Move Over, John Edward, You Are Obsolete
Self-proclaimed “psychic” John Edward continues to impress some people with his “gift”, professing the ability of being able to communicate with dead people. He was interviewed a few days ago by Pennnews.com. Among his typical comments about what it means to be a “psychic”, and when did he first realize he could do what he does, Edward offered some choice words about the science behind his abilities, and the skeptics who doubt his claims.
When asked by the reporter about skeptics who believe he is using hot-reading and cold-reading techniques, Edward answered:
“They’re not really skeptic, they’re really cynics. Either they think people are being researched ahead of time, or they’re saying it’s guess work that [we] paint bulls-eyes around. Basically, what I think they’re saying is that people who seek mediums out are stupid. And I don’t think they’re stupid. When you watch a real medium, information is coming through. The client validated the information. It’s not just asking questions.”
Edward’s depiction of skeptics is unfounded, and his straw man (“they (skeptics) are saying that people who seek mediums are stupid”) is entirely incorrect. A very typical comment from John when it comes to the people who doubt his claims. Edward also replied to another question about religion, and in his response he offered this:
“I don’t see my work as religious. I see it as more scientific and energy based.”
“Energy-based” is a meaningless statement which Edward tries to infuse with validity by coupling it with the term “scientific”. It is designed to sound infinitely more impressive than it actually is. When the reporter pressed him on the science behind his “energy-based” powers and reminded Edward that there has never been scientific evidence of “psychic” energies, Edwards replied:
“Doctor Gary Schwartz wrote a book called ‘The Afterlife Experiments’. We went through double-blind studies where we replicated and extended the data. Whenever someone comes at me from that end, I say go read the research and look at the data.”
Nice try, John, however, critical analysis of that book by Ray Hyman reveals:
“The Afterlife Experiments describes a program of experiments described in four reports using mediums and sitters. The studies were methodologically defective in a number of important ways, not the least of which was that they were not double-blind … A fifth report describes a study that was designed to be a true double-blind experiment. The outcome, by any accepted statistical and methodological standard, failed to support the hypothesis of the survival of consciousness.”
So while John Edward’s claims are as vacuous as his understanding of science, there are people who do understand science and technology and are coming up with a whole new way of perceiving what it means to be able to communicate with people who have died.
It is a gaming company called “Paranormal Games”, but don’t let the title fool you. Developers Steve Koutsouliotas and Nick Stavrou are calling it “Project Elysium” and their virtual reality software will attempt to create an environment where a person can see and hear the deceased. As described by the developers:
“Project Elysium … has three services that we aim to offer in our current model. The main service is clients working with a consultant to build an Elysium Project of their deceased loved one. The other is creating an Elysium Project for a living client to leave behind for their loved ones. The third is a mass-market experience where we would build a specific Elysium project of, for example, Elvis in one of his films and release these projects to the public for them to experience. The prototype that we are building is an experience where you take the role of a spectator. You get to see a simulation of how the experience and interaction for a client and their deceased loved one would work.”
This is an inventive new way of looking at the entire “afterlife” paradigm. Interaction with the deceased would be the ultimate virtual experience, but that could likely come in the following generations. Certainly the psychological consequences of such a device would need to be closely studied. The questions are plentiful, but the entire approach is fresh and requires no appeal to ancient beliefs or magical thinking.
Quite ironically, this kind of technology could one day ring the death knell for the “psychic” business of John Edward.