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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Friday, March 22, 2019

Yet Another 25 Who Were “Ghost-Told” of a Death

Three previous posts on this blog have summarized accounts of people who saw an apparition of someone, or heard a mysterious voice from someone they knew, only to soon find that such a person had died (usually on the same day, and very often on the same hour and day as the apparition was seen).  Each of these posts described 25 different cases. The posts are below:


There are still 25 additional such cases that I will list in this post. You may ask: why am I writing more on this topic that I have already written on three times? The reason is to help show how  common it is for apparitions to appear unexpectedly to someone who later found that a person matching the apparition died on the same day. If apparitions are mere hallucinations, we should expect it to be incredibly rare that someone should see an apparition of someone he did not know was dead, and then to learn that person had died on the same day or the same hour and day. So if it can be shown that a large number of apparition sightings involve cases where someone sees an apparition of someone he did not know was dead, and then found that such a person died on the same day as the sighting, the claim that apparition sightings are mere hallucinations will be discredited. 

Let us now look at 25 more of these cases, not mentioned in my previous posts on this topic. Below are some cases from Volume 2 of the classic work on apparitions, Phantasms of the Living by Edmund Gurney, Frederick Myers, and Frank Podmore. Just click on the links below to bring up this work online, going to the exact pages of the accounts I refer to.

Page 501, Case 541: On a train George Barker heard a woman say she had seen her son drowning before her eyes, and that it was so real she could not believe she was traveling on a train. George's tutor became acquainted with the woman, and found that two weeks later word arrived that her son (in the Navy) had indeed drowned while rowing from ship to shore. Noting that he was a disbeliever in anything ghostly, Barker stated, “I have no doubt that the time was exactly the same....The time of the upsetting of the boat was, allowing for the change between the two distances, as nearly corresponding as possible.”

Page 511, Case 552: Mrs. Rooke stated that on a day in October, she saw an apparition of a friend of hers, and that the apparition vanished as she approached it. She later found out the friend had died. She said that the sighting might have occurred at the same time as the death (but sounded uncertain about the timing).

Page 513, Case 555: On September 22, a Mrs. Perryn saw an apparition of her mother, who seemed to be enveloped in a faint smoke. She later found out that her mother died on the same day at another location.

Page 514, Case 557: A Mary C. saw an apparition of an old woman she knew, an apparition that vanished suddenly as she looked at it. She later found that the woman died on the same day.

Page 516, Cases 559-560: Hickman Heather said that his father saw an apparition of his mother (Hickman's grandmother) early in the morning while walking home, and that Hickman's grandmother suddenly died on the same day. Hickman also reported that his father had seen his brother Ned (Hickman's uncle) appear at a time when it was “impossible that my Uncle Ned could be there.” In “about a couple of hours” word came that Ned had died.

Page 519, Case 562: A young boy reported seeing his father, Captain Skyring, although his father was far away on a naval expedition. Shortly thereafter the boy's mother received word Captain Skyring had been murdered "on the day in question," apparently the same day the boy saw the apparition. Earlier Captain Skyring himself reported seeing an apparition of his mother while away from England, and then found upon returning to England that his mother had died on the same day as the apparition. In both this case and the previous case we have astonishing accounts of two “veridical apparition” sightings in a single family.

Just some spooky clip art

Page 520, Case 563: Young Jane Barford was sent away two miles to an aunt while her father was ill. One day she saw her father unexpectedly at a quarter before 7, and said “I knew it could not be my living father.” She hurried home, to be told that her father had died that day, at a quarter before 7.

Page 521, Case 566: Mrs. Morris saw “little G.” carrying two lilies, and the apparition disappeared as she looked at it. She later found that the same person had died on the same day. She was told that G. had been given lilies just before he died, and was delighted with them, and had held them shortly before dying; and that they were now in the hand of G. 

Page 522, Case 567: Mrs. Amos stated that she saw an apparition of her mother while Mrs. Amos and her husband were in bed. She discussed the sight with her husband, who was unable to see the strange sight.  "After that she vanished slowly away," stated Mrs. Amos, who received a letter the next day telling her the mother had died. 

Page 522-523, Case 568: A man far away from his mother was surprised to see an apparition of his mother and his dead sister.  He tried lighting a candle, but "the apparitions had already faded away."  He soon found that his mother had died on about the same day. 

Page 526, Case 572: While at a church service, an H.C. saw an apparition of a friend's face.  H.C. later found that the friend had died on the same day. 

Page 542, Case 590: A boy at a boarding school was astonished to see on April 1 an apparition of his mother, who lived about 250 miles away.  He later found that his mother had died on April 1. 

Page 545, Case 594: A man saw his wife passing by him in a field. She must have looked spooky, for he then said to a friend, "I am sure my wife is dead."  He then found out that his wife had died at the same time the sight was seen. 

Page 550, Case 601: A Mr. Milton reported seeing his son in his cellar, at a time when the son was believed to be at sea.  A few weeks later Mr. Milton received word from the captain of the ship that Mr. Milton's son had died on the same night as the sight was seen in the cellar. 

Page 554, Case 606: In Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), a Mr. Selby saw a strange sight that caused him to write down, "My wife died 13 minutes to 6 o'clock."  A month later he found out that his wife had died in England within a few hours of the time he wrote the note. 

Page 583, Case 636: A woman "saw her son coming through the wall, and making his exit through the opposite wall." She then found out an hour later that her son had drowned. 

Page 604, Case 651: Benjamin Coleman was surprised to see at his bedside his son, who was believed to be far away at sea.  The figure (wearing sailor clothes) vanished from Benjamin's sight. He then soon heard his servant William Ball say that William also had seen the son that day in sailor dress.  The father later found that the son "had died that very day and hour, of dysentery, on board ship." 

Page 611, Case 658: Chatting in bed, Elizabeth and Henriette both saw a strange light, which they both said was beautiful.  Elizabeth then said it was little Mary Stanger, and that she was "floating away."  It was later learned that Mary Stanger had "died at the exact time" the two girls had seen the vision. 

Page 612, Case 659: A sibling and the sibling's sister were surprised to see at the sibling's bedside the sibling's brother, who was believed to be far away doing a job for a reigning prince.  Three weeks later word came that the brother "had died the same night, and the same hour." 

Page 613, Case 660: Two brothers were in bed when they both saw the apparition of a lady to whom their father was engaged. She died suddenly that same night. 

Page 615-616, Case 662: Between 6 and 7 o'clock, a woman, her brother and her mother all saw Ellen, the woman's sister.  The woman "tried to catch hold of her, but seemed to catch nothing." The next day they found out that Ellen had drowned "a little before seven" on the same they saw the apparition.

Page 616, Case 663: A woman saw her husband's mother. When she cried out, the husband looked up, and "the apparition vanished." On the same evening, two male children of the woman saw a strange silent female figure pacing back and forth in their bedrooms. It was later found that the husband's mother had died on the same evening. 

Page 617-618, Case 665: Two brothers woke to see standing between their cots the figure of their father. When one of the brothers rose up, the figure vanished.  They later found that their father had died at the same hour. 

Page 622, Case 667: Four people were startled to see an apparition that disappeared just after a woman screamed "He's dead."  Word later arrived that a person corresponding to the apparition had been murdered far away on the same night.  The account says, "his spirit appeared to his wife, his child, an elder sister, and myself." 

As I will show in posts later this year (that cite 30+ cases in the literature), the account just cited is not a rare one -- for there are quite a few cases of apparitions being seen by multiple observers at the same time. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

A "Water Memory” Effect I Have Often Photographed

The topic of water memory is a very controversial one. If you do a Google search for “water memory” you will find many posts about the topic, pro and con. The more emotional ones seem to come from those who say the idea is bunk, and the more calm and reasoned ones seem to come from those presenting evidence for the idea.

Thus far the term “water memory” has been used almost exclusively for the claim that water can retain a kind of memory or trace of substances it had previously contained, even though it has been diluted so much that there should be no molecules left of that substance. Mainstream scientists have long dismissed the idea with sneering contempt. But it became harder to do that once some distinguished scientists started presenting evidence for a “water memory” effect in which traces or effects of previous substances in water somehow survive even though the water has been diluted so much that all molecules of that substance should have disappeared.

The first such scientist was Jacques Benveniste, who www.brittanica.com tells us was “responsible for numerous advances in allergy medicine and immunology.” He produced a paper that was accepted by the leading science journal Nature, a paper seeming to show an utterly anomalous water memory effect as described above. But the journal demanded he withdraw the paper after its editors realized that the reported results were scientific heresy. Benveniste was then demonized and denounced by the scientific community, and he was deprived of almost all funding. The treatment of Benveniste reflects very poorly on the culture of modern academic science, which sometimes seems to resemble the medieval church in its intolerance for heresy.

Later another very distinguished researcher reported anomalous “water memory” results similar to Benveniste. This researcher was Luc Montagnier, who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 (along with two other researchers) for the discovery of the AIDS virus. Montagnier has done repeated experiments that supposedly support the water memory idea. His most interesting experiment is one described here, and in the long video you can see on that page. In the experiment, some DNA is put in some water, and the water is diluted to such a high degree that there should remain no molecule left of the DNA. The water is then examined for electromagnetic signals. The data from such signals is transmitted to another laboratory that has no knowledge of the original DNA sample. Then the other laboratory attempts to reconstruct the DNA from the signal data (something that should be impossible). Supposedly the experiment produced a 98% match. Relevant scientific papers by Montagnier can be read here and here.  An article here claims that Nobel Prize winner Brian Josephson also supports "the idea that water possesses memory." 

The Montagnier experiment is so astonishing that you could compare it to an experiment in which you write you name on a cutting board by pouring sugar, and then pour that sugar into a pitcher of water, asking someone to retrieve your name from the dissolved sugar in the water. It would seem to be almost a miracle if someone managed to do that.

The experiment described above is one in which there is supposedly what we may call a dilution memory of water, in which very highly diluted water somehow maintains traces of something that was once in it.  But we can imagine an entirely different type of "water memory" effect: what we may call a series memory of water. Imagine if, astonishingly, you were to one day pour water out of a cup, and you were to find the poured water forming into a sphere.  Now imagine such an anomalous effect were to persist for 10 consecutive tries, even though you had refilled the cup with fresh water each time. Since the water you were experimenting with was seemingly remembering to perform in this anomalous way, we could call that a water memory effect.  I have not observed this exact effect (which could only be observed in zero gravity), but I have observed things almost equally strange when photographing falling water drops.

I have often photographed inexplicable effects that seem to show such a "series memory" of water.  The type of “water memory” effect I get has nothing to do with water dilution. The effect (which you can see in 80+ photos here and 61 photos here) occurs like this:
  1. When photographing nothing but ordinary drops of pure, clean water, a certain type of inexplicable photographic anomaly (such as stripes in circular objects or holes in circular objects) will appear, with the anomaly appearing multiple times in a single photograph.
  2. This anomaly will often continue to show up in multiple consecutive photographs, each using different samples of clean pure water, with the same type of photographic weirdness appearing in up to 100 consecutive photos, each photo showing multiple examples of the photographic weirdness (such as stripes in circular objects or holes in circular objects).
  3. After a certain number of consecutive photos showing the anomaly (usually less than 25 but sometimes as many as 100), the anomaly will stop appearing.
Why could this be called a “water memory” effect? It is because it is rather as if for a certain length of time (lasting from twenty seconds to ten minutes) the water has a “memory” of the type of anomaly that is being displayed, resulting in the anomaly appearing in multiple consecutive photos.  

Let me give a particular example of how this kind of "water memory" effect occurred on a particular day. On March 16, 2019 I started photographing falling water drops. The first photos I took showed nothing unusual (at least nothing that I don't usually get when photographing water drops with my Sony A6000 camera).  But at 9:31 AM I suddenly started getting a strong anomaly. The falling water being photographed was full of circular objects with hole-like features. This anomaly continued for the next 100 photos I took. In all of those photos  there were circular objects with hole-like features on the right; and all or almost all of the circular objects that appeared in each photo had hole-like features on the right.  The 100 photos showed a total of more than 1000 of these orb holes, and in every single case the hole appeared on the right side of the orb, never on the left side.  Below is an example of one of these photos, taken while only pure, clean water was falling. 

orb holes

Finally at 9:42 AM after having taken 100 photos showing more than 1000 of these orb holes (all of them on the right side), the orb holes stopped appearing.  I continued to get circular white orbs, but none of them with holes.

Sometimes the orb holes will appear as a larger percentage of the orb, allowing you to clearly see through the hole. Below is an example from January 19, 2019, again taken while only pure, clean water drops were falling:

Sometimes (as in these 11 photos) two holes may appear in one of the orbs, as in the dramatic photo below from October 15, 2018, again taken while only pure, clean water drops were falling:

orb holes

You can see 80 such photos of orb holes by looking at this series of photos (keep pressing "Older Posts" at the bottom right to see them all). Whenever such an anomaly appears when I am photographing falling water drops, the anomaly almost always persists for multiple photographs, just as if some strange "water memory" effect was going on.

Orb holes are not the only anomaly that I have got through such a "water memory" effect. I have also photographed an abundance of striped orbs while photographing nothing but pure, clean water drops falling.  I get striped orbs most often when I am not photographing water drops, but am only photographing dry, clean air. But while photographing falling water drops, I have often got striped orbs. Once such an anomaly started, it would often persist for multiple consecutive photos.

The grid below shows some of the astonishing effects I have got while photographing only pure, clean water drops falling. You can see the original posts in which I took these photos by looking at this series of 61 posts (keep pressing "Older Posts" at the bottom to see them all).

When these striped orbs had appeared while I was photographing clean ordinary drops of falling water, I would often see the startling anomaly occurring in consecutive photos, just as if some strange "water memory" effect was occurring. Below (from this post) is a startling example in which we see two streams of pure, clean water, both containing striped orbs.

weird water

Below is another example of striped orbs appearing while pure, clean water was photographed:

water memory

In this example (from this post) we again see pure, clean water in which there are striped orbs, but this time each stripe consists of double parallel stripes:

water memory

There are two shocking anomalies related to these photos and in the many similar photos you can see here and here. The first is that in these photos we see physical characteristics that we should never be able to see when falling water drops are being photographed. If you try putting some water drops on a plate or a sheet of aluminum foil, and use a needle to try to create water drops with holes or water drops with stripes, you will not be successful. The second anomaly is the fact that the first anomaly persists in multiple consecutive photos.  I cannot prove that the second anomaly occurs, but the proof of the first anomaly is found in the 100+ photos I have published of these mysterious holes and stripes showing up when I photographed water drops. Some other photographers get similar results (see here for how to access  one photographer's collection that has very many photos of mysterious orb holes and orb stripes).

Another anomaly I have very often got when photographing falling water drops is the appearance of crescent shapes, which you can see in this series of 132 photos.  Below is such a photo from 2016, in which a red crescent appeared while only pure, clean water was being photographed.  Once such crescents show up, they often keep appearing in two or more consecutive photos. 

Perhaps even stranger is the type of anomaly shown here, which showed up in 347 photos. Interestingly, I do not get such dramatic anomalies most of the times that I photograph falling water drops.  The stranger anomalies show up in only a minority of the times that I photograph falling water drops. 

Is there any hypothesis that might partially account for such anomalies and equally shocking anomalies reported by "water memory" researchers?  I can imagine a kind of a mere fragment of a theory. It is generally believed that water always follows the same rules of behavior at any particular  temperature and pressure. But let us imaginatively suppose that local quantities of water can have "local rules of behavior" for certain lengths of time.  So, for example, we can imagine that one liter of water in Paris might temporarily have its own distinctive "local rule of behavior" that deviates dramatically from the rules of behavior of most other liters of water in the world; and we can imagine that some other liter of water in Shanghai might temporarily have its own distinctive "local rule of behavior" that deviates dramatically from the rules of behavior of most other liters of water in the world.  Given such a strange possibility we might have a fragment of an explanation for these strange photos I have taken of striped orbs and orbs with holes appearing while water drops were falling.  Conceivably what is temporarily going on is some "local rule of behavior" deviating dramatically from the norm.  Something similar might be going on with the results reported by "water memory" researchers.  What seems to be a "memory of water" could be a distinctive "local rule of behavior" peculiar to some particular water sample.  Such local behavior deviations could conceivably be highly complex and information-rich, giving rise to experimental effects and medical effects that are otherwise inexplicable.  I have no great confidence in such a speculation, but merely suggest it as a possibility to ponder.

Another hypothesis that should be considered when discussing the possibility of "water memory" is the idea that information about past connections or experiences can be somehow mysteriously stored in a unit of matter, whether it be solid or liquid.  There is a type of psychic phenomenon that seems to suggest just such a possibility: what is known as psychometry.  A psychometrist is a type of psychic who will examine some object, and be able to give information about past events involving that object, information that the object's appearance never would have suggested.  The article here from the Psi Encyclopedia describes various people who seemed to display such an ability, and how they sometimes did well when tested under controlled conditions.  When psychometry seems to occur successfully, such a phenomenon seems to suggest that units of matter can somehow store a record of their past experiences, or information about things they were previously associated with.  Such a thing could help explain experiments suggesting an anomalous "memory of water."  Such an idea should not seem too outrageous when we remember that all forms of episodic human memory are mysterious and unexplained, and that claims that scientists understand episodic human memory are unfounded (existing physical theories on this topic being things that do not hold up well to scrutiny, and conflict with various facts such as the very high protein turnover in synapses).

Such ideas might be relevant, but it would seem that we are very far indeed from any theory or set of theories that can account for all the bizarre anomalies that have appeared when experiments have been done with water and water has been photographed.  Such evidence reminds us that man's knowledge of nature is merely fragmentary.

The great majority of striped orbs that I have photographed have not appeared while I photographed falling water drops. They showed up instead while I was photographing clean, dry areas indoors and outdoors. I have photographed more than 500 mysterious striped orbs as you can see in this long video,  and they often have repeating patterns that you can see here

If anyone wants to try reproducing the strange effects described here, the post here describes exactly how I take such photos. 

Postscript: A recent science article was entitled "Quantum Machine Appears to Defy Universe's Push for Disorder." We read about a very strange effect rather reminiscent of the "series memory" effect I have described, one in which an ordered state of matter keeps reverting back to its previous state of order after being disrupted.  The article even uses the term "memory" in referring to the weird effect, saying, "It’s as if the waves develop a memory of this special trajectory."  So if "wave memory" is being shown by physicists, why is the idea of water memory taboo? 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

These Sites Keep Materialists in a Filter Bubble

The term “filter bubble” is used for a situation in which someone receives only a stream of information that agrees with his beliefs. The term was originally used to describe computer algorithms that give you only a stream of stories, news items or posts that match your interests (such a flow of items also having a tendency to match your own beliefs about things). But the term “filter bubble” is also used in a wider sense, to mean any stream of information or opinion that was designed (by computers or humans) to conform to the beliefs and expectations of a particular type of person.

On our TV sets we have particular TV channels that are examples of filter bubbles. On the Fox News channel, we are given only stories and information that conform to the opinions and expectations of Republican voters. On the MSNBC channel, it often seems we are given only stories and information that conform to the opinions and expectations of Democratic voters. There are similar web sites that are designed to give news items and opinion pieces that conform to the beliefs of some particular type of voter. Between 2001 and 2019, all US presidents and congresses have recklessly piled up sky-high budget deficits that have caused the US national debt to skyrocket to nearly 22 trillion dollars.  During  eight years of George W. Bush and two years of Donald Trump, we heard hardly a word about such a problem on Fox News; and during eight years of Barack Obama we heard scarcely a word about such a problem on MSNBC. 

If you're a scientist or a typical consumer of scientist dogma, you may think to yourself: “You often have that kind of filter bubble in politics, but not in science,” or “When I get my science news, it doesn't involve any kind of filter bubble.” But such opinions are very wrong. The favorite web sites of scientists and scientist fans are actually some of the clearest examples of filter bubbles anywhere on the Internet.

filter bubble

Below are some of the reasons such sites are filter bubbles:

  1. No coverage of the paranormal, or only biased or untruthful coverage. Human experience with paranormal phenomena is extremely vast, consisting of a huge variety of anomalies experienced by a large fraction of the population. Such experiences include things like ESP experiences, apparition sightings, near-death experiences, precognitive dreams, visions of the terminally ill, anomalous experiences with mediums, and UFO sightings. Besides the vast amount of experiences that have occurred outside of laboratory settings, there is a gigantic amount of evidence for paranormal phenomena gathered under laboratory conditions, including abundant laboratory evidence for both ESP and unexplained physical disturbances and manifestations. But in the filter bubbles of the web sites I will list below, there is virtually no reference to such important realities. If any reference is made, it is likely to be jaundiced or untruthful.
  2. Very little coverage or discussion of facts inconsistent with the beliefs favored by those inside the filter bubble. The person in the materialist filter bubble believes that the human mind is purely a product of the brain, or perhaps just an aspect of the brain. He also believes that the brain is a machine for storing and retrieving memories. There are many observational facts that conflict with such dogmas, typically facts that are not even contested. For example, there have been quite a few persons with normal, near-normal or above average intelligence despite having little functional brain tissue or only half a brain (discussed in this series of posts); synapses (claimed to be the storage sites of memory) are made up of proteins that have average lifetimes of only a few weeks; and autistic savants with brain damage can show memory recall abilities far beyond that of a normal person. But within the filter bubbles of the sites I will mention, you will get very little or no discussion of these and very many other facts that conflict with the claims of materialist orthodoxy. A similar situation might have occurred in the 1970's if a pro-Nixon newspaper were to have only a few lines in its paper (buried in the back pages) referring to the Watergate affair.
  3. Uncritical regurgitation of extremely dubious experimental results or theoretical speculations. Besides a replication crisis in modern science, there is a vast problem of hype, triumphalist overconfidence and exaggeration, in which extremely dubious speculations, flimsy explanations or weak experimental results are constantly being trumpeted as momentous science breakthroughs or "facts." In the sites I will mention, such dubious results and weak intellectual products are typically reported without criticism, and often hyped even further, often in a way that seems designed to bolster prevailing dogmas and prejudices.  The result is typically a kind of "pom-pom journalism" in which pushover fanboys tend to fall for authority pronouncements  and professorial party lines "hook, line and sinker." 

Below are some of the filter bubble sites that act like the Fox News or MSNBC of materialist dogma.
  1. The New York Times.  The New York Times has for decades  published only news and articles that conform with the dogmas and expectations of a certain type of thinker. With the exception of a handful of stories such as one or two recent UFO stories, we get no appreciable coverage of paranormal phenomena in this paper or its web site, and any coverage that occurs is likely to be misleading and jaundiced. An example of the “filter bubble” actions of the paper was in its coverage of the astonishing Groesbeck voice case. Rescuers found an overturned vehicle in a small river, which contained a woman who had died hours ago and an unconscious baby hanging upside down. The four rescuers all reported a voice coming from inside the car, urging them on, but no such voice was possible from a long-dead woman and an unconscious baby. The New York Times reported the rescue of the baby, without telling their readers anything about the inexplicable voice that occurred.  That's typical for the New York Times, which may have the worst coverage of the paranormal of any major newspaper.  Some of the New York Times articles show extreme hostility towards the paranormal, such as a recent Sunday supplement article -- absurdly biased -- in which the paper approvingly quoted some virulent hate speech against a certain group of people who report psychic experiences, in which such people were called a type of monster. The science news coverage that occurs in the New York Times is almost as fawning and uncritical as a North Korean newspaper's coverage of its ruling dictator. 
  2. The journals Science and Nature. Given the realities of peer review, it is not surprising that the scientific papers published by these journals are the type of papers designed to keep readers in a filter bubble. The way it works is that if any author produces a research finding or evidence appraisal conflicting with cherished prevailing opinions, and submits a paper to either of these journals, it will simply be rejected by the anonymous peer reviewers, who want readers to keep reading the type of things they believe in. We may also note that the review articles and opinion pieces published by these journals are often credulous, one-sided or biased (such as this far-fetched article attempting to persuade us that oxygen was the reason for the Cambrian Explosion in which most animal phyla appeared rather suddenly). 
  3. Quanta magazine. Although a relatively inoffensive site, the Quanta magazine web site is very much a filter-bubble site. It has zero coverage of any paranormal phenomena, and zero coverage of medical and neuroscience facts conflicting with the dogma that brains make our minds and store our memories. Rather than just regurgitating university press releases, the site consists of perspectives on current science research. Such perspectives are usually lacking in critical analysis, and usually fail to mention evidence or alternative ideas conflicting with the research discussed.  On the topic of the universe's fine-tuned laws and fundamental constants, Quanta magazine would rather give you groundless nonsense like its article here (criticized here) than a discussion of reasonable and straightforward implications of such a thing. 
  4. Nautilus magazine.  At this major "science commentary" site you are 100 times more likely to read groundless speculations about unobserved universes than to read about important human observations of perplexing anomalous phenomena that have great relevance to the nature of the human mind. 
  5. Scientific American. Scientific American is very much a filter bubble magazine, dedicated to providing you only with information that agrees with current scientist dogmas. Don't be fooled by the occasional appearance of a contrarian reasoner on the site. They occasionally have a contrarian thinker who argues against materialism, but it seems that such a thinker will only be allowed to present weak arguments (rather like how Fox News had a token liberal who never seemed to make strong arguments for progressive ideas).
  6. BBC.COM. The web site of the British Broadcasting Company is very much a materialist filter-bubble site. An example of its strong bias was a long recent article on mediums. There was no discussion at all of any of the many years of studies in which scientists had dramatic successes in testing mediums under controlled conditions, including repeated spectacular successes with mental mediums such as Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard, and equally dramatic successes with physical mediums who produced dramatic physical paranormal phenomena (see here and here for two examples). Instead, the only mention of scientific tests of mediums was a quote by someone who misspoke by saying mediums have never produced paranormal results when tested under controlled conditions. So the article was roughly equivalent to an article giving no evidence for rocket successes, and quoting someone claiming that rocket launches have never succeeded.  An example of the BBC's appalling gaslighting of paranormal witnesses is discussed here. Read here and here for cases where the BBC gave us dubious coverage of science topics, such as an article in which it claimed that there are "all sorts of reasons" why parallel universes exist.
  7. ScienceDaily.com. This site is a press release regurgitation site that presents press releases from universities and colleges, presenting them as "science news." Unfortunately, university and college press offices these days are often brazen and shameless in hyping scientific activity at their institutions, repeatedly passing off dubious and marginal research or speculations as "astounding breakthroughs," even in cases when the result is probably a false alarm (because of a too-small-sample size) or a dubious interpretation or a speculation.  Sciencedaily.com often adds its additional exaggerations and hype on top of the press releases it gets, carefully tuned to match the expectations of its readers.  Two examples of this are (1) a recent story claiming that "noncoding sections of DNA can quickly evolve to produce new proteins," the source being a study that merely speculated that 51 new genes could have originated in a million years; and (2) a story claiming "mystery of how first animals appeared on Earth solved," and merely offering the goofy explanation that one day there was enough food for them to eat. 
  8. LiveScience.com.  Besides articles that serve as a credulous echo chamber for dubious theories and speculations popular among scientists, LiveScience.com has a link to about 25 of its articles on the paranormal. The information given is largely inaccurate.  With the exception of one article I read, the authors of the articles show no signs of having deeply researched the parapsychology topics they are writing about, and repeatedly make erroneous claims that would not be made by anyone who deeply read up on such topics.  
  9. NationalGeographic.com.  For years, National Geographic magazine (and its web site and TV channel) have acted as an uncritical echo chamber for prevailing materialist dogma.  This post sites some inaccurate statements on a National Geographic show about the origin of life.  See this post for a look at a National Geographic show that gave an absurdly biased treatment of a type of paranormal experience.  The Cosmos TV series on the National Geographic channel is a sometimes erring showcase for materialist ideas. The National Geographic show "Brain Games" commits the error of describing any mental human experience as something that is going on in the brain or produced by the brain.  We never hear on National Geographic about the many powerful reasons for doubting claims that human consciousness and thinking are produced by the brain, and for doubting that human memories are stored in the brain.  A recent example of National Geographic's filter bubble approach is its March 2019 cover, with the headline "We Are Not Alone," above some text saying, "Scientists say there must be other life in the universe."  Any balanced treatment of the topic would point out the complete failure of 50 years of radio searches looking for life beyond Earth, and would also discuss the gigantic reason for thinking that we might quite possibly be alone in the universe: the fact that even the simplest life is so complex that the chance of it appearing accidentally from chemicals is similar to the chance of you throwing a deck of cards into the air and seeing them form into a house of cards. 
  10. Wikipedia.com. The pages of wikipedia.com display the most enormous bias on any topics relating to paranormal phenomena or the anomalous, often stating far-fetched scurrilous speculations and outright falsehoods.  Wikipedia's pages on many scientific topics are also biased and inaccurate, with the authors providing an uncritical echo chamber for many a dubious claim of professors and PhD's.  The authoritative Psi Encyclopedia of the Society for Psychical Research (an organization many times older than wikipedia) is the site you should check (rather than wikipedia.org) for reliable information on topics regarding the paranormal. 
I will give an example of the type of filter bubble effect going on in mainstream science journalism.  When discussing the theory of evolution by natural selection, in a large fraction of posts and articles only Charles Darwin is listed as the originator.  But the theory was co-originated by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. In fact an NPR article says, "Wallace actually came up with the idea twenty years earlier, says David Quammen, author of the book The Reluctant Mr. Darwin."  A typical discussion of the theory of evolution by natural selection will claim it has the ability to explain all of macroscopic life,  and will neglect to tell us that the co-founder of the theory (Wallace) emphatically rejected such an idea. For example on page 338 of his 1910 book The World of Life: a Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose which you can read online here, Wallace stated the following,  "What we absolutely require and must postulate is, a Mind far higher, greater, more powerful than any of the fragmentary minds we see around us—a Mind not only adequate to direct and regulate all the forces at work in living organisms, but which is itself the source of all those forces and energies, as well as of the more fundamental forces of the whole material universe." In his book Wallace argues for such a thing not for any scriptural reason but for purely biological reasons.  On page 197 Wallace stated, "If then, as I am endeavouring to show, all life development—all organic forces—are due to mind-action, we must postulate not only forces, but guidance; not only such self-acting agencies as are involved in natural selection and adaptation through survival of the fittest, but that far higher mentality which foresees all possible results of the constitution of our cosmos." So clearly he thought that natural selection and evolution were quite inadequate to explain all the wonders of biological organization and biological phenomena. 

But such a very relevant fact is censored from the modern reader of science web sites and science textbooks.  In more than a thousand mainstream discussions I have read of evolution in my lifetime, I cannot recall a single one of them mentioning how the co-founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection denied its explanatory sufficiency to explain what we observe in biology.  This is an example of how strong a filter bubble effect is going on in the most popular information sources about science. 

The ten media sources I have mentioned (along with similar media sources) function collectively nowadays as a kind of Ministry of Propaganda to peddle the prevailing party line of particular professor groups, which often is mainly tribal folklore told by vested interests who are financial or philosophical stakeholders in selling particular ideas kept aloft by motivated reasoners. 

Postscript: Commenting on the credulous science triumphalism of the New York Times, an essay in The New Yorker says the following:

Every few weeks or so, in the Science Times, we find out that some basic question of the universe has now been answered—but why, we wonder, weren’t we told about the puzzle until after it was solved? Results announced as certain turn out to be hard to replicate. 

Below is an example of a National Geographic writer telling us in a matter-of-fact manner a completely unbelievable story that would never in a trillion years occur:

Long ago, about 36 million years before today, a raft of monkeys found themselves adrift in the Atlantic. They’d been blown out to sea by an intense storm that had ripped up the African coast, and now a mat of floating vegetation was the closest thing to land for miles in all directions. But luck was with them. Thanks to a favorable current, they were thrown onto the beach of a new continent – South America.

I could hardly ask for a better example to back up my original claim in this post that "there is a vast problem of hype, triumphalist overconfidence and exaggeration, in which extremely dubious speculations, flimsy explanations or weak experimental results are constantly being trumpeted as momentous science breakthroughs or 'facts.' " 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Facts of Life, 2500 AD: A Science Fiction Story

Tim,” said Tim's Dad, “I think it's time we had that talk that every parent should eventually have with his child.”

You mean about my career choice?” said young Tim. “I haven't quite figured that out yet. Part of me wants to be an undersea architect, but another part of me wants to be a robot psychiatrist, helping cure machines with mental problems.”

No, I'm not talking about your career choice,” said Dad. “We can talk about that another day. Today I want to talk about the facts of life. Have you learned about them yet the way I did – from kids on the street?”

They've said various things, but it left me all confused,” said Tim.

Well then, I guess it's time we had a serious talk about the basic facts of sex and reproduction,” said Dad. “You're probably interested in hearing how sex works, aren't you.”

I sure am,” said Tim with a twinkle in his eye.

Here's exactly how it all works,” said Dad. “You're almost old enough to have sex. Before long, you'll be able to have your first sexual experience. At that time, I'll give you your entry card for the Orgasm Center. You'll lie in a special reclining chair, and then they'll stick something on your head, which will allow direct wire entry to a pleasure center of your brain. Then the electrical stimulation will begin. Soon you'll feel a tremendous feeling of sexual pleasure called an orgasm. It will last for as long as you want – seconds, minutes or hours.”

So that's all there is to sex, just going to the Orgasm Center, and hooking up your head to a machine?” asked Tim.

That's all there is to sex,” said Dad. “It's as simple as that.”

But isn't it also possible for a man to have sexual pleasure all by himself, just by rubbing himself the right way?” said Tim.

Oh, sure, you can do that, but that's a third-rate way to get sexual pleasure,” said Dad. “If you do that, the orgasm only lasts a few seconds. Much better to have sex at the Orgasm Center so that your orgasm can last for many minutes or even hours.”

What about reproduction?” asked Tim. “How does that work?”

Here's how it works,” said Dad. “When a man and a woman want to have a baby, they both go down to the government-run Reproduction Center. The robots at the center will extract an ovum or egg from the female, and the robots will collect a sperm sample from the man. Then the man and the woman depart, and the robots at the Reproduction Center take care of all the rest. They do all the work needed to fertilize the ovum, and guide that ovum so it progresses in the right way to become a human baby. Nine months later, the man and the woman come back to the Reproduction Center to pick up their baby.”

Wow, so it's all real easy on the mother, right?” said Tim.

Yeah, it's a piece of cake,” said Dad.

future reproduction

Later Tim grew old enough to start experiencing sex at the Orgasm Center. He found the pleasure delightful. When he was 19, Tim met a young woman named Kate who felt an attraction for him. One day Kate suggested something that surprised Tim.

Tim, I have an intriguing idea,” said Kate. “Maybe the two of us could get....physically entangled.”

What do you mean?” said Tim “Are you suggesting we do some kind of sports together?”

No,” said Kate, blushing. “I had in mind something more...intimate.”

Are you suggesting that we have sex together?” said Tim.

I was going to put it in more romantic terms,” said Kate. “But yes, I guess that's what I had in mind.”

That is feasible,” said Tim. “Why don't we book two simultaneous sessions at the Orgasm Center, in side-by-side reclining chairs? Then we can both enjoy electronic orgasms together.”

No, I was talking about sex the old-fashioned way,” said Kate.

But everyone says that sex outside of the Orgasm Center is an archaic waste of time,” said Tim. “It's like using a hand plow to plant food instead of using robotic agriculture, or using a horse-drawn carriage instead of using a self-driving car-copter.”

Well, old-fashioned sex was once good enough for the human race to use it exclusively for reproduction,” said Kate.

No way,” said Tim. “The only way humans can reproduce is by the assistance of the robots in the Reproduction Center.”

You're wrong,” said Kate.

Tim did some research on the topic. He wasn't able to find out much about the history of human reproduction. The government had made it very hard to find out how people reproduced long ago. Convinced that robot-assisted reproduction was the better way to do things, the government wanted everyone to use that method, and didn't want people to find out how easy it was to reproduce the old way. But Tim was able to find some information about DNA. Later he met up with Kate.

I've found some information that seems to back up what I was saying before,” said Tim. “That humans never could have reproduced all by themselves. Let me ask you: if a female ovum was fertilized by a male, and the ovum was inside of a female outside of a Reproduction Center, how could the ovum have known how to turn into a human baby?”

Uh...could it have been that the instructions for making the human baby were read from DNA?” said Kate.

No, that couldn't be right,” said Tim. “DNA just has low-level chemical information like which amino acids make up a protein. DNA doesn't have any body plan information. DNA isn't a recipe for making a human or a blueprint for a human. Nowhere in DNA does it say humans have two arms, two legs, ten fingers, two eyes, and one head. And even if there was such information in DNA, there would be nothing in a human womb smart enough to read such incredibly complicated information to make a human baby.”

I see your point,” said Kate. “But somehow humans were able to reproduce without using robots. I've heard this on the street several times. Maybe there was something big that allowed it to happen, some reality we don't understand.”

No, that must just be an old-wives-tale,” said Tim. “Given the limits of DNA, something as complicated as a human baby could only grow from a tiny speck-sized ovum if there were lots of very carefully programmed robot machines working to gradually transform the fertilized ovum into a baby. That's the magic of what happens at the Reproduction Center.”

Kate eventually gave up trying to persuade Tim to do sex the old-fashioned way. They started booking sessions together at the Orgasm Center, in side-by-side reclining chairs. Years later, they went to a Reproduction Center to pick up their first baby, taking it from the hands of a robot.

Looking at her baby for the first time, Kate said, “How silly of me to have thought that something this complicated could have appeared from a little speck-sized ovum, without the assistance of the robots!” Tim said, "Well, I'm pretty sure of one thing -- if humans ever made babies themselves, they must have used a very complicated factory and assembly line." 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Tall Tale of Eukaryogenesis

The book Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by biologist Nick Lane is one that advances a few unbelievable ideas. The most unbelievable idea it pitches is one concerning the origin of eukaryotic cells.

The cells in our bodies are very complex cells called eukaryotic cells. Such cells are vastly more sophisticated than the much simpler cells we see in bacteria. Such cells are called prokaryotic cells. The analogy that has sometimes been given is that a prokaryotic cell is like a studio apartment, and a eukaryotic cell is like a millionaire's mansion (although a better analogy might be to compare the eukaryotic cell to a skyscraper).  The difference between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells is very poorly depicted by cell diagrams, which typically depict eukaryotic cells as being many times simpler than they are. 

How did eukaryotic cells originate? Our professors have now standardized on an answer, one that is extremely unbelievable. They now maintain that the first eukaryotic cell originated because of an incredibly improbable “combination” accident. The idea is that a bunch of prokaryotic cells somehow ganged up to become a eukaryotic cell – kind of like what would happen if five people collided into each other to somehow originate a new species of three-headed creatures which each had ten legs and ten arms.

Inside a eukaryotic cell are many specialized units called organelles. The organelles include things like ribosomes, lysosomes, mitochondria, and endoplasmic rheticulum. Our professors attempt to convince us that these mitochondria are ancestors of prokaryotic cells that somehow got incorporated into eukaryotic cells.

There are several reasons for thinking that such a thing is far too improbable to have ever happened. Among these are the following:

  1. No one has ever observed any type of event like the supposed event in which prokaryotic cells combined to become a eukaryotic cell. Microbiologists have done innumerable experiments with prokaryotic cells, and have never observed any combination of prokaryotic cells become anything like a eukaryotic cell.
  2. A prokaryotic cell injected with the DNA of a eukaryotic cell will not start producing eukaryotic cells as its offspring.
  3. Nick Lane evidently thinks that that the origin of eukaryotic cells through the process imagined by scientists is so improbable that it has occurred only once in the history of the universe. He states at the end of his book that he thinks “bacterial sludge is likely to be the climax of evolution across this lonely universe.” Similar statements have been made by other biologists, based on the vast improbability of prokaryotic cells combining to become a eukaryotic cell.  For example, biologist Michael Cobb has stated, "We could,  in  principle calculate the probability of the appearance of eukaryotes, but we would soon run out of zeros." 
  4. Nowhere in human DNA does it specify the overall shape of a human body, the structure of a human organ system, the structure of a particular human organ, the structure of a tissue, or even the structure of a cell. Although genotypes influence phenotypes, genotypes do not specify phenotypes. Genotypes merely list chemicals used by an organism.  DNA does not specify the physical structure of an organism. We can therefore imagine no conceivable event by which some lucky combination of prokaryotic DNA could result in a cell that produced eukaryotic offspring, because the structure of a eukaryotic cell is not even specified in DNA.
Let me explain why item 3 in this list is a very big reason for thinking that the “prokaryotic cells ganged up to become a eukaryotic cell” idea (sometimes called eukaryogenesis) is utterly unbelievable. Scientists estimate there are many trillions of other planets in the universe, and we have found many planets not very far from our planet. If a scientist has a plausible explanation for something, he or she will tend to maintain that such a thing will commonly occur elsewhere in the universe. For example, the collision of tectonic plates is a plausible explanation for earthquakes; and if you ask a scientist whether earthquakes occur on many planets, he will say that they do. But if you have an explanation for something that is extremely far-fetched and not at all plausible, you might tend to make a statement suggesting that such a thing happened only on our planet. When any scientist suggests that something has occurred only on our planet, it is a gigantic red flag suggesting that his explanation for that thing is not at all believable.

Show me a scientist who tells us that something happened because of a “once in the history of the universe” event, and I'll show you a scientist who does not have a remotely believable explanation for such a thing.

We may note that the modern account of eukaryogenesis (the origin of eukaryotic cells) is not at all a Darwinian account. The account relies on a sudden leap forward in nature rather than a gradual transition, breaking Darwin's rule that "nature does not make leaps." Just before evoking the principle of "nature does not make leaps," Darwin stated this on page 471 of the first edition of On the Origin of Species: "As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps." 

It is remarkable that while it is often claimed that Darwinism explains all the wonders of life, the modern biologist does not believe that Darwinian natural selection can explain either the origin of life itself (which must occur before natural selection begins) or the origin of eukaryotic cells.  To explain both of these origins,  our biologists must basically appeal to a special miracle of a type that has never been observed. In the lab chemicals have never turned into life, and prokaryotic cells have never turned into eukaryotic cells.  Hence neither abiogenesis (the claimed origin of life from non-living chemicals) nor eukaryogeneis (the claimed origin of eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic cells) fall into the category of observational science, and both exist in the same "cloud cuckoo land" realm of speculations as string theory and speculations about other universes.  For a theory of biological origins to fail to explain the origin of either the first life or the origin of the first eukaryotic cells is as embarrassing a shortfall as a theory of modern global conflicts that fails to explain either World War I or World War II. 

Let us look at some nonsensical statements Nick Lane makes on the last page of his book, in which he raves on and on about mitochondria with the same overzealous single-mindedness of a besotted teenybopper telling you that her new boy band crush is the secret to everything.

Lane: “Mitochondria teach us how molecules sprang to life on our planet, and why bacteria dominated for so long.”

Reality: This statement is not correct. Mitochondria are complex structures in a living cell, and did not exist before life existed. Mitochondria do nothing to explain the origin of life. 

Lane: “They [mitochondria] show us why bacterial sludge is likely to be the climax of evolution across this lonely universe.”

Reality: Taken literally, this statement is, of course, absurd, since humans (or something more advanced on another planet) must be regarded as the high point of the biological universe. Here Lane teaches that probably no other planet has eukaryotic cells (his "bacterial sludge" being mere prokaryotic cells). But teaching such a thing makes his theory of the origin of eukaryotic cells seem utterly unbelievable. If he had a plausible explanation for the origin of eukaryotic cells, he would not be suggesting that such an event was a unique miracle occurring only on our planet.

Lane: “They [mitochondria] teach us how the first genuinely complex cells came into being, and why, since then, life on Earth has ascended a ramp of complexity to the glories we see around us, the great chain of being.”

Reality: Here Lane portrays eukaryotic cells as “the first genuinely complex cells,” which is false. Prokaryotic cells simpler than eukaryotic cells are fantastically complex cells, requiring more than 100,000 base pairs arranged in a vastly improbable way to achieve functional performance. Mitochondria do not in any way teach us how eukaryotic cells came into existence, because the theory that eukaryotic cells originated from an incredibly unlikely combination of prokaryotic cells or mitochondria (probably an “only once in a universe” event according to Lane) is not at all a credible theory. And tiny fragments of cells such as mitochondria do not to any extent teach us how complex multi-cellular life could have originated, or why life would have or could have ascended a ramp of complexity leading to creatures such as us that are a trillion times more complicated than mitochondria. 

Lane: “They [mitochondria] show us why energy-burning, warm-blooded creatures arose, thrusting off the shackles of the environment; why we have sex, two sexes, children, why we must fall in love."

Reality: Mitochondria do nothing to explain the origin of warm-blooded creatures such as us, and to suggest otherwise is as silly as saying that bricks teach us why New York City arose. Mitochondria also do not explain the origin of sex, which is a gigantic difficulty for all naturalistic explanations of earthly life. You can understand only a small bit of the difficulty of explaining the origin of multi-cellular sex when you consider questions such as “which came first, the testicles or the vaginal canal,” two things that are useless (from a reproduction standpoint) without each other. There are a thousand such "which came first, the chicken or the egg" problems for anyone trying to explain biological innovations, making a mockery of claims that scientists understand such matters. 

The evidence given for the theory that eukaryotic cells arose from prokaryotic cells is laughably weak. The evidence given on one university page is that both mitochondria and prokaryotic cells have membranes, and that both have internal DNA. These are hardly strong reasons for thinking that mitochondria in eukaryotic cells are ancestors of prokaryotic cells. Using similar logic, I could argue that a dog must be an ancestor of me, because we have both four limbs and a head. The page neglects to tell us that the number of base pairs in the DNA of a prokaryotic cell is a hundred times greater than the number of base pairs in a mitochondrion, meaning that there is no strong similarity between the two.  A mitochondrion doesn't even look like a prokaryotic cell. 

You can read here a long Nautilus article about the modern-day folklore about the origin of eukaryotic cells.  Use some critical judgment, and you will find no solid evidence is presented. Calling the imagined origin event "ludicrously unlikely" despite arguing for it, the author says, "Prokaryotes have only managed it once in more than 3 billion years, despite coming into contact with each other all the time." But are not those 2.999999999999 billion years in which no such thing happened to prokaryotic cells evidence against the possibility of such a thing?