Pseudoskepticism and evidence for precognition

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Magical Realist, May 17, 2011.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Skepticism typically has kind of a sliding scale. We are less sceptical of reports of things that we expect to be true than we are of reports that contradict what we already believe to be true. I think that's rational.

    What about reports of religious miracles?

    I have the impression that most scientists think that lab is a group of cranks.

    Sure, maybe they do have cool evidence of something that is going to turn our entire picture of reality on its head. That's occasionally happened in the history of science. When it does, it's often a very big deal.

    But for every time that it's happened, there have been a hundred times when claims of revolutionary findings fell apart when they were subjected to outside scrutiny.

    We can't have it both ways, we can't just credulously believe that scientists in their white coats are our new secular priests bringing us the saving truth about the transcendent (they're scientists! it's a Cornell lab!!), while simultaneously dismissing the great majority of scientists for their damnable skepticism and the whole history of science that doesn't appear to be consistent with the amazing new revelation.

    It might be a scientific revolution, but it's more likely to simply be false. That's my opinion at this point. So I don't believe it, but I'm willing to wait and see what else develops. If people at Cornell start cornering the market on lotteries, horse races and the stock market, if people from DARPA and the CIA start flocking into Ithaca, then I'll start to listen up more attentively.
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    A recent and more critical analysis of Bem's work still improves the odds, but only slightly (below). Of course, depending on whether you favor or disfavor something, with or without industrial and socio-political motivations, you can always keep looking for different approaches to employ that might shift interpretation of research data one way or the other.

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    "According to Rouder and Morey, in order to accurately assess the total evidence in Bem's data, it is necessary to combine the evidence across several of his experiments, not look at each one in isolation, which is what researchers have done up till now. They find there is some evidence for ESP – people should update their beliefs by a factor of 40."
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Good Lord I had no idea of all your responses. Apparently the e-mail response notifier is not as reliable as I thought. Anyway, I'm here now and will catch up on your posts tonight. (It's Friday and alas I am without a date again..

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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


    Is it really though? I mean, sure all phenomena must be approached with the attitude that we just don't KNOW if it is genuine or not. But if you approach it with the assumption that it isn't real at all then haven't you already biased your results towards disproof?

    It's the difference in what I call an "agnostic" skepticism and an "atheist" skepticism. For the agnostic skeptic the phenomena could be just as real as it could be fake or illusory. The conclusion is thus not forgone and the experiments and investigations can be conducted open-mindedly towards either possibility. For the atheistic skeptic however there is a sort of presumption of "guilt" based on the belief that the phenomena simply cannot happen at all. IOW, SOMEbody's either lying or delusional or erring in their reports about the phenomena. That doesn't seem to me to be very objective.

    At best empirical investigation and experimentation should resolve our epistemic ambiguity (either positively or negatively). But at worst it in fact can often be used to prop up certain ontic presuppositions about the nature of reality (ie. results and data are skewed to support a certain metaphysical belief system.) We wouldn't allow such a prejudice in a crime investigation (that the evidence gathered must be contaminated or circumstantial because we believe a certain suspect couldn't have done it.). We shouldn't allow it in scientific investigation either imo.
  8. nicholas1M7 Banned Banned

    The human mind can easily predict the future which is what we call genius not psychic reading (piece of garbage) thus rendering any ounce of free will obsolete.
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


    I agree. Also, science tends to operate within an already preexisting paradigm or theoretical construct about reality. So already what is to be counted as a phenomena worthy of empirical investigation is predecided, usually on a purely peer-enforced basis, as what is explainable in terms of the consensual paradigm. Anomolous phenomenon for example--the very events science SHOULD be paying attention to and which have historically driven the process of theory-construction itself--tend to get marginalized if not outrightly denied by mere social consensus. At this point science has become more about supporting it's own underlying metaphysical model of reality (which is reductionistically physicalist in nature) instead of about the pure encounter with unexplained and currently unexplainable phenomena. Science then becomes more the knee-jerk defense of an inculcated orthodoxy than about the discovery of new unknowns and the creative construction of more accurate and comprehensive theories.
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


    Why expect anything though? Isn't it more scientific to put our personal expectations and beliefs aside and go strictly by the evidence. You thus are less likely to make subjective value judgements about people's mental states who provide the reports or the accuracy of the data or the appropriateness of investigating the phenomena in the first place.

    What about them? If people are reporting healings in cultures all over the world shouldn't science at least give such phenomena the time of day? The psychosomatic effects of mass delusion would afterall be as interesting a phenomena as a truly supernatural occurrance would it? In any case, nothing can be said about it either way UNTIL it get's looked into.

    I wasn't aware of Cornell University Labs being some cult of new age wackjobs. Given the overwhelming amount of prejudice against any research even hinting at a non-physicalist metaphysics, it doesn't surprise me though.

    Indeed! One thinks of the anomolous phenomena of black body radiation that triggered the birth of quantum theory.

    Well, it's not exactly as if precognition fell into our lap out of the blue just yesterday. Our civilization is steeped in tales and anecdotes regarding people seeing and being affected by future events. From the Delphi Oracle, thru the prophets of the Bible, and on up to Nostradamus and modern day psychic detectives, everyone knows what precognition is and can probably tell you about someone they know having experienced such a thing. So science, in it's now almost obsessive quest for the God particle at CERN, has certainly had plenty of time to at least acknowledge the phenomenon of precognition. That it continues to dismiss it as pure bunk only displays the social stigma and taboo that has been placed on it by fiat of peer consensus and nothing more. Nobody wants to rock the boat afterall. But would precognition as field of research even really do THAT? Based on current experiments in quantum retrocausality and non-locality, I have my doubts.

    No matter how many times you HAVEN'T proven a phenomena to exist, you haven't really proven the phenomena doesn't exist. I don't even think that's possible. Perhaps unknown conditions were missing or there was an observer bias against subtil patterns in the data. Perhaps there is a too ready reduction of anomolous events to human misperception and error. Ghost hunters do this all the time, and it irritates the hell outta me. They "debunk" firsthand reports of voices in a haunted building by observing that passing street people COULD account for that. In fact no such causal connection has been established at all. It's more or less a conclusion biased towards believing that the witnesses delusionally and routinely mistake street voices for voices in the building. I personally am not so ready to make that assumption. I think most people can tell the difference and might even check the street before concluding the voices to be paranormal in nature.

    For many the idea of paranormal phenomena is invalid more because it is personally "revolting" than that it's scientifically "revolutionary". And perhaps for dogmatic metaphysicians posing as smug white-coated empiricists there is really no distinction between these objections at all..

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  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


    Most the complaints thus far seem to have done precisely that--focused on one study in isolation from all the others and particularly on the 53% success rate. "53%! Why I do THAT well on the slot machines occassionally!" I'm pretty sure these scoffers are untrained in statistical evaluations of scientific data. While 53% sounds insignificant to laymen, it in fact is about the rate that other experiments on the bad health effects of various chemicals and drinks are taken as good evidence. So that fact, taken with the evidence of the other 8 experiments, definitely says these results merit serious consideration and future attempts at replication.

    I found these observations interesting:

    "It's craziness, pure craziness. I can't believe a major journal is allowing this work in," Ray Hyman, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University Oregon and longtime critic of ESP research, said. "I think it's just an embarrassment for the entire field."

    Hyman is right but for the wrong reasons, for self-serving reasons, which makes him wrong.** And the NYT assertion that this "accentuates fundamental flaws in the peer review of research in the social sciences" is also wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    There's a subtlety to the experiments that is indeed explicit in the articles but is easily overlooked, so I'll quote from the study:

    From the participants' point of view, this procedure appears to test for clairvoyance. That is, they were told that a picture was hidden behind one of the curtains and their challenge was to guess correctly which curtain concealed the picture. In fact, however, neither the picture itself nor its left/right position was determined until after the participant recorded his or her guess, making the procedure a test of detecting a future event, that is, a test of precognition.*

    This is the part that's important.* If it was a study of clairvoyance, well, could there be a possible physical explanation?* Perhaps.* But time travel?

    Which is why anyone who says this study* "doesn't belong in a scientific journal" is wrong.* It doesn't belong in a psychology journal: this is an experiment about the laws of physics, not the laws of psychology.*

    And so to say that* it is a failure of peer review-- like they did with Wakefield--* also misses the point. * Bem's peers are in absolutely no position to review this.* This study is better reviewed by physicists.* Bem himself makes an explicit case for quantum entanglement!* So notwithstanding my own rants about peer review,

    "Four reviewers made comments on the manuscript," [said the journal's editor] "and these are very trusted people."
    Trusted though they may be, they are not experts in the field being studied.*
    All four decided that the paper met the journal's editorial standards, [the editor] added, even though "there was no mechanism by which we could understand the results."

    Exactly.* So you should have sent it to the physicists.* You know, the ones who work a building over in the same university that you do.* That was the whole reason for universities, right?*

    No, I'm a dummy.* The purpose of universities is to suck up Stafford loan money.* And the purpose of journals is to mark territory, more money in that, like a corporation that spins off a subsidiary.* NO CROSS SCIENTIFIC DISCUSSION ALLOWED IN SCIENCE, EVER, EXCEPT IN SCIENCE, NATURE, AND THE POPULAR PRESS."====
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    A fascinating article summarizing various experiments and theories supporting the phenomenon of "retrocausality" in which future events can affect and even change past events. Now be open-minded and totally IGNORE the new-agey name of the conference where this paper was presented. lol!

    RealityShifters | Retrocausal RealityShifting
  13. rakovsky Registered Member

    I think Pseudoskepticism is real. What happens is that there are people who are convinced of a certain viewpoint and they call themselves skeptics, even if the topic at hand is the mainstream viewpoint.

    Example 1:
    Science proves the world is a round globe. You definitely don't believe the earth is flat. Therefore, you cannot be called a skeptic, really. You are a believer in the world's roundness, and a disbeliever in the world's flatness. You are not a mere skeptic either way.

    Example 2: You are convinced that ball lightning is a silly nonsense hoax. You call yourself a "skeptic" but in reality you will deny to the hilt any evidence however reasonable that ball lightning exists.

    A true skeptic is an open minded person who nonetheless has major doubts.
  14. rakovsky Registered Member

    To answer the OP:
    Sure, it can be scientific to be skeptical of a phenomena just because I don't believe it's possible. I don't believe that it's possible for the earth to be flat, and so I am skeptical about claims that is, and not just that but I am a disbeliever in flat earth theories. I am also scientific because I test the claims against the evidence.

    Therefore, it is not more or less scientific to accept the possibility of it when there is evidence of a flat earth. To be scientific just means you are using scientific methods, following academic standards, etc.

    I do think that there is better evidence for precognition though than flat earth theory. I like how you got into the issue and I invite you to my thread:
  15. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    That is not what being a skeptic is about. It is not black or white.
    In science everyone is a skeptic. That simply means you do not accept something without evidence to back it up.
    That's it. If you deny evidence you are not a skeptic, if you believe something with no evidence you are not a skeptic.
    In your example of ball lightening I am skeptical that it is real. Does that mean that I am ignoring the evidence? No it simply means that for me the evidence has not been persuasive enough to convince me. I am much less skeptical than I use to be on this precisely becasue of the evidence - I am just not completely convinced. There very well may be evidence that I am not aware of that would push me to accept it as real
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  16. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    I have had precognitions that were very accurate.
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  17. rakovsky Registered Member

    For me, I am skeptical that the earth is flat, and not just skeptical, I reject this belief, and I don't believe evidence saying it is. I would be extremely skeptical of any evidence coming out that it is flat.
    There are very many Skepticism-Believing "Skeptics" who treat a very wide range of supernatural or paranormal phenomena, ranging from:
    • God's existence to Flat Earth (garbage) Theory to UFOs to precognition to healing miracles to alternate theories about the Guy Fawkes incident
    with the same "Skepticism" that I use for flat earth theories.

    This is "PseudoSkepticism". You tell them about some paranormal or unofficial theory and they say that they are "Skeptical" about it, and in real life they are Denialists. It's just that the evidence has not been so pervasive, generally accepted and totally obvious to overcome their [Pseudo-]"Skepticism".
  18. rakovsky Registered Member

    Feel free to tell us about this.
  19. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    It's wise

    If you're going to investigate the phenomena you can upgrade being wise to being scientific


    If REAL evidence is obtained

    it is now longer a possibility

    or a phenomena

    Think your incorrect on that

    Think most scientist are feed up with trying to debunk stuff which has been overly debunked

    But along comes a new New Age Newbie with training wheels still attached to their brain who has read this mystical tome from the 17th Century, bought a few crystals, sat in a circle of candles and has figured out the problems of the Universe CERN has spent years on and is only just beginning to understand

    Can't prove negatives

    Cannot be done

    What can be done is to show tobacco is addictive

    Now a slightly different set of rules

    You can show with some clarity a product does not pose a problem under a particular set of circumstances ie proves a positive for particular set of circumstances

    If you want to go down the YaBut path you better have deep pockets

    What about the evidence of the miracles?

    From what I have read and heard the bar is almost on the ground for evidence for the granting of sainthood on the basis of miracles


    But with woo the evidence never turns up

    The truth is out there but it hides itself bloody good

    Science has and is feed up doing so


    Has been

    Bit of redundancy there

    Sagan - Open minded but not to the extent your brains fall out







    Oops sorry I didn't realise the on button was on

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  20. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    You are free to believe what ever you want, not much to discuss about this I guess.
  21. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    What exactly would constitute evidence of precognition? If you figure out what's going to happen before it happens, that isn't precognition.
  22. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    "especially" is not an exclusionary word
  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I suddenly thought of Shakespeare while driving my car. 5 seconds later the radio show on NPR talks about Shakespeare. I was looking up a word once and the TV mentions an obscure city on some island country. At the same moment, my eyes fall on that same city in the dictionary. I suddenly thought of the word "gravy train" one night. 5 minutes later the cartoon Oblongs I was watching was talking about the "gravy train." This is not coincidence.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017

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