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Proponents: stop being so defensive!

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  • Proponents: stop being so defensive!

    Ok, I'd originally written this as a response to Open Mind's post in the Leading Scientist thread, but thought that it really deserved its own thread (IMO )

    OM 's post and my reply:

    Originally posted by Open Mind View Post
    I am suggesting the opponents are blocking scientific progress.
    The vitamin C example doesn't involve psi but I get your point.

    There may be some truth to that. But paradigm change doesn't come easy, nor, I would suggest, should it. Can you imagine how chaotic science would be if we shifted paradigms all the time? Paradigm shifts happen, relatively seldomly, but when they do, they open up so much more science to explore. That means more grant money - which is very exciting to scientists.

    Sure scientists get stuck on their ideas, but I'll bet you there will always be those (probably younger) who will jump on the opportunity to test new paradigms and get on all that new exciting research.

    So what does it mean for those trying to implement the new paradigm? well, it doesn't mean they should whimper and complain that no-one takes them seriously. They should work together, tighten the protocols to the point where it makes criticism very difficult, and put forward some bang up research. If you can't get in the peer reviewed journals, hell, send it to the skeptics: send it to randi, steven novella, hyman, wiseman, etc. Invite critque. Take the critique seriously, tweak the protocols and keep on going, then send it back. May not be easy, but I don't think any paradigm change is (might be easier if you're Einstein or Newton, but we can't all be that brilliant).

    But really, folks, stop complaining that "they" are so mean to psi proponents. Accept that what you're putting forward is difficult to accept, and respect that its difficult for people to change their minds on these types of things. They are not "bad" or "evil' or even necessarily "closed-minded" for being reluctant to accept that these effects are real. Nor are they the enemy.

    And really, they are doing what all science does: challenge and attack, probes for weakness, require defence - what survives the onslaught becomes accepted science. And frankly we're all the better for it. At least until a better system comes along.

  • #2
    Arouet,

    This post of yours is clearly well-intentioned, but it does betray a basic naive flaw that is common to most sceptical assumptions: that "science" is equipped to make any kind of definitive discoveries in this subject area. From what I've seen of all inquiries, pro and con, is that at best they indicate an answer without ever conclusively "proving" it, primarily because as soon as anything is "indicated", the definition of "proof" is changed, by sceptics. With this kind of target shifting taking place at a near constant rate, there isn't much point in taking any sceptic's advice seriously, because they clearly aren't taking the subject seriously enough to come up with a real definition of what they would consider satisfactory.

    I read of sceptics who say they want the ever-elusive "reproducibility", but reproducible experiments do exist. Then I hear about strong effects vs. weak ones, but this is unfair as a standard when science has explored and been satisfied that proof exists for other weak effects.

    Overall, my impression is that these questions are meant to never be completely satisfied, so that there is some cost associated with making the leap to understanding them. In other words, the phenomena in question are not dumb unknown natural forces, but intelligently controlled effects that are designed to reveal only so much, no more. This creates an uncomfortable friction between those who have seen these things first hand, like myself, those who capitalize on reports of them (frauds), and everyone else, who must decide for themselves what is true and what isn't.

    It might seem unfair or unnatural, but I do think that is the way it is. Also, thanks to my own experience, I can tell you that the very things that make up any scientific experiment I've ever read about do in fact work against a successful result in a test of psi. This is why the effects, when captured, tend to be weak. It isn't that psi itself is weak, but that it works best in emergent spontaneous circumstances where a genuine need for it exists. In an artificial setting like a lab, you have created a situation that is quite possibly the exact opposite of what is required for success.

    Sheldrake and Radin have made what I think are some clever experiment designs to get around this problem. By using dogs and how they behave normally, Sheldrake does a pretty good job of eliminating the self-consciousness of the experiment itself, something that likely would have interfered with human subjects. With Radin's presentiment experiment, instead of going after psychics, he tests anyone in a way that allows for automatic, reflexive reactions that no person could expect to easily control. This is still prone to some experiment antagonism on the part of the subjects (this is where their desire to perform interferes with their ability to perform) but it is not given as much opportunity to manifest as in a Rhine card-guessing game.

    All of these tests suffer from the boredom factor. Why sceptics think that this shouldn't be present in any "real" phenomena makes no sense to me. It is like suggesting that if such a thing as muscular strength really exists, a subject should be able to lift a barbell 1,000 times in a row without faltering. Again, in my experience, mental fatigue sets in very quickly with psi, at least in conscious exercises. This is even more pronounced when some effort of will is involved, as opposed to spontaneous occurrences.

    Speaking of spontaneous occurrences, I also think that sceptics do indeed need to dismount their steed of choice, the one named "anecdotes aren't evidence." What is an experiment but an anecdote of the experiment? That being true, what is the difference between a contemporaneous record made of a spontaneous occurrence and a record made in a lab by a scientist? We already know that sometimes the word of a scientist is not always superior to any other category of reporting entity, and if a scientist hasn't seen a certain event but a baker has, then the baker is the better witness than the scientist.

    As I see it, the "paradigm shift" that you describe as requiring a higher order of evidence that will naturally take longer to accumulate is beside the point. All this means is that the sceptical community is perfectly happy to wait for a bus that may never arrive. If sceptics really want to know these answers, they need to trot on down the street to the right bus stop, instead of insisting it make a special stop for them. It doesn't matter to the driver who his passengers are any more than it matters to me who makes the leap from hostile scepticism to knowledgeable believer.

    My life is made more comfortable with less psi-scepticism, simply because honest answers to sceptical questions predictably create considerable social friction for me, but I'd rather endure that than pander to any sceptic's lack of knowledge. Convincing a sceptic is a difficult job because it probably requires some kind of first hand experience, either as witness or percipient. Either way, that kind of experience isn't easily created on demand by anyone, so one can only pray for it, if one is so desirous of knowledge on this subject.

    Prayer, as it so happens, is a far better way for scientists to approach this problem than anything else, because prayer is far more likely to generate an experience - even if it occurs outside a lab environment. One problem with prayer however, is that done wrong, it is less effective. The key as I understand it, is the quality, or purity, of the request. This doesn't mean that you can't ask for bad things or frivolous things, those prayers are answered also, but that your request has to be free of conflicting messages. Think of your mind as a glass beaker full of thoughts, and your prayer request being one of those thoughts. You need to separate that request from everything else, and concentrate it in a beaker full of copies of the identical unadulterated request. Then you stand a decent chance of getting it. Accomplishing the prayer requires, usually, either a crisis or some meditation skill. And here we come back to square one: Science experiments cannot, for safety reasons, create emergent crises for their test subjects, and most experiments ignore completely the intelligently controlled side of psi phenomena, as if it is just a dumb force of nature, which it is not.

    Lastly, no person should ever submit one's work to anyone who has pre-derided it the way Randi or the others at CSICOP have. They really need to go find the bus stop on their own. They've earned the walk.

    Best regards,

    AP
    Last edited by paqart; May 13th, 2010, 03:11 PM.

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    • #3
      My comment would be that paradigm shifts might never happen if people did not kick up a fuss. Very few scientists will just stand up and say, "OK folks, that is as far as I can go - time for a paradigm shift!"

      David

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by David Bailey View Post
        My comment would be that paradigm shifts might never happen if people did not kick up a fuss. Very few scientists will just stand up and say, "OK folks, that is as far as I can go - time for a paradigm shift!"

        David
        The way I see this, paradigm shift isn't necessary and won't happen because there will always be people on both sides of the debate. Therefore, the difficulty of achieving paradigm shift is less important because it will not happen by our own devices.

        This makes me think of how rain will come when it wants to, regardless of what any meteorologist or witch doctor has to say about it.

        AP

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by paqart
          All of these tests suffer from the boredom factor. Why sceptics think that this shouldn't be present in any "real" phenomena makes no sense to me. It is like suggesting that if such a thing as muscular strength really exists, a subject should be able to lift a barbell 1,000 times in a row without faltering.
          But it's not like that at all.

          The weightlifter can lift the barbell 10 or 20 times in a row. Almost perfectly consistently. And when he can't, we can figure out why not. In fact, he can probably tell us. And it's a real barbell that we can weigh on a scale. And he can grasp it and move it around without lifting it. And he can point at it. And then he can lift it. And he can throw it down and we can feel it hitting the floor and we can hear it and see it, too. And I can move it around and possibly even lift it once. So can you. And multiple weightlifters can use multiple barbells to play music. And they can run competitions to see who can lift the most weight. And someone wins. And they do it with barbells that they bought from a store for money, manufactured by a barbell company that probably makes a profit from selling barbells.

          Telepaths can't do squat.

          ~~ Paul

          Comment


          • #6
            Very few scientists will just stand up and say, "OK folks, that is as far as I can go - time for a paradigm shift!"
            Given sufficient evidence, they all will.

            Think of the prior consensus/model of photons as particles. All it took was the two-slit experiment, and the duality of photons had to be accepted.

            Anyone could do that experiment. Repeatedly.

            When and if psi proponents can come up with a similar experiment related to psi, the paradigm shift will be inevitable - resistance is futile.

            Comment


            • #7
              Prayer, as it so happens, is a far better way for scientists to approach this problem than anything else, because prayer is far more likely to generate an experience - even if it occurs outside a lab environment. One problem with prayer however, is that done wrong, it is less effective. The key as I understand it, is the quality, or purity, of the request. This doesn't mean that you can't ask for bad things or frivolous things, those prayers are answered also, but that your request has to be free of conflicting messages. Think of your mind as a glass beaker full of thoughts, and your prayer request being one of those thoughts. You need to separate that request from everything else, and concentrate it in a beaker full of copies of the identical unadulterated request. Then you stand a decent chance of getting it.
              I've read that four times.

              First impression: gibberish

              Second impression: a veritable tutorial in logical fallacies

              Third impression: "decent chance" - hee, hee

              Fourth impression: Troll?

              Maybe prayer does "work", whatever that means. With no proposal as to experimental confirmation, its clearly a faith claim.

              I will stipulate, however, that is has a "decent chance" of working - with the emphasis on the word "chance".

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by FastEddieB
                When and if psi proponents can come up with a similar experiment related to psi, the paradigm shift will be inevitable - resistance is futile.
                Even for me.

                ~~ Paul

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by FastEddieB View Post
                  I've read that four times.

                  First impression: gibberish

                  Second impression: a veritable tutorial in logical fallacies

                  Third impression: "decent chance" - hee, hee

                  Fourth impression: Troll?

                  Maybe prayer does "work", whatever that means. With no proposal as to experimental confirmation, its clearly a faith claim.

                  I will stipulate, however, that is has a "decent chance" of working - with the emphasis on the word "chance".
                  FastEddie, in all seriousness, I understand why you write what you've written above, but feel no reciprocal desire to ridicule you. I would appreciate the same level of decorum from you.

                  I am by no means facetious when I write that prayer is the most efficacious method of accomplishing results. Nor is it a "faith-based" statement as you think. When I hear that expression used, it generally describes "blind faith", or faith based on some kind of religious authority. Neither is the case here. I mention prayer as a legitimate method because I have seen it work in several rather amazing circumstances in my own life. It has proven to be a more reliable way to achieve results than any other method I know of, particularly when the desired results appear to be impossible.

                  Therefore, this recommendation is based on observed results and is not "faith based" even if I have developed "faith" that it works, having seen the results on a number of occasions.

                  AP

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I mention prayer as a legitimate method because I have seen it work in several rather amazing circumstances in my own life.
                    Has it ever not worked? And if so, what's your "percentage"?

                    My wife, who I love deeply, believes in the power of prayer. Which is fine.

                    But to an prayer "skeptic", your mention of "a decent chance" kinda hits the nail on the head. I just went to a funeral today. Kim (the lady who died) was not even 50, but had COPD and apparently had a heart attack which starved her brain of oxygen for about 15 minutes. She was in the hospital on life support for quite some time and passed away on Mother's Day.

                    LOTS of people were praying for her. If she had gotten better, its the power of prayer. Now, its just God's Will. Heads you win, tails you win.

                    But as long as the prayer is in addition to medical attention and not instead of medical attention, I guess there's no harm. But I'm pretty sure its a matter of psychology and not psi - confirmation bias and "remembering the hits and forgetting the misses" covers the vast majority of prayer claims I've seen presented.

                    But if it works for you, pray away!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I find the concept that prayer works for those who know how to do it, but fails for others, to be absolutely grotesque. Why the hell don't the successful practitioners pray for all the other people and fix everything? Are the people who are praying for us all to go to hell counteracting the positive prayers? Feh.

                      ~~ Paul

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the detailed response: a few counters of my own:

                        Originally posted by paqart View Post
                        This post of yours is clearly well-intentioned, but it does betray a basic naive flaw that is common to most sceptical assumptions: that "science" is equipped to make any kind of definitive discoveries in this subject area.
                        I'm not sure what led you to this conclusion about my assumptions, but actually, I don't hold this at all. I prefer to think in terms of degrees of confidence, and predictive power. I don't believe science ever really definitively discoveries anything. As our knowledge continues to grow, so does out understanding. Sometimes we find our previous understanding was completely wrong, or partially wrong. Our increase in knowledge is steady and incremental.

                        From what I've seen of all inquiries, pro and con, is that at best they indicate an answer without ever conclusively "proving" it, primarily because as soon as anything is "indicated", the definition of "proof" is changed, by sceptics. With this kind of target shifting taking place at a near constant rate, there isn't much point in taking any sceptic's advice seriously, because they clearly aren't taking the subject seriously enough to come up with a real definition of what they would consider satisfactory.
                        Well, the problem is that there is no "they", or rather, there are lots of "theys". Some people might have different conceptions of what kind of degree of confidence would be sufficient to believe a psi effect is real. As others above have said: if the science is solid, minds will change.

                        I read of sceptics who say they want the ever-elusive "reproducibility", but reproducible experiments do exist. Then I hear about strong effects vs. weak ones, but this is unfair as a standard when science has explored and been satisfied that proof exists for other weak effects.
                        I know I've been one talking about weak effects a lot. The problem isn't entirely that: it's weak effects combined with complete depends on stats. It's a problem of variance. It's a problem of interpretation. As someone mentioned I think in the Ganzfield thread: one extra match can sometimes account for the entire effect. This doesn't lead to firm opinions.

                        But if the effect is weak: then the controls and protocols have to be absolutely airtight to have any chance of convincing the skeptics. Problem with some of the metastudies (which are needed to rule out variance) is that the controls across a lot of these studies are suspect. At least that's what I've read. I know there is a constant problem with funding and that's why massive trials are difficult: but just because that is unfortunate doesn't mean we should relax our standards. If the effect is small it must be shown over a very large sample with very strict controls and protocols: otherwise the results are too uncertain.

                        Overall, my impression is that these questions are meant to never be completely satisfied, so that there is some cost associated with making the leap to understanding them. In other words, the phenomena in question are not dumb unknown natural forces, but intelligently controlled effects that are designed to reveal only so much, no more. This creates an uncomfortable friction between those who have seen these things first hand, like myself, those who capitalize on reports of them (frauds), and everyone else, who must decide for themselves what is true and what isn't.
                        I appreciate what you have interpreted in your own experience. Unfortunately, that doesn't help the rest of us who haven't experienced such things. The human brain is capable of massive deception. I'm not saying that's what's going on with you necessarily, but that is why we must take anecdotal accounts of psi with pretty large grains of salt. Even putting aside the fact that some people are outright fraudulent about such claims.

                        It might seem unfair or unnatural, but I do think that is the way it is. Also, thanks to my own experience, I can tell you that the very things that make up any scientific experiment I've ever read about do in fact work against a successful result in a test of psi. This is why the effects, when captured, tend to be weak. It isn't that psi itself is weak, but that it works best in emergent spontaneous circumstances where a genuine need for it exists. In an artificial setting like a lab, you have created a situation that is quite possibly the exact opposite of what is required for success.
                        This may be true, and that may be unfortunate, but we're stuck with things the way they are. If you have a better way to test for psi in a reliable way I'm sure we'd love to hear it. It may be that there are other methods that would produce reliable results. For now, we're left with the scientific method, for better or worse. You won't convince skeptics without it.

                        (snipped a few paragraphs since others have dealt with them better than I could)

                        Speaking of spontaneous occurrences, I also think that sceptics do indeed need to dismount their steed of choice, the one named "anecdotes aren't evidence." What is an experiment but an anecdote of the experiment? That being true, what is the difference between a contemporaneous record made of a spontaneous occurrence and a record made in a lab by a scientist? We already know that sometimes the word of a scientist is not always superior to any other category of reporting entity, and if a scientist hasn't seen a certain event but a baker has, then the baker is the better witness than the scientist.
                        I think I dealt with anecdotal evidence above. But I'd just say that this is why controls are so important.

                        As I see it, the "paradigm shift" that you describe as requiring a higher order of evidence that will naturally take longer to accumulate is beside the point. All this means is that the sceptical community is perfectly happy to wait for a bus that may never arrive. If sceptics really want to know these answers, they need to trot on down the street to the right bus stop, instead of insisting it make a special stop for them. It doesn't matter to the driver who his passengers are any more than it matters to me who makes the leap from hostile scepticism to knowledgeable believer.
                        This, with all due respect, is what I mean about proponents at times being whiny. If you (or a para-scientist) has a case to make, then make it! Promote it, try and get peer reviewed, and if your results are reliable then your ideas will form part of the scientific consensus. Don't complain that others aren't interested in what you have to offer: if you have a case, make it, and promote it. Call a press conference, get some attention. If you survive the coming onslaught you'll have something!

                        My life is made more comfortable with less psi-scepticism, simply because honest answers to sceptical questions predictably create considerable social friction for me, but I'd rather endure that than pander to any sceptic's lack of knowledge. Convincing a sceptic is a difficult job because it probably requires some kind of first hand experience, either as witness or percipient. Either way, that kind of experience isn't easily created on demand by anyone, so one can only pray for it, if one is so desirous of knowledge on this subject.
                        I get that some critics of psi aren't up on all the research. And it may be a fair critique. But, rather than just bemoan that fact, educate them. That's part of what Skeptiko is all about, right? For example, in advance of an interview on a particular subject, Alex could make sure the interviewee has copies of the papers he's relying on, so that everyone can be on the same page. Be collaborative rather than combative.

                        (others have responded to the prayer paragraph)


                        Lastly, no person should ever submit one's work to anyone who has pre-derided it the way Randi or the others at CSICOP have. They really need to go find the bus stop on their own. They've earned the walk.
                        Again, with all due respect, this is part of the whining. As I alluded to above, if one wants the skeptics onside, they have to convince them. It's all when and good to sniffle that they're ignoring your research and bitch about it. But why not be proactive. Send them a copy of your paper and publicly challenge them to dissect it (I'm not using "you" meaning you, but para-scientists). You folks complain about Randi's PR machine, so why not develop your own. I listen to these skeptical podcasts: you'll get a few to bite. And then maybe some real debate will go on, with all sides being on the same page.

                        Look, I'm not a scientist, and am just trying to wrap my head around these ideas. I'm prepared to accept that these thoughts are naive - at the very least they are inexperienced (my thoughts, I mean). But hopefully these ideas have something to offer to this debate.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
                          Telepaths can't do squat.
                          I see what you're saying. If telepathy, remote viewing, or other "psi" is real, then some deaf, dumb and blind kid should sure play a mean pinball - or poker - or roulette.

                          But where's Tommy?

                          I know casinos look out for card counting. Do they look out for reading the dealer's mind - or remote viewing the faces of the cards? Shouldn't they be?

                          Money is at stake here. Why no anti-telepathy countermeasures? Don't you think they'd put Magneto head shields on the dealers by now, or use lead paint to prevent psychic peering through the cards?

                          Meanwhile, I still can't find that deaf, dumb and blind kid who can sure play a mean pinball.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nemesis View Post
                            I know casinos look out for card counting. Do they look out for reading the dealer's mind - or remote viewing the faces of the cards? Shouldn't they be?
                            You are not exercising much brain power here.

                            If psi isn't real, they don't have to worry.
                            If psi is real, they don't have to worry. The cost of implementing a policy to avoid this would be futile and will cost more than it will save, 100% of the time.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
                              Telepaths can't do squat.
                              I would appreciate it if we could remain from ridiculously greedy statements. Firstly, the statement doesn't even make sense. If those purporting to be telepathing aren't, they're not telepaths. If they are, then they've potentially shattered a paradigm. Second, there are two types of effects in science.

                              A)There's effects with huge autocorrelation and covariance with extraneous variables, which is what psi would be like.
                              B)There are effects with absolutely no covariance with other factors, which is what like observing a dumbbell is like.

                              They are absolutely different. Yet, there are gazillions of real A's and real B's. They should not be apposed to prove a point. Doing so is abysmally unfair to the psi argument.
                              Last edited by imiyakawa; May 14th, 2010, 05:30 AM.

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