In the beginning ...

I don't really want to spend lots of time writing a blog, but I am even less inclined to spend many hours a day answering emails that ask the same questions. So this site will become a depository for me to record my responses to frequently asked questions, and as an outlet for an occasional random thought or rant.


Dean Radin said…
I discuss these topics in some detail in Entangled Minds.

Briefly, effect size declines occur in many research domains. In psi research the declines are likely due to shifts from proof-oriented to process-oriented research. The former studies are designed to optimize effect sizes, while the latter studies are designed to investigate parameters that modulate psi ability.

Experimenter expectancy effects are pervasive throughout science. They are especially noticable in the behavior, social and medical sciences, but they also occur in the so-called hard sciences, including physics. See, e.g. this article.

In general, armchair skeptics usually offer weak critiques that fail to pass the double-standard test. That is, if the criticism applies equally to conventional scientific domains, then the criticism aimed at psi research is invalid.
Dean Radin said…
The principle valid skeptical argument is that psi effects observed under laboratory conditions cannot be demonstrated with high confidence on demand. Meta-analyses suggest that the phenomena are independently repeatable, but in any given study it is not yet possible to provide a proof-positive recipe for success.

Those who hold a strong view that current scientific knowledge is more or less complete take this as evidence that psi does not exist, and that any evidence presented for psi is either flawed or an illusion.

Those who hold a more moderate (and humble) view, that science is a very recent invention in historical terms, take it as evidence that our understanding of the fabric of reality is not sufficiently comprehensive to fully explain these (and many other) natural phenomena.

My opinion is that psi will one day be explanable in rational, scientific terms. It's difficult to guess when this might occur, but given current accelerating trends in knowledge, I'd estimate that by 2020 we will have reliable demonstrations of some psi effects. To achieve this will require, among other things, some changes in current scientific epistemology.
Dean Radin said…
Is theoretical bias necessarily a "bad" thing in science? I'd say no, because expectation biases are inescapable. Even those who claim complete neutrality on a given topic are biased by cultural expectations, educational background, unconsciously held worldviews, etc.

What science has over say, religious dogma, is at least the promise of flexibility. One hopes that with sufficient creativity and curiosity that we can evolve towards increasingly comprehensive ways of understanding Nature.

Like Putnam, at heart I'm a pragmatist - what works best is as close to the "truth" as we're likely to know. Of course, words like "works" and "best" carry their own complexities, so even pragmatism is not as simple as it seems. But I think you get the gist.

I imagine some day highly advanced aliens might land on Earth and tell us the "truth" about Nature, as they understand it. These creatures will have evolved a refined science a million years beyond ours. Not a single word of their simplest explanations will be translatable into terms we can understand. Like trying to explain quantum theory to hamsters, the aliens will become frustrated by our compulsion to "know," so they'll resort to telling us fantasies that will make us feel good, and give us exercise wheels to give us the sense that we're actively engaged in important work.

Come to think of it, with all the fantasies one sees on the nightly news, and with the vast variety of exercise wheels constantly sold on TV, perhaps the aliens are already among us.

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