Life after death – fact or fiction?
(Investigator 111, 2006
The concept of an afterlife is comforting to those apprehensive about the inevitability of death. One reason why books and lectures on the afterlife are popular is simply because most people would like to believe in the concept.
Anything that appears to be evidence is of course welcomed and accepted by believers without question. Unfortunately the so-called evidence is very tenuous to say the least.
There is one incontrovertible fact. That is, when we die the vast majority of us are either buried or are cremated. For the purpose of this article other methods of disposal such as embalming and cryogenics being such a small percentage can be discounted. In the case of burial the body decays and is consumed by other organisms. In the case of cremation the body is reduced to ashes.
In either method of disposal, the brain, the vocal chords and any other means of physical or mental communication cease to exist. To suggest therefore, that communication after death between the deceased and the living is possible, presupposes that something independent of the physical body must exist. An entity of some sort – a soul or a spirit, something that is still able to function and communicate.
When asked to define the nature of a 'soul' the usual reply is 'a spiritual entity defined as that which is not matter.' Many people, predominantly religious, believe that human beings possess a vital principal and that this accounts for life, intelligence and personality. However, life, intelligence and personality are not substances or distinct entities in their own right; they are the result of physical processes occurring within the body, and when the body dies, they cease. The idea that somehow a disembodied 'soul' will outlast the body and continue after death is both fanciful and unreasonable.
The existence or otherwise of an afterlife remains a constant source of contention between believers and non-believers.
Victor Zammit is a lawyer
who has written
and lectured extensively on the subject and promotes himself and his
In his book, A Lawyer
presents the case
for the Afterlife, he writes,
Some of his 'evidence' incudes reiterating the myths about long dead mediums who, during their lifetimes, were exposed as frauds or subsequently confessed to being such.
Although Zammit claims a neutral stance, he devotes his entire dogmatic, critical and sarcastic efforts to promoting psychics and encouraging belief in an afterlife by claiming to have irrefutable scientific evidence in support. He offers a prize of $1 million to anyone who can prove otherwise. The conditions are such however, (Zammit being the sole judge) that it is not surprising that there have been no takers. I publicly challenged him to debate the topic but was dismissed as being intellectually inferior. Inferior I may be if academic qualifications be the criteria, but if it comes down to reaching an objective conclusion based on ALL the available evidence then I'm sure I could give him a run for his money.
To amuse myself, I've gone through his list of scientists, luminaries and intellectuals to see what he says they offer as irrefutable scientific evidence. His technique appears to be much the same as that employed by the former Creation Science Organisation and other religious fundamentalists – half-truths, out of context quotes and by the omission of contrary material.
Typical of the 'evidence' offered is the following approbation attributed to Albert Einstein.
Zammit would have us believe that when Einstein prefaced a book written by Upton Sinclair entitled Mental Radio, he endorsed Sinclair's findings on telepathy. Einstein's brief inclusion in the book is also frequently mentioned in the literature of parapsychology as evidence that Einstein believed in psi phenomena.
In the American edition,
the preface reads
The experiments detailed in Sinclair's book suggest that telepathy between the living is a fact. Therefore, communication between the living and the dead is also possible. Ergo an afterlife.
However, far from
endorsing Sinclair's findings
Einstein did the very opposite. In a letter to Dr Ehrenwald dated 13
1946 on a totally unrelated matter, Einstein writes (in reference to
Einstein goes on to say:
Einstein therefore, was not
about the reality of telepathy and frankly admits his scepticism
mental communication between human beings. That he was also doubtful
the existence of a 'soul' is summed up in a February 5, 1921 letter to
a Viennese woman.
Elsewhere in his book and on the Internet, Zammit also links Quantum Mechanics with an afterlife. According to a documentary shown on SBS, November 21, 2005, Einstein spent his dying years disproving quantum mechanics. A fact that would not endear him to those who believe that there is such a connection.
I would greatly appreciate any input from readers who would like to take up a rational cudgel against the spreading of superstitious beliefs. Doing a little research into some of the individuals quoted by Zammit (scientists, writers, mediums, historical and public personalities), apart from being an interesting and educational exercise would be sure to show that he has a myopic view of the WHOLE truth.
Life after death – fact or fiction? (2)
(Investigator 112, 2007
He claims to have irrefutable scientific evidence that has not been made public. Reading his book, A Lawyer presents the case for an Afterlife, and perusing his website, his 'irrefutable evidence' appears principally to be a compilation of biographies and anecdotes.
Zammit tells us that the revelations, experiments, investigations and experiences of these past and present luminaries, mediums and believers, have in some way, directly or indirectly been connected with the subject of an afterlife and provide the scientific evidence for a life after death. A closer examination and a little research into his subjects however, lead one to an entirely different conclusion.
In the first article I dealt with one of Zammit's subjects, Albert Einstein, whose views no doubt would be unquestionably accepted as valid by the scientifically illiterate. Because Einstein was a scientific genius and is reputed in some circles to have endorsed belief in an afterlife, ipso facto! Selective quotations are Zammit's preferred distraction. When all relevant passages are made available for analysis however, and an objective conclusion sought, Zammit's so called 'scientific evidence' dissolves like salt in water. In the case of Einstein, he did not conduct any experiments nor provide any scientific evidence; he is alleged only to have endorsed the experiments of another.
Among Zammit's luminaries we have Sir William Crookes, FRS, OM (1832-1919), an English chemist and physicist who discovered the element thallium and invented the radiometer and the spinthariscope. A former president of the British Society for Psychical Research (1896–9), Crookes is described in his obituary as 'largely self-educated'; a process which combined accurate observation, fast learning and the invaluable ability to examine possible connections between the data of different disciplines.
However, when it came to make and test connections between psychical phenomena and physics, his articles on the subject in the Quarterly Journal of Science between 1871 and 1874, caused considerable controversy. The British Association flatly refused to publish one of his papers.
Oddly enough, Crookes' membership of the Society and his interest in the paranormal is not significant or important enough to be mentioned in either the Encyclopaedia Britannica or Chambers Biographical Dictionary.
Crookes believed in the
claimed psychic powers
of Florence Cook, the Fox sisters, Eusapia Palladino and Mary Showers –
all proven frauds. In the case of the latter, he tried to hush up the
so as not to damage the 'cause.' In 1871, Crookes was so impressed with
Kate Fox during a séance held in London that he wrote in Researches
in the Phenomena of Spiritualism p88:
On October 21, 1888,
Margaret Fox made a
full confession of her fraudulent activities with this opening
in the New York World:
The blunders made by some of the more eminent members of the SPR, particularly Crookes, have been revealed in later confessions. In Trevor Hall's detailed study, The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes published in 1962, he reveals that the young medium Florence Cook and Crookes were both accomplices and lovers.
In one of Crookes
accounts, detailing a materialisation
by Miss Cook of a spirit form by the name of Katie King, (Researches
into the Phenomena of Spiritualism. p.124), Crookes attests
A simple common-sense explanation for this fiasco would be that 'Katie' was a third party acting the part. Personally I find it difficult to comprehend which is the more extraordinary – Miss Cook's brazen deception, William Crookes' gullibility or the uncritical acceptance of this episode as a true representation of spirit manifestation. It also begs the question – if it were possible for a spirit to materialise and take on its original earthly form why don't the dead simply come back to life?
Given that Crookes could be so easily fooled by fraudulent mediums, any suggestion by Zammit that his findings are 'scientific evidence' for communication with the deceased can be dismissed with impunity. Zammit makes a common mistake – the assumption that it's not possible to fool a person with an academic or scientific background.
Life after Death (3)
Harry Edwards<>(Investigator 113, 2007 March)
This is the third and final article refuting the so-called "irrefutable scientific evidence" offered by lawyer Victor Zammit to support the concept of an afterlife.
In his book and on his web-site he refers to Thomas Edison (1847–1931).
Edison was an incessant inventor who took out over 1000 patents during a period of 50 years. They included an electrical vote recorder, stock tickers, duplex, quadruplex, and automatic telegraph systems. The electric pen (forerunner of the modern duplicating machine) and the carbon transmitter. In 1877 he patented the 'phonograph' or speaking machine and later, the 'kinetescopic camera' for taking motion pictures.
Edison believed in telepathy and was easily taken in by professional mountebanks. After seeing Dr. Bert Reese, whose mind reading ability was no more genuine than any other stage mentalist, Edison wrote to The Evening Graphic, in New York City, in which he stated his conviction that Reese was a genuine psychic.
According to Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison, Edison also expressed his belief that in the human brain are millions of submicroscopic intelligences that he called 'little peoples.' They rush about performing the desired mental functions and are under the control of 'master entities' who live in the fold of Broca!
The concept of "little
men" rushing around
in the brain inspires in a rational mind as much credence as L. Ron
"engrams" – 'aberrations' imposed on the brain that could be 'cleared'
by his pseudo-scientific 'Dianetic' therapy.
Before he died in 1931, Edison was working on a sensitive piece of apparatus for communicating with departed spirits. It seems rather odd that over seventy years later, if it was at all feasible it has not been developed.
Without in any way wishing to deprecate Edison's inventive genius, one must admit that he was however a believer and easily taken in. Believing in something doesn't make it true, particularly such things as 'little people' rushing around in one's brain!
Contrary to Zammit's claim, there is no evidence that Edison contributed any scientific validation of an afterlife.
Also mentioned by Zammit is Dr Konstantine Raudive who, in more recent times, has allegedly recorded the voices of the dead. They have become known as Electronic Voice Phenomena or more colloquially – the Raudive Voices.
Originally, spirit voices were the work of Dr. Jurgenson who had noticed that some tape recordings that he had made contained some 'extra' voices, which would speak a few words at a time. He published a book about it in 1964. Dr Konstantine Raudive read it and began experimenting himself. He recorded no less than 70,000 phrases speaking in Swedish, German, Russian, Latvian, French and English and published his own book in 1968.
Because of the novel new technology used what was said seemed unimportant. The fact that Winston Churchill for example, is alleged to have spoken a few words in each separate language when his linguistic attainment was only that of schoolboy French doesn't seem to have phased anyone.
The fallaciousness inherent in quoting 'phantom voices' as evidence of an afterlife is that they are recorded with conventional radio equipment. This implies transmission by normal electro-magnetic propagation methods. By determining the frequency of the signal and a direction finding exercise, locating the source is a simple matter.
As human beings, dead or alive, have no anatomical means of transmitting electro-magnetic waves, it begs the question, how would they do it? It's true that a live brain generates brain waves; but that they do not radiate beyond the skull is evidenced by the requirement of electrodes attached to the skull to detect them and an amplifier.
David Ellis, a young member of the British Society for Psychical Research, who was assigned to study the phenomena at first hand, confirmed that these voices undoubtedly emanated from a variety of radio stations. He pointed out that some of the voices tallied with an announcement in English from Radio Luxembourg; that others could have come from different radio signals; and that many of the sounds interpreted as words could have arisen from indistinct transmissions, mechanical noises and the imagination. "The listener" he wrote, "does seem to develop the practice…a faculty for producing interpretations by a process of guesswork."
Once again, by quoting unconvincing claims like the Raudive voices, Zammit provides no definitive scientific evidence for an afterlife.
Zammit doesn't seem to have done too much homework on his characters either because he also includes Mr George Meek, the founder of the Metascience Foundation Inc., of Franklin, North Carolina.
In 1982, Mr Meek claimed to have established two-way communication by means of electronic-etheric technology with those "who had crossed over to another realm." He gave a demonstration and made public a technical manual and companion documents which he said, "proved the feasibility of communication between different levels of consciousness", meaning people now living and the dead.
A reporter at George Meek's press conference described the recorded voices as, "Igor responding to Dr Frankenstein through a closed door on a windy night in Transylvania."
At a scheduled second press conference, Meek said no "live" demonstration of discussion with the dead would be possible because the machinery happened to be out of commission. How convenient!
The "telephone like instrument" as described by Mr Meek can be ruled out, the requirement of physical connections in the form of wires precluding its use. Communication by chemical means or mechanical vibrations such as those used by some animals birds and insects can also be ruled out, leaving either EUTS (energies unknown to science), or electro-magnetic propagation as possible transmission media.
The existence of unknown energies has yet to be proven and, in respect of the latter, if it were possible to communicate by this medium then its use would not be the sole prerogative of stage professionals such as the late Doris Stokes, J. Z. Knight, John Edward, Australia's Bridget Pluis and a host of others who have conned the public over the years. In 1996, Mrs Pluis turned down an offer of a half million dollar prize if she would subject herself to a test of her claims.
Although the electro-magnetic option may be the more feasible, it raises some awkward questions for scientifically illiterate believers.
For example: do the spirits have access to conventional radio apparatus and therefore live in a yet undiscovered material albeit invisible world?
Are the vocal chords of the dead impervious to decay or the all-consuming flames of the crematorium? If so, in the absence of lungs, what causes them to vibrate and have they been miraculously altered to enable the fundamental voice frequency range of 80-2000 c.p.s. to be extended to include the megahertz band?
Either way these transmissions would be detectable with the most basic of radio receivers and furthermore, the location of the transmissions could be pinpointed with ease using equally unsophisticated direction finding equipment.
With the advances made in electronic equipment since1982 and the fact that audio and visual communication between Earth and far distant satellites is now commonplace, it begs the question why has no advance been made in the development of George Meek's "telephone like instrument?"
Electronic communication with the dead has no scientific basis and any putative messages can be treated with the same suspicion as those laboriously received via an Ouija board. Once more, Zammit's so called scientific evidence fails to stand up to scrutiny.
Dear Mr Zammit …
(Investigator 114, 2007 May)
In my three part article Life after Death – Fact or Fiction (AFA Jan/Mar/May), I examined some of the so-called 'irrefutable scientific evidence' for an afterlife as presented by Mr Victor Zammit in his book and on his web-site.
After close scrutiny, I
not find any such evidence and concluded that Mr Zammit has a peculiar
idea of what constitutes 'irrefutable scientific evidence.' In fairness
to Mr Z however, I sent him the following with an invitation to
You may recall our brief exchange in the August 26, 2005 Manly Daily, in which I challenged you to debate your claim to have 'irrefutable scientific evidence' of life after death. You declined.
For a professed highly qualified lawyer to refuse to debate a self-confessed high school dropout indicates either a lack of confidence in one's convictions or an innate snobbishness.
This humiliating back down in a public forum evidently motivated a sarcastic and denigrating reference to my lack of formal education posted on your web-site. Ad hominem attacks are no substitute for factual argument and furthermore, the courtesy of a right of reply was not afforded me.
Your oft quoted creed states:
My training as a lawyer taught me that in ALL circumstances without exception, NEVER to believe anyone, anywhere and any place unless I am presented with irrefutable, hard core evidence that what is being stated and expressed can be independently substantiated. There is NO other way to deal with the truth. The whole truth.
Browsing through your web-site your examples of "the whole truth" are an affront to even the intellectually challenged. Illusions are accepted as reality. Objectivity is conspicuous by its absence. Research appears to have concentrated solely on what some people believe. Anecdotal evidence is presented as the "truth", and in general, you exhibit a gullibility and naivety beyond normal comprehension.
Three articles completely demolishing some of your "irrefutable scientific evidence" have now been published in Investigator Magazine, Nos. 111, 112 & 113. (P.O. Box 3243, Port Adelaide, SA. 5015. [Sub. $20 pa.]) They are also being reprinted in the January, March and May 2007 issues of the Atheist Foundation of Australia journal. (Private Mail Bag 6, Maitland, SA 5573. [$25]) You are welcome to respond.
The clock's ticking Victor!
(Investigator 115, 2007
May 1, 2007
Dear Mr Zammit,
On March 6, 2007, I advised by ordinary mail, that a series of articles repudiating your claim to have scientific evidence of an afterlife had been published in two magazines.
In the absence of a response, readers have been left to draw their own conclusions in respect of your silence.
In the unusual event that you did not receive that letter, I am sending this by registered mail with an acknowledgment of receipt card requiring your signature.
The two magazines in which the articles appear are:
Investigator Magazine, Nos: 111, 112, 113 and 114. Obtainable from Investigator Magazine, P.O. Box 3243, Port Adelaide, SA 5015. And
The Atheist Foundation of Australia journal, January, March and May issues. Obtainable from AFA, Private Bag 6, Maitland, SA 5573.Yours sceptically,
On May 7, the Delivery Confirmation card bearing the recipient's signature 'V.J. Zammit' was returned. In view of this, it is not unreasonable to assume that Mr Zammit also received my initial letter and for reasons best known to him-self chose not to respond. Of course he might have been too busy helping medium David Thompson in the zombie hatchery of the Circle of the Silver Cord! In the meantime the clock* is ticking.
No Victory For Zammit
John H Williams
(Investigator 116, 2007
One has to admire Harry Edwards' campaign (#113 to #115) against VJ Zammit. His dogged work is a model of skeptic procedure.
Edwards and I discussed
Zammit earlier this
year, and though I was keen to collaborate with Harry, I withdrew as
as I saw those web site words (quoted by Harry in #115): "close minded,
and materialist", a bit like judging a book without even seeing the
or title. In short, a self-promoting time-waster, unworthy of Harry's
Beware retired lawyers who cite "compelling evidence" and are
self-styled "experts on evidence".