Chris Carter vs the Skeptics

This week the always fascinating Skeptiko podcast features Chris Carter (not the X-Files guy, nor the musician) discussing his new book Science and the Near Death Experience (audio and text transcription of the podcast are available). I've been meaning to talk to Chris about his new book for a while, but meatspace issues keep impinging on my time. But for those who can't wait, Alex has (as always) done a good job of exploring Carter's take on a topic we discuss pretty regularly here on TDG: anomalous science and the role 'skeptics' play in keeping it apostate.

In my first book I had a section on Susan Blackmore and it basically showed that her claims-she went around for years claiming that she failed to find any psychic abilities in her experiments. Science and the Near Death ExperienceSo one of my friends, Rick Berger, went back and re-examined her experiments and found that they were also sloppily conducted. Nothing-no conclusions could be drawn from them. If anything, her experiments showed the existence of telepathy.

He printed this up in a scientific journal and Blackmore was asked to respond. What she said was, “Hey, I agree. No conclusions can be drawn from the Blackmore experiments.” In other words, she was saying that her work was an absolute failure and for the past 20-30 years, however long her career had been on at the time, she had accomplished absolutely nothing. It was based upon absolutely nothing.

But then I examined her writings in a scientific journal before the Berger article and her confession, and then I examined her writings in the popular press right after. And I saw absolutely no change at all, both before and after. She was still saying, “Hey, I did years of careful research and I found nothing.” Even though she had admitted just a few years previously in a scientific journal, that her experiments on psychic abilities were absolutely useless. They were just too sloppy, too small, too poorly conducted to draw any conclusions.

So I don’t have a lot of respect for Susan Blackmore. I think she’s a shameless self-promoter.

As can be seen above, Chris has some pretty strong thoughts about 'skeptical' individuals and organisations, which he discussed at length in his previous book Parapsychology and the Skeptics. The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research has also recently published his critique of prominent 'skeptic' Richard Wiseman, titled “'Heads I Lose, Tails You Win', Or, How Richard Wiseman Nullifies Positive Results, and What to Do about It" (free PDF download). It's a great article, showing that all of Wiseman's criticisms of parapsychology can be turned against himself.

Wiseman, yet another magician-turned-skeptic, has some serious punch in the scientific community - he's listed as one of the most followed psychologists on Twitter, with over 50,000 followers. He's at least worth following for a laugh - he seems obsessed with self-publicity (to an almost pathological level), and my own conclusion is that this obsession with media coverage is what drives most of his experiments, rather than actual scientific curiosity (encapsulated in his response to media coverage of his Twitter remote viewing study: "#twitterexperiment getting lots of media attention. Well done us!"). It's also fascinating to watch his presentation of paranormal topics to the media, as he tends to get fairly 'creative' with his statements (see for example this previous TDG story, "Hampton Haunting Debunked?") - a trait he shares with other magicians-turned-skeptics (not least, Randi).

But who am I to seems to be paying his bills, and some. Wiseman has an upcoming book on his experiences researching the paranormal, titled Supernormality (also sometimes listed as Paranormality), which reportedly sold to a publisher in the UK "in a 'big' six-figure deal". Maybe I should start getting 'creative' myself when I write about the paranormal, seems a sure fire way to bring attention to yourself...

Previously on TDG:


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Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
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1 hour 1 min

I smiled when I saw that after I wrote this post, Wiseman's next Twitter update was "Christmas science stunts video has had +20k views in 24 hours - thanks to everyone who watched". Just to underline things...

Kind regards,
You monkeys only think you're running things

emlong's picture
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18 September 2007
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7 hours 22 min

If you examine in detail the funding sources and organizations behind many of the journals and gatekeepers there is often an element that could be called "antiawareness." PSI and other related phenomena ultimately suggest an assumption of powers that cannot be controlled by money, position, and influence, i.e. they are threatening to power with a capital P. People like Randi for instance invariably attack and dwell on things that suggest personal empowerment. His attacks on 911 false flag theory for example were a notable excursion away from his usual bailiwick, and he has subsequently become a ranter against "conspiracy theories" which has always struck me as odd and demonstrative of ulterior motives. The extraordinary grasping and stretching he employs to debunk any and every idea related to 911 conspiracy sounds an awful lot to me like someone running interference for the "authorities." It is just another subject he has been hired to attack since it smacks of an aware and informed populace.

atsakiris's picture
Member since:
30 January 2007
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4 years 6 weeks
emlong wrote:

there is often an element that could be called "antiawareness."

Agreed... and it really takes so little to nudge things in a direction so many are already going... e.g. if I'm an atheist I'm real susceptible to this "don't look over there" message.


kamarling's picture
Member since:
26 June 2005
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11 hours 43 sec

Alex, if anyone wants to know what Wiseman is really like they should listen to the podcast of your interview with him. And then stay tuned for the email exchange that follows the interview. For a man who spends his life (and our money - via grants) supposedly exposing dishonest claims, Wiseman should take a long hard look in the mirror.


Rick MG's picture
Member since:
2 May 2004
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9 weeks 2 days

Chris Carter is Author of the Month at Graham Hancock's website, if anyone's interested in asking him a question or reading what he has to say.

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