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"Elegant and literate" -THE TIMES OF LONDON
"The kind of book that both skeptics and believers would do well to read"- SKEPTICAL INQUIRER
"An urbane, original, convincing rebuttal of paranormal and supernatural notions" -NEW SCIENTIST
"A lively, entertaining book... Humphrey has set himself a larger task than simply explaining why people believe in parapsychology: the task of explaining why it is irrational to believe in it."-NATURE
"...a critique of beliefs in paranormal phenomena and miracles...explores the psychology of the tendency for wishful thinking...explains preferences for the fantasy world of magic & miracles over the real world."
That Hypothesis.- Who Needs It?- Preparing for the Best.- A Ministry of Science.- The Howling Storm.- Jam Today.- Another Think Coming.- Uncommon Sense.- The World of a Difference.- Breaking the Law.- Anything Goes?- Designed Too Far.- The Art of the Possible?- Behold the Man.- Into the Light.- P-K?- E-S-P?- Need You Ask.- Keeping the Faith.- Three Givens.- Being There.- Inside Stories.- On Good Authority.- It Stands to Reason.- Beyond the Limits.- Nothing for Free.- On the Wings of a Dove.- Notes.- Index.
Posted September 21, 2002
Truly, a mixed bag. There is some very good material regarding the refutation of many so-called paranormal phenomena, like Uri Geller¿s spoon bending, with some original thoughts about the principles of proof that should be applied to such claims. That part should be required reading for all those who have a tendency to believe in the paranormal. But then, there is also some very poor material where Humphrey passes into speculation clearly unworthy of the keen intellectual powers he displays in the rest of the book. The potential reader can find many glowing reviews of this book that concentrate on the first part and ignore entirely the second, which, however, is just as revealing as the first. Besides refuting the paranormal, Humphrey attempts to prove the non-existence of soul. To do so, he starts with the hypothesis that the soul must operate in a different, miraculous realm, if it is to be worth anything. Said he: "If the soul exists, we must be able to know it by its works; and its works must exceed the usual ¿ normal ¿ limits on what human beings might otherwise achieve." Hence, since he can see no works of the soul that exceed the normal limits, ergo the soul does not exist. But just what type of soul are we talking about? Would the soul¿s worth be measured by its ability to bend spoons? Ridiculous though the notion may be, if we accept Humphrey¿s reasoning that a refutation of Geller¿s abilities points towards the nonexistence of soul, then indeed the conclusion is that the more cheap tricks a soul can perform the more it proves its worth. Yet, if one truly wanted to know the soul¿s works, it stands to reason that one should be looking into the life of a "great soul". So, what might have caused Gandhi to go on a fast with full intent of dying unless the Muslim/Hindu strife stopped? Are such actions within the "usual ¿ normal ¿ limits" of what human beings commonly achieve? At issue is a confusion of fundamentals. Refuting spoon bending and psychokinesis is useful. Yet, though tricksters may be incapable of physically moving small material objects by force of will, Gandhi was capable of moving an Empire. Which of these two forms of psychokinesis is the real miracle? You be the judge. Now Humphrey must have sensed the hole in his reasoning, so he devoted some chapters to another great soul, Jesus, attempting to show that he was a mere conjuror who managed to deceive himself about his own abilities, and who eventually came to believe that he really did have strange powers. Until, that is, the moment of rude awakening, when he found out that he really was going to die on the cross and he could not use his imagined powers to descend from it. This is the cheap speculation I mentioned. No proof is offered for any of this. And it so utterly misses the point. The book confuses the paranormal with the spiritual and displays no understanding of the latter. It also subscribes to the discredited notion that science inevitably supports a materialist philosophy. And so, while decrying leaps of faith, the book unwittingly invites us to take such a leap into materialist faith. The discriminating reader can benefit from this book, but a critical approach is, as always, necessary.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.