My Interview on Mind Cemetery

On 6/6/11 I was a guest on Mind Cemetery Radio with hosts Chip and Nicole Plescher.  Here is an overview Nicole wrote about the show.

“We had an AWESOME time with Bobby Nelson last time… well, I did!  Chip’s world got rocked up a little bit.  I ❤ Skeptic month!  In honor of skeptical month, pay homage to skeptical hippo  🙂  

Anyway, Bobby is what I would consider to be a good guy skeptic.  After last night’s discussion, I admire him almost as much as admire Penn after his skepticism letter.  It was a fun show.  Listen in below!

Bobby’s biggest complaint about the paranormal community is when people bastardize science into fitting their needs.  He co-hosts Strange Frequencies Radio, which airs on Sundays from 3-6PM EST.  He also has an awesome blog called Pork Rhine and he is the founder and contributor of Bent Spoon Magazine which is smart, insightful, and amazing.  Check out Bent Spoon if you have a minute… it really appeals to believers and non-believers alike.”

I must admit, this was one of my favorite shows I have ever been on.

To download this interview right click on the link and save as: www.para-help.com/sfrbobby/bobbymind.mp3

Oz Owned Novella? Hardly.

Today I stumbled on a blog called “Bolen Report” and the post I will be talking about was titled “Top Pseudo-Skeptic, Steve Novella, Humiliated on National TV… And it was fun to watch…”

http://www.bolenreport.com/feature_articles/Doctor’s-Data-v-Barrett/novellahumiliation.htm

After getting around all the ad hominem attacks Bolen made on Dr. Novella the only thing I see here is someone who can decipher facts from bullshit.

Bolen makes a claim that Dr. Novella wears a shitty toupee.  Alright, he obviously doesn’t have a toupee but even if Dr. Novella was wearing a crappy hair piece, what does that have to do with the LEGIT science Novella is promoting?  As if a toupee somehow corrupts an individual’s logic and the ability to use critical thinking.

Another awesome claim Bolen makes is this “Novella claims to be a neurology professor at Yale University, and throws the name “Yale” around like he was throwing seed to the morning chickens – but, to me, that is an outright fabrication.”  If real research was done or just a simple look through Yale University’s directory of staff, we can easily find Dr. Novella’s name, his position, where he works and so on.  That is what the real evidence shows us Bolen!

Another claim Bolen makes “In short, Novella is just another justifiably self-disappointed crap-career loser…”  Far from it, Dr. Novella is a very highly respected individual in the science and medicine fields.  His knowledge in the things he speaks about, for instance, alternative medicine and homeopathy and how they show no real SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that they work has made him a well respected individual in the skeptical community as well, not to mention his ability to use logic and think critically.

Another amazing statement in the post by Bolen, “What am I looking for?  Knowing what I know about Randi’s sexual proclivities, that Randi/Novella video, and Novella’s obvious relationship with James Randi, has raised red flags with me about the ENTIRE pseudo-skeptic movement.”  I would have to say that this may be one of the boldest statements Bolen could make.  Please tell me you are not saying that because James Randi is a homosexual, that somehow suggests that Randi and Novella have some type of relationship more than friends. 

“All over the internet they are calling Oz names,” isn’t that what you did in your whole entire article?  You attacked everyone in the skeptical movement and called people out by name.  Providing people with fake information and using your own biases to come up with your conclusions.  Your article is filled with bigotry, poor journalism and hypocrisy.

“Each of the pseudo-skepics, I estimate, has between fifteen and thirty different made-up internet identities.”  How are you coming up with this information, or is it more “guessing”? 

“No one with any real credentials wants to be associated with them in any way.”  Again this is just a blatant lie.  Do you even realize the trouble a doctor could get into if they only offered alternative medicine as a way to treat patients?  It is called malpractice, it’s illegal, a doctor could be sued and lose his license to practice medicine.

IMO this guy seems upset because Novella made amazing points when he was featured on the Dr. Oz show.  When people have to resort to name calling, it is usually a result of feeling threatened.  What really happened on the Oz show was this.

Right off the bat Dr. Oz makes an interesting claim “We are putting our reputations on the line, because we are using alternative therapies in our traditional practices.  Many doctors claim that this is nothing more than junk science and could even be dangerous, your doctor may be one of them.”

To me this sounds like Dr. Oz knows that he is doing nothing more than buying into the hype, another niche to make more money, nothing more.

Dr. Novella gives a brilliant explanation of what the general consensus among doctors is on the subject of alternative medicine.  “It’s an artificial category that doesn’t really mean anything and it exists to provide a double standard.  What we think is there should be one science-based, common sense standard to figure out what therapies work and are safe, and not these artificial categories that are used really to market things, in our opinion, that essentially don’t work.”

Dr. Oz asks Dr. Guarneri, a cardiologist to comment in which she tries to make the claim that doctors “And certainly, I don’t think today we can call nutrition “alternative medicine” or call exercise “alternative medicine”–other things that I teach my patients every day to prevent heart disease.”

Novella responds beautifully “Well, I agree that nutrition and exercise are not alternative. They’ve been part of science-based medicine for decades. They’ve just been rebranded as alternative to create this legitimacy for this whole umbrella that now also includes a lot of things that don’t work or not based upon science or evidence. There’s lots of things that we do to prevent heart disease. We recommend dietary changes, regular exercise, weight control, using medication like aspirin or other blood thinners when necessary. Preventive medicine is science- based medicine. It’s not alternative.”

After a very small dialogue between the 3 doctors, Dr. Oz says “Is that close to on-target, folks? Right? So, if I can give you my take: alternative medicine, I think, is at the grassroots level. And because of that, nobody owns it. Now, that stated I think we got our homework to do. But I think alternative medicine empowers us, and that’s the big message for all of ya, but only if you know more about it, and it if does work for ya, trust me, do not let anybody take it away from you. Dr. Novella, thank you very much.”

Novella hardly looked like a fool, IMO I feel like Dr. Novella made some brilliant points and instead of Oz counter arguing them, he makes a quick statement and ushers Novella off the stage.  I felt it was actually very unfair of Dr. Oz not to let Dr. Novella comment on that last statement, but hey Oz is promoting Woo on HIS show, so he has to get the last word in.

Interview on Haunted Voices Radio

On April 8th, 2011 I was invited to be a guest on a radio program called Haunted Voices to discuss what made me a believer in paranormal phenomena and what turned me into a skeptic.  Before I was interviewed, James “The Amazing” Randi was also on the program, so I left it all in for your listening pleasure.   

You can listen directly by going to: www.para-help.com/sfrbobby/randi.mp3 or you can right click the link and save as.

Conversation with a Friend

So I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today.  It started off with us bsing around and somehow evolved into a talk on the paranormal, which most of my conversations develop into some way or another. 

Anyway as we dove into the realm of the paranormal certain topics came up in our discussion.  First we were talking about psychics.  My friend made a statement saying “you and I have our differences on our beliefs.  But I do think this guy is a sham.” (I am sorry I have no idea who the psychic was he was talking about)  As I read this, I found it a bit puzzling; did he think that I thought all psychics were shams?  Certainly I have never made that claim, so I explained my exact stance on this subject.

It isn’t that I think all psychics are shams, there may indeed be a legit psychic out there somewhere in the world…I don’t know.  However, there is no positive evidence to support the legitimacy of someone who claims to have psychic powers.  That is what I rely on, positive evidence.  If a person with legitimate psychic abilities could perform their skill under scientific observation in a controlled setting and show positive results; that would be enough for me to say “there is something to this.”  But I would just like say again; I have never said psychic abilities do not exist, as James Randi often says “I can’t afford to make that type of claim.”

Next we jumped into one of my favorite paranormal subjects, the ghost box.  I wrote an article on a few tests I have done on the legitimacy of this specific device which can be read here https://porkrhine.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/ghost-box-tales-from-a-broken-radio/ but again I hold the same stance on this as I did with psychics.  There is no positive evidence that this device can really provide any contact with spirits or entities; however that doesn’t mean that this box (broken radio) can’t transmit the voices and words of the deceased.  I believe that there are many reasons why this ghost box device fails any type of positive testing and I personally think there is nothing to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work…I could be the one who is wrong.  Again I rely on scientific evidence, but that isn’t to say that one day I won’t hear something that may convince me personally, that could happen.  For example if I were to record a conversation with my dead grandfather and he was telling me information that no one on earth could know, I may say “alright, I believe,” or I would at least think it is possible that this device is in some way a telephone to the dead.  However that has never happened and I doubt it ever will.  But that brings us to another point, which for some reason is hard for a lot of people to grasp.  What is proof?

Proof is defined as evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.  By this definition, nothing in the realm of the paranormal has been established as truth.  I have had many conversations with people who say something to the effect of “I have had personal proof that the paranormal is real.”  Ok, fine, however personal proof that can’t provide sufficient evidence to establish it as something true, it isn’t proof.  I guess what I am trying to say is, though a personal experience may “prove” that the paranormal exists to you, doesn’t mean it exists or that it is proof positive.  For example, someone may have an amazing experience where they see a full torso apparition walking throughout the house and it disappears into the wall; that might be enough to convince someone that ghosts exist, but that doesn’t mean that they do.  So there is a huge difference between personal “proof” and proof.   

This was actually the meat and potatoes of the conversation with my good friend.  He made a comment that he doesn’t believe I would accept that the ghost box is ever legitimate and I said I might if I had the experience I mentioned above about speaking with my grandfather.  He then proceeded to ask me about a specific situation where I didn’t accept and or admit that the ghost box was saying something that in his opinion was obviously saying.  Well if people don’t know, I am co-host on Strange Frequencies Radio (www.strangefrequenciesradio.net) and was talking about show episode 134, hour 2.  We interviewed Steve Hill, a man who claims to be an electronic medium and ghost box enthusiast.  He sent in a few of his samples which he found to be amazing and crystal clear.  My friend thought I was being closed to the possibility that the box was actually giving a direct and correct response to Steve’s question.  He also argued many people in the chat room and even my co-hosts heard what the answer was.  Ok, fine, the reason why I didn’t want to make a comment on the particular audio sample was because I was already primed to hear the response because the response was the name of the file that was sent.  So I didn’t think it was fair to me or my sense to say I heard something after I knew what to look for.  I would also like to speak on behalf of my co-hosts and say that they may have said ok that’s what it sounds like, doesn’t mean they give the ghost box credit or even conclusively agree that the ghost box was really saying anything.

However even if I wasn’t primed, and I heard the one syllable word that the box was claimed to have said, that still wouldn’t be enough for me to say that there is something to the ghost box, I mean not even close.  There are also other factors we have to consider, how long was Steve trying to get a response?  How many times did Steve ask the question before he got what he thought was a response?  What if I took the audio, played it for 50 people (like I have done with Steve’s audio before, I have to mention it has always been different answers than what Steve thought the box to be saying) and 40 people heard the same thing but it was different then what Steve thought it was saying, but 10 people heard what Steve said the box was saying…are the 40 other people lying?  My point is, a one syllable word isn’t extraordinary evidence to this extraordinary claim.

Thank you for reading.