Paranormal: Jealous phenomenon, dejavu, ghosts, psychics, UFO..

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Below you will find some of the articles I wrote in 1993 for the Paranormal Anthropology class.

If Nails Are Jealous

Edip Yuksel

I have many interesting memories twinkling from my four-year prison experience in Turkey. Torture, terrible conditions, overpopulation, dangerous inmates, cockroaches, mice, bribery, shortage of water and food are few of many headlines of long stories. Ironically, there was always fun and amusement, simultaneous with those negative phenomena. I knew how to laugh at tragedies.

One of my inmates was a mystic. He fanatically believed in many things that I did not. After a while, I learned not to take him serious. I enjoyed his friendship. My new attitude created a lot of fun. He was a happy guy like me, and he was not bothered by my sarcastic style. One day I had a head ache. He sincerely wanted to help me. He would get rid of my head ache by nailing the wall. Irresistible curiosity, and moral obligation to show my appreciation for his concern made me accept his offer.

He drew a magic square, five to five, on the wall. He wrote a different letter from the Arabic alphabet in each box, corresponding to a certain number according to the Gematrical system. Then he started hitting the nail with the bottom of a thick glass tea cup. Each hitting would create a shallow hole on the wall. After each nailing he would utter a certain prayer followed by the routine question: “Are you okay now?” At each next box the number of nailing, praying and asking process increased geometrically. After ten minutes I was tired. But he was more enthusiastic than ever. I had two choices. Either not to get healed, or get healed. Unfortunately, I was not getting healed. However, that moment I acted in an unusual way. I felt pity for him. Therefore I created a third option: I appeared to get healed. It made him happy.

I had no better choice, because I knew that it was not possible to convince him that his method was not working. His method was working with a nonfalsifiable engine. I had no way to prove that his magic boxes, nails and prayers were useless. He would tell me that it did not work because of the vacuum of faith on my part. And he would be right. Indeed, I did not have “faith” in his nail.

Jealous phenomena 

Parapsychologists coin the failure of ESP or psi as “jealous phenomena.” That is, in the story mentioned above the nail was jealous. The psi phenomenon vanishes when a skeptic or a skeptical “vibration” is around. This is an excellent “explanation” to refute any skeptical examination that does not support the existence psi phenomena. In order to “witness” a phenomenon you must first be “certain” about it. This is a reverse process of what “common sense” requires. It seems that in our daily life, including our scientific studies, we first witness and then believe.

This “jealous phenomenon” in fact, is a “magic phenomenon.Ó It is an eternal armor, it is an everlasting guarantee for all kind of psi claims. It can work for any imaginable weird or extraordinary claim. However, we cannot completely trash the “jealous phenomena” for some paradoxical reason.

Hypnosis adopts this “jealous phenomenon.” And it works. We know that a person cannot be hypnotized against his will. In order to experience hypnosis, you must trust and believe in hypnosis, and hypnotists as well. Sure, there is a difference between hypnosis and psi, regarding the strength and volume of this requirement. But, the difference can be justified with a logical explanation: “Hypnosis is a semi-psi phenomenon which requires only the subjects to believe. The skeptical vibrations emitted by audience do not inhibit hypnosis. However, real psi phenomena require more than this.”

In sum, if nails are jealous, they can do everything behind locked rooms. Skeptics are prohibited to enter their domain by a supersensitive and coded jealous lock. And this is the only lock that cannot be opened by skeptics. They will never be able to know the password. I believe that it is hard for philosophers too, to invalidate that lock.

Several Non-falsifiable Explanations For Deja vu

Edip Yuksel

While you are talking on a dull issue, a twinkling event takes place in the deepest corner of your mind. This mysterious flash lasts no more than a fraction of second. But it is enough to excite you. Suddenly, you feel an ambiguous familiarity with the seen. You may even feel that you can predict what words will be uttered a fraction of second ahead. However, this little time does not let you be certain about that prediction. You don’t have any evidence to show that you had an “experience of perceiving the new situation as if it had occurred before” (Webster’s). Surprisingly, your friends believe you; you learn that they have also similar experiences.

There is something about that odd phenomenon that will bother you: you are not able to locate that flash in your memory files. You know that those files are chronologically, spatially, semantically, or idiosyncratically arranged in your memory shelves. Usually, you can trace back your past memories on a particular issue. You just need to “think” the time, space and file name. In a fraction of second the file is open in front of you. If you want, you can browse the files in neighboring shelves. If you want you can “rethink” and return to basic menu and enter to another section of your micro-gigantic, electro-organic library.

So, you try to locate that familiar seen. But you fail. The mysterious flash of memory floats on the air. During your life time you encounter many of these floating pieces of memories. You learn that these strange experiences are called deja vu, which means “already seen” in French. You do not have any rational explanation for them. There comes a friend of yours and tell you that those memories are from your past lives. He or she assures that you had many incarnations in time and space. You, initially, feel that this explanation is very odd, probably irrational. However, you are frustrated with not finding any explanation for your odd experiences. You have given up from “normal” explanations. It seems convenient to put your floating memories on a base of any explanation. Even though, that explanation by itself is floating on the air.

Our brain is a very complex computer. It stores memories in three dimensional holographic patterns. Memories overlap each other according to a very sophisticated network. Computer provide us with a primitive example of how our brain works. Modern research on the brain reveals new information every day. Nevertheless, it is still a wonder-land. Studies, for instance, showed that our brain does not store the memories about faces together with the memories about the names in the same category. Our brain works in a unique way. Thus, each new study comes with surprising conclusions.

I fully subscribe to the explanation of Hines that deja vu is similar to the “tip of the tongue” situation. “Deja vu happens when feeling of familiarity is present, but the memory of previous experience is not.” (Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, Terence Hines, Prometheus Books, New York, 1988, p. 53).

As a matter of fact, reincarnation is only one of the possible pseudoscientific explanations. Each of the following explanation of deja vu is as “valid” as the other. Please note that all of them are non-falsifiable, that is we don’t have any means to falsify them.

  • Deja vu experiences are memories of past lives.
  • Deja vu experiences are not related to our past; they are preview from our future life.
  • Deja vu experiences are the result of short day-dreaming.
  • Deja vu experiences are created by evil demons who occasionally have access to our brain. They want to confuse us with those illusions.

Anyone who subscribes to any of the above theories must come up with reasons for refuting others. The problem: Their theory should not be defeated by the same “reasons”.

The existence of ghosts is a probability bouncing between one out of googoplex to hundred percent

Edip Yuksel

(Alas, according to the falsification theory this statement does not have any scientific value)

“The cause of many fatal diseases are micro organic structures invisible by human eyes.” Today we accept this statement as one of the simple facts. We don’t have any problem with this claim, even though we might have never seen viruses via microscopes. However, if a fifteen-century-philosopher had predicted this fact merely by reasoning, he would have been rejected by his contemporaries. Being fanatic about their scientific methods and experimentations, mediaeval scientists and philosophers, would most likely ignore or just giggle at his claim . Had the claim gained some popularity, they would logically pontificate: “How can invisibly small living organisms exist? Besides, how can such tiny creatures kill a giant body?” The philosopher who believed the existence of micro-organisms, obviously, would not be able to produce any physical evidence for his claim. However, micro organisms would not vanish because of the ignorance of human beings. They exist independent from the human perception or acceptance.

The invention of microscope provided sensible proof for the existence of micro organisms. Similarly, the invention of the radio receiver made the discovery of radio waves possible. Thereafter, we realized that stars including our sun, were giant radio stations. Now, we know for certain that our five senses are naturally blind to many physical phenomena. We try to compensate this natural limit by inventing sophisticated machines and tools.

Furthermore, we cannot claim that the number of our senses (five) are the ultimate possible number of channels that are able to perceive all the existence in the universe. We can easily accept the possibility of having numerous senses and their domain. For instance, let’s assume that you are living in an island with forty deaf-born people. You can hear the songs of birds, the rustling of leaves, the hiss of snakes, and the noise of thunder. Will you be able to convince your friends about the existence of sound? Can you describe its nature to them? They will never be able to perceive and know the sound. If you are the only hearing person in that island, you will probably be perceived as a person with paranormal or abnormal talents!

Even though all the eyewitness reports about ghosts are proved to be outcome of hypnagogic hallucinations or result of constructive perception or product of fraudulent scheme, still we cannot deny their existence. Not because inductive reasoning cannot guarantee the truth value of future cases, but rather the induction is irrelevant in this case, for the reason expressed above (possibility of infinite number of senses). Assume that you are riding camels with fifty tourists in a hot day across a dessert. Even if you witness that all of the claims about water turned out to be mirages, you cannot be certain that the next claim won’t be true. Countless wrong claims cannot rule out the possibility of existence of oasis (or ghosts). Though, in fact, there may not be a single oasis (or ghost) around.

Let’s summarize our ghostly theory:

1. We cannot prove that ghosts or jinns or angels do not exist just because we found most of the eyewitness reports to be non-credible. Despite of countless mirages oasis do exist.

2. We cannot prove that ghosts or jinns or angels exist just because we could not find enough evidence to reject some of the eyewitness reports.

3. But we can believe to the possibility of their existence. This possibility may range from one out of googoplex to hundred percent. The latter may be possible if only if you are their eyewitness reporter!

Psychic Reading or Psychic Reaping?

Edip Yuksel

Dear reader, you need a cup of tea or coffee before reading this article. You are tired and probably sleepy. You have been staring at the screen of this computer monitor for long time. You are overwhelmed by your work and you have a lot of chores at your home. You are stressed because you have many unfulfilled dreams. You have difficulty in paying all your bills or you cannot afford to purchase the car you want so much. Your romance life has deteriorated and you are afraid that this relationship is too will go sour.  Your intimate friend is very stubborn, and it is obvious that your friend does not understand you at all. Nevertheless, you will hear a good news within a week. The person that hates you will suffer from a personal problem within a month. You need to lose more weight and you should avoid craving for ice-cream. By the way, your relative that died recently has gone to heaven; but hell is anxiously waiting for you. You can make to heaven however, if you dial 900 numbers more frequently.

If  I had talked to you, I would have received alot of feed back and my statements about your persent and future would be more to the point.

“I should remind you that I used to believe that fortune telling and witchcraft were nonsense; however, a very interesting experience compelled me to believe in them. In 1978 we were coming to Istanbul from Germany for our summer vacation. We stopped at Luleburgaz (a city about 100 miles away from Istanbul) for a rest. We heard about a fortuneteller in the town. My wife wanted to visit the fortuneteller.  So, we went to that small town of Luleburgaz.

There, in a cave-like place we saw an old lady with long gray hair, wrapped in white cloths. She looked at my hand and said: “When you leave here, give some money to the poor girl so and so, in the town. If you don’t give her your charity, your car’s windshield will be broken in the evening, and three period of times later you will have surgery from your stomach.” I laughed at it and considered it as nonsense and gibberish.

My father in-law lives in Kasimpasha (a region in Istanbul). We are at his house. The sun has just set. A noise from outside! We jumped out. What we see was incredible: Three Gypsy teenagers were running away with clubs in their hands, after braking my car’s windshield. Immediately, I remembered the words of fortuneteller lady in Luleburgaz. This time I feared about my stomach. But, I was muscular and I was careful about my diet. There was no reason to have any trouble with my stomach.

Later, we returned to Germany. Exactly three months after the psychic reading a severe pain in my stomach. I rushed to the hospital. They immediately took me to the surgery room. The readings of the fortuneteller lady was fulfilled verbatim By God, my friend, I don’t make comments any more on this kind issues.”

These are the “extra-ordinary” experiences of Mr. Yurda, a hairdresser in Yesilkoy, Istanbul. Let’s analyze this apparently striking report about a psychic reading. We have two main options:

1. It is probable that the reporter is not remembering all the events correctly. Or, he is just lying for some reasons.

2. If we are satisfied that the reporter is telling the truth, then, we can critically evaluate that particular psychic reading.

Let’s assume that this report is accurate. Before evaluating this incident we have to keep in mind an important lacking information: We don’t have any idea about how many of psychic readings of that fortuneteller did not materialize. Yurda’s whole story may be merely a winning lottery ticket with only two digits consisted of an odd (broken windshield) and an even (surgery) number.

Even if we isolate this incident, still it does not necessitate a paranormal mechanism.

Below is one of the possible comments that we can make. The accuracy of our evaluations are proportionally related to the volume of accurate details we know about so-called psychic readings.

Here is a simple explanation

The fortuneteller must have a high income, since she is well known in that region. Her town is on the route of Turkish workers who come from Germany. The poor girl whom she recommended for charity is most likely her relative or confederate employee. There is a gang of Gypsy teenagers around, hired by the fortuneteller to monitor naive clients.

Our hero, Mr. Yurda, while visiting the fortuneteller lady did not believe her readings. He exposed his disbelief by not paying “charity” to the recommended “poor girl” in the town. Obviously, disbeliever visitors are potential danger for the reputation and business of the fortuneteller. They should be punished occasionally. If the punishment can serve as an advertisement for the fortuneteller, it is the best punishment.

The Gypsy gang saw that Mr. Yurda did not stop by to pay the recommended money. Therefore, they followed him with their car to implement the prescribed scheme. As a matter of fact, they carried their job at Mr. Yurda’s next stop. Mr. Yurda acknowledges this fact, since he, by chance, saw the Gypsy teenagers with clubs in their hands. Otherwise, he would likely interpret the incident as “an extra-ordinary explosion of windshield by demons”.

Luleburgaz, the hometown of the fortuneteller lady, is one of the famous location of Gypsy minority.  However, Mr. Yurda lost his rational ability when he saw his car’s broken windshield. He must have had a conscious or subconscious doubt in favor of the credibility of fortuneteller, since he chose a paranormal interpretation for a normal event. The shock of the event made this irrational perception easier for him.

His mind made a leap from broken windshield to the “prophecy” of the fortuneteller lady. While his eyes saw the Gypsy teenagers, his mind did not see their tricky relation with the fortuneteller. We can claim that Mr. Yurda’s initial disbelief in fortune telling and witchcraft was not based on a well established intellectual knowledge. Therefore, he easily fell in the trap.

The second prediction, that is, the surgery in the stomach is a very clever augury. First, it is a common health problem among adult males. The probability of having a stomach ulcer is pretty high among Turkish population (there may be correlation with extreme smoking). A clever fortuneteller bets on a winning horse, not on a lame one.

Furthermore, the fortuneteller increased this probability by a clever chronology. She prophesied the stomach surgery after the breaking of windshield. Indeed, Mr. Yurda increased his risk of having a stomach surgery by his belief in the first prediction, that is the broken windshield. As a matter of fact, he acknowledges that he started concerning about his stomach just after the windshield incident. A self-fulfilling prophecy! He incubated a strong belief about having a stomach problem in “three periods of time”. This conscious and subconscious strong negative faith must have created a permanent stress. This stress, probably supported by overeating and smoking etc., eventually created ulcer in his stomach after three months. Stress, according to the modern medical studies, is one of the main factors which cause ulcer.

The “three periods of time” is a very vague and broad expression. Psychic readers deliberately and commonly use this kind of vague expressions to extend the time period of their prediction, virtually until the death of their clients. This unique expression provides an apparently very specific timing. Unfortunately, many people perceive it that way. However, in reality, it is a little bit more specific than saying “in your life time”. In our case, the “three periods of time” serves another important function towards the goal of the experienced fortuneteller. It will supply Mr. Yurda with continuous stress in frequently repeated climaxes. Three days, three weeks, three months, three seasons, three years are all “three periods of times.” Each of these periods would create high stress for Mr. Yurda, since he was strongly expecting the retribution. Finally, it happened. After surviving the three days, and the three weeks, Mr. Yurda was defeated by “three months”.

Naive Mr. Yurda, evidently, payed dearly for believing the fortuneteller. Ironically, he became a very efficient advertiser of that crook: a volunteer and sincere advertiser… He was punished to advertise his enemy. He became a double victim: Physically and mentally.

We can infer that the fortuneteller lady in Luleburgaz (probably her bosses) is very experienced and clever. Her prophecy about Mr. Yurda intrinsically contains the “punishment of advertising” in the case of disbelief. She, thus, guarantees a positive fame for her business.

If the client believes the fortuneteller and pays the money, then, the job is accomplished. His car’s windshield won’t be broken that night without reason. Even if he suffers stomach pains later, he won’t remember the fortuneteller. Because he had wiped out that psychic threat from his memory by paying the money. Even if he remembers the psychic he would most likely blame himself by thinking that he must had paid little money to the recommended “poor” girl.

If the client does not pay the money, and furthermore, makes fun of the fortuneteller, then, the first part of the reading will be carried out on him. He, out of naive faith, will most likely inflict the second part of the reading by himself. Ultimately, he will be an unfortunate evangelist for the fortuneteller.

Fortune telling is one of the oldest and biggest fraud in human history. There are thousands of fortuneteller around. But, not even one of them can predict the number of a winning ticket in the lottery. Not a single of them can predict the unknown ten digits of pi. However, they are very successful in reaping off naive people. They make good money. Their only product is self-fulfilling prophecies on mentally abused and econimically exploited clients.

They are teasing all of us!

Edip Yuksel

UFO proponents claim:

1) Thousands of eyewitness reports and many photographs prove that UFOs as intelligent extraterrestrial visitors exist, and our planet is being visited by them frequently.

2) There is a world-wide conspiracy to cover-up UFO visits. Governments are hiding this important fact from their citizens.

3) UFOs are abducting humans. Hypnosis sessions confirm abduction stories.

Some of the marginal UFO advocates even claim that:

4) The earth is hallow and is inhabited by Nazis. UFOs are their secret aircraft, coming out from a hole at the north pole.

Skeptics claim that UFOs are the product of one or all of three basic factors:

1) Constructive perception and memories. The information coming through our senses is interpreted and filtered by our brain, based on personal faith and previous knowledge. This fact is regardless of person’s education and intelligent level. A leading question by an investigator or hypnotist can alter a memory after the fact. This has been demonstrated through many scientific experiments.

2) Misidentification. After examination, most of the UFO claims were founded to have nothing to do with extraterrestrial bodies. In most cases planet Venus, space satellites, rockets, advertising aircraft were perceived as UFO for two main reasons: First, a light in the sky with no background can create visual deceptions, because of lack of cues to judge distance. Extreme emotions due to  excitement or fear contributes to misidentification.

3) Hoaxes. Many so-called photographs of UFOs when examined by experts are found to be fake. “UFO photographs are extraordinarily easy to fake: a double exposure, a little trick photography, and you have a very nice-looking UFO photo or film. . . . The numerous UFO pictures of “strange lights in the sky” that show nothing but vague blobs are photos of aircraft, seagulls, or balloons.” (Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, Terence Hines, Prometheus Books, New York, 1988, p 185).

Here is a sample argument between a UFO proponent and a skeptic:

Skeptic: UFO enthusiasts rely on eyewitness testimonies which in many cases prove to be illusions or wilful lies.

UFO proponent: Although many UFO sightings are the product of a particular man-made or natural phenomena, still there is an “irreducible minimum” number of sightings that skeptics cannot bring an explanation.

Skeptics: This is very normal. There will always be sightings that cannot be explained, because we cannot get sufficient information about some sightings. Our lack of information does not change illusions to reality. Furthermore, the unexplained pictures do not have sufficient background or clarity in order to evaluate them. “After more than thirty-five years and thousands of sightings, the best photographic evidence consists of a few grainy shots taken by trick photographers or people who claim to have had repeated experiences with UFOs. . . . There is no UFO photo that can be considered genuine showing anything other than vague shapes or blobs of light.” (Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, Terence Hines, Prometheus Books, New York, 1988, p 187).

UFO proponent: Well UFOs are “jealous phenomenon”. They do not want to be photographed.

Skeptic: Well, we are “curious phenomenon”. We don’t want to be fooled. We don’t accept extraordinary reports without having extraordinary evidence. Alas, you don’t have even ordinary one.

UFO proponent: Thousands of reporters have provided more than enough evidence to believe that extraterrestrial creatures are visiting our planet.

Skeptic: Well, thousands of reporters provide tons of “evidences” for their religions or sects. Many miraculous phenomena are being witnessed by sincere believers. For instance, just read this report:

NEW YORK (AP) — A “weeping” icon believed to have healing powers, . . . Some believers said the 72-year-old portrait of St. Irene, then on temporary loan to a church in Chicago, wept “tears of grief” at the start of the Persian Gulf War. . . . The icon, painted in 1919 by a monk in Greece, depicts the patron saint of peace and the sick, who is considered by many faithful to have healing powers. (The Arizona Daily Star, December 29, 1991)

UFO proponent: But, there is difference between those believers and UFO eye-witnesses. Some UFO eye-witnesses were skeptics before their experience.

Skeptic: There are also some converts among eye-witnesses of “miraculous” phenomena. I agree that the UFO eye-witnesses are diverse with respect of their religious conviction. However, this does not make them more reliable than the others. We can say the same thing for the eye-witnesses of the “Weeping Icon”. They are also diverse as far as their UFOlogious conviction is concerned. Nevertheless, both groups share one important quality: They are woefully gullible and terribly exploited. By the way, do you believe that UFOs are controlled by intelligent extraterrestrial creatures?.

UFO proponent: Obviously, yes?

Skeptic: Let’s assume that UFOs are controlled by intelligent extraterrestrial beings. Then, we can imagine several possible intention for them. Here are the ones that I imagined:

1. They want to contact us. But, after decades of trial and thousands of trips, it seems that they have failed. They could only convince a marginal group of people. This immense failure does not seem harmonious with their expected IQ level.

2. They want to make medical experiments on us. This option may explain why they mostly prefer psychologically sick and sexually abused people. However, the number of visits and the time spent on this goal is not compatible with the intelligence of inter-galactic travellers.

3. They secretly want conquer the planet Earth. This option may explain how they use all governments for cover-up mission. However, this cannot explain why they are still trying to keep this successful coup as a top secret. Are they scared from UFO proponents for some reasons that we don’t know?

We can add one more option. It is nonfalsifiable. Like the claims of UFO advocates:

4. They want to have fun  by implementing their idiosyncratic IQ test on us.

To me this option is the most probable one. Evidently, the UFO astronauts are very intelligent beings. Therefore, they must have a good sense of humor. They are having fun while creating one of the silliest argument for us. I can safely claim that some of the UFO proponents are the allies of extraterrestrial invaders. They are cooperating with them to carry out their IQ test on us. Extraterrestrial teasers are having fun when they see some “intelligent” humans are foolishly taking them serious. Their fun reaches the zenith when they see the rest of the “intelligent” humans are taking those fools serious.

UFO proponent: I should have expected that you are not serious. Bye, bye.