An extraordinary hoax?

Skeptics often say that there is no shred of evidence for the existence of paranormal phenomena.

I strongly disagree and think we often dispose of evidence which would be deemed acceptable in mundane fields of inquiry.

In the following post on my parallel blog I give one striking example.



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What is an UAP (Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomenon)?

For many people, an atmospheric phenomenon is either explainable through our current knowledge, or it is necessarily of extraterrestrial origin.

This irrational dichotomy has hindered any serious, open and non-dogmatic discussion about the existence of not-understood aerial phenomena from happening.


This has prompted me to create a new blog on this topic and in the following post, I go into the possible nature of an UAP which merely means something in the sky we cannot account for at the moment.

According to this definition, some religious miracles such as the Wonder of the Sun in Fatima are UAPs as well.



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The tentative apologist and the friendly atheist discuss about heaven

Randal Rauser (the tentative apologist) is arguably the best apologist within the Evangelical camp.

During one episode of the British show Unbelievable he debated about the existence of heaven with (the friendly atheist) concerning a book Randal recently published that Randal wrote for dispelling wrong conceptions many Christians have about heaven.


At the beginning of the conversation, Randal mentioned the fact that many Evangelicals neglect the protection of the environment because they expect God to put pretty soon an end to this evil creation, delivering them from it.

I can remember very vividly a Conservative Evangelical telling me that he did not worry about global warming because God allegedly promised there would  no longer be any worldwide catastrophe after the Genesis flood.

This is a logical consequence of the doctrine that God cursed the whole creation and humans with a sinful nature we have to escape from, a gnostic doctrine which was introduced into the Church largely by Augustine.

Randal challenges Mehta’s assumption that the fact that heaven fulfill our wishes is an indication of its falsity. Ever since the days of Feuerbach, many atheists (not least Dawkins) have kept making the same claim.
But it is obviously wrong, the fact that a vanilla ice satisfy most desires of my gut does not mean there is no such thing.

Randal went on pointing out that evidence for heaven are going to heavily depend on our background beliefs. If we think that God exists, we have strong grounds for thinking there is an afterlife, especially if he raised Jesus from the dead.

Mehta rightly emphasized the problem of eternal conscious suffering and the atrocious injustice it would be if all people dying as non-Christians would end up in such a state.

Randal replied he is an inclusivist believing that a Jewish girl dying in a Nazi camp after having rejected Christ would most likely be in heaven.

It is worth noting, at this point, that most Conservative Evangelicals hold to the view that everyone deceasing without faith in Jesus earns an everlasting stay in God’s torture chamber, thereby believing that most victims of genocides will be tormented days and nights after having perished under an atrocious pain.

This seems to be a logical consequence of their belief that the Bible is the full revelation of God  from which the reality of post-mortem conversations cannot be easily deduced.

I think it would have been great if Randal had pointed out that the Bible points towards immortality being a gift of God, those not receiving it being going to eventually cease to exist instead of being endlessly tormented.

While being an incluvist myself, I do not, however, feel the need to be a hopeful universalist wishing the salvation of everyone.

If Hitler, Mussolini, Staline or Fred Phelps (the God hates fags pastor) will repent, that’s fine. But I would not feel too depressed if they won’t and will be utterly destroyed, blotted out from existence.

Justin Briley (the moderator) asked Mehta if he would wish to be in heaven if there were one. He answered this was a “silly question”.

Randal replied this was pretty condescending and that which beliefs we see as being dumb will hinge on our own plausibility structure.

Mehta responded by quoting the widespread atheistic meme “the absence of evidence is evidence of absence” illustrating the principle by using the Skeptic’s favorite pet, the unicorn.

A huge problem is that atheists have actually strong grounds for believing in the existence of such beings.

The reason is that atheists are better off believing in an infinite multiverse for avoiding the troubling problem if the extreme fine tuning of the physical constants allowing our very existence.

But in an infinite multiverse, every possible event (including the arrival of intelligent unicorns with very strange features) is necessarily going to happen somewhere.

We believe there is no unicorn species living on the surface of the earth because we would clearly expect evidence to be there if it were the case.

Therefore unlike an agnostic, an atheist has a burden of proof and must provide us with arguments against the existence of God and of the afterlife.

Once this mistake (and other similar ones) are debunked, the case for atheism appears to be much weaker than village atheists usually take for granted.

Rauser pointed out that another crucial difference between the afterlife and unicorns consists of the existence of many peer-reviewed publications arguing for the authenticity of some Near Death Experiences.

This is a fair point but I doubt that NDEs are really evidence of a life after death while being open to a small number of them being due to paranormal phenomena.

Mehta said that if everyone in heaven would have to submit themselves to God and Christ, this is a pretty bad new for all non-Christians.

I think that there is a fallacy going on here, which is interestingly enough also committed by Conservative Evangelicals such as William Lane Craig: the fact that someone dies as a non-believer does not mean he doesn’t wish Christianity to be true, as the case of French philosopher Andre Comte Sponville arguing for atheism nicely illustrates.

“Given that — and this is the key point — God’s mercy has no limits, if you go to him with a sincere and repentant heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience” Pope Francis wrote.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, is when one goes against their conscience” he added.

Finally, Justin mentioned the anguish of his seven years old son after having heard that the universe would end up becoming inhospitable for life. Justin answered this is what is going to happen according to science but that God would step in to keep this from occurring. He then asked Metha what hope he would give to his own child in such a situation.

He did not answer this question and just said that he would encourage his kid to think by himself on this issue, while recognizing it wasn’t morally wrong for Justin to have transmitted such a hopeful vision of the future to his boy.

This is how I view faith: hoping in the truth of something extremely desirable if the evidence is not sufficient.
Given such a definition, faith does not have to be irrational since it does not pretend to be a form of knowledge.

Actually I don’t know how anyone manages to love the pleasures of his life while being fully aware that everything he is now will usher into nothingness.

If atheism is true, a Buddhist-like resignation and detachment seems to be a much more coherent and viable choice than Western hedonism.

To conclude, I want to strongly advise everyone to buy some of Randal’s books for he is truly a far better apologist than William Lane Craig in numerous respects.

Next episode on hell: the dark side of destiny.

Erfordern außergewöhnliche Behauptungen außergewöhnliche Beweise?

English version: Do extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence?

Die Beantwortung dieser Frage erweist sich als viel schwieriger, als was viele Leute gern denken.

Der berühmte Skeptiker der Parapsychologie Richard Wiseman aus dem vereinigten Königreich wurde einmal gefragt, warum er außerkörperliche Wahrnehmungen (ESP) und Fernwahrnehmung ablehnt. Seine Antwort war aufschlussreich:

„Ich stimme zu, dass nach den Normen jedes anderen wissenschaftlichen Themenfeldes Fernwahrnehmung bewiesen ist. Es stellt sich jedoch die Frage: Brauchen wir höhere Standards von Beweisen, wenn wir das Übernatürliche erforschen? Ich glaube schon. Wenn ich behaupten würde, dass sich ein rotes Auto außerhalb meines Hauses befinden würde, würden Sie mir mit Sicherheit glauben. Wenn ich Ihnen jedoch sagen würde, dass dort soeben ein UFO gelandet ist, würden sie wahrscheinlich mehr Beweise dafür wollen. Da Fernwahrnehmung eine solch sonderbare Behauptung ist, die die Welt revolutionieren würde, benötigen wir überwältigende Beweise, bevor wir irgendwelche Schlüsse ziehen. Im Augenblick haben wir keine solche Beweise “

Eine solche Herangehensweise bezüglich anormalen Phänomenen wird häufig durch das legendäre Theorem von Baye bestützt, das besagt, dass man die Wahrscheinlichkeit der Wahrheit einer Theorie durch die Berücksichtigung der aus neuen Tatsachen stammenden Informationen aktualisieren kann.

Ich werde einer kritischen Unterschung der verwandeten Philosophie Bayesianismus zukünftige Konversationen widmen.

Im Zweiten Buch der Chroniken von Narnia “der König von Narnia” verwarf der berühmte Schriftsteller C.S. Lewis völlig diese Methode.

Die junge Lucy kamm in Narnia, eine paralellen Welt, nachdem sie sich in einer Garderobe versteckt hatte. Zurück im Haus rannte sie auf ihre Geschwister zu, die die Realität ihrer Erfahrung völlig verleugneten.

Besorgt, weil ihre kleine Schwester an der Wahrheit ihrer unglaublichen Geschichte festhielt, suchten sie den Professoren Kirke, der sie zurecht wies, Lucy nicht vertraut zu haben.

Nachdem sie erwidert hatten, dass ihre Behauptung außergewöhnlich war, antwortete er:

“Logik!” sagte der Professor, halb zu ihm selber. “Warum lehren sie keine Logik in diesen Schulen? Es gibt nur drei Möglichkeiten. Entweder erzählt euch eure Schwester Lügen, oder sie ist verrückt, oder sie sagt euch die Wahrheit. Ihr wisst, dass sie keine Lügen erzählt und es ist offensichtlich, dass sie nicht verrückt ist. Für den Moment müssen wir dann davon ausgehen, dass sie die Wahrheit erzählt, es sei denn, neue Beweise auftauchen.”

Das heißt, für den alten weisen Professoren waren normale Beweise oder Evidenzen ausreichend, um die seltsame Behauptung des kleinen Mädchens für wahr zu halten.

Hier bin ich irgendwie über die Gültigkeit der beiden Prinzipien verwirrt.
Einerseits ist es klar, dass wir immer unser Hintergrundswissen in Betracht ziehen sollten, bevor wir eine neue Hypothese oder Theorie einschätzen.

Andererseits, wenn ein Satz von Tatsachen ausreicht, um eine gewöhnliche Behauptung zu beweisen, dann sehe ich nicht ein, warum ein ähnlicher Satz von Tatsachen daran scheitern würde, eine außergewöhnliche Behauptung zu belegen.

Lasst uns nun manche konkrete Beispiele von gut bekannten Phänomenen uns anschauen, die in der Vergangenheit aufgrund ihrer vermeintlichen Außergewöhnlichkeit verleugnet wurden.

Im Nachhinein zu sagen, dass sie doch nicht außergewöhnlich waren, wäre allzu einfach denn dies war die Weise, wie sie von Wissenschaftlern zu dieser Zeit wahrgenommen wurden.

Die Existenz von Meteoriten wurde damals als eine haarsträubende Behauptung angesehen und die normalen vorliegenden Beweisen wurden als irdische Phänomene oder Halluzinationen der Zeugen wegerklärt.

In 1923 fand der deutsche Geologer Alfred Wegener normale Beweise für die Kontinentaldrift, aber da er nicht fähig war, einen sinnvollen Mechanismus darzustellen, wurde seine Theorie während Jahrzehnten ignoriert oder sogar verlächerlicht.

Dasselbe könnte über die Blitzkugel gesagt werden, die oft als das Produkt der Sinntäuschungen und Halluzinationen der Zeugen abgelehnt worden war.

Heutzutage kann ein ähnliches Phänomen in Bezug auf den kleinen Anteil von wirklich unidentifizierten fliegenden Objekten beobachtet werden.

Wenn außergewöhnliche Behauptungen außergewöhnliche Beweise erfordern, dann existieren UFOs (in der Gegenwart) nicht und die Kontinentaldrift, Meteoriten, und Blitzkugel existierten in der Vergangenheit nicht.

Aber wenn man nur nach normalen Beweisen sucht, kann eine feste Argumentation dafür aufgebaut werden, dass manche UFOs (gemäß der ursprünglichen Definition “unidentifiziert”) wirklich existieren. Ich werde dies in zukünftigen Posten erläutern.

Wir werden auch zusammen die Möglichkeit berücksichtigen, dass es wirklich normale Beweise für die Auferstehung von Jesus von Nazareth gibt.

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Afterlife, near death experiences, fundamentalism and Christianity

Alex Tsakiris, the creator of the paranormal website Skeptiko, interviewed recently a new guest on his show, Kevin Williams, the author of one of the main websites aiming at scientifically defending the existence of a life after death.

In many respects Kevin is a very interesting fellow. I greatly admire his courage to have admitted suffering under a bipolar disorder at the beginning of the show. Having myself ADHD, I know all too well that coming out having a psychiatric or psychological disorder can often be much more risky than coming out as gay within a Western society completely obsessed by performance.

Kevin is a former Christian fundamentalist, who was traumatized by the idea of hell and left the faith behind. However, unlike most people in such a situation in a American context he did not become an angry and resentful atheist but adopted a kind of New Age philosophy where eternal bliss is the inevitable fate of everyone.

I believe that the existence of eternal conscious torments is logically incompatible with the love of God, given the definitions of words, this concept is as meaningful as a married bachelor.

So if Kevin was honestly persuaded this is what Christianity is, then I am very glad he has stopped worshipping such a fiend even if this meant giving up the faith altogether.

While I believe that a small minority of Near Death Experiences seriously challenges materialism, I think we have overwhelming grounds for thinking that the numerous contradictory accounts of heaven (or hell for that matter) are creations of the mind.

It is therefore as unwarranted to use NDEs as proof of heaven than it is to use them as evidence of reincarnation or of widespread torture by gruesome demons.

But I do believe that this feeling of unconditional love experienced in NDEs and in many other contexts is a genuine reflection of God’s love.

And this leads me to a tension in the worldview of Alex and Kevin. Like me, both believe in libertarian free-will, that is that the soul is a necessary and sufficient cause of many things. But if it so, what should God do if he encounters a person (like, say, the late Christopher Hitchen or for that matter Fred Phelps)  who utterly rejects his love? If God is the ultimate love, goodness and joy, spending eternity without him would logically entail ever-lasting torments.
God could turn him (or her) into a new creature who could do nothing else than desiring Him. I find this solution very unappealing, both rationally and morally, because I cannot consider love to be a meaningful concept if the lover coerces the loved one into loving him.

This is why I consider it extremely likely that God will respect the wish of an individual not desiring Him and that he or she will eventually cease to exist.

Do extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence?

Deutsche Version: Erfordern außergewöhnliche Behauptungen außergewöhnliche Beweise?

Answering such a question proves much more difficult than many people like to think.

The famous Skeptic of parapsychology Richard Wiseman from Britain was once asked why he rejected Extrasensory Perceptions (ESP) and specifically remote viewing. His answer was very revealing:

“I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do.

“If I said that there is a red car outside my house, you would probably believe me.

“But if I said that a UFO had just landed, you’d probably want a lot more evidence.

“Because remote viewing is such an outlandish claim that will revolutionize the world, we need overwhelming evidence before we draw any conclusions. Right now we don’t have that evidence.”

Such an approach to anomalous phenomena is often backed up by the legendary Bayes’ theorem, according to which one can actualize the likelihood of the truth of a theory by incorporating the information conveyed by new facts.

I’m going to keep a critical examination of the related philosophy Bayesianism to future conversations.

In the second book of the Narnia series “The King Of Narnia“, the famous writer C.S. Lewis completely rejected this method. The young Lucy came into Narnia, a parallel world, after having hidden within a wardrobe. Back in the house, she ran to her siblings who utterly denied the reality of her experience.

Worried that their small sister kept holding fast on the truth of her incredible story, they searched Professor Kirke who rebuked them for not trusting Lucy. After they retorted that her claim was extraordinary, he replied:

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

That is to say, for the old wise professor, normal evidence was sufficient for vindicating the wild claim of the little girl.

At this point, I am kind of confused about both principles.

On the one hand, it is clear one should always take our background knowledge into account before evaluating a new hypothesis or theory.

On the other hand, if a set of facts is sufficient to prove an ordinary claim, I don’t see why a similar set of facts should fail to prove an extraordinary conclusion.

Let us now see some concrete examples of well-known phenomena which were rejected in the past due to their alleged extraordinariness. Saying in hindsight they weren’t extraordinary after all would be all too easy for this was the way they were perceived by scientists at that time.

The existence of meteorites was once thought to be an outlandish claim and the normal evidence was explained away in terms of purely terrestrial phenomena or witness hallucinations.

In 1923 the German geologist Alfred Wegener found normal evidence for continental drift, but failing to present a mechanism which worked, his theory was ignored and even ridiculed during decades.

The same thing could be said about ball lightnings which were often dismissed as stemming from illusions or hallucinations experienced by the witnesses.

Nowadays a similar phenomenon can be observed for the small proportion of flying objects which are truly unidentified.

If extraordinary claims demands extraordinary evidence, then UFOs (in the present) does not and continental drift, meteorites and ball lightnings did not (in the past) exist.

But if one only seeks for normal evidence, a strong case can be made that some UFOs (according to the original definition as “unidentified”) really exist. I am going to explain this in future posts.

We will also explore together the possibility that there really exists normal evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.



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