Can prayer cure illness?


In the studio pre-broadcast
In the studio pre-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! Continue reading Can prayer cure illness?

The internet hasn’t killed the Loch Ness Monster.

I’ve just read a really interesting opinion piece on The Guardian website by Philip Hoare that questions if the internet has killed the Loch Ness Monster. I can somewhat identify with Hoare’s feelings that the mystery and wonder brought forth by monster stories gracing the headlines has disappeared. A memory that always stands out strongly for me was being a young child when a monster scare broke out in the village I lived in. I can remember being at Primary School but I forget my exact age, but I do know that it was before the internet was a thing in my house. The local paper was (and still is) The Wiltshire Times and they ran a story on a Big Cat that had been seen prowling the fields near my house and right next to the warehouse that my mother worked in. I will filled with pure fascination and terror that can never be replicated by a story breaking on the internet.

However I’m not so keen to consider this a terrible thing. I believe that any decent Paranormal researcher, Fortean, Cryptozoologist or whatever they identify as wants to know what is really causing what is or has been witnessed, whether it be a ghost, monster or UFO sighting they are dealing with. There are, of course, those who revel in the pseudo-scientific and the answers they fancy that aren’t necessarily logical, but don’t be mistaken in thinking that they represent every researcher out there. The majority of researchers I know are rational thinkers who aren’t led by their biases.

When a new monster sighting occurs we now have masses of information at our finger tips. More than that even… we have the experience of so many others at our finger tips too. I have witnessed the buzz of activity borne when it is reported somewhere in the world that a strange beast has been spotted, caught on film or captured. Communities of people who were never connected before the internet swap notes and speculations, the reporters and eye-witnesses are easy to track down, experts around the world – biologists, marine biologists, ecologists – are contactable immediately, and we can examine what happened and where it happened in great detail because all the details we need are often online. More often than not researchers can discover what it is that has really happened – whether it be hoax, misidentification or the next new discovery of a real monster that has never been seen before! If it’s going to happen, then I truly believe that now is the time.

Before the internet made it possible to connect to the bigger world I was a young girl who clung to mystery as though it were essential, not because I loved the mystery but because I loved the ‘what if?’. Today modern technology and social media make that ‘what if?’ easier to answer. Before, there were ‘what if?‘s that went unanswered and led me down the path to becoming a pseudo-scientific ghost hunter, and as a result I wasted so much money and time on the wrong questions. So yes, although it is a shame that a lot of the mystery in these stories is now lost by the instant media that our world has come to know, I feel it has been replaced with something much more valuable and important – the ability to answer the mystery once and for all. I know of nothing more wondrous that resolved curiosity.

On a parting note – I visited Drumnadrochit last year, and Nessie is looking as well as she ever did 😉

photo credit: Artist unknown (if you know, let me know)

The Heretics: thoughts from a skeptic who used to be an enemy of science

hereticsJust six years ago I could be found sitting at a table in a dark room, eyes closed with concentration as my team mates and I built up psychic energy to allow ghosts to use the table to communicate with us. Earlier this month the president of the James Randi Education Foundation, DJ Grothe, referred to me and others as the workhorses of skepticism who actually do scientific paranormal investigations of claims’.

Why am I telling you this? So that you know exactly the kind of skeptic that I am. There’s a stark difference between who I was and who I am, and it’s one shaped by belief.

I’m not content with simply pointing out ‘it can’t be a ghost because ghosts defy the rules of physics’. The difficult and often lonely transition that  I went through – discarding my beliefs and picking apart the very things that had defined me as a person – makes me the kind of skeptic who knows what it is like to be wrong, to hold her hands up and say ‘holy shit, look how wrong I’ve been all of this time!‘. I’m the kind of skeptic who is sympathetic to those who believe weird stuff because I know why they do and how easy it is to convince yourself that you are right. Continue reading The Heretics: thoughts from a skeptic who used to be an enemy of science