Proof and faith issues and the strange thoughts of Uri Geller
The quote in the title is from an exclusive interview with Geller on prosieben.de which forms the basis for this article (in German – all quotes are my (re-)translations).
The introduction says:
For almost 40 years, he is a closed book for the public. […]
Or he’s trying to. For a “general public”, a “broad mass”, which corresponds to the target audience of the private TV stations and tabloid papers, this may hold true. Thanks to the internet, and YouTube & co. in particular, he can’t keep up his hard course that included many unfounded lawsuits against critics.
For instance the suit over 4 million US dollars in 1992 against book authors which was dismissed after two years with a (much smaller) punishment against Geller, which he had refused to pay, or a suit over 15 million against CSICOP (now CSI, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) because of a statement by James Randi who said he had found a trick that Geller used to fool even respected scientists on a cornflake box.
(In German, you can read this and much more on the GWUP’s page, the German equivalent to CSICOP.)
Of course this doesn’t keep ProSieben from the brainwashing track of “all real powers, no tricks”, for which they rightfully got the (unfortunately too unknown) “Dodo of the Month” (German), an award for brainwashing of the people.
Powers and Energy
So is there a logical, scientific explanation for where your supernatural powers originate?
No explanation, but there is evidence for my powers. […]
Wrong. There is not a single respectable and trustworthily conducted scientific evidence for such “supernatural powers”. GWUP (my translation): “The only respectable publication reporting a positive test result is that by Targ and Puthoff (1974) in Nature magazine. This paper, however, has been heavily criticized for methodoligic flaws (see Randi 1982, Hergovich 2001). Furthermore, this experiment was only about extrasensory perception, not about Geller’s pretended psychokinetic abilities!“
But there’s evidence for magic tricks.
Do you yourself want to know where these powers come from, at all?
I’m a very religious person and would like to believe that somewhere in the universe, there is a higher power that guides everything. I’m sure that everything is infinite and thus everything is possible and every creature and also every object contains energy.
In the 1970s, he used to tell that his “powers” came from a planet named “Hoova” through a UFO called “IS” = “Intelligence in the Sky”. (Source: James Randi 2001 p. 137f according to GWUP.) In UFOs in general, he’s still believing, as we will yet see.
Apart from that, it’s of course a strange conclusion from “infinite” to “energy in everything”. Anyone understand this? I don’t.
And which kind of energy is he talking about, anyway? The answer is quite clear: that’s being arranged as needed, as is usual among mystics and para-believers:
Even this solid looking table at which we are sitting now is nothing but a vibrating mass of molecules. We live in an ocean of energy, and this energy cannot die. Albert Einstein has proven with his famous equaqtion “E=m*c2” [sic!] that everything is energy. But where does this energy go when out body dies? I do not know. But I am convinced that it is immortal.
For he’s amalgamating the energy of molecules, of subatomic particles with a “life energy”, whatever that is, just like that – someone give a physical definition of that, please…
When a living being dies, the atoms – and the energy within its components – indeed remains (or they disintegrate, as any atom, faster or slower, depending on the element, into other kinds of atoms and particles, independent of belonging to a living being or not). The linkages between them change during the decay process, the energy contained within them is rearranged and carried away; by cooling down, kinetic energy is passed on to the environment; the entropy, in total, increases (what else could it do).
But combining Einstein’s E=mc² with a “life energy” is nothing more than the kind of pseudoscientists and their followers to try to give their statements the illusion of respectable knowledge.
[…] I respect all religions and everyone should be allowed to believe in what he wants. Just extremism is an anathema to me.
Nice that he finally says one thing you can agree to.
Your powers are, without a doubt, an expression of energy; do you have control over your powers all the time?
“Without a adoubt”? The interviewer can be quite funny – and pitiable if he believes it himself. Although, there is a kind of energy involved, in the meaning of the urge to do something, of (attempted) assertiveness and perseverance – which, of course, isn’t what’s meant here…
No, nobody can really control something. Maybe in this moment, you are not actually sitting here with me at this table, maybe there is no “out there”. Only our conciousness creates a world for itself. I recently made a very important movie “Staya Erusa” (www.stayaerusa.org),
I don’t know this movie and will yet rummage through that website, but at first sight it seems to contain a lot of abstruse, esoteric, unscientific or things mixed up in unacceptable ways.
and in this movie we prove that there is life after death.
That would be a sensation…
I deliberately searched for scientists and even nobel prize winners who deliver this proof. […]
I can understand that he is deliberately looking for such supporters. But I doubt that he had allowed enough (if any) critical statements. And not everything what some people call proof or may acceppt as such actually is proof – more on that later.
You believe in UFOs?
I ask you: when you look up at the night sky and see the millions of sparkling stars, isn’t it impossible to assume that we are alone in the universe. Yes, I believe in UFOs, there is life out there!
Only because there may be life somewhere in space – which is quite possible, even if scientists don’t agree on the exact propbability, because there are many variables, of course –, this doesn’t mean at all that (a) it’s intelligent and especially (b) has the facilities to come here. And (c) that it is interested in visiting us in the first place if they receive our television signals.
The distances in space are no stone’s throw! And though in science fiction there are actual solutions to this problem (warp drive, wormholes, …) and intelligent extraterrestrials, if they exist, may have scientific knowledge surpassing our own – this does contradict our current knowledge. This doesn’t rule out such solutions in general, but it doesn’t, on the other hand, make them more probable or even prove them. And we will soon speak about these issues of proof and disproof.
How do these alien creatures look like; are they like the little green men from Mars?
I have never seen creatures from other planets, but I have seen UFOs, without any doubt. […]
Just because Geller (or anyone) cannot identify a flying object – and UFO does mean nothing but “unidentified flying object” in the first place –, this doesn’t at all mean that they are extraterrestrial vessels! It’s always the same… You get quite some media attention with such claims and messages, but not with sober, reasonable, respectable intelligence and explanation – hot air balloons (or models thereof), lightshows, illumination rockets, …
The creatures of which he had said, as mentioned above, have given him his “powers” in the 70s, apparently haven’t appeared to him in person, then?
Religion and proof
Religion was mentioned briefly before, but we’re now delving deeper into it:
[…] I can only tell you what I believe: there is a god for everything. Maybe even you and me are a part of God. How can anyone claim anything else, for you can’t prove the opposite.
The impossibility of a proof for something does not result in the opposite being proven! This error in reasoning is, unfortunately, quite common among such people… And let it be said clearly that surely those who makes special claims such as the possesion of supernatural abilities or being part of a god – or, in general, the existence of a “higher being” like a god, whichever details it may have – must show their proofs and not those who make the reasonable assumptions “there are no such powers” or “there is no god”.
Let’s remember Carl Sagan (“astronomer and astrochemist and a highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics, and other natural sciences”, quoting Wikipedia), who so greatly wrote about this in “The Dragon In My Garage” (from his book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In the Dark”). In brief:
Suppose someone claims: “A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”, and counters any doubt or proof suggestion – I see nothing; flour on the floor for foodprints; infrared sensor to detect the fire; spray-paint to make it visible – with cheep excuses ~ is invisible; hovers; this fire is heatless; not corporeal, color don’t stick. Where, then, is the difference between such a dragon and the non-existence of the dragon? “Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless.” It would be a request to believe, more would not be possible.
With just one person claiming this, it would be rather obvious to declare this person ínsane. But even if several make such claims, nothing changes, as long as no trustworthy proof is possible. Even possible reports such as footprints in the flour which never appear when a skeptic is looking – so can be forged without problem –, or someone with a burnt finger attributing this to a rare manifestation of the dragon fire – but may burnt himself anywhere else – would be anything but convincing “proofs”! There would always be other, more sensible explanations and the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, until possible future, more reliable data can be collected – “and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.”
Also I had mentioned, when comparing “mental powers” and magic tricks in my post “Magic?” about the report of a mentalist show attendant: “So why use ominous, mysterious, speculative paranormal as a fictuous attempt to explain things if the ordinary tricks are so beautifully sufficient explanations?” (Keyword „Occam’s razor“)
But let’s get back to Geller now.
Evolution, doubtful things and doubt
I don’t share Darwin’s view that we came out of the mud and first developed into lizards, amphibians and dinosaurs.
I believe we have been brought here from other planets, about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Then mankind slowly developed. I can’t prove that, of course, but it’s a possibility by all means.
But an abstruse, absurd, outright ridiculous possibility. What about bone finds of pre- and early humans which are older and contain definite relationship features? And even if there may be gabs in what is currently(!) known about the evolutionary sequence, the principle is proven. Evolution is no question of believe!
(Apart from Geller not correctly stating the sequence, anyway – we human beings are no descendants of the dinosaurs.)
[…] Much more important to me is the question: Where was the god I believe in when all these acts of horror were committed when the holocaust happened?!
You have doubts in such moments?
Yes, of course. Or maybe I should rather say that I find it hard to see the greater connections and understand God’s plans, because our mind simply cannot comprehend that.
A popular cop-out, this “God’s plans” thing. And this brings us to the good old theodicy problem… the Wikipedia article contains over 9000 words, and which of the suggested solutions or evasive arguments to by all means keep your faith in a “omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent god” really does make sense?
“Isn’t so bad after all”? “Evil is needed to recognize good, it can’t be better”? “God is rather just than benevolent”? “So god isn’t allmighty, allknowing or benevolent”? “It’s god’s goal to change man”? “This question is insolent”?
To me, the only sensible, reasonable answer really seems to be “There is no god”.
The last sentence
Even those who are such consolidated in their religiois faith (or believe to be) that they rather ignore the previous paragraph should please not have ignored the paragraphs above about Uri Geller’s pretended “powers”, “UFOs” and the issues of provability.