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Life after death

On 25 Nov 2012 at 9:19am Sceptic wrote:
I hope no one replies with funny remarks etc. as I post this in all seriousness. I lost a loved one a few years back and I have often wondered after watching a few t/v programmes about contacting the deceased is why the conversation always seems to be one sided. I have never heard anyone ask the deceased what's it like on the other side and do they know they are deceased and have they met any relations etc. I would be interested in anyone's experiences in regards to this, or is it all a scam.
On 25 Nov 2012 at 6:29pm supporter wrote:
a scam
On 25 Nov 2012 at 7:18pm Banjo wrote:
My boss asked me, "do you believe in life after death and the supernatural?"
"Yes, I think so," I replied.
"I thought you would," he said. "Friday after you left to go to your grandmother's funeral, she phoned up to talk to you..."
On 25 Nov 2012 at 8:42pm Expat two wrote:
There was a bit of a fuss here in Christchurch NZ recently, when an Australian 'psychic' announced a special trip to come and help give some closure for those that lost friends & relatives in last year's Earthquake.
Some people get comfort from it, the same way as some do from religion.
Definitely a scam, especially when mercenary opportunists who appear to see a large scale disaster as a client cluster aren't struck off. Do they have a code of practice? Do they have a professional register?
On 25 Nov 2012 at 11:27pm Lewes Skeptic wrote:
Sceptic meet Skeptic.
I would say that or some I think its's no more than self-delusion. And then there's the deluded ones who convince themselves that they need a bit of help when they're having an off-night contacting the spirit-world. And then, naming non names there's the outright scam-artists.
Out of curiosity I went to the Spiritualist Church in Brighton a few months ago with a friend to witness a demonstration of mediumship. We were told that the church holds these events to demonstrate the existence of the afterlife. What I witnessed was a not a demonstration of the existence of the afterlife but a demonstration of basic cold-reading including Barnum statements (e.g. - "at times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved") and fishing. If it had been an entertainment venue instead of a church people would have been embarrassed and asking for their money back. Magician Paul Zenon gave an interesting talk on this subject for Brighton Skeptics in the Pub earlier this year. He lives in Brighton so I could easily see if he'll do a talk in Lewes. In the meantime watch this video of him on this subject. Enlightening I think.

Watch the video »
On 26 Nov 2012 at 7:10am Sceptic wrote:
Thankyou so much for that skeptic. I was always a bit doubtful in regards to the authenticity of these mediums etc. I just thought that if there was any grain of truth in what they say I would give it a go as I miss this person so much. I now must come to the conclusion that they have done their time on earth and I must seek solace through their children.
On 26 Nov 2012 at 8:07am Ducatipete wrote:
So I might already be dead and not know it!
On 26 Nov 2012 at 8:21am Pete wrote:
Sceptic (first one), take comfort in the thought that you and your loved one had some great times together, and that you will always have these memories to call on. Carry on with life and spread your sunshine everywhere and bring some colour into someone's life each and every day....which is why I always wear bright coloured socks each day ! And, no, I'm not setting up an agony aunt page here on the Lewes website.....Webbo would charge me too much !!
On 26 Nov 2012 at 10:58am Clifford wrote:
Like Lewes Skeptic I went to a spirituaist church years ago. What amazed me was how obsessed the dead seemed to be about the trouble the living were having with their backs. A scam, of course.
On 26 Nov 2012 at 1:06pm jrsussex wrote:
I personally do not believe there is a life after death, neither do I believe in the stars that one can read in the media any day. That said two personal experiences:
1) some years ago a lady who did believe in the stars read to me, from a very large and clearly expensive book on the subject, about Pisces people. I was astounded at how much it resembled me in many respects.
2) Went to a party in Essex, again some years ago and, about a couple of hours after arriving, a lady came up to myself and my wife, we had never met her before, began talking to her and after a few minutes she asked if my wife had lost anybody recently. She had lost her father sometime before, the lady then said that when we had arrived at the party coming through the door a man was standing behind us, she then went on to describe my wife's father accurately.
As said I do not believe in it but those two incidence did happen to me. An explanation, if there is one, I would love.
On 26 Nov 2012 at 3:26pm m wrote:
scam see anything involving James Randi.
this link is one of the best

Watch the video »
On 26 Nov 2012 at 3:38pm Trevor wrote:
Although I don't personally believe in life after death and mediumship, I'd never be so self-righteous (as some on here seem to be) to dismiss it out of hand and claim to be enlightening people by telling them what I 'know'.
This is something that really gets my goat about some people (typically the 'science'-worshippers) - they go around saying "it's all a scam!", "believe none of it", etc. when in fact they only KNOW what they've personally experienced (or not experienced), and then just quote tidbits of stuff that corroborates their own viewpoint whilst ignoring the other evidence.
If you're interested, and if you think you can separate the truth from possible self-delusion, go and find out for yourself (via the Society for Psychical Research for instance) - certainly don't listen to people that claim to know for sure that nothing like this is possible, because they don't.
There's a book about one man's search for truth called Tell My Mother I'm Not Dead - might be worth a read although some of the conclusions are a little dubious to my mind.
On 26 Nov 2012 at 3:40pm middleclassandabitsmug wrote:
scam, see anything to do with James Randi
link is one of the more amusing.

Watch the video »
On 26 Nov 2012 at 4:18pm Southover Queen wrote:
Trevor, there's a difference between requiring a scientific basis for belief and being self-righteous. The whole basis of "faith" is that it is not capable of any kind of proof - you have to believe.

If you accept a scientific view of creation then you require a scientific explanation for everything, and are sceptical of anything which cannot supply one. That's not self-righteousness: it's a way of interpreting the world, and it's one which does a very good job of explaining or predicting how the universe functions. What we don't know shrinks all the time as science marches on, and that - to a scientist or a firmly rational person - leaves less to be explained by an appeal to the supernatural.

My answer to sceptic's OP is that there are scammers and opportunists and there are also genuine believers who really do think they're communicating with "the beyond". I don't believe they are because it makes no rational sense to me; when practitioners do submit to scientific testing they are unable to reproduce their results. Some of them are straightforward fakes and some of them are sincere but kidding themselves. In my opinion - which is what sceptic asked for, as it happens.
On 27 Nov 2012 at 12:31am IMEYOU wrote:
Apart from any dreams you may have had, what do you remember of last nights sleep ? " Nothing " I hear you say ! Then The Answer Is . . . Death Is Nothing . . . Sweet Dreams !
Scary Thought I Know, But That Is The Reality !
On 27 Nov 2012 at 12:46am Bruciare il Papa wrote:
It's a scam.
Q: Why is it that these so called psychics are plagued with voices?
A: Schizophrenia
On 27 Nov 2012 at 10:03am LewesSKeptic wrote:
"1) some years ago a lady who did believe in the stars read to me, from a very large and clearly expensive book on the subject, about Pisces people. I was astounded at how much it resembled me in many respects."
Yep. Horoscopes are are a prime example of the use of Barnum statements also known as the Forer Effect. See the Wikipedia article in the link. I saw the use of Barnum statements myself when I visited the Spiritualist church and I've seen them used by Derron Brown, James Randi and Paul Zenon to illustrate how cold reading works (you can Google up videos of them doing this). The statements will always have a few misses contained within them but there will be enough hits to make it sound convincing. And Barnum statements can be tailored to the situation possibly as the result of fishing, i.e. chucking out random stuff in the hope of getting a reaction which you then follow up on.

in a similar situation to the one Clifford describes about back problems - the medium at the Spiritualist Church seemed to find several dead relatives who had breathing problems before they died. At one point while she was "working with" (i.e. speaking to a dead relative) of a woman in the audience and she asked - "did she have a problem with her leg?" - while at the same time placing her hands on the top of her leg near her hips. When the audience member replied "yes, she had a lot of knee trouble" the medium moved her hands down towards her knee and said something like "yes, her knee .. that's a hit then".
@Trevor, you should have come along to the Lewes Speakers Festival in the summer where Dr Chris Roe (editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research) was in debate Prof Chris French (head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College and former editor of 'The Skeptic' magazine). The cold facts are that there is no evidence that anyone can genuinely contact the spirit world, or indeed that such a place even exists. Earlier this month two professional psychics, Patricia Putt and Kim Whitton (who make a living out of supposedly contacting the dead), took part in a test designed by Dr French and the Merseyside Skeptics Society and the psychics themselves. The psychics were very confident before the test began that they would have no trouble passing it but they utterly failed to get more than would be expected by simple guesswork. So Trevor, it's not a case of relying on personal anecdotes or simply dismissing it out-of-hand. It's that properly conducted studies have not been able to show that what psychics claim is true. Also you have to ask what possible mechanism would allow such contact between the physical world and the supposed spirit world? What's the interface in the brain that translates spiritual stuff into thoughts composed of chemical and electrical interactions? When I asked Dr Chris Roe this question at the Lewes Speakers Festival he was unable to give a coherent answer.

Check it out here »
On 27 Nov 2012 at 3:24pm Trevor wrote:
I'm not going to dignify SQ's post with a response as she's clearly out of her depth here and not in any way in touch with this topic.
But LewesSkeptic, thanks for your reasoned response, but I'm afraid your post picks out exactly the point I was trying to make. Sceptics (i.e. you) only cherry pick the scientific studies that match what you believe in (i.e. there is no life after death). There are countless (rigorous) studies that have had interesting results - for example the work of Peter Fenwick and Pim van Lommel on NDEs (just one example).
As I alluded to in my original post, I personally haven't seen any convincing evidence of the work of mediums, but I have seen convincing evidence that, maybe, we're not just a pack of neurons. As such, I would never deem it appropriate to simply say to someone "That's not possible" or "It's fact that there is no life after death" as it's simply not appropriate to say so on the basis of the evidence we currently have.
By all means say "I personally don't think it's possible" but to state something as fact you need incontrovertible evidence that it is so, which in the case of life after death (whatever form it might take) is not possible.
PS. I know Chris's you mention, thanks, but don't have an interest in sitting in a room full of close-minded individuals who believe they're open-minded.
On 27 Nov 2012 at 4:08pm Independent Thinker wrote:
Thanks for the link LewesSkeptic. I watched Darren Brown perform the same experiment with the same results, very interesting to see Forer's original personality analysis. Describes me perfectly. Though of course that's the point.

I particularly enjoyed the show Brown did where he taught ordinary people how to do cold readings, and successfully fooled a Spiritualist that his student was the real thing. I don't believe they're all scam artists as some people probably know instinctively how to do the things Darren Brown has learned, and may well believe that ability is coming from spiritual sources, but either way people should know it isn't real, and certainly shouldn't hand over money to them, or base any life decisions on what any of these people tell them, scam artists or not.
On 27 Nov 2012 at 4:22pm Southover Queen wrote:
Heh. Out of my depth, eh? You really have no idea how wrong you are.

"Closed minded individuals" would be scientists and rationalists who want to be able test theories, I'd guess? Has anyone ever mentioned the old adage "You can't prove a negative" to you? In this case it applies nicely: you can't prove "life after death" for one of two reasons. One is that it is an article of faith in most world religions that human beings have a soul or some kind of spirit which lives on after them. *Faith*: you are asked to believe it because there is no proof. With Christians believing in life after death goes with the resurrection of Jesus and the Virgin Birth. You won't be able to prove any of it, ever, but believing it anyway is what makes you a Christian.

The second answer is the one I happen to espouse. There is no scientific proof of life after death because there is no life after death, and you can't prove a negative. As LewesSkeptic says, every psychic and faith-healer since the beginning of time has failed any scientific test thrown at them.

"but to state something as fact you need incontrovertible evidence that it is so" Aha. Okay, well when you've managed to *prove* Einstein's theory of general relativity, please do let us know.
"but don't have an interest in sitting in a room full of close-minded individuals " You actually have no interest in educating yourself, I'd suggest. How very closed minded of you.
On 27 Nov 2012 at 9:09pm expat wrote:
Going off track from the debate, something's starting to play on my mind. I'm a dedicated non believer in anything other than what I can explain, but I'm starting to worry my beliefs are being tested. Twenty seven years ago I went to see Eva Petu-somebody on Brighton seafront, with her crystal ball and thought it a load of b*ll*cks. She told me I would have two girls and a boy, and I would travel and settle somewhere beginning with A. (Australia, America, Angola, Albania?) She also told me my physical weak spot would always be my throat. I now live in Aoteroa, have two girls and a boy, and am tripping to and from the doctor's with throat issues!
On 27 Nov 2012 at 9:34pm Expat two wrote:
What you've done there is fulfill her prophecy. Its you who got Aoteroa, I don't imagine she, or her advisors from the other side, had ever heard the word.
And has your throat always been a week spot, or just now?
On 28 Nov 2012 at 1:26am Independent Thinker wrote:
Expat, leaving aside self-fulfilling prophecies, those are also all suitably vague predictions. Settle somewhere starting with A. Could be Australia, Aoteroa, America, Altrincham, even St. Anne's in Lewes which someone might think was close enough. If you have kids, the average is around 2.5. So a guess of 2 or 3 is pretty safe. And only so many combinations to choose from. And as for the throat, how many people suffer from Hay Fever, frequent colds, drinking problems, eating disorders, all kinds of ways someone could interpret that to make it fit. Add in how many predictions she made 27 years ago which you've forgotten which haven't come true, plus the numbers of people she must have given readings to that she might have got completely wrong, and you have exactly what Forer's study in the link above describes. I would suggest it's a case of the law of averages, rather than supernatural abilities. Fun as entertainment, I enjoy hearing "true" ghost stories, but that's all it should be treated as.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 8:26am expat wrote:
I know you're both right, thanks for bringing me back to reality. Law of averages, loads of places beginning with 'A' and long neck (elegant I'm told) to harbour lots of bugs. Thanks guys
On 28 Nov 2012 at 10:20am Trevor wrote:
Oh SQ, you really do love to have an opinion on everything, whether you're informed or not.
By "closed-minded individuals" I meant anyone who thinks they have a definite answer to anything without being open to opposing views and evidence (whether they be scientists, 'rationalists', religious believers, whatever).
By the way, it's perfectly possible to believe in some form of life after death without believing in organised religion, or God, so let's leave that out for now shall we as it only serves to muddy the waters.
My point was that you *may not* be able to prove life after death exists, but also, so far, there is no way to prove that life after death *doesn't* exist, only that it might seem unlikely. As I said a number of times, I personally don't believe in life after death, because I have made my own conclusions from the available evidence, but I wouldn't be so arrogant as to tell anyone that it definitely isn't possible and/or that they shouldn't believe in it - what if they have personally experienced something I haven't? What if it turns out to be true?
And that's where you and I differ - we might hold similar views about life after death, but I wouldn't try to ram my view down someone else's throat as *fact* (and condescendingly at that) because I know that my opinion is just that - an opinion.
(By the way, you claim that "every psychic and faith-healer since the beginning of time has failed any scientific test thrown at them", which really does show up your ignorance of the field. There are a number of startling studies from late-Victorian times which have, retrospectively, still confounded scientists, although I agree that, given their likely lack of rigorous procedures by today's standards, these are a little shaky and shouldn't be taken as read. But my point remains, you either (a) don't know what you're talking about, or (b) like to throw wild generalisations out there to try to convince people you're right.)
"Aha. Okay, well when you've managed to *prove* Einstein's theory of general relativity, please do let us know." - I'm not at all up on my quantum physics, but I think you might find that Einstein's theory of general relativity is nowadays considered a little off with how things actually work, but I might be wrong here as it's not my field at all, I just hazily remember talking to a physicist about it.
""but don't have an interest in sitting in a room full of close-minded individuals " You actually have no interest in educating yourself, I'd suggest. How very closed minded of you." - I have every interest in being educated, and discuss these sorts of things with all sorts of open-minded people every day, but if you read what I said I think you'll see that I didn't rule out being educated by ANYONE, just that I didn't want to be exposed to rhetoric and self-congratulatory know-it-alls.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 10:59am Southover Queen wrote:
I haven't tried to tell anyone to believe anything. I was responding directly to Sceptic who asked whether there was anything in the promises offered by spiritualists. He asked for opinions. I gave him mine, and said why I believe what I do.

I was not suggesting that a belief in life after death necessarily entails belonging to an organised religion, but I certainly would suggest that maintaining an unshakeable belief in life after death is a crucial part of the belief systems of most world religions.

Scientific method works like this: someone notices something and proposes an explanation, generally based on what science has already established. This is an hypothesis. An hypothesis sets out a proposition and invites other scientists to test it, using previous agreed theory. If after observation and testing the hypothesis seems to be useful and allows other scientists to build new propositions, it becomes a theory. Newton's observations about gravity are theories. Einstein's Theory of Relativity builds on (and in some cases refines) Newtonian physics and then extends it. Einstein's theory was used to predict the results of the Large Hadron Collider, and no, it hasn't been disproved. The point is though that it might be: that's what science is all about. That's why it is a theory: there isn't "incontrovertible evidence" because we, human beings, don't understand everything and until we do complete the circle most science will remain theoretical but generally accepted as a useful way of describing how the universe functions.

"I didn't want to be exposed to rhetoric and self-congratulatory know-it-alls." Who are these terrible people? Where are they to be found? To be honest, it sounds as if you're cherry picking the people you discuss these things with, which is probably not the quickest route to enlightenment.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 11:34am Independent Thinker wrote:
Trevor, I've always been very interested in this subject, and not come across any of the rigorous scientific studies you mention, modern or Victorian, that support claims of an ability to communicate with the dead. Could you possibly post some links to them?

Also, I've read through this thread and not found anyone saying it's a fact that there is no afterlife. Some people have stated their belief that there isn't one, but no more than that. What has been said is you shouldn't believe people who say they can communicate with the dead, or predict the future. You believe it's theoretically possible, but there is no scientifically accepted evidence in support of the claims made by spiritualists and mediums, and there are scientifically conducted experiments that show how to replicate the work of spiritualists using decidedly non-supernatural methods (LewesSkeptic linked to some). Of course you can't prove a negative. But spiritualists are the ones making the claims, and in many cases making money off of vulnerable people (particularly those dealing with bereavement). Doctors need to be able to prove they have the necessary qualifications before being able to see patients. Until spiritualists can do the same thing, they really should be seen as at best well meaning but deluded, and at worst scam artists.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 1:46pm Alive wrote:
I hope none of this is true. I can't bear the thought of Southover Queen being here to haunt us forever.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 2:23pm Southover Queen wrote:
Be assured, "alive", my mission to challenge prejudice, nonsensical thinking and bigotry will continue for the foreseeable future.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 2:51pm padster wrote:
SQ your are terribly pious in the scientific religious paradigm you so smugly enjoy. Your smug I got this s.h.i.t sussed gives you the security you need. Your no different to people of religious disposition. I don't know all in fact I know nothing but I believe in science and I believe in God. There is no contradiction in that. I may sound critical but I mean no harm towards you.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 3:03pm Southover Queen wrote:
Padster, would you mind explaining what is smug in what I've written? Why is it smug not to believe in a higher being? I don't diss anyone who does and I have greatly enjoyed the company and thoughts of people of religious conviction. It is indeed an area I spent 18 months observing professionally: I hold those people I encountered in high regard and I know they do too.

I was a bit sharp with Trevor because his rebuttals of my descriptions of scientific method were rude and, actually, wrong. His scornful assertion that there are plenty of rigorous scientific trials into spiritualism and the paranormal is unfounded: there really are no such trials which suggest anything except fakes and scammers. I really don't see why I shouldn't hold my own views and when challenged be able to explain what underlies them, in just the same way that I respect your right to differ.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 3:46pm Test tube wrote:
Actually, Trevor said there were some rigorous studies with 'interesting results' (on near-death experience) and some Victorian studies which weren't rigorous but still had 'startling' findings.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 3:51pm padster wrote:
Sorry SQ I thought your being a bit Dawkins. Fair enough. Just my point is this science could be the next new religion same faults same gains. God is not dead in my eyes. When I go and pray at the grave of my loved ones dearly departed I have solace that they're gone from this life but live on. I am the lucky one.
I wait to be called a deluded fool by others. It makes no difference to me.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 3:58pm Southover Queen wrote:
Near death experiences are completely different and explanations advanced in completely different (scientific) terms.

The question was about life after death and psychics/spiritualists, on which there are no studies, Victorian or otherwise, which show anything beyond chance once you weed out the (undetected in Victorian times) fakery. So no, I'm not making sweeping generalisations. There just aren't any.

Darren Brown on C4 did a fascinating stunt a couple of weeks ago, where he produced a conversion experience in an atheist. He was able to demonstrate all the psychological tricks he carried out to produce that effect, and I do commend it to you. You'll find the sequence in the last 20 minutes or so of the programme.

Check it out here »
On 28 Nov 2012 at 4:12pm Southover Queen wrote:
Padster, in many ways you're lucky. The happiest people I've ever met were a group of Trappist monks living in the wilds of Scotland. They had nothing at all except an absolute certainty of a god and his righteous rule on earth. They had built their whole lives around this rock-solid faith and I do envy that simple life and profound belief.

I don't believe I'll meet the people I've loved who have died again. They live for me in my memory and that works for me. As far as I'm concerned I'm content for everyone to believe whatever they like, as long as they don't try to force it on me, or blow me up because I won't agree with them. I'm certainly no Dawkins: I think he's intolerant and confrontational. I do think, however, that there are some people who do use people's vulnerabilities to exploit them and con them out of money, and there are quite a few in the faith-healing/fortune-telling/communicating with the dead camps. Sceptic was already doubtful, and with a bit of luck he won't be suckered now.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 5:10pm Trevor wrote:
SQ, I apologise for being rude to you, but you so often come across as terribly patronising, and for someone with a PhD and 6 years' (current) work experience in the area I find it very hard to tolerate.
Maybe you don't realise how condescending you sound, and so my rudeness is unjustified and I'm sorry for that. Perhaps you could work on the tone of your posts and I'll work on mine.
Independent Thinker - you'll have to visit the SPR and look in their archives to get the feel of the work done in Victorian times on mediumship, especially by Frederic Myers and his ilk, but (as mentioned above) it's not rigorous work, just very startling results from their studies with certain (very specific) 'mediums'. Recent (very controversial and not very convincing to my mind) work on mediumship comes from Gary Schwartz.
If you're interested in NDE work, then look up Peter Fenwick, Pim van Lommel, etc.
For parapsychology in general, try the recent work of Darryl Bem is interesting.
On 28 Nov 2012 at 5:10pm Penguin wrote:
Padster, you say that you believe in science and in God. Science has shown that the earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years, and the rest of the universe three times that, so why did God do all that and then wait till only the last few thousand years, a mere insignificance in the scheme of things, to 'create' a species that would eventually believe in him (or her)?

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