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Alex: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris.
In this episode, I have coming up an interview with Mike Tymn, author of book, The Articulate Dead. But before getting to that, I want to spend some time in bringing you up to date on some things that are happening with OpenSourceScience medium experiment of course that we’ve been engaged in. Now I’ve received a number of e-mails last week from folks asking me to respond to some of the comments that were made in the last episode of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe with Dr. Steve Novella. As most of you I’m sure know, about a year ago, the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe agreed to collaborate with us on a medium demonstration/research project. As I’ve documented on this show, that’s kind of evolved in the research project that we’re doing right now today.
Last week, Steve took a little but of time on his show to point skeptics and listeners to his show to the link that I’ve provided for the skeptical version of that. With the process of doing that of course, he pointed that this was a preliminary study, a pilot study, a very preliminary study. He made that point over and over again. That’s the first topic I wanted to address because that’s right, this is the first step in the research project. Let me play for you exactly what Steve had to say.
Steve: Pilot studies don’t prove anything either. You can’t prove anything with a pilot study. All you’re really doing is trying to figure out how to design the next level of study. As long as there is a direction to this, as long as you say, “Here are the results. What are all the variables, the things that we didn’t control, etc. etc., that could have influenced these results? How could we then take this to the next step and design a tighter protocol?”
Alex: That’s okay because as I’ve stated all along, this is a preliminary study. But there’s a subtext here that needs to be drawn out a little bit, and the first point has to do with this pilot study that we’re doing. We need to put it in context because this pilot study, this preliminary study, is a big step forward from the protocol we were working on with Steve’s group. But wait a minute, before I even go there, let me make it clear that I’ve done everything possible to make that other test, that other demonstration happen. It’s been over a year of me pestering Steve about it, offering to help find participants, offering to hire someone to find participants. So if they ever want to go back and do that old demonstration, I’m all for that anytime. But the reason I put together this new experiment was because the old demonstration just wasn’t happening.
Back to my earlier point, what we’re doing now is a step forward. I talked about this in an earlier podcast but I’ll repeat it, there were some problems with what we’re going to do in the demonstration, it was going to be very limited. The first problem with that previous protocol, and if you recall we hashed this out quite a bit, that there was this interaction between the sitter and the medium. Remember this sitter was going to be on the phone, live, answering yes or no questions, that the medium would kind of throw out this information, and there was some concern that yes or no could be an “ oh, yeah” or a “yes.” There’s all sort of subtle cues that can be given in some kind of live interaction. So taking a live sitter out of the equation, as we’ve done in the current medium experiment, only tightens the controls.
Now the second way that the new experiment is better and is an improvement on the old protocol that we were working on is scoring, and that is how do you determine whether the reading that the mediums gives was accurate. If you remember, we totally punted on this subject in the old protocol. We disagreed that we both subjectively measured the scoring and kind of leave it up to the audience to see whether that was a good reading. That’s okay as far as it goes, but it’s very limited, you really can’t do anything with that.
Now we’ve added a very objective way to score the reading, it’s matching. Plus, we still have the readings like they were before that add this added level of subjective comfort as to whether the person is really making a connection. We haven’t talked a lot about that in the past, but that’s still there. After the medium does the matching, they also do a reading for the person, just online there they type in any other messages that they have and we pass those along to the sitters. I can share with you later on some of the results that we get back from those, but they’re very, very meaningful to these people. So I’m not going to go there too much because there’s not a lot to talk about, what we really want to focus on is the very objective scoring that we have in terms of matching out recordings to the descriptions as you’ve seen if you’ve gone through and done this skeptical trial, which many of you have. The points is, like before, this improvement in scoring can only be an improvement on the previous protocol.
Finally, the last way that the medium experiment has been improved has to do with the control group. I think we still have some work to do on understanding how we might use our control group in this experiment. But we’re certainly miles ahead of where we were in the previous protocol because we hadn’t even considered it other than saying it might be interesting to have cold readers do something in the future along the same lines that we’re doing. So in every respect that I can think of, the experiment that we’ve outlined is a big step forward from the demonstration we were working on with the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe folks.
But let me clear up one more thing about this year of waiting. When I decided to find a better way to move forward, I went back to Steve and I asked him to be involved. I pulled up the e-mail. Right here, on October 10th I send him an e-mail, I told him about the new experiment, I invited him to take part. I suggested that he find a volunteer to blind me from the data, something that I still hope that we will and that we’re on track to doing. But I just want to point out that the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe folks have had a full two months to offer their input. Although Steve doesn’t really say anything that would contradict what I just said about hoping for their involvement for a couple of months, the overall flow of the conversation might leave that impression. Let me give you a clip.
Steve: We’re not endorsing these results in any way because we were not involved with the design of this test, we did not verify anything. Alex did everything totally unilaterally. So, we’re not being asked to sign-off on anything.
Alex: So the bottom line is if you listen carefully to just what Steve is saying, it’s completely correct. He can’t sign-off on the results because he has no idea if my sitters are real, if my mediums are real or if I’m making up the results or just feeding the correct answers to the medium beforehand. He’s not in a position to verify any of that. Now I’ve asked him to take that position, and he might do that in the future. I emphasize that I can’t control what Steve does, I can’t force him to get involved, I can’t provide feedback or throw a skeptical holy water at any of this, and I certainly can’t control the timeline of his involvement. Steve’s a busy guy, he has lots of spinning plates, so it’s hard to get him focused on something like this. But I have to add that up to now, other than the time slip, he’s been very fair and very open about exploring this. All I can do is keep moving forward with this research in the best way that I can with the help, support and constructive criticism of those who are interested in these research questions.
Now here is the plan as I see it right now moving forward. We’ve completed two preliminary trials, we’ve just began our third, after that we’re going to do at least one more preliminary trial. Then the real fun is going to begin, we’re going to go out and look for research partners. Those will be university affiliated researchers that can take this research to the next level. We’re also hoping Steve and the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe folks will continue in this phase, and I think that there’s many skeptics who would be great candidates as research partners, so we want to engage them if we can. That’s the plan, and I think that addresses this issue of pilot study, preliminary research thing. But there’s a couple of other points that I want to clear up, and the first has to do with evaluating the results. Here’s Steve again.
Steve: Actually my criticism of this is different than you were talking about Rebecca. Mine is that what this is really measuring in my opinion is who is better at guessing. Psychics, if you are practicing self-identified – or alleged psychic, this is what you do is talk to sitters and cold read them, you are probably going to be better at this kind of a guessing game than somebody who has never done that, who doesn’t do that on a regular basis. But I don’t know, we’ll see. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes as no difference either.
Alex: Now I actually had a conversation with Steve about this and I don’t think we’re that far apart as it may seem. It all comes down to the magnitude of the results. If at the end of the day, after all the trials, mediums score only slightly better than others or even if they score five or ten times better than others, then Steve’s claim that these people are just better at reading people’s voices and doing cold reading kind of stuff – well, then that claim might explain it. But if you get a hugely significant difference, whether mediums are off the charts and no other groups are even close, then Steve’s claim wouldn’t totally hold up.
Like I said, we had a conversation on this and I think we’re in agreement. You just couldn’t explain a way real significant results that repeated over and over again with that kind of claim. That really wouldn’t hold up. Of course as you know, those are the kind of results we’ve been getting so far, let me update you a little bit. For example, on trial two medium scored at 150,000 to 1 above chance levels. Skeptics are pretty good, too, they scored 6 to 1 above chance levels. We can talk about what the implications of that might be a little bit later, but the big picture there is you can’t easily explain a way how mediums do that much better just by saying they’re better at reading people’s voices. You better be able to prove how that could even be possible. That’s where more research and more data will really help kind of sort of those things out.
Now the final clip from the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe show that I want to play is from Jay Novella, here it is.
Jay: That’s why I think the big problem is one quote from the site that just stuck me, he says that as a skeptical participant, you are to use ordinary logic and deduction to answer four questions. How can you use logic and deduction with the sparse information given? You can’t, there is no deduction.
Alex: Of course I’m glad that Jay has this first impression because that’s exactly what we wanted, descriptions that can’t easily be matched the recordings, and that’s what he’s saying we had. Here is where it’s kind of interesting because despite Jay’s first impressions, many of you have come up with some very brilliant ways of using the information from the descriptions and matching them to the data or at least shifting the odds in your favor. Let me give you a quick example.
In trial two, the second sitter’s name is Zoe, and she clearly has an accent. Here’s Zoe’s recording.
Zoe: Hello, my name is Zoe.
Alex: Now some peg this accent as being from New Zealand, some thought it was Australian and some thought it was South African. But two folks made the following deduction; they said that Zoe’s accent sounded like she was from New Zealand. Now she actually lives in Australia, but put that aside for a minute. They further said that therefore there were many fewer shootings in New Zealand and there were lower rates of incarceration as compared to the United States, and they therefore deduced that the chances that Zoe matched either Choice C, a person who died prison; or Choice D, a person who is shot, they figured that that probably wasn’t a good match for Zoe. They were right, neither of those were a match. Now this is quite a brilliant little deduction, and it’s just the kind of thing we were looking for from skeptical participants.
Now of course it creates a bit of a dilemma, an interesting, exciting dilemma that we didn’t fully see going in, and that is how do you evaluate your control group. One the one hand you could just say let’s compare the results of non-mediums against mediums and see if there is this big difference we were talking about. But when you look at the work that some – and I’m going to call them cold readers – cold readers have done, you say if we just lump all those into the category of non-mediums, their excellent performance is going to get watered down with a bunch of other folks who were just making more or less random guesses. The issue comes back to how do we address the cold reader problem, that is people who are able to make better than average deductions and logical links in this kind of matching exercise that we’re doing, and I think there’s a couple of things we can do. At the same time, I want to say that I’m very open to hearing what some of you think about this problem, how we can work through it and still come up with a good experiment for it.
But here are the couple of thoughts that crossed my mind. First we have to redouble our efforts to sanitize the descriptions and close off as many of these cold reading deductions that we can think of. I think we can do this, we’re getting smarter and smarter as the trials go on, mainly due to your help, and I think we can only get better at doing this. I think eventually where we hope to wind up is where even if people are making logical deductions, they’re still doing it at chance rates. I could give you many examples of these in the skeptical trials we’ve already seen. I just gave you an example of someone who made a logical deduction that turned out to be true. I can give you a dozens examples of people who make very seemingly well thought out, well reasoned deductions that turn out to be completely false. So I think as we move forward, we can continue to have a pretty good handle on evaluating where those holes are and whether people are finding them.
Now the second thing we can do and we are going to do is really to cultivate this group of cold readers and closely monitor their progress. If they can consistently score four out of four, then I think that would lend credence to Steve’s claim or Steve’s hypothesis that maybe there’s people out there that can do cold reading as good as mediums do. But on the other hand, if as we tighten the controls we see that the same people that were successful in doing cold readings before are now scoring no better than chance, then we’d have to wonder whether it’s just the forces of randomness and whether we’re really back to chance results. So, more data gain will really help us sort through that.
Finally, the last thing I want to comment on the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe broadcast, and I’m reluctant to do this because it’s really such a waste of time but too many of you have brought it up to avoid it completely, and that’s the comments of Rebecca. Why is it so often when you put together a forum like this that the people that have the most to say have the least to contribute? Just like in Rebecca’s case, if you ever take the time to really listen to what they’re saying, you’ll discover that almost all the time their followers. They maybe followers with an edge or followers with a loud voice, but they’re still just followers, kind of like the angry people you see marching around in front of abortion clinics; angry followers. I don’t know about you, but when I see people like that, I just drive by and try not to make eye contact.
So, with that note, let’s take a little break and I’m going to come back and tell you about trial three and some of the things we’re doing a little bit differently and about how you can again help contribute to make that a successful trial.
Alex: Welcome back. As I mentioned earlier, we’re about ready to launch trial three of the medium experiment. As before, we’re going to have two trials, they are going to be identical in almost every respect in terms of their quoting and the matching, but one is going to be geared toward skeptics and we’re going to ask you to provide your logic and your deductions are before. The other one of course will be given to mediums and see how they score on it. Now the link for that if you’re interested will be up on the Skeptiko website just as soon as we launch it, which should be sometime this week, the week of this podcast; or at the very latest, next week. I’ll also be sending out an e-mail to a certain group of our chosen readers, if you will, folks who seem to really have a handle on making those connections from the skeptical group. So if you get an e-mail, I invite you to take part and to continue to take part in this experiment. You’ll really be helping out if you do and we’ll get to the bottom of your cold reading abilities.
Now a couple of other small things to mention in trial three, other than some of the changes that we’re making in terms of trying to tighten things up here and there which I think we’ve gone into, we’re also applying a couple of additional controls. Number one is we’re not going to communicate anyone’s results until after the experiment is done. Now, previous to this, we like to give mediums feedback very soon after they completed they survey. So theoretically, there was a chance that there could have been some overlaps in the mediums communicating in the background with each other. Of course, we have no reason to think that went on, none of the mediums knew which other mediums were participating in this, and the feedback wasn’t that fast that that would explain it. But nonetheless, we’re going to close that little loop and tighten that out.
We have a little bit of a problem with some anonymous participation from skeptics and we need to form a rule on that. What we’re going to do is if you don’t have a valid name and a valid e-mail address, then we’re not going to accept a submission from a skeptic. Again, we’re pairing down both our mediums, the number of medium participants, and we’re also going to work towards pairing down the skeptical participation. Again, just guessing alone isn’t going to do us much good in this experiment because we already know what chance levels will get us. What we want to find, is there a way to use cold reading techniques to come close to what mediums do? I think that’s the research hypothesis that I think we’re evolving into.
With that, I don’t think there’s too much left to talk about right now about trial three. We’ll just jump into it and we invite you to jump into it with us. Of course we’ll be back to tell you about the results and any other further refinements we need to make as those come about.
Next, let’s turn to the interview that I conducted recently. So here’s my interview with Mike Tymn, author of The Articulate Dead.
(Start of interview with Mike Tymn)
Alex: Mike, thank you very much for joining us today. As many of you will know, Mike Tymn is a blogger, a writer of many articles of survival of consciousness, mediumship and similar topics. He’s just come out with a new book titled The Articulate Dead. Actually I have to thank one of our forum posters who really pointed me in the direction of Mike’s work, and I found just a very deep body of very well written, very interesting material. I immediately contacted him and he was nice enough to join us here on Skeptiko. So with that as way of an introduction, Mike thanks for joining us today.
Mike: Thank you for having me.
Alex: Mike, where I thought we might start is a little bit about your bio and how you came to be interested in this topic, how you came to kind of create your blog and then of course your book. So give us a quick sketch of how you got to where you are now.
Mike: I call myself a semi-retired journalist. But it confuses people and raise eyebrows, I tell them I’m a survival propagandist.
Mike: To go back to how I got interested in psychical research or mediumship, it just sort of evolved. On 1989, I happen to be in the train session in Washington, DC going down to Atlanta, and I just grabbed a book about Edgar Cayce. So that was sort of my introduction to this whole area. From reincarnation I went to near-death experiences, and then from near-death experiences I became interested in mediumship, more so after I visited England in 1999 and went to the Spiritual Association of Great Britain. I had a couple of readings there which were very evidential, turned my focus from near-death studies and reincarnation to mediumship at that point. It just has evolved since then. I retired from my full-time job which was as an insurance country manager in 2002 and started writing about the subject then. I’ve been freelance writer ever since college days, contributing to various newspapers and magazines, mostly sport stories but I changed my focus.
Alex: Great. Tell us a little bit about this book, The Articulate Dead. I really want to get into this because it really just hit me in a couple of ways. One of ways it kind of struck me is that when I speak to skeptics, one of two or three standard lines that you’ll get is “a hundred years and nothing.” That’s the quote, that the quote of all these things, “hundred years of nothing.” I always have this sense from the little bit of research that I’ve done that there is a body of research out there that’s quite robust and quite deep, well thought out by people who are very intelligent in their time, but I guess I had never really investigated in fully, and I must admit I had this kind of counter-balancing skeptical Houdini say-on busting image in my head. The history wasn’t really clear in my mind. I ran across your book, I get the sense that that was one of the things you hope to do is kind of really clear up that confusion in my head and supposedly in a lot of other people’s head, too.
Mike: Right. Most of the reports were written by academicians. As I said, I’m a journalist, journalist and academicians write in different ways. It took three or four years of reading this stuff before it began to sink in what they were trying to say. As I continued to read, I just felt the need to try and translate the academic type reports into layman’s language so that it could be understood, and that was my objective.
Alex: Give us an overview of the cases that you find most compelling from that period; of the different periods. What are the different periods and what are some of the cases that come forth that are most kind of knock-your-socks-off, hard-to-refute compelling?
Mike: The two most famous mediums of that day, William James’ call the white crows; of course Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard. Mrs. Piper was from Boston and Mrs. Leonard was from England. Quite a bit of research was done, psychical research with these two by a number of distinguished men, Oliver Lodge who was a world-renowned physicist at the time, who’s a pioneer in electricity, in radio and in sparkplug ignition. He’s sort of my favorite, but there are a number of others; Richard Hudson, James Hyslop who’s a retired Columbia university professor, Sir William Barrett.
Alex: Mike, tell us how they did it, what they did and what the results were. A couple of things that impressed me as being interesting, one is they were very methodical and well reasoned and scientific in their approach, they were also very patient and pretty painstaking in the way that they want about it. Can you just talk a little bit about their methods and their results?
Mike: I think it’s important to understand that they type of mediumship they were looking at is not the same type of mediumship we’re seeing today, the clairvoyant type that you’re involved with in your researches. They were involved more with transmediumship of various types. Piper was a transmedium, she would go into a trance, then initially the spirit will take over her body and start talking to her vocal chords. Gladys Osborne Leonard was much the same with transmedium. So they’re the two most famous, and they got eight chapters out of the 20 or so chapters in my book. The research methods were very scientific. They isolated the medium from the sitters. Quite frequently when Sir Oliver Lodge was sitting with Mrs. Piper, he would bring a sitter into the room, have the sitter remain outside until she was in a trance. Then the sitter come in at that point, messages will start to come through, initially they came through her voice. But after about five or sic years, I think somewhere around 1895 or so, it turned to sort of an automatic writing type thing.
Alex: How were the results received at the time? I think as your book tells, there was a lot of skepticism, but that led to a lot of further analysis, and a lot of people are won over once they really dug into it. I guess I’d like to kind of further dispel this idea that get stuck in a lot of people’s head, including my own, that this spiritualism movement of the turn of the century was something that was then kind of debunked and just went away. I don’t think that’s really the history is it?
Mike: No, it isn’t. If you look at any of the books written by these famous researches, Lodge and Hyslop, Barrett and so forth, you’ll find that they came out and said that we believe that consciousness survives physical dead, no reeled this or buts about it.
Alex: So then what happened? What happened to research in this area? Why did it dry up or really even turn into a total taboo subject? It sounds like it was less of a taboo subject at the time. How did this shift occur?
Mike: I think 1925 was the turning point that the medium named Margery, Mina Crandon was her name in Boston, she was investigated by the Society for Psychical Research as well as some independent researchers, and they could not decide on whether she was for real or not. I think there are eight people in the committee, four of them felt that she was a genuine medium, four of them felt that she was Sherlock of some kind, and they just couldn’t agree. At that point, the Society for Psychical Research seems to have gone downhill from that point.
Alex: When did that skepticism kind of carry the day there and did you see the big shift away from mediumship?
Mike: There was always the skepticism, people like Lodge and Barrett, Hyslop and sort forth were always in minority amongst scientists, orthodox science just couldn’t accept it. Again, 1925 seemed to be the turning point, after that it turned to ESP. Dr. Ryan, his laboratory at Duke and so forth, it became more interested to card counting and that type of thing. It turned away from survival research to ESP.
Alex: I just have to interject, looking back that was a real mistake in my view. We paid the price as folks who are interested in the real implications for this research, and we paid the price for this attempt to kind of legitimize what is happening here by pigeon-holing it into something that looks more like science. We get into Ganzfeld and Gaiger Counters and all this stuff that nobody really cares about, it seems like we’ve moved away from the stuff that really does kind of reach people in their heart, and that’s this survival issue. So do you think we made a trade-off there at some point to try and look more scientific and maybe pull the heart out of this research?
Mike: Yes, definitely. As I ask researchers when I talk to them who accept ESP but don’t accept survival, my question is what does that get us? Telepathy is true, but if survival isn’t, so what. Is it making a better place to live in the short time we have?
Alex: More over, I just think that’s a real narrow reading. It’s not even a very good reading of the day forget narrow. You just have to look away from a lot of other evidence, not only mediumship but as you mentioned, near-death experience, afterlife encounters, deathbed visions, reincarnation and [inaudible 00:31:16]. You have to just kind of sweep all that aside and say what I’m going to focus on is Ganzfeld.
Mike: I agree. I understand it to some extent, I know that there are a number of researchers out there who believe in survival but are not prepared to come out and commit to it, they sort of remain sitting on the defense as far as the public is concerned because their concerned about their academic standings.
Alex: We’ve really create an environment that makes it absolutely impossible to have a job in academia and have any of these beliefs. But that’s part of the bargain that I guess we made. I thought we’ll talk a little about it and we had a little bit of an e-mail exchange about the research that we’re doing, I just want to tell you one of the thoughts we had in OpenSourceScience. There’s just so little of this research out there, and it’s so blindingly obvious that this is a topic that needs to be researched from a scientific standpoint, that the public is demanding and is extremely interested in. It’s not being well served by academia, and the research community completely ignores it. What we’ve tried to do is just say anything that moves into this direction is a positive thing. We felt like the first step to do was to really kind of collaborate with the skeptical community. The way we see the skeptical community and the way I see the skeptical community is not just as a bunch of cynical skeptics but really as kind of a front, if you will, for a very materialistic academia who would feel very comfortable just leaving things the way that they are. Skeptics do a good job of kind of standing out in front of that.
That said, I think we’ve had a nice exchange with a couple of skeptical groups and most recently with the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe folks and the host of that show was a Professor or Neurology at Yale University named Steve Novella. So we’re kind of collaborating on this medium experiment and the one that you saw. I can’t really call it a medium experiment because I think what we did was try and back off of that and say that one of the problems when you get into mediumship is there’s so many different terms thrown around. Especially now, is that remote viewing or is that through mediumship, is it super sci or is it just sci. To me, all that discussion is such a ridiculous side show when we have to confront the fact that mainstream science won’t touch this topic because they just do not accept the whole idea of anomalous cognition. So what we try to do is simplify the problem and just say can there be any anomalous cognition that goes on between a person that wants to connect with someone on the other side, and that person on the other side. That’s how we kind of set up the experiment.
Mike: I think further research is good, but my feeling is that we should be able to invoke the legal doctrine of Res Judicata, which in effects says it has been judicated, it has been decided. I don’t think we can improve upon the research that these old timers did, regardless of what the skeptic said. The clairvoyant type mediumship reinforces the old research, but again you can’t improve upon it. Where you seem to want to reinvent the wheel, and we end up with a square wheel, what it amounts to. As far as research with clairvoyants, I think Dr. Gary Schwartz’s research is about as good as you can get.
Alex: I think it’s interesting that you bring up Dr. Gary Schwartz, I think he’s a tremendous trailblazer in this area and have the courage to go out and do it. But not enough; (1) Not enough researcher and not enough research there, and (2) the worrisome problems pointed out with the research even from people in the parapsychology community who are not skeptical of it. I don’t see that as a failing where the whole thing falls apart, but it just says we need to stay after it, we need to improve it.
Now, in our project earlier on, we consulted with – I don’t know if you know Dr. Julie Beischel who was a colleague of Dr. Gary Schwartz and is at the Windbridge Institute, and was really working hand and glove with Gary on a lot of that work. So we’ve tried to align ourselves with people who are familiar with the current body of research. As far as duplicating the wheel and turning it into a square wheel, I guess there’s that potential out there. At the same time, I think we have to just kind of face the reality that in modern terms there isn’t a lot of modern research out there. So, we can suggest and motivate people to go back and look at the research from a hundred years ago. But let’s face it, we wouldn’t take that path and any other area of science and say tests will all approve particle beams a hundred years ago, so there’s no need to do any more research on it, just go back and dig all that stuff up. If it’s not in the public consciousness, we’re kind of obligated to bring it in the public consciousness and push it into the forum of scientific debate again and again and again until it’s somehow gains that critical mass, that traction that gets it going. I don’t know what that is, I just know we have to keep pushing in that direction.
Mike: I agree. Even though various polls say that 85% of the US population believes in God and believes in an afterlife, they don’t really believe. They just hope for it. I think that’s the reason why we have so many ills in the world today, is that we’ve developed into a very materialistic much more a hedonistic type lifestyle here in the United States because it’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. People just don’t really believe it; that there is anything after to hope for. But they can’t visualize it, they can’t get a hold of it. So, we’re where we are today in the world.
Alex: The other thing that I look at is that I think that’s where we get this disconnect between science and spirituality, the social issues that we really care about, and I think why so many people have lost faith in science. Of course, that so many times gets portrayed. We have a lot of listeners in the UK and in Europe, and they see it differently because they have a different perspective on things and see us as kind of mired by this religious tradition. But the way I see it is that it’s so unfortunate because the only way we can get out of this ridiculous false dichotomy of science and religion is by using our best science to study spirituality, we have this kind of false debate between basically fundamentalist Christianity in the United States and science which kind of creates a lot of noise but doesn’t really get at the heart of the new discoveries, in this consciousness that point towards spirituality as being a fundamental aspect to our existence. One that we’ve completely ignored, willfully ignored, just going on about our way not to look at. That’s not science, that’s not how science is supposed to operate.
Mike: I agree. I think that the focus has been finding God whereas my feeling is forget God and look at the evidence for survival. If God exists, and there is no survival, then so what? On the other hand, if there is survival but no God, we’re still back to where we want to be. I believe that God if undefinable, so let’s forget about trying to find him and look at the evidence, take an inductive approach. Look at the evidence for survival and let God unfold form that. So many of these atheistic offers keep focusing on whether there is a God or not, and we never get past that hurdle to the survival issue.
Alex: That’s an interesting point, the inductive reasoning. I agree, that’s the scientific method, follow the data, just keep following the data. As you point out, I think the data for survival continues to grow stronger and stronger and stronger, and continues to get ignored. That’s why we’re each doing what we’re doing.
Mike: One thing I want to point out as far as your research, one thing that comes through clearly in the old research is there had to be harmony, negativity defeated results. There has to be harmony there, it has to unfold. That’s why they had the singing and prayers and everything else before their sittings in the old days, and they wait a long time. If you read the reports, sometimes they wait a half hour, they waited as long as four hours. Hamlin Garland reported sitting with the medium for four hours before anything started to happen. I just can’t imagine people today waiting that long or even more than 15 or 20 minutes.
Alex: I don’t know that I’d even go quite that far in terms of saying that certain conditions must exist in terms of harmony. I’m with you on the debunking part, I think it also represents just how horrible some of the skeptical research has been done, it’s really just a debunking exercise. To your earlier point or maybe you were picking up on something that we said in our research, is that we are doing everything that mediums instruct us to do to optimize the environment for their success as long as it doesn’t violate the basic principles of good science. Now why that isn’t widely accepted as the way to proceed in this area completely astounds me. This is basic science, someone says this are the preconditions that I need in order to do this. Then you meet those preconditions, you don’t set your own conditions for how they’re supposed to perform. The same is true with replications, I see some of this work that’s been done in the skeptical vain; I’ll mention Richard Wiseman who’s done it, who doesn’t bother finding out how it’s been done or how the phenomena can be isolated but creates a test that can fail. Then once the test has failed, he can then find a control group and then say, “Look, I even compared it to a control group but it failed against the control group.” That’s not good science, we didn’t learn anything, we didn’t advance things forward. So, this idea that we should everything possible within the realms of good science or within the confines of good science – to allow mediums to demonstrate the phenomena, it’s just common sense.
Mike: Right, I agree. Another example from my book is Sir William Crookes and Daniel Home who was recalled for his levitations – had 29 sittings that Crookes has with them. He was to be levitated on only three of those occasions. In some of the sittings, other things happen, but as far as levitations only 3 out of 29 and conditions just had to be just right. Home pointed out that he wasn’t doing the levitating, the spirits were lifting him and conditions had to be harmonious and just right. There was one day, it was derby day in England, nothing happened and he said there was too much negativity in the atmosphere, With all the drunkenness and gambling going on that day, they said that the spirits couldn’t perform.
Alex: That’s very interesting. I think one of the things that we’ve tried to do is again take a minimalistic approach to isolating the phenomena. Just in the account that you gave there, there’s 10 years of research, you can pick that apart and analyze all the different factors; what does harmony mean and what does harmonious mean, all those kinds of different things. I guess what I feel are our goal is here it to just bring it back down to the blindingly obvious fact that nonetheless gets ignored, that’s that anomalous cognition happens and we have to use that are a starting point. So, that’s been our goal, is to really just take a very simplistic, minimalist approach. I think the other thing we’re trying to do, maybe a little bit differently in this idea of open sourcing it and internet enabling it is to really reduce the cycle time it takes to run trials, to publish trials, then to rerun trials with new people and new researchers in order to generate enough momentum with our results. So, we hope to make some progress in that way, too.
You can’t close yourself away, which is unfortunately the standard model for academicians and say, “We’re going to take a year to design our experiment. We’re going to take another year to get the money and the approval inside the university. Then we’re going to run it for two years.” Five years later, you have your results and somebody goes, “Yes, but you forgot to do that.” Then they go, “Okay, we’ll start all over again.” As in the case of Gary Schwartz in the University of Arizona, the university just loses patience with it and has stuck their neck out in order to even allow such stuff to go on, and it just dries up.
Mike: I wish you best of luck in the project. I look forward to seeing some results.
Alex: You bet. I appreciate you coming on. It’s been a real pleasure Mike. We’ll stay in touch. I appreciate the historical kind of perspective on this, I think it’s much needed by anyone who’s going to look into this. It was a good refresher course for me. So, thanks again.
Mike: Just one thing I want to point out, can I add one more thing?
Alex: Of course.
Mike: A lot of people happen to be watching – have you seen Lisa Williams on TV at all?
Mike: She seems to get names more often than other clairvoyants or clairaudience like John Edward. But one thing, I saw a segment of her with some skeptic and she couldn’t get the name. She gets names; I don’t know what percentage she gets because I don’t know what set it is out of the program. If you look at the program, she’s almost always on, I’m sure a lot of it edited out. One thing that came through in the old research is that mediums get ideas, they don’t get names, as well clairaudience can get names now and then, and clairvoyant they see symbols. John Edwards has said for the name George, he’ll get a picture of Saint George and he knows there’s a George there. So it’s important to realize, and something skeptics don’t, if they can’t even get a person’s name what good are you. It’s not that easy to get words. They’re getting symbols or getting visions of things that they have to interpret.
Alex: At this point, I have not been doing this research very long, but long enough to have talked to a couple of dozen mediums, and they all do it differently. They realize from getting together from other mediums that they do it differently. They have different ways of describing it in terms of the spirit has to work through them and work through their unique abilities and that’s why it always comes out different. I don’t want to get caught up in any of that, I don’t want to even use terms like clairaudience clairasensial or whatever that is. Forget all that, I just want to get it down to – it’s so obvious to anyone who delves into this topic that there is anomalous communication going through. There’s a hundred years of good, solid research going forward that needs to be done. But we’re not doing any of it right now, there’s none. You [inaudible 00:48:27], it’s the only one, they’re shut down basically. Julie is trying to get some going at the Windbridge Institute, but that’s moving very slowly. So, a million questions pop up.
What we’re trying to do is just kind of pound the drum and say something is happening here. Until we can all get on the same page and say something is happening, then we can start asking the question, is the akashic record or super sci or true mediumship and survival and all that, which I think it is. I don’t have to be unbiased, I believe completely in survival of consciousness. But, I’m open to folks who see it in a different way. But anyone who doesn’t believe in anomalous cognition, I’m open to your debate. But you better bring it because the day that this isn’t stacked up in your favor, and that’s why we’ve designed a simple experiment to just show that the stuff happens because mediums can do this.
The other point that maybe you mentioned in your e-mail is we’ve also set up another version of the experiment to show that if you don’t think that anomalous cognition is going on when mediums match up a voice description from a sitter with a description of a deceased loved on; if you don’t think that’s anomalous cognition, then you must think there’s some hints, some cold reading techniques that you can apply to listening to the recording that would then tie you to the description. It’s got be one or the other, there’s a materialist explanation or a psychological explanation that we can somehow pick up this accent or this phrasing and that that somehow can lead us to the answer. Fine, if that’s you’re claim them support your claim by showing us the data.
I have to tell you, to date, Mike, we’ve had dozens of skeptics go through it and no has made that match on all four. I won’t reveal right now what the right is among mediums, but it’s extraordinarily statistically significant.
Mike: I’m glad to hear that.
Alex: Thank you so much for joining us today, The Articulate Dead is a terrific book that I’m sure a lot of folks listening to Skeptiko will find very interesting. I wish you the best of luck with it.
Mike: Thank you very much Alex. Thanks for having me on.
Alex: You bet, Mike. So that will do it. Mike, this whole airing, it might air in four weeks.
Mike: Okay, whatever, yes.
Alex: I have a schedule. I’ll send you an e-mail before it goes out and then we’ll have a transcript up. I’ll just send you a link to all that stuff.
Alex: Take care.
Mike: Thank you very much.
Alex: Bye. Thanks again to Mike Tymn for joining us today on Skeptiko. If you’d like more information about Mike’s book, The Articulate Dead, check out our show notes Skeptiko.com. You’ll also find all the information on our previous shows, a link to our forum, and an e-mail link to me. Much more to come in future broadcast, many more updates on the medium experiment and some other great interviews coming up real soon. Until next then, bye for now.