Debunking Survival Under Cover of False Academic Authority

Also see: The Arrogance of Scientific Authority

Update: See Felix Experimental Group in the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) new online encyclopedia. The SPR has given over its new public education tool for what is essentially just a remix of the same article Braude has been presenting to everyone who will listen. I began the Science Commentary in my new book, Your Immortal Self, with “Hands down the most disruptive influence for the paranormalist community is science.” This is another instance in which the supposedly open-minded science part of our community has found a way to cast doubt on the survival hypothesis. Not only do we have to contend with negative articles in Wikipedia, but now we must contend with the SPR.


I am writing today to bring you up to date about the reports produced under the cover of false academic authority about one of the few people in this world able and will to demonstrate physical phenomena of the séances room.

Many of you may be aware of the study Stephen Braude and his team conducted of the medium for the Felix Experimental Group. The final report came out in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, issue 28-2, Summer 2014. The articles are titled: “The Development and Phenomena of a Circle for Physical Mediumship” by Michael Nahm and “Investigations of the Felix Experimental Group: 2010–2013” by Stephen Braude.

The study of physical phenomena involves human nature, visual perception, a good sense of the physical sciences, realistic application of technology and a firm understanding of the metaphysics. In fact, none of these qualifications are in evidence between the two authors.

Despite having complete access to the FEG Medium over many séances–both traditional dark-room and dark-room table sessions, including cameras, body-cavity searches, complete control of room content and the actions and attire of sitters, the team has concluded that there may be fraud. In effect, both reports are written to debunk and cast doubt on everything else they could not debunk. Yes, both men report witnessing astounding phenomena but that is pretty much cast aside with the accusation of fraud.

You probably know that we have hosted two FEG visits to Reno for a total of five séances. (I have sat with him a total of seven times.) Our objective of hosting the FEG was both to give people in this part of the country the opportunity to witness his work and also for me to have the opportunity to study his work under controlled conditions. Witness reports are at atransc.org/category/mediumship/

Speaking with Braude about his “research” report, he told me that he had a relatively positive report with only a small amount of discussion about the obligatory alternative theories. However, Nahm decided at the last minute to submit a pretty much 100% debunking article and Braude felt obligated to modify his report to more agree with Nahm’s.

Remember that Braude is the Editor-in-Chief of the JSE, which is supposedly a peer-reviewed journal. Nahm’s report is decidedly unscientific and should not have survived peer review. In the same way, Braude had the authority and responsibility not to publish it. If he had not, then there would have been no peer pressure reason to change his mostly positive report.

I asked Braude why his experimental protocol did not address Nahm’s question and he responded something to the effect that new information comes up….

I have sat with the FEG medium over a number of years, and in no case, have I seen evidence of fraud or even the possibility of fraud that I would not have detected. Allowing for the possibility that the medium, in his stupor, could be clever enough to fool me with one or two magic tricks, it is simply magical thinking to propose that he has fooled me all of the time in each séance; me, and many other witnesses, some of which had hands on his limbs during 95% of the time phenomena was evident.

As one of the directors of the organization sponsoring the current and past sessions in Reno, I have had complete control over the room, what was in the room, what the medium had on him (inspection of near naked body and all of his cloths) as well of what every person brought into the room. As an engineer, I feel competent to spot devices and sleight of hand trickery under such restricted quarters. The suggestion that the medium’s work that I have witnessed was trickery is … well again, it is magical thinking.

Braude may have conducted a scientific study with a well-considered protocol and controls, but he did not produce a proper research report and should not have survived peer review. Certainly, Nahm’s report has no hint of science and should never have been published in a peer reviewed journal. Consequently, both reports can only be seen as opinion, and under the circumstances, they appear to be unethical attacks on a research subject.

Under Braude’s leadership as Managing Editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, the society has published a number of “Failure to Replicate” articles about survival subjects while resisting efforts to provide the other side of the story, forcing me to accept that the society has a policy of debunking survival subjects. See: ethericstudies.org/failure-to-replicate-itc/ and atransc.org/evpmaker-study-where-are-we-now/

Braude told me that he had an admission from the FEG medium (gloating tone), but I have talked with the medium about it and he is flabbergasted. Also, his doctor friend, who first invited Braude, is so irritated that he is writing a counter article. According to the two men, no such admission occurred.

We need to be mindful that this kind of treatment of those who are able to demonstrate such phenomena has the possibility of turning others away from the willingness to demonstrate. Our community needs to rally behind our heroes, else we will have no heroes.

The bottom line is that Braude is just playing at being a scientist. As a philosopher, he is not necessarily qualified to study objective phenomena. Certainly, he seems unaware of ethical treatment of human subjects and the taboo of reporting about opinions not addressed in the protocol. In effect, he is just another debunker …. a Trojan Horse!

Ours is a small community and eyes of the mainstream world watch our every move. As citizens of this community of interest, you and I have a choice to make. We either remain quiet and allow the Braude-Nahms of the world to speak for us under cover of their unrelated academic authority or we respond by telling them that this is not okay.

our_pledgeRemaining passive has the potential of future censorship because such reports tend to show that if one is a fraud, then all must be a fraud.

So please consider becoming a community activist. Your silence only legitimizes his attack on one of our few heroes.

Tom Butler

2 thoughts on “Debunking Survival Under Cover of False Academic Authority

  1. I read about the problem you mentioned. It seems that the main three institutes that study mediumship research and report tend to tarnish names of mediums and report it badly.
    What do you think we can do about it?
    Legal action from the medium ? A post in their website against the bad report?
    I just feel hopeless that so much valuable data and good groups can be trashed just by some opinion of someone under hood of authority.
    What can we possibly do against these wolves in skin of lambs?

    • Parijat, thanks for taking the time to comment. Doing so is probably the first step toward changing the situation since most people quietly remain on the sidelines.

      This is both a question of proper use of the scientific method and ethics. We can complain about bad science and not participate in the future without better assurances, but most in the paranormalist community are so used to ignoring mainstream complaints about the same misuse of science that they will not even hear us.

      Our silence concerning the ethical aspects of this problem is equivalent to saying that what they do is okay. You can comment when they give you an opportunity, but they are pretty careful to insulate themselves from our words.

      A few of us are trying to put together a more organized approach, but that is taking more time than I expected. For now, just be assured that you are not alone in your concern, and that your public comments really do help

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