Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spelling Bees, Violin Teachers, and ESP

When I was in the seventh grade, I won the District Spelling Bee. The defending champion, somewhat to my surprise, went out when there were six people left, stomped off the stage, and went crying to his mother. After winning the Bee (and qualifying for the state finals), I was asked to provide a picture for the newspaper. As it happened, my violin teacher had a Polaroid camera, and my parents and I knew this, so we visited him. He told me that he had been thinking about my spelling bee, and at one point had an awareness that my rival had gone down, and that he was very upset about it. He had this awareness at about the time when my rival went down. He said that he had sometimes had episodes of clairvoyance.


It wasn't something that he said came from God. It's not something that supports my religious beliefs, especially. But I have often thought back to this incident. How did he know? Should you be skeptical of my report now, since this doesn't seem to be something that happens in the ordinary course of nature?

56 comments:

Mr Veale said...

I accept your report - but I don't believe your teacher (-:

Alex Dalton said...

When I was in school in Philadelphia, there was a student who everyone said was psychic. He would do readings at parties. I watched him from a distance one time but didn't know him and didn't really care.

I had some people over to my apartment one night several months later and he was a friend of one of my friends and tagged along. His name was Jose, his whole family practiced Santeria, and he told us how his younger sister was considered a high priestess at the age of 14 and their whole church considered her to have one of the strongest psychic gifts of anyone who had ever been part of their community.

He offered to do readings and people took him up on it. What he needed from us was some sort of gift - a token of appreciation (which could be money or anything), that he would then take home and put in some sort of statue that he had that represented the "god" that gave him his psychic ability. Some people gave him dollar bills or lighters, etc.

Then he took out a deck of cards and made piles of different cards (no particular suit order, etc.). He designated the piles - "this is your emotional life", "this is your financial life", "this is your spiritual life", etc.

And as he would do readings he would point to that pile, and talk about that aspect of the person's life. I wasn't going to do a reading, until he got to my roommate (who had also never met him before). In doing my roommate's reading (who was more like a brother - a lifelong friend), I was first shocked by how much insight he seemed to have into his personality and feelings. But then I heard what were, to my mind, *unmistakable* references to some personal issues I had recently had with my friend.

I let him do my reading and I was convinced then, and still am convinced, that this person could at least read my mind in some way. He knew personal things about me that I had told no one - very specific things about possessions that I had that I hid from others, and plans I had (that were actually quite embarrassing) and had not shared.

He seemed to be tuned in to everything I thought about myself, and what my future would be like. He was actually wrong about my plans though - because he told me that I would go on to complete them, and I never did. But how he knew what I was going to do in the first place - that really blew my mind. That is probably my most poignant paranormal experience.

Mr Veale said...

I don't think that Dr Reppert was claiming that he had evidence of ESP...he's just asking if we should believe that he knew someone who made odd predictions. And it's a good point.

On clairvoyance...every year I do readings of my 11-16 year old classes. With a little trickery, and a lot of knowledge of teens gained through experience, I can put on a performance that convinces them that I am psychic.

For example, I was able to describe one boys fantasy woman - who was not "hot" but feminine and maternal - to his great embarrassment. He had never spoken of this to anyone in his life.

And they are always devastated to learn how the tricks are performed, and that I'm not psychic.

Professionals could do a much better job with a wider age group.

So I would be wary.

Graham

JS Allen said...

I'm sure it took a lot of courage for him to tell you about his experience. Despite the fact that people have been having similar experiences for thousands of years, you're strongly discouraged from telling people when it happens to you.

On a lighter note, I had my first lucid dreams around age 6. I didn't know what they were called, and never had anyone tell me about them, but I assumed they were normal (since they happened to me). Once, while standing in line at school, I was having a conversation with a friend about dreams. I casually mentioned something like, "When that happened to me in my dream, I realized I was dreaming, and changed the dream."

My friend was at first incredulous, and then angry. He couldn't believe that I could actually control a dream, and became increasingly agitated and started punching my arm -- he told me he would bloody my nose if I didn't stop lying to him. So I shut up, very upset. Later, I learned that lucid dreams are pretty common. But at *that* moment, I learned that you should never talk about an experience like that with someone unless that person has experienced it for himself. To certain people who don't have lucid dreams, lucid dreams simply don't exist, and you'd just as well talk about leprechauns as lucid dreams with those folks.

JJ said...

I was a little surprised recently to see an interview with Sam Harris where he responded positively to a question about Dean Radin, a scientist whose research delves into the "taboo" subject of ESP (Well, "positively" is a stretch. I should say, rather, that Harris didn't dismiss it all out of hand with a condescending guffaw. From Harris, that's positive).

Anyway, I looked into Radin, and he says some interesting things re: ESP, claiming that there is good scientific evidence for it. It's al least worth a listen to an open mind.

Ilíon said...

"It wasn't something that he said came from God. It's not something that supports my religious beliefs, especially. But I have often thought back to this incident. How did he know? Should you be skeptical of my report now, since this doesn't seem to be something that happens in the ordinary course of nature?"

a "ghost" story

Anonymous said...

It's called hindsight bias. Look it up. For someone who is supposedly an expert in thinking (a philosopher), knowing the first thing about cognitive errors might be a good start...

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

Here's my personal contribution to unexplainable occurrences. A couple of years ago, my wife and I stopped at a gas station on the way to work (we carpooled together), and while filling up, I heard my daughter's voice as clear as a bell (like she was standing right next to me), saying "I want my cat". It was so uncanny, that I insisted we return home before continuing on to work (we were only a little over a mile from home). When we got there, we found our daughter in tears in the front yard, saying that our cat Pete had dashed out of the front door as she was going out to her car (he was an indoor cat), and had disappeared.

I've never been able to satisfactorily explain that. Pete's running out of the house happened several minutes after we had left. (We eventually found the cat, by the way!)

Victor Reppert said...

I didn't know the term, hindsight bias, but I had thought of it--I would have called in the Nostradamus effect, where, of course, we find a quatrain in Nostradamus that fits the 9/11 attacks on 9/12. But it would have been nice to have that information on 9/10.

Still, I don't know if that's sufficient to explain what happened.

Blue Devil Knight said...

To evaluate such things, we'd need to determine how often he was thinking about events that never happened (false positives), the antecedent probability of a hit (i.e., it isn't all that unlikely for the kid that loses to be really upset), the likelihood that he would have been thinking about you at an important spelling bee, etc..

Easier to do controlled experimental studies than work through all the permuatations to cross-check anecdotes.

Victor Reppert said...

I've never seen any kid be so demonstrative after losing, and I was in plenty of them in grade school. But, it's no fun going down, that's for sure.

Relatively little is at stake here for me. But I have always been puzzled by it.

Brenda said...

"How did he know?"

He didn't know. He guessed and mistook his guess for knowledge.

There are no people with psychic abilities. People who claim to be psychic are either deliberate frauds or deluded.

"You will meet a tall dark stranger"

I'm psychic!

JS Allen said...

@Ilion - How does your reported experience refute naturalism? It seems to me that premonitions are easiest to explain in a materialistic, deterministic world. They are significantly harder to explain in a world with libertarian free will. What am I missing?

@Brenda - You seem emotionally attached to your belief that all reports of premonitions are fraudulent. I find this common reaction of "skeptics" to be quite interesting. It's like the "fraud of the gaps" explanation. Out of curiosity, do you believe in lucid dreams?

natamllc said...

Just to add some levity to the comments above, I will tell you something.

When my wife and I brought our firstborn son to Church for the very first time, we were asked to stand and show him off. I was asked to make a comment or two.

I said of my son that we were grateful to the Lord for his presence with us and that the Lord had gifted him with ESP, he Eats, Sleeps and Poo pooes!

Whether or not that is a gift of clairvoyance, you be the judge. :)

Brenda said...

JS Allen
"@Brenda - You seem emotionally attached to your belief that all reports of premonitions are fraudulent. I find this common reaction of "skeptics" to be quite interesting. It's like the "fraud of the gaps" explanation. Out of curiosity, do you believe in lucid dreams?"

Dreams are illusions by definition. No, I am not attacked to my beliefs. There is zero evidence for psychic phenomenon and no coherent theory by which it could work. Therefore there is no reason for me to accept it's claims.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

How does "Brenda" explain my story? Are you accusing me of fraud?

Anonymous said...

this reminds me of a fascinating article I recently read by the incredibly erudite theologian David Bentley Hart, entitled "Mysteries of Consciousness," in which he recounts one of the most moving, astronomically improbably, and eerie moments of his life.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/08/mysteries-of-consciousness/david-b-hart

of the "ESP" event, he replies:

"...frankly, I can’t make myself believe that the universe is quite large enough to accommodate coincidences of that kind."

Mr Veale said...

Perhaps I'm missing the point of this thread. But I didn't think that the evidence for ESP was the issue.

Do we believe that Victor's story is true? Do we believe that D B Hart's story is true? Did Hart really have that dream? Did Victor's teacher really tell him that he had a clairvoyant experience?

These are odd stories. Should we dismiss them as fiction? Must we assume that the memory is always playing tricks when someone recalls an event like this?

Graham

Bilbo said...

Having had "paranormal" experiences of my own, and having close, truthful friends who have also had such experiences, I am not skeptical of Vic's violin teacher's report.

Alex Dalton said...

Brenda wrote: There are no people with psychic abilities. People who claim to be psychic are either deliberate frauds or deluded.

Alex: Brenda - what research into psychic phenomena have you studied? You sound VERY confident in your conclusions so I'm guessing that you are very familiar with the research.

Brenda said...

"Do we believe that Victor's story is true? Do we believe that D B Hart's story is true? Did Hart really have that dream? Did Victor's teacher really tell him that he had a clairvoyant experience?"

Facts can all be true and yet the conclusions one draws from those facts can still be entirely false.

People have had intense experiences that they interpret as being abducted by aliens and yet no one has been abducted by aliens. Likewise people can have intense experiences that they interpret as psychic phenomena and yet psychic phenomena cannot be said to exist. Your own subjective feelings, interpretations and thoughts can be very deceiving. That is why we have an objective process called the scientific method that helps to establish what is real from what is not.

It works.

Brenda said...

Alex Dalton
"Brenda - what research into psychic phenomena have you studied? You sound VERY confident in your conclusions so I'm guessing that you are very familiar with the research."

All I need to know are two things. 1.) Claims for psychic phenomena have been investigated by serious researchers for over 100 years and there is not one shred of evidence, not one, to suggest such a thing exists.

2.) I know how the world works and can safely conclude that there is no mechanism by which psychic phenomena could work. No, quantum mechanics could not possibly imitate psychic phenomena.

Zero evidence plus no mechanism equals a justified true belief that the claims for psychic phenomena are false.

Steven said...

I've been doing a lot of reading into parapsychology myself, and it's interesting to come across a line here and there about how anyone who is a serious student of the subject accepts the existence of ESP and PK.

Steven said...

I can't believe that Brenda is a real person; she is probably a sock-puppet for some troll, unless there are really people out there who think like she evidently does.

"All I need to know are two things. 1.) Claims for psychic phenomena have been investigated by serious researchers for over 100 years and there is not one shred of evidence, not one, to suggest such a thing exists."

Research into the paranormal led such intellectual figures as Richard Hodgson to believe in the afterlife and the actuality of communication with the dead by means of ESP. Not one shred of evidence?

"2.) I know how the world works and can safely conclude that there is no mechanism by which psychic phenomena could work. No, quantum mechanics could not possibly imitate psychic phenomena. "

The first sentence of this point is beyond ridiculous, to the point of being laughable; Brenda cannot be a real person, there can't be anyone this insane.

Mr Veale said...

Brenda

I'm also very dubious about some of the conclusions parapsychologists draw from stories like these.

But that's not really the point here. Suppose someone reports that they've seen a stone roll up a hill. Under what circumstances do you accept that this person is being truthful --- that they really believed that they witnessed this?

Whether the stone really rolled up the hill is the question we ask *after* we evaluate the eyewitnesses. We need to know that there's something worth explaining before we give an explanation.

(I think that Dr Reppert is trying to illustrate a point about evidence for miracles. I don't think he's trying to provide evidence for parapsychologists)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

I hope Brenda is a fiction. I really wouldn't want to think that a real person has just been subjected to that kind of rudeness!

However the evidence suggests that a real person has just been needlessly offended.

I can't see any need for this rhetoric, I really can't. It just kills conversation.

JS Allen said...

@Graham - I think you're right. But I think Brenda is proving Vic's point.

Since she can't imagine exactly how a specific thing might have happened, and since she didn't see it with her own eyes, she violently refuses to believe it could have happened. She reminds me of the kid who wanted to punch my nose when I reported a lucid dream. He was starting with the presupposition that such a thing was impossible, so his only explanation for my report was fraud.

Fraud, delusion, hallucination, hypnosis -- they will fill in the gaps with any of these explanations. But they can't entertain the idea that maybe there is something they don't yet understand. Brenda "knows how the world works", and so much the worse for the guy who just saw a stone roll up hill.

@Steven - To be fair, a lot of the research has been challenged and shown to contain errors. But I *am* half expecting Brenda to start talking about how "science" is the ONLY GAME in town, and how, by the power vested in her through science, she proclaims that such phenomena can have no physical explanation apart from "fraud of the gaps".

Brenda said...

Steven said:
"Research into the paranormal led such intellectual figures as Richard Hodgson to believe in the afterlife and the actuality of communication with the dead by means of ESP. Not one shred of evidence?"

That's not evidence, that's anecdote. It's not even a valid argument. "Richard Hodgson believes in an afterlife and ESP therefore it must be real" is the argument from authority fallacy.

"The first sentence of this point is beyond ridiculous, to the point of being laughable"

Hardly, we really do know how nature works. Any elementary physics textbook should introduce you to the fundamentals. Any claims for ESP etc. must explain how it is possible. Do we have little radios in our heads? No, we don't, do we, therefore ESP is impossible.

--
Mr. Veale said:
"We need to know that there's something worth explaining before we give an explanation."

Sure, where is your evidence? :::crickets::

"I can't see any need for this rhetoric"

I make clear, logical sentences precisely to avoid emotional rhetoric. I understand. People want their dreams, their fantasies but the trouble is that there really is an external world and it doesn't care about your dreams. So you would like to talk to people with your thoughts and know the future and never die. Sorry, reality says the answer is no.

--
JS Allen said:
"they can't entertain the idea that maybe there is something they don't yet understand."

I am more than happy to entertain new ideas but I need evidence. In order for me or any rational observer to accept ESP you must not only provide incontrovertible evidence that the phenomena is real and then you need to explain how it would work. Electromagnetic waves are the only possible way ESP could function. Do we have radio receivers and transmitters in our heads? Some birds navigate with the Earth's magnetic field. Is that how ESP works? If so you need to prove it. Until then I am fully justified in denying your claims.

JS Allen said...

Electromagnetic waves are the only possible way ESP could function.

There are a large number of potential physical explanations for people experiencing these phenomena that are so commonly reported throughout human history. Hallucination and cognitive biases undoubtedly explain some, but it's simply not plausible that these would cover all cases. There are several other potential explanations. I doubt that all of the cases share the same explanation, and I doubt that we have all of the possible physical explanations worked out yet. "Radio waves" or "quantum action-at-distance" are not ones that would ever come to mind, for me. That seems like theist thinking.

We live in a deterministic universe, and thus the future is always theoretically knowable. Most of these reported phenomena can be re-cast as examples of prediction, rather than "action-at-a-distance". Humans are nothing if not prediction machines, and we make accurate predictions constantly.

For people like Vic, who believe in libertarian free will, I can see how appeals to the supernatural would be necessary to explain all of the phenomena. But for a committed atheist naturalist, appeals to supernatural are not necessary.

Alex Dalton said...

Brenda writes:

All I need to know are two things. 1.) Claims for psychic phenomena have been investigated by serious researchers for over 100 years and there is not one shred of evidence, not one, to suggest such a thing exists.

Alex: Gee, Brenda. Thanks for avoiding my question and just making more dogmatic assertions. I appreciate that. But could you please tell me what research you are familiar with?

Brenda writes: 2.) I know how the world works and can safely conclude that there is no mechanism by which psychic phenomena could work. No, quantum mechanics could not possibly imitate psychic phenomena.

Alex: Brenda, please tell us what knowledge precludes an as yet undiscovered mechanism.

Alex Dalton said...

Brenda, you chastised Steve for 1) providing anecdote instead of evidence and 2) committing the "argument from authority fallacy".

You responded to my questions about what psychic research you were familiar with, by giving us:

1) anecdote instead of evidence: "Claims for psychic phenomena have been investigated by serious researchers for over 100 years...."

and

2) argument from authority:
"I know how the world works and can safely conclude that there is no..."

Can you start following your own standards of evidence and argument? This is a bit frustrating.

Warren said...

I would be willing to swear that "Brenda" is another Loftus sockpuppet, except she's too coherent.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

I don't have a large enough sampling to be sure, but after doing a preliminary texual analysis of "Brenda's" postings (to include syntax, word count, and paragraph structure), I tentatively conclude that "Brenda" is none other than John Loftus in mufti.

Russell said...

Brenda,

The idea that we really know how nature works is somewhat laughable. Newtonian Mechanics dominated physics until Einstein came along and then Quantum Mechanics called Einstein's work into question and I have no doubt that the process will continue in the future. If we really did know how nature works all scientists would be out of a job.

Also, just because we cannot explain a how a phenomena occurs does not preclude its existence, something any historian of science will tell you. Antisepsis, rogue waves, plate tectonics, meteorites are all ideas initially rejected by mainstream science despite massive circumstantial evidence that they exist mainly because people couldn't explain how said phenomena worked. But that didn't stop them from being real did it?

As to the old 'if you can't prove it to my satisfaction, then it doesn't exist' standby let me just say I am glad the police don't operate on that principle.

Witness: Officer, I think Mr. Smith is trying to kill Brenda. Officer: What evidence do you have? Witness: He told me he was planning to! Officer: Do you have any evidence that this conversation took place? Like a tape recording! Witness: No! It is his word against mine! Officer: You need to prove it. Until then I am fully justified in denying your claims.

Mr Veale said...

Re: Psi effects

I'm certainly open to the evidence, but I have to say that I've been completely underwhelmed by the evidence for parapsychology.
I'm not sure that our inability to specify a mechanism is of much consequence. Generally homeopathy is rejected as a pseudo-science not because we cannot explain how it works. It simply fails to outperform other placebos. So whatever benefit is conferred by homeopathy, it is not conferred by the sugary water.
No, the problem is the nature of the subject matter. Generally I agree with the gist of James E. Alcock's editorial http://www.imprint.co.uk/jcs_10_6-7.html He's a bit too ready to reach for Occam's razor, and I think that he brushes over the fact that we shouldn't expect psi effects to be amenable to scientific research.
Take NDE's. There are fascinating anecdotes. There may be naturalistic explanations for these - Blackmore has a few hypotheses. But it will be difficult to test these, or to examine a near death/out of body experience under controlled conditions. (Well, maybe a North Korean medical ethics committee would approve the experiment...)

It's difficult to know what psi-effects really are - it just seems to be a loose term for "we weren't expecting that to happen!" And I'm not sure that many "psi" effects would really be that surprising to a dualist. And we have good arguments for dualism in the absence of psi-effects.

So the evidence remains, well, anecdotal and interesting. Beyond that I can't see that it proves anything much, except that odd things happen from time to time. But everyone can live with anomalies.

Graham

(Maybe I watch too much Psych and The Mentalist And I'm not an academic or an expert on anything at all. I'm a High School Teacher...Crowd Control and Zombie Management is my field of expertise. )

Brenda said...

JS Allen said:
"There are several other potential explanations."

What are they? You have to do more than simply claim that there is an explanation, you have to actually provide one.

--
Alex Dalton said:
" But could you please tell me what research you are familiar with?"

I am a lay person who reads Scientific American regularly and have in the past read skeptical publications for years. I don't need to be an expert in UFOs to know that there are no alien craft in our skies and I don't need to be an expert in psychic phenomenon to know there is no substance to it's claims.

"please tell us what knowledge precludes an as yet undiscovered mechanism."

I don't need to. YOU need to prove YOUR claim. You need to show that there really is a phenomena that needs to be explained and then you need to provide a mechanism that explains it and ALSO does not conflict with what we already know.

--
Russle said:
"If we really did know how nature works all scientists would be out of a job."

We guess what, there has been serious talk about that in the physic community. That is probably premature as there is a great deal yet to be done in string theory but for the most part, yes, we really do have a very good handle on how this world works.

"just because we cannot explain a how a phenomena occurs does not preclude its existence"

Sure, but there is ZERO evidence for psychic phenomena just as there is zero evidence that UFOs are piloted by aliens.

"Antisepsis, rogue waves, plate tectonics, meteorites are all ideas initially rejected by mainstream scienc"

This is another fallacy. Just because other claims that were once rejected were later shown to be valid it simply does not follow that your claim for X must be true because it is also rejected. And for those previous claims that you mention, meteorites for example, that had something that you have never had, evidence.

"As to the old 'if you can't prove it to my satisfaction, then it doesn't exist' standby let me just say I am glad the police don't operate on that principle."

Actually they do, if there is no evidence that a crime has been committed the police will not investigate. Your example is exactly what would happen in real life. Hearsay testimony with no corroborating, ahem... evidence and the case will be dropped and charges dismissed. You've been watching too many TV shows.

Brenda said...

JS Allen said:
"There are several other potential explanations."

What are they? You have to do more than simply claim that there is an explanation, you have to actually provide one.

--
Alex Dalton said:
" But could you please tell me what research you are familiar with?"

I am a lay person who reads Scientific American regularly and have in the past read skeptical publications for years. I don't need to be an expert in UFOs to know that there are no alien craft in our skies and I don't need to be an expert in psychic phenomenon to know there is no substance to it's claims.

"please tell us what knowledge precludes an as yet undiscovered mechanism."

I don't need to. YOU need to prove YOUR claim. You need to show that there really is a phenomena that needs to be explained and then you need to provide a mechanism that explains it and ALSO does not conflict with what we already know.

Mr Veale said...

Re: Placebos
Ben Goldacre, in "Bad Science" gives a fascinating popularisation of the research on placebos. He is a thoroughgoing materialist who finds the placebo effect disconcerting (his language is a little more colourful).

One explanation of the placebo effect is that it is a "meaning effect". It’s the meaning of a particular treatment to the patient that’s crucial. If the patient can be convinced that an injection of sugary water, or an orange capsule, or a shiny crystal will be of benefit, then, bizarrely, it quite often is of benefit. But it is the cultural meaning that seems to be doing the work.


At least, it's bizarre finding to a materialist. An interactive dualist won't be surprised at all.

Mr Veale said...

This "burden of proof" thing, with unnecessary capitalisation, seems very common among the interweb's sceptics.

Does anyone know why?

GREV said...

Make of this what you wish. Early in the ministry in our present placement, my wife and I were leaving a party and she commented on the actions of a man who was overly attentive to all the young women and left his own wife alone.

This man was a leader in the church.

As she was telling me this a clear picture of apples falling from a tree came to my mind.

I then said to my wife:

The apple does not fall far from the tree. I am certain his father has acted the same way in the past and probably had an affair.

After the son was exposed as a habitual skirt chaser and left his wife. His wife told me about the affair her father-in-law had and how he had changed his ways.

I told her I knew her father-in-law had an affair. She asked me how I knew being quite shocked by my admission. Who told me she asked?

I said no earthly person told me but God showed me.

JS Allen said...


What are they? You have to do more than simply claim that there is an explanation, you have to actually provide one.


You seem to be muddling together two irrational arguments.

First, you are claiming that phenomena such as premonitions do not exist, because you've never experienced a premonition. Great. BTW, I don't believe that any men ever landed on the moon. I've never seen it, and nobody I know has ever seen it. In contrast, I'm pretty sure Bruce Willis blew up an asteroid once (I saw it with my own eyes, on TV), and trustworthy people have reported premonitions for thousands of years, so I guess I'll believe that. But moon landing? FRAUD!

Second, you are saying that phenomena that do not yet have a suitable scientific explanation, do not exist. So I guess things like apples didn't actually fall to the ground reliably, before Newton. I mean, lots of people reported that things would fall to the ground, but their explanation was bunk. Therefore, all of their reports of things falling to the ground should be taken as FRAUD! Their belief in things falling was not a justified true belief.

Russell said...

Brenda,

Oh, it is a lot more then the string theory. Multiple universes, the Higgs Boson, dark matter/energy are all things we have built theories around but we don't know if they exist. For example, if the Higgs Boson is proven not to exist then all of physics will have to be reworked. The examples of how our work isn't done are legion.

Also, I did not say that psi phenomena exists because previous phenomena were proven to exist, that would be the Galileo Fallacy. I merely said that being unable to provide a natural explanation for a phenomena does not preclude its existence and provided examples to that affect.

And psychic phenomena does have evidence to back it up, take this article for instance. And the point of the fact is that meteorites had evidence too but people dismissed it, to quote Tom Jefferson 'It is easier to believe that two Yankee professors could lie then rocks could fall from the sky.'

And you have missed the points of my little thought experiment. One, the police would still investigate to see if there was any other evidence beside my testimony. Two, Even if they don't find any additional evidence it doesn't mean, ahem, that Mr. Smith isn't planning to kill you or that, ahem, you won't wind up dead.

Russell said...

It seems my link in the post to Brenda didn't show up. Here it is:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-thinker/201010/have-scientists-finally-discovered-evidence-psychic-phenomena

Alex Dalton said...

Brenda writes: I am a lay person who reads Scientific American regularly and have in the past read skeptical publications for years.

Alex: I am also a Scientific American reader. They rarely, if ever, address psychic studies in their in-depth articles. If you're referring to Shermer's column, these are more like opinion pieces than anything. Shermer doesn't address even .0001% of the research so I'm not sure how much this would justify your claims regarding the last "100 years". Are you aware that many of the people who Shermer critiques feel that he has misunderstood and/or misrepresented their position? Have you actually read the opposition?

Stuart Hammeroff on Shermer:

http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/hackery.htm

Pim van Lommel on Shermer:

http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_skeptic_response.htm

Rupert Sheldrake on Shermer:

http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/shermer.html

You also tell us that you not need to be an expert to know that paranormal phenomena are not real. Brenda, I don't think you do, but in order to make an informed and reasonable decision on the matter, don't you think basic integrity demands that you actually read the studies for themselves, and not just what super-skeptics say about them? Especially when you are making some very strong dismissive public claims? Have you read any of the myriad of responses to skeptical arguments that paranormal researchers have given in their books and articles? Have you read even one book arguing for the existence of paranormal phenomena?

Alex

Alex Dalton said...

Brenda - let me put it in different terms.

If a paranormal researcher only focused on or presented evidence that tended to confirm his paranormal hypothesis, and ignored or neglected evidence that tended to disconfirm it, wouldn't you call that out as a lack of scientific integrity?

Aren't you doing the same thing in your investigation, by reading only the "debunkers"?

Brenda said...

Mr Veale said...
"This "burden of proof" thing, with unnecessary capitalisation, seems very common among the interweb's sceptics.

Does anyone know why?"


Why yes, I do. It is how science works. The one proposing a theory has the burden of providing the proof for it's existence.

Russell said...

Brenda,

Please, read this:

Burden of Proof is a fallacy in which the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side. Another version occurs when a lack of evidence for side A is taken to be evidence for side B in cases in which the burden of proof actually rests on side B. A common name for this is an Appeal to Ignorance. This sort of reasoning typically has the following form:

1. Claim X is presented by side A and the burden of proof actually rests on side B.
2. Side B claims that X is false because there is no proof for X.


Now, please think about what you just said

Brenda said...

Alex Dalton said...
"Are you aware that many of the people who Shermer critiques feel that he has misunderstood and/or misrepresented their position? "

Of course they do. Feeling misunderstood is not a valid argument however.

"Stuart Hammeroff on Shermer"


Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose are alone in their opinions. Calculations have proven that quantum effects are orders of magnitude too small and fast for them to have any influence in microtubules.

"Rupert Sheldrake on Shermer:"

Rupert Sheldrake is a nut and is ignored by real scientists.

"don't you think basic integrity demands that you actually read the studies for themselves, and not just what super-skeptics say about them?"

Just like with UFOs, no, I don't think I have to read *every* report. When I was younger I wanted to believe but after a while you realize that both fields are saturated with con artists and hucksters. Yes, I am sure that it feels to you that I am merely passing a summary judgment. I don't think so. I think it is a considered judgment after years of exposing fraud after fraud after fraud in both psychic phenomena and UFOs. There is no there there.

Brenda said...

Russle said:
"Burden of Proof is a fallacy in which the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side."

No it isn't. Read this: Philosophic burden of proof.

"The philosophic burden of proof is the obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position. In any such dispute, both parties will hold a burden of proof. However, their respective burdens of proof will often be unequal or asymmetrical. The burden of proof has been demonstrated to be a useful tool in public debate and scientific methodology."

"Claim X is presented by side A and the burden of proof actually rests on side B."

This would apply if you were demanding that I must prove your claims false. That would be an example of the burden of proof fallacy.

Premise 1. The burden of proof lies with the one making the claim.

Premise 2. You are making a claim for psi phenomenon.

Therefore: You hold the burden of proof for psi phenomenon.

You conveniently skipped over this part:

"In many situations, one side has the burden of proof resting on it. This side is obligated to provide evidence for its position. The claim of the other side, the one that does not bear the burden of proof, is assumed to be true unless proven otherwise."

1. You (those asserting that psychic phenomenon exist) are the ones making the claim.

2. I am the one on the "other side".

3. My side is assumed to be true unless proven other wise.

4. You have failed to prove your case.

Therefore: My side is assumed true until you can prove you case.

Q. Effing. D.

Russell said...

Brenda,

I have read Wikipedia's article on Burden of Proof and I think you are the one who fails to understand it. As to This would apply if you were demanding that I must prove your claims false. Let me just say, that is the entire reason for a debate. You attempt to prove my claims false, I field a rebuttal and attempt to prove your claims false, etc...

And you have made claims. Here is a sample from your previous posts:

There are no people with psychic abilities. People who claim to be psychic are either deliberate frauds or deluded.

we really do know how nature works. Any elementary physics textbook should introduce you to the fundamentals.

there is ZERO evidence for psychic phenomena just as there is zero evidence that UFOs are piloted by aliens.


I could go on, all these are claims and you have an obligation to provide evidence for them.

Alex Dalton said...

Brenda wrote: Just like with UFOs, no, I don't think I have to read *every* report. When I was younger I wanted to believe but after a while you realize that both fields are saturated with con artists and hucksters.

Alex: Brenda, aren't you avoiding the real issue? Isn't the real issue that I've asked you (repeatedly now), if you have actually read books and articles arguing in FAVOR of the paranormal? I'm obviously not asking that you read "every report" so aren't you being a bit disengenuous here?

Again - do you think it is conducive to a responsible and rational investigation, to JUST read the opposition? I'd like to know if your bold dismissive opinions and aspersions are rooted in an actual informed approach. So far, I'd have to say they are not, because it only seems that you've read skeptic mags and Shermer's Skeptic column.

Keep in mind, that though I've had some weird personal experiences, I am not arguing in favor of the paranormal. I don't consider myself informed enough to make bold pronouncements or really draw any conclusions on the matter.

Alex Dalton said...

Woah my gosh...

I have just been the victim of the disappearing post on Victor's blog....

That really ruins my day....

nazani said...

You contacted your violin teacher *after* the spelling bee. Obviously, he had learned the outcome of the bee in some fashion before you approached him for the camera.
I used to do palm reading for fun and profit. People transmit so much information about themselves just by the way they walk, dress, etc. Then when you touch a hand you get a lot more information about personality and health.

BeingItself said...

I never cease to be amazed by the gullibility of religious folks.

So Hart and Reppert claim to know folks with spooky powers. They both tell curious stories that occurred decades ago. We know how fallible and malleable human memory is. We know people tell lies.

So what is more likely: the stories are bogus to begin with and/or Hart and Reppert's memories suck at tracking reality vs. ESP being real?

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