by Val Tobin
In 1650, Irish Cleric Archbishop James Ussher, using The Bible and historical records, and math and historical analysis, calculated the date of the earth's creation as Sunday, October 23 at noon, 4004 B.C. (Feder and Park, 14). At the time, there was more solid belief in The Bible as a source for facts about our world, and scientists who tried to use other sources, including nature, had difficulty being taken seriously.
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection is still called into question by some, since it contradicts The Bible's declaration that God created the earth in six days (Ussher's calculations were in line with what is stated in The Bible, as he determined that the earth was 6,000 years old, and some interpret passages in The Bible to equate one day for God as equal to 1,000 years for humans.)
No Scientific Explanation for Paranormal Events
However, by and large, science now has the upper credibility hand, and many scientists relegate anything that smacks of the paranormal to literature, superstition or psychosis. The criticism leveled at those scientists who wade into the study of the paranormal attests to this. Fortunately, a little humiliation never stopped everyone, and some have persisted in scientifically investigating the paranormal, regardless of heckling from the debunking peanut gallery. But the controversy rages on, regardless of what the resulting experiments have shown. For too many people, seeing is still not believing.
My own conclusion, after considering the paranormal from two perspectives, is that, to quote the Buffalo Springfield song For What it's Worth : "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." At this time, there is no scientific explanation for paranormal events, but paranormal events are a reality, not a figment of people's imagination, a fabrication, delusion or superstition. Many credible sources present solid evidence demonstrating that, while what it is may not exactly be clear, something really is happening here.
The Big Five, Hands-On Healing and UFOs
Charles Tart's book, The End of Materialism, presents cogent arguments for the existence of what he calls the "big five": Telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis and psychic healing. He cites studies and research to back up his claims. William Bengston, in his book The Energy Cure, details the results of funded laboratory experiments that show conclusively that hands-on healing can cure cancer.
Renowned scientists Carl Sagan and Thornton Page present valid reasons for the continued investigation of UFOs in their book UFOs: A Scientific Debate, a collection of talks given at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Special Symposium that are in opposition to the conclusion drawn by the Condon report (The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects) that there is nothing to UFO phenomenon.
Debunkers Vs Bridey Murphy
All this is not to imply that books that set out to debunk, such as Lynne Kelly's book, The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal, have no merit, or that debunkers are always wrong. Kelly's book is a useful, if superficial, aid in helping one verify that something is not a paranormal occurrence. But it lacks the depth of the other books, and as in the case of her treatment of the Bridey Murphy book, The Search for Bridey Murphy, some of her statements are questionable, if for no other reason than that it appears as if she has not actually read the book, since she does not list it in her references and makes her case on secondary sources.
Morey Bernstein, the object of Kelly's derision regarding his book on Bridey Murphy, conducted investigations that were more thorough than Kelly's when he explored reincarnation and conducted research to see if he could believe in it. He interviewed Hugh Lynn Cayce (Edgar Cayce's son, as Edgar Cayce had already died by the time Bernstein started his investigations) and with people who had been helped by Cayce. He also verified the obscure references made by Bridey Murphy during their sessions, and found the places that others later insisted didn't exist because they didn't look hard enough.
The Existence of Baylings Cross
For example, Bridey Murphy had mentioned the town of Baylings Cross, which didn't appear on any maps or in any atlases. However, Bernstein found two people from Ireland who confirmed that Baylings Cross exists and that it was too small to appear on any map (Bernstein 163-164).
I share Charles Tart's wonderment at what the debunkers had to say about the Bridey Murphy book, as I have read it myself and found it fascinating and credible. It didn't claim to prove reincarnation, but presented the author's journey into hypnosis and his experiences with it, of which the Bridey Murphy sessions were a large part. Anything Tart has to say on the subject of Bridey Murphy has more credence, since he not only read the book, he met the author and talked to him about it, getting inside information on such things as the neighbor's claim that Virginia Tighe did have knowledge of Ireland (Tart 280), which contradicts Kelly (Kelly 85).
Debunkers are Believers
Tart also rightfully makes distinctions between skeptics and pseudoskeptics. Tart points out that "... pseudoskeptics aren't actually skeptics in a genuine sense; they're believers in some other system, out to attack and debunk what they don't believe in while trying to appear open minded and scientific, even though they're not" (Tart, 67).
This type of pseudo skepticism provides the marinade for the meat of Kelly's book. The mood is set from the start, as her bio states that she "delights in debunking claims of the paranormal" (Kelly, ii). This delight implies a shortage of the objectivity required in scientific investigations. It demonstrates less a search for the truth than it does a search to be right.
Debunkers not Always Protecting Egos
However, there are indications that debunkers may not simply be acting out of ego. It isn't necessarily about an all-consuming need to be right. There seems to be a pattern with those who either set out to debunk or come across paranormal events in the course of their work (such as doctors who see patients who "spontaneously" go into remission) of ignoring data that they don't know how to take. William Bengston, author of The Energy Cure, talked to me about skeptics, believers and debunkers when I called him to talk about his book.Bengston says that firm believers and firm disbelievers negatively impact the outcome of their healing, and had this to say about hardcore beliefs: "Speculatively, I think that belief of any stripe probably isn't a good thing. I don't think that it would enhance healing, and I think that a believer in healing, and I'm guessing at this, probably diminishes their healing. I would say a disbeliever in healing probably diminishes their healing. So, belief is a two-way street. I think belief is, you're planting a flag as it were, and having a vested interest in the outcome." This flag of belief can blind a person to data that contradicts beliefs and affects the judgment of those on either side of the belief fence.
Doctor Dubious of Patient's Healing Insists on Radiation Treatment
The saddest, most heart-breaking example of this can be found in William Bengston's Energy Cure. He describes the case of Lillian, a twenty-two-year-old nurse who was diagnosed with an invasive cancer that had spread all over her body. The doctors gave her several months to live. Bengston's mentor, Ben, started treating Lillian. Ben gave Lillian a number of treatments, working with her as she progressively started to feel better. When Lillian went for her next medical appointment, they could find no traces of the cancer.
The following passage from The Energy Cure describes how dangerous disbelief can be to those who refuse to see and to those who listen to the advice of those who refuse to see:
According to Lillian, when her radiologist examined her with X-rays and CAT scans to see how far her masses had progressed, he found no tumors at all. He checked her with a different machine. Same results. A blood sample supported these findings — no cancer. In her excitement, Lillian told him about Ben's treatment. The doctor dismissed her account as being without value, then insisted instead on proceeding with the rule-book treatment for her condition ....
... Lillian was given radiation at the uppermost limits, combined with massive dosages of chemotherapy. Since her original diagnosis indicated she had little hope, her doctors thought it worth giving her this outside chance ... Since Lillian's lungs had received so much radiation, one stopped functioning and was surgically removed. Several hours after the operation, Lillian died of heart failure. Mercifully, the staff made no serious attempt to revive her (Bengston 51-52).
The infuriating part of this story is that Bengston has demonstrated in the lab with mice that once they have been cured of cancer, they will never get that cancer back again. He told me during our interview that, "I'm reasonably sure at this point that once you're cured, that's all. So, even if we reinject the mice, they can't get it again. No reports of a person getting it again."
Incredulity Kills US Government UFO Research
Bengston's experience is not unique. An article in Look Magazine titled "Flying Saucer Fiasco" delves into the travesty of Dr. Edward Condon's study on UFO's, The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, done by the University of Colorado in 1966. Condon's militant disbelief in the existence of extraterrestrial crafts and blindness to the evidence in front of him put a halt to further investigation by the government into the UFO phenomenon based on his recommendations and conclusion that there was nothing to it.
The documentary film Out of the Blue, presented by the Sci-Fi channel, cites cases that were in the report but ignored by Condon in his summary. Specifically mentioned in the movie were case 2, case 21 and case 46. These cases are easy to find in the body of the Condon report, which is available online and in print.
Case 46 from McMinnville, Oregon was described in the report as "... one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and physical appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses" (Condon, Investigator Hartman 625).
Something to See Here
If the scientists investigating the case concluded this, then how can anyone suggest that there is nothing to the phenomenon and it is not worth further investigation? Sagan and Page state in UFOs: A Scientific Debate that "Carl Sagan argues that there is insufficient evidence to exclude the possibility that some UFOs are space vehicles from advanced extraterrestrial civilizations (Sagan and Page xix)."
At the very least, Condon's summary should have mentioned that "there's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." To do otherwise is to mislead and obfuscate, and unless that is the intention (conspiracies are a whole other subject), then debunkers are firm believers on a par with those who conclude that anything they can't explain is paranormal and that the earth must be 6,000 years old because The Bible tells us so.
Maintaining that there is "nothing to see here" stalls progress (or kills, as in the Bengston example) and with all the available evidence that points to something happening here, it is frustrating that we're still not past the stage of denial and getting on with serious investigating into some of the most important questions relating to our existence.
- Bengston, William, Ph. D. The Energy Cure: Unraveling the Mystery of Hands-On Healing. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, 2010.
- Bernstein, Morey. The Search for Bridey Murphy. New York: Doubleday & Company Inc., 1956.
- Condon, Dr. Edward U. The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects . National Capital Area Skeptics with the permission of The Regents of the University of Colorado. Release 1 January 1999. (Accessed January 9, 2012).
- Feder, Kenneth L. and Alan Michael Park. Human Antiquity: An Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Archaeology, Second Edition. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1993.
- Fuller, John G. "Flying Saucer Fiasco." Look . Project 1947. 14 May 1968. (Accessed January 9, 2012).
- Kelly, Lynne. The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994.
- Sagan, Carl and Thornton Page. UFOs: A Scientific Debate. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1972.
- Stills, Stephen, performed by Buffalo Springfield. For What it's Worth . New York: Atco Records, 1966.
- Tart, Charles T., Ph. D. The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications and Noetic Books, 2009.
- Sci-Fi Channel. Out of the Blue . Want to Know (Accessed January 9, 2012).
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