We get mail: a Catholic Priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago recently sent a veritable love letter to Randi for his decades of good work exposing supernatural fraudsters. It ends with an appeal for JREF staff to convert to Catholicism immediately. He included two objects with the letter:
An “Image of the Divine Mercy” (which we are told Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska in pre-WWII Poland) and
a medal that he says the Blessed Mother gave to St. Catherine Laboure in LaSallette, France in 1832.
The priest’s big point: “The Lord created the you without your consent, but he will not save you without your consent.”
Especially interesting was the talk of Randi’s age and how right now is surely the best time for him to finally convert: “Mr. Randi, you doubt so much that I know you must want to believe!”
He also provides some helpful instruction: “Go into a nearby Catholic Church, sit before the Tabernacle (which Catholics believe the Risen Lord Jesus IS Truly, Really, Substantially Present in the Eucharist Host) and open your heart, saying “Lord Jesus, if You are real, give me the grace to believe.” Then we are told we can “enter into the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity!”
Our question is Since when have Catholics become so evangelizing?
We thought you might enjoy reading Randi’s response:
Amazing coincidences happen all the time — but are they simply the product of random chance, or do they convey some hidden meaning? The answer may depend on whether you believe in synchronicity.
The term synchronicity was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961). Jung had a strong belief in a wide variety of paranormal phenomenon, including psychic powers, astrology, alchemy, predictive dreams, UFOs and telekinesis (moving objects with the mind). He was also obsessed with numerology — the belief that certain numbers have special cosmic significance, and can predict important life events.
A flock of birds inspired Carl Jung’s theory that everything in the universe is intimately connected.
Jung’s concept of synchronicity is complicated and poorly defined, but can be boiled down to describing “meaningful coincidences.” The concept of synchronicity came to Jung during a period of mental illness in the early 1900s. Jung became convinced that everything in the universe is intimately connected, and that suggested to him that there must exist a collective unconscious of humankind. This implied to him that events happening all over the world at the same time must be connected in some unknown way.
In his book “137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession,” Arthur I. Miller gives an example of synchronicity; one of his patients “told Jung that when her mother and grandmother died, on each occasion a flock of birds gathered outside the window of the room.” The woman’s husband, who had symptoms of heart problems, went out to see a doctor and “on his way back the man collapsed in the street. Shortly after he had set off to see the specialist a large flock of birds had alighted on the house. His wife immediately recognized this as a sign of her husband’s impending death.”
Is synchronicity real?
There is, of course, a more prosaic explanation for curious coincidence: birds are very common, and simply by random chance a flock will appear near people who are soon to die — just as they appear daily around millions of people who are not soon to die.
Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.
The appearance of synchronicity is the result of a well-known psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias (sometimes described as remembering the hits and forgetting the misses); we much more easily notice and remember things that confirm our beliefs than those that do not. The human brain is very good at making connections and seeing designs in ambiguous stimuli and random patterns.
If Jung’s patient came to believe that a flock of birds meant that death was imminent, she would start noticing flocks of birds, and remember the times when they coincided with a loved one’s death. But she would not likely notice or remember the countless times when flocks of birds appeared over people who lived for years or decades longer. Put another way, a person dying when a flock of birds is present is an event; a person not dying when a flock of birds is present is a non-event, and therefore not something anyone pays attention to. This is the result of normal human perceptual and memory biases, not some mysterious cosmic synchronicity.
It’s easy to see why synchronicity has mass appeal; it provides meaning and order in an otherwise random universe. One famous (and more modern) example of synchronicity is . . .
I hate to break it to you, LiveScience, but in the interest of accuracy, it’s probably time to take the word “Science” out of the name of your website.
What you’re promoting isn’t really science, any more than The History Channel has anything even remotely to do with history. You’re passing along to the public the idea that science is this mushy, hand-waving pursuit, where you can do an “experiment” to support an idea you’d already decided was true, generate essentially nothing in the way of data, and then claim that your results support whatever your original contention was.
Let’s begin with the facts. The Shroud of Turin is a piece of linen cloth that has been preserved for centuries as a holy relic — supposedly the sheet that covered Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. It shows the image of a naked man, with wounds similar to those described in the bible.
As we’ve seen before, that is never that when religion enters the picture.
The article in LiveScience tells about a study headed by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino, in Turin, Italy, which discovered that when you crush rocks using a mechanical press, it can cause a brief emission of neutrons. From that single piece of information, he concludes the following:
Earthquakes can therefore be associated with neutron emissions.
The neutrons could interact with nitrogen atoms in the linen cloth (or in anything else, presumably), and mess up the carbon-14 dating protocol, causing it to give a wrong answer.
The neutrons could also have burned a pattern into the cloth as they passed through it. Because the cloth was wrapped around a human body, it would have caused an image to appear on it, much like an x-ray.
The bible says that there was an earthquake around the time of Jesus’ resurrection, and the “stone rolled back from the tomb.” [Matthew 28:1-2]
So: the Shroud of Turin is actually the burial cloth of Jesus. Therefore god and the Catholic Church and all of the rest of it. q.e.d.
Oh, come on, now. This qualifies as science? It’s about as bad an example of assuming your conclusion as I’ve ever seen. And if earthquakes interfered with carbon-14 and nitrogen-14 levels, then radiocarbon dating would never work, since earthquakes happen basically all the time, all over the Earth. And yet carbon-14 dating has been shown to be extremely accurate, over and over again.
People who have stigmata exhibit wounds that duplicate or represent those that Jesus is said to have endured during his crucifixion. The wounds typically appear on the stigmatic’s hands and feet (as from crucifixion spikes) and also sometimes on the side (as from a spear) and hairline (as from a crown of thorns).
Along with possession and exorcism, stigmata often appears in horror films, and it’s not difficult to see why: bloody wounds that mysteriously and spontaneously open up are terrifying. However, stigmatics, who are typically devout Roman Catholics, do not see their affliction as a terrifying menace but instead as a miraculous blessing — a sign that they have been specially chosen by God to suffer the same wounds his son did.
Curiously, there are no known cases of stigmata for the first 1,200 years after Jesus died. The first person said to suffer from stigmata was St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), and there have been about three dozen others throughout history, most of them women.
A young Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) displays his stigmata.
The most famous stigmatic in history was Francesco Forgione (1887-1968), better known as Padre Pio, or Pio of Pietrelcina. The most beloved Italian saint of the last century, Padre Pio first began noticing red wounds appearing on his hands in 1910, and the phenomenon progressed until he experienced full stigmata in 1918 as he prayed in front of a crucifix in his monastery’s chapel.
Padre Pio was said to have been able to fly, and also to bilocate (to be in two places at once); his stigmata was allegedly accompanied by a miraculous perfume; the Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty, in his 1963 biography of the saint, noted that it smelled of “violets, lilies, roses, incense, or even fresh tobacco,” and “whenever anyone notices the perfume it is a sign that God bestows some grace through the intercession of Padre Pio.”
Journalist Sergio Lizzatto, in his book “Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age” explains the social context in which Padre Pio’s stigmata emerged: “In the first years of the twentieth century, when Padre Pio was a seminarian, the Eucharist — the body and blood of Christ — was at the height of its importance in Catholic practice. Communion was celebrated frequently and became a mass phenomenon. At the same time, asceticism was interpreted in ever more physical terms. Body language — ecstasy, levitation, the stigmata — was held to be the only real mystical language.”
Pio’s stigmata appeared, Lizzatto argues, because that’s exactly what the church and its followers expected to appear in its most devout servants: Jesus’ real, physical torment visited upon the holiest of men.
Though Padre Pio was widely beloved, many weren’t convinced that the friar’s wounds were supernatural. Among the skeptics were two popes and the founder of Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Agostino Gemelli, who examined Padre Pio and concluded that the stigmatic was a “self-mutilating psychopath.”
Still, Padre Pio garnered a widespread following and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Though Pio, who died in 1968, never confessed to faking his stigmata, questions about his honesty surfaced when it was revealed that he had copied his writings about his experiences from an earlier stigmatic named Gemma Galgani. He claimed ignorance of Galgani’s work, and could not explain how his allegedly personal experiences had been published verbatim decades earlier by someone else. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a miracle.
Is stigmata real?
So is stigmata real, or a hoax, or something in between? The claimed miracle of stigmata — like inedia, where people who claim not to eat food — is very difficult to scientifically verify. Veteran researcher James Randi, in his “Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural,” notes that “Since twenty-four-hour-a-day surveillance would be necessary to establish the validity of these phenomena as miracles, no case of stigmata exists that can be said to be free of suspicion,” and though the possibility of genuine stigmata can never be ruled out, “It is interesting to note that in all such cases, the wounds in the hands appear at the palms, which agrees with religious paintings but not with the actualities of crucifixion; the wounds should appear at the wrists.”
If stigmata is real, there is no medical or scientific explanation for it.
Who is old enough to remember Y2K? I remember it well (translation: i’m old).
Y2K is an acronym for “Year 2000,” or, as it was also known – “The Year 2000 problem, the Y2K problem, the Millennium bug, the Y2K bug, or simply Y2K.” (source) It was the moment when the clocks struck 12:00 AM on Janury 1, 2000 and how it might affect every aspect of our lives. Why?
The year 2000 was a problem for many computers because many computer programs stored years using only the last two digits of the year; for example, 1980 was stored as “80″, the year 1999 was stored as “99″ and the year 2000 would be stored as “00″.
Do you see the problem? Not only did such systems view the year 2000 as “00″, but they also viewed the year 1900 as “00″. Imagine what would happen to half your programs if your computer suddenly thought the current year (2013) was actually the year 1913. Your calendar program, your watch, your smart phone and many other programs we rely on would suddenly be all wacked out. Imagine what would happen to the banking system if this glitch occurred. Would you be able to access your money? Would all your checks suddenly bounce? (On the other hand, maybe the banks would suddenly give us 100 years of accrued interest. But i digress …)
Now imagine if such a glitch were to occur in bigger systems like nuclear electric plants and nuclear weapons? What might go wrong? This is what had a lot of people in a near state of panic.
Would telephone systems shutdown? Would the electric grid turn off across the country – plunging all of us into darkness for an indeterminant amount of time? Would trains run on schedule? Would the air traffic control system lose control? Would our nuclear arsenal behave in some unpredicted manner and cause WWIII? Would the nuclear arsenal in some other country malfunction and bomb us?
It seemed nobody knew for sure what would – or would not – happen. People were concerned and scared.
Enter my favorite moron – Alex Jones.
On New Year’s Eve 1999, the night the clocks were due to change over to the year 2000, The Alex Jones show engaged in some of the most negligent, egregious and irresponsible scare mongering ever. I don’t know of a worse case than this.
In the 3 hours Jones was on the air, he made every conceivable claim of catastrophe imaginable. He took everything people were fearing about Y2K and he claimed those fears were materializing. Everything from cash machines failing, nuclear power plants shutting down, concentration camps (with shackles) being readied, empty grocery store shelves, gas stations out of gas, Martial Law declared, the military serving search warrants in 77 Texas counties – to an actual nuclear missile attack!!!!!!!!
And did any of this actually occur? No. None of it. People were so frightened they reportedly headed for the hills (literally) and got physically sick.
Bill Cooper’s original broadcast was 3 hours long. In the Alex Jones recording i present below, except for the opening 30 seconds, i have edited out all of Bill Cooper’s narratives so you can hear Alex Jones uninterrupted in all his despicable glory.
As i was going through the audio, i noticed breaks in the Alex Jones audio that i assume were done by Bill Cooper’s editing team in preparation for broadcast. Where ever i believed there was an edit i added a half-second “beep” sound. This is to help avoid confusion as the conversation would sometimes abruptly change topics. So listen for the beeps (you can’t miss them).
Below the audio you will find a complete transcript of notes i made of what to expect in the audio. This will help you follow along. Where ever you see the word “Regurgitation,” that is my own shorthand to indicate it is a previously mentioned point being repeated by Jones – a tactic he uses to give the impression he has a pile of information. Any words [inside brackets] are commentaries i made for myself.
Believe me, this is an audio clip Alex Jones wishes would go away.
Mason I. Bilderberg.
P.S. If anybody knows where i can find a copy of the full 3 hour Alex Jones Show from 12/31/1999 please let me know.
P.P.S. I apologize in advance for any spelling errors.
Alex Jones Y2K (30 minutes):
0:00 Bill Cooper sets up the scene.
0:27 Cash machines are failing in Britain and other European countries
0:32 Finding large amounts of explosives in France
1:03 More wars then in the last 50 years is going on right now
Russian Hinds Helicopter
1:07 The war in chechnya is raging with hundreds of thousands dying
1:13 20,000 to 40,000 civilians trapped in the city [presumably chechnya]
1:16 Russian Hinds (Helicopter) are being shot down, tanks are being blown to bits
1:26 Air and artillery bombardments [presumably chechnya]
1:39 Pennsylvania nuclear plant (Limerick Generating Station) has been shut down [implied because of Y2K-related problems. Not true. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) findings are contained in the image, below]
1:49 The shelves (In TX) are empty of water and gas stations are running out of fuel
1:50 In Minneapolis and Texas the shortwave (radio) is down
2:50 The Pennsylvania nuclear plant and (now) 4 other nuclear plants were having Y2K-related problems [See 3:04 mark]
3:12 The government in Washington D.C. has set up a $50M command bunker that is hooked into FEMA and they can take over all the shortwave (radio), AM/FM radio stations and all television and other broadcast stations
3:34 The police and military [presumably nationwide] are on high alert
3:41 The military are highly visible [presumably in the streets]
3:45 Trains of military equipment moving into Austin, TX
3:53 The airport (Robert Mueller Airport) will be used as a massive holding facility [ala concentration camps]
4:03 Vladimir Putin is a demon
A Topol-M mobile launcher.
4:12 Now 6 to 7 (nuclear) reactors having Y2K related problems [Not true]
4:50 Globalist Forces are gearing up to clamp down on America, Russia and the world
5:08 America is gearing up and bracing for terrorism and militarizing everything in front of us.
6:00 They (Russia) have deployed their missiles and submarines against us (America).
6:09 Vladimir Putin, who just took over as Russian President, has “taken the codes off” Russia’s nuclear arsenal. (The Russian nuclear arsenal no longer requires a secret code to initiate a nuclear missile attack on America.)
6:25 Discussing America being hit with a nuclear first-strike and the ensuing annihilation.
7:27 Regurgitation: Pennsylvania Electric Company (PECO), Limerick Generating Station (here and here) was shutdown [presumably because of Y2K-related problems. Not true. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) findings are contained in the image, below].
7:38 Doesn’t challenge a caller paraphrasing (Colonel) Bo Gritz who said, that Russia said, if their (Russia) power goes out they will blame us and they (Russia) would set off their nuclear arsenal.
8:01 The Russians are threatening to nuke us every, single week.
8:25 Currencies around the world are plunging
8:39 Gas stations in America are out of gas
8:58 American’s are standing up as Russia threatens to attack us with nuclear weapons
9:02 Nuclear power plants are being shutdown
9:07 The military is “running around” with the police and the FBI saying terrorism is imminent [the takeover is beginning]
9:25 “They” have activated a powerful, cold war, radar system in the north pole region [presumably to keep an eye out for a Russian ICBM attack] that is affecting shortwave (radio)
9:46 Military traffic is EVERYWHERE
9:52 Regurgitation: Super power, cold war radar systems (presumably to keep an eye out for a Russian ICBM attack) and nuclear systems are up.
10:07 Fresno (California?) is blacked out, he (Jones) is off the internet
10:25 [Scare tactic, Survivalist Commercial]
11:03 “America is under siege right now.”
11:14 Regurgitation: Pennsylvania nuclear power plant shutdown
11:33 Egypt is having a run on the banks
11:45 Regurgitation: The power in Fresno (California?) is down, he is off the internet
11:50 Regurgitation: Cash machines and ATMs in Europe are having problems
12:03 Martial Law signs are posted on highway 65 in Arkansas by the Arkansas Transportation Department
21:18 There are “shackles on the ground, concreted into the ground” at Robert Mueller Airport – like a slave galley.
21:42 New Zealand is having power outages
21:57 Regurgitation: Pennsylvania nuclear power plant shutdown
22:33 Regurgitation: Vladimir Putin threatens to nuke us
22:50 Regurgitation: Pennsylvania nuclear power plant shutdown
22:55 The power is off in 8 different areas across the country
22:58 A lot of cable systems aren’t working
23:01 Satellites are down
23:09 “Minor fault (???) struck two nuclear power plants in Japan just seconds after the clock ticked into 2000 …”
23:25 Anybody near a nuclear power plant should pack up and go someplace else.
23:37 The store shelves are bare in Austin, TX.
23:43 Regurgitation: Gas is running out.
23:44 They’re announcing on the news that, “if you’re bad they’re going to put you in a … they’re going to bolt you to a pipe coming out of the ground at the airport (Robert Mueller Airport) in some cold hangar.”
24:04 “The military is serving search warrants now in 77 Texas counties.”
24:08 Regurgitation: “We got nuclear power plants shutting down.”
24:20 Regurgitation: The Russians are threatening to nuke us RIGHT NOW.
24:40 Regurgitation: “Well, they got the Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and LAVs (Light Armored Vehicles) loading on the flat cars out of Fort Hood.”
25:06 There are currently nuclear missiles being launched.
25:15 ABC (news) just had a special news bulletin – a military General standing in front of Cheyenne Mountain (nuclear bunker) announced 5 nuclear missiles have been launched.
25:44 The general refused to say what kind of missiles, where they were coming from or where they were going.
25:58 This secrecy is just like when the special operations training that was conducted with the Russians in south TX when they burned buildings and laying siege to towns [never happend]
26:44 Jones’ co-host: “You elect me to president and i will nuke them (Russians) first, i’ll push the button as soon as i take the oath … i’m opening up that football and start launching, man.”
26:55 Regurgitation: The Russians have been threatening to nuke us, they reserve the first strike right to hit us for no reason and Clinton said he will absorb the first strike by the Russians.
27:06 Jones’ co-host: Hopes one of those 5 incoming nuclear missiles is headed towards Clinton.
28:20 The perceived enemy is “obviously” the American people.
28:36 Regurgitation: It’s on ABC news that 5 nuclear missiles have been launched.
28:57 The night before (12/30/99), anything and everything on the flight line at Selfridge Air National Guard Base was put into the air and was constantly in the air. [i.e. The U.S. is preparing for a nuclear attack]
29:11 Regurgitation: Super power, cold war radar systems [presumably to keep an eye out for a Russian ICBM attack] are turned on.
29:21 The Russians are not the only ones we need to be concerned about … we should worry about the Chinese too.
20:24 We also need to be worried about Germany.
29:58 Regurgitation: It’s on ABC news that 5 nuclear missiles have been launched.
Souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers, government conspirators, and all manner of invisible agents with power and intention are believed to haunt our world and control our lives. Why?
Our human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise causes us to see this face on Mars.
The answer has two parts, starting with the concept of “patternicity,” which I defined in my December 2008 column as the human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Consider the face on Mars, the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, satanic messages in rock music. Of course, some patterns are real. Finding predictive patterns in changing weather, fruiting trees, migrating prey animals and hungry predators was central to the survival of Paleolithic hominids.
The problem is that we did not evolve a baloney-detection device in our brains to discriminate between true and false patterns. So we make two types of errors: a type I error, or false positive, is believing a pattern is real when it is not; a type II error, or false negative, is not believing a pattern is real when it is. If you believe that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind (a type I error), you are more likely to survive than if you believe that the rustle in the grass is just the wind when it is a dangerous predator (a type II error). Because the cost of making a type I error is less than the cost of making a type II error and because there is no time for careful deliberation between patternicities in the split-second world of predator-prey interactions, natural selection would have favored those animals most likely to assume that all patterns are real.
But we do something other animals do not do. As large-brained hominids with a developed cortex and a theory of mind—the capacity to be aware of such mental states as desires and intentions in both ourselves and others—we infer agency behind the patterns we observe in a practice I call “agenticity”: the tendency to believe that the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents. We believe that these intentional agents control the world, sometimes invisibly from the top down (as opposed to bottom-up causal randomness). Together patternicity and agenticity form the cognitive basis of shamanism, paganism, animism, polytheism, monotheism, and all modes of Old and New Age spiritualisms.
Agenticity carries us far beyond the spirit world. The Intelligent Designer is said to be an invisible agent who created life from the top down. Aliens are often portrayed as powerful beings coming down from on high to warn us of our impending self-destruction. Conspiracy theories predictably include hidden agents at work behind the scenes, puppet masters pulling political and economic strings as we dance to the tune of the Bilderbergers, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers or the Illuminati. Even the belief that government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity, with President Barack Obama being touted as “the one” with almost messianic powers who will save us.
There is now substantial evidence from cognitive neuroscience that humans readily find patterns and impart agency to them . . .
Deepak Chopra apparently has no love for organized skepticism. This is not surprising and his particular brand of spiritual pseudoscience has been a favorite target of skeptical analysis. He is also not the only one who has decided to fight back against the skeptics – if you cannot defend yourself against legitimate criticism, then shoot the messenger.
In a recent article Chopra renews his attack against what he calls “militant skepticism.” This is a blatant attempt, of course, to portray skeptics as extremist and on the fringe, a strategy that has been used against “militant atheists.” Chopra also uses his article to conflate skepticism with atheism, almost as if he is completely unaware of the internal discourse that has been taking place for decades within the skeptical movement.
The rise of militant skepticism clouded the picture, however, beginning with its popular attack on religion. The aim of Richard Dawkins, as stated in his best seller, The God Delusion, was to subject “the God hypothesis” to scientific scrutiny, the way one would subject anti-matter or black holes to scrutiny. In fact he did no such thing with God, for the scientific method requires experiments that can be replicated and facts that can be verified. Dawkins offered no experiments to prove or disprove the existence of God. What he actually did was to subject religion to a barrage of scorn and ridicule, attacking it on the rational improbability – as he sees it – that a deity could possibly exist.
This is an interesting bit of historical revisionism, although I think it probably just reflects Chopra’s complete unfamiliarity with his subject matter. The modern skeptical movement predates Dawkins by decades. We have had a clear philosophy and scope long before Dawkins appeared on the scene.
Dawkins is a highly respected figure among skeptics because of his powerful writing, his popularizing of science, and his unflinching criticism of pseudoscience. Most skeptics are atheists, and we also respect his defending science from the intrusion of religion and spirituality.
Where many skeptics, myself included, disagree with Dawkins is precisely in treating “the God hypothesis” as if it were only a scientific question. I say “only” because certainly it is possible to treat any supernatural hypothesis as if it were in the realm of methodological naturalism, and there is general agreement among skeptics when approached in this way the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any god exists, or that the laws of the material universe need to be extended to account for any alleged supernatural phenomena. If you frame God as a scientific hypothesis, it can be scientifically refuted. Looked at another way, the psychocultural hypothesis is a far better and more parsimonious explanation for belief in God than the actual existence of such a being.
The big “but” is that not everyone believes in God as a scientific fact. Some people choose to have faith in an unfalsifiable god, one that resides outside the realm of science. Once someone’s faith has retreated outside the realm of science, then science is no longer the tool by which one should address such faith. Logic and philosophy are now more appropriate, but you cannot say, by definition, that an unfalsifiable God can be scientifically proven to not exist.