Fear-mongering

I’ve been intrigued by how various entities use fear-mongering techniques to wage rhetorical war with even the idea of a soul phone.

A religious-oriented line of thinking says that a soul phone establishes a direct line to demonic forces. This line supposes that we may think we’ll be calling Grandma but instead we may unwittingly be phoning straight to hell. It suggests that demons know how to intercept soul phone calls and confuse us with misleading deceptions, so beware! This line also suggests that soul phone inventors are ignorant of this possibility and are not or will not take steps to prevent fraud and identity theft.

Some people interpret the Bible as forbidding contact with the ‘dead.’ They imply that nothing in the Bible is ever subject to revision or change despite the passing of centuries. They fear the consequences of doing things that could displease God, and they hold the Bible as the ultimate authority (despite that people often rely on others to interpret what the holy text is trying to convey.)

Yet some religious figures actually support afterlife research (which by its nature is speaking to the dead). Pope Pius XII wrote the following in response to worries expressed by some priests about early research into electronic voice phenomena (where voices from the so-call dead appear to have been placed in our reality via a recording device like an answering machine, tape recorder, or digital recorder):

“Dear Father Gemelli, you really need not worry about this. The existence of this voice is strictly a scientific fact and has nothing to do with spiritism. The recorder is totally objective. It receives and records only sound waves from wherever they come. This experiment may perhaps become the cornerstone for a building for scientific studies which will strengthen people’s faith in a hereafter.” (Italian Journal Astra, June 1990 quoted Kubis and Macy, 1995: 102).

Not all religions consider afterlife research as flirting with demonic forces or being anti-God. Some religious groups encourage communication with spirit and welcome research, trusting in the power of good and strengthening a faith in the continuation of life beyond bodily death—an attempt to get closer to God. Some religious groups host events with mediums and openly discuss metaphysical and paranormal phenomena.

FALSE NARRATIVES

Much of the time, people who make snide remarks about the SoulPhone™ appear not to have researched what the device or suite of devices is intended to be or do. They dumb it down and create false narratives.

One false narrative conflates the SoulPhone with something like the Ghost Box. They portray it as just another flashy “woo-woo” gadget from a ghost hunting show. Thus, SoulPhone, Ghost Box, EVP devices, and tin cans with string all get thrown into the same category without any discussion about what each device or method actually does.

Some false narratives are attempts at comedy like getting crank calls from dead telemarketers. Fun is fine, but as happens with much comedy, going for laughs often misrepresents the truth of the situation. Sometimes lost in the entertainment value is the science behind the SoulPhone which is being conducted in a university-sponsored research environment. Critics on YouTube often do not acknowledge that before the SoulPhone becomes a working reality, it will have passed muster with scientific protocol—or essentially die trying.

ULTERIOR MOTIVES

Another popular sentiment among cynical skeptics holds that people claiming to invent soul phones are just fortune-seekers. They will dupe grief-stricken mourners with false hope of contact with their deceased loved ones. While this criticism may be a well-intended attempt to protect consumers, it may (and often does) distort the actual research being done.

Some conspiracy theories suggest that instead of communicating with ‘dead people,’ soul phones could be a masterful artificial intelligence bot that can mimic realistic conversation. It’s presumed that bots would have access to mountains of data. In their grief, it is said, vulnerable mourners would believe anything plausible.

One reason why they think of AI bots is that they think it’s plainly impossible to talk with dead people and, therefore, the SoulPhone must logically be fraudulent. Critics making this charge usually ignore the pile of anecdotal evidence which appears to show that consciousness survives death of the physical body.

HORROR FILM MENTALITY

Much cynical speculation about soul phones reminds me of horror film mentality. It’s as if we’ll open some Pandora’s box and out springs pure evil.

One scary story to emerge is that people here would use a soul phone like a toy, which becomes an invitation for Ouija-Board style abuse. Malfeasant spirits might attempt so-called spirit possession, the stuff of horror films. While it is prudent to consider what bad things could happen for any potential invention or exploration, describing them in blood-curdling terms may not be either accurate or helpful.

Something often not mentioned, though, is that for communication to be established between the dimensions, physical humans need cooperation from “hypothesized spirit collaborators.” Cooperation implies that authorities on the other side have not metaphorically built a border wall to keep us out. They are aware of the consequences of establishing an open channel and have not sounded alarms about perils we might face.

Cynical skeptics often infer that people inventing ‘spirit communication’ devices haven’t thought any of this through.

WATCHING VIDEOS

It’s wise to be skeptical about any claims, be they wildly optimistic or excessively dire. Just like political or marketing rhetoric, there’s a tendency on both sides to exaggerate. People win attention by dramatizing their pro or con views, often without much naming of sources and by inferring that they know best.

Here are some tips for watching videos or reading literature (which could apply to different subject matter as well):

Is the overall message pro or con? Is the presentation fair-minded or clearly selling a viewpoint? Does it objectively offer contrary points of view? If not, note that you aren’t hearing the alternative side.

Is the language inflammatory or dismissive? For example, are people who hold opposing views called stupid, fools, idiots, or losers? Watch out.

Are sources of information cited or are generalized statements offered? Is it more unsubstantiated opinion? Has the presenter or author given you a way to check out the claims, or are you expected just to “trust me?”

Is the video attached to an action item like buying a product or service? Is the video clearly attempting to persuade you to spend money?

Is the intent of the video to scare you or to uplift you? For scary stories and cautionary tales, are positive solutions offered?

Are the titles or headlines of the videos misleading? Are they emotionally charged click bait?

Are you watching videos to learn new things or are you there to have your own beliefs reinforced? Are they preaching to you, the choir?

BOTTOM LINE

We live in a world where misrepresentation and false narratives run rampant and deep. It’s important to practice discernment with incoming information. Make sure that when you jump to conclusions, you’re not jumping onto thin ice and spreading rumors from sources that have not been vetted or even named.

Positive skepticism, which is the practice of asking plenty of questions and seeking alternative explanations, is a good thing. Ridicule, fear-mongering, and spreading false narratives aren’t, but they are rampant anyway.

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