Saturday, March 30, 2013

Footnotes to Yesterday's Posts

Here is how Dennis Rawlins presents Martin Gardner's role in the sTARBABY scandal, along with other upper eschalon members of CSICOP.

 -  In the letter Randi agreed I was right in arguing that the Gauquelin test had been ill-designed and should not have been done. Now that the whole thing had backfired, Kurtz -- out of his depth when he attempted a scientific experiment -- was clearly responsible. Randi also criticized Abell for snooping into my background. If this was the way CSICOP business was going to be conducted, then CSICOPs were no better than the parapsychologists who covered up their mistakes. Randi asked why my expenses to the Washington meeting were not being paid  and concluded by admitting that he was "mad," saying he seldom wrote such a letter except to parapsychologists. He assured Kurtz that no one besides him, Martin Gardner and me would see it. 
    I called Randi on the 21st and urged him to phone Kurtz to get his immediate reaction to the letter. For obvious reasons I didn't want to give Kurtz a lot of time to concoct fresh excuses. 
    After he had talked with Kurtz Randi called me back on the 23rd saying only that KZA had still not confirmed my calculations. Randi's call, which indicated trouble was brewing, seems to have inspired Abell. Two days later, using the method explained to him on October 5, he got the same answers as I had. He phoned me the news that evening (October 25) and urged that I do an expectation-curve for the American sample. I suggested he do the math. As a matter of fact l'd already done it myself and had mailed copies of the results to Gardner and Randi two days earlier. 
    On October 23 I had sent some background documents concerning sTARBABY to Randi and Gardner. Gardner wrote back six days later, chuckling about what an incredibly hilarious foul-up the whole thing had turned out to be. To a further packet of documents he repeated his feeling of deep amusement but he wasn't interested in doing anything about it. 

 -  Kurtz wanted to know if I intended to attack sTARBABY at the press conference. When I refused to make any promises, Kurtz grew more furious. We couldn't have a "schism," he said. 
    Council met the next day at Councilor Phil Klass' apartment. I noticed that Randi was his usual friendly self when Kurtz wasn't around but when he was within earshot Randi made different noises. He repeatedly cracked loudly, "Drink the Kool-Aid, Dennis." (This was shortly after the Jonestown Kool-Aid mass suicide.) During the afternoon meeting, when we established a rule for expelling Councilors, Randi bellowed that it is called the "Rawlins rule." 
    Randi meant, of course, that expulsion could come for public dissent. No other Councilor present (Gardner was not) said a word to suggest any other inference. I might add that two months later Randi foolishly boasted about how he "had to work to keep Dennis in line" in Washington, having convinced himself, apparently, that his threats had kept me quiet.

-  Randi continued to say nothing except at one point he suggested that I not answer even the direct questions of a reporter at the upcoming press conference. 
    Kurtz wouldn't admit that sTARBABY was a loss. He fell back on the alleged support of the absent Abell and Zelen. so I reminded him of our November 19 phone conversation in which he had tried privately to blame the whole mess on them I then produced and read Councilor Gardner's letter calling the Control Test a hilarious mess At this point Kurtz sprang from his seat and roared, "Well, you're wrong!" He grabbed the letter, glanced at it in disbelief and announced that Gardner didn't know what he was talking about. 

-  During this period Randi would occasionally phone up for a friendly "just-happened-to-be-thinking-of-you" chat. l suspected he was trying to draw out of me statements of anger or of dissatisfaction. Despite his private rages Randi wished to make no public waves. When I asked him why, he repeated the tired old alibi that the occultist kooks would whoop it up if Kurtz fell. But he claimed that he had dressed down Kurtz (privately) in Washington in December. He stated without qualification that Gardner Hyman and he all supported my scientific position on the sTARBABY mess. (I knew, however, that he was telling all inquiring Fellows that a little old nonstatistician like himself just couldn't understand the problem.)

-  I also made an offer which, in view of all that had happened, was about as forgiving as one could possibly be: I said that Council would have no more trouble with sTARBABY if Skeptical Inquirer would publish the dissents of those Councilors who knew the truth about it -- the same suggestion made to Frazier a month earlier in regard to publishing the statistician-Councilor's referee report. They were not interested . 
    I heard nothing further. Even my November 6 note to Martin Gardner, asking him if he planned to be at the meeting, went unanswered. 
    As might be expected, at the December 15, 1979, meeting Kurtz (who never really believed I wasn't coming) carefully held a closed-door minipress conference that was kept a secret even from some attending Councilors until they were in the room and the doors were closing. 
    Equally surprising to some Councilors was the decision, made that same day, to hold an "election." [16]  No prior announcement had been made -- which violates every established code of parliamentary procedure. 

footnote 16] Gardner told me on November 23, 1980, that there had been no election, just a boot (the official minutes, dated Januari 8, do not even mention the matter), adding a week later that since Kurtz owns the CSICOP mailing list, parliamentary rules are "crap."

- Along the same line, I received a January 5, 1980, letter from Abell, four solid pages of "gush" (Abell's word). I felt I was in danger of spiritual diabetes from the syrup that had been poured over me all through 1979. (The funniest inundation had come from, of all people, Gardner, at Randi's behest.) The truth is, my admiring "friends," who "reluctantly" (Randi's adverb) voted my ejection at the December 15 meeting, had a long argument at this very meeting trying to identify the boob responsible for getting me onto the Council in the firstplace!

All of this was public knowledge from the publication of Rawlin's sTARBABY expose in October of 1981.  Yet Martin Gardner enjoyed a status in the culture of American science which was at odds with his behavior in confronting a major scandal in the "Skepticism" industry that had made him famous.  Given his frequently attacking scientists such as J. B. Rhine on implications of incompetence and dishonesty, he got away with massive hypocrisy as well s participating, passively, in the cover-up of a scandal in a group he was part of.  And, as can be seen in the above excerpts, he was far from the only one.

The media, when it writes about parapsychology lazily consults such "experts" as James Randi and the writings of Martin Gardner and other "Skeptics" because they know that anything else will invite attacks by the "Skeptics".  The role that laziness and cowardice has in maintaining the taboo of looking at the serious research into this is a pressing issue.  It is that the oil and other extraction industries use exactly the same tactics as the "Skepticism" industry that makes this even more important than a mere interest in honesty and telling the truth.  The industrial attack on legitimate research was pioneered by the "Skeptics".

The "Skepticism" industry really is an industry, providing many of the big names in the effort an income and fame.  In some cases, such as the extremely sleazy James Randi, it has made him the recipient of a small fortune and a reputation entirely unsupported by his record.  I will be writing on that record in the future.

One of the things my most recent look into the record of Martin Gardner has led me to conclude is that his competence in statistical analysis was probably a lot less than he was able to pass off in written form.  It could account for some of his reluctance to face opponents and even supporters in a public venue.  If he had been challenged by those he was attacking, without recourse to reference materials, I really suspect he would have been shown, publicly,  to be something of a fraud as well. No one can be competent in more than a small area of mathematics, the more complex that mathematics, the more involved it is with applications, the harder it is to obtain and maintain credibility in it.   While Gardner was hardly incompetent in mathematics, I doubt his knowledge of statistics was up to the task of attacking the work of scientists who, clearly, were far more competent in statistics.  I wonder what a close inspection by truly competent and informed reviewers of his written record would show in that regard.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Orlando di Lasso Lamentations of Jeremiah Second Day

A Devil's Advocate In the Case of the Canonization of Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner vies with others, such as Corliss Lamont and Paul Kurtz as the "godfather" of the "Skepticism" movement.  Gardner was probably more famous than either of them because he spent many years as the writer of Scientific American's Mathematical Games column.  He was also an early popularizer of the modern style pseudo-skeptical debunkery as a replacement for refutation based on evidence and analysis.  In short, he was a major proponent of political as opposed to scientific suppression of research into parapsychology, all while pretending to uphold and idolizing the highest standards of science.   He relished the use of witty put down in place of methodological and analytical critique, depending on the shared prejudices of his allies and those who could be won over to his program of a priori rejection.   That is what constitutes, by far, the majority of the  journalistic and cultural response to scientific study of parapsychology.   It is far easier to deride that research than it is to understand it.  Gardner openly and explicitly stated that to be his intention when he parroted Mencken's idea that one horselaugh is worth a thousand syllogisms.  Which is hardly the basis on which science is supposed to be done.

Gardner was also not above outright lying, claiming that there was an enormous and decades long body of evidence countering what was published by Rhine and others who conducted research into telepathy and other forbidden topics*.   The experimental record published in peer-reviewed journals is characterized by a methodological and quantitative rigor which was not only unusual for the social science but which surpassed enormous amounts of science Gardner and his allies accepted as valid because it didn't conflict with their ideological programs.   I'd guess that the research about self-deception referred to with extraordinary casualness by the pseudo-skeptics isn't nearly as rigorously conducted as what it is used to debunk.

The extraordinary evidence demanded by "Skeptics" was produced, extraordinary in its ever increasing rigor of method in response to criticism and in the calculated probability of its results.   There is little to no research into psychology that can match the rigor of much of the published research into parapsychology.   There is no area of research which has been subjected to more rigorous external and internal criticism, addressing and correcting the discovered flaws.   As Gardner repeatedly claimed that meager record of opposition research matched that massive record, it simply didn't exist.

When Martin Gardner died the parapsychologist George Hansen posted an online obituary that was the opposite of what Gardner, himself, would have written for a prominent, scientific parapsychologist.   Hansen was fair and charitable, acknowledging the usefulness of some of Gardner's critiques while noting in the most measured terms the less than honest character of a lot of it.    In fact Hansen's critique of pseudo-skepticism is never anything but entirely, at times overly fair. I can certainly appreciate Hansen's measured approach, even if I think he is overly charitable to Gardner.  To contrast Hansen you could read Gardner's comments on any number of serious researchers, replacing valid criticism with ridicule, even posthumous cruelty and in the case of Russell Targ's family, ridiculing them in the face of the fatal illness of his daughter.

I hadn't read what Hansen wrote about Gardner in his book The Trickester and The Paranormal until I followed up a link provided in the online obituary.  As always, Hansen was entirely fair and measured in sizing up Gardner's anti-scientific campaigning, while noting some serious lapses that would be considered to entirely discredit any researcher into parapsychology.  Most shocking were the notable lapses in statistical practice by the Mathematical Games columnist.  Here is what Hansen had to say on that:

A most surprising series of mistakes is found in his comments on the statistics of the Stepanek work. His remarks reveal an ignorance and carelessness entirely unexpected from someone who has written so clearly on probability and someone so honored by mathematicians. For instance, on page 67 of How Not to Test a Psychic he cites a study where Stepanek achieved 2636 hits out of 5000 trials giving a deviation from chance of 136, but Gardner claims that this is very close to chance level. In fact, as the original report states, that score gives a z = 3.85 with a p = .00012 (2-tailed). This is a very significant result, and anyone familiar with these kinds of calculations, even seeing just the raw score, should immediately recognize the outcome to be significant. It is hard to understand how Gardner made this mistake. 

This is not the only such error; on page 98 he cites a series with 225 hits in 400 trials, 25 hits above chance, and he again claims this to be at chance level, which clearly it is not (p = .007, one-tailed). Ironically, in the paragraph immediately preceding this claim, Gardner cites an earlier Stepanek series with 400 hits out of 800 trials. He goes on to say that this “tends to cast suspicion on the reliability of the data” because the result was exactly at chance. He correctly gives the probability of obtaining exactly that score (p = .028). This is of marginal significance at best, and the value is much larger than those p values he incorrectly claimed were at chance. 

This is not an isolated example, and throughout his book, Gardner voices suspicion of any score close to the expected mean and suggests that there may be some problem with the data. Of those instances I noticed, all those of which he was suspicious had associated probability values of .028 or greater and some as high as .09. There were hundreds of runs with Stepanek, the large majority not particularly close to the exact mean chance value. Gardner gives the reader no reason whatever to suspect that the number of scores very close to the expected mean was any greater than chance would allow. He could have made a calculation to address the matter, but he failed to do so. His complaints are simply examples of selective reporting, a well known statistical fallacy.  

 Several places in the book Gardner admits that he had friends do calculations for him. Surprisingly, those were very simple computations that are typically taught the first few weeks of any introductory class in statistics. Ironically, back in 1979, Gardner was interviewed and asked about mathematics in parapsychology. He stated “I’m going to do a column that will discuss this whole aspect of contemporary parapsychology, and the need for a more sophisticated understanding of some of the statistics involved.”

As I said, even a few of the errors and shoddy practices Martin Gardner got away with would be considered as definitively discrediting a parapsychologist, Gardner, himself has attacked Rhine and others on far less than that.   If it wasn't bad enough, Hansen then shows that Gardner's grasp of scientific practice was seriously flawed:

Statistics is not the only area where Gardner is less capable than might be expected. His comments on more general scientific matters also reveal deficits. For instance, he asserted that “There is no way a skeptic can comment meaningfully on the Honorton and Schmidt experiments, because there is no way, now that the tests are completed, to know exactly what controls were in force.”18 In fact, since that statement was made, a number of skeptical psychologists have published assessments of both Honorton’s and Schmidt’s work. Similar evaluations are made in all other areas of science and have been for decades. Journal articles contain a great deal of information that allows assessment, and that is why the details are published. Reviewers frequently contact authors when additional information is required. This happens in all sciences. Gardner was amazingly uninformed about how scientific research is actually conducted, reported, and evaluated. 

He sums up his section dealing with the scientific lapses of Gardner with this:

Gardner is also sometimes beyond his ken when he discusses technical and theoretical issues of parapsychology. He has complained that PK effects in experiments typically rely upon statistical deviations for detection rather than direct movements of mechanical objects. That objection is laden with assumptions about how psi works. Vast amounts of research demonstrate that psi does not act like a mechanical force, and several plausible theoretical explanations have been presented to explain that. Gardner seems totally unaware of them. Yet when parapsychologists respond to his uninformed remarks he replies offering gratuitous comments such as “I find it puzzling that Rao and Palmer cannot understand such simple reasoning.”

That last quote is typical of how Gardner dealt with those who refuted what he said.  He took an imperious tone which was based in his reputation and fame, not dealing directly with the criticism.  There is almost always a slipperiness in what he says, implying, deriding, mocking, which is the opposite of what science and reason are supposed to be.  As with virtually all of the "Skeptical" literature, he relies on appeals to the prejudice of his intended audience, the tone taken by CSICOP, James Randi and even Dennis Rawlins as he exposed the scientific and mathematical incompetence of organized "Skepticism".

The general style of his criticisms is unlike that found in scientific journals. His are often biting, derisive, personal, and peppered with words such as “laughable,” “ridiculous,” with allusions to “youthful indiscretions,” and references to parapsychologists as “Gellergawkers.” He makes liberal use of innuendo. The prestige endowed by his long association with Scientific American, coupled with the low status of his targets, allow him tactics that otherwise would be considered reprehensible. He is aware of it, and he frankly acknowledged that he and his colleagues “felt that when pseudoscience is far enough out on the fringes of irrationalism, it is fair game for humor, and at times even ridicule.”25 Gardner popularized H. L. Mencken’s aphorism “one horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms,” using it as an epigraph for his Science: Good, Bad and Bogus, making it something of a motto for debunkers.

Earlier in his study of Gardner, Hansen notes:

Much of his criticism of psychical research focuses on possibilities of cheating. He has an ability to quickly spot methods magicians might use in overcoming controls. His attacks are usually on the mark, but they are not always recognized as such by those whom he criticizes, investigators who typically have no knowledge of conjuring. Nearly all of Gardner’s criticisms have been leveled at reports of individuals gifted with psychic powers. He avoids commenting on experiments that test groups of ordinary people who claim no special abilities, though such studies comprise the bulk of formal parapsychological research. The problem of deception is much less severe in research with groups than with investigations of a talented individual.

Given that most of the rigorously controlled scientific research into parapsychology consists of the study of groups of subjects, analyzed statistically,  Gardner's choices in what to attack is planned to avoid honestly dealing with the results of that research.  By the time Hansen says, "His extensive sarcasm and ridicule should alert readers that something other than detached, dispassionate analysis is involved in his critiques,"  it is pretty apparent that Gardner's enormous reputation was wielded by him for some reason other than a desire to follow evidence, no matter where that led.  This is true of everyone who inserts their ideological program into science.  The most unusual thing about Gardner is that he wasn't an atheist while doing that.  Hansen rather exhaustively deals with that, coming up with theories about his real motives.  As convincing as some of those are, I will just advise you to read the passage he published online and note that I intend to read his book.

* An example is found in Gardner's NYTRB review mentioned in my last post:

For thirty years professional psychologists, using sophisticated modern techniques, have been trying to duplicate the experiments of the parapsychologists, and they remain unconvinced.

But, as Dean Radin noted more than three decades after that:

However, the psi controversy is different in one important respect. The vast majority of skeptics often write about the plausibility of various alternative hypotheses, but they almost never test their ideas. This “armchair quarterbacking” is especially true of the current generation of psi skeptics, the vast majority of whom have made no original research contributions to this topic. 

Their reasoning is simple: If you start from the position that an effect cannot exist, then why bother going to all the time and expense to actually study it? It makes more sense to use every rhetorical trick in the book to convince others that your opinion is correct, and that all the evidence to the contrary is somehow flawed. This may seem like a perfectly reasonable strategy, but it is not science. It is much closer to an argument based on faith, like a religious position. The fact that most skeptics do not conduct counter-studies to prove their claims is not well known. For example, in 1983 [almost twenty years after the review above] the well known skeptic Martin Gardner wrote the following:

How can the public know that for fifty years skeptical psychologists have been trying their best to replicate classic psi experiments, and with notable unsuccess [sic]? It is this fact more than any other that has led to parapsychology’s perpetual stagnation. Positive evidence keeps coming from a tiny group of enthusiasts, while negative evidence keeps coming from a much larger group of skeptics.

As Honorton points out, "Gardner does not attempt to document this assertion, nor could he. It is pure fiction. Look for the skeptics’ experiments and see what you find.” In addition, there is no “larger group of skeptics.” There are perhaps 10 to 15 skeptics who have accounted for the vast bulk of the published criticisms.

A Field Guide to Skepticism:  From The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I have posted a preliminary rewrite of the piece I mistakenly posted in draft yesterday (see below).  I have a lot more material that could go into it, looking closely at the real record of the "Skeptics"  provides an enormous and little discussed goldmine of that kind of material.  I will probably do another major editing tonight.  I apologize for this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lying For Science: The Taboo 3

Note: As I pointed out yesterday, this piece was published in draft form by mistake. I will be working on it today and will post more final versions of it later. I apologize for this.   Note:   I use the term "Skepticism" to refer to the pseudo-skeptics and the industry they've set up to promote their ideology.

After I posted the piece last week about PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne's successful campaign to get TED to suppress the TED talk by Rupert Sheldrake, I went back to re-read what they've said about him before.  Having read some of what Sheldrake has written in the past and having listened to his suppressed TEDtalk a couple of times, I am left with the impression that neither Myers nor Coyne, not to mention Sean Carroll, is, actually, familiar with what Sheldrake has said.   If you could ask them cold and unprepared, I doubt that any of them could give you accurate answers about what Sheldrake has said about much of anything.   I do believe that they all know what they're supposed to think about Sheldrake or, indeed any person or idea they believe would be placed on a "Skeptical" list of prohibited topics.   Having looked very hard at the "Skepticism" industry over the past few years, that is typical of how it operates, especially among the big name "Skeptics".  I will point out, again, that this standard of intellectual practice is in keeping with Myers' "Courtier's Reply", in which knowing nothing about such topics is deemed to be sufficient for the great and sciency.

Myers has lied about Sheldrakes' experiments in the past,  misrepresenting experiments sound enough to be published in peer reviewed journals as "a Fortean exercise in collecting odd anecdotes and unexplained phenomena".   His further charge that,  "His ‘experiments’ are exercises in gullibility, anecdote, and sloppy statistics" would have never been made by someone who had actually read the papers documenting them.  Sheldrake has demonstrated his competence in methodology and analysis in a long list of conventinal research, You can compare the list of papers Sheldrake I gave in my last post on the topic, linked to above, to that of P.Z Myers to judge which of them has a more extensive record of actually producing science.   Myers' scientific publication record seems to peter out about the same year he began his career in ideological blogging c. 2002.  It strikes me as having been somewhat modest before that, perhaps the most modest thing about him.  Sheldrake is still publishing research in reviewed journals as Myers' writing career  is mostly dedicated to spewing ideological invective.  That is also a well known career path in the "Skepticism"/atheism industry.

Rupert Sheldrake has documented similar instances in which Michael Shermer, James Randi, and other big name "Skeptics" have made statements out of demonstrated ignorance of what he's actually said.   Sheldrake has shown in several instances that they have publicly lied about it.

His report of how Richard Dawkins and his supporting media operation act  could stand as a template of "Skeptical" habits as well (underlining is by me):

We then agreed that controlled experiments were necessary. I said that this was why I had actually been doing such experiments, including tests to find out if people really could tell who was calling them on the telephone when the caller was selected at random. The results were far above the chance level.

The previous week I had sent Richard copies of some of my papers, published in peer-reviewed journals, so that he could look at the data.

Richard seemed uneasy and said, "I don’t want to discuss evidence". "Why not?" I asked. "There isn’t time. It’s too complicated. And that’s not what this programme is about." The camera stopped.

The Director, Russell Barnes, confirmed that he too was not interested in evidence. The film he was making was another Dawkins polemic.

I said to Russell, "If you’re treating telepathy as an irrational belief, surely evidence about whether it exists or not is essential for the discussion. If telepathy occurs, it’s not irrational to believe in it. I thought that’s what we were going to talk about. I made it clear from the outset that I wasn’t interested in taking part in another low grade debunking exercise."

Richard said, "It’s not a low grade debunking exercise; it’s a high grade debunking exercise."

In that case, I replied, there had been a serious misunderstanding, because I had been led to believe that this was to be a balanced scientific discussion about evidence. Russell Barnes asked to see the emails I had received from his assistant. He read them with obvious dismay, and said the assurances she had given me were wrong. The team packed up and left.

For anyone who has heard the word "evidence" repeated by"Skeptic"/atheists as if it were a term and concept they had a copyright on, the demonstrated disinterest that they have in actual evidence is one of a number of glaring hypocrisies endemic to the ideology.

Yet the great force of truth and science that the "Skepticism" industry passes itself off as being, goes on without correcting their dishonest record or distancing themselves from the "Skeptic" who has violated their stated standards of conduct.  I will be writing specifically about James Randi, probably the biggest fraud in the long line of celebrated figures of pseudo-Skepticism later.

The depths of the fraud that is the "Skepticism" industry has a long history, especially in its modern incarnation,  going back to the very beginning.

When the extreme skeptic, downright obnoxious atheist and founding member of CSICOP, Denis Rawlins, wrote his expose of CSICOP's quite enormous  sTARBABY scandal he tore the false front off of the most famous "Skeptics" organization, proving it to be dedicated to ideological promotion at the expense of the truth.    His account was later confirmed by Richard Kamman, a sitting member of CSICOP when he wrote his own account (The True (Dis)believers).

One of the more jaw dropping revelations made by both Rawlins and Kammann was that some of the bigger names in that "Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal" were entirely ignorant of statistics.   Paul Kurtz,  James Randi and Phil Klass (the last one assigned by CSICOP to write a hit job on Rawlins).*  All were entirely ignorant of the very thing they would need to know to have an informed opinion of scientific research they were attacking.   Even more shocking was the demonstrated statistical incompetence of two of the principles in the scandal,  scientists at some of the most prestigious universities,  George Abell and Marvin Zelen, whose professional work dealt with statistics.   And, as Kammann said, there was no excuse that the entire line of conduct was mere bungling:

Michel Gauquelin had already run into one group of irrational skeptics in the Belgian Para Committee who, upon unexpectedly confirming the Mars effect, dismissed their results. They fastened on the fact that babies are not born equally often during the 24 hours of the day and supposed that this could produce a spurious Mars effect. In effect, they suggested that everybody, not just sports champions, has a Mars effect.

Dennis Rawlins, then on the Council of CSICOP and its astrology subcommittee, checked this argument out mathematically and found it to be irrelevant. Nevertheless, Zelen, Kurtz and Abell grabbed the Belgian theory and publicly challenged Gauquelin to produce a control group of nonchampions. Michel and Francoise Gauquelin promptly accepted this "definitive test" as the trio called it and, as Rawlins predicted, won hands down. There was no Mars effect for ordinary people.

George Abell sensibly wrote Paul Kurtz saying the Gauquelins had won that round, and he suggested getting on with the new test on American athletes. Rawlins used this "smoking gun" letter as proof that the trio knew the true situation right from the start, but the case is not strong. Abell specifically asks in the letter what Zelen saw in the data. Meanwhile, as I described in Part 1, Zelen fancied he saw two anomalies in the data that suggested a biased sample. In my "subjective validation" scenario, Zelen's erroneous statistics became the starting point for the trio's private belief that the Gauquelins had probably cheated. By the time the paper got to print, Zelen's skeptical approach had replaced Abell's; although the trio did not openly accuse the Gauquelins of fraud, they smothered the victory under a blanket of bogus side issues, partly achieved by deleting the favorable Mars results for female champions.

Against an "innocent goofs" theory, the trio was warned before publication that their statistics were wrong, once by Michel Gauquelin and once by Elizabeth Scott, Professor of Statistics at Stanford University. (Rawlins was not consulted.) Even worse, after the paper came out, neither Scott nor Gauquelin could get space in The Humanist for a reply.

Rawlins conclusively shows that the CSICOPs who were engaged in it were less competent in statistics than Michel Gauquelin, the neo-astrologer they were attacking.   As someone whose B in undergraduate course in statistics left me feeling inadequate,  it scandalized me to find out that "Skeptics" as famous as James Randi and Paul Kurtz were entirely incompetent in a way that entirely discredited what they had to say on this subject.

The incompetence demonstrated by James Randi, Paul Kurtz, et al would leave them equally incompetent to judge the scientific study of parapsychology.  It is impossible to even intelligently reject that without understanding the statistical basis of the scientific analysis of the results of the experiments.   J. B. Rhine, one of the early targets of Kurtz et al. pioneered the use of statistical research in the social sciences.  Despite what you might read about the competence of his statistical analysis from skeptical sources, that was thoroughly studied by statisticians all along and found to be entirely competent.

Dr. Rhine's investigations have two aspects: experimental and statistical. On the experimental side mathematicians of course have nothing to say. On the statistical side, however, recent mathematical work has established the fact that, assuming the experiments have been properly performed, the statistical analysis is essentially valid. If the Rhine investigation is to be fairly attacked, it must be on other than mathematical grounds.

Dr. Burton H. Camp, President of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics

In fact, some credit Rhine and his associates with developing some of the meta-analytical methods that have become commonly used.  On the other hand, CSICOP demonstrated incompetence in statistical analysis so bad that it produced a Nixonian coverup.   As pointed out, their ability to understand the statistical arguments on which the published science rested rendered   Kurtz, Randi, Klass, etc. literally incompetent to judge it.   However, you will still find the false charges of statistical incompetence against Rhine, Pratt and other researchers into parapsychology, even when those charges have been studied by statisticians of unquestioned competence and refuted decades ago.

As the cover up began to fall apart an even wider scandal happened.  The members of CSICOP's highest levels, the "Councilors" and "Fellows" who clearly had the statistical competence to understand how badly CSICOP had compromised itself demonstrated that they were were OK with their pretense of competence.   Carl Sagan, who could have known from the beginning that the entire effort at debunking Gauquelin was a complete botch, never broke with the CSICOP establishment.  Ray Hyman, who, for decades, has attempted a long debunking effort on statistical grounds - only to have one after another of his sophisticated arguments fall to objective analysis -certainly understood that Kurtz Abel and Zelen had botched it, he certainly knew that Randi, Kurtz, Klass and others were entirely incomptent.  And those are just two of the many self-appointed guardians of science and rationality who didn't break with Kurtz and his rapidly expanding conglomerate of ideological groups and shell companies.  Those groups, some with name changes such as "CSI", constitute the core of the "Skepticism"/atheism industry today.  Many of the people, websites and other institutions of that industry have ties to Kurtz and his groups.

The greater scandal of sTARBABY is that the competent scientists involved were, ultimately, OK with lying for their ideological position.

In his account of the denouement of the sTARBABY, Denis Rawlins shows that for the CSICOP insiders,  names as big as Carl Sagan, the ideological program was more important than scientific or just plain old fashioned,  personal integrity.   As the (former) "Fellow" of CSICOP, Richard Kammann asked,  "If the Fellows and Scientific Consultants of CSICOP do not put a stop to this, who do they think will?"   Clearly no one.  Which is pretty much the case with organized "Skepticism"/atheism** today.

The even bigger scandal is how Kurtz's publicity campaign has entirely succeeded with the media which has lazily accepted his handouts instead of looking at the data from some quite rigorously conducted research into some quite modestly defined phenomena.   If Rawlins and Kammann hadn't published their expose's of sTARBABY I doubt anything would be known about it today.  The wall of silence among the remaining CSICOPS who stayed inside it even as they knew exactly how bad it was, would have held.  The list of professional scientists who didn't quit as they could not have been unaware of the scandal is quite long.

The "Skeptical" movement has always enjoyed the unquestioning confidence of the media, even going back to the early 1950s when Martin Gardner was just embarking on his career in constructing the list of prohibited ideas, joined soon after by the "Humanists" after Corliss Lamont's financial takeover.   On the one occasion I'm aware of that the record of dishonesty of the burgeoning industry was seriously challenged in the most august of newspapers, it was in J.G. Pratt's letter protesting the New York Review of Books review of C.E.M. Hansel's hit job on his and J.B. Rhine's research.  After noting Hansel's falsifying the physical layout in one of Pratt's more convincing experiments in order to claim the possibility of cheating, the real layout would have made it impossible, and showing how Garder, as he typically did, twisted innocent facts to indicate dishonesty, Pratt asked:

I strongly protest against the tone of the whole review, which is one of scorn and ridicule for an on-going field of research that the reviewer has not accepted. Mr. Gardner has every right, of course, to his opinions. But am I alone in feeling that the type of critical attack exemplified by his review is foreign to the spirit of scientific inquiry?

Well, as science is marketed, yes, those kinds of things are supposed to be foreign to the spirit of scientific inquiry.  But the "Skepticism" industry isn't about inquiry, it's an ideological debunking program.  Gardner's reply to him was a rather sinuous evasion of his points, which anyone who compared Gardner's claims about controlled research into this area with what the published papers show would see was typical of him.  As can be seen throughout its modern history, "Skepticism"  has sought to suppress the study of widely reported phenomena, glorying when laboratories and programs conducted with far higher standards of rigor and honesty than in research they accept as science, are defunded and closed down.   "Skepticism" benefits from the fact that the methods of controlled parapsychological research require a rather sophisticated knowledge of statistics whereas lying and mockery, pretending that the liar and mocker actually does have that statistical sophistication that his accepting audience,  doesn't.  If there is one thing that the "Skepticism" industry can depend on, it is that the general ignorance of statistics and the peer-reviewed, published record of parapsychology works in their favor.   Few if any of the non-scientific scribblers on this topic will go farther than the scientists of CSICOP did in looking at the facts.  Dangerously, it isn't only on this topic that ideologically and financially interested parties can depend on that  ignorance.

I've come to believe that the "Skeptics" practice the same kind of pseudo-scientific PR that the creationism and climate change denial industries do.  In fact, I think they could teach those other enterprises in industrial dishonesty a thing or two.   I don't think that it's any accident that a couple of the biggest names in pseudo-skepticism, Randi and Jillette,  have also attempted to debunk science of man made global warming, only walking it back when it was clear they'd gone too far with that one.  None of it is science, despite its popularity with a number of ideologically atheist scientists who, it would seem, haven't really read the record of research either.   They've got their faith in old-fashioned materialism and nothing, no number of experiments conducted with a level of rigor and statistical analysis that they don't practice in their own work, will shift it.  They are all (dis)honorary CSICOP "fellows".

NOTE:  In looking for online sources of things I have only in print, I repeatedly got Wikipedia articles at the top of the google search.  Reading various Wiki articles on these topics in the past few days, I've repeatedly come across seriously distorted and incomplete information that leads me to believe those articles have been compromised by ideological "editing" by pseudo-skeptics.

If you want to find accurate information about this topic, you're not going to find it except in sources whose authors are named, giving citations that can be checked for their reliability.  Many of the citations online are of things by Martin Gardner, Ray Hyman and other professional debunkers have written.  Those might be useful to look at but many, if not virtually all, of their claims have been addressed, quite often by people and groups with more professional competence and no ideological or, financial interests in the results.  Neither Hyman nor Gardner was disinterested.  The online writing on this topic is so corrupted that I wouldn't trust anything without thorough checking.

* - The Klass letter started a long and exasperating exchange in which he talked about everything but the statistical errors and the real cover-up. He kept me busy for a while answering irrelevant questions, while periodically attacking my objectivity, intelligence or integrity. From time to time, he threatened to expose my cover-up of scientific evidence he imagined he had uncovered. After he regularly ignored all my serious answers and qanuestions, I nicknamed him T.B. Diago--the best defense is a good offense. He eventually fell back on the traditional Council stance--he didn't understand statistics.

- Klass and Randi reacted to my January memos by claiming they couldn't understand the indictment!  And that is not to mention Paul Kurtz, the king pin of the "Skepticism"/atheism industry.   If he had understood the problem the scandal would never have begun.

**  The many scandals in American Atheists surrounding the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair are another example of outrageous and uncorrected dishonesty.   A student of organized atheism in the post-war period could hardly miss the obvious seediness and corruption of it.  In some of its details it rivals any of the exposed scandals in religion.  Including the promotion of pedophilia.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Andrew Hill Spectrum

Andrew Hill (piano);
Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet); 
Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone); 
Kenny Dorham (trumpet); 
Richard Davis (bass); 
Tony Williams (drums).