86. The Men Who Stare at Goats Science With Jon Ronson

http://www.yourmoviestuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/the-men-who-stare-at-goats_290.jpgJoin Host Alex Tsakiris for a discussion with The Men Who Stare at Goats author, Jon Ronson.  The 35-minute interview explores the science of remote viewing portrayed in the film, and whether skepticism is warranted.

Jon Ronson is a British journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker.  Ronson has a distinctive self-deprecating reporting style, which incorporates aspects of Gonzo journalism while skeptically exploring quirky characters.

Ronson’s third book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, has been turned into a major motion picture starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

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Announcer: On this episode of Skeptiko, author of The Men Who Stare at Goats, Jon Ronson.

“They stuck a bunch of soldiers in a room at Fort Meade in Maryland, including some who’ve gone on to become quite famous paranormal buffs like Ed Dames and Dermot Monocle and Ingo Swann and so on, and they kind of stuck them in a room and told them to be psychic. And some of them tried to be psychic for like 20 years and they do point to some remote viewing successes, but even if they did manage to harness psychic powers which you know, I suspect they probably didn’t, but even if they did, there was still nothing the military could do with it.”

Announcer: Stay with us for Skeptiko.

Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode I have a very interesting interview with the author and really main character behind the movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Jon Ronson.

Of course, I was more interested in the science behind the movie and the skeptical spin on it. I mean, haven’t people like Hal Puthoff and Steven Schwartz established that remote viewing really works and that the military should be interested in it? So we had a chance to talk about that and a number of other of Jon’s projects. And stick around for the end of the interview and I’ll tell you about a little bit of the additional research I did and some of the follow-up e-mail exchange I had with Jon. Here’s my dialogue with Jon Ronson.

We’re joined by quite a fascinating, fascinating guy. He’s a writer, documentary filmmaker, several international bestsellers, including, Them: Adventures with Extremists, and a book that we were just chatting a little bit about that’s going to be turned into a movie starring George Clooney, The Men Who Stare at Goats. Jon Ronson, thank you for joining me on Skeptiko.

Jon Ronson: Oh, that’s my pleasure, Alex. And in fact the movie is about to come out. It’s coming out on November the 6th. It’s finished and ready to go.

Alex Tsakiris: And is that going to be released at the same time in the United States as well as in the UK?

Jon Ronson: Yeah, yeah, it seems to be getting released in both countries on the same day. And it’s been shown at a few festivals. It was shown in Venice and in Toronto and in Austin, and a lot of people seem to like it. And it’s about the kind of things that interest your listeners, I think. It’s about how the U.S. military in the 80s post-Vietnam became really interested in the paranormal. They got into a sort of bubble of thought in which they believed that it was possible to teach the American soldier how to walk through walls and become invisible and kill goats just by staring at them.

Hence the name of the book and movie. And so they spent a long time, you know, trying to drop goats by staring at them and once or twice goats did fall over, but presumably out of boredom as opposed to actual paranormal powers on the part of soldiers.

Alex Tsakiris: Really? I mean, I found all that quite fascinating. I have to say in some of the interviews I had heard from before, it sounded like the results from a paranormal standpoint were a little more mixed. I take it that they did have some sense that there was something going on, not that they could weaponize it in any way that made sense for the military. But they had some rather interesting kind of effects, right?

Jon Ronson: Yeah, well, they believed that they you know, managed some stuff. They believed that they managed to drop a few goats in their time. You know, they never managed to pass through walls, but they think they had success with the remote viewing experiments. They stuck a bunch of soldiers in a room at Fort Meade in Maryland, including some who’ve gone on to become quite famous paranormal buffs like Ed Dames and Dermot Monocle and Ingo Swann and so on, and they kind of stuck them in a room and told them to be psychic.

And some of them tried to be psychic for like 20 years and they do point to some remote viewing successes, but as you say, it was really hard to find military applications for it, so even if they did manage to harness psychic powers which you know, I suspect they probably didn’t, but even if they did, there was still nothing the military could do with it. You can’t kind of launch an offensive based on psychic intuition, so after a while it got kind of shut down.

Alex Tsakiris: You know, that’s what I thought would be interesting to chat with you about, Jon, because you’ve really explored so many of these interesting little quirky sub-cultures that we have and you’ve done it with a lot of wit and a lot of insight. What’s your take-away on some of these – I hate to use the term paranormal, but these parapsychology effects? And in particular, it seems like recently you’ve gotten into kind of the intersection of maybe strange beliefs with religion.

Jon Ronson: Well, you know sadly, I’ve become more and more skeptical as I’ve gone along when it comes to actually believing in the possibility of these powers. I kind of don’t. And in fact, when there’s no question for me anymore, I find it quite hard to write about it because the stuff that I write about is quite humanist and it’s quite gentle and nice, and I don’t go in there like Ramda, you know, knowing exactly what I believe and sort of wanting to kind of tell people they’re wrong. I like to do things that are kind of more gentle in a humanist way, so since my first book, Them, was about conspiracy theorists and back then I believed it was possible that conspiracy theories were true.

I sort of don’t believe that anymore so I can’t write a book like Them anymore. The Men Who Stare at Goats was about the possibility of there being paranormal powers harnessed by the U.S. military, and I don’t believe that’s possible anymore. So again, I can’t really write that book now because you know, you don’t want to go toward these former military psychics and say, “Well, I just don’t believe you. I just don’t believe. I think you just wasted your time,” because then you don’t get an interesting, layered story.

Alex Tsakiris: There’s a certain cynicism that I think develops if you’re really totally shut down to the idea and you continue to report it as if you’re openly investigating it, and that’s to your credit. I think that comes through in your work. You know, I was wondering what you think maybe about in particular when you talk about remote viewing. I mean, Richard Wiseman, someone in the UK who is quite a public figure in terms of scientific investigator of these kind of claims, who was recently in the magazine, Red Nova, was quoted as saying that he thinks that the scientific evidence for remote viewing by any other standard has been established. What do you make of…

Jon Ronson: Really?

Alex Tsakiris: Oh, yeah. Yeah…

Jon Ronson: Actually I never knew he said that. That’s interesting.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, and I think he then goes on to say it begs the question, do we need a higher standard for evidence that is so revolutionary and he suggests that we do. I don’t know how you…

Jon Ronson: Well, remote viewing’s a tough one, you know? It’s easy with kind of goat staring, you kind of know. They call that remote influencing, the idea that you can actually influence events with the power of your mind and either that seems pretty open and shut that it’s not possible. The difficult thing about remote viewing of course, is when you see the 20 years of experiments you’ll see plenty of occasions when they’ll have sketched something based on a kind of psychic viewing of the map coordinates and the sketch looks rather like the actual thing that’s in the map coordinate.

And I never really knew what to do with that piece of information, and if I’m being completely honest, when I was writing The Men Who Stare at Goats, I decided that I didn’t want to write a book which tried to prove or disprove the claims. I wanted to write a kind of a study of the – almost like a kind of soap opera – of the people involved in these programs. A sort of comedy about hanging out with them. It’s more like a kind of Errol Morris type thing than a Richard Wiseman thing. So I feel slightly unqualified, you know?

My guess is that there’s no truth in the claims but I’m really interested to know about Richard Wiseman. And in fact, I’m doing something with him this weekend at Time, London. So I’ll ask him about that. I’ll be fascinated to know what he makes of it.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah. Cause I think that the hard evidence that’s come in when they really control those kind of experiments are highly suggestive that something is going on. Of course, when they put all the controls on, you don’t have all the times the kind of star shot, you know, where they draw something completely. But I think it’s all been rather amazing in terms of the statistical measures that they use for analyzing whether there is any kind of anomalous communication. But again, I understand where you’re coming from. That’s not really your thing. I guess…

Jon Ronson: Yeah. No, it wasn’t, it wasn’t. But I’m fascinated. Isn’t this like a huge shift if somebody from the skeptical community says actually there may be some truth in this? Isn’t that like a kind of major thing?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, you know, that’s funny. I mean, that’s what I’ve really focused on in the last few years, and that to me seems the more interesting story in the whole issue of parapsychology is that really, it’s not that amazing when you dig into the research. I mean, if you look at, for example, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Dean Raden and his presentiment effect, but what they do is they hook these people up to a bunch of sensors like an EEG. They show them a picture. It’s either a very provocative or sexual picture, a violent picture, or just a kind of pastoral kind of flower, grassy thing. And they find that they actually react to the picture that appears on the computer screen before it’s even selected by the computer.

So it doesn’t make any sense in terms of the way that we normally understand things. It’s a precognition kind of effect, but there’s an experiment that’s been replicated on three different continents, you know, seven, eight, nine, ten universities. Of course, it never gets much traction because it doesn’t fit into the way we normally understand things and it’s just kind of an anomalous little thing that happens that we can’t quite explain. That’s really what we’ve been interested in on this show.

Jon Ronson: I think that’s fascinating. I mean, I’ve always been much more interested in people than in science. I’ve always thought that if you can work out what makes people tick that you get to the root of the story. And in fact, I’m continuing to do that in a book I’m writing at the moment, so having spent so much time looking into the people behind these sorts of experiments, I’m fascinated to hear the kind of scientific thought on them.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the people.  I think it’s a fascinating comparison myself, in terms of talking to a lot of skeptics and not being completely, really or very much at all, impressed with some of their science, if you will.

Jon Ronson: Yeah.

Alex Tsakiris: But I think the inner play between the hard-core skeptical community – I’m not putting you in that group – but you obviously…

Jon Ronson: Yeah, well, I’m not. I mean, well, I come and go. I mean, basically I gave a talk to them about seven or eight years ago. Skeptics in the pub when my book, Them, came out and I was kind of amazed that they even existed. That people would meet once a month and become skeptical. I remember saying to them, “You know, isn’t that kind of weird?” And they all went, “You know, no.” [Laughs]  But then after 911 when thought became so irrational with the True Thirds gaining such popularity and so on.

And you know, the people on both sides of the fence behaving in an incredibly irrational way. You saw the Bush government and the Blair government behaving very irrationally. And you also saw radicals and free-thinkers becoming True Thirds and you know, irrationality seemed to sweep the world. Then I really found that there was something important about skepticism because I thought that a hard-core truth, you know, there is no 911 conspiracy. Certainly nothing like the way that the Truthers see it, was really, really valuable and I found myself feeling much warmer towards the skeptics after that.

Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk a little bit about religion, Christianity and what have you found in the Alpha Course work that you’ve done?

Jon Ronson: For people who don’t know, the Alpha Course is – I forget how many weeks – it’s usually about ten weeks with a weekend away in the middle, and it’s advertised in quite a vague way. “This is It,” say the posters. “You know, if you want to discuss the meaning of life, come on in Alpha Course.” So it’s advertised almost like a sort of philosophical version of Alcoholics Anonymous where people who’ve got a slight want in their lives will turn up at the local church. And they’ll just discuss the meaning of life in quite a sort of gentle way.

There’ll be a talk at the beginning, a talk that’s written by the Alpha founder, a guy called, Nicky Gumbel, who’s an evangelical. A very nice sermon, very nice man actually. I’ve met him lots of times now, and as a person I like him, even though he’s got some weird views about homosexuality. And so they’ll meet once a week and it’s very gentle. What they don’t realize, these agnostics or atheists, is that actually behind what looks like a very gentle, rambling thing is a very well thought out structure.

By about week five or six the agnostics are asked to go away on a weekend away. A Holy Spirit Weekend, where they’re invited, pretty much apropos of nothing, to speak in tongues, which comes as a huge shock to most of them. Cause they thought it was all about nice, chocolate biscuits and nice chats, and suddenly they’re asked to speak in tongues. But for some of them, it’s the moment when they become overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and they join the church.

Now what happens that weekend is the big negative I think, which is that suddenly the curtains are opened and it becomes quite heavy, you know? These people saying, “Do you want me to pray for you? Well, I’ve prayed for you.” And it becomes very much about a recruitment for Christianity. Then he said, “Well, I think it’s all about that, really. All the nice chats were sort of a lie, in a way.”

Alex Tsakiris: Well, maybe. Maybe. Here’s what intrigues me about that whole issue. I mean, I think we’ve dug into it a little bit and we will more on this show on just the kind of ludicrous notion of biblical inerrancy and just some of the Christian notions just are kind of way out there, and they’re downright cultish if you really kind of deconstruct them in any kind of rational way. But at the same time, what we’ve also looked into is the legitimacy in any way we’d normally measure it, of these kind of transformative spiritual experiences. I mean, these things, gosh, they just seem to happen. They’ve happened across cultures, they’ve happened across time, and they do transform people’s lives. So did you get any insight into whether there is any there there in terms of these spiritual experiences that people are having, or did you come away with the conclusion that it’s all just hallucination and fantasy?

Jon Ronson: I’ve been out there that a number of times, well what, two or three times now. And on each occasion I didn’t believe the tongues. I just didn’t. If they say that the tongues is actually opening yourself up to the Holy Spirit coming into your life in a way that’s completely out of your control, that’s certainly not what I saw. I saw people very much in control, you know, using their own language. So yeah, no I didn’t. No, I’m sorry to say I didn’t…

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah. And I’ll just give you a quick example in that we had someone on this show recently and she’s a medical doctor from Canada. She had a near-death experience, actually had a couple, published her book in Canada and had patients starting showing up at her door saying, “Gee, I was praying and I had this transformative experience. I’m a Yogi, I’m a Buddhist.” You know, all these people who had these rather troubling physical experiences after going through these kind of amazing different spiritual experiences.

I don’t think it’s something we deal with very much in our current culture, but certainly it’s something that has happened throughout time. And I just wondered if you thought there was any legitimacy, but I understand where you’re coming from. You say if that’s there, you didn’t encounter it and you haven’t encountered it personally. I don’t know if you have any opinions in general whether you think that anyone out there is really having any kind of…again, I don’t know. I want to avoid putting any kind of religious labels on it so we’re just calling it this kind of transformative spiritual experience that seems to transform their life and their life goes in a different direction and…

Jon Ronson: Oh well, that definitely happens. I mean, people have wants and needs and some of those people find those needs fulfilled by spiritualism and Christianity, but there’s no doubt about that at all. I wouldn’t bemoan them it one bit. But it certainly didn’t work for me and I say as an observer, as a kind of rational observer with no particular axe to grind, I didn’t – with one exception, I didn’t see anything that made me believe in these miracles.

And the one exception was the first time I did the Alpha Course. I write about this in a Guardian article that I did on the Alpha Course a number of years ago. I wrote about how I was thinking about my son, Joel, and about the fact that it took us a few years to conceive him and just as I was thinking about that, I was thinking it you know, in a sort of theoretical sense or in a sort of metaphoric sense, Joel was like a gift from God.

And just as I said that, I was in the back of the church, and Nicky Gumbel, the Alpha founder, was on stage and he said, “Joel.” I looked up and he was reading from the book of Joel and the line he read to us, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten,” which I suppose could be read as a message from God saying to me, you know, it took you a long time to conceive your son and I’m now repaying you for the years locusts have eaten.

But even with that, obviously they were thrilled when I told them that. Nicky Gumbel was just incredibly excited that possibly a journalist in his midst was about to find God via him. But I’m afraid I stand here as a – you know, many years later – as an agnostic. I have seen on the other hand, I have seen how fair clergy people behaving in ways that I don’t think are ethical, so for all of that, I’ve seen the other side. Some things that really turned me off.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah. I mean, I’m not really interested in it as a social tool for kind of herding people or even just the kind of ordinary transformations that people go through in terms of making their life better. I’m more interested in – at least in terms of the way we’re talking about it – truly unexplainable transformative experiences that people have that change their life in terms of giving them psychic powers, ability to see things and hear things beyond their vein.

One last question and I’ll kind of get off this cause I realize it’s really not totally into your thing and it’s much more interesting to talk about someone who has a major Hollywood movie coming out with George Clooney, than to rattle on about this stuff. But I wonder if you’ve ever encountered anything with the whole near-death experience?

Jon Ronson: Well, in fact – and I’m sorry to be such a skeptic here, but in fact, I did do some research into near-death experiences and I made a film a few years ago. It was a really – if I can blow my own trumpet – a really good documentary called, “Reverend Death,” and it was about the assisted suicides underground, where basically a bunch of people would roam America helping non-terminally ill people commit suicide.

One of them was a guy called George Axel who is a Unitarian minister from Beckley, West Virginia. George would travel America and in fact, the world, helping non-terminally ill people kill themselves. One of the things he would do to counsel them was play them the Raymond Moody video, “Life After Life.” You know, the famous near-death experience video which features a guy called Dannion Brinkley who I think is one of the main sort of poster boys for near-death experiences. He had this remarkable story to tell about how he died for ages and ages – I think he said he died for 28 minutes and he went up to a crystal city and spoke to God and all of this kind of business.

I actually spent a bit of time researching Dannion Brinkley’s claims and I’m afraid they did not hold up at all. I found some newspaper articles in the Time which said that he was struck by lightning and basically the newspaper article at the time said that he was out for a couple of seconds. I mean, I can’t give you the exact facts here because I don’t have them at my fingertips, but basically over the years I proved slightly unfortunately, because I think Dannion Brinkley would probably be a lovely guy who does a lot of good for people.

Alex Tsakiris: Why? Why unfortunately? I don’t know – I don’t understand. I mean, here’s my thing. Again, I think it’s very interesting and I can’t wait to see that. I’ll see if I can dig it up or if someone has torrented it. I hate to admit that I will look for a torrent, but I will.

Jon Ronson: I’m not necessarily against that because if you can’t see it any other way, you know, I’d rather it were seen than not seen.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. Right. How are we supposed to see it? But here’s my point, I guess. Again, the people part of it I understand and I’m sure you do a great job with that and that it’s somewhat insightful. But in terms of really understanding whether or not there’s anything there, why do we really care that much about Dannion Brinkley? Particularly when in the last 20 years there’s been just mountains of solid scientific evidence published in peer-reviewed journals that establish that near-death experience is unexplainable by any kind of current medical knowledge. I mean, there’s just hundreds and hundreds of accounts. They do it in hospitals after people have had heart attacks, where we know that their brain has stopped. So I just – that’s kind of curious to me.

Jon Ronson: Well, I can only – I mean, what I’m doing throughout this entire interview is really only speaking to the things that I’ve had personal experience with. And Dannion Brinkley, I’ve met and I’ve kind of confronted him. The reason why I say unfortunately about him is because I think he’s a really nice guy and I felt slightly bad about telling him that I had evidence to prove that he’d massively exaggerated his story. He is a kind of poster boy for the movement to an extent. So that’s why I say unfortunately.

Had I investigated somebody else who’d claimed to have a near-death experience, I might have found a completely different story, but he’s the only one I investigated and his story did not hold up. I’m sorry to say. Listen, I would love more than anyone to be able to verify near-death experiences, cause I’d rather like to go to a crystal city myself when I die. And so I really hope that it’s true. But in the case of Dannion Brinkley, I can only say that I’m afraid his story doesn’t hold up.

Alex Tsakiris: Fair enough, fair enough. And we can direct anyone to kind of follow that up.

Jon Ronson: Yeah, if anybody could watch “Reverend Death,” I’m sorry that I’m not being more specific about the facts of it, but it’s all in the documentary, “Reverend Death.”

Alex Tsakiris: Great. Great. Well, thanks so much for talking with us today. Tell us a little bit more about what’s coming up for you and you mentioned a new book. What is that all about and when will we see that?

Jon Ronson: Well, I’m still keeping it a bit secret but I’m writing it every day. It’s all I’m doing at the moment is working on it full-time. So I’m kind of going crazy like Kasper Hauser in this room, just you know, I’m here from dawn to dusk and then I kind of crawl out of the room and act like a wolf child and attack any human that happens to be in my vicinity, which is usually my wife and son. So they’ve got kind of bite marks all over them. But I don’t really want to talk about what it’s about cause I sort of think it’s good to keep secrets about these things. But it’s good, you know?

Alex Tsakiris: It’s good. [Laughs]

Jon Ronson: What I would say is that I can’t really do conspiracy theories anymore ever since I got kind of attacked by the 911 Truthers and I lost my sense of humor about conspiracies. I sort of felt I really couldn’t do the paranormal anymore after The Men Who Stare at Goats. I felt like I had kind of done that journey. But this new book is about you know, it’s in the same sort of world that’s of interest I think to skeptics and to people who are interested in these subjects. But it’s something that I still can kind of believe in, so I can still get excited about it.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, that’s some tantalizing clues that is going to keep everyone looking for the next release. That’s great.

Jon Ronson: Well, I intend to deliver it next summer and for it to be published in the spring of 2011. That’s the plan, anyway. And I really hope I can stick to that plan.

Alex Tsakiris: Well great, Jon. We’ll look for that. And again, thanks so much…

Jon Ronson: Thank you. And in the meantime, can I just plug in the meantime the fact that the movie tie-in edition of my book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, is going to be out in the next couple of weeks. I hope people, if they want to find it, will be…

Alex Tsakiris: I am going to be queued up, the first guy in line with my wife for our date night, looking for The Men Who Stare at Goats. It sounds great. George Clooney and who else is in it?

Jon Ronson: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges.

Alex Tsakiris: Did you get to rub shoulders with all these big-time actors?

Jon Ronson: I did, I did. I went to the premiers in Venice and Toronto and spent a couple of days on the set.

Alex Tsakiris: Wow, cool.

Jon Ronson: Yeah, it was a kind of you know, I’m back to being the kind of regular schmuck I was before all this happened. So I’m kind of back to normal. But it was nice.

Alex Tsakiris: I don’t think that’s going to last long, do you? [Laughs]

Jon Ronson: Well, I sort of think that in the end, you’re on your deathbed and what do you look back on. And I think what you look back on is the idea that life should be a series of adventures. And if nothing else, watching a movie get made based on one of your books is an adventure. And I think that’s…

Alex Tsakiris: Absolutely. And especially for somebody who’s a filmmaker themself.

Jon Ronson: Yeah, yeah, completely.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, best of luck.

Jon Ronson: Thank you very much and thanks for wanting to do this.

Alex Tsakiris: Yes. Very good. Take care, Jon.

Jon Ronson: Okay. Bye now.

Alex Tsakiris: So that’s the conversation we had a couple months ago and I have to say that afterwards, I was a little bit peeved. I was kind of a lot peeved. And I did some research and I actually found a copy of the documentary, “Reverend Death.” I had a look at that and then I took a step back and I kind of looked at why was I so ticked off by this guy? And it really hinged on the one thing that he said, and he kind of repeated it in the e-mail exchange we had.

He kept saying, “I’m sorry that I didn’t find anything here. I’m sorry that psi phenomena aren’t real. I’m sorry that near-death experience aren’t real.” And it was kind of in a cheeky, condescending way that I guess, when I really looked at it, I could relate to, cause I’ve done it enough times.

And when I really thought about it some more, that’s what I guess peeved me, was that I felt the same way. I felt, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jon, that you’ve never really looked at the research. I’m sorry that you’ve never read any of the research on remote viewing and have never spoken with Hal Puthoff or any of the people who are really involved in the military’s use of remote viewing, let alone people like Steven Schwartz who’ve applied remote viewing to archaeology where it’s also been applied to archeology in a university setting and there’s many, many published papers on it.

And I’m sorry that you’ve never done any really serious research into near-death experience. In the e-mail exchange we had following this interview, and I have to say, he was very forthcoming and responded to my e-mails and I had to persist a little bit on a couple of topics, but he always got back to me and followed up. But ultimately, what the result of that exchange was that he hasn’t read any of the research on near-death experience and he isn’t familiar with any of the books other than Raymond Moody’s book, which is of course over 30 years old at this point.

So I’m sorry that he hasn’t applied the best science to really answering the underlying question of whether there is any reason to believe that near-death experience is real. Because, of course, if he did, he’d find overwhelming evidence that the conventional, materialistic explanation that consciousness doesn’t survive death, well, that really doesn’t hold up anymore. So I’m really glad that Jon Ronson joined us today on Skeptiko and I appreciate him taking the time and interest in engaging in this dialogue.

But at the same time, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that as Jon’s documentary work shows, you can get close to a topic and you can reveal part of the truth, and at the same time you can miss the deeper, underlying truth. I guess the same would go for The Men Who Stare at Goats. Do I really care as a U.S. citizen whether my armed forces piddled away money looking at bizarre phenomena that could never really have any military application? Well, I guess I am. But as a person, as a human being, I’m much more interested in the underlying phenomena and what that means about my true nature. That seems to me to be the real scientific question behind all this.

So that’s going to do it for this episode of Skeptiko. If you’d like more information about this show, including a link to the interview I did a while back with someone who I think is really one of the more interesting people in the remote viewing field, Steven Schwartz, check out our Web site. It’s at skeptiko.com. Don’t forget the “k.” And there you’ll find links to all our previous shows, our forum, an e-mail link to me, as well as transcripts of our shows.

We’ll have a number of interesting interviews coming up on Skeptiko, including diving back into the near-death experience research and what’s going on there. So until next time, bye for now.

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