Monday, April 10, 2006

They can dish it out, but they can't take it

Kirkus Reviews has offered a review of a prerelease version of Entangled Minds. Overall it's not a bad review. But there are a few remarks I'd like to respond to. My responses are in blue text.

"An attempt to enlist quantum mechanics to explain ESP phenomena. Radin (Institute of Noetic Sciences) begins by describing quantum entanglement, in which subatomic particles separated by large distances appear to exchange information about their physical states almost instantly. He then detours into an attack on ESP debunkers."

The last sentence apparently refers to a chapter about who believes in psi, and why. It focuses on differences between what mainstream science believes vs. what the public believes. It has nothing to do with debunkers. When I see defensive phrases like "an attack on ESP debunkers," I know that the person writing regards him or herself as the attackee.

"A history of psychic research follows (neglecting to mention that some of the pioneers later admitted faking their results)."

This is a cheap shot. I could just as easily say that the reviewer neglects to mention that the history of psychical research also includes Nobel Laureates and the surprising origins of modern scientific methods. Yes, there are indeed a few cases of known or suspected faking that took place a century ago, and a few cases in the 20th century. But the fact is that occasional cases of fraud occur in all areas of science, including several notorious cases recently in physics and medicine.

"Radin then presents a summary of ESP experiments he feels meet the strictest standards of repeatability, careful design and high reliability. The experiments include attempts to send images to dreaming subjects, to influence the roll of dice and to predict future events; Radin describes the experiments and gives detailed summaries of the results. This is the most impressive section of the book; while some results can undoubtedly be explained away, many are not easy to dismiss. Radin then steps back to examine the theoretical basis for ESP, granting that the evident factuality of certain results does not justify the assumption that all psychic phenomena are therefore true. A brief history of physics leads up to Bell's theorem, a 1964 proof that quantum paradoxes cannot be explained by any "higher logic," as Einstein had long hoped. Here, Radin pins his hopes for the eventual vindication of ESP: If distant objects are related by quantum effects, then psychics may be tapping into the quantum realm to gain their insights. A final chapter reiterates the claim that ESP has been proven to a degree of certainty that no fair-minded person can deny; attempts to refute the skeptics; and predicts that, in the future, ESP will be the subject of university/scientific studies. A good summary of current ESP research, though the writer's defensiveness detracts from his core of thought-provoking data. Take it with several grains of salt."

This reviewer is disturbed that I take skeptics to task. The "defensiveness" comment refers to a section in which I discuss skeptical myths about parapsychology. These are false or misleading statements made so often that they take on an aura of truth through sheer repetition. Such statements are bunk and deserve to be forcefully debunked. Skeptics can dish out criticism, but many can't stomach it in return.

17 comments:

Spooks said...

abso(freakin')lutely!

Anonymous said...

Terminology question...Does the book use the term 'ESP' or the terms 'psi' and 'parapsychology'?

The review uses 'ESP' but I would expect Dr. Radin to use 'psi' more often.

When I see 'ESP' and 'psychic powers' used in critiques of psi and parapsychology, I start to wonder if what I'm reading is credible.

Dean Radin said...

I use the phrase "psychic powers" exactly once in 80,000 words, and "ESP" occasionally, including the word "extrasensory" in the subtitle. I mostly use the term "psi."

M.C. said...

Looking forward to reading this book, Dean!

Robin said...

HA its just the same as i thought, they cant dismiss the evidence so they attack the person presenting it or the style it is presented. He does say that the results cannot be explained away which is promising. What annoys me most about skeptics is that they flip flop about things. Anecdotal evidence of psi phenomena is counted as non valid. But anectdotal evidence of someoone faking psi is taken without question. Gentlement this game is rigged.
Robin james wagner

Mark Szlazak said...

I recently received a copy of your book and I am a bit confused why it doesn't have a bibliography but this web site does give one for the book. Is this a publishing error?

Also, I looked for references to a critic of yours in the book index. The critic, Jeffrey Scargle, published this article on file-drawer estimate problems with meta-analysis: Publication Bias: The “File-Drawer” Problem in Scientific Inference by Jeffrey D. Scargle

Victor Stenger made much of Scargle's analysis in this paper: Meta-Analysis and the File-Drawer Effect by Victor J. Stenger

I haven't finished reading Entangled Minds but do you specifically respond to these critiques in the new book?

Dean Radin said...

> I recently received a copy of your book and I am a bit confused why it doesn't have a bibliography ...

All references are contained within the chapter endnotes. I put the bibliography on the website for those who'd rather see it in a more traditional format.

> Also, I looked for references to a critic of yours ... I haven't finished reading Entangled Minds but do you specifically respond to these critiques in the new book?

Yes.

williamwright said...

Is the phenomonon of "spoon-bending" addressed in your new book? I am highly skeptical of all such claims but was recently told by an old classmate (a successful lawyer and someone I have always deemed reliable) that he has both witnessed and caused metal bending, and is vehemently convinced that it is real, though he is at a loss to explain the physics of it.

Dean Radin said...

On spoonbending - yes, I do discuss this briefly in an endnote. There is some laboratory evidence suggesting that anomalous metal-bending can occur under controlled circumstances, and as I mention in the book, my own skepticism about such macroscopic effects changed radically one day when I personally folded the bowl of a large soup spoon completely over using my right thumb and index finger. It suddenly felt like putty for about 5 seconds, it wasn't a trick spoon, nor was I dissociated at the time, nor do I have superhuman strength in my fingers. I don't know how this happened, although it was my intention to make the spoon bend in that way. So while I believe these things are possible, it is an anomaly of high strangeness, even for me, and I wouldn't expect such a story to convince anyone else. (Similar stories, even from close friends, hadn't convinced me until it happened to me.)

Robin said...

is it still the general concencus amound parapsychogist that rspk exists. and do you mention it in your new book?

Dean Radin said...

Not much poltergeist research is being conducted these days, partially because genuine cases are relatively rare. But based on prior research, I'd guess that there is a moderate but not overwhelming consensus that RSPK-type events do occur, and that they cannot be explained by the usual sorts of mundane explanations.

Mike said...

Dean, have you heard of the law of attraction? Or the movie "the secret"? (http://thesecret.tv)

Dean Radin said...

This movie is similar to What the Bleep in that it offers many variations and advice on the value of thinking positive thoughts. It is heavier on therapeutic advice and softer on science than the Bleep movie.

The movie is available almost instantly via an excellent web-streaming technology, and the production value is top notch.

ruckrover said...

I often listen to Philip Adams "Late Night Live" radio program on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) Radio National see wwww.abc.net.au

He is a very intelligent radio host with the world's most extensive and erudite vocabulary and interviews a host of interesting people on topics of science, politics, environment, sociology etc

However he is a big skeptic of psi and has a visceral aversion to religion and parapsychology - which at moments of self disclosure seem to reflect issues relating to his vicar father. But a lot of his criticisms are germaine.

Anyway occasionally something supportive of psi is sometimes discussed on his show and I recall a few years ago he was talking to a British scientist who was quite a skeptic too who had investigated Yuri Geller - the famed spoon bender Israeli psychic. Anyway Philip Adams and this British scientist were poo pooing some of Geller's stuff and how a magician had exposed him. But then the scientist remarked on how he'd found Geller to be a warm and genuine person who made some uncanny remarks about the scientist's life, and when the scientist got home that night he found his door key in his pocket had become bent!!

I wish Philip Adams for all his intelligence and insight would seriously face the implications of this - and other similar things mentioned on his program. Australians who listen to him will know what I mean.

Sorry if this was a wordy aside but I'm sure there are other prominent intellectuals around the globe who see the defence of materialism allied to the defence of rationality. In a world of fundamentalist loonies, new age alien abduction cultists and creation scientists and apocalyptic US and Iranian presidents - a lot of very intelligent and well meaning people don't want to believe in any psi reality for superficially good reasons. Convincing them that psi reality doesn't mean irrational mumbo jumbo is the key for a true paradigm shift.

Dean Radin said...

Convincing them that psi reality doesn't mean irrational mumbo jumbo is the key for a true paradigm shift.

Well said. One of the markers I use to gauge a skeptic's critique is the emotional tone in their argument. Many scientists secretly imagine that they're like Mr. Spock from Star Trek -- pure intellect. No nasty emotions to distract from rational thought.

But humans aren't Vulcans, and scientists in particular tend to repress emotions. An emotional response against psi often reflects underlying fears. Charles Tart has written about this extensively. My favorite reason for why scientists so vehemently resist telepathy is (I don't recall where I first heard this remark) that they don't want to know what other people think about the way that they dress.

Roger Knights said...

This thread mentioned dice. I've read somewhere a wish that dice had colored surfaces,because guessing or influencing colors accords better with an intuitive state of mind than doing so for numbers.

I've just discovered a source for a large (3/4 inch) pair of dice with colored spots for $3 on Amazon, here:

http://www.amazon.com/Large-Multi-Colored-Opaque-Dice/dp/B000URJ1SU/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=IVV6CJ3Q37F4V&colid=32XB1IXGTNRV6

Roger Knights said...

PS: I also read somewhere that color-coded Zener cards would make better tools for psi experiments.