Sunday, 15 January 2017

David Icke in Manchester Review: There is No Spoon!

Yesterday I went to the Manchester show of David Icke’s ‘World Wide Wake Up Tour’. As a teenager in 1990’s I remember vividly his interview on Wogan and the fevered tabloid press coverage that followed. Everyone from that generation will know his views on the Royal family, illuminati and lizards. Younger generations will also have been exposed to this once ‘hidden’ knowledge via his prolific YouTube output and spread of conspiricist views online. If nothing else, Icke is a strident articulator of his ideas. From a research point of view, I was interested to see who would be in the audience and how his message would be received. The event was sold out. Luckily, I’d been warned his talks go on all day so brought my sandwiches…

As you would expect there was a lot of detail. I will therefore concentrate on the main themes he covered then discuss my thoughts on the day.

Part 1: Intro and Conspiracy Theories

Icke appeared to start slowly with views many would find acceptable, such as we spend our lives chasing dreams others tell us to aspire to rather than living in the moment. Education is a programming tool to subjugate us into working for the ‘man’ and live the life they want us to. Pink Floyd was referenced here. It stifles creativity and discourages right-hemisphere processing in the brain (linked to whole picture thinking). As a child who was into art I can dig that!

After about an hour it went up a notch and we got on to conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have a bad reputation. In of themselves they are not ‘bad’ or display irrational thinking, particularly if they are true! Some would argue it displays critical thinking to appraise the information you are given. There are many examples where questioning the status quo and investigating leads has led to the exposure of appalling behaviour by those in positions of power. For example, the exploitation of vulnerable children by paedophile rings. Icke has been making such claims for years and has taken credit for exposing these.

Icke’s main argument in this section was a small elite control the political and economic system. If they want to change it they create both the chaos and solution to fix it. He terms this: Problem–Reaction–Solution that creates a ‘Hunger Games Society’. This has led to a series of crises others would call standard conspiracy theories:

9/11 – Perpetrated by the US government to justify the war on terror and bring about regime change.

World War Three – Russia is not being aggressive. Stories created by Western societies to start a war and increase influence in Russia, China and Iran. If we win of course! ISIS is controlled by the world order but they don’t realise it, lol!

European Union – Migrant crisis to engineer civil war in Europe.

Banking Crisis – Make us dependent on electronic money (credit) that does not exist and take our real assets when we cannot pay the debt. The cost of homes becomes too high so have to live in small houses in condensed cities under their surveillance.  

Climate Change – Not really happening. Designed to change the economic model of where we live and how we grow food. We are unable to be self-sufficient and live off the land. See Agenda 21, 2030.

Energy Crisis – Energy is freely available (Tesla) but we are not allowed to access it. Fracking is allowed by governments despite its environmental impact but other energy sources are curtailed for the same reason.  

Vaccines – 74 vaccines before the age of 17! Make us susceptible to diseases we wouldn’t normally be prone to. Criminalisation of health, sanctions imposed if you don’t conform and alternative medicine is demonised or banned. 

Homeopathy - Water has a memory.

News/Social media – Controlled by elites but any dissent is classed as ‘fake’ news. Tyranny of language: newspeak. Cannot say what we want to. Social justice agenda creates safe spaces that are creating a Generation Jelly where young people are not exposed to or can argue against unpalatable views.

Antisemitism – To criticise Israel is to be anti-Semitic. Argues he is not anti-Semitic, against Zionism not Jews. Despite this I noted the Star of David appeared on many slides.

Identity Politics – I AM A… define ourselves with labels. We are all one. Perception controls reality!

Part 2: Reality is an Illusion

This is where we take the red pill…

Postage stamp consensus – Our reality is based on a small percentage of what exists. Our perception has been controlled so we cannot see the whole. We are locked into our 5 senses. Infinite awareness is the true reality. Everything is conscious, we are one. Revealed in near death experiences. Mystics can see this but are labelled ‘mad’.

World is a Holographic Illusion – We only see a small frequency range in our prison of perception. Universe is a quantum computer. Oh, and the world isn’t solid BTW. Pineal gland is the third eye that just happens to be calcified by floride in water.  

Paranormal – Ghosts are frequencies not sharp enough to be in focus, are interference.  Psychics tune into other frequencies of reality. Tarot cards - each picture has a frequency you are drawn to. Paranormal activity relates to electricity as it carries information. Entities are electromagnetic. Cannot impact on our frequency in other ways.

Astrology – New book coming out! Is a science. Planets are waveforms of information that affect our fields.

Numerology – Reveals the underlying digital code of our universe, e.g. Fibonacci sequences and fractal patterns.

Conclusion - We are living in a simulation controlled by aliens. Cannot see its borders as at the speed of light time stops. If you control perception you control reality!

Part 3: Alien Lizards?

Part 3 was going to be on who controls the simulation but I was too tired to stay. I had already been there 6 hours! The lizards will have to wait until next time.

There were a lot of references to the work of Dr Richard Day (1969) and Bill Hicks so I suggest you check these out.

My Thoughts

The audience itself mainly seemed to consist of the demographic age 20-40. I saw very few really young or old people and have to say they were overwhelmingly white. There was great affection for Icke and many points were met with a ripple of applause, although the more extreme views had fewer hands clapping. There was a fair amount of humour which broke up the dense subject matter. It was a long day and the couple in front of me had brought a picnic!

Despite this I really enjoyed it, particularly Part 1. This had more information (3 hours’ worth) and for me was internally consistent in a conspiracy world view. The second part was too Matrix-y for me. As a materialist I find it difficult to engage with even basic assumptions of spiritualty so this was outside my comfort zone. By the law of probability something of what he said will be true. If you cast your net wide enough you will get a ‘hit’.

Whether you accept any of his premises or not he is an engaging speaker. He came across as reasonable and happy to be ridiculed for his views. You’ll note there was no Q and A however. Unsurprising, I was unconvinced by his arguments but would recommend seeing him for the experience. If he is right you can’t say you weren’t warned… 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

I’ve Got Those Post-QED Blues

Ever since I joined the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society (GMSS) they’ve been talking about something called QED. A conference? For £99? I’ve been to conferences before. They’re often dull, tedious affairs where you get stuck talking to people. Not anything to get excited about. 

As the event drew nearer, I saw the list guest speakers: Prof Richard Wiseman, Prof Caroline Watt, Dr Sue Blackmore. Psychologists I have referenced in my dissertation! This looks interesting. As I got to know my fellow skeptics and they became friends, more and more were going. Some were even volunteering.

“There’s a free day you say? Called Skepticamp?” The Friday before the two day event is day where activists can share their experiences and passions in a series of talks. Following the success of my EVP talk at the GMSS Soapbox event I volunteered to discuss my research. So I was going to one of the days at least…

Then I was extremely fortunate to receive a free ticket for the full conference (Sat and Sun). I am so glad I did as I would have missed a wonderful, enlightening experience. I heard some amazing talks and met so many interesting like-minded people. I have many highlights but here are just some:

-        Prof. Caroline Watt’s talk on Koestler Unit at Edinburgh University (pre-QED talk at GMSS)
-        Dr Sue Blackmore on her out of body experience
-        A paranormal panel with Prof. Caroline Watt, Sue Blackmore, Hayley Stevens and Deborah Hyde
-        Paul Zenon ‘Secrets of the Psychics’
-        The Quirkology room filled with visual illusions
-        Learning magic tricks with Dave Alnwick

The skeptical movement has a lot to offer. It has crossover with many disciplines and unlimited scope. As with any collection people motivated by a unifying force, it can fall into the trap of being closed to the very groups it is trying to engage. This point was made at the conference and there were some great examples of ‘reaching out’ to the wider community, such as The Paranormal Challenge and Glasgow Skeptics. 

My thoughts on the debate between skeptics and believers is documented on this blog You’ll never change minds if you only talk to those who agree with you!

I would like to thank the organisers, speakers and volunteers at QED for a wonderful experience. I now have post-QED blues and like many others will be counting down the months until the next one. 

Sunday, 2 October 2016

High School Reunion: Face and Name Recognition

I went to my 20 year high school reunion this weekend. I'd originally discounted the idea but braved it as I didn't want to regret not going. Needless to say I was nervous. Once I was on my way my 'extrovert' cover kicked in and I was ready... I'm pleased to say it was a good night and I'm glad I went.

This post isn't to detail the evening but to discuss what was a real-life demonstration of the way our brains process names and faces. Many people will say: "I'm not good at remembering names but I never forget a face!". This is true for most of us. Our facial recognition system is excellent. 

As social animals we are predisposed to detect, store and recognise faces. The more we see a face to stronger the memories become so we can recognise that person in different settings. This also includes other relevant semantic information (occupation, family members, voice etc). Names are not as important for survival so are processed differently.

Whilst we might retrieve semantic information about that person without recalling their name we don’t recall their name without also retrieving the semantic information. Perceptual classification, i.e. judging whether a face is familiar, occurs before semantic classification. A person’s name is accessed last (Bruce and Young, 1986). I must be slightly odd as I encountered an extra scenario (3):

1. I recognised the face and remembered the name
2. I recognised the face but couldn't remember the name
3. I recognised the name but couldn't remember the associated image from school

There are also other peculiarities regarding how we process faces. For example, we find it harder to recognise faces from different ethnic groups. This has obvious implications for eye witness testimony. We are unable to note distortions in faces if the image is presented upside down (Thatcher Effect). We easily see faces in inanimate objects, such as clouds, tree bark (pareidolia).

There are conditions where the process does not work as above. Prosopagnosia (face blindness) is a deficit in face perception whilst other functions remain intact. A more extreme version is Capgras syndrome where the person recognises the face but does not have the associated emotions so believes that person is an 'imposter'. Worst still, Cotard delusion is where you fail to have emotions regarding your own face so believe you are dead!

So next time you forget a name just blame it on your brain! It’s perfectly normal. My recommendation for 25 year school reunion? Name badges!