82. Mark Edward… The Lost Interview

Update on the Skeptiko’s Summer Vacation and my non-interview with mentalist Mark Edward.

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Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris. I hadn’t really planned on doing this little update here, but I was visiting the Skeptiko Forum which I haven’t been visiting quite as often lately, and I read some posts that I just thought I really need to give some attention to and update folks on a couple of things.

First thing I guess I have to explain is why I haven’t been quite as active with Skeptiko over the summer and it’s certainly not been because I’ve lost interest, but a couple things are going on and very exciting things. First, there was just the issue of summer. Summer for folks like us who have four kids and two kids visiting from Latvia can be a little bit busy, and it was for us. I just didn’t have time to do a whole lot of Skeptiko stuff.

But the other reason I haven’t been quite as active is I have a new project. I’m doing a documentary film on science and spirituality along with many of the guests that you’ve heard here on Skeptiko. It’s quite an exciting project for me. I’ve really jumped into film-making with both feet, really enjoyed it. Have a lot of help from some folks up in Hollywood that are some very, very skilled filmmakers, and that’s been a great, interesting project. It’s going to take a while before you’ll have a chance to see much of it, but next year in 2010 you’ll see the fruits of our efforts. We have some great, great folks lined up for the documentary and I think it’s really going to turn out well.

So those two things have caused me to maybe not pay as much attention to some of the Skeptiko things that are going on. But when I popped over to the forum today, I saw some of the comments, particularly about this interview that I had, this non-interview that I had with Mark Edward. I thought I should pop in here, give you a little bit of update on Skeptiko, and talk a little bit about this interview that I did with Mark Edward.

So Mark Edward is a mentalist and a performer and quite a hard-core skeptic. He’s one of The Skeptologists, a group along with Brian Dunning of Skeptoid who you’ve heard on this show, who make an effort to debunk what they believe to be kind of false paranormal claims. Which is fine and well. And I really thought it would be interesting to have Mark on the show to talk about the medium experiment that we’ve done and which has kind of fallen off the radar a little bit, although I’m still working on it. I just haven’t had much time to devote to it.

So I set up this interview. The interview went in just a really strange way. Mark had this just tirade – I don’t know why he got so angry with me, but he was really, really upset at the end of it. But he just – I thought he really embarrassed himself. So lo and behold, I finish the interview and I realize I have totally messed up and you know, I had switched over to a different system and I guess I just made a mistake. I hadn’t recorded the interview and I was just ah! I was just so aggravated. One, because it took a long time to set up the interview with Mark. He can only talk at certain times. He can only talk at night and I generally don’t like to do these interviews in the evening.

So it had taken a lot of my time and here I didn’t have it. So, I wondered what to do, you know, I didn’t have the interview and I figured, just drop it. One, there was a lot of negative stuff in there, you know, he had really gotten so mad and I don’t really like to go that negative, but so at the end of the day I said, “Just drop it, forget it.”

Now I have to mention, I had e-mailed Mark and called him immediately after the interview was over and I realized I didn’t have it. And I said, “Mark, I didn’t record the interview. I’m sorry. I apologize. You’re welcome to come back on. But I don’t have the recording.” So he e-mails me back and he says, “My side of the recording came out just fine. Let me know if you want me to send you a copy.” And I e-mailed him back. I said, “Great. E-mail it to me, upload it someplace I can download it or publish it. It’d be great.” Never heard from him again.

So the next thing I heard was again, today when I went over to the forum and I was directed to this blog post that he did. And it’s just such bull. I mean, he’s just completely distorted our interview. Like I say, Mark really embarrassed himself when he spoke to me. I mean, one of his claims to me was that I use a lot of words. [laughs] Meaning, I think in the context that it was said that I was being too scientific or intellectual on the topic and I don’t think that’s usually a claim that many people make about me.

I guess what had got him in that direction was I had asked him if he was familiar with any of the real research that’s been done in mediumship, like Julie Beischel, who you know has been on this show a couple of times. Or Gary Schwartz. And he was completely unapologetically uninformed of any real research that had been done.

So next I invited him to take part in our medium experiment and I explained how it was done in a way to kind of prevent any cold reading techniques. And he shot that down, too. And he was really, really dismissive of what we had designed, and insisted that the only way to do a medium experiment was to see if one of “my mediums,” — I don’t know what that means – could do a reading for him that was accurate. And I suggested to him that that wasn’t really a very controlled way to do an experiment and he just was completely unaccepting of any of that.

The thing turned really bad and I guess partly it was because I pointed out that I thought there was quite a hypocrisy in Mark’s presentation of being a psychic debunker and at the same time offering services of being a psychic, which he still does on his Web site. I think he really handled that well. He claims that it’s entertainment but anyways, I think that might have been what kind of set him off.

The bottom line on all this is that Mark, come back on Skeptiko. Or set up an interview that we can do on another show that’s more friendly to you. Now, you might recall that this is the same claim I’ve made to Ben Radford, who’s been on this show and then didn’t like when his claims were challenged. It’s the same argument or suggestion I’ve put forth to Brian Dunning, who totally punted on the Global Consciousness Project when he was confronted with the data from the real researchers. So I don’t really understand why these figures in the skeptical community run away when they’re confronted with the facts. Or run away from a debate or a serious discussion on the topics. It really baffles me.

I can’t imagine doing it. I’m here. Any place, any time, these folks want to talk, I think I’m reasonably civil in my discourse. I don’t raise my voice, I don’t shout at these people. I generally give them just as much time as I take on the mike. So it baffles me why these folks are not interested in a real dialogue. You know, I think they have points. I just don’t know why they don’t want to come on and make those points and try and make their case.

And again, you know, I’m happy to do that in a skeptical forum as well if they want to find another skeptical blog or if they want to publish these things themselves so that they – some have made the claim that I edit them unfavorably, which is untrue. And no one has really – none of my guests have ever claimed that, it’s just other folks.

So anyway, I wanted to give this little update on the Mark Edward situation. Let’s see if we can get him back on. If we can, it’s going to be interesting, because he is a piece of work and it doesn’t take much to set this guy off. So let’s see if we can flush him out of the bushes or for that matter if we can flush either Brian Dunning or Ben Radford out of the bushes. Because they really need to come out and talk and make their case.

So that’s going to do it for this little update. I have some interesting interviews coming up this next week. I’m talking to just a bunch of people. Summer’s over. The kids are back in school. I have a little bit more time to devote to this stuff and I have some interesting interviews coming up. Next week I’m going to be speaking with Chris French and I hope to get that interview out real soon. It ought to be very interesting. He’s a real quality researcher who happens to be skeptic as opposed to a skeptic that happens to be a researcher. So all that coming up. Stay with us. Stay in touch. Bye for now.