« Medium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois - Part IV • The Rants • The Fourth Edition of the Skeptics' Circle »
Medium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois - Part V
2005.03.17 (Thu) 08:00
Allison's Answers to Skeptics:
|John Edward: ||But I'm a psychic. |
|Stan: ||No dude, you're a douche. |
|John Edward: ||I'm not a douche! What if I really believe that dead people talk to me? |
|Stan: ||Then you're a stupid douche. |
Previously, we discussed the arguably flawed tests that medium Allison DuBois uses as scientific validation of her abilities, Allison's dubious claims concerning her track record of assisting law enforcement on active investigations, and Allison's self-proclaimed and seemingly unsubstantiated 100% success rate. Today, we will explore her responses to skepticism, and we'll wrap up Allison DuBois Week.
Let's look at the world through Allison's eyes now, and forget about the analysis that we've just walked through. Assuming that she really believes that she is the real deal, and that she has worked with the police, and that Dr. Schwartz's research proves her powers scientifically, and that she is never wrong, you'd think Allison would be aching to be tested by someone other than an academic who is regarded, at least in some circles, as a scientist of questionable abilities. But quite the contrary, she is not at all interested. Why not? If you believe Allison, it's because she doesn't care what people think. We can't fault that approach, but we can question its truthfulness. If she really doesn't have a need to prove herself, then why has she invested so much time working with Dr. Schwartz to do just that?
Of course, one test that Allison could take part in that would cement her reputation as a legitimate medium (assuming that she passes) is the James Randi Educational Foundation's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge:
At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."
To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests.
Randi has offered to test Allison, just as he has offered to work with Dr. Schwartz to test any and all of his subjects. Allison, however, isn't interested. To see her rationale, we'll go directly to her own web site:
I want to address an issue that comes up from time to time. There is an irritating magician offering $1 million to anyone that can prove to him that there is anything paranormal. My response to this is there is a reason that mediums do not take him up on his challenge. The mediums I know, myself included, do not believe this man to be honorable. Not only is he an unintelligent skeptic, he would be an out of work skeptic if somebody were to prove this to him. Therefore, he will never come to the conclusion that any medium has met his standards. If he is so interested in million dollar challenges, maybe he should take Victor Zammit up on his. It would be appreciated if he would direct his anger, whining and bullying towards a therapist. FYI any e-mail concerning him will be rightfully deleted.
Instead of proving once and for all that her powers are legitimate, she instead resorts to insults and personal attacks on Randi to justify her refusal. In addition to this dubious rationale, Allison also states that Randi "has never shown proof that [the million dollars] exists." Randi addresses Allison's claim in his weekly commentary from December 17, 2004:
... "[he] has never shown proof that it exists" is a blatant lie, and she knows it. I've shown that proof on national TV, and the evidence is easily available through our web site via a notarized statement — see www.randi.org/research/challenge.html, Rule 8. Several TV networks — CNN, ABC-TV, and RAI-TV, among others — have easily obtained the documentation on that matter. As a matter of fact, Dubois can collect the JREF million-dollar prize merely for showing that either (a) her statement that I've never shown the proof, or (b) that the money doesn't exist, is true! But she'll ignore that offer, of course — because she must.
In the true spirit of skepticism, we took Randi's advice in Rule 8 which instructed us to visit the Foundation Center's web site. The Foundation Center collects and disseminates information on the nonprofit sector, which includes the JREF, and their web site has this to say about 990 forms:
About the IRS Form 990
Form 990 tax returns are filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by all nonprofit organizations in the United States. The IRS electronically supplies the Foundation Center with these returns.
So the Foundation Center gets these forms directly from the Internal Revenue Service. Sounds pretty official. We typed James Randi into the Organization Name field, and it returned both the 2002 and 2003 990 forms. There on both forms, plain as day, on line item 68, was $1,000,000.00 listed as "temporarily restricted." Hey Allison! Randi has never shown proof that the money exists? Hell, we just proved that the money exists! Allison's claim is absolutely untrue.
All in all, Allison's reasons for not accepting the JREF Challenge seem like feeble excuses; it makes her sound like she only submits to tests which are directed by people who already believe in her powers. What's the use in that? Oh, right — media validation and fame without the need to actually prove anything. Sorry, we forgot.
We'll also briefly touch upon Allison's reference to Victor Zammit's challenge. Put succinctly, we see Zammit's challenge as a poorly conceived joke meant to make fun of the JREF Challenge. To be clear, Zammit probably doesn't see it that way, but empirically, it is simply ridiculous. Amidst a blizzard of insults and total speculation stated as fact, Zammit outlines his challenge on his web site as follows:
The applicant has to rebut the substantive objective evidence presented in Victor Zammit's A Lawyer Presents the Case for the Afterlife (see chapters 3 to 24) which includes: Materialisation, Electronic Voice Phenomena, Instrumental Transcommunication, the Scole Experiments, Professor Gary Schwartz' Experiments, Mediumship - Mental, Physical and Direct Voice, Xenoglossy, the Cross-Correspondences, Proxy Sittings, Automatic Etheric Writing, Laboratory Experiments, Poltergeists, Apparitions together with the evidence provided by Near Death Experiences and Out of Body Experiences which psychics claim are supportive of and are directly linked with the afterlife.
Try saying that all in one breath! Should we also prove that god doesn't have a beard while we're at it? Seriously, this is pure bullshit and it's nothing like the JREF challenge that it's supposed to imitate. While the JREF challenge only requires you to prove one case of one phenomenon, Zammit's challenge appears to require disproof (which is impossible) of all these phenomena (which is ridiculous). Further, we've looked at some of what Zammit claims as "evidence" for this cornucopia of crap — by our read, it seems to be mostly anecdotal examples coupled with highly suspect data fragments and conclusion leaping that would put Pitfall Harry to shame. Put simply, there is no way to rebut his self-constructed fictional world. It would be tantamount to arguing that Hobbits don't have hairy feet to J.R.R. Tolkien — you just couldn't win. And because we think Zammit is a pompous ass, we'll also point out that for a lawyer who was raised and educated in Australia, his grasp of the English language is abysmal. We'd say to check out his site if you don't believe us, but we can't in good conscience recommend that — it damned near made our eyes bleed trying to wade through the semi-literate ramblings of this self-styled hero of the paranormal.
Zammit's copious list of fantastic things he endorses also got us thinking about Allison's views on these same topics. Certainly it isn't necessary to believe in all of these so-called phenomena in order to believe in Allison's powers, but some people choose to draw the line in a grey area between true skepticism and complete credulity. This kind of picking and choosing is something we call selective skepticism. Selective skeptics will often cluck their tongues when, say, ghosts are mentioned, but their eyes will glaze over in blind admiration when we talk about, for example, John Edward.
This isn't skepticism at all — it's personal bias, most often brought on by effective marketing. We realize that these people tend to have no logical reasons for believing in one method or practitioner of pseudo-science over another, but in an attempt to reach out to the selective skeptics who believe in Allison's powers, we submit the following. Allison openly endorses astrology and EVP, to name two popular examples of paranormal bullshit.
From the January 17, 2005 issue of Haunted Times:
Haunted Times: Obviously, you believe it's possible to speak with the dead. Do you believe that we can communicate with the dead through EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon)?
Allison DuBois: I'm sure you can record them because I have had clients record voices in my house during their reading. That's what I think is so important about what you (HT) do for mediums. If an audiocassette can record it and pick it up, why can't there be human beings that can pick it up?
Allison DuBois: I totally believe in what you guys are doing (with EVP). It's really important because it's showing physical evidence that people can try and explain away, but it's there.
If you want to understand what EVP is and why it is utter bullshit, you can read an earlier Rant in which we show how laughably stupid it really is. Suffice it to say that Allison firmly supports the "science" of hearing voices in recordings where there are only vague clicks.
And from an older version of Allison's own web site (found via the Wayback Machine) we see her endorsement of astrology:
PENNY THORNTON...is a tenacious, talented astrologer best known for being a personal advisor to Princess Diana for 6 years. ... I have met many in my field and Penny is in a league of her own. She is incredibly accurate, personal and indepth. She is particularly good with issues of the heart. I highly recommend her.
According to her, certain astrologers and EVP proponents are not among the rabble of "charlatans" infecting the paranormal marketplace like a plague — their powers are real. If you truly trust Allison and believe in her mystical abilities, then shouldn't you also believe in these other examples of the paranormal that she personally endorses? Of course, we realize that some people do believe in all of the above (and then some), and to those people we ask — how the hell did you get this far into our Rant before giving up and moving on to a website where you can get what you're really looking for?
As an aside, the references to Penny Thornton and several other psychics that Allison used to endorse on her web site seem to have been replaced in the current version with psychics and psychic researchers with a higher pedigree, most of whom have been validated by Dr. Schwartz. Does this mean that Penny wasn't so great after all? Or maybe Allison just travels in different circles now that her story is on television....
On a more personal note, as skeptics who are writing a critical commentary about Allison within the framework of the litigious society we live in, we admit to some concern over her potential reaction should she stumble into our little corner of the internet. We are all-too aware that one of Allison's less-than-friendly communications with James Randi was a nine-page legal notice demanding that he remove a photograph of Allison from his web site. Randi has since removed the offending picture which, he notes, can just be seen on Allison's site.
Anxious to avoid inspiring any litigious anger in Allison, we at the Two Percent Company decided to eschew this problem by using our own caricatures in lieu of photographs, which you have seen in each of our Rants. Quite frankly, we think these caricatures do a good job of representing not only Allison's physical appearance, but also the fantastic claims that make Allison who she is. We briefly considered using a picture of Marvel Comics' character "Rogue" (any X-Men fans will note the striking similarities between the two, especially as played by Anna Paquin in the movies), but given Marvel's track record of suing anything that moves, we figured that would be even riskier than using the photo of Allison. For the record, if James Randi ever needs to use a picture of Allison for any reason, he is free to use any of ours on his site.
— • —
Over the past week, we've looked at Allison's own claims to fame, and shed the harsh light of truth on each of them in turn. This brings to a close the Two Percent Company's Allison DuBois Week. Hopefully, the next time you hear someone blathering on about how Medium is based on a true story, you'll know exactly what to say. Until then, we leave you with the following.
In dismissively shooing away James Randi, Allison states in one of her emails:
"...I have nothing to prove to you."
Allison's right about that. In order to have something to prove, you actually have to have something. And from where we're standing, it seems clear that Allison, like the other psychics she carefully warns us to avoid, has absolutely nothing.
— • —
The Two Percent Company's Allison DuBois Week:
— • —
% Monday: An Introduction to Allison DuBois
% Tuesday: Dr. Gary Schwartz's Research
% Wednesday: Allison's Track Record Assisting Law Enforcement
% Thursday: The Success Rate of Allison's Powers
% Friday: Allison's Answers to Skeptics (this Rant)
Disclaimer: Throughout our posts, we are presenting statements and opinions of various third parties. The Two Percent Company makes no claims as to the accuracy of the statements of any third parties. In addition, any statements attributed to the Two Percent Company are strictly our opinion, and are not meant to be statements of absolute fact.
— • —
[ Filed under: % Allison DuBois Week % Bullshit % Two Percent Toons ]
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