I am not ashamed to identify myself as a listener of Coast-to-Coast AM. Often I sit at night in my bed, reading and writing as I listen to the program as it lulls me off in to the land of sleep. The show has been gaining in popularity over the years, most primarily for its coverage of the UFO phenomenon, but its subjects span well into the realm of the paranormal and beyond. The difficulty with listening, however, is just because of this variating subject matter.
You see, the show expresses a tendency to mix factual subjects with fictional subjects. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this problem tends to perpetuate belief in the supernatural, something of which I have a problem with on a number of levels. On the other hand, the fact/fiction blending tends to keep my critical thinking skills constantly on edge, and constantly in the process of being sharpened. For example, for one hour, a guest speaker may discuss — in a professional speaking voice — problems that are occurring in the Middle East. In the next hour, a different guest speaker — in the same kind of highly professional speaking voice — might discuss the purported multitude of evidence supporting the notion that life on earth began with the help of aliens, that evidence of their existence is on Mars, and that the Egyptian Pyramids were constructed with their aid. Thus, I am able to listen to the discussion on the Middle East with understanding and interest, but then forced to roll my eyes at the prospect of my distant ancestors being aliens!
The host of the show is actually quite the crafty individual. George Noory is a confirmed believer in the supernatural and, not surprisingly, a believer in the biblical God figure himself. He’s a worrisome person because he has a mass following of listeners. Because of his authoritative position as public entity, people adhere to the beliefs he dictates, something he does with the craftiness I have mentioned. Which brings me to the point of my post.
About a week ago, Mr. Noory exclaimed at the beginning of his show something like, “Listen to this incredible evidence of the afterlife!” He goes on to discuss the events of a boy who exhibits the markers of reincarnation.
Reincarnation. This is a wild one; dreamy even. It is a longing for escape from the inevitability of death, a factor of which religion most certainly thrives on, but I digress. The details of the story involve that of a 3-year-old boy who claims he was murdered in a previous life, and is able to locate both his body — and the man who killed him.
And imagine the evidence given: It’s a picture of a boy pointing! I totally believe it!
The problems here mount high, though. Firstly, I have learned of the story through third and fourth hand sources. Mr. Noory conveys the details as reported by Tara MacIsaac, who reports on information documented by the German Therapist Trutz Hardo, who learned of and wrote about the story from a certain Dr. Eli Lasch, who died in 2009.
2009? Mr. Noory was exclaiming as though the story had just occurred. At any rate, Dr. Lasch claims to have witnessed the events, but what does this really mean? This brings me to the second problem, involving what the famous Dana Scully would clearly tell her partner in such a case:
In other words, the boy has “red a birthmark on his head,” he “knew the village he was from,” he “remembered the full name of his killer” — who apparently went white in the face when confronted — and “then [the boy] said he could take the elders to where the [his previous] body was buried. In that very spot, they found a man’s skeleton with a wound to the head that corresponded to the boy’s birthmark” (source).
This is the “evidence” that Mr. Noory was up in arms about? Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why this is bogus. But the crafty way Mr. Noory slides in the notion that a story like this is what justifies belief in the supernatural and by proxy, all the dangerous doctrines of religion, is unnerving. For the record I would like to state: No, Mr. Noory, this innately coincidental story prodded along by the handiwork of Dr. Lasch and fed through multitudinous channels of narration does not constitute what the scientific community would consider as “evidence.”
And on the subject of evidence, it just so happens that the night I heard Mr. Noory clamoring about this evidence was only a few days after I watched a documentary that I rented from my local video store:
I had been walking by this DVD for a few months, wondering, all the while getting my expectations riled up for something that was going to rock my world with some serious methodological insight into the possibility of the afterlife. Ha! What a sucker I turned out to be.
The situation entails a man, Paul Davids, who has had associations with the now-deceased-yet-still-famous-science-fiction-collector Forrest J. Ackerman. Apparently one day, Davids had set some paperwork down on his bed which had something to do with Ackerman. He left the room and when he came back, lo and behold — there was a wet splotch on the paper! The splotch was clean, as if man-made, and marked out the words: “Spoke to Joe Amodei.” Of course, this event was not caught on tape, thus a recreation was filmed, and from this point the entire documentary hinges upon Paul Davids in his endeavor to figure out how the splotch came to be. His claim: That F. J. Ackerman was trying to communicate from beyond the grave.
I know. Pretty tawdry. To add to my dismay, the viewing experience was a drab affair. Yet after being dragged from scientists who analyzed the paper, to mediums who claimed they were receiving psychic information from Ackerman from beyond the grave, a list was provided at the end which detailed a summary of so-called “proofs”:
Strange occurrences: In this case, Davids is working from the presumption that the blotting out of the paper is proof of the supernatural. ??? (Hint at explanation: He blotted the thing out himself.)
Synchronicities/alignments/coincidences: E.g: In pertaining to the event with filmmaker Mike MacDonald, the phone rings with no one on the other end when Ackerman is thought-of and/or mentioned, following a visit to his grave. (Hint at explanation: wrong number? phone company mishap? wiring?)
Apparent communication through mediums: The mediums in this case were speaking about Ackerman, as though he were communicating information to them, but the problem here is simple: Ackerman is famous. Anyone can learn information about others, where the fact is magnified when people are famous. (Hint at additional explanation: acclaimed psychic mediums apply practiced mental gymnastics which can make it appear as though they’re accessing inaccessible information when in truth, they’re playing games of chance.)
Specially implemented sensitive technology: This one was interesting in that an attempt at the scientific method was approached. However, testing the paper didn’t really conclude anything; and that it was done by someone with a “PhD” didn’t mean much either. The scientist confessed on camera, that he couldn’t figure out how the splotch came to be, and that the splotch couldn’t be replicated. Really, though, how could a splotch be replicated? Wouldn’t something like that equate the snowflake phenomenon? In addition, if the scientist couldn’t figure out how the splotch came to be, then it means he was unwilling to suggest that Davids made the splotch himself — which is ultimately unscientific in and of itself.
Apart from testing the splotch, attention was given to a man named Dr. Gary Schwartz, who claims that spirits can be detected by placing a photon detector inside of a box…inside of another box. The argument: photons detected are evidence of spirits. (Hint at explanation: If photons are actually detected, then they are photons. In other words, how could anyone know what the material make-up of a spirit is?)
What to conclude?
I have never known what to make of reincarnation. When I was a professed Christian, I would have balked at the idea of coming back to earth after being in heaven. But then, I never really reached a conclusion as to whether I would die and be resurrected, or if I would die and then go straight before my maker. Nowadays, of course, I realize a different reality about death. In the case of the boy who’s found his murdered body, I call BS. Reincarnation, as admitted in the article, is part of a superstitious belief as realized by a localized culture. Playing on this vulnerability, anyone could have found the body with the head wound, then located a boy with a birthmark, and thus a hoax is born. In this case, the boy was only three, very easy to manipulate.
For the afterlife documentary, I see vain spiritualists attempting to convince the world that life after death exists; because seemingly, in the deepest of their own hearts, they know they can’t convince themselves that it really does. Apart from that, what I thought was going to be a compelling case turned out to be nothing more than the same television tinsel I’ve been observing since Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of (1977-82). But don’t get me wrong, back in the day, that was a great show.