Showing posts from 2010

My comments on Alcock's comments on Bem's precognition article

The Skeptical Inquirer (online version) has published a commentary on Daryl Bem's precognition research, written by dedicated skeptic James Alcock. The same story has also bubbled up to the attention of the mainstream media, including the New York Times and NPR . Some of the op-eds border on the hysterical. Others are more rational. An example of the hysterical type includes Alcock's article. I will not address his critique of Bem's procedure (Bem does that calmly and effectively, hurting Alcock's feelings in the process), but I will comment on his preamble, which I reproduce here in indented blue text. Parapsychology has long struggled unsuccessfully for acceptance in the halls of science. Could this article be the breakthrough? After all, it apparently provides evidence compelling enough to persuade the editors of that APA journal of its worthiness. However, this is hardly the first time that there has been media excitement about new "scientific" ev

Survival of the Godliest

Image source: here I don't often cite articles, especially ones that are about religion, but this one I find fascinating. For those of us who pay attention to future possibilities, this could be a harbinger of a coming sea-change in the centuries-long tensions between science and religion. And in this scenario science doesn't win. This blog article caught my eye because if we were living in a rational world one might imagine that support for the scientific study of unusual human experiences, including psi and mystical epiphanies, would be strongest among secular humanists, whose faith is in science (sort of). Unfortunately this is not the case, at least not among those who most vigorously wave the banner of secular humanism and proudly call themselves as "skeptics." They tend to view parapsychology as an illegitimate use of science to support religious beliefs. This is not true and never has been. But that's what they believe. Religious people, by contrast, see

Wiseman - Bem exchange on "Feeling the Future"

Skeptical psychologist Richard Wiseman posted a critique of Daryl Bem's article, "Feeling the Future," which I've mentioned before on this blog . I won't repeat Wiseman's critique here, but the upshot of it is that in two of the experiments the investigator had the opportunity to correct subjects' misspellings of recalled words, and that, according to Wiseman, "This procedure presented an opportunity for subjective bias [by the experimenter] to enter the scoring system...." This is a valid critique. Blind judging is preferred to avoid the possibility of such bias, and readers of the journal article would not have any way of judging whether the proposed biases actually occurred. Bem provided this response to Wiseman (slightly edited by me for clarity): This is a response to Richard (Wiseman’s) concern about the ability of the experimenter to correct misspelled words while being able to observe which corrections will help the psi hypothesis (

Recent interviews

At this page you'll find a series of recorded interviews on the Essentials of Noetic Sciences, including episodes where I interview Daryl Bem about his new retrocausal experiments, Bruce Greyson on NDEs, and Rupert Sheldrake on his latest research.

I'm a skeptic video

By Dan Drasin

Extrasensory Perception and Quantum Models of Cognition

By Patrizio E. Tressoldi, Lance Storm, & Dean Radin. The possibility that information can be acquired at a distance without the use of the ordinary senses, that is by “extrasensory perception” (ESP), is not easily accommodated by conventional neuroscientific assumptions or by traditional theories underlying our understanding of perception and cognition. The lack of theoretical support has marginalized the study of ESP, but experiments investigating these phenomena have been conducted since the mid‐19th century, and the empirical database has been slowly accumulating. Today, using modern experimental methods and meta‐analytical techniques, a persuasive case can be made that, neuroscience assumptions notwithstanding, ESP does exist. We justify this conclusion through discussion of one class of homogeneous experiments reported in 108 publications and conducted from 1974 through 2008 by laboratories around the world. Subsets of these data have been subjected to six meta‐analyses,

Retrocausation in Psychology Today

This article in Psychology Today reports on Daryl Bem's new experiment on retrocausal effects (available on his website ), in press in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. There are a few gaffs in the PT article, but overall it's quite positive.

Ganzfeld telepathy example 3

Another ganzfeld telepathy example with Gail and Tom. In this one Tom is the receiver. Here is the transcript of what Ray said during the 10 minute sending period: - - - See a dark background. Colorful images. Very still. I feel outside. Air. Natural elements. Very, very clear, like sky. Something soft and football shaped. Orange-y, orange-y, light orange shape. I hear children. Maybe feathers, did I see feathers? Still see the dark background. Oval shape, oval shape. Images. Images on a background. Images on a dark background. Orange. Orange-y color. Air. Elements. Outdoors. - - - Can you guess the target that Gail was sending? When Tom viewed the four images he immediately selected the correct target with high confidence. What this shows is that the words that Tom chose to describe his mental impressions were accurate, but they didn't quite capture his actual experience. That experience allowed him to, as he put it, "bet money" that his selection was corr

Ganzfeld telepathy example 2

This ganzfeld telepathy test was conducted with Gail and her friend Ray, on September 27th. This is the target pool. One of these images was being sent by Ray, from a distance. Neither Ray nor Gail knew anything in advance about the composition of the pool, and Ray selected one of these four pictures randomly with a tossed die. What follows is the transcript of Gail's spoken impressions during the sending period, which lasted about 10 minutes: - - - I see an image of Ray when he jumped off the waterfall in Hawaii. Green. Swaying. I feel like I'm swaying. Palm Trees. Motion. I keep feeling like a lot of motion. Something solid and rectangular. Alive. Kinda...Jungle-y. Now my image changed to sort of like a port, but I feel like it's an analytical overlay. We were just talking about shipping so I'm not sure, all of a sudden I felt like I was at a port, or a busy place or... Somewhere that felt like by, with water and industry. Hot. Ray?! [At this point Gail felt tha

Ganzfeld telepathy example

Here's an example of data collected in a ganzfeld telepathy test session. This was conducted in our lab on September 10, 2010. My friend Gail was the receiver in this test; her friend Tom was the sender. This is Gail being prepped for exposure to the ganzfeld condition. While Gail was going through a relaxation exercise, I led Tom to a distant location a floor above the lab and on the other side of the building. Once there, I gave him four opaque black envelopes, each of which had been prepared with a color photo inside, and then the four envelopes were thoroughly shuffled. Of course, neither Tom or Gail had any idea what those images might be. I gave Tom a die and asked him to toss it to get a random number 1 through 4. He did, and the photo inside that envelope became his target. Tom then examined the photo and attempted to send it to Gail. Here is what Gail said during the 20 minute sending period, while under the Ganzfeld stimulation and listening to white noise played over h

Told you so

"A series of quantum experiments shows that measurements performed in the future can influence the present." Read the article in Discover magazine . Those of us conducting and publishing experiments in presentiment and precognition have been empirically demonstrating varieties of retrocausation for decades. I look forward to the day when prejudices decline to the point that we don't have to wait for a few physicists to seriously entertain a topic before popular science editors feel comfortable enough to report on well established empirical effects.

Feeling the future

Daryl Bem's article, "Feeling the future," is now in press in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, an American Psychological Association high impact journal . You can download a preprint of the article from here . Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect Daryl J. Bem Cornell University The term psi denotes anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. Two variants of psi are precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition (affective apprehension) of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process. Precognition and premonition are themselves special cases of a more general phenomenon: the anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual’s current responses, whether those responses are conscious or nonconscious, cognitive or affect

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.

How to win a million dollars

Let's say we want to win a million dollar prize for rigorously demonstrating something psychic in a scientifically acceptable way. One of the best candidates at present is the ganzfeld telepathy experiment . In this study two people are isolated, one is given the job of the "sender," the other the "receiver." The receiver is placed into a mild, unpatterned sensory stimulation condition called the ganzfeld, which produces a dream-like, hypnagogic state. In this state the receiver is asked to verbally report any impressions which come to mind. Meanwhile the sender is shown a randomly selected target image or video clip, and asked to mentally send that material to the receiver. After a half-hour of sending, the receiver is taken out of the ganzfeld and asked to select one of four images based on his or her impressions. One of those images is the target, along with three decoys. By chance, the receiver will choose the actual target one in four times, or a 25% chance

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? 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

Flash Mob Opera

This is not directly related to my interests in extended human capacities, but having been a concert violinist for many years I always appreciate new ways to popularize the experience of the classics (from La Traviata in this case to e.g., Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). This video is one of the most delightful ways of popularizing classic opera that I've seen.

Maybe the check is in the mail?

The Wikipedia entry on Masaru Emoto is a good example of why no one should trust an encyclopedia written by anonymous amateurs. I know it is possible, at least in principle, to edit Wikipedia pages to make corrections. But it is also possible for pranksters to change information on any page just for fun. And I know teenagers who regularly do this to confuse their classmates. The case in point was brought to my attention by a friend. I will correct the entry here. I've tried making corrections to Wikipedia in the past, and I'm not willing to go through that waste of time again. I'll italicize the Wikipedia entries: In 2003, [the magician] James Randi publicly offered Emoto one million dollars if his results can be reproduced in a double-blind study. I was coauthor on such a study, which was co-sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences and published in 2006. You can find it here on PubMed. As far as I know Emoto hasn't received the one million dollar check. I know

Getting comfortable with stupidity

This is an excellent article describing why in science it is important to feel comfortable with one's stupidity (more like ignorance than stupidity ) . Non-scientists may not realize that most of the time in scientific research, especially research at the edge of the known -- which is where all the excitement is -- that we really don't know what we're doing. Those few things we think we do understand are taught in elementary college textbooks. Students who do well in school, meaning those who get all the right answers on tests based on those textbooks, come to believe that they fully grok the nature of reality. But what they are grokking is what we thought we knew 10 or 20 years ago, and oftentimes textbooks are behind the curve of knowledge the moment they are published. Professors can't admit this, of course, because then students can argue that the tests aren't fair. So academia glosses over the fact that getting comfortable with stupidity is an extremely importa