Saturday, 17 September 2011

Proof, God, and Richard Wiseman

Due to the unfathomable success of Richard Wiseman's books, most recently Paranormality, I have found myself explaining the errors in his book more often than I would like, particularly because I made an extensive review of the book earlier in this blog. A far better book on the same subject is Robert McLuhan's Randi's Prize. It's one thing to complain about the quality of evidence based on legitimate grounds, but quite another to pretend it doesn't exist at all as some skeptics like to do. When it comes to veridical OBEs however, they kind of have a point.

It isn't that such things don't exist in the academic literature, but there aren't very many of these accounts outside of popular books, like Robert Monroe's Journeys out of the body or my Dreamer: 20 years of psychic dreams and how they changed my life (note to self: shorter title next time). Another thing not often found in academic journals are accounts of spontaneous cases. The result is that the records I have in my dream journals are much stronger and more numerous than anything I've been able to find in academic journals. There is a problem however, that these are spontaneous experiences, and such things are frowned upon by researchers. I think I've designed a methodology for analyzing them that defeats the complaints, but we'll know for sure in a few months after the papers I wrote on the subject have been through peer review.

The method is quite simple: each entry is considered in the harshest possible light. They are treated in a demonstrably unfair manner that cannot possibly be considered as conducive to a positive result, yet the stronger examples survive the test. It is this sturdiness that gives me real confidence in my analysis of the veridical dreams I've had, and even to some of the non-veridical items such as those involving God and other religious figures.

I've had some criticisms of my book because I included a few chapters on these religious subjects, but ultimately that is what the book was about. My study of the dreams has shown me that mere evidence of paranormality is not very useful. More than that, without including the religious material, it is impossible to see the purpose of the veridical material. I continue to find it interesting that a person can be amazed by a simple veridical OBE or precognitive dream, then turn stubborn when God is mentioned. They are part of the same message and should be seen as connected. It isn't as if I didn't suffer from the same fault at one time, but having turned the corner on that issue a few years ago, it is becoming more difficult to remember the justification for it. Looking back on it now I think it came down to peer pressure.


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