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Does Humanity Need a Contemplative Science?
May 8, 2007
6:23 pm
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So what are we saying here, that everyone should have the right no matter what they are, and that politics should be based on what will make our world a beeter place through scientific research?

Question..serious contemplation here..where does the need for so-called 'moral' stipulations come from, say in regard to stem cell research?...Individually...and please don't throw the Bible here, I am speaking of someting entirely different. What drives someone to fight a thing such as stem cell research. Granted, it was wrong to burn witches, or accuse Galileo of insanity...that was erroneously based on one's religous aptitude//they took matters into their own hands.

May 8, 2007
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"Question..serious contemplation here..where does the need for so-called 'moral' stipulations come from, say in regard to stem cell research?... ... ... What drives someone to fight a thing such as stem cell research."

I can only guess. I believe that religious beliefs about the sanctity of human life and who has the right to take it lies at the root of the dissention.

Christians don't have a high regard of any sentient life forms other than that of human beings. This is underpinned in Genesis.

Buddhists revere and respect the life of all sentient beings. This is underpinned by the Buddha's teachings.

What underpins the athiests' valuing of human life highly is probably both empathy and pragmatism, I believe. One would have to ask them.

When it comes to the taking of human life Christians are ambivalent. Christians don't march on Washington in great numbers demanding the end of killing for political reasons in Iraq - well not yet. When enough sons come home in body bags they might.

Nor do Christians generally become militant about the homocide committed by the state in the name of justice on death row.

Christians vehemently oppose voluntary euthanasia, claiming that only their God has the right to end a human life, not the person whose body and/or mind is highly likely beyond reasonable doubt to deteriorate to the point of causing great suffering.

When human life begins and when it ends are both very debatable questions that religion arrogantly defines rather than leaving that question to those in the field of medical science, who possess the knowledge beyond religious belief.

Does a late stage Althziemer's patient or a motor car accident victim who is brain dead, possess a human life? Or do they possess the life equivalent of a vegetable?

When it comes to stem cell research, I think Christians fear at least three things.

1. That the use of embryos for stem cell research will proliferate, leading to the devaluing of the embryo, objectifying it and thus opening the abortion flood gates and the 'generation' of embryos on demand.

2. They fear the general devaluing of what they see as human life in general and their own in particular.

3. Science usurping the place of their God in regard to the creating, sustaining and terminating of human life. In this regard the very core of their religious beliefs is under attack.

Thus religious 'do-gooders' vehemently opposed scientific research in Galileo's day for superstitious reasons just as they do so today.

Sufficient Nebutal, according to Dr. Phillip Nitchzke, when mixed in a glass of whisky makes a drink that you will never finish. According to the good doctor, you won't even know what hits you as you go to sleep so quickly, never to wake up. This concoction is highly recommended by the good doctor as the best way to terminate one's life in the most painless and dignified way. He guarantees no stuff ups that lead to great suffering and criminal charges being laid as is the case in some states.

However, the possession of Nebutal, once freely available in the 1950s and 1960s is now unlawful in the US and Australia. I don't know about the rest of the world. It can be freely obtained in Mexico at the present time I believe. Who has driven the introduction of the legislation that has prohibited the availability of this wonderfully merciful drug? The Christian politicians and those who want to pander to the christian fundamentalist right!

This is a grave infringement of the rights of all of those, Christians and non-christians alike, who want the freedom to choose to terminate their own life using Nebutal.

The arrogance of these Christians removing through legislation the rights of anyone to die with dignity if, where, when and how they choose, has to be seen to be believed.

In Australia it is a criminal offence leading to a great many years in jail to even assist someone to terminate their own life, albeit without direct involvement.

The bleeding heart do gooders insisted that my mother undergo the utmost suffering before her final drawn out highly undignified and most painful end. All of our begging for the doctors to give her more morphine beyond the prescribed limit on deaf ears, despite the unequivocal prognosis. Why? Because Christian morality pervades our legislature and the doctors in question feared retribution from the law if they complied with our request!! An Anglican Priest, called for by no one, shoved his unwelcome beak in my face and said: "Ahhhh, the mystery of suffering... May Christ be with you." To which I replied: "Suffering is no mystery to me, mate. It might be to you. I don't want to hear your BS." What sort of a religion is that - with nothing to offer at such times but arrant BS???

Hmmm! All in the name of some mythical Christian God who doesn't even exist!

Quadrapledgics awaiting the advances of stem cell research to restore their human dignity and quality of life must feel like 'nuking' the Christians on masse. Telling them to pick up their cross and suffer with Christ is an obsenity beyond belief.

May 8, 2007
8:58 pm
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Tez,
As always, appreciate your thoughts, and contimually amazed at how you either write so fast, or however you put these thoughts down so quickly.

"Christians don't have a high regard of any sentient life forms other than that of human beings. This is underpinned in Genesis."

This is opinion, open for debate..and a rule of thumb for most Buddhists, and maybe for some who practice Hinduism. Buddha accused the Bible as being genocidal and a hater of animals...this could not be further from the truth. I love animals, I could not follow a God who hated them.

Tez, you so grossly misunderstand God. I will not even add an IMHO here. And I hope you are not one of those to call America a 'Christian nation'...or think that only all Catholics are Christians. I understand how one could think all of this inhumane. But before you continue with your blasting, the smart thing to do is to ask God yourself...otherwise you may never receive the right answers....and knowing you, you may barf at my suggestion, but you are looking in the wrong bucket. Why don't you just re-locate to the US and get into politics if you feel so strongly....what other forum do you have to voice such strong objections? I mean what is the motive here? What DIFFERENCE are you making in my country?..or the world? IF you feel so strongly, what are you doing about it?

love and frustration at your insatiable slander as always,

omw

May 9, 2007
7:29 pm
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Omw.

Thanks for your post.

You said:

"Buddha accused the Bible as being genocidal and a hater of animals..."

Well ... I never knew that. We live and learn something new every day.

Would you be so kind as to give me a reference for this statement? In which Sutra did the Buddha say this? I'll sure follow that one up.

You said:

"I love animals, I could not follow a God who hated them."

If I believed in the existence of your God, then I too would feel the same way as you do about such an animal hater.

What puzzles me is that it says in your own God's direct words spoken to Moses and contained in His own Self-Inspired book:

"Leviticus 1:1-17

The LORD called to Moses from the Tent of the Lord's presence and gave him the following rules 2 for the Israelites to observe when they offer their sacrifices.
When anyone offers an animal sacrifice, it may be one of his cattle or one of his sheep or goats. 3 If he is offering one of his cattle as a burnt offering, he must bring a bull without any defects. He must present it at the entrance of the Tent of the Lord's presence so that the LORD will accept him. 4 The man shall put his hand on its head, and it will be accepted as a sacrifice to take away his sins. 5 He shall kill the bull there, and the Aaronite priests shall present the blood to the LORD arid then throw it against all four sides of the altar located at the entrance of the Tent. 6 Then he shall skin the animal and cut it up, 7 and the priests shall arrange firewood on the altar and light it. 8 They shall put on the fire the pieces of the animal, including the head and the fat. 9 The man must wash the internal organs and the hind legs, and the officiating priest will burn the whole sacrifice on the altar. The odor of this food offering is pleasing to the LORD. 10 If the man is offering one of his sheep or goats, it must be a male without any defects. 11 He shall kill it on the north side of the altar, and the priests shall throw its blood on all four sides of the altar. 12 After the man cuts it up, the officiating priest shall put on the fire all the parts, including the head and the fat. 13 The man must wash the internal organs and the hind legs, and the priest will present the sacrifice to the LORD and burn all of it on the altar. The odor of this food offering is pleasing to the LORD.
14 If the man is offering a bird as a burnt offering, it must be a dove or a pigeon. 15 The priest shall present it at the altar, wring its neck, and burn its head on the altar. Its blood shall be drained out against the side of the altar. 16 He shall remove the crop and its contents and throw them away on the east side of the altar where the ashes are put. 17 He shall take hold of its wings and tear its body open, without tearing the wings off, and then burn it whole on the altar. The odor of this food offering is is pleasing to the LORD."

Surely, this doesn't sound like an animal lover's request to me, let alone that of a loving God.

And you said:

"the smart thing to do is to ask God yourself..."

As a gungho Christian I did just that a thousand times or more and just like when I talked to Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, I got the same answer. Thankfully, I finally wised up on all three of these scores.

Thanks for very your interesting and thoroughly enjoyable response.

May 10, 2007
7:39 pm
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From a radio program on the ABC in Australia, I heard the well known atheist, Philip Adams, interviewing the author of the book, "God Is Not Great: 'How Religion Poisons Everything'" by Christopher Hitchens. ISBN-13: 978-0446579803

Even though it sounds entertaining if not to well researched, I've never read this book.

This is what the Washington Post thinks of Hitchens and his book:

"Christopher Hitchens is a brilliant man, and there is no living journalist I more enjoy reading. But I have never encountered a book whose author is so fundamentally unacquainted with its subject. In the end, this maddeningly dogmatic book does little more than illustrate one of Hitchens's pet themes -- the ability of dogma to put reason to sleep."

However, during the very interesting radio interview what stood out in my mind was the consensus between the interviewer and interviewee that atheism was definitely on the rise in the world.

Perhaps this is why the God Squad is becoming more militant and outspoken these days. They know that there is a real threat to their unsustainable beliefs as science challenges more and more of their sacred cows.

Has anyone read any of these books:

God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J Stenger

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism by David Mills

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

I haven't read any of them. But I would like an informed opinion of them from someone who has read them without being hampered by the fundamentalist Christian bias.

May 10, 2007
7:52 pm
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Omw.

After you wrote:

"Buddha accused the Bible as being genocidal and a hater of animals..."

I asked you:

"Would you be so kind as to give me a reference for this statement? In which Sutra did the Buddha say this? I'll sure follow that one up.

I guess that reference is not going to be forthcoming. That's a shame.

Now I can only presume that this is because no such reference exists and/or that your statement is founded upon either hearsay or the manifestation of you own fictional creativity.

Would you (or any one else for that matter) please kindly shoot my presumption down in flames?

May 12, 2007
9:52 pm
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Tez, this was a link given on the randi forum, in one response to my question about external conciousness:

link

May 13, 2007
7:26 pm
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See Tez? The NDE is just a brain process as I've always said all along. Their experiment of centrfuge proved it. 18% of the people in that centrifuge experienced an NDE. Thoughts?

May 14, 2007
2:45 am
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You got sucked in well and truly Guest_guest. You backed the wrong horse.

Better luck next time.

Randi hasn't any qualifications in engineering, science or any thing else that qualifies him to scientifically research anything let alone criticize genuine research.

Randi's an up-jumped magician, a showman and a get rich quick enterpreneur - at best.

Michael Prescott wrote:

"I chose to focus on Chapter Eight, Randi's dissection of the experiments of Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, two well-known parapsychologists. Randi calls them "the Laurel and Hardy of psi" and proceeds to argue that their experiments were a tissue of ineptitude, gullibility, and dishonesty.

The first thing I noticed was that Randi never gives any indication that Targ and Puthoff have any scientific credentials or accomplishments. The casual reader could be forgiven for assuming that they are not "real" scientists at all. For the record, Targ is a physicist credited with inventing the FM laser, the high-power gas-tranport laser, and the tunable plasma oscillator. Puthoff, also a physicist, invented the tunable infra-red laser and is widely known for his theoretical work on quantum vacuum states and the zero point field. (See The Field, by Lynne McTaggart, for an overview of Puthoff's work in quantum phyics.) If these two are "Laurel and Hardy," at least they come with good résumés. Randi, by contrast, has no scientific training.

Randi starts off by telling us how Targ and Puthoff took a professed psychic, Ingo Swann, to Stanford University, where, they said, Swann used his psychic abilities to affect the operation of a magnetometer. According to Randi, "the report was all wet." He knows this because he contacted Dr. Arthur Hebard, "the builder of the device, who was present and has excellent recollections of what took place." Hebard, Randi says disputes the Targ-Puthoff account. He is quoted as saying, "It's a lie. You can say it any way you want, but that's what I call a lie."

This is pretty compelling stuff. But is Randi's version of events accurate? Let's take a look.

First, he seems to make a rather basic error when he says that both Targ and Puthoff were present for this experiment. As best I can determine, Puthoff conducted the experiment, which took place in June, 1972, without Targ's assistance. Targ had met Puthoff prior to this time, but their work together apparently did not begin until a few months later.

That's a small point. Far more important is the matter of Dr. Hebard's testimony. There's another side to the story, which I found in Chapter 17 http://66.221.71.68/analysis.htm of Psychic Breakthroughs Today by D. Scott Rogo. Rogo, who died in 1990 at the age of forty, was a prolific journalist and researcher of psychic phenomena. He wrote numerous popular books, some of which have been used as college texts. He also published research papers in peer-reviewed parapsychology journals. Although Rogo was sometimes criticized for tackling overly esoteric subjects, he had a reputation for honesty and was respected for his willingness to do hands-on investigation and field work, rather than relying on armchair appraisals. A Scott Rogo tribute and bibliography can be found here

Rogo writes, "There obviously exist several discrepancies between Dr Puthoff's views on what happened during this experiment, and what Randi claims Dr Hebard told him. So to clarify the matter, I decided to get in touch with Dr Hebard myself. I finally tracked him down at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. He was very willing to discuss the Swann magnetometer demonstration with me, and professed to be very interested in parapsychology." Hebard's interest in the paranormal contradicts Randi's statement that Hebard, "not being a reader of far-out literature," was unaware of Targ and Puthoff's claims.

Rogo acknowledges that Hebard's account differs in some respects from Puthoff's. "Dr Hebard denied in no uncertain terms, however, Randi's claim that Swann was never asked to 'stop the field charge' being recorded from the magnetometer. He easily recalled that he had suggested that it would be a fascinating effect if Swann could produce it . . . which, of course, he actually did soon after the suggestion was made. Randi also directly quotes Dr Hebard as calling some of Targ and Puthoff's claims 'lies'. Dr Hebard was very annoyed by this claim since, as he explained to me, Randi had tried to get him to make this charge and he had refused. Dr Hebard later signed a statement to this effect for me." (Ellipsis in original.)

As for the discrepancies between Hebard's and Puthoff's accounts, Rogo reports that in a subsequent meeting with Puthoff, he was shown "the actual graphed print-outs given by the magnetometer during the Swann demonstrations. The records supported Dr Puthoff's contention more than they did Dr Hebard's."

So far, then, the best we can say is that Randi's criticism of Puthoff (and Targ, who apparently wasn't even involved in the magnetometer experiment) is far from the last word on the subject.

Randi proceeds to launch a comprehensive critique of Targ and Puthoff's article "Information Transmission under Conditions of Sensory Shielding," which appeared in the October 18, 1974, issue of the respected journal Nature, and which can be read here The article details experiments involving, among other participants, the professed psychic Uri Geller.

Randi's take on this series of experiments is withering. He skewers Targ and Puthoff as "bunglers." He reports that their experiments were conducted in a chaotic atmosphere conducive to cheating. He says that a hole in the wall of Geller's isolation room enabled him to spy on the scientists during their ESP experiments. He says that Targ and Puthoff falsified the results of the tests by omitting failed experiments that would have lowered Geller's averages to the level of chance. Further, he says that the scoring of Geller's performances was mishandled, generating higher scores than Geller deserved.

The question naturally arises: How does Randi know all this, since, as he admits, "I've never even set foot on the sacred grounds of SRI [Stanford Research Institute, where the experiments were conducted]"? He explains that he was given inside information by "an individual" who claimed to represent dozens of SRI scientists. This group, which worked in secret and even adopted a code name (Broomhilda), passed the information to Randi.

Unfortunately, Randi never names this individual or any other members of the Broomhilda group. He says that "Broomhilda verified for me much of the information that I had been holding on to for years," but where did he get this earlier information in the first place? "That data," he says, "now moved from the status of hearsay to documented fact." But documented is hardly a term applicable to either the initial information, which is never specified, or the Broomhilda information, which came from an anonymous source. He adds, "Additional facts were elicited during conversations and correspondence with individuals. Many of these persons were not aware of Broomhilda and were acting on their own. Their completely independent input supported Broomhilda's charges. Taken together," he concludes, "the information from all sources amounted to quite an indictment."

Maybe so, but it's an indictment that would never hold up in court. The reader is expected to take Randi's word that his unidentified sources are trustworthy - and that the sources themselves are well-informed about experimental procedures they may or may not have witnessed.

Thus when Randi alleges that "hundreds of [failed] experiments that were done by SRI ... were never reported," we must take the statement on faith, as it is unsupported by any documentation. Similarly, when Randi says definitively, "All the other tests [i.e., the successful ones] lacked proper controls and were useless," we search in vain for any footnote to back up this assertion.

A posting http://www.psicounsel.com/ I found on a message board sums up the situation nicely: "Claims of poor scientific method leveled at the experimenters have been shown to be mainly unsubstantiated personal opinion and second-hand 'Chinese Whispers.'" (Chinese Whispers is the British equivalent of the American game, Telephone.) It might be worth adding that critics of paranormal phenomena, like Randi, are forever decrying any reliance on "anecdotal evidence," which is precisely what the bulk of Randi's argument consists of.

Randi does produce two individuals willing to go on the record - Charles Rebert and Leon Otis, both of whom were SRI psychologists. Rebert and Otis apparently disagreed with the Targ-Puthoff conclusions; indeed, Randi tells us that "a horrified Rebert also heard that Targ and Puthoff were going to proclaim these erroneous findings before Stanford University's psychology department, and he forbade such a blunder. The talk was canceled." But this only tells us that there was a dispute among the scientists at SRI. Rebert and Otis ran some unsuccessful tests with Geller and decided that he was a fraud. Targ and Puthoff ran what they regarded as successful tests and decided that, in some areas at least, Geller had legitimate psychic powers. Nothing in Randi's text establishes which conclusion was correct.

Randi goes on to report that after he had criticized Geller in an earlier book, Targ and Puthoff "issued a 'fact sheet' in rebuttal to twenty-four" of his points. According to Randi, "This attempt was a failure, and in response to one claim that the SRI tests were done under tight controls, a scientist who was there declared flatly, 'This is b.s. As far as my colleagues and I are concerned, none of the experiments met accepted scientific protocol.' I will not burden you," Randi concludes, "with the other twenty-three points; they are as easily demolished."

Well, hold on. A quotation from yet another anonymous source ("a scientist who was there") hardly constitutes a demolition job, especially when the scientist's argument consists of an unsupported assertion ("none of the experiments met accepted scientific protocol"). Personally, I would have welcomed the "burden" of the other twenty-three points and of Randi's detailed and carefully documented rebuttals.

Some idea of the counter-arguments to Randi's claims can be obtained by taking another look at D. Scott Rogo, who earlier showed the initiative to track down Dr. Hebard. Unlike Randi, who, as we have seen, had "never even set foot" inside the research facility, Rogo visited SRI on June 12, 1981. He found that Randi had misrepresented the hole in the wall of the isolation room through which Geller was supposedly able to spy on the researchers. The hole, a conduit for cables, is depicted in Flim-Flam as being three and a half inches wide and therefore offering a good view of the experimental area where the researchers were working. Rogo found, however, that the hole "is three-and-a-quarter inches [wide] and extends through a twelve-and-a-half inch wall. This scopes your vision and severely limits what you can see through it. The hole is not left open either, since it is covered by a plate through which cables are routinely run. Dr Puthoff and his colleague were, however, concerned that their subject might be ingenious enough to insert an optical probe through this hole, so they monitored the opening throughout their telepathy experiments."

Randi also indicates that the hole is stationed 34 inches above the floor. Not so, says Rogo. "It isn't three feet above the floor, but is located only a little above floor level. The only thing you can see through it - even under optimal conditions - is a small bit of exterior floor and opposing wall. (The viewing radius is only about 20°, and the targets for the Geller experiments were hung on a different wall completely.) I also discovered during my trip to SRI that an equipment rack was situated in front of the hole throughout the Geller work, which obstructed any view through it even further. I ended my little investigation by talking with two people who were present during these critical experiments. They both agreed that wires were running through the hole - therefore totally blocking it - during the time of the Geller experiments."

It would appear that the hole in the isolation booth's wall poses considerably less of a problem than the holes in Randi's arguments.

By now, I felt that Randi's credibility was in doubt. He had committed careless errors of fact, had quite possibly misrepresented and misquoted Hebard, and had made unsupported assertions based on rumors. I wondered what Targ and Puthoff have to say about all this. The only responses from either of them that I could find online were part of a long essay by Winston Wu, Debunking Common Skeptical Arguments Against Paranormal and Psychic Phenomena http://www.victorzammit.com/skeptics/winston.html , the relevant part is Argument 18 Puthoff is quoted as saying the following:

"In Flim- Flam, [Randi] gives something like 28 debunking points, if my memory serves me correctly. I had the opportunity to confront Randi at a Parapsychology Association conference with proof in hand, and in tape-recorded interaction he admitted he was wrong on all the points. He even said he would correct them for the upcoming paperback being published by the CSICOP group. (He did not.) ...

"The truth of the matter is that none of Randi's claimed suspected inadequate controls actually had anything to do with the experiments, which of course Randi was not there to know of. This has been independently reported by Scott Rogo somewhere in the literature, who came out specifically to check each of Randi's guesses about inadequate controls and found them inapplicable under the conditions in which the tests were conducted. In fact, all of Randi's suggestions were amateurish compared to the sophisticated steps we took, suspecting as we did everything from magician's tricks to an Israeli intelligence scam....

"In case one thinks that it was just a case of our opinions vs. his opinions," Puthoff continues, "we chose for the list of incorrect points only those that could be independently verified. Examples: [Randi] said that in our Nature paper we verified Geller's metal-bending. Go to the paper, and you see that we said we were not able to obtain evidence for this. He said that a film of the Geller experiment made at SRI by famed photographer Zev Pressman was not made by him, but by us and we just put his name on it. We showed up with an affidavit by Pressman saying that indeed he did make the film."

There is no way for me to verify Puthoff's statement that he tape-recorded Randi's concession of defeat "on all the points." This has to stand as an unsupported assertion, just like Randi's own arguments. But it is possible to take a closer look at Puthoff's last two claims.

First, Puthoff insists that his and Targ's Nature article does not endorse Geller's alleged metal-bending. This is accurate, as you can see for yourself by reading the article http://www.heart7.net/mcf/hambone/g3.html . Puthoff and Targ write, "It has been widely reported that Geller has demonstrated the ability to bend metal by paranormal means. Although metal bending by Geller has been observed in our laboratory, we have not been able to combine such observations with adequately controlled experiments to obtain data sufficient to support the paranormal hypothesis."

On the other hand, I have not found any statement by Randi in Flim-Flam to the effect that Targ and Puthoff "had verified Geller's metal-bending." He attacks the Targ-Puthoff experiments on other grounds. Of course, he may have made this statement elsewhere, but as far as I can tell, Puthoff is rebutting a point Randi never made.

How about Puthoff's second claim, regarding the SRI film? Randi certainly does make this an issue in Flim-Flam. Targ and Puthoff, he writes, "appended to [the film] - without his knowledge or permission - the name of Zev Pressman, the SRI photographer who had shot the film.... Pressman, said Targ and Puthoff, was present during [a particular series of] experiments. Not so, according to Pressman.... Most damning of all, Pressman said to others at SRI that he had been told the successful [tests] were done after he (Pressman) had gone home for the day. So it appears the film was a reenactment ... Pressman did not even know that Targ and Puthoff were issuing a statement, he did not sign it, and he did not give them permission to use his name. He knew nothing about most of what appeared under his name, and he disagreed with the part that he did know about." (Italics in original.)

Here we have Randi saying that this photographer, Pressman, was duped and used by the experimenters, while Puthoff says that Pressman signed an affidavit swearing that "indeed he did make the film." Is there any way to resolve this?

A further Web search turned up Chapter 14 http://www.uri-geller.com/geller-effect/tge14.htm of The Geller Effect. Part One of this book is written by Uri Geller. Part Two, which includes Chapter 14, was written by Guy Lyon Playfair. Living up to his name, Playfair offers an even-handed presentation of the various controversies surrounding the flamboyant and eccentric Geller.

Playfair writes, "[Randi] turned, in a later book, Flim-Flam, to the professional photographer who had made the film, a Stanford employee named Zev Pressman, with an extraordinary series of unfounded allegations....

"Pressman flatly denied all of Randi's allegations in two public statements, neither of which was even mentioned in the 1982 re-issue of the book. 'I made the film,' said Pressman, 'and my name appeared with my full knowledge and permission . . . Nothing was restaged or specially created . . . I have never met nor spoken to nor corresponded with Randi. The 'revelations' he attributes to me are pure fiction.'"

It is true that no mention is made of these "two public statements" in Flim-Flam's 1982 edition - the edition I own.

For corroborating testimony, I turned once again to the indefatigable Scott Rogo, who investigated this claim just as he had looked into Dr. Hebard's testimony and the infamous hole in the wall.

Rogo writes, "I spoke directly with Mr Pressman on 5 January 1981 and he was quite interested when I told him about Randi's book. He denied that he had spoken to the magician. When I read him the section of Randi's book dealing with his alleged 'expose' of the Targ-Puthoff film, he became very vexed. He firmly backed up the authenticity of the film, told me how he had taken it on the spot, and labeled Randi's allegation as a total fabrication. (His own descriptive language was a little more colourful!)" Rogo also reports that Puthoff showed him Pressman's signed affidavit.

How could Randi's conversation with Pressman be so different from Rogo's? The truth is, Randi does not appear to have had a conversation with Pressman at all. Take another look at the quote from Flim-Flam. The key words are: "Most damning of all, Pressman said to others at SRI ..."

Evidently, then, Randi's source is not Pressman himself, but unnamed "others at SRI" who passed on this information to Randi. Another round of Chinese Whispers, it seems.

At this point Randi ends his discussion of the Geller experiments and proceeds to criticize Targ and Puthoff's later work, as well as the work of another researcher, Charles Tart. Dealing with these criticisms would require another essay of equal length to this one, so I will stop here. The reader who wants to go further is invited to read Randi's Flim-Flam and then click on any of the links inserted throughout this essay and listed below. Or just search the Web for the keywords Randi, Targ, Puthoff, etc., and see what comes up.

Before I began this modest online research project for a rainy afternoon, I had mixed feelings about Randi. I saw him as closed-minded and supercilious, but I also assumed he was sincere and, by his own lights, honest. Now, having explored his contribution to the Targ-Puthoff controversy in some detail, I am thoroughly unimpressed. Randi comes across as a bullying figure, eager to attack and ridicule, willing to distort and even invent evidence - in short, the sort of person who will do anything to prevail in a debate, whether by fair means or foul.

The title of his book thus takes on a new and unintended meaning. From what I can tell, James Randi really is the Flim-Flam man.

NOTE: James Randi responded to this article, and Micheal Prescott then responded to James Randi. To read this ongoing controversy, see http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/FlimFlam.htm

Michael Prescott is a New York Times bestselling author. His published works include: Comes the Dark, Stealing Faces, The Shadow Hunter, Last Breath, Next Victim and In Dark Places. His latest book is Dangerous Games"

May 14, 2007
3:08 am
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Just in case you haven't got the mental endurance and attention span to read the whole document carefully here's Prescott's conclusion repeated for your convenience:

At this point Randi ends his discussion of the Geller experiments and proceeds to criticize Targ and Puthoff's later work, as well as the work of another researcher, Charles Tart. Dealing with these criticisms would require another essay of equal length to this one, so I will stop here. The reader who wants to go further is invited to read Randi's Flim-Flam and then click on any of the links inserted throughout this essay and listed below. Or just search the Web for the keywords Randi, Targ, Puthoff, etc., and see what comes up.

Before I began this modest online research project for a rainy afternoon, I had mixed feelings about Randi. I saw him as closed-minded and supercilious, but I also assumed he was sincere and, by his own lights, honest. Now, having explored his contribution to the Targ-Puthoff controversy in some detail, I am thoroughly unimpressed. Randi comes across as a bullying figure, eager to attack and ridicule, willing to distort and even invent evidence - in short, the sort of person who will do anything to prevail in a debate, whether by fair means or foul.

The title of his book thus takes on a new and unintended meaning. From what I can tell, James Randi really is the Flim-Flam man."

May 14, 2007
2:41 pm
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Tez, have been away for a few. "To 'assume' makes an a** our of u and me"..I found that reference by putting "Buddhism" into my browser. Will pull it up again when I have a moment and copy and paste for you.

May 14, 2007
5:40 pm
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eh, well in my opinion, yeah religion has done a lot of great things, but on the whole I think many cling to it out of fear. fear of death..fear of the unknown. and all too often righetous indignation is used to subjugate, dehumanize, and in fact kill people.

spirituality in and of itself is fine w/ me..but organized religions that can go to hell. ; )

May 14, 2007
6:41 pm
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on my way

On the 14-May-07 you said:

"Tez, ... I found that reference by putting "Buddhism" into my browser. Will pull it up again when I have a moment and copy and paste for you."

I don't need a cut and paste of the whole sutra thanks. Just the name of the sutra containing the part where the "Buddha accused the Bible as being genocidal and a hater of animals" will more than suffice. I will avidly read through the whole sutra seeking a reference to the bible in it.

The strange thing is that the Buddha lived approximately 500 years before Christ did. As I understand it the Christian Bible never came into being until well after Christ's death.

Of course you may be confusing the Bible with Hebrew scriptures owned lock stock and barrell by the religion of Judaism and later plagairized by the Christians as being their own.

In anticipation, I await your response.

May 14, 2007
7:03 pm
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From my perspective on the word spirituality, I agree with your post of 14-May-07.

The problem is that many people, when they see the word 'spirituality', confuse it with the word 'Christianity'.

As Christian doctrine and dogma goes, the two are chalk and cheese.

The good part of Christ's teachings have long since been obscured and disowned by main stream Christianity. Those who did try to carry Christ's real message were put to the sword by 'Pauline' Christians.

See the writings in the Gospel of St. Thomas. Because Christians have no idea of or a clue about what the hell Thomas is quoting as Christ's teachings, they refute the whole Gospel as heretical Gnostic non-sense. I'm sure a 2nd grader at primary school would similarly dismiss Maxwell's equations or Einstein's Theories of Relativity as nonsense.

The oppressed, namely those providing the amphitheatres such as the Colliseum with their 'star' attractions, later replicated what was done to them. Of course Christians never seem to want to face up to this part of the behavior of their so called early Christian forefathers. Apart from the weaponry and military strategies, it wasn't much different from the behavior of the leading Christian politician in the world today. The aim is basicly the same, ... "believe as I do or I'll eliminate you."

Thanks to some minimal rational thinking, I'm well and truly out of the clutches of the Christian nonsense that was foisted upon me in my youth.

May 15, 2007
6:39 pm
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On the 13-May-07 you wrote:

"See Tez? The NDE is just a brain process as I've always said all along. Their experiment of centrfuge proved it. 18% of the people in that centrifuge experienced an NDE. Thoughts?"

You want my thoughts?

Well ... firstly, I'm surprised that the figure was as low as 18%. I would have thought the figure would have been much higher.

I'm surprised you haven't already made the connection between the centrifuge experiment and the 'natural centrifuge effect' experienced by the whirling dervishes of the Sufi branch of Islam. Why do you think the dervishes do their whirling dervish dance? You call yourself a knowledgeable ex-muslim?

Anything that partially of completely disconnects conscious awareness of 'mind' from the brain, can produce what is called an 'Out Of Body Experience'(OOBE). An NDE is just one particular cause of such a disconnection. There are many other causes. Your centrifuge experiment and the whirling of the dervishes another. Drugs are another cause. Flatlining(artificially induced NDE's) another. The list goes on.

Thanks for bringing my attention to events that lend further support for my beliefs.

This further illustrates the need for a contemplative science that is not limited by such 'flat earth' scientism as you and Randi exhibit; a scientism that is bound to retard any real scientific advances in humanity's knowledge just as it did in the days of Galileo.

May 21, 2007
6:18 pm
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Hey Tez,
Sorry but I can't seem to find it again, but it was there, in black and white. oh well.

take care.

May 25, 2007
11:44 pm
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21-May-07

"Hey Tez, Sorry but I can't seem to find it again, but it was there, in black and white. oh well."

I have no doubt that you saw something in "black and white".

What I doubt is that what you saw was actually part of the Buddha's teachings - especially since the Bible as we know it didn't exist in 500 BC.

Take care.

May 25, 2007
11:48 pm
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Why was Ted Haggard so enraged by so distinguished an academic as Richard Dawkins is, questioning the basis for his beliefs?

Is it beacuse deep down Haggard knows that his beliefs are founded and built upon a foundation of quicksand?

May 26, 2007
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A cut and pase from the Dawkins-Haggard spat.

"Colorado Springs

Dawkins visits Colorado Springs to discuss the rise of fundamentalist Christianity in the United States where, according to polls, 45 percent of the population believe the universe to be less than 10,000 years old. He visits the New Life Church, an $18 million worship centre where Pastor Ted Haggard at the time presided over a 14,000 strong congregation. Haggard was at the time chairman of the National Association of Evangelicals and, according to Dawkins, Haggard said he had a weekly conference call with United States President George W. Bush.

Dawkins interviews Haggard and begins by likening the worship experience to a Nuremberg Rally of which Goebbels might have been proud. Haggard says he knows nothing of the Nuremberg Rallies and goes on to say that some evangelicals think of his services as something akin to rock concerts. Haggard said the Bible is true and doesn't contradict itself as science does. Dawkins contends that the advantage of science is that new evidence changes ideas, allowing the advancement of human knowledge, something religion does not allow. Steadily the exchanges become increasingly fractious.

Haggard says that American evangelicals fully embrace the scientific method, expecting it to show how God created the heavens and the earth. Dawkins asks if he accepts the scientific demonstration that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. According to Haggard, this is merely one view accepted by a portion of the scientific community. He goes on to contend that Dawkins's own grandchildren may laugh at him upon hearing this claim. Dawkins responds "do you want to bet?" Haggard insists that some evolutionists believe that the eye "just formed itself somehow." Dawkins replies that not a single evolutionary biologist he knows would think that, and that Haggard clearly knows nothing about the subject. In response Haggard implies that some evolutionists he’s met have said that. The meeting takes a markedly contentious turn with Haggard asserting that "this issue" of "intellectual arrogance" is the reason why people like Dawkins, and others who dispute creationism, have a problem with people of faith. This scene ends with Haggard telling Dawkins that as he [Dawkins] ages he will find himself "wrong on some things, right on some other things", and so he shouldn't be arrogant.

Dawkins and Haggard:

As Dawkins and his film crew pack up to leave, there is a brief altercation in the car park. It is reported that Haggard ordered Dawkins's crew off his land with threats of legal action and confiscation of their recording hardware, along with the statement "you called my children animals."

Dawkins retrospectively interprets this as saying that the evolutionary standpoint indeed amounts to saying that Haggard's flock were animals, which all humans are.

Dawkins then attends a meeting of freethinkers, where a biology teacher reveals that he has been labelled "Satan's incarnate" for teaching evolution, and another freethinker compares the present situation to the McCarthy era."

Indeed we are still in the dark ages. We really are in need of a contemplative science to lift us out of this primitive religiosity of Haggard's.

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