Opinion: Magna culpa

The next person to mention in my presence: Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, or the “insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms,” is surely going to regret it. I have never been more heartily sick and tired of the whole “civil liberties” industry following last week’s events where, after an admittedly unwelcome measure was passed in the House of Commons, a Conservative frontbencher with whom we have virtually nothing in common went off on some vain flight of fancy, and it was somehow deemed inappropriate for Liberal Democrats to oppose him.

Starting from a position of puzzlement over the extent to which civil liberties seem to dominate political discourse, I have now come to see the whole charade as an excuse on the part of self-indulgent and out-of-touch politicians for not talking about the issues that really matter to the electorate. To the ordinary man and woman in the street, freedom is paramount – but it is a freedom which has nothing whatsoever to do with detention without charge, ID cards, CCTV, or any of the other oppressive instruments of the big-brother police state (which doesn’t exist by the way).

The sense in which many people find their freedoms curtailed on an everyday basis is that they are obliged to work long hours each day, maybe with a difficult or cynical employer. That higher food and fuel bills are starting to hurt their ability to hold body and soul together. That they increasingly find themselves facing impossible decisions balancing work, life, and family. What they are less concerned about, I would suggest, is the prospect of being arrested and imprisoned for 42 days without charge, especially if they have done nothing wrong. In fact if they saw a policeman on their patch at all, they might be pleasantly surprised.

But no, to a certain breed of dull-witted politician, Magna Carta is what it’s all about. The level of unthinking inertia is such that they forget – as they drone on about “hard-won freedoms” and “slippery slopes” – that today’s technological era hardly bears comparison with anything that happened in the previous century, never mind in another age altogether. And they don’t come much more unimaginative than the member for Haltemprice and Howden who has now embarked at considerable public expense upon a political stunt that, when the dust has settled, will prove precisely nothing.

Of all the lazy and incoherent things that have been said regarding the forthcoming contest, the most absurd is this notion that we may declare the by-election to be fought over the sole issue of 42 days detention without charge. In truth, there can never be any such thing as a single-issue by-election, for the simple reason that, once elected, the victor will have to face a decision regarding each and every division which comes before Parliament. For example, Saint Martin of Bell voted on a total of 620 divisions during his term of office – strange to tell, they were not all regarding the issue of undeclared donations to MPs.

Logically speaking, if there is one issue the Haltemprice and Howden by-election will not be about, it is 42 days because we’ve just had that vote. Equally spurious is the idea that a tiny region of North-East England can be relied upon to speak for the entire nation on any topic. In fact whatever combination of candidates were to stand in the by-election, and whatever the result may turn out to be, nothing whatsoever will be proved regarding 42 days or civil liberties in general. Yet David Davis would have us all buy into this fantasy contest of him versus the government, when everyone knows perfectly well that Labour (who polled 12.7% last time) cannot possibly win.

So what of Davis’s wider record? On the issue of detention without charge, his record is impeccable (though I’m struggling now to recall any occasion when he has publicly and unequivocally condemned arrangements at Guantanamo Bay – has he ever?). He has also been a stern critic of DNA databases and surveillance cameras (which I happen to think are terrific crime prevention measures!). And of course he has championed the right to trial by jury (now that really is the most stupid idea ever – your whole life hangs in the balance, so why not ask twelve guys who have just stumbled out of the pub to decide your fate?).

Davis voted in favour of the Iraq war (obviously), opposes the Human Rights Act (obviously), and is a strong advocate of the death penalty – what would Shami Chakrabarti think? He is also a staunch defender of free speech . . . well, at least so long as you don’t intend to poke fun at Christianity (he voted to retain blasphemy legislation, both in 2005 and 2008 – make sense of that if you can). And last, but not least, he’s a Conservative! Why on earth are we supporting this guy (because by withholding a candidate, we plainly are in effect supporting Davis whatever the official line may be)?

Nick Clegg has clearly been party to a stitch-up here and, in so doing, has either been exceedingly clever in a way that I can’t quite understand, or has made a grave error of judgement. Because on the face of it, we have rolled over and allowed a man to champion the cause of liberty whose track record should be enough to make any liberal gag. And in attempting to justify our own position, we have been obliged to buy into this highly strained concept of the single-issue parliamentary election which, in my view, is making us look rather foolish and disingenuous.

David Davis is just about the last person I would choose to defend my liberties, and we should never have given him a pass to set up his stall as self-styled freedom-fighter on behalf of the nation. In the absence of any credible Liberal Democrat candidate, I shall be backing Miss Great Britain for Haltemprice and Howden – I hear she has some terrific . . . erm . . . policies. But I’m afraid that the former shadow Home Secretary simply doesn’t stack up.

* Laurence Boyce is a Lib Dem member and occasional contributor to Lib Dem Voice.

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  • Cllr Neil Bradbury 18th Jun '08 - 11:09am

    Sorry to be a pedant but can people stop saying parts of Yorkshire are part of the North East of England – they are not. They are part of Yorkshire, which is a seperate region. The next southerner who says this to me is surely going to regret it!

    I think this argument about the by-election call by Nisk Clegg is silly. He’s made the decision, it was a hard one to make but it’s been made. Leaders have to make quick decisions sometimes and we need to back them unless they are truly terrible decisions. This by-election wouldn’t of happened if Nick had decided to oppose Davies. Now one of the very few competant Tory front benchers is in the political wilderness. Hopefully at the very least this by-election will force camerons hand and make sure that he has to stand firm on 42 days. In addition any election where the Suns views can be challenged has to be a good thing.

    Agree with your points about civil liberties being a wider agenda than just 42 days, ID cards etc but these tradiitonal issues do matter a lot, especially to people who are victiims to these new laws, which are often used well outside their original intended remit.

  • Whenever non-lawyers like LB pontificate about human rights and civil liberties the result is invariably muddle.

    When we talk about “human rights” and “civil liberties” what we usually mean are limitations placed upon the ability of the state to interfere with idividuals. We should not conflate these with oppressive relationships that involve private actors only (eg, employment, families, etc).

    A lot of academic research has been undertaken into the effectiveness of trial by jury in the last 30 years, and the conclusion seems to be that juries tend to make rather better decisions that magistrates and judges acting alone. Trial by jury (1) ensures that justice is seen to be done, (2) requires lawyers to make their arguments comprehensible to ordinary people, and (3) reduces the risk of improper pressure.

    Juries get it wrong where witnesses lie or are misleading, or where there has been prejudicial reporting by Mr Murdoch’s newspapers. By and large, Lord Devlin was right to describe trial by jury as the “lamp that shows that freedom lives”.

    To scoff at the notion that Britain is sliding into a police state is to disregard the facts. ASBOs, curfews, dispersal orders, executive detention, and in the near future, satellite surveillance of motor vehicles, the extension of educational conscription to the age of 18, and the raising of the minimum age for purchase of alcohol to 21. These are not paranoia; they are facts, staring us in the face.

    Of course, it is always open to LB to argue that freedom is a bad thing.

  • Neil Bradbury:
    “He’s made the decision, it was a hard one to make but it’s been made. Leaders have to make quick decisions sometimes and we need to back them unless they are truly terrible decisions.”

    I asked before whether the leader could, constitutionally, make the decision that the party would not nominate a candidate in a parliamentary by election.

    The only answer was from someone who couldn’t see any such provision in the constitution. Nor can I.

    Again, I’m surprised to see so little comment on Nick Clegg having instructed the local party not to nominate a candidate when, constitutionally, the decision was not his to make.

  • Cllr Neil Bradbury 18th Jun '08 - 11:59am

    Anonymous – if you think this issue is terrible enough to launch a witchhunt against Nick then fine, I don’t. The local party wouldn’t have been allowed not to stand a candidate if the national party wanted to do so (that is a constitutional fact). I haven’t heard anyone in a senior position from the local or regional party opposing this decision.

  • Neil Bradbury

    You say you haven’t heard anyone _senior_ from the local party opposing the decision.

    All I can say is that you seem to have a very leader-oriented view of decision-making in the party.

    And, by the way, nobody’s talking about a “witch hunt”. If you can’t make an argument without using ridiculously melodramatic language, something may be amiss!

  • This is despicable.

  • Sorry Laurence but it just isn’t permitted to vomit on parade.

    Trial by Jury? Far better that 12 drunks who’ve just stumbled out of the pub argue out a decision of life or death than to make it dependent on the whim of one who may well have been in the pub with them.

    ID cards and surveillance – crime prevention? Surely you’re confused, crime reduction and detection perhaps.

    re: single issue by-election and Martin Bell. Politics is a series of interrelated issues informed by founding principles, so the inconsistency you identify doesn’t exist, unless you are transfering your own prejudices onto them.

    It’s back to barracks for you.

  • Sorry, I forget to mention “ID cards” as an impending restriction on our liberties.

    Would LB prefer to be tried by 12 randomly selected jurors or by Goddard, Melford Stephenson or Michael Argyle? Or Judge Jeffries himself?

  • MartinSGill 18th Jun '08 - 1:19pm

    I strongly disagree with you Laurence on the liberties take.

    Sesenco, whom I often enough have to disgree with, is correct in this instance. Freedoms and Civil Liberties are there to protect the people from an overbearing state.

    Detention without charge is the tool of preference for witch hunts and fishing expeditions. Arrest someone you don’t like (e.g. a vocal muslim cleric, or an opposition MP) and you’ve got 28 days… or now 42 days… to legitimately turn over the entire guy’s (or gal’s) life while looking for that nice bit of evidence that will give you the excuse to lock him up. It’s a technique perfected in such sham democracies like the former east Germany, and other Warsaw pact countries.

    If you are required to charge someone quickly then it means you must already have the evidence, and if you don’t have any evidence, why are you arresting someone in the first place?

    How would you like it Laurence if someone maliciously reported to the police that you were plotting to blow up a church or something (which I strongly doubt you’d ever do) and the police then locked you up for 28/42 days while they figured out if you were really dangerous and capable of that?

    28 Days… you’d lose your job; no employer wants to be associated with a terrorist, regardless of if you’re innocent or not. Your community and family and friends might well turn against you, after all there’s no fire without smoke.. and the police obviously must have had their reasons.

    Detention without charge is a seriously oppressive tool in the hands of a government that’s on a mission, be it anti-terrorism, anti-crime, anti-goth, anti-rock&roll, anti-semitic or whatever. It gives them the chance to lock up the undesirables, those that don’t fit their ideals, and dig through their lives looking for a means to hurt/eliminate them.

    A tool like this is ideal for someone like Mugabe; by the time we’d realise that we’ve elected a sinister government it will be too late to revoke those laws it’s using to oppress it’s opponents and detractors.

    Civil liberties must be protected, the population must be protected, not always from the current government, but from all potential future governments. The good and wise governments write laws that protect us from themselves, from their darker natures, and from future less tolerant or more oppressive governments. Poor, short-sighted and/or evil, oppressive governments write laws that remove those safe-guards.

    Benjamin Franklin said it best when he remarked that those who would give up a little liberty for a little security would lose both and deserve neither.

    Every liberty we remove is a victory for the terrorist we are supposedly protecting ourselves from; they’ve achieved their primary aim; they’ve made us afraid of them; they’ve made us change.

    Detention without charge does nothing to protect us from terrorists (it might even give them an extra motivation). Detention without charge won’t stop terrorists blowing us up, so we won’t gain any security, but it will remove a protection we’ve always had against an oppressive state. In other words, it’s a loss all along the line for decent citizens.

  • Francesca Marritt 18th Jun '08 - 1:20pm

    Cllr Bradbury

    If we’re really being pedantic, there is no north-east region within the Liberal Democrats. There is a northern region. And there is also no Yorkshire region within the party. There is a region called Yorkshire and the Humber.

    And perhaps credit should go to those very locally who have dealt with this professionally, and with dignity and restraint, rather than those outside assuming how they feel locally.

  • LB wrote:

    “Ideally, I would like a panel of three judges.”

    And who would those judges be?

    Ah, right. Goddard, Melford Stephenson and Argyle.

  • Cllr Neil Bradbury 18th Jun '08 - 1:45pm

    “If we’re really being pedantic, there is no north-east region within the Liberal Democrats. There is a northern region. And there is also no Yorkshire region within the party. There is a region called Yorkshire and the Humber.”

    If I’m being even more pedantic, the article didn’t refer to Liberal Deocratic regional structures, rather the geographic location of Haltemprice and Howden. Just get a bit narked when the two regions generally (not just in Lib Dem circles) get lumped together! And many of us up here in the North East would like to change the name of our regional party but are too busy to do anything about it! Which reminds me, I should really stop wasting my time trying to be the king of pedants – not really my bag!

  • I’m starting to wonder whether, when the media interest has died down – which it largely seems to have done already – David Davis is going to be left looking rather silly.

    If he ends up trying to have earnest debates about detention without trial in half-empty village halls, accompanied by a motley collection of beauty queens, mad cows and opinionated pub landlords, market traders and anti-politicians – many of whom have decided they are going to ride their own hobby horses rather than his – he could be a very easy target for ridicule.

    Given the tabloid press’s fondness for building people up and then knocking them back down, the narrative of the vain, ridiculous Don Quixote figure may become very appealing in a few weeks’ time.

  • Laurence would your judges have to be be ‘as sober as a judge’ to qualify for the job?

  • Mark Wright 18th Jun '08 - 1:52pm

    “I have never been more heartily sick and tired of the whole “civil liberties” industry”

    Laurence, could I ask what it is that draws you to the Lib Dems? You do seem to have more in common with people like Chris Paul than people like Chris Huhne, so I’m just wondering.

  • LB wrote:

    “I don’t think I know who those judges are Sesenco, so I’ll assume they are all devil worshippers or worse. Yes, I’ll take them over 12 guys in the pub.”

    You will live to regret ever saying that, LB. Those stupid, injudicious words will be thrown back at you for years to come.

    “Juries on the other hand are accountable to no-one.”

    Balderdash. Juries owe a duty to the court. If they breach their oaths they can be prosecuted (and sometimes are). Highlighting the odd extreme case of a jury getting it wrong is no argument for moving to a much worse system.

    So, you have chosen Lord Goddard CJ as your judge. What about your hangman? Albert Pierpoint? (He had a 100% record of getting the drop right. 30 seconds after coming to your cell you were dead.)

  • LB wrote:

    “How do we know that it is only the odd extreme case? There may be hundreds of cases they have screwed up. We have no idea because we have no record of their deliberations.”

    Ah right. You wouldn’t favour a change in the law to allow bona fide academics to interview jurors? Much better to act in ignorance.

    The random selection of 12 jurors pretty much eliminates the possibility of a majority of jurors acting in opposition to their oaths.

  • I’d say it is you who is out of touch, Laurence. Food prices and nasty bosses are what real people care about? Give me a break.

    We’ve weathered recessions before.

    ID cards: the most comprehensive, intrusive system in history.

    42 days: unprecedented for an advanced democracy.

    CCTV: more than any other country, by a mile.

    These are symptomatic of a profound sickness in our society, far worse than being a bit poorer. Many people know this, hence the outpouring of support for David Davies.

    Even if you buy the technological defence of mobile phones, bank cards, satnavs, changing society etc, etc, these things are still a complete waste of public money. If we’re going to squander money, let’s build palaces, pyramids or stone heads facing out to sea, and give the archaeologists something nice to look at.

  • Tristram Mills wrote:

    “So basically Laurence seems to be in love with authority.”

    Oh yes. LB is very much in love with authority. He has a blind faith in the competence and integrity of the Police, none of whom ever lies, none of whom has ever been a Freemason (apparently), and whom it should be taboo to criticise.

    What breathtaking chutzpah for a guy who brags that he has never heard of three of the most notorious criminal judges of the last 60 years to presume to pronounce upon trial by jury – something he evidently knows next to nothing about!

    No-one is claiming that the Magna Carta is a perfect constitutional document. Its symbolic importance lies in the fact that it is the historical starting point for trial by jury.

    In the same way, Simon De Monfort is rightly credited with the founding of Parliament, but no-one claims he believed in universal suffrage!

  • “42 days: unprecedented for an advanced democracy.”

    As is 28 days, but both David Davis and Chris Huhne support that, strangely enough.

    “CCTV: more than any other country, by a mile.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t Lib Dem local authorities been as keen as anyone to install CCTV cameras?

  • It would be asking a lot, I think, to expect Lib Dem councils to resist the flirtations of the surveillance industry, without a strong policy to counter this at the centre.

  • Anonymous, I’d have more sympathy with your outbursts if you were less petty in your manner of raising them.

    Justification is not the same as preference, so whatever you say about Chris Huhne or CCTV to fail to draw the distinction means you fail to hit your target.

    ’28 days’ definitely is preferable to ’90 days’ and you’ll find nobody here has said otherwise.

    Nor does anyone have pathological opposition to CCTV where it can be shown that they are admissible as evidence for court cases, are used as sources for court evidence and not used as a cheap alternative to preventative policing (that most CCTV cameras fail to meet these criteria only reinforces LibDem reasoning).

    I think taking anonymous (and not even pseudononymous) sideswipes at your generalised assumption of our policies without starting to investigate any of the specific or individual reasons is both disingenuous and dishonest. If you want to be taken more seriously please will you raise the standard of your interventions.

  • LB wrote:

    “It certainly should be taboo to smear the Police in the manner you occasionally do Sesenco, not least because they are one of the principle guardians of our liberty.”

    I don’t smear the Police, LB. I criticise them when they don’t do their job properly, just as I criticise civil servants, refuse collectors, postmen, etc, etc.

    I also know how to spell “principal”.

  • Laurence, I disagree that it should be taboo to smear the Police.

    The Police should deserve our respect as ‘one of the principle guardians of our liberty’ by living up to our expectations rather than confirming our suspicions.

    I’m guessing you don’t remember when Geoff Capes patrolled your manor.

  • Orangepan

    First of all, please don’t accuse me of “outbursts” when all I’ve done is make two simple statements of fact.

    And please don’t accuse me of being “petty”, either. This question of detention without charge is either important, or it’s not. It can’t be important when it suits you and unimportant when you find it inconvenient.

    I think you know very well by now that Chris Huhne has not simply said he _prefers_ 28 days to 42 days. He has said that in his judgment 28 days is justified, and he is said that he is “very happy” with 28 days.

    To pretend otherwise is – to be blunt – plain dishonest.

  • LB wrote:

    “Yes you do,”

    No I don’t.

  • Anonymous, you mean to say you haven’t cropped up in a similar vein on other threads?? That must be my mistake in confusing your handle with others – or are you deliberately trying to avoid accounting for your comments?

    No single political question can override all others in significance without detracting from one’s underlying principles, so while detention without charge most definitely is important, please don’t forget there are other related issues at stake which are not addressed by the Bill, such as the flawed reasoning behind the foreign policy choices of this Labour government (not without flaw or not unrelated, but not both).

    I find it amusing that you concentrate so heavily on a couple of decontextualised snippets from one prominent individual without motioning in the direction of any qualifying comments, such as the case for sunset clauses.

    I also find it highly suspicious that you depend on such absence of evidence as proof for your case; you respond to suggestions of disingenuity with accusations of dishonesty.

    So, may I ask, what point of prejudice are you trying to prove the use of such circularity?

    Were you more open and were you able to offer more detail you’d make a significantly more credible commentator.

  • Laurence, if you take the trouble to look further down that thread you will see that I adduce evidence to support what I said. I am referring to the canvass cards in respect of two blocks of Police flats where almost every tick is to be found in the “Conservative” column. You surely do not deny that the vast majority of policemen hold political opinions that are somewhere to the far right of the spectrum?

  • Laurence, you use the same argument regarding the churches, but there you come to the opposite conclusion.

    Just because significant levels of members/adherents have a certain political pursuasion doesn’t make the institution biased, corrupt or incapable of self-correction.

  • Oranjepan

    Are you denying that Chris Huhne said that in his judgment detention for 28 days was justified? Are you denying that he said he was “very happy” with 28 days?

    Are you suggesting that viewed “in context”, these statements would turn out to mean that he thought 28 days _wasn’t_ justified? Or that he was very _unhappy_ with 28 days?


    Then you clearly are being dishonest in trying to give people the impression that it was only a matter of Huhne preferring 28 days to 42 days.

    So please spare me all the long-winded, pompous advice about what I must do, in your view, to be a “significantly more credible commentator”.

    At least I’m capable of acknowledging the clear meaning of plain English.

  • Anon – understanding plain English is one thing, but following all the twists of a nuanced argument appears to be a much higher skill, eh?

  • Oranjepan sneered:
    “… understanding plain English is one thing, but following all the twists of a nuanced argument appears to be a much higher skill, eh?”

    There’s hardly anything “nuanced” about Chris Huhne saying he currently supports detention without charge for 28 days, but that the period should be regularly reviewed.

    But as I’ve said, what baffles me is the fact that no one else here (apart from Hywel Morgan) seems to think there’s anything wrong with Huhne’s support for 28 days. Though, to be fair, the desperate efforts to deny he meant what he said presumably indicate some embarrassment over his position.

  • MartinSGill 18th Jun '08 - 7:49pm

    The trouble with your post as a whole Martin, is that you exaggerate so much. You are not really describing a present reality, more where we’ll end up when we’ve slid all the way down the slippery slope. We haven’t got anything like blanket 42 detention without charge. Instead the thing is completely hedged about with caveats to the extent that some think it is unworkable.

    Which just highlights my point that it’s bad legislation.

    I don’t expect anything like that to happen in my life-time, i’ll certainly oppose it strongly. But the point is that the legislation as intended allows for just such a scenario.

    All it needs is something to fire up the public and to get them to elect a government with a specific agenda to oppose an “enemy” be they muslim, jew, atheist, goth or geeks, black, white, or asian, farmers or lawyers and the legislation is in place for them to abuse it and allow them to come down hard on “the enemy”.

    A good government, as evidenced by good legislation, is one that creates laws with safeguards that protect the citizens not just from the target of the legislation but also from abuse by that very government or any that follows it.

    That’s why constitutions are such a powerful tool in a safe democracy. It’s extremely hard to change a constitution usually, normally 3/4 majorities, to ensure that a government riding on the waves of public (or imagined) hysteria cannot start making horrible legislation or legislation that could come back to haunt the country later.

    The Magna Carta, however flawed and dated, is a major cornerstone of our unwritten constitution, possibly even it’s bedrock, and labour overturned it with a simple 9 vote majority.

    It’s why we need a constitution to prevent legislation like this from ever becoming law.

    People like you and our current government that imagine no one in power will ever abuse such legislation present a greater danger to our country than the terrorist ever will.

    Terrorists come and go, but legislation has a habit of hanging around, waiting for an opportunist government to dust it off and abuse it. “Emergency” legislation to deal with a current crisis is almost never reversed.

    Do you honestly think that if the islamic terrorist threat ends we’ll got back to single digit detention without charge? The government will find another excuse, another expedient to never return our lost liberty.

  • “The Magna Carta, however flawed and dated, is a major cornerstone of our unwritten constitution, possibly even it’s bedrock, and labour overturned it with a simple 9 vote majority.”

    So 28 days is consistent with Magna Carta now, but 42 days isn’t?

  • Hywel Morgan 18th Jun '08 - 8:07pm

    “The Magna Carta, however flawed and dated, is a major cornerstone of our unwritten constitution, possibly even it’s bedrock, and labour overturned it with a simple 9 vote majority.”

    It doesn’t do much for the kinsmen of Gerard D’Athee though :-). More seriously other than non punishment without law most of the things we would want in a justice system are missing (eg the ability to challenge witnesses against you which didn’t arrive till centuries later)

    Magna Carta didn’t give much protection to Guy Fawkes or the regicides for example.

    Laurence is right to this degree – Magna Carta’s significance is as a piece of history and the first expression of the limitations of the power of the state (in the form of the King). As a modern expression of civil liberties it’s pretty lacking.

  • MartinSGill 18th Jun '08 - 8:47pm

    Laurence is right to this degree – Magna Carta’s significance is as a piece of history and the first expression of the limitations of the power of the state (in the form of the King). As a modern expression of civil liberties it’s pretty lacking.

    I’ve never disagreed with that.

    My meaning wasn’t clear, apologies. I’m less concerned with the content of the magna carta than with it’s value as a symbol, the best symbol for our unwritten constitution as we are likely to get.

    Alas, since a constitution would work against the anti-civil-rights agenda of the current government we’ll never see it while they are in power. If the government really cared about our liberties instead of just paying lip-service to them, we’d have a written constitution by now, or be well on the way to having one.

    There’s no one document you can point to and say… this defines us; this is what we believe in. All modern constitutions are in some way the descendants of Magna Carta and it’s something we can point to; however flimsy and out of date.

    I’m also against 28 days, strongly; anything over 5 days (ideally no more than 2) is a travesty of justice. The moment our detention with out charge time exceeded those of countries with sterling human rights records like Russia (5 days) and became treble that of any other western country (28) days and now nearly 10 times as long as most democracies (42 days), we lost the right to call ourself a free and liberal society. First 28 days, now 40, eventually the 90 that Blair (both of them) wanted, then 180, then we our own guantanamo bay (which you could argue we already have in the form of our immigrant concentration camps), all to appease this chimerical army of terrorists that will blow up the entire country if don’t take away all our civil liberties to stop them.

    And before people object to me trying to stop the police doing their work. I’ve nothing against questioning after charging, or using wire-tap evidence, as long as there is good judicial oversight in both cases and the initial charge is a valid one. That’s more than enough to allow the police the time and resources to do their job and do it well, without having to trample on our liberties.

    Locking someone up without telling them why is something terrorist, rogue and dictatorial states do. Now we’ve joined them.

    But rightly or wrongly the vote was carried in Parliament, and maybe we shouldn’t now be trying to subvert it.

    We’re not trying to subvert it, we’re opposing it, using those legal avenues the government has not yet managed to take away from us. It’s not law yet and there’s even a good chance that it’s illegal in it’s own right. The Lords can still throw it out and lacking a constitution of our own, we’ve got the European Court of Human Rights to protect us from our own inept government as well.

    You refuse to lie down to organised religion dictating terms to us Laurence, but when the government starts worshipping the “god of terrorism” and tries to appease him by sacrificing our liberties on his alter, you roll over and let it happen.

  • I know. It’s always highly risky when one tries to speak up for “ordinary people.” But people really don’t give a stuff about this agenda. All the noise is coming from a small band of activists and politicos, many from the hard right libertarian fruitcake tendency.

    That’s certainly what the master strategist Gordon Brown is thinking.

    There’s more than to politics than just getting our policies put into place. Labour’s pushing the boundaries of what constitutes justice in a democracy and we have a duty to stop this from happening.

    Davies supports other causes which we disagree with. Fine. But these positions are still within the realms of democratic politics. Japan recently executed a man who killed and ate little girls. Other places have harsher immigration laws or fewer gay rights.

    None of them have anything like 42 day detention for ‘terror suspects’.

  • So we’re fine then. Relax man!

    No, we’re not. Complacency is first step to tyranny. (I’m sure someone said that before, so I won’t claim originality.)

    If everyone took your cavalier attitude to liberty we’d have none left any more.

    And while you might not care to stand up and protect your freedoms, just remember that if a religion-brainwashed government gets into power and uses these laws against us “evil, immoral, degenerate” atheists and locks up up without charge, you’ll regret not having stood up for your rights before.

    The time to protect our liberties is when they are safe, because once they are not, it’s already too late.

    More people have been killed by knives in this country in the last 10 years than by terrorists; at the rate we are going it will probably be more knife deaths this year alone than terrorist deaths in the last 10 years.

    Our response to terrorism is totally out of proportion to the danger it poses. The IRA were considerably more “professional” and successful as terrorists than our current crop of lunatics and we didn’t need those laws then.

    We’ve become a nation of cowards whose government enacts draconian laws to protect us from our own shadows.

    And if we lose the moral high ground on civil liberties and freedoms, as the Americans have done with Guantamo and Iraq and we are doing with 28 days end almost certainly with 42 days, what right do we then have to criticise other countries’ suppression of liberty, like Zimbabwe, China, North Korea or Iran?

  • MartinSGill

    Well said.

    “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
    —- John Philpot Curran

  • Martin S Gill wrote:

    “More people have been killed by knives in this country in the last 10 years than by terrorists;”

    Indeed. And as I never tire of pointing out, in Britain many more have died at the hands of Dr Harold Shipman than Al-Qaeda. Is the government proposing to lock doctors up for 42 days?

    “We’ve become a nation of cowards whose government enacts draconian laws to protect us from our own shadows.”

    According to Herbert Marcuse, that is the very point of terrorism, and the reason why he promoted it. The more oppressive the state becomes, the more likley are the workers to rise up and overthrow it.

    Islamic terrorism is real. But to me the remarkable thing about it is how unsuccessful it has been. Only one attack in the UK has killed anyone thus far. Most of these would-be terrorists have been so incompetent that the Police have managed to catch them before they have had a chance to carry out attacks. MI5 has been doing a commendable job.

    A couple of questions:-

    (1) Why did the US military stop the SAS killing Bin-Laden?

    (2) How did a 48-storey reinforced steel building that had not been hit by an aeroplane manage to collapse symmetrically into its own footprint in 6.5 seconds?

  • We’ve never had it so good!

    All the more reason to protect what we have lest we lose it.

    You are currently in favour of sliding backwards, or at least no actively opposed to it.

  • (2) How did a 48-storey reinforced steel building that had not been hit by an aeroplane manage to collapse symmetrically into its own footprint in 6.5 seconds?

    It didn’t take 6.5 seconds. It took 5-7 hours. The planes hit at 9am, at 10am the first tower collapsed, at 5.20pm building 7 collapsed.

    It collapsed because large chunks of debris landed on it and severely damaged it. The construction of the building contributed to it’s demise as the load bearing columns were towards the exterior of the building and hence more vulnerable to damage from falling debris than a different building might be.

    This was compounded by the fact that the sprinkler system was woefully inadequate and was ineffective at quenching fires started by falling debris, consequently allowing the building to burn for a considerable length of time (witnesses report considerable flames coming from the building, moving from floor to floor, between 2pm and 5pm), essentially deep frying what remained of the structural members and weakening them considerably.

    The explanation provided by the two reports into the the collapse, the first by FEMA noting further investigation was required and triggering the the 2nd by NIST (soon to be finalised, if it hasn’t been already) provide considerably more plausible evidence for the collapse than “controlled demolition” theories (the only other theory usually presented.

    For a controlled demolition the building would have to have been covered in explosives and extensive work would have needed to be done to cut through the major supporting structures weakening them and using those cuts to help shape the direction into which the building will fall. This is standard operating procedure and necessary for controlled demolitions. It would have made the building very unsafe and certainly not safe for people to work in on a daily basis. Also what effect could exposure to hours of fire have done to any explosives, and finally, why didn’t anyone working there, or the firemen who spent a couple of hours fighting the fires in there (hampered by low water pressure which was also making the sprinklers ineffective) see them.

    In fact, so obvious was the impending failure of structural integrity of the building (it started to bulge alarmingly) that the fire brigade evacuated the building in good time and no one was injured by the collapse.

    And that doesn’t even consider the complete implausibility of any government carrying out such a complex and involved plot without any leaks whatsoever.

    Wikipedia has a very detailed entry on the building collapse, including lots of cross references for people to follow up on.

    Of course, far be it from such mundane things as facts and common sense to stand in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 8:03am

    (probably shared by a wide range of the populace)

    I’m not sure that’s true any more. A recent cabinet office survey on crime deterrence (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7460134.stm [bottom]) shows that less than 25% of the respondents think capital punishment will act as an effective deterrent.

    Interestingly enough, putting people in prison was even lower at only just above 10%. ID cards, happily, were also very low, under 20%.

  • Martin S Gill, if you actually believe that garbage about WT7 you are capable of believing absolutely anything, including the reality of Father Christmas.

    WT7 was struck by considerably less debris than less substantial buildings that didn’t collapse (there is photographic evidence for this). Also, contrary to what you have been fed by the White House/Pentagon, the load-bearing columns were distributed evenly across the building.

    I don’t know why the building collapsed, but what I do know is that the “official” narrative is hogwash.

    You obviously have extensive experience of controlled demolition, so far be it from me to argue with an expert on that point.

    Collusion? No, never. That nice Mr Cheney would never do such a thing. That settles it, eh?

    BTW, the building actually did collapse in 6.5 seconds.

  • Martin S Gill wrote:

    “And that doesn’t even consider the complete implausibility of any government carrying out such a complex and involved plot without any leaks whatsoever.”

    Oh right. Like the Manhattan Project and the D Day landings?

  • If it’s on Wikipedia it just HAS to be true!

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 9:27am

    “And that doesn’t even consider the complete implausibility of any government carrying out such a complex and involved plot without any leaks whatsoever.”

    Oh right. Like the Manhattan Project and the D Day landings?

    The Manhattan project was never secret, at least not from local people. They knew something was going on, just not exactly what. The evidence was all there and the smarter people suspected what was happening but kept quiet out of patriotism and loyalty to their nation.

    The Germans and Japanese suspected it existed but probably never infiltrated it, whereas the Soviets managed to get detailed information on it and pretty much riddled the project with spies; a lot of the knowledge the soviets needed for their own bombs was stolen from the Manhattan project.

    From the official history:


    The D-Day landings were never secret. The Germans knew that they were going to happen. The D-Day landing were obvious to everyone on both sides.

    What prevented the Germans from figuring out the where and when was an elaborate series of misdirections, lack of aerial reconnaissance and a poor, under-staffed intelligence service, not to mention a considerable amount of luck on the allied side. The German forces were fully aware of and fully prepared for d-day landings, they just didn’t know the exact date and they were at the wrong place. The fact that so many people died during the landings also indicates that despite being wrong-footed the German defenders had covered (albeit ultimately and serendipitously very poorly) that eventuality as well.

    Your premise therefore is entirely wrong. Neither project was hidden well from the enemy, they could also not be hidden from the local population. In fact, the local population was complicit in keeping that information from the enemy.

    Like most of the so-called big secrets of history, the clues and information was there all along, just no one managed to piece it together entirely; for example pearl harbour. But of course that was probably a US conspiracy as well, after all, why had all the carriers left port just before it happened? Or maybe US intelligence was undermined by British agents to force the US into the war?

    There’s also a very big psychological difference between those two events and your conspiracy theory. In D-Day and Manhattan those people were working to defend and protect their fellow citizens, not attack them and betray them as your scenario would require.

    Your conspiracy would require everyone involved in it to be happily able turn against the ideals of their country, essentially making them traitors.

    You might be able to do that easily, but I doubt anyone having sworn an oath to protect their country would find it easy.

    If it’s on Wikipedia it just HAS to be true!

    As I said, a summary with lots of references, I never said it was my source. Essentially wikipedia is summarising what other sources say is true, and provides a good starting point for anyone prepared to approach the issue rationally; it even mentions your theory, providing space even for your views.

    Disregarding the information because it’s in wikipedia shows as much rational thought and common sense as accepting everything in wikiepdia as unequivocally true.

    If you don’t believe it, or are sceptical, follow the references and review their credentials.

    I’m much more inclined to believe a group of highly qualified, experienced and respected engineers and scientists having performed a detailed investigation than a bunch of glory-hounds speculating without evidence because they (rightly or wrongly) despise the Bush (or indeed any) government and assign them evil motivations or actions when simple stupidity and ineptitude will suffice.

    There’s about as much evidence of a conspiracy as there is of aliens having done it. Not that that will stop the irrational from believing it all the same.

  • Martin S Gill,

    My previous comment has been censored, so it looks as though you have the floor to yourself to defend Bush and Cheney and their far-fetched account of what hapepned on 9/11!

    You can insult me as much as you like, because I am not allowed to answer back! At least not on this forum.

  • By the way, Martin S Gill.

    Your reference to “my conspiracy theory” is disingenuous.

    I haven’t proposed a conspiracy theory. I have merely questioned an official account.

    Apparently, for “rationalists” such as yourself not the slightest hint of deviation from the party line can be tolerated.

    So the Germans knew DD was coming. That is presumably why they were all lined up on the Normandy Beaches ready to repulse it.

    I repeat, I don’t have a conspiracy theory. Your allegation that I do is false and dishonest.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 9:50am

    “Censored” posts are still sent by email; and I’ve not received one. If you posted something with 3 or more links in it, they go into moderation as possible spam and need to be approved; something that’s happened to me on occasion.

    Of course that’s probably just a conspiracy aimed directly against you.

    I never said I believed them. I think they are trying as hard as possible to cover up just how inept and stupid they and their policies were. The mass of destroyed (or lost) white house email is just one example.

    Not to mention the fact that they used the incident as a propaganda coup in their jihad against Saddam Hussein.

    They exploited the incident shamelessly, but I don’t believe for a second they were active collaborators. I do believe they (and US foreign policy during the cold war) contributed significantly to the incident.

    The fact that Bush just sat there like gormless lump when he was told about the attacks suggests quite clearly to me that he had no idea it was coming and was totally unprepared to deal with it. Which just underlines what an incompetent president he is.

  • Martin S Gill,

    I am not going to argue about the technical details. There are others far more knowledgeable than myself who can do that if they wish.

    What I question is your use of abuse and smear (demonising those who question the official account as “glory hounds”, for instance), and you multiple appeals to authority (they’re experts, so they’re right – ignoring the experts on the other side of the argument, of course). Also, your assumption that a large number of people would have had to have known about the mining of the towers (if that is what happened).

    Maybe my missing post will turn up now!

  • I haven’t proposed a conspiracy theory. I have merely questioned an official account.

    My apologies, I leapt to a conclusion. In my defence, almost all people that question how the towers (1,2 and 7) collapsed turn out to be conspiracy advocates. I also seemed to recall (possibly incorrectly) that you’ve endorsed those conspiracy theories before on this site.

    Apparently, for “rationalists” such as yourself not the slightest hint of deviation from the party line can be tolerated.

    Quite the opposite.

    It has everything to do with facts and evidence and nothing to do with dogma, e.g. blindly following some “party line”. If the facts support a view (or people) I despise, I don’t bury my head in the sand and ignore them just because I despise those people. Furthermore if facts oppose a view I hold then I must change my view.

  • Some historians have questioned whether Operation Fortitude (the pre D-day deception) actually ‘saved’ the D-day landings, arguing that the Allies would have prevailed anyway due to airpower.

  • Honourable members of the Liberal Democratic Party ought to express their views and change the party’s views on this long term process before it is too late.

    This member is in favour of a Confederation of Europe (along similar lines to the Swiss Canton model) where central European government would control foreign affairs, Europe-wide issues, educational standards (but not their implementation) overall tax policy, defence and Europe-wide policing. The details of how to implement overall standards/targets and local issues would be left to the individual countries.

    I also think Europe needs a good solid constitution.

    I also don’t think Europe is in any way ready for all that yet. But it’s something we should be working towards with reforms and political campaigns.

    The LibDems have always been generally pro-Europe, one of the reasons I became a member in the first place.

    I consider myself honourable and I’m more than happy to stand up and have the party change it’s views to an even more pro-European stance.

  • Martin S Gill,

    My post that failed to appear had no links in it. And my subsequent two posts did appear. Also, LDV did censor me when I defended Uri Geller against your scurrilous and untruthful attack on his integrity. The moderator admitted as much.

    I do not accept your claim that you are a rational person who treats arguments and those who make them fairly. It consider you to be an ideological control freak who bullies and smears those with whom you disagree.

    I have pointed to the abusive language you use when referring to those who question the “official” account on 9/11. I have also pointed to your appeals to authority. Both are illegitimate debating ploys.

    I do not buy into the notion that a handful of girders falling on to a roof and a fire spread over three floors caused a 47-storey reinforced concrete building to collapse symmetrically into its own footprint in 6.5 seconds. Steel buildings don’t “bulge”. Either they stay intact or they collapse. Buildings that incurred far greater damage and of flimsier construction remained standing. What the buildings that did collapse all had in common was that their freeholds were owned by Larry Silverstein. Those not owned by Silverstein didn’t collapse. Silverstein, who had owed $300 million to the Mafia has now picked up $3 billion in insurance payouts.

    I don’t know how WTC7 collpased. What I do know is that the “official” explanation is inadequate, and I am entitled to question it.

    For those intersted in the technical issues, there are plenty of sites where both sides of the argument can be investigated.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 1:07pm

    Is this your missing post?

    Martin S Gill, if you actually believe that garbage about WT7 you are capable of believing absolutely anything, including the reality of Father Christmas.

    If you believe in a massive conspiracy and cover-up you are likely to believe absolutely anything, including the reality of Father Christmas.

    Show me the evidence… evidence… that the building collapsed by anything other than debris damage.

    There’s that nonsense video that claims the BBC knew of the collapse before it 23 minutes before it happened. Easy to explain… the fire-fighters knew the building was going to collapse and evacuated it, the BBC mistakenly said it had already collapsed when they should have said it was about to collapse. Or maybe the fire fighter said they’d “lost” the building and this was misinterpreted as meaning it had already collapsed.

    Mix-up, not conspiracy seems much more probable. Given what was happening some confusion is highly likely.

    The damage to the building was documented in loads of photos. Some photos clearly show only limited damage, others make it much clearer.

    And you’re also accusing the fire fighters who were actually in that building and whose job it is to regularly assess the structural safety of buildings they are in and were monitoring it’s slow failure for hours are all liars and in on the conspiracy.

    No fire? Here’s video of the building heavily and clearly on fire: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Afb7eUHr64U

    There’s also clearly visible impact damage on that video.

    Impact damage photos showing massive damage are available here: http://www.debunking911.com/WTC7.htm

    Probably all faked though I suppose. Along with all the other evidence on that site and available from masses of other, reliable, sources.

    Show me your evidence, show me what you base your views of a conspiracy on other than paranoia or speculation or selectively choosing your evidence.

    I have always backed up my claims with evidence and links to more evidence and every time you propose one of your conspiracies, be it conspiracy 9/11 or uri geller you entirely fail to provide any actual evidence. In the uri geller post you refer to you the 1 million dollars being a lie and not actually existing when a simple search produced a bank statement from a world renowned bank that clearly shows the account statement and the million dollar prize; proving you, at best, ill-informed. Why would that bank conspire against geller, what possible motivation would they have and would they not instead take Randi to court for faking the document?

    I saw your moderated uri geller post (i received it in email and I quoted from it in a reply) because it was nothing more than a name calling post in which you directly and blatantly insulted and libelled pretty much everyone who didn’t agree with you.

    An appeal to authority, you are correct, is not a valid argument. But I don’t appeal to authority, I appeal to scientific consensus, the consensus and agreement of the vast majority of experts in the field. That doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong, it just means it’s considerably more probable that they are right and the few detractors are wrong, especially when the vast majority of detractors are not experts in that field of engineering.

    Are you suggesting that the vast majority of the experts in the USA/world have somehow been co-opted into this conspiracy and are all secretly working for the US government and helping them cover it up?

    Where is your evidence, where is the evidence that cannot be refuted by vastly more plausible explanations or additional evidence?

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 1:34pm

    Not full blown fanaticism, reasoned opinion, although I’ll admit that post was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

    It’s an ideal I’d like to see but it may well transpire to be unworkable. In my opinion a united europe provides the best possible chance of continued and long-term prosperity for the UK. There certainly are disadvantages to being in the EU, but I believe those disadvantages are outweighed easily by the advantages.

    I agree with you over the Lisbon treaty though. It is basically a renamed constitution and the whole silliness surrounding it is actually doing more harm to my hope for europe than good by alienating people.

    There’s no point having a united europe where the majority population objects to that, it’s doomed to failure. Before things like the constitution can closer cooperation can be applied popular support needs to be created. That’s what the libdems and the government should be doing, instead of trying to force Europe on an unwilling population as a fait-accompli. That’s not the way a democracy should work.

    It might even be necessary at some point for the UK to withdraw from Europe just to highlight to people how much worse off we’d be without it; a drastic step I suspect might cause irreparable economic (and political) damage to the UK.

  • Martin S Gill wrote:

    “Show me the evidence… evidence… that the building collapsed by anything other than debris damage.”

    Wrong way round. Show me the evidence of debris damage sufficient to cause the building to collapse. The debris damage that affected the World Financial Centre was far greater, but neither of those buildings collapsed. Except they weren’t owned by Larry Silverstein.

    All the buildings in the area were evacuated, by the way.

    There is no “scientific consensus”, as you put it. There are experts on both sides of the argument (though those supporting the “official” account tend to be those dependent on the state for their living).

    You accused Uri Geller of fraud without adducing the slightest evidence (other than the say-so of Randall Zwinge).

    Geller provided ample proof of his ESP powers at SRI in 1971, and went on to earn millions map dowsing for oil companies.

    Geller has had to suffer nearly four decades of lies and abuse from prejudiced bigots, many of whom know perfectly well his powers are real. You are evidently one of them.

    Fact No 1. Randall Zwinge does not possess $1 million. His “offer” is based on sums he says others have promised. Fact No 2. Zwinge’s “offer” has conditions attached to it that no-one could accept. Fact No 3. A single experiment (ie, the one proposed by Zwinge’s “offer”) is scientifically worthless. Fact No 4. Zwinge told his friend, the astronomer, Dennis Rawlins, that he always has an “out”. Fact No 5. Zwinge’s dishonesty and unreliability with facts has come under fire even from fellow sceptics. Susan Blackmore, for instance, said his “Supernatural A-Z” was “too inaccurate to be recommended”. Fact No 6. The reality of ESP and PK has been proved beyond the remotest shadow of a doubt in the laboratory. Check the work of people like Charles Honorton and Dean Radin.

    Now, I have to tell you. I have carried out experiments with Chris Robinson and have found him to have genuine premonitory powers. Does that make me a fraud to?

    Do I have an extremely low opinion of people who deny the reality of ESP and PK? Yes, I do. Do I despise them utterly? Yes, I do.

  • Martin S Gill,

    Who is this world renowned bank? And who are the legal and beneficial owners of the account to which you refer?

    Also, please explain to me how you managed to have sight of a censored post?

    That is not a facility made available to myself, I don’t think.

  • I don’t want to discuss either of these subjects (9/11 and Uri Geller) at length, because they are both off-topic and I have a job to do.

    I will, however, leave a couple of links:

    (on Zwinge’s “offer”)


    (and on 9/11)


    I don’t endorse all of Andrew’s claims and disagree with him quite strongly on some of them. But I do know him personally and consider him to be honest and upright.

  • “Do I have an extremely low opinion of people who deny the reality of ESP and PK? Yes, I do. Do I despise them utterly? Yes, I do.”

    So how far away are we from useful applications?

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 2:44pm

    Goldman and Sacks is the bank (heard of them?), here’s a copy of the receipt. I’m sure that bank will confirm for you that it exists, should you ask them instead simply denying it outright.


    Note the account name and address clearly as well as the current amount.

    You have it the wrong way around. A mass conspiracy is very implausible.

    The evidence is there, by the masses, that it was due to damage and the resultant fire, you just refuse to see it or accept it, preferring your own version of events and theories of mass conspiracy.

    Have you even read anything on http://www.debunking911.com/ ?

    I’ve at least read the so called “truth” sites, 911truth.org and ae911truth.org, and all the others that only selectively report the evidence, omitting images and videos easily available in the public domain that contradict their claims.

    Of course since you believe in psychics you must also believe that Darren Brown isn’t really an illusionist but a psychic since he can do everything those claimed psychics can do, despite insisting he has no paranormal powers.

    There is never ever been any proof, ever, of paranormal powers. Anyone that had any would be instantly set for life simply by claiming all the many many offers of prize money (not just Randi) for those that can demonstrate their power (see a list on this page: http://skepdic.com/randi.html I’m sure there are more not included here). None have ever been claimed because all are frauds.

    Your facts are merely a copy and paste of the same tired arguments you used the last time.

    Fact 1: A lie (see above). The website you link to bases it’s entire purported email conversation for which no evidence is provided and in which much ad hominem is to be found. Hardly a trustworthy source in it’s own right. No evidence, merely allegations and hearsay.
    Fact 2: The conditions are those required for valid science. They are unacceptable to frauds because they take away the pre-conditions (i.e. the ambiguity) required to perpetuate the fraud.
    Fact 3: A single experiment consists of a multiple number of individual tests (samples), including blind, and control tests. To ensure scientific validity.
    Fact 4: Randi’s version of the quote is “Concerning the challenge, I always have an ‘out’: I’m right!” which gives it a very different meaning to the one you imply. And with the conversation in dispute it has to be discarded as worthless evidence for either side, therefore it’s not a fact, merely hearsay.
    Fact 5: The opinion of one reviewer, in a different context, carries no weight. Maybe it wasn’t convincing, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Dr. Susan Blackmore has written many favourable reviews for Randi’s other books, including Flim-Flam.
    Fact 6: Out of date. It can’t be reproduced (a recent attempt tried) and that means it’s not science. It appears many paraspsychologists, who one might think would be on your side in this argument, are themselves starting to doubt the reliability of those findinds. http://www.csicop.org/si/9911/lilienfeld.html

    Once more extremely one-sided and highly selective; the usual standard of your arguments on these subjects.

    I don’t doubt that your friend is honest and upright, he’s also wrong. Just because people believe something doesn’t make it correct.

  • Anax,

    We already have them, in a rudimentary form. Uri Geller and his map dowsing activities is an example. Also the guy who stopped the problems in my right arm (yes, something else could have cured it, but cured it was).

    We are still in the early stages because the amount of money spent on psi research is a fleabite compared to what is spent on building nuclear weapons (or even useful things like medical research). The focus these days is on psi-optimisation (finding the conditions that are best suited to psi-functioning) rather than simply amassing statistical proof. So we are getting there, albeit at a snail’s pace.

    When the Ancient Greeks rubbed bits of amber together and saw sparks they didn’t foresee power stations. So we cannot really second guess what will eventuate in 100 years time.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 3:35pm

    And here’s a review of the website you linked to:


    Turns out they are all para proponents (as the list of books the site owner recommends are all books on purported evidence for out of body and supernatural experiences) have created an attack site to “to mislead readers into thinking that paranormal investigation is skeptical and skeptical criticism of paranormal investigation is done in bad faith and is not “genuine” skepticism.”

    I note with amusement that some of their associated members are actually deceased. “[…] perhaps the group considers the spirits of Keen and Truzzi as active investigators”.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 3:42pm

    That Uri Tonight-Show clip is fantastic excellent.

    Wonder why he couldn’t perform when he couldn’t provide his own props.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 3:45pm

    And, quite appropriately this news article just surfaced which shows clearly the harm people that encourage and support non-sense beliefs can cause:


  • Uri Geller demonstrated his ESP abilities under controlled conditions at SRI in 1971.

    ESP and PK have been demonstrated under controlled laboratory conditions on thousands of occasions.

    Marcello Truzzi is the guy who blew the whistle on the dishonourable behaviour of his fellow sceptics.

    Those wnating to learn the facts rather than air prejudices should consult the following link:


    Dr Rupert Sheldrake, the owner of the site, is a scientist at the forefront of psi research in Europe.

    Readers might like to listen to the audio of the debate between Rupert and Lewis Wolpert at the Royal Institution.

  • Sorry, not the Royal Institution, the Royal Academy of Arts.

  • No, Rupert Sheldrake is not a creationist.

    I take it you mean by “creationist” someone who holds that Genesis is the literal truth?

    I’m not one either.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 5:05pm

    No, he’s not a creationist, not even an intelligent design loony; not content to follow anyone’s views other than his own he’s invented his very own theory of “morphic fields” that shape all life.

    From what I can tell by reading his description of it this is a force the exists in all living beings, guiding them, shaping them, binding the universe together.

    His views were dismissed as be consistently failed to provide any testable, and more importantly falsifiable, hypotheses to support his claims; making them entirely invalid as science.

    He even has a theory of morphic resonance which allows people to detect when they are being stared at.

    Scientific American (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ruperts-resonance
    ) notes when repeat experiments were conducted results no better than chance were observed; except by Sheldrake’s supporters who claimed “statistically significant” results.

    Sheldrake’s comments suggested that he thought that sceptics must have disturbed the morphic field with their vibes and ruined the experiment.

    Maybe that’s why Uri couldn’t perform; the skeptic vibes taint all those props he doesn’t prepare himself.

  • MartinSGill 19th Jun '08 - 5:26pm

    He doesn’t, I’m not even sure he’s religious.

    His theory is supposed to be even more fundamental explaining not just evolution but the laws of the universe themselves.

    Essentially he proposes that the more something happens the more it is likely to happen again and that’s how the laws of nature came about, essentially somehow magically forming themselves instead having always existed.

    Of course that would invalidate the whole point of the lottery; run it often enough, or flip a coin often enough and it would no longer be random but would become predictable.

    Every experiment he has ever devised has only ever been replicated by his supporters. With the claim he made about scepticism invalidating the experiment as the excuse.

    If it’s impossible for someone who doesn’t initially believe him to actually verify his claims by experiment, then his hypothesis is unprovable and therefore useless.

    Basically you have to be convinced that he is right to actually be able to prove that he is right. Which makes it a lot less science and a lot more blind faith and dogma.

  • Dane Clouston,
    it’s a shame if it’s informative to listen to members of the continuity Liberal Party openly siding with Tory trolls on these threads – it can happen to the best of us if we’re not constantly vigilant against incipent complacency.

    I look forward to crossing swords again in the future.

  • I’m glad that Joe Otten acknowledges that Rupert Sheldrake is not a creationist.

    With regard to Sheldrake’s work with the dog, Jaytee, the sceptic, Richard Wiseman, repeated Sheldrake’s results.

    Though Wiseman initially denied this, he has subsequently admitted that his figures and Sheldrake’s concur (both sets of figures may be examined by interested persons).

    Uri Geller has never bent cutlery under controlled, laboratory conditions, but he has demonstrated clairvoyance under such conditions where subject fraud was precluded.

    It was for this very reason (the work commissioned by the US government at SRI in 1971) that Geller was taken on by several oil and mining companies as a map dowser.

    There is a lot of misinformation out there that polemicists like Otten and Gill will bandy about with little consideration to factual accuracy. The truth is hard to distil, but it may be ascertained by those with some patience and critical faculties.

  • I am glad that Joe Otten now acknowledges that Rupert Sheldrake is not a creationist.

    With regard to Sheldrake’s work with the dog, Jaytee, the sceptic, Richard Wiseman, confirmed Sheldrake’s findings.

    Though Wiseman denied this initially, he has now accepted that his figures and Sheldrake’s concur (both sets may be studied by interested parties).

    Uri Geller has never bent cutlery under controlled laboratory conditions, but he has demonstrated clairvoyance under such conditions where subject fraud was precluded.

    It was as a result of the work commissioned by the US government at SRI in 1971 that Geller was taken on by several oil and mining companies as a map dowser (that is how he came to be a millionaire).

  • I thought my first post hadn’t appeared and wrote it again. So sorry for the duplication!

    Rupert’s page may be found here:

  • MartinSGill 20th Jun '08 - 1:26pm

    Perhaps blind devotees like yourself should pay more more attention to factual accuracy as it seems Richard Wiseman doesn’t agree with what you claim about him.

    From Richard Wiseman’s own website (http://www.richardwiseman.com/research/psychics.html):

    “Prof Matthew Smith (Liverpool Hope University) and Prof Wiseman conducted four experiments examining the claim that a Yorkshire terrier named Jaytee could psychically detect when his owner was returning home. The results of these experiments did not support the existence of any paranormal communication between the owner and her pet.”

  • MartinSGill 20th Jun '08 - 1:34pm

    Further, here is Wiseman’s page dedicated to Jaytee.

    He first notes that there are data discrepancies between Sheldrake’s book and a journal article both detailing the same experiment.

    “For example, in the paper, the trial which took place on the 11/2/97 is classified as an ‘early’ trial, whilst in the book it is classified as ‘late’. In the paper, the trial on the 1/7/97 is classified as ‘late’, whereas in the book it is classified as ‘early’. In addition, some of the data patterns appear different in the two sources. In the paper, the data from the trial on the 19/3/97 shows Jaytee spending very little time at the porch in the early part of the trial, whereas in the book he spends a considerable amount of time there. Likewise, in the paper, the trial on the 21/9/97 shows a spike in Jaytee’s activity that appears to be missing from the corresponding graph in the book. ”

    Was Sheldrake fiddling with the data?

    Despite this, Wiseman gives Sheldrake the benefit of the doubt and then proceeds to provide two much more plausible explanations that could equally well explain the observations Sheldrake made.

  • MartinSGill 20th Jun '08 - 1:35pm
  • Martin S Gill,

    It has clearly escaped your attention that Wiseman is no longer allowed to practice as a “media sceptic” by the scientific community in the UK on account of his long history of deceptions.

    These include the deception he perpetrated against Sheldrake in relation to Jaytee, his changing of the protocol to suppress a successful hit in an experiment with Chris Robinson, the staging of a bogus “public telepathy” experiment in conjunction with a notorious crop-circle hoaxer, and the duping of the 17 year-old Russian medical student, Nadia Demkina. It was in relation to this latter outrage that Wiseman was expelled from the Society for Psychical Reasearch. And may have had something to do with the withdrawal of his Perrott-Warrick funding.

    Richard Wiseman is a proven liar. His figures (which are in the public domain) confirm that Jaytee demonstrated ESP.

    The current favoured media sceptic is Dr Chris French. Now, French is very wary of me, ever since I gave him a rough time at a public lecture. If he sees me, his rictus smile begins to quiver and he goes rapidly wafer thin.

    Here’s a brief summary of the Wiseman and Jaytee controversy:-

    And here’s an account of the Nadia Demkina case:

    Readers really should listen to the audio of Rupert and Lewis Wolpert debating at the Royal Society of Arts. Rupert offers facts. Lewis scoffs and denies.

  • My “Jaytee” link got missed off!


  • Martin S Gill,

    Matthew Smith was not a professor, but a mere research student, when he took part in Wiseman’s successful confirmation of Sheldrake’s findings in relation to Jaytee.

    Look at the raw data, not Wiseman’s misrepresentations and distortions.

    Why won’t the leading lights in British science allow this man to speak for them?

  • Wiseman admitted in an interview with “Skeptiko” magazine in 2007 that his data corresponds to Sheldrake’s. And he could do nothing else. They do. Jaytee demonstrated ESP.

  • MartinSGill 20th Jun '08 - 3:06pm

    I don’t rate the quality of a sceptic or scientist by whether he’s the media’s pet or not; that’s hardly a good way to judge someone. No wonder you believe what you do if that’s what you consider “critical” appraisal of facts.

    Appeal to unnamed authority. If by “scientific community” you mean the psychics and Sheldrake supporters then you have misunderstood what the term science means.

    Senesco, all your sources, every single one of them comes from websites that are owned/run or supportive of Richard Sheldrake.

    The self proclaimed skeptic-skeptic site (skeptical investigations) you link to (of which Sheldrake is an Associate and significant contributor) and of course sheldrake’s own site.

    Both initial articles are simply ad hominems that fail to provide any supporting evidence nor reference any reputable sources other than the authors own opinions and conjecture.

    From Wiseman’s biography:
    “Prof Wiseman was the recipient of The CSICOP Public Education In Science Award in 2000 and the Joseph Lister Award For Social Science in 2002. In 2004 he was awarded a NESTA DreamTime Fellowship for his innovative work in science communication, and in 2005 served as President of the General Section of The British Association for the Advancement of Science.”

    Hardly a media reject then. I’m sure if you contact David Dickson at the BA (http://www.the-ba.net/the-ba/FestivalofScience/AbouttheFestival/General+Section.htm) he’ll confirm this for you. The current president of the general section is Lord (Prof) Robert Winson.

    Because a man is a research assistant that make his work unreliable or wrong? That is an ad hominem and a baseless character slur. Provide evidence that the work of research assistants in general or Matthew Smith in particular is in any way intrinsically of lesser quality. Given that Dr. Matthew Smith now employed by Liverpool Hope University, a fully qualified researcher (who supervises other people’s research) that would suggest that his work as a research assistant was of good quality and merited the rise to his current position of responsibility.

    I find it rather telling that you try to rubbish him despite him being a researcher into parapsychology, and hence someone you really ought to be supporting. Could it be because his research actually scientific and credible and doesn’t confirm your beliefs that you feel you need to attack him?

    Please provide sources that are unbiased, or at least not directly associated with Sheldrake.

    Please provide a link to support your claim (denied by the wiseman website) of the alleged admission in Skeptiko magazine by Wiseman. Skeptiko, one should note, is also a magazine with a pro-ESP bias; easily confirmed by a quick search for it; again, not an unbiased site.

  • Martin S Gill wrote:

    “The CSICOP Public Education In Science Award in 2000”

    This says all we need to know about Richard Wiseman (that he accepted it, that is).

    Clearly, Martin S Gill doesn’t even know what CSICOP is, otherwise he wouldn’t be holding it up as some kind of authority.

    CSICOP is to scientific truth what Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry was to political truth.

    Wiseman is now shunned by scientists who would normally be expected to uphold his anti-psi stance. They do so on account of his proven record of dishonesty which they cannot be seen to endorse (and hopefully one or two wouldn’t want to).

    Wiseman has never been a genuine researcher into the paranormal, though he has posed as one. He is a professional debunker.

    Martin S Gill is one of a breed of anti-psi fanatics who simply refuse to look at data which they fear might confirm the very thing they dread the most. Like Nelson, they look through their telescopes with their blind eyes and see no ships. That he quotes an endorsement by CSICOP as some kind of accolade confirms my suspicion that he is deeply ignorant of this vast and complex subject.

    Most people (inlcuding a majority of scientists and magicians, believe it or not) either acknowledge the reality of psi or are open-minded about it. Sadly, there is a residuum of hard-core deniers who will not be swayed by any kind of evidence. They tend to fit a psychological profile: most are men, they tend to be under-achievers, suffer from depression and have broken personal lives: “losers” is a colloquial term I have heard used, but I am too charitable to apply it myself.

  • Martin S Gill wrote:

    “Because a man is a research assistant that make his work unreliable or wrong? That is an ad hominem and a baseless character slur.”

    Codswallop. What I was pointing to was the unreliabilty of the source.

    Smith himself never claimed he was anything other than a research assistant, so where is the slur?

    Your ignorance of basic legal method is astounding.

  • Dane, it’s nice to know that you’ve chosen your bludgeon to try to attack the LibDems – would it be too much to ask if you could back up your comment to provide it with some support.

    Speaking from a personal point of view, I’ve never agreed with a Conservative on Conservative doctrine, though I welcome any occasion they are prepared to be convinced by liberalism.

    I think you are trying a little too hard in making overly-offensive comparisons to provoke a reaction, but let me say the referendum issue would no longer still be a point of contention were we in a position of power.

    May I ask where you stand on the free trade/protectionism question? Don’t you think EU promotion of freedoms constitute a cornerstone of the single market which are worth preserving, not only because they were democratically arrived at?

  • Dane, I don’t think you’ve answered the question.

    Is free trade possible without the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital?

    EU tariff protectionism, subsidies and the quota system are clearly not in the interests of free trade, but the simultaneous promotion of the four freedoms defends the liberal cause in ways which nation states could not.

    So, surely the question of European integration is more complex and less clearcut than you are trying to portay it. I suggest the current mixed solution is part of an incomplete transitional policy that shows it is capable of responsiveness to real-world concerns and is alive to the evolving demands of reform and continual improvement.

    And isn’t it possible that there are clear comparisons to be drawn between the Lisbon Treaty and Magna Carta in providing a record for agreed prescriptions about how to make formal decisions and how this decision-making process is legitimated through enhanced accountability?

  • MartinSGill 20th Jun '08 - 8:26pm

    I’m not applying “legal method”, I’m applying logic and reason.

    You tried to discredit the results by claiming they were wrong because Matthew Smith was just a research assistant.

    Either that, or you were trying to discredit Weisman as a source on the pathetic argument that Weisman gives Smiths’ current position and title and not his title at the time of writing the paper. This does nothing to invalidate weisman as a source; it only shows you as clutching at straws.

    Your immediate condemnation of CSIOPS and generalisations without any supportive evidence suggests clearly who here is the victim of propaganda. Richard Sheldrake can obvisouly do no wrong.. and anyone that criticises him has to be a “goebbelesk” propaganda group.

    CSIOPS has been criticised, not least by one of it’s founding members; but no organisation is without critics. This “scientific” keep appealing to never seems to actually have any members (at least none you’ve named), certainly not any with established scientific credentials.

    CSIOPS fellows count amongst them some of the most eminent scientists (including Nobel Laureates) of our and their time:

    Isaac Asimov, Francis Crick, Stephen J Gould, E O Wilson, Steven Weinberg and Carl Sagan amongst many others.

    I think they, given their academic records of achievement, have a very good understanding of what constitutes science and critical/rational thinking. Yet you simply dismiss them (and probably the whole scientific community, i.e. anyone that doesn’t believe what you do) with a flick of a thought.

    In every single post, especially in response to where I have presented views that suggest alternative explanations or presented counter-evidence, all you’ve done is respond with generalisations and unsupported criticism.

    All you’ve ever done is attack the critics, never the science. In additional all support you’ve provided for your view is from people who have a vested interest (their careers/beliefs) for positive results (know as confirmation bias). In contrast all the critics have legitimate careers whose continued success own nothing to the failure or success of ESP research.

    The way a new theory becomes accepted in science is like this.

    Instead of creating tests that are more predictable and less ambiguous, the PSI community simply attack their detractors, instead of their detractor’s science.

    You’re so convinced of ESP’s existence that you refuse to look at any evidence critically and simply dismiss all critics out of hand.

    You have not for example (and neither has Sheldrake) addressed the two alternatives Weinman proposed. An honest scientist would have devised a new experiment to eliminate those alternatives instead of attacking Weinman. If the data produced is so flimsy that you must quibble over it (and most of the so-called ESP results are barely better than simple chance) then it’s hardly conclusive and that merely suggests another test is required.

    Unfortunately an further tests tends also to come out as being simple chance. Sometimes luck favours the results of the ESP supporter sometimes not.

    What I find mostly dishonest about every ESP proponents is that they never seem to publish any experiments that don’t validate their beliefs. Every experiment they do seems to be a success… and never a failure.

  • Martin S Gill wrote:

    “I’m not applying “legal method”, I’m applying logic and reason.”

    You aint doing either, mate. You are ranting and raving on the basis of bits and pieces of misinformation you have foraged from the internet.

    Firstly, the acronym is “CSICOP” (note the letter order).

    Secondly, Carl Sagan died a number of years ago, so he cannot be a CSICOP fellow (basically, a name that looks good on their letterhead). Sagan, along with Dennis Rawlins and Marcello Truzzi, resigned from CSICOP some 30 years ago when CSICOP’s ruling politbüro decided to suppress the (positive) results of their reevaluation of the Gauquelin’s Mars effect. Isaac Asimov is dead as well (I think).

    Thirdly, the name is RUPERT Sheldrake, not RICHARD Sheldrake. (I have met the guy, and can confirm he is RUPERT.)

    Fourthly, I pointed to the error regarding Matthew Smith because it is indicative of the unreliability of the source you were using. Smith was simply Wiseman’s bag-carrier and had his name appended to the report. If he ever became a professor, then that was years later. Trivial errors are indicative or deeper errors. I have tripped up many a conspiracy advocate this way. Oh dear. I forgot. I have a blind faith in conspiracies, don’t I?

    The facts of the Jaytee saga are quite straightforward, once we strip away the obfuscation. Sheldrake sat through many scores of sessions with the dog lasting over 200 hours. Wiseman did a mere handful. Sheldrake’s data demonstrated that the dog had a tendency to go to the window when Pam Smart left her work. Wiseman confirmed that this was so. Sheldrake’s and Wiseman’s figures are both available for inspection at the link I have provided. Wiseman says black is white and you are endorsing him. It is people like you who let him get away with these balant deceptions.

    So I don’t attack science? Well, not that often, as it happens. And that is because denialists don’t generally do any science. CSICOP has only ever conducted one scientific experiment (into the Mars effect) only to confirm the Gauquelins’ (paranormal) claims. CSICOP has done no “research” since (bit risky, let’s face it).

    The guy who ultimately took the sword to Wiseman was Professor Brian Josephson, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and a trustee of the Perrott-Warrick Fund. His forensic demolition of Wiseman’s “experiment” with Nadia Demkina is unanswerable.

  • I mean “blatant” deceptions – and they are “flagrant” too.

  • Martin S Gill:

    “What I find mostly dishonest about every ESP proponents is that they never seem to publish any experiments that don’t validate their beliefs.”

    It’s time you went back to school and learned a few basics, Martin my boy.

    The Journal and Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research are full to the gills with reports of “file-drawer” experiments. One of the most accessible is Anita Gregory’s “London Experiments with Matthew Manning”. Only one successful demonstration of PK, and that right at the tail end as the experimenters were about to head off home.

    Charles Honorton calculated the number of experiments that would have to sit in the file-drawer to cancel out the statistical significance of the successful ones. Enough to fill half Wincanton’s fleet.

    And just to be pedantic, only a minority of ESP proponents do laboratory work. It requires premises, time, money and patient subjects.

  • I’ve been a bit busy so haven’t had a chance to respond to Laurence’s original post, before the thread turned into this bizarre discussion about 9/11 and Rupert Sheldrake. Laurence will probably dismiss the following as irrelevant too, but I hope that some people will see its significance.

    My father, who is now 86, was born in Smyrna (Turkey) in 1922 to an English father and a Greek mother. Up until the First World War Smyrna was a liberal, multicultural and tolerant city. In 1922 the Turks massacred the Greeks in Turkey and my father and his mother were lucky to escape to Salonika, where the Greeks were ethnically cleansing the Turks, turning another liberal, multicultural and tolerant city into a monocultural one. The nascent Greek democracy became the Metaxas fascist dictatorship in the 1930s. When the Second World War broke out Greece was invaded by the Italians, then the Germans. At the end of the war a vicious civil war broke out during which one of my father’s uncles was taken hostage and murdered by the communists. The democracy which was eventually re-established was often in thrall to the CIA, and was overthrown by a military coup in 1967. My grandparents did not live to see the stability brought to Greece by membership of the EU.

    I have set this out as a counterpoint to Laurence’s lazy assumptions about the stability of our political system: sure, this all happened ‘abroad’, but there is nothing ‘god-given’ about the stability of this country – just look at what happened in Ulster in the late 60s and subsequently (and, come to that, look at the way a legitimate government in Ulster abused its powers to systematically oppress the minority in that country).

  • Yes there were a couple of typos in names in my last post… I didn’t have time to proof read it before I sent it off.

    Again… no supporting evidence… merely unsupported claims and allegations at best hearsay.

    If I were ranting and raving my posts would be a lot more like yours, full of hearsay, and unsubstantiated claims. Having Rupert Sheldrake confirm his own theory is hardly worthwhile evidence.

    Almost all everyday experiences that people consider paranormal merely stem from the natural human inability to conceptualise the implications of large numbers. Couple with the simple fact that we are much more likely to remember something unusual or odd happening (e.g. thinking of someone before they phone) than nothing odd happening (not thinking of someone before the 200 other times they phoned).

    Provide a link to Carl Sagan’s resignation. A newspaper article will do; the NYTimes, or The Times, or Scientific American, not a paper Sheldrake himself or his friends produce.

    Provide a link to Sheldrake explaining why Weinberg’s alternative explanations could not explain the results, and Sheldrake’s claim of the ESP could. Your (and his) continued bleating that it must be ESP and could not ever possibly be something else is indicative of blind devotion to a pet theory, not critical thinking.

    You keep claiming there is evidence yet you keep failing to produce anything that shows a test result other than chance when anyone other than a proponent the research conducts a repeat.

    You keep saying “the scientific community”.. well provide a link to a web site, or academic journal where “the scientific community” weinman for falsifying results (“a liar”, as you alleged). Again, no papers from Rupert’s friends.

    Additionally your patronising comments “my boy” just show your need to resort to vitriol instead of supported evidence and reasoned argument.

    As to the dog, you may want to read up on Clever Hans the amazing counting horse. Who it turns out couldn’t add up at all, but was merely very adept at picking up the unconscious visual cues given him by his handlers.

    You may also want to go look up Darren Brown, an amazing entertainer, who in his performances has reproduced every single “trick” (and some much more impressive) that so called paranormally gifted people have done and insists that all he does is just a trick. Given he can do everything a “psy” person can do the reasonable/rational conclusion is that there is no special paranormal phenomena in the world, merely people that are either fraudsters or manage to do subconsciously (picking up body language cues for example) that entertainers like Darren Brown deliberately employ.

    You are correct, Asimov and Sagan are dead hence the qualifier “their” time, once again you just read what you want to read. as you do with your hero (whom you’ve met!!) sheldrake’s research.

    What’s more you keep changing the subject. Everytime I show alternative explanations for a phenomena you describe you change to a different phenomena. We’ve now moved onto the Mars Effect.

    It’s basically astrology, and while some people claim to have repeated the results, the problem with the results is that there is no clear way of deciding who qualifies as a “great” athlete, it’s therefore quite easy to skew the results by simply moving this dividing line between “great” and not great athletes around. Until that problem is resolved this effect cannot be truly confirmed.

    It’s the same type of arbitrary and ambiguous interpretation of data and results that prevails in all ESP experiments, which is why supporters always seem to get positive results while detractors don’t. It’s why no ESP has ever been confirmed. Supporters just view the data more favourably. If there were true ESP effect the data would be unequivocal.

    It’s like saying you believe there’s this force called gravity that pulls objects to the ground. As a test you hold a ball and let it go. The ball wobbles a bit. Eureka! shouts the proponent it moved down. That’s what all ESP research is like. Never once ever has there ever been a clear unambiguous result.

    Whenever you make a claim, the onus is on you to prove it beyond a doubt.

    If an ESP person fails to perform on demand (like Uri Geller in that clip before) a new phenomenon, be it skeptic vibes, wrong alignment of the planets, or simply lack of strength, to explain this away, when the honest thing would be to simply call the experiment a failure.

    Has there ever been any double blind research done into ESP? I’ve never seen any. If such research existed and was verified it would be a sensation. That you’ve not pointed to any suggests it doesn’t exist. You’ll probably come up with some excuse as to why it cannot possibly be applied to ESP because it creates a “hostile environment” for the subject and prevents them performing.

    ESP would be great if it existed. There’s just no evidence for it at all as every possible phenomena so far demonstrated has a considerably more mundane explanation or could never be reliably and unambiguously reproduced, suggesting bias or method errors in the original research.

  • More drivel from Mr Martin S Gill.

    “Almost all everyday experiences that people consider paranormal merely stem from the natural human inability to conceptualise the implications of large numbers.”

    The core evidence for the reality of psi comes from scientific experiments.

    “You keep claiming there is evidence yet you keep failing to produce anything that shows a test result other than chance when anyone other than a proponent the research conducts a repeat.”

    You obviously didn’t bother to read my post about CSICOP and their successful confirmation of the Gauquelins’ Mars effect. Or Wiseman’s successful replication of Sheldrake’s work with Jaytee. Or how about Jürgen Keil, an opponent of reincarnation, who succeeded in replicating Stevenson’s work with children?

    “Everytime I show alternative explanations for a phenomena you describe you change to a different phenomena.”

    You haven’t shown any explanation for anything. You have merely denied the reality of psi on the basis of your ideological presupposition that it cannot exist.

    “Additionally your patronising comments “my boy” just show your need to resort to vitriol instead of supported evidence and reasoned argument.”

    You are obviously a very sensitive kind of guy. “My boy” hardly amounts to vitriol, but that is the least outrageous thing you have said of late.

    “As to the dog, you may want to read up on Clever Hans the amazing counting horse.”

    All the old canards half-remembered. Yes, read the WHOLE story. Include Maurice Maeterlinck’s account of his experiments with the horses in the stables at Elberfeld. That’s the bit the sceptics don’t bother to tell us about. Now, do explain. How can a woman give a subtle cue to a dog locked in the front room of a bungalow several miles away? Not even Wiseman has tried to run with that one.

    “It’s basically astrology, and while some people claim to have repeated the results,”

    Yes, CSICOP repeated them – and then suppressed them!

    “the problem with the results is that there is no clear way of deciding who qualifies as a “great” athlete,”

    Funny, that. All those track events, and nothing ever gets measured. Poor show.

    But CSICOP thought sport was amenable to statistical analysis – until they needed to shift their ground, of course.

    “It’s the same type of arbitrary and ambiguous interpretation of data and results that prevails in all ESP experiments, which is why supporters always seem to get positive results while detractors don’t. It’s why no ESP has ever been confirmed. Supporters just view the data more favourably. If there were true ESP effect the data would be unequivocal.”

    All four statements are utterly and demonstrably false. Detractors DO get positive results. ESP HAS been confirmed. Supporters provide hard data that are amenable to statistical analysis. Much of the data IS unequivocal.

    All of your statements are statements of FAITH, not fact. They are things you truly want to be true, not things that actually are true. It is as though you are standing up in church reciting the creed.

    “That’s what all ESP research is like.”

    You haven’t a clue what ESP research is like! You know absolutely ziltch about it!

    “Never once ever has there ever been a clear unambiguous result.”

    There have been many.

    Now, readers, please note. This guy is no longer trying to convince YOU, he is desperately trying to persuade himself, by the endless repetition of falsehoods.

    “Whenever you make a claim, the onus is on you to prove it beyond a doubt.”

    What do you mean by “beyond doubt”? Do you have any understanding of rules of evidence?

    “You may also want to go look up Darren Brown, an amazing entertainer, who in his performances has reproduced every single “trick” (and some much more impressive) that so called paranormally gifted people have done and insists that all he does is just a trick.”

    His name is actually DERREN Brown, so perhaps you should look him up yourself.

    No magician, neither Derren Brown nor anyone else, is capable of faking psi phenomena under controlled laboratory conditions. Magicians only perform under the conditions they themselves set. As Uri Geller put it: “They don’t follow me into the laboratory.” Indeed they don’t.

    “when the honest thing would be to simply call the experiment a failure.”

    Many experiments ARE failures, and the experimenters say so. Your ignorance of the basics is amazing.

    “Has there ever been any double blind research done into ESP?”

    Yes. Triple blind, too. Most of the stuff that is done in the lab. Plus the work people like Gary Schwartz and Roy and Robertson do with mediums (sorry to be so boring, but I’ve actually met these people).

    “If such research existed and was verified it would be a sensation.”

    Yes, it IS a sensation.

    “That you’ve not pointed to any suggests it doesn’t exist.”

    I’ve pointed to lorry loads. Rupert Sheldrake’s work, to start with. And how about Charles Honorton, Dean Radin, Robert Jahn, Helmut Schmidt, William Braud, Charles Tart, and a hundred others? Check the Journal of Parapsychology. A lot of it is published there.

    I bet you’ll be delving into some denialist literature now to reinforce your belief system, after the shocks I’ve been giving it.

    It is always perilous to pontificate about things you know almost nothing about. One tends to fall flat on one’s face.

  • “When the Ancient Greeks rubbed bits of amber together and saw sparks they didn’t foresee power stations. So we cannot really second guess what will eventuate in 100 years time.”

    Psychic research has been around for at least a century already, and produced little of interest, compared to, say, computers or genetics.

    Furthermore, we’re not the Ancient Greeks, we can make educated guesses. For example, pension fund managers will be vetted according to their clairvoyance, and detectives will be recruited on the basis of their telepathy.

  • MartinSGill
    “Has there ever been any double blind research done into ESP? I’ve never seen any.”

    Have you ever thought of doing something like typing “double blind” and “esp” into Google?

    Or would you rather spend your type composing loooooooong posts from a position of _complete_ ignorance?

  • MartinSGill 21st Jun '08 - 4:00pm

    Strange the first I did when I though of double blind esp studies was google for them. I tend to like verifying my facts, unlike you.

    Yes quite a few of them. If we weed out the non-sense pages from fanboys, we get to lots of papers detailing how difficult it is to actually create one because the people under test keep complaining the conditions are intolerable.

    Uri Geller on the Tonight Show for example, and that wasn’t even double blind.

    The difference between ESP research and science.

    Throw a coin 200 times.

    130 head
    70 tail

    ESP researcher goes. EUREKA! Must be using esp to indluence the coin.

    Scientist goes… hmm. given the sample size that’s not really statistically significant. Let’s do 200,000 throws.

    Ohh look.. 50.001% heads and 49.999% tails. It’s random.

    ESP fanboy… no no.. look I did 200 coins.. 135 Head, 65 tail. It’s ESP.

    I chose 200 because that’s what you said were the number of tests your hero carried out on his dog.

    The fact that the dog might know the average time his master comes home and be anticipating is of course impossible. Maybe the man called his wife and her body language changed and the dog picked up on that. Maybe he called his answer machine from work everyday before we came home and the dog associated the light going out, or the incoming call with his master coming home. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of explanations. If sheldrake had done honest tests, he would have had the dog in an isolated room and his master coming through the door at random intervals to and see if the dog consistently moved to the door before the man came to it.

    That’s how you eliminate all the other factors and that’s what distinguished science from the fantasy you keep deluding yourself is evidence.

    There’s no point continuing this conversation. We’re not going to change our positions, me because I’m right and have evidence on my side, you because you’re an irrational zealot fanboy. Though of course I’m happy to admit that you’ll see it the other way around.

    I congratulate Anax on a point very well made.

  • MartinSGill

    So you’re saying you’ve had a proper look, and you still don’t think any double-blind ESP studies have been done?

    That speaks volumes about you, anyway.

  • “Throw a coin 200 times.
    130 head
    70 tail
    ESP researcher goes. EUREKA! Must be using esp to indluence the coin.
    Scientist goes… hmm. given the sample size that’s not really statistically significant. Let’s do 200,000 throws.”


    It’s not often that Internet posters demonstrate their ignorance with _mathematical_ precision, but funnily enough this is one of those occasions!

    Of course, a 65% success rate in a coin tossing experiment of 200 trials would be _highly_ statistically significant – the probability of such a result occurring by chance is less than 0.01%.

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Recent Comments

  • Paul Barker
    Well - good riddance ! Actually the reaction to Anderson that came closest to mine was a Tory who said She just felt so Tired. I am angry of course but Im tire...
  • Chris Moore
    Steve and John, you are right. Ukraine must be handed over to Putin. Then there will be peace. Until Putin attacks Moldova (the attack caused by Nato, of ...
  • John Waller
    Steve, on 6 August 2022 you were right: “Why does more blood need to be spilled before starting negotiations?” Patrick Cockburn today writes in iNews: �...
  • nvelope2003
    Steve Trevethan. I thought we had learned our lesson when it comes to negotiations with dictators. They just come back for more but by then we have been furthe...
  • Peter Martin
    "Surely, MPs should not be forced into a binary choice by the wording of a motion written by one opposition party." The are three choices if we in...