Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wagenmakers-Bem: Round 3

Continuing what may turn into a 12-round prize fight, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers was kind enough to send me a link to his team's response to the Bem, Utts & Johnson reply:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1018886/ClarificationsForBemUttsJohnson.pdf

52 comments:

MTG C# Guy said...

No consensus will be reached. None. This will take more time.

Neuroscientist Physicist said...

Dear Dr.Radin, I was very sad to read a negative review of your book the Conscious Universe on the Skeptics Dictionary by Robert Todd Carrol : http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/radin1.html.
May I know has anyone refuted this negative review? I am also sad by the way you, Charles Tart, Rupert Sheldrake and other serious highly qualified were portrayed negatively in the Skeptics dictionary. It's sad, really sad.

M R said...

Hey "Neuroscientist Physicist",

I think Carrol's attitude can be easily summed up in this passage from his review of "Entangled Minds":

Yes, and then again the mind/brain might not be a quantum object at all, and the above sentence might not have any cognitive meaning, i.e., be a bit of bovine excrement. The fact is, this section on theories is really a section on exercising the imagination to speculate about how paranormal phenomena might work if they were real. The fact is, though, that the evidence that they are real is outweighed by the evidence that they are not real. Radin can shout as loudly as he wants about skeptics, but their analysis of the data is much more convincing than his.

Not only does he thinly veil calling Dr. Radin's musings bullshit but he also outright says that skeptics always analyze data in a more convincing way. Well if that doesn't speak to his bias I don't know what does!

It can be read here: http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/entangledreview.html

However if you are remotely skeptical or familiar with the standard skeptical arguments then I think you can predict just about everything he says. He even goes as far as to say that Dr. Radin intentionally structures the book to mislead and deceive readers not familiar with cognitive biases and the psychology of belief.

I'm not sure when the article was written but he is either deliberately not including new evidence of quantum mechanisms at work in biological systems, or so blinded by his own skeptical beliefs that he ignores anything that could possibly support these psi hypotheses.

I'm amazed by the animosity apparent in some of the skeptical responses to psi research, especially in some parts of the response this article was written about as well as the review of Dr. Radin's books.

If the entire field of psychology is assessing data incorrectly, what makes these authors right? It is just strange to see such an outlandish claim as that backed up only by their plotting of effect sizes from a relatively small sample of studies from experimental psychology. Not only does that easily mislead someone who isn't aware of trends in experimental psychology, but building upon it to claim that the entire field of psychology is flawed is myopic.

While the paper presents a lot of great points which I hope Bem and Utts can address, it is infused with some of the most emotionally charged language I've seen in scientific literature. If you're going to reproachfully remark that the authors are not only detached from reality but that the whole field of psychology cannot properly interpret data, at least try to be a little bit more subtle about it?

Neuroscientist Physicist said...

Dear MR, thank you so much for that, but I think someone needs to urgently refute Robert Todd Carrols negative review of the Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds, I don't understand why people see him as an authority figure, for Deborah Blums book 'Ghost hunters' in the review Carrol actually said that he was hoping the book would expose William James for his work with Psychics, I was really surprised to see such obvious bias by Carrol. Someone needs to urgently refute his nonsense and point out the relentless bias in the skeptics dictionary, I was shocked to find out that Scientists take the Skeptics dictionary very seriously. And yes you are absolutely right about Wagenmakers et al, I could sense sacarsm and hostility from their first journal article.

Enfant Terrible said...

Will Utts and Bem reply again to Wagenmakers?

Mark Szlazak said...

@ "Neuroscientist Physicist" please read "Randi's Prize" by Robert McLuhan. It's a good analysis of psi denialists, the beliefs they have internalized which McLuhan calls the phantom narrative, how flawed this narrative is and how it's stuck to no matter what the data says.

It's pretty obvious that denial and rhetoric are the major and effective tools used by debunkers in keeping psi "out in the cold."

Occasionally, a "hit piece" or "hatchet job" is needed by one of their members from academia. It's published in a mainstream journal or other choke point to keep things in line with that narrative.

It doesn't take much, especially in our Western culture which has been implicitly conditioned as much as it has to first believe the phantom narrative before a better alternative. So it's actually quite easy to keep things moving along in this direction with opinion makers rather than diverting onto another path.

The pull of this illusory center of rational gravity just needs more exposing for what it truly is.

This exchange between Bem and Wagenmakers is another battle in this war.

Christopher said...

I've been reading the literature of skepticism from over the past century and a half, they are remarkably similar in tone, regardless of the subject matter and regardless of whether what they talk about is absurd nonsense or rigorous research. No, this isn't going to be over anytime soon.

I see that Wagenmakers is a psychologist, is he on record as a critic of the absurdly badly constructed and analyzed experiments that are commonly published in supposedly reputable psychology journals? I became convinced that PSI was a serious field when I was looking for comparisons to study the ridiculous standards accepted by psychology.

I would really like to know what Ray Hyman taught in his long career and how much of it would stand up to the critique he has made of controlled PSI research.

Helen said...

I have read Wagenmaker et al’s come-back and whilst I don't think it settles any debate on whether psi exists, I am struggling to find anything majorly offensive about it. It is academic banter and as long as its making interesting contributions I can’t see anything wrong with that. It should be entitled “moving the goalposts” and the authors more or less acknowledge this.

Wagenmaker et al talk about the data being exploratory, and to an extent I do think that the most interesting experiments will be the ones that build on Bem’s rather than exactly replicate them. However I think Wagenmaker et al are wrong that it is purely explorative – for instance they say there is no prior evidence for a male/female bias for psi (I think they mean that therefore the female-only effect on one of the experiments is exploratory). I think this is wrong. The evidence is that psi is stronger for elements that resonate with or are memorable to people – often in a very personal way. It is reasonable to assume for instance that men need stronger sexual images than women before they find them memorable. That is a sex bias that is consequential to a memory bias, which should be fine.

Wagenmaker et al also suggest that all psi experiments should be done with a collaborating “qualified” sceptic. I find this ridiculous for a psychology experiment that is testing for something that can be deeply personal. Lets say that Randi didn’t believe that sex with someone special is the best kind. So in order to prove it you have to have sex with your special person whilst a beardy sceptical magician is filming it. Really? Performance anxiety is a very real phenomenon and to ignore it is bad experimental design.

Mark Szlazak said...

Someone help me out.

It seems to me that all Wagenmakers does in his most recent response, is retrospectively trying to fit the data (i.e. of Bem, et al execution and analysis) into his idea that there is cherry picking done on by Bem, et als part to get a particular result. In other words, it's a rigged game.

The problem is that Waggenmakers can't make a good or even plausible case for this.

Ironically, Waggenmakers latest piece really is nothing more that retrospective and desperate cherry picking to make the point that the outcome was biased from the start.

In other words, Waggenmakers has stuck his foot in his mouth and does like the way that looks or tastes.

Are we starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel here or is there a real important methodological issue that needs pointing out with regards to Bem, et al in Waggenmakers latest or previous related articles?

Nemo85 said...

"If Hyman's standards were ever enforced in mainstream psychology, that field would be wiped out" - John Palmer

Rational Skeptic said...

Hey guys, unless you perform an entanglement experiment in front of me it doesn't exist. I'm skeptical of spooky action at a distance therefore unless someone who agrees with me observes the experiment, the data is flawed, the experiment is fraudulent and it is all worthless.

What a hilariously obvious logical fallacy! If science worked like this we'd all be like Lord Kelvin holding on to the idea of an indivisible atom until death. Since when has the scientific method required having a dogmatic zealot present during all experiments? I must have missed the class where they talked about the humanistic psychologists sitting in the behaviorists' labs with a sour expression yelling "No! No! No!" like children having a temper tantrum. Or when did Leonard Susskind watch Stephen Hawking perform his calculations with his arms crossed and a smug expression saying under his breath, "I'm right! Neener neener neener!"

If any real scientist acted like Randi or Shermer, we'd still be trying to patch in oscilloscopes to our analog computers that fill entire university basements. It's good to look outside this field and see that science hasn't turned into scientism, it seems to only be in the case of self-proclaimed "skeptics" who really aren't skeptical at all. In fact, they are usually more biased than those coming to the conclusion that experimental evidence for psi is statistically significant!

I wrote a brief blog post last night on this very subject. It's amazing to me how ironic some of the things so-called skeptics say. A lot of them are bordering on religious fundamentalism, except it in this case it is irrational scientistic extremism.

I hope to read a Bem et al. reply soon!

Helen said...

Mark, the stats fry my brain but I don't think Wagenmaker et al are saying that Bem cherry picks, I think they are saying that he didn't have an evidence-based hypothesis to test, but rather he was in the process of developing a hypothesis and published before he had one. But if Wagenmaker et al believe the data is exploratory I don't understand how prior expectations of what the effect size should be are even relevant as surely they have no idea!

On the Bayesian analysis, I can understand that the odds of pure chance for your null hypothesis are relevant and that a small effect size could deviate from chance in a control. I don't understand the notion of the odds of something being true or false, it fries my brain. How can you have odds on true or false?

Also, as I understand, the Wagenmaker paper comes up with no effect partly because the actual small effect size doesn't fit their prior expectatation that if psi were true, it would be reliable and have a high prevalence in the population. So Wagenmaker et al show that this hypothesis is unlikely. Fine.

But that is not Bem's hypothesis, so I don't understand how it is relevant. His hypothesis is that it is not 100% reliable (like memory) and it is not present in everyone. Hence the weak effect size.

As I say I'm really not clicking with the Bayesian stats so may have completely misunderstood.

Mark Szlazak said...

Helen, thank you for the response and clarification. But isn't what you say about this most recent Wagenmaker paper the same as what other people have said about his prior paper/critique? If so then what's Wagenmaker's trying to show with this paper?

Helen said...

Mark - yes I think you are right although I haven't actually seen the original Wagenmaker paper just the response and the response to the response, and I just blogged my thought process!

I think in the response to the response Wagenmaker et al was trying to rebut their perception of a misunderstanding (in blogs) that their non-significant results were due to skepticism of the existence of psi - I think what they mean is that the prior expectation of the effect size and distribution is more important than the prior odds you attach to psi existing atall. (But I may have misunderstood!) Plus they say they do some sensitivities on the assumption of effect size.

I don't really have a problem with any of this so long as it is made clear that the priors are based on speculation rather than empirical data. Personally I don't see the point of making up numbers to represent speculation - words seem perfectly adequate to me for this purpose.

Neuroscientist Physicist said...

Oh no, I am really depressed after reading this article by Richard Weisman: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/22/future-paranormality-richard-wiseman
can someone please debunk him?
Richard Weisman is once again attacking OBE's and Precognition.
He thinks OBE's are nothing but brain generated hallucinations.

dawnow said...

article by Richard Weisman: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/22/future-paranormality-richard-wiseman
can someone please debunk him?
Richard Weisman is once again attacking OBE's and Precognition.


Robert McLuhan just wrote a piece on this on his blog Paranormalia. at http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/

anonymous said...

The best way to become convinced about precognition is to keep a dream log and you will notice many precognitive dreames. There is a book "An Experiment With Time" that explains how to do this. To remember your dreams, when you first wake up ask yourself, "what was I thinking about and why was I thinking about it". I tried this and it worked for me and I found I had many precognitive dreams.

Many people who have nde's can percieve things while "unconscious" that they couldn't percieve with their normal senses even if they were awake. In many cases these perceptions are verified as being accurate. These are called veridical nde's. They disprove any "scientific" explanation of nde's.

For more info:

http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/summary_of_evidence

There is a section on nde's but the whole page may be of interest to you.

K said...

NP, just for the record, RT Carroll is clearly not the unbiased skeptic he claims to be. There is no point in "refuting" him further because he has already made up his mind regarding the possibility of psi.

In his review of The Conscious Universe, for example, he concedes (nearing the end of chapter 12) that autoganzfeld experiments cannot be explained away on accusations of fraud, file drawer effect, lack of randomization, retrofitting judgment, etc. but he says that the "assumption that it is due to psi" is incorrect. He does not understand what psi is about.

Hyman imo is the most respectable among the skeptics but all these skeptics are so deeply attached to their perspective that, just like RTC above, they will concede to flawlessness of the experiment but will not agree with the "assumption" of the "interpretation", claiming instead that there is some other explanation.

Rational Skeptic said...

Reading Weisman's article made me instantly think of something the great Bertrand Russell said, "It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this."

He obviously decided to choose a single case, ignore the positive evidence within the given case, then use it to attack the entire field. Classic skeptics employing the same massive logical fallacies they claim to fight against. How can anyone seriously start attacking the validity of an entire varied type of phenomena based upon a single case study? I really hope no one takes this guy seriously, as he clearly lacks the ability to assimilate the entirety of the research done in the field (obviously because this would blatantly disprove his hypothesis).

Helen said...

Taking Bem's approach of time-reversing a typical experiment, could you do the same with Wiseman's thesis? Could you distinguish, statistically, between something you did in the past through intention and something that happened by chance? Or does the law of big numbers make everything we ever do look like chance and prove that intention doesn't exist?

If you could establish a level of correlation for past events and associated feelings that established some combination that couldn't be chance, can you then apply the same statistical goal posts to the future? Or is Wiseman's explanation something that can never prove or disprove whether dreams have any future content?

These are not rhetorical questions. I genuinely don't know the answers and would be interested to know.

francisco.j.93 said...

I think that the scientific dogma against psi its all about money and beliefs.
Imagine this: there would be no need of hospitals because everyone can heal themselves so doctors will not be needed nor hospitals and those jobs will go to the trash can. Telephone and cellphone companies would stop functioning because telepathy enables comunication without a phone even if what you recieve are subjective images. Airplanes would be trashed too, because of levitation. House companies would not exist because anyone would have a house just by thinking on it. There would be no need for schools because everyone would tap into the universal mind and know everything. So I barely scratched on the surface about what can happen when mainstream science says " ok ok, we were wrong guys we are sorry, all those abilities exist and we had the evidence concealed all this time."
I think that is the deepest reason for the hostility towards psi...

francisco.j.93 said...

Also I want to present myself on this blog that I have been reading since the month started. I am very interested on parapsychology and spiritualism and I am 17 yrs. old. I have been interested on "paranormal" things since a little child and I have had a few experiences with precognitive dreams and msn telepathy. Sorry if my grammar is bad or I have bad spelling abilities, but english is my second language.

Pikemann Urge said...

can someone please debunk him?

I think you want to take a step back here. Joe Nickell, in one of his Skepticon talks, cautioned his audience,

"I'm suggesting that we not be debunkers or true believers but investigators."

Anyone who says that X has been debunked is likely to be a reactionary, groupie skeptic (of about 20 years of age) rather than an educated one.

I'm not interested in debunking Wiseman. If what he says is nonsense then it should be called out. He's committed the fallacy of shifting the goalposts before, however. Apparently it's okay for skeptics to do that.

Anonymous, I have had a few dreams of that nature. However, the experiences of other peole were more than enough to convince me that it's a real phenomenon. Psi research - as much as we need it - merely confirms what humans have known for millennia.

I am soon going to order Andrew Paquette's book. He was interviewed recently on Skeptiko.

francisco.j.93 said...

I have some questions. How is it that skeptics move the goalposts and do not get caught by a scientist and tells him "hey, they have already proven what they said they could do"?
Also, how is it that all James Randi's applicants do not pass? I have read the rules and well it says that the data may be used by the JREF freely, suggesting me they might fake the results, but I saw the new rules for the homeopathy contestants and Randi said the data would be 100% double-blind so no one would alter it. How do people know if he is just talking and actually altering it?, also, what do you have to get on the challenge in order to convince Randi that psi exists? I don't know but whenever I read things on the JREF, i suddenly feel like something got stuck on my throat and that everything just falls apart. I have been trying to convince myself again that psi exists and I seem to fall into the same place over again, I find out evidence, then I found out it was "debunked", miraculously, a good scientist addresses all flaws and I feel happy, and then again another flaw. By miracle again, the same or another scientist adresses it and I feel relief. Then I see these things on the skeptics dictionary saying that parapsychologists think that just because they got above chance they think they found evidence for psi, so that means they are stupid. (which I know is not the case). This is why I am here, for scientific validation of my beliefs. But I just do not know what to do because all skeptics seem to be winning and that James Randi's challenge makes me feel insecure. I do not want that, but I don't know what to do. I feel like wolves have covered all escape possibilities. I find one solution for the evidence of psi and a counter thing comes out. This is driving me nuts. I really want psi to be real!...

francisco.j.93 said...

There has to be a trap on that million dollar challenge, I want to know what it is because that is like a holy grail to me.

"I've been reading the literature of skepticism from over the past century and a half, they are remarkably similar in tone, regardless of the subject matter and regardless of whether what they talk about is absurd nonsense or rigorous research. No, this isn't going to be over anytime soon."

Christopher, even if I have not read the skeptical literature, I agree with you, they seem to continually find excuses to not accept the evidence. If its either a methodological failure, it was coincidence. Is the only way to end the debate to show 90% results? or do we have to levitate in front of them so they actually see it? Well, maybe they will come up with an explanation like "it's a hallucination!", "they hypnotized me!", "those mirrors created and illusion!", "he has flying shoes!" (I do not know if there is such thing.) I wonder if they have ever considered that quantum physics makes all those things possible, because I have read on one website that they found quantum properties on living systems. What do you guys recommend me to watch on quantum biology? I don't find anything else besides that?

Pikemann Urge said...

Could you distinguish, statistically, between something you did in the past through intention and something that happened by chance?

Well, that is the sort of thing that experiments are designed to do. If they're well designed (apparently, Bem's are excellent) then that is a good start. But what you can't do is run parallel realities with one variable different in each case.

I think that chance is not sufficient to refute psi results. Remember that some people can produce consistently high results. This is one reason - I think - why controls (or 'dummy' experiments as I would call them) are performed.

According to the Wikipedia entry on LLN, I get the impression that it supports psi results. Unless I'm missing something.

Helen, I hope I understood your question!

I think that the scientific dogma against psi its all about money and beliefs.

I don't agree for one simple reason: nobody is thinking that far ahead! And in any case, most people don't have psi developed to a point where they can send specific messages. What we get from psi is like "through a glass, darkly." :-)

BTW, Francisco, your English is pretty good. Your paragraphs should be a little shorter, though (only as far as posting comments on-line). ;-)

We English-speakers have the luxury of speaking English... and because of that, we have become lazy. Well, some of us! I would love to speak 5 or 6 languages. That would be awesome.

But I just do not know what to do because all skeptics seem to be winning and that James Randi's challenge makes me feel insecure.

I would not worry about this. Prizes are completely and utterly irrelevant in determining reality. Prizes like the Nobel are for the sake of rewarding good science (we hope!).

Think of it like this: a prize is something you get after you win a race. Correct? You have to win before you get the prize. But the Randi Prize is not a prize at all - it's a challenge. And even if you win it, nobody is compelled to change their minds! You still haven't won the race (so to speak).

The Nobel committee does not challenge scientists - rather, it watches them work and then awards prizes to those whom it thinks most deserve them. Perhaps what I just wrote will not make sense to anyone, but it is just an impression.

Mark Szlazak said...

@ Pikemann Urge:

I don't agree for one simple reason: nobody is thinking that far ahead! And in any case, most people don't have psi developed to a point where they can send specific messages. What we get from psi is like "through a glass, darkly." :-)

This is a secret so don't tell anybody.

The reason psi is suppressed is because of the new breed of fighter and missile technology that the military is developing.

Manned fighters are a thing of the past and future military aircraft will be all drones.

The problem is electronic counter-measures that can interfere with the control signals to these pilot-less jets.

Telepathic control presents no such problem because no body know how to jam psi signals.

So telepathy amplifying devices are secretly being tested for our next generation of remote controlled planes, missiles, etc.


;-)

francisco.j.93 said...

"So telepathy amplifying devices are secretly being tested for our next generation of remote controlled planes, missiles, etc."

You mean that the devices that Russia developed are being used by the govt?
Where did you found that out?

" a prize is something you get after you win a race. Correct? You have to win before you get the prize. But the Randi Prize is not a prize at all - it's a challenge. And even if you win it, nobody is compelled to change their minds! You still haven't won the race (so to speak)." I was reading about dowsing and it showed how the applicants to the challenge got the all the answers right but they dismissed it as an accident. It is very annoying how do people fall on traps like those ones, and do not even stop and think for a moment that all this has been replicated and exists.
I am glad I did found this blog because it reinforces my beliefs and thanks for answering that Pikemann Urge!

MickyD said...

Dean,

A little off-topic; how did you find the Sages and Scientists conference? What were your highlights and what research did you present?
Thanks.
Michael.

francisco.j.93 said...

Guys you have to read this! :D
http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/01/spooky-quantum-action-at-distance-and-time-it-allow-us-to-send-messages-from-the-past-to-the-future.html


I wonder what else are they finding out now!

Neuroscientist Physicist said...

Hi Dr.Radin, I am really curious how did Dr.Chopras Sages and Scientist conference go. I am really interested to know what Theoretical Physicist Leonard Mlodinow and Neuroscientist VS Ramachandran had to say. I can't find any videos on Youtube yet.
And Francisco great article, thanks for sharing.
Love and Light.

Dean Radin said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the Sages and Scientists conference. We only got 20 minutes to speak, plus about 10 minutes for dialog, but all of the speakers were great, and as is often the case the schmoozing with new colleagues during breaks and meals was the best part.

One thing that Chopra is a real master of is the art of convening a constructive and open dialog among people with differing views.

E.g., one of the speakers was Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow, coauthor with Stephen Hawking of the book "The Grand Design," a mainstream look at modern cosmology. One might think that Mlodinow would be world's apart from the Eastern mystical view associated with Chopra, and I suppose in some ways they are. But they are also open-minded and willing to listen and learn. And as a result of their discussions (before this conference), they're co-authoring a new book.

This is the healthy form of skepticism, which I heartily endorse. What I can do without is snarky pseudoskepticism.

Neuroscientist Physicist said...

Amazing Dr.Radin, thanks, I hope we can see the video of the conference.

Tom said...

In spite of the declarative "Psychologists must change the way they analyze data " academia has far from settled core debates on the application and misapplication of Bayesian methods for a multiplicity of reasons extant in the literature.
A careful reading of ClarificationsForBemUttsJohnson.pdf shows the procedural drift necessary to find that "just right coarse grained path to the null hypothesis via parameterization. Inadvertently it also shows how a correctly parameterized distribution does not match the expectations of the authors (they found the effect size and avoided it).
Does it really matter ? The sarcasm and tone on display leave little doubt as to the the intent of the authors regarding the efforts of Bem et al. Interesting theatre , but in the end irrelevant to already robust replication.

Dean Radin said...

I agree with Tom. On the surface the Wagenmakers-Bem exchange is about methodology, but the real issue is a clash in ideology. The question that should be asked of all journal referees is: (a) Is science today more or less complete, or (b) are there radical, shockingly new discoveries waiting in the wings?

If the referee responds with (a), then there is no need to continue the discussion. Historically (a) is dead wrong, and it is likely to remain dead wrong for the foreseeable future. Thus that type of referee (which in my experience is the majority) is incapable of evaluating novel evidence.

The (a) type referee will typically respond with a comment like, "This cannot be true because it violates known scientific principles, and thus there must be methodological flaws, and even if there aren't flaws the strength of the evidence is not sufficiently persuasive."

If a review opens with this type of comment, the game is over. There is no chance of getting the paper published in that journal.

This is the state of affairs when it comes to psi effects, and it creates an insidious Catch 22: Evidence for psi doesn't penetrate into the mainstream scientific literature (with rare exceptions like the Bem paper), and thus scientists don't see it, and thus they imagine that it doesn't exist.

Breaking a Catch 22 requires both courage and imagination, which the editors of JPSP displayed in abundance and for which they deserve congratulations.

francisco.j.93 said...

I sometimes feel like the scientists that deny psi do not want parapsychology to make the discovery (which is already discovered) that something is beyond matter. maybe I am wrong but when I read responses like that it smells like dogmatism or envy that a new field has discovered more profound things than them. By the way, I have a question for you Mr. Dean. When do you think they are going to accept psi into the mainstream?
The other question is, if quantum physics says that matter is nothing but the product of the movement of waves, why do the dogmatics still stick to the idea of "only matter"?

Dean Radin said...

> > When do you think they are going to accept psi into the mainstream?

Maybe a few decades; maybe a few centuries. It depends on how science evolves. The farther science goes in discovering the nature of deep reality, the stranger it looks as compared to common sense. All it would take is one big worldwide catastrophe, and after one or two generations of no education what's left of civilization will quickly revert back to the middle ages, or to the world portrayed in "Mad Max." Then everyone would believe in psi again (but that wouldn't have anything to do with science!).

Without access to instruments and specialized knowledge, most of what is taken for granted in science today would seem completely insane to a person who only had common sense to rely on. This tension is still being played out today by those who view the nature of reality from a fundamentalist religious perspective. They don't know or care what scientific instruments or mathematics or empirical data say, so they are free to believe whatever they wish.

> if quantum physics says that matter is nothing but the product of the movement of waves, why do the dogmatics still stick to the idea of "only matter"?

For most practical purposes the world does consist of matter (or if you like, energy). Common sense tells us this, even if QM theory and experiments tell us that beyond common sense things get very strange, very quickly. The connection between the ontology hinted by QM and our grasp of the everyday world is still unresolved, so for most people it is just more reasonable to accept common sense. Thus materialism, mechanism, physicalism, and most of the related isms, are likely to stick around for a long time.

These doctrines have been powerful tools that have shaped the modern world, for good and for bad. The question now is whether civilization can survive long enough to mature to the point when it becomes self-evident that consciousness must be included in our models of reality.

anonymous said...

Hi Dean,


"Maybe a few decades; maybe a few centuries. It depends on how science evolves."



You don't mention parapsychology specifically. A breakthrough in parapsychology could be as influential as a breakthrough in physics. Are you pessimistic about the potential of a breakthrough in parapsychology?


In your comment, you go on to create a hypothetical situation about how people without modern science would believe in psi for unscientific reasons and say that people would not believe science without modern instruments to prove it.

How is science harder to believe without proof than the things religion has dreamed up?

What does this have to do with the question of why people don't believe in psi? It seems to me that you are just taking the opportunity to dump on ordinary people who aren't scientists.

Remember, it is ordinary people who have retained belief in psi because of their personal experiences of them in the face of scientific pseudo skepticism. It is the modern scientists who have been unscientific on this subject not the ordinary people. Science is not a licensed profession. Science is testing hypotheses. Many ordinary are better at this than trained scientists. Not just with respect to pseudo skepticism but there are claims of rampant fraud in medical research and I have seen parapsychologists themselves criticise the poor design of mainstream psychological experiments when trying to defend their own experiments in parapsychology.

So, I think your hypothetical is unapt and the conclusion you draw from it is wrong.

People cling to materialism for many reasons, I outline them on my web site and include links additional sources of information:
(scroll down to the bulleted list)

http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/skeptical_fallacies#skeptical_fallacies_honest_skeptics



The are many different reasons people cling to materialism:

Some scientist are defending their investment in their career and their personal contributions to science. They see psi as a threat to the importance of science. This is something you have pointed out. Some people hold a grudge against anything remotely supernatural because they have been harmed by overly dogmatic religous upbringing or because religion condmens their lifestyle choices. Some people suffering from depression engage in wishful thinking hoping that all suffering ends with extinction at death. Government agencies spread disinformation about psi to discourage our international adversaries from investigating the use of psi for spying and sabatoge. Some professional debunkers make a living debunking paranormal claims and any real paranormal phenomena would interfere with their livelihood.

Dean Radin said...

> Are you pessimistic about the potential of a breakthrough in parapsychology?

The potential is always there. E.g., if quantum biology continues to charge ahead, then there's a good chance that prevailing opinions will dramatically change in a favorable direction. But waiting for a breakthrough is like waiting for Godot, so I'm a cautious optimist.

> How is science harder to believe without proof than the things religion has dreamed up?

Because science is based on collective agreement of empirically demonstrable facts, and most of the really interesting facts of modern science require specialized tools and expertise to appreciate. Creating and maintaining (or enforcing in some cases) religious faith requires none of this.

> What does this have to do with the question of why people don't believe in psi? It seems to me that you are just taking the opportunity to dump on ordinary people who aren't scientists.

It's not ordinary folks who don't believe in psi. They believe because these experiences are part of their lives. It is mostly scientists (or students who are enthralled with scientism, or in the midst of existential angst, or angry about religion for one or another reason) who have developed a worldview in which psi cannot or should not exist.

> People cling to materialism for many reasons, I outline them on my web site ...

Yes, it's a good list.

francisco.j.93 said...

"Because science is based on collective agreement of empirically demonstrable facts, and most of the really interesting facts of modern science require specialized tools and expertise to appreciate. Creating and maintaining (or enforcing in some cases) religious faith requires none of this."

I agree with Dean. Let's say that I go to the bronze age and I try to prove people the existence of atoms. Normally they would laugh at me or try to behead me because they cannot see the atoms. In contrast, let's say instead of talking about atoms I tell them that rain means that the gods are crying because if not there would be no rain. They would obviously believe me, because the see the rain and because of the lack of proof they would have to know how rain happens.

"The potential is always there. E.g., if quantum biology continues to charge ahead, then there's a good chance that prevailing opinions will dramatically change in a favorable direction. But waiting for a breakthrough is like waiting for Godot, so I'm a cautious optimist."

Yes, we should be cautious optimists because we do not know for certain if they will take longer to discover more things, or if they are going to make the breakthrough.

By the way anonymous, I like the page you gave in your comment. There is some kind of debunkers cult that attempts to obscure other's beliefs and promote theirs. A real obstacle to progress...

Mark Szlazak said...

Tom,could you please clarify in plain language what you mean by:

1.A careful reading of ClarificationsForBemUttsJohnson.pdf shows the procedural drift necessary to find that "just right coarse grained path to the null hypothesis via parameterization.

2.Inadvertently it also shows how a correctly parameterized distribution does not match the expectations of the authors (they found the effect size and avoided it).

For 2. are you talking about Wagenmakers? He found and effect then did everything he could to avoid it in subsequent analysis? If so how?

Dean,

What did pre-science do to break away from the grip of thinking in organized religion hundreds of years ago and become science?

If science has turned into another irreparable cult then a new field of inquiry needs to form and break away from the authority of organized science.

My guess is that this new break away field will hundreds of years from now also become something to break away from.

The power that comes with these growing movements are hard to let go with a radical transformation. No one knows where they will end up.

Mark Szlazak said...

Can anyone elaborate on what Tom implied?

That Wagenmakers,et al, bent-over-backwards in their re-analysis of the Bem studies to avoid the pre-cognitive effect.

How was this achieve?

My understanding is that one can look back at any data set and come to opposite conclusions.

If so then what merit/liabilities does this approach have?

Tom said...

Mark,

http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2011/02/bem-et-al-reply-to-wagenmakers-et-al.html would be requisite reading to place your questions in the proper context. They are requiring permission for direct quotes from the rebuttal , but we can still address some fundamental issues:

1.First , for the scientific fundamentalist the publication of Bems work in JSPS is nothing less than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Core beliefs are being threatened. The contempt is not thinly veiled ; the the work is in fact ridiculed. The first shots fired have little to do with science and everything to do with ideology. One should immediately expect that (a priori) whatever follows will in all likelihood have nothing to do with science. Having revealed the values on my prior expectations I will now distribute my commentary in the way that will best frame those points. The necessary elements of the thread so far consist of the original Bem paper ,The Wagenmaker reply ,the remarkably restrained rebuttal by Bem ,Utts and Johnson, and finally the “Clarification” for Bem et al that finally resorts to heroic obfuscation and more sarcasm.
If you read all the elements of the thread your questions should have started with Wagenmakers:Why is it necessary to impose a completely different statistical framework before you can reinterpret the data in a way that gets you to the null ? Do the accepted standards and tests in use everywhere else not apply to this work ? Do Wagenmakers et al know something the rest of us do not ? Do they really mean that the entire field of psychology should just start over ? What about physics and neuroscience ? Is this one paper a threat of such magnitude that we should nuke the entire field from orbit -just to be sure ?
2. The technical question of Bayesian vs. Frequentist approaches all by itself evokes the Hatfields and McCoys - are they in fact equivalent or is one superior ? Introducing this element post hoc is a great way of obscuring the results of one method by introducing the uncertainties inherent in another. But you risk giving the game away - as Wagenmakers finally did ,by leaving out distributions that matter to the significance levels. Wagenmakers referred to this as only “seemingly ad hoc” in his “clarifications”. Considering the small distance between mere scientific malfeasance and outright scientific fraud being that same distance between “seemingly ad hoc” and blatantly post hoc analysis , they should have been more careful.

Mark Szlazak said...

Tom that was excellent!

The hoi polloi was waiting for a response. I thank you.

Form my POV, something didn't seem right with Wagenmakers responses. Especially when Hyman got involved then the red-flags really started coming up.

Maybe it's time to take the gloves off if there is a reply to "Round 3."

Helen said...

Tom - sorry but you seem to be our elected expert : ) What specifically do you mean by "leaving out distributions that matter to the significance"?

My (very) basic understanding is that Wagenmaker et al expect there to be a large effect if psi were true. So they have an expected distribution say tending around 80 percent, rather than the actual effect size which tends around 53 to 57 percent. Becuase the actual effect size is no-where near their expectation, the Baysean method calculates this as not significant? Is that right or completely wrong? There is also something in there about converting these distributions to probabilities, which makes the chance of getting chance higher than 50/50, and so reduces the difference between the null and the effect, but I don't really understand how that factors into the same result.

It would be really helpful if these things were more plainly explained, otherwise it makes me think that numbers are being used to give a fake impression of accuracy that just doesn't exist.

Furthermore, if replication is key to the scientific method, then surely replication using the same mathematical manipulation of data to compare results is the right thing to do? Bem says this and I think this is a trump argument for using accepted methods.

To my mind if a skeptic doesn't believe an effect is there no amount of maths will change that, they will always just blame it on the method, especially for small effect sizes. I still think the fact that Bem could increase the effect size in the predicted direction is the most stunning result!

P.S. Pikemann - thanks a lot for your response to my question, appreciated.

Tom said...

Helen ,

You are a brave soul. Part of the problem is that, depending on just how deep you want to go , we could begin with basic probability or the art of choosing the right statistical test, experimental design, Bayesian vs Frequentist...
If you begin with the stated opinions of Wagenmakers et al then doing experiments in this case isn't really necessary at all. If you want help doing calculations then things need to be a bit more specific in terms of your questions giving us a starting point. The answers regarding distributions have parameters that have to be correctly chosen based on the experiment and what you know or don't know about outcomes, subjects, trials and the like...
Your already getting the gist of the effect size issues but those things actually come into being further downstream from where the first flaws occur in the move to the Bayesian framework ...
If a student approaches, places a four hundred page textbook on the desk and asks you to just simplify it all for him/her...what a beautiful challenge that is ! I would probably choose to start with the toss of a fair coin...

Tom said...

...One other thing. The appellation of expertise is premature. I would reserve that for the guys putting it on the line and taking flak for decades while advancing the science and educating others.That kind of experience is extremely hard to come by . I'm just a grunt by comparison.

Mark Szlazak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Szlazak said...

Tom, saying "it's to complex" to easily explain does not build confidence in your case.

Many would like this series of exchanges explained using 5 cent words not 50 cent words with some easy to follow analogies. I'm assuming there is some core issues here that could be talked about in easy to understand terms.

Pretend you are in court as an "expert witness" which has to persuade the judge and jury that Wagenmakers has put a bogus spin on Bem's work to make it seem like nothing is there when there really is. In other words, a "hit piece."

Maybe others can help in this regard.

Tom said...

Mark et al,
Nowhere in any comment published anywhere in this thread is there a statement attributable to this author that states any question is "too complex to be easily explained" .There is no obligation whatsoever by anyone here to enter into a transaction whereby there is the implicit obligation to "make me understand" because the "me" feels no responsibilty whatsoever to think more deeply about the question "me" wants answered. That attitude ends the conversation.

Helen said...

Hi Tom many thanks for the response and sorry to take so long to say so. I shall read up on it some more when I get time!

I saw Wiseman speak on his book a few weeks ago and I asked about Bem's results. He acknowledged that it was serious research and said he had considered having a chapter in his book on the evidence for weak effects, but that he would have had to get into statistics. I think what he meant was that it would have been a complex and uninteresting chapter on why he thinks its the method not the data showing an effect. He was pretty honest actually, I thought it was a straight-up answer. He just doesn’t believe there is anything there to find.

However, I do think its absence does make the book rather unbalanced. For those who do have experiences that cannot so easily be explained away, its a bit of a turn-off from science if the only apparent explanation it has to offer is that they are suggestible and don’t understand science or its methods. I think this might just have the opposite of the intended effect.

John K. Kruschke said...

There are Bayesian ways to assess null values that do not involve hypothesis comparison and Bayes factors. Here's a post regarding Bayesian meta-analysis of data from 63 ESP experiments:
http://doingbayesiandataanalysis.blogspot.com/2011/08/extrasensory-perception-esp-bayesian.html
The post also includes discussion of the file drawer problem and the limits of statistical analysis.