeed, offer to show me all of what you believe to be evidence for the existence of an alleged entity you have dubbed “The South Shields Poltergeist.” However, now, as then, you refuse to release any of it into the public domain; you cite many and various excuses for not doing so, including, especially, copyright reasons. If I were to take up your offer, then I would become trapped. If you are not willing to release this evidence, then you are not going to give me permission to do so either. That means I would not be able to publicly critique the evidence whether it was powerful enough to convince me of the reality of this entity, or confirm my suspicion that it is nothing more than wishful thinking. I have no doubt that you would insist on a confidentiality agreement that would, in effect, be a kind of “gagging order.”

      If your offer to show me all this evidence you say you have is still open, will you give me permission to distribute it an any way I see fit – even if I am finally convinced you have now proven the existence of a paranormal phenomenon? I would examine it only if I can publish and critique the original evidence publicly. But if you are willing to allow me to do so, then I do not need to do so, because you could release the evidence for everyone – not just me – to examine. If your evidence is compelling – in the way that science would accept – then due to an almost certain confidentiality clause, I would have to keep it to myself; if it’s a load of old tosh, I would still have to keep it to myself. In either case, I would have what might be called “insider information,” but be unable to talk about it. What’s the use of that?

      You made a heroic attempt to trap me, but I am not as wide-eyed as your followers. I explained to you my reasons why I would not accept your offer to show me this evidence, but you had the brass neck to say on my own blog that I simply refused this offer.

      You have, however, shown your evidence to others. Have a look at this link:

      http://www.mikehallowell.com/shieldspolt/page12.html

      On your website, barrister Alan Murdie gives his support to the South Shields poltergeist book. At the top of that page on your website you say, “Alan was given complete access to the authors’ case archives without restriction or caveat. He was allowed to examine and copy any evidence or material he desired.” Note that term, “without restriction or caveat.” But for some reason, he just says he has seen the evidence; he does not reveal any of it. He says you are willing to show it to the SPR, but for all the use that is, you might as well show it to your cat (if you have one).

      He also says, “…none of the console-based critics of this book have troubled themselves to directly inspect any of the original data and evidence on which it is based.”

      Is this guy serious? Your critics just haven’t “troubled themselves” to directly inspect your original data and evidence? Or does he think anyone can do as he says he did and just “elect” to visit you and see all your evidence? Has he missed the fact that sceptically-minded people have criticised you mainly because they can’t get access to what your so-called evidence comprises? It’s copyright, remember? You don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone, remember?

      But your critics would welcome the chance to see what you claim is evidence for the existence of this poltergeist.

      Here’s something for you to ponder: you say that all this stuff has to be kept under wraps because documentary makers and so on dictate terms to you – they want exclusive access, or whatever, so you can’t just allow video clips and all the rest of it to be on the internet because they want it for themselves.

      Look at it in a slightly different way: if you and Darren have the proof that poltergeists are real, then you could publish it all (your copyright is secure by law, after all) and the world would be beating a path to your door. Think about it: instead of some third-rate woo documentary makers telling you that you must comply with their terms and conditions being met if you want this piece of nonsense made into a TV documentary (and you make a few pounds out of it), you would have the world beating that path to your door. Real documentary makers would be competing with each other to be the ones to produce the definitive proof of poltergeists. Think of the BBC and other high quality documentary makers, for example, fighting each other to be the one to win the accolades for being the first to present the definitive proof of the paranormal. You would then be the one dictating terms and conditions. You wouldn’t have to kowtow to anyone – you would be telling them what terms and conditions are acceptable to you. As I am writing this, the new version of Carl Sagan’s original acclaimed series “Cosmos,” presented by (real) scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is getting worldwide acclaim and rave reviews from scientists, sceptics and educated people in general (but condemnation from creationists, of course). Tyson, however, unlike you, deals in testable evidence about the objective reality that is out there. This fantastic TV series is being aired around the world, it is available to everyone in one way or another, and no one is being told that it exists without the opportunity to see it for themselves. There is none of this nonsense about anyone not being able to see it “because it’s copyright.” Do what Neil deGrasse Tyson has done – publish your flaming evidence.

      Go on, do it. You say you have pursued people through the courts for breaching your copyright. Now those troubles are over: put everything in the public domain, send it to the BBC and other established documentary makers. Whichever of them YOU choose have their own high-powered legal departments that will take care of all legal issues, and then you just have to sit back as kudos and money roll in. (I’ve suggested you send this stuff to documentary makers, but you could also try your luck first with various universities (perhaps the ones you “lecture” at) who might want to put your evidence to the test. If it passes scientific tests, then your future and your Nobel Prize is secure.)

      But it doesn’t end there. Once your claims are established scientifically, you wouldn’t be able to cope with all the invitations to speak at scientific (rather than pseudo scientific) venues and conventions. Hollywood (and possibly even Bollywood) film companies would be vying with each other to make movies and musicals about it.

      How would you be able to have any rest away from the glare of publicity when (actual) journalists are door stepping you just to get your latest utterance? But it might be worth it because you have, at least, already “shown your evidence to the SPR”. What a boost to psi research via this country’s premiere paranormal advocacy organisation, the Society for Psychical Research.

      But just to come back to reality for a moment, I don’t think there is any realistic likelihood that any of your paranormal claims are going to see the light of day on programmes like BBC’s “Horizon.” Do you? My sceptical powers (that I have vowed to use only for good) tell me that your paranormal claims would more likely be appreciated if a TV company were to commission them in the form of a situation comedy.

      As usual, you are messing around with semantics as you suggest that you do not make legal threats to your critics. I’m not sure how many more links and screenshots I would have to provide to convince you that threatening legal action against those who disagree with you is something that you do routinely. Your threats of legal action have had my own comments removed from the internet, but try it on my own blog only if you are prepared to go through with it. Even in the above link, Alan Murdie says, “Some of these critics have eschewed reasoned argument altogether and simply engaged in personalised attacks, invective and libel against the authors. The result has been (as with original researchers in both the Rosenheim and Enfield cases) that Mike Hallowell and Darren Ritson have even been forced into THREATENING legal action to correct defamatory falsehoods being spread.” [Emphasis added.] Gosh. The defamatory falsehoods you use against me must be OK, though.

      But libel? Surely that means something like falsely accusing someone of some kind of wrongdoing – maybe lying, perhaps; even saying outright something like, “You are a liar”? That can’t be right, though, can it? You call me a liar all the time, so you must think calling someone a liar is OK. That doesn’t apply to me, though, because I have not called you or anyone else a liar. You think I have, but you also think the paranormal (and supernatural) is real. Why not ask your mate Alan Murdie to comment here about all this? You’ve invoked his name at me before as an appeal to authority; I would welcome the chance to discuss this poltergeist evidence with him on my blog. It would be interesting to have him argue your case (he’s a lawyer, after all) by presenting the evidence he has viewed and recorded “without caveat,” as you say on your website. But will he be able to reproduce the photographs, audio recordings, graphologists’ reports and so on? He copied all that evidence “without caveat” so maybe he will provide what you have consistently refused to do – the evidence! He’s seen all the evidence you invited me to see, so let’s see whether he can present it here. When the toilet in this haunted house flooded with blood, for example, you must have taken a sample for a medical laboratory to analyse, so it would be great if Mr Murdie can post the lab report – unless you just analysed it yourself (I know you do your own analysis of evidence), but that would still be worth seeing. And of course, the same goes for the sample of poltergeist urine you found on the carpet – and surely you could not have missed the chance to take a swab of that, too, even if it was only your own analysis that we have. As an expert, though, you will undoubtedly have kept some of those samples for independent analysis, knowing that you would need independent test results to confirm your findings. And of course, Mr Murdie must have told you that when he is presenting a case in a law court, a lack of evidence to support the case he is prosecuting would cause the case to be thrown out if the relevant or claimed evidence was not produced; he would not get away with telling the judge that just because he has not produced the evidence, it doesn’t mean the evidence doesn’t exist.

      That’s an interesting idea, actually: I know you support the death penalty, for instance, and you would like to see it reintroduced into the UK, so do you think it right that a person should be convicted and sentenced to death on the basis that his guilt is based on an unproven claim, and that it is sufficient to just pronounce to a jury that the fact they have not seen the evidence does not mean that the evidence does not exist?

      The bottom line is still this: you make claims about the paranormal. You show whatever it is you think counts as evidence to fellow believers. You most definitely do not promise to show your evidence to anyone else. You proclaim that you have such evidence. You think that showing this alleged evidence only to fellow believers somehow counts as “disclosing” evidence.

      You really should pay closer attention to this blog; I am covering and explaining the logical fallacies you and other paranormal promoters fall into when you try to promote the paranormal, and the logical fallacies you and they fall into when you all try to defend your position.

      But you think my logic is “…flawed. Flawed, flawed, flawed.” Yes, you said it again, and no, “…the sky didn’t fall in,” as you put it. If my logic is flawed, then it follows logically that every logic text book is also flawed (not that I know anything about logic, according to you). Professors and other lecturers who teach logic are wrong. Universities around the world have got it all wrong, but you are right. The greatest philosophical minds in history were just barking up the wrong tree. The exams in logic that many people have passed are just meaningless if you are right. OK, here’s your chance to explain where my logic is wrong: you think that if a large number of people witness an alleged UFO event, then that somehow adds credence to your claims, or even proves them. Here’s a challenge for you, and it’s very simple: how many witnesses have to be present to prove the truth of a claim? Give a number. Quantify it. Two? A hundred? Four hundred and twenty seven?

      You often say that you “lecture” at universities, so you must understand what I mean – but to be quite blunt, I do not believe that you are a university lecturer, unless you are actually a member of the faculty of a university. In fact, universities often hire rooms to any group that wants to pay the hire money, so it’s a cheap claim for someone to say they have “lectured” at a university under those circumstances. Even if you have given a talk to an actual class of students at a university, that does not entitle you to imply that you are somehow “lecturing” at a university: it is not uncommon for a university to invite lay speakers to talk to students, or for a student organisation to invite a speaker to address its own members, but that does not mean that the speaker has any specific qualifications in anything, just that sometimes they are there to relate their own experiences relevant to the students’ field of study or area of interest. If you have, indeed, spoken to a class of university students, were you there as a teacher? Did you set, mark and grade the exam papers that contributed to their final degree results?

      What is the cut-off point that changes a claim into a fact, without any testable, confirmable evidence being required? GIVE A NUMBER THAT CHANGES A CLAIM INTO A FACT. And demonstrate the logical or mathematical proof of it.

      What if someone really did libel you, by the way? If it actually happened, then you should, of course, sue that person. But if your own version of logic is correct, then you can’t go any further. If the person you want to sue has shown their evidence of their claim that you are, say, a liar, to “people they trust,” then that should be sufficient, shouldn’t it? (It works for you.) They could just turn up in court , and say to the judge, as you do to your critics (and especially me), “I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. I have had my evidence analysed by myself, because I do my own analysis of evidence. I’ve shown it to others too, but I won’t present their actual analysis and nor will they, I will just discuss it, but at least you will know what I think about it. In any case, I never promised that I would present any evidence. You are a person of low intelligence – an idiot, in fact – as well as being delusional, a liar, a judgemental Gangsta, a Gangsta Judge, an arrogant upstart who should grow a spine. I’ve spent more than forty years studying all of this and I know lots of people who also believe what I have written. I am an expert in these matters, but don’t just take my word for it, I’m telling you that other people have called me an expert, even though there are no qualifications to be had in the field in which I claim to have expertise. You should grow a pair of balls. I can prove everything I say, but for copyright reasons you can’t see the evidence. I am now vindicated.”

      Yeah, that might work, if your own reasoning is better than mine, but I think a response like that in the real world, an actual court of law, would attract a charge of contempt of court.

      I’ll take the time to address a few of your points, Mike – at least some of the ones that make me chuckle inwardly:

      You say,

      “Is there something immoral in being an expert in something, Skeptic? I mean, if, say, a neurosurgeon claimed to be a neurosurgeon on his or her CV, would that make them a self-proclaimed expert too?”

      You give the example of a neurosurgeon, someone who has undergone accredited training over many years in a field that is actually real. He or she has accredited qualifications that cannot be disputed, and will very likely have published his work in scientific journals. He will be acknowledged as an expert, but he can also be justified in calling himself an expert because he is, and he will be accepted as such by his equally qualified peers. There is nothing immoral in BEING an expert, Mike, but CLAIMING to be an expert as you do – especially in something that is not proven to be real – is questionable, to say the least. Qualified people do not, usually, make a point of calling themselves experts – the wannabes are the ones who do that.

      You don’t get to be a brain surgeon by reading a few books and doing some DIY brain surgery on people; you would be locked up if you tried it. It is quite legal, however, to spend years reading ghost yarns, going on “ghost hunts,” and calling oneself an expert, as you do, but the MORALITY of doing so is an open question.

      But are you really comparing yourself to someone as highly qualified as a neuroscientist? You have said that in your field of interest – the paranormal – there are no qualifications to be had, anyway. But you do call (proclaim) yourself to be an expert. You called me out on that one before, challenging me to give just one example of you ever calling yourself an expert and I linked to Curly’s blog where you did just that. Do I have to give that link again? But even if other believers in the paranormal regard you as an expert, I would have to ask: how can you or anyone else be an expert in something that isn’t real? Where is your proof of its reality or just the evidence that can be examined? Oh, I nearly forgot – you don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone, it’s copyright, it’s been shown to others who also won’t divulge it, it’s just there but no one who doesn’t already believe in it will get to see it. Right.

      You quote me as saying:

      “They have motivation to be less than critical about the claims they make, even if they are sincere about it.”

      And you answer me thus:

      “But if they are motivated to consciously lower their critical standards then they can’t be sincere, can they? Do you ever read what you write?”

      Mike, do YOU ever read what I write? Can you tell me where I said or claimed that they “CONSCIOUSLY” lowered their critical standards?

      I’ll just repeat that for clarity: Can you tell me where I said or claimed that they “CONSCIOUSLY” lowered their critical standards?

      If I claimed that, then indeed it would be a reasonable assumption that I had accused them of not being sincere. But I didn’t; people’s motivations for a whole range of things are outside the range of their conscious awareness – people regularly perceive and work things out subliminally: they have what can be referred to as the “unconscious mind” that works indefatigably without conscious awareness. If you don’t believe me, then ask that neuroscientist you referred to – the guy with the accredited qualifications; or should we rely on you, who have no “qualifications to be had”? You have interpreted my words according to your belief – the very thing sceptics suspect happens when believers interpret their experiences in the light of what they already believe. You have translated my words into something that fits your own prejudices – but I am not saying that you did it CONSCIOUSLY; I think you were sincere, but wrong. I’m not, however, going to accuse you of lying about what I said; that’s beneath me.

      Your own knowledge of the brain and its workings, by the way, is exemplified here:

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

      You say there,

      “I want to leave room in my CEREBELLUM for something far more entertaining that may pop up later.” [Emphasis added] You’ve got that neuroscientist on the run there, Mike. Or does someone who actually is an expert – with qualifications “to be had” in his field of expertise – not count in this instance? (Check out “cerebellum” – it doesn’t mean what you think it means.)

      Yes, I said:

      “No, it is illogical for people to believe extraordinary claims on nothing more than hearsay – whoever it might be who makes those extraordinary claims.”

      And your reply to that is:

      “No, it isn’t. It isn’t illogical to believe something when presented with such a large amount of solid eyewitness testimony.”

      Mike, you’re not studying this blog properly: it is primarily about logic and reason; you’re not paying attention. You’ve accused me in the past of having a closed mind, but yours appears to be welded shut. As above, is the number of people who make a claim what decides the truth of a claim? If so, then you will be able to tell me and my readers what is the cut-off point that separates truth from fiction. How many alleged alien abductee claimants does it take to establish such claims as a fact? Give a number and justify it if your version of logic is superior to my own flawed version.

      You say:

      “As you can see, I did not at all say that Dr. Sagan was “not very rational”. I focussed on one, solitary statement made by Dr. Sagan and said that I felt his approach on that – and that alone – was not very rational. Reading your twisted wrenching of my words, one would think that I was accusing Dr. Sagan of not being a rational person at all. But as you can see, I simply didn’t say that. Way to go, Skeptic. You not only lie, but you provide the link which proves it.”

      Mike, apart from the fact that you just called me a liar yet again, I linked to your ill-informed article well aware that you praised him before you stuck the metaphorical shiv in. It reminds me of the old O’Jays song, The Backstabbers: “They smile in your face…” Your technique there is well understood by psychologists. And the addition of “Dr.” only adds a faux respect and gravitas in this context; it really isn’t necessary to add Sagan’s doctoral title in this context. Surely you learned that when you were training to be a journalist? (You do claim to be a journalist, so I take that claim at face value and assume that you must have the relevant training and qualifications. But I might be wrong. Do you have a degree in journalism, or is “journalist” a title you give yourself in the same way you imply you are a “lecturer” at universities, and claim to be an “expert” in a field you acknowledge has no qualifications to be had anyway?)

      But it was just “one, solitary statement” by Carl Sagan you thought was irrational? Here’s another one you can pick the bones out of:

      http://badufos.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/carl-sagan-laurance-rockefeller-and-ufos.html

      A letter from Carl Sagan:

      “Dear Mr Rockefeller,

      Thanks for your recent letter. My view is that no amount of anecdotal evidence, unsubstantiated by physical evidence, is worth a single substantive bit of physical evidence. A million reports that the Earth is flat has no veridical value on the shape of the Earth.

      With best wishes [etc…].”

      Oh, dear. Carl Sagan said something else you disagree with. Is that, too, irrational? Go ahead and say so. He got it wrong again (just like me, by your version of logic). I might see if I can find other statements by Carl Sagan that you disagree with (and there are lots of them). Maybe we can organise a whole list of things by Carl Sagan that you find irrational – why just have “one, solitary statement” when an expert like you can just show that Carl Sagan’s logic is as flawed as mine?

      Quite honestly, Mike, I am just an independent sceptic – one voice in the greater scheme of scepticism – someone who will challenge people like you who make claims that (if real) would invalidate science as we (not you) know it. I don’t mind if you can prove that anything paranormal is real. But you can’t. You make claims which, if they were true, would, at the very least, open up a whole new field of scientific research, in the same way that quantum physics upset not only Albert Einstein’s relativity and Newtonian physics, but opened up a whole new branch of science. But Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger and other scientists didn’t make claims and then just leave it to their followers to just believe them, stating publicly that they didn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. No, they published their findings – testable and laid bare to the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) sceptics in the world – other scientists. And those other scientists took the claims they made, tested their evidence, their mathematical and logical justifications for their claims, and put them under the microscope of scepticism.

      Here’s a funny thing: their claims were verified, not just because other scientists found evidence in their favour, but because of the scientific principle of falsification: there were ways that, if their claims were false, they could be proved wrong. They couldn’t be proven wrong in any way that science could find. But here’s something you won’t go for, Mike: science does not claim absolute knowledge (“knowledge” itself being a fairly loose term in this context). Scientific theories are held tentatively; it is always possible that a scientific model might have to be changed in the light of new evidence, in the way that Newton’s gravity was superseded by Einstein’s relativity. Here’s a good article about it, showing why Einstein (and other scientists) will never be proven wrong:

      http://phys.org/news/2014-01-einstein-wrong.html

      Strangely, however, Newton was not wrong about gravity, his theory was just incomplete. It is still true within the bigger theory of relativity, and NASA still uses Newton’s calculations to put payloads into orbit, and to use the gravity of other planets in our solar system to impart a slingshot effect that will enable spacecraft to gain acceleration enough to enable them to travel to the furthest extremes of the solar system and beyond. (Voyager has now just passed the boundary between the solar system and interstellar space.) And just another note about science: “conservation of energy.” When a spacecraft gains energy from a planet, say Jupiter, to get that slingshot effect to gain acceleration, Jupiter loses it. These things don’t work by magic.

      In any case, science does not make any attempt whatsoever to explain nature; science merely DESCRIBES nature. The question of “why” is not the same as the question “how.” Science tries to demonstrate the how, not the why. Religion claims to answer the “why” questions, but there are thousands of religions and they all disagree with each other. At least science is unified; the laws of physics are agreed upon by all scientists around the world (notwithstanding legitimate scientific disagreements pending consensus among scientists). They fight their corner in peer reviewed academic journals, not by threatening to sue those who disagree with or challenge them. Also, historically (to paraphrase Bertrand Russell), “It was never philosophers who burned priests.”

      Science produces testable evidence that can be confirmed by virtue of passing the test of falsifiability. You could learn a lesson from that: produce your evidence (at least anything that can actually be tested) and see if it passes the ultimate test. If it does that, then welcome to the world of science and scepticism. You claim to have the evidence that will overturn present scientific knowledge (yes, I know, you have not actually claimed that you could overturn present scientific knowledge, it’s just that if you can prove your claims, then that will be the outcome), so show it.

      The reality, however, is that you make claims. You show your so-called evidence only to fellow believers. Those people who you claim have seen your alleged evidence do not reveal it either. Even Alan Murdie, barrister, who has a full copy of it all – without restriction or caveat – has not revealed any of it. Is he allowed to? Does he not think it would stand up to scrutiny? What are his thoughts about what would happen if the evidence were to be presented in a court of law (you made a courtroom analogy yourself)?

      You say:

      “Are you an expert on the paranormal? If you aren’t, then you aren’t qualified to judge my level of expertise. If you are, then that makes YOU a self-proclaimed expert in the paranormal, too. What accredited qualifications do you have in the field of paranormal research?”

      I don’t claim to be an “expert” in anything. There are innumerable people more qualified than me in my particular field. But no one can be an expert in the paranormal anyway, because it is only possible to have qualifications in a subject that is real. I think belief in the paranormal is a delusion, so until some enterprising researcher can prove there is something actually going on, never mind providing an explanatory theory or even a testable hypothesis, it can be dismissed, and its promoters challenged to provide evidence to support their claims. Neither you nor anyone else can be accepted as an expert in the paranormal until you or they actually prove its existence. Show your so-called evidence only to other believers if you want to, but the people you need to convince are sceptics – especially the sceptical scientists. Only then will it have a chance of being accepted as a real phenomenon in the same way as cars, smart phones, lawyers, sliced bread, blogs, fake psychics, deaths by exorcism and a satisfying pint of beer are real. Just prove your claims – is that so hard?

      I’ll add a note here: you don’t “need” to convince sceptics (or scientists) about your absurd claims, of course. If you can make money peddling nonsense that credulous clods are willing to swallow, then I completely understand that it is in your best interests to carry on as you are, and I accept that you are probably sincere in your beliefs, so I am not calling you a liar, just saying that I think you are wrong. You and your colleague Darren Ritson like to refer to yourselves as “professionals,” but you are professionals only in the sense that you make money from what you do. A bit like a supermarket shelf stacker, really, but at least those people make an honest living doing something that has a practical value. They wouldn’t, however, be pretentious enough to call themselves “professional shelf stackers.” They’d just be laughed at (and you know what that’s like). And I must add a note here before you go any further: When I said that those shelf stackers make an “honest” living doing what they do, I did not say or imply that you or your “colleague” do anything dishonest whatsoever. That’s the sort of straw man response I expect from you if I did not point it out before you come back on it, so you can save yourself the trouble of accusing me of “lying” about you, and save me the trouble of rebutting another of your vacuous claims yet again.

      If you really want to dispute what I am saying here, by the way, you must realise that I have the relevant links, and of course I can provide the screenshots from any links that have “gone dead.” And of course there are ways to search for those dead links anyway thanks to “Waybackmachine” and so on.

      And… I’m bored again, but not because I wrote the original post. I’m going to leave it there for now and come back to your other comment later.

      You might want to wait until I reply to that before you reply to this. But it’s up to you.

      Oh, and do try to persuade Darren to comment here. You both wrote that poltergeist bilge; it’s not really fair that you defend it on your own. It would be great if Darren could contribute his own (and I do mean his own) insight.

      One final point – what is your definition of “promise”? You stated on Hayley Stevens’ blog:

      http://hayleyisaghost.co.uk/a-guide-to-ghost-science/

      that you disagreed with her description of how science works. You also stated that you had prepared a rebuttal to what she said about it. You also said that you were about to publish it on your “new website.” That was, however, in June,2011 – four years ago – and there is no sign of this alleged rebuttal of yours.

      Hayley stated it this way:

      The scientific method can be broken down into a number of basic steps as follows:
      1. Ask a Question
      2. Do background research
      3. Construct a hypothesis
      4. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment
      5. Analyse your data and draw a Conclusion
      6. Communicate Your Results

      I might even summarise further – a basic principle of scientific methodology is as follows: 1) observation of a phenomenon; 2) formulation of a hypothesis that might explain the observation; 3) testing of that hypothesis. If the hypothesis is falsified, then go back to step 2 and formulate a new hypothesis. Repeat until a hypothesis is confirmed. Then communicate your results, together with details of your methodology that can be tested by other researchers. See if other researchers can replicate your results; if they cannot, then take on board their criticisms about your experiment and consider whether you should make modifications to your methodology and try again – or perhaps you might have to just accept that you got it wrong.

      I really do want to see you demonstrate that this particular aspect of scientific methodology is not the way that science actually works, or at least I want to see you demonstrate why it is wrong, or why it is not a useful way of testing for the existence of alleged paranormal phenomena or describing what is going on when such an observation is made. You’ve told me before that science only “thinks” it knows things, and I’m open-minded enough to find out why science gets so many things wrong – according to you, at least. Just show why scientific methodology is not a useful or valid way to investigate paranormal or supernatural claims.

      I’ll add another point here: science can’t actually investigate supernatural claims or most paranormal claims in the same way that physical claims can be investigated. Proponents of woo are also, in effect, proponents of magic – which has never been demonstrated to exist. “Psychic energy,” for instance, is a hypothesis that has no theoretical support. The best that parapsychologists have been able to do so far is to produce shaky (at best) evidence that something might be happening in their experiments, but they are still a long way from producing evidence of any paranormal or supernatural powers. But those (qualified) parapsychologists who are trying very hard to prove the existence of the paranormal are at least trying to be scientific – the very thing you reject because science just “thinks” it knows stuff. If any parapsychologist ever does prove the existence of the paranormal using standard scientific methodology, will you reject his findings because it’s done scientifically – you told Hayley her description of how science is done is wrong, after all?

      So, when you say you have prepared your new website and you are going to post your rebuttal, is a statement of intent the same as a promise? You did not state the word “promise,” so if you say you are going to do something, but then do not do it, what is your interpretation of that? For people like me, it means that you stated (as if it were a fact) that you were going to do something, but then failed to do it. Admittedly, you did not give a specific time frame or date by which it would be published, but it is the case that you made a statement of intent four years ago about a rebuttal you had already written that has not yet been published. Some people would take (or interpret) your statement of intent as some kind of promise by you to do what you stated you would do, but have so far failed to do.

      How clear can I make this? You specifically said that you were going to do this so-called rebuttal on your new website. Some people might call it a promise, even though you did not specifically use the word “promise” as such. You did not use that actual word, but some people would think that when someone says clearly that they are going to do something, then that statement of intent is the same as a promise. You said you were going to do it; you have not done it: have you broken a promise – or just not done what you stated clearly you were going to do? When someone states they are going to do something, but then fails to do it, have they broken a promise, or should people regard them as merely being full of hot air, or unreliable, or making empty claims, or maybe they deserve to be – and should be – just ridiculed? Should they be accused of being liars? Is a promise or a statement of intent something that can legitimately be put on hold indefinitely just because a time frame has not been stated?

      You have referred many times to some sort of “disclosure project,” whereby various governments are going to reveal that alien visitation is a reality, and they are going to do it at any time; but the get-out is that there is no date stated by which it is going to happen. That claim isn’t much different from the claim by Christians, for example, that the second coming of the messiah is “imminent.” As it has been for the last two thousand years, and those people are living in hope that Armageddon could happen tomorrow. (I’ll go out on a limb, here, and say clearly, no, it will not.) And no government will be providing definitive proof of space aliens having been visiting this planet since time immemorial – or even since the Roswell nonsense, or the Rendlesham Forest cobblers, or any other “classic” UFO/alien encounter. They are just open-ended claims, like your own, and therefore it’s easy to say that you are going to do something without actually doing it.

      To summarise: you said four years ago that you had already “penned” a rebuttal of Hayley’s (actually correct) summary of basic scientific methodology. You said you had a new website on which it would appear. Four years later – nothing.

      Then again, of course, perhaps you are going to post your reply to Hayley any day, and prove that science does not work the way that science actually says it does. I can assure you, Mike, I am really, really looking forward to you disproving established scientific methodology, i.e., the basic progression from initial observation to formulation of a hypothesis and then testing of the hypothesis. Yes, I want you to show why science has it wrong. And let me be very clear here: I am not accusing you of breaking a promise, I am merely pointing out that you claimed that you had already prepared a rebuttal to Hayley’s post and were about to post it four years ago and nothing has happened since. Just like other claims you make. You have the answer/evidence and whatever else you claim to have; but it just never seems to see the light of day.

      And of course I am not referring to an article in a local newspaper by a reporter (possibly not a journalist, but a journalist in training) who quotes your words but which you try to get yourself out of by saying it wasn’t you who wrote those exact words (that you said), I am talking about your own words, written by you, on someone else’s blog. Go and read your own words for yourself. OK, you did not “promise” or even use that word, but you certainly made a statement that you were going to do something (a rebuttal) that you have not done.

      If you say you are going to do something – anything at all – but then do not do it, as stated (promised, as some people might interpret it), what then? If someone says that he or she is going to do something, what do YOU expect to happen? You promised – no, stated – that you were going to rebut Hayley Stevens’ explanation of a basic scientific method. Where is your rebuttal? Four years later, now. You didn’t use the word “promise.” You just said you were going to do it. So far, you have not. As time passes, it seems rather less and less likely that you are going to do what you said you were going to do. Come on: you stated that your rebuttal was already penned. It gives me the impression that you had already written your rebuttal. I got the impression that you were about to publish it and humiliate not only Hayley, but all of established science.

      Do it, Mike. And invite Darren and Alan to support you.

      Like

  6. Mike Hallowell

    Skeptic, I’ve just sent you two responses to your blog, including this one. The first contains a full rebuttal of the things you allege I’ve done. If you wish to publish that response, then obviously I’d be more than happy, otherwise I wouldn’t have sent it. However, I’m sending this response separately, as you may wish to post it alongside my first response, or instead of it. It’s up to you. In any event, I do sincerely hope that at least you’ll publish this one.

    I’ve done this because you are obviously getting tired of our exchanges, which you describe as “tedious”, and I’d agree.

    We all know your stance on the South Shields Poltergeist case. You are entitled to your opinions, of course, although Darren and I do not share them. Despite what you think, we do not want to stifle free speech unless people say things about us which are factually incorrect and damaging to our reputations. We think even you would have to agree that we aren’t being unfair here. We don’t make a full-time profession out of chasing our critics and threatening them. That simply isn’t true, as we don’t mind criticism at all providing it doesn’t distort the truth about us.

    We’re happy to discuss our work with anyone. All we ask is that they do so in a civilised manner and do not resort to the vinegar-filled put-downs, crude remarks, disparaging name-calling and sarcastic digs which, sadly, have come to litter your posts. If you can agree with that proposition, we’ll happily enter into dialogue with you. If you’re a mature person, you shouldn’t have a problem with that. We accept your sceptical stance and feel no personal animosity towards you because of it. It’s the nastiness that coats your posts that sticks in ones craw. Likewise, you should not bear any personal animosity towards Darren and I because we aren’t skeptical to the degree that you are. You might not like what paranormal researchers who accept the existence of preternatural phenomena believe or say, but I think it would be far more constructive if you stopped making your rebuttals so personal and introduced a large dose of civility into your posts. As you must be aware, people respond much more positively to genuine criticism if it’s presented in a courteous manner. Only time will tell if you’re capable of changing your modus operandi.

    But that’s up to you. Some people who have read your attacks on us (particularly me) have suggested that attempting to publicly vilify me on such a regular basis seems to have become an obsession with you. It isn’t the frequency of your posts about me, but rather the unnecessary personal attacks that we find sad. People like you serve a purpose; you keep paranormal investigators on their toes, and that’s a good thing. It acts as a braking system; stops us getting sloppy and makes us focus that much harder on possible rational explanations. The irony is that if your posts weren’t so bitter you’d probably have a much greater influence on the PR community.

    If you could simply agree to refrain from being so pompous and – I have to say it – downright nasty at times, I’d be quite supportive towards you and I know others (you’d be surprised at just who some of them are) who feel the same way. Referring to people who believe in the paranormal as “the woo brigade”, etc. serves no meaningful purpose. Its only value is as an insult. It’s this sort of attack which we feel is both unnecessary and unbecoming.

    There are times when I’ve gone over the top in some of my comments, but to my knowledge I’ve always been man enough to admit it and apologise. If I’ve missed any, then I apologise unreservedly now. So perhaps – if you’re willing – we can both draw a line in the sand and move on. You could (as I’m sure you will, for you have a right to) carry on criticising our writing and beliefs, and we can go on rebutting them. And if either of us go too far and make unsubstantiated comments regarding each other, we can apologise sincerely and move on again. But let’s see if we can do it like two grown-ups and not kids scrapping in the playground, eh?

    To be clear, then, this is not an appeal to you to stop criticising us; we’re simply asking you to moderate the way you present your criticisms, which is a far different thing. Our appeal may fall on deaf ears, we have no way of knowing. If it does, then it’ll be business as usual, we suppose. However, we’d like to think you’ll reciprocate positively to our request and maybe we can even engage in some civilised dialogue from time-to-time.

    Over to you.

    Like

  7. Mike,

    You say: “Despite what you think, we do not want to stifle free speech unless people say things about us which are factually incorrect and damaging to our reputations.”

    What have I said about you that is factually incorrect? (Citation required.)

    As for your reputations, what do you mean? You have a reputation for not publishing testable evidence to support your claims about the paranormal; you have a reputation for threatening to sue people who have criticised you; you have a reputation for promoting dangerous superstition as if it were real (exorcism, for example, which causes deaths around the world with monotonous regularity): your reputations within the paranormal fraternity are probably very high; among those defending rationality, not so high.

    You say: “All we ask is that they do so in a civilised manner and do not resort to the vinegar-filled put-downs, crude remarks, disparaging name-calling and sarcastic digs which, sadly, have come to litter your posts.”

    Do you mean I shouldn’t be accusing people of being nasty enough to say things like, “…vinegar-filled put-downs, crude remarks, disparaging name-calling and sarcastic digs which, sadly, have come to litter your posts”?

    It’s not exactly civilised, or a term of endearment on your part when you have previously, and routinely, described sceptics as “rabid” or “rabidly cynical,” not to mention your many other “vinegar-filled put-downs.”

    Glass houses, the people who live in them and those who throw stones come to mind for some reason.

    I don’t have any personal animosity towards you; maybe you’re a bit too sensitive. My posts aren’t nasty; I think you are interpreting what I say in the same way you interpret your paranormal and supernatural beliefs. In other words, I think you are sincere, but wrong.

    What “personal” attacks have I made on either of you? You are the one who calls me names and worse (I’m not a liar, for example, as you always accuse me, but then again, I’m not so insecure that I think your defamatory accusations against me would be taken seriously by anyone of any consequence). See my previous response for a flavour of the personal attacks you make against me. I’ll admit to some occasional mild sarcasm, but your interpretation of what I have to say does not reflect reality.

    You have called me an “idiot,” a person of “low intelligence,” “delusional,” a “liar”, a “gangsta skeptic,” and the list goes on. Now that’s what I call disparaging name-calling, etc. I cannot think of any time I have resorted to gratuitous name-calling in lieu of reasoned argument, so check your own comments and confirm to yourself that what you falsely accuse me of is something you do routinely.

    Draw a line in the sand, you say? Here’s the deal – you have had comments of mine removed from the internet by threatening legal action against another blogger. Have them reinstated and then get back to me.

    Alternatively, I see that your Gazette column here

    http://www.shieldsgazette.com/opinion/columnists/wraithscape/we-re-worlds-apart-on-ufos-1-3441571

    from June 2011 still has the comments section open. My comments were mysteriously removed from it, and there are no comments at all there now. What if I put my original (exact) first comment on there again and we start all over? But this time, my comments have to stay up. (And let’s hope that, after all these years, (now that I’ve mentioned it), the comments section on that particular post are not, just by an extraordinary coincidence, closed, right now, before we can do it.)

    Or – best of all – just prove the reality of any paranormal phenomenon. That would shut me up.

    In the meantime, think of this: my comments that were removed from the Gazette website were fair criticism of a fallacy-ridden article you had published there. You have said before that you had nothing to do with the removal of my criticisms, and I can’t prove otherwise. It’s plausible, however, that the Gazette might have removed my comments without reference to you just because your amateur, ill-informed attack on rationality was exposed by me and might have drawn attention to, and called into question, the integrity of that newspaper for publishing populist – and sometimes dangerous – nonsense. And I would urge you to re-read that article; as is typical of you, you used your public platform to attack sceptics but offered no evidence whatsoever that your claims of alien visitation might be true. Attacking sceptics is not the same as proving your assertions, but I realise it’s all you can do. Assertions are not evidence, they carry no weight, and they are certainly not proof of anything.

    Think also of this: it was bad enough that my honest and fair comments were removed from the Gazette’s website, but you used the threat of legal action to have comments I made about the unsupported claims you make removed from Brian’s blog (which can be found here, by the way):

    http://brianpaget.wordpress.com/

    You can’t defeat my criticisms of your unproved claims with logical argument, but you have been able to suppress my right to criticise you by using bogus legal threats. From the first of January this year, however, you can’t do that anymore. The libel laws in this country were changed to protect bloggers like me and Brian, who make honest criticism of people who make unsupported paranormal (and other) claims. That’s you, and your colleague Darren (who just doesn’t seem to be able to motivate himself to comment here). Gee him up, will you? And can you get barrister Alan Murdie to comment here to support you as well? You’ve quoted his name often enough, so I would really like to see how keen he is to support your poltergeist claims, and what evidence he can disclose, given the fact that you gave him access to your alleged evidence “without restriction or caveat.”

    Maybe you can even persuade members of the SPR, to whom you have “lectured” about the South Shields “poltergeist” and also shown your evidence, to comment here as well? Maybe they will demonstrate why your poltergeist story should be taken seriously.

    And it would be wonderful if the tech-savvy South Shields Poltergeist could chip in with its own comments.

    Like

    • Mike Hallowell

      Look, you can big up your claims regarding my “threats” all you like, but the bottom line – and I’ve said this before – is that the only time I’ve ever asked for comments to be removed is when they contained factually inaccurate information. I have never tried to stifle anyone simply for expressing a different opinion. I think you’ll find its the educators who only want students to hear about Darwinian evolution and no other explanation for man’s origins who do that. Seems your liking for freedom of speech waxes and wanes depending on the subject matter.

      You ask for citations. Don’t you read the comments people post here? I’ve demonstrated on numerous occasions, all fully referenced, how your accusations concerning the hairdressers’ investigation were factually inaccurate. You accused me of making promises I never made. Why? Because instead of checking your sources you relied on something someone else had written in which they made an innocent mistake. Lazily, instead of contacting me yourself, you copied the error. You even apologised once, but then withdrew your apology without explaining why. Personally I think it was because you were shocked when you realised you’d effectively shot yourself down in flames. In a recent post you suggested I should wage war on the Gazette and its reporter for that error – a ridiculous notion – which was all the more interesting in that you effectively admitted that by copying what they’d said you’d perpetuated one of the very factual inaccuracies you now seem to be denying you ever made at all. I think you should try and make your mind up on this one. You’ve had long enough. An open and honest admission that you’d made a simple mistake would have served your credibility better, instead of trying to defend the indefensible.

      Regarding your comments being removed from the Gazette site, I’ve repeatedly stated that I haven’t a clue who removed them or why. If you want to put them back up I couldn’t care, as I have copies anyway and they contain nothing of any gravity at all as far as I’m concerned. I have never discussed those comments with anyone at the Gazette, never asked for them to be removed – its that simple. Considering their banality, I think the real question is why anyone would want to go to the bother of having them removed. If you want to complain or investigate further, get onto the Gazette yourself. I’m really not that interested, to be frank. I’d be amazed if anyone can even remember your comments, considering their pedestrian nature. Who knows; maybe you think they contained something truly profound and that the world is radically impoverished by currently having no access to them.

      Logic? You’re bereft of it. If you were so certain of your stance you’d have taken up my offer of an open debate long ago – and when I say “open”, I mean a debate in which both of those who take part can be identified by the public, not just one. As it seems you’re too scared to do that, readers will have to draw their own conclusions. As long as you hide behind your keyboard instead of letting people see who you really are, your credibility rating will be zero. At least Brian had the integrity to see this and thereafter started to blog under his real name. Yes, he has been critical of me, but I respect him for this at least. Unlike you, I try to be fair and objective.

      I have no interest in proving anything to you, as I long ago gave up hope of seeing a cogent response from you to anything I have to say. Neither do I have any interest in shutting you up, as I really don’t see you as that important. You are both welcome and entitled to your opinions, although it baffles me why you seem to find the holding of opinions different to your own so reprehensible just because they cannot be proven to your own satisfaction with the use of highly selective and subjective criteria. I have no problem with sceptics, really; only with the way some of them conduct themselves.

      Casting “doubt” on something by “placing” it in “quotation” marks is passé, just as your “continued” use of such “put-downs” as “self-proclaimed” is. I’m qualified to lecture, I do lecture and will continue to do “that” as long as I “can” as well. As I regularly lecture at universities, colleges and other institutions on a variety of subjects, and get paid to do so, what would you call it? Why do I get the feeling that if I was lecturing on something you didn’t have an issue with, you wouldn’t bother to have even mentioned this?

      I’m afraid I have no interest in encouraging Darren or Alan to grace this page with anything. If you’re that keen, ask them yourself. I’m not in the habit of delivering messages to my friends and colleagues on behalf of others when they are perfectly capable of asking directly. I gave up passing notes from desk-to-desk in the classroom circa 1971, if my memory serves me correctly.

      A while ago I said I was going to stop responding to your diatribes. I should have stuck to that, as you simply re-hash the same old arguments monotonously whilst studiously ignoring the points you cannot answer. My appeal for some civility in our exchanges seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I fully acknowledge that in times past I’ve let myself down by stooping to your level in our discussions. Hence my suggestion that we both try to raise the bar, not just you. You don’t seem comfortable with this idea. Only you really know why, but I think we can make an educated guess.

      As the amount of time I will be able to continue writing will apparently be significantly shorter than that I once envisioned, I think I really will have to try harder to resist posting here. If there’s a silver lining to my deteriorating health, its that its forced me to be more selective when it comes to how I apportion and spend my time, Skeptic. Resisting the temptation to fire back at your obsessive epistles will hopefully be one of the first casualties.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s