Today an article in Sweden’s gutter paper Aftonbladet: “Kan hon prata med döda?” or ”Can she talk to the dead?” This article is about a middle-aged lady who can allegedly “talk” to dead people, and uses this power to “help” others, while also getting paid for this “help” (obviously for overheads and material costs…)
To quote the lady herself, 47-year old Carina Landin: “It is my greatest wish to prove the doubters wrong”. Now here is the interesting part: this lady has recently been tested and exposed as a fake by no less than James Randi. Mr. Randi is the world’s foremost sceptic, the man who every follower of new-age wisdom despises. He is ruthlessly scientific, and, as we all know, new-age beliefs cannot stand up to science. This is usually explained away by a variety of excuses, but one fact remains: Mr. Randi has offered a million dollars for ANYBODY who can prove that they have ANY paranormal powers. And so far nobody has managed to prove it. Odd…the world crawls with mystical people and yet not one has passed a simple challenge.
Figure 1: The main event
Ms. Landin was given 20 diaries of dead people and was to ask the dead if they were male or female. Easy enough, one would think, for a self-confessed necrophone. Ms. Landin succeeded in getting 12 (a little over average, but not statistically relevant). She explained this away with the usual bollox: “I had a bad day, and the diaries were too old.”
Aha…so now we have some insight into the mechanics of dead people – the longer you are dead, the weaker your “signal” becomes. Interesting…perhaps a graph or an equation would help here. Anyway, she wants to redo the test, and if she does manage to get more than 16 I am sure she will NOT explain it away by telling us that she had a “good” day. No sir, if she gets it, it will be proof, absolute proof, and nothing less.
It is interesting that her abilities can change so radically from one day to the next. Surely she has been in “training” for this big event – sleeping well, eating bananas, massaging her cerebrum, drinking patchouli oil – as anybody would with a million dollars at stake. Or maybe her “bad days” depend on other factors, such as how carefully she is being watched? I wonder how many paid-for sessions she has had to interrupt with her “clients” because she was having a “bad day”? None, I suspect.
Can scientists have a “bad day”? No, because evidence is simply evidence and it works regardless of how much you have slept, or what the state of your mind is, or how gullible the person paying you is. This is why science has built the modern world, and new-age wisdom has built…well, new-age shops.
There is a definite connection between a person’s level of education and their belief in this stuff. People that have no concept of science have no model to explain how the world works and so make up their own. Religion used to fill this gap but these days new age mysticism is fast winning ground. And this stuff is NOT harmless, as many claim – it is in fact EXTREMELY DANGEROUS as it teaches people to not be sceptical, to not be critical, and to believe anything that “sounds” or “feels” right while not requiring any evidence. And this leaves the door open for fanatics, evangelicals and power-mongers to convince people of other things that have no evidence – for example that one race of people are “bad” and should therefore be slaughtered in their millions. Proof keeps us safe, and cynicism is more than useful in the modern world; it is absolutely necessary.
The last word goes to Ms. Landin herself: “No researcher in the world can get me to give up what I believe in.” And that, my dear Carina, is the very heart of the problem even though you will never, never understand that.