23rd October 2005
Its so useful to name drop from time to time especially if youre trying to work your way up the celebrity ladder. For example it didnt exactly do David Blaine any harm to mention his friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio. Its also useful if you are re-climbing your way up, remember Uri Gellers wedding in which he invited his old pal Michael Jackson. I doubt that it would have received the publicity it did without Jackos seemingly reluctant appearance.
And of course we have Derek Acorah (minor celeb) courting favour with Robbie Williams (major celeb).
Now Robbie, if newspaper reports are to be believed, is not exactly a hard line skeptic. For example a report in The Daily Mirror ( 20/09/2005) claims that Robbie is a bit of a UFO buff and he is quoted as saying;
"I think they are definitely on their way, seriously. Mark my words. From now until 2012 - watch out, kids.
In another Mirror snippet we discover he is a bit of a medium himself;
The Daily Mirror 21 October 2005
ROBBIE: I CAN SEE THE DEAD
By Cameron Robertson
ROBBIE Williams claims he sees ghosts and could have been a medium.
The star, 31, said: "I think I have powers.
"I've seen things - my sister's dog jumping up at her feet when it had passed away years before.
"Security locks opening and closing in front of my eyes. TVs switching on and off."
And had his pop career flopped he could have become "a holistic man of medicine and spirituality", he claimed.
Robbie also said he dreamt of hosting a TV show on the paranormal like author Arthur C Clarke.
I cant help wondering about the accuracy of these reports, even if we assume they are true perhaps they were just off the cuff comments. However Robbie must have some interest in the subject because he invited Derek Acorah over to his Chelsea penthouse.
I got this next report from www.robbiewilliamsoz.com which says it came from The Sun in which Derek gives his account of the meeting. The subtle headline is;
I HELPED ROBBIE WILLIAMS TALK TO HIS DEAD GRAN
Casting discretion to the wind Derek Acorah tells us,
"Robbie invited me to his apartment in London . He was really friendly and started calling me Degsey immediately.
"We chatted and he told me how much he loved the programme. He said he had given Most Haunted DVDs to lots of friends including Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal and that they were all hooked on the show.
"We sat chatting for while but I noticed he had something on his mind, I sensed he needed reassurance so I offered to do a reading.
"I was able to contact a couple of his loved ones, including his grandmother, whom he dearly loved. It was very emotional, he was moved to tears. But he was thrilled that I was able to make contact. She told him some personal things he said only she would know.
"And he was gobsmacked when his gran gave her opinion about a women he had asked on a date.
"I can't say who it was but he couldn't believe it saying, "No one knows that. It only happened 36 hours ago."
Well if you cant tell the world about a personal meeting what can you do
However in a Times article this week we get a somewhat different perspective. Here Robbie Williams is being interviewed by Caitlin Moran.
In part of this interview Williams gives his account of the same meeting. First we are told.
Acorah came up with little more than what a search would yield on Williamss dead relatives, albeit rendered in a blaze of peerlessly camp Scouse dramatics.
Not quite "moved to tears" then
Disappointed that his faith in Acorahs ability to contact the dead appeared to have been misplaced, Williams thanked him, saw him out of the flat and resolved not to see him again. Acorah, however, had other ideas. The next thing I know, Williams says, lighting another cigarette while scratching at his broken arm, he rings up and goes Robbie! Robbie! Ive just been on the phone to the head of LIVINGtv and he says and listen Robbie, this is true he says that you can do whatever you want. Whatever you want! Make any show you like! And Im on the other end going, erm, I think I could get ABC if I wanted, to be honest. Ill be OK, Derek.
Still nice of Derek to offer Robbie a bit of a hand up. There goes the Arthur C. Clarke thing.
Still, Acorah didnt give in. Having failed at brokering the pivotal LIVINGtv deal, a week later he rang Williams to tell him that hed arranged a dinner for himself, Williams and my great friend, Uri Geller.
Wow! He passed up the chance to see the bent spoon trick. You know, that one Uri never seems to do on TV anymore. Just imagine spending and evening with both Geller and Acorah. Personally Id rather poke myself in the eye with a stick.
Despite Acorahs pleading, Williams did not turn up for this paranormal tête-à-tête.
I thought, Im not talking to you, you ****ing idiot. Youre outside the circle of trust. Next thing I know, Williams says, rattling his belt buckle with his knuckles in a surge of nervous energy, hes promoting a DVD in a double-page spread in the Daily Mirror, going Yeah, I got (contacted on the other side) Robbies nan. And when Robbies in America , his friends watch my DVD. Robert de Niro, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman.
Robbie does a face of scandalised boggling.
IVE NEVER MET THEM! he shouts, slowly, as if communicating with a deaf idiot on the other side of the Thames . I DONT KNOW DUSTIN HOFFMAN! And hang on a minute YOURE ALSO SELLING A DVD USING MY DEAD NAN !" Robbie sighs.
Go Robbie! Which sums up the whole distasteful encounter. If you could actually talk to the dead and if you actually got in touch with someones dead relative is it a nice thing to do to use this as part of your sales promotion No it bloody well isnt. Such an encounter would be deeply personal.
Full credit for Robbie for seeing right through this charade. Im even tempted to buy his new album. Tell you what Robbie next time you're up this way do drop in and we'll give Dustin and Robert a call and we'll all go down the pub. I think I could get you a slot on Karaoke night if you're interested Any song you want!
The advantages of not having an open mind
Have you ever been accused of being close-minded It's a favourite retort of many defenders of the improbable. If you have you might well have rushed to your own defence rather than debate what is actually at issue. By contrast open-mindedness is perceived as a positive virtue and to some extent it is but surely there comes a point that to continue with an open-mind is ridiculous. Are you open-minded about the flat earth theory Probably not.
Some parapsychologists seem to perpetuate this idea. They have to maintain an air of open-mindedness as they feel it would be perceived as "unscientific" to do otherwise. Dont misunderstand me many parapsychologists do a great job in investigating paranormal claims but others are doomed to present an ever open mind which can give quite the wrong impression.
Ill take mediumship as my example. If you ask someone, Do you think X can communicate with the dead then the scientific answer will probably be, Well Id have to test them. Whereas I just say no theyre not.
On the face of it this looks like the scientist is keeping an open mind while nasty old dyed-in-the-wool skeptic (me) is obviously a close-minded bigot.
The point is you cant stay open-minded forever. When you first look at something then of course you should be open-minded in your search for the truth but when you have researched the subject in some depth then you are entitled to come to some conclusion. With post-mortem communication we might consider the following;
- Spiritualisms long history of deception.
- The proven effectiveness of cold reading.
- The trite rubbish spoken apparently by the dead.
- The fact that no great scientist ever returns and improves upon their earlier work.
You get the idea. That sort of stuff. So at this point I consider that, as the probability of an afterlife is somewhere between slim and nothing anyway, mediums are probably not a genuine phenomenon. I should emphasise here the importance of weighing the evidence carefully and to help with this process you would use usual critical thinking tools.
Having arrived at my conclusion it does not necessarily rule out the possibility of my being incorrect but something, some additional piece of evidence needs to turn up in order to persuade me to change my mind. This evidence would need to be very great indeed and simply testing one medium is not going to carry much weight at all.
So when I hear about various celebrity mediums such as, Colin Fry, Tony Stockwell, Derek Acorah, Gordon Smith, James Van Praagh and John Edward I do not say, Well without testing them I cant be sure if they are genuine or not. What I say is that the chances of them being genuine are even less likely than a tadpole becoming the next Pope. The onus is on them to supply me with hard evidence. In fact the onus is on them to supply humanity with hard evidence but the sad fact is that they dont. Despite all their posturing and attempts to appear all spiritual and superior they have absolutely nothing to back up their claims.
So no, I am not open-minded about mediums: all the credible evidence tells me such claims are nonsense. Which of course raises another question: Are they lying Here we depart from scientific enquiring into the world of litigation, you see you just cant go round calling people liars. Perhaps they are deluded, perhaps they have some psychological illness but as to whether they are actually lying it is a matter of opinion and opinions can be wrong. So I dont call them liars but what I do say is that no medium, which includes all those named above, have ever provided sufficient evidence (by a wide margin) to give me the slightest reason to suppose they are genuine and until they do I say unambiguously that I do not believe them. To quote Penn & Teller they're just talking bullshit.
This week I received my DVD of the JREF Amaz!ng Meeting 3. If you are a skeptic then surely you must buy these. They are absolutely wonderful to watch. BUY THEM NOW!
Shameless plug. I have given an interview to Skepticality which you can listen to here. I was interviewed by Fraser Cain, who was very nice to me and let talk incessantly. Derek Colanduno continues to improve and will hopefully be returning to Skepticality sometime soon. Meanwhile Swoopy continues to keep the flame going. If you havent been to this site before then thats your next stop (after the DVDs). You can also listen to interviews with Randi, Bob Carroll, Dr Michael Shermer and many others.
I really must get around to discussing the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill. Meanwhile go to No.80 and read, Intense Dislike Anyone