Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Three videos

This is a good video of a remote viewing trial, conducted some years ago by folks at the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City. Click here

This is an interesting video of skeptic Michael Shermer testing Vedic astrologer Jeffrey Armstrong. Click here

And here is one I recently participated in. Click here.


Book Surgeon said...

Great video with Shermer and the astrologer. Combined with the chapter on astrology in Stephen Braude's "The Gold Leaf Lady," it's clear that there's something very interesting going on with scientific astrology. The comment board on YouTube was hysterical, with so many skeptics wringing themselves in knots trying to explain this. One guy: "We have to find a way to bring the accuracy down." To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, you can't handle the truth.

John said...

The comments on the chocolate video are pretty hostile. However, to be fair, the concept of chocolate being enhanced like that, no matter how sound the tests were, is pretty surreal and weird and hard to believe.

Dean Radin said...

Not long ago most everyone thought the germ theory of disease was surreal and weird too, or that heavier-than-air machines couldn't fly. The fact is that the universe doesn't care what we believe. Some things are true whether we like it or not.

But more pertinent, if people are not prepared to believe a double-blind placebo-controlled experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal, and an outcome that is consistent with decades of past research, then that's their perogative. But to be consistent, they should also reject virtually all research on the use of pharmaceutical drugs, because this study used the same gold-standard experimental design.

John said...

By the way, Book Surgeon, the "We have to find a way to bring the accuracy down." fellow seems to be a parody. I checked out his profile and he seems to have a few pro-ID videos favourited. He seems to be parodying skeptics in a kind of immature way.

As for what Dean said, I agree. It still doesn't make it any easier to swallow. :)

Eric said...

"The fact is that the universe doesn't care what we believe. Some things are true whether we like it or not."


Haven't you heard? Present day scientists are omniscient. You need to keep in touch with the posts over at Cosmic Variance to know what is allowable by "nature" and what isn't:

"American Association for the Advancement of PseudoScience
Sean at 5:41 pm, February 14th, 2008
What’s wrong with this list?

Paleontological Society
Parapsychological Association
Pattern Recognition Society
Phi Beta Kappa Society
Phi Sigma Biological Sciences Honor Society
Phycological Society of America

Seems at first glance like a list of scientific professional organizations, or at least the subset of such a list beginning with the letter “P.” And indeed it is — it’s an excerpt from the list of Affiliates of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

But take a look at that second entry — the Parapsychological Association? Is that what it sounds like? Indeed it is — “the international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of ‘psi’’ (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition (”parapsychology”).”

The only problem is, parapsychology is not science. It’s pseudoscience. From a completely blank-slate perspective, one can certainly pose scientific questions about whether the human mind can tell the future or read minds or move objects around without touching them. The thing is, we know the answer: no. The possibilities have been investigated and found wanting; more straightforwardly, they would violate the known laws of physics. Alchemy was science once, but it’s not any more. Not all hypotheses are equally worthy of our respect and attention; sometimes we learn that a particular idea doesn’t work, and move on with our lives."

Tony M said...

The Astrology reading was very impressive - and very much not what I would have expected. I have long been persuaded about the reality of Psi, but have a great difficulty accepting astrology. So I'm baffled...

It is also to Shermer's credit that he didn't suppress the results.

Dean Radin said...

To be charitable I will assume that the opinion expressed on Cosmic Variance is an attempt at satire, because otherwise it is too stupid to contemplate.

N said...

To be charitable, I will assume that the opinion expressed on Cosmic Variance is an attempt to bait someone into arguing about psi, because that's really the only reason you abruptly declare a whole field of study to be 'psuedoscience'.If you really didn't care about it or thought it was crap, you'd keep your mouth shut and thank your lucky stars you were smart enough to choose 'real' science.

Marcel Cairo said...

Sitting here in Pasadena, California, made watching the remote viewing video particularly difficult.

From the very beginning of the video, I could see that the target location was "Peace Fountain" at St. John the Divine.

When I moved to New York in 1990, St. John the Divine was the first place I went to after getting off the bus from Texas.

St. John is the world's largest Gothic cathedral, larger than Notre Dame in Paris. Plus, it's location at the base of Harlem, and right around the corner from Columbia University have transformed the cathedral into an amazing cultural gathering place.

I used to go to midnight mass there on Christmas Eve, and one night I was joined by Bill and Hillary. St. Hohn's was also the place where the funeral ceremony was held for Jim Henson.

Inside the walls of the Cathedral you'll find some of the most amazing displays you'd ever expect to see in a place of worship. My favorite is the poet's corner.

The remote viewer also pointed out a red & white awning across the street. That place is also a holy shrine of the neighborhood, The Hungarian Pastry shop. There's no way for me to describe the ambiance of this place, nor the unbeleivabble taste of their home made croissants with apricot jam on a Sunday morning accompanied by a hot cup of coffee and a thick NY Times.

If you travel to New York City, please make an extra effort to visit St. John the Divine, Peace Fountain and the Hungarian Pastry Shop. Also, please tell them that I'm coming back one day.

God, I miss New York!

Book Surgeon said...

Unfortunately, Dean, this ridiculous posting doesn't appear to be satire. The author is serious, and the comments following appear to be about evenly split: the usual "there's never been any independent replication and Randi still has his million dollars" and "why are you trying to suppress open inquiry and limit study to what we already think we know?"

Sigh. I'd go in there with guns blazing if I hadn't finally learned what a complete waste of time it is to try to convince such utterly bereft, small and closed minds.

Marcel Cairo said...

Just watched the other videos as well.

I'm in the same boat with Tony M. Astrology has always been the limit of how far out there my beliefs in psi would go.

After watching the Shermer video, I have to say I'm still a little hesitant to embrace astrology, though the results were statistically impressive.

I guess, I just can't understand how Mars' position at the time of someone's birth would lead to "bushy eyebrows."

In fact, the whole "bushy eyebrows" thing came up twice in the video. I have never thought about this as being some type of phenomenon.

A real experiment would be to gather 12 people from 12 different countries and cultures who all have the exact same birth date and time, and see how correct one Vedic astrological reading would be for them. Theoritically, one would expect to see a pretty even statistical outcome.

Gee... I wonder what a Vedic astrology reading for actor, John Holmes, would have sounded like?

Book Surgeon said...

I stand corrected. The comments get worse as you go down. They mostly degenerate into the expected kind of nonsense: psi research has no data, the PA should be kicked out of the AAAS, etc.

The "no data" thing always amazes me, especially since there is a mountain of good data. What this suggests is a closed-minded person who's never bothered to investigate the data, heard someone like Shermer or James Randi say there's "no data", and parrots that opinion.

Sad, but common. Again, sigh.

Jime said...

I saw Shermer's test with the astrologer in Shermer's tv programm "Exploring the Unknown". Shermer didn't suppress the results, but if you saw the complete programm, you can see as that result isn't analysed in its implications.

Almost all of Shermer's tests in that programm get negative resuts; so, it seems logical to stress and examine in detail positive results (because they're the most interesting to explore the "unknown" or give credit to some paranormal claims)

When I saw that program, I confirmed that the pseudoskeptical mind isn't suitable to examine paranormal phenomena, even with positive results get by themselves.
It wasn't a surprise to me.

Topher Cooper said...

I thought the Shermer video was quite amusing. Have to hand it to Shermer, though, even though it made him look like an idiot he completed it.

First he had the comments from the convert to Skepticism. She sat there calmly and confidently reporting what she assumed was going on as if it were observable fact (actually, it didn't seem to correspond to what we were actually shown). Of course he had to be just doing standard "cold reading" techniques -- the alternative is unthinkable, that other people can do what she tried to do but she just wasn't competent. (Hmm... sounds like another Convert we both know, doesn't it?).

Then we proceeded to a test that was very badly designed to demonstrate any real predictive ability. What it was designed to show was what Shermer apparently was very confident was going to occur -- that the astrologer was going to present a series of Barnums.

It would take a very strong effect to actually show something that couldn't immediately be dismissed as a fluke at best, given his design. Unfortunately for Shermer a very strong effect is just what he got. Of course, all he could say about the results were that they were interesting -- certainly not that they produced positive evidence for astrology.

Tony M said...


I always wondered if tools like astrological charts, palms and crystal balls actually function by distracting the conscious mind so that intuitive information could come through. I wonder if you (considering who you happen to be) could comment on that possibility.

To my further bewilderment, I researched a web site offering free, abbreviated Vedic readings. Much to my surprise, the reading was accurate. I suppose I should enter a bunch of false birth dates and compare the results. (That is, see if any of them match me, etc.) Frankly, I would be much happier to discover that my "distract the conscious mind" theory was correct. Mars influencing eyebrows and Mr Holmes particular gift just goes beyond my boggle threshold.

Eric said...

"What this suggests is a closed-minded person who's never bothered to investigate the data, heard someone like Shermer or James Randi say there's "no data", and parrots that opinion."

That's how I gauge whether people have studied parapsychological evidence in any depth. The well versed "skeptics" usually never mention Shermer or Randi; the people who have studied the evidence in detail mention the much more sophisticated "skeptics" like Ray Hyman.

John said...

The most amazing thing, I think, is Shermer published the program. I don't think he's intellectually dishonest, I think he's just so shaded by the "New Age" junk he got in to as a child that he has the will to disbelieve.

Dean Radin said...

... Mars influencing eyebrows and Mr Holmes particular gift just goes beyond my boggle threshold.

Personal boggle thresholds nonwithstanding, do a Google on the work of Michel Gauquelin and the "Mars Effect." And then slowly read Rick Tarnas' monumental book, Cosmos and Psyche.

Jime said...

On Michel Gauquelin research and Mars effect controversy with pseudoskeptics, see:

Tony M said...

Personal boggle thresholds nonwithstanding, do a Google on the work of Michel Gauquelin and the "Mars Effect." And then slowly read Rick Tarnas' monumental book, Cosmos and Psyche.

I'm aware of Guquelin's work and I will look for Tarnas's book. As I said in a prior post, I am persuaded by the evidence for Psi. My comment is more about the point where I start to feel cognitive dissonance. I don't reject the possibility. It just makes my head hurt processing it.

But that's okay, I like it.

Caecilius said...

book surgeon, no need to be surprised... There is a legion of people who spring up and loudly proclaim that there is NO evidence of PSI without really knowing the issue one way or the other. I know this because I used to be one such person, and I never failed to make fun of my girlfriend for believing in PSI.

Keep in mind, however, that I was never a 'Skeptic' in the inaccurate meaning of that term. I just thought telepathy sounded very unlikely. I remember looking at the Ganzfeld and precognition experiments the first time around, and having my mind blown. How could this be? But the more I looked, the more obvious it became that there was something going on.

A 'skeptic' will never go so far. If you offer evidence contrary to their belief, they will cite 'noise' (whatever the heck that means). When you ask them to POINT out the flaws, you will get sarcastic comments (saying that the topic is 'woo woo' makes it go away, apparently).

In fact, I am constantly shocked by the incredibly dirty tactic employed by the 'skeptical' community. I am in particular reminded of Randi's supposed replication of Sheldrake's dog experiment that proved there was nothing there. Once Rupert pressed for data -- surprise, surprise, there was none, and besides, the experiment was 'informal.'

Even worse is Randi's claim that his team viewed the entire tape and that they found the dog responded to every person or car. He later had to admit that he has NOT, in fact, seen the tape.

And that's just what comes immediately to mind. There are so many such instances of what amounts to misinformation at best and dirty play at worst. It's just shocking to me to conceive that some people have no ethical compass whatsoever, whatever their beliefs are.

Enfant Terrible said...

Was this Shermer's research published in some journal? If not, we can say the skeptics used the file-drawer effect.

lightseeker said...

Regarding the Shermer/astrology video, yeah, that was pretty amazing! Especially when unbeknownst to the two women or to the astrologer, Shermer switched the two readings and the accuracy went down! When switched back correctly, their readings were the most accurate! It really proved something significant was going on.

I do believe astrology is mainly a tool or prop for the astrologer's own intuition or psychic insight. But there does seem to be some validity to it, as Dean pointed out regarding the "Mars Effect." I've even been amazed by the accuracy of my own natal chart. I know this may sound really far out, but I get the sense that what we see "out there" - the stars, planets, space, etc. - is really just a projection of humanity's own collective consciousness - in reality, it's "in here" - in our minds/consciousness. So that is why there is a weird correlation between our personality traits and the stars.

I feel the same is true for any discovery. The further we peer out into space, the more archaeological finds we dig up, etc. - we'll just keep finding more and more, to no end - until we finally all wake up and realize we're the ones creating/projecting all this for our own experience and growth while we experiment in this 3D realm called Earth. Because our real nature is pure consciousness, and our raison d'etre is ever-expanding growth and evolution - just like our universe.

Hey Marcel, great to see you here! I've recently been enjoying catching up on your AfterlifeFM interviews. I'm a neighbor, just a few miles west of you in the LA area!

David Bailey said...

The astrology video was extraordinary, and it made me wonder if this is an ESP effect because like most people here astrology is hard to take!

I guess a good experiment would be to take a group of people with the same astrological data and look for similarities.

Another thought, is that maybe believing in a method - such as astrology - may help to focus any Ψ-abilities.

Dean Radin said...

I've been monitoring the stats about the Intentional Chocolate video I mentioned here (it's part of IONS' One Minute Shift video series). I'm pleased (and amazed actually) to see that after just 4 days online it has already been viewed 145,000 times, and has 28 "honors," which means it is one of the most discussed, viewed, favored, and highly rated videos on YouTube. There's just something about chocolate ...

Enfant Terrible said...

There's a lot of psychics wich demonstrated some paranormal power like Harribance or Ingo Swann.

Dean, why don't you do some experiment with them or with the astrologer? It would be very nice a replication.

Dean Radin said...

I haven't conducted experiments with such folks mainly due to lack of funding, but also because psychics who can reliably perform at very high levels, and on demand under laboratory conditions, are exceedingly rare. Many more people report spontaneous psychic experiences, but re-evoking the conditions that spawn those spontaneous experiences in the lab is very difficult.

theobservereffect said...

It seems to me that it would be much easier for experienced meditators to get those 40 Hz brain waves going under almost any circumstances, than it would be for even the most gifted psychic who relies on intermittent, spontaneous bursts of gamma activity.

As for intention chocolate, I read some of the comments on the YouTube page and it left me wondering why people are having such difficulty with -- and hostility toward -- this concept. Five minutes of focused attention on a bottle of wine can alter its taste, and you don't have to be a monk to make that happen; it's something almost anyone can do at home.

... I think it was Gandhi who said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

MaRe said...

A bit latecoming comment but non-the-less...

I found the astrology video quite interesting. However, having the astrologer read the statements to the individuals lowers the credibility.
Instead, a separate interviewer should ask neutral questions around the predictions so as to retrieve the individuals own assesment on the particular prediction. E.g. asking about history of marriage and then compare the answer to the prediction. If the results persists with such a change in method, I would personnally have a shift from neutral to positive stance towards astrology.

Further, the swap "trick" that (in the end) gave a 90%-ish confirmation. To me, such a sharp increase in hit level is a signal about a problem. It indicates that some, more usual, psychological effect is acting out, not that the astrologer was more accurate with those two individuals.

Dean Radin said...

I agree with Mare's comments. A more formal test would involve conditions excluding direct contact between the astrologer and the person being "read." However, this video still provides face validity that something interesting might be going on, definitely worthy of following up.

Venchtable said...

Ha!The movement of planets can give you bushy eyebrows!Genius.I suspect that Shermer video has been cut no?
Derren Brown gives a good overview of astrology here:
But then,Ill be surprised if you allow this comment!

Dean Radin said...

But then,Ill be surprised if you allow this comment!

I guess it doesn't take much to surprise you. The "Barnum Effect" is a confounding factor in general-purpose astrological readings. Everyone knows (or should know) that. The interesting thing about this test is that it was set up by Shermer, who, being a diehard skeptic, would presumably have taken such confounds into effect.

Is this a piece of a longer video, or edited in some way to make the outcome look better than it really was? I don't know. It looks plausibly real to me.