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He offers both public and private readings and has been featured on many television shows, but is there any evidence that he can contact the dead as he says?

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I don't think this question is well-phrased. Is there evidence? Absolutely. All sorts of people say that John Edwards has talked to their dead relatives. Is that good evidence? No. Is any of that evidence good enough to rule out all but the supernatural explanation? Again, no. I think the question should reflect that we're looking for good evidence, not any evidence. –  Scott Hamilton Apr 2 '11 at 12:29
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Though not an answer, the South Park episode The Biggest Douche in the Universe seems relevant here. In fact, that should probably be a tag. ;-) –  Konrad Rudolph Apr 2 '11 at 16:34
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@konrad I agree, just figured this was one of those skeptical "staple" issues, and I hadn't seen it here yet –  Monkey Tuesday Apr 2 '11 at 19:03
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I think that watching south park 6x15 "The biggest douche in the universe", will leave anybody in no doubt of the fact that John edward is a fraud. In the episode, it is shown that throwing common names to a large audience invariably succeeds in one member of the audience claiming the name belongs to their dead relative and then throwing vague buzzwords about ("I'm getting something about ... money") has them saying "yes! yes!" and then babbling on about the dead person. –  apoorv020 Apr 21 '11 at 14:38

1 Answer 1

up vote 17 down vote accepted

In a word: No.

His methods are the hallmark of Cold Reading. As listed at the end of that Wikipedia article on cold reading, he does also use all the other techniques to "validate" his performance, such as:

Confidence trick, Confirmation bias, Forer effect, Hot reading, Shut eye, Subjective validation, etc.

Granted, this isn't definitive "proof" of what he is doing, but the fact that anyone who is skilled at such techniques can achieve the same results without claiming to talk to the dead would be a strong indicator. Also, the predictability (Cold reading bingo) of the words John Edwards uses is another give away (as I once read, if he's talking to the dead, why does it sound like he's attempting to interpret a charade?).

This website "Demystifying John Edwards" also addresses his techniques, as well as alleges that he used outright fraud in the editing process:

it was edited so that my answer to another question was edited in after one of his questions. In other words, his question and my answer were deliberately mismatched.

This link is from the Committee of Skeptical Inquiry that did a relatively in-depth investigation of John Edward's claims. AGAIN you see that he is using well known techniques... And this references a well known expose done on Dateline that showed how pathetic John Edwards's attempts really are.

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Excellent answer. May I add that while of course, we cannot prove that John Edwards really uses cold reading and isn't indeed talking with the dead, the fact that all his accomplishments can be equally achieved by a cold reader, shows that his feats are not sufficient to demonstrate his abilities. It's like a person claiming to be able to read your mind, and all that person does for proof is performing a card trick. –  Lagerbaer Apr 2 '11 at 2:56
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Excellent point. Answer clarified. –  Larian LeQuella Apr 2 '11 at 3:05
    
The first half of this answer (in particular the comment addition) is very good. The last couple links however don't strike me as particularly... unbiased/informative, Demystifying in particular. Maybe I'm the only one who finds fault with both sides. It's obvious why it's a charged topic, however. –  Christopher Galpin Apr 2 '11 at 22:39
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Extra ordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I'm not sure he has ever provided even ordinary proof. –  Zachary K Apr 3 '11 at 13:53
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@zachary K well, he is an extraordinary douche –  Monkey Tuesday Apr 23 '11 at 14:29

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