Be Reasonable: Episode #005 – Julia Assante


Julia Assante has been working as a psychic and a medium since the 1970’s working in both private and delivering public workshops In the 1980’s she became involved with past life therapy which she believes can cure many ills.

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  1. #1 by Paul on May 29, 2013 - 00:02

    It’s fascinating to listen to this madwoman spouting her pseudononsense but didn’t we know she was a nutter beforehand? And why does your interviewer join in? How has this interview helped the world move forward from its backward state?

  2. #2 by Hayley Stevens on May 29, 2013 - 00:17

    Paul :
    It’s fascinating to listen to this madwoman spouting her pseudononsense but didn’t we know she was a nutter beforehand? And why does your interviewer join in? How has this interview helped the world move forward from its backward state?

    Firstly, I think it’s inappropriate and somewhat offensive to refer to anybody as a ‘madwoman’ or ‘nutter’ – and it’s not useful in the slightest.

    Secondly, neither myself or Marsh joined in… we simply conducted an interview as we normally would. We continued a discussion based around Julia’s beliefs and claims.

    Thirdly, the aim of this podcast is stated right at the very start of each episode which is the aim of this podcast. We talk to people who have a different world view to see what evidence they think supports their beliefs. We’ve never claimed the show will help ‘move forward’ anything.

    We also understand that some people will find this frustrating as they think we should be harsher with the guests, but that isn’t what we intend to do. I’m sure there are podcasts out there that will fulfill that need of yours.

  3. #3 by Gene Mille on May 29, 2013 - 02:35

    C’mon, Michael! What do you think biology is? Duh!

  4. #4 by Kompani101 on May 29, 2013 - 06:24

    Julia Assante is a councillor, at most, who allows her clients to express their misdiagnosed issues/medical conditions/beliefs and thereby feel some benefit through the interaction. Both parties gain, Ms Assante by having her misplaced understandings confirmed and the client by not having their misdiagnosed problem challenged. Having read about Ian Stephenson (https://www.theosophical.org/publications/1388) prior to this podcast his ‘evidence’ is based on hearsay and no actual scientific proof. The fact that claims are presented in a written paper from an academic does not mean that it is correct let alone ‘concrete proof’ as stated by Ms Assante. It is good to hear the ‘other’ side of an argument as it illustrates the breadth and depth of belief in woo.

  5. #5 by B. Root on May 29, 2013 - 09:47

    This woman sounds so sure of herself. So she must be right. Right?

  6. #6 by Martin on May 30, 2013 - 04:29

    Hayley Stevens :

    Paul :
    It’s fascinating to listen to this madwoman spouting her pseudononsense but didn’t we know she was a nutter beforehand? And why does your interviewer join in? How has this interview helped the world move forward from its backward state?

    Firstly, I think it’s inappropriate and somewhat offensive to refer to anybody as a ‘madwoman’ or ‘nutter’ – and it’s not useful in the slightest.
    Secondly, neither myself or Marsh joined in… we simply conducted an interview as we normally would. We continued a discussion based around Julia’s beliefs and claims.
    Thirdly, the aim of this podcast is stated right at the very start of each episode which is the aim of this podcast. We talk to people who have a different world view to see what evidence they think supports their beliefs. We’ve never claimed the show will help ‘move forward’ anything.
    We also understand that some people will find this frustrating as they think we should be harsher with the guests, but that isn’t what we intend to do. I’m sure there are podcasts out there that will fulfill that need of yours.

    This was an excellent interview and I thought both Hayley and Marsh asked excellent questions. Yes they could have drilled down further but the podcast would have become bogged down and we wouldn’t have heard the depth of the claims. This is my first listen so now I have to go listen to the others.

  7. #7 by Tracy M on May 30, 2013 - 14:22

    I enjoyed this episode. It seems some were annoyed with Ms. Assante’s self-confidence, but one would not expect otherwise. This is her vocation; it would seem disingenuous if she didn’t believe in what she was doing. As skeptics, should be a lesson for us all. We should avoid smugness… even if evidence is on our side.

    As to her puzzlement on the odd pronunciation of Bernard, must be a regional thing (Northern New England). Every Bernard I know pronounces their name in the way she finds odd.

  8. #8 by a different Julia on May 30, 2013 - 14:53

    I hope I’m not the only one who, for just a few moments, thought that the post title said “Julian Assange”.

  9. #9 by Bob on May 30, 2013 - 20:33

    Hayley Stevens :
    We also understand that some people will find this frustrating as they think we should be harsher with the guests, but that isn’t what we intend to do. I’m sure there are podcasts out there that will fulfill that need of yours.

    I don’t see where Paul actually expressed a need for a podcast which is harsher on woo than this one. But if he does have such a need, may I suggest my own favorite: Skeptics With a K . The Michael Marshall on that podcast is quite harsh on nonsense; and rightfully so.

  10. #10 by Fatnick on May 31, 2013 - 12:41

    Well done! Absolutely fascinating stuff. I thought You two did a tremendous job dealing with the whole cancer issue, which must never be an easy one to deal with n the context of this podcast.

  11. #11 by derek on June 1, 2013 - 23:22

    I was somewhat disappointed with this episode. I understand that the purpose of the show is to explore other ways of looking at the world, and to attempt to balance our natural skepticism, however, to give this lady the platform to purport her beliefs without an adequate debate left me perplexed. I think that it would be more more ballanced having Marsh and the guest on apposite sides of a debate, and Haley as the chair / adjudicator. That way the guest and March could propose and counter propose their hypothesis within a structured and adjudicated debate without resorting to a soto voce attack on the other (couple of times I heard Julie directly challenge Marsh’s beliefs in the course if her arguments). We are skeptics, we need proof before belief. Julia has absolute conviction in her beliefs, and i commend her for that, but if belief contradicts truth, more should be done to challange the belief.

  12. #12 by Frank on June 2, 2013 - 19:18

    Did anyone else think of Torchwood when she mentioned morphic fields?

  13. #13 by James on June 4, 2013 - 14:36

    The best thing about this series I think is that the interviewers take a back seat (no offence Michael and Hayley) allowing the interviewee to expound their beliefs. You really don’t need anything else. its fascinating to hear how someone can genuinely convince themselves they are the discoverers of new knowledge; Julia was giving a classic example of pseudo science, aping the sounds and phrasing of real science without the true content. Very like a cargo cult, in fact.
    When asked by Marsh to elaborate on how psychological trauma causes cancer, she responded with a rambling description of cancer gleaned from half understood TV and popular culture. Whenever she got stuck on a challenging question she would fall back on vague platitudes.
    These kinds of mediums always have anecdotes which if genuine would constitute absolute proof of survival after death. Yet strangely no Nobel prize has been given for this incredible discovery, Perhaps mainstream science is too close minded to accept these truths?

  14. #14 by MarkB on June 4, 2013 - 16:41

    I had to listen in 10 minute portions to avoid the burn!
    It is truly fascinating to hear from these folks. I’d like to understand more about how they arrived at their current view. Also how they go about assessing new information. Or how they approach the need to find out about something new but also mundane? Like how they decide where to go on holiday? Or which car to buy? Which toaster? What thought process they take, the extent to which they employ critical thinking skill to those types of things?

  15. #15 by Damian on June 4, 2013 - 17:31

    Wow she’s either a fraud or an idiot. It was buzzword soup for half her reasons. I nearly choked when she started using quantum.

  16. #16 by Peta on June 13, 2013 - 20:27

    Paul :
    It’s fascinating to listen to this madwoman spouting her pseudononsense but didn’t we know she was a nutter beforehand? And why does your interviewer join in? How has this interview helped the world move forward from its backward state?

    Paul, as we do not have evidence that the paranormal is real, then, until proven otherwise, the purveyors of it must be either:

    1) Lying charlatans
    2) People with a psychosis

    The real issue is sorting wheat from chaff…and how do we tell who is consciously aware that what they do is ‘wrong’?

    Mental health, in the west, has come a long way but needs to go further, but even then society would consider it wrong to call people out a ‘nutters’, folks shouting at pigeons in the park, believing in God, hypochondria, why are the psychic folks treated different to other possibly mentally ill conditions? Although what is ‘mentally ill’ is beyond the scope of even a Psychiatric Conference.

    We should tread carefully with them, those purveyors of the paranormal, if they are mentally ill then we can do great harm upon them. I say until proven to be fraud, a conscious, knowing fraud, that we look upon them all as having mental health issues.

    Sure skeptics cry out: “What about the harm they do?” Life is a risk, modern medicine and surgery is a risk, more people die or are harmed in the UK by modern medical interventions than by any ‘snake-oil’ or ‘woo’, perhaps we should ban modern interventions?

    As for belief in the ‘paranormal’. I have seen loved ones die from many things, like the affects of smoking, I would have smoking banned today and leave the ‘woo’ well alone. My father-in-law died of smoking related cancer, for months his knowledgeable GP kept fobbing him off as a worrier and hypochondriac, his White-Witch paranormal believing daughter kept saying he hasn’t long to live and the GP was wrong. Then, one day his persistence got him referred to a specialist, and he died – painfully – in five four weeks, diagnosis to death. The cancer was everywhere, if the doctor believed he was ill, maybe he could have had a better outcome with earlier diagnosis.

    My point is, he believed in modern medicine, the GP said he was a ‘worrier’ so he was, there was nothing wrong with him. Then with his horrendous treatment regime, he lived in a rural area and his early stage treatment meant traveling for hours in a hot ambulance in the summer, his treatment made him vomit all the time, blood often within it, but he still believed he was getting better…we could see, from virtually day one, his demise. I visited him every day but one, I saw him go from belief in the doctors, to someone who just wanted to die. He even said if he knew it was going to be like this, he would have preferred to have stayed at home and died, before the treatment he was still able to walk his dogs.

    I firmly believe that in his case, if he could have believed in something OTHER than modern medicine, his end would have been less stressful and would have possibly lived a bit longer. Heck, he could have gotten round to visiting everyone one last time and set his affairs straight. For me, I’d have rather he believed that some snake-oil would do him some good, than him undertake the stressful intervention that surely ended his life prematurely.

  17. #17 by Stevearoo on June 20, 2013 - 16:31

    Excellent interview and I do appreciate the idea of a non-confrontational approach, it makes an interesting change.

    On the issue of offensiveness it might be just me, but I find Julia Assante’s attitude and comments quite offensive. Surely if you intend to impart knowledge to people, then a basic level of respect for those people would (to me at least) require that you make reasonable efforts to make sure you have your facts straight. Her word salad approach and her bald statements, lacking any qualifiers, show a fundamental disrespect for her audience which to me (and quite possibly only me) borders on being offensive. A lack of ability when it comes to gathering and assessing evidence for extraordinary claims might be a reason for this offensiveness, but is it an excuse? This whole issue ramps up several gears when we bear in mind the fact that she is messing around in the minds of vulnerable people, some of them victims of some very serious crimes.

  18. #18 by NickT on June 22, 2013 - 21:27

    Hello Peta,

    I have just a couple of comments on your post, and I will keep them general, rather than referring to the specifics of your father-in-law. For the record, I too have personal experience of terminal illness in the family, and I’m sorry that the final days of your relative were not as comfortable as they could have been.

    Peta :
    Paul, as we do not have evidence that the paranormal is real, then, until proven otherwise, the purveyors of it must be either:
    1) Lying charlatans
    2) People with a psychosis

    There is a third option, which we must keep open, specifically that these paranormal abilities are real. As you note, we do not have evidence for their existence, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Don’t get me wrong, based on the current understanding, I do not think that the paranormal abilities as discussed in this interview exist, but logically it is not possible to declare them proven absolutely non-existent. This is a slightly pedantic point, and I would say that functionally we can declare these abilities non-existent, just not proven beyond any and all chance of repeal. Unfortunately many proponents of the paranormal hide behind this “we don’t know everything” line to prove that their unevidenced ‘thing’ must be real. This is of course nonsense, and not at all what I imply here.

    Peta :
    For me, I’d have rather he believed that some snake-oil would do him some good, than him undertake the stressful intervention that surely ended his life prematurely.

    In any aspect of medicine informed consent is the key. You don’t need to believe in some snake-oil in order to make a decision about what treatment you do, or do not have. If someone is making a decision about their treatment, they should have all the information about what that treatment will bring. In the case of making an end of life decision, it may well be a case of weighing up quality of life over quantity. I don’t know what decision I would make if I was faced with it, but I think I would want a reasonable balance of the two. This may mean I would choose no treatment. I don’t need to believe in (as you put it) snake oil to make these informed decisions.

    If someone is being misinformed with some pseudo scientific ‘cure/remedy’, this doesn’t help with making an informed decision.

    Sorry that this is a long reply, but I have seen people have to make those decisions about end of life, and what are important are the facts, not confusing the decision with snake-oil and false hopes.

    I wish you all the best.

  19. #19 by Alex Murdoch on June 25, 2013 - 23:15

    I honestly find it hard to listen to some of these interviews. I do my best to press on because I’m really interested in how Hayley and Marsh maintain their composure and come back with rational questions. This is the sign of great interviewers. It’s very nice to have you back on a podcast together.

  20. #20 by Ed on July 18, 2013 - 13:09

    I admire Hayley and Marsh a great deal. I certainly couldn’t have stuck to the format in that interview when she repeatedly made her claims about treating trauma from child abuse and curing cancer. But well done to the interviewers for their calm, considered tone. It’s a great premise and a great show which really draws out the structure of thinking of the interviewees in a way that more combative interviews probably wouldn’t.

  21. #21 by Kevin on October 16, 2014 - 17:41

    I just started listening to this podcast after a reference on a recent podcast of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.
    I really enjoyed the first few interviews. The people sounded genuinely sincere about their desire to be honest about their alleged talents and are concerned about not causing harm. This interview, however, is extremely painful to listen to. I’m sorry but I just have to say that it’s a tidal wave of woo. You would need to have a 36 hour discussion with a panel of experts in neuroscience, physics, and psychology to address every unsubstantiated claim that she makes in 40 minutes. She doesn’t seem to care about evidence that shows she could be causing psychological harm in her patients. This is what makes it so hard to feel any degree of compassion for this woman whereas it’s easy to empathize with the preceding interviewees who at least seemed to understand that they could be wrong.
    I do appreciate the (pardon the expression) spirit of the podcast and the necessity of fostering a welcome atmosphere for the guests (otherwise there might not be any in the future!) It’s a great educational resource providing an honest record of the way people rationalize their beliefs. I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the series. Good job!

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