Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Biased and blinkered mentality

In a recent article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, physicist Stanley Jeffers (Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University) reviews the results of the PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) Laboratory research with random number generators (RNGs). His opinion is that PEAR's claims that intention influences randomness is not supported. He concludes: "Despite the best efforts of the PEAR group over a twenty-five-year period, their impact on mainstream science has been negligible. The PEAR group might argue that this is due to the biased and blinkered mentality of mainstream scientists. I would argue that it is due to the lack of compelling evidence."

We are all entitled to our opinions. But when it comes to evaluating evidence, one would think it more than a mild oversight to fail to mention that literally hundreds of similar RNG experiments have been published by other researchers, and many of those studies were reportedly successful (and discussed recently in a meta-analysis and two commentaries published in Psychological Bulletin).

Failing to mention that the PEAR work is part of a larger body of studies is one thing, but Jeffers also forgot to mention that he participated in an RNG experiment he helped to design that was supposedly (and arguably) better than the PEAR design, and that it successfully supported the PEAR claim! (That paper can be accessed here.)

A case of "biased and blinkered mentality"? Or a case of preaching to the converted (since Jeffer's article appeared in the confirmed debunker's bible).