Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Maybe the check is in the mail?


The Wikipedia entry on Masaru Emoto is a good example of why no one should trust an encyclopedia written by anonymous amateurs. I know it is possible, at least in principle, to edit Wikipedia pages to make corrections. But it is also possible for pranksters to change information on any page just for fun. And I know teenagers who regularly do this to confuse their classmates.

The case in point was brought to my attention by a friend. I will correct the entry here. I've tried making corrections to Wikipedia in the past, and I'm not willing to go through that waste of time again. I'll italicize the Wikipedia entries:

In 2003, [the magician] James Randi publicly offered Emoto one million dollars if his results can be reproduced in a double-blind study.

I was coauthor on such a study, which was co-sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences and published in 2006. You can find it here on PubMed. As far as I know Emoto hasn't received the one million dollar check. I know I haven't.

In 2006, Emoto published a paper together with Dean Radin and others in the peer-reviewed Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing (of which Radin was co-editor-in-chief).

Yes and no. Yes: I published such a paper. No: I became a co-editor-in-chief of this journal in 2009, three years after publishing that paper. I had no connection with Explore prior to that. Nor did I have any affiliation or financial interest in Emoto's work then, or now.

The paper itself was not peer-reviewed, as the journal only conducts peer reviews of articles submitted within the 'scientific' category, a label which Emoto and Radin chose not to apply to their work.


The citation attached to the above sentence refers to a photo essay about Emoto's crystals, published in Explore in 2004. I am not a coauthor of that article. I had nothing to do with it. The double-blind paper we published in 2006 was indeed peer-reviewed, and it showed a statistically significant difference between water that was "exposed" to intention vs. identical water set aside as a control. The magnitude of the observed effect was smaller than is implied in Emoto's books, but the direction of the effect was consistent with his claim.

A better-controlled "triple-blind" follow-up study published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration did not yield positive results.

No. The cited reference points to an article in a popular magazine that got it dead wrong. The abstract of the original journal article, of which I am a coauthor, reads:

An experiment tested the hypothesis that water exposed to distant intentions affects the aesthetic rating of ice crystals formed from that water. Over three days, 1,900 people in Austria and Germany focused their intentions towards water samples located inside an electromagnetically shielded room in California. Water samples located near the target water, but unknown to the people providing intentions, acted as ‘‘proximal’’ controls. Other samples located outside the shielded room acted as distant controls. Ice drops formed from samples of water in the different treatment conditions were photographed by a technician, each image was assessed for aesthetic beauty by over 2,500 independent judges, and the resulting data were analyzed, all by individuals blind with respect to the underlying treatment conditions. Results suggested that crystal images in the intentionally treated condition were rated as aesthetically more beautiful than proximal control crystals (p = 0.03, one-tailed). This outcome replicates the results of an earlier pilot test.

There were, however, potential problems with the "triple-blind" follow up. As the study explains:

Yes, as I explained. Empirical studies regularly contain sections discussing the limitations of the design. No experiment is perfect.

"In any experiment involving intention, the intentions of the "investigators" cannot be cleanly isolated from those of the nominal participants and this in turn constrains how one should properly interpret the results....

All quite true. But the above snippet starts in the middle of a paragraph. The actual article begins this paragraph with the following:

"These design elements excluded obvious environmental differences and conventional subjective biases as plausible explanations for the observed results, and the combined results of the two experiments appear to exclude chance as an explanation (unweighted Stouffer Z = 3.34, p<0.0004)."


In other words, when it comes to Wikipedia, reader beware. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for my prize check. Maybe it's in the mail.

42 comments:

gildedchute said...

Here's the url for the 2006 paper. (Also, try pmid.us for URLs redirecting to PubMed papers.)

Sandy said...

Dean, Many university professors will automatically fail any term paper that uses Wikipedia as a primary reference. Wikipedia just isn't particularly accurate! This is especially true in regards to entries about contentious issues.

Large companies actually hire staff to edit Wikipedia in such a way as to portray these organizations in a positive light. Even in the case of noncontroversial topics, well, Wikipedia often still gets it wrong.

A friend of mine contacted Wikipedia because they had an inaccurate entry about her stating that she had illustrated a popular graphic novel. She hadn't and really felt the credit should go to the actual artist, who was a friend of hers. She had corrected the incorrect entry a number of times, and each time it was edited back. So she asked Wikipedia what could be done. Apparently nothing (unless you have a lot of time on your hands to correct Wikipedia over and over again.)

Gareth said...

reading wikipedia is a bit like being on the end of a long chain of chinese whispers....you can only make broad inferences about the source material.

David Michaels said...

Thanks for posting this. It's good to get it straight from the "horse's mouth", to use an old expression. :) I'm glad you published this to clarify everything.

I'm a current college student. I've written countless research papers. Every single professor has said Wikipedia cannot be used as a source.

Students will, however, scroll down to the works cited section, click those links to go to the original articles, and often use those as sources.

Dean Radin said...

> Students will, however, scroll down to the works cited section, click those links to go to the original articles, and often use those as sources.

Which perpetuates the problem, because now the Wikipedia article itself can be cited, and the circularity amplifies until the article bears no resemblance to reality at all.

Deirdre said...

Dean-

Sorry to hear of your troubles with incorrect information about your work on Wikipedia. I find Wikipedia useful only in finding the general idea behind a particular topic, quickly, but I *always* cross reference information I find interesting, as best I can -- for the reason which you have stated: Anyone can edit entries on Wiki, or create them altogether.

While it's nice to have it as a something that can give the researcher the gist of the topic, using and citing Wiki as a source is just irresponsible, lazy and silly.

Lawrence said...

In hindsight it's easy to see that Wiki and its associated blunders and persistent dishonesty would be inevitable - the dumbing down conventional breezy dishonesty and superficiality of our culture spread to the net. Obviously the 'free encyclopedia' that would come to dominate the web is going to reflect our cultural values and beliefs, Wiki does that. No it doesn't say much for what passes for our cultural attitudes but there you go. Wiki is no different to the media (across the spectrum) and actually no more dishonest.

Wiki is fine for checking up on past sports championship results and non-controversial very trivial stuff like that, anything else it's about as trustworthy as a politician. Ultimately I consider Wikipedia insidious and damaging.

Tor said...

I have a question that is slightly off topic, but related to the original study referred to in this post(and some other studies done by Dean):

Does anyone have a list over all studies documenting a lingering effect/conditioning of space effect? Alternatively I would be very grateful if someone could point to single studies documenting such effects.

So far I know of the following:

1)
Wells R, Watkins G. 1975. Linger effects in several PK experiments. Research in Parapsychology 1974. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press: 143-47.

2)
Kiang JG, Marotta D, Wirkus M, Wirkus M, Jonas W: External bioenergy increases intracellular free calcium concentrations and reduces cellular response to heat stress. J Investig Med 50: 38–45, 2002

3)External bioenergy-induced increases in intracellular free calcium concentrations
are mediated by Na+/Ca2+ exchanger
and L-type calcium channel.
Juliann G. Kiang, John A.Ives and Wayne B. Jonas

In addition we have the work By William Tiller described in various books and articles. Joie P. Jones has also reported on a conditioned space effect, but so far has only made available some preliminary reports.

It seems to me that this effect says something important about how the universe operates, but I haven't found any study that specifically study or reviews any conditioning of space caused by intention/attention. It is often just addressed as an additional curious observation in psi or healing studies.

Dean Radin said...

And this paper:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15029876

Effects of healing intention on cultured cells and truly random events.

From the abstract: Results were consistent with the postulate that healing intention, applied repeatedly in a given location, may alter or condition that site so as to enhance the growth of treated cell cultures compared to untreated controls. Repeated intentions also appear to be associated with a general increase in negentropy or statistical order.

Dean Radin said...

Tor wrote (for some odd reason I couldn't enter his comment directly):

Oh, yes, I had forgotten that one :)

I have found one article that I suspect tries to review and go into the whole conditioned space issue:

Williams, B. J., & Roll, W. G. (2006). Psi, place memory, & laboratory space. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 49th Annual Convention (pp. 248 – 258). Petaluma, CA: Parapsychological Association, Inc.

Unfortunately I do not have access to this one. I would have to become a PA member in order to get my hands on it.

I have to say, I find it impressive that Roll is still active in the field. I just read a paper he coauthored in 2008 entitled Parapsychology and quantum entanglement from the 2008 PA convention. He seems to be going in a similar direction conceptually as what you did in Entangled Minds Dean.
That paper also served as an excellent review of different studies, many I hadn't heard about before. A good link between the real life spontaneous cases and laboratory work.

Enfant Terrible said...

I'm still waiting for my prize check

Please, don't think I'm being rude, but why you (or Emoto) don't try to win the JREF's million dollars? After all, Randi did a public statement, your article seems to fill all the criteria he asked for, and if Randi refuses to give the million dollars this would be very damage to his image, and you can contract a lawyer to win the case.

Dean Radin said...

When I conducted these studies (both of them) I was not aware that such a prize was available. Nor am I aware of the exact wording of the prize, or even if it was a serious offer.

> ... and you can contract a lawyer to win the case.

And spend years and huge amounts of money in the process? No thanks.

levis said...

James Randi (visited Estonia 12-13 june2010) said that the placebo effect only makes you feel better on a psychological level, but does not cure you. I think that's rubbish. Then he said there's no Santa and reindeers can't fly, if you push them off the Eiffel Tower they would most probably fall and die. Sorry kids, there's no angels, demons or afterlife.
For me it felt really weird... talk about flying deers and and then kaboom declare that there's no afterlife.

MickyD said...

Tor,

Joie P Jones has done hundreds of Pranic healing experiments on cancer cells. These experients only worked when the area was "cleaned" and conditioned to be receptive to a healing intention.
I'm not sure if he has published (apparently he was going for the JACM).
Dean, do you know if he has published these results anywhere?
Michael D.

Tor said...

MickyD,

Yes, I've been in contact with Jones regarding his experiments. They are most intriguing. From what I understood he had the JACM in mind for a future publication.

His effects are huge!

Regarding such cell studies I do have a question though. How much can handling of cells effect outcomes of cell survival? I mean, in this study the survival rates increased from 50% to more than 80% at most, but how much can be due to handling if this was not done blind? I find it hard to believe that careful handling can change the survival rate much, but I am not a biologist.

MickyD said...

Tor,

I think his studies were blinded. There is a talk on the SSE website, but I'm not sure if he mentions blinding here. I might contact him about when he is publishing and this issue. I agree, his results are huge, around 90% for some conditions!

Tor said...

MickyD,

Jones said that all the analysis was done blind when I contacted him, but I'm am not sure if this included handling of the cells too. If you contact him it would be nice to know :)

matthewx78 said...

Dean,

The Prize Check is just as much a Gimick for the "Rationalist" as bent keys by Uri Gellar are for people like us.....

We have to sort out the weeds on both sides of the fence, and then maybe we have a glimpse at the truth..

matthewx78 said...

Randi has backed out of challanges for the mill before

"Randi Backs Out of Challenge with Homeopath George Vithoulkas"

http://www.naturalnews.com/025627.html

Jime said...

It's clear that wikipedia favors the scientific orthodoxy and extreme skepticism regarding unconventional claims.

In his blog, Henry Bauwer has commented about some of the problems of the anonymous contribution to wikipedia, see for example this post:

http://hivskeptic.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/the-unqualified-without-qualifications-gurus-of-wikipedia/

Bauer argues "Further insight into Wikipedia as an in-group cult comes from looking at the posted procedures for resolution of problems, and especially at the people in charge: 11 names are given that may well be genuine names of real persons, plus 11 IDs; 3 of the latter are linked to pages that give apparently real names, and another couple yield photos, but half-a-dozen remain completely anonymous"

Tim Bolen, the nemesis of skeptic-debunker Stephen Barrett, is considered almost as an enemy of wikipedia, due to Bolen's legal problems with Barrett and other "Quackbusters" (=debunkers of alternative medicine). See for example this:

http://bolenreport.com/feature_articles/feature_article088.htm

And this:

http://bolenreport.com/feature_articles/feature_article077.htm

In principle, wikipedia seemed to be a great idea, but it seems clear now that it's being misused as a propaganda instrument to favors certain circles and interests (orthodoxy)

Sadly, most people, specially young people, seems to believe in Wikipedia as a reliable source of information.

Dean Radin said...

It appears that a miracle has occurred because a few portions of this article on Wikipedia were revised, possibly due to my blog post. The Wiki article is still incorrect, but at least it has moved in the right direction.

99 said...

Ha! Funny you should mention a check in the mail in the same post with freezing.... This kind of thing is so frustrating to good faith actors in the world.

Michael Chin said...

Hi Dean

There is an interesting experiment that you may want to do. The experiment is as follows...Get a number of decks of new cards. Shuffle thoroughly. Have deck face down on table. Try to predict the card on top of the deck before pulling the card. If you predict the card correctly, study your experience and try to find something that consistently provides correct answers (eg. if you see a shadow in your mind that reminds you of a spade and it proves true ie you actually pull a spade.)

Enfant Terrible said...

Hi, Dean

I was trying to show in the wikipedia's article about Leonora Piper that the criticisms by Martin Gardner are clearly wrong. Look the discussion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Leonora_Piper:

The views of the psychical researchers are presently represented in the article, e.g. William James et al believed Piper could contact spirits. Including long polemics against critic Gardner puts undue weight on the minority viewpoint. - LuckyLouie

Me: Are you saying that Gardner can write all the lies he wants and Wikipedia can't do anything about that?

As a mainstream encyclopedia, Wikipedia's threshold for inclusion is verifiability not truth. It's not the place for righting great wrongs. - LuckyLouie

Me: So it's ok to Wikipedia to repeat a lie over and over again? Gardner does not express the opinion of the mainstream either.

I think then, your beef is with the New York Times. They cited Gardner's opinions of Piper. We just summarize what they reported. Wikipedia can only include what is published in reliable sources. -

Me: And what makes you think that the NYT is a reliable source in this case? Do they have peer-review like in scientific journals? Even parapsychology journals have peer-review. You accept the review of the NYT about Deborah Blum's book, but you did not accept the reviews published in scientific journals of the mainstream of Irreducible Mind. My sources are clearly more reliable than yours.

Well, Wikipedia works not only by policies like WP:RS but also by gathering consensus on which sources are reliable and which are not, so you might take your issue with the NYT to a noticeboard such as WP:RSN or WP:NPOVN and let the community give you feedback and advice on how to solve your problem. Involving a wide range of experienced editors might be best at this point, rather than continuing to try to 'edit war' your opinions into the article. LuckyLouie
--------------------------

It's really amazing what Lucky Louie said: "Wikipedia's threshold for inclusion is verifiability not truth."

That's why Wikipedia itself is not a reliable source.

Tor said...

I read the wiki article on Dean Radin just to see if it had been cleaned up since i looked at it a couple of years ago. It seemed better than the last time at least.

Then I checked on of the "mixed" book reviews referred to and ended up reading two reviews by Robert T. Carrol (of EM and CU). Words like angry and grumpy comes to mind. This is really low level stuff..

I especially like his conclusion from the CU review:

I’ll conclude by saying that if I thought that these studies of psi or spirits were likely to lead anywhere significant, I’d be on board. There is no reason to think that this will happen. We are in a much better place today than we were one hundred and fifty years ago to understand why people believe in spirits and psi. These should be matters for psychology. We are in a very good place today to understand why the defenders of psi and spirits are capable of deceiving themselves into thinking they have solid scientific evidence for their beliefs.

......

No doubt Radin can cite a meta-analysis that shows that we can eliminate Helicobacter pylori by mental intention with odds against chance of ten zillion to one.

Even if he does, however, I still won't believe it.


(The web links can be found on the Dean Radin wiki page)

It is amusing how much emotionally loaded rubbish some manage to spread around. Seems it doesn't matter if it is self contradictory either.

Dean Radin said...

> Even if he does, however, I still won't believe it.

And this is why I regard it a waste of time to debate such people. They simply aren't interested in discussing evidence.

Sandy said...

Tor,

When I see things like that I think there is no way I'm ever coming out of the closet as a believer in psi phenomenon. It isn't as if I believe in psi based solely on my personal experiences. I had to look at a lot of material, and I still keep questioning what I read. I even took part in experiments, so I have first-hand evidence in a controlled environment to consider. Even with all that it is hard to accept certain things.

I do have some sympathy for the skeptics. That being said, I'm afraid of them too. Because of such attitudes, I don't think I'll ever be able to openly admit what I think some pretty good evidence has compelled me to believe.

That sucks.

Tor said...

Sandy,

Pseudo-skeptics certainly know how to create a hostile environment for anyone open to the idea of psi. I feel they are like the playground bullies. It isn't about right or wrong, but about shouting and hitting hard and creating the impression that anyone interested in these things are idiots or at best self delusional. What gets me frustrated sometimes is that in some ways this has been accomplished. Not that informed, open minded and critical people positive towards psi feel like idiots, but being human they do not want to be pointed out as ones. Myself I did not feel good while reading those reviews. Not because all my "weak minded delusional beliefs" were threatened, but because the kind of language used ( insinuations and so on) makes me feel bad. This kind of writing tries to get to your emotions, to invoke an avoidance reaction that will make you turn over to the dark side (it is dark.. why the heck to these people have to vomit negativity all the time??)

It is ironic that pseudo-skeptics end up becoming the very thing that they are so afraid of. Many of them do act like irrational mobs on the internet (I hope this is part of the Internet A..hole syndrome (IAS) and that most are better people in real life).

I think it is possible to be open about belief in psi. Fortunately most people are open minded abut these things. They have no strong opinions either way. We only feel it is problematic because we get exposed to it through certain channels. Pseudo-skeptics aren't that many, but they have positioned themselves so as to give easy access to media channels. And that is all one needs to create confusion and false impressions.

It is all this negativity that is being associated with psi research that is frustrating. I have no problem with people being skeptical or even refusing to look through the telescope, as long as they behave politely and with respect.

Keith Augustine said...

Hi Dean,

I have a quick question--my apologies if this is the wrong place to ask it.

I know that a number of PK experiments have been done and their success has been measured compared to odds against chance.

Have such experiments ever been done compared to control experiments--that is, random number generator trials where no subject was trying to mentally influence the RNG outcome?

It seems to me that this would well control for the possibility of artifactual results or any other possibility that the RNG was not truly random.

Dean Radin said...

> Have such experiments ever been done compared to control experiments--that is, random number generator trials where no subject was trying to mentally influence the RNG outcome?

Yes. Control conditions are commonly run. E.g., the many PK-RNG studies at PEAR always included a "no influence" condition.

Tor said...

Dean, a bit off topic, but do you know of any studies exploring correlations between creativity and psi that have been done apart from the one Marilyn Schlitz did in 1992 and the other one Kathy Dalton did in the late 90s?

There is an older page on the IONS site (from 1999) referring to a then ongoing replication involving more exploratory work by Schlitz, LaBerge and Dalton. It says it was ongoing at Standford University. Was this study abandoned?

Dean Radin said...

Offhand I can't recall any such studies, but I do have the sense that some have been conducted.

The Stanford study was completed, but I don't recall that it was ever published.

I was one of the subjects in that study because of my background in classical violin performance. But my experience was not pleasant because they forgot to turn on the red light, so I spent a half hour in total darkness, in a little booth, wearing an uncomfortable, increasingly hot, 32 channel EEG cap. Needless to say, I didn't do very well in that session!

Tor said...

Hehe.. Yes, I can imagine that wasn't very psi enhancing. Sounds like a good test for claustrophobia though :)

If this happened for other subjects too I guess this study didn't go that well as a whole either. Any idea what the total results ended up being?

Dean Radin said...

I don't think it showed a significant overall effect. Positive, if memory serves me correctly, but not significant.

Tor said...

Hmm.. Well, if others experienced similar uncomfortable conditions it is to expected. If it was only you though it is a bit strange and ironic since the study subjects were there exactly to optimize conditions for good results. I almost feel like I can see the Trickster at work here, but I don't like this trickster notion.

Dean Radin said...

The subjects, perhaps yes. But the rest of the testing conditions, not so much.

Tor said...

Yes, the eeg cap and the other conditions you mentioned probably made it much more unfavorable than the ordinary ganzfeld experiments.

I am excited about the DOPS at the University of Virginia since they write they want to test exceptional subjects. I feel that is the way to go to learn more beyond proof.

Thanks for the info Dean :)

Keith Augustine said...

Thanks for your response, Dean.

If you don't mind indulging me further:

Have similar control experiments been done for ESP tests--i.e., has a comparison been made between two sets of (ostensibly) randomly (computer) selected sender targets to see if there are correlations between the two sets above what would be expected by chance?

In other words, targets to be "sent" are automatically, randomly selected from the same pool of potential targets in two different trials of equal length, where no one is actually attempting to send or receive the targets, just to compare the two automatically generated chronological trials that result against each other to see if the correlations between them exceed what would be expected by chance.

(I hope I'm being clear here.)

Pikemann Urge said...

This won't be the first time I say this: reality is not decided by prizes.

Patrick said...

Pikemann Urge is right. Indeed, Kent Hovind offered a prize to anybody that could provide evidence for evolution. Nobody ever won the prize, but that doesn't mean evolution is false...

Rob Gee said...

Hi Dean,

Just discovered your blog and I've been snooping around. I stumbled on a number of parapsychology blogs today, which is pretty cool. I had been out of the loop, so to speak, just kind of doing my own thing.

I am something of an amateur philosopher on consciousness and parapsychology. I have developed a philosophy I call Asabandha, which is a Sanskrit word meaning expectation, confidence, hope, trust and faith.

One thing that I find puzzling is the use of the word "intent" to describe the action of psychic influence.

I view "expectation" as the root mechanism in consciousness that is responsible for psi effects through quantum resonance, constructive and destructive interference of possibility-waves. Expectation is the anticipated outcome in the event of uncertainty. Our Universe is full of uncertainty, which is exactly what allows psychic influence to work.. So I find the term expectation very appropriate.

Furthermore, intent is a function of the self-reflective consciousness; it is a high level thought. Confidence, and the lack thereof (doubt), play on intent and serve to modify its effect. Expectation, on the other hand, is a subconscious function of the consciousness. Expectation matches intent when there is the presence of confidence and faith, but expectation also reflects the effects of doubt and disbelief.

This understanding of the functions of consciousness on phenomena makes the failings of many PSI studies more understandable. By thinking not in terms of intent, but rather in terms of expectation, it is easier to understand why it is so difficult to execute reliable experiments in the field of parapsychology. After all, expectations stem from all over the place... Deep within our subconscious -- from the Universal Consciousness, from memories, sensory inputs, etc. With all these variables it is no wonder it is so difficult to create controlled experiments.

I was encouraged when reading up on... What's his name, Emoto, that he had defended his findings based on the inherently flawed nature of studies involving "investigators" who disbelieve in psychic influence over phenomena and thus run interference (quite literally) on the experiments.

Even publicizing the test causes the general public to form expectations about the outcome, which affects the outcome of experiments. It is very tricky. I actually wrote a blog entry on why I feel it is impossible to ever conduct scientific tests of psychic influence that will meet the criteria of skeptic investigators.

Just some thoughts. I would be most honored if you would check out some of my writing and video blogs and leave some feedback. I am quite interested in studying parapsychology, consciousness and metaphysics in a University setting. Stigmas be damned! I am already labeled a nut by the feds... It cannot get any worse.

My blog is here: Tales of a Quantum Creator

- Rob

Jojo P. said...

I understand your point. We don't rely on anonymous info in Wikipedia, some would do this for fun.



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