Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hate Mail - "there's no evidence..."

The biggest lie of the James Randi cult is that there is no evidence that parapsychological phenomena are real.  Considering the relatively few scientific researchers in that area, the massive opposition to conducting research in that area and the unavailability of funds as compared to other areas of science dealing with minds, the evidence in published science is massive.   Dr. Dean Radin has an online database of published research in this area and other material, most of which which meets the requirement of being scientific evidence in any other field.  You can, of course, just ignore that or to do what the pseudo-skeptics always do,  move the goal posts for anything you don't like,  which is what materialists are forced to do whenever they don't like the results of experiments, entire careers in pseudo-skepticism are made that way, even academic careers, it would seem.   And the "skeptic" can always gull the media into promoting their side of things by implying the reporter or scribbler would reveal themselves as a fool and a superstitious idiot if they even look at the evidence.  The slogan that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is, of course, nothing like an objective standard, anyone can claim anything is too "extraordinary a claim" when they don't like it, look at the corporate promoted refusal to take both climate change science and the evidence of changing climates in that regard.  It is, of course, a violation of scientific reasoning to require different standards of evidence in different areas of research.  If standards regarding remote cognition are declared insufficient to demonstrate its presence by fiat, those standards can't, then, be held as valid in demonstrating any other phenomenon.  As I mention, below, applying the standards of the "skeptics" to another field would almost certainly obliterate its database.

My first serious regard of it began about twelve years ago by reading a paper published by Jessica Utts now of the University of California at Irvine, one of the world's most respected statisticians and experts in experimental design,   An Assessment of the Evidence of Psychic Functioning.  Her conclusion, after an extremely strong case is presented in the body of the paper states:

It is clear to this author that anomalous cognition is possible and has been demonstrated.   This conclusion is not based on belief, but rather on commonly accepted scientific criteria.   The phenomenon has been replicated in a number of forms across laboratories and cultures.  The various experiments in which it has been observed have been different enough that if some subtle methodological problems can explain the results, then there would have to be a different explanation for each type of experiment, yet the impact would have to be similar across experiments and laboratories.  If fraud were responsible, similarly, it would require an equivalent amount of fraud on the part of a large number of experimenters or an even larger number of test subjects.  

What is not so clear is that we have progressed very far in understanding the mechanism for anomalous cognition.  Senders do not appear to be necessary at all;  feedback of the correct answer may or may not be necessary.  Distance in time and space do not seem to be an impediment.  Beyond those conclusions, we know very little. 

I believe that it would be wasteful of valuable resources to continue to look for proof.   No one who has examined all of the data across laboratories, taken as a collective whole, has been able to suggest methodological or statistical problems to explain the ever-increasing and consistent results to date.  Resources should be directed to the pertinent questions about how this ability works.   I am confident that the questions are no more elusive than any other questions in science dealing with small to medium sized effects, and that if appropriate resources are targeted to appropriate questions, we can have answers within the next decade.

The pseudo-skeptic would now attack Utts' credibility, though her professional competence is certainly real.  You can compare it with that of James Randi, Paul Kurtz, most of the big name and little names of the "skepticism" industry.   They would also try to discredit what she says because she believes that these phenomena have been demonstrated, experimentally, to be real.  Of course they won't apply that standard for discrediting someone to their own side, all of who have an even stronger bias against even looking at evidence which is produced within the standards of science, never mind in trying to suppress even the attempt to find out if there is anything there.   The "skeptics" want there to be no serious, scientific look at these things, which leads me to think they're most afraid of them being real and demonstrable.   Even their most nearly scientific figures have tried to suppress evidence that was produced.

And, when you look at the research, when you read the critiques by the "skeptics" of those and the internal criticism of people within the field, her conclusions are quite reasonable and moderate.  You can compare her claims which are entirely within bounds of science with those of the scientific frauds like James Randi and Michael Shermer.   But the legitimately scientific way to do that would be to look at the most scientifically sophisticated critics have come up with by way of response to her.

That would be, primarily, what Ray Hyman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon said and, more revealingly did.   You can get a taste for that in reading his response to Utts' paper,  Evaluation of Program on Anomalous Mental Phenomena.   But you should also read Utts' response to Hyman, pointing out false and misleading claims made by Hyman as well as the response of Edwin C. May the lead investigator for the government-sponsored work and Director of the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory.  Note, especially, what his report says about the conduct of Ray Hyman when he was put in charge of an investigation into such research, especially his suppression of the report his committee had asked Robert Rosenthal to do because it supported the validity of some of the most highly controlled of the research.

He has, for more than half a century, come up with every single thing he could to keep people from taking this research seriously, everything from insisting that even the most rigorously controlled experiments, excluding chances for the remotest possibility of fraud were, none the less, open to fraud, to absurdly tenuous arguments of statistical error in analyzing the results.   When his objections have been reviewed, they have, one after another been answered in further refinements of experimental design and procedures to the most incredibly refined fact checking of the mathematics and all of his objections still result in a massively significant statistical demonstration that these phenomena are there.

Yet, as a person whose fund of fame and fortune and continuing career depends on his role as a "skeptic" Hyman has persisted in refusing to apply the normal rules of science to these areas of research, rules which, if they were applied to his field, psychology, would leave it with almost no body of supposed knowledge.   Almost no psychological research that is published in its journals and taught at universities by professors like Hyman is conducted with the rigor in experimental design and analysis that the experiments he rejects have been. Almost no psychological research has been subjected to a fraction of the exacting criticism which parapychological research has been the focus of and little of it, if so analyzed, would stand.   Yet even the most outlandishly unsupported of claims made by psychologists on the basis of their experiments, many of which don't even attain the bottom rung of what is needed to do valid research, are taught as being generally or even universally characteristic of the human population and are widely accepted by the credulous media and public on the basis of the presumed scientific authority and identity of the psychologists who did, published and teach the results.

If Hyman and the other psychologists in the pseudo-skeptical industry applied their own standards for what constitutes valid methodology to their own field, they wouldn't have any field left to stand in.   And it is remarkable how many of the big names in pseudo-skepticism either are psychologists or are in related professions, such as evolutionary psychology, which is even less wedded to rigorous scientific practice, making claims on the basis of no relevant evidence, whatsoever.

The role that financial interest, interest in becoming famous and well known and influential plays in the "Skepticism" industry should be looked at because I can't think of anything else that could account for the behavior and claims of someone like Ray Hyman.   He will never admit that the scientific research in this area has more than met the normal and even extraordinary requirements of science at its most minutely controlled, analyzed, and corrected to meet objections, both reasonable and, in many cases, quite unreasonable.    His entire public career would have shown him to be like those late medieval Ptolemaic professors of astronomy who refused to look at the evidence Galileo produced instead of a figure of objective, disinterested scientific inquiry.  Like those 17th century professors, to have looked at the evidence would mean their entire career was misguided, they would need to scrap all of it.   As Dean Radin pointed out, he'll never admit it.   I think a more fundamental reason that he and others reject the science done in this area is that they fear that their materialist-fundamentalist, atheistic concept of reality couldn't stand there being even one of these psychic phenomena being demonstrated to be real.   And, as I've said, their materialism, being an absolutely monistic system, it couldn't.  One demonstrated exception to their world view destroys the entire thing.

At the bottom, they are exactly like the most extreme of Biblical fundamentalists whose faith is so tied to the King James translation of the Bible that their entire world would be shattered by admitting the reality of evolution.   They are two sides of the same coin, variations on the same kind of rigid, fundamentalist personality.  Which probably accounts for why they can't see those who disagree with them as anything but a covert member of the enemy camp.   Their fundamentalist mentality is so rigid that they can't even imagine people who aren't trapped in it, normal people, who are quite able to accept reality, even reality as demonstrated by statistical trends that seem to contradict what they take as everyday reality.  Even reality which sometimes is entirely unexpected and unexplained.  Which, in most of our lives, is what we live with every day.   What fundamentalists don't want, above all, is evidence that challenges their pre-existing biases, they will reject that at all cost.   What fundamentalists want is anything, no matter how shoddy and dishonest, that confirms them in their beliefs.   There are no worse examples of that, none whose influence is more destructive than the "skeptics" who can pretend that they are not doing what they are doing because, you see, they're the "skeptics".


  1. Physics posits 'dark matter" and "super strings" and "multiple universes" because, they say, the math demands it.

    And probably it does. But the evidence for these things is in the math, in the models; not in observations.

    Observations that produce enough information to argue for a model not currently accepted are supposed to lead to a new model. Physics even posits evidence (so I understand) of particles which react as if they are linked together, even though they are separated by great distances. The particles are affected as if they are linked, but no link to them has been found or understood; still, the existence of such particles is accepted as sound physics.

    But the acceptance of anomalous cognition cannot be accepted because....? I'm not sure it shatters the foundations of scientific knowledge any more than Einstein did with relativity (linking time and space) or quantum mechanics did (finding particles that act as if they are connected even though they can't be). Indeed, quantum mechanics defies our "common sense," but we are told it is science, so it must be true.

    But anomalous cognition cannot be science, so it cannot be true. Funny, that. Especially since the proof of it is in the math (statistics).

  2. Speaking of two particles with no apparent physical connection: my mother has an identical twin. Decades ago, my mother sat bolt upright in bed (according to my father; I wasn't living at home by then) and said something was wrong with her sister. She was very distressed and certain something had happened, though my father figured it was probably just a bad dream.

    Hours later (this was the era before cell phones), she got a call from her sister: they (she and her husband) had been travelling with friends and the car had overturned into a ditch. He had to walk back to a farmhouse to get to a telephone, she stayed in the car, not seriously hurt but badly shaken up, so it had taken hours before they could call any family. My mother, it turned out, had sat up in the bed at the moment the car went out of control.

    Anomalous cognition? Too small a sampling to be scientific proof; but are there more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy? Life continuously humbles our arrogance that we understand all we need to understand.