“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” –Christopher Hitchens
Thanks to Google search or maybe word-of-mouth, a couple of days ago I suddenly got a deluge of comments from Parry supporters on the month-old article. Honestly, I’m dumbfounded. It’s one thing to hear about psychic mediums, to be vaguely aware that people like the Parrys and John Edward exist. It’s another to actually meet them and experience their unctuous condescension in person. And it’s stranger still (a little reminiscent of CUT believers) to be set upon by their followers.
Strictly speaking, this site’s comment policy would prohibit any testimonials of psychic phenomena asserted without rigorous scientific proof. Which is why I eventually closed the comments on the previous article. Such personal experiences add nothing to BSJ, nor to the body of human knowledge. What would really be helpful is some evidence. Solid, peer-reviewed scientific evidence. History is littered with charlatans and hucksters pitching paranormal flim-flam–it’s no secret people believe in it. It’s an evolutionary niche. A credulous population will naturally breed agents to exploit it. After all, if no one were gullible, then these modern-day fortune tellers would move on to other ways of making a living.
Given the tidy sums psychics generate, there should be no shortage of funds for “research.” And various “institutes” and quasi-university departments have tried to add a sheen of academic credibility over the years. But the closer psychics get to science, the more their claims evaporate. Some even try to use “meters” and other instrumentation to make themselves appear competent. But the psychic’s relationship to science has always been an uneasy standoff: pay lip service (to seem reasonable), but treat it like Kryptonite.
If evidence could be had, psychics would be all over it. Think of the riches available to the first person to have a verifiable conversation with the deceased! Think of all the unsolved crimes, all the secrets people have taken to their graves–now revealed. Think of what it would mean to historians to actually be able to go back and ask George Washington or Genghis Khan a series of specific questions. If there was a solid way to communicate across that boundary, it would negate the centuries old pirate dictum “dead men tell no tales.” Instead, we have vague mutterings from relatives. We get a name or a crude sketch of a person–seemingly happy on the “other side.” As if the bereaved don’t already have a lifetime collection of photographs? A crude pencil sketch after death is going to assuage their pain?? All I see is an entertaining diversion at a time of great personal loss and vulnerability–a bolstering of denial. The Parrys might as well be passing out happy pills.
So on to the “arguments.” I got three types, as would be expected.
First the ad hominems. These were of two varieties: 1) attacking me for daring to question the Parrys’ motives or methods, and 2) testimonials that they are “good, decent people.”
It is out of character for me to even consider responding to a blog that is based on Ego, immaturity and just plain unintelligent. The blog I am referring to is about Michael & Marty Parry. Setting aside the fact I do know both of the well, and have seen them work in helping others my email is not to promote them defend them or to convince others of there work, but to simply point out your short comings on getting the point of their work. –Tuesday Miles, host of Paranormal Talk Radio (email)
The Parrys are genuine, good hearted people of character and integrity. They are not deceitful, thieving “ambulance-chasing” rain-makers looking for the next fast buck….I would say that you probably have deeper personal issues with the subject matter than a simple lack of scientific proof. And there’s nothing really wrong with that – it’s your experiences that have brought you to the position you take. –Scotty Roberts (comment)
…sorry, but I really don’t believe that you were perfectly innocent in this and there wasn’t some baiting going on once you knew who they were. –Janna (comment)
…I also believe that you are intent on holding on to your skepticism because to do otherwise would be very frightening. –Phyllis Pircher
I think sensible people can agree that the truth or falsehood of the Parry’s claims have nothing to do with their motives or mine. Either they are talking to the dead or they are not. This is an audacious claim that is testable. Their de-facto refusal to be tested under controlled conditions in and of itself constitutes nearly air-tight proof of fraud.
Second were statements about proof, or rather the shifting of the burden of proof, also known as the appeal to be open minded:
There is a certain arrogance adopted by the self-acclaimed skeptical intelligencia that establishes their perception of people and phenomena, one that states “nothing can exist beyond the sphere of what I perceive and can explain by current science.” That seems so incredibly limiting. For many skeptics, I believe this is simply their way to dismiss without having to do the work of real research; a preconceived notion governing the process. That’s as much a de facto act of faith as anything they might criticize…I am not out to convince you or anyone of anything, I simply believe that a reasoned mind cannot blot out the unknown and label it “non-existent.” Further, a rational scientist would not declare a negative on something he has spent no time substantiating or disproving. –Scotty Roberts (comment)
To claim I am a know it all, and everybody else is liars because I have no proof and yet I have not experienced this. Skeptical attitude is healthy ! although to publicly. To belittle others beliefs, just because you had a bad experience it’s not the problem of others, yet a problem of yours, its called prejudice. Judging others based on race, creed, beliefs, or faith. Its a form of pumping your own ego to feel better while making others feel less than. –Tuesday Miles (email)
First of all I do feel you would be better to open your mind.. Do you have scientific proof that there is no life after death… ? I am not one to judge but I myself am smart enough to leave my mind open to things I have know real answers for. I for one do believe there is life after death. –Becky
To quote Skeptico: “An open mind is open to all ideas, but it must be open to the possibility that the idea could be true or false.” This is not what I hear coming from Parry supporters. They are already convinced, and have further deluded themselves into thinking that some future science experiment will provide the missing proof. Problem is, they’re not really interested in anything other than their preferred outcome. So don’t expect them to welcome the impartiality of science. Where science proves them wrong, they can be expected to simply dismiss its relevance.
The third tactic is to focus on personal anecdotes, results, or the supposed altruistic motives of the practitioners:
For a person who has lost a loved one in death, life can and does often stop for them. The pain of one’s heart hurting to understand why them and not me, people stop living life, sit in a dark home waiting for the day of their own death. People spend thousands of dollars seeking Counseling.. a Psychiatrist , they seek their pastor, whom ever only to continue each day feeling the same as before…the client pays $ 125.00 a one time fee, the psychic starts by saying your loved one is ok, they feel no more sickness, they send love to you, but wish your life to continue as if they were still here….what the best thing is this, the client leaves with knowing there loved one is ok, that they were able to receive a message one more time. The client no longer needs the Psychiatrist, and now returns back to living life. –Tuesday Miles (email)
Once at a group event Michael Parry stopped at me and said, “Who’s Frances?”. I had no idea who Frances was. He looked up, appeared to be mumbling something, then looked me straight in the eye and said, “PAUL Francis”. No question about it. A strong, simple statement. Paul Francis was my grandfather. Not exactly “Joe Smith”. Now, it didn’t really mean a darned thing and didn’t change my life, but come on…..how the hell does that happen? –Janna (comment)
I know for a fact that there are gifted people like Michael & Marti who can connect with our love ones. Yeh there are many fakes out there, but I for one have been privleged to meet with them, and I know that they are gifted. –Becky (comment)
I have had many readings with the Parry’s, and hosted two sessions with them in my home. I had my first session as an “OPEN-MINDED SKEPTIC,” and was blown away by their accuracy. They knew NOTHING about the people I invited to the home session, and Michael brought through names, dates, private messages, as Marti drew pictures that matched photos of people who have passed that several people brought with them. –Carole (comment)
Honestly, these stories are heartbreaking. While we are talking about results, let’s acknowledge one thing: Death is the ultimate tragedy. Aging slowly robs us of most of our dignity, and death takes away whatever’s left. No question it’s harder to live with your loved ones dying than to be the one who dies. The dead person has no awareness so cannot suffer.
I cannot imagine the tragedy of losing another family member. My dad died in 1973 when I was nine, and the impact on my life was so huge that it’s hard to fathom. But this provides an interesting point of departure: Like the Parrys, my mom claimed to be communicating with him (whom she referred to as Lanello). So as a child I grew up thinking that he still existed (somewhere in heaven, I guess).
When he died, mom sat my sisters and I down on the sandbox in our yard. Gradually we began to understand that we would never see him again. We cried. She told us he was headed for the crematorium. She crumpled a dry leaf to show us how his body would turn to ash and return to dust. But she, like the Parrys, insisted that his spirit carried on. After the funeral, I watched his casket enter the furnace. I wondered if it hurt him to be burned.
But mom wasn’t having any of it. He had become an “ascended master” and was even more important and powerful than he had been on Earth. Among other things, she claimed he was “in charge” of the weather. Sometimes, I would even try to talk to him, or ask him to make it stop raining. (It never worked). For at least a decade, mom would write birthday cards to me and sign his name. It was a valiant effort on her part to prevent me from suffering. But in the end he was still dead, and I had to deal with that loss, and suffered in any case.
Thinking of dad as being alive somewhere was a comforting fiction, but a fiction nonetheless. It may be good for kids to believe, the way they believe in Santa Claus. It may help the grieving process in a child who has no other tools. But I would argue that it has no place in the adult psyche. We must devise effective humanistic rituals for saying goodbye and letting go of our loved ones. What can be said is that they will always live in our memories. The rest is pure speculation.
We should encourage people to turn to the living for comfort, rather than holding on to the deceased. Our own time is limited, and we should honor those numbered days. We can do this by reaching out to the bereaved (knowing we ourselves will eventually be in their position), by encouraging them to forge new relationships. We should remove forever the social and family stigma that often forces them to remain “loyal” long after a spouse has died. While it may seem compassionate, purported communication with a dead spouse makes it that much harder for a person to move on and enjoy the remainder of their own life.
In summation, I must address the issue of a veiled legal threat from Tuesday Miles, a Parry supporter:
As Americans we have the right of free speech, unless the free speech is slandering ones reputation, depriving them to earn a living doing what they have choose to do as a professional. The Parry’s, have proven without a doubt what they do is on the up & up, its been documented more than 1,000’s of times. They have never ripped any one off, and donate many of their readings to those in need, along with working with agencies in the police force finding missing persons. Your blog is all about slander, your disclaimer does not release your liability in a court of law if they ever considered taking this into legal matters. –Tuesday Miles (email)
Exercising my own free speech rights, I have nowhere slandered anyone. I have asked for proof, and stated my opinion that Michael and Marti Parry are frauds. But it is a personal opinion. They should be judged by their actions and accuracy, nothing else. Don’t take my word for it. I have thrown down a challenge and asked them to step up to the scientific plate. If they refuse and their credibility suffers, they have no one to blame but themselves.
My suggestion would be that the Parrys back off from pretending to communicate with the dead, and instead acknowledge what they do is a form of entertainment or grief counseling. They could still make a fine living. I’m sure they have a compassionate and loving side. I’m sure they care about people. That’s never been at issue. They could use their undoubtedly vast experience working with the bereaved, knowing that the most important dialog that takes place is not with the deceased, but in the psyche of the living.
They should help people have a virtual conversation with the memory and record of the dead person. What would they say? How did they live, and what lessons can be learned from their example? Were they happy? Could they forgive or be forgiven for all the things said, or left unsaid? Would they have wanted the bereaved to be paralyzed with suffering, or go on living? These are the vital questions, and what the Parrys could do is help people answer them and find closure. This would be a much-needed public service.
But really, truly–drawing sketches? Guessing names? The Parrys should be flat-out ashamed for misleading the vulnerable, by pretending to actually see and talk to their loved ones. In my opinion, it’s manipulative, and it’s a disgrace.
I will now turn this discussion over for comments. This time I won’t disable them, but I won’t respond either. I’ve said all I need to say. I’m asking for proof–rigorous scientific testing, or drop the charade. Please try to avoid the ad hominems and fallacies–you only embarrass yourselves.