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Reading Skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer

Me and Shermer doing the reading.
Picture taken by Spencer Marks of the
Independent Investigations Group IIG. Full size
Written November 2010

Go directly down to the interview
Interview second part

On July 8-11 2010 I was at The Amaz!ng Meeting TAM8 in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the South Point Hotel to attend the world's largest skeptical event of the year, the annual skeptical convention arranged by the James Randi Educational Foundation JREF.

Each year, TAM invites some of the world's leading skeptical and scientific authors and lecturers, and this year there were over 1,300 attendees there to absorb skepticism.

During TAM, I did a total of four readings on skeptics. One of those I read, was distinguished author and skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer. Shermer holds a master's degree in Experimental Psychology and a Ph.D. in the History of Science. He is one of the most popular contributors to the skeptical movement. Shermer has written 11 books that explore the psychology behind human beliefs and behavior, focusing on topics such as science, pseudoscience and religion.

Shermer's work questions the human attempt at understanding and explaining reality, and is honest in that its historical perceptive even evaluates today's prevalent belief systems. Shermer was once himself a devout Christian, and it is his own rare capability of transcending our own time and given beliefs, combined with his desire and ability of sharing his insights to others that make him one of the leading figures in the skeptical movement, whose agenda is to replace the daydreams of religion and pseudoscience with reality.

I only read Skeptics
When I look at people I perceive images that depict the inside of their body and information about their health. I do not assume that these images are reality rather than my own subjective imagination, yet after experiencing interesting cases of accuracy for which I could not find a normal explanation, I begun to investigate the experience as a paranormal claim.

One way to investigate the claim is to use it for psychic readings. But as a rule I only do readings on skeptics. When exposed to a variety of information, a skeptic should be capable of distinguishing objective reality from the questionable rest. A skeptic can not be talked into believing nor fooled into accepting an untrue statement even if one were presented with benefits (such as the choice of believing in an afterlife in spite of its lack of evidence but because of the appealing prospect of eternal life). So a skeptic will even embrace topics that might not be preferable, but real. Skeptics pledge to reality.

A Skeptic makes for the most suitable candidate for assessment of a psychic reading. They will tell you if you are wrong. And they will tell you when you are right. And they can discuss with you possible normal sources of accuracy, such as prior knowledge, lucky guesses, misinterpreted normal statistical behavior, external clues in body language, and more. Skeptics do not say they do not want to believe in psychics or extrasensory perception. What they say is that there needs to be evidence before it is safe to allow it entry into the realm of embraced reality. A real skeptic does not choose what to believe, whereas many believers in the paranormal - the so called woos - have often chosen their beliefs based on the appeal of a topic or by having their senses fooled or misunderstood.

We all know that a Skeptic will tell you when you are wrong. That is what Skeptics do. But would a Skeptic admit to accuracy in a particular demonstration of a paranormal claim? Most psychic claimants are convinced that skeptics would never give them credit for accuracy in a particular instance. I never worried about this, and even if it were so, my expectation was to encounter inaccuracy, or that if there were accuracy it would be due to some normal, not paranormal, explanations which the skeptic could help me figure out. And from past experience of doing readings with skeptics, I know that they will admit to any accuracy as well.

When I did a reading on Skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer and the reading went very well, I then had to worry whether skepticism and its denial of psychic claims was a deeply rooted worldview in skepticism and like a religious belief for skeptics, and would Dr. Shermer deny the results like a devout Christian denies evolutionists? I expected him to refuse to discuss the reading afterwards, unlike how passionately skeptics will talk about a failed reading. But his openness and acceptance of the results of the reading as they were, and his willingness to discuss the reading afterwards, still surprises me. But what more, after having just had a strangely accurate and seemingly paranormal outcome of the reading, I expected Dr. Shermer to rescue me with an answer. Dr. Shermer is an expert skeptic, I depended on him like a patient relies on a doctor for a diagnose. What could be the normal explanations that I am looking for to explain the reading which we had just had? Michael Shermer has still not come up with a plausible explanation to the outcome of the reading, and I am left knowing that I have to continue to investigate.

The Reading with Michael Shermer
The first time I ever saw Dr. Michael Shermer in person was when he lectured at TAM8 and I was attending in the audience. It was his Why People Believe Weird Things lecture, similar to this Why People Believe Weird Things. I might have seen him earlier in the TAM hallway without noticing, which just shows how easy it is for people to see things and hear things that we would not openly recollect but which once experienced builds a library of past experiences that can come up during "psychic readings" seemingly from paranormal sources when in fact from prior information and subconscious recollection.

I then met with Dr. Shermer at the Drinking Skeptically at the Del Mar bar at the South Point Hotel. Lecturers and regular TAMmers were there to mingle in an informal setting. If I recall, I was the one who approached Dr. Shermer. I might have simply wanted to tell him that I appreciated his lecture. I did have a home-made badge that said "Woo" on it, and Dr. Shermer might have asked about that. I did mention to him that I was a woo and described to him what it is that I think I can do. If I recall it was then Dr. Shermer who asked if I would do a reading on him, or maybe it was I who asked if he would volunteer. Either way he seemed quite eager to volunteer for a reading. As I say, I only do readings on Skeptics, and reading Dr. Shermer was an important opportunity in my investigation. Especially since he might be able to explain what is going on with the claim.

Later during TAM we met each other a few times in the TAM hallway and we tried to schedule and re-schedule a time for the reading many times. Eventually Shermer called late on the Saturday night saying that it would have to be now or not at all, and I agreed. I had my very important TAM demonstration the following day on Sunday, and he too would have a busy schedule on the following day.

Shermer returned from the Skepchicks party late and arrived at my room at the South Point Hotel at about 11 PM. Lots of TAM attendees had attended the party until they ran out of tickets. Shermer arrived accompanied by TAM photographer Ingrid Laas. Me and my then-boyfriend were in the room. So there were four of us.

I was very formal about it. I described to Dr. Shermer how I do a reading, and how I don't do a reading. I said that I have the person sit down with their back facing me so that I have no access to eye contact or facial expressions which of course provide many non-paranormal cold reading clues. I had a hard time figuring out where to seat him. None of the chairs would allow me to see his back, and so I asked him to sit on the edge of the bed. I sat down behind him on the opposite end of the bed.

I explained to Shermer that I do not ask any questions and that I use no prior information (at least not intentionally). And that no talking takes place, I say nothing, and he is also asked to not say anything. I use no materials such as dowsing rod and I do not touch the person. There is no interaction or feedback taking place during a reading.

I also explained that I write down my perceptions on paper so that they are not spoken out loud afterwards, because otherwise a psychic could use the interaction and feedback and reactions of the person to customize and adjust their reading, and I do not do that. And that after a reading I would put the pen far away so that nothing can be added nor removed from the notes, and that Shermer would get to see the pages when I will read them for him.

I can not think of a better protocol for a psychic reading attempt. I have eliminated as many of the normal sources of information that a psychic can use that I can think of. There is still visual information and some body language available, but that is why it is good that I am detecting also internal and hidden information, which would be the case even in this reading. My perceptions include information that should come with no external symptoms, especially during an "open reading" as this was.

An open reading is what I here refer to a reading where I am not given a specific thing or a narrow list of things to search for, but rather that the items that I find could be anything! In an open reading I list any and all health impressions I make, and so the list of possible conditions that I could choose from is endless and infinite. If I detect that a person is missing a kidney during an open reading where no prior hints have been given that this might apply, it is far more impressive than when this takes place in a test where I have been told that one out of a select number of people is missing a kidney. To get something right in such an open test, the odds are astounding, and to correctly find something specific as well as entirely hidden would be a difficult thing to guess, for someone who were guessing.

The reading was either one or two hours. I would have to refer to my notes from the reading, which I carefully dated and set the starting and end times of the reading on. These notes are with a credible skeptic - not me nor Shermer - to assure that they should not have been altered. (The notes will be made available here later!)

After the reading I said that I was finished with the reading and I said for all the people in the room to watch me now as I make sure to put the pen far away from me and out of reach so that the notes can not be edited after the fact. I then sat down with Shermer to read him his reading.

The Health Perceptions
These are the health perceptions I had of Michael Shermer:

Disease in his blood. Not the blood itself, but a bloodborne pathogen. Not a bacteria since I could see his red blood cells and the disease agent was much smaller like a small dot beside the red blood cells. A bacteria would be comparable in size to a red blood cell. Also the disease agent was not a bacteria because I see and feel bacteria differently due to their various organelles. I said it is a virus.

But the virus was not contained in any other part of his body other than in the blood. The virus was not in his saliva, not in the lymph stream, it was only in the blood. I said that the virus is distributed all across his body from head to toe though only in the blood. I also said that the virus was not doing anything, it was just suspended in his blood but not touching anything, not touching the walls of the blood vessels, not touching any of the components of the blood. I also said that the virus was small and round shaped.

And I said that I do not know the name of the virus because it is unlike anything I have ever come across before or read about. I said that all I know regarding it being a virus is that it is not the flu virus or HIV virus since what I see is only in the blood and is not affecting his immune system.

I went into great length describing his personality and emotional state. I will not go into detail as most of it is personal, but I described his emotional state using two keywords which seem contradictory to how he comes across as a person.

I said that it was a minor thing but that if he has this he would be aware of it and feel it. That one of the blood vessels going up from the heart sometimes feels pain or constricted right where it leaves the heart.

I said that he is developing schizophrenia and I went into great detail about its implications and symptoms.

The Results
Bloodborne viral disease Shermer has the diagnose Hepatitis C. I did not know this prior to the reading, and after I had described in great detail the disease with the blood, he told me about his diagnose. He says he got infected from a blood transfusion several years ago and that he has been undergoing treatment to cure it. On the day of the reading I knew very little if anything about Hepatitis C, and Shermer himself did not inform me as to the details of the diagnose. Had I been asked to write an essay on the spot about everything I know about Hepatitis C, it would have sounded something like this: "Hepatitis C is a bacterial infection which people can contract from use of needles. It is incurable and not contageous and it destroys the liver." That is all I could have said connected to the name Hepatitis C at that time. So it is obvious that I could not have connected what I was seeing and describing, to this proper label - since my prior knowledge of Hepatitis C not only was very small but also mostly incorrect!

Later when I got home I read up on Hepatitis C, what it is and what it looks like. And what I learned of Hepatitis C then was that it was not a bacterial disease, it is a viral infection. The Hepatitis C virus is small and round shaped. It is carried only in the blood but not found in any of the other body fluids. It occurs all across the body from head to toe but only in the blood. Hepatitis C does not attack the immune system, but what it does is it may cause cancer and lead to liver damage. It can stay dormant in the body for many years without seeming to cause any damage.

My description of the bloodborne viral disease was perfectly consistent with the specifics of Hepatitis C which Shermer has. I did not have prior knowledge of his diagnose, and the thing is, had I known from before that he has Hepatitis C, I would have said that it is a bacterial infection damaging his liver, which is what my then small and incorrect idea of the diagnose was.

Emotions and personality I gave a very lengthy and in-depth description of his emotions, thoughts, personality and behavior. When I did the reading on him, I found a man who is not what he comes across. Someone who in fact is very much the opposite of what many would think of him. It even contradicted with my logical assumptions of the person and I was surprised myself. I spent most of the reading formulating his personality and emotions. It is interesting, I truly felt as if I was inside his head, feeling him the way that he feels and knows himself. I feel that he is a very deep and complex person, and this is not a standard inclusion in my readings and has never come up in a reading with anyone else before. Shermer said that my descriptions of his personality and emotions was perfectly accurate. Later I have written to him lengthy e-mails going into greater detail and elaborating on what I found in the depths of his mind. It was a beautiful experience for me to be this close to someone as deep and complex as him.

Out of respect for his privacy I will not go into details about the description I gave to him. In fact I made the others leave the room while I gave this information to him.

Blood vessel above heart Shermer said he is not aware of the pain or problem with a blood vessel just above the heart as I was describing. I did say to him that if he has this then he would be aware of it and be feeling it himself, and so as he said he does not have this I accepted this as an inaccurate health perception.

Schizophrenia I described several aspects of thought processes, emotions, personality, relations and behavior which I said was a mild or early manifestations of schizophrenia. I also described certain things that would appear later in his life as the condition progresses. Although Shermer agreed with some of the details he says he does not have schizophrenia. However I remain unconvinced whether this perception was entirely inaccurate, so I leave it undecided between accurate and inaccurate.

Analysis and Discussion
The bloodborne viral disease
The bloodborne viral disease was entirely correct as described and matched perfectly with the diagnose of Hepatitis C, which he has. It is a viral disease, it is contained in the blood but not in any of the other body fluids like I said, and it is causing no harm and not affecting the immune system like a flu virus would, and all was correct. It is also a small round virus as described, and occurs all across the body from head to toe in the blood.

Truth is, the night before the reading when I first saw Michael Shermer at the bar, I was stunned to see hologram images superimposed with the image of real vision, depicting his small blood vessels, capillaries, one capillary on either side of him. Inside the image of enlarged capillaries I could clearly see the red blood cells and surrounding them small specks of a disease agent. This is one of the few times when a health perception has occurred not only in my mind but also superimposed with the surroundings that I see. It was similar to the time when I saw a co-worker for the first time and instantly saw the image of female reproductive cysts (which I later found out that she had, severe enough to require surgery) and wanted to shout out "internal female reproductive cysts!" every time I saw her. With Dr. Shermer I was fighting the impulse to shout out "Disease in the blood caused by virus!" I was eager to look closer during the reading with Shermer on the next day.

I was quick to gather the details around the disease that I was feeling. To be honest, the disease feels yellow and sticky across the body. It also feels like a fever. It is a very distinct feeling of sickness or disease. I was quick to establish that it was a virus, not a bacteria, and that it was contained only in the blood and in the blood from head to toe. When it comes to a health perception as loud and clear as this I do not need much time or work to finish the description. I spent most of the time feeling into his head and getting to know his personality and emotions, because it was encaptivating and complex.

I know I did not have prior knowledge of his Hepatitis C diagnose. It should also be entirely invisible to the eye and have no external symptoms not in appearance or behavior that could provide clues toward the condition. It is also not possible for a person to somehow hint towards the diagnose, and what I am thinking of is if someone is missing a kidney they might twitch or lean in a way as indicating toward the kidney region, but with a viral disease not confined to any specific location of the body this would be impossible to do whether consciously or unconsciously. It's just not possible to know that a person has Hepatitis C just by looking at a person.

Hepatitis C should also provide no other clues, such as scent. Sometimes some skeptics tell me that maybe one can guess at who is missing a kidney if they smell differently from others who have both kidneys. I have hard to imagine this being the case, especially for something like Hepatitis C. There are no external symptoms of Hepatitis C, and not during the conditions of the reading which we had. I did not have eyecontact with him during the reading, and he was turned away in the other direction.

So that leaves us to guessing, skeptics will say it is a lucky guess. But it can't be! Let's say I was guessing. I am a smart girl, I make all A's in college as both a chemistry and a physics major. I have all A's in math. Surely I would compute that in order for a guess to be successful it must be general, vague, and commonly occurring. To say that he has a disease in his blood is a good guess perhaps. It is perfectly general, and vague. It is good bait to use when fishing for undeserved accuracy. Everybody has sometimes had a disease carried by their blood stream, and most if not all of us right now have a little something in the blood that is not causing any health problems. We are surrounded by pathogens. If the person says no, it is easy for the psychic to say that yes they do they just don't know about it, or that it is something dormant from the past or yet to come.

A viral infection is a good guess perhaps, since it has vagueness and is also fairly common. A person could say no they don't have a viral disease, and the psychic could say that yes you do you just don't know it, it is dormant, or say that everybody has had a flu virus sometime. Or just out of chance the person could say yes, and you've got yourself a hit. But would I guess at something like a viral disease? No I would not. It is too random and out of the blue to guess with. And I wasn't guessing, I was describing what I was seeing and feeling of him.

But let's just go with if it were a guess of a viral infection. No way would anybody then proceed to specifying that it is only contained in the blood and not in the other body fluids. This specificity makes it very hard to have a lucky guess anymore, if there were any chances earlier with the building of this health statement. Aren't most viral infections contained also in the other body fluids? I will study all known viral infections to find out how many of them in number and percentage are only found in the blood and not in the other body fluids to produce a statistical probability of guessing a hit with this specific statement.

But there was more. I also said that the virus was small, round in shape, and not touching anything in the body. This was also correct. How many viruses that are found in the blood are also round in shape? It was just too specific to be a lucky guess. Anyone guessing would never dare to narrow it down so much. And even as I was making the description, my logic was thinking that I was sure to be incorrect. But it was right.

Formal evidence
This is one of those cases of "interesting accuracy which I can't explain or deny" that I have been talking about for all these years of this investigation. It is things like these that surprise me and that compel me to continue to investigate. Formerly, these used to always belong to the things called anecdotal evidence, meaning that a reading had taken place under conditions where it had not been possible to collect evidence to produce formal evidence. The problem is, that anecdotal evidence is good for me and leads to the decisions that I take in this investigation, but that anecdotal evidence is not good for anyone else, and so others disagree with my decisions and try to convince me otherwise and to stop me.

I did everything right in this reading. The person being read is perhaps one of the most reliable skeptics in the world. There were two other witnesses in the room, both of them skeptics. I had Shermer turn around. There was no eye contact, I could not see his face. I did not touch him. I wrote down my perceptions and after the reading I put the pen away so that nothing could be added nor removed from the notes. I let Shermer see the notes while I read them to him and I let him see what I had written. And so as I presented the reading, there was no use of any feedback mechanisms to design or to adjust the reading to better fit. My answers were not influenced or modified by his reactions or answers, my answers could not have been modified due to the procedure I had implemented. And later the notes would remain with an independent skeptic, not with me nor with Shermer. I did everything right this time. And so the outcome of this reading makes for formal evidence. Not anecdotal this time. And so I don't have to be torn as I take this outcome and let it lead me to further investigation, nor should I be torn by other skeptics who would have found this hard to believe had it not taken place under conditions that turn it into formal evidence - say if I had supposedly read a non-skeptic and there had been no witnesses, no notes taken, and no proper protocol in place.

I think Shermer left the room somewhat impressed. And he left me with my world somewhat shattered. What had just happened? Had I just done a real, authentic reading by extrasensory means? Was I really seeing inside of his body, and reading his mind and emotions? I am still puzzled, and thankfully Shermer lets me talk to him about this reading because it makes me almost nervous to see how accurate it was, and I need the support. I guess I was expecting to be wrong.

But what does Shermer himself think? Let's ask him! With Dr. Shermer's permission I did the following interview with him about our reading and post it here on this page.

Interview with Shermer about the reading
Due to the skeptical nature of my readers, and rightfully so, a written interview like this lacks any credibility. Remember, if it could have been written and manufactured by me, it must be regarded as having that same level of credibility, meaning none. Also, if Shermer were to verify this written interview once, then do remember that I am the author of this website and that I can at any time go back to this and edit it any way that I want!

In a circumstance where a woo could lie and cheat, regard any such material as incredulous. I would most rather like to have an audio interview with Shermer, but then again what if I had found someone who just sounds like him? The very best would be an in-person video interview. I might be able to do something like that, maybe at next year's TAM if both Dr. Shermer and I attend. Best for now would be if Dr. Shermer were to also post this written interview in a place where I could not access to edit it. But for now, here it is. Perfectly authentic. Shermer replied to these questions on September 22, 2010.

Note that some parts have been temporarily removed from below! These are indicated in this blue color! I have removed the specifics of how I described Shermer's emotions since I am considering making a survey where everybody can say how they would assume his emotions. That way I can gather some kind of an understanding as to whether my answers were unusual or obvious to most. Check back later, the temporarily omitted parts will later be added back to the text!

Dr. Michael Shermer, on Saturday July 10 2010 you had a psychic reading attempt done by paranormal claimant Anita Ikonen at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Is that correct?


Do you recall if it was you or she who initiated the idea of her reading you? When and where this agreement took place, and what was said about the reading at that time?

She initiated the reading by asking if I would like a reading. I accepted the invitation.

Anita says that she had not met you or seen you in person prior to your TAM8 attendance together. Did you ever meet with, or speak to, Anita prior to TAM8? This is important since prior contact between claimant and the person being read can provide the claimant with clues about that person.

I had never met Anita before, nor had I ever heard of her.

Anita attended your TAM8 lecture and spoke with you at the hotel one evening and has also seen you in the TAM hallway several times before the reading. Without discussing the reading itself yet, do you think that this contact might have given her clues to what she would say about you during the reading?

Probably not, although I limp a tiny bit because of an arthritic right hip so she could have picked up on that, but in fact she never mentioned my hip in the reading, so apparently there were no clues given. (And, why didn't she pick up in her reading that I have arthritis in my hip?)

Dr. Shermer you are also available on several videos on the internet. This provides visual access to you and your body language. Your style of writing is available, and a great deal has been written about you. Considering the specifics of what Anita said about you during the reading, do you think that any or all of what she said could have been based on available information about you? Whether unintentional, or data mining.

From what she said in the reading I don't think there was anything that she gleaned from my writings, etc.

A psychic claimant is probably skilled in reading people's normal body language, facial expressions, the way in which they speak, their choices of words, the way that they dress and act, and much more to form impressions and assumptions about the person, whether that the psychic knows that they are using normal not paranormal available information or that they are doing so deliberately and knowingly. Perhaps a psychic is simply a very observant kind of person.

Anita appears to be very observant and skilled in finding patterns in things.

Do you think that the information she found in you could have been derived by enhanced observational and deduction skills, perhaps combined with imagination and synesthesia? (If imagination is considered an active, voluntary process, synesthesia is rather an automatic, spontaneous experience of artificial impressions.)

To the extent that Anita (or any psychic for that matter) "reads" people better than most, I strongly suspect that it is due to their rapid cognitive intuition about people, body language, emotional sensitivity, etc., all normal (v. paranormal) means.

When you spoke with Anita on the few occasions at TAM before the reading on the 10th, did she ask you questions or in other ways seem to be making you provide clues about yourself in what you say? And do you think that by speaking to her before the reading you might have said something that could have provided her with clues about the information she would later describe in the reading?

No, I do not think that any clues were given by me that came up in the reading.

Dr. Shermer late on the evening on July 10 2010 you had a reading done with psychic claimant Anita Ikonen. Can you describe where the reading took place, how the reading took place, what she asked you to do, and how she did the reading?

The reading took place in her room. Present was an investigator for the Independent Investigations Group, affiliated with the Center for Inquiry, as well as a photographer for TAM. Anita asked me to sit on the side of the bed facing away from her. She sat on the other side of the bed several feet away from me. She told me she was now going to do the reading and that she would take some notes while mentally scanning my body but that she would not say another word. She didn't, and neither did I. In fact, I eventually fell asleep.

Based on your expertise how would you describe the reading? Did it include any of the well-known methods used by psychics? Anita says she makes the person turn around so that she is facing their back in order to eliminate access to eye contact and facial expressions. She also uses no speaking, she does not say anything out loud about the reading to obtain clues from the reaction of the person, she asks no questions and needs no prior information about the person. She writes down her perceptions and lets you read the notes with her after the reading. She puts the pen away after the reading so that nothing can be added or removed from the notes. This way the reading can not be adjusted as it is being presented. Is this all in alignment with how the reading took place?


Would you say that Anita did or did not adjust her reading based on interaction or feedback mechanisms with you while the notes were being presented to you after the reading?

I would say that she did not adjust her reading.

If Anita did have a good skill in reading people - not saying that she did - what methods do you think she might be using?

Normal intuition, plus thoughtful guessing.

Now for the reading itself. Since it concerns personal information we will not discuss the specifics of the reading.

Anita described one medical condition in great detail. She described where this is located in the body, what it looks like, and what it is. The description was very specific and she presented it with confidence. She was not hesitant or vague, and it was clearly listed in her notes. This perception fit perfectly in great detail with your condition. [Later added: the bloodborne viral disease.]


Is this a common condition? Would this be something that a psychic might list frequently, hoping to get a hit? Does this condition come with any external symptoms? Was it general knowledge that you have this condition? Do you think that Anita could have found out from somewhere else that you have this condition?

Since I am now cured of this condition I don't mind saying what it is, which I have never publicly stated. Anita said that I have a blood-born virus. When I was 21 I contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion during back surgery. They didn't know about Hep C at the time and called it yellow jaundice. The symptoms went away after a couple of weeks and I felt fine thereafter, except I was told never to give blood, which I haven't. Fastforward to age 50 when I applied for additional life insurance and my insurance company told me to go see my doc about elevated liver readings, which I did and was diagnosed with Hep C. I was treated with a six month regime of injecting myself weekly with Interferon and taking daily pills of an anti-viral drug. My first blood test at one month into the regime showed that the virus was completely gone, and it has been that way ever since.

Several things: (1) I am reasonably confident that Anita did not know about this condition because I told very few people. (2) She did not specify that it was Hep C, only a blood-born virus. Make of that what you will. (3) Anita emphasized the present tense in her reading, as in I "have" a blood-born virus, meaning that I still have it now. I don't. Well, at least not that I know of! According to my liver doc the test is not a 100% guarantee that I do not have Hep C because apparently the little buggers can hide in the nooks and crannies of one's body and not appear in the blood. Make of that what you will because Anita said it was in my blood.

I was moderately impressed with this finding, but qualified in the sense that she didn't specify it was Hep C and used the present tense. I'm due for a blood test this month [Later added: this month was September 2010] for my annual check up, so we'll see what the results show, but I'm reasonably confident that I no longer have Hep C.

She also described your personality and emotional state using two keywords and a very lengthy and detailed description. Anita herself was very surprised at what she found. When she presented this part of the reading she was sure that she would be wrong, because she says her description of you is entirely opposite and contradictory to how you portray yourself outwardly as well as how you come across. Meanwhile you say her description of you was accurate?

If I recall (I don't have a copy of her notes) she said that I [to be added later after the survey]. I would say that this is reasonably accurate, [to be added later after the survey]. So I would say that this part of the reading was accurate but [to be added later after the survey].

Did you feel that her description of you as a person and your emotional state fit well? How does it compare with the kind of description that someone who knows you, a friend or a family member, could have come up with? Does it align with how you would describe yourself?

I think Anita's reading of my emotional state would be supported by friends who know me.

Anita also described two more things which you say you do not have? [Later added: the pain/problem with one of the blood vessels coming out from the heart and at just above the heart, and him having early or mild signs of schizophrenia.]

Correct, I definitely do not have a problem with my blood vessels nor do I have schizophrenia, although I had an aunt with schizophrenia, but I don't think that counts.

The medical condition which she found as well as her description of your personality and emotional state were correct. Two other details were incorrect. Do you think that the misses negate the interest of the hits?

You can read my assessment above and judge for yourself.

Overall, what is your impression and experience of the reading done with Anita Ikonen?

I believe that Anita believes that she has special powers that enable her to read and diagnose people. I am not convinced that this is so. I think she is sensitive and intuitive--perhaps more than most people--and that this skill may be valuable for something (as any social skill might be), but I can't say that the one semi-hit with the "blood born virus" counts enough to declare anything definitively about Anita, and I think her assessment of my psychological state might apply to too many people to be significant here.

Based on your reading with Anita Ikonen, do you think that her paranormal claim of medical perception is interesting enough to be entitled to further investigation?

I don't think Anita has paranormal powers. I think she is an intuitively sensitive person. Intuition certainly warrants investigation. To this extent I most definitely think that someone in the skeptical community who tests psychics should conduct further tests of Anita Ikonen.

Anita is very compelled to investigate her claim. She thinks that her experience of medical perceptions, and the accuracy and the type of accurate perceptions are highly interesting and she fails to find a normal explanation to it.

Is it obvious to you what is behind her experience of having an interesting claim?

See above.

Based on your experience with Anita Ikonen, is it obvious that she would be using any form of tricks or fraud to achieve the seemingly interesting result?

No, I do not think that Anita uses trickery or fraud to get information.

And finally, anything else you might want to add about the reading experience with Anita Ikonen.

As with any claim, there is no harm in putting it to the test.

So, no deliberate attempts at data mining can be confirmed by me nor Shermer. I did not ask him any questions or try to fish for hints before the reading. Also Shermer does not think that my brief encounters of him during TAM or at his TAM lecture, or from available information for instance online, could have led to the conclusions that I made in my reading of him. Shermer agrees that he does not think that I am using any trickery or fraud.

As for the hip arthritis, I deliberately skipped reading the leg area because I didn't have the time to go through the entire body. I had already taken one or two hours (I need to refer to my notes of the reading to see how many hours the reading took) to describe the two major things, being the bloodborne viral disease and his emotions and personality. Interestingly, Shermer says that his hip arthritis could have been deduced by careful observation of him by normal means, yet the fact that I said nothing about his hip might suggest that I do not use these methods. That I do not "look" at the person to form my perceptions, I "feel" into them.

Shermer says I seem to be "very observant and skilled in finding patterns in things", and he strongly suspects that it may be "rapid cognitive intuition about people, body language, emotional sensitivity, etc., all normal (v. paranormal) means". The reading was done according to a good protocol, which eliminates eye contact, feedback mechanisms etc. Shermer says that if I have a skill, the methods that I am using might be "Normal intuition, plus thoughtful guessing".

I will ask Shermer about the results of his September test, if he thinks it is appropriate to share. The fact that I did not specify that it was Hepatitis C is because I did not know the label, and what I then assumed to know of Hepatitis C was not only little but inaccurate! Shermer also thinks that I am "sensitive and intuitive". Shermer thinks that my description of his emotions and personality might apply to many people. I would beg to differ.

So I sent Shermer some follow-up questions. Shermer replied to these questions on November 3, 2010.

Thank you Dr. Shermer for your answers. Here are some follow-up questions.

Regarding her missing your hip arthritis, is it fair of her to say that there are hundreds of areas on the body to go through during a reading and that she therefore has to skip several parts of the body in the person being read in order to not extend the duration of a reading to unreasonable lengths? And is it true as she says that she prepared a list of areas of the body in her notes, and that "Legs" was something which she marked in her notes as having deliberately skipped? And that when you told her that you have hip arthritis which she failed to mention, she would have showed you her notes (the pen being placed far away so that the notes could not have been edited) and showed you where she had written "Legs" and how she had written that she did no reading of that part of your body?

Or should she reasonably see every health condition considered to be there in order for the results of a reading to have any validity?

Well, okay, Anita didn't read my legs, but it isn't my leg per se that is the problem; it's arthritis in my right hip and it bothers me enough that I have a noticeable limp that people often comment on, and I was definitely limping that night so it did surprise me that she didn't pick up on that.

Dr. Shermer you say that any accuracy which she might experience may be the result of her having "rapid cognitive intuition" about people and body language and "emotional sensitivity", these being normal, not paranormal means of deriving. Since you have chosen to disclose the specifics of the reading, could these methods of formulating health descriptions really be used to describe a bloodborne viral disease, it being a virus not a bacteria due to its small size next to the red blood cells, the virus being small and round in shape, it being contained in the blood but not the other body fluids therefore not being for instance HIV nor the flu virus, and it causing no harm but simply being suspended in the blood. How does intuition lead to such a specific statement, when no external symptoms of such are ever available?

Certainly rapid cognition could not lead one to deduce a "blood born virus," but again it could be that for a medical intuitive there are a dozen or so conditions that one can discuss that are bound to produce one or two hits with almost anyone you happen to read, such as cancerous cells, problem with the heart or lungs, brain problems, and the like. If I were a medical intuitive I would memorize one of those charts outlining the leading causes of death and just work my way through it in every reading.

When asked what methods you think that she might be using for a reading you say that it may be "normal intuition, plus thoughtful guessing". It is understandable that description of personality characteristics and emotions - which she did give of you, and which you feel was very accurate - may be something that an empathic person might pick up on while looking at a person for some time, even when nothing is spoken and when there is no interaction or feedback between the person reading and the person being read.

But what I fail to understand is how normal intuition or thoughtful guessing would lead to the very specific statement and description of the bloodborne virus. Because, I would think, that if someone was guessing, they would not use such specifics, but rather that they would remain vague in their statements, such that a description might better fit. For instance, the person would be much better off to simply say that there is an infection and stop there. And rather than specifying it only to the bloodstream it would be better not to mention where it would be located, giving a guesser a much higher probability of being accurate. Especially since this involves an entirely hidden and internal condition being described.

And why would a guesser specify that it be a virus, not a bacteria, when this too narrows down the possibilities of guessing right. A guesser might be content in saying that there be an infection, but not limit their chances by being very specific in their description, like Anita was. How does Anitas description of the the bloodborne viral disease fit with the idea that it be thoughtful guessing?

Same answer as for the previous question as these are related.

You bring up the point that Anita did not label the viral diagnose with the name Hepatitis C. Anita says that at the time of the reading, she was not familiar with the description of Hepatitis C, and that had she been asked at that time to describe Hepatitis C her assumptions about it then would have been that it is an infectious disease affecting the liver, she would have assumed it involves a bacteria, assumed that it is contained all across the body, and that it is incurable. Such was her limited and inaccurate prior knowledge of Hepatitis C.

Meanwhile in you she described a viral disease, contained in the blood only and not found in other body fluids, and caused by a small round-shaped virus. While these details fit perfectly well with Hepatitis C, it did not fit with what her assumption of Hepatitis C was at that time. Anita says that during the reading she was struggling to find a known name for what she was seeing but that she did not recognize from her past knowledge of infectious diseases. She did exclude it from being the HIV or the flu virus since what she saw was not found in other body fluids and were not affecting the lymph or the immune system.

Is it then not reasonable that she failed to label what she was seeing by the name Hepatitis C? Or should the given name somehow be derivable from the body along with the symptoms?

Again, this is a related question to those above and so my answer is the same.

Dr. Shermer before the reading with Anita, you told her that you have two specific things that you have told no one about. You have still not revealed to Anita what those two things are. Did she find any of those two things?

Um, gosh, I'm sorry, but now I can't remember what the two things were! Dang. Sorry. But, I should note that Anita did get one thing wrong when she thought that Schizophrenia might be a problem, which is not the case for me, although I had an aunt who was Schizophrenic. Maybe Anita picked up on a blood relative instead of me?

When asked how "rapid cognitive intuition" could lead one to the very specific and detailed description that I gave of the bloodborne viral disease, Shermer realizes that rapid cognition could not lead one to deduce bloodborne virus. He then finds another possible explanation in its place, that being that a medical intuitive might memorize a chart listing a dozen or so conditions outlining the leading causes of death and work their way through that list in every reading. He says that these conditions would be bound to then produce one or two hits with almost anyone you happen to read, "such as cancerous cells, problem with the heart or lungs, brain problems, and the like".

Yet, Shermer lists "cancerous cells", "problem with heart or lungs", "brain problems" as his main examples. I did not mention cancer. I did mention problem with blood vessels above heart, which I embrace as a miss. I sort of did mention "brain problems", but specified this to a highly uncommon condition called schizophrenia. And I doubt that "viral disease", further specified to "bloodborne viral disease, only found in the blood, not found in the saliva, lymph stream or other body fluids, not doing anything in the body not touching the blood vessel walls or components of the blood, small and round shaped" would be listed on Shermer's list of a dozen or so health conditions to run through with every person. Furthermore, if I were attempting such a method of saying the same common things with every person, then all of my readings would be very similar, yet I have never before in a reading mentioned a viral disease, nor schizophrenia, nor the specifics of Shermer's personality and emotions that have emphasis on feelings of [to be added later after the survey]. It just doesn't make sense that I would be using a list of common ailments. And I know that I am not.

None of the suggestions by Shermer as to how I could have described his Hepatitis C and personality and emotions are adequate. It can not be rapid cognitive intuition for the viral infection, and it can not be the use of a common list of ailments for any of what I said with the exception of the blood vessel problem above the heart. Everything else I said was highly unusual, never before said by me in a reading with anyone else before, and certainly not something that Shermer would list if he had a dozen or so common things to list for use in a reading.

If Shermer can't explain it, neither can I. Shermer is a world-leading expert in skepticism. He has a masters degree in experimental psychology, a Ph.D. in the history of science. He probably knows everything there is to know about how observations and experiences can be misinterpreted into seeming paranormal. He knows all about test design. Yet his first explanation that I be using intuition does not make sense. His second explanation of using a list of common guesses also does not make sense. I don't think Shermer can explain the reading, and neither can I.

All I know is that I have to continue to investigate.

Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral infection and can today be treated with medication. Several decades ago transfusion blood was not screened for the virus and patients were at risk of becoming infected during standard medical procedures that require blood transfusion. I met yet another famous skeptic at the TAM convention who also got Hepatitis C several years ago from a blood transfusion.

Hepatitis C is barely contagious and can only be passed on from blood-to-blood contact. Normal everyday interaction with an infected person are not risk factors. Long-time spouses of an infected person do not catch the virus, and about the only thing to avoid doing with an infected person is to share the same toothbrush. People can live long and healthy lives in spite of being infected.

Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer is one of the world's most popular Skeptics.
His website http://www.michaelshermer.com/
His blog http://skepticblog.org/author/shermer/
His books http://www.michaelshermer.com/books/
Several videos of him are available on YouTube

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Sat, November 6, 2010

you failed again he didn't have hep C at the time of the reading are u nuts?

There is no reason to keep investigating.

You just spin it to keep on thinking that there is something there when there isn't, everyone can see it except you...

I may add my response here later...

Sun, November 7

" Shermer lets me talk to him about this reading because it makes me almost nervous to see how accurate it was."

This is your biggest problem it was not in the slightest bit accurate!!!

You made 3 inaccurate medical perceptions.

He does not have a blood borne virus.

There is nothing wrong with his blood vessels.

He doesnt have schizophrenia.

3 guesses 3 failures 3 inaccurate medical perceptions.

Its that simple but you just can't let it go can you..

I may add my response here later...

Mon, November 8, 2010

YOu had 3 guesses and got them all wrong .

How is that an accurate reading and worthy of further investigation?

3 inaccurate medical perceptions , he's not schizo , has no blood vessel problems and didnt have a blood borne virus at the time you read him.

Your problem is u have a disconnect from reality.

regards, Geoff

I may add my response here later...