Open your mind….

About a year ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook asking if anyone could recommend a good homeopathic doctor as he’s having problems with his back. I suggested that a trip to his GP or a chiropractor was in order and would probably yield better results. I was told I needed to be more open minded.

Open-minded image

Open-minded image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another friend posted a picture saying there was an orb/spectre floating in the background. I pointed out that it could quite easily be a spec on the lens or a reflection from the flash…again I was told I needed to be more open minded.

There is a notion that is flung around that to question something supernatural is to be closed minded, and to be close minded is a negative aspect of being human. This is not true and it can have dangerous consequences.

If a pilot, who was coming in to land at Heathrow with 300 passengers onboard said to himself ‘Ok I know what to do, I’ve landed a thousand planes. But you know what, today I’m going to keep an open mind, try something new and see what happens’  

I would describe myself as open minded. I’m more than happy to accept a new view or opinion.. so long as it’s based in fact and not superstition. I would also change my opinion on a subject if new evidence suggested so, although it would be a bitter pill to swallow. To me the true definition of being open minded is, willing to change your view despite what you believe.

I saw video a few days ago in which the stage & television medium/psychic Colin Fry gave a reading to a gentleman who had lost his son when he was just 3 months old (Please watch the video). I know the video is short, but there are a few classic signs of cold reading, and hot reading, that could explain how Mr Fry achieved his results. Fishing for answers, asking the gentleman to supply valuable information and simple deduction. Colin may possess supernatural powers and is able to communicate with the dead. However, I’m skeptical and unless he’s able to prove his abilities under test conditions then I will remain on this side of the fence.

If Mr Fry isn’t in possession of these magical abilities then what he has demonstrated in the above video is absolutely fucking disgraceful. If Colin Fry uses cold reading to achieve his results, then he’s systematically trampling over the beloved memories of the deceased, offering false hopes and exaggerated claims when people are at their most vulnerable and most desperate, all for profit, then he should be arrested for fraud. If Mr Fry truly believes that he has power to connect to people beyond the grave and hears voices in his head, then he could probably do with being in some kind of institution.

It was estimated at the turn of this century that the psychic industry was worth about $2 billion in the USA alone; and it’s growing. You require no formal training or qualifications to become medium/psychic and there is no governing body or guild, at least not in the sense of the GMC that doctors have. All you have to do is talk to people; and there will always be people who want a reading. While it’s not as lucrative as the oil industry it is older and it will be around for longer.

The James Randi foundation offers a $1 million prize to ANYONE who is able to demonstrate any psychic or paranormal ability under test conditions. Although thousands

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi)

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of people have attempted the challenge, to date the prize is yet to be claimed and has been on offer since 1964.

I have had people say to me that there are some people who go for readings, and that they take great comfort in hearing messages that their loved ones, who have passed on, are ‘in a better place’ or ‘happy and at peace’. So if it makes them happy, what’s the harm? To that I will say that a friend that offers false hopes and false promises is no friend at all. Especially if they are charging $700 for a psychic reading over the phone. At it’s most harmless it is just a bit fun, maybe after a few drinks down the pub or at a party. But when people make life changing decisions or squander the entire family fortune on trying to reach lost ones then it becomes deadly and it needs to stop. Or at the very least regulated by an independent body.

I don’t believe in psychics, reiki, ghosts, homeopathy or voodoo. Why?  because I see no reason why I should. To date, there is not a single shred of evidence that supports any of the above claims, at least nothing that can’t be attributed to cold reading or the placebo effect. So until there is, I will always question something that has no basis in truth or fact. I will try and keep an informed mind and not so open that my brain falls out.

Derren Brown.

Derren Brown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year I was lucky enough to part of the Derren Brown live show. I was picked at random from the audience and was asked to think of ANY word, write it down and seal it in an envelope. Derren then removed his envelope from under his jacket to reveal that we both had the same word written down. If you’re interested the word was CORNFORD. A model of guitar amplifier that I use. I have NO idea how he did it and I was 100% certain that he wouldn’t guess the word. The level of connection I felt with Derren at that time was overwhelming, I wanted burst. Derren makes no bones about how he achieves his results and there is nothing supernatural about it. I can understand how people are taken in by it all…It’s very powerful and has nothing to do with how intelligent or gullible a person is.

If you are someone who believes in such things then I would urge you to do some research into cold reading, if only to strengthen your belief in the supernatural. It’s certainly not my aim to convince you that there is no such thing as psychics, I’ll let you be the judge.

I would also like to add that there might very well be real psychics out there. But if there are, why has the $1 million prize reward not been claimed….for nearly half a fucking century?

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Tim

*FOOTNOTE*

There was an excellent blog about conformation bias written by a friend of mine which ties in nicely, totally coincidental I must say, which you can find here

And if you are interested in further reading on cold reading and the occult I would suggest:

The full facts of cold ready by Ian Rowland

Trick of the mind by Derren Brown

Confessions of a medium by Anonymous

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15 thoughts on “Open your mind….

  1. I couldn’t agree more. The tendency for skepticism to be deliberately confused with cynicism is incredibly prevalent, usually by people who have a vested interest to maintain the illusion. I simply can’t stand it when people talk witheringly to people, at the suggestion that a lack of verifiable evidence is important to deciding on a subject’s validity or truthfulness. The implication being that believing whatever you want or that makes you happy is some kind of inalienable, sacred right – regardless how patently daft it may appear. It’s infantile, as far as I am concerned.

      • I largely agree with that sentiment. But there is a grey area. For instance, what about Jehovahs Witnesses believing that further and higher education is entirely unnecessary? Or Mormons actively teaching children that carbon dating is a fallacy? The Indian caste system? The concept of original sin? All of these small, insidious ‘beliefs’ – that rob children of opportunities, indoctrinated at an age before they can weigh up the rationale.

      • Well that would fall into the category of ‘hurting someone’ If those beliefs are denying children certain rights, which they are, then it’s tantamount to child abuse. And I for one won’t stand for it. But, what if you and I are wrong?

      • Then we were hurting nobody by being so. Win win, either way. Encouraging someone to think and evaluate outcome on evidence and plausibility doesn’t appear to have many psychological drawbacks, a far as I can tell.

      • No, agreed. You can’t deny them the right, absolutely. But you also shouldn’t extend them an inalienable protection against criticism either. This is something we currently struggle with. As the western world becomes more secular, and scientific reasoning guides increasing large areas of our everyday lives, it is inevitably going to cause some tensions. The courtesy we afford superstitious, demonstrably flawed ideas is noble – but I see no reason to make them exempt from critical thinking.

      • Absolutely. I’ve had many an argument with people about how I should respect their beliefs. People are going to have to get used to that fact that if they hold certain beliefs that aren’t based in fact then sooner or later those beliefs will be challenged.

        A pastor in the USA said something along the lines of ‘There’s nothing we can do to stop the rise of atheism, we can only hope they don’t treat us as badly as we once treated them’

  2. First of all, I am so glad that now that I am on break from school, I can catch up on wonderful blogs, such as this one. I have read all, and will say this. In my humble opinion, and as far as I have learned in Social Work Research, which is evidence based, it is a widely held belief that ‘the truth’ about, anything, really, cannot ever be known because we only know a tiny fragment of what we can ever know, in this moment. We used to believe so very many things, in the name of science or fact, that we now know was horribly wrong because, through new information, it was found to be utter bullshit. Then we adopt the newer information as truth or fact. In 100 years, many our ‘true facts’ today will be proven as more utter bullshit and we will look like we were completely stupid about many things because of it. You did touch on something of this, a bit. But, I do think that it is awfully self centered of us, as humans, to think that because, in our limited capacity, studies we conduct can tell us everything – or even most things – about virtually any subject. So, where I might lean toward believing certain ‘proven facts’ as fact, I don’t give us enough credit as a race to ever say that it is definitely fact. It is fact to the best of our limited knowledge is usually my go-to phrase, and I say it based on our well documented history of knowing ‘facts’. In regard to the Psychic issue, I had a woman once only charge $50 and who didn’t know my last name, had no possible time to research me or my family, not fish for answers, tell me things about my family history and passed loved ones that she could never, ever have known. I wanted to believe she was full of shit going into it; I looked for it. But when she told me something that only I knew, and never disclosed to another person in this country, something so specific and detailed, a tear fell down my cheek. The only way she could possibly have known this information was from my deceased uncle who died when I was a teenager. My entire family considers him to have had 2 children, two boys. This is horrible, really, because he had three. One, a girl born severely retarded was put into a facility before I was even born. Wrongly, and sadly, she was all but forgotten, not by her immediate family, but by everyone else. I am embarrassed to say, but, having never met her or heard much about her existence, I forgot about her, too. This woman was trying to describe to me who was speaking to her and trying to get through to me: a man who was bald with a mustache, and English is not his first language, tan skin. Although I knew my uncle had these qualities, I didn’t want to believe, and I (wrongly) acted as though no one like that existed, ever in my life. I gave her nothing to work with. She then told me he had three children: two boys and a girl. One boy, the eldest, was 12 when he died. Also, that he died from liver disease even though he never drank, which is very rare. True, too. None of this was discussed by me and my immediate family since the 1980’s, or was public knowledge, certainly not in this country, and I doubt anywhere else. All of the people she was talking about live in a country far away, and I hadn’t had contact in many years. She was right. She then went on to more: my grandmother who said she died because ‘something was twisted inside’ . True, she died because her intestines got twisted. The only people in this country that know this are me, my sister and mother. We didn’t discuss it, though, and again, no one has that information and this woman had no way of getting it. This went on and on. When she was leaving, I asked if I could see her again if I felt I wanted to. She said, “Michel, you don’t ever need to see me again, all you have to do is listen, and they will get in touch”. I tried to tip her and she wouldn’t take it. She asked for no money (my friends had bought her services for me as a present) and did not ask to be referred. Maybe it’s just that you never met anyone like her, who could prove to you that there is another ‘realm’, and maybe if you did, you still would find a way to explain it away. But, being open minded, in this regard, is very different than the airplane analogy, because it can’t hurt you or others, it would just be sitting there, open for any possible opportunity in the future, or not. Just a thought 🙂 Anyway, great writing, as usual!

    • Nana,

      Thank you so much for reply. It’s always great to hear the otherside of the table, so to speak.

      As I said, I’m quite open to the possibility that there are people who have some kind of psychic powers but in the hundred of years that it’s been around there is yet to be any conclusive proof. You are right, we know very little about a great deal and there is no question that in 50 years or so we will uncover things and find that what we thought was fact was indeed fiction. However I’m dubious in believing that this will be one of those things.

      As for the specifics of the reading. As I wasn’t there I can’t comment. But I will say that after reading The full facts of cold reading and listening to what psychologists have to say on the subject, peoples ability to accurately recall a reading that lasted 20mins is shockingly bad and the best way to do it would be to record it. If someone who was cold reading threw out a guess like ‘ I sense 2 boys and a girl’ They might get a hit or a miss. If they get a hit, to the person receiving the reading it can feel like unquestionable proof when in fact it was just a guess. I would highly recommend reading the book.

      However if this lady IS the real thing then I would urge you to get in contact with her and tell her about the James Randi challenge…If only to prove that mediumship is real.

      T

      • First of all, I love that you call me Nana too, my sweet boy ❤ Secondly, I should have mentioned that, like you, I do believe that the vast majority of so-called psychics are crooks, and on an extremely low level – I really should have pointed that out because it angers me. Also, it was taped! She brought a tape recorder with her as part of her session and at no extra cost. As a matter of fact, at the time, she told me about two things that I flat out told her she was wrong about, and then later, I felt terrible… She told me that my sister was showing her an image of a balloon, and smiling – I had no idea what she was referring to. It was only much later that I realized what it was: On Mother's day and my sister's birthday, I had her boys write a messages balloons and send it up into the sky, so they could feel they were able to give her something. How the bloody hell I forgot about that during the session is beyond me! Then she said that a small brown dog was jumping at my leg and trying to lick me. I told her my dog was black and white. I forgot that I had saved a small brown dog over 10 years before that session, and kept him with me for a while. I can try and find her info based on remembering her name, and tell her about the challenge. But, would it seem like I am doubting her if I do that? I don't want to be rude :/ What do you think? P.S. I have to go back to all the blogs I missed from you and your lovely wife when I was studying. I couldn't bring myself to read another blessed thing at that point; my eyes were burning! xo

      • Do you still have a copy of the recording? I’d love to hear it. There is so much that a clever cold reader can uncover, without you even knowing or being able to recall. They could also be using hot reading, whereby they already have information prior to the reading. I don’t want to belittle your experience but i think it’s worth questioning given that there are so many charlatans

  3. Well, I know for a fact that I would not have thrown it out, however, being it was about 10 years ago, I have no idea where it is – I remember I only listened to it once. But, I have no problem (somehow) playing it for you should I find it 🙂

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