Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Biased and blinkered mentality

In a recent article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, physicist Stanley Jeffers (Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University) reviews the results of the PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) Laboratory research with random number generators (RNGs). His opinion is that PEAR's claims that intention influences randomness is not supported. He concludes: "Despite the best efforts of the PEAR group over a twenty-five-year period, their impact on mainstream science has been negligible. The PEAR group might argue that this is due to the biased and blinkered mentality of mainstream scientists. I would argue that it is due to the lack of compelling evidence."

We are all entitled to our opinions. But when it comes to evaluating evidence, one would think it more than a mild oversight to fail to mention that literally hundreds of similar RNG experiments have been published by other researchers, and many of those studies were reportedly successful (and discussed recently in a meta-analysis and two commentaries published in Psychological Bulletin).

Failing to mention that the PEAR work is part of a larger body of studies is one thing, but Jeffers also forgot to mention that he participated in an RNG experiment he helped to design that was supposedly (and arguably) better than the PEAR design, and that it successfully supported the PEAR claim! (That paper can be accessed here.)

A case of "biased and blinkered mentality"? Or a case of preaching to the converted (since Jeffer's article appeared in the confirmed debunker's bible).


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could give some information about current experiments and progress on RNGs?.

It would be nice to get an overview on what is happening in the world and who is studying the output of these generators.

Spooks said...

If they turned their miopic gaze on themselves through a microscope they might truley find a biased and blinkered mentality...

Ian Pegler said...

The popular science magazine BBC Focus (Sept 2006) contained an article on PK focusing on the PEAR work with RNGs and had comments from your good self and Prof Chris French. I'll quote the latter:

"...But I'd bet my money on the real cause being some subtle methodological artefact and/or currently unrecognised statistical problems The effect sizes we are talking about are vanishingly small - in the case of the PEAR group, it's just a 0.02 per cent deviation from the 50 per cent hit rate expected by chance. It would not take much of an unintended biasing influence to produce such effects."

It all seems to beg the question, if it's not PK what else could it be?

Only a few paragraphs earlier, Prof French was quoted as saying:

"There's a danger of sceptics dismissing every positive result as being due to vauge unspecified methodological flaws."

I couldn't have put it better myself!


Anonymous said...

he is just trying to maintain his position in the skeptical community, the article is the equivilant of a why white people are better than black people speach at the ku klux klan, it will be well received in the magazine, but anyone who looks into these things properly will find out the truth, that results are being found that more and more confirm the existance of psi, eventually the skeptics will be like the "flat earth society" looked upon with amusement, but an amusement filled with pity.

Mrs. Calco said...

Hello there,
I first want to let you know that I am not (and
hopefully I will not come across as) a kook or
anything. I just finished reading Entangled Minds and
wanted to let you know that it is very good and
although I don't have an advanced degree in any
scientific field, I do have a B.A. and an M.B.A. I'm
only mentioning this because I want to let you know
that I do understand at least some of what I am
reading, lol. I don't think you really need an
advanced degree however as you've done a very good job
of making the book readable for anyone.

I attended a conference recently at Duke. I was reading your blog and almost all of your
favorite movies are also favorites of mine and I think
I have seen Galaxy Quest maybe 20 times. I know that
sounds corny, but anyway I've just finished watching
the first 'What the Bleep'. I have not seen the 2nd
one yet, nor have a read your first book yet (although
I intend to) which brings me to why I'm writing you. I
recently lost my 15 year old daughter to suicide. Here
is her story....

I have also attached an article which I wrote for our
local paper. It appeared back on April 10, 2006.

I found it more than interesting that my article very
closely parallels some of the content from the first
'What the Bleep' (about the water)...well, you can
read it and see. Looking at it now...it seems kind of
funny that I pulled this out of a 5th grade science
fair. Makes me wonder where my idea really might have
come from. :)

Last Thursday, Haverhill Elementary hosted a Children’s Science Fair. Students created colorful boards to display photos along with their stated Purpose; Hypothesis; Materials Used; Procedure; Variables and Conclusion.

Student projects ranged in topic from ‘which liquid will preserve a cucumber the best’ to ‘the effects words have on rice’. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s the same thing that I thought. What does that mean? So I paused to read this particular board again, as I thought for sure I’d read it incorrectly. But to my surprise, this was actually a valid experiment in which the question was posed ‘what did the power of words have on rice?’ At first, I didn't quite understand what the experiment was all about...but as I read on, things became all too clear to me.

This experiment involved simple white rice which was cooked and divided equally amongst 6 clean baby food jars. 2 jars were simply set aside. The remaining 4 jars, had messages which were taped on, in order that the words faced the rice.

On the 1st note, were the words "I Love You". On the 2nd note, "I Believe in you and have Faith in you". On the 3rd note, "I Hate You". And, on the final note, "You are Sad and Disgusting and will Never amount to anything".

These jars were set aside for a few weeks and closely observed.

Do you know that the rice with the nasty words rotted and turned moldy and green? The rice that had no words deteriorated at a moderate level. The rice with the kind and loving words showed nearly no deterioration at all.

So what did this experiment really show? More than I can ever relay, I’m afraid.

On Dec 4, 2005, my 15 year old daughter Kristina Calco, committed suicide after being bullied in school on an ongoing basis for at least 2 1/2 years. Kristina was picked on by a group of boys who called her 'ugly and nasty' every day. Her friends say that Kristina cried in the cafeteria or the bathroom every day. They thought that they were doing the right thing by consoling her. These young ladies were not properly instructed on what constituted bullying and they did not feel comfortable in non-anonymous reporting.

On March 21st, Governor Jennifer Granholm spoke again at the Capitol on Michigan’s proposed Anti-Bullying Law. If passed, Michigan Law would require local school districts to set up anti-bullying policies that include teacher training, a clear definition of harassment/bullying, channels for reporting bullying and hazing incidents, a response plan and penalties for violators. A Safe Schools Advocacy Day is planned for Tues., March 28, 2006 from 9 to 5 at the Capitol in Lansing, in Room 424. Participants are encouraged to visit legislative offices to show support for HB 5616 and SB 1156.

So let’s go back to the rice experiment…..remember that?…the effect that words have on rice? All I can think of are the children, like my daughter, who have been and are still being bullied and tormented in our schools right now and what has been and is currently happening to them. Can you imagine if negative words can turn a jar of pure white rice moldy and green, what those same words can do to an innocent child?

It is estimated that approximately 90% of all suicides are a direct result of depression. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Bullying can be thought of as a depression trigger....“anything that happens physically or emotionally that can cause an imbalance within the normal brain function.”

We need to recognize that children do indeed kill themselves. We’ve had one in our community already, and that was my daughter. I’m sure that many would agree that that was one too many. I’d like to help you help yourselves see to it that this never happens again. SUICIDE IS PREVENTABLE. We as a society just need to open our eyes to what is going on around us every day. Who would have thought a baby food jar filled with white rice could rot just because it had some nasty words taped to it. Now you know.


Bill King said...

I am trying to track down the source and veracity of an article circulating on the web which states that Russian DNA scientist have made some breakthroughs in the 90% of so-called "useless" DNA. This research reminds me of a hunch I had 25 years ago that DNA was radio-frequency active and actually linked data to our bodies ( i.e. Morphogenic fields; consensus reality & belief systems, etc.). However, I am unable to locate the existence and veracity of the Russian scientist sited in the article,Pjotr Garjajev. All I have been able to locate via search engines are references to this article. Here is the article: http://www.luisprada.com/Protected/russian_dna_discoveries.htm

I thought that You, Mr. Radin, would be one who might possibly have heard of this research and could verify and ease my mind.

Here is the authors' of the article's web site:

Thank you. I wish I knew of a more direct way to contact you. I am not familiar with "blogs"???? I hope this will get to you.

Dean Radin said...

For Mrs. Calco: I'm so sorry to learn of your daughter's suicide.
Regarding the science fair test you mention involving rice, I've just published a replication of the claims of Masaru Emoto, mentioned in the What the Bleep movie. I write about this more at the top level of this blog.

Dean Radin said...

On the "Russian DNA scientist...." I haven't run across this yet, sorry.

Dave said...

I have just read the article by Jeffers on the PEAR PK work. I'm confused. I don't see anywhere in the article where Jeffers identifies any methodological problems with the PEAR experiments. Also, I think he is mistaking the "baseline" data as callibration data. The baseline data was collected when operators were instructed to not influence the RNG, whereas the callibration data was performed in the absence of any operator. This is an important difference he doesn't mention. Also, even if he considers the statistical significance of the baseline data from all experiments as indicative of a biased RNG, this would make the LO condition data even more significant.

However, all these inaccuracies won't stop most readers of Skeptical Inquirer from lapping it up.

Daniel F. McCarthy said...

A number of months ago, a news stand magazine, Popular Science, I think, published an article on current 11 dimensional theory. The very next issue carried a letter from a reader that was an unusually clear statement of a particular position.

The reader stated that everything beyond Newton's Laws and the optical formulas for reflection and refraction was complete and utterly worthless. I was curiously pleased to see the viewpoint stated so clearly. But I think it is widely held by a large number of otherwise intelligent people. The term that occurred to me for these people is "neonewtonians."

They say they believe in "science." But unless they can follow something on the top of a billiard table (including a light table with lens and mirrors), it doesn't exist. I can't imagine how they explain all of quantum mechanics. And all of modern technology based on it.

As I'm sure a number of people have observed, they will eventually become the new "flat earther's" of society. Since they do have a well defined position, I think they deserve a non pejorative but descriptive name for themselves. how does "neonewtonian" strike you?

Dan F McCarthy

Dean Radin said...

I sympathize with the frustration many non-scientists have with much of science today. Most of the leading edge of science, across all disciplines, involves realms that are in literal terms insensible and therefore nonsense.

This includes such ideas as invisible forces, multidimensions, probabilistic tendencies, nonlocality, etc. For sensory-oriented people, which comprises the majority of the population, such things make no sense (i.e., nonsense) precisely because they reside beyond the senses. These are the folks who require not only seeing the UFO land on the White House lawn, but also insist on going up to it to touch and taste it before they believe it.

For the minority who think in abstract and intuitive terms (most scholars, scientists and mathematicians), the idea of a world beyond the senses is not only "sensible," but demonstrable through advances in science and technology that the majority take for granted.