May 18 2017

Follow Up on Bem’s Psi Research

telepathyAn interesting article in Slate by Daniel Engber reviews the story of Daryl Bem and his psi “Feeling the Future” research. If you are interested in this sort of thing the entire article is worth a read, but I want to highlight and expand upon the important bits.

For review, in 2011 Bem published a series of 10 experiments in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP). I wrote about the research at the time, and wasn’t impressed. I wrote:

“In the final analysis, this new data from Bem is not convincing at all. It shows very small effects sizes, within the range of noise, and has not been replicated. Further, the statistical analysis used was biased in favor of finding significance, even for questionable data.”

Bem had taken standard social psychology experimental protocols, mostly dealing with priming, and did an interesting thing – he reversed the order of the experiment so that the priming came after the subjects were tested. For example, he would give subjects a memory test and then let some of them study the material. He claimed that the studying had an effect backward in time to allow subjects to perform slightly better.

For experienced skeptics, this was not much of a surprise. When dealing with claims that have a vanishingly small prior probability, you need extraordinary evidence to be taken seriously, and this wasn’t it. We were already very familiar with these kinds of results – if you squint just right there is a teeny tiny effect size. But we already knew that experiments are easy to fudge, even unwittingly, and it would therefore take a lot more to rewrite all the physics textbooks. (What is more likely, that the fundamental nature of reality is not what we thought, or Bem was a little sloppy in his research?) The key (as acknowledged by Bem himself) would be in replication. 

The Reaction to Bem

In the six years since Bem published his research there has been an increasing awareness of the potential problems in conducting rigorous scientific research, and not just in psychology research but in all of medicine and other areas as well. I have been carefully documenting both here and at SBM all the research that shows these problems – the problems with publication bias, p-hacking, and the failure to replicate.

This is, in fact, the central thesis of science-based medicine. It is too easy to manufacture false positive results, and there is too much incentive to do so and to publish such results. We need to tweak our incentives and filters, and take a more thorough look at the entire literature before we can arrive at reliable scientific conclusions.

This dedication to rigorous science is more important than ever in medicine, because we are facing a dedicated and well-funded incursion from so-called “alternative medicine” who are tirelessly trying to make the standards of science less rigorous.

Engber, however, makes a claim I have not heard before, and I wonder how true it is – that Bem’s publication allegedly showing psi phenomena, was a wake-up call to the world of psychology and actually led to this increased awareness of the general problems with research. I had never made that connection before.

My sense is that there is some truth to this, but it is not the whole story. I do agree with Engber’s central claim, made in his headline: “Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real, Which means science is broken.” That is a more dramatic way of saying what I stated above – it is more likely that Bem’s science is broken than it is that the laws of the universe are radically different than what we think.

It is probably an oversimplification, however, to credit Bem’s publication with the work of Ioannidis, for example, who studies the published literature for patterns of bias. My perspective is a little different since my colleagues and I have been beating this drum since long before Bem.

Still, dramatic examples are useful. I have made this type of argument many times before, essentially reversing the direction of argumentation about evidence. Typically we use scientific evidence to determine if a claim is true. We can also, however, use as a premise that a claim which is close to impossible is not true, and then use that premise to ask questions about the scientific research.

I have done this also with homeopathy. Since we know that homeopathy cannot possibly work, and can look at the totality of homeopathy research and ask – what does the medical research look like when we study a hypothesis that is clearly not true? It looks exactly like what we expect it to look like, given the work of Ioannidis, Simons and others who have documented patterns of bias and p-hacking in the literature.

Replications

Engber’s article also contains some nuggets that need to be highlighted. To his credit Bem has been open and supportive of efforts to replicate his research. In fact he teamed up with other psi researchers to do the kind of replication that, if possitive, would provide the kind of evidence skeptics claim never exists for psi. They registered protocols for replications involving both believer and skeptical researchers. They thought that perhaps skeptical researchers get negative results not because they are biased but because they are psychic. They actually psychically inhibit any psychic powers of the subjects.

Engber reports:

To distinguish this replication from earlier attempts, Bem, Schlitz, and Delorme took extra steps to rule out any possibility of bias. They planned to run the same battery of tests at a dozen different laboratories, and to publish the design of the experiment and its planned analysis ahead of time, so there could be no quibbling over the “garden of forking paths.”

They presented their results last summer, at the most recent annual meeting of the Parapsychological Association. According to their pre-registered analysis, there was no evidence at all for ESP, nor was there any correlation between the attitudes of the experimenters—whether they were believers or skeptics when it came to psi—and the outcomes of the study. In summary, their large-scale, multisite, pre-registered replication ended in a failure.

And there you have it. This is the exact pattern that I and other skeptics and advocates of SBM keep talking about. Initial positive results are not definitive because there are just too many ways to bias the outcome (to p-hack). We start to get interested when there are rigorous replications, especially exact replications.

What Bem and the others did is exactly what you have to do in order to avoid p-hacking – you have to make all of the decisions about the research protocol beforehand, prior to collecting any data. If you make any decisions or adjustments after you start collective data, that alters the probabilities. It essentially gives you more throws of the dice, and renders the p-value meaningless (that’s p-hacking).

So, when all of the protocols were registered and locked in place, the multi-site large attempt at replicating Bem’s data, including believers and skeptics, was completely negative. If an effect goes away when you control for p-hacking, then the effect is not real. That is how science works.

Alas, Bem and his fellow psi researchers did not give up:

In their conference abstract, though, Bem and his co-authors found a way to wring some droplets of confirmation from the data. After adding in a set of new statistical tests, ex post facto, they concluded that the evidence for ESP was indeed “highly significant.”

<Facepalm> So close. They did the rigorous protocol, they put their nickle down like good scientists, but then they flinched from the results. That is the moment that separates real scientists from pseudoscientists. That is the ultimate test – can you accept results which definitively disprove your pet hypothesis? When they controlled for p-hacking, no psi effect. So they went back and added in some p-hacking. Ugh!

Some More Revealing Tidbits

As revealing as that is, some quotes from Bem tell more of the story.

“I’m all for rigor,” he continued, “but I prefer other people do it. I see its importance—it’s fun for some people—but I don’t have the patience for it.” It’s been hard for him, he said, to move into a field where the data count for so much. “If you looked at all my past experiments, they were always rhetorical devices. I gathered data to show how my point would be made. I used data as a point of persuasion, and I never really worried about, ‘Will this replicate or will this not?’ ”

That is almost a “Trumpian” admission. He is actually admitting that his research was a “rhetorical device” intended to persuade and not to explore. He was trying to show “that” psi is real, not find out “if” it is real. That, I would argue, is the core failure of the pseudoscientist.

He doesn’t have the patience for rigor – OK, fair enough if you are going to admit it. But the real problem is, when other people do the rigor, as in the replication experiments above, he doesn’t accept the results.

Psi is Dead, Science is Recovering

In a rational world, this entire affair would spell the death of psi research. The hypothesis was never plausible. The strong suspicion that razor-thin positive outcomes were the result of some sloppy research has been largely confirmed.

The fact remains that no psi research protocol has withstood the test of time, and held up to rigorous replication. There is no psi effect that meets my criteria for being compelling: simultaneously showing a statistically significant effect that also shows a significant signal to noise ratio with highly rigorous experimental protocols that hold up to replication. You can get some of these features with psi, but never all of them.

The most parsimonious explanation for this fact is that psi is not real. A century of psi research is enough. This is a dead end. Psi is pushing up the daisies. It is an ex-hypothesis.

But, as the reaction of Bem and his colleagues demonstrate, the world is not rational.

Meanwhile, back at mainstream science, the Bem affair was a bit of a wake-up call, along with many other alarm bells. I would not say that science is broken. It is clear that there are major weaknesses in the institutions of science, but we largely know what they are and how to fix them. We need to keep attention on this issue and push the institutions of science to greater rigor and reliability.

It may be true that the very people who are trying to lower the standards in science will be the ones who provide the necessary impetus to increase standards. Science-based medicine was a direct reaction to alternative medicine. Perhaps the “replication crisis” is psychology research was largely a reaction to Bem.

What matters now is what we do going forward.

181 responses so far

181 Responses to “Follow Up on Bem’s Psi Research”

  1. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 8:34 am

    I am going to see if my Egnor invoking ritual, with a bit if modification, can be used to summon hardnose…

  2. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 8:35 am

    Steve, you didn’t include a link to the Slate article — probably easy enough to find for those interested but I’m guessing this was an oversight.

  3. Steven Novellaon 18 May 2017 at 8:59 am

    the link is there now. WordPress changed its interface and sometimes the links don’t take.

  4. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2017 at 9:04 am

    Just so one of us is correct, I’m going to predict that the troll will not come within coo-ee of a trial that destroys his worldview.

  5. CKavaon 18 May 2017 at 9:28 am

    Hey Steve,

    On the subject, did you ever come across Bem’s ‘Writing the Empirical Article’- it’s hosted on his website: http://dbem.ws/WritingArticle.pdf and is essentially a manual for p-hacking and torturing data for results.

    It includes such gems as:

    “There are two possible articles you can write: (a) the article you planned to write when you designed your study or (b) the article that makes the most sense now that you have seen the results. They are rarely the same, and the correct answer is (b).”

    “To compensate for this remoteness from our participants, let us at least become intimately familiar with the record of their behavior: the data. Examine them from every angle. Analyze the sexes separately. Make up new composite indexes. If a datum suggests a new hypothesis, try to find additional evidence for it elsewhere in the data. If you see dim traces of interesting patterns, try to reorganize the data to bring them into bolder relief. If there are participants you don’t like, or trials, observers, or interviewers who gave you anomalous results, drop them (temporarily). Go on a fishing expedition for something—anything—interesting. No, this is not immoral. The rules of scientific and statistical inference that we overlearn in graduate school apply to the “Context of Justification.” They tell us what we can conclude in the articles we write for public consumption, and they give our readers criteria for deciding whether or not to believe us. But in the “Context of Discovery,” there are no formal rules, only heuristics or strategies.”

    “If your experiment used an analysis of variance design, your data analysis will automatically display the effects of several independent variables on a single dependent variable. If this organization is consonant with a smooth presentation of your results, lucky you. Go with it. But do not be a prisoner of ANOVA! If the narrative flows more smoothly by discussing the effects of a single independent variable on several conceptually related dependent variables, tear your ANOVA results apart and reorganize them. Statistical designs are all right in their place, but you—and your prose—are master; they are slave.”

  6. CKavaon 18 May 2017 at 9:33 am

    Oh and on the subject of whether Bem’s article shook things up in psychology, from my perspective as someone currently involved in psychology research I can say yes, definitely amongst the younger generation but with the older generation it is a bit more variable. There were other factors, including unrelated papers and other controversies but Bem definitely played his part. Andrew Gelman has a very nice timeline on his website that gives an overview of the crisis from a psychology perspective: http://andrewgelman.com/2016/09/21/what-has-happened-down-here-is-the-winds-have-changed/

  7. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 10:42 am

    @Steven Novella

    Psi has been experienced by human beings throughout history and across all cultures. Our modern western culture is virtually unique in rejecting it. You’re maintaining a position contrary to the collective experience of humankind.

    You need therefore to advance some *reasons* for supposing it doesn’t exist, not merely content yourself with criticizing the research.

  8. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 10:45 am

    I f*cked up my ritual and ended up invoking “seeee myyyy blog!”

  9. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 10:47 am

    Ian, do you realise how hapless your retort is? I mean, the replication attempts came back negative by the criteria set by the researchers ahead of the results .

  10. Kabboron 18 May 2017 at 11:00 am

    I like the concept that continued research into obvious pseudoscience provides the fringe benefit of acting as the canary in the mine of research methodology. Negative results? All is well. Positive results? Time to find out what we are doing wrong and apply the lessons to real science.

  11. Steven Novellaon 18 May 2017 at 11:13 am

    Ian – your premise is wrong.
    People have experienced what they interpret as psi, but that interpretation is based on cultural narratives and is flawed and biased. There are many known reasons why people would falsely interpret neurological or psychological experiences as psi.

    What the research clearly shows is that psi does not exist as a real phenomenon.

    Your attempt at shifting the burden of proof has failed.

  12. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 11:16 am

    Ian Wardell,

    Psi has been experienced by human beings throughout history and across all cultures. Our modern western culture is virtually unique in rejecting it. You’re maintaining a position contrary to the collective experience of humankind.

    Some other things widely experienced by people throughout history and across cultures:
    (1) feeling they are the chosen people. Using these feelings to justify genocide, murder, war, enslavement of those who are not chosen.
    (2) a creation myth. From the Bible’s genesis to the world turtle.
    (3) systematic oppression, subjugation, and violence towards 50% of the population.

    Are these things obviously true and we are just in denial for not being racist, believing in a magical world turtle, and thinking half our people are literally less human the other half?

    Also in Doctor Who telepathy is a key theme, he carries psychic paper with him at all times. It’s also in Star Trek and there are many fictional books with psi themes. I would hardly say that western culture denies psi. If that’s the case why is there a psychic on many downtown streets in any big city? Why do Deepak Chopra’s books sell millions?

  13. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 11:17 am

    Ian,

    Should it not be blatantly obvious, you have just engaged in an argument from popularity, and antiquity. Is it really your position that the popularity or age of a belief is a good measure of its veracity?

    You also need to explain how psi can be real AND fail well designed and controlled experiments to isolate an effect.

  14. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 11:35 am

    Excuse me Steven Novella, I am not attempting to shift the burden of proof. I’m *stating* that the burden of proof is upon you and those who deny psi.

    Falsely interpreting neurological or psychological experiences cannot allow one to dream of the future, or to know that a loved one has died, or more generally to acquire information that simply was not accessible to their normal senses.

    Research could not possibly show that psi does not exist. All it could show was that it wasn’t operating in a particular instance.

  15. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 11:41 am

    Ian,

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. “Those who deny psi,” are denying something so crazy that it would defy everything we know about the world. We would need to throughout textbooks. For example if psi turns out to be real then I guess critical thinking is a pointless, because it prevented us from seeing something as profound as psi. We are advocating for the normal state of affairs, things that don’t break the laws of physics. You are advancing the extraordinary so it’s on you to prove it.

  16. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 11:45 am

    [Ian Wardell] Research could not possibly show that psi does not exist. All it could show was that it wasn’t operating in a particular instance.

    Right. If you don’t count the misses there is a 100% rate of success.

    When I guess the next card to be drawn from a deck and get it wrong, that’s when psi wasn’t working. However, when I guess and get it right…that’s attributable to psi.

    Amazing how psi manages to be indistinguishable from dumb luck.

  17. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 11:47 am

    Sophie, psi is not an extraordinary claim. Those who think it is an extraordinary claim are presupposing a materialist based metaphysic. But materialism is unintelligible.

    Indeed I think the precise converse — namely I regard it as an extraordinary claim that it doesn’t exist. You’re claiming something contrary to the collective experience of humankind.

  18. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 11:52 am

    Ian,

    I cannot read minds or see the future. No one I have ever met has had these abilities. Therefore either I’m living all alone in an underground lair, as I’m sure some of these commenters like to imagine, or this is not a common thing.

    I also don’t like how no one has ever been able to read minds or see the future under rigorous experimental conditions. You would think something that wasn’t so extraordinary would be easier to prove / find evidence for?

    Or am I looking at this the wrong way?

  19. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 11:54 am

    chikoppi, having an alleged psychic impression of a playing card and getting it right only 1 out of 52 times would be indicative of the null hypothesis. But getting it right once every 30 times over a sufficiently large number of guesses would be indicative of psi.

    I’m not really interested in such research though. I’m more interested in the spontaneous cases of psi.

  20. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 12:01 pm

    [Ian Wardell] You’re claiming something contrary to the collective experience of humankind.

    No, no one is denying the claim. We are denying what the claim has been falsely attributed to.

    That’s how science works to correct our biases. For centuries spontaneous generation was a widely held belief, attributed to Aristotle, and accepted as “common knowledge.” Louis Pasteur came along and demonstrated it was wrong.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_generation

    Sometimes the odds play in our favor. People remember the hits, forget the misses, and seek to erroneously attribute a cause. What the research shows is that there is no significant deviation from dumb luck. The perception of the effect is an illusion derived from common biases.

  21. MosBenon 18 May 2017 at 12:03 pm

    If psi is a real phenomenon then it is testable. If an ancient civilization ran some well controlled studies and concluded that psi is real, then let’s talk about it. If ancient civilizations just had an enduring but unsupported belief in psi then it’s no different from Zeus or Thor in that we should give any special privilege to their beliefs and should conduct experiments to test if psi is real.

    As it turns out, we have tested it and those experiments didn’t produce compelling evidence that psi is a real phenomenon. There of course continue to be a mix of true believers and con artists, but it’s just mentalism.

  22. MosBenon 18 May 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Every once in a while I’ll go to bed and worry that I’ve left the stove top on. Probably 1 in 30 times I have indeed left the stove top on by mistake. This doesn’t make me psychic, just occassionally forgetful combined with a little bit of paranoia and a bit of self awareness about my own forgetfulness. Every once in a while I get a bad feeling that something has happened to my parents and I should call them. But so far no hits. Presumably at some point my bad feeling will coincide with some minor harm, and that will just be chance. In the mean time it’s probably just guilt that I don’t call them enough.

  23. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 12:23 pm

    chikoppi you’re talking about widespread beliefs. Psi is what people actually directly experience for themselves. And I’m not talking about the unimpressive stuff which can be attributed to remembering hits and forgetting the misses.

    And of course the research does not show that there is no significant deviation from dumb luck. Quite the converse. Look at Rhine’s research, the autoganzfeld experiments etc.

    OK, I’m going to leave it at that unless people can give me some *positive* reasons for supposing psi doesn’t exist. I’m not going to talk about the research, not least of all because I don’t have enough knowledge of it. And it wouldn’t make any difference to my beliefs even if, contrary to the facts, the research were mostly consistent with the null hypothesis.

  24. Sophieon 18 May 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Ian,

    We went through this on the long term memory thread, it’s a really bad idea to openly admit that nothing would change your beliefs. The whole point of learning is to shift our intuitions about things into more concrete theories. If you can’t be convinced psi isn’t real, is that a realistic, fair and reasonable position?

    What if I simply say I can’t be convinced psi is real? Is that okay?

  25. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 12:55 pm

    [Ian Wardell] I’m not going to talk about the research, not least of all because I don’t have enough knowledge of it. And it wouldn’t make any difference to my beliefs even if, contrary to the facts, the research were mostly consistent with the null hypothesis.

    The “null hypothesis” is that there is no relationship assumed between two variables until that relationship has been demonstrated. Controlled experimentation is how that relationship is established. Absent controlled experimentation all you have is biases and unattributed correlation, which is why we have to talk about the research. Otherwise, you wind up with widely held belief in things like spontaneous generation.

    From the post:

    “They presented their results last summer, at the most recent annual meeting of the Parapsychological Association. According to their pre-registered analysis, there was no evidence at all for ESP, nor was there any correlation between the attitudes of the experimenters—whether they were believers or skeptics when it came to psi—and the outcomes of the study. In summary, their large-scale, multisite, pre-registered replication ended in a failure.”

    And there you have it. This is the exact pattern that I and other skeptics and advocates of SBM keep talking about. Initial positive results are not definitive because there are just too many ways to bias the outcome (to p-hack). We start to get interested when there are rigorous replications, especially exact replications.

    What Bem and the others did is exactly what you have to do in order to avoid p-hacking – you have to make all of the decisions about the research protocol beforehand, prior to collecting any data. If you make any decisions or adjustments after you start collective data, that alters the probabilities. It essentially gives you more throws of the dice, and renders the p-value meaningless (that’s p-hacking).

    When quality, statistically relevant experimentation is conducted the supposed positive evidence for psi evaporates. The null hypothesis is not overturned.

  26. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Ian:

    ” And I’m not talking about the unimpressive stuff which can be attributed to remembering hits and forgetting the misses.”

    Then what are you talking about?

    “cannot allow one to dream of the future, or to know that a loved one has died, or more generally to acquire information that simply was not accessible to their normal senses.”

    Ah, so you are talking about anecdotes, yes? Testimonials in books about the paranormal, or on YouTube? This is evidence that can absolutely be explained by confirmation bias (remembering the hits and forgetting the misses) along with a load of other cognitive biases.

    I’ve heard/read these testimonials myself. They are poor quality evidence — let me try to explain why: Somebody claims, after the fact, to have woken up knowing that a loved one had died at the exact moment that it later transpires that their loved one did in fact die.

    – Was their loved one in a situation in which death was imminent (cancer), or at least likely (war)? [increased chance of a hit]
    – How many times had they woken up and had this feeling previously but missed? [forgetting the misses]
    – How accurate was the reporting of their loved one’s time of death? [loosened criteria for a hit]
    – How long after the event are they reporting this? [opportunities for confabulation, embellishment and incorporating new narrative detail into their story]
    – How many times had a loved one died and they did not awaken, knowing that this had happened [again, forgetting the misses]

    What you tend to have with these anecdotes is reporting way after the fact, with plenty of time introduced to incorporate the events into a narrative – the misses will fade and the hit will become ever more significant with multiple retellings of the story, subtle embellishments of the memories and erosion of the little niggles that make the hit not-quite-perfect.

    What you would need to do to make these anecdotes compelling is control for all these variables and try to isolate the effect you are trying to measure. Obviously, it would be hugely unethical to design an experiment to measure ability to psychically detect the death of a loved one, so you are left trying to find anecdotes that are recorded immediately after the events occur, where the subject could have no possible way of knowing about the death, where misses had been monitored and found not to occur, and time of death can be independently corroborated and tightly correlates with the ‘vision’ (or whatever. Do you have any of these? Pretty tricky in the real world, which is why we have to design experiments where we can control for this messiness.

    But you discount these experiments, whilst accepting the anecdotes. Psi effects don’t occur in controlled settings, so the possibility of reliable evidence will remain forever elusive.

  27. MosBenon 18 May 2017 at 2:56 pm

    So, it seems to me that Ian’s position is that it may or may not be the case that some individuals possess reliable psi power which would be amiable to testing. But he is convinced that some people in certain, possibly extraordinary circumstances can briefly experience psi abilities. In this case you wouldn’t be able to test these people after the fact for powers because the claim is not that they have ongoing ability but that they experienced a psi event which was real but has now passed.

    Of course, even if this were the case it would not be sufficient to credulously accept these reports. There is every reason to doubt the sincerity or accuracy of the reports, or to question whether this is just the unlikely but eventually inevitable situation where guessing turns out to be correct.

  28. MosBenon 18 May 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Another way we could come at this is to question how a supposed psi event could happen, if it did happen. Is the receiver of the psi event receiving some kind of energy transmission that relays the info to them? If so, what kind of energy could do that? What part of the body could act as a receiver and interpreter for this information? Is this psi info always floating around us and only some of us some of the time are able to access it? If so, how would we go about setting up reliable detection?

    Of course, there’s no evidence for any of this. That being the case, it’s much more likely that people have simply been fooled or confused than that psi is real. Or at the very least we should not believe in psi until we have a good evidentiary or theoretical basis for that belief.

  29. mumadaddon 18 May 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Ian,

    Let me elaborate on my example:

    Val lives in the UK, her brother in Hong Kong; he is dying of cancer but she can’t afford to go see him. The docs say he has maybe a few weeks to a few months left, difficult to say. She sleeps pretty fitfully most nights, heavily preoccupied with her brother’s plight. She thinks about what he is going through and how he must feel. She anticipates the phone call she’ll get when he dies. This is her state every night: in and out of consciousness, heavily preoccupied with, and dreaming about, her brother’s impending demise; depressed, vulnerable, not thinking straight, obsessing over mortality.

    Set against this background, how likely is it that she will have awoken on the night her brother dies, thinking that he has died? Maybe this happens more than once on the night she actually does get the call.

    Does she note the exact time that she ‘perceived’ his death and check the exact time of his death? Probably not.

    During the grieving process she reflects on what happened. She’s not religious but vaguely spiritual/newagey. She’s trying to come to terms with the death of a loved one, and that naturally leads to more contemplation of her own mortality. She incorporates the events, and her emotional state leading up to the death into a meaningful narrative: Her guilt over not seeing him is assuaged by the ‘connection’ she felt at the time of his death; her anxiety over her own mortality is eased by the evidence for psychic knowledge and the possibility of something other than oblivion after death. Her awakening and knowledge of his death has taken on new meaning in her story about herself, and the factual details have become a better fit for this meaning.

    Obviously I just made all this up, but surely you can see it’s far more plausible than magic powers that can’t be detected in controlled conditions?

  30. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 4:17 pm

    MosBen

    “Another way we could come at this is to question how a supposed psi event could happen, if it did happen”.

    An innate fundamental ability I would assume. I think it’s probably the brain that “filters” out such abilities.

    Bear in mind that if we assume the falsity of materialism, then current science only describes a reality devoid of consciousness. So if we don’t have any theories that include consciousness, then a fortiori we won’t currently have any theories that include abilities of consciousness such as psi, or indeed the causal efficacy of consciousness.

  31. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Ian,

    Or as another example of false psi powers, suppose a psychic – let’s call her Professor Trelawney – predicts that something one of her students – let’s call her Lavender Brown – is dreading will happen on October 16. And then on October 16 Lavender receives a letter from home telling her that pet – let’s call it Binky and suppose it is a baby rabbit – has been killed by a fox. And is deeply shocked and distressed.

    And a sceptic – let’s call her Hermione – notes that if Lavender had received the letter on October 16, then the rabbit must have been killed days earlier, and that Lavender couldn’t possibly have been dreading the death of her pet rabbit because it was very young and she was very shocked.

    Just another case of counting the hits and ignoring the misses and retrofitting the facts to fit a narrative. Throw out enough predictions, and keep them vague enough, and eventually you’ll get one that appears to come true. The Rogues on SGU make their own psychic predictions for the year ahead and compare their success to claimed psychics – and with a little creativity they do very well in comparison.

    You’re just a Lavender. We sceptics are the Hermiones. (I suppose I’d better not mention that Professor Trelawney had 2 genuine predictions).

  32. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Ian,

    ‘Bear in mind that if we assume the falsity of materialism, then current science only describes a reality devoid of consciousness. So if we don’t have any theories that include consciousness, then a fortiori we won’t currently have any theories that include abilities of consciousness such as psi, or indeed the causal efficacy of consciousness’.

    There are plenty of rational ‘materialistic’ theories that include consciousness. You’re assuming in advance that materialism is false because it conflicts with your woo. You can’t include psi in a model of reality unless you actually demonstrate that it exists in the first place. The easiest person to fool is yourself, and you do it every time you comment. There are plenty of ‘materialistic’ theories dealing with the causal efficacy of consciousness, and it most cases it appears to be an illusion – the unconscious mind makes the decision and then the rational mind rationalises it.

  33. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 5:13 pm

    [Ian Wardell] ear in mind that if we assume the falsity of materialism, then current science only describes a reality devoid of consciousness. So if we don’t have any theories that include consciousness, then a fortiori we won’t currently have any theories that include abilities of consciousness such as psi, or indeed the causal efficacy of consciousness.

    Ugh. No. “Materialism” has nothing to do with it.

    If there is an effect (a relationship between the variables) it should be detectable under controlled experimentation. Unless and until it is, there is no effect. The scientific method is practical and does not rely on philosophical positions. If there’s a there there to be observed, it will hold up under scrutiny.

    Period.

    This is an entirely separate question from what may or may not cause such an effect if detected. The fact that “science” does not have a complete understanding of consciousness is not free license to insert unsubstantiated conjecture. That way lies literally every misconception overturned by science throughout history.

    If the answer is “we don’t know” then that is the answer until such a time as we have confirmed hypotheses via experimental exploration.

  34. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 5:14 pm

    The counting the hits and ignoring the misses gambit doesn’t work. It’s the sort of hypothesis that can always be wheeled out and simply is ludicrously inadequate to any thoughtful unbiased person who’s done the most cursory reading of psi reports.

    I’m not really interested in discussing this. I wanted *positive* reasons to suppose psi doesn’t exist. Attacking the current evidence with preposterous hypotheses doesn’t fit that bill…

  35. Ian Wardellon 18 May 2017 at 5:20 pm

    chikoppi
    “The fact that “science” does not have a complete understanding of consciousness”.

    As I keep saying, current science *wholly* leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, and as science is currently conceived (i.e merely dealing with the measurable), it could not *in principle* accommodate consciousness.

    If science cannot accommodate consciousness and psi is an ability of consciousness, then you cannot appeal to it to say that psi is unlikely.

    You can only claim psi is a priori unlikely should consciousness simply follow physical states.

    Anyway, I’m sick of repeating myself. Try to take in what I say!

    No more…

  36. Pete Aon 18 May 2017 at 5:25 pm

    mumadadd,

    I shall always remember the lecturer who taught me statistics. A fellow student asked of the lecturer: It seems from what you’ve said that nothing has a probability of exactly unity; the probability of something can be very close to unity, but never quite reach unity.

    The lecturer replied along the lines of “There are two things I know for sure which have a probability of unity: you were born; and you will die! Everything that will happen between those two 100% certain events in your life has a probability of less than unity.”

    In other words, the vast majority of people have this ‘uncanny psychic ability’ to ‘predict’ the death of their loved ones, the death of complete strangers, and the death of every other living thing on planet Earth.

  37. MosBenon 18 May 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Ian, could you define conciousness for me? It seems like you’re saying that conciousness is by definition immaterial or immeasurable. My understanding of the current scientific view of conciousness is that it is what the brain does; it’s the brain braining. It is not a separate thing from the brain but a function of it. That being the case, psi powers would no different than other sense functions. The brain would have a way to gather input from psi sources and a way to interpret that data. We’d be able to look at the brain and watch as it goes into particular brain states associate with psi activity and certain structures of the brain would be associated with psi activity.

  38. Pete Aon 18 May 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Ian,

    Over the years, I’ve had several people tell me that I’m psychic, due to the fact that things I said during our converstations often came true shortly after the converstion.

    How can I prove to them that I am not psychic? How can I possibly provide enough positive evidence to show them that I am, indeed, not psychic?

    I can’t! Why? Because the accused doesn’t own the burden of proof for their innocence. It is impossible for me to prove that I am not: a psychic; a witch; a sorcerer; an alien from another planet; etc.

  39. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 5:57 pm

    [Ian Wardell] As I keep saying, current science *wholly* leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, and as science is currently conceived (i.e merely dealing with the measurable), it could not *in principle* accommodate consciousness.

    This is simply wrong. Time is immaterial and observer dependent, as is gravity. “Science” has no problem investigating these phenomena. Consciousness is a complex problem, but just as susceptible to observation and experimentation. If it’s real it can be studied.

    If science cannot accommodate consciousness and psi is an ability of consciousness, then you cannot appeal to it to say that psi is unlikely.

    You are claiming that “psi” is a measurable effect that manifests in reality. When tested, no such phenomena appears. It is statistical noise, bias, and poorly conducted experimentation.

    There is no there there.

    You can only claim psi is a priori unlikely should consciousness simply follow physical states.

    I’m not claiming it’s unlikely. I’m claiming that there is insufficient evidence to believe it exists.

    Anyway, I’m sick of repeating myself. Try to take in what I say!

    No one misunderstands you. We understand what you are saying perfectly well.

  40. MosBenon 18 May 2017 at 5:59 pm

    So, for a positive argument about why psi is unlikely, here it is: 1) we don’t see evidence of energy or stimuli consistent with psi activity, 2) we don’t see brain structures or states associated with with psi activity, 3) the claims of psi events are unreliable and better explained by known ways that the brain produces unreliable experiences and plain old hucksterism.

    But ultimately the burden isn’t on us to make a positive case against psi. The presumption for ANYTHING is non-existence until sufficient evidence of existance is presented. If evidence of psi exists, let it prove its case. Absemt that, it doesn’t exist.

  41. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Pete A,

    The best way of proving you’re not a psychic is to claim that you’re a psychic (in the same way that only true Messiahs deny their divinity). Make as many reasonably plausible predictions as you can. Predict that acquaintances will unexpectedly arrive through the door or phone within the next minute. Make certain that everyone around you becomes aware of the occasional predictions that happen to come true, even if you need to stretch the prediction a little. If you receive an email from the acquaintance sent and received on your device an hour ago, but you’ve only just opened it, claim it as a ‘hit’.

    Be as obnoxious and self-satisfied with your abilities and intelligence as you can. Take a role model from Ian (‘read my blog’) Wardell – whom I’m pleased to note has promised not to comment again on this thread, hopefully forever.

    Come up with explanations similar to those of the Wardell Waffle. State that there’s a cosmic intelligence – sorry, Cosmic Intelligence, it needs capitals, COSMIC INTELLIGENCE – that only you uniquely (plus thousands of similarly gifted psychics over the past millennia) have the ability to tap into.

    It’s easy, really.

  42. Pete Aon 18 May 2017 at 6:45 pm

    bachfiend,

    The accusations of being a psychic led me to learn how to perform both cold and warm readings 🙂

  43. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Pete A,

    I sort of understand what a cold reading is. What is a warm reading? Is it one where you don’t look for any clues in the subject? I wonder how you’d do it?

    I’ll attempt one on you to prove that I’m psychic too. You’re male (or if you’re female you’ve got some gender confusion issues in using a male name ‘Pete’), you’re reading this on a tablet, or perhaps an iPhone or some other electronic device, siting down in a house or some other confined space.

    How did I do? If I manage sufficient hits, Ian will be impressed using it as ‘evidence’.

  44. Robneyon 18 May 2017 at 7:44 pm

    “I am not attempting to shift the burden of proof. I’m *stating* that the burden of proof is upon you and those who deny psi”

    Ian Wardell – winner of the “unintentional irony award 2017”

  45. Pete Aon 18 May 2017 at 8:07 pm

    bachfiend,

    ‘Cold reading’ generally refers to ‘reading’ a stranger from whom we can gather only minimal clues.

    ‘Warm reading’ generally refers to ‘reading’ a person from whom we have gathered more than minimal clues.

    ‘Hot reading’ generally refers to ‘reading’ a person from whom we have gathered many clues — such as a family member, a friend, a colleague, an acquaintance.

    Warm and hot readings are frequently performed by ‘readers’ who acquire their clues by nefarious means, which is something that I refuse to do for any purposes other than health & safety and mutually-agreed entertainment.

    As to your reading of me:
    1. I struggle with words that are longer than four letters so, fortuitously, my name is Pete and I’m a male.

    2. I bought an iPad a few years ago and the only thing I’ve managed to master is applying software updates! I can use it to read my e-mail, my collection of PDF documents, and browse the Web, but I’ve never been able to use it for creating anything or writing anything — I use a computer plus peripheral devices for those tasks.

    3. “siting down in a house or some other confined space” Funnily enough, I’m least creative while I’m sitting in a confined space, and most creative when I’m either horizontal or walking around in open spaces 🙂

  46. Pete Aon 18 May 2017 at 8:26 pm

    “[Ian Wardell] I am not attempting to shift the burden of proof. I’m *stating* that the burden of proof is upon you and those who deny psi.”

    Translation:
    “I am not attempting to shift the burden of proof. I have deliberately and wilfully shifted the burden of proof because I abhor scientific evidence which contradicts my beliefs and the articles on my blog.”

  47. Lightnotheaton 18 May 2017 at 8:30 pm

    This whole general area of psi, channelling, out of body experiences is where skeptics are the most vulnerable to charges of denialism. For one thing, Steven and others are starting out with a strong ideological bias against the idea that this stuff is even possible other than as illusions. For example, Steven says “what is more likely, that the fundamental nature of reality is not what we thought, or Bem was a little sloppy in his research?” This is the ideological aspect of the scientific world view. Although in the end I agree with the skeptics on this, the objections they raise to the evidence often sound post hoc and unreasonable in much the same way that denialist objections to, say, AGW sound post hoc and unreasonable. Being hyper-vigilant about the bias of the experimenter, for example. In general there is too often a sense of people thinking to themselves “I already know this stuff CAN’T be true, so let’s see how I can pick apart the evidence presented.”

    In saying this I’m largely standing in for a relative I’m always arguing with, whom I wish I could get to take part in these discussions. Like others I know she started out with a conventionally pro-science outlook and is doesn’t like traditional religious dogma, but became convinced that mainstream scientists have ideological blinders on that prevent them from fairly judging evidence..

  48. michaelegnoron 18 May 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Psi isn’t half as crazy as the belief that your SUV controls the weather.

    If I had to choose between a guy who tells me that Psi has some basis in reality, and a guy who tells me that the world will end because of the air we exhale, I’ll go with the Psi guy.

    Unlike Psi, some theories are just plain nuts.

  49. Pete Aon 18 May 2017 at 9:01 pm

    “Psi isn’t half as crazy as the belief that your SUV controls the weather.”

    One SUV does not, and cannot, ‘control’ the weather. No scientist has ever claimed that it does.

  50. Robneyon 18 May 2017 at 9:12 pm

    @Engor,

    Even assuming that anthropogenic climate change theories are completely false, I don’t think they are equivalent to psi.

    Climate change models could be completely wrong (I don’t think they are – but for the sake of argument), but they are at least based on reasonably well understood physical laws and processes.

    Psi assumes the existence undetectable physical forces based on evidence that is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the evidence we would expect to find if Psi was false.

    Climate change and Psi claims are not equivalent – even if we assume the least charitable interpretation of the current climate change evidence. One fits within our current understanding of physics and the other is completely extraneous to them.

    If your own personal incredulity regarding both is equivalent then maybe you need to examine why that might be?

  51. michaelegnoron 18 May 2017 at 9:12 pm

    [One SUV does not, and cannot, ‘control’ the weather. No scientist has ever claimed that it does.]

    I guess it takes a village of SUV’s to control the weather:

    https://www.austincc.edu/buck/eng/1301/pubtexts/suvno3.htm

  52. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 9:16 pm

    mumadadd,

    Golly, you must have psychic powers with your modified Egnor invoking ritual in attempting to summon hardnose. Not only did you get Ian Wardell many times, but you also finally got Michael Egnor.

    So I would definitely count that as a definite psychic ‘hit’.

    Michael,

    No one claims that the world will end because of the air we exhale. No one even claims that the world will end because of profligate burning of fossil fuels. The worry is that a warmer world won’t support the current 7 billion people, let alone the 9 billion expected by 2060.

    How is the prediction of the Second Coming and the End of Days coming? We’ve been waiting for almost 2000 years already.

    Egnor is stuck in the 12th century. Ian Wardell is stuck in the 17th century (and not the better half). I’m not certain about hardnose – he seems to be interested in providing ‘evidence’ (very bad evidence), so he’s maybe 21st century.

  53. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Michael,

    Time for your Egnor Evasion again. Did you read the item you’ve just linked to?

    Do you disagree with the sentence ‘Even though Detroit has technology that could make them both cleaner and safer, SUVs and other light trucks are still held to low environmental standards, roll over more than cars and pose greater danger to other vehicles than cars do’.

    You don’t think saving money and lives is worth it?

    You’re really very, very stupid.

  54. Robneyon 18 May 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Even the most reasonable claims can sound absurd if you describe them sufficiently reductive terms.

    You mean we all live on a big ball, floating on nothing being pull along by an invisible force – yeah right. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Maybe the more accurate characterisation is

    “Psi isn’t half as crazy as the belief that your SUV, which contributes to the 10 gigatonnes of green house gasses pumped into the atmosphere each year, might effect the climate”

    Because stated in those terms, it doesn’t sound so unreasonable to me. We know volcanoes have affected the climate in the past – why is it so unreasonable to assume we might have a similar impact when our emissions are similar in scale?

  55. michaelegnoron 18 May 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Speaking of fake science, here’s a blurb on Paul Ehrlich,

    “Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.””

    http://www.aei.org/publication/18-spectacularly-wrong-apocalyptic-predictions-made-around-the-time-of-the-first-earth-day-in-1970-expect-more-this-year-2/

    Ehrlich professional scientific cred:

    “He was appointed to the Bing Professorship in 1977.[10][11] He is president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.[12] He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the United States National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.[10]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_R._Ehrlich

    So this wack-a-loon is honored and feted by the “scientific” community, treated with adulation and honors and prestige.

    So spare me this tripe about how “crazy” Psi is. I don’t know much about Psi, but if you want crazy, you don’t need to look outside of mainstream science, which has for the past centuries produced more crazy than all the Psi types put together.

    Oh, and this loon is, of course, a global warming nut of the first rank:

    https://vtdigger.org/2013/05/01/biologist-paul-ehrlich-gives-dire-prediction-for-global-civilization/

    When will we ever learn?

  56. michaelegnoron 18 May 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Steven:

    Where is the “skeptic” community on frauds like Ehrlich? Where was the skeptic community when Ehrlich’s most prominent junior protegee John Holdren, was appointed Obama’s Science Czar–the top scientific position in the country, for eight years?

    You “skeptics” are tough as nails on acupuncturists, but you nuzzle up to mainstream science frauds like there’s no tomorrow.

    There’s lots of fake science out there. The vast majority of it is being practiced by your buddies– global warming charlatans, overpopulation frauds, anti-DDT loons, evolutionary psychology nuts, etc.

  57. michaelegnoron 18 May 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Rob:

    [“SUV, which contributes to the 10 gigatonnes of green house gasses pumped into the atmosphere each year, might effect the climate”]

    I’m still waiting for the “Great Die-Off”, and the “Silent Spring”, and the “Dysgenic Apocalypse” and a host of other Science Apocalypses that haven’t quite materialized.

    I can only do so much panic.

  58. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 10:27 pm

    [michaelegnor] I can only do so much panic.

    Then don’t.

    No one cares.

    Absolutely nothing hinges on your “assessment” of the science.

  59. edamameon 18 May 2017 at 10:29 pm

    egnor, I’m sorry you have so much trouble staying on topic. misssed your nap today?

  60. michaelegnoron 18 May 2017 at 10:31 pm

    [Absolutely nothing hinges on your “assessment” of the science.]

    Except elections, and funding and policy.

    Tens of millions og Americans agree with me.

  61. Willyon 18 May 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Dr. Egnor: “Tens of millions of (typo corrected) Americans agree with me.”

    And tens of millions don’t agree with you. Your point?

  62. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Michael,

    ‘I don’t know much about psi,…’

    You could have added that you don’t know much about anything except for Thomian scholastics which you acquired predigested fro Ed Feser. And even then you don’t understand it.

    Paul Ehrlich is very much an outlier. He and ‘evolutionary psychology’ has received much criticism in the sceptical community.

    I notice that according to your second link, Ehrlich claimed that in some subarctic villages twice as many girls as boys were being born, which had me smiling. I’m pretty certain that in other subarctic villages, twice as many boys as girls will be born.

    When you have small numbers in small populations (such as the number of births in small villages) clustering is almost certain, in the same way that cancer clustering often occurs, not indicating any causal factor.

    Still waiting for the Christian Apocalypse and the Second Coming after almost 2000 years.

  63. bachfiendon 18 May 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Willy,

    In the tens of millions of Americans who agree with Egnor, there are a considerable number who thought that the Affordable Health Cover Act health insurance they’d gained was going to be retained, despite Trump promising to abolish Obamacare.

    The Americans agreeing with Egnor aren’t exactly from the deeper end of the gene pool. Like Trump. And Egnor.

  64. chikoppion 18 May 2017 at 10:47 pm

    [michaelegnor] Tens of millions og Americans agree with me.

    Fewer every day.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/21/climate/how-americans-think-about-climate-change-in-six-maps.html?_r=1

    Also, “tens of millions” of Americans think Africa is a country.

  65. bachfiendon 19 May 2017 at 12:29 am

    chikoppi,

    The tens of millions of Americans who think Africa is a country are probably confused by South Africa, which is a country. So there’s actually another 4 countries in Africa; North Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Subsaharan Africa…

  66. Lightnotheaton 19 May 2017 at 12:34 am

    But back to psi. Skeptics correctly point out that two popular criticisms of mainstream science are contradictory: on the one hand, there is the claim that what science says is true keeps changing, and on the other hand is the claim that it is narrow-minded and dogmatic. If it’s dogmatic, why does it keep changing? And if it keeps changing, how is it dogmatic?

    The thing is though, you could argue that criticisms of psi research are contradictory as well. On the one hand there is the claim that it’s pseudoscience, and we can disregard pro-psi results because of poor experimental design, lack of blinding, poor control of confounding variables, etc. On the other hand, there is all this talk about 200 years of psi research being enough for us to say the evidence is not there. So which is it? If it has been pseudoscience all along, then we DON’T have 200 years of real, quality scientific research on psi and shouldn’t we just say its an open question and start doing it now? Shouldn’t we, for example, further improve the quality of the already relatively careful ganzfield studies?

    As with my previous post, I’m largely standing in for someone else. I mainly want to hear a better skeptical response than I have so far in this blog to the charge that they unreasonably reject evidence for ideological reasons.

  67. chikoppion 19 May 2017 at 1:35 am

    [Lightnitheat] As with my previous post, I’m largely standing in for someone else. I mainly want to hear a better skeptical response than I have so far in this blog to the charge that they unreasonably reject evidence for ideological reasons.

    Define “unreasonably” and “evidence.”

    In any field of study results that contradict prior findings will receive a high degree of scrutiny. This just as true for paleontology or physics. Remember the “faster than light” neutrinos? They repeated that experiment several times and were still skeptical of the outcome, and wisely so. Only after painstakingly interrogating the methodology did they find the technical error.

    They weren’t “ideologically motivated” to disprove FTL neutrinos. They were motivated to be absolutely certain that the methodology was sound before accepting the results.

    This is a good thing. Should “psi” ever be demonstrated by rigorous, well-designed, statistically relevant, and replicated studies the evidence will be clear and ideology will have no part to play.

  68. MosBenon 19 May 2017 at 1:51 am

    Lightnotheat, homeopathy is psuedoscience. It has always been psuedoscience. At the same time we also have quality science that has studied it and found no evidence to support it. There have always be credulous believets in psi who come up with complicated psuedoscientific explanations for it (and a lot of hucketers looking to rip people off), but we have also had some good investigation of it. These are not mutually exclusive.

  69. chikoppion 19 May 2017 at 2:00 am

    @bachfiend

    I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek.

    Heck, something akin to 18% of Americans (nearly 60M) think the Earth is less than 10k years old and 40% (130M) think dinosaurs and humans co-existed.

    https://ncse.com/library-resource/americans-scientific-knowledge-beliefs-human-evolution-year

  70. SteveAon 19 May 2017 at 5:02 am

    bachfiend: “I sort of understand what a cold reading is. What is a warm reading? Is it one where you don’t look for any clues in the subject? I wonder how you’d do it?”

    As Pete A has already said, warm reading is having access to personal information in advance of a reading.

    The most egregious example of this I can think of is the foul Doris Stokes who used to tour the UK with her medium act in the 70s and 80s. If she was visiting a town, her team would comb through the local papers looking at the obituaries, then send invitations to grieving relatives giving them free tickets to the show.

    She’d already have basic details of the deceased, so it was quite easy to identify these people if they did decide attend the venue. Sometimes she’d have very specific information about a person if the case involved a local tragedy, such as a child drowning in a canal or some such, that was heavily covered in the local press.

    Of course, no-one else in the venue knew that a proportion of the audience had been invited, so her ‘powers’ must have seemed miraculous to most people.

  71. RickKon 19 May 2017 at 6:28 am

    Egnor’s banging the population drum again? He’s well known for his logic and scientific thinking in this arena:

    Egnor: “South Korea has 5 times the population density of the world. Malta has 30 times the population density of the world. Gibraltar has 100 times the population density of the world. Monaco has a population density 300 times that of the world. New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts each have population densities about 8 times that of the world. Your hysteria about overpopulation doesn’t have a shred of science. There is no correlation between population density and human well-being, except perhaps that more dense areas are better.”

    See that logic? The Earth’s ability to support human populations, according to Michael, isn’t based on things like pollution, biodiversity, global warming or the availability and productivity of arable land. It’s based on multiplying the population density of Monaco by the available global living space.

    Yes, Ehrlich’s view of the future was and is shaped by his fears and prejudices and is horrifying. But Egnor’s is no less horrifying. The Earth is an island with no trading partners. Populations in such cases can and do reach a maximum, at which point long term survival of the civilization can only be achieved through management of population and resources. That is inevitable. The only open question is “when”, not “if”. The alternative to management is, of course, collapse.

    Actually, Michael does support one method of population control:
    Egnor: “The Inquisition was a disaster. Because it was too timid and limited.”

    Birth control is evil, but holy war is ok.

  72. Michael Woelkon 19 May 2017 at 7:06 am

    I find it very telling that self-proclaimed “science critics” such as The Egnor, Ian Wardell, or hardnose almost universally reject the notion of inherent flaws in human thinking. Accordingly, one of their most used arguments is that the subjective experience of people trumps scientific evidence – which is, of course, nonsense. For example, the very first paragraph of Wardells first post in this thread makes it abundantly clear that any serious reply to his ramblings is a complete waste of time:

    Psi has been experienced by human beings throughout history and across all cultures. Our modern western culture is virtually unique in rejecting it. You’re maintaining a position contrary to the collective experience of humankind.

    No evidence will ever be sufficient enough, no logical explanation good enough, no fact convincing enough, to change his mind. After all…

    Research could not possibly show that psi does not exist.

    That really says it all, doesn’t it? And The Egnor is even worse – he’s the poster boy of half-knowledge gone awry and motivated reasoning! I wonder what science has ever done to him to deserve this much hate; maybe it was rude to his grandma? Beat up his dog? Whatever it was; let it go, man! You’ll feel better afterwards – promise!

  73. michaelegnoron 19 May 2017 at 7:41 am

    RickK:

    [Yes, Ehrlich’s view of the future was and is shaped by his fears and prejudices and is horrifying.]

    Let’s be specific about the horror. Not the “horror” of his junk-science fantasies, but the horror of what happened in the real world because of Ehrlich’s population control “science.”

    The governments of India and China took Ehrlich’s ideas to heart (India was under coersion by the US government to do so–famine aid was denied until India complied).

    Hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese were involuntarily sterilized or underwent involuntary abortions because of Ehrlich’s science. A billion families were stunted and their basic human rights denied because of Ehrlich’s science. There are 100 million–that’s right, 100 million– missing girls in Asia. They were baby girls selectively aborted or killed after birth, due to the restrictive one-child policies in these traditional cultures. That 100 million death toll is only the difference between the deliberate killing of girls over boys. There were hundreds of millions of “excess” children murdered by state authorities in China and India directly as a consequence of Ehrlich’s “science”.

    The response of the scientific community and the “skeptical” community.

    ‘Yaaaawn… Hey, let’s talk about Psi!’

  74. michaelegnoron 19 May 2017 at 7:48 am

    [But Egnor’s is no less horrifying. The Earth is an island with no trading partners. Populations in such cases can and do reach a maximum, at which point long term survival of the civilization can only be achieved through management of population and resources. That is inevitable. The only open question is “when”, not “if”. The alternative to management is, of course, collapse.]

    Bullsh*t.

    Population in economically advanced countries levels off and even declines whey living standards rise, without any need whatsoever for coercive “population control” policies. The birth rate in advanced European countries (among the native Europeans) is less than the replacement rate, and the same is true in Japan and in native white populations in the US.

    Good economic policy (ie capitalism) and good government naturally stabilize birth rates, without the forced sterilizations and abortions advocated by Ehrlich and his cronies.

    You have no f*cking right to “manage population”. Doing so is a crime against humanity. Given your track record on population science, you have no scientific or public policy credibility at all.

    Population control thugs are on a moral par with Nazis, and should be treated as such.

  75. Kabboron 19 May 2017 at 8:16 am

    Michael,

    You do understand that you are effectively complaining that the SGU and Neurologica were not around longer right? Why wasn’t the SGU more concerned about the Nazis, and other things from 40+ years ago? What a stunning rebuke. They don’t even use their old-timey radio voices anymore, which is a shame.

  76. mumadaddon 19 May 2017 at 8:23 am

    Michael,

    “The response of the scientific community and the “skeptical” community.

    ‘Yaaaawn… Hey, let’s talk about Psi!’”

    Wait, what…? Did you think this blog post and comments thread was a response to the misdeeds done in the name of Elrich’s science?

    I think you need to hone your Google-fu, sir.

    Let me start you off: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=skeptical+response+to+elrich+science

  77. BillyJoe7on 19 May 2017 at 9:00 am

    …wait, isn’t this post about Bum…um, I mean Bem
    How did Ehrlick…shit, Erhlich…get Bem bumped off the thread?

  78. Steven Novellaon 19 May 2017 at 10:12 am

    Michael,

    Google is your friend. It could save you some embarrassing moments, like this one

    http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/09/28/the-overpopulation-hubbub/

  79. Sarahon 19 May 2017 at 11:10 am

    I’m sure people have false and yet personally convincing experiences of psychic powers, Ian.

    Anecdotes do not a reasonable position make – if psi were “obviously” real more of us would have experienced it.

    What explanation do you have for why replication never works? Do you, like many proponents, think that it’s due to negative psi interference?
    Is James Randi an actual wizard who suppresses other people’s power?
    Does doubt cause them to fail?

    Curious, this. I bet a properly rigorous believer would get the same result.

  80. Steven Novellaon 19 May 2017 at 11:15 am

    Sarah – that is exactly what they did in the replication. They compared believer researchers to skeptics. They too thought the skeptics would be negative and the believers positive.

    Nope, they were all negative.

  81. Steve Crosson 19 May 2017 at 11:33 am

    bachfiend,

    You’re just a Lavender. We sceptics are the Hermiones. (I suppose I’d better not mention that Professor Trelawney had 2 genuine predictions).

    I feel obligated to point out that even her “genuine” predictions were sufficiently vague (e.g. Harry vs. Neville) as to have multiple interpretations, thus increasing the probability of a “hit”.

  82. MosBenon 19 May 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Steve Cross, that’s fair, but in the Potterverse there seems to be a difference between normal, mundane predictions (similar to what we have on our planet) and “real” prophesies which are magically inspired. Trelawney was mostly a fraud, but she did have at least two visions which came from real magical inspiration. They weren’t as useful as a new report for sure, but she wasn’t faking them either, as was her usual.

  83. Steve Crosson 19 May 2017 at 2:37 pm

    MosBen,

    All true, but I was just trying to drive home two points.

    1.) Of all the supposedly successful predictions that believers point to, how many are only declared a success because they matched vaguely defined criteria? I suspect most, although some will inevitably match fairly close simply because of random chance.

    2.) Building on #1, vague predictions aren’t particularly useful. So even if someone can make “predictions” that are more reliable than chance, unless they are specific enough to be “actionable” before events play out, they are just as likely to cause more harm than good, or perhaps even play a role in determining the future rather than merely predicting it (as happened in the Potterverse).

    I agree that these are pretty nitpicky nits to pick, but my point is that if all this stuff happens as often as Ian and his ilk believe, then how is it that no one ever seems to have done anything useful with it?

  84. hardnoseon 19 May 2017 at 3:13 pm

    No one has found anything wrong with Bem’s precognition experiments. And in the Slate article it says that Bem replicated his own experiments 5 times. There were NO unplanned comparisons in those replications. Unplanned comparisons is the main thing critics have been complaining about.

    Taking Bem’s statements out of context is just dumb. He obviously does not believe researchers should be careless or go on fishing expeditions. When you publish research the comparisons must be planned, and the statistics must be appropriate.

    One big thing that came out of this controversy is estimated prior probabilities, which is basically a way out for materialists who don’t like to see evidence of psi, because it’s “impossible.”

    Some of the attempted replications failed and others succeeded. Even the Slate article admits that right now we don’t have the answer.

    Parapsychology is notorious for unpredictable replications — obviously, that is because you can’t prevent mental confounds.

    I am sure that Bem did not spend 10 years fooling himself. He started out extremely skeptical about psi, sort of like James Randi. He tried the same simple experiments again and again to make absolutely sure the effect was real.

  85. Steve Crosson 19 May 2017 at 3:29 pm

    hardnose,

    There are 7 billion people in the world plus everyone else throughout history. And you’re right, many, many people are convinced that they have experienced some type of psi phenomenon.

    The problem is, regardless of what you think you have read, no one can do any of this stuff reliably — NO ONE.

    If anyone could do anything at all, and it doesn’t even matter “which” psi ability you pick, someone would already be doing something useful with it, and probably charging lots of money for whatever service they provide.

    Mind-reading, telekinesis, speaking to the dead — it literally doesn’t matter. No matter how esoteric the “power”, someone will figure out how to monetize it if it really exists. It doesn’t even have to be perfectly reliable either. Just as long as it provides a competitive edge.

    Look at all of the fake psi practitioners out there in every field. Anybody with real powers could deliver reliable, tangible, testable results — and could charge accordingly.

    Now think about those 7 billion people again. Out of that many “potential” psychics still no one has ever been able to make a dime off it — at least not legitimately. Either it doesn’t exist or else it is so unreliable as to be useless.

  86. Sarahon 19 May 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for that clarification, Dr. Novella.

    bachfiend,

    You’re just a Lavender. We sceptics are the Hermiones. (I suppose I’d better not mention that Professor Trelawney had 2 genuine predictions).

    I feel obligated to point out that even her “genuine” predictions were sufficiently vague (e.g. Harry vs. Neville) as to have multiple interpretations, thus increasing the probability of a “hit”.

    I’d like to point out that the prophesy in that specific case was not unclear, it was self-fulfilling.

    Short version: Voldemort got a “choose the form of your destructor” moment. The choice was his, and one of those choices was “walk away and do nothing.”

    Now, one could ask why Voldemort didn’t see it that way, but that’s basically what Trelawney predicted – that Voldemort would pick the person who would THEN become destined to kill him.

  87. Steve Crosson 19 May 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Sarah,

    You’re right of course, and I think I addressed those concerns in my comments to MosBen above.

    In short, “be careful what you wish for — it might not turn out the way you hope” is more or less the point I was trying to make to psi believers. Sorry it wasn’t more clear.

  88. Sophieon 19 May 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Hardnose,

    In your opinion why do you think the world ignores psi phenomena?

    Why is psi not taught in school or at least discussed and taken seriously?

    If psi is real, why do we find ourselves in a world without evidence of it?

  89. Sophieon 19 May 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Ckava,

    Literally every single person feels the urge to present themselves as always being right. Even you.

    I did admit today that I mixed up some terms in the pixel discussion.

    I don’t remember where you apologized, or admitted making a mistake. For example when you ranted endlessly about how memory can influence personality, all while missing my entire point: that personality explain identity much better than episodic memory.

    All you continue to do is say very general tendencies people have when it comes to arguments and saying that it’s only me that does these things.

  90. hardnoseon 19 May 2017 at 7:07 pm

    “The problem is, regardless of what you think you have read, no one can do any of this stuff reliably — NO ONE”

    Steve Cross,

    Parapsychologists don’t claim that psi is reliable. That is the point of using statistics.

    The fact that psi is not reliable is not scientifically important. Parapsychologists are trying to understand something about nature, and this is an interesting and important subject.

    My guess is that we all use psi all the time, but it’s not conscious. That’s why you can’t go into a casino and turn on your psi abilities and make tons of money.

    And it’s a mistake to think of psi as super-powers that would make someone all-knowing and infallible. It’s just another part of how we evolved to relate to our world.

  91. hardnoseon 19 May 2017 at 7:13 pm

    “In your opinion why do you think the world ignores psi phenomena?”

    Sophie,

    The world doesn’t ignore psi phenomena. Maybe you only hang out with materialist/atheists. They are a tiny minority, but that is your world.

  92. Sarahon 19 May 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Cross:

    Yeah, and it’s close to how medieval people viewed prophecy – it was widely believed that the prophecy shapes the future rather than the other way around. This goes back way before Macbeth.

  93. Lightnotheaton 19 May 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Chikoppi,

    Yes, your example of the supposedly faster than light neutrinos is good; another good one is cold fusion. Being hyper-vigilant about this kind of evidence that goes against previous findings is appropriate.

    You asked for my definitions of the words “unreasonably” and “evidence” in the context of a claim that skeptics may unreasonably reject evidence for ideological reasons. I’m using the word “unreasonably” in the way one would when describing how denialists treat evidence they don’t like. For example AGW denialists unreasonably reject climate data because they say biased scientists misinterpret or even invent it. Other unreasonable denialist tactics are anomaly hunting and cherry picking of the data most favorable to their ideologically-driven position.

    My relative I’m standing in for would probably point to some of the skeptical objections to Dean Radin as being unreasonable in this way.
    Here is a review by a skeptic of one of his books:

    when_big_evidence_isnt_the_statistical_pitfalls_of_dean_radins_supernormal

    (Sorry if the link didn’t work, don’t know how to post links here using a cellphone.)

    When I read this review, expecting to find good debunking of Radin’s claims of scientific proof of psi, I’ve got to admit that, while there were a lot of valid criticisms of Radin, a lot of it sounded more like character assassination, and a lot of the critiques of the evidence itself seemed nit picky and weak. For example there’s this:

    “. Right out of the gate, he produces a study that supposedly demonstrates the existence of psi effects with odds against chance of ten million billion billion (10 15) to one! Except it’s not a study, it’s a meta-analysis carried out in 1989 by Charles Honorton and Diane Ferrari in which they took all of the studies of forced-choice recognition (think of Bill Murray’s experiment in the first scene of Ghostbusters but without the shocks) between 1935 and 1987 and combined them into one super-study. I was intrigued by the profoundly high number quoted by Radin, so I looked up the initial paper and found that Radin’s representation left out a number of significant caveats found in the original.

    For example, the studies gathered by Honorton and Ferrari are, by their own admission, “extremely heterogeneous” with z-scores ranging from -5.1 (extreme negative correlation) to 19.6 (extreme positive correlation). The studies are all over the map, with some highly uncharacteristic outliers. This made the paper authors uncomfortable, and they responsibly shaved off the top and bottom 10 percent of their data to get a better idea of what most of the studies were coming up with. That results in an effect size of .012, half that of their original result. This is very small, but it is still an interesting number. The fact that Radin decided not to report it, but rather to report the .02 result from the extremely heterogeneous data, is troubling. Why neglect a responsible but still intriguing result in favor of a larger result that even the original authors were uneasy about? ”

    Hes attacking Radin for choosing the higher number, and that’s reasonable, but then ge leaves it at that. What about the smaller number that is stillll significant? Do we get to ignore it because we’ve shown Radin is biased?

    I am out of time; more later.

  94. bachfiendon 19 May 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘The world doesn’t ignore psi phenomena’. Maybe the only world that doesn’t ignore psi is the very tiny world of your like-believers? Why don’t you do a survey and ask a random selection of people in the street whether they think psi powers exist.

    The objections to psi as a real phenomenon is that the positive results are very small, in poorly designed experiments, which can’t be independently replicated, and there’s no mechanism available to explain the phenomenon.

    And anyway. Even if psi phenomena exist, it doesn’t provide any support for your opinion that the universe is intelligent, that there’s an inherent tendency for increasing intelligence and complexity in biological systems, and that mutations are non-random, directed and to the benefit of the organism.

    Not having a mechanism for psi isn’t a fatal flaw. Obviously, our understanding of the universe is incomplete. We don’t know the nature (dark matter and dark energy) of 95% of it.

    Suppose, for argument’s sake, one version of the Multiverse is true, the one in which it consists of an infinity of parallel universes. And suppose that the ‘nearest’ parallel universes are nearly identical to ours, with nearly identical versions of ‘you’. And that the multiple universes aren’t quite contiguous, and that some are ahead in time. And some behind in time. And some, perhaps all, people are able to access somehow their almost identical versions in the parallel universes including the ones ahead of time, so that they’re able to access future events, because actually they’re past events for the alternate versions of ‘you’. Correct positive results in psi experiments being due to subjects accessing almost identical versions of themselves in the future, and the much more frequent incorrect negative results being due to accessing versions of themselves that are just too different and having a slightly different history.

    I think my hypothetical model explaining the results of psi experiments is much more coherent than yours (the universe is intelligent, whatever that’s supposed to mean). In my hypothetical model the infrequent correct predictions are due to the infrequency of subjects accessing the future versions of themselves who are similar enough to have had almost identical histories. In your model, the much more frequent number of negative results is due to subjects not being able to turn on their psi abilities consciouslessly. Or that they’re ‘tired’. Or the real explanation is that uncommon and non-replicable positive psi results just result from chance in poorly designed and performed studies.

  95. BillyJoe7on 20 May 2017 at 1:35 am

    I’m sure everyone has come across this one before:
    Suppose someone comes to your door and tells you that he has predicted that the next 10 coins you flip will come up heads. You can choose your own coins and you can flip them anyway you wish. So you flip ten coins and they all come up heads.
    What do you conclude?

  96. mumadaddon 20 May 2017 at 2:22 am

    BJ7,

    I haven’t come across that one before but I’ll take a stab. Obviously in reality of shut the door on this guy before we got to flipping any coins but for the sake of argument…

    If conclude that he knocked on a lot of doors, and I just happened to be the one who threw the statistically unlikely series; which is exactly as unlikely as any other possible series if flips. Odds are 1/1024. So maybe he’s hit 1024 houses, maybe more, maybe fewer. He’s using a large sample size, and statistically this result is likely to occur within this sample.

    Derren Brown did something like this year’s ago: he told someone he was going to make them a load if money betting on horses, and was able to correctly predict the results of 10 (chat remember how many actually) races; they bet on his choices and won big. I’ve never been able to work out Brown’s trickery but I called this one immediately — he actually started off with a massive sample size, and reported back on the one that hit all the way through, discarding the others as they lost.

    It’s these sort of coincidences, that are bound to occur in a sample size of *everyone* that so impress psi believers. And this is only the genuine coincidences — never mind the self deceived anecdotes and outright lies.

  97. mumadaddon 20 May 2017 at 2:25 am

    Urgh, I hate my phone. Cleaned up version:

    BJ7,

    I haven’t come across that one before but I’ll take a stab. Obviously in reality I’d shut the door on this guy before we got to flipping any coins, but for the sake of argument…

    I’d conclude that he knocked on a lot of doors, and I just happened to be the one who threw the statistically unlikely series; which is exactly as unlikely as any other possible series of flips. Odds are 1/1024. So maybe he’s hit 1024 houses, maybe more, maybe fewer. He’s using a large sample size, and statistically this result is likely to occur within this sample.

    Derren Brown did something like this years ago: he told someone he was going to make them a load of money betting on horses, and was able to correctly predict the results of 10 (can’t remember how many exactly) races; they bet on his choices and won big. I’ve never been able to work out Brown’s trickery but I called this one immediately — he actually started off with a massive sample size, and reported back on the one that hit all the way through, discarding the others as they lost.

    It’s these sort of coincidences, that are bound to occur in a sample size of *everyone*, that so impress psi believers. And this is only the genuine coincidences — never mind the self deceived anecdotes and outright lies.

  98. Pete Aon 20 May 2017 at 9:24 am

    There are circa 7.5 billion people on the planet; log₂ 7.5E9 ≈ 32.8. Therefore if we asked everyone to flip a coin, it is extremely likely that some people would obtain a sequence of 30 heads in a row; and that millions of people would obtain at least 10 heads in a row.

    Psi: always propagate (via storytelling) the hits; never propagate the orders of magnitude greater volume of misses.

    E.g., my friend phoned me last week while I was thinking about her. This has happened many times over the years therefore we have a psychic connection! However, I cannot recall each and every time that I was thinking about her and she didn’t call or send a text.

    Every day, we have between 20,000 and 60,000 thoughts. I think it fair to say that very few of them get stored in our long-term memory. Obviously, the thoughts that seem to be highly significant are the ones that will be stored, and most easily recalled. Humans (and many other animals) are pattern seekers who frequently falsely-detect patterns that do not actually exist in reality. This frequent false-detection is hugely beneficial to the survival of a species. E.g., Was this sound I just heard of snapping twigs caused by a predator or something innocuous? There is a reason why human hearing is extremely sensitive to percussive sounds; and why our peripheral vision is extremely sensitive to movement and flickering: both of these heightened senses vitally [as in: essential to life] raise an internal alarm signal which quickly switches our attention from its current focus to that of the attentional focus and sensory awareness required for self-protection.

  99. Willyon 20 May 2017 at 10:58 am

    Pretty damned funny. The topic is psi and Dr. Egnor jumps in with comments on AGW and Paul Erlich.

    Dr. Novella offers advice to Dr. Egnor about saving himself from embarrassment, but I really don’t think Dr. Egnor is capable of being embarrassed. He’s too focused on saving the world from science and from those who think differently than he does.

  100. Willyon 20 May 2017 at 11:00 am

    To be more clear, Dr. Egnor is saving the world from those fields of science that are “criminal” in his opinion. Fields of science that don’t conflict with his world view are obviously OK by him.

  101. bachfiendon 20 May 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Willy,

    It would help if Michael Egnor would chip in and list the sciences he regards as criminal. I know it includes biology and climate science. Well actually just the parts he disagrees with. ‘Cladistics’ he regards as a subject suitable for derision.

    From memory the only science he regards as completely OK is engineering, which he has to reclassify as a science in order to have something on his list of Egnor approved sciences.

  102. bachfiendon 20 May 2017 at 5:24 pm

    A book recommendation.

    The retired British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh has just published a new book ‘Admissions’, which I’ve just bought sight unseen.

    His previous book ‘Do No Harm’ was very, very good.

    Not all, perhaps not even many, neurosurgeons are like Michael Egnor in being ignorant and proud of it.

  103. hardnoseon 20 May 2017 at 7:19 pm

    “The objections to psi as a real phenomenon is that the positive results are very small, in poorly designed experiments, which can’t be independently replicated, and there’s no mechanism available to explain the phenomenon.”

    bachfiend,

    Bem’s experiments were NOT poorly designed. No one has been able to find anything wrong with them. They were independently replicated successfully by many labs. (But yes, some replication attempts failed, probably because of the impossibility of adequately controlling psi).

    As for a mechanism available to explain psi — things do not have to be completely explained before we can study them! There are plenty of ideas about possible explanations.

    Human beings have not figured out everything there is to know about the mind — so you think that means we should stop trying to understand?

  104. hardnoseon 20 May 2017 at 7:22 pm

    “Correct positive results in psi experiments being due to subjects accessing almost identical versions of themselves in the future, and the much more frequent incorrect negative results being due to accessing versions of themselves that are just too different and having a slightly different history.”

    Well who knows bachfiend. That’s the kind of speculation that philosophers love to waste their time on.

  105. mumadaddon 20 May 2017 at 8:01 pm

    “Bem’s experiments were NOT poorly designed. No one has been able to find anything wrong with them. They were independently replicated successfully by many labs. (But yes, some replication attempts failed, probably because of the impossibility of adequately controlling psi). ”

    I have said this before but…

    I am absolutely terrified of death. People keep dying around me all of a sudden: cancer mostly. Imagine being 42 and getting your second breast cancer diagnosis, having already had a double mastectomy, and being told it’s untreatable. Never mind your two young children.

    Dead is dead.

    I literally have panic attacks at night, contemplating my end. How badly do I want to believe in some cosmic justice operating on reality as I perceive it? That reality obeys my innate expectation of fairness: everything will always be alright in the end because whatever happens in this life, you will be swooped up into an eternal bliss afterwards.

    I don’t quite know what to say to people who believe that. Should I congratulate them or slap them hard around the face?

  106. hardnoseon 20 May 2017 at 8:27 pm

    mumadadd,

    What you are afraid of or what you want are completely irrelevant. Reality doesn’t care how you feel.

    We don’t have reliable information about what really happens after death, we will all find out eventually.

    Meanwhile, I don’t see any point in driving yourself nuts about it. Yes it is very sad if your close friends die young. But I can’t figure out what you are really saying.

    Very often, I have noticed, atheists use the “ife is so tough” argument to explain why there can’t be any higher powers. They seem to think if life isn’t warm and fuzzy all the way through, then it’s all worthless.

    mumadadd, like so many atheists you have an overgrown ego. You think you know how life ought to be (no pain, no scarcity, everything lovely all the time). It would not be possible for you to see that no, you really do not know how life should be, or how we got here or why.

    Worrying about death all the time does not sound like a fun way to live, to me. I don’t personally have any specific belief about death. I doubt there is an eternal bliss. Since I really don’t know, worrying about it would just burn up energy that could be used for something.

  107. mumadaddon 20 May 2017 at 8:40 pm

    hardnose,

    “You think you know how life ought to be (no pain, no scarcity, everything lovely all the time). It would not be possible for you to see that no, you really do not know how life should be, or how we got here or why.”

    I really don’t think I know how life ought to be — I think a major root of superstition is the projected sense of fairness on to the world, as though reality can judge you and reward or punish you. It’s obviously adaptive, and obviously projected beyond the social situations in which it applies.

    “I doubt there is an eternal bliss. Since I really don’t know, worrying about it would just burn up energy that could be used for something.”

    Easier said than done, right?

  108. mumadaddon 20 May 2017 at 8:46 pm

    “We don’t have reliable information about what really happens after death, we will all find out eventually.”

    I guarantee you that we won’t. And that’s not a debt that anyone can ever collect. So I guess you can be ignorant and then

  109. hardnoseon 20 May 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Well mumadadd you are obviously someone who needs to feel they have absolute knowledge. Not a skeptic at all! Dawkins tells you there is not afterlife, and that’s it, case closed.

    Would you be less scared if you thought there was something after? I think what comes after might be even worse than being here. But it’s all supposed to be fun, and worrying just ruins the fun.

  110. Pete Aon 20 May 2017 at 9:35 pm

    “We don’t have reliable information about what really happens after death, we will all find out eventually.”

    If nothing happens after death then it is logically impossible for us all to find out, eventually, what happens after death.

  111. bachfiendon 20 May 2017 at 10:15 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘Bem’s experiments were NOT poorly designed. No one has been able to find anything wrong with them. They were independently replicated successfully by many labs. (But yes, some replication attempts failed, probably because of the impossibility of adequately controlling psi).

    That’s 5 statements. Three are definitely wrong, as has been pointed out to you many times in previous threads. In the two statements in the parantheses, the first is true only if ‘9’ means ‘some’ instead of ‘many’, and the second is a clear example of special pleading.

    Psi could be true, and it wouldn’t affect my world-view. I can imagine that there could be mechanisms allowing psi in a universe completely indifferent to the existence of humans – a single species on a tiny speck of matter in the outer reaches of a galaxy which is just one of perhaps trillions of galaxies.

    You’ve latched onto the idea that psi exists in order to justify your belief in a conscious universe (are you trying to sneak ‘God’ as Intelligence in order to make the Universe part of Intelligence/God as wishywashy Apologetics?)

  112. SteveAon 21 May 2017 at 7:36 am

    mumadadd: “Derren Brown did something like this years ago: he told someone he was going to make them a load of money betting on horses, and was able to correctly predict the results of 10 (can’t remember how many exactly) races; they bet on his choices and won big. I’ve never been able to work out Brown’s trickery but I called this one immediately — he actually started off with a massive sample size, and reported back on the one that hit all the way through, discarding the others as they lost.”

    This is a variation of an old stock market scam. You’d write to 1,000 potential investors and tell 500 of them that you predict the value of a certain stock will go up; to the other 500, you say it will go down. The next week you then discard the 500 ‘wrong’ ones and do the same with the 500 ‘right’ ones, and so on. A month later you’re left with 30 potential marks who are convinced you’re a financial genius, and, hopefully, all eager to rain investment money on you.

  113. SteveAon 21 May 2017 at 7:42 am

    mumadadd: “I am absolutely terrified of death. People keep dying around me all of a sudden: cancer mostly. Imagine being 42 and getting your second breast cancer diagnosis, having already had a double mastectomy, and being told it’s untreatable. Never mind your two young children.”

    I don’t worry about death too much, because I’m not going to notice being dead. I could die of a brain embolism five seconds after sending this post and I would be none the wiser.

    Dying, on the other hand, can be a nasty, painful, drawn-out business. Whatever eventually punches my ticket, I hope it’s quick.

  114. mumadaddon 21 May 2017 at 8:23 am

    SteveA,

    I fully agree. Being dead is no problem at all, but, for me, knowing that I am dying would be unbearable.

    In that situation I’d quite like to have my brain messed with — I know there are regions of the brain that, for example, that control your feeling of being an embodied entity which is separate from the rest of reality, and if you inhibit these regions through narcotics, transcranial magnetic stimulation etc. you can be made to feel like you’re part of the infinite — I’d go for this in a heartbeat, along with a sh*t ton of morphine. I don’t want to go out knowing that I’m going out, never to experience anything ever again.

  115. hardnoseon 21 May 2017 at 11:01 am

    “You’ve latched onto the idea that psi exists in order to justify your belief in a conscious universe”

    No. I read the psychology literature and decided psi exists, a long time ago. And that was separate from believing the universe is conscious. Lots of things made me hypothesize that everything is made out of information.

  116. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2017 at 11:36 am

    BJ said:
    “I’m sure everyone has come across this one before:
    Suppose someone comes to your door and tells you that he has predicted that the next 10 coins you flip will come up heads. You can choose your own coins and you can flip them anyway you wish. So you flip ten coins and they all come up heads.
    What do you conclude?”

    I was dreaming? It wouldn’t happen.

  117. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2017 at 11:47 am

    SteveA

    “This is a variation of an old stock market scam. You’d write to 1,000 potential investors and tell 500 of them that you predict the value of a certain stock will go up; to the other 500, you say it will go down. The next week you then discard the 500 ‘wrong’ ones and do the same with the 500 ‘right’ ones, and so on. A month later you’re left with 30 potential marks who are convinced you’re a financial genius, and, hopefully, all eager to rain investment money on you”.

    Oh yes? And have these potential investors been contacted by a huge number of people, all of whose predictions failed apart from this one?

  118. mumadaddon 21 May 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Ian,

    “Oh yes? And have these potential investors been contacted by a huge number of people, all of whose predictions failed apart from this one?”

    Weird question — why do you ask this?

  119. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2017 at 2:04 pm

    @mumadadd

    The point being that if someone predicts correctly that the value of a certain stock will go up, and keeps predicting correctly, then it’s a good idea to listen and act accordingly.

  120. mumadaddon 21 May 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Ian,

    I see. And I agree. 🙂

  121. bachfiendon 21 May 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Ian,

    If 10 people (doing the sharemarket investment newsletter scam) write to you, or more likely nowadays email to you, offering you sharemarket tips, you’ll forget the ones who have given you the wrong tip because they will stop writing to you. After about 3 weeks only one of the 10 will still be writing to you because he’s got all his guesses correct, and then he’ll offer you the subscription to an expensive but useless newsletter.

    The scam works by the scammer contacting a very large number of people, made easier with the Internet and emails which allows the scammer to contact as many as a million people. Pick a historically volatile stock and predict it will go up to half and down to half. Second mailing, take the 500,000 you correctly ‘predicted’ and now predict it will go up to half and down to the other half. Repeat with the recipients of your successful ‘predictiction’. Eventually after several mailings you will have a small minority of your original mailing (which will still be a very large number of people) who have received only successful ‘predictions’ from the scammer.

    Mumadadd,

    You’re describing temporal lobe epilepsy (aka as limbic lobe epilepsy) perfectly. Sufferers often experience the feeling of the ineffable during attacks.

    Hardnose,

    So you decided psi exists a long time ago? And as a result whenever anyone – such as Bem – publishes shitty research with small effects that can’t be replicated in subsequent attempts, you accept it without question?

    It’s a measure of a reasonable person to change his opinions with new information, not to engage in confirmation bias.

    And your hypothesis that everything in the universe is made of information is just incoherent.

    And then he unleashes the scam. He notes that if the recipient had followed the tips, by buying or selling (or short selling) the share concerned, then the ‘mark’ for an initial investment of $10,000 would now have say $15,000 for no work and after just 3 weeks. And then will offer the subscription to his newsletter. He might offer the newsletter to a hundred thousand people. If only 1% accept ot $100 or $200 per subscription that will add up to a very large sum of money for the scammer for virtually no work.

    I ignore such offers from the start, reasoning that if someone has surefire sharemarket predictions, he wouldn’t be giving them to other people. He’d be using them himself and making a ‘killing’ in the market.

  122. bachfiendon 21 May 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Ugh, my last 2 paragraphs in my last comment were addressed to Ian Wardell. I shouldn’t have interposed the replies to mumadadd and hardnose.

  123. Lightnotheaton 21 May 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Hmmm, seems nobody wants to discuss Dean Radin’s claims that there is a lot of string scientific evidence for psi. In my last post I tried to link to an article attacking him, sorry the link didn’t work. (Would appreciate help with using html tags when using a cellphone.) I’ve no wish to praise Radin but I’d like to see better critiques of him than the ones I saw in that article, which were mainly about his methods and sincerity, and largely weak and nit picky when dealing with the actual evidence Radin presented. Frankly reminded me of some denialist critiques of evidence for AGW. Anybody?

  124. Lightnotheaton 21 May 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Strong evidence, not string evidence

  125. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Ian,

    “It wouldn’t happen”

    Do you mean wouldn’t or couldn’t?
    If you mean couldn’t, you would be wrong because of course it could happen.
    And similar things happen all the time.
    If you mean wouldn’t, you’ve simply evaded answering an inconvenient question.

    I suppose this couldn’t happen either:

    https://twitter.com/pionic_org/status/865166073443762177/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwhyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com%2Fpage%2F2%2F

    Nevermind, it’s probably just some form of trickery. 😀

  126. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Wouldn’t happen Billy. It would have to be something in the order of 1 in 10^100 for couldn’t.

  127. Lightnotheaton 21 May 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Regarding the scam mentioned above, I’ve thought of using a similar method to almost guarantee winning a modest amount at roulette. Just bet $1 on red or black, which gives you an almost 50% chance of winning. Then every time you lose, double your bet next time. As soon as you win again, go back to your $1 bet. Your downfall would be if you lost more than around 8 times in a row, but you could stop there and just accept losing around $250. (You should expect to lose money when gambling anyway!) But if the 8 in a row losing streak didn’t happen, you could win up to maybe $50 in an hour, depending on how frequently they let you bet.

  128. Willyon 21 May 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Lightnotheat: I thought of that betting technique some 30 years ago, and I’m lots sure of others have. Before I tried it, I happened to mention it to a coworker who coincidentally had tried it. The bottom line is that a too-long losing streak happens more than you’d think and the payoffs are too small to offset the “rare” big loss. He lost hundreds–can’t remember exactly how much.

    I’ll guarantee the casinos have seen this ploy a million times (and I mean that literally) and they’ll be more than happy to let you use it all you want.

  129. hardnoseon 21 May 2017 at 6:59 pm

    “So you decided psi exists a long time ago? And as a result whenever anyone – such as Bem – publishes shitty research with small effects that can’t be replicated in subsequent attempts, you accept it without question?”

    bachfiend,

    Before you decide the research is “shitty” maybe you should read something about it. Even the Slate article said it was airtight.

    And you are being dishonest when you say it can’t be replicated, when even the Slate article said that it has been successfully replicated many times.

    And I never said I accept Bem’s research without question. No research is the last word on any subject.

    I hope you will try a little harder to be honest.

  130. hardnoseon 21 May 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Lightnotheat,

    Yes the materialist/atheists make no attempt to be unbiased when criticizing parapsychology. They are fighting a war, so all is fair. The do not care what the truth might be.

  131. Lightnotheaton 21 May 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Willy,
    Yeah, I didn’t see it as a way to win big. I’m sure the casinos would actually encourage it because they know a lot of gambling addicts would go on too long and lose their shirts. I’d like to try it though, giving myself a time limit.
    Hardnose,
    You go waaay to far regarding skeptical bias about psi. There is some element of bias and denialism, but there are many reasonable critiques of psi evidence as well. Meanwhile, you are far too UNcritical of the evidence, as far as I can see. Unless you’ve seen rock solid evidence I’m unaware of. If so, enlighten me please.

  132. Pete Aon 21 May 2017 at 7:40 pm

    “[Ian] Wouldn’t happen Billy. It would have to be something in the order of 1 in 10^100 for couldn’t.”

    log₂ 10^100 ≈ 332. Flip a coin 332 times and note the sequence of heads and tails. The exact sequence you obtain had a prior probablity of only 1 in 10^100 therefore not only could it happen, it did happen!

  133. bachfiendon 21 May 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘even the Slate article said it has been successfully replicated many times’.

    Do you mean the Slate article by Daniel Engber dated May 17, 2017?

    If it isn’t, you need to read it with care. It’s an indication that the research methodology in psychology is seriously flawed. Just because Bem’s research methodology happened to match accepted practice at the time doesn’t mean that it’s valid in producing true replicable results.

    And Bem towards the end of the article shows himself to be a ‘true believer’ (just like you), noting ‘so I doubt you could get me to totally switch religions’, after a large multicentre replication attempt in which he was involved showed no evidence of psi.

  134. bachfiendon 21 May 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I see now that Steve Novella was actually referring to the same article in Slate. I didn’t realise it at the time. This thread has been going on too long.

    But anyway. Hardnose needs to read the article carefully, not just cherry pick the opinions of interviewees he just happens to like because they satisfy his confirmation bias.

  135. tb29607on 21 May 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Lightnotheat,
    I looked at Dean Rabin and the review of his most recent work. I agree the review was not too impressive. The reviews of his prior work (The entangled mind) were much more satisfying and apparently were just restating reviews of and even earlier book (the conscious universe). Orac references him a few times as a purveyor of woo but that is all I could find.

    The double your bet in vegas idea has been floated around frequently. The pitfalls are that most casinoes have a five dollar minimum (which gets you to $640 after 8 losses), most people have trouble winning a big hand and then going back to their five dollar bet, and to be guaranteed to win you have to commit to keep doubling your bet indefinitely. I tried it and gave up after I lost the $320 bet. I have wondered how the numbers would differ if you went with roulette doing the low third, mid third, or high third numbers. Since the payout is triple instead of double, your bet increase would be needed every other role but you should expect to lose lose twice as often is my mental calculation. Please correct me if this is inaccurate (my retirement depends on it).

  136. tb29607on 21 May 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Lightnotheat,
    Am I the only one who thinks Dean Rabin looks like Tobias from Arrested Development?

  137. edamameon 21 May 2017 at 11:05 pm

    You guys are talking about the Martingale betting system, and unless you are really wealthy it is an extremely bad idea, because the bet size rises exponentially.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martingale_(betting_system)

    Those green numbers are there for a reason. 🙂

    But if you are playing for extremely small stakes, and are truly willing to lose that money you are betting and have fun doing it (this is absolutely crucial), then have at it. But as a money-making strategy it is a very bad idea and casinos will love it if you do it.

    Note to make money at this you would need to bet a lot up front, because with each successive bet you only win that initial bet. For instance, say you pay 5 bucks initially. Here is the cost progression, and your net intake in parentheses:
    1: 5 (5)
    2: 10 (5)
    3: 20 (5)
    4: 40 (5)
    5: 80 (5)
    6: 160 (5)
    7: 320 (yep, five damn bucks)

    No matter how far along you get, you are going to end up spending a ridiculous amount to win a net of only 5 dollars. This is madness unless you are really wealthy and just having fun.

    And note the further along you go, it’s not like the probability changes that you will win on the next roll. It is still a 47.4% chance of getting red. Every. Single. Spin. Do you want to bet 640 bucks on that? Can you go up to 1280? Are you ready to go up to 2560 to win 5 dollars? The odds are no better on the next spin that you will win. The probability, every single spin, is 0.474. It never changes.

    You cannot become rich using this strategy. Not consistently, or reliably.

    Again, have fun, and treat your money you are spending at the casinos as monopoly money. It is not yours — it is theirs. 🙂 Especially at the roulette wheel that is the dumbest of the dumb games.

    You can make money at poker though.

  138. CKavaon 21 May 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Before you decide the research is “shitty” maybe you should read something about it. Even the Slate article said it was airtight.

    What are you talking about hardnose? The article is so flawed it has served as the subject for a bunch of corrective methodological papers. Bem himself admits that some of the methodological criticisms were likely correct in the interview:

    Given that the studies spanned a decade, Bem can’t remember all the details of the early work. “I was probably very sloppy at the beginning,” he said. “I think probably some of the criticism could well be valid. I was never dishonest, but on the other hand, the critics were correct.”

    The article does not say the study was airtight it explains how the study demonstrated the problematic standards in the field. Bem’s paper was as airtight as the other paper that showed, using the same statistical inferences, that listening to a song made participants younger. The conclusion there isn’t that the finding is valid- it is that the statistics are being abused.

    I know it’s like getting annoyed by the wind but seriously hardnose how about you actually read the things you are lecturing people about? If the takeaway you got from the Slate piece is that Bem’s research was completely valid then you have reading problems.

  139. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2017 at 12:18 am

    Ian,

    “Wouldn’t happen Billy. It would have to be something in the order of 1 in 10^100 for couldn’t”

    Don’t know about your maths, but sounds like you evaded answering the question then.

  140. mumadaddon 22 May 2017 at 1:15 am

    Lightnotheat,

    You can just paste links without any tags. You used have use a ‘URL’ tag but it’s no longer necessary.

  141. SteveAon 22 May 2017 at 4:48 am

    Ian: “The point being that if someone predicts correctly that the value of a certain stock will go up, and keeps predicting correctly, then it’s a good idea to listen and act accordingly.”

    Um. Well, that is exactly the point of the scam. So don’t see the objection here…

    Bachfiend: “The scam works by the scammer contacting a very large number of people, made easier with the Internet and emails which allows the scammer to contact as many as a million people. Pick a historically volatile stock and predict it will go up to half and down to half. Second mailing, take the 500,000 you correctly ‘predicted’…”

    There may be modern examples of these types of scams, but the example I heard about was from the start of the last century (c 1910). Back then a huge letter writing campaign would have involved considerable effort and some expense. I believe they were also carefully targeted at wealthy ‘marks’ (socialites, rich widows and the like), so would have involved some research. I doubt it was very common.

  142. Pete Aon 22 May 2017 at 8:30 am

    Lightnotheat,

    Have you read Professor Robert Todd Carroll’s take on Dean Radin?
    http://skepdic.com/essays/radin.html

    You might be interested to read some of the results from the following Google search:
    “Dean Radin” site:skepdic.com

  143. hardnoseon 23 May 2017 at 6:42 pm

    “Bem’s paper was as airtight as the other paper that showed, using the same statistical inferences, that listening to a song made participants younger.”

    The Slate article did NOT say it used the “same statistical inferences.” You do not understand enough about research to see what was going on. The experiment that “made participants younger” demonstrated what can happen when there are unplanned comparisons — when you look at data every which way, inevitably there will be significant differences.

    However, that is not what Bem, or any other intelligent researcher, would do. There is an early exploratory stage in any research — it has to be that way. After that, all comparisons must be planned. Bem spent years replicating his experiments over and over. The “fishing expeditions” were only in the early stage.

    The Slate article is fairer than I would have expected, but still biased, of course.

    There was nothing stupid or shitty about these precognition experiments. The excitement resulted because materialists “knew” that psi is not real. They also knew that the experiments were good. So they had to find an explanation.

    The only problem they found with Bem’s experiments was that they did not always replicate. That is a well-known fact about parapsychology experiments in general. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the experiment, just that psi cannot be controlled. I have explained this over and over.

  144. hardnoseon 23 May 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Pete A,

    Yes, skepdic is the place to go if you want honest unbiased information about parapsychology. You don’t have to read anything else, just skepdic.

  145. Pete Aon 23 May 2017 at 7:55 pm

    hardnose,

    Who should I trust for a an honest critique of ‘psi’: Professor Robert Todd Carroll, PhD; or some random Internet poster who hides behind the pseudonym “hardnose” in order to promote his belief in ‘psi’.

  146. CKavaon 23 May 2017 at 8:08 pm

    @hardnose

    Your posts consistently demonstrate that you do not understand the basics of experimental design or statistical analysis. Remember when you suggested that it wasn’t an issue when a study ran over 20 comparisons and used uncorrected p values of .05 as indicators of significance? Your suggestion that early ‘exploratory’ analysis of data is not making ‘unplanned’ comparisons is also ludicrous. What you are describing is a fishing expedition for effects, Bem himself calls it exactly that in his methodological article.

    In contrast to you, Bem also admitted his methods were sloppy, it’s right there in the quote. He says the critics were probably right and that he isn’t that concerned with rigour. And no non-replication wasn’t the “only problem they found”. There are several papers dedicated to the statistical and methodological issues with Bem’s paper. Here’s two for free:
    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/gpr/15/4/371/
    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/100/3/426/

  147. CKavaon 23 May 2017 at 8:09 pm

    tldr; hardnose is an ideologue. (shocking revelation)

  148. Lightnotheaton 23 May 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Pete A,
    Thanks for the link. His criticisms of Radin are somewhat better than in the review I 9referenced, but he still he doesn’t say what is wrong with the Radin’s meta-analyses. I’ve seen other cases where it seems like the skeptic can’t really find anything wrong with a meta-analysis seeming to confirm psi, and so resorts to other criticisms that at least remind me of denialism:

    http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jutts/hyman.html

  149. tb29607on 24 May 2017 at 12:24 am

    Lightnotheat,
    To adequately take down a meta analysis typically requires individually addressing each study included. They usually are a lot of work to do well and are tedious to read. I think that is why the type of critique you are looking for is either not done or not published.

    HN seems to have difficulty seeing the difference between random statistical noise and real phenomena. HN supports:
    1) intelligent cells because they make occasional good replication decisions but mostly bad ones at a rate that is tough to distinguish from random chance (i.e. Evolution),
    2) that vaccines cause autism etc. because some bad studies with bad statistics “prove” it,
    3) and psi is real because it is unpredictable and so unstudiable in negative studies but perfectly legit in marginally positive studies.

    I am left to wonder if there is any statistical noise he does not believe in.

  150. Lightnotheaton 24 May 2017 at 3:05 am

    Tb,
    In the article I linked to Hyman did in fact examine in detail the meta-analysis in question and found nothing wrong with it.

  151. CKavaon 24 May 2017 at 4:22 am

    The basic principle of meta-analysis is garbage in, garbage out. If you meta-analyse a field of low quality studies and find a tiny effect size then the normal conclusion would be that the effect is likely statistical noise derived from methodological limitations. I’ll try and dig out some references but what Radin does wrong is not unique to him, it’s well understood by statisticians.

  152. Pete Aon 24 May 2017 at 10:23 am

    Lightnotheat,

    Common criticisms about parapsychology: Criticism 3
    Parapsychology does not have a “repeatable” experiment.

    Published by The Parapsychological Association [last updated 2015-10-27]
    http://parapsych.org/articles/36/57/common_criticisms_about.aspx

    Under the assumption that there is no such thing as psi, we would expect that about 5% of well-conducted psi experiments would be declared “successful” (i.e., statistically significant) by pure chance. But suppose that in a series of 100 actual psi experiments we consistently observed that 20 were successful. This is extremely unlikely to occur by chance, suggesting that psi was present in some of those studies.

    A widely accepted method of assessing repeatability in experiments is called meta-analysis. This quantitative technique is heavily used in the social, behavioral and medical sciences to integrate research results of numerous independent experiments. Starting around 1985, meta-analyses have been conducted on numerous types of psi experiments. In many of these analyses, results indicate that the outcomes were not due to chance, or methodological flaws, or selective reporting practices, or any other plausible “normal” explanations. What remains is psi, and in several experimental realms, it has clearly been replicated by independent investigators.

    Did you spot the glaring errors? Using a p-value of 0.05 suggests that there’s a 5% chance that the result is erroneous only if the effect really exists. So, under the assumption that there is no such thing as psi, we should expect circa 30-60% of the results to be erroneous[1], not 5%. IOW, obtaining 20 successful results in a series of 100 experiments is very likely!

    That is why a meta-analysis cannot be used to determine whether or not an effect actually exists — which makes it laughable that meta-analysis is used by promotors of ‘psi’ to claim that the effects are real 🙂

    [1] Regina Nuzzo, “Scientific method: Statistical errors”, Nature 2014-02-12:
    http://www.nature.com/news/scientific-method-statistical-errors-1.14700

  153. Lightnotheaton 24 May 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Pete A,
    I’m wondering why skeptic Ray Hyman did not have this problem with the meta-analysis he looked at, and why the skeptical critiques of Radin’s claims do not mention this issue either. I don’t have enough knowledge of how these meta-analyses work to know whether Regina Nuzzo’s objections are valid, but if they are, I would think that more skeptics would raise them..

  154. Lightnotheaton 24 May 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Pete A,
    I’d also like more clarification on this claim by Nuzzo. It sounds like she is saying that, for example, if using your mind to influence coin toss results has no effect, if you did a thousand series of a thousand coin flips and and in 55% of the series you got significantly more tails than heads or vice versa, that result would not be surprising? I’m not saying that’s wrong, just that it sounds wrong.

  155. Pete Aon 24 May 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Lightnotheat,
    I agree with you. I’m wondering if Ray Hyman sort-of addressed the issues indirectly. Here’s a quote from the link you provided:

    QUOTE [italics are original; Pete’s emphasis added in bold]
    While the rejection of the null hypothesis is typically a necessary step for claiming that an hypothesized effect or relationship has occurred, it is never sufficient. Indeed, because the underlying probability model is only an approximation, everyone realizes that the null hypothesis is rarely, if ever, strictly true. In practice, the investigator hopes that the statistical test is sufficiently robust that it will reject the null hypothesis only for meaningful departures from the null hypothesis. With sufficient power, the null hypothesis will almost certainly be rejected in most realistic situations. This is because effect sizes will rarely be exactly zero. Even if the true effect size is zero in a particular instance, sufficient power can result in the rejection of the null hypothesis because the assumed statistical model will depart from the real-world situation in other ways. For most applications of statistical inference, then, too much power can result in mistaken inferences as well as too little power.

    Here we encounter another way in which parapsychological inquiry differs from typical scientific inquiry. In those sciences that rely on statistical inference, they do so as an aid to weeding out effects that could be the result of chance variability. When effect sizes are very small or if the experimenter needs to use many more cases than is typical for the field to obtain significance, the conclusions are often suspect. This is because we know that with enough cases an investigator will get a significant result, regardless of whether it is meaningful or not. Parapsychologists are unique in postulating a null hypothesis that entails a true effect size of zero if psi is not operating. Any significant outcome, then, becomes evidence for psi. My concern here is that small effects and other departures from the statistical model can be expected to occur in the absence of psi. The statistical model is only an approximation. When power is sufficient and when the statistical test is pushed too far, rejections of the null hypothesis are bound to occur. This is another important reason why claiming the existence of an anomaly based solely on evidence from statistical inference is problematic.
    END of QUOTE

    (Apologies in advance if I’ve messed-up the tags.)

  156. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 3:00 pm

    CKava nails it. A meta-analysis of a stream of turd nuggets will yield a stream of turd nuggets.

    PeteA that is a great article you cited thanks a lot for the reference. It lead me to this article, which makes the same point and I need to read (so cannot endorse yet):
    http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/1/3/140216
    As a scientist who is forced to publish a p-value with every single damned statistical comparison I make, I am still pretty locked into p-values as the god of measures. It is truly very odd.

    The silliness of it all was pushed into me one evening when I increased my N in a simulation until a very small and uninteresting result became, magically, significant. As I increased N more, the p value got smaller and smaller and ridiculously small, to the point where scientists would salivate (p < 1e-9). The result was still small and uninteresting and invisible to the naked eye.

  157. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 3:08 pm

    PS Rest assured I did not publish this “result” it was a simulation not real data, and it was a conceptual exercise at the time.

  158. Ian Wardellon 24 May 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Pete A:

    “Have you read Professor Robert Todd Carroll’s take on Dean Radin?”

    Who cares what Robert Todd Carroll thinks? he’s a clueless nitwit. See an email exchange I had with him:

    http://ianwardells.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/reincarnation-ian-stevenson-and-robert.html

  159. mumadaddon 24 May 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Wow. This, from Ian’s blog:

    Bob do you have any qualifications in philosophy? If so you really ought to be aware of them already!

    I wonder why it is OK for you to make absurd unsubstantiated assertions, where as it is not OK for me to make assertions which anyone with sufficient philosophical background would already realise?

    Are we talking here about the type of materialism inaugurated with the mechanistic philosophy at the birth of modern science in the 17th Century? This philosophy abstracted the qualitative from the material/physical realm. Hence from this time onwards physical/material reality has been considered to be wholly quantitative and is entirely absent any qualitative elements. These were pushed back into the mind. Even colours and sounds were placed into the mind (hence the current preposterous belief that colours and sounds don’t actually exist out there). The upshot of all this was that the mechanistic philosophy *forced* dualism onto us. If consciousness exists, but the material/physical world is devoid of any qualitative elements, it follows that materialism is *necessarily* false.

    Now why don’t you be a good chap and mention any problems that dualism might have?

    Reminds me of this, from Gilliam Mckieth’s book:

    As I sat down to enjoy the ride and sighed a sense of relief in honour of some quiet time, I barely heard some mumbling from Harry to break a much cherished silence. Ignoring it to soak in the rapidly moving scenery, I heard it again … ‘You know, fish has more omegas than flax,’ he stated. ‘I beg your pardon,’ I said. ‘I said that fish has more omegas than flax seeds,’ he re-stated. The only thing I could think of was: ‘Why was this invasive, somewhat jovial, but truly kind man, talking about flax …’ ‘In all due respect, you’re wrong, Harry.

    Flax seeds contain far greater levels of the healthy oils (omega-3 and omega-6) in a properly balanced and assimilable form,’ I explained. ‘No, I disagree,’ he argued. ‘What do you mean, you disagree? Have you spent years conducting clinical research, working with patients, lecturing, teaching, studying the omega oils in flax, obtaining worldwide data, compiling one of the largest private health libraries on the planet, and writing extensively on the topic?’ I asked. Not to mention writing this very article on this very day.

    ‘No,’ Harry feebly replied. I wondered, ‘Are you a scientist, a biochemist, a botanist, or have you spent a lifetime studying food and biochemistry as I have done?’ ‘No,’ he again replied. ‘So, where do you get such stuff? Where is your scientific authority?’ I demanded. Harry proudly announced: ‘Oh, my wife is a doctor – a gynaecologist – by the way.’ ‘Is she a food specialist or nutritional biochemist as well?’ I quickly retorted. ‘Um, ah, well, no, but she is a doctor,’ he offered

  160. hardnoseon 24 May 2017 at 6:37 pm

    “Your suggestion that early ‘exploratory’ analysis of data is not making ‘unplanned’ comparisons is also ludicrous. What you are describing is a fishing expedition for effects, Bem himself calls it exactly that in his methodological article.”

    I said that early exploratory analysis of data IS making unplanned comparisons.

    “In contrast to you, Bem also admitted his methods were sloppy, it’s right there in the quote. He says the critics were probably right and that he isn’t that concerned with rigour.”

    He said admitted that in the early stage of the research, there were fishing expeditions. That is true for ALL new research.

  161. Pete Aon 24 May 2017 at 6:39 pm

    edamame,

    That article to which you linked has been one of my favourites since it was published:
    “It is concluded that if you wish to keep your false discovery rate below 5%, you need to use a three-sigma rule, or to insist on p≤0.001. And never use the word ‘significant’.” Yes indeed!!!

    I consider myself very lucky during my career for never having being forced to use a p-value. I know exactly what you mean about increasing N and discovering statistically sound, very small effects that may or may not be interesting/relevant. This tends to happen when using an RF spectrum analyser set to perform a sweep that takes many hours using a very narrow bandwidth. Which spectral spikes were caused by real signals at those frequencies, and which were caused by interference that just happened to occur when the analyser was tuned to that frequency? It can take days, even weeks, to repeat the measurement enough times to be reasonably certain. Especially when the actual signal changes with time — grrr.

  162. hardnoseon 24 May 2017 at 6:41 pm

    “Who should I trust for a an honest critique of ‘psi’: Professor Robert Todd Carroll, PhD; or some random Internet poster who hides behind the pseudonym “hardnose” in order to promote his belief in ‘psi’.”

    It is not necessary to have blind faith in him or in me. Get to know the field, if you care. If you don’t care, don’t have an opinion.

  163. Pete Aon 24 May 2017 at 6:49 pm

    “Who cares what Robert Todd Carroll thinks? he’s a clueless nitwit.”

    Who cares what Ian Wardell thinks? He’s a clueless nitwit.

  164. CKavaon 24 May 2017 at 8:42 pm

    hardnose you said…

    The experiment that “made participants younger” demonstrated what can happen when there are unplanned comparisons — when you look at data every which way, inevitably there will be significant differences.

    And then specifically contrasted that with Bem’s research saying:

    However, that is not what Bem, or any other intelligent researcher, would do. There is an early exploratory stage in any research — it has to be that way. After that, all comparisons must be planned.

    So what you actually meant was… yes, Bem does that exact same thing and labels it ‘exploratory’. Then after he finds some likely ways to achieve ‘significance’ he post-hoc invents comparisons and huzzah p<.05.

    He said admitted that in the early stage of the research, there were fishing expeditions. That is true for ALL new research.

    He admitted that his research methods where sloppy in the early stages, he didn’t specify how just that the critics were probably right (which you claimed a post or so ago was not the case). His advice about going on fishing expeditions doesn’t come from the interview it is from a document on his website detailing best practices for writing a paper/doing research. He describes precisely how to fish through data for significance and recommends this as a good practice for researchers.

    if you don’t understand why this is a problem even in the ‘exploratory’ stage then you don’t have a basic understanding grasp of research methods and statistical analysis. If you fish through datasets for significance, digging through sub groups and deleting outliers, and then post hoc construct your hypotheses you will almost always be able to reach the fabled p < .05 and that means exactly nothing.

  165. Ian Wardellon 25 May 2017 at 7:26 am

    @mumadadd

    You disagree with what I say in my blog? In that case you need to advance *arguments*. Not content yourself with implying I know and understand nothing about materialism and dualism.

  166. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 10:05 am

    [Ian Wardell] You disagree with what I say in my blog? In that case you need to advance *arguments*. Not content yourself with implying I know and understand nothing about materialism and dualism.

    No he doesn’t. This ground has been covered. Not only do not acknowledge critique when people bother to engage with you, but you blithely repeat the same mantra regardless. There is no point to it.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/new-study-on-long-term-memory/

  167. Ian Wardellon 25 May 2017 at 11:20 am

    Sorry chikoppi, but as I pointed out in that other thread, materialism is wrong *by definition*. It’s the way people compartmentalised reality back at the birth of modern science in the 17th Century. I’m sick to death of explaining this.

  168. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 11:42 am

    Your schtick is old Ian.

    “Materialism,” as defined by the 17th century, is not “monism.” Your “definitions” are inherently erroneous, as has been pointed out repeatedly. Refer to the other threads.

  169. Pete Aon 25 May 2017 at 11:51 am

    Lightnotheat,

    You asked the interesting question:

    … if you did a thousand series of a thousand coin flips and in 55% of the series you got significantly more tails than heads or vice versa, that result would not be surprising?

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Here’s why…

    When N = 1,000 flips of a fair coin then the probability of getting the same number of heads as tails (500 of each) is only 2.52% therefore the probability of obtaining more heads than tails, or vice versa, is 100% – 2.52% = 97.48%.

    The expected mean number of heads (or tails) is N/2 = 500. The variance of the result set of this binomial distribution[1] = N/4 = 250 therefore the standard deviation, sigma = √250 ≈ 15.81.
    [1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variance#Binomial_distribution

    Let the bias be the actual number of heads − the expected mean (500).

    49.33% probability that bias will be within ±10 (490 to 510 heads);
    70.32% probability that bias will be within ±16; ±1 sigma;
    95.37% probability that bias will be within ±31; ±2 sigma;
    99.74% probability that bias will be within ±47; ±3 sigma;
    99.99% probability that bias will be within ±63; ±4 sigma;
    within ±80; ±5 sigma;
    within ±95; ±6 sigma;
    the probability of a bias larger than ±110; ±7 sigma; is 1.4E-12.

    Now, using N = 1 million flips: the probability of obtaining 500,000 heads and 500,000 tails is only 0.08%. The variance = N/4 = 250,000 therefore the standard deviation, sigma = √(N/4) = 500.

    38.36% probability that bias will be within ±250; ±0.5 sigma;
    68.32% probability that bias will be within ±500; ±1 sigma;
    95.46% probability that bias will be within ±1000; ±2 sigma;
    99.73% probability that bias will be within ±1500; ±3 sigma;
    99.99% probability that bias will be within ±2000; ±4 sigma;
    within ±2500; ±5 sigma;
    within ±3000; ±6 sigma;
    the probability of a bias larger than ±3500; ±7 sigma; is 2.5E-12.

    From the above, I hope it’s reasonably clear that the answer to your question depends on precisely what you meant by “significantly more tails than heads or vice versa”. The above estimates are all statistically significant and valid, but that may or nor mean that they are practically significant for your particular application.

    As you can see, a fair coin is indistinguishable from an unfair coin that has a small bias. E.g. using N = 1 million, and certainty level of 6 sigma, a fair coin is expected to show a bias that is within ±3000, which is ±0.6%. But in each sub-test where N=1000 the same coin is expected to show a bias within ±95, which is a whopping ±19%.

    So the answer to your question “… if you did a thousand series of a thousand coin flips and in 55% of the series you got significantly more tails than heads or vice versa, that result would not be surprising?” is: We should be very surprised, and highly suspicious, if the test results show zero bias in a completely fair coin 🙂

    As the value of N rises above 30, the sum of independent random variables which have a uniform probability mass function (such as flips of unbiased coins) increasingly aligns with the normal distribution aka Gaussian distribution. Hence my oft-stated warning: As the sample size reduces below 30, statistics [and probability theory] become increasingly meaningless!

    As always, I hope the above contains a few useful snippets of info. that some readers might find useful.

  170. Ian Wardellon 25 May 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Monism? That refers to materialism or idealism as opposed to dualism. Not sure why you’re mentioning it.

    Materialism hasn’t changed in its essentials since the 17th Century.

  171. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    “You disagree with what I say in my blog? In that case you need to advance *arguments*. Not content yourself with implying I know and understand nothing about materialism and dualism.”

    You know I disagree with what you say on your blog; we’ve been through it in excruciating detail, e.g:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/

    That was in 2014.

    My comment was a cheap-shot observation about your haughty attitude. It reminded me of Gillian Mckeith’s book passage, which I happened to have dug out for a previous thread and and was fresh in my mind (and it was a cheap-shot which received nor deserved no comment). I really didn’t intend to imply anything about your philosophical chops, one way or the other.

    With all due respect: at this point, Ian, I’m ready to just state categorically that you are incapable of convincing me with your arguments (or I am incapable of being convinced) and chalk up our discourse to a lost cause.

    That’s my feeling right now, though I won’t commit and say it’s forever as that would make me look silly.

  172. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 5:50 pm

    My comment was a cheap-shot observation about your haughty attitude. It reminded me of Gillian Mckeith’s book passage, which I happened to have dug out for a previous thread and and was fresh in my mind (and it was a cheap-shot which received nor deserved no any comment). I really didn’t intend to imply anything about your philosophical chops, one way or the other.

  173. Lightnotheaton 25 May 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Pete A,
    Appreciated your derailed answer regarding coin flip series. I should have been more precise regarding the word “significantly”. I too would be very surprised and suspicious if I got the EXACT same number of heads and tails most of the time, or only a difference of under a very small percentage such as 1%. But it would also be surprising, would it not, if it was something like a 5% difference in number of tails and heads, in over half of my series of a thousand throws of a thousand. So the definition of “significant” is crucial.

  174. hardnoseon 25 May 2017 at 10:10 pm

    “if you don’t understand why this is a problem even in the ‘exploratory’ stage then you don’t have a basic understanding grasp of research methods and statistical analysis. If you fish through datasets for significance, digging through sub groups and deleting outliers, and then post hoc construct your hypotheses you will almost always be able to reach the fabled p < .05 and that means exactly nothing."

    It is NOT a problem even in the exploratory stage. It is the ONLY way to get new directions for research.

    When a researcher publishes a pilot study, they are supposed to explain that it was only exploratory.

    Bem replicated his own experiments over and over. He did not simply publish some pilot studies. Why can't you comprehend this?

    Materialist "skeptics" are turning themselves inside out trying to find a way not to believe this research.

  175. SteveAon 26 May 2017 at 4:18 am

    Lightnotheat: “Pete A, Appreciated your derailed answer regarding coin flip series.”

    For a moment I thought you were implying that Pete A had lost his marbles.

    I’m guessing ‘detailed’….

  176. Pete Aon 26 May 2017 at 2:01 pm

    SteveA,
    I lost my marbles during my childhood!

    Lightnotheat,
    I’ve split my long answer into subsections which are, I hope, easy to skip backwards and forwards over. I’m not expecting anyone to read through the whole post from start to finish.

    Define our variables and derive equations for a trial of 1000 coin flips
    N = the number of coin flips = 1000
    μ = the expected mean number of heads (or tails) = N/2 = 500
    H = the actual number of heads in the result
    σ = (sigma) the expected standard deviation = √(N/4) ≈ 15.81

    B = the bias of the result H, which = H − μ
    P = the bias expressed as a percentage = B × 2/N × 100%

    Check our equations for B and P:
    If H = 0 then B = -500 and P = -100% (all tails)
    If H = 500 then B = 0 and P = 0%
    If H = 1000 then B = 500 and P = +100% (all heads)

    NB: The bias granularity is determined by the fact that ∆H minimum = 1, therefore
    ∆B = 1
    ∆P = ∆B × 2/N × 100% = 0.2%.

    What is the percentage of bias corresponding to one standard deviation (1 sigma)?
    B(1σ) = σ = √(N/4) therefore
    P(1σ) = 100 / √N ≈ 3.2%
    Hence:
    P(2σ) = 200 / √N ≈ 6.4%
    P(3σ) = 300 / √N ≈ 9.4%
    P(4σ) = 400 / √N ≈ 12.6%
    P(5σ) = 500 / √N ≈ 15.8%
    P(6σ) = 600 / √N ≈ 19.0%

    Multiple Replications of the above Trial
    We repeat the above coin-flip trial 1000 times and record the actual percentage bias P from each trial of a totally fair coin; or multiple totally-fair coins because it makes no difference to the results. The probability mass function of the results will represent an approximately Gaussian random variable which has a mean value of 0%, a standard deviation of 3.2%, and peak values clipped to ±100%.

    NB: Forgive me if the following important point is already well known to the readers… The coin-flip results of each individual trial, and the combined results in the multiple trial, are unordered sparse sets; they are most definitely not sequences because there is zero temporal causation between any of the collected one million samples of heads/tails coin-flip outcomes.

    Therefore, for the purposes of analysis using aggregated statistical functions, it makes sod all difference if we decide to order the results in a manner which makes them far easier to understand and discuss. So, let’s order the 1000 trials by their percentage of bias: what would we expect to see?

    From my previous comment, we expect to see 2.52% of the 1000 trials — 25 trials — exhibiting a bias of exactly 0%. Out of the remaining 975 trials, circa ‘half’ of them [because 975 cannot possibly be composed of two equal halves] will have a positive bias of ≥0.2%, and the other ‘half’ will exhibit a negative bias of ≤0.2%.

    Now, we might expect the positive ‘half’ to show an average[1] bias of +1 standard deviation, +3.2%; likewise -3.2% for the negative ‘half’. But, is this a reasonable expectation? See the next section…

    “… But it would also be surprising, would it not, if it was something like a 5% difference in number of tails and heads, in over half of my series of a thousand throws of a thousand. So the definition of ‘significant’ is crucial.”
    I’ll start by explaining my deferred reference in the previous section “we might expect … to show an average[1] bias of …”

    [1] average: We have to be extremely careful and pedantic about which method of averaging that we are using because, sadly, it is extraordinarily easy to pick an inappropriate method for the original context of the data, and/or for the context of the currently-being-processed aggregated statistics. I think it might be fair to say that inadvertently selecting the wrong method is an oft-committed fundamental domain error.

    I reiterate a previous statement and highlight the term which I shall discuss below: The coin-flip results of each individual trial, and the combined results in the multiple trial, are unordered sparse sets.

    The statistical equations available to us were produced by truly remarkable experts who painstakingly explored the limits as the number of samples, N, approaches infinity: not just one thousand, one million, one trillion; nor just 10^100.

    When we attempt to statistically observe and record the results of flipping an unbiased coin 1000 times, we have thereby excluded all of the other 2^1000 − 1 (circa 10^301) outcomes which will definitely occur amongst a 1000 chunk/group of the results from an unbiased coin that has been flipped an infinite number of times. So, yes, the results we obtain from 1000 flips, even 1 million flips, is extremely sparse compared to the circa 10^301 outcomes that will eventually occur if we could be bothered to run our experiment to its proper completion!!!

    The Perhaps Obscure, Yet Frequently Committed, Domain Error in the Original Question
    Asking questions about, or having expectations of, block symmetry within or between finite subsets of truly random unbiased variables is, by definition, committing the fundamental domain error of treating an extremely sparse set as a meaningful sequence.

    I am definitely not trying to be rude or insulting to any of the readers by this: If you are surprised at the results you have obtained from an experiment which uses truly random unbiased data, then you do not begin to understand truly random unbiased variables, nor do you begin to understand the flaws in your methodology!

    NB: I’m not aiming this at you, Lightnotheat, I’m aiming it at fairly and squarely at the True Believers™ in ‘psi’. Especially at their utter ridiculousness which I highlighted previously: Parapsychologists are unique in postulating a null hypothesis that entails a true effect size of zero if psi is not operating. Any significant outcome, then, becomes evidence for psi.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/follow-up-on-bems-psi-research/#comment-321275

    Using that absurd postulate is guaranteed to increasingly confirm their hypothesis as the sample size is increased. Especially when truly random variables are used to produce the experimental data. The results do not confirm ‘psi’; they confirm only that which has long been known by those who understand both statistics and the deliberate misuse of statistical methods.

    Data mining a vast dataset containg only truly random variables is 100% guaranteed to provide volumes of empirical evidence to back any claim that ‘researchers’ and apologists wish to make / wish to be true.

  177. Lightnotheaton 26 May 2017 at 5:13 pm

    SteveA,
    Yeah I meant detailed!
    Pete A,
    For us non-statisticians, please further clarify. In the example above, what amount of variation from chance WOULD make a good statistician think something other than chance might be going on? What amount of variation would make her think it was LIKELY? Please use standard percentage terms. And let’s make the example 1000 different people each flipping a coin 1000 times. Now, if over half of these people had 55% heads or tails, would that be surprising? What about 60% heads or tails? What about 52%?

  178. Pete Aon 27 May 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Lightnotheat,
    I’m forming an increasingly strong impression that you are asking me either: deliberate trick questions using wilful obscurantism; or questions which you do not begin to undestand, hence your inability to formulate them succintly and unambiguously — let alone understand the detailed answers with which you have been provided.

    Your most recent question was:

    For us non-statisticians, please further clarify. In the example above, what amount of variation from chance WOULD make a good statistician think something other than chance might be going on? What amount of variation would make her think it was LIKELY? Please use standard percentage terms. And let’s make the example 1000 different people each flipping a coin 1000 times. Now, if over half of these people had 55% heads or tails, would that be surprising? What about 60% heads or tails? What about 52%?

    That’s a totally absurd question for three reasons:
    1. You said “Please use standard percentage terms”. I have used the correct terminology in my comments so WTF do you mean by that! [Rhetorical question, hence a “!” instead of a “?”]

    2. I cannot begin to understand why “non-statisticians” would be posing increasingly detailed, and increaingly bizarre, questions.

    3. Your continued insistence on using a delineation threshold of circa 50% of the population, which corresponds to the very-rarely-used sigma value of 0.67449. I shan’t claim it is never used because I have used it myself simply for the porpose of debunking bogus claims.

    The tl;dr answer to your question is simply: Only 2.5(2)% of the 1000 trialists are expected to get 50% heads, or perhaps twice that percentage when the questioner obfuscates the imporatant differences between the terms “or”, “exlusive or”, and “plus”. Every other specified percentage of “head or tails” is expected to be obtained by fewer than 5.0(4)% of the trialists.

  179. BillyJoe7on 28 May 2017 at 1:48 am

    I take the following to be the crux of Pete’s argument relevant to parapsychology (highlighted):
    (First some quotes from his posts and then my understanding of what he is saying)

    “Parapsychologists are unique in postulating a null hypothesis that entails a true effect size of zero if psi is not operating. Any significant outcome, then, becomes evidence for psi…Using that absurd postulate is guaranteed to increasingly confirm their hypothesis as the sample size is increased

    “we expect to see 2.52% of the 1000 trials…exhibiting a bias of exactly 0% [500 heads and 500 tails]”
    “using N = 1 million flips: the probability of obtaining 500,000 heads and 500,000 tails is only 0.08%”

    In other words…
    When N = 1,000 the probability of obtaining an effect size of zero is about 2.5%
    When N = 1,000,000 the probability of obtaining an effect size of zero is only about 0.08%

    Or conversely…
    When N = 1,000 the probability of obtaining an effect size greater than zero is about 97.5%
    When N = 1,000,000 the probability of obtaining an effect size greater than zero is about 99.98%

    Meaning that…
    The probability of an effect size greater than zero increases as N increases.

    And this is a purely statistical analysis before considering any possible effect of PSI.

    But…
    Parapsychologists reject the null hypothesis (PSI has no effect) when the effect size is greater than zero.
    But, as we have just seen, from a purely statistical analysis before considering any effect of PSI, the probability of an effect size greater than zero increases as N increases.

    In other words…
    Parapsychologists are increasingly confident in their conclusion that PSI is real as they gather more and more data and combine it to increase the value of N, even though this is statistically expected to happen even when there is no effect of PSI.

    —————–

    Hmmm…not sure if that is clearer.
    And, of course, I welcome any corrections.

  180. Pete Aon 28 May 2017 at 1:23 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    Many thanks for taking the time to read my posts and for writing your excellent on-topic take.

    If it was true that a p-value of 0.05 ‘guarantees’ that there’s only a 5% probability of the outcome of the experiment being simply due to chance, then it would also be true that the experimenter(s) can justifiably claim their results is correct to a confidence level of 95%.

    Edamame and I have provided links to documents which clearly describe how and why statistically-derived p-values make no such ‘guarantees’.

    Here are the N-values for the binomial distribution (e.g., a fair coin) for various ‘guaranteed’ confidence levels:
    N=256: 95% confidence level
    N=520: 95.5%; 2 sigma confidence level
    N=1,000: 97.5% confidence level (as BillyJoe7 stated)
    N=87,300: 99.730% 3 sigma confidence level
    N=159 million (1.59E+8): 99.99367% 4 sigma confidence level
    N=1.936 trillion (1.936E+12): 99.9999427% 5 sigma confidence level.

    Obtaining a 5-sigma confidence level is, I think, the extraordinary standard of evidence required to support extraordinary claims [borrowing from Carl Sagan’s classic statement].

    In experimental science, a theoretical model of reality is used. Particle physics conventionally uses a standard of “5 sigma” for the declaration of a discovery.[6][not in citation given] A five-sigma level translates to one chance in 3.5 million that a random fluctuation would yield the result. This level of certainty was required in order to assert that a particle consistent with the Higgs boson had been discovered in two independent experiments at CERN,[7] and this was also the significance level leading to the declaration of the first detection of gravitational waves.[8]
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_deviation#Experiment.2C_industrial_and_hypothesis_testing

  181. Lightnotheaton 28 May 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Pete A,

    Please, I don’t even think I disagree with you at all, and I am trying to be the opposite of obscurantist and I absolutely am not trying to trick you in any way. I’m really sorry if I’ve given you that impression. I’m just trying to have you state your answers in terms a layman would clearly understand. Let me see if I can be clearer.

    I know we would agree that if a thousand people each tossed a thousand times and 100% of those people got either a thousand heads or a thousand tails, something other than chance is extremely likely to be going on. Trick coins or whatever. And we also agree that some number of people getting, say, 55% heads or 55% tails would not be at all surprising if the results are by chance alone. The area I want you to clarify lies in between the results that are not surprising at all and the results that are indeed very surprising.

    Now say a psi researcher does an experiment where she has a thousand people toss coins a thousand times, while trying to introduce a psi effect by telling the tossers to try to make the results come up heads every time by willing it with their minds. Now if this researcher summarized her results in a short article aimed at the general public, she might say something like “fully 50% of my subjects got 51% or more heads, or tails! Exciting evidence for psi!” You would rightly say that was crap, could very easily be chance alone. Likewise if it were 30% or 60% of the subjects; I used 50% simply because it’s a nice round number. But if she said “fully 50% got 90% or more heads, or tails! Exciting evidence for psi!” your reaction would be different. Could be some other explanation than psi, such as trick coins, but yes, extremely unlikely to be chance alone. But where I as a non-statistician would be unsure would be in that range in between, which is why I tossed out numbers like 52% and 55%. For example if she said “fully 50% of my subjects got 55% or more heads or tails! Exciting evidence for psi!” my response would be, “hmm, seems like something is indeed influencing those tosses. But are you sure the coins are legit? Maybe one side is heavier than the other.” Would you still think it was likely to be chance alone? At what point would you start to think it probably wasn’t?

    BTW I’d say I’m probably less “innumerate” than the average person. For example I have no problem understanding that game show question discussed a while ago in this blog, in which you are asked to pick one of three doors, and then you are shown the worthless prizes behind one of the other doors, and then asked if you want to change your choice to the third door. It was obvious to me why you should switch doors, while many posters couldn’t see why the new door would be any more likely to have good prizes behind it than the one you chose originally…

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