The Light Ship Has Arrived….Well Almost

14 10 2008

Well it is October the 14th and as of yet there is no sign of the UFO that psychic Blossum Goodchild predicted as visiting earth. Goodchild’s channelled a message that a UFO would appear in the sky and remain for three days has provided an interesting blend of psychic ability and UFO’s. Apparently the aliens have come to “give us hope” and currently there are many bankers and employees of financial institutions who are hoping that this will come true. Judging by today’s rebound on the stock markets perhaps that they have arrived, but not revealed themselves yet.

For reasons unknown this prediction has whipped up some fervour among UFO believers and psychics alike (and the tongue in cheek reports in the main stream media probably are not helping). Some people who on the face of it have reality impairments have incorporated additional conspiracies like this cracker on an associated blog that says:

Some people have been emailing me wondering when the light ship will show up. It will show up tomorrow, the 14th within the North American time frame. The goal of this sighting is to have the light ship present themselves to the United States as they are the central area of the Illuminati.

Of course…it all makes sense to me now! What I am looking forward to is Goodchild’s revised explanation that will come out over the next few days when the UFO fails to materialise. My prediction is that the time was not right and a new date will be announced. It is a common ploy with the various religious dooms dayers, but unfortunately the true believers will continue to believe the various predictions (Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists are a good examples, they have both previously predicted dates for the end times which have come and gone, and they have successfully rationalised the failures).

On a more serious note, is that it is quite fascinating how people find themselves in the position of having such beliefs. While mental illness can account for a small proportion there are many people who are of a sound mind and yet will believe the likes of Goodchilds channelling. They do not believe things on a whim either as they will base their decisions to believe in things on some type of evidence. However, it is the quality of the evidence that is important.

When making the decision about whether to believe any proposition, evidence always plays a role. For a ‘believer’ in a particular idea the form that the evidence takes is going to be very relevant.

If you are prepared to accept as evidence what you personally observe and experience (anecdotal evidence) then it does open up many doors for a range of things whether it be channelling, psychic abilities, psychic healing, remote viewing, homeopathy, or UFO’s. The amount of weight you place on anecdotal evidence appears to dictate how much something throws themselves into the realms of belief of a particular phenomenon.

However in determining something as important as say psychic belief, my position is that anecdotal evidence is insufficient, there needs to be a systematic approach to its examination to determine whether there is a basis to this particular claim. Furthermore, if there is a basis then further research needs to be examined to establish what the underlying processes are that cause the phenomena (as it is one thing to observe psychic ability, but it is another to explain how it happens)

To reach a scientific level of ‘proof’ (which in science you never actually prove anything, but I am using the term in an every day sense) for a phenomena, then for me personally, anecdotal evidence is not enough as there are to many alternative explanations and variables that may impact upon the senses to make it reliable. This is why for subjects where a scientific basis is lacking I am sceptical of its existence or claims. This does not mean that I can rule it out (although there are some concepts where it is reasonable to rule them out due to their flawed underpinnings or outlandish claims – chemtrail conspiracies spring to mind), but take the position that until the scientific evidence is available then I would not commit to a particular belief.

It is interesting that some people can also be sceptical of science itself and it can and has been accused of a range of things including elitism and dogmatic. However, these are actually criticisms of the scientific community, not the process of scientific investigation, which has proven to be robust and an incredibly effective tool in the advancement of our knowledge and technology.

Anyway, with that said, lets bring on the alien visitation!


The Threat of Defamation

8 10 2008

An Australian poster going by the name of AndyD on the JREF forums has recently had a run in with Ezio De Angelis, a self described psychic medium who was a finalist in the recent television series The One. This show pitted various psychics against each other in a showdown to determine who was Australia’s top psychic.

AndyD edited and posted on Youtube a satirical video of De Angelis conducting a psychic reading from ‘The One’. The principal edits were of the sitter providing many more negative answers than what was shown and the rationale of the video was to highlight the number of misses that had made their way to the cutting room floor during the editing process for the episode.

In late September De Angelis contacted AndyD and told him:

“This video is part of a pending Defamation and compensation action. It has already been removed from Bad Psychics.Com as part of this legal process.

In order to ensure that you are not implicit in the litigation you are required to remove the video and commentary immediately.”

This threat of legal action upset AndyD sufficiently to not only remove the video from Youtube, but also remove half of his posts on his blog. He has since reinstated most of the posts, but the video has not been put back on Youtube.

Without the benefit of viewing the video, it is difficult to judge if it is actually defamatory (and anyway I am no lawyer), but this is a common tactic attempted by some of the more high profile psychics to have blogs, articles, and websites that are critical of them removed from the Internet. Uri Geller is notorious for his litigation and famously filed action against Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and James Randi which inadvertently resulted in James Randi and CSICOP parting ways.

Threats of defamation are not restricted to those who dabble in the supernatural world, but also in pseudoscientific realms such as the recent threat of legal action made by New Zealand Chiropractic Association against the New Zealand Medical Journal.

For those sceptics who have an Internet presence, they are open to the threat of litigation (whether it has a basis or not) and for most people the prospect of having the hassle and expense of a civil hearing is sufficient to give in to such threats.

In New Zealand the Defamation Act 1992 provides  are two defenses that can be used, the first is that the defamatory statement is the truth, which on the face of it seems straight forward. However, the burden of proof lies on the person making the statement to show that it is true. The second defense is that it is an honestly held opinion. With this defense, the facts presented must be correct and it must be clear that it is the personal opinion of the person making the statement. Furthermore, the opinion must be genuinely held.

This should not be taken as legal advice and if you are the subject of legal action then make sure that you get advice from a suitably qualified solicitor.