Did Wikipedia really make Astroturf's dream come true?
Departure into the third millennium
Towards the end of my school days I got the book “Aufbruch ins Third Millennium” by Pauwels and Bergier (1965). I was eager to learn. This description of the spiritual adventures of mankind is perfectly legible and it amazed me. The authors do not hold back from criticizing all too strange spiritual structures: Aryan physics, astrology, Atlantis, Yeti and hollow world theory. Martin Gardner already had the latter on his screen, in addition to the earth disc theory (Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, 1957). It all seemed to be well balanced and I took it at face value for now.
But more and more it occurred to me that something was wrong. The longer I read, the more the critical attitude of the text was lost and the real concern emerged more and more clearly (p. 417):
The parapsychological experiments seem to show that there are other relationships between man and the universe in addition to the usual sensory relationships. According to this, every normal person is able to perceive things that are far away or hidden behind walls, to influence the movements of objects without touching them, to project their thoughts and feelings into the nervous system of another person and finally in some cases even to anticipate upcoming events.
So that was what it was about: about psi phenomena and about the fact that people should research them with scientific methods. The name of the department: Parapsychology (Oepen et al. 1999). This area also became virulent in Germany at that time. In 1950, Hans Bender founded his Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene in Freiburg.
I noticed more and more that the text was written in the form of possibility for a large part. Here are a few excerpts from the section “The fantastic in us”: “It is possible that one day [science] will be confronted with results that have been achieved by so-called psychological methods.” "That mere coincidence seems impossible". "When, as we are inclined to assume, there is a higher state of consciousness". "The study of extrasensory abilities and" psionics "[...] actually promises practical application possibilities". "On the other hand, it is conceivable that the previously unknown abilities of the human intellect enable a direct perception of the ultimate structures of matter and the harmonies of the universe."
The authors treat this fairly uncritically nautilus-Experiment from 1959, which involved the transfer of thoughts between a person on the US mainland and a passenger on the nuclear submarine Nautilus, which was 2,000 kilometers away in the Atlantic and hundreds of meters below the water level.
If there is anything to the psi effects, then the military are the first to care, as you can see.
In America, interest in parapsychological experiments waned over time, probably due to lack of success. That did not prevent the Soviets from doing the same as the Americans later. What then in the eighties made the Americans again to rely on the supernatural, as Jon Ronson (2004) reports in the entertaining gonzo style.
A lot is possible. I finally realized that in the book by Pauwels and Bergier I would learn nothing about the world as it presented itself to science at the time. I lost interest in the work.
I later became aware of the great attraction that this Possibility thinking the psi-science exercises on many people - then as now. And then I found that exciting again and wondered why that is. I developed a scientific interest in the unscientific, or rather: an interest in the forefront of science. Much from the old days that should have been considered unscientific and metaphysical later turned into science. Examples are Democrit's theory of the atom and Plato's theory of the arrangement of the heavenly bodies.
Karl Raimund Popper gave us the delimitation criterion that allows us to separate science and metaphysics fairly cleanly. But he did not associate it with a condemnation of metaphysics and "possibility thinking". For him, metaphysics plays an essential role in the run-up to science (“skeptics” versus skeptics about creativity in science).
An interview by the skeptic Mark Benecke (2017) with the current board member of the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene, Eberhard Bauer, is informative. Bauer says: “These phenomena, which we also get to know spontaneously, like true dreams, like some of these haunted experiences. I would still see such an open position that I currently consider to be inexplicable. That's why I keep a surplus of possible interpretations open. "
Taken from life
In life we are not only dealing with facts, but above all with people and their opinions. Even if you agree on the facts, there is often an unexplained residue that allows for all possible and sometimes incompatible opinions. This was made very clear to me through an experience in my circle of friends. A few days ago I witnessed an argument between Torsten, a more scientifically oriented guy, and his girlfriend Patricia, who believes in the effects of mental powers.
A conversation derailed
Torsten: You brought quantum physics into connection with supernatural phenomena. I call something like this quantum mysticism. Mathematics professor Claus Peter Ortlieb and social scientist Jörg Ulrich call it "quantum quark". That was in an article in the Frankfurter Rundschau.
Patricia: Oh - "Quantum Quark". You are just provocative. Quanta are a mystery; You cannot know whether you are right or wrong with your opinion. Ultimately, it's all guesswork. You stick to the current state of knowledge. Tomorrow a completely new view may emerge. Everything flows. In two minutes you won't be who you are now. Nothing is certain, only physical death. That is certain.
Torsten: The term “quantum quark” is not mine. I call something like this quantum mysticism. Quantum mysticism is far too fuzzy and arbitrary to be able to lead to a justified and testable new view of the world. Everyone fantasizes in their own way: Fritjof Capra, Hans-Peter Dürr, Michael König, Rupert Sheldrake, ... And of course we gain new insights. But you don't expect your coffee cup to float against the ceiling tomorrow. It depends on what science tells US about what can actually be experienced beyond the individual. In contrast, mysticism affects YOUR individual imagination.
Patricia: Uri Geller can bend spoons - with willpower. Maybe me tomorrow too, or maybe not. They already exist, these people with access to the inexplicable.
Torsten: Uri Geller is a completely normal magician and has long since been thoroughly exposed. Either you're kidding me or you really didn't notice. There are quite a few videos in which James Randi reveals Uri Geller's tricks. They can be called up on YouTube at any time.
Patricia: Dear Torsten, Uri Geller bent a spoon while watching TV at my parents' home. Whether you want to admit it or not. And those were normal coffee spoons. Sorry I will not say any more about it. This is a fact that I and my father and mother witnessed.
Torsten: Just one question. Do you still have the spoons? If Uri Geller bent them on TV, then they are extremely spectacular pieces. You keep something like that. I am sure you are not lying. Ask your mother and father how they remember the event. I'm interested in that.
Patricia: Torsten, I ask you when we talk on the phone. But about the lie, I hope it was a joke; that you can even think about it that way.
Torsten: I don't want to let the matter rest. The facts are too interesting for that. My theses in brief: 1. You reported truthfully about your impressions. 2. Spoons were not bent. 3. Theses 1 and 2 do not contradict each other. I can think of three possible explanations for the validity of all three theses. There are probably others. To get to the bottom of the matter, I ask for your help. Calling your parents could bring us closer to the solution to the riddle. In any case, I expect a very interesting result.
That was the end of the debate. Patricia pointed out a YouTube video from the seminar provider and esoteric Robert Betz to Torsten. Torsten saw this as a distraction from the topic; that upset him very much. You could have different opinions, but you should agree on the facts, he told Patricia. Then Patricia was also taken aback.
A harmless conversation thus led to what could be called a small human catastrophe: a friendship threatened to break.
I share Torsten's view: It is unacceptable if the rules of the game in modern society are carelessly changed. One of these rules is to agree on facts, not necessarily on opinions. Even if Donald Trump sees it differently: This rule and mutual respect are part of the prerequisites for successful communication.
Torsten, the skeptic, was faced with a tormenting contradiction, namely that 1. Patricia does not lie, which is a matter of course for him, and that 2. the spoons were not bent by mental power, which he considers scientifically necessary. He searched for the solution to the riddle and wondered whether the contradiction had a natural explanation. The following explanations went through his mind.
Perhaps one of the people present was having fun and doing magic himself? Did the parents just want to tell their daughter a nice story like the one about the Easter Bunny? Does Patricia think a dream come true? This can happen, as most of us have probably already learned. Could it be a false memory error? In order to resolve the cognitive dissonance between the suggestive statements of an “authority” (Uri Geller) and the observation (nothing bends), the head sometimes invents harmonizing stories (Steller, 2015).
The (partial) solution to the riddle
Patricia and Torsten wanted to take it easy again. Their conversation led to an agreement as to the description of the matter. Unfortunately, to both regrets, the matter was not captured. It is still an agreement, an agreement accepted by both sides (but possibly wrong) Description of the fact. I'll go out a little to make that clear.
The trigger for it all is portrayed by Judith Liere as follows (2014):
On January 17, 1974, a kink went through Germany. That Thursday evening, a 27-year-old Israeli with thick, dark curls appeared on the ZDF show “Drei mal Neun”. The man claimed he could bend or break forks with the power of his mind and get stopped clocks working again. The appearance of the young Uri Geller at show master Wim Thoelke put the country in a state of excitement. Not because the audience felt they were being ripped off by a charlatan. At least not only.
Almost 13 million viewers saw the program - and numerous people contacted the broadcaster after the broadcast. Stunned, they reported crooked cutlery in their kitchen drawers, and some even demanded compensation.
And the madness continued: “Uri Geller bends all of Germany” was the headline of “Bild” and asked its readers to do an experiment: Punctually at 5.30 p.m. they should put a fork, a spoon or a broken watch on the newspaper and concentrate think of Uri Geller - several hundred letters then reached the editorial office, from people who wrote that the cutlery had become “soft as butter”. Apparently, masses believed in the incredible, the inexplicable
Patricia explains that she wasn't there when she did the spoon bending at home, but that she only knew the event from hearsay. She remembers that there was talk of a eating fork and a spoon. The fork was bent by her father. In addition, the room clock had stopped. The parts were not saved because "it wasn't that important to us".
There is no doubt about the truthfulness of the parents. At the time of the broadcast, Patricia was a child, not yet a teenager.
Torsten has to admit that he has no conclusive explanations for the events and their description, only suggestions. For him everything was “right things” and by that he means that they can be explained with the current state of science (laws of nature: metaphysical or scientific?). Since several minds were involved, it is clear to him that there must have been deceptions, ideas that were truthfully passed on by those involved.
Ultimately, there remains an unexplained residue. Patricia also feels confirmed and sticks to her view that mental powers were involved.
The two get along again.
When I saw the show with Wim Thoelke and the appearance of Uri Geller at the time, I asked myself: How can public service broadcasting offer such a stage for a show-off? I thought, and still think, Uri Geller is a completely normal magician who attests to supernatural abilities and who markets this claim with some ingenuity.
I immediately forgot about it. But the magicians' guild had a problem. Reputation threatened. Some magicians set out to disenchant the wizard. Thomas von Randow devoted himself to the subject in a 1974 ZEIT article. One of the disenchants is the skeptic James Randi. In 1982 his book "The Truth About Uri Geller" was published.
Uri Geller didn't like it. He brought three lawsuits against James Randi. All three lawsuits were unsuccessful.
Benecke, Mark: Excess of possible interpretations. Interview with Eberhard Bauer. skeptiker 3/2017, pp. 147 - 153. https://home.benecke.com/publications/mark-benecke-trifft-eberhard-bauer-in-freiburg-igpppicture
Liere, Judith: TV magician Uri Geller and his spoon trick on "Drei Mal Neun". Mirror online. 01/17/2014. https://www.spiegel.de/einestages/tv-magier-uri-geller-und-sein-loeffeltrick-bei-drei-mal-neun-a-953262.html
Oepen, Irmgard (ed.); Federspiel, Krista (ed.); Sarma, Amardeo (ed.); Windeler, Jürgen (Hrsg.): Lexicon of parasciences: astrology, esotericism, occultism, paramedicine, parapsychology viewed critically. 1999
Pauwels, Louis; Bergier, Jacques: Dawn of the Third Millennium. 1965
Randow, Thomas von: Uri and science. November 8, 1974.https://www.zeit.de/1974/46/uri-und-die-wisschenschaft/komplettansicht
Ronson, Jon: The men who stare at goats. 2004
Steller, Max: Nothing but the truth? Why every innocent person can be convicted. 2015
Ortlieb, Claus Peter; Ulrich, Jörg: Quantenquark: About a German Manifesto A critical opinion on the “Potsdam Manifesto” and “Potsdam Memorandum”. Frankfurter Rundschau (October 28, 2005). http://www.netzwerk-zukunft.de/tl_files/netzwerk-zukunft/dokumente/zukuenfte/51/Beitraege_Potsdamer%20Manifest.pdf
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