Saturday, July 31, 2010

Compassion for skeptics

I occasionally receive an email from someone who challenges me to apply for one or more of the so-called "prizes" offered by professional skeptics for demonstration of a psi effect. Here's an email exchange I had on this topic recently.

Mr X. wrote:
I saw your research in a new film last night …and was impressed with the rigor with which variables were limited, i.e. through a shielded room there was a clear transference of information between loved ones. Why not duplicate this experiment under the skeptical eye of James Randi and collect the million dollars being held by Goldman Sachs for just such a possibility?

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html

If what you have created is repeatable and is as claimed in the film, you are the people to take this prize.

Please let me know your thoughts!
This sounded reasonable, so I replied:
Thanks for your feedback. The short answer to your question is that such prizes are effective for testing individuals who make claims that do not require skilled judging or statistical analyses. But they are not intended for serious scientific experiments. In addition, there is ample reason to believe that the "prize" is merely a publicity stunt. See this site for examples: http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/exam/index.htm

From the above site: A leading Fellow of CSICOP, Ray Hyman, has pointed out, this "prize" cannot be taken seriously from a scientific point of view: "Scientists don't settle issues with a single test, so even if someone does win a big cash prize in a demonstration, this isn't going to convince anyone. Proof in science happens through replication, not through single experiments."
Mr. X's reply, using his text formatting and colors:

Thank you for your response, Dean. I have followed James Randi’s career since I was a teenager. I believe that he is a true student of the scientific method, as well as a careful writer, speaker and thinker.

“Ample reason,” as you write, is meaningless jargon. Your link takes me to a silly, paranormal proponent who calls himself Peabrain. There is no intellectual honesty in his writing or in your response.

“Such prizes,” as you say, points to an imaginary category that says nothing about Randi’s challenge.

I am always struck by how, as is exemplified in your film, science, as such, is defined as the materialistic thinking of limited imaginations and then, in the next scene, a purported scientific experiment, (redefining science for your purposes, more properly, as a method rather than a philosophy), is used to show the rigor of the logic and thinking that produces the results that titillate us, the audience, with evidence of paranormal phenomena. The woman who criticized science in general was the author of “The Field.” The pseudoscience was played up in the closing and latching of the big steel door.

Your results in this experiment are truly revolutionary. Bigger than big. Please repeat them so that they can be verified. Otherwise your entire organization is nonsense. And, the lady who puts the “correct information” into her healing drops? Are we supposed to nod our heads in agreement because we would otherwise undermine the placebo effect or is an intelligent adult human being really being asked to believe she can do just that? If the energy healer, Dr. Pearl, if I remember correctly, could actually do what he says he can do, it would be very easy to set up a scientific investigation of his claims and not rely on anecdotes . You belittle yourselves by aligning with such obvious charlatans.

Just demonstrate something! Prove something! Use independent observers we know and trust and show us something! It would be wonderful!! I am not a cynic! I am an open minded adult who wants to see demonstrations of the amazing nature of the universe that challenges everything I believe! What fun!! Are you just going to hide behind more hyperbole?

What if the challenge is intended for serious scientific experiments? What if the money is real? It would be easy enough for you to find out. The money can be verified through Goldman Sachs, says Mr. Randi.

Why not verify through, “replication, not through single experiments,” to borrow your own words, with independent verification of your results? It would be incredible. I would so love to believe your results, however, you give the thing person nothing to hang one’s hat on.

“A stunt,” you say? In the words of the one and only alien life form I know of, Alf, “Isn’t that the cat rancher calling the orbit guard a hairball?”

Respectfully challenging your claims,

I replied:
As I had noted, well known skeptic Ray Hyman said "Proof in science happens through replication, not through single experiments." I agree. And so several classes of independently conducted psi studies have been examined in detail to see if replication has been achieved. They have.

E.g., an article currently in press in Psychological Bulletin examines, among other things, the question of replication of one type of psi study (telepathy in the ganzfeld). It provides unambiguous evidence that this effect has been repeated over thousands of trials, in multiple laboratories around the world, and reported in over 100 publications for over 40 years. Another meta-analysis, including one published in the British Journal of Psychology a few years ago, indicates independent, significant replication of the effect of intention on a distant person's physiological condition. In addition, to date there have been six studies of various psi effects using functional MRI. Five of the six have shown significant evidence for psi. These analyses and studies are reported in scientific journals.

I could go on, but I provide detailed discussion of these and many other studies in my 2006 book Entangled Minds and 1997 book The Conscious Universe. Or you might look here (http://www.noetic.org/publications/journal_pubs.cfm) where you can find a few of our scientific and scholarly papers. If you want to hang your hat on scientific evidence, these resources are one place to start.

Other places to look: http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/publications.html. And many relevant articles can be downloaded from this site: http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/articles.html

Mr X. then sends our correspondence (without my knowledge or permission) to Randi, and copies that note to me. He writes:
Hello Amazing,

I thought you’d enjoy this little repartee I had with the “scientists” at the Institute of Noetic Studies after viewing their recent, incredibly silly, movie, The Living Matrix



[Dean's note: This is a link to the movie. This movie was not made by the Institute of Noetic Sciences. It is one of many that some of our researchers appear in.]



P.S. As a lifelong rooter out of the ridiculous, I wonder if you are a regular lucid dreamer? I wonder if skeptics are more likely to question the fantastical events of their dreams than mystics.

Mr X. then adds to me:

I so much want someone to take this prize. To say it’s just a stunt and not demonstrate your field experiment a single time with the world watching and get Mr. Randi to pay or shut up is just a shame.

Here is a note from the man himself about our conversation:

Ray Hyman presumed that I had implied that a paranormal claim could be established or denied through one experiment. I had not.

However, the million-dollar prize IS awardable for one definitive success, as already clearly – and repeatedly – stated. Incidentally, it is no longer held by Goldman Sachs, but by Evercore Wealth Management, as Account #1007550. It currently stands at $1,137,082.32, though only one million is the actual prize amount. Details and certified documents are available on request.


I replied:

You would like to see a single demonstration win the prize. One experiment cannot establish anything, and thus cannot win the prize. Even Mr. Randi now admits this, as you show in your own email.

As I had noted below our work has been replicated many times and reported in peer-reviewed journals. If you choose to ignore that data and call what we do "silly," that's your prerogative, but it's neither science nor respectful.
Mr X. replied:

You are worse than silly and I am more than respectful. Randi admits nothing of the kind. He says “the million-dollar prize IS awardable for one definitive success,

(his emphasis). Why is your experiment demonstrable for your movie but not for independent verification?
And now Randi replies to Mr. X and copies to me as well:
I find it very significant that Dean Radin imposes his own rules, ignores the generous million-dollar prize, opts to believe that it doesn’t exist, and hides away hoping that it won’t be brought up again. Since he believes that movies prove matters, he must believe in Star Wars, as well…

They will continue to ignore the JREF prize. They have to, because they do not have the evidence that proves their case, and they know it. I wonder if they also believe that The Wizard of Oz is also a documentary? “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…!”

Finally, my last reply to Mr X, when it is clear that this is a waste of time:

You quote Randi as writing: "Ray Hyman presumed that I had implied that a paranormal claim could be established or denied through one experiment. I had not." (my emphasis)

Now you claim he says "
the million-dollar prize IS awardable for one definitive success."

Well, which is it?


And I'll leave it at that. This exchange demonstrates why I ignore "skeptics." Genuine skeptics don't speak this way. This is the language and style of scoffers and deniers. They hold on so tightly to their preferred view of the world that they can no longer respond rationally. They do not see that their approach is no different from extreme religious fundamentalists.

All I can do is offer them compassion.

67 comments:

Potential Impulse said...

"You are worse than silly and I am more than respectful."

Admittedly late, this was the point when I dropped off. "Oh yeah, let´s just pump out another offensive comment without regarding any sense of logic or factual coherence."

I got to find it utterly disturbing that many people have to know the answer before knowing any details of what is observed and explored. Whatever comes out of this research, it´s gonna be something. Some people hope for breakthroughs which can advance utility and our understanding of life, others expect already known causes for such phenomena without plausible explanations. Whatever will be the case, these questions will have to be settled in the interest of science.

Mr. X obviously represents a school of thought in which almost everything has been solved already. He / she might want to imagine a glimpse at our society, 4.000 years from now on; just as a practical exercise. Also his / her poor observational skills should disqualify him / her from any kind of scientific engagement. Not being able to either read or interpret scientific papers should really pull you out of the field. Perhaps a position in a monotheistic religious organization would be more suitable.

Lastly, whoever quotes James Randie as someone with scientific integrity or any sense of an objective perspective has got to be too stupid to use the google search engine.

I´m sorry for the negative remarks but this email conversation exceeds stupidity.

levis said...

Did Dr.Rene Peoc’h faked the results of a Chicken-Robot Interaction study? Because nowadays it's not hard to repeat the same kind of experiments. Thank You!... and thanks for sharing these emails!

Dean Radin said...

> Dr.Rene Peoc’h faked the results ...?

To the best of my knowledge those studies are legitimate.

Sandy said...

Dean, recently I was interviewed by a journalist in regards to some scientific testing that I participated in having to do with pk. One of the first questions he asked was why didn't I try out for Randi's Challenge and get my million?

I was very annoyed at that question. Here I was, quietly participating in research and doing what I could to help find answers to what I consider personally to be very important questions, and someone wants to know why I didn't join the circus instead?

Apart from the fact that my family's well being and privacy are not worth giving up for a million dollars, I also think that science is the only way to find my answers. I respect science, I have an education in science and I feel very much at home in a lab, even if it is as a study participant rather than as a researcher. Randi only does a disservice to science with his silly publicity stunts.

At least in my case, the journalist wasn't a dogmatic disbeliever. He accepted my answer that Randi's challenge wasn't scientific and wouldn't help to answer the questions I had about my situation. I think he also understands that those answers are worth a lot more to me than a million dollars.

Gareth said...

good grief.

Ian Holfield said...

Hi Sandy! It has to be added here that anyone who has bothered to Google the Randi Challenge will soon see that it's designed not to offer a platform for a scientific demonstration of psi, but to allow the tripping-up of anyone who feels they want to risk the ridicule of joining the Randi Circus.
The whole thing is there to further James's career, nothing more. It's hedged around with conditions which would and has put any normal person off. Sign over all rights of publicity to Mr Randi? Sure.....there goes your private life....

I personally doubt very much whether it would be paid out no matter what the result of a demonstration. Didn't Randi say "I always have an 'out'"?

Anyway, I understand it's no longer even on offer.

Tor said...

Dean, how many such emails do you get through a year?

I'm guessing quite many.

David Bailey said...

Wow - I think my blood pressure would jump through the roof if I had to deal with correspondence like that!

Fancy using all those fonts and colours, and never getting round to green ink!

The fear and loathing of psi seems to run very deep in certain people. I am reminded of the homophobes who when tested turn out to respond erotically to male images - implying they are trying to deny something in themselves.

I wonder if something analogous is happening here.

Enfant Terrible said...

an article currently in press in Psychological Bulletin examines, among other things, the question of replication of one type of psi study (telepathy in the ganzfeld). It provides unambiguous evidence that this effect has been repeated over thousands of trials, in multiple laboratories around the world, and reported in over 100 publications for over 40 years.

The article with Hyman's comments and Storm's reply can be downloaded here:

http://www.psy.unipd.it/~tressold/cmssimple/uploads/includes/MetaFreeResp010.pdf

Dean Radin said...

I receive inquiries like this about once a week, usually from students and academics, but also from people in government, the military, industry, and laypeople. The vast majority are courteous and genuinely interested in learning something. I respond and they are usually satisfied in one or two email exchanges.

I receive emails like the present blog entry a few times a year. They are filled with feigned innocence, followed shortly thereafter by fury, insults, ridicule and disrespect. These people rate zero on emotional intelligence and most seem to be desperately in need of anger management classes.

(Thanks, Enfant, for that pointer to the Tressoldi et al paper.)

Atheistic Mystic said...

That isn't the first time Randi has tried to talk out of both sides of his mouth. Remember that post he made on Paranormalia blog?

"I agree, the million-dollar challenge is not, in any way, a "meaningful test," nor have I ever represented that it is. That was your suggestion, not mine. It is, however, the single greatest hurdle faced by those who claim paranormal abilities, and the wisest of them - Geller, John Edward, Sylvia Browne - have opted to simply ignore it, though they could easily and swiftly snap it up - IF they have the powers they claim."

http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/2008/12/reply-to-james-randi.html

Dean Radin said...

Thanks for the link to that exchange, Atheistic Mystic.

There's an amusing slip in Randi's response, which I highlight in bold: "Please do not suggest that MY expertise extends further than I have claimed; I am expert in the direction of fraud ...."

He said it, not me.

jjensenii said...

I've come to expect self-styled skeptics to prefer sensationalism to actual science. In that regard, they're no worse than most anyone else, but most of them seem to actually think they're above such faults just because they dismiss certain ideas.

I mean, c'mon, shouting accusations of irrationality and demanding scientists submit to artificial barriers-to-entry are the hallmarks of cranks everywhere.

But you know what really disturbs me? When I read your blog or watch your Google Tech Talk, I don't for a second get the impression that you want me to believe in psi unless I'm actually persuaded. Meanwhile, most skeptics I've run across are more than willing to shame and bully someone into renouncing beliefs they don't approve of. I've never understand how that was supposed to be rational.

Tom said...

Dean, I'm not sure I've read anything uglier and less worthy of the human spirit than the absurdly hateful and logically sloppy babble of your interlocutor. I'm truly impressed that you could respond so simply and civilly. The person did not deserve it in the least, but we would get nowhere if we only gave people what they deserved. Why do people love to hate so much? Often it reflects an underlying insecurity, I suppose. Please know that many people--many very smart people--recognize the value and legitimacy of what you do.

Dean Radin said...

> I've never understand how that was supposed to be rational.

Within their delusion perhaps it does seem rational. But observed objectively it can be described as a form of arrested development.

Quick to anger, blustering rhetoric, and a belligerent "show me" attitude is standard schoolyard bully behavior. The sound and fury attracts attention, but a quick examination of the commotion reveals nothing of substance.

Based on the behavior of some professional "skeptics" and their minions (or agitators of any stripe), one would think intimidation and ridicule are required to win arguments. And indeed, this tactic can be quite effective in attracting those who are happy to blindly follow loud noises.

By contrast, genuine scientific skepticism is more demanding. It is calm, constructive and accompanied by civility and humility. But you can't make much of a living as a self-promoting showman if you are calm and civil. Hence the behavior of professional skeptics.

BTW in an earlier comment I mentioned the "Tressoldi et al" paper, which is not quite right. The correct citation is Storm, Tressoldi & Di Risio (2010). Meta-Analysis of Free-Response Studies, 1992–2008: Assessing the Noise Reduction Model in Parapsychology. Psychological Bulletin, 136 (4), 471–485.

Patrick said...

Rupert Sheldrake has demonstrated at least two deliberate lies on the part of James Randi. Dean, I think you should have noted that. IMO, James Randi is not honest.

Additionally, Kent Hovind offered a 250,000 dollar prize to anybody who could offer evidence for evolution. Nobody won. Does that mean evolution is false? I wonder if Mr. X thinks so.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hovind.html

Dean, you made a good effort, but I'm glad you gave up when you did. We shouldn't waste time on angry, irrational pseudoskeptics.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jjensenii said...

And don't forget that Randi also participated in the sTARBABY cover-up, shielding a bungled experiment from the criticism of one of CSICOP's own Councilors:

http://cura.free.fr/xv/14starbb.html

"Council met the next day at Councilor Phil Klass' apartment. I noticed that Randi was his usual friendly self when Kurtz wasn't around but when he was within earshot Randi made different noises. He repeatedly cracked loudly, "Drink the Kool-Aid, Dennis." (This was shortly after the Jonestown Kool-Aid mass suicide.) During the afternoon meeting, when we established a rule for expelling Councilors, Randi bellowed that it is called the "Rawlins rule."

Randi meant, of course, that expulsion could come for public dissent. No other Councilor present (Gardner was not) said a word to suggest any other inference. I might add that two months later Randi foolishly boasted about how he "had to work to keep Dennis in line" in Washington, having convinced himself, apparently, that his threats had kept me quiet."


The irony is that Dennis Rawlins didn't disagree with their conclusions regarding the claim they were attacking (the Mars Effect), only with the un-scientific and dishonest methods by which they attacked it. He was later quietly kicked out CSICOP at a meeting he was not present for.

A. Shadow said...

To make an analogy here, people like Mr. X remind me of hard-core fundamentalist Christians: they have beliefs that they hold near and dear to their heart, and when someone or something challenges those beliefs they go nuts.

randall said...

In the late 70's I had a ringside seat for the Dennis Rawlins and CSICOP mini-drama when I was co-editor of Second Look magazine, (later called Frontiers of Science) and we published an article by Dennis detailing the astrology analysis and his subsequent expulsion from CSICOP. From that period forward I lost all respect for James Randi and many of his sidekicks. I am relieved that people like Dean Radin are still around with enough patience and compassion to engage in repartee with the rigid zealots.

Tracy said...

these folks definitely fit a mold....see righteous arrogance of youth post..

matthewx78 said...

Wow. I was not aware of this parameter for the prize money! One experiment! and what would have to happen in that experiment for it to be a success?

So they also bring out the Rhetorical guns and say they did not say what they said. And accused you of saying things you never said!

WTF!

jgm said...

I read this with my jaw dropped. Mr. Radin, you continually, bafflingly, inexplicably introduce a straw-man argument and not one of your readers spots it, instead going on and on about the evils of people asking you to reproduce your experiment in a controlled environment.
-----
"You quote Randi as writing: "Ray Hyman presumed that I had implied that a paranormal claim could be established or denied through one experiment. I had not." (my emphasis)

Now you claim he says "the million-dollar prize IS awardable for one definitive success."

Well, which is it?
--------

You're intentionally conflating "experiment" and Randi's contest. Why your readers don't pick up on it, I have no idea. Hyman is saying one experiment won't change scientific consensus. Randi is saying that one performance will net you one million dollars. How are these things mutually exclusive.

Let's take the two great racehorses Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. At a time when they were both undefeated, the runners of the Apple Blossom Handicap offered to up the prize of the race from I believe $250,000 to $5 million dollars if both horses entered. A sportswriter stated that one race between the two would not clearly define which was the Horse Of the Decade. However, if they did race, one would naturally receive the winner's share of the $5 million dollar purse. How is it impossible for both of these things to be true?

Reproducing your work under pre-agreed self-evident terms of success (as I believe the challenge works) won't immediately re-write science, but you do collect the check and the resulting publicity. Please don't respond with any information about the rules of the challenge, if the money exists, etc. because I'm not addressing any of that. I would like you to explain why you maintain that these two men were talking about the same thing, or at least one of the other repliers to explain why they felt your position made sense to them, because I can't understand this line of reasoning at all. What you wrote on the surface makes you look like you're vindicating Randi's position that you're twisting words and coming up with excuses, which I certainly hope isn't the case. Thank you in advance for your explanation.

Jason Korbus said...

The Million Dollar Challenge is a mutually agreed upon test designed by both the observers and the claimant. No test happens without both agreeing it is fair. James Randi himself is not even involved in the process. So, who cares if the challenge isn't how science is conducted? If you can prove what you say, do the test, take the money, and shut Randi up. And you'll probably get a Nobel Prize out of the deal, too. Seriously, what is the downside?

Dean Radin said...

> Why your readers don't pick up on it, I have no idea.

What sort of performance could be regarded as "definitive" enough to win the prize? The prize is about claimed human abilities, which always involve variance. This means no one performance can possibly be definitive. To gain confidence about the claimed effect we need to conduct a multi-trial experiment. But no one experiment ever proves anything. Catch 22.

The sort of superpower that might provide a definitive demonstration in a single performance, like legitimately levitating in public, probably doesn't exist. So the prize will remain safe if that's what a definitive performance means. But against a more realistic demonstration, I'm not so sure.

Given the state of the art in psi research today, I believe it is possible to design a psi experiment that would result in, say, odds against chance of a million to one.

I describe such an experiment in my most recent blog entry.

Fallensoul said...

The downside is this. Even if you do apply, you'll get so frustrated with the process that you'll give up or they'll reject you on some silly technicality that they make up.

As far as I know there have been only a few applications to actually have made it to the preliminary test. I think just 2. The first man tried but failed miserably. 0 out of 20 tries. But, interestingly, the second lady Carina Landin who had to decide if a deceased owner of a diary was male or female.

Well, she got 12 out of 20 correct.
She also noted that the diaries were older than she requested. She had requested that the diaries not be more than 100 years old. Well after doing the test she found that that some of the diaries were from: 1794, 1855, 1857, 1879 and 1888. So she contested this fact and James Randi agreed to that a retest should be done.

But, well, no test has been conducted since. She's still waiting, after conducting the test on 2006-10-25. Thats almost 4 years. Well, Thats just not fair!

Heres her application:
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=32779.

Heres her website. (Use google translate.)
http://www.carinalandin.se/

Helen said...

Hi everyone. I’m new to the blog but I have read with interest for a while. I’d like to contribute to this discussion.

Both one-off observations and statistical analyses are used in science. Sometimes biologists observe behaviour to confirm the existence of the behaviour. Sometimes we all observe the existence of an extraordinary human ability – say an extrodinary piano player – and the existence of this talent is well under 50% of the people we could test in a random trial. What Dean does I believe is to show that less extraordinary and less obvious human abilities are not due to chance.

If you take the time to read the literature you will see that governments, scientists and lay people have repeatedly observed and documented extraordinary human abilities. Often these are what a biologist might say is in the field. The behaviour is due to a set of environmental factors that cannot be replicated in a lab. Perhaps all extraordinary paranormal abilities – like many human behaviours – are difficult to understand, complex, and influenced by a range of environmental factors. This makes it an interesting pursuit for psychologists and brain scientists. If Randi chooses not to trust the reliable accounts of countless people’s experiences, that is his perogative. There is absolutely no value in carrying on with that conversation. He thinks all those people are more stupid than him, and personally, why would you want to carry on with a conversation that started from that premise. Its disrespectful to the countless people who just want to do nothing more than understand their experiences.

There are also, though, many people that take money from people by claiming that they have an on-demand extraordinary paranormal ability. I think it is perfectly valid to challenge them to prove it, if that is what they claim they can do. Randi comes off as a little hostile so they may want to look to someone a bit more balanced to prove it. Nonetheless, I think the challenge is fair if you take money against promises that your abilities are reliably and repeatedly demonstrable. Not sure if anyone makes that claim! I think a lot of paranormal practitioners blame anyone but themselves for the unreliability of their trade – when the truth is that they don’t really know what they are doing, but pretend (or believe) that they do. I think that is irresponsible. But certainly not limited to the paranormal!!

Now to Dean’s statistical studies.....lets say for the purposes of argument that Randi will also accept statistical-based studies. I have read material that suggests he will. First, Dean has ALREADY published in peer reviewed journals. Fine, have a scientific discussion about methods, controls, refinements, etc – that is all science. But Randi is saying he doesn’t trust the people involved in the experiments or the journals. Again, why would you entertain taking that conversation any further. Its disrespectful. Why would doing the Randi challenge settle the debate any more conclusively than the normal route for scientific discovery – which, Dean has ALREADY followed? Dean, if you want to win a million dollars, fine. If it must be settled by a prize (why???) then I agree that you should go with an organisation that you trust to be fair and balanced.

Jason Korbus said...

This is certainly an interesting matter we are all speaking of here. Mr Radin, I would like to invite you on the Strange Frequencies Radio program for a Sunday afternoon in September. If you would be interested, please email me at the address linked to in my Blogger profile. Thank you or your consideration, sir.

Tor said...

Dean, I recently sent you an email with some technical questions about REG studies. I have a clearer point to point version now that I would like to sent you instead. I just want to check that it doesn't get trapped in some spam filter?

I have immersing myself in the MMI literature lately, and I feel a need for some clarification on certain issues. I don't know if you have the time, but any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

(I could post it as a comment on one of your blog posts if it is something you think could be informative for the general public)

Tor said...

Recently I have gone through the literature on MMI, especially those concerning RNGs. Doing this I have read a lot of descriptions in various papers on how the RNGs work, and of how the data is gathered. Below are some points that reflect my current understanding. I would greatly appreciate it if you could point out any misconceptions I have or just confirm those points that are ok.

1) The samples typically consist of 200 bits, with an expectancy value of 100 zeros (since the REG is made to have the probability p(0) = p (1) = 0.5) and a standard deviation of zigma = Sqrt(N*p(0)*(1-p(0)) = Sqrt(50). The sample is the basic data unit collected and is further grouped into the appropriate number of trails and runs for analysis.

2) The XOR filtering of the raw data happens in hardware in the Orion, Mindsong and PEAR RNGs, while the Geiger counter (RM-60) RNG data stream is XOR filtered when arriving at the computer (before recorded). Sometimes XOR is employed in software when the data stream arrives at the computer in addition to the hardware XOR (although I do not see why this should be necessary).

3) As an example, XOR filtering in the PEAR RNG uses a string of alternating deterministic zeroes as ones (0101010..) that the original raw generated random string is compared to. If the raw bit is the same as the deterministic bit, then via XOR the output is a 0, if opposite then the output is a 1. This new output string is what turns into the 200 bit sample that is the basis for trails and runs.

4) The XOR ensures that the expectation value will be independent of the raw p, and equal to N/2. It also conserves true randomness.

5) The variance hoverer is unaltered by the XOR process. Generally speaking, the XOR process leaves variance and kurtosis untouched (reflecting the intention biased distribution), while the mean is transformed to be in accord with an unbiased p.

6) The idea is that the details of the process from the original quantum fluctuations to the final output stream is not important as any RNG influence is thought to be teleological in nature. Kind of like the delayed choice in quantum mechanics, combined with conscious influence (or just the presence of altered consciousness states in field REG studies).

From all of this it looks to me like variance and kurtosis is the only meaningful measures of consciousness altered RNG outputs when they employ XOR. If we want to look at mean deviations we need to exclude the XOR process altogether and look at the pure random digitized signal. But in the PEAR database they do look at mean deviations even though they use the XOR in their REGs. I find this confusing. How can one have mean deviations if they are filtered out by the XOR by design?

Apart from temperature sensitivity and equipment failure, is there any need for the XOR process (EM shielding can be done by metallic casing)? Also, if we met some "mind over matter" superstar that completely skewed the RNG output beyond anything recorded before (for example almost only zeros), the way these studies currently seems to be done, such results would be counted as equipment failures (since the sample variance then ends up declining towards 0, which would normally indicate equipment failure). Thus really strong micro-MMI abilities are indistinguishable from hardware failure, and thus undetectable in conventional RNG MMI reasearch.

Thanks for your time!

Tor

(This is an elaboration on a mail I sent yesterday that went along similar lines. I decided to post this here since I had a few additional thoughts, and there may be others that follow your blog and are technically inclined that could benefit from the answers too)

hedgmeister said...

Skepticism is a religion comprised mostly of zealouts. They cannot trust a God to write their scripture but instead rely on the infallible hand of man.

James Randi's prize is a joke. My career has been watching anomolies occur on Wall Street - "1 in 10,000 year events", according to those with a need to explain - maybe every 18 months on average. So I have many reservations about the statistical robustness of most/all of the studies around paranormal research.

But taking a million dollars (a hallucination in and of itself, money is conjured by alchemists) and appointing Randi as an arbiter of which studies/observations are "valid", Randi simply replaces himself as the God figure of his own dogma, and a false credibility with the lure of wealth. Very tired of his schtick, really. PT Barnum was much better at it.

Regards...

David Bailey said...

Curiously, I came across an even worse example of intolerance against people raising questions about the science of global warming:

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/8/5/thoughtful-comment-in-the-atlantic.html

I suppose the internet brings out the worst in some people.

Dean Radin said...

Tor asks: Apart from temperature sensitivity and equipment failure, is there any need for the XOR process...?

True RNGs are designed like a black box in the sense that whatever is going on inside the box doesn't matter. What does matter is that the random output are bits that are independent and identically distributed.

To accomplish this with good reasons to believe that the RNG is not being influenced by mundane environmental factors, component aging, etc., it is necessary to use XOR or some other balancing algorithm.

Once one accepts the evidence that intention seems to push around the chance-expected probability distributions, the next natural question is how does this happen. And here is where the XOR question usually arises.

A good discussion of this issue can be found here:

http://noosphere.princeton.edu/xor.html

Machina Labs said...

Tor,

I am working on an MMI project right now and have worked through many of the things you've addressed. I'd love to talk to you further about it, just not over Dean's blog stream.

machinalabs at gmail dot com

I've actually figure out exactly how to sort out the issue with regards to equipment failure and PK superstars. It's close to what they do already, except you XOR (actually XNOR) to a pre-existing random string with known high entropy. But that's too large a kettle of fish to get into here, so please do email me.

Tor said...

Thanks Dean!

Actually, after I posted that last comment here, I started to look at the GCP website (including the link you added), did some simple algebra and found some satisfying answers.

Seems to me like the mechanical way of looking at this shows that both variance and mean of the original bits stream gets transformed, but it doesn't really matter as the randomness is conserved.

The only "physical" mechanism I can think of that could "explain" this is QM delayed choice, with a flavour of intention. But then we have the fieldREG studies and the GCP which just makes the mystery go deeper..

I am seriously considering buying a Psyleron REG to have a go at this myself. What I'm wondering about now is the effects of waving magnets at the thing since magnetic fields are hard to shield). I guess it has been tested before, but I can't find any papers such environmental tests.

Tor said...

Machina Labs,

I'll contact you.

David Bailey said...

Dean,

Given the raw RNG output, you could obviously generate any number of final outputs just by XORing with different bit streams, and presumably events would show up in some but not in others. What do you think makes the particular XOR bitstream special - is it the fact that these are the results that are actually published - some sort of precognition? I wonder what would happen if you published more than one output corresponding to different ancillary bit streams.

Dean Radin said...

Most RNGs are designed to work within ordinary office or lab environments. I wouldn't be surprised if they break when exposed to strong magnetic or EM fields (or temperature, or radiation, or ...).

BTW, some have claimed, and there is some supporting evidence, that extremely fast RNGs produce better results than the ~9600 baud RNGs used to date. Here is one example:

http://psigenics.com/Research/Papers.aspx

Tor said...

Psigenics have some pretty wild claims. I only skimmed one of the papers so I can't judge what they are claiming from a theory/engineering/statistical perspective (and to be honest some of it seems to go over my head), but if what they claim is true then we soon should have mentally controlled robots all over the place. It sounds very sci-fi..

And they sell software products that use ordinary hardware inside computers as their true random source, and then goes through this information enhancing process to get information rates that are 1000 to 100 000 times bigger than what have been reported in traditional RNG research.

Almost seems to good to be true... but if it were, psi would be accepted over night.

Eric Lyman said...

Well done, Dean. I am awed by your patience!

MickyD said...

Dean, the Psigenics research looks extremely interesting. Have you attempted to replicate their method, or do you know of any other attempts elsewhere? Also, how is the HESA institute developing? Doesn't seem to be much happening if the website is to be believed.
Best,
Michael.

Pikemann Urge said...

With respect to Jason Korbus' point (and with respect to Jason himself), I agree with hedgmeister: James Randi is not an arbiter - directly or indirectly - for who wins Nobel prizes. I value Randi's POV and his input, because I listen to all sides. But does anyone really think that the Nobel committee is waiting for Randi's approval to award psi researchers a prize?

Funny how skeptics love to show e-mails of religious loons and so forth, but they never seem to show similar e-mails coming from their own fold. And yes, I'd agree that the person who e-mailed Dean is quite insecure.

It has been said before and will have to be repeated many times: reality is not decided by prizes.

Tor said...

Dean, what do you do in order to ensure that the Mindsongs elevated baseline variance does not influence the results in your studies?

Dean Radin said...

> Dean, what do you do in order to ensure that the Mindsongs elevated baseline variance does not influence the results in your studies?

We use empirical controls based on how the device actually works, rather than relying on theoretical parameters. This is usually the case for the other RNGs too, but only the Mindsongs (which are no longer made) showed elevated variance.

MickyD said...

Dean, you missed my question!

Dean Radin said...

> MickyD asks: Have you attempted to replicate their method, or do you know of any other attempts elsewhere? Also, how is the HESA institute developing?

No, no, and very slowly.

Tor said...

Ok. I asked because I saw at GCP website that some correction is done to take into account the mindsong's elevated variance. I'm guessing that is done because there are different types of REGs each contributing their own variance to the total in the GCP?

Dean Radin said...

> I'm guessing ...

Yes, you are correct.

Cal Booker said...

Dean,

As a skeptic myself, I can say that I don't stand behind Randi, his ways, or his Million Dollar Challenge. While I don't believe that it would be possible for a person to win a properly-handled challenge, I also don't feel that the JREF's challenge is properly handled.

As a brief example, paraphrased greatly, I remember a little girl who said she could diagnose illness with x-ray vision. JREF chose a few people for her to examine, she guessed better than chance, and then JREF decided that outward signs made the selection of illnesses too obvious, and then decided that no more investigation was needed. This attitude of "Our bad, case closed," seems defensive, and insecure. I've seen it more than once, and have addressed it in my blog. http://bit.ly/aYA4of

The moral of this comment: Don't take the JREF too seriously. They're entertainers.

hedgmeister said...

I wonder...

Randi has essentially made the prediction that no psychic phenomena exists.

To date, every single study indicating possible psychic phenomena has been determined to be non-existent, exactly in line with Randi's prediction, despite his having no foreknowledge of most of the studies.

Therefore, James Randi is psychic.

Having sufficiently demonstrated this through exhaustive studies of all claims to the contrary, am I entitled to the $1 million? I am willing to split it with Randi.

FloatingBones said...

Randi is dead right on one point: the movie "The Living Matrix" is rather silly and it does a complete disservice to any sort of scientific research in the field. As http://thelivingmatrixmovie.com/en/participants notes, Dr. Marilyn Schiltz (IONS President), Dr. Edgar Mitchell (IONS Founder) and Dr. Dean Radin (IONS Senior Scientist) appear in the movie.
The most egregious small fault I found in the film was the claim by Dr. Dietmar Cimbal that flocks of birds shift "instantaneously" and that this can only be explained by some sort of "giant bird brain" -- an external information field -- coordinating the activities. I found YouTube videos showing the direction shifts; they are definitely not instantaneous. Further, it took me about five minutes to find published science papers showing the changes are not instantaneous and how the individual birds coordinate the movements. Full details in my blog entry at http://floatingbones.com/?p=171 .

Here are my objections to Dr. Cimbal’s claim:

1. Dr. Cimbal's was speculating in a field that he had no expertise. He has neither done any scientific research nor does he cite any science to back up his claims. AFAICT, no science at all exists to back up his claim.

2. The movie's producers took what he said on face value. Evidently, they failed to do any fact-check before including Dr. Cimbal's claims in their science documentary.

3. Even after being notified of the obvious factual error in the film, the producers have made no effort to include an errata page on the movie's official website.

The large error is the claim that there is a "viable scientific theory" about quantum-physics information fields. However, none of the steps to creating a viable theory have ever been taken. The "viable" theory has never ever been stated -- although the movie repeats time and time over claims that it exists. I cover this extensively in my review of the film at http://floatingbones.com/?p=92 .

How have the believers in "The Living Matrix" dealt with these claims? I have yet to see one person competently defend Dr. Cimbal's claims. I find exactly the behavior Dean notes: "They hold on so tightly to their preferred view of the world that they can no longer respond rationally. They do not see that their approach is no different from extreme religious fundamentalists."

These people's belief is so extreme that they still think there's a "viable scientific theory" even though none of them can ever tell me the content of that theory -- let alone any of the other requisite steps to a "viable scientific theory".

Can Dr. Radin address those concerns? I don't know. I haven’t seen any of these IONS participants address the minor and major errors of this film.

Dean Radin said...

IONS researchers have participated in dozens of film documentaries, television and radio shows. Our participation does not imply that we agree with everything the producers put into the final cut. In fact, we rarely ever see any of the final product until it is published, and media release forms virtually never give an interviewee the right to edit.

In other words, we are responsible for what we say, but we (obviously) bear no responsibility for what anyone else says.

FloatingBones said...

Dr. Radin: I certainly agree that neither you, nor Dr. Schlitz, nor Dr. Mitchell of IONS are responsible for the content of "The Living Matrix" (except, of course, for your own content in the film).

What I am asking is for you to comment on the final product of the film. Surely you and Schlitz and Mitchell must have each viewed the film multiple times. The science documentary clearly claims that there is a "viable scientific theory" linking our health to some sort of quantum-physics information field. Unfortunately, no such science exists. TLM executive producer Harry Massey has admitted that there are no published papers backing up this claim.

Claims like Dr. Cimbal's "giant bird brain" are completely nonsensical. I cannot imagine how reputable researchers would be comfortable having their words mixed with claims like that. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable you must be to realize that the producers failed to fact-check the claims in this movie. You must be further dismayed to see that they have failed to publish an errata page once viewers have noted both its large and small errors.

Movies like these have an impact on the entire field (so to speak), and it is not positive. This is not your first documentary of this ilk; you must have had some idea what these people were doing. You must have known what the central claim of the film was going to be -- and that there exists no science to back it up.

I'll end my comment the same way I started my earlier one. James Randi reportedly said this is an incredibly silly movie. Whatever else one may say about Randi, he is dead right on that point.

I cannot imagine why the reputable scientists who participated in this film do not comment on that silliness. Your silence implies assent.

Dean Radin said...

To repeat, we are not responsible for a film producer's final product. Some ideas I agree are more substantiated than other ideas.

As to the idea of a quantum field that might be relevant to health and healing, look up "quantum holography" on Google Scholar. On tests of morphic fields (which is relevant to the behavior of flocks), look up "tests of sheldrake morphic fields" on Google Scholar. On the idea of consciousness as a field, look up "field consciousness" on Google Scholar. I.e., while portions of the film discusses speculative ideas, it is not the case that there is no scientific support.

If the history of science has taught us anything, it's that confident pronouncements of what is "silly" is not only arrogant because it presumes to know what is not yet known, it is often proven wrong.

FloatingBones said...

The key concept from Dr. Cimbal's "giant bird brain" claim is "instantaneously". If you don't remember what he said in the film, you can see the full quote in my blog entry http://floatingbones.com/?p=171 . Cimbal uses that word repeatedly in his sound bite.

The first thing that's strange about this claim is that one looking at flocks of starlings can clearly see that the flock does not change direction instantly. The direction shifts ripple through the flock like a wave -- often over several seconds. I provide a reference to a YouTube video showing this. Further, there is published science showing that individual birds coordinate their individual direction changes by paying attention to six or seven other birds in the flock. No morphogenic fields. No quantum physics. The paper's URL is http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18586280?dopt=Abstract . A free Audubon article discussing that research is available at http://audubonmagazine.org/features0903/truenature.html . Those links are from my blog post.

Dr. Cimbal's words are clear: he claims that information fields are the only possible explanation for the behavior of flocks. And he doesn't even accurately describe how flocks behave -- they do NOT change their direction instantaneously.

Dr. Radin: if you think there is a published science paper showing that flocks of birds change their direction, "above all, instantaneously with no time delay," please provide a URL to that paper. I don't even know what that would mean, because even casual observation of a flock belies Dr. Cimbal's claims. If you can provide no reference, please acknowledge that.

The central claim of "The Living Matrix" is that there is a "viable scientific theory" linking our health with these quantum-physics information fields. Peter Fraser uses that exact phrase; I have his entire closing comment on my full review of the film: http://floatingbones.com/?p=92 .

Either there is a "viable scientific theory" or there is not. Fraser clearly thinks there is one, but he never tells us what the theory is. He never enumerates the falsifiable claims associated with that theory. He never lists how he tests those falsifiable claims or the results of those tests. And he never lists the published paper where all of those things were reported. For any viable scientific theory, all of those things are required. As far as I can tell, none of them exist. Harry Massey has acknowledged that they don't exist. Given those facts, I have no idea what chasing down the 432 links that "quantum holography" on scholar.google.com would accomplish.

If you think there is a paper providing a "viable scientific theory" linking our health and healing to quantum-physics information fields, please provide a URL to that paper. If you can provide no reference, please acknowledge that.

Your parting comments about silliness are a straw man. I haven't said that there will never ever be science linking those two things. Perhaps that will happen some day; perhaps not. What I am saying is that claiming that there is a "viable scientific theory" today is supremely silly. Yet that is exactly what Peter Fraser did.

I cannot imagine why the reputable scientists who participated in this film do not comment on that silliness. Your silence implies assent.

The emperor wears no clothes; the central claim of this movie is not valid. But people are holding on so tightly to their preferred view of the world that they can no longer respond rationally. They do not see that their approach is no different from extreme religious fundamentalists.

Dean Radin said...

I have not read about Peter Fraser's specific theory. If he said there is one, then why not ask him?

Much of the film was about complementary and alternative medicine, which you can read about at the NIH's website: nccam.nih.gov. CAM methods and theories cover a very broad range, with different degrees of empirical evidence and credibility. Some are based on sound science, others are more speculative. I am in favor of supporting rigorous research in all CAM methods, including ones that may seem "silly" today. The cumulative evidence will eventually show us which methods are useful and which are not.

FloatingBones said...

I listened to your GoogleTechTalk presentation ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw_O9Qiwqew ). For me, it was a far more exciting than "The Living Matrix". You covered a lot of ground in a short presentation. You were clear about what was fact and what was speculation. One gets a strong sense of your excellence as both a researcher and a lecturer. At 1:07:50 in the video, you say,

“The hope is that when I give a talk at a technical environment is to spark the mind of somebody who is thinking about theory all the time and have them think, ‘Well, OK. Maybe there’s microtubules in the head which are quantum oscillators blah blah blah.’ They come up with some kind of reason that would advance the state of the science. So I completely agree. We need theories. If anybody comes up with a theory, let me know.”

At 1:16:06 of "The Living Matrix", Peter Fraser, the Director of Research for NES, says,

“[…] but I think now we have a viable scientific theory for how the body stores and accesses information [in a quantum-physics body-field]. So we do have a medical revolution on our hands.”

I'm here to let you know: someone who thinks about theories all the time has come up with a viable scientific theory about the storage of information in quantum-physics fields. An empirical researcher into psi must be thrilled: someone has answered your call for theories! Someone has a theory for a new way for information to travel outside the human body and maybe to pass through the walls of a Faraday cage. This could have a huge impact on your research. Please look at Fraser's viable scientific theory and see how it fits with your work.

One might wonder: you, Dr. Mitchell, and Dr. Schlitz participated in this science documentary. Why didn't you already know about Peter Fraser's announcement? Have you never viewed the film in its entirety? Did your peers at IONS not tell you the wondrous news?

There is a simpler explanation. You already knew about Fraser's announcement, and you know his claim is false. You know there is no viable scientific theory. Earlier in this discussion, you said, "I have not read about Peter Fraser's specific theory.” Your GoogleTechTalk presentation shows a great interest in any theories in this field. The words don't quite add up.

Earlier in this discussion you said,

"If the history of science has taught us anything, it's that confident pronouncements of what is 'silly' is not only arrogant because it presumes to know what is not yet known, it is often proven wrong."

You missed the point entirely. I wasn’t discussing what might or might not be a viable scientific theory in the future. My point is that Peter Fraser claimed there is a "viable scientific theory" today, and his claim is utterly false. The producers of the movie include Fraser's claim without a fact-check. The legitimate and reputable scientists who participated in this film lack the courage to call out Peter Fraser and this movie on the nonsense. The emperor wears no clothes, and the "experts" are tacit. The state of science takes a step backwards. Questions:

1. Did you really not know about Fraser's claim of a "viable scientific theory" in "The Living Matrix" until we started our discussion last week?

2. As a psi researcher, have you done the due diligence to see if Fraser's "viable scientific theory" is real? What did you find?

3. Do you agree that falsely claiming the existence of scientific theory is a rather silly thing to do? This is distinct from claiming that scientific theories will never exist in a particular field in the future.

4. Why is there a taboo for researchers to call out bad science? Why have none of the legitimate scientists participating in "The Living Matrix" addressed Peter Fraser's "viable scientific theory" nonsense?

Thank you.

Dean Radin said...

1. Did you really not know about Fraser's claim of a "viable scientific theory" ...

I do dozens of interviews a year and don't have the interest or time to follow up on the details of every single one.

2. As a psi researcher, have you done the due diligence to see if Fraser's "viable scientific theory" is real? What did you find?

As I said, I'm busy doing research. I can't be an expert in everything, and my appearance in an interview does not imply I agree with everything that everyone else says. If that were the case, then no one would ever want to be interviewed in say, Time magazine, because at one time that magazine chose Hitler as its "Man of the Year." Or, no reputable scientist would ever appear on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, because half the time that show is about shadow people and demonic possession. But of course scientists do appear in such magazines, and the radio, and in films, and we don't get all hot and bothered by what other people say.

3. Do you agree that falsely claiming the existence of scientific theory is a rather silly thing to do?

Sure, but in this case I don't know enough about the claim to offer any opinion.

4. Why is there a taboo for researchers to call out bad science? Why have none of the legitimate scientists participating in "The Living Matrix" addressed Peter Fraser's "viable scientific theory" nonsense?

Epithets like "bad science" and "nonsense" may apply after one completes a thorough examination, but certainly not before. And "viable" is always in the eye of the beholder. In any case, because of your passion about this issue, perhaps you can do the due diligence.

Sandy said...

Wow, Dean! I hadn't realised just how important you are. Apparently it is up to you to ensure that everyone else's theories are viable. I guess that let's the rest of us off the hook as far as critical thinking goes. I mean, after all, we've got you to do all the work for us now. ;)

FloatingBones said...

Hi, Sandy. Dean has told us he is most definitely interested in viable scientific theories about how psi could work. In his at 1:07:50 in his GoogleTechTalk, he said,

“The hope is that when I give a talk at a technical environment is to spark the mind of somebody who is thinking about theory all the time and have them think, ‘Well, OK. Maybe there’s microtubules in the head which are quantum oscillators blah blah blah.’ They come up with some kind of reason that would advance the state of the science. So I completely agree. We need theories. If anybody comes up with a theory, let me know.”

The Chief Science Officer of NES Health came up with a theory -- a viable scientific theory -- about how information can be stored and retrieved from quantum-physics bodyfields. That certainly sounds as if it's applicable to Dean's work. Since he asked that people let him know when anybody comes up with a theory, it makes perfect sense for me to tell him about the Chief Science Officer's viable scientific theory.

Does it sound to you as of Peter Fraser's claimed theory would be applicable to the empirical research Dean and other scientists at IONS are doing?

Your sarcasm is unwarranted. Dr. Radin did indeed ask for pertinent theories to be brought to his attention. It also doesn't get you or anyone else off of the hook. Skepticism is a muscle all of us can and should exercise. If there's some claim you are interested in, you should investigate to see if some claimed theory is actually a viable scientific theory.

Are you personally interested in seeing if Peter Fraser's claims of a viable scientific theory are valid?

Sandy said...

I'm not familiar with Peter Fraser's work, but if I had questions about it I would address them to Peter Fraser and not Dean Radin.

I don't expect anyone else to act as my instrument of critical thinking. I'm not going to criticise someone for not doing my job for me either.

It sounds as if you are interested in critiquing Fraser's work but haven't had the satisfaction of direct contact with Fraser himself. Or perhaps you are looking for some kind of public confrontation and Fraser has opted out of that sort of thing. Dean is probably better known as a scientist, is accessible through his blog and maybe you think it will garner more attention to what you want to say than just sending emails to Fraser would.

The fact that no one sees any point in engaging you has more to do with the inappropriate way you are conducting yourself than any lack of interest in scientific viability. Ask Fraser to explain himself if you are truly interesting in debating the value of what he has to say. If you want to debate with Dean, it should be about Dean's work.

FloatingBones said...

Sandy, you didn't address either question I asked.

In this discussion, I provided a verbatim quote of what Peter Fraser, Senior Science Officer of NES Health, said at the conclusion of "The Living Matrix". The movie was released directly to DVD approximately 15 months ago. I also provided a verbatim quote from the video of Dr. Dean Radin in his GoogleTechTalk.

Does it sound to you as of Peter Fraser's claimed theory would be applicable to the empirical research Dean and other scientists at IONS are doing?

Are you personally interested in seeing if Peter Fraser's claims of a viable scientific theory are valid? Wouldn't a viable scientific theory on this topic be revolutionary?

If Dean says he wants to know when someone comes up with a theory, I'll take him at his word. When Fraser is talking about his theory in the documentary, he says it's about storage of information in a quantum-physics body field. Note the vocabulary that Dr. Radin used in his GoogleTechTalk. Fraser's claimed theory sounded like a good fit to me. I wouldn't even be surprised if Dr. Radin said, "Thank you!" to me for bringing it to his attention.

One last question for you. It's a generic question, it is not a question specifically about Fraser's claimed theory:

Do you think that claiming there is a "viable scientific theory" and failing to provide any details is rather silly? What are the actual words of the theory? What falsifiable statements have been constructed to test the theory? How were those falsifiable statements tested, and what were the results? Where is the paper where all of these things were published? All of these things would need to be done for a scientific theory to be viable, right?

FloatingBones said...

Dean: the movie discusses Complimentary and Alternative Medicine to the extent that it can be used to support the central claim of the movie: a quantum-physics bodyfield where information is stored and retrieved. An example: there are claims of a research between acupuncture points and quantum physics (but no science to back up that claim).

When you’ve got a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. Experts repeatedly claim that only possible explanation for phenomena is a quantum-physics body-field. One expert claims that some sort of external field is the only possible explanation for specialization of cells in the developing embryo. That claim is false; there are published scientific papers showing that mechanical tensions could drive embryonic specialization (reference to the published science in my review of the film). Cimbal's "giant bird brain" is an other example: he says that an external field is the only thing that could possibly explain the "instantaneous" direction-shifts in a flock. He provides no science to back up his claim, and there is published science that directly contradicts the claim. The published science suggests something far simpler: each bird is watching six or seven other birds in the flock.

There is no conversation at all in “The Living Matrix” about positive effects of CAM that can be explained through mechanical forces. There’s no mention of structural tensions in the body: both the tensional pre-stress and the stress of our bodies being held chronically out of position — perhaps only a millimeter out of position. There's no discussion of how those chronic stresses can undermine the delivery of nutrients, removal of waste, and even the expression of genes in the individual cells. Many CAMs reduce and eliminate these chronic mis-alignments and lower the overall pre-stress of our musculoskeletal network. Lower structural tension can have a dramatic impact on our health and healing. I’m not saying that these things should have been discussed in TLM; my point is that the movie had a specific agenda in the CAMs that it discussed.

A science documentary should clearly indicate when it’s presenting real science and when it’s presenting speculation. Who should be responsible for ensuring that happens? The moviemakers may not be responsible: their motivations are to promote their movie and its ideas. Dr. Radin clearly feels that scientists should say nothing about what their fellow scientists are saying in those science documentaries — even if they are perfectly qualified to comment. Skeptics can comment, but how can one know that they have done their due diligence? One comes to a grim conclusion: absolutely nobody is responsible for the quality control of a science documentary like “The Living Matrix”.

What are the consequences of this out-of-control effort? You can see it in the reviews: Those that already were enthusiasts think they have “hard science” backing up the central claim of the movie. Skeptics in the CAM field notice the obvious junk science in the movie. Reputable scientists in the documentary are silent about the junk; skeptics are genuinely mystified by that silence. James Randi is decried for calling “The Living Matrix” an incredibly silly movie, but anyone who rigorously scrutinizes the movie — especially its central claim — would understand exactly what he was talking about.

What’s the solution? I have no idea. Dr. Radin should be clear what the public expects from the scientists appearing in a science documentary. It’s not like being interviewed as an individual for TIME magazine or George Noory’s show. For a science documentary, somebody should be paying attention to the integrity of the product as a whole. Reputable scientists participating in a science documentary definitely have a stake in that integrity.

Dean Radin said...

> For a science documentary, somebody should be paying attention to the integrity of the product as a whole. Reputable scientists participating in a science documentary definitely have a stake in that integrity.

The "somebody" is the film's producer.

BTW I noticed an incorrect comment in your blog critique about the film. A reader named "Marc" imagined "a leak in the faraday cage" because the sender inside the shielded room could see the recipient over closed circuit video. He says this is "a perfect example of pseudoscience bunkum that throws around technical ideas" because "a faraday cage prevents transmission of electromagnetic signals from inside to outside. This would include video over wire, I’m pretty sure."

Well, his confidence is misplaced because there are standard ways of getting video and data in and out of EM shielded rooms without compromising the EM shielding. I described it in the journal article reporting that study.

Shall I take you to task for failing to correct that comment? Of course not - you are not responsible for what others say in your blog. Nor am I responsible for the entire content of one of many films I've appeared in.

FloatingBones said...

> For a science documentary, somebody should be paying attention to the integrity of the product as a whole. Reputable scientists participating in a science documentary definitely have a stake in that integrity.

The "somebody" is the film's producer.

The film’s producer should be the gatekeeper. But who the bleep should take action if the film producers violate that trust? Should the reputable scientists who appear in that a documentary that junks the science do nothing?

Documentary filmmakers spend minutes if not hours for every second of footage that appears in the final product. At a minimum, they should take the time to verify every claim made in their documentary. That’s why Dr. Cimbal’s “giant bird brain” claim is so telling: it took literally five minutes of fact-checking to note that bird flocks do not change their direction instantaneously — the changes ripple like a wave through the flock. In five minutes, I was also able to find a published science paper modeling how birds coordinate their movement in those flocks. Cimbal claimed that quantum body-fields were the only way to explain the coordination of the birds, and he is clearly wrong. The filmmakers failed in their fact-checking duties. Further, they have failed to create an errata page on the film’s website once I told them about the error. They had no commitment to get the science right originally, and they show no commitment to address their errors now.

BTW I noticed an incorrect comment in your blog critique about the film. [SNIP]

Thank you. Now that I know about the factual error, I will deal with it promptly. I will track down the comment and add a note with your correction.

In a similar fashion, I am asking you to respond to Peter Fraser’s claim that there is a “viable scientific theory” about how quantum-physics information fields are used to store information and influence our health. If his claim were true, it would have a huge impact on the research that you, Dr. Schlitz, and Dr. Mitchell are performing at IONS. A viable scientific theory in this field would have a huge impact for all psi researchers and enthusiasts over the whole planet.
Shall I take you to task for failing to correct that comment? Of course not - you are not responsible for what others say in your blog. Nor am I responsible for the entire content of one of many films I've appeared in.

If I do nothing with your information within seven days, you should definitely take me to task.

Thank you for checking on the integrity of my blog entry about “The Living Matrix”. I am asking you to check out what seems to be a far more fundamental error in TLM: the central claim from the film. As far as I can tell, no viable scientific theory linking our health to quantum-physics information fields exists. At the same time, enthusiasts of the film are convinced there is a viable scientific theory. Science is hard, but the existence of science should be quite straightforward. In far less time that it took you to read and respond to my blog page, you should be able to determine for yourself if Peter Fraser actually has a viable scientific theory.

You are right: the producers of a science documentary should be committed to accurately reporting the science. I do not see that commitment from the producers of “The Living Matrix”. The state of the science has been left in a very confused state. It’s time for that mess to be cleaned up.

FloatingBones said...

Hi, Dean. I have addressed the comment in my blog entry http://floatingbones.com/?p=92 addressing your concerns about the claims of Faraday Cage leakage. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

One of the claims you make in “Entangled Minds” is around the relationship between science and reductionism. From page 221 of your book:

Scientists have long assumed that the best way, indeed perhaps the only way, to understand something is to see how its pieces together. If we see an impressive clock and what to know what makes it tick, we take it apart. […]


This claim is incorrect. Edward Lorenz’s research on chaos theory is all about studying the system as a whole. His chaos papers date back to 1969 ( see http://eapsweb.mit.edu/research/Lorenz/publications.htm ). Chaos theory was well-established by the time of Glieck’s “Chaos: Making A New Science” in 1987. Sussman realized that the clockwork mechanisms of orreries were inappropriate for modeling the movement of the planets and the stars. His digital orrery allowed for viewing celestial movement as a whole. For anyone paying attention, the Sussman/Wisdom 1988 science paper “Numerical Evidence that the Motion of Pluto is Chaotic” was the last nail in the coffin of Sir Isaac Newton’s “clockwork universe” ( http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/wisdom/pluto-chaos.pdf ).

Royal Society member Sir James Lighthill wrote the wonderful paper, “The recently recognized failure of predictability in Newtonian dynamics” (1986) (which, sadly, is only available freely from a university library). Lighthill notes that very simple systems can display reductionist-defying chaotic behavior. Cornell professor Steven Strogatz notes in his teach12.com course “Chaos” and his 2004 book “Sync”: nonlinear forces are the the main prerequisite for chaotic behavior, and living systems definitely have nonlinear forces (see http://tam.cornell.edu/faculty-bio.cfm?NetID=shs7 ).

Whole-system thinking existed long before Chaos Theory. Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems demonstrate the fundamental limitations of logical systems as the arbiters of truth (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Gödel ). Gödel’s proof is a dazzling display of what is possible only through whole-system thinking. Engineer Buckminster Fuller’s 1972 book “Synergetics” discusses whole-system thinking extensively. Fuller’s synergetic behavior is the quintessence of whole-system thinking:

“724.34: The tensegrity system is synergetic -- a behavior of the whole unpredicted by the behavior of the parts. Old stone-age columns and lintels are energetic and only interact locally with whole buildings. The whole tensegrity-icosahedron system, when loaded oppositely at two diametric points, contracts symmetrically, and because it contracts symmetrically, its parts get symmetrically closer to one another; therefore, gravity increases as of the second power, and the whole system gets uniformly stronger. This is the way atoms behave.”

Note: tensegrity structures appear to be the foundation for biological structure from a cellular to a musculoskeletal level (see http://www.childrenshospital.org/research/ingber/PDF/1998/SciAmer-Ingber.pdf ). The forces in a tensegrity are definitely nonlinear.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the last quarter-century of scientific research profoundly understands the fundamental limitations of reductionist scientific research. But rather than point to our scientific understanding of those limitations, you claim that scientists (and, indirectly, science as a whole) don’t understand them. The time has come to set the record straight on this straw-man argument.

What we can say is that rigorous whole-system scientific research is quite difficult.

Unknown said...

I am thoroughly convinced that if someone did display something that Randi could not explain away by cheating or any suspect means and even if he did pay the individual, his repsonse would likely be,

"We must have missed something."

Randi has become the doppleganger of the fundamentalist who believes every word of the bible; Randi's God has become science--or rather the scientific method which has a long history itself of chicanery and lethal failures.

Aboo k on fraud in science would be no less voluminous than one on fraudulent claims of the "paranormal".