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Sensing Murder… or BS? September 26, 2007

Posted by Ian in Pseudoscience.
Tags: ,

While this blog is usually about religion, lately I have got fired up about psychics as well. While religion generally plays in the realm of the unknown, psychics play in the realm of the very well known and yet everyone still buys into their rubbish.

The techniques for faking psychic abilities are very well known and have been used by magicians (e.g. Derren Brown) and other performers for hundreds of years. In particular cold reading, warm reading and hot reading are the main techniques extensively used.

A currently showing TV programme in New Zealand entitled Sensing Murder (youtube video of trailer) claims that it uses psychics (names here) to find out information about high profile unsolved New Zealand murders (listed here and here). To date the show has produced exactly zero useful leads, and has solved exactly zero cases. Why are families being emotionally tortured like this?

For this reason the show has generated quite a response from many skeptics in New Zealand, myself included, and in particular two sites have taken it quite far. This site is an excellent site called “Silly Beliefs” that deals with all sorts of, well, silly beliefs. The section on Sensing Murder is excellent. A “spoof” site with lots of really useful information has been set up on the immortality New Zealand site, and can be seen here.

Anyway at this stage I just wanted to put a post in about this topic, and as further details become available I will expand on it and explore specific details.



1. jube - September 28, 2007

hey Ian

not sure if you found this site yet but its a forum for spiritualist NZers


happy investigating ๐Ÿ™‚

2. jube - September 30, 2007

Me again ๐Ÿ™‚

Depending on where you want to take this (ie is it just the Sensing Murder psychics you are fired up about or all psychics/mediums?), you are not actually deviating too far from your religion topic.

Spiritualism is a religion. It arose from a Christian background (wikipedia has nice background info if you are interested).

Some mediums claim to have common spirit guides and also claim to have regular contact with angels (Gabriel being one of them). You could argue your theories of objective vs subjective here – does it become more objective if there is a collective group of Spiritualists that are in touch independently with the same spirit guide? or is it still well in the realm of the subjective? All your arguments about the existence of God can be applied here.

What might be interesting is to find out where this sort of thing sits in the eyes of more conventional christianity? What do Christians have to say about psychics and mediums and why? (feel free to contribute anyone, purely to satisfy my curiosity :))

In my opinion its about finding comfort and searching for understanding. The passing of loved ones can be a difficult experience, especially if it is a result of murder for eg. Can you really blame someone for seeking out answers to difficult questions in places where more conventional methods have not been able to help?

You ask the question why are families being emotionally tortured like this… perhaps that is not how they view this opportunity to have their cases reviewed? Maybe by attempting to find answers this way, they are reaching a different kind of person to those that watch programs such as Crime Watch, so could possibly find someone with information that might not have come forward before?? (just an idea :))

Its all about being open to suggestion I guess. Is it really such a bad thing if a medium has helped to put someones mind at rest re their dead loved ones? (I look forward to that response lol)

On the other side of that, can you blame someone for claiming to be a psychic/medium when it is quite possibly a lucrative business – it sure costs a lot of money per minute to chat to a psychic ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway enough ramblings. Just a few thoughts I had at some horrible hour of the morning. The joys of insomnia ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Ken - October 3, 2007

Your may have seen it, Ian, but the Listener recently had a satire on the format of these sort of programmes: called Extra-sensory deception (http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3516/columnists/9702/extra-sensory_deception.html)

4. lurgee - October 12, 2007

Evening, Gin.

It would appear my time on the Sensing Murder forum is up – I was greeted with the news that I had been BANNED.

As you can imagie, my heart is breaking over this …

I’d like to think my passing hasn’t gone unremarked. Any indication why I’ve been scuppered in such rude style? Are you hanging in there, or has there been a general purge of the sceptics?

Email me, mcjadt@hotmail.com

5. dale - October 17, 2007

I watched ‘sensing murder’ for the first time the other night, and had the feeling that I was being tricked by slick editing… …

At any rate, you really must browse (or read!) this…


It looks legit to me… I’d be curious as to your comments…


6. Michael - November 4, 2007

Hey Ian

You need some more traffic here mate.

I am interested as to how you processed B’s story on the SM Forum. Because of your seemingly fixed opinions, does this mean you have put this in the “I can’t prove it, so forget about it” file? Or was there a small part of you that realised that if you accept that she (and I) were telling the truth, then this is indeed just another example of psychic ability?

Paraphrased – How does G deal with info he can’t explain?

7. Ian - November 14, 2007

Sorry for not replying earlier to some excellent comments, turns out I’d turned off my comments notification lol.

Jube, good points about spirtualism and indeed I see many of the same mechanisms at work in psychic beliefs as in religious ones.

Thanks Ken, that’s a great article in the listener and I hadn’t seen it ๐Ÿ™‚

Dale – there is a counter to that article somewhere, when I find it I’ll post it.

Michael – things I can’t explain I leave in the unexplained box. Having said that, the inability to explain something does not automatically give any credibility to any alternative explanation. Claiming something is paranormal is an explanation in itself and if I thought it worked I wouldn’t consider the issue unexplained ๐Ÿ™‚

8. dale - November 15, 2007

OK, Ian.

(good to see you commenting again!)

On your comment to Michael re ‘unexplained’…

For me (you might remember) ‘para’-normal and ‘super’-natural are unhelpful terms. The reason, I suggest, is that even though the Enlightenment insisted that all questions about what’s ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ are now fully dealt with, there still remains quite a good deal about ‘nature’ and ‘norms’ that we can’t explain…

You’re spot on for leaving things you can’t explain in the unexplained box. Of course, we don’t let unexplained things stay unexplained and not strive for answers…

…but we cannot rule out an event/thing (Z) from possibly being legitimate if we’re using an understanding that only allows for events/things we’ve not ruled out (A thru Y)…

Make sense?

Does that mean we believe anything everyone says? No. Does it mean reality might be more interesting and varied than ‘nature’ and ‘normal’??? I think so…

Having said all that, I’m just as skeptical of the ‘sensing murder’ stuff as you… ๐Ÿ™‚



9. Ian - November 15, 2007

Well said Dale, I agree entirely.

I’m going to try and get another religion based post up in the next few weeks and get back to our enjoyable discussions, all these battles with psychic believers makes me miss the rationality of a good theistic debate lol. (did I just say that? ๐Ÿ˜‰

10. dale - November 29, 2007

Hey Ian,

Thanks for that…

Feel free to have a look at (or better yet, give feedback on) my post on human sexuality over at my blog…



11. AIGBusted - December 4, 2007

Nice blog! By the way check out my blog, I debunk creationism/design:



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