19 October 2012

Skepticism or Publicity Stunt? Merseyside Skeptics Challenge the Psychics

In recent years the Merseyside Skeptics Society have become known more for their stunts than their skepticism, whether it is homeopathic overdoses, or challenges to psychics, but is this really what skepticism needs, wants or even should be about?

Former UK Skeptics kingpin John Jackson recently commented on such societies as...

"A few of these 'societies' cropped up a few years ago. 'Society' being a euphemism for 'a couple of blokes with a blog'."

It seems that since the early days of BadPsychics when I was heavily involved with skepticism, that these days its all about the latest stunt to self promote which ever group you are in.

Last years stunt was to invited Sally Morgan to be tested at an event, with the full knowledge that she would not turn up.

Well this year a few more people have been roped in, included such heavyweights as science writer Simon Singh, and TV Psychologist Chris French. Two people I happen to like and respect, but who take a very different approach to skepticism than myself.

So what's the stunt for this year? Well basically its the same as last year, but they have publicly announced that they have invited a number of famous psychics to take part.

Heavyweight names such as Derek Acorah and Colin Fry as well as Sally Morgan again.

But here is the problem, neither Derek Acorah or Colin Fry claim they have actually been invited to take part, and not through any official means either.

Chris French claims that Merseyside Skeptics leader Marsh has invited them through the "contact" links on their respective websites.

Since the challenge was announced, as you can imagine I have been contacted by a number of people informing me of the challenge.

So I decided to contact Colin and Derek myself to see if they were taking part, since I am friendly to both of these psychics, I decided to contact them directly, and not through any webmaster.

Neither Colin or Derek say they have been contacted, and that they had only found out about it when others had mentioned to them that their names had been used as part of the publicity.

So the question remains, what's the point of making a challenge and acting all high and mighty about it, when without doubt none of the big names invited will actually turn up, either because they haven't actually been asked, or that the time frame is so short that even if they wanted to they couldn't either. Remember these are busy career psychics with tours booked up in some cases a year ahead of time.

I contacted both Colin and Derek and got replies within an hour! And you can hardly call either of them my biggest fan.

So to clarify, you have a Skeptics Society who have publicised an event and got national media press, despite the fact none of the psychics have truly been invited in an official and recorded manner, just an apparent blind email to their website, which lets be realistic will have got buried in the thousands of fan emails these psychics get daily. So a full knowledge that none of the psychics will turn up.

So what was the point?

Let me tell you, this is all about the skeptics, and nothing to do with skepticism, education, or the testing of psychic claims.

If you create a test, announce a challenge, but you already know the outcome before you have done anything, then it is nothing more than a poor PR stunt.

To quote UK Skeptics Kingpin John Jackson again
"As an adversarial challenge, it's not really scientific research of any worth and as a publicity stunt, it will fall flat because of the no show."

This is not what skepticism should be about, it should not be about a bunch of people sitting about with smug looks on their faces, patting each other on the back. But that is exactly what I believe it has become.

In other news, at the end of this month, I have arranged to meet up with Derek Acorah, whereby I will discuss with him face to face the possibilities of some kind of test with me. I am not a scientist, nor will I pre-advertise any kind of test. I will sit, and talk with him, and see what he would see as an acceptable process.
And if anything comes of it, then I will publish my results so that people can make up their own mind.

You see these psychics already have money, so challenging them to win money is not of interest.

And a bunch of smug skeptics is hardly an attractive offer to someone like Derek Acorah or Colin Fry, in an effort to prove themselves.

It says a lot that Derek and Colin are more willing to not only talk to me, but potentially work with me to figure out an acceptable to all protocol and way to prove their claims.

Yep me, the person who has criticised and exposed both of them more than anyone else on the planet.

I have earned both of their respect by my straight talking, strong but direct and polite manner.

Some skeptics could do well to look, listen and learn from someone like me, afterall I achieve things which others can only dream of.

Of course I could be wrong, and Sally Morgan will turn up at the event, but then with £4 million quid in the bank, I highly doubt it!


Update: 31/10/2012
As expected no famous psychics turned up, we already know that Derek Acorah and Colin Fry were not officially invited to take part despite the claims made by Merseyside Skeptics, Chris French etc.

The 2 psychics that did take part included 1 that has already failed a psychic test with regards to a Preliminary test taken for the JREF Million Dollar Challenge, and another no name psychic that no one I knew had even heard of.

I wont name them on here as I see no reason to give these two failed psychics any more publicity.

Anyway as expected they failed, and now they are saying the test was not a real test of their abilities, they get some good free publicity, can now claim to be victims, and the whole thing was a monumental waste of time that proved absolutely nothing.

Well done guys, you achieved absolutely nothing in the name of science and skepticism, but you did achieve your goal of getting lots of publicity for your brand, your society, lots of publicity for media hungry career skeptics Simon Singh and Chris French, and finally lots of naive skeptics who can now jump on the Merseyside Skeptics bandwagon.

Luckily I was not fooled before hand, and not after.

I just hope that sensible skeptics out there can see what MSS are doing, and the damage they are doing to skepticism and to genuine skeptics by their pathetic publicity stunts.

In other news, all being well I am meeting Derek Acorah face to face, in person this evening. And if you believed the nonsense spouted by some skeptics, this is supposedly a near impossible thing to do!

And keep in mind, I am the worlds first person to have exposed Derek Acorah and Most Haunted, yet even I have no problem in arranging a meet up with him.

15 October 2012

Sara Mayhew - "A Life of Art and Skepticism" - TAM 2012

Manga artist Sara Mayhew discusses how skepticism has influenced her life and art, live on stage from TAM 2012.

With a special musical introduction by TAM emcee George Hrab.

Michael Shermer - "The Moral Arc of Science" - TAM 2012

Author Michael Shermer explores the intersection of science and morality, live on stage at TAM 2012.

With a special musical introduction by TAM emcee George Hrab