Monday, June 05, 2006

Constructive criticism

From reviewer Julio C. S. Barros on Amazon.com (my comments in blue):

"However, I do think Radin was rather "weak" in other points. I did not like the way "consciousness" was discussed. Concepts and terminology regarding "consciousness" and "mind" seemed ill defined and sometimes confused with one another. This is very bad, because Radin's central thesis is that psi is our "experience" (Subjective perception? If not, what else?) of the entanglement of our minds with the universe and with other minds. So, what is a mind? What is consciousness, in his view? ..."

This is a good point. By "mind" I usually mean self-reflective awareness, preconscious information processing, subliminal and superliminal perception, intention, attention, altered states, and so on. All of these. By "consciousness" I usually mean just self-reflective awareness. I realize that everyone has a different definition of these terms, and I probably should have spent a bit more space defining more clearly what I had in mind (so to speak).

Then, page 219, Radin says "Few of us believe that...we have absolutely no free will." Well, I happen to be one of these "few ones", and I do not think we have any theory (or logical reasoning) for accounting for free will or for choice. What we do have are theories for determinism and for randomness (the latter, with or without bias). Not for choice. Not yet.

True. And yet, this implies that Mr. Barros felt he had no choice in writing his review, or in thinking of the words in his review, or in getting up out of bed in the morning. In other words, while it's true that philosophers and neuroscientists continue to argue over theories pro and con, in practice we behave as though we had free will. As I mention in the book, most legal systems insist upon this assumption.

Linked to it, on page 257, we get the feeling that classical physics cannot account for consciuousness and that quantum mechanics (Stapp) accounts for it. Again IMHO, quantum mechanics is just as feeble as classical physics in trying to account for this mystery (qualia). I disagree, too, with the concept that psi may not involve information transfer. Page 264: "Maybe psi is purely relational and manifests only as correlations." With this, Radin sidestepped a needed in-depth discussion about what is correlation, what is causation, and how can two things be correlated via psi without transfering information.

I agree that so far nothing adequately resolves the "hard problem" of consciousness, not classical or quantum physical theory, or anything else. As for how two things can be correlated without transferring information, this too is an unresolved question underlying the very concepts of entanglement and nonlocality. What I propose is that spooky action at a distance provides a different way of thinking about psi, and in particular that the type of holism it implies suggests a new set of questions we can ask about these experiences. Sometimes when difficult problems are tackled for a long time without resolution it suggests that the questions we've been asking are wrong.

24 comments:

Claudia said...

Dean, I'm fairly new to your blog and I really appreciate the fact that you do take time to discuss criticism from your readers. I agree with your comment on defining consciousness and mind. We see these terms in various definitions nowadays and would be nice to make it clear what you mean by them. I've ordered the book (I've found you thru my reading of Sheldrake's work), will read it and will definately come back to the blog for your 'blue' comments. Warmest regards from your future Brazilian reader. Claudia Cavalcanti

Anonymous said...

Dr. Radin,

I just discovered this blog and it is absolutely marvelous. Not only are you keeping your "Entangled Minds" alive, as it were, as an ongoing text with thoughtful reponses to commentators, critics and skeptics, you are, I think, also contibuting greatly to the field of psi studies. It is as if through this blog you're removing the distance between the writer and the reader. For any publicly recognized scholar, such as yourself, to keep the reader, whomever he or she may be, within listening distance of a previous literary work is commendable. I only wish this practice would extend to others disciplines as well.

Please keep up the good work.

Thank you, sir.

Dean Radin said...

Thanks to you both. I'm using this blog as a way to offer my thoughts about something I found interesting, or to respond to readers' comments and questions. Sometimes an exchange of private emails is appropriate, but oftentimes the same comments keep reoccurring, so this way I can respond to them just once.

I am occasionally asked by someone to respond to this or that comment or assertion made on a webpage, or in an article. I very rarely do this because writing a clear, defendable counterpoint consumes more time than I have for extracurricular activities like blog-writing, so I engage in such "debates" almost exclusively in refereed journal articles. What I express in this blog is obviously not peer reviewed, but just my (usually off the top of my head) personal opinion.

Anonymous said...

Dr Radin

I have read a criticism about the PEAR
RNG experiments here http://www.reason.com/rb/rb031704.shtml
It claims that Jahn was incapable of reproducing his random number generator events when he collaberated. Is there any truth to this?

Robin

Dean Radin said...

Referring to Robin's note, see my posted comment about this article.

Julio Siqueira said...

Hi Mr. Dean Radin,

It is a pleasure and an honor to read and to reply to your comments.

I would like to make some further comments about your book, and some comments about your comments too. I will place your comments in bold type.

I realize that everyone has a different definition of these terms. You were referring to consciousness, mind, etc. That is right, and it is an important point. That is: definitely your choice of words (or of definitions) was not wrong at all.

Julio Said: What we do have are theories for determinism and for randomness (the latter, with or without bias). Not for choice. Not yet.

True. And yet, this implies that Mr. Barros felt he had no choice in writing his review


Actually, I felt fully in control... But, according to the logic that I have come to view as the correct one, this feeling was, in many ways, illusory. Of course I know that I can be wrong in my reasoning.

in practice we behave as though we had free will. As I mention in the book, most legal systems insist upon this assumption.

And do they (the legal systems) have a choice? The free will issue is very tricky. Free will is one of the only things that it is better to believe in no matter whether it is true or not... Of course the legal systems, usually, accept limitations to human free will in certain instances. And I myself think that the "illusion of free will" is just like the "illusion of decrease of entropy" - that is, entropy may decrease in certain areas of the Universe (life, especially through anabolism), but at the expense of increase of entropy in other areas. So, if we look at an organism in isolation, then we can say it has some "free will"; but looking at the whole picture, I think free will ceases to exist, just as there cannot be (so prevailing scientific wisdom tells us...) decrease in entropy.

But "free will" many times appear together with the "subjective experience" (qualia? hard problem?) as issues that need to be reconciled with the rest of our scientific understanding of the world. We kind of see this in Libet, and clearly see this in Hameroff (and Penrose). Also, you, on page 264 of "Entangled Minds", say: "To navigate through this space," - (i.e. the nonlocal Jell-O Universe in which we are embedded) - " we use attention and intention." I see it as "attention" closely resembling "subjective experience" (phenomenal consciousness, hard problem, etc), and "intention" as closely resembling "free will". So, it looks like we (i.e. some psi researchers, perhaps you, etc) are getting a glimpse of some possibility that through some psi theory we may reconcile these two slippery items (free will + subjective experience) with the rest of our scientific theories. If so, then it is very interesting (and quite necessary) to delve deeply in the intricacies of this mindbending labirinth.

As for how two things can be correlated without transferring information, this too is an unresolved question underlying the very concepts of entanglement and nonlocality. What I propose is that spooky action at a distance provides a different way of thinking about psi,

As far as I can see (and I admit that I cannot see far...), the only way for psi to work without information transfer is if the Universe has only zero dimension (both spacial and temporal ones! - and I would not be surprised if it turns out to be so...). Of course it could be that psi phenomena occurs merely through correlations in the more "non-thrilling way", as probably boring physicists like Victor Stenger and Murray Gellmann might see this issue: flip a coin; up is head, then bottom is tail; no need to look to check the other side of the coin. So my dream of Mother Teresa's death on the eve of her passing was not due to her having rung my bell at all, but rather it was the consequence of the way I was "built", so to speak. Her death at that precise day and my dream of it on its eve had a common cause back in the long past. But these two events, per si, were not mutually causal. But, anyway, I cannot really see far into this issue.

I do not know if I got it wrong, but I felt like you defined the Zeno Effect in the opposite way that Stapp did, page 259-260. Is it right?

I would like to call your attention to an analysis of the Ganzfeld database in the site Skeptic Report which seems very fair and thorough indeed (but perhaps flawed). The author seems to belong to the elite, and small numbered, group of honest skeptics. The link below:
http://www.skepticreport.com/psychics/ganzfeld1.htm

One last item that I would like to comment is that, as far as I know, we do not have "gut feelings" in Brazil. Better say, "we do not have". Maybe our culture somehow hides it. And since this "information" that I am providing is tightly linked to my cultural background, I should add that I live (and have always lived) in Rio de Janeiro city. So, that may not apply to the whole of my country.

I would like to congratulate you and all psi-researchers' community for the excellent work done in the last decades. As I told in my www.amazon.com review, I ended up having an anti-pseudoskeptic site, at the link below:
http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/criticizingskepticism.htm

The hardest anti-pseudoskeptic issue I got involved in was the CSICOP-Natasha Demkina one. In that I had the pleasure and honor of joining hands with Professor Brian Josephson, and fighting against pitbull skeptic Andrew Skolnick (from a CSICOP-child "organization" called CSMMH), and his softer pals Wiseman and Hyman:
http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/natasha_demkina_summary_update.html

Hard, but... such is life.

I have only few contacts with Brazilian psi researchers (and I think there are indeed not many of them), but I know well, through the internet, Brazilian parapsychologist Wellington Zangari, who you might know.

So, again, congratulations, and, please, Keep Fighting!

Best Regards,
Julio Siqueira
juliocbsiqueira@terra.com.br
_______________________

Dean Radin said...

The post on the ganzfeld experiments that you mention by Andrew Endersby is quite comprehensive. He concludes that “... anyone who asserts that the ganzfeld has been proven by scientific standards is wrong. The field's reliance on incomplete meta-analyses seems to be cause for concern.”

However, if we assume that the “true” hit rate is the average of the 28.6% and 28.9% figures he cites, or 28.75%, and that the total number of ganzfeld-like studies is 6,700 as he cites, then the associated z = 7.09, p = 6.8E-13. This is equivalent to odds againg chance above a trillion to 1. And the funnel plot he presents rules out any obvious filedrawer effect. There is insufficient information in the article to gauge whether variations in experimental quality might be a problem, but I suspect that it wouldn't eradicate the very significant overall effect.

You say that "we do not have 'gut feelings' in Brazil." I wonder if this term doesn't translate well. By gut feelings I mean visceral sensations in the belly, associated often with emotional feelings and with a sense of intuitive knowing. Surely these experiences are common?

Anonymous said...

"The post on the ganzfeld experiments that you mention by Andrew Endersby is quite comprehensive. He concludes that '... anyone who asserts that the ganzfeld has been proven by scientific standards is wrong. The field's reliance on incomplete meta-analyses seems to be cause for concern.'"

Why is the meta-analysis in Entangled Minds so incomplete?

Dean Radin said...

The ganzfeld MA in Entangled Minds follows up on a more uniform circumscription (i.e. definition) for what constitutes the ganzfeld method. Endersby included any experiment conceivably related to the ganzfeld, whereas the published ganzfeld MAs have considered only those with hit/miss scoring. The circumscription is important because you could create a MA for any telepathy study ever conducted, and that could include perhaps millions of trials, because there were many ESP card tests conducted as telepathy tests. So where do you draw the line on what you're going to include? That's the purpose of creating a circumscription, to limit the scope of what you're studying. In any case, as I noted above, even with Endersby's database (which hasn't been independently checked as far as I know) you end up with an unambiguously non-chance effect.

Anonymous said...

Something that the end result of a MA doesn't show is the high performance of some individuals. They get lost in the masses. You pointed out in Entangled Minds that the direct hit rates of creative arts students are 50% to 75% when chance expectation is 25%.
That is no small effect!
I think this additional information should erase any doubt..

Perhaps more studies done one creative people would be the fastest way to convince most scientists and the public at large?

-Tor

Anonymous said...

"Endersby included any experiment conceivably related to the ganzfeld, whereas the published ganzfeld MAs have considered only those with hit/miss scoring."

How would he have been able to calculate an overall hit rate if only some of the experiemnts in his database employed hit/miss scoring?

Julio Siqueira said...

Hi Mr. Radin,

You said: I wonder if this term doesn't translate well. By gut feelings I mean visceral sensations in the belly, associated often with emotional feelings and with a sense of intuitive knowing. Surely these experiences are common?

That is precisely the problem. I already knew this expression in English, but it was only reading your book that I realized that was more to it than a mere figure of speech. Immediately I felt that it was very strange, and that we might not have this thing in Brazil.

I checked it with my ex-wife and with my father now (both from Rio de Janeiro, ages 44 and 74). The concept and the phenomenon seem very alien to them too (never heard of anything similar to it). Perhaps I will send emails to some people I have contact in other states in Brazil to check further on this "absence of such a phenomenon".

It might be that we do not perceive it, due to cultural constraints. It might be that we do not develop this, due to cultural or other constraints. Who knows. It would be interesting to perform lab research on this here...

Best Regards,
Julio
juliocbsiqueira@terra.com.br

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mr. Radin,
I'm curious as to why there is no indexed reference to Edgar Cayce nor, as far as I can tell, text reference to him and the work of the organization that continues his work?
Gerald matlin

Dean Radin said...

Anonymous asked...

"How would [Endersby] have been able to calculate an overall hit rate if only some of the experiemnts in his database employed hit/miss scoring?"

I don't know. It was his estimate. I've encouraged Endersby to publish his meta-analysis in detail so his claims can be scrutinized.

Andrew said...

Hello, everybody. I'm Andrew Endersby, the writer of the articles linked to earlier. I have to admit I find the ganzfeld debate pretty fascinating and I have a tendency to ramble on the subject, given the opportunity. There's a couple of points in this discussion I'd like to address, and I'll try to keep it short. Or shortish, at least.

First, anonymous asked "How would he have been able to calculate an overall hit rate if only some of the experiemnts in his database employed hit/miss scoring?" What I did was I took the reported z-score, p number or effect size and then calculated what hit rate at 25% chance expectation would be necessary (for the same number of trials) to achieve the same result.
Now, I'd like to reply to Radin's issues with my inclusion criteria. His statement that I "...included any experiment conceivably related to the ganzfeld" is an interesting one since while writing my articles I didn't think that anyone would take issue with more than a handful of experiments, and I mentioned in my articles which ones I thought deviated too far from the typical experiment.
So I'm going to take a little time to explain my reasoning behind what I included in my articles (which, I should point out now, do not constitute a meta analysis, nor are they presented as such) and also why I think Radin should explain the specifics of his inclusion criteria.
I began with the notion that the defining feature of the ganzfeld is the monotonous visual and audio stimuli.
However, even this simple statement hides irregularities ready to catch out any unsuspecting researcher. Within these criteria there are different categories. The visual stimuli has almost always been via red light shone onto half ping pong balls over the eyes. But occasionally white or (once) blue light has been used, and more recently a couple of experimenters have discarded the half ping pong balls for an external visual stimuli that fills the subject's field of vision (interestingly, this is more similar to Metzger's original set up back in the late 1920's when subjects stared at a uniformly lit blank wall).
Audio stimuli, meanwhile, has been more diverse. Predominantly white noise (static) or pink noise (static with the higher frequencies removed) are used, but also silence, drums, the sea, a river, or music have been used. I think music and drumming are not monotonous, so I removed them from the overall hit rate, but left them in the articles to give a fuller idea of the different avenues already tried by researchers in the field.

In short, every part of the ganzfeld methodology has some kind of variation whereby somebody could draw a line to exclude one set of results but not another. With this in mind, I decided that the scoring method was not so important.
Earlier, Radin wrote "The ganzfeld MA in Entangled Minds follows up on a more uniform circumscription (i.e. definition) for what constitutes the ganzfeld method" and I'd like to know what that definition is. Entangled Mind MA seems to be an updated version of the Conscious Universe MA, and if so, that causes so problems for Radin's conclusion since it makes a number of omissions and errors.
The Conscious Unverse figures consisted of Honorton's MA of 1985, the PRL work, and then a collection of recent work from five main parapsychological centres (Koestler, Rhine, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Gothenburg) and Cornell University. This still leaves out a lot of work (including names as well known as Stanford, Milton and Sondow), and his inclusion of experiments from these institutions does not seem complete. Without a list of experiments for this MA too, it's difficult to tell, but it appears that at least Bierman 1983, Dalton 1994, Williams et al 1994, are missing. Also I'm at a loss as to how his score for Utrecht should be so high, although I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong. Perhaps, since Amsterdam and Utrecht worked so closely together, it could be that Radin attributed an experiment to Utrecht that I gave to Amsterdam.
In 1997, Radin said he did not reintroduce the fourteen experiments missing from Honorton's '85 MA because these "... studies simply declared the experiments successful or unsuccessful." This is clearly wrong: Of the fourteen experiments, eleven gave a numerical result and the three that didn't said they were at or near chance. It's difficult to know how such a mistake could be made if Radin had actually read those papers.
It is largely true that previous meta-analyses concentrate on "hit/miss" scoring (ie, "direct hits"), but even this deserves a closer look. Parker's series 6 in Bem et al's MA didn't use direct hits but was included, and Honorton's 1985 MA left out three large "hit/miss" experiments because they used a 50% mean chance expectation (MCE) as opposed to the more common 25% MCE, even though 20% or 16.5% MCEs were included. Besides, even if you restrict yourself to 25% MCE "hit/miss" experiments, Radin's MA is still sorely lacking.
Without a clear description of Radin's inclusion criteria and a list of experiments so I can see exactly what he's talking about, it is difficult to make any kind of judgement on Radin's work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dean Radin,

I would like to know your opinion about the new article of Ray Hyman in this link:

http://www.highbeam.com/library/docfree.asp?DOCID=1G1:142683386&ctrlInfo=Round19%3AMode19b%3ADocG%3AResult&ao=

In this article Hyman is trying to explain the Ganzfeld's findings in 'normal ways'. After your lecture of this article, do you think that is possible to explain Ganzfeld's findings just by a bias?

Best wishes,

Vitor

Dean Radin said...

On Victor's comment about Ray Hyman's article: Hyman writes: "Parapsychology is a field that depends exclusively for its conclusions on the significance test."

Nonsense. For many years parapsychology had led the pack in encouraging experimentalists to report effect size in addition to significance level. The reason for doing this becomes crystal clear in meta-analyses, as I discuss in my books.

ken peters said...

Dear Dr. Radin
I received your most recent book "Entangled Minds" as a gift by belonging to IONS. Thank you.
I have recently reread Michael Epperson's book "Quantum Physics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead" in which some of the answers to the questions I'm reading in the blog may be answered. Epperson teaches theology at Loyola and philosophy of science and philosophy of religion at the University of Chicago. His analysis of Whitehead's metaphysics as it pertains to quantum mechanics is a tour de force in explaining cosmogenesis and the philosophy of organism.
I would hope all those interested in consciousness studies avail themselves of this book and read it after reading Whitehead's "Process and Reality"
Sincerely, Ken Peters

Anonymous said...

Dr. Radin, why haven't you responded to Endersby's criticisms?

Dean Radin said...

To anonymous: Early on in this thread I posted: "If we assume that the “true” hit rate is the average of the 28.6% and 28.9% figures that [Endersby] cites, or 28.75%, and that the total number of ganzfeld-like studies is 6,700 as he cites, then the associated z = 7.09, p = 6.8E-13. This is equivalent to odds againg chance above a trillion to 1. And the funnel plot he presents rules out any obvious filedrawer effect."

In other words, given Endersby's own estimates, a detailed response seems unnecessary for one still reaches strong conclusion in favor of the ganzfeld psi effect. In other words, why argue over quibbles?

I do agree that someone, some day, ought to delve into Endersby's comments and ferret out which are valid and which are not. I simply don't have time to respond to every possible critique that appears on a blog or webpage. I do pay attention to critiques that are published in scientific journals, because then the critic has demonstrated that the criticism has passed at least one level of peer scrutiny. By contrast, comments appearing on the web are merely personal opinions, including this one.

Ben said...

Dean, I have read with interest you last paragraph of this very enlightening exchange and have the following question about your statement I agree that so far nothing adequately resolves the "hard problem" of consciousness, not classical or quantum physical theory, or anything else.
(1)Do you have any clues as to how to begin to legitimize an
or anything else? Ben

Anonymous said...

By you not responding in detail, Endersby is able to call you incompetent all over the internet. For a recent sampling, go to the ganzfeld discussion page on Wikipedia. I understand that you're busy, and that Endersby's estimates are still statistically significant. But if what he wrote is essentially right, then you are an imposture, and your books are a sham.

Dean Radin said...

To Mr. Anonymous:

> By you not responding in detail, Endersby is able to call you incompetent all over the internet....

People are allowed to write anything they want on blogs and the Wikipedia. Without some form of meaningful vetting, such opinions are useless for scholarly consideration.

In any case, as I've noted before, Endersby's analysis confirms that the ganzfeld database is extremely significant. Different inclusion criteria in a meta-analysis leading to the same results ought to confirm confidence in the results, not question it.

I encourage Endersby to publish his findings in a refereed journal. Among other things, that would demonstrate he's serious and willing to stand behind his claims. I would also appreciate that comments submitted to my blog be posted with real names, and not anonymously.