Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Difference Between Mental Illness and Possession? One Exists.

The Mirror takes us back to the dark ages again today (23/05/16), courtesy of Italian exorcist  Father Cipriano de Meo. Clearly the journos at the Mirror are tired of being called backwards, irresponsible, fear-mongering shit lords for promoting archaic notions of demonic possession and have decided to call in an "expert" to fight their corner...

Father Cipriano de Meo (left), is Dean of Exorcists and former president of the International Association of Exorcists, a Roman Catholic organization founded in 1990. In the article, he tells us prayer is the key to establishing what ails a presented person.
"The exorcist will typically say a prolonged prayer to the point where if the adversary [demon] is present, there's a reaction... he unsettling reactions of a possessed person to the prayer, seen by the adversary as an enemy ready to fight him, can include "facial expressions, threatening words or gestures and other things - but especially blasphemies against God and 
Our Lady.”

That's all fine and well, but what de Meo fails to realise is that individuals in families and communities with strong religious beliefs, including belief in Satan, possessions, and demons will very probably believe in those things also. There's no reason to believe that these individuals won't also assume their illness is spiritual in nature. This misattribution is compounded by those around them.

Is it any wonder that these individuals respond to religious provocation? They respond in a negative way because that is the role that is enforced upon them. Psychologists suggest the most likely medical explanation for so-called possession is dissociative identity disorder (DID), one approach to the disorder is to consider it as a syndrome consisting of role enactment created, maintained and legitimised by social reinforcement. This delusion is only compounded by family members and priests confirming it and enforcing it. Cultural interpretations and representations of possession also factor into the disorder. As Robert Todd Carroll, of the Skeptic's Dictionary points out in regards to a MSBC programme featuring several "exorcisms":
"All the participants shown being exorcized seem to have seen the movie "The Exorcist" or one of the sequels. They all fell into the role of husky-voiced Satan speaking from the depths, who was featured in the film. The similarities in speech and behavior among the "possessed" has led some psychologists such as Nicholas Spanos to conclude that both "exorcist" and "possessed" are engaged in learned role-playing."-Carroll (2015)
Schizophrenia is also commonly associated with so-called symptoms of possession, with studies also suggesting that religious delusions are held with more conviction than other forms of delusion:

"Studies which have evaluated the delusional themes of various religious/spiritual delusions report that the common themes are that of persecution (by malevolent spiritual entities), influence (being controlled by spiritual entities), and self-significance (delusions of sin/guilt or grandiose delusions). Studies also suggest that when the non-content dimensions (conviction, pervasiveness, preoccupation, action, inaction, and negative affect) of different types of delusions (persecutory, body/mind control, grandiose, thought broadcasting, religious, guilt, somatic, influence on others, jealousy, and other) are compared, findings suggest that religious delusions are held with more conviction and pervasiveness than other delusions."(Mohr S, et al, Pubmed, 2001)
Is this perhaps because other delusions aren't enforced by family members figures of religious authority such as priests, and the mass media.

On many occasions, it's clear that Priests and members of a local congregation are not acting in the best interests of sufferers of mental illness. Researchers document several cases where the actions of religious leaders have interrupted the ongoing treatment of a prediagnosed sufferer of mental illness. Take the case of a 28-year-old sufferer of schizophrenia from BMJ.
"Historically, many cases of demonic possession have masked major psychiatric disorder. Our aim is to increase awareness that symptoms of schizophrenia are still being classified as demonic possession by priests today... We report the case of a 28-year-old patient who had been diagnosed 5 years previously with paranoid schizophrenia (treated with clozapine, risperidone, ziprasidone and onlanzapine without a complete response) and was also receiving treatment in a first episode psychosis unit in Spain. The patient was led to believe by priests that her psychotic symptoms were due to the presence of a demon. This was surprising because some of the priests were from the Madrid archdiocese and knew the clinical situation of the patient; however, they believed that she was suffering from demonic possession, and she underwent multiple exorcisms, disrupting response to clinical treatment."
The authors continue:
"The patient had schizophrenia and at the time was receiving treatment at a first episode psychosis unit after a psychotic episode a year before... Some months later the patient contacted a clergyman via a website. The clergyman was a renowned expert on exorcisms and a frequent guest on TV programs on paranormal phenomena."
In this particular case, the patients' family were suspicious of the activity of the clergyman in question and ensured that she sought proper medical intervention.

"Family members began to express distrust about the exorcisms because the patient shouted, writhed and occasionally vomited during the sessions. As a result they contacted therapists in the unit for an opinion on meetings with the priest. We were very concerned about the patient's situation and also disappointed with the clerics’ reaction."

The authors conclude:

"...we are surprised that in 21st century and in Europe, there are still experts and clerics who believe that some types of schizophrenia are due to demonic possession. Our intention was to ask an expert cleric from the Madrid archdiocese to try to convince the patient that her symptoms were due to a mental disorder, in an effort to improve her insight. To our surprise, clerics assumed that the patient's psychotic symptoms were due to a malign presence." (Practicing Exorcism in Schzophrenia, Pozo, et all, 2011)
It's worryingly clear here that this wasn't just a case of one Preist or clergyman acting irresponsibly. A whole archdiocese purposely disregarded the opinion of medical professionals and encouraged a young woman to undergo a harmful and potentially deadly, religious ritual. In fact, the clinical report into the case details that the patient was repeatedly vomiting during the exorcisms, one of the reasons the family was so concerned. Likely, this course of action and religious intervention was decided on as a result of this young woman's reaction to religious provocation and that alone. To use such a mundane and explainable justification for overlooking the treatment and advice of medical science is utterly monstrous.

The Mirror article also quotes another unnamed representative of the Catholic Church:
 "Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”
All fine and well, but cases such as the one documented above show that the Church doesn't actually have much respect for medical science, and as the organisation is yet to show how one can legitimately differentiate between mental illness and possession. The reasons for delineation can clearly be shown to be a factor of the mental illness itself. How about before ascertaining the presence of "the evil one" maybe ascertain there's an "evil one" at all!

Well apart from this guy. Have you seen Jack And Jill.... Brrrrr.... soulless....

Sandler aside, I'll conclude with one line from the paper I've cited above:

"We conclude that religious professionals should encourage appropriate psychiatric treatment and increase their knowledge of mental illnesses."
None of us should hold our breath, in fact, religious leaders seem to be becoming more steadfast in the existence of nonsense such as this.Coupled with the prevalence of such things being presented as "fact" in the news media and entertainment in general results in a devastating double punch of superstition and ignorance to the gut of the vulnerable and mentally ill.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Who is that shadowy black figure stalking Fox news and the Mail? Gasp... Reality!

Sometimes you find the stupidest paranormal stories in the most unexpected places: On 15th May WOW! FM's "Rick" reported on an alleged rise in exorcisms in Idaho, stating:
"Some may laugh… some may scoff… but facts are facts. Exorcism calls are on the rise here in Idaho."
I do indeed laugh and scoff, but if you're stating something is a fact you'd normally provide a source to back this up. Rick fails to do this, we aren't told where he's pulled the year-by-year figures for exorcisms from. He continues:
"It’s a common practice in third world countries. Here in the United States we seem to take a more scientific approach when the unexplained can’t be explained."
When the unexplained can't be explained? Surely the unexplained can't ever be explained as then by definition it wouldn't be unexplained. Also, I question why Rich isn't absolutely terrified and embarrassed that Idaho is following the example of third world countries. So where did Rick find this story to comment on it in the first place, tracking it down should at least lead to a citation of the source stating a rise in Exorcism in Idaho, right?

The story was first featured on Fox 9 news on, you may see this coming, Friday 13th. The piece cites two sources that allege exorcism is on the rise, "exorcism expert" and founder of Apparitions Paranormal Investigations Jeff Mason and Pastor Mike Freeman. It's Mason who seems to be making the claim that exorcisms are on the rise, not based on any actual figures or anything, just the fact that he's being asked to perform them more...

But Mason is a credible source, after all, he is a doctor.... erm... of clinical hypnosis. which isn't an accredited degree in the US or anywhere else, essentially it's a mail order qualification. It's hard to understand how this team actually came to Fox's attention, the team only has three members and their Facebook page has only ten likes!

Meanwhile, pastor Freeman discusses the popularity of exorcism in the Third World, a point that clearly resonates with Rick at least:
“You step into the Third World and it’s definitely a ‘We’re not in Kansas’ anymore moment. To assume our way of viewing reality as the only way is to limit ourselves.”
Is it me, or does this backwards idiot sound like he actually admires the third world for continuing to adhere to stone age superstitions? The pastor may be correct in stating there are many ways to view reality, to the left is how South Park view it, but those views don't alter it. Demons aren't real, possession isn't real. On the other hand mental illnesses and physical ailments which may cause stereotypical "possession like behaviour" are.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3103138/idaho-exorcism-rates-soar-as-population-booms/#g1URX7w3z6vlaPow.99

Of course, it's clear what's happened here: the news channel has gone out looking for a spooky story for Friday 13th and stumbled across Mason and his claims. Paranormal fluff aside there are serious implications here.

As always it's firmly my stance that publicizing nonsense like exorcism hurts the vulnerable, especially children and those with mental illness. This problem is, frankly, more worrying and pressing in Idaho, a state in which backward religious attitudes are killing children. An article published in the Guardian also on Friday 13th, shows the harm caused by protecting and propagating dark age superstition.

Alongside some stark and quite upsetting tales of abuse and neglect told by survivors of throwback religious cults, the article tells us Idaho is one of only six states in the US that offer a faith-based shield for felony crimes such as manslaughter.

The legislature states:
[N]o child whose parent or guardian chooses  for such child treatment by prayers through spiritual means alone in lieu of medical treat­ment, shall be deemed for that reason alone to be neglected or lack parental care necessary for his health and well being. . . .
           Idaho Code, Section 16-1602(28)(a)
In making its order under subsection (a) of this sec­tion, the court shall take into consideration any treatment being given the child by prayer through spiritual means alone, if the child or his parent, guardian or legal custodian are adherents of a bona fide religious denomination that relies exclusively on this form of treatment in lieu of medical treatment.
           Idaho Code, Section 16-1627(3) in Authorization of emergency medical treatment 

Peaceful Valley cemetery is Idaho burial ground of the  religious sect The Followers of Christ, which is full of the graves of young children and infants, many of whom died as a result of their parent's backward superstitious avoidance of medical intervention. Those parents are protected by this law.

A 2015 inquiry found the rate of mortality of children in Followers of Christ families from 2002 to 2011 was ten times greater than that of Idaho as a whole. This may only be the tip of the iceberg as Idaho law also allows religious sects to bury children on private land.

Critics of the faith-shield legislation, first adopted in the 1960's during the Nixon administration, fear that it may at some point also extend to deaths caused as a result of exorcism, although there is no president for this at the current time. It's easy to see how this could be extrapolated. Suddenly exorcism doesn't seem like harmless fluff, does it Rick?

There was more possession related bullshit featured in the good ol' Daily Fail today (18/05/16) which reports on a supposed "mass possession" in a school in Peru.
The following video accompanies the report, it is quite disturbing:

The paper reports:
"Disturbing footage has emerged of up to 80 students convulsing, screaming and fainting at Elsa Perea Flores School in northern Peru's Tarapoto. Experts are struggling to explain the hysteria that broke out at the school, which was reportedly built on a Mafia graveyard.... Franklin Steiner, a parapsychologist who investigates paranormal and psychic phenomena - said: 'It is known that years ago there were many victims of terrorism here. When this school was built, some say bones and dead bodies were found.' 
Locals believe this is a case of demonic interference, saying some children must have played games that invoke demons such as using a Ouija board. A Ouija board is marked with letters and numbers and some use it in the belief that they will be abe to communicate with souls of the dead.

As of yet, there has been no rational or official explanation for the phenomenon."
I'll offer a rational explanation, and it doesn't involve demons, tall dark figures or Mafia graveyards. How about mass hysteria? The phenomenon is explainable and fairly well understood, it's described here as "also known as mass psychogenic illness (MPI), is characterised by more than one person spontaneously developing hysterical physical and emotional symptoms, manifested out of false or exaggerated beliefs within their group." in relation to a similar outbreak in a Malaysian school, SMK Pengkalan Chepa 2.

Simon Wessley, a psychiatrist at Kings College describes the onset of the phenomena:
"Fainting, collapsing, funny neurological symptoms, but also more culturally bound conducts like possession, with djinns and spirits... schools are a natural habitat for mass outbreaks of conversion disorder, as they’re a fairly closed environment, populated by close-knit cliques. It usually begins with one person collapsing or exhibiting unusual physical symptoms, from there rumours spread and anxiety mushroom clouds itself through the hallways."
 Mass hysteria is more common and pronounced in communities within strong superstitious and supernatural beliefs, Robert Bartholomew, a sociologist who has also researched mass hysteria in Malaysia describes the phenomena further:
"Mass hysteria or collective delusions are defined as the spontaneous and rapid spread of false or exaggerated beliefs within a population.... Outbreaks usually occur in small, tight-knit groups in enclosed surrounding such as schools, orphanages and factories."
Easy to see all those criteria met here, plus the concept of exaggerated or false beliefs which puts the Mails quotes from "locals"into some contrast, clearly the belief in demons and spirits is rife here and the speculation about Mafia burial grounds and the like is only going to fuel this ongoing outbreak.

Hey wait.... what did one of the girls say was stalking them?

"It was a tall man all dressed in black..."

Shit! That may be the first time any form of reality has featured in The Daily Mail.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Meridians, acupuncture, onions and Bullshit: Why putting onions in your sock won't cure anything.

I'm sure that anyone with a social media account is by now familiar with this form of click-bait headline:

"He/she did this. What happened next will amaze you."

I'm also sure, like me, most of you scroll right past these stories without too much thought. A colleague of mine clearly doesn't as she recently recommended a remedy to me which she had come across on the site Boredom Therapy. The stupidity of the post is staggering. Just take a look at the headline and the main photo.

"She Put Onions In Her Socks Before Going To Sleep. When You See Why, You’ll Realize It’s Brilliant."

Will I? Really? Will I? Yep, it's stupid alright. Let's see why....

The article begins:
"For years, people sick with colds or the flu have gone to bed with sliced onions in their socks and woke up feeling refreshed. This sounds absurd, but there is a reason for it.... There are more than 7,000 nerve endings on the bottom of your feet that connect to the rest of you body. These nerves have been a major focal point of Eastern medicine for thousands of years."
 "More than 7000..."? Technically that's correct, there are more than 7,000, there are actually MILLIONS of nerve endings in the feet and of course, they connect to other parts of the body. I don't argue that these areas of the body have been a focus of Eastern medicine, but this doesn't validate those practices.

The particular practice that the author of the piece seems to be referring to is that of reflexology. The manipulation of the feet in order of solve conditions ailing other areas of the body. You'll probably be unsurprised to learn that clinical studies have thus far shown reflexology to be no more effective than placebo. In 2010, Edzard Ernst conducted a systematic review of 23 clinical trials for medical journal Maturitas, he concluded:
"It is concluded that the best clinical evidence does not demonstrate convincingly reflexology to be an effective treatment for any medical condition." (Ernst et al, 2010)
As an aside, when alt-med supporters bang on about the effectiveness of ancient Eastern medicine the first thing I often ask them is why, if that is the case, modern western medicine is so in demand in the East?

Website "Healthy, Wild and Free" (no it's not that kind of website) attempt to explain the connection between the feet and your nervous system:
"They (nerve endings) are very powerful electrical circuits within the body and are often dormant because we wear shoes and don’t get accupuncture done to help the meridians or nerves in any way.... One of the coolest ways to open up these electrical pathways (meridians) and to help purify your internal organs without doing anything internal (diet related) is to cut up onions or garlic and put them in your socks (at the bottom part of your feet) while sleeping"
This is massively incorrect. The nervous system ISN'T an electrical circuit. Due to gaps between nerve cells called Synaptic clefts, an electrical signal doesn't run directly from a nerve ending to the target receptor. The health research board explains further:

"The arrival of a signal called an impulse triggers the release of special chemicals into the gap. These chemicals,neurotransmitters , diffuse across the gap locking into the receptor molecules in the target cell membrane, causing it to ‘switch on’.
It switches off when no more neurotransmitters are released and those that were previously released have been broken down by an enzyme in the gap. The broken down neurotransmitters are then reabsorbed into the synaptic knob.
Because the transmission between neurons is a chemical process, it is possible to alter signaling between nerve cells by using chemical substances."
-Health Research Board (2013)

Further to that, this pretty much rules out any effect of placing an onion against the skin other than the job the nervous system is designed to do, i.e-passing the sensation to the brain. Meridians don't exist, we can be pretty sure of this as the practice of acupuncture, which also rests on the existence of meridians has never been shown to be more effective than placebo:

"Controlled clinical trials of actual acupuncture ( typically have three arms: a control group with no intervention or standard treatment, a sham-acupuncture group (needles are placed but in the “wrong” locations or not deep enough), and a real acupuncture group. Most of such trials, for any intervention including pain, nausea, addiction, and others, show no difference between the sham-acupuncture group and the true acupuncture group. They typically do show improved outcome in both acupuncture groups over the no-intervention group, but this is typical of all clinical trials and is clearly due to placebo-type effects." - Science Based Medicine
The fact that the sham-acupuncture group showed the same improvements as the real acupuncture shows that placement of the needles was irrelevant, hence either the whole body is a giant meridian, the researchers accidentally hit other meridians or that meridians don't exist.

Anyway, let's say I grant that these Eastern medicine techniques are more effective than placebo for a moment, which they aren't. Why would replacing the message element of reflexology with a root vegetable provide any benefit? Well, it's all due to the special properties of the humble onion you see:

"Onions, also a key ingredient in Eastern medicine, are naturally anti-bacterial. "

Shockingly, this claim actually has some basis in science. A study in 1997 by JH Kim, showed that onions did show limited antibacterial properties when placed in cultures of oral bacteria. This effect was however significantly reduced in the presence of alkaline and at temperatures of 37^0 C. The problem here being that temperature is pretty significant. It's the average body temperature of a human being.

Let's grant that the onion does have antibacterial qualities and that this holds in a sock, this effect is only going to apply in pretty much the area the onion is in contact with the skin being pretty much impermeable to any chemicals from the onion and the initial input to the nervous system being an electrical impulse triggering a chain of chemical processes. This makes the next claim made by article seem utterly ludicrous:
"Fans of this treatment claim that going to sleep with the onion on your feet releases your body’s toxins into the root vegetable, leaving you feeling healthy and refreshed in the morning."
Do they? Have they bothered to say, test this? Do they have any mechanism by which this could work? The skin is pretty impermeable to most chemicals, and there's no evidence of toxins being able to pass from the body to the environment via the skin. Couple this with the fact that the body already has a pretty good detoxification system: it's called the liver. Add in with the body's natural excretory system and it seems unnecessary to accessorize with salad vegetables to perform these tasks.

With all this in mind, let's return to the initial claim: Can this help with a cold or flu? The author of the piece simply hasn't justified this claim. Even if we accept that onions have the properties described, none of that applies to colds or flu: these are viruses, not bacteria or toxins! Viruses are infectious agents which replicate inside the cells of its host. How exactly would an onion in a sock draw viruses from cells in a host's lungs?

Let's see if any other sites can make some sense of these absurd claims. Alt-Med sales site "Healthy Bliss" just offers more nonsense on the topic:
"...with the body being so clean, the fumes from the onion could theoretically be absorbed through the skin and pass through the body more quickly, and perhaps eliminate internal bad bacteria or even parasites."
"Theorectically" I don't think the author of this piece has a damn clue what the word theory means (or how to spell it. It's "theoretically"), I'll offer a hint. It doesn't mean "Any old tripe that justifies something I want to believe..." Also "fumes"? No fumes pass through the skin. by the very definition of the word ("...any smokelike or vaporous exhalation from matter..." Dictionary.com), fumes are something that is inhaled or exhaled.

In fact some brave soul at the website conducted "an experiment" testing the healing power of the sock/onion treatment. Forget all that you know about the scientific method, blinding, controls, and methodologies. Forget that personal anecdote isn't evidence. And forget the fact that the point of an experiment is to remove bias and subjectivity and enjoy the stupid.
"After about 30 minutes with the Onion Socks on, I started to feel distinct quivers in my calves and a twitch on my left side at the rib cage. In another 10 minutes, my eyes started to tear as if I had just cut an onion, although a much milder sensation but clearly a distinct tearing."
"AS IF" she'd just cut an onion? AS IF? You have just cut an onion. It's in your fucking sock, you moron!
"5 minutes after that, my boyfriend told me he had the taste of onion in his mouth!"

That's remarkable! It's almost as if the senses of taste and smell are intrinsically linked and your boyfriend can smell onion... BECAUSE IT'S IN YOUR FUCKING SOCK!

She describes the results of the first night of the "experiment":
"I felt tired and weak, the first day for me to feel that way, but I did feel better. I don’t think it was the placebo effect as I am very open to trying something and saying it doesn’t work."
You can't switch off the placebo effect, even if you are aware of it. Also, it sounds distinctly like she's not sure that she felt better at all.
"And the real reason why I think it worked is because 90% of my hay fever and allergy symptoms disappeared overnight!! I went through the whole day with no itchy eyes and no itchy nose and I think I sneezed only 2 times the entire day!! Now, that is no placebo effect!"

Again, she's no idea about the placebo effect. Also, I doubt she checked the pollen count that day. That could explain why her allergy symptoms were absent. I doubt she attempted to control for any of the variables that could affect the outcome of the experiment. Either that or she forgot to tell us about it. What she doesn't forget to do is try and sell us her latest book.

"For Dummies" A more apt title I never read.

Frankly, the only thing you are going to get from put onions in your socks is... well... extremely smelly socks and inedible onions. Let's be logical. If you have a cold or the flu, a few days of rest will usually leave you feeling better regardless of what root vegatable you sleep with.

On an unrelated note, a few people are asking me where I get my amazing skeptical prowess from. I will now share my secret.The answer is quite simple, I sleep with a copy of Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted world in my sock every night.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Anomaly Hunting: An Open Letter to team PSII Part 1

This is an open letter response to paranormal investigation team PSII, I previously commented on a news story featuring a video and a photograph the team claim is evidence of the paranormal.
they responded to me here, I'll comment on some elements of this, plus I'll also be referencing comments made by the PSII team on my facebook page Skeptic's Boot: The Rational Paranormal and the suggestions made by a few of the patrons of the page.

Firstly, I want PSII to know, anything I write here is not personal. I like to be forthright and I believe in openness and frankness. The team's response which I linked to  above was presented on their Facebook page in a rather emotive way.

Criticism isn't always nasty. Sometimes it's necessary. In the case of the paranormal, it's vital. Paranormal teams don't get to pick and choose which parts of scientific method they like and which they don't. Which principles they use and which they can ignore. Generally speaking, teams want to use scientific equipment, albeit often incorrectly, and they certainly want the respect amongst their followers that a hastily slapped on scientific label brings. PSII are a prime example of this. Here's how the team describe themselves on their FB page:
Paranormal Searchers Ireland is a non profit team of investigators located in Ireland with the key objective to scientifically prove the existence of the Paranormal , i.e. Ghosts/Spirits/Legends/Demons/Angels and everything supernatural.  
Great, but if PSII wants to tell their followers that they use scientific methods then they have to accept the "nasty" stuff too. That means, amongst other things, peer review. That's what I and others provide. We examine ideas, methodologies, hypothesis and data and highlight flaws. This isn't done in academia out of pettiness and spite, why should it be the case in the paranormal? Peer review is in a large part responsible for building the edifice of subjects as diverse as science, history, and philosophy. It's the buffer that protects the sciences in particular from slipping into dogma and blind belief. Is this why so many teams react so badly to it?


You don't like peer review, stop claiming to use scientific methods. Stop using this to claim legitimacy you aren't prepared to earn.

Want an example of how criticism, contrary views, and peer review is handled in science from Richard Dawkins' book the God Delusion:
I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real... Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said - with passion - 'My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.'” Dawkins
Do you think Dawkins would still be telling that story still if his Professor had instead said to his visiting colleague "Why are you being so nasty? Academia can be an ugly place." He may, but it wouldn't be in admiration. 

The author of the team's response tells us at one point: "Technology simply does not exist that will 100% completely prove the paranormal in any form..." Without getting into a discussion about the impossibility of absolute truth, the author simply doesn't understand the concept of proof. We aim to prove within a margin of reasonable doubt. What PSII provide in this video and photo leaves open far too many alternative explanations and those alternatives are within our current understanding of the laws of nature. Ghosts are not. Any knowledge of the concept of parsimony, or Occam's Razor would tell PSII that the ghost hypothesis is based on too many assumptions and mechanisms that are unverified to be favored over a naturalistic hypothesis or the null hypothesis. As a commenter on my previous blog pointed out, Occam's Razor is only a guideline in selecting a hypothesis when data is inconclusive, it's not fool proof. But that is when we are considering two or more similarly weighted ideas, not when one is loaded with assumptions that can't be granted.

Also, PSII does claim absolute certainty. Take a look at this grabbed from one of their videos. This clearly demonstrates that the team begins an investigation with the assumption ghosts exist. This isn't an application of the scientific method in which the null hypothesis is the default position until shown otherwise. Also, if they are so certain that Comgalls is haunted why do they continue to conduct investigations there. I'm sure their answer would be "To collect evidence stupid" proving the point that their assumption is their conclusion! They are looking for evidence of something that they are already certain of.

To reiterate: PSII engages in investigations for one reason: to look for evidence of the paranormal. Beginning with the assumption stated above guarantees they will find it.

What the team is actually engaged in is the process of anomaly hunting. Kenny Biddle, a long time critic of the practices of ghost hunting groups, highlighted this last year:
"Personally, I think the majority of ghost hunters are not "ghost hunting"... they're Anomaly Hunting. They're looking for any anomalies that they can't understand. ... Anomaly hunting is not investigating, nor is it science. It is cherry picking, and self-deception... You must consider ALL of the data, and allow ALL of the data to lead you to a conclusion.Anomaly hunting is based on the idea of starting with a conclusion, then picking out the bits of data that support it...while throwing out the data that refutes or explains your conclusion in a way that doesn't fit with your beliefs."- Kenny Biddle. 
This is exactly what we see PSII doing repeatedly on their Youtube channel videos, they find things they struggle to explain and then assign an unwarranted  paranormal explanation. The photo offered by the team in the Mirror article as evidence of the paranormal is a perfect example of this anomaly hunting in action. The white object can't be identified so it's assigned a paranormal explanation.

The person who took this photo actually pointed out to me, again on my facebook page, that he has never claimed the photo was that of a ghost, but that it was simply unidentified. Why I appreciate and applaud his open-mindedness on this, frankly someone on the team most certainly IS doing this as seen below in the screen capture of a pinned post on the group's facebook page. Groups generally pin a post that they want all their followers to read. Sorry, but someone in the team really wants us to believe this is an image of ghosts.

The author continues "...this is why a team works hard gaining the trust of people so that they can judge for themselves if the presented evidence is authentic or not..." Are we seriously to accept this data, to be paranormal in nature based on reputation? 

What would one of the world's foremost physicists and awesome bongo players say about this? It's Feynman time:
"It doesn't make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong. That's all there is to it."_Richard Feynman. 
If it's science PSII are doing, and they claim it is, then reputation is meaningless. Of course, PSII wants their evidence to be considered in the court of public opinion only. And why not? Who doesn't like to have their ego massaged? I'd ask PSII if they have considered how unhealthy foisting an echo chamber would be to the paranormal community? It's part of the reason I and others vehemently oppose, so-called "para-unity" it's an agreement between groups to remove challenges and criticism. Unsurprisingly, team PSII are fans of para-unity.

The author continues:
"What I can say is that Team PSII have never faked evidence, in fact , we do not capture evidence in abundance as the paranormal is not some toy we can turn on and off , it will happen when it happens and we simply need to be really lucky to capture it."
I took a look at PSII's team history and the above is pretty much true. Barring a photo where a ghost app has clearly been used (right). PSII don't appear to have many outright "fakes" on their page or website. The question is, how much credit should we actually give them for this? Surely not faking should be a given? Add to this out and out fakery isn't the only form of deception available to paranormal teams. What about willfully ignoring possible rational explanations? 

I'm not saying PSII are guilty of this but I find the "we're not fakers" argument laughably naive to say the least. As is the author's suggestion that no teams in Ireland fake evidence.

The author can't possibly know this for a fact, and we can't take his word for it as not only is paranormal fakery a global phenomenon that isn't geographic in nature, but also we have to doubt his ability to actually identify fakery.

Let's leave deception to one side for the moment, it will rear it's ugly head again shortly, and point out that not faking evidence in no way validates the evidence PSII do present, I've already stated perhaps PSII's greatest failing is their lack of willingness to consider natural explanations for their evidence. Imagine a failing student barging into to his principle's office and demanding credit because his term of straight F's in all subjects  prove that he isn't cheating.

He's still failing regardless.

During a discussion with team member Eoin, who I also believe also wrote the rebuttal I have been referencing, on my Rational Paranormal page, I requested the original undoctored and edited footage that the team recorded. Eoin obliged and I'm grateful for that. Unfortunately, it's abundantly clear that PSII members haven't been totally honest about the video.
Here's the claim they make in the version passed to the press, the footage was recorded in April 2016

In the aforementioned video, the bottom right is dominated by the PSII logo, PSII do occasionally brand their videos in this way, but this is the only one I've found with the brand in the bottom right. The majority aren't branded at all. So why this one?

The undoctored version shows that PSII's reason for doing this was more than just harmless publicity. They were hiding the fact that the footage seems to have been recorded three years ago in September 2013!

You can view this unedited footage for yourself here:

PSII claim in the video's description,  that the time stamp was wrong in the video, but I'd question this claim as from viewing PSII's youtube footage I can see most of their cameras also time stamps. This one (above) does, it's in the same location and has the same font, so I'm pretty sure this footage was taken from the same camera which as you can see from the screengrab below, taken from a video posted in November 2014. 

Again the team claims that the time stamp is wrong, but are we to seriously believe they haven't corrected this in the intervening two years? Also, if these two pieces of footage were recorded two years apart why has only 3 months passed on the inaccurate time-stamp? Could this simply be an excuse they use when they post old footage and pass it off as new? Both myself and another user, Gary, asked Eoin on my facebook page to explain this inconsistency, Eoin has yet to respond.

This seems like a direct attempt to hide details of the origin of this video.

I suppose the question now is, does any of this impact the validity of the video? I'd say yes for two reasons: It shows that PSII isn't particularly diligent in their methodology. They were clearly aware that the time stamp was wrong in 2014, why not correct it? If they did correct it, they are aware of the possibility of the error, why aren't they checking their equipment thoroughly? Plus, the date being wrong prevents us from looking into the circumstances surrounding the investigation in question such as weather conditions at the time. The area the camera is placed in is hardly environmentally isolated when placed in front of large, poorly insulated windows.

The team asks us repeatedly to take things on faith, they claim that the footsteps and coughing heard on the video,could not be a team member, as they were all elsewhere at the time. There's no attempt to demonstrate this. The team claim that a further video clip proves this:
"Team PSII – This clip was the 4th clip in a series of six taken by this camera, the clip before shows the team heading to the basement area, one floor below, so no members of the team are in this area."
They haven't provided this clip of course. Plus even if we have the clip of the team heading from the area this wouldn't demonstrate none of the team then headed back up. Nor would it prove that was the complete team heading down the stairs, or less likely but possible, there wasn't someone else in the building. Also, we can't confirm that the videos are concurrent because.... all together now....
the bloody time stamps won't match!

When most of us hear footsteps and a cough we assume that is connected to proximity to another human being, Why should we adjust this, sensible assumption on nothing but word alone?

Whilst discussing the video footage, Robert another visitor to my FB page asks why there wasn't a camera covering the camera that moved and why more of the area isn't covered. A member of the team responded that it would be ludicrous to expect them to be able to cover the entirety of a massive building. I agree, but I don't think that's what Robert is suggesting. The team could select a small area such as we see in the footage and isolate it as fully as possible from the surrounding environment and ensure this small test area is fully covered by cameras.

The above criticisms I've made are in no way exhaustive. I've attempted to be brief, unfortunately, there's more to come. During the course of my discussions with PSII many questions have been asked regarding why I do what I do and how I do it on this blog and my other pages, as have questions of ethics in both my approach and theirs.

I'll address these factors in part 2.

Monday, 9 May 2016

*Cough* Great "Evidence" for the Paranormal *Cough*

Take a look at this footage featured in a report by Belfast Live yesterday (08/05/16) and in today's Daily Mirror (09/05/16). Recorded at St Comgalls on Divis Street West Belfast in April, by paranormal investigations team PSII, who claim that the camera was set off by some unseen motion and that both footsteps and a disembodied voice saying "get out" can be heard.

As you can probably see, without unedited footage we simply can't conclude that the camera is moved by a "ghost". This could easily be a member of the team stood behind the camera altering it. Nor can we conclude that the recording was set off by "ghostly motion". We only have the team's word that this was even motion sensitive, and if it was it could have easily been set off by the team member moving behind the camera.

The paper and the team both seem very impressed with the "disembodied" voice. which allegedly says "get out". Yeah.... erm... pretty sure that's a cough. One could also probably put the footsteps down to this person walking through the corridor outside the room in which the camera is located.

Sorry PSII, this just isn't impressive at all.

The team also provide some other "evidence" in the form of the following photographs, about which the paper says:
"They also say they were able to capture images of a man standing in a corridor of the school and another of a child in a white dress."

I assume the above image is that of the child in a dress, and the image below is presumably a zoomed in version.

Now I can't personally see the second figure in the original image and I have to question why the team hasn't zoomed in on it as they did with the claimed child image?

PSII also try to pass this off as two separate apparitions on their FB page, so this isn't an error of an exaggeration by the newspaper.

In terms of the team's evidence, this is as far as the newspaper goes, but the team offers another piece of evidence on their FB page. It's pretty clear why it's left out of the article.

Words cannot express how reprehensible I find the practice of investigations teams offering things like this as evidence is. Firstly there is no way to show this wasn't done by a human hand. The positioning on the victims neck/face is perfectly placed for the right hand to have reached over and made these marks. If they'd been done from behind, for example, they would have to slope down the other way (front high to back low)unless the attacker were extremely tall. Even then it would be awkward. If the marks were made from the front, the victim should have been able to see the attacker.

I'm left with the disturbing impression that this is a form of self-harm, we are seeing all too often in the paranormal field. I'd urge groups to reconsider before posting images like this, if nothing else, they can't show that this is not naturalistic, it's highly replicable, so PSII are just encouraging others to hurt themselves for the sake of producing "evidence".

At this point, I imagine that you've noticed that almost every time I've typed "evidence" I've used inverted commas. That's because I don't really think that PSII understands what constitutes evidence of the paranormal. As what PSII are claiming to do is research we can safely assume that valid evidence should be empirical in nature, we should also assume that the hypothesis they are attempting to prove or disprove is, very simply, "Ghosts exist and can be caught on traditional recording equipment". Let's be charitable and call PSII's video and photographs data, it's clear that when assessing this data the team are assuming as an axiom that ghosts exist. As such, they immediately dismiss rational explanations and expect us to do the same. 

Sorry, but Sagan said it best...

Any claim of the existence of ghosts is most certainly extraordinary as it's acceptance would require the rewriting of many of the laws of physics, laws which are not only well-evidence but are the foundations of our understanding of the universe. Even the most impressive "ghost" video or photo can not be considered extraordinary.... naturalistic explanations or fakery would need to be ruled out first. 

Unfortunately, PSII have solidly failed to do this. 

Friday, 6 May 2016

The Nostalgia skeptic: Malaysian Supermarket Possession Video Debunked.

I've been thinking of an exciting new concept it's like totally original! I'll call myself the Nostalgia Skeptic and I'll just debunk things that are really old but keep getting dredged up by useless tabloid journalists  and dimwitted social media pages and groups. I'll even have a witty catchphrase. How about "I'm the Nostalgia Skeptic. I debunk it so you don't have to!"

What do you mean it's been done?

Anyway, The Mirror displayed it's utter determination to become a paranormal click-bait site and little more this week by resurrecting this piece of tosh, "Man possessed by ghost on CCTV"  which first started to be shared back in 2012. The footage was allegedly shot in a supermarket in Malaysia in 2011.  Of course, now a major British tabloid have picked up on this, other organisations such as Coast to Coast, have jumped on the bandwagon.

Take a look.

The footage dates back to 2011 and has been shared to death on paranormal social media. The big selling point of the video has always been the eerie "face" that appears in the reflection of the chiller at the end of the footage. Following this. some stock "mysteriously" falls off the shelving. 

This moment is interesting to me for a completely different reason, it's the point where the fakery of the video becomes apparent. Watch the video again, this time watching nothing but the clock. You'll see that from the time the shadow moves across the chiller cabinet to the moment the stock hits the floor the clock freezes.

Look at the two separate time codes here(circled): the youtube time code is 1:04 whilst the security footage time code is at 01:29:21.

Now looking at the point just before the stock has hit the floor. The store time code is at 01:29;22, so one would expect the youtube time code to read 1:05. It doesn't. It reads 1:08. This is because the store clock spends three seconds at 01:29:22.

The three seconds of 01:29:22 clear evidence of alteration of the video.

Also just before this point at 1.03 watch the "possessed" man's left foot. You'll see clear evidence of an edit as his foot jumps from one position to another. It's difficult to display this. Watch at 0.25 speed and focus on the foot you'll see a clear jump edit.

In my opinion, the image appearing in the chiller door is someone moving in the aisle facing the door. Whatever they do knocks the stock from the shelf.I think whoever tampered with the video removed this person but failed to remove their reflection. It could even be the reflection of our possessed man moving, I think it's actually the reflection of him sitting up. I think this video is another composite shot as we discussed here. A stationary shot and a shot in which the groceries fall. 

We have to also ask is the whole incident faked? The behaviour of the man in question is certainly reminiscent of a temporal lobe epilepsy sufferer experiencing a seizure, especially the clawing at his clothes and the shaking of his head. Of course, I could be wrong and this could be staged. The position in which this all occurs is perfect to be covered by the camera, but the footage would be highly unlikely to be so widely circulated if it weren't. The man's final fall to the ground seems extremely staged. He clearly falls in such a way as to cause no pain. This fall also brings an end to the episode. Several commenters also suggest the man glances at the camera several times, although I didn't really see this myself.

There's no doubt this is fake, the question is did it originate as fakery or did someone come across the footage and edit it and why did no-one at the Mirror or any of the other outlets that have featured it notice the disparity in the two time codes. Oh I know.... they couldn't be bothered to look.
I'm Nostalgia Skeptic: I debunked it so they don't have to.... or something.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

A Response To "The sad loss of Jonathan Cainer and why only fools (and men) mock horoscopes"

This is a response to the Sarah Vine column "The sad loss of Jonathan Cainer and why only fools (and men) mock horoscopes", Daily Mail, 04/05/16 and as such I won't discuss Cainer in particular, you can read more about the astrologer here. In the column in question, Vine turns, what is ostensibly supposed to be a tribute to recently deceased astrologer Jonathan Cainer, into an idiotic rant against skeptics. A|t several points, Vine laughably suggests that logic and reason are male traits. At first, this appears deeply misogynistic, but I doubt Vine would see it this as being so, as it becomes clear she considers logic and reason to be negative traits.

Vine writes:

"...'Astronomy is a science,' he (Cainer) wrote. 'Astrology is a belief system.' In other words, astrology requires a leap of faith and an openness of mind —— both increasingly rare in today's world... "

Believing in astrology doesn't just require a leap of faith, it requires the complete abandonment of reason. It requires the believer simply isn't aware of principles such as "Barnum Statements" and probability. It requires the believer to not ponder too long on the suggested mechanisms that allow the stars to affect one's life. It requires ignorance. 

She continues:

"Ours is a culture dominated by cold, hard logic — a Darwinian society in which facts and figures determine success or failure..."

Vine seems to consider science and the use of logic to be cruel and unfeeling, many believers share this opinion, it's easy to see why. The science method crushes things like astrology by simply disallowing anecdote to be considered evidence. No wonder this irks Vine, as we will see, her entire reason for believing in the effectiveness of astrology is rooted in anecdote. This is the case for many believers in a whole host of paranormal, supernatural and pseudoscientific ideas. Science, the practice of logic and reason purposefully ignores the subjective.

"focus is always on the next hurdle in front of us and never on the bigger, more esoteric picture."
Really? I'd absolutely love vine to explain this further to the research teams at the LHC, who are probing the most fundamental questions the universe has to offer. How did the universe begin? What is the predominant form of matter in the universe? What force is driving the galaxies apart? These are the bigger picture.

The problem is the Vine doesn't find these questions appealing because they don't directly involve her. The question she wants have answered is "How does the universe affect me?" Astrology presents this self-centred view of the Cosmos, it massages the ego. Science, logic, and reason care nothing for ego.

Vine somehow, then turns this into a gender issue:

"In short, a man's world where logic trumps emotion and where uncertainty is seen as weakness....No wonder men like to dismiss astrology as nonsense while women seek refuge in its infinite possibilities. Because, despite centuries of male attempts to bully it out of us, we remain deeply instinctual creatures."

Anyone who has had the scales lifted from their eyes is likely to reject astrology. There's certainly an issue here of cultural bias too. Perhaps more women accept astrology than men, not because of anything intrinsic to gender but because they have it forced down their throats more. Most magazines and publications aimed at women feature astrology sections, whilst equivalent men's magazines are less likely to do so.

There's something deeply offensive about Vine's suggestion that women are more inclined to believe things without reason, and I know a number of female skeptics who will be more than willing to take issue with this. It's ironic that what Vine see's as a slight against men, turns out to be so hideously patronizing towards women.

 There's a question of how many people, men and women, just blindly accept astrology because they've always just done so. Many people read their stars out of habit, not out of  a deep-seated belief. Likely many of these people consider astrology  a bit silly, but can remember times when the stars seemed uncannily accurate. The file drawer effect keeps them reading.

Wouldn't it be more significant if a particular reader of astrological predictions NEVER found anything over a long period of time that applied to them?

I have to wonder if Vine has ever actually considered how astrology works:

"And the nature of astrology — based on the pull of the planets, the changing of the seasons...."

The pull of the planets? Is this jorno-speak for gravity? If so let's consider this brief example I gave in a post a few months ago: Using Newton's law of gravitational force, we can compare the mutual gravity between Mercury and you.

Where Fg is the force in Newtons, G is Newton's gravitational constant, M is Mercury's mass and m is your mass, with r representing the average distance between yourself and Mercury.

Hmm... pretty small, it's hard to see how fluctuations in that force could, for example, alter your emotions. Let's see how the force caused by the passing Ford Focus compares, let's say the car is around 2 m from you.

As you can see, the car exerts a gravitational force almost a full order of magnitude greater than Mercury. Can you imagine a system of belief that insists that because a Ford Focus did a u-turn in front of your house, you were in for a shitty week, or should expect major arguments with your partner, or you'll contract norovirus? It would be rightly dismissed as nonsense.

Let's leave that aside for a moment Vine's "evidence" is coming up:
"I have compelling evidence that it's not all nonsense. When I was a 19-year-old university student, I was given a detailed astrological chart as a present. Taking into account my exact time and location of birth, it produced reams of information that's turned out to be remarkably accurate. Not only did it predict my profession — at the time, the furthest job from my mind — it also accurately alluded to various major events in my life, none of which I could possibly have imagined, and even mentioned fame and politics."
There we go, to Vine anecdote is compelling. Again this is why she sees science, logic and reason as cold, she knows that this tale simply must be dismissed out of hand in the light of such things. Even if we didn't take a hard line on such things, should we just be expected to accept Vine's judgement of  the reading? We know the memory can play tricks, we know that believers tend to remember the hits and forget the misses. If Vine were to read this account again today would she be forced to admit there is much in there that isn't accurate?

I doubt we'll ever know, but let's not forget this is Vine's entire justification for calling anyone who doesn't accept astrology is a fool. Actually, technically the headline implies Vine is only saying that women who don't accept astrology are fools, the men who don't accept it are just... well... men....

One particular man not convinced by astrology is Vine's husband:
"People, in fact, like my husband, who, when he heard the news, responded in typical male fashion: 'It's very sad, of course, but I'm afraid you're a fool if you believe in all that nonsense.' Little does he realise that, in saying such a thing, he is underlining the veracity of the astrologer's art. He is, you see, a Virgo, and as such one of a deeply sceptical breed, much inclined towards logic and scientific reason."
 Is that convincing? Firstly there's no evidence that more Virgo's are likely to reject astrology than any other star-sign, or even that they are more likely to be involved is science. Secondly, let's say Vine's hubby was a Taurus, she could've easily written: "He is, you see, a Taurus, and as such is stubborn and materialistic..." Or how about Gemini "He is, you see, a Gemini, and as such is extremely independent. They will not be pinned down by anyone or any rules. They need to experience the world on their own." They are just two examples taken from definitions given on Zodiac signs-astrogology,com. Admittedly they don't fit as well as Virgo, but a little tinkering could soon fudge those details.

I had nothing in particular against Cainer, and I doubt that many would describe him in the extremely unfavorable terms Vine implies at the start of her article: "Jonathan Cainer had his critics. People who thought he was nothing but a confidence trickster, preying on the insecurities of readers desperate to find meaning in a cruel and complex world." Cainer wasn't a psychic preying on the vunerable or grieving after all. He was indulging insecurity and wish fulfillment slightly, hardly the worst crimes. I have little doubt he will be missed, and I extend my sympathies to his family.

I find it a great shame that in attempting to eulogise Cainer, perhaps the last of the famous astrologers, Vine couldn't help but expel a bile-ridden rhetoric against those that might hold opposing beliefs to her, insulting and belittling an entire gender, albeit not the one she aimed to insult, along the way.

Monday, 2 May 2016

A Closer look at the School Hospital Universitario Ghost: Is all fakery equally wrong?

The Daily Mirror tells us today (01/05/16) of a ghost video which is reportedly "baffling" the internet. Allegedly  filmed in the corridors of the School Hospital Universitario, Honduras, the video shows a supposed phantom rather comically poking it's head out of a doorway, before striding part way across the hallway.

Take a look:

The video leaves us with a few unanswered questions:
The first thing that struck me about the clip is that no one is actually coming forward to claim responsibility for it. As a result, there's no backstory at all. The Mirror cites the FB page La Otra DimensiĆ³n as an original source but on inspection of the thread, no single individual or group are claiming responsibility. Why could this be?

Without the original filmmaker's input, all we have is speculation as to where this was actually filmed. The location cited in the article, has been suggested by posters of the aforementioned FB page. One question I'd really like to ask the filmmaker is why they were filming that particular corridor in the first place. Also, I'd question where the time stamp has gone? Is there a reason it's missing or is this intended to just further obscure the origins of the video.

In my opinion, what we are looking at here is fakery using video editing.

Looking closely at the image above and the zoomed version below, you should be able to just see that our "ghost" appears to have a slight halo surrounding it. Watch the video again on full screen and pay particular attention to the zoomed slow motion part at the end.

 Slightly clearer here:

I think the aura represents an area that is more pixelated than it's surroundings. This is most prominent as the ghost pops it's head out of the doorway, the image actually blinking at this point. This could indicate that the video quality that our spectre is shot on is slightly poorer than that of the quality of its surroundings. I'd guess this section of the video is a composite of two separately shot pieces of footage. The empty corridor was shot at one point, then an image of someone popping their head out of the doorway later, possibly in poorer lighting conditions thus the poorer quality, this later footage was then overlayed on the original take.

In the following video, Mike St Clair of Viper Paranormal explain just how easy this is to achieve with common video editing suites and software:

I think that pretty much debunks that one.

The later half of the Mirror piece and a particular image they reproduce shows exactly how lazy the Mirror Journalists are and puts the above video into some perspective. Here's the image created by blatant faker, Andrew Milburn.

The Mirror quotes Andrew about the image, first published in the paper in June 2015:
"Andrew told Mirror Online at the time: "I sent her a picture as I walked to my office. Unbeknown at the time it appears that I captured a ghost figure in the corridors....I have since put this picture on Facebook, it has received thousands of likes and comments and has been shared as far as America.... It has also been shared on to paranormal investigator groups, many of which believe the picture is real."..."
I don't doubt it has, but those "investigator groups" make a mockery of the very word "investigation" as it would've only took them a moment or two to discover this is an outright fake. Here it is on an app selection screen right next to another image that was used by another faker in a Mirror story way back in 2014, which I debunked with the help of a few others here,

And side by side.

As much as I can't abide fakery, at least whoever made the video in question isn't actually claiming it's real, others are doing that for them. Andrew, on the other hand, can't help but crow about what he's created, and how many people it's fooled. Unlike the creator of the video he's actively lying to people and profiting from it too.... and it likely took far less work to produce. It certainly took less time to debunk.

I don't think we should necessarily look favourably on those that produced that video, but one can't accuse them of laziness or arrogance... and I suspect that they actually took pride in what they'd produced.

Give me these people over the glory hounds and profiteers that cynically use apps to extract money from a lazy complacent press any day, insulting the intellegence of us all in the process.