Aug 07 2017

Token Skepticism about Exorcism

I was interviewed a few months ago by a journalist, John Blake, doing a piece on exorcism. That article has now been published, and I’m afraid it’s disappointing in all the predictable ways.

The article is mostly about Dr. Richard Gallagher, a Yale-trained psychiatrist who believes in demonic possession. Gallagher is like catnip to a journalist – someone with credentials who has a fantastical story to tell. Is demonic possession real? This Yale psychiatrist says, “Yes.”

I have already deconstructed Gallagher’s claims, and the CNN article provides nothing new. Gallagher’s evidence that some people are actually possessed is predictably thin and proves only his lack of critical thinking. He cites the claim that possessed people display hidden knowledge, but his examples are far more easily explained as cold reading. He cites displays of extraordinary strength, which is not unusual for ordinary people under the influence of adrenaline.

He also cites hearsay – other people have told him they saw levitation, although he never witnessed it himself.

The CNN article offers one case, “Julia” – a member of a satanic cult, as a major piece of evidence:

Objects would fly off shelves around her. She somehow knew personal details about Gallagher’s life: how his mother had died of ovarian cancer; the fact that two cats in his house went berserk fighting each other the night before one of her sessions.

I have already addressed the “secret knowledge.” The other evidence often offered is essentially that weird stuff happened. It’s not hard to have thing fall of shelves, or even fly across the room. You can just throw it. Did Julia throw the book when no one was watching? Did she have an accomplice? Did a book just fall off the shelf because of other commotion in the room? I don’t know, because we are not provided actual evidence to investigate, only word of mouth.

Gallagher has an answer for that, the same answer he has given previously:

He says demons won’t submit to lab studies or allow themselves to be easily recorded by video equipment. They want to sow doubt, not confirm their existence, he says. Nor will the church compromise the privacy of a person suffering from possession just to provide film to skeptics.

Skeptics will recognize this a special pleading, otherwise known as making up lame excuses to explain why you don’t have any actual evidence. Gallagher says that demons are “crafty.” In the same way UFO proponents claim that aliens are too smart to get caught red-handed. Bigfoot is also brilliant, and can turn invisible at will. Psychic powers don’t work when skeptics are looking, and “Western” science cannot test “Eastern” medicines.

Bad Journalism about Pseudoscience

Blake’s article is especially disappointing because he had all the information he needed to write a hard-hitting piece of journalism but didn’t. I had already addressed all of Gallagher’s claims and points, but Blake chose to follow a typical approach which is somewhere between token skepticism and false balance.

How a story is framed is what matters most. But journalists will give themselves plausible deniability by including, deep in the article, the token skepticism. They can then convince themselves they wrote a “balanced” piece. But they didn’t. What they did is better described as false balance, and often not even that.

The format that Blake follows is this: First, setup the premise, a self-described “man of science,” a Yale-trained psychiatrist who has become convinced by compelling cases that demonic possession is real. Let the sensational crank lay out their story in the beginning of the article, to control the framing, and to paint themselves as a hero.

Then, deeper into the article than most people will read, include the token skepticism. Yeah, but this skeptic thinks that Gallagher is wrong and here’s why. Granted, that’s better than no skepticism, but not much.

Because the token skepticism is then followed by giving the crank the final word – they get to answer the skeptics, but the skeptic has no opportunity to respond further. In this case I had already responded in my previous article (which Blake used as a source) but that response was not included. It didn’t fit the flow of the piece, which was favorable to Gallagher.

Then finish up by emphasizing how important it is to keep an open mind, how the crank is too busy saving people to worry about the skeptics. And finally finish with a flourish that amounts to,
“Who knows?”

“Is Gallagher doing God’s work, or does he need deliverance from his own delusions?
Perhaps only God — and Satan — knows for sure.”

Ugh! I have confronted journalists in the past with this criticism, and their typical response is that they gave all the information and their reader can make up their minds for themselves. But that is just a dodge, a justification for bad journalism. Any good journalist knows that you are not just relating facts, you are telling a story, and how you frame that story is the real bottom-line message.

In this case Blake framed the story as Gallagher the open-minded scientist as hero who came to believe something extraordinary.

You could tell the exact same facts and frame the story very differently, such as – Gallagher the dangerous crank who uses his credentials to promote his own faith at the expense of his mentally ill patients.

Again, journalists typically hide behind the claim that they are being neutral (let their readers decide), but that is demonstrably not true. The story is not framed neutrally at all, it is framed as Gallagher the hero. He gets the final word, he gets to frame the story, the story opens with him just wanting to help people and declaring himself a “man of science.” The token skepticism is buried. I believe journalists call that “burying the lead,” although they get to decide what should lead.

Imagine the same exact story told differently – open with the skeptic, appalled that a fellow professional is harming mentally ill patients because he fell for their delusions, in service to his own faith. There are plenty of anecdotes of people being harmed by exorcisms. Blake does tell the story of Emily Rose, but that is also buried. Why not open with that, or any of the hundreds of similar stories.

If you open with a story about an innocent person suffering from a mental illness who was killed by an exorcism gone wrong, that would frame the piece very differently.

The bottom line is that the journalist gets to tell the story they want. They include facts along the way, but the facts are not the story. Blake chose to tell the story of a psychiatrist and reluctant exorcist as hero, who has to also battle against those nasty skeptics who are just closed-minded.  Then he can pat himself on the back for including “both sides.”

What is further disappointing is that every journalist I have spoken to on this and similar issues doesn’t believe the pseudoscience. They known demonic possession is bunk, for example. They choose to tell what they think is the more sensational story. That is all.

What I have tried to do is to convince journalists that the more sensational story is the real one – the shocking lack of critical thinking that leads to demonstrable harm of innocent victims. That is not the formula they are used to, and the sad fact is that magic does sell. But then don’t pretend you are doing real journalism. At that point you are just entertaining.

 

41 responses so far

41 Responses to “Token Skepticism about Exorcism”

  1. michaelegnoron 07 Aug 2017 at 8:08 am

    Of course I believe in angels and demons. Separated intelligences (which is the Thomist understanding of what they are) make metaphysical sense and there is massive historical and anectdotal evidence for their existence.

    I don’t know about Gallagher’s claims: certainly not ever claim of demonic possession is real. Science has never disproven possession–there has never been an actual scientific study–so claims that science has disproven it are to be taken for the ideological bias it represents.

    The strongest claim the non-believers have is the absence of video evidence for levitation etc (I presume it is absent. I haven’t studied it much). The explanation that demons are intelligent and evade confirmation makes sense to me.

  2. Kabboron 07 Aug 2017 at 8:32 am

    I find it funny that two (of how many?) cats getting into a fight a day before or after one of many sessions is considered proof of supernatural activity to this guy. Cats are the foremost resource when it comes to such things. My cat got sprayed by a skunk the other day, so obviously I had a banshee in my home. I took the standard precaution of getting the banshee out, by washing my cat.

  3. scotty.mcquakeron 07 Aug 2017 at 8:39 am

    Dear Mr Novella,

    I presume you have taken the obvious scientific step of going with Mr Gallagher to observe his practice in a systematic way? I would challenge you to develop of team of researchers observe his practice and the practice of the exorcist’s with which he consults if you wish to demonstrate with empirical evidence that your hypothesis that these experiences are all misinterpretations or manipulations beyond a statisticaly significant doubt.

    As it stands, your interpretation of Gallagher’s reports are as subject to as much confirmation bias as Gallagher’s is. You’ve watched hundreds of videos of what you would consider to be manufactured exorcism, Gallagher has observed hundred of contexts he would consider genuine exorcisms.

    His word vs. Your word. This is not science.

    Take a team of researchers and Do a proper study, then publish something scientific.

  4. michaelegnoron 07 Aug 2017 at 8:41 am

    Before the torrent of “Egnor’s crazy because he believes in demons…!” abuse, I point out that the current belief system in physics includes multiverses, cats that are simultaneously dead an alive, spooky action at a distance (quantum entanglement), black holes in which new universes are created, etc, etc.

    Demons are no less crazy than multiverses, and there’s massively more evidence for demons (countless millions of personal encounters) than there is for multiverses (none).

    Both demons and multiverses are predictions of metaphysical systems–of the Thomist system and the modern materialist system of science. Both should be taken seriously, and considered on the basis of logic and evidence. Logic supports both the existence of separated intelligences (St. Thomas makes a strong case in the Summa) and the existence of multiverses (from relativity and quantum theory).

    The available evidence makes demons much better substantianted than multiverses, but I remain open to new evidence.

  5. pandadeathon 07 Aug 2017 at 8:50 am

    If you would like to learn more about quantum mechanics, I’d be happy to help. In my general physics course, I do go QM basics, algebra based, just to avoid this misunderstanding.

    Waves equations and simultaneous states and even quantum entanglement just aren’t that sexy I’m afraid. They come from probabilities that are calculated. That doesn’t mean “anything is possible”.
    I haven’t seen any robust mathematical proofs or experimental data to support demons. So it’s a little unfair to lump those together.

  6. michaelegnoron 07 Aug 2017 at 9:21 am

    panda:

    If you think that qm isn’t “sexy”, you aren’t paying attention. Dead and alive cats, alternate levels of reality that collapse into actuality with observation, electrons that go through two slits simultaneously, etc. etc.

    Einstein thought that quantum entanglement was so bizzare that he called it “spooky action at a distance” and wrote the EPR paper to refute it. Maybe they didn’t mention that in your intro physics course. It Einstein thought it was “sexy”, that’s good enough for me.

    I’ve taken physics courses and have a respectable layman’s acquaintance with qm.

    When you’ve read Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, we can discuss the Thomistic rationale behind the existence of separated intelligences (angels and demons).

  7. pandadeathon 07 Aug 2017 at 9:32 am

    Sorry I wasn’t clear. I teach the intro to physics course. My Ph.D. Is in quantum solids. I am very familiar with that paper as well as Bells theorem. The work in physical review letters 49 91 (1982) shows experimental results that agree with predictions of quantum mechanics and are incompatible with bells inequality.

    QM isn’t just saying “crazy stuff happens “. And it is not random. A lot of people put in hundreds of thousands of hours of work to show these postulates are consistent with the real world. I do not the same level of dedication to show the exaostence of demons.

  8. michaelegnoron 07 Aug 2017 at 9:46 am

    If you’re familiar with the EPR paper and the issues raised by it, it makes your insistence that there’s nothing strange about qm even more witless.

    The reality is that you’re just a materialist with a bias. Your “sexy” ideas are just mundane science, everybody else’s sexy ideas are crazy as hell.

    The existence of angels and demons is a carefully worked out logical consequence of Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being–the is a place in the order of existence for separated intelligences. Aquinas in ST devotes a lot of ink to this: that’s why he’s called the Angelic Doctor. His reasoning is meticulous and profound, easily on a par with anything in qm in terms of intellectual rigor.

    St. Thomas’ prediction of the existence of angels, based on a space in the Great Chain of Being (the range of potency and act in creation) is analogous to Dirac’s prediction of the positron based on quantum theory.

    You can disagree about the existence of angels and demons, just as others can disagree about the existence of entities predicted by qm. But there is a profound logical basis for asserting the existence of demons from Aristotelian and Thomistic metaphysics, and there is massive historical and personal evidence for their existence.

    You are entitled to believe what you wish. But your assertion that belief in quantum entities is just solid mundane science and logic, whereas belief in demons is crazy superstition, is just a lie.

  9. michaelegnoron 07 Aug 2017 at 9:52 am

    panda:

    And there’s a difference in our approaches to knowledge:

    I’ve engaged qm with as much rigor as a layman can, and what I believe about qm (I think it’s the most successful theory in science) is based on my genuine intellectual engagement.

    You can’t say the same thing about Thomistic metaphysics, which you dismiss without a shred of knowledge.

  10. edescion 07 Aug 2017 at 10:24 am

    I agree with your observations about the article Dr. Novella. I am a follower of your blog and other prominent sites about skeptical thinking. I also read the article, and I would add to your observations that the author also reinforces his position by including accounts from other -similar- professionals like Mr. Gallagher, such as Dr. Mark Albanese and Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, but not from other prominent skeptics apart from yourself. Including those accounts and tesitmonies from believers further strengthens the argument in favor of Gallagher and his story. Dr. Lieberman’s account particlarly called my attention, given that he used to be the president of the American Psychiatric Association. Anyhow, I sincerily hope that media approaches to this topic start changing in the future to more critical positions.

  11. chikoppion 07 Aug 2017 at 10:31 am

    [michaelegnor] You can’t say the same thing about Thomistic metaphysics, which you dismiss without a shred of knowledge.

    “Metaphysics” isn’t a study of the real world. It’s a syllogistic examination of mental constructs and categories which may or may not be accurate. To say, “my conception of reality requires magical beings,” does not magically produce said beings. Independent (objective) verification is necessary to substantiate both the validity of the conceptual model and the conclusions drawn from it.

    This is what separates “creationism” from the theory of evolution. What can be established as an accurate (and reliable) model is not determined or limited by a person’s concept of it, no matter how elaborately constructed.

  12. BenEon 07 Aug 2017 at 11:35 am

    “the more sensational story is the real one”

    I think this is the best approach out there. I wish it worked better.

    People just want to have their beliefs confirmed. The article communicates the idea that not only does some Yale elite guy agree with their religion, the guy has also done some testing. So, you know that whole science vs religion thing that hasn’t set right in your mind since high school, well, rest easy. Science now finally backs religion. Oh, and most of those elitists who went on to college aren’t really smarter than you. Everyone wants to feel better than average, and everyone especially wants to feel better than those with higher education than them. The article lends itself to this kind of interpretation.

    Sure, it would be more sensational if people would open their eyes to the giant scams running their lives. But one exorcism article can’t do that. So why shouldn’t the article just make the problem a little worse and earn more advertising revenue by doing so?

    This type of article is insidious. CNN is a great place for getting breaking news. It’s a poor place for journalism.

  13. michaelegnoron 07 Aug 2017 at 11:57 am

    chi:

    [“Metaphysics” isn’t a study of the real world.]

    Metaphysics is the science of being qua being, and as such it is the study of reality itself. You do metaphysics, you just don’t know it and you don’t do it well.

    It is remarkable that someone who believes in multiverses and quantum entanglement and simultaneously dead and alive cats would criticize someone else for belief in “magic”.

    Separated intelligences are predicted as a consequence of Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being and the Thomistic interpretation of it. Millions of people have had experiences with such intelligences. That does not prove that they exist, but it is a substantial body of evidence and logic easily commensurate with much of modern physics.

    And there is astronomically more evidence for separated intelligences than there is for the multiverse or for origin of species by natural selection.

  14. wellerpondon 07 Aug 2017 at 12:29 pm

    michaelegnor,

    Just because something is logically consistent (assuming the Thomist philosophy is) doesn’t make it true. Just because something sounds illogical doesn’t make it not true.

    Also, you are being flip about Schrödinger’s Cat. It was designed to be a thought experiment only, a metaphor for how particles might behave, not an excuse to put a cat in a box.

    Some physicists believe the cat is both alive and dead, but they know there is no experiment to prove the health of an actual fuzzy feline and don’t argue there is. It is primarily used as an intellectual tool to view at the strengths and weaknesses of the argument.

  15. RickKon 07 Aug 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Interesting how all this astronomical quantity of evidence seems to be gathered in experiences at the edge of sleep, or the edge of death, during periods of fatigue or oxygen deprivation to the brain.

    Interesting how in cultures that don’t have angels, the encounters appear as culturally-relevant beings.

    Interesting how so many of them became space aliens rather than demons after the 1950s and even more so after the 1970s.

    Interesting how all of these encounters vanish in the presence of a skeptic or a recording device.

    Interesting how the “great chain of being” used to logic demons into existence is also useful for establishing the divine right of kings. Totalitarians rejoice!

    Interesting how 13th Century and earlier philosophies born in ignorance of physics and astronomy and biology can be used by the determined intellect to fight off the encroachment of new knowledge.

    An old favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmPtH4IDFNQ

  16. Steven Novellaon 07 Aug 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Scotty – I have tried to get invited to actual exorcisms. I was once refused because of the claim that my lack of belief would be a liability the demons would exploit.

    In any case, they are the ones making a claim, they should produce the evidence. Their excuses for a lack of evidence are not valid – it is pretty lame special pleading.

    Their claims are also very flimsy, based on phenomena that are much more easily explained. Again – they have to rule out the more mundane explanations, and they haven’t.

    So your reduction of all this to two different but equally valid opinions is not valid. I would be happy to review any evidence they wish to provide, recorded or live. but they have the burden of proof. I am not claiming any proof of anything.

    Further, he is making therapeutic claims, which increasing his burden to demonstrate adequately he is not harming patients. I do not think he has met this burden.

  17. chikoppion 07 Aug 2017 at 1:51 pm

    [michaelegnor] It is remarkable that someone who believes in multiverses and quantum entanglement and simultaneously dead and alive cats would criticize someone else for belief in “magic”.

    I don’t know that multiverses exist. Quantum entanglement is a demonstrable effect and part of an objectively validated model. Schrodinger’s Cat is a metaphor, quantum effects don’t work that way.

    There is a difference between belief and knowledge, between scientific methodology and metaphysics, and between assumption and evidence. It is your conflation of these categories I was “criticizing.”

    Separated intelligences are predicted as a consequence of Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being and the Thomistic interpretation of it. Millions of people have had experiences with such intelligences. That does not prove that they exist, but it is a substantial body of evidence and logic easily commensurate with much of modern physics.

    “Separated intelligences” are predicted by a great many metaphysical traditions, many of which share little to nothing in common other than to validate the inherent biases of the adherents despite lack of demonstrable evidence.

    And there is astronomically more evidence for separated intelligences than there is for the multiverse or for origin of species by natural selection.

    Great. Where’s the validated and demonstrable theory?

  18. sarah_theviperon 07 Aug 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I am so glad I have never encountered this stuff. It was initially my friend the Rabbi I talked to about the voices. He called a doctor friend of his and asked what to do. He then dropped me off at the ER. For me it is very important that I do not think they are real. In my mind exorcisms would just give confirmation to the patient that their voices and delusions are real, and send them even further down the rabbit hole.

  19. Cdesign Proponentsiston 07 Aug 2017 at 3:01 pm

    scotty.mcquaker:

    It is not even incumbent on someone criticizing a study or a claim to offer an alternative explanation. It is quite possible to state that the evidence for a certain explanation is lacking and the hypothesis is disproved — done and period, no need to state more. In fact, a lot of really great science is done solely to show that an explanation is not in fact true.

    Don’t get bitter, get better.

  20. edamameon 07 Aug 2017 at 4:19 pm

    This is a pretty entertaining analysis of the Anneliese Michel exorcism case:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KgSp94nCZw

  21. bachfiendon 07 Aug 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Egnor’s claim that the existence of demons and angels is something predicted by, required by, Aristotle’s ‘Great Chain of Being’ reminds me of Kathleen Geier’s review ‘This book fills a much needed gap in the literature’

    There’s no gap unless the Great Chain of Being has any validity as a classification of reality. Why put animals above plants, what is the rationale for putting flying creatures above non-flying ones, and why include minerals and other inanimate objects at the bottom? And why put a god at the top, with various supernatural entities beneath, and decreeing that there must be a gap for demons and angels in a ‘gap’ separating the supernatural entities from humans?

    Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being is a classification system, not a theory. Paul Dirac might have predicted the existence of the positron on the basis of a now defunct theory of quantum physics (I’ve read some papers disputing that he’d actually predicted the existence of the anti-matter particle we now know and love as the positron), but we have experimental evidence that the positron exists. Heck, we use them every day in positron emission tomography.

    Even if Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being is a theory, the ‘proof’ of a theory is the verified predictions it makes. Newtonian gravity made the prediction that there’s a planet (often called Vulcan) within the orbit of Mercury. Einsteinian gravity removed the need for Vulcan – and it doesn’t actually exist, so Einsteinian gravity wins – until some better theory of gravity is devised.

  22. Fair Persuasionon 07 Aug 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Assume you agree that what is bothering a patient is their real perspective on the world. Do you really what to get inside their delusion? You become part of their fears and belief systems. You may be treated quite badly by them and those who believe in their reality.

  23. BillyJoe7on 07 Aug 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Case study:

    Michael Egnor: “blah, blah…the current belief system in physics includes multiverses, cats that are simultaneously dead an alive, spooky action at a distance…blah, blah”

    pandadeath: “If you would like to learn more about quantum mechanics, I’d be happy to help”

    Michael Egnor: “Blah, blah…Dead and alive cats, alternate levels of reality that collapse into actuality with observation, electrons that go through two slits simultaneously…blah, blah”

    pandadeath: “Sorry I wasn’t clear. I teach the intro to physics course. My Ph.D. Is in quantum solids”

    Michael Egnor: “Blah, blah…If you’re familiar with the EPR paper and the issues raised by it, it makes your insistence that there’s nothing strange about qm even more witless…blah, blah”

    1) Dunning Kruger
    2) Wilful ignorance
    3) Arrogance of Ignorance

    ME: “I’ve engaged qm with as much rigor as a layman can, and what I believe about qm…is based on my genuine intellectual engagement”

    :D:D:D

  24. BillyJoe7on 07 Aug 2017 at 5:47 pm

    ..hmmm…smileys didn’t work 🙁

  25. BillyJoe7on 07 Aug 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Rick: “An old favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmPtH4IDFNQ

    Paraphrasing:

    “He can come onto this blog and proclaim his belief in angels and demons but he immediately pays a price for his belief. He pays the price of unconcealed laughter”

    😀 😀 😀

  26. BillyJoe7on 07 Aug 2017 at 6:04 pm

    …ah, that’s how you do the smileys 🙂

  27. googolplexbyteon 07 Aug 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Wouldn’t demons want scientific recognition?

    The scientific community couldn’t be any more antagonistic than the church, and they’re plenty of scientist that spend lots on studying non-human intelligences.

    Also it would really hamper the church if demons got put on some protected species list equivalent.

    The special pleading doesn’t work at all.

  28. bachfiendon 07 Aug 2017 at 7:11 pm

    BillyJoe,

    If Michael Egnor didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him. He manages, whenever he comments on this blog, to demonstrate perfectly the point Steve Novella is making.

    Egnor makes up his mind based on his ideological biases, and then goes looking for anything that might possibly give some slight figleaf to his beliefs. It might be junk science on a blog or in a book. It might be a refusal to look at the science (he denies the existence of AGW because… he’s not a climate scientist).

  29. hardnoseon 07 Aug 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Steve N doesn’t care about evidence. He “knows” there are no demons. And he “knows” this because he is an ATHEIST.

    Everyone who sees things differently from Steve N and his atheist friends must be stupid or evil or both. That is because Steve N KNOWS THE TRUTH about this world and how it works. He knows that nothing is real except MATTER.

  30. BurnOuton 07 Aug 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Has anyone noticed that HN’s posts are often centered around what he supposes are the thoughts of others?

    Funny how there’s no cogent objection to anything about the article, just shrieking about some straw man.

  31. RickKon 07 Aug 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Edamame, I watched some of that video and found it interesting that her early experiences were all waking dreams (sleep paralysis), a well-documented neurological phenomenon. Now we could get all metaphysical and non-material, or we could just tell the truth: sleep while awake is something some brains do, just like epilepsy.

    Steve, does the standard of care at Yale include telling an epileptic that they’re possessed by demons because Aristotle and Aquinas said so? Or is that diagnosis limited to Stony Brook?

  32. bachfiendon 07 Aug 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘He (Steve Novella) knows that nothing is real except MATTER’.

    Another one of your straw man attacks. I’ve heard Steve Novella note that the Universe onsists of around 5% ordinary matter, 25% dark matter and 70% dark energy – and we don’t know what the nature of dark matter and dark energy actually is (so that’s 95% of the Universe which is unexplained – but still real, because we know what properties they have).

    Most of reality is energy, not matter.

  33. MosBenon 07 Aug 2017 at 11:39 pm

    What this ultimately comes down to is a standard of proof. Egnor will always fall back on the fact that he accepts the unverified anecdotal accounts of angels, demons, or whatever supernatural effect for which he’s arguing as credible evidence. It’s a fallacious argument, and there are innumerable reasons to find that sort of evidence questionable, but there he’ll be, arguing at how arrogant skeptics are because they don’t accept his, “Lots of people have thought this way for a long time!” argument. So skeptics will say that there’s no evidence for angels, and then Egnor will go a long way around to get to the fact that lots of people have claimed to see or experience angels and therefore there must be something to it. It’s just humans and cylons over and over again with him.

  34. Willyon 08 Aug 2017 at 12:17 am

    Can anyone (Dr. Egnor) explain how demons (and Satan) fit into “God’s plan”?

  35. hardnoseon 08 Aug 2017 at 1:10 pm

    “Most of reality is energy, not matter.”

    And I suppose you “know” what energy is.

  36. RickKon 08 Aug 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Bach,

    I caution you not to be drawn in, tempting as it may be. Remember the pigeon playing chess.

  37. MosBenon 08 Aug 2017 at 1:46 pm

    RickK, I was readying my own reply, but then read your comment and thought better of it. Thank you for the timely wisdom.

  38. bachfiendon 08 Aug 2017 at 4:34 pm

    RickK,

    You’re definitely correct. I won’t respond to hardnose. He’s completely incapable of knowing what it actually means when it’s stated that 70% of the Universe consists of dark energy and we don’t know what its nature is, means that we don’t know what it is.

    All we know is that it’s causing the expansion of the Universe to be accelerating.

    He’s completely incapable of understanding what the simplest statements and words mean. It’s frustrating having to go back to grade 3 level and tutor hardnose on the meaning of simple words.

  39. BillyJoe7on 08 Aug 2017 at 5:14 pm

    “And I suppose you “know” what energy is”

    Case study in self-parody.
    I suppose you “know” what energy is.
    Funny and sad at the same time.

  40. Fair Persuasionon 09 Aug 2017 at 6:40 pm

    It is a false claim that individuals with mental illness or “deemed possessed” are extraordinarily strong during their episodes. These persons have ordinary strength, but they are used to using physical force to make a point. Any physical intervention by those who are in moral proximity to the chaotic episode requires proper physical deescalation skill training.

  41. garnercxon 10 Aug 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Dr Novella,

    I think a really interesting excercise for your readers to follow, and a great teachable moment would be for you to rewrite Blake’s article to follow the narrative you suggest, where you are the appalled fellow professional (you’ll need to refer to yourself in the third person to give the voice of the journalist). Using the same quotes and same structral paragraphs, but with the opposite narrative. That would make for a great artefact.

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