I am still without an internet connection, but to tide this blog over I thought I would post an email conversation between my mum and my older brother.
My mum is a gorgeous person who always wants to believe the best about everyone she comes in contact with and is fascinated with the paranormal. My brother is similar but has learned the painful (for him) lesson that his eagerness to believe in the paranormal means that it is necessary to apply critical-thinking and the skeptical toolbox when confronted with extraordinary claims to avoid being sucked into anything and everything.
This is the email from our mum to my brother Josh (not his real name) edited to remove private details:
Hi Josh ,
I am just about to set off to go, but before I go I thought you would be interested in chasing up on the web these two guys: Bruce L. Cathie and Frank Scully, you may know of them already! Bruce Cathie is a fascinating guy and reminds me a bit of you (very generous). They write about Harmonics/natural reality, UFOs , Anti-gravity, electro-magnetic fields and the energy grid etc. Frank Scully’s forte is flying saucers.
Let me know what you think. Perhaps we could meet up for lunch next week to discuss. Love you.
My brother’s reply:
I tried to find stuff about what Bruce is saying – it’s not easy. The only thing that turns up is prompts to buy his books. The books look cool! Very much like many I’ve read before, although those are clearly labelled for what they are – science-fiction.
I found a forum thread where people were discussing his work but the comments were laughable. Stuff about the moon can only be explained by it being artificially created and the like. That’s how it’s obvious that those folks were scientifically illiterate. They will say “science doesn’t know *everything*” as if that means that “science doesn’t know *anything*”. We know all about moons!
This is the only thing I have to go on regarding the sorts of things Bruce is selling, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now and say that those forum comments are not indicative of his claims. However, it does say something about the type of people who are interested in purchasing his books.
Maybe Bruce is not such a good science-fiction writer so he needs to spread his potential demographic to the scientifically-ignorant in order to turn a profit. This seems quite likely from what I have seen. I’m sure there is a line of argument that I should read a book before I comment further – but then again, if he had any useful claims to make then they would be in the public domain by now.
I’d like to see what you found interesting about his claims – did you have a specific link you can send me please? All I could find was his revenue raising endeavours. What’s with the L. in the name – I guess he wants it to be memorable?
Regarding Frank Scully. Ooo, the Roswell myth – this is a fun one! It’s a fascinating story in myth-making. As you know, I’ve been interested in this since I was a kid. Very hard to get to the facts because they are well hidden amongst the multi-billion dollar industry of woo woo that has built up around it, but it’s not impossible once you know where to look. Joe Nickell (now there’s a truly fascinating person for you to look up) – an investigator of paranormal claims with CSI ( http://www.csicop.org ) – has thoroughly flushed out the facts on this one.
It didn’t take long to find out who Frank Scully was. He’s a guy who, in 1950, wrote a book about the government having “flying saucers” and aliens in their possession. The book was based on a story told to him by two men. It turned out later that the men were hoping to sell him a device which detected petroleum and was based on alien technology, so they fabricated the story using bits from a science-fiction movie “The Flying Saucer” that came out a year earlier, and which keyed into the confusion that snow-balled from the so-called “Roswell incident”.
Frank’s book was very successful. People were eager to be excited by his story, and those who were willing to accept such extraordinary claims at face-value took the story and ran with it – feeding the creation of what now is one of the most profitable franchises in the world.
Was there anything in particular about Frank’s books you found interesting? Any link you want to send me to look at? You are right – it’s all really interesting.
In our discussions, I told my brother that I worry that mum thinks we just shoot down whatever she says regarding the paranormal and that it seems like she maybe wanted to find common ground on this subject. Josh agreed but said he thinks it is great that she is willing to discuss these things with us despite knowing we are “evil skeptics”. Maybe some part of her is beginning to see that hearing the other side of an issue might not be such a bad thing?
My brother said this to me, which I think is a useful point to remember when talking to loved ones who you think would benefit from a little more knowledge about skepticism:
I want to show her that skepticism is all about being interested in paranormal stuff. That is the common ground.