Friday, August 27, 2010

Cover story

I'm the cover story for the North Bay Bohemian (the name seems appropriate for Northern California) newspaper. If you go here you can read the entire newspaper online, but I think this link will only last for one week.


gildedchute said...

That's a lot of space devoted to RT Carroll's views on statistical methods. Would you like to say anything in reply?

Dean Radin said...

> Carroll says, "There's an assumption made on the part of Dean Radin that any significant departure from the laws of chance is evidence that something paranormal has occurred. All they're really saying is that if something strange happens, then something strange is happening. That's really not telling you anything."

No. As in any reasonable experiment, psi experiments are designed to show certain kinds of deviations if the underlying hypothesis is correct. When we find significant results in accordance with the predicted outcome, this is not just something strange. It's direct support for the hypothesis.

Carroll says, "If you ask anybody who's in paranormal research to come up with one clear absolutely decisive, unambiguous example of a specific person with a psychic ability, you will find that the list has nothing on it. Whenever anybody has eliminated all the possibilities of trickery, nobody can move a pencil with their mind. It just isn't done."

I'm not in the business of trying to find someone who can "move a pencil with their mind." Nor do I test individuals with exceptional claims of any sort. Like most psychologists, I'm interested in what's true in the general population. When we find (as my colleagues and I do, repeatedly) that ordinary people can demonstrate various psi effects under laboratory conditions, that is far more persuasive to me than looking for one-shot miracles.

Carroll says, "What fascinates me are the studies that have been done that find that when people are confronted with evidence that shows they're wrong, the majority of them come to believe what they believed even more. It's just the opposite of what you would expect if people were only seeking the truth. If someone challenges them with evidence that is very strong and conflicts with what they believe, the first reaction of most people is to discredit the source of that contrary information and try to find something at fault with them."

Quite true, and apparently Carroll hasn't noticed how well the confirmation bias applies to his own beliefs!

Gareth said...

I enjoyed the article. Robert Carroll's pencil-moving remarks did little more than demonstrate his own ignorance, in my opinion.

As you say, some people will never be convinced.

Fallensoul said...

"Whenever anybody has eliminated all the possibilities of trickery, nobody can move a pencil with their mind. It just isn't done."

Which verse is that in your skeptic bible Mr Christmas Carol?

Take the classic case of Nina Kulagina. (

Trickery they say. What kind?
"We don't know. Cant say. Happened in the past. Who believes those "apparently well known" scientists who tested her anyway and claimed they were valid"

Well okay...but even today there are one-shot miracles. Take Prahlad Jani for instance. (

Trickery they say. What kind?
We don't know. Cant say. Who believes those 45+ professional medical doctors who tested him and claimed they are valid. And in a few years when Mr Jani leaves this world, they'll say, "Happened in the past. Who can say now?"

Theres a nice book called Human Devolution which is like an encyclopedia of examples like these.

So even if you could "eliminate all possibilities" of trickery -- Mr C and disciples from Skeptics D would still have something to say to doubt the results. Thats the nature of being a skeptic. What's ironic is that if you doubt authoritative statements, why expect us to accept your statements as authoritative?!

Not much can be done for those who suffer from severe chronic golf ball-size consciousness syndrome?

David Bailey said...

Dean, I wonder if I can ask you about William Tiller - his name cropped up at Skeptiko recently.

Looking at some of his writings, he seems to have enormously impressive results, but I wonder if he isn't just having a joke.

Tor said...

Good interview.

From the interview: From the the moment you get to 100 percent and you have absolutely zero doubt, why bother doing it anymore?

Because we want to find out more about how it works :)

Regarding interviews; I just saw "Something unknown is doing we don't know what". This is without a doubt the best documentary on psychic phenomena I have ever seen. I am amazed at how much was covered during 104 minutes, and how thorough it was. Down to earth and balanced with a positive feel to it, spiced up with appreciation for the mysterious nature of our universe. I hope it gets a large and wide audience, because it should.

Dean Radin said...

> about William Tiller ... but I wonder if he isn't just having a joke.

No, he's quite serious. Tiller is a materials scientist who was a professor at Stanford University for many years. I think his experimental findings and theories about subtle energies et al are interesting. Time will tell whether independent replications of his claims continue to show similar results. In the meantime I think it's worthwhile paying attention to his work.

Tor said...

Since David mentioned Tiller I remembered something. The plasma ball you talked about in the interview Dean, it sounds similar to one of Tiller's early experiments with a gas discharge device. Are you going to try a conceptually similar replication? As far as I know, Tiller is the only one who has done that experiment.

Dean Radin said...

> Are you going to try a conceptually similar replication?

That is the idea, yes.

Tor said...

"That is the idea, yes."

Interesting.. If I remember correctly, Tiller got big effects using his device. I mean, big compared to REG studies.

I have a feeling after reading the literature, that laboratory based parapsychology carries it's own little taboo with it:

The taboo of big effects.

I think that is unfortunate. Big effects does not mean fraud when the experiments that show them are well controlled. Big effects should be welcomed, not looked upon with distrust.

Dean Radin said...

> The taboo of big effects.

Yes. I first did a plasma psi test in the mid-1990s, and the results were so good I figured it must have been a mistake. I'm revisiting that experiment again now using better measurements. I'd love to record some big effects that I can have confidence in (and more importantly, be able to convey that confidence to others!).

Tor said...

The plasma ball should be able to give a psychological boost. It's more spectacular to look at than a changing number or a wiggly line. And you never know what might happen. It does look like the a modern high-tech version of a shew stone after all.. Let us just hope nobody sees the eye of Sauron! :)

I noticed in your entrained mental coherence article in the JSE last year, that since the Geiger counter gave larger than normal effects, referees started to doubt the results. In my opinion, one should not be surprised if different sources of randomness give bigger or smaller effects. Exploratory work is all about varying different factors to see what happens. Confidence will arise anyway if results get replicated.

David Bailey said...

Dean, Since you say that William Tiller is serious, he is certainly worthy of attention. I only read a little of his experiments, but I noticed that he was able to move the pH of a solution by 1.0 up or down by pure intention. That is a substantial effect!

Dean Radin said...

The plasma ball is pleasingly hypnotic to gaze at, and the plasma stream motion is exquisitely sensitive to very weak EM and magnetic fields. We sometimes get large PK-like effects with it, but I haven't ruled out artifacts. That's why it's still in the development stage and not an experiment yet.

Mark Szlazak said...

David, thanks again for asking Dean Radin what he thought of William Tiller's work.

I'm also curious what you think of Fritz Popp's work on biophotons (the quantum version of bioluminescence).

I think Popp is claiming quantum coherence in biological systems but don't know enough QT. Isn't significant thermal isolation needed for that?

Maybe Popp is talking about something else. Here is an online paper by Popp on an experiment that is very "psi" in nature.

Dean do you know of this work and what's your "take" on it?

Mark Szlazak said...

I should clarify something in my last post in case people misinterpret it.

When I wrote that Popp's work was psi-like I didn't mean his experimental paradigm was set up to show psi but instead meant that it could be.

matthewx78 said...

Way To Go Dean. Finished your Book it was Great! Telling everyone I know about it!

Still not everyone can even SEE! the evidence, let a lot evaluate it!

levis said...

I hope you have time to answer.... What do you think of Stephen Hawking's latest claims that: " "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.
"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

Thank You!

Mark Szlazak said...

Mathew, I just saw Dean's online "entangled minds" talk at the theosophy society and that pretty much answered my questions on entanglement and biological systems.

That was 4 years ago and I'm wondering what's happened since.

Not much on the hard-problem of consciousness in that talk or questions afterward but it _seems_ like Dean has a panpsychists position in this regard.

I prefer something closer to dualism mostly because of panpsychism's combination problem.

Levis, "something out of nothing" is irrational and considered to be ridiculous by virtually all metaphysical philosophers and probably scientists. It actually goes against the most successful guiding principle in both metaphysics and science.

Dean Radin said...

"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

This is reminiscent of the idea of "spontaneous generation" in biology, which was borne from ignorance. Similarly, what we understand today about cosmology (and practically everything else of importance) is still hardly more than amusing campfire stories.

"From the time of the ancient Romans, through the Middle Ages, and until the late nineteenth century, it was generally accepted that some life forms arose spontaneously from non-living matter. Such 'spontaneous generation' appeared to occur primarily in decaying matter. For example, a seventeenth century recipe for the spontaneous production of mice required placing sweaty underwear and husks of wheat in an open-mouthed jar, then waiting for about 21 days, during which time it was alleged that the sweat from the underwear would penetrate the husks of wheat, changing them into mice. Although such a concept may seem laughable today, it is consistent with the other widely held cultural and religious beliefs of the time."

Above quote from

David Bailey said...

Carroll says, "If you ask anybody who's in paranormal research to come up with one clear absolutely decisive, unambiguous example of a specific person with a psychic ability, you will find that the list has nothing on it. Whenever anybody has eliminated all the possibilities of trickery, nobody can move a pencil with their mind. It just isn't done."

My impression is that a lot of conventional science would fail by the same criterion. For example, the atomic theory of matter was a conjecture for some time, gradually becoming accepted as fact.

Modern experiments can, of course, actually visualise individual atoms, but these hardly count as evidence for the existence of atoms as such, because the equipment used assumes a mass of theory, including the existence of electrons - parts of atoms!!

Demanding one unambiguous piece of evidence for anything is basically absurd.