The Cost of Not Being Skeptical: A Look at Haunts, Hoaxes and the Unscientific Ghost Hunters Who Help Create Them

Amateur paranormal investigators love to find what they consider to be evidence of ghosts at private residences and businesses all across the country.  EMF spikes, EVP, and a variety of creepy feelings and photographic anomalies all pass as proof positive of a haunting in their minds.  But what happens when they find out the location they deemed haunted had been pulling the wool over their eyes?  What do they do when they find out their haunt was hoaxed?

That’s a question some of these folks may have to start asking themselves if Aron Houdini has his way.  Houdini, a distant relative by marriage of the legendary magician; and a conjurer and escape artist in his own right, recently took to his Facebook page to announce that he had proof positive of a so-called haunted location faking paranormal phenomena.

Confessing that he had “seen it with (his) own eyes,” he accuses this as of yet unnamed location of “making things move,” and creating “noises, shadows, apparitions.”  Many of his friends and fans, ghost hunters themselves, offered their support and asked him to expose the location and its owners for their duplicitous ways.

Despite their alarmingly unscientific methods, many ghost hunters pride themselves in their pursuit of the truth, and in helping people understand the nature of the spirit world.  Though skeptics have long realized that the claimed “proof” of ghosts is really no more than proof they don’t know what they are doing, I think it’s fair to say that many ghost hunters have their hearts in the right place.  I also think it’s fair to say they have their heads up their rears, especially when it comes to situations like Aron Houdini is referring to.  The ghost hunters, it seems, consider themselves to be the victims in this ordeal.

Commenting on Aron’s Facebook page, Allen Dunski, lead investigator and tech manager for Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators said, “People pay good (money) to go to events and haunted locations to experience something, not to be made to look like a fool.”  Another ghost hunter going by the name of Blade Sighters wrote, “I would thank you for letting me know that I was fooled.  And as for the people that fooled me, well, we will leave it at that.”  Their comments were typical, though some were much more harsh.  What very few of them seemed to understand or want to admit, however, was that it was ghost hunters just like them ultimately responsible for the con continuing in the first place.

Solid scientific investigative techniques expose fraud.  Unscientific nonsensical methods people copy from television shows help perpetuate the fraud.  The fact is, these teams go into locations looking to find ghosts and anything they can’t immediately explain away becomes, in their mind, evidence of ghosts.  They go through the motions of what they consider to be an investigation, call the location haunted, and share their “evidence” with other people and teams in the paranormal community.  Those folks then check the location out for themselves, making the same mistakes the last group did.  More “proof” of ghosts is found and the legend grows.  Soon, the location is charging obscene amounts of money for ghost tours and renting the place out to would-be investigators.  It’s an ongoing cycle.  The hoaxers don’t even have to bother recreating the effects any longer.  The eager investigators are more than happy to find ghosts in blurry photographs, hear them in the white noise from their recordings, and feel them in the tingle up their spine.  All they need is a story to start them off and their lack of critical thinking will do the rest.

In my opinion, the ghost hunting groups who validate the hauntings are just as responsible, if not more so, than the locations engaging in fakery in the first place.  Their unscientific methodology and disregard for skepticism and critical thinking has helped propagate an innumerable amount of false hauntings across the country and around the world.  Who can say how many dollars hoaxed haunts have brought in with the help of testimonials from ignorant ghost hunters?  And how many clients have these same teams unwittingly misled into believing their homes were haunted by using the same techniques?  That’s the kind of stuff that keeps skeptics up at night.

So when Aron Houdini eventually announces the name of the location he caught faking paranormal phenomenon, how many of the ghost hunters who validated that haunting over the years will apologize?  How many will vow to stop investigating until they learn what they’re doing?  My guess:  few, if any.  And why?  Because they’re too busy playing victim to their own ignorance.

Thanks for reading.

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TAPS and Trickery at the Pasadena Playhouse

Credit:  GetGlue.com

Britt Griffith, star of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International took the stage Saturday night at the Pasadena Playhouse to deliver a lecture on ghost hunting and to do a Q&A with excited fans.  Tickets to the event, originally $30, were lowered to $5 due to poor sales.  By the time Griffith took the stage, only about 1/3rd of the available seats were taken.

After saying that he was a bit rushed and would only be able to talk for about an hour, Britt kicked off his performance by stating, unequivocally, that he never faked evidence on Ghost Hunters, nor did he ever see anyone he worked with fake anything.  “I don’t know how they do things on other shows,” he said.  “But we never faked anything.”  And if that sounds like a weird way to kick off a show to you, I would agree.  But roughly 35 minutes later, these words would blow up in his face.

Credit:  Luis Castillo

Lou Castillo, an independent paranormal investigator in California and self-proclaimed “believer,” attended the evening’s festivities and reported what went on directly to me throughout the night.  A longtime listener of the internet radio show and podcast, Strange Frequencies Radio, that I host along with my friend Bobby Nelson, Lou is affectionately known by us as our “West Coast Correspondent.”

Britt put on an entertaining show, Lou told me.  He told jokes, regaled the audience with tales from behind-the-scenes of the Ghost Hunters program and showed clips of pranks the cast has pulled on each other.  He also gave advice to would be paranormal investigators, explaining why the crew uses certain pieces of equipment and warning that, should they ever be traipsing around in abandoned locations, it may be smart to invest in a carbon monoxide detector.  Later, creating a bit of an “Us vs. Them” atmosphere, Mr. Griffith gave a few of his thoughts on skeptics, pooh-poohing “what skeptics would have you believe” as it pertained to paranormal photography and EVP recordings.

What really got the audience excited, however, was Britt’s buildup to a secret piece of video never before seen from one of their televised investigations.  “West Coast Correspondent Lou” described it as “black and white night vision footage of a hotel where, down a hallway, what looked to be an elderly man moving right to left, then left to right” could be seen.  It never made air, apparently, due to the request of the proprietors of the location itself.  They felt that showing this on television would possibly scare clients away, or maybe even stir up activity at the location more.

Griffith stated that there was no one down the hallway who could have been pulling a fast one on them.  Certainly no one that could have escaped the watchful eye of the video recording equipment set up.  And if a skeptic tells you that it could have been faked by the crew themselves, well remember, TAPS never faked anything while Britt Griffith was around.

Credit:  Luis Castillo

It was at about this time, when the atmosphere in the Pasadena Playhouse was at its peak, that something strange happened.  A light fixture which was placed up on-stage began to flicker a bit.  What was happening?  Was the power going to go out?  Then, quickly, it moved, right around 3 inches or so and seemingly on its own, back and slightly toward the left of stage.  The audience gasped and one attendee shouted out, “Did you see that?  It moved!”  Tension was beginning to mount and excitement at what was thought to clearly be a paranormal occurrence was at a fevered pitch.

Griffith, seemingly oblivious to the movement of the light fixture asked for details from witnesses.  He asked folks to keep an eye on it and, before continuing with his presentation joked, “if it moves towards me, someone please let me know!”  He pressed on with his talk, but it is easy to understand why many of the eyes in the room were focused elsewhere.  Just then, mere moments after the original event, the light fixture moved again.  Not quite as far this time, but certainly a noticeable distance.  People began to scream once more and onlookers rose from their chairs.  The room filled with the light of a dozen or more flashbulbs going off in an effort to capture real-life paranormal phenomenon on camera.

Soon thereafter, and once things settled down, Griffith finished up with the Q&A portion of the evening and those curious about the light fixture walked up onstage to check it out for themselves.  Mr. Castillo hurried to be among them.  He witnessed a few people taking photographs of the fixture, but jumped in front of them to get a better look at the setup before they could start touching it.  The first thing he noticed, he said, was how heavy it was; certainly not something that could be moved easily.  He also noticed the base of the fixture and the thick electrical cord that was attached to it.  But immediately doubts about the authenticity of the event came to his mind.  The cord was was stretched out as straight as could be, not at all how a cord would look if the light fixture it was attached to had moved on its own.  In that case, one would expect the cord to have some slack to it and perhaps even be in an “S” shape.  And it was then that he noticed where this very straight cord led:  back and to the left of stage, behind the curtain of the Pasadena Playhouse.  Exactly the direction the fixture had moved toward two times earlier.  Easily, Lou saw how someone could have pulled the cord from behind cover to make it appear as if the fixture was being moved by an unseen phantom.

While Lou could see all the evidence pointing to fakery almost immediately, the others folks around him couldn’t.  Nor, he says, would they listen to reason.  While they were discussing their luck at having witnessed true paranormal activity, Mr. Castillo tried in vain to explain to them what probably really happened.  In fact, he even had a suspect in mind to who pulled off the stunt.  A younger blonde woman, who he says attended to Britt throughout the evening and was possibly an employee of the theater, was suddenly nowhere to be found.

But the other TAPS True Believers (TTBs) were unswayed.  Lou was told that he was taking the wrong perspective, or even just denying what they all had seen with their own eyes.  “But it moved!” one said to him.  “You’re just a skeptic.”  A friend of Lou’s, who was attending the event with him, stepped in at this point.  Lou, he told them, was not a skeptic at all, but someone who very much believed in ghosts.  And though Lou tried his best to explain to the onlookers that, while he would love for it to be real, what they had all seen was likely a very simple trick.  But it was useless.  The others had saw what they saw and their minds were made up.  It was a paranormal event and no one could tell them otherwise.  Their money was well spent.

I have seen similar instances much like Lou described to me in so-called paranormal hotspots across the country.  In both private residences and public locations, “seasoned paranormal investigators” and other curious onlookers fall for obvious hoaxes or fool themselves into believing that a natural event is something paranormal.  In many of those cases, the expectation of ghostly activity trumps rational explanation.  But with Britt Griffith and the Pasadena Playhouse, I think the fame and respect factor played in heavily.  Not wanting to believe that Britt Griffith, a TAPS team member they look up to and have enjoyed watching on television, could be involved with staging paranormal activity, they ignored all the evidence that pointed toward a hoax and instead walked away believing it was genuine.

Was Britt in on the fakery?  There is no way I can say for sure.  Perhaps a rogue Pasadena Playhouse staff member decided to spice things up a bit.  After all, the theater has a few paranormal legends attached to it and has welcomed amateur groups in before to investigate.  This could have been a perfect opportunity to add to the stories.  And, probably, add to the ticket price of future events as well.

What I am sure of, however, is that there was no paranormal activity involved Saturday night.  But a number of people, falling victim to expectation and the loss of critical thinking in the face of someone they deem to be an authority figure, became yet another case study in the psychology behind perceived paranormal experiences.

Then again, some folks call me a skeptic.  So maybe that’s just what I would have you believe.  Right, Britt?

This article originally appeared on The Bent Spoon Magazine website

A Picture of Paranormal Fraud

There is a paranormal group that goes by the name of Ghosts of New England Research Society.  G.O.N.E.R.S, for short.  Recently, they began publicizing a hoaxed ghost photo as authentic.  They have also been using the hoax, in part, to promote an episode of the Discovery Channel series “American Haunting” that they’ll be featured on this fall.

Understandably, this has gotten a number of people in the paranormal community up in arms.  Fraudulent ghost photos are something most investigators decry and, indeed, it was skeptical paranormal investigators themselves who spotted the fraud in the first place.

Image

The photo, taken at Ryder’s on Main, a bar and restaurant in Meridan, CT shows the hazy silhouette of what G.O.N.E.R.S calls “The Holy Grail of Paranormal Research:  A Full Body apparition of what appears to be a women in 1920s-30s period attire…”  Of course, anyone familiar with famous ghost photos recognized this image as the well-documented “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove” taken at the Chicago cemetery by members of the Ghost Research Society in the summer of 1991.  It had simply been superimposed on a photo taken inside Ryder’s on Main by way of photoshop or perhaps even a smartphone app.

Skeptical paranormal investigator Kenny Biddle who, in full disclosure, must also be noted as a contributor to The Bent Spoon, first spotted the forgery on Facebook, drawing attention to the striking similarities between the images and quickly swayed opinion.  While many on the thread were originally hyping it up as a great piece of evidence, they soon turned to castigating the paranormal team in question for using it to market themselves.

Image

credit: Dale Kaczmarek

The story soon went viral and Ghosts of New England Research Society took the image down, apparently not commenting publicly on the matter.  Many in the paranormal community have taken this incident to be the prime example why paranormal investigation is not accepted by the scientific mainstream.  Even Brian Harnois, former cast member of the longest running fraudulent paranormal reality series on television, Ghost Hunters, said it is incidents like this that caused him to retire from the field.

In defense of G.O.N.E.R.S, it is unclear whether they hoaxed the photo themselves, or were duped by the bar/restaurant.  Either way, however, the paranormal team is culpable.  They should have known how famous the Bachelor’s Grove image is, for one.  Secondly, they should not have publicized and promoted the photo from Ryder’s on Main to get attention for their upcoming television exposure.  They fell into a trap they set themselves with their own ignorance.

But is this really the cause of paranormal investigation not being taken seriously by science?  Is fraud really the reason ghost hunters don’t get more credit from the scientific establishment?  I think not.  Fraud happens in science as well.  Things like peer review help eliminate it, something most paranormal enthusiasts don’t seem to use.  But even having examples of fraud throughout the history of science gives no one logical license to distrust the scientific process.  It has worked for hundreds of years.

No, the reason ghost hunters are not taken seriously by science is because they do not respect science.  Ghost hunters, by and large, have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to operate under proper scientific methodologies or even to control their experiments.  The evidence they put forth is not given credibility because it isn’t evidence.  At best, it is often just anomalies they found on their digital voice recorders or readings they took on their EMF meters.  Anomalies which, by the way, have been explained countless times by science-based investigators.

If there’s a lesson that can be learned from Ghosts of New England Research Society, it is this:  your photographs are not proof of ghosts.  But it can be proof that you don’t seem to know what you are doing.  So, if you want to be taken seriously by science, start taking science seriously and educate yourselves.

 

Ghost hunter contradictions

Recently, along with my friend and fellow co-host of Strange Frequencies Radio, Bobby Nelson, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Stewart.  Jenny is the founder of the Paranormal Research and Resource Society, and we had her on the show to discuss a few of her beliefs about the philosophy of ghost hunting, as well as her own research into spirit communication.  While we disagreed on pretty much everything, the conversation was pleasant until close to the end, when Jenny began to raise her voice in objection to a line of questioning that pertained to a myriad of contradictions we were noticing.  While those contradictions are certainly not unique to her, I thought a post about them might elucidate some of my thoughts on the frequency of which they appear in the ghost hunting community.

Early in the interview, I talked about how many paranormal investigators have things they don’t like about their community, and asked her if there was anything in particular she found distasteful.  She responded by saying that too many investigative team’s websites are like trophy cases, indicating they appear more interested in fame than in helping anyone.  I agreed, but I found it curious when, just moments later, she mentioned working on a television series for A&E about her team’s ghost hunting activities.

Later, we began talking about her ghost box research.  She is quite fond of it, believing that she has contacted entities that have given her team pertinent information on several cases.  She even recounted a story where her ghost box divined the future; foretelling a murder, in fact.  While she went to great lengths to testify to the usefulness of this particular technique, she said she uses it only as a tool; not as evidence.  How funny, then, that her team’s website has a copious amount of ghost box sound files on their evidence pages.

Finally, we talked about her rationale for being in the paranormal community.  While she does not consider herself a ghost hunter in the traditional sense, she does seek her own style of evidence for the existence of ghosts and the paranormal.  She also said that she isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone.  In my opinion, many ghost hunters get into the field because they want to prove the existence of ghosts.  I know that was one of my reasons, and I’ve talked to many who say the same.  But it is strange to hear someone say they aren’t looking to prove ghosts but then, as Mrs. Stewart did, say we are basically denying reality unless we agreed she has captured the image of a spectral baby in a window.  While Bobby told her it could be an example of pareidolia, I told her it was unfair to try and force our opinion when we had never seen the photograph in question.

This article is not about what is or is not proof of ghosts.  I’ve made it clear before that I used to believe and have explained the reasons I no longer do.  This isn’t even about whether or not people should go ghost hunting.  I have nothing against it.  I may not believe in ghosts, but even I enjoy creeping around allegedly haunted locations.  No, this is about the lack of honesty and consistency I see among ghost hunters.

I’m sick of hearing ghost hunters say they aren’t in it for fame while simultaneously seeking out their own reality show.  You have an ego; we all do, so at least be honest.  I host an internet radio show and, while I don’t want to be “famous,” I know a little something about wanting attention for what I do or say.  If you so much as have a Facebook or Twitter page, you have to admit that you do as well.

I also don’t have time to listen while you tell me your team doesn’t use certain items as evidence, or how you aren’t trying to prove anything to anyone.  I especially don’t want to hear it when what you are saying is demonstrably false, or while you are yelling in my ear about how right you are, like Mrs. Stewart did.

Now, to be fair, Jenny did end up writing to apologize a couple of days later.  She said that she originally got angry when one of us brought up science but, upon listening to the interview again, she doesn’t understand why she got mad [1].  And that’s fine.  It is not like I harbor any kind of grudge.  Many people have written to me to express their surprise at Mrs. Stewart’s reaction to the questions we posed on the show.  It surprised me too, but I also very much want to have her back on sometime to discuss the points we disagreed on.  One thing I want Strange Frequencies Radio to be known for is that we went out of our way to invite guests on simply because they disagree with us.  I continue to believe those types of conversations are important, particularly in the paranormal world.

Why are so many in the paranormal community so inconsistent?  Do they really not recognize their own contradictions, or is it, as I suspect at times, they divert attention away from their motivations in the presence of someone they perceive as an outsider?  In other words, when they are around other people who believe as they do, will they still downplay the significance of their ghost box, or talk about how little they want attention or to prove anything?  Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

Why?  Because I’ve been there.

NOTES:

[1] This is the impression I got from Bobby, who received her letter of apology.  However, Jenny has written in the comments of this blog that she was apologizing for having done the show at all, since she was exhausted from lack of sleep.

Blinded by the lies: Tracking Dannion Brinkley’s continued fabrications

This article originally appeared in the “Miracles” issue of The Bent Spoon.  To check out this free magazine, click here.

Dannion Brinkley tells a lot of tales to a lot of people.  Some of them are even true.  For instance, it is a fact that, in the early evening of September 17th 1975, he was struck by lightning while on the phone at his house.  But the stories that came out of that – the events related to his alleged out-of-body experience – are predicated upon a pack of lies.

In his book, “Saved By the Light,” Dannion recounts his story and embellishes upon the details.  He claims that he was dead for 28 minutes.  During this time, he floated above his body, watching as his wife attempted to revive him in the moments after the lightning strike.  He says he heard a paramedic pronounce him dead.  Later, he talks about traveling to heaven, where he met and spoke with angels, saw a crystal city and cathedral of light.  And then, he woke up in the hospital just before being taken to the morgue.

It is an incredible story; one that saw his book at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, as well as spawning a highly rated television movie.  Dannion has since used his notoriety to become a psychic, charging $250 for a half hour reading [1], and a spiritual advisor, lecturing to large groups of people around the world about the “secrets” he found in the light – secrets that you, too, can share – if only you can afford tickets at places like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  But if his story were true, we can reasonably expect that he would have told a similar one in the days following his injury.  But it’s not, because he didn’t.  In fact, he told a remarkably different story at the time, and continues to change the details to this day when confronted.

Carl Langley was a newspaper reporter for the Augusta Herald at the time of Dannion’s ordeal.  He interviewed him, and in the September 19th 1975 edition, published a story about the incident titled “Phone Call Almost Cost Him His Life.”  The story as Mr. Brinkley told it then is dramatically different than the one he tells now in his books and interviews [2].  Remember how Dannion said he was dead for 28 minutes, and the paramedic pronounced him dead?  Langley’s newspaper article says otherwise:

“Frantically, Mrs. Brinkley began pounding away on her husband’s chest, stopping only to grasp his tongue and pull it away from his windpipe so he could breathe.

“I was out for a few minutes, and she saved my life, “Danny said.  With breathing restored, Mrs. Brinkley called the paramedics.'”

How long did Dannion, or Danny as he was called then, say he was out for?  “A few minutes.”  Who saved his life?  His wife.  And it all happened before the paramedics even arrived!

But there’s more.  Remember, Dannion also tells people that he woke up in the hospital later, after having traveled to heaven and talking to angels.  But that is definitively contradicted by Dannion’s own doctor, who was interviewed by investigative journalist Jon Ronson in the film, “Reverend Death.”  Dr. Gilmore Eaves says he was at Dannion’s side within an hour of his brush with lightning.  Was Dannion terribly hurt?  Was he talking about his incredible Out-of-Body Experience?

“When I saw him he was completely lucid,” Dr. Eaves said.  He tells Ronson that he read stories later about how Dannion Brinkley had been pronounced dead and how he recalled a sheet being pulled over his head.  But as Dr. Eaves says, “That’s just not true.”  Nor did he ever tell him about seeing a light or seeing a cathedral.

In the film, Ronson actually goes to see Brinkley himself, showing him the article by Carl Langley in the Augusta Herald.  Brinkley laughs it off, explaining that he was young and embarrassed and, “wasn’t gonna start ranting and raving about a near-death experience.”  He states that it is true that his wife, by pounding on his chest, did bring him back to his body, but that then he left it again.  That is a dramatically different account; one that seems clearly invented on the fly after being cornered with his earlier statements [3].

But the film “Reverend Death” came out in 2008.  It is three years later now, and Dannion has had some time to make up a new version of what happened.  In a video posted on his website on May 18th of 2011, Dannion now claims to not remember much about the days of the events in question, which is funny since he has never had problems remembering in radio and television interviews before.  Dannion says now that he was paralyzed for “6 or 7 days,” and couldn’t talk.  So did Langley just invent the quotes in his article when he spoke with him the day after the lightning strike?  Did Dr. Eaves have an imaginary conversation with a “completely lucid” Dannion Brinkley at the hospital?  If Dannion’s newest story of not remembering details and being paralyzed and unable to talk is true, why didn’t he tell this to Ronson during the filming of “Reverend Death”?  It is a complete and total contradiction to give interviews to newspaper reporters that your wife saved you after a few minutes, then write books claiming you were dead for 28 minutes and spoke with angels, to then saying your wife did save you but then you left your body again immediately after, then saying you don’t remember the details, to then saying everyone else is lying about everything except you because, hey, you were paralyzed and couldn’t talk at the time.  It is also interesting that he has waited until after Mr. Langley and Dr. Eaves have passed away to say all this [4].

The truth is that Dannion Brinkley is a fraud.  He has invented a fictional story about an Out-of-Body experience to sell books.  He has given people false hope about heaven, angels, and crystal cities, and has made a fortune doing it.  That type of cruelty makes him among the worst people imaginable.  When confronted with his fictions, he changes his story or infers that everyone else is lying about what happened.

Dannion has since written two more books about two more near-death and out-of-body experiences he has had.  He claims to have been saved by the light, and to have found both peace and secrets in the light.  But the more he talks, and the more you look into his story, the more you’ll find yourself blinded – not by the light, but by his lies.

REFERENCES:

http://www.dannion.com/readings/

http://youtu.be/o-c1RyplBig#t=7m47s

http://youtu.be/fhGbUKp1fzc

http://www.dannion.com/dannion-brinkley-exposed-dannions-official-response/

What Atheism is and is not

I’m not the loudest, most abrasive atheist in the world.  I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people who know me in person have no idea that I am an atheist at all.  It simply isn’t something I go out of my way to talk about.  Mostly because I don’t like arguing and, from what experiences I have had, religion is something best left out of most polite discourse.

Still, if the subject comes up naturally, or I am asked, sure, I will talk about atheism.  If someone wants to know what my beliefs are, or what I don’t believe in, I’m happy to explain.  But in this case, I feel compelled to write something because I am tired of hearing educated people misrepresent what atheism is so they can score a quick point with their social circle.

My friend Thad is a Mormon, and he recently posted a link to his Google+ page of a Mormon testimony as written by geophysicist Jeff Wynn.  Thad and I have had great conversations about Mormonism, his beliefs, and how they have been misconstrued by the public.  We have had disagreements over matters of faith, certainly, but it has always been respectful, and that is why I’ve appreciated the dialogue so much.  But Wynn’s comments disappointed me because they are so clearly uneducated:

In my junior year as a physics major at Berkeley, I realized that the belief system of an atheist had at least as many unproven assumptions as—and fewer explanations than—the belief system of any adherent of faith. Explain the Anthropic Principle, or what preceded the Big Bang. The unprovable idea of a Multiverse? That won’t even pass for a theory, much less a scientific hypothesis—it’s untestable, so by definition is not science.

So which is the more assumptive, i.e., non-scientific belief system?

Jeff Wynn is a fine scientist, I’m sure.  But what he exhibits here is lazy intellectualism.  Atheism is the rejection of belief in Gods.  Atheism is not itself a belief system, nor does it have a set of worldviews one must adhere to or assume.  It is, in fact, the null hypothesis.

I am an atheist for the same reason most any other atheist is – I’ve examined the arguments for the existence of God and find them unconvincing and, often, logically invalid.  Show me evidence that God exists, and I’ll change my mind.  Can the same be said of a believer?  Science has been explaining the things God was said to be responsible for for years, and yet their belief persists.  I have many Christian friends, for instance, who say that their beliefs are a matter of faith and, as such, they will not change their mind no matter what the evidence says.  Isn’t this the very definition of being close-minded?

It is certainly true that I don’t know what happened before the Big Bang.  Neither does Mr. Wynn.  I can say that scientists are working on it, and may eventually have an answer.  But for him to therefore insert a God without evidence is lazy, and yes, exactly the type of unproven assumption he appears to dislike.  It is the same, tired “God of the Gaps” argument that theists have been clinging to for years.

As far as the Anthropic principle and ideas about a Multiverse go, I don’t know enough to comment much on them.  I know the Anthropic principle is more of a philosophical argument, and that the Multiverse idea is one that is being highly contested and debated in scientific circles.  Wynn makes the mistake of assuming these scientific ideas are presented as tenets of atheism and then railing against them to make his case.  Not true.  But then, it’s much easier to knock a Straw Man down, isn’t it?

Wynn, of course, is not alone in misconstruing atheism to hold themselves up.  Many Christians I have known say such silly things as, “If you’re an atheist then you can’t have morality”  Or “Oh, you’re an atheist, so you must believe in nothing.”  It’s all very weak, but a testament to their lack of understanding of what atheism is.

Lately I have been a little more open about my thoughts on God and religion.  I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve at least taken the time to educate myself and can defend my position of non-belief.  If we’re going to discuss these matters, each of us should have an understanding of the other’s point of view, wouldn’t you agree?  So all I ask of people like Jeff Wynn is that they find out what atheism is before they open their mouth and remove all doubt of their ignorance on the subject.  If you don’t want to read informed articles or books on the topic and would prefer asking someone who considers themselves to be an atheist, I’d be happy to help.  Just drop me a line.  I’m not going to argue with you or go out of my way to convince you that you’re wrong.  I’m much too easygoing for that.

Okay, that’s enough out of me.  Good seeing you.