Wednesday 19 September 2012

Do You Want To Believe?

Yesterday, Dr. Phil had John Edwards on his show.  For those in the studio audience, John Edwards is a medium who claims to get messages from the dead.  He does shows in these big theatres and gives people in the audience messages from their departed loved ones.

I've seen him on TV a few times and what he does is either uncanny or a very carefully orchestrated fraud.   He claims he does not get any information in advance about members of the audience.  Now, I'm usually skeptical about such claims from a professional psychic but I do trust Dr. Phil's integrity.

Edwards made a distinction I thought was pretty good.  He divided people into believers, skeptics and cynics.  Believers and cynics never question their assumptions.  I like to think of myself as a skeptic.  There's a lot out there which I believe are hoaxes and scams.  There's more which I believe are genuine misunderstandings or overly enthusiastic claims.  But there are some things which don't fit into those categories.  And those are the intriguing possibilities.

A cynic will always say it's a scam.  Even if they can't figure out how the scam works, they will insist information has been provided in advance, the audience members are plants or some other plausible explanation.  Assuming fraud doesn't work for me.  The possibility should be investigated but an open mind requires more.  A cynic of gravity would tell you that there is no gravity and everything that falls was pushed.  Even if they can't see the push or figure out how a push would have happened, because they cannot accept the possibility of a truth beyond their experience, they will insist the results are a lie.

If Edwards is not pulling a scam, what he does is otherwise unexplainable.  He does a lot of fishing (I'm getting a Joe, does anyone know a Joe here?  Joe or maybe Joseph or maybe John) but sometimes he comes right to the point with specific information.

Information from the other side seems to be patchy at best.  I recently read a book called Ghost Hunters about the paranormal investigation societies from the early 1900s.  One of their members died and one of the mediums they were investigating claimed to have contact with his spirit.  She gave detailed information to various friends and family members, information she could not have known in advance.  However she was unable to translate a sentence in Latin (which the deceased read and studied constantly) or solve a mathematical problem (he had a Masters). 

It leads to an interesting question.  Assuming (and this is a big assumption) that our spirits can communicate after death, does our technical knowledge vanish while our emotional connections live on?  Does leaving a physical body so disrupt and disorient a spirit that ordinary communication becomes a phenomenal burden?

It would be really cool to have the answers.  But for now, I'm caught between Mulder and Scully.  I want to believe but I haven't found the proof.

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