Skip to main content

Seeing Angels

Very irritating Emma Heathcote-James on angels. Chris French does his best given the biased format of the programme ... BBC Radio 4 "Beyond Belief" 28th December 4pm (available for one week).

Below is a quote from programme from Father Gregory Hallam, Greek Orthodox Priest and believer in angels. Chris French was challenged by Hallam to say what would count as evidence of angels (Hallam perhaps implying that Chris wouldn't allow anything to count as evidence - i.e. that there are no angels is a "faith position" for Chris) - Hallam asked Chris "What actual evidence, Chris, would make you change your mind?" - and Chris suggested we could get objective evidence of angels if e.g. under controlled conditions they provided information to those who claim to communicate with them that could be checked and which could not have been acquired in any other way.

My problem with your answer Chris is you are subjecting these phenomenon to certain criteria and tests in relation to scientific evidence and you're actually talking about a confusion of categories of truth here. I understand that you operate in the realm of anomolistic psychology and that this is a kind of a difficult interface between science and human experience but I think that unless we are actually clear how to assess each piece of evidence according to appropriate criteria we risk just making no sense at all.

From BBC Radio 4 "Beyond Belief" 28th December 4pm (@21 mins)


Hannah said…
Ooooh "energy"

alarm bells ring...
sounds very profound eh;)
Hannah said…
Poor Chris.
Anonymous said…
Poor Chris, struggled to get his views accross admidst quite biased opposition. There can never be any reconciliation with subjects such as these, people will believe what they want, and at the end of the day does it matter?
Anonymous said…
ooops - across / amidst
MikeN said…
I just love the use of the word "risk" in that final sentence ;)
anticant said…
The flight from reason really is beyond belief, isn't it?
Smörgåsmåsen (formerly Psye) said…
Opacity. That's the word I'm thinking of when reading the quote from Hallam.

By the way, I'd refuse calling anyone except my biological father "father".
Steven Carr said…
What evidence would convince sceptics?

Well, some believers just have to have a dream and they are convinced.

Dreams aren't evidence.
Hannah said…
The flight from reason is more surprising than I would have imagined!

It would have been a lot more interesting if poor Chris had got a proper chance to explain (...erm... sense)...

And it does matter, it matters if you want to have integrity in your beliefs and make good rational judgments and decisions.
"... we risk just making no sense at all."


We know for a fact that people often lie and have false experiences. We don't know for a fact that any supernatural beings exist.

Thus, the evidence for the veracity of angelic experiences has to rule out to a reasonable degree the other two possible explanations, and controlled scientific studies are the only way to do that.

Epistemic laxity lets wishful thinking seep in.
theObserver said…
I would have asked him if he believed the archangel Gabriel swooped down to Muhammad and recited the Koran over the period of a few years. And if not, why not and what would count as evidence.

And what the hell is this recent fascination with angels? The philosophy section in my local book store is now reduced to being a single bookcase (and half of the books are on 'the science of happiness') while the Mind and Spirit section fills a wall and a half. Every time I walk past, I notice ladies devouring books on angels.

Then of course there's Doreen Virtue (phd), angel healer extraordinaire. I wonder which category of truth this priest would put her into.
Kosh3 said…
"I think that unless we are actually clear how to assess each piece of evidence according to appropriate criteria we risk just making no sense at all"

True, but meaningless in this context unless there is actually some problem with the suggestion that one way to examine the question of the existence of angels would be by confirming or disconfirming information purportedly received from them under controlled conditions.
anticant said…
Ladies devouring books on angels? Maybe because they are overwhelmed by the dire (human-created) state of the world, and are seeking solace in what Marx called "the opium of the people"?
Hannah said…
It's true actually. Only yesterday did I frolic into the book store, only to find that the Philosophy section had shrunk, and yet the mystical nonsense section was, as always, booming...
Unknown said…
Funny how at one point Gregory was sceptical about the validity of tests proposed by Chris, but then suddenly changed his mind when listening to one of Emma's more bizarre (to Gregory) examples. He'll accept testimonies that fit his belief, but not others.
Anonymous said…
I have posted my own (derisive!) opinion of this show on my own blog.

“Very irritating” doesn’t even begin to describe Heathcote-Jones. I don’t know how French didn’t keep himself from knocking her out. Well, I do actually. I emailed my piece to French and he said that she was in a different studio altogether and is very easy on the eye, but that’s hardly the point!

I also saw French give a lecture at the Merseyside Skeptics Society in September and he was brilliant. Full report here.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I won't be voting Labour at the next General Election, not even to 'keep the Tories out'.

I have always voted Labour, and have often been a member of the Party, campaigning and canvassing for them. For what it’s worth, here’s my feeling about voting Labour next General Election:   1. When the left vote Labour after they move rightwards, they are encouraged to just move further right, to the point where they are now probably right of where e.g. John Major’s Tory party was. And each time the Tories go further right still. At some point we have got to stop fuelling this toxic drift to the right by making the Labour Party realise that it’s going to start costing them votes. I can’t think of anything politically more important than halting this increasingly frightening rightward slide. So I am no longer voting Labour. 2. If a new socialist party starts up, it could easily hoover up many of the 200k former LP members who have left in disgust (I’d join), and perhaps also pick up union affiliations. They could become the second biggest party by membership quite quickly. Our voting


(Published in Faith and Philosophy 2011. Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2011. Stephen Law. Pages 129-151) EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS Stephen Law Abstract The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testament documents alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed – a principle I call the contamination principle – entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of indepen

My intro to the Battle of Ideas debate on 'Antisemitism Today'

I was invited by Claire Fox to take part in this event. Here are my introductory remarks. I was alongside, among others, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O'Neill, and Richard Angel (Progress).  You might wonder why I, a philosopher, have been invited on to this panel. I guess the reason is I'm interested in and have published on the ways in which bullshit beliefs - myths and prejudices - can get a grip on public thinking. I wrote a book called Believing Bullshit - How Not To Fall Into an Intellectual Black Hole which flags up some of the key signs that we are dealing with a with a myth or prejudice rather than rational belief. So how, in particular do prejudices regarding women, black people, Jews and so on get started? Well, once it's been suggested that a certain group have some 'problem' - that women have a bad driving problem , say, or Jews have a greed problem , it's usually not hard to find examples. After all, inevitably, some women are terrible d