The God Helmet ®
The God Helmet Has Not been debunked!
Some people have tried to claim that the God Helmet has been "debunked".
This is not true.
This claim is based on a few arguments, and we will look at them below.
Fiction: The magnetic fields are not strong enough.
Fact: There has been lots of research with low-intensity magnetic fields. See the Evidence
Quote: "The reader can see 10 examples of magnetic stimulation studies below. Only independent studies are listed. The magnetic stimulation reported in them run from a quarter of the field strengths used in TMS (1 Tesla) to less than a millionth of that value."
Fiction: God Helmet Experiments have not been replicated.
Fact: A God Helmet Experiment has been replicated. See the Evidence
Quote: "A pair of researchers in Brazil stimulated the temporal lobes of their subjects with fluctuating magnetic fields (also used in the God Helmet experiments), and then analyzed the words the subjects used to describe their experiences. Working independently, they found that the subjects who did not receive any stimulation (the control subjects) spoke about their experiences differently than the ones who did receive the magnetic stimulation. Published in the Journal Of Consciousness Exploration and Research, the report said: "Analysis of the subjects' verbal reports, using Whissel's Dictionary of Affect in Language, revealed significant differences between subjects and controls, as well as less robust effects for suggestion and expectation."
Fiction: God Helmet Experiments didn't use controls or double-blind conditions.
Fact: Controls and double-blind conditions are a standard part of the God Helmet Experiments. See the evidence
Quote: "Let me underscore that we have applied double-blind protocols in our 'sensed presence' studies, (to make the differences in stimulation explicit) by quoting another of our papers: 'Under double blind conditions, the subjects who were exposed to the burst-firing pattern presented over both hemispheres or the right hemisphere reported more sensed presences than those exposed to the sham-field [control] or to left hemispheric presentations. Subjects in the latter condition reported fewer sensed presences than the sham-field controls. (Booth, 2005 B)'
Quote: We observed double-blind conditions (access the research report): 'All participants were tested by experimenters who were not familiar with the purpose of the experiment.' 'The participants were told that the experiment was concerned with relaxation.'
Fiction: Persinger's God Helmet results can be explained by the suggestibility of the participants.
Fact: Suggestibility was measured and taken into account, and doesn't account for Persinger's results. See The Evidence.
Quote: "For many of our experiments that created the sensed presence, we measured suggestibility directly using a well-established protocol (Spiegel, 1978). We found that analyzing the data for the person's hypnotizability score did not reduce the intensity of the sensed presence produced by the specific magnetic field pattern. The key paper was called 'Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by specific patterns of applied magnetic fields not by suggestibility: re-analysis of 19 experiments'. It was published in the International Journal of Neuroscience. Another response was published in Neuroscience Letters.
Fiction: Richard Dawkins' God Helmet Session shows that it doesn't work on Skeptics
Fact: Dawkins had been drinking before His God Helmet Session. See the Evidence.
Quote: "he had been drinking. The scent was easily noticed. In addition, he was obliged to sit in hot lights within the chamber for almost an hour as the BBC director managed several television studio details before the experiment began. This forced us to deviate from our typical protocol where the person walks into the dimly lit chamber and we begin the experiment within a few minutes. We have found that intoxication, particularly ethanol, interferes with the experimental induction of the sensed presence. That is why we always employed an EEG monitoring at the time of the exposure. If the brain state is not optimal, similar to the calm or relaxation that facilitates meditation or prayer, the fields do not optimally interact."
Both Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptical Enquirer) and Susan Blackmore, noted skeptics, have had strong responses to the God Helmet.
These are the principle arguments, and none of them are well-founded. Click on the links to go to pages where the evidence, with references - can be seen in full.
Click here for a comprehensive reply to God Helmet criticisms.