Thursday, January 24, 2013

Talk on Paranormal Phenomena

Talk on the paranormal by Prof. Simon Thorpe on January 15, 2013.  Thorpe is the CNRS (French National Research Center) Director of Research for the Brain and Cognition Research Center at the University of Toulouse, France. The material he discusses will not be particularly new for most readers of this blog, but he does an excellent job summarizing some of the psi data.

10 comments:

Anthony Mugan said...

Interesting.
Would you have a view on if the general approach to psi research varies between countries / cultures or if this should be seen purely as a personal view?
I am aware that France seems to have historically taken a rather more objective view on some other matters, not relevant here, than most of the English speaking world, but I'm not well up enough on this field yet to know if the same thing applies for psi research or if this is purely a personal view by the highly respected presenter.

Pikemann Urge said...

Thank you for this. It's a great summary which is accessible to anyone - fence-sitters, the curious and even skeptics (who can relax as they don't have to buy books from alleged 'kooks' or 'woo-meisters').

So he mentioned Bayesian analysis - that's something which I have more fully understood recently. That's quite an achievement as my mathematical knowledge probably wouldn't pass a final year high school test. But anyway, I have not been able to see the values that various people have used to get their result. This includes experimenters as well as skeptics.

Some skeptics claim that despite being "very generous" with priors, their results have been negative. I call BS on that. But still, I suppose there is a legitimate problem. Here is how I see it:

Parapsychologists claim that psi is inherent in most persons, just as most persons can walk, see, touch, run, walk etc. If you asked me to pitch a baseball, I would perform well below the threshold of what makes a major league player. But I still can pitch. So this human ability really isn't new, it has always been there. (Just as the ability to pitch a baseball existed before baseball was invented.)

Skeptics, if I am understanding correctly, are seeing the problem as novel: like television, radioactivity, photography or space flight. So from this angle, of course the prior probability is going to be low. (This reminds me of an alleged report by British visitors to the West Indies, who told the locals about how water could get so hard that you could walk on it. The locals did not believe it at first.)

As for extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence (which Bayes' Theorem is built for), the extraordinary evidence is the experimental results themselves. Even though psi is not supposed to be extraordinary if it has always existed.

Let me repeat: I do not see psi as extraordinary. But even if it were, the evidence is extraordinary in proportion to the claim.

Some folks might think that you can't establish a prior value with confidence, because we can't apparently know whether psi is 'ordinary' until we've proven it, and we can't prove it until we determine whether or not it's 'ordinary'! I don't think such a circular argument is more than superficial, but I can sympathise with those who do think so.

MickyD said...

Dean, what significance do you give this? We have a highly respected and influential scientist from an established French neuroscience institution giving a positive overview of psi research. I found it eye-opening....

Dean Radin said...

Countries do differ in how the public and how academics react to psi research. As I understand it, France has not been particularly open, so this talk was surprising from that perspective. But on the other hand, in my experience much of the resistance is due to an assumption that there's no valid data at all, or that all of the empirical psi studies are naive or faulty, or that the only research is in the form of TV-style ghostbusting. So on the rare occasion when scientists who held such assumptions encounter the real stuff, most become intrigued.

Kusanagi said...

this is quite a strange talk. i'm french and if i can reveal you something on my people's frame of mind, Descartes did huge damages to their capacity of accepting what is new and beyond our current science establishment. Quantum physic is still mostly seen as science fiction, it's really demonstrative about the lack of curiosity and independance of thinking. Hence it is really disturbing to see a CNRS researcher to admit the possibility of such phenomenons.

Dean Radin said...

Then this is a good sign. The world in general, and perhaps France in particular, could benefit from greater openness and tolerance for different ways of viewing reality.

Kusanagi said...

i really hope you are right. rugged rationalism didn't have such a good influence on my people's moral and frame of mind, that is for sure.

Kusanagi said...

As i rode several press evocation of IMI i tend to say that those idea are apparently in progression. it will takes some time to settle for real though.

Kusanagi said...

oh, and i just saw your intervention in stefan allix's documentary.

Zen Shaman said...

you are one interesting cat.