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« Medium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois - Part IV The RantsThe 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.
— Stan Marsh and John Edward, South Park

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.

Allison's rational reply to skeptics
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.



Allison DuBois: Debunked! (2%Co)

— • —
[  Filed under: % Allison DuBois Week  % Bullshit  % Two Percent Toons  ]

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Comments (34)

Brent Rasmussen, 2005.03.17 (Thu) 09:53 [Link] »

Great job guys!

*insert enthusiatic clapping here*

I actually used her image in my first post about her here. I never received any legal notices, but I am considering changing it to one of your excellent caricatures, if that's okay with you guys.

Again, great job.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.03.17 (Thu) 11:32 [Link] »

Brent — you may absolutely use our caricatures to replace Allison's photo. Hey, better safe than sued, right?

Thanks for the nod!



The Two Percent Company, 2005.03.17 (Thu) 11:34 [Link] »

As a note, we released Part V a day early so that it coincided with the release of the Fourth Skeptics' Circle...



Jennie, 2005.03.21 (Mon) 23:44 [Link] »

You know, I have no problem with any of your articles here.

But MEDIUM is still an excellent TV program. Just pretend she's an entirely fictional character (I didn't know about the "real" Allison Dubois until today) and you get a well-crafted hour of television every week.

No reason to be surly.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.03.22 (Tue) 02:19 [Link] »

Just to be clear, we have no problem at all with television programs or movies that portray fantastic events. Some of our favorite entertainment falls into this category. Ghostbusters comes to mind as a prime example of a similar premise in a movie that we like a great deal.

So, it isn't the show Medium that we have a problem with. It may well be an excellent show, as you say. We don't really watch much network TV, so we haven't seen it. As a result, we can't offer an opinion about the show, nor do we feel compelled to do so. It's the "based on a true story" part that we don't like.

In point of fact, across all five posts, we never once put down the show itself, or the actors, or the writing, or the premise. We only take exception to the fact that they are peddling it as "real" instead of just calling it fiction.

By all means, enjoy the show, with our best wishes!



Renee', 2005.03.29 (Tue) 13:23 [Link] »

I suppose next you people will take on proving that the world truly is flat! You should stick to subjects that you actually know something about. And I read the entire series, because to tell you the truth it was worth a good laugh. It takes real intelligence to compare real people with cartoon characters and fairy tales. As for putting people like Allison DuBois through more tests, it doesn't matter what tests or how many it will never be enough! And that is why she would never subject herself to your (or anyone else's) ridicule. Why should she?



The Two Percent Company, 2005.03.29 (Tue) 14:43 [Link] »

Ah, a "true believer." Try not to get too upset by this, Renee', but we really don't give a damn about the opinions of credulous fools like yourself. If you feel like believing that Allison's "powers" are real, then by all means, go right ahead. Hell, you can even believe that unicorns live in your ass, if you like — we don't care.

But, we certainly will subject people like Allison — and wide-eyed gawkers like you — to as much justified ridicule as we feel like dishing out. We'd turn your suggestion to "stick to subjects that you actually know something about" back toward you, but we fear that would entail you shutting up entirely. On second thought, maybe that's not such a bad idea.

In reply to the one question you posed in your comment — why we think Allison should subject herself to any tests — the answer is: she shouldn't. She already has a television show, fully booked readings, and a ton of mindless followers who will defend her to the death, all without having to actually prove anything. We didn't question her success, we questioned her claims — and on that count, she falls flat on her face.

So thanks for stopping by, but go peddle "moron" somewhere else, okay?



Carlos, 2005.03.31 (Thu) 11:06 [Link] »

I've read all of your coments on this lady and, while I tend to agree with your point of view, I wonder why none of the institutions or individuals she claims to have helped has publicly denied her intervention. True, they don't "have" to do it but, if I were running a more or less reputable institution, I would be the first to expose such lies. I'm not talking about respopnding to inquiries like yours only, I'm talking about going really out there to expose the possibility of fraud. Not to do this, is aking to invite any weirdo to casually mention his/her ties to public officials or institutions to backup other wild claims. Shouldn't this be prosecuted? Any comments?



The Two Percent Company, 2005.03.31 (Thu) 14:49 [Link] »

Carlos,

That's a good question, and it's a question that we had as well. Why wouldn't the Rangers publicly announce that Allison is lying? Of course, we can only speculate, but there are some valid points to think about.

One thing to consider is that there are so many psychics and loons out there making claims like this, that the Rangers (like all law enforcement) probably can't address them individually. They are busy doing actual police work, and can't take the time to answer every crackpot claim. Of course, you could argue that Allison is at the forefront of the "psychic" field right now due to her television show, and that therefore the Rangers should address her claims, or that a general statement that the Rangers do not use the services of psychics would be good start. Personally, we agree, but there are other factors.

One factor involves what defines "helping" the police. A routine tactic for psychics is to contact the police proactively and offer a "tip" on a case. In the Chandra Levy case, there were hundreds of such psychic tips received. Could the psychics who phoned in now claim, rather generally, to have "assisted the police in an active investigation"? Probably so, even if the tip had no value whatsoever. And if, on their 50th attempt, a given psychic's nebulous tip that the body would be "found near water" turned out to be true, could the psychic claim to have been correct in their prediction? Sadly, yes. In cases like these, the psychic isn't really making a fraudulent statement, they are just massaging the truth to suit their needs. Is this the case with Allison's claims? We don't know, but it's possible.

What we can say about Allison in particular is that her claims are exceedingly vague. She mentions that her husband sent a letter to the Rangers, the Rangers contacted her because she seemed to know some details of a case, and that she then "helped them." That's really it. The first episode of her show certainly shows a lot more details, but since it is entertainment, any part of it that was challenged by the Rangers could be swept under the rug of "creative license" far too easily. So, could the Rangers have received a letter about a case and followed up with Allison? Sure, but when they found out she was a psychic, they could also have hung up on her. Again, in this case, Allison's claim to have been contacted by the Rangers and to have "helped them" could be technically accurate, but at the same time, highly misleading.

Given all of the above, let's look at what it takes in order to take action against a psychic for committing fraud. First and foremost, here's a definition of fraud from an online source:

Fraud is defined to be "an intentional perversion of truth" or a "false misrepresentation of a matter of fact" which induces another person to "part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right".

Let's start with the fact that even if Allison was found to be engaging in "an intentional perversion of the truth," the Rangers haven't parted with any valuables or legal rights as a result of her claims. By this definition, the Rangers are quite simply not a victim of fraud, and they cannot bring fraud charges in this case, even if Allison is outright lying. We'll also add that fraud requires proof that the defendant knew that what they were saying wasn't true, which can be incredibly hard to prove.

So, fraud requires that the victim was subject to statements by the defendant which the defendant knew to be false, that the victim can show that they believed the statements, and that the statements had an impact on their decision to part with something of value. That doesn't describe the Rangers, but it certainly could apply to someone who pays for a psychic reading from Allison based on her disputed claims to have helped the Rangers. So, the only people who can bring fraud charges are her customers, who are likely not going to do so. And even if they did, they would have a long road to travel in order to meet their burden of proof.

Alternatively, the Texas Rangers could try to go the defamation route, but that's a notoriously hard thing to prove. First, the burden of proof is generally on the victim to show that the statements are false. Since it is not easy to prove that something did not happen, defamation suits are difficult to win. And for public figures, as the Rangers might be considered, it's even more difficult:

Public figures have a "harder road to toll" than the average person since they must prove that the party defaming them knew the statements were false, made them with actual malice, or was negligent in saying or writing them. Proving these elements makes the chance of a successful lawsuit slim.

So if the Rangers can't prosecute, what can they do to Allison? They could proactively announce in a press release that her claims are false. While we would love to see that, we're not so sure that the Rangers have anything to gain by such an action. In fact, they would likely be inviting bad press and hate mail from the "true believers," thereby causing themselves more harm than good. In our experience, supporters of bullshit tend to be a lot more fanatical than skeptics. It is worth mentioning that the Rangers rely on tax dollars, and the Public Safety Commission members require state senate approval to keep their jobs, and public opinion can affect both of these things. So, if public opinion isn't currently against them for not denouncing Allison's claims, then why would they risk turning the tide?

It's all a shell game, and the good "psychics" play it very well.

All that said, we would love to see the Rangers address this quietly but publicly, like in a FAQ on their web site. In the meantime, they are apparently happy to set the record straight when asked directly, as we've seen other articles in which the Rangers provided similar responses to the one we received.



Carlos, 2005.04.01 (Fri) 10:45 [Link] »

Go it. Thanks for your time.



Trowa, 2005.04.14 (Thu) 16:05 [Link] »

Her site says shes booked for the next three years. That reminded me of a tv show about these guys who could not get into a nightclub because they were told they were not cool enough or somthing like that so just for fun they rented a building, made the outside look like a nightclub and just never let anyone in lol. There were huge lines outside and they were like I wish I could let more of you in but its soooooo crowded in there.

How do we even know shes doing these thousands of readings she says she is on her website. If its even her who created the website.

Come back in three years if you havent forgotten about me. This all seems like one giant advertisement for the tv show. And now that they have peoples attention they eliminate Allison Dubois.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.04.14 (Thu) 22:46 [Link] »

If the name Allison DuBois means absolutely nothing to anyone in three years, we'll be pretty happy. Of course, there's always another quack just around the corner who is ready to jump into the limelight.

Time will tell.



Jeantia, 2005.04.22 (Fri) 00:45 [Link] »

I realise that I'm a little late in joining this discussion... However, I read your weeks intense study into why Allison Dubois is a fraud and I have the following questions:

You've given us two "quotes" from e-mail responses stating that Allison was not involved in police investigations and implied that the Dr Schwarz's ideas are ridiculous, how does this DISPROVE the fact that her ability is genuine? Wouldn't disproving her abilities require ACTUAL evidence? If you're making the claim that she has not achieved what she has claimed to achieve, then you'll have to PROVE her wrong.

I was honestly disappointed that I got to the end of a whole week of "Rant" to discover that you had no concrete evidence, just a fistful of ideas and a sarcastic tone that really does make you sound bitter as opposed to truly interested in the truth.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.04.22 (Fri) 15:29 [Link] »

We've heard this complaint before. Here's the problem — it is absolutely impossible to prove that Allison's powers do not exist. We know that the phrase "you can't prove a negative" is technically inaccurate for semantic reasons, but the intent of that phrase actually paints a pretty valid picture of the process of scientific inquiry. No one can "prove" a negative assertion such as one stating that "mediums" do not have spirit powers. The same is true of most examples of paranormal and supernatural "phenomena" that you can think of. Take, for example, an attempt to prove that fairies don't exist. A fairy believer says that fairies live in the hollow tree down by the river. So, we go down to the tree to look, and there are no fairies. When we report back, the fairy supporters say "they were out to lunch," or "they were invisible," or "well, they still exist, just not in that tree." See the problem?

Similarly, if we were to take an example in which we showed definitively that Allison's powers failed, what would that buy us? Nothing. Allison could just claim that the "message was fuzzy" or that we'd "understand later" that it was really right. Even if we could somehow prove that her powers didn't work in this one instance, how do we prove that they simply don't exist in any instance? We can't. No one can.

To "prove" that Allison has no powers, we would have to prove that in every possible instance — which would be as many as Allison cares to make up, and she can always make up new ones on the fly — Allison exhibited no powers.

On the other hand, to prove that she does have paranormal abilities, Allison would merely have to demonstrate one instance — much less than our infinite workload — in which her powers unequivocally worked.

So which makes more sense? That we spend our entire lives batting down Allison's claims one after another, or that Allison simply comes up with one honest, unquestionable demonstration of her "powers"? (It's the same as the difference between James Randi's challenge and Victor Zammit's challenge — the former requires proof of only a single extraordinary claim, while the latter requires disproof of an infinite number of extraordinary claims.)

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Allison is the one making extraordinary claims here, not us. She's the one who must provide the proof of her claims, if she wishes to be believed by anyone intelligent. So, rather than trying to prove or disprove her powers, we decided to examine her claims to see how they held up as proof of her abilities. We stated this as our objective up front, in our first post on Allison, and that's exactly what we did. From our first post on Allison:

But since we don't have access to more complete and specific data or direct access to Allison herself, we're going to take our analysis in a different direction. We have chosen to analyze Allison's own statements — her specific claims that she contends set her apart from the rest of the psychics on the market today.

So, we're sorry if you didn't enjoy the series, but we did exactly what we set out to do. We showed that Allison's claims are absolutely meaningless — not only does she not have extraordinary proof, she has no proof at all. Why the hell would anyone believe her line of shit with absolutely no evidence to back it up? Now, if anyone still wants to believe her, they can go right ahead; but we want to make it clear that they do so with no logical or scientific reasons, contrary to Allison's claims. That was our aim.

Are we bitter? No. What you were sensing in our Rants was outright anger, not bitterness. We're angry that "mediums" like Allison pull their bullshit on people who have lost loved ones. We're angry that they are validated by certain dishonest or gullible academics and by the entertainment industry (which is also both dishonest and gullible). We're angry that they try to shift the burden of proof to the rest of us when it should fall squarely on them, and we're angry that the public seems to agree with them, despite the impossibility of that approach. Are we interested in the truth? Absolutely. That's why we wrote this, because Allison is, at best, bending the truth, and at worst, pissing all over it. Our entire series was meant to bring the truth to light.

Now we'll ask you a question — specifically, what would you have liked for us to have written about? Everyone who has made comments such as yours has made them in the same way that you did, by stating what they didn't like about our approach. No one has yet stated what they did want to see instead. Keep in mind what we said above — as much as we'd love to do it, no one can prove that her powers don't exist; that's a logical impossibility. We also have no access to Allison to conduct tests on her (and we'd bet quite a large sum that she wouldn't submit to such tests, judging by her reaction to James Randi's million dollar prize), so anything involving that approach is out as well. We know that we could have examined the transcripts from her sessions with Gary Schwartz and pointed out instances of subjective validation, cold reading, hot reading, et cetera, but, as we said in our opening post on Allison, we chose not to do that — both because we had little confidence in Schwartz's data, and because that wouldn't have proven anything definitive either. What other avenue could we have gone down?

We're not being "sarcastic" when we ask this question — we sincerely want to hear what other approaches people think would work to address the claims of "mediums" like Allison. Go ahead and make a positive assertion that suggests a definitive approach to Allison's claims. We'll wait.



Rosa, 2005.04.23 (Sat) 09:43 [Link] »

I am just curious because I know someone who shows characteristics of this website. Do you believe in a God you cannot see? Or do you require that he show himself to you before you believe?

Just curious.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.04.24 (Sun) 00:56 [Link] »

Rosa,

No, we do not believe in any god(s). In order for us to believe in something, we require some form of empirical evidence which can be tested scientifically. We would note that "seeing" something is not required, as long as there is some other form of proof. We would also say that "seeing" something doesn’t necessarily qualify as enough proof by itself. Take, for example, the water stain found under a highway overpass that some people seem to think equates to "seeing" and therefore proving the existence of the Virgin Mary, as well as the Christian faith. This is, quite emphatically, not enough proof for us to believe in the Christian God.

The bottom line is that, in general, we look for some form of proof that holds up to scientific scrutiny before we believe in things. By these criteria, "God" does not hold up any more than Allison’s powers do.



% Trackback » 2005.04.25 (Mon) 00:55
"Only God Can Prove a Negative, and There Is No God" from The Two Percent Company's Rants

In response to our series on Allison DuBois, we have received a fair amount of feedback. Among the critical comments, there is one specific theme that we've heard more than any other — people questioning why we didn't "disprove" the existence... [More]


HawkingS, 2005.04.26 (Tue) 14:01 [Link] »

[Note: HawkingS (a.k.a. "Sniffles") has the distinction of being the first person whose comments were off-topic enough and moronic enough to be moved to our newly erected "Scribbled Above the Urinal" post.

The management may move comments that are deemed inappropriate to the topic of the entry post, excessively inflammatory, or otherwise disruptive of substantive commentary to a post designated to hold such comments.

Seeing as how his comments had nothing to do with this post, and how they were mostly just half-assed attempts at psychoanalyzing us, we felt that he qualified. If you are interested in seeing his comments and our replies, you can do so there. Thanks, The Management.]



Jeantia, 2005.05.05 (Thu) 01:34 [Link] »

OK here's my positive assertion that suggests a definitive approach to Allison's claims (seeing as you said you'd wait for it I thought I should at least give you one):

After reading your arguments stating that psychics/mediums etc... namely Alison Dubois cannot back up their claims with actual evidence, I'm pretty convinced that you are 110% confident that she would be unable to prove it... however, in your response to HawkingS you stated -

"Regarding the disclaimer... If we made the statement of fact that "Allison is a fraud" (which we have not done, by the way), we would be opening ourselves up to defamation charges."

IF you took away the disclaimer, blatantly claimed that she was a fraud and she did follow through with claims of defamation, wouldn't she then be required to PROVE that she is in fact genuine? I know it sounds a little ridiculous to be begging someone to sue you, but wouldn't it make it interesting?

Food for thought.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.05.05 (Thu) 15:02 [Link] »

Jeantia,

We have to say, that's an interesting suggestion. The problem is, while it might serve to further build the case against Allison, it probably wouldn't serve to actually "prove" anything. The best possible outcome that we see from this approach would be that Allison fails to prove that her powers are real, not that we disprove her powers. We'll walk through the possible outcomes of this strategy to show what we mean.

If we dive in head first as you suggest, but Allison takes no action, where are we? Believers will assume that Allison didn't even see our site. We can rectify this by e-mailing her about it, and laying out the claims that we make. However, then Allison can say that we are an insignificant site that doesn't matter, and in many respects, she'd have a point. Hey, we don't have any kind of huge readership, and we have no particular influence on society. So, what has this bought us? It may strengthen our case against Allison by a small amount, but wouldn't actually prove anything.

If Allison does take notice and sues us, what does this do? The burden of proof in a defamation case is on the defamed victim, so she would have to prove that she isn't a fraud. Of course, just because she has no powers it doesn't follow that she's a fraud (she could be deluding herself, or she could show that no one has ever sued her for fraud, either of which count in her favor). So, to be fair to the spirit of your suggestion, let's change that hypothetical statement from "Allison is a fraud" to "Allison has no powers." In this case, if she sued for defamation, she would have to prove that her powers are real in a court of law. Could she do so? Well, not before any reasonable judge, but not all judges are reasonable. James Randi makes references to several judges before whom our case might not fare so well. From Randi's weekly commentary:

Hey, that's nothing! I've encountered cases in which judges have turned to astrology when sentencing convicted persons, and others who have told the jury that they should believe in psychic powers such as those claimed by Allison.

If there are judges out there wearing Ten Commandments robes and spouting off about how they need to uphold God's law, we see no reason to doubt that the same thing goes on with regard to other forms of unscientific bullshit as well.

Don't get us wrong — the chances of getting a whacked out judge are admittedly small. But how about the jury? Since between 20% and 55% of people believe in some form of psychic silliness, we'd say that the chances are pretty good that one or more jurors would be "true believers." Would they cause a perpetually hung jury? Or would the probably-reasonable judge instruct them that psychic powers are not real? We doubt the latter since that would effectively obviate the need for a jury of laymen (a move we're actually quite in favor of, but that's an entirely different Rant). This line of thought opens up a lot of cans of worms.

Let's put all that aside and assume that we landed before a reasonable judge, and we got all rational people on the jury (that's a stretch, we know). Allison would likely lose her lawsuit in this scenario. What would that do? We imagine that Allison would claim that the judge and/or the jury was biased against mediums and the paranormal, and keep right on doing her thing. Would we have proven that her powers are not real? No — she would have failed to prove in this instance that they were real.

The basic problem with your suggestion is that there is a difference between proving your case in court and proving your case scientifically. Both avenues follow similar but not identical methods. However, the court system is rife with potholes that you simply don't encounter in scientific endeavors — as one example, evidence in court can be suppressed for various technical reasons (illegal search and seizure, fruit of the poisonous tree, police entrapment, and so on), whereas scientists have no gripe with the origin of evidence, so long as it is valid and verifiable.

We won't get into the cost, in time and money, of going down the road you suggest. It sounds like you are well aware of these issues based on your comment, and in all fairness, we did only ask for "a suggestion," not necessarily one that we were willing to pursue or one that didn't involve risk on our part. But ultimately, the question of whether we would try this approach is, to us, made moot by the fact that it wouldn't seem to definitively prove anything.

Let us know if we missed something, or if you have questions on what we wrote. Thanks again for your comment, Jeantia.



Innocent Bystander, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 07:46 [Link] »

"No, we do not believe in any god(s). In order for us to believe in something, we require some form of empirical evidence which can be tested scientifically."

Interesting. Do you believe murder is morally wrong?

-An Innocent Bystander



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 12:36 [Link] »

Bystander,

As our main page says:

In short, we believe that people have the right to do whatever they want to do, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of others.

In our opinion, murder is unacceptable and justifiably illegal because it infringes on the rights of another person (in a pretty big way). Don't cross up the issues, here. Sure, we call out bullshit wherever we see it (like we did with Allison DuBois), but we also respect a person's right to hold a belief that we do not agree with (though we won't necessarily respect the belief itself). However, we firmly believe that people should not have the right to infringe on the rights of others.

So, yes, we believe murder is "wrong," but only because our morals state "don't infringe on anyone else's rights" — and murder is a pretty big infringement. The confusion here may lie in the assumption that "morals" are an absolute, subjective concept — but they simply aren't. Morals change from era to era, from culture to culture. Since there is no absolute, objective measure of morals (for instance, a mythical magical superhero living in the sky), we as a society (or even on an individual basis) determine what our "morals" are.

And if, for any reason, somebody actually wants to die (perhaps because they are suffering from a terminal illness or dire injury) and is able to make that desire known (either at the time or in advance), then we believe it is not morally wrong to help them die. You are not infringing on their rights in this case, but rather helping them realize those rights, since they have the right to end their own life if they so choose.



Innocent Bystander, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 20:11 [Link] »

Of course I knew you believe murder to be morally impermissable. Afterall, neither of us are sociopaths (not like some of those characters depicted on 'The Medium').

My point was to illustrate that the empiricism you seem to endorse as the sole epistemic avenue to knowledge and validator of belief cannot cover the whole range of human beliefs that any of us possess (you may change the word from moral belief to moral 'opinion', but it is an elementary truth that all opinions are beliefs).

Your belief in the validity and good of human rights, for instance, is not a belief that can established purely on the basis of analysis of the manifold of the physical world. No set of positive empirical facts ("is's") can give rise to prescriptive oughts ("shoulds"). Yet we believe in such things regardless.

Why? because human knowledge, or belief, is not limited purely to empirical sources.

"Morals change from era to era, from culture to culture. Since there is no absolute, objective measure of morals (for instance, a mythical magical superhero living in the sky), we as a society (or even on an individual basis) determine what our "morals" are."

They certainly do, but variance of moral belief through cultures and times is not sufficient to show that morality is not objective, and only subjective, any more than the fact that each of us sees an objective object in the world differently proves that the object has only a subjective reality.

Additionally, there is a difference between morality being objective, and morality being absolute and objective. It is a distinction lost on many.

Anyway, those tangents aside, my point was to simply show you the limits of empiricism, and to point out the possession of your own beliefs not justified from within a strictly empirical dogma.

One has to revert to Logical Positivism to say otherwise, and that is an altogether absurd, self contradictory philosophy that nobody serious has believed for 50 years.



DaveB, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 21:31 [Link] »

Innocent Bystander

That's pretty interesting stuff. But in all honesty I've really no idea what it might have to do with proving paranormal claims.



Innocent Bystander, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 21:58 [Link] »

It does nothing to prove any such claims (nor did it attempt to).

What it does is to point out to skeptics that a huge proportion of their core beliefs are not empirically given (something often forgotten given by them given their dependance on empirical verifiability). And so far as that, that to limit oneself to only claims that are empirically testable/verifiable, is self inconsistent.

And so far as that, they should not be too quick to disparage categorically beliefs which are non empirically verifiable (as they generally tend to do), and a point-of-view I detected among the authors of these articles.

Other than that, I have nothing other to say.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 22:57 [Link] »

You're missing the point here, Bystander. Our opinions about murder are neither based on proof nor formed by ignoring proof — they are an entirely different kind of "belief." You yourself point out that there are those beliefs that reflect the data we gather with our senses (and our interpretation of that data), and there are those beliefs that we do not form by using empirical logic. That is because there is no "proof" to be considered in this matter — there is only interpretation, or "feelings," if you will. Of course we don't have empirical data for a question that is not empirical in nature. Of course we don't rely on scientific testing in order to reach an opinion for which there is nothing to test. That would make no sense.

In the quote you cited from our comments, we were talking specifically about the paranormal (god, in this case), even though we didn't state that up front in our comment. That omission is more a function of writing style than intent (we generally don't completely frame every response we make or else the site would be pretty unreadable). Frankly, we didn't think it was necessary to call this out — and frankly, we still don't think it is. We would hope that the context of our statement was enough for our readers to understand what we meant.

Our suggestion, Bystander, is that you read more of our posts so that you can understand our overall mindset. Rest assured that our entire range of beliefs and opinions (be they fact-based beliefs or non-empirical opinions) are fully consistent with our stated goals of promoting science, reason, logic, and common sense, and fighting for civil liberties.



Innocent Bystander, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 23:47 [Link] »

You say im missing the point, but then go on to only reiterate the point I just made, stated in your own words (again, emphasising the word 'opinion' rather than using the word belief, even though an opinion is a belief).

Perhaps you misunderstand the point of my points. It was/is this: That while empirically based beliefs are fantastic, they do not come even close to accounting for the full range of beliefs that exist in all of us. And in that sense, empirically verifiable beliefs should not be thought to be able to encompass all the facts of humanity, and are only a subset of the total human capacity for knowledge. The slant put on empirical data, especially where skeptics such as yourself are casting doubt on paranormal activity, regularly implicitly suggests that empirical evidence as a far wider scope in knowledge than it really in fact does.

You can switch words around, applying the term 'beliefs' to empirical sources, and 'opinons' to non-empirical sources, but that is just word play that glazes over the fact of the matter - the most substantial degree of what we believe is not at all empirically found, even for those who deny the existence of extra-worldly reality.

Skepticism is _vital_. But we should not lose sight of the limits of empirical data, and the fact that its limits do not stop at the limits of our knowledge, as is evidenced by the beliefs in all of us - regardless of our beliefs about the existence of non existence of any spiritual reality.

My posts are not aimed at you particularly, but skeptics in general, and are more calls for critical re-evaluation of the limits of empiricism, and certainly are not dismissals of the value of skepticism.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.29 (Wed) 01:20 [Link] »

Your point, then, is simply that there are limits to empiricism. Um, yeah. Of course. No one here ever argued anything different. You did say, though, that you weren't aiming your commentary at us. Okay, then.

However, what we are saying is that the limits of empiricism do not exist with regards to external phenomena (something that did or did not happen). The only way to gather or interpret data on external phenomena is to be empirical. The only limit to empiricism is that it cannot really deal with internal phenomena — feelings, inner thoughts, and general opinions of how something should or shouldn't be. The whole concept of "should" has no counterpart in the physical world. Things happen, or they don't. (Remember that in Amistad, the Mende language contained no word for "should"? The very concept made no sense to Djimon Hounsou's character, who dealt with the world in a practical, empirical fashion.) Therefore, pointing out the limits of empiricism when we are dealing with external phenomena — as we were when writing our Allison DuBois Rants — is irrelevant, since those limits do not apply.

You say:

You can switch words around, applying the term 'beliefs' to empirical sources, and 'opinons' to non-empirical sources, but that is just word play that glazes over the fact of the matter — the most substantial degree of what we believe is not at all empirically found, even for those who deny the existence of extra-worldly reality.

No, it is not word play, and it does not glaze over anything. Quite the contrary, it serves to clarify what we are talking about by applying terms to specific situations. Discussions are much easier for all parties involved if each party understands what the others' words actually signify to those other parties. Otherwise, interlocutors will simply be talking right past each other the whole time. If you recognize that we were using the term "opinion" to refer to non-empirical situations (those involving internal phenomena), then you clearly understand exactly what we are saying. Specifically: any question that can be addressed empirically should be addressed empirically, and any question that by its nature cannot be addressed empirically clearly cannot be addressed empirically. Frankly, that's just common sense.



Innocent Bystander, 2005.06.29 (Wed) 01:42 [Link] »

That it had limits was not so much my point as was that it is limited more than many would concede. "Science is not god". God in the non literal sense, of course. But you seem to agree, so there is not much more to say (many skeptics think science is god, again, in the non literal sense).

In fact, many scientists think empirical reality is god, in the literal sense. e.g. Einstein and Hawking and their pantheistic philosophies.



Frank, 2005.07.04 (Mon) 21:42 [Link] »

I would stay away from any fraudsters whatever they are in to. Sida Yoga foundation being one of them.. religious spiritualy shit yeah right the owers are knowed to be flying personal jets for fun and 3k a night hotels...

Follow the money trail you always find fraud.

Alison Dubois ( altough i love the show) is fraud as well as all that medium psychick cold reading POS out there.


The way it works is YOU proove you got powers...
not the other way around..

Else ill say

#1 i can fly.. i don't feel like it so youll never see me fly
#2 i can create money at will.. (i don't want cash so i don't crate it )
#3 etc.


Basically why not add to my resume
done WW2. saved 1000 soldeirs by myself.
been 5 years in africa saving lives every day.
Been in space 4 times assisting engineers with my knowledge.
oh i also started cisco , nortel and microsoft.. ( Bill just stole it from me)

FYI this is all BS so dont hold me up for it.


Anyone who actualy speaks with dead is just PLAIN OLD SCHIZOPHRENIC !!!!!!!! now thats an easy explanation.


my 0.02 cents for the 2%



Cleo, 2005.08.13 (Sat) 07:40 [Link] »

I had sent a email to Allison DuBois asking her why her friend Laurie Camobell charges for a reading....Allison got mad and told me that was not a good peron and that i didn't didn't need a reading at that time....I was a big fan of her show at the time....just a normal housewife.. I hate her show now.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.13 (Sat) 16:53 [Link] »

Really, Cleo, how dare you question the great and powerful Allison (or her friends)? Apparently, not only won't Allison accept any people who question her abilities (how dare we on that one) — any questions of any kind are beneath her.

From everything we've read about Allison, she isn't a very nice person, and your experience further corroborates that description. We guess that the "fame" from her television show has gone to her head in a big way; we can only hope that she fades from the stage in the same manner that John Edward did when his show went belly-up.

By the way, having someone who takes advantage of people who are suffering from the loss of a loved one (in exchange for money and fame) tell you that you are not a good person because you asked a valid question — that's among the most hypocritical of statements that we can imagine. So-called "psychics" like Allison are sick, cruel people, plain and simple.



Cleo, 2005.08.14 (Sun) 05:23 [Link] »

Ahhh,
Now that brings back the issuses of what happened to the real Miss Cleo, In due time Allison
and perhaps some of her friends shall see the same out come, and no, I am not psychic, this thought is just a matter of opinion.
I just don't understand why these type of people can't find better thing to do with their lives, and the people who believes in them and all of the nonsense. Who would want to talk to the dead, ( if you really could) how spooky and gross!!! As far as her show, yes that is entirely different, she obviously has some talent in writting the show or a good imagination. She could had kept it as that, instead making the claim that she is really psychic. I read some of the other post, and yes as long as it is a movie that fine, but now the show is spoiled with the claim.. I no longer want to watch it.



Cleo, 2005.08.14 (Sun) 08:05 [Link] »

Oh... by the way I forgot to bring up the fact that Allison, has dragged her own three children into this, and had said they also have psychic abilities.

Wow, now for the well being of the children could someone get Allison on a disrupting a minor charge? Now, after thinking about it....that really has to be the most lowest thing a mother could do to their own children (least one of the lowest)

I can just image what those kids go through, and I can't help wondering what kind of people they will become when they are adults..



The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.21 (Sun) 22:01 [Link] »

Looking over the past few weeks, we've come to the conclusion that the commentary on the Allison DuBois posts have bottomed out. Accordingly, we are closing all five posts to further comments. If you feel that you absolutely must make a comment in support of the luminously illuminated Allison DuBois, may we suggest that instead of posting it here, you simply shout it over the edge of a cliff of some kind so you can hear your own annoying echo validating your moronic statement. In fact, go ahead and throw yourself over the edge when you're done and do the world a favor. 'Kay?



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