‘That was simply the worst show we’ve ever done’

It would seem that I have really annoyed Alex Botten who is a host for the Fundamentally Flawed podcast that I was interviewed live for this evening (Sat 16 Nov). You can watch it here. The quote that makes the title of this blog post is what Botton wrote on the public Youtube thread for the show as it was broadcast, shortly after he suggested during the live show that I was simply validating peoples delusions by giving their experiences of a ghostly nature the time of day.

Botten also spectacularly missed the point when he commented

I don’t think she actually said anything of substance – she talked about a whole lot of nothing that she herself stated she didn’t believe in

are you kidding me

It’s always nice when a host for the podcast you are invited onto as a guest researches what you do before they interview you about it, but enough sarcasm from me. I want to address the two accusations from Botten (one on air and off air) that he didn’t “get” what I do and thinks I just validate peoples delusions.

It is important to firstly point out that we are all delusional in one way or another and that not all delusions are bad and damaging things. I pointed out during the show, for example, that studies have shown that believing you have seen or sensed the ghost of a loved one can help with the grieving process. Not harmful. That isn’t to say that all belief in ghosts or an afterlife isn’t harmful because there is potential for harm, but I pointed that out too and spoke about the complicated ethics of ghost research. 

…and if people believe in ghosts and it isn’t harming them, then so what? You might consider it a silly thing to believe in, but what’s the deal? Is that really such a bad thing?

The answer, in case you were wondering, is no…

Unless, of course, you are the kind of someone who cannot accept that other people have a different version of reality to yourself. Unless, of course, you’re also the kind of someone who simply cannot abide people accepting nonsense as sense. Unless, of course, you are the kind of someone who insists that your view is the correct view and you will not listen to alternative points of view, and unless, of course, you’re the kind of someone who has made their mind up way before discussing the issue with people who hold opposing views than those you hold.

But I digress…

I don’t believe ghosts exist as a supernatural phenomenon but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in them as a cultural and social phenomenon, and by listening to people tell me about their weird experiences and offering potential alternative explanations I am not going to validate any delusions they may or may not have.

Giving ghost phenomenon the time of day, as a skeptic or as a non-believer, does not validate the idea that ghosts exist. I am simply acknowledging that people report having weird experiences that they sometimes believe to be ghost-related.

More often than not the people who come to me with their sightings or photos are just genuinely interested to hear what they actually might have seen or photographed. They don’t necessarily believe it was a ghost, but they’re curious and think I might be able to tell them. Those who do believe in ghosts have usually already made their minds up about the matter and nothing I say is going to convince them otherwise, or further what they already believe (and I’m always honest about my non-belief).

When I appear in the press time and time again uncovering ghost hoaxes I don’t validate delusions, when I debate pseudo-scientific ghost hunters live on radio I don’t validate delusions, when I host “ghost busting” workshops teaching children how to uncover ghost hoaxes and photographic mis-identifications and illusions I don’t validate delusions, when I analyse photographs and work out what is really in them I don’t validate delusions, when I visit haunted locations and work out the real cause for the alleged ghost sightings I do. not. validate. delusions. 

Alex Botten would have known this had he researched me as a guest for his podcast before interviewing me, he would have known this had he asked good and probing questions during the interview, he would have known this if he had asked those questions because he was genuinely curious… but he didn’t research what I do, he didn’t ask good probing questions and he wasn’t genuinely curious.

He had already made his mind up about me before the show had already started, and that is why it ‘was simply the worst show‘ they’ve ever done.

Published by

Hayley Stevens

Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

35 thoughts on “‘That was simply the worst show we’ve ever done’”

  1. I’ve been defending you in the post show hangout, explaining your background and I think the crew understand a good bit more about you. I wasn’t there for the show itself. It would have been more informed had I been. In Alex’s defence he’s been on the receiving end of some negative post debate nonsense following a debate earlier this week which might explain his short temperedness.

    That all said, why did you come on if you agree that we’ve done worse shows ?

    1. It isn’t possible to know the history of every podcast you are invited onto as a guest. You guys were never rude to me. We might have disagreed about things, but not rudely.

  2. Hayley, i think the problem is what you’ve written here and what Mat and MK Skeptic has said about your work was far more well put than what you said on the show(but i dont think thats WHOLY your fault).

    to clarify a few things… Alex didn’t invite you on the podcast, Mat did. Alex attended as someone asked him to and, because our plans for the day fell through, we did.

    So, no we didn’t know what you do, and i don’t think you did a very good job of explaining what you did because you expected everyone on to know.

    Alex literally asked you what popped into his head, like he does. And while i personally think he started out on a slightly aggressive sounding (though i’m pretty sure not intended) foot, i don’t think directing someone to your website to get the basic info was helpful.

    Overall i think had Alex and i known anything about you and/or if you had known we didn’t the podcast probably would have gone better.

    blame lies all around on this one.

    I’m sorry if he caused you any offence but i think you’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick to an extent.

    Now knowing a bit of what you’re about i’m sure we’d like to hear more, but as an intro to who you are i think it wasn’t the best show.

    1. Every interview I’ve done previously has been better prepared and questions asked that helped get the point across. No prep had been done at all and questions were asked that just were not relevant to what I research and am involved with. Not my problem and certainly not my fault.

    2. Again, we didn’t prep because we weren’t supposed to be there, this was Mat’s show. we were asked on last minute.

      i’m sorry if this has really annoyed you, again, i don’t think that was the intention.

  3. Hayley, as Kat says I didn’t even know who you were before the show. Matt invited you on and, as I had intended to be elsewhere today, I paid very little attention. I’m sorry if my question about validating delusions has upset you, but it was a question that I felt was important to ask.

    Matt probably should have warned you that the nature of the show is that tough questions get asked of our guests, and to be honest you were given quite an easy ride by my standards.

    Still, properly sorry that you were upset, it was not my intention.

  4. Fair enough, I’ve not had chance to watch the whole episode and I do wonder if you’d like to consider giving us a second chance as the whole post show hangout is discussing the issues and it’s good stuff.

    1. Again, I’ve tried. Hayley, you need to grow up a bit and get over your sense of self entitlement. I DID ask you a good, probing question – it was ‘isn’t there a risk that you’re validating delusions’ – that you didn’t LIKE the question is not my problem.

  5. You’re obviously not going to take any of this with grace. again apologies all around. but you cant say the blame lies 100% with alex. no story/blame/situation is ever 100% one person’s fault.

    1. Do you know what is an irrational thing to do? Make accusations without the facts. You point out that you did no research prior to the show as you weren’t meant to be on there. Fair enough, so don’t make accusations without having information to hand. It’s presumptive, irrational and rude.

      So you know… yeah, actually, Alex is at fault here.

  6. “He had already made his mind up about me before the show had already started”

    “Fair enough, so don’t make accusations without having information to hand. It’s presumptive, irrational and rude.”

    The irony, IT BURNS!!!!

  7. “Do you know what is an irrational thing to do? Make accusations without the facts.”

    remember this that you wrote a while ago?

    “Unless, of course, you are the kind of someone who cannot accept that other people have a different version of reality to yourself. Unless, of course, you’re also the kind of someone who simply cannot abide people accepting nonsense as sense. Unless, of course, you are the kind of someone who insists that your view is the correct view and you will not listen to alternative points of view, and unless, of course, you’re the kind of someone who has made their mind up way before discussing the issue with people who hold opposing views than those you hold.”

    So does that mean that you’re irrational? I guess it does.

    1. You presumed I was validating peoples delusions based upon your presumptions of me. I experienced you, first hand, acting like all of those things I described. If you’ve nothing of worth to add to this post I’d ask you to reconsider commenting any further.

  8. Is the purpose of “Fundamentally Flawed” to critique the guests lack of scientific and sceptical understanding? If so the problem came with inviting Hayley, an intelligent, erudite and hard working sceptic who has done so much to further the cause of education on paranormal issues on as a guest. From that moment, with the regular host away, the whole thing was destined for disaster – Hayley’s research is not flawed, it’s first rate. If you wanted a ignorant paranormal researcher who you could mock for naive and unsubstantiated ghost beliefs – in short a woo – they should have invited me. 😉 At least then they could have had the full 30 minute argument, rather than being reduced to apologies and confusion.

  9. Chris, I AM the main host, but I wasn’t going to be on tonight and knew nothing about Hayley until the show started. I asked questions based on the info she gave DURING the show, not based on her website or anything else.

    She’s writing this as if she was given a hard time – go watch the show and you’ll see that she actually wasn’t.

  10. Alex, if you believe any human beings are rational, I suggest a you a) read Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational, or indeed any cognitive psychology and look at cognitive biases, and then b) you look up rational in a big dictionary, as I fear it does not mean what you think it does. (For the record, a *rational* argument is one which is internally consistent, logically coherent – not a justified true belief. If you don’t understand this, take a basic course in philosophy of science, and pay attention to the bits on Realist and Non-Realist perspectives on contemporary science, the relationship of models to truth, the provisional nature of science, and the whole notion of epistemology and the justification of belief. Karl Popper is always a good place to start…)

  11. Fair point Alex – you can’t be blamed for not prepping for something you did not know you would have to do, and we have all been there. Sorry if my comments come over as sarky, I just tend to be quite passionate about the fact that people misrepresent how science actually works. I will listen t the rest of the podcast as soon as i finish writing this blasted report, and will then apologise unreservedly again if i am being an ass 😉

  12. I came across the interview this morning because it was posted on the SPR Facebook page, and spent have the morning with a cuppa watching the interview.
    Having read some of the feedback I would have to say that I personally felt all involved did a reasonable job putting across their points and views; and I felt the questions were appropriate for the content of the discussions at the time.
    Having been interviewed in the past myself I know the success of any interview is through its preparation on the side of the interviewee and interviewer. If either one fails then difficulties can arise.

    But that being said and I appreciate I’ve not posted here before – but as a newbie I enjoyed the interview and the manner in which the content was discussed.

  13. Once again I can only apologize for your experience on Fundamentally Flawed last night. I found you engaging and interesting and tried to ask questions that the general viewer on Fundamentally Flawed would want to know.

    I personally thought you were very interesting and the big cat sighting bit was interesting, oddly enough I have only heard about them in the south west.

    Once again, I apologize for the way that you were treated and there were a good number of viewers who really enjoyed the show.

  14. I watched the show and really enjoyed it. I was surprised by what Alex Botten said in the comments as I thought it was a better show then I had seen in a few weeks. I think the show should have more guests like you that are intelligent and engage interesting subject matter.

  15. I would like to see you back on the show personally so both sides can have their say and we can see your side represented as I really didnt understand what you did and I think you deserve a shot to iron out the misunderstanding.

  16. I would just like to make some clarifications. I’m Jim Gardner, the permanent co-host of Fundamentally Flawed with Alex Botten. However, for this particular show I was celebrating my 40th birthday with some houseguests, and although I had the Google Hangout open in the background, I couldn’t really give it my full attention.

    I’m sorry you had a negative experience of our little podcast, given that we take some degree of pride in our ability to attract a diverse audience and guests with differing opinions and beliefs. Unfortunately I rather suspect the reason for this was more to do with events which were happening in the background than anything specifically you did or didn’t say.

    I won’t go into great detail about those events, but suffice to say the show and Alex in particular have been at the receiving end of a great deal of negative attention over the past week, following a guest we had on the show the previous Saturday, who has made it something of a mission for himself to spread a great deal of misinformation about us, which ranges from personal attacks, to out and out lies about our ‘agenda’. And since we’re only human, some of this undoubtedly had an effect on Alex as he went into the conversation completely blind as to who our guest was — he only became available to host at moment’s notice, when he cancelled a trip to London at the last minute, and so had no notes in front of him about who you were or where you were coming from.

    I haven’t had a chance to listen to the interview in full as I write; but if I know Alex at all, it is his trademark ability to ask the sort of difficult questions he knows our audience are asking themselves as they listen, which tends to put people out of their comfort zone, and on the back foot. This approach, which is rather unfairly branded as ‘confrontational’, is surely the whole essence of what we mean when we refer to ourselves as ‘skeptical’. And while we’re not deaf to those who prefer a rather more softly softly approach, we’re also aware of the fact that, in the market place of ideas, it’s sometimes necessary to adopt a style which stands out from the crowd, if only to differentiate the ‘brand’ (if I can be grandiose about it for a second) from every other Hangout / Vlog / Podcast / roundtable, which discusses topics in this area.

    So, simply put, we’re more than entitled to object to the idea that “not all delusions are bad and damaging things” when the sort of delusions we are talking about are, by definition, damaging and dangerous. That is what our podcast exists to talk about. We could produce a podcast called Fundamentally Benign, where we talk for hours on end about all the things we agree upon. Or we could produce a show, which is enjoyed by people around the world, precisely because it is free from the constraints of artificial politeness.

    If people prefer the former over the latter, they can randomly choose from any one of a hundred different shows on iTunes, Kindle, Stitcher Radio, ad infinitum. If, on the other hand, someone prefers to listen to the sort of conversations which are happening in real the real world, from the coffee shops of Kensington, to the Labour Clubs of County Durham, Fundamentally Flawed has an open mic policy. And if this means that, every now and then things are said which don’t tow the ‘I’m in the on-line talking shop club’ which increasingly defines ‘skepticism’, so be it.

    1. ‘So, simply put, we’re more than entitled to object to the idea that “not all delusions are bad and damaging things” when the sort of delusions we are talking about are, by definition, damaging and dangerous. That is what our podcast exists to talk about.’

      Sure, but as I quite rightly pointed out during the interview on your podcast, the “delusions2 we are talking about are not, by default, harmful. I even gave examples of studies that showed this (more can be found on the ‘research’ page of my website’).

      I haven’t been critical of the fact that you swear about your previous guests, or take a hard line approach or whatever. If you read my blog post you’d understand that I objected to the accusation that I was validating harmful delusions by conducting the research that I do. I don’t.

    2. That’s fair enough. As I say, I haven’t had chance to listen to the debate yet, but I just wanted to make it clear that no such agenda to discredit you was agreed upon or organised ahead of your appearance. That just isn’t how we do things. And from the feedback I’ve seen so far you appear to have been a popular guest, even among those who don’t necessarily agree with you. So I don’t think you should worry about being misquoted or taken out of context. It just seems to me that Alex asked some questions you didn’t have ready answers for, and have for some reason taken that as an affront to your integrity — when I really don’t think that was the intention. Jim.

  17. A handy learning experience Hayley. Keep doing what your doing as it is very refreshing to hear your point of view rather than the adversarial approach taken up by many. Onward and upward.

  18. I thought this was an interesting and air clearing ‘cast. Thanks to Hayley and Mat for putting it together. It came as a relief after all the bullshit that BTWN has stirred up. More of the same please!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *