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Sunday, May 31, 2020

When Apparitions Are Seen of Those Who Died Long Ago (Part 2)

Apparitions of the dead seem to occur most commonly close to the death of the person corresponding to the apparition. But it is not all that rare for someone to see an apparition of someone who died long ago. I discussed some cases of this type in my previous post.  In this post I will cite some more cases of this type. 

On page 234 of Volume 10 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have this account:

"My mother died in February, 1882, and for three months after her death she used to come to me almost nightly, after I had retired to my bed-room. Sometimes she would come up to the bed and bend over me; at other times she would stand at the door and beckon to me."


ghost repetition

On page 285 of Volume 19 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have this account of an apparition of a mother who died 16 years ago:

" On June 5th, 1887, a Sunday evening between 11 and 12 at night, being awake, my name was called three times. I answered twice, thinking it was my uncle, ' Come in, Uncle George, I am awake,' but the third time I recognised the voice as that of my mother, who had been dead 16 years. I said, 'Mamma!' She then came round a screen near my bedside with two children in her arms, and placed them in my arms and put the bedclothes over them and said, ' Lucy, promise me to take care of them, for their mother is just dead.' I said, 'Yes, Mamma.' She repeated, ' Promise me to take care of them.' I replied, ' Yes, I promise you,' and I added, 'Oh, Mamma, stay and speak to me, I am so wretched.' She replied, 'Not yet, my child,' then she seemed to go round the screen again, and I remained, feeling the children to be still in my arms, and fell asleep. When I awoke there was nothing. Tuesday morning, June 7th, I received the news of my sister-in-law's death. She had given birth to a child three weeks before, which I did not know till after her death."

On the next page we are told this about the children in the vision or apparition: "The children were of ages corresponding to those of her sister-in-law's children : i.e., they seemed to be a little girl and a baby newly born." 

On page 213 of Volume 16 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, we read of a mother who saw an apparition of her child long after the child died:

"It was almost the first anniversary of my beloved daughter’s going from us, and my heart was very sad because a deep sense of my loss seemed to weigh upon me. I awoke, rather indolently, this April morning, about six o’clock, with my faculties particularly clear and acute. On looking up, my beloved child was looking down on me, and smiling. Her face was perfectly distinct, and radiant with life and love, and so beautiful! The word that always applied to her was vivid, and so she was as she looked down on me. Such perfect beauty and happiness I had never seen, and it was her dear self without a doubt. On her face was transcendent joy, and I knew she was alive and well and happy."

On page 390-391 of Volume 15 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, we have an account of someone seeing an apparition of someone who died long ago:

"As she sat there at work looking down, she saw a shadow of some thing that attracted her attention, and she thought someone had come in. She looked up and there, at a distance of about four feet, stood Mary Willard, her former classmate and friend. She was about four feet distant from Miss -----; was dressed in a cream white or light salmon-colored, soft, beautiful dress. She was dressed just as she was when Miss ----- knew her, as to style and general appearance, her hair combed low on her forehead as the custom was.... She remained about ten minutes, and Miss ----- said she smiled and looked exceedingly pleasant; that they communicated, but not by thought,....So she watched carefully and Mary 'dimmed out' while she looked — faded from sight without moving from where she stood."

We are then told the following about this account:

"Curiously, Miss Frances E. Willard did not think to set down the fact that Mary, whose apparition was seen by Miss Milner, was dead. She had in fact died in 1862, about nineteen years before."

On page 274-275 of Volume 14 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, we have an account of Annie Halderman, who wrote repeatedly to a wounded soldier in Europe she had never seen. On the night she learned of the soldier's death, a month after it had occurred, she tried sending out "thought waves" to contact the soldier. She reported that on the same night she saw an apparition of a face, one that lasted for several minutes.  She then states this:

"Unsolicited by me, came a month later a letter from his widow, saying she knew her husband would like for me to have a photograph of himself, might she send one ? Another month elapsed before my eager answer in the affirmative brought the much wished-for post-card photo. It was the face of the man I had seen!"

On page 47 of Volume 1 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, we have an account of a dying boy who reported seeing the apparitions of his sister (who had died four years before his birth), his grandmother (who he had never seen), a Mrs. C. (who had died two years before), and someone named Roy who had died a year earlier.  On page 168-169 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account of a very young child who reported seeing his dead grandfather eight months after his death.  

On pages 429-430 of Volume XI of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have an account by a mother who had two sons, one a baby and the the other a toddler of two years and seven months.  The baby died. The mother said that the toddler kept saying for months after the baby's death that he could see the baby, and that the baby was calling him, and that the baby wanted him to join him.  The toddler died two months after the baby. The diligent Society for Psychical Research obtained statements from witnesses corroborating the mother's claims. 

On page 238 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have this account of a wife who saw an apparition of her husband who had died a month ago: 

"It was sixteen years ago, one month after my husband's death, which occurred in August, 1883. One night, when I had awakened, I heard the door of my room open; then I heard steps and saw my dead husband draw near my bed. He pressed my right side to him, very hard, without saying a single word. Astounded, I did not speak. Then he went away, and I leaned out of my bed to watch him go (this proves, absolutely that I was awake). I heard steps again, and heard the door close once more. Long afterward, I still felt pain in my side."

On page 247 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the famous astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account of an apparition of someone that appeared three months after his death. 

"Three months after my husband's death I had returned from the country, where I had spent a day; there I had hardly thought of my husband at all. I went to bed; it was dark in the room. With my eyes open, I saw my husband before me, in a suit of clothes which he had worn out a long time before. His expression was mild and calm; it was as though his face were lighted up. His features were not bright, but were clear and distinct and seemed unsubstantial. I asked myself if it were really he. He bent over and kissed me. 'This is an illusion,' I told myself. I also perceived an odor of menthol (when he was alive, he always had a stick of it with him, because he suffered from headaches). Again I thought that this could not be possible. Mechanically I passed my tongue over my lips and tasted something slightly bitter; I did not know whether or not it was the taste of the menthol. 'Is that really you?' I asked. Slowly he vanished."

On pages 239-240 of Death and Its Mystery: At the Moment of Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account of a Fernand who saw an apparition of his wife, about a month after her death:

"I saw my wife enter, pass rapidly between the bed and the mattress, cross the room, and kneel down before a little altar in a comer. She rose almost immediately and retraced her steps, going in the direction of the stairway. As she was passing near me I stretched out my arms toward her instinctively, as if to catch her dress, and cried out, 'Louloute!' the given name by which I usually called her. But, passing me rapidly, she avoided me. 'Peace, Fernand!' she said, in imperative tones, and at once she reached the stairs, where she disappeared."

In pages on pages 358-359 of  Volume 1, Number 4 of the Psychical Review (May 1893), we have an account by Martha T. Hamilton who saw an apparition of her mother who died twelve years earlier:

"I saw standing beside my bed, near the foot, a shadowy form so like my mother, who had died about twelve years before, that I recognized it immediately, and yet with a young, beautiful, spiritualized face fairly beatific in expression — a remarkable contrast to the sad, worn, suffering look I had last seen her wear in life. The figure was clothed in flowing, filmy draperies, the neck and arms uncovered. The angelic beauty of the vision was beyond anything my imagination had ever been able to picture. While I perceived this form near me, I also noticed that it was transparent, that I could see directly through it articles of furniture just behind it, and the peculiarity of the matter excited my wonder even then. I called out, 'Mother, mother!' and extended my arms. The nurse answered, 'Your mother is not here; why do you call her? I am the only woman here.' I replied, 'No, no! my mother is here.' Then it seemed that I communicated with the vision without spoken words, and that it replied in the same mysterious way. I felt that I asked, though I did not speak the words, 'Mother, why are you here?' It replied: 'You have been very near death. I am your guardian, and have been watching over you, so that in case you passed on to the new life I would be here to guide you on the journey.' I said, “I want to go with you now.' It answered, 'No, you are still to live on earth for a time.' Then the figure raised itself from the floor and floated towards the room door, which was closed. I felt it was leaving me, and cried out in agonizing tones, this time aloud,  'Mother, mother! take me with you!' Then the form turned its head over its shoulder, and, looking back at me with a gaze of intense longing and love, answered, 'Not yet, my child, not yet,' and, gently floating out and away through the door, disappeared from view, with the head still turned over the shoulder, and the same longing, loving expression on the face."

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

When Apparitions Are Seen of Those Who Died Long Ago (Part 1)

I have written several previous posts on apparition sightings. One  group of seven posts dealt with 150+ cases in which some person did not know that another person had died, but saw an apparition, only to later learn that the person corresponding to the apparition had died at the same time. In three other posts I discussed cases in which multiple witnesses reported seeing the same apparition. But there's another category of apparition sightings I have not discussed: cases in which someone reports seeing an apparition of a person who died long ago. This will be the topic of today's post.

The site www.archive.org is a great place for finding entire books that can be read online. One of the many books on the paranormal you can read at archive.org is the voluminous The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, which can be read here. In the book we read countless claims about apparitions of those who died long ago. For example:

  • "Ghostly civil war soldiers light campfires in the mountains around Harpers Ferry, especially on South Mountain." (Page 222.) 
  • "The ghost of Sir Christopher Wren is said to be hurrying up and down the stairs of Hampton Court every February 26." (Page 226.)
  • "Edith Wharton’s one-time country retreat in Lenox, Massachusetts, called The Mount, is said to be haunted by various ghostly figures, including Wharton, her husband Edward, and author Henry James." (Page 326.)  
  • "During the latter part of the 19th century, numerous witnesses reported glimpsing Dolley Madison’s ghost, clad in elegant fashions of the day, and smelling of lilacs, standing or dancing in the house." (Page 350.)
  • "The ghost of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who aided Booth during his flight, is said to haunt the doctor’s farmhouse in Charles County, Maryland." (Page 286.)

The article here at History.com mentions numerous alleged sightings of apparitions of those who died long ago, mentioning quite a few historical figures who supposedly were seen long after they died. We read quite a few statements such as these:

Sightings of [Anne] Boleyn’s ghost have been reported at the tower as well as in various other locations, including her childhood home, Hever Castle, in Kent...Franklin’s ghost was seen near the library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia....At the White House, everyone from first ladies to queens to prime ministers have reported seeing the ghost or feeling the presence of Honest Abe [Lincoln]....The spirit of Peter Stuyvesant, the city’s last Dutch colonial governor, has been seen stomping around the East Village on his wooden leg since shortly after his death in 1672. The author Mark Twain is believed to haunt the stairwell of his onetime Village apartment building, while the ghost of poet Dylan Thomas is said to sometimes occupy his usual corner table at the West Village’s White Horse Tavern, where he drank a fatal 18 shots of scotch in 1953. Perhaps the most famous New York ghost is that of Aaron Burr, who served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson but is best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. Burr’s ghost is said to roam the streets of his old neighborhood (also the West Village).”


Tower of London: a "hotspot" for ghost sightings?

But the article has relatively little value as evidence, because it does not quote specific people describing seeing an apparition of someone who died long ago. It is better from an evidence standpoint to have a single person publicly describing very exactly what he saw (in a non-anonymous way) than to have a dozen such “it is said that his ghost can be seen in this place” kind of claims, which could be just kind of urban legends.

Much better as evidence is an account I will now quote from Volume 2 of Frederic W. H. Myer's lengthy scholarly work “Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.” The account can be read here.  The account was made by a F. G. of Boston, and we are told “Professor Royce and Dr. Hodgson vouch for the high character and good position of the informants,” which included this F.G. and his father. F.G. was interviewed by Dr. Hodgson, who called him “a first-class witness.” F.G's account is as follows:

In 1867 my only sister, a young lady of eighteen years, died suddenly of cholera in St. Louis, Mo. My attachment for her was very strong, and the blow a severe one to me. A year or so after her death the writer became a commercial traveller, and it was in 1876, while on one of my Western trips, that the event occurred.... I suddenly became conscious that some one was sitting on my left, with one arm resting on the table. Quick as a flash I turned and distinctly saw the form of my dead sister, and for a brief second or so looked her squarely in the face; and so sure was I that it was she, that I sprang forward in delight, calling her by name, and, as I did so, the apparition instantly vanished. Naturally I was startled and dumbfounded, almost doubting my senses; but the cigar in my mouth, and pen in hand, with the ink still moist on my letter, I satisfied myself I had not been dreaming and was wide awake. I was near enough to touch her, had it been a physical possibility, and noted her features, expression, and details of dress, etc. She appeared as if alive. Her eyes looked kindly and perfectly natural into mine. Her skin was so life-like that I could see the glow or moisture on its surface, and, on the whole, there was no change in her appearance, otherwise than when alive.
Now comes the most remarkable confirmation of my statement, which cannot be doubted by those who know what I state actually occurred. This visitation, or whatever you may call it, so impressed me that I took the next train home, and in the presence of my parents and others I related what had occurred. My father, a man of rare good sense and very practical, was inclined to ridicule me, as he saw how earnestly I believed what I stated; but he, too, was amazed when later on I told them of a bright red line or scratch on the right-hand side of my sister's face, which I distinctly had seen. When I mentioned this my mother rose trembling to her feet and nearly fainted away, and as soon as she sufficiently recovered her self-possession, with tears streaming down her face, she exclaimed that I had indeed seen my sister, as no living mortal but herself was aware of that scratch, which she had accidentally made while doing some little act of kindness after my sister's death. She said she well remembered how pained she was to think she should have, unintentionally, marred the features of her dead daughter, and that, unknown to all, how she had carefully obliterated all traces of the slight scratch with the aid of powder, etc., and that she had never mentioned it to a human being from that day to this. In proof, neither my father nor any of our family had detected it, and positively were unaware of the incident, yet I saw the scratch as bright as if just made. So strangely impressed was my mother, that even after she had retired to rest she got up and dressed, came to me and told me she knew at least that I had seen my sister. A few weeks later my mother died, happy in her belief she would rejoin her favourite daughter in a better world.”

On page 124 of Volume 6 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, we read the following account:

"The Rev. John Douglas sees an apparition of a woman whom
he knows at the door of her husband's house ; she passes him so close as to touch him, but he feels nothing, and she then vanishes. He hears next morning that she had died seven weeks before."

On page 41 of Volume 14 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, which can be read here, we read this account by John H. Gower (written in August of 1908):

"Last Christmas the body of a man employed in one of our
business buildings was found dead at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Recently an apparition answering the description of the dead man has been seen by three or four people at different times in the midnight hours in the engine room of the same building. Neither of the parties seeing the ghost knew the deceased at all, and it was therefore only by the description given that my friend, who runs the building, could place him. I carefully examined the engine room, and believe it would be almost impossible for a 'joker' to make his escape. I have closely questioned the percipients and am quite impressed by their declarations. They, at least, are quite convinced that they have seen the 'real thing.' "

On page 262 of Volume 19 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, which can be read here, we read this account: 

"The following case is one in which an apparition was twice seen by two independent witnesses in a place which the dead man had frequented during his hfe. The apparition was first seen about a year after death and again about three years later."

On page 66 of Volume 25-26 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have the following account, describing events in the middle of January:

"Mr. W. Kent, of Foley Road, Worcester, manager for many years of a large furniture shop here, left his work on Monday, after saying to his head salesman that he would die this week. He said that he was sleeping in the bed in which his wife died shortly before Christmas. He awakened in the night. 'When I woke up I saw my wife,' said Mr. Kent according to the salesman.  'She seemed quite happy. She beckoned to me, walked across the room and vanished. I knew what she meant.'  Mr. Kent died a few days later."

On page 703 of Volume 7 of the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, we have the following account:

"It seems that her first experience, according to her own account, was an apparition of her grandfather when she was about eleven 
years old and a few months after his death. She saw him on the 
corner of a street in Huntington and was greatly frightened by 
the vision. She first heard his voice and turned around to see 
as she would a living person. She then saw him standing before her after she turned about."

On page 54 of Volume 5 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, we read of a Mr. Johnson who saw "an apparition of a neighbour who he found next morning had died, unknown to him, seven weeks before."

On page 180 of Volume 6 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, we have an astonishing account of a ghost appearing to a soldier, the ghost of a woman who died about a year ago. 

"The figure leant down over me, and at first I felt much alarmed and shrank back. The figure said something, my name, I think, and added : 'I am the spirit of Mary Madden, and bespeak your attention.' Mary Madden had been the wife of a comrade of that name, now at the Depot of the 46th in Ireland, and she had died just about this time last year.  I was a great friend of hers, and was beside her when she died, and put her into her coffin. She was dressed precisely the same as the figure then before me....I then felt rather reassured, and asked her what she wanted. She replied 'that I must communicate with her late husband, Madden, and
severely warn him as to a certain evil course he was pursuing ; that he was to desist, and that, if he did not desist, his soul would be in immediate peril.' She then told me to warn him of some other matter, and finished by telling me, hy way of proof that she was Mrs. Madden's spirit, a circumstance and conversation unknown to anyone in the world, that took place between us before her death, and this I must decline repeating. It was proof to me that Mary Madden's spirit was then beside me, and nothing on earth will convince me to the contrary." 

On page 474 of Volume 7 of the Annals of Psychical Research (1908), a Francesco Graus gives this account:

"On November 25th, 1906, when quite awake and in a normal condition, she was sitting reading in her husband's dispensary, when the form of a young woman, dressed in black, apeared before her, and said : 'If  you wish to do something to improve the health of your distant friend ' (this was an allusion to my brother, who was seriously ill at Naples, and who was unknown to the medium by name), ' send him the recipes I will dictate to you.'... Judging from the details of the apparition with which the medium furnished me, I came to the conclusion that the phantom was that of my sister-in-law, my sick brother's wife, who died in 1879, when about 30 years of age, and who ·was unknown, even by name, to the lady living in Capistrello. I wished, however, to make sure if my conjecture was correct, and so I enclosed in an envelope forty photographs of living and deceased ladies, placing among them the portrait of my deceased sister-in-law."

Francesco let the woman who had seen the apparition look at the set of forty photos. The woman identified one of the photos with the apparition: 

"I was therefore much surprised when, after a short interval, I saw her coming quickly towards me with the portrait of my sister-in-law in her hand. She exclaimed : 'This is the mysterious lady I saw; she is, however, more beautiful than in the portrait.' From November, 1906, until now the phantom has frequently appeared and given much useful advice." 

On page 3 of a paper on apparitions by three writers, we have the modern account below:

"About four months after her son Tommy had been tragically murdered, a woman was out walking Tommy’s dog in the daytime and they were passing by the parking lot where Tommy had kept his Jeep when the dog began barking and pulling on the leash. Looking up, the woman saw a young man standing in a blue outfit about 30 feet away, although she could not see him clearly because she was not wearing her glasses. When she finally put them on, she recognized Tommy standing there on the sidewalk and smiling at her, wearing a blue outfit he had bought but never got to wear before he died. She immediately called out to him, and she and the dog began running toward him. But then, the image of Tommy seemed to slowly turn around and glide away, his feet being about an inch off the pavement. Despite how fast they ran, the woman and the dog could not catch up to him, even after pursuing him for three blocks."

On page 247 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account by a V. Schwartz who saw an apparition of her husband who died long ago:

"My husband died five years ago....I went to bed; it was dark in the room. With my eyes open, I saw my husband before me, in a suit of clothes which he had worn out a long time before. His expression was mild and calm; it was as though his face were lighted up. His features were not bright, but were clear and distinct and seemed unsubstantial. I asked myself if it were really he. He bent over and kissed me. ... 'Is that really you?' I asked. Slowly he vanished."

On page 254 of the same book, we have this account by a nun who spoke to a figure outdoors:

"Suddenly his features, the glasses, the collar, and the checked handkerchief reminded me of the father superior of our order, who had died six months before. Then I pointed to the road he must take, looking in that direction. When I turned toward him again I did not see him: he had disappeared!"

On page 256 of the same book, we have an account by someone looking after some sleeping orphans at an asylum or orphanage. The person reported seeing a "small cloud of light," and sensed being kind of telepathically told to stay in bed. After falling asleep, and waking up hours later, the person was told by one of the orphans, "My mother came to me last night." 

On page 259 of the same book, we read the following:

"My cousin Baroness de M---- was living in Paris, Some months after the death of her son Rene she was coming home, after visiting friends. It was broad daylight. She entered the drawing-room, her mind perfectly calm, and saw her son seated in an arm-chair before the fireplace. She fled, and never again entered that drawing-room."

On page 5 of the paper here by three authors (including Bryan Williams of the University of New Mexico), we have an account of a doctor who was at the deathbed of his mother-in-law, in a coma.  He states the following: 

"I was standing by her bed and no one else was in the room. She had an agonal inspiration, and at that moment I had a very clear picture of G. C. [her late husband] standing across from me with his arms outstretched, and he said, 'Flora, I’ve been waiting for you.' I did not really have to look to see that my mother-in-law had died, but the physician in me pushed me to verify that."

In part 2 and part 3 of this post, I will have many additional cases of those who saw an apparition of someone who died long ago. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

30 Numbers Relevant to the Probability of Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence

A new paper by scientist David Kipping is entitled "An objective Bayesian analysis of life’s early start and our late arrival."  A more accurate title would have been "An Extremely Lazy Analysis of the Odds of Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence."  Kipping's analysis is very lazy because he seems to only consider about two of the very many things he should be considering when trying to estimate the probabilities of life appearing on other planets or intelligence appearing on other planets. 

Let me make a list of only some of the things a person might carefully consider when judging such probabilities.  Every one of these variables or numerical considerations is relevant to the likelihood of life appearing on other planets or the likelihood of intelligent life appearing on other planets, or is relevant to the degree of confidence you should have when estimating such things.  I will usually try to briefly mention why such numbers are relevant to the likelihood of life or intelligent life appearing on other planets, although in a few cases I may skip such an explanation for the sake of brevity.

Relevant number 1: The average and median number of amino acids in a protein.

The higher this number is, the harder it is for functional proteins to arise, and the more unlikely that life and intelligent life would arise.  The median number of amino acids in a protein molecule has been estimated as 375. 


Relevant number 2: The total number of possible amino acids that can exist in any one position in a protein (or in any one spot in the sequence of amino acids corresponding to the protein). 

The higher this number is, the more unlikely that there could arise a fine-tuned protein molecule consisting of hundreds of amino acids arranged in just the right way to achieve a particular functional effect. Given how the genetic code works, this number is about 20.  When we combine this number with the previous number, we get what is called a combinatorial explosion, meaning a vast number of possible combinations. The total number of ways to arrange the amino acids in an average-sized protein is something like 20 to the 375th power. Only the tiniest fraction of such arrangements would result in a functional protein. 


Relevant number 3: The minimum number of types of proteins in the simplest living thing.

The higher this number is, the more unlikely that life could arise by chance.  There are reasons for thinking this number must be at least 50, meaning that at least 50 types of complex inventions (each a different type of protein molecule) must occur for life to get started. 

Relevant number 4: The total number of types of proteins in an intelligent species such as man.

The higher this number is, the more unlikely that you could ever get life as complex as a human being.  The number is more than 20,000.

Relevant number 5: The percentage of protein molecules that have been classified as single-domain proteins.

To try to explain the appearance of so many fine-tuned protein molecules in living organisms, scientists may resort to some kind of "proteins are built from smaller components" idea that claims that a protein molecule arises from smaller parts called protein domains. But many protein molecules are single-domain proteins that cannot be explained as having formed from such smaller parts. The higher the percentage of single-domain proteins, the more unlikely it is that you would end up with species such as man built from so many types of proteins. It has been estimated that 35% of eukayrotic proteins are single-domain proteins, and that 60% of prokaryotic proteins are single-domain proteins.

Relevant number 6: The percentage of protein domains that have been shown to be independently useful components. 

There are many claims that protein molecules are built from smaller units called protein domains. But little has been done to show that such protein domains can actually function independently.  If this Relevant Number 6 is small enough, protein domains aren't much help in explaining the origin of proteins, and we are left with a "proteins are too hard to form naturally" situation that should reduce estimates of the likelihood of extraterrestrial life and extraterrestrial intelligence. 

Relevant number 7: The average size of a protein domain

If proteins can be built from smaller components that are relatively easy to form, that would make the natural appearance organisms such as man easier. But if a protein domain is itself a very hard thing to achieve, all the worse for explaining the appearance of proteins. The scientific paper here states that "the average length of a protein domain is approx. 120 amino acids."  So a functional protein domain isn't any easier to randomly form than a fine-tuned functional paragraph consisting of 120 characters. 

Relevant number 8: The average number of domains in a protein

If this number is high, such as ten or twenty, the appearance of so many functional proteins would be much easier to explain.  Unfortunately, the number is low. A table in this paper gives us an indication of the average number of domains in proteins, and suggests the average number of domains in a protein is only about 1.3.

Relevant number 9: The “average promiscuity” of protein domains

Protein domain "promiscuity" occurs when a single domain is used by more than one protein.  If there is evidence for a great deal of protein domain "promiscuity," something like "code re-use," it would make it more likely that there might arise creatures such as humans with so many fine-tuned proteins.  But the study here found that only 147 protein domains are used by more than one protein. It also found that when protein domains are promiscuous, they are usually used by only between 1 and 5 different proteins.  Similarly, the science textbook here concludes "there are few common folds" in the universe of all proteins. 

Relevant number 10: The percentage of proteins requiring helper molecules called chaperone proteins

Many proteins cannot fold correctly by themselves, and require other molecules called chaperone proteins.  The higher the percentage of proteins requiring such chaperone proteins, the greater the hard-to-explain interlocking dependencies of molecules, and the less likely that an intelligent species might appear through natural evolution. According to the source here, twenty to thirty percent of protein molecules require chaperone proteins.

Relevant number 11: The probability of a random mutation breaking the functionality of a protein molecule

The higher this number is, the more fragile protein molecules are, and the less likely that some planet could ever evolve an intelligent species such as man. The paper "Protein tolerance to random amino acid change" suggests that a random mutation will have about a 34% chance of breaking the functionality of a protein molecule in which it occurs. 

Relevant number 12: The number of protein molecules in a cell

A good indicator of the complexity and functional intricacy of a cell is the number of protein molecules inside the cell.  This has  been estimated as being 42 million.  The higher this number is, the more complex cells are, and less likely that cells could naturally appear. 

Relevant number 13: The number of cell types in an organism such as man

The greater this number, the more hard-to-achieve an intelligent organism would be.  Humans have about 200 types of cells. 

Relevant number 14: The number of organelles in the most complex cell types

This number is very high, and is constantly misrepresented by deceptive cell diagrams which make it look like a cell has only a few organelles.  The higher the number of organelles in a cell, the more the cell is a hard-to-achieve unit unlikely to appear through natural processes. 

Relevant number 15: The number of mammalian body plans specified in genomes

If we know that body plans are specified by genomes (DNA), then we might have some idea of how new large-sized organisms might appear (from modifications of DNA).  This number is actually zero. DNA only specifies low-level chemical information, not high level structural information such as body plans. The nonexistence of body plans in DNA should make us lose confidence in any estimate of a likelihood of large organisms such as humans appearing elsewhere, since there is no real understanding of how such body plans could appear, contrary to boastful claims about this topic. 

Relevant number 16: The number of organs, limbs or appendages  specified in genomes

This number is zero. DNA only specifies low-level chemical information, not high level structural information such as how to construct an organ or limb.  The nonexistence of such information in DNA should reduce our confidence in any estimate of a likelihood of large organisms such as humans appearing elsewhere, since there is no real understanding of how organs or appendages of such organisms could appear, contrary to smug brags about this topic. 

Relevant number 17: The number of cell structures specified in genomes

This number is zero. DNA only specifies low-level chemical information, not high level structural information such as how to construct the incredibly complicated units that are cells.  The nonexistence of such information in DNA should reduce our confidence in any estimate of a likelihood of large organisms such as humans appearing, since there is no real understanding of how the roughly 200 cell types required by such organisms could appear, contrary to pretentious boasts about this topic. 

Relevant number 18: The number of natural protein molecules or natural genes that have been proven to have originated from random mutations, natural selection, or any combination of the two 

Of the total number of different types of protein molecules in the animal kingdom (estimated to be between 10 billion and 10 trillion), how many have been proven to have originated from random mutations, natural selection, or any combination of the two? The answer is zero. This is certainly a relevant number to consider when we are judging the likelihood of large intelligent organisms appearing elsewhere through something like a Darwinian process. 

Relevant number 19: The number of living things or functional proteins that have appeared through experiments realistically simulating the early Earth 

This is a very important number to consider when judging the chance of life naturally arising elsewhere. If we knew that attempts to simulate the early Earth had producing a living self-reproducing cell, that would give us confidence that such a thing is not too hard. If we knew that attempts to simulate the early Earth had produced at least a functional protein molecule, this be a reason for thinking that maybe the natural origin of life was not too hard.  But all such attempts have failed. Neither a living cell nor a functional protein has ever been produced in experiments realistically simulating the early Earth. 

Relevant number 20: The number of biologically relevant amino acid types that have been produced through experiments realistically simulating the early Earth

There are twenty types of amino acids used by living things.  The fewer the number of amino acid types that can be produced through experiments simulating early Earth conditions, the less likely it would be for there to occur the random appearance of life from such chemical units. The actual number of types of biologically relevant amino acids that have been produced in experiments realistically simulating the early Earth is no greater than one.  Of the twenty amino acids used by living things, only glycine has been produced in experiments realistically simulating the early Earth. The famous Miller-Urey experiment that produced some amino acids was not a realistic simulation of the early Earth. Most other experiments producing amino acids do not qualify as realistic simulations of early Earth conditions. 

Relevant number 21: The number of amino acid yields with homochirality that that have been produced through experiments realistically simulating the early Earth

In earthly life there is a propery called homochirality, which means that essentially all amino acids in proteins are "left-handed." The origin of this homochirality is a great mystery. No experiments designed to simulate the early Earth have produced any amino acid mixture having such homochirality.  This failure is a reason for being pessimistic about the likelihood of the natural origin of life on other planets. 

Relevant number 22: The number of nucleosides that have been produced through experiments realistically simulating the early earth

Nucleosides are molecular units that are building blocks of DNA.  The fewer the number of nucleosides that can be produced through experiments simulating early Earth conditions, the less likely it would be for there to occur the random appearance of life from such chemical units. Nucleosides have never been produced in experiments realistically simulating the early Earth.  You can read here about the failures of such experiments. 

Relevant number 23: The total number of stars that have been searched for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations

This number is very relevant for any estimate of the likelihood of intelligent life appearing on other planets. If countless millions of stars have been searched unsuccessfully for radio signals, this would seem to reduce the chance that extraterrestrial intelligence is common. 

Relevant number 24: The total number of neuroscience observations or case histories raising doubts about claims that intelligence comes from the brain

If there any neuroscience observations or case histories raising doubts that the brain is the source of the human mind or the storage place of human memories, this has a negative effect on any optimistic claims about the odds of intelligent life appearing on other planets; for if we don't understand where our own minds come from, we have no business calculating about the odds of intelligence on other planets. There are many such neuroscience observations and case histories which you can read about at great length at this site.  They include observations of people with good minds or sometimes above-average intelligence who had lost most or almost all of their brains due to injury or disease, and observations that synapses consist of proteins with lifetimes far too short to store memories for even a year, let alone the 60 years or more than humans can remember things.  

Relevant number 25: The total number of parapsychology observations or case histories raising doubts about claims that intelligence comes from the brain

If there any parapsychology observations or case histories raising doubts that the brain is the source of the human mind or the storage place of human memories, this has a negative effect on any optimistic claims about the odds of intelligent life appearing on other planets; for if we don't understand where our own minds come from, we have no business calculating about the odds of intelligence on other planets.  There are many such parapsychology observations and case histories, including innumerable accounts of apparition sightings by reliable observers (with the same appartion often seen by multiple observers),  along with countless accounts of people who had near-death experiences when their brains were shut down because of heart stoppage or cardiac arrest (including observations of details that should have been neurally impossible during such brain shutdowns). 

Relevant number 26: The number of planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars

We know that this number is very high. There are probably billions of such planets in our galaxy alone. 

Relevant number 27: The time between the Earth's formation and the appearance of life

A short enough number here might be a point in favor in claims that extraterrestrial life is common. 

Relevant number 28: The time between the Earth's formation and the appearance of intelligent life

A short enough number here might be a point in favor in claims that extraterrestrial intelligence is common, although there is no such short number. 

Relevant number 29: The total number of sky anomalies beyond any earthly or astronomical explanation

If this number is greater than zero, it may be a factor in favor of more optimistic estimates of the likelihood of extraterrestrial life.

Relevant number 30: The total number of reliable reports of abductions by extraterrestrials or sightings of extraterrestrials on our planet

If this number is greater than zero, it may be a factor in favor of more optimistic estimates of the likelihood of extraterrestrial life.

It is clear from this discussion that there are very many numbers that should be pondered by anyone trying to calculate the likelihood of life naturally appearing elsewhere and the likelihood of intelligent life naturally appearing elsewhere. How many did David Kipping take into account when calculating the likelihood of extraterrestrial life and extraterrestrial intelligence?  He seems to have paid attention to only two of these numbers, number 27 and number 28. Kipping's cosmic analysis is therefore extremely lazy.  Kipping's paper fails to even use the word "cell" or "protein" or "genome" or "DNA" or "complexity." He seems to have paid zero attention to the complexity of life.

We can call this kind of analysis a straw hole analysis, because the analyzer is like someone looking through a straw hole, seeing only one or two little things that might favor the conclusion he wants to reach, and failing to give proper consideration to many other relevant things.  When someone does analysis so lazy, it is useful if he has some glittering distraction to make his slothful analysis seem more impressive.  Kipping does this by using what I call math spraying. 

We may define math spraying as the abundant use of arcane arithmetic to create some superficial impression of deep thought and intelligent analysis, particularly when such mystifying mathematics is not necessary, or when it obfuscates or distracts you from realizing the author is speculating or hand waving or engaging in dubious logic. The biggest math sprayers are theoretical cosmologists. They love to use math spraying to fill up their papers with so much arcane arithmetic that you might be impressed unless you realize that they're just speculating like crazy. 

The arcane arithmetic in Kipping's paper is unnecessary because at the core of his reasoning is Bayes' theorem, which is a very simple mathematical equation. Here is the formula for Bayes' theorem:

P (A | B) =   (P (B | A) * P (A)  ) /    P(B)

where A and B are different events, P (A | B) is the probability of A given B is true,  P (B | A) is the probability of B given A is true,  P (A) is the independent probability of A and P (B) is the independent probability of B. 

Any paper using reasoning based on this simple formula should have had nice intelligible math that anyone could have followed. But Kipping somehow manages to fill his paper with a heap of indecipherable math gobbledygook that not 1 in 1000 readers will be able to follow. This is a very big example of math spraying. 

Somehow, through some reasoning process that very few will be able to follow, Kipping ends up with the conclusion suggesting that life should  have a high chance of naturally arising elsewhere in the universe. He states, 'Life would likely reemerge rapidly on Earth were the clock to be rerun."   His gallons and gallons of math spraying might cover up the very simple fallacy at the center of his reasoning, which is a fallacy along the lines of reasoning that it must be easy for life to naturally appear, because it naturally appeared fairly quickly. 

His reasoning seems to be based on the claim that we know that life naturally arose quickly. But we don't know any such thing. No one has ever observed abiogenesis (the natural origin of life from chemicals) occur, and we do not know whether it ever did occur. Life might have appeared on Earth only after some extraterrestrial spaceship planted it here, or only after some divine agent caused life to appear. The complexity of even the simplest life argues very strongly that it never could have appeared on Earth from natural processes.  The person who argues "it must be easy for life to naturally appear, because it naturally appeared fairly quickly" is guilty of the fallacy of begging the question, of assuming the truth of a contested point, the truth of which you have no business assuming. 

I may give an analogy to illustrate the kind of fallacy involved in reasoning such as "it must be easy for life to naturally appear, because it naturally appeared fairly quickly."  Let's imagine someone living with six others in a house goes into his backyard and places a deck of cards on a patio table in the backyard. The person then goes shopping, and returns two hours later to find that  the entire deck of cards had been arranged into a house of cards that rested on top of the patio table.  



house of cards

Suppose the person were to reason like this:

"Aha, I see that random wind gusts have formed a house of cards while I was gone. Since this happened relatively quickly, in only two hours, I conclude that it must be relatively easy for gusts of wind to form a full deck of cards into a house of cards. I conclude that if everyone in my town were to put a deck on cards on their backyard patio tables, and go away for a few hours, then very many of them would come back and find houses of cards that formed by wind gusts."

This reasoning is, of couse, utter nonsense.  The speed with which the house of cards was formed is a minor factor here. Vastly more worthy of the person's attention is the gigantic improbability of wind gusts ever forming a house of cards.  Instead of concluding that it is easy for wind gusts to form houses of cards, the person should have presumed that an unseen agent formed the house of cards that was too unlikely to have formed by chance. Similarly, when considering the chance of life or intelligent life randomly appearing by chance on a planet, we should focus on the gigantic improbability of such an accidental miracle of organization, which would be far less than the chance of the wind blowing 52 cards to all form into a house of cards. 

Life and intelligent life may exist in great abundance throughout our galaxy, but such a thing is extremely improbable unless there is some agency causing vastly improbable arrangements of matter to happen. Calculations ignoring such an agency and giving proper consideration to all the factors listed above will calculate very poor odds of life and intelligent life appearing by chance elsewhere in our galaxy.  

As for Bayes' theorem, it should be used only in cases when we know of the precise probability of each of the inputs of the theorem: the precise probability of Event A, the precise probability of Event B, and the precise probability of Event B given Event A.  Whenever any of these three probabilities is not exactly known from observations, then you have no business using Bayes' theorem.  People trying to use Bayes' theorem to calculate the probability of extraterrestrial life do not have any precise probability to plug in as two of the three required inputs of the theorem. Using Bayes theorem in such a case is mathematical malpractice, kind of like someone trying to calculate your life expectancy when he knows neither your age nor your health status. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Early 20th Century Evidence for Paranormal Phenomena

Some accounts of the paranormal fit a pattern that is repeated over and over again in the literature of the paranormal, such as accounts when someone sees an apparition of someone he did not know was dead, only to soon learn the person had died at about the same time. But other accounts of the paranormal may have a kind of "once-in-a-blue-moon" sound to them. Let's look at some accounts of the paranormal that mostly sound like things that are very rarely reported. 

On pages 216 to 217 of Volume 26 of the Society for Psychical Research, we have the testimony of a Georg Korf who witnessed a person who could do painting while in a trance, and who also seemed to be able to read minds very accurately in such a trance.  

"While present last night at your sitting for trance-painting, 
this idea suddenly occurred to me : 'If Miss Gentes is clair- 
audient and clairvoyant, or even clair-sentient in this peculiar 
state, then I should like to get an answer to a question put.' 
I then wrote a test-word on a card, which I hid in my waist- 
coat-pocket. A few seconds later Miss Gentes paused in her 
painting-work and wrote on a sheet of paper put ready to her 
hand : 'The wings you may construct ; you yourself will live 
to fly ; much else besides, but not here.' Only then I showed 
those present the test-word I had written down, without their 
seeing it. The word I had written was 'wings,' and I had 
asked mentally : 'Shall I attain my purpose with my wings 
(living-machine)?' I thus got an exact [and] apposite reply to 
a question mentally put, which I herewith truthfully testify to."

This account of "just like reading a book" telepathy in a trance reminds me of the account of Dr. G. de Messimy who reported equally flawless telepathy in someone else who was in a trance. 

On pages 218 to 220 of Volume 26 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, we have a remarkable account regarding the same Miss Gentes. She suddenly stated on September 26, 1908 at 10:00 AM that her sister, thought by others to be healthy, had died, saying "My sister is dead." She then soon found out that her sister had indeed died in a railway accident,  which had occurred on the same day as the premonition of her sister's death.  The train accident is listed on a wikipedia.org page as having killed 21 on September 26, 1908. 

On page 343 of Volume 15 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, we have an account regarding the famous sinking of the Titantic. Shortly after the sinking of the Titantic, while she was busy with some other matter, a Mrs. Henderson saw a vision of a Bessie and Nina "crying and clinging to one another."  She says, "They seemed to appear to me in a kind of mist." This Bessie and Nina were relatives of a Mr. Simpson who died in the Titantic sinking.  This could be one of the rare cases in which someone reports a kind of telepathic apparition, caused not by the dead but by strong mental or emotional activity of the living.  Two other such cases can be read here, and a third case (that of J.M. Russell) can be read here

On pages 38-39 of Volume 10 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,  we have an account of a woman who saw a psychic. We read this:

"In February last I called upon Madame Zuleika without making any appointment, but going on a sudden impulse which I put down to spirit guidance, having had many experiences of this before. She told me that my husband was going at once to South Africa, and that I should not see him before he went unless I made a special effort ; that he could not come and see me, as expected, but that I should have to go to him. She warned me that I must be careful to get all papers relating to business and also his will, before he left, as she saw that he would not live out the year. I demurred to this, giving her my reasons, but she said she was sure of the fact, as his 'span was run.' When she said this I felt intuitively that what she predicted would happen at the fall of the year, and pictured November as the time in my mind. Everything came to pass exactly as Madame Zuleika foretold. My husband got sudden orders to proceed to South Africa. I had to rise from a sick bed to go and meet him, and he, although enjoying excellent health until November, died after a short illness early in that month. These facts were told at the time to several relations in confidence, but not to my husband, and they can all bear witness to the exact veracity of this statement."


death prediction


On page 171 of the same volume, we read of a vision of a child dying by fire, one that tragically came true the next day:

"My husband, Mr. John Polley, gave me, on Thursday morning, May 9th, 1901, an account of a vision of the burning of a child that he had had at a seance at which he had been present on the previous evening of Wednesday, 8th May, 1901. It was not till the evening of Thursday, 9th May, 1901, that I or any other member of our family residing with us knew of the death, through burning, of our little nephew, John Frederick Polley. Mr. Frederick Sinnett visited us on the evening of Thursday, May 9th, 1901, and communicated the sad news to us for the first time."

On pages 124-125 of Volume 13 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, we have a case of a psychic who described the exact status of a missing girl who had drowned. We read this:

"On Wednesday evening Mrs. Titus became entranced, and on being wakened by her husband said if he had let her alone she could have discovered by the morning where the girl was. That night she had two more trances, during which she told her husband that she saw the girl standing on a frost-covered log on the bridge, that her foot slipped and she fell backwards into the water, and that she was lying in a certain place by the bridge, head downwards between two logs, the body covered with mud and brush and one foot projecting with a new rubber shoe on....They told their story and persuaded Mr. Whitney to return to the bridge with them and order the diver to go down at the point indicated by Mrs. Titus. He did so and found the body just in the place and position described. The testimony of the diver, which, as well as that of Mr. Whitney, is given in full detail, shows that the body was found at a depth of about 18 feet in the water ; that the water was so dark that no one could see into it ; and that he himself could see nothing while in the water, but found the body entirely by feeling."

On page 62 of his book Death and Its Mystery: At the Hour of Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we read of a man who apparently had an out-of-body experience at the time of a close brush with death:

"I had a disease of the heart, which is now cured, but which played me some nasty tricks. On one occasion, among others, I remained for a certain time plunged in a lethargy. I heard all my family talking around me, but I was not I : my self was beside me, standing, a white and fluid body; I saw the grief of those who were striving to revive me and I had this thought: 'Of what use is this miserable cast-off skin that they seek to bring to life again?' Nevertheless, perceiving their sadness, a great longing came over me to return to them, — a thing which happened. However, it seems to me that if I had wished it I could have remained in the Beyond; I saw the door to it half open, but cannot say what was behind." 

On page 146 of the book On the Threshold of the Unseen by Sir William Barrett we are told by a Hester Travers Smith that she used an ouija board and got a message referring to the death of a Hugh Lane in the sinking of a ship. She said she had no idea that Hugh was on a ship, that the message came on the day word arrived that the Luisitania had sunk, and that she soon found out that Hugh Lane died in the sinking of the Luisitania. 

On page 84 of his book Death and Its Mystery: Before Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we read of a man who had a ghastly vision that soon proved true. 

"All at once, at three o^clock in the morning, I sat up in my bed, wakened by a frightful nightmare. I saw my comrade, his skull open, breathing his last, bidding me farewell and embracing me. It was horrible! I can still see clearly that frightful vision. I got up terrified, dressed, and waited for day in the hope that the distraction of the coming and going in the streets would drive away the frightful nightmare that obsessed me. At seven o'clock in the morning I set out from my home. They were just coming to tell me that my lamented comrade, Theaubon, while visiting a friend, had, after events that do not concern us here, jumped out of a window and broken his skull, which had caused instant death."

On page 129 of Volume 5 of the Annals of Psychical Research (1907), we have an account of the paranormal that is unlike any I have heard before:

"One day, in the fall of the year 1903, I went into the Roman History Class at school without having looked at my lesson. I was not in the habit of bluffing, so when the teacher called upon me to answer a question I rose to my feet and commenced to say: ' I do not know my lesson today,' when suddenly on the blackboard behind me appeared in red letters the answer to the question. I hesitated, and then read aloud what was written on the board. It proved to be the correct answer. The red letters did not look like chalk, but like ink. This occurred several times during the year but only in this one subject, Roman History."

On page 130 of Volume 7 of the Annals of Psychical Research (1908), we read this fascinating and tragic tale:

"Mrs. Ella Cooper, his mother, who lives in Philadelphia, saw in a dream her son killed by a tramcar in New York. She woke in great agitation and was not able to close her eyes for several hours. W'hen eventually she did go to sleep again the dream was repeated with such striking clearness that Mrs. Cooper, in great excitement, rose and took the first train to New York in order to assure herself that nothing had happened to her son.  When she arrived there she took the tramcar from 23rd Street to Broadway. At the point where the tram crosses Seventh Avenue, Mrs. Cooper saw a crowd gathered round a man who had been knocked down by a car. She passed quickly through the crowd and recognized the injured man as her son. She knelt down beside him until he had recovered consciousness and could be removed to the hospital. There is very little hope that the unfortunate man will survive his injuries. Mrs. Cooper says that she has had similar premonitory warnings of former calmnities."