Skepkon Presentation: A Skeptics Guide to Ghost Hunting

skepkon still shot

Earlier this year I travelled to Frankfurt to deliver my talk ‘A Skeptics Guide To Ghost Hunting’ at Skepkon which took place at Goethe University Frankfurt (an amazing place). The talk was filmed and the is now available to view online.

There were some technical glitches as a cable that connected the laptop to the projector wasn’t working as it had previously been and I can only assume this was paranormal forces at work. At 23 minutes in you will actually see a ghost vandalise the stage.

As the video has been made public I’d like to take this chance to thank the lovely people at Skepkon for the invitation to speak – in particular Jochen who was kneeling on the floor physically holding the faulty cable in place throughout the whole of my talk.

Notes:

The “stiched together picture” method I spoke of referred to panoramic photos but I could not recall the name at the moment of the talk.

In the talk I say that 99% of photos and videos can be explained as caused by the Orb Zone effect that I demonstrate but should have said ‘a large number of’ instead.

After this talk I spoke to someone about the cash register incident with the Birmingham Skeptics and it seems I had an embellished memory of what had happened. Nobody screamed and there was no money in the till. I totally remember it differently which is just weird!

I also state that “immigration is not the cause” of ghosts from other cultures being reported more regularly in the UK and meant this in the context of a joke about ghost immigration. People coming to live in the UK from other cultures bring with them traditional beliefs and folklore that certainly will contribute to the way in which people describe ghost experiences.

Please Help Me Make My Video Series

photo for indiegogo

I have today launched an Indiegogo campaign in an attempt to fund a video series that I plan to produce to reach a wider audience in a way that isn’t restricted by written word.

Can you really find water with dowsing rods? How easy is it to make a ghost hoax go viral? What happens if you lock a skeptic in a haunted house? Why do Ouija boards seem to work? Can you really trick the human brain into seeing ghosts?

I have a long list of fun, informative videos that I want to produce but I need your help. If you can make a donation that will help me fund this project I would be extremely thankful and you’ll get some really cool rewards!

Check out my Indiegogo campaign now and please consider making a donation and spreading the word.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION!

Can prayer cure illness?

screenshot mid-broadcast

If you happen to watch BBC1’s The Big Questions on a Sunday morning then you might have spotted me among the guests this morning. I was invited onto the show to debate the question ‘Can prayer cure illness?’ because of my involvement in the ASA complaint against Healing on the Streets in Bath.

I was joined in the ‘no’ camp by Kevin Friery of Hampshire Skeptics, and I owe him huge thanks for helping calm my nerves about my first live TV experience. I also think he deserves credit for the comment he made about praying for traffic lights to stay green!

In the studio pre-broadcast
In the studio pre-broadcast

Although all the evidence shows that prayer doesn’t cure illness some of the other guests would have you believe otherwise. You should watch the episode on BBC iPlayer if you can to see the bizarre nature of the arguments in favour of faith healing. The segment is also available to view online on Youtube by clicking here. I don’t think I can do them justice in this post. Needless to say, all of the arguments contained subjective personal anecdotes which don’t hold much weight at all. Studies into whether prayer can help cure or heal people have shown little to no effect, with the studies that have the most scientifically rigorous methodologies providing no positive results. The meta-analysis studies are the most interesting, with some suggesting that further research is pointless.

It’s most likely that any positive result is caused by a prayer related placebo effect. Humans are very susceptible to suggestion, after all. Even Wes Sutton, a healer himself, stated that prayer doesn’t offer a cure all of the time, and guess what else doesn’t work for everyone every time? The Placebo effect, and Placebos are not a valid replacement for medicines or treatments that have reliable results.

screenshot mid-broadcast

I was glad to hear that none of the people on the show that believe they can heal others through prayer or the laying on of hands would suggest people stop their conventional treatment for their illnesses, but the fact does remain that there are faith healers who do this and that people die because they prayed for healing rather than seeing a doctor. Parents end up in prison because their child died needlessly, and the sick are offered false hope in their most vulnerable and desperate moments. The Adrian Pengelley case is a good example of this, and you can find many stories of this happening on the ‘What’s The Harm?’ website.

The take away message here is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and personal testimony isn’t evidence enough.

photo: Kevin Friery / screencap: Alastair Coleman

p.s. at one point during the show another guest stated it was sad that people felt so callous about god, and he pointed towards me and Kevin. Callous doesn’t cover it.