Saturday, February 03, 2007

Debunking the debunkers

On the Barnes & Noble website for Entangled Minds there is an anonymous review by Kirkus Reviews. It says in part:

... He then detours into an attack on ESP debunkers. A history of psychic research follows (neglecting to mention that some of the pioneers later admitted faking their results)....

Why am I hard on the "ESP debunkers"? Because some of their statements are bunk. A good example is the parenthetical comment above. It is pure fiction. In the 120+ year history of systematic scientific study of psychic phenomena, there is a single case where an investigator admitted faking data. That occurred in the 1970s by one researcher at J B Rhine's laboratory. Historically there are two or three other suspected -- but not proven -- cases. In all instances the suspects were identified by other parapsychologists. High integrity among parapsychological investigators is comparable to that found in any other scientific discipline.

I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as fraud. - Carl Jung


Enfant Terrible said...

01- Fraud prooved?

Hemendra Nath Banerjee - "The Rajasthan University had to close down its parapsychology department, as the research done by Dr. Banerjee were fraudulent. It was also found that he had a fraudulent degree in psychology".

02-Strong Suspect

Stanley de Brath

"En mi opinión, son réplicas exactas" dice Jones, aunque luego hace la salvedad de que "si eso es suficiente para probar el fraude, puede ser discutido". La posibilidad de que la duplicación haya sido realizada en forma paranormal permanecería, mereciendo una investigación ulterior.

(see the photos)


Harry Price

What the skeptic said about case 1 is true? Don't you think case 2 is too suspicious?It was these 3 cases you were referring to?

Anonymous said...

oh dear, you see it is ill informed statements like this that people listen to however, which is upsetting. i suggest you leave this reply on the barnes and noble website so people there get the whole story, not too many people visit yoiur blog to get the message i wouldnt think.

on another topic, what books on psi would you recomend besides your own? and are you thinking of starting your own podcast?

Dean Radin said...

Enfant Terrible said...

01- Fraud prooved?

There are so many factually incorrect statements in the cited webpage, and no way to verify the other statements, that this citation doesn't prove anything.

For example: Lots of scientists have gone through the researches of Dr. J.B.Rhine and found them faulty.

This is an often repeated but false skeptical mantra. The implication is that Rhine's data can simply be dismissed, or that he and his staff were not conducting their studies in a scientific manner, or not responding to critics of their work over the years. It simply isn't true.

When it was discovered that one of his assistants manipulated the instruments to obtain positive results, the Duke University closed down the Para Psychology department.

False. This refers to the one instance of an investigator faking data that I had mentioned, but it was discovered by Rhine's staff, and it occurred 10 years after Rhine had left Duke.

As there are lots of money in parapsychology research, Dr. Rhine started his own private Research Institute "Stanford Research Institute," which has nothing to do with Standford University.

Anyone who thinks there is lots of money in parapsychology research can be immediately dismissed as seriously misinformed. In addition, the writer confuses Rhine's private institute in Durham, North Carolina, with the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California. The latter was indeed part of Stanford University until the 1970s, when it become independent and renamed SRI International.

02-Strong Suspect: Stanley de Brath

This refers to so-called spirit photography in 1924 by a person I have not heard of before. It doesn't appear that whoever took this picture admitted to faking it.

03-Suspect: Harry Price

The author of the cited article concludes: "My own view is thus that there is no direct evidence worthy of the name that Price tampered with these photographs."

Dean Radin said...

Anonymous said...
i suggest you leave this reply on the barnes and noble website so people there get the whole story, not too many people visit yoiur blog to get the message i wouldnt think.

I write this blog mainly for people who are sufficiently interested in these topics to do some homework. People like you.

what books on psi would you recomend besides your own? and are you thinking of starting your own podcast?

I recommend Russell Targ's website for a good selection of contemporary and historical books. You can find it at:

Another good source with lots of information is the Parapsychology Foundation:

I don't have enough free time at the moment to start my own podcasting.

Fay said...

It has been my experience that many debunkers are usually ignorant of what they don't understand, especially in the psi field.
Thanks to people like yourself, who are able to prove and explain coherently what I know to be just a natural function/ability we are all capable of achieving.
With an open mind, awareness, and a willingness to personally experiment, incredible/amazing results are possible.
It is with much appreciation that I am able to refer to your scientific information to explain what others don't believe or think impossible, even though I know are possible, and now use and take for granted.
I also look forward to more future explanations for the rest of my/our amazing abilities.
It's nice to know that I'm not totally weird.
Thanks again Dean

James F. said...

I read with interest your "Conscious Universe". It is an excellent collection of parapsychological evidence.

One part I especially liked was your all too short section on "applications".

It seems to me that, for much of the phenomenon, if it could truly be "applied" then this would create a world of paranormal haves and have nots. What keeps or has kept someone (or some group) from acquiring world domination/control using these "powers" which apparently exist based on test data?

There are surely very large groups of people that can focus their mental powers on negative effects on any of the World's leaders they dislike. If PK worked shouldn't they have all gotten sick and died? And, oppositely, shouldn't millions of people praying for a leader's health ensure it, but it seems that most of the time this doesn't work.

If remote viewing provides access to "secret" knowledge then those who have secrets (almost anyone!) can be blackmailed/controlled. Or at the least, their pin numbers/etc (and money) are free for the taking.

More ethically, remote viewing can allow one person (at best) or more realistically as large group (to statistically enhance the positive results) to determine the location of buried gold or treasure throughout the world. This is especially true if they can travel in time via RV.

Using precognition, of course, all sorts of "mayhem" can be caused by an unfair temporal advantage. But any slight advantage can be used to amass great wealth and thus power, making such folk the most powerful on the planet. Yet, we see nothing like this. Of course, they could be hiding their powers, but why? Examining the leaders in the various financial fields, one can see that they have wins and losses in their field and life in general.

In fact if anecdotes are to be believed, the publicly known practitioners of precognition seem rather unsuccessful in this way (although their books and public interactions may generate income).

Also, for standard mindreading (ESP), you would think that this would be a great "power" which could be used ethically or unethically to amass great wealth and power, but we do not see this (or at least it is not that apparent). What leader in life has written a biography that they made their millions by reading minds to get unfair advantage?

So I guess that although I want to believe in some paranormal phenomena (mainly because I, as I am sure all of us, have experienced some of these odd things), I think whatever it is is so random and nebulous that it must be almost impossible to consciously, effectively use to do anything productive.

Atheistic Mystic said...

Hi Dean,

I was hoping you have a few minutes to help me de-bunk a de-bunker.

After some arm-twisting, I got him to watch the talk you gave at the Theosophy Hall in New York.


He said:

"The second big study Radin mentioned that he talked about in more depth was some version of the Ganzfeld experiment. This had a few glaring errors in it that I could discern just from looking at his graph and listening to him explain the methods. I'm sure if the paper were at hand it would be a lot easier to evaluate. Again, this is why there is a need to read the original work instead of relying upon media reports.

Big methodological problem - recording the vague impressions of a person under a form of hypnosis, playing it back, and then presenting them with one of four options will result in the same problem Zener cards have. It's well known that an experimenter can communicate feedback through nonverbal clues, thus the need for a double-blind procedure. In this case, he lacked that.

That alone is enough to bar a paper from publication in any scientific journal. It isn't an issue of being a skeptic or hating paranormal research. The same would be true for any type of research. It's just a really bad methodology that skews results toward significance.

He also lacked a control group of some sort. That's a huge issue, as well.

And that isn't all. It would seem Radin manipulated the statistics as well. Out of the four options, only one is correct. So chance probability would expect correct answers 25% of the time. Radin therefore stated that his subjects demonstrated psi ability whenever they scored over 25% correct.

This is wrong; Radin still needs to use the accepted cutoff of 5%. I know he knew this, because he indicated P values in later studies he showed. He just ignored it on that run of data because it wouldn't have worked otherwise. For example, if you want to test your own psychic ability and you flip a coin ten times and focus on it coming out heads, and six out of the ten times it shows up as heads, it isn't indicative that you have psychic ability simply because you did better than chance.

That brings us to his next statistical blunder. When doing repeated measures probability in that fashion, you have to use some sort of statistical correction. Like a Bonferroni correction. Thus, your .05 cutoff turns into .025 each time you run a new set. Radin didn't do this either, which resulted in his absurd claim that out of the 88 Ganzfeld experiments run there was a "29 quintillion to 1" probability against chance. You get insanely high numbers like that when you forget (oops) to do statistical corrections."

Here is the link to our discussion, in case you want to check it out:

Do you have a link to a paper that would address his comments? Thanks!

Dean Radin said...

Have your friend look at

It's tedious to respond to such elementary points, because they are all very well understood.

Of course the studies are conducted double blind. Of course these studies have been repeatedly published in peer-reviewed journals. Of course we're aware of all the statistical issues he mentions. And he is apparently unaware of commonly used meta-analysis procedures, which of course takes into account combining probabilities.

I wrote The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds to provide a more in-depth examination of these issues for a general audience, and without asking the reader to wade through the library finding hundreds of journal publications. If your friend is willing to challenge his own beliefs, have him read those books.

Atheistic Mystic said...

Thank you very much Dean!

He retorted with Michael Shermer (2003), Milton and Wiseman's study (1999), and Bem, Palmer, & Broughton, (2001).

I gave him