Islamic stigmata
Dawkins on Haiti

'Horizon' on dogs

Paranormalia is still in hibernation, but the books I've been stuck on are nearly done, and as 2010 progresses it will burst into life and soar on butterfly wings to a bright new future, that's the plan anyway.

Was moved to write after seeing the Horizon programme on dogs last week, which tested the ability of humans to differentiate between various kinds of noises that dogs make.  To me the idea is empirical fact. Wherever I hear my five-year old Staffie vocalising in another room I can tell what's on his mind from the sound he makes. Yet the idea was presented as a 'claim', and moreover one that science was distinctly iffy about: dog barks are just 'random noises' and their owners merely imagine they can tell the difference between them.

Apparently no one had actually thought to check this out. Horizon filmed a chap sticking a mike in dogs' faces in different situations and then playing the results back to the owners. No stats, but 'most' of the owners were able to match the bark to the situation. So not just imagination then.

Actually I'm surprised that any of the owners failed at this, as I had no trouble at all: the sounds the dogs made were unmistakably distinct, just as my dog's are. A deep throaty 'wo-wo-wo-wo-woooo' means 'strangers approaching'; a single sharp yelp (I've got locked in the broom cupboard); grrrrrr (this is MY ball); a sort of staccato, high register double bark when he's playing with my son that means, 'I can take you, loser', and other quite recognisable sounds for 'come and play', 'are we there yet?', and so on.

It seems to me that 'science', as an oracular institution, thinks something can't happen until a) it's got around to focusing on it and/or b) it can explain why it happens. There's no in-between category - no statements like, 'well, we're not sure about this', or 'we need to check this out before we talk about it': just, 'it doesn't happen, period'. Implication: it's wishful thinking, all in the imagination. It's this sort of lazy complacency, the gulf between human experience and scientific knowledge, that causes people to have suspicions about science, as much as 'ignorance' or 'poor education', which science thinks are the real reasons.

There are some nice examples of this in Irreducible Mind. Also, Guy Playfair recently reminded me about  the controversy over the ability of bats to navigate in the dark.

In 1794 the eminent eighteenth century Italian physiologist Lazzaro Spallanzani published a paper arguing that bats use their ears for this. There was no conceivable mechanism for it, and idea was denounced the following year by the French naturalist Georges Cuvier, who insisted on what seemed to him the far more plausible explanation, that they use the nerves in their wing tips to stop them bumping into objects. Cuvier's explanation was favoured until the mid-twentieth century, when the principle of echo-location was discovered in the invention of sonar.

The difference between the two scientists was that Spallanzani had carried out extensive experiments, eliminating each of the bats' senses in turn, while Cuvier had relied on his imagination.  As Guy argues, it's an important example of how scepticism can delay progress, which in this case would have saved lives on the Titanic. (See his piece in Skepticalinvestigations.org for details).

Back to the Horizon programme, which was interesting about the evolution of dogs, showing that dogs evolved only from wolves - and not from other canine-type species like hyenas and jackals - and also,  thanks to a fascinating 50-year ongoing Russian experiment with Siberian foxes,  that selective breeding can quite quickly turn vicious aggressive animals into cuddly pets. It aired the theory that dogs were crucial to human social development, in the help they give in herding and hunting, for instance. And it touched on the therapeutic effect of dogs in reducing stress and anxiety, about which there's a growing scientific consensus.

A really interesting Horizon programme would look at Rupert Sheldrake's research suggesting a telepathic link between pets and their owners. In this context the word 'claim' is perhaps more reasonable, given the strength and specifity of the scientific and philosophical objections. But anyone who actually talks to pet owners will soon find that it's another widely reported human experience.  I was with a cat owner yesterday who described, quite persuasively, the responses of her cat to her unspoken thoughts, for instance showing anxiety consistently over a period of two days after she briefly considered whether to get rid of it, and so on. But of course this is just something else that science considers can't happen, and even empirical evidence to the contrary is dismissed as flawed and mistaken.

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This is not so surprising when we realise that our pets are also spiritual beings temporarily living in a physical body.

There is plenty of evidence of animal survival as the following examples illustrate:

In her book, “When Your Animal Dies” (Spiritualist Press), Sylvia Barbanell says: "I have attended many direct-voice sittings held by Mrs Estelle Roberts, the famous medium, whose psychic gifts have done so much to convince sceptics of the truths of Survival.

"At one of these séances I heard a 'dead' retriever named Long greet his owner. Dr. Margaret Vivian, by barking through the trumpet.

From the same book we are told: "Mr R. H. Saunders, a Spiritualist of considerable knowledge, who has now passed on, has told many interesting stories of animal survival.

In “Psychic News” he wrote: 'When Mrs Blanche Cooper, who is a great animal-lover, was giving séances at the British College of Psychic Science, it was quite a common incident for dogs and cats to materialise, and to be handled for a few minutes."

"He also told of his collie dog which over fifty years ago had to be destroyed.

Once, it manifested at a séance.

Mr Saunders wrote, 'It gave a joyful bark when I called out its name and, as I fondled it, I felt its coat gradually melting under my hands...' "

We read that at a séance with Mrs Etta Wriedt, one of the sitter's was told by the medium's guide: " 'There's a horse here belonging to one of you,' at which there was a laugh.

"The guide, with some asperity, said, 'You may laugh, but let me tell you that people here have their horses, dogs and pets.

Ah! you little know the spirit world.'..."

In his booklet “Animals in the Spirit World”, Harold Sharp says:

"When I was six years old we had a dog named Hector. A big lumbering dog.

It knocked me over many times and then would tug at my jacket trying to pull me up again.

If he had been a man instead of a dog I fear that he might well have become a drunkard. I never knew a dog with such a thirst.

He seemed to thrive on drinking.
Every bucket of water, puddle of water, the water in the horses' drinking troughs, dripping taps and if none of these were available he would pull at my mother's skirt and draw her towards the pump.

Hector had been 'dead' for twenty years.

I had almost forgotten his existence until one evening in a physical circle, at the home of Glover Botham in Golders Green, Hector, in full view of everybody, materialised.

There was a large blue china bowl of water on the floor in the centre of the circle as this is thought sometimes to add power to aid various manifestations.

The materialised Hector, unmindful of the purpose for which the water was supplied, set to and very noisily lapped up the whole of it. Then he barked loudly as though to say, 'Wasn't that clever.'

Later we heard that his bark had been heard by the two ladies living next door."

Mr Sharp continues with an interesting account of the return of a bird:
"At about the same time I was at another séance when a lovely blue-green budgerigar materialised in a room, which was in strong red light.

There were eight people present.

Gradually a blue-green mist began to move over the sitters' heads and from this ectoplasmic formation there flew a budgerigar.

It circled around the room then settled on a man's shoulder. He had owned the bird two years previously but it had been 'killed' by a cat.

It evidently recognised its owner, for in a very clear voice – as though appealing to him it said, 'I want a cigarette.'

This made everyone laugh.

It appears that its owner was a chain-smoker and had so often made this remark that the budgie had learned to mimic him."

My own Golden Retriever returned three times at physical seances and a 'dead' cat has also made his presence known.

I caught up with the programme with the BBC’s I-Player. But the programme wasn’t anything to do with anything paranormal. As usual, Horizon deals with what can be looked at from a scientific perspective, so I won’t comment on any paranormal inferences that some people might want to introduce based on the programme itself.

It is not an extraordinary claim that people and their pets can have an unspoken knowledge about each other, but I think that it is dangerous to read too much into it when people start claiming that they have some kind of special understanding of, or telepathic communication with, their pets.

I think it is entirely plausible that pet owners can recognise the needs and desires of their dog or cat, and that those animals can have an intuitive knowledge of a sort about how their owners are feeling. But people should also realise that such non-verbal communication has strict limits. It is one thing to claim that one can understand the “thoughts” of one’s dog, but that confidence evaporates all too often and suddenly when we hear of a family pet that kills a small child. This sort of thing hits the headlines often. (Too often)

Animals are unpredictable and can turn nasty without warning. People confidently say that they know what their pets are thinking, but amid the claims that a certain bark means one thing, and another type of noise means another, no-one ever seems to claim that a certain bark/growl/yelp means “I am about to tear this child to pieces.”

I expect Robert was not thinking of that kind of scenario when he said of his dog, “… a sort of staccato, high register double bark when he's playing with my son that means, 'I can take you, loser'…”

The Horizon programme illustrated how evolutionary theory (science) can work without any paranormal (non) explanations.

Given the fact that Horizon deals with demonstrable science, I am not holding my breath while I wait to see Rupert Sheldrake’s non-replicable hypotheses given any airtime on a factual programme such as Horizon.

Hi Harley, thanks for contributing. Yes, you’re right to stress that Horizon deals with science. But in contexts like these the science deals with observations, which in the first instance necessarily are anecdotal. I’d substitute ‘dangerous to read too much into it’ with ‘let’s do some experiments and find out’.

Which is exactly what Sheldrake has done. I agree that a programme like Horizon is unlikely to give Sheldrake exposure, but I’m not sure what you mean by ‘non-replicable hypotheses’, given that he has carried out experiments on telepathy with different species with positive results. If you’re thinking about Richard Wiseman’s ‘debunking’ of Sheldrake’s experiment with the dog Jaytee, then seriously, think again (see Alex Tsakiris’s forensic dissection of Wiseman’s claims on this, and Wiseman’s belated admission that his data actually replicates Sheldrake’s)

http://www.skeptiko.com/35-dr-steven-novella-and-dr-richard-wiseman-on-dogs-that-know-research/

If Horizon won’t discuss Sheldrake’s work it’s can’t be because it’s not demonstrable science, which it manifestly is, but more likely because of entrenched scientific prejudice about dealing with such topics.

Not sure what raising the issue of canine domestic violence is meant to prove in this context. Such tragic incidents do occur too often, but they are surely constitute a vanishingly small fraction of humans’ interaction with pets.

Hello, Robert. I’m happy to see you back online. And best wishes for the New Year.

I should have been more precise when I said “non-replicable hypotheses” when I meant “non-replicable experiments.” I am aware that Rupert Sheldrake has repeated his own experiments, but for those experiments to be accepted, they have to be replicated independently by others. It’s no use saying that your hypothesis has been confirmed because you have done it yourself several times. If others cannot get the same results, then your own results are worthless. If you think about it in terms of the cold fusion saga, for example, you have to admit that although its proponents and their supporters continue to insist it is a true phenomenon, we are still waiting to see the first cold fusion power stations - or portable cold fusion generators in the shops. No-one can replicate those experiments and get the results that have been claimed.

Having said that, I can understand the frustration of Sheldrake’s supporters in the sense that it always seems to be the same small number of people - Richard Wiseman and Chris French, for example - who are the ones who do the replications that never work. They are perceived as debunkers who are there just to make sure that those experiments will not work, but you can guess that I am going to disagree with that assertion.

I haven’t had time so far to tune into the Skeptiko podcast you quote, and have only skimmed the transcript (my impression is that it is a sort of yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t argument), but the hypothesis of telepathic animals is nowhere near being confirmed by mainstream science. One has to wonder why no other scientists want to take it up.

I agree that Horizon is unlikely to take up Rupert Sheldrake’s work, but I do not agree that it is because of “entrenched scientific prejudice.” That claim is a standard fallback when unsupported claims for the paranormal are rejected by people (like me) who want actual repeatable evidence. If anyone has conclusive evidence that the paranormal is real, then it has to be unequivocally demonstrated. The believers often say, “They laughed at the Wright brothers.” Maybe they did, but does anyone nowadays still deny that heavier-than-air powered flight is possible? The Wright brothers made what was an outrageous claim at the time, but they proved it in short order. After a hundred and fifty years of psychic research we are still waiting for any claim about the paranormal to be demonstrated in the same undeniable way. In the meantime, we have gone from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the moon and beyond.

My point about dogs turning vicious without warning wasn’t meant to prove anything as such, except to say that although many pet owners believe their pets are telepathic, and that they have a special understanding of them, they don’t. Any animal can turn wild without warning and without any obvious reason, but no-one ever anticipates it with their telepathic abilities to prevent tragedies, however rare they might be.

As an extra note, I have made several predictions here that have been extraordinarily accurate – better than your average psychic – so let me try it again. Haiti has suffered a massive earthquake that has left thousands dead, but so far no psychic I am aware of has predicted it before it happened. My prediction is that psychics will now seek publicity to make the claim that they predicted all of this. Further, given the fact that when a disaster like this happens Google Search goes into overdrive with people seeking references to the predictions of Nostradamus, we will soon hear claims that Nostradumbass himself predicted this very event.

And I’m not even psychic! Let’s see what happens.

Hi Harley - some interesting issues here. I agree with your point about independent replication. I'm not sure to what extent, if at all, Sheldrake's results have been replicated by other researchers. But Sheldrake is a very committed scientist, and has the savvy to get the funding he needs, which is otherwise extremely difficult in a field that is not taken seriously at university level. It's easy to see why no one else takes it up - there's no career path, no prospects of promotion, no commercial prospects from a technological breakthrough - just a hard slog against mainstream opinion.

Despite that, with ganzfeld and remote viewing there has been a high level of replication by different researchers.

But we know that with psi we are dealing with a psychological entity, one with quasi-material effects, and that it is rare and elusive. It's not replicable at will, which science believes is what establishes an entity as real, nor is it necessarily going to translate into some new technology - in fact that's extremely unlikely - so the cold fusion analogy cannot apply here. If we approach the problem with this conventional mindset we will never get very far.

I agree, though, it raises problems: how do we know when we have established psi's existence? How do we validate it?

'If anyone has conclusive evidence that the paranormal is real, then it has to be unequivocally demonstrated.' For me, statements like this are understandable, but problematic. I discussed this at some length in my book Randi's Prize, which I hope will see the light of day this year. What do we mean by terms such as 'conclusive' and 'unequivocal'? Conclusive and unequivocal for who? Psi is something that has been repeatedly experienced, reported, described, validated and demonstrated in an enormous literature, much of it created by scientists and intellectuals carrying out studies and experiments. Many people like myself have been persuaded by it.

Randi's challenge? But other magicians at least as reputable as Randi have tested psi claims and endorsed them.

I know you will answer that science has clear notions about what constitutes scientific evidence. My point is that these rules are a human invention, formed during the enterprise of understanding the material world, and where issues relating to consciousness are concerned, may help to shape the answers before seriously considering the questions.

I completely agree with you about dodgy psychics and the claims about having foretold the Haiti earthquake that will now fill the tabloids. But it's a red herring; it confirms prejudices but it contributes nothing at all to the argument. This sort of thing will happen whether psi is real or imagined. Raising the subject is good for polemics but if we're serious about getting to grips with the psi problem we have to disregard it.

Robert – as you say, “…with psi we are dealing with a psychological entity, one with quasi-material effects, and that it is rare and elusive. It's not replicable at will…”

Well, yes, that’s what I’m saying. If your computer worked with the same reliability and you couldn’t make a blog post, should anyone believe you even have a computer if you claim that it exists despite the fact that no-one can ever access your blog? We still need to see the blog; excuses wouldn’t do.

I know that psi has been “experienced,” reported and described, but I don’t agree that it has been validated and demonstrated (we wouldn’t be having this conversation otherwise).

Your point about some magicians endorsing paranormal claims is not a strong point in favour of psi. Good magicians should be well aware that they can be fooled. As magic continues to evolve, new tricks are developed and they do fool other magicians, who then buy the tricks from the magicians who develop them. If one magician can fool another, it shows that no-one (including magicians) should be complacent about their ability to spot trickery. I’m sure even Randi would agree with that.

Many people claim that the rules of science are “a human invention,” which seems to imply that they are made up for convenience. That’s a bit misleading. Science certainly investigates the physical world, and there are clearly defined ways of doing it. But when it comes to the supernatural, there is no known way for science to investigate a phenomenon like telepathy except by testing the physical effects supposedly manifested by a non-physical force. We might not be able to measure the psychic “energy” or the ethereal “vibrations” or whatever, but if the phenomenon exists then it should still be possible to measure those claimed physical effects.

The ganzfeld experiments are intriguing, but that is as far as I will go. The results achieved rely on meta-analyses and extensive statistical analysis to draw out what might or might not be something interesting. But it’s far from settled. And remote viewing is a joke. When analysis has to rely on highly subjective interpretations of whether information is accurate, I cannot take it seriously. When remote viewers routinely direct troops in Afghanistan to the terrorist hideouts, or supply them with accurate maps of where roadside bombs are planted, I will sit up and take notice. People’s lives are at stake, and I think results like that would be easily measurable without tortuous statistical analysis. You say it’s not replicable at will. I say, “So what use is it, and how do Sheldrake and others manage to get consistent positive results?)

My remarks about psychics predicting disasters after the event was not mere polemics. It’s one thing to examine methodological studies as the basis of one’s belief in the paranormal, but something else to believe it on the basis of unsubstantiated claims made by publicity-seeking charlatans.

On a slightly different note, the History Channel will be broadcasting an exposé of the Amityville hoax on January 27. That should be interesting.

Quick comment

If remote viewing is a joke why did Wiseman say that by normal standards it has been proven?

Wiseman says: "I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do.

Yes, that hardly sounds like a joke to me.Not that I have much time for Wiseman.

Kris – I can’t speak on behalf of Richard Wiseman; I don’t know what particular tests he might be referring to, nor do I have access to the data.

What I can say, however, is that it is routine to set up initial scientific tests with a significance level of 5%. This is just another way of saying that the probability of a test proving positive by pure chance is one in twenty. As a starting point in an investigation, or for routine tests where there is nothing important at stake, that’s fine. Most of science accepts that. It’s not a big deal.

However, it would not be acceptable for, say, a new drug to be marketed with the slogan, “This new drug clears acne in 95% of cases, and only one in twenty users are killed by taking it.”

Sometimes it is necessary to tighten up the controls. I don’t think anyone would disagree that when people’s lives might be at stake, these things have to be tested very rigorously.

In the case of paranormal investigation, we are talking about far reaching consequences if such phenomena are true. With remote viewing, I do not think it would be acceptable for regiments of troops to be sent into situations where the whole lot are slaughtered nineteen times out of twenty because the remote viewers might have managed to achieve a success level that compares only with what is accepted in routine science when nothing much is at stake. They have to achieve much higher levels than that.

I realise you will probably accuse me of “moving the goalposts,” as the standard canard against sceptics usually is, but I would ask you to ask yourself if you would want to be in one of those regiments knowing that you have only a one in twenty chance of surviving. And how many similar missions do you think you would survive with those odds? (Hint: the probability of surviving two missions is one in four hundred; three missions, one in eight thousand; four missions, one in one hundred and sixty thousand, etc.) That is also the reason why psychics can’t win the lottery: even if they try it away from sceptics to avoid “negative vibrations” (and all their other excuses), they cannot perform better than chance.

In science it is common for standards to be changed in relation to the importance of the subject under test. That, I think, is what Wiseman was getting at when he said higher standards of evidence are needed when studying the paranormal.

That's a bit of an odd point though really. We're only at the beginning of understand what remote viewing is, and how it would work. Why should we immediately entrust our lives to something we're only beginning to understand?

That would be like saying that some new drugs are a 'joke' (your phrase) just because we're not yet at a level of understanding with them to entrust our lives to them.

To be honest, I wonder if part of your scepticism about the paranormal is fear-based. You say that it is 'dangerous' for people to read too much into possible telepathic connections with pets, suggest that even accepting remote viewing will eventually lead to the loss of lives, and that people posing as psychics will use natural disasters to promote their own ends.

I don't mean to sound condescending when I say that, I truly don't. I just noticed it seemed to be a constant theme in your posts.


Interesting Harley

I do not think Wiseman would consider a five percent success rate to be a success now do you? He doesn't strike me as the sort. If I was to make an educated guess I would simply say you were mistaken about remote viewing.

I do agree it is fair to tighten up controls but not to tighten up the controls because for lack of a better rational I know that it is impossible so therefore if the study got evidence of it must be wrong.

If the study gets evidence for the paranormal then the study must be flawed methodology is just a wee bit close minded in my humble view.

As of yet I do not think paranormal research threatens lives. Even if remote viewing is being used on a daily bases I doubt it is not without satellite support. Remote Viewing might have worked wonders in say the 70s and has now be phased out cause of satellites is another possibility. I am not aware of studies that involve murdering people to analyze their near death experiences or worse yet murdering them and see if they are reincarnating. Even the Tibetans are quite content to let nature take it's course with their Dali Lamas.

If the paranormal was proven it would have far reaching consequences of course but I suspect people would still take medicine for diseases, we would still choose to eat etc. I think you are just being a bit reactionary too a degree I fear.

I am a paranormalist yet I assure I get my proper shots etc. When my unit deploys to Afghanistan I can assure you I plan to use quite normal maps etc. Even though I strongly support the afterlife view on NDEs and Reincarnation studies I assure you, I will be dodging bullets!

And as for your hypothetical zit medicine. I think with the five percent kill ratio many people would still want it!

Major – I’m not sure what you’re getting at when you say, “We're only at the beginning of understand what remote viewing is, and how it would work.”

Believers in the paranormal tend to say two conflicting things, namely, “this subject [insert preferred paranormal phenomenon] has been studied for a hundred and fifty years”; and… “We're only at the beginning of understanding what [preferred paranormal phenomenon] is, and how it would work.” If it is true that these phenomena have been studied for so long, you can’t claim it is something new that researchers are trying to get to grips with. That would sound like moving the goalposts.

New drugs are not a joke and I did not imply that. New medication has to undergo extensive testing before it is licensed for use, typically many years before it can be used, and millions of pounds spent in their development. They have to have a high probability of working, and a low probability of causing harm.

I’m quite sure you are not attacking me personally; but attacking my alleged motives (fear) is an ad hominem fallacy. I am not frightened of anything paranormal. (How can I be frightened of something I am sure is not real?)

I think you have given my use of the word “dangerous” its extreme meaning. I meant it in a similar sense to saying that if you put some money in a pocket that has a hole in it you are in danger of losing your money. But it is still dangerous to think your dog couldn’t possibly harm your child.

If you are prepared to trust your life to a remote viewer, that is your privilege; best of luck. And people “posing” as psychics, knowing that they have no such abilities do, actually, exist.

If there is a constant theme in my posts, it is this: please show me evidence that will stand up to scrutiny.

Kris – you’ve totally missed what I was saying. Richard Wiseman is not saying that a five percent success rate is acceptable. A 5% level of significance equates to a 95% level of confidence. When I said that a 5% level of significance means “this is just another way of saying that the probability of a test proving positive by pure chance is one in twenty,” it is the same as saying that the probability of it being true is 95%. It gets confusing because it is the null hypothesis that is under test, and that is probably not what you might think it is.

But I think it better if we don’t go down that road. Scientific testing and statistical analysis is quite complicated and involves things that you clearly do not know about. I thought I had made it clear, but obviously not. That’s probably my fault for not explaining it properly, but there is no easy way to do so.

I think Wiseman’s point is simply this: the more important an issue is, the more sure we have to be that it is true.

You might be aware of Project Star Gate – a CIA attempt to exploit remote viewing. With untold millions poured into it over many years (unlimited resources that only a government can afford, and any other researcher could only dream about) it was abandoned as being of no use whatsoever. Why on earth anyone would still want to believe in it is beyond me. The believers are clearly immune to reason.

I don’t think the paranormal is totally benign. I have met believers who were living in fear because they thought they were being haunted, or were cursed, and one woman who was living her life in terror because she believed her dead husband was going to come back to kill her. Funnily enough, people who do not believe in the paranormal do not seem to suffer from such things.

You are wise to ensure you take any shots you need, but there are many people who throw away their medications on the say-so of some faith healer and then die, and many more who take quack nostrums from alternative medicine practitioners and delay actual treatment that might save their lives. That is dangerous in the real sense of the word.

If you are going to be dodging bullets, then I wish you well. Training and technology are more reliable than lucky charms and prayers. You’ll see further with binoculars than the other kind of remote viewing.

I'm not saying you're afraid of something that you don't believe exists anyway. I'm saying that you may be afraid of the possible outcomes if it did exist.

For example, let's say someone who is religious believes devoutly and sincerely in a God and life after death. Could they still not fear the repurcussions of finding out there is no God?

But look, let's be honest here, is there any chance of one convincing the other? You commented yourself that you were looking forward to the programme that was an expose on the Amityville Haunting.

Can I just ask one more question, it's up to you how truthfully you answer - when watching that programme, did you treat the programme maker's claims with any sense of skepticism, or did you believe that because their views mirrored the mainstream, there was no need to?

Also, I don't think it's inherently a contradiction to say that just because something is studied for one hundred and fifty years, we neccessarily have a full understanding of it. That almost seems quite an odd thing, along the lines of "If you didn't discover it by this date, then that's it, game over." Debate rages over simple scientific issues that have been studied for much longer - whether it's the origin of the universe, different methods of evolution...

Harley

I think I am going to go with the merrian webster on this one.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/PROVEN

The word proven = the word demonstrated.

There Wiseman could have just as easily said.

"I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is DEMONSTRATED, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do."

If Wiseman who opposes any form of the Paranormal states by normal means a paranormal even is proven I for one will take his word on it.

As for the CIA Project, be cautious with that one, the CIA does a lie a lot. I would not be surprised one bit if the CIA just made that up as a front to filter money else where.

I think you mistake paranormalist for new agers to a degree. I have little time for such muddle headed thinking. It took me probably about eight years of skepticism and studying the issue before I became convinced that the paranormal exist.

I can assure in the military when we travel we use maps and gps. Even if someone secretly did use remote viewing that would never ever be acceptable alone in 2010 with our current satellite technology.

I do accept the existence of poltergeists but I also accept that they are very rare and truth be told far less powerful then a typical human. They can scare you cause they are unknown, but truth be told humans can be both more scary and dangerous. I would advise the women you mentioned to quit worrying about it. Worrying about a poltergeist is like worrying about being struck by lightening. I would simply advice someone to live their life and if the unlikely lighting bolt of poltergeist comes around then simply deal with it.

I do not pray and I do not have charms. I will confess a weakness for antiques.

Major – you suggest I am afraid of the possible outcomes if the paranormal is true. Actually, everyone might need to be afraid if the paranormal is true. Think of a psychic who uses his or her “powers” to blackmail anyone who has a guilty secret. And then think of that psychic being blackmailed by other “psychics” who might turn them into the police for the same crime. Then think of the police officer that dare not prosecute because a psychic might expose a guilty secret of his own. But then again, that psychic might be arrested when another reveals what is going on. Etc. Etc. It doesn’t take much thought to realise that the world would descend into absolute chaos if psychic powers are real. In reality, no psychic has ever solved a single crime. There is no reason to believe there is anything in it.

I don’t know which god you are talking about – there are thousands to choose from – but if there is no god then there can hardly be any repercussions from him/her/it/them. I know that people live in the fear of their god, but if that is the same god they claim to love as much as they fear, I feel sorry for them.

You say, “But look, let's be honest here, is there any chance of one convincing the other?” No: belief, like faith, is accepted without anything to support it, so I do not expect any evidence that contradicts your belief to change your mind. But at the same time, I do not accept unusual claims at face value without supporting evidence. I am not going to convert you to my point of view with evidence, and you are not going to convert me without evidence. What might be important is that “agnostics,” as it were, are the ones who might alter their views on the basis of discussions they read on blogs such as this.

With regard to God, the lord might be your shepherd, but I am no sheep.

You wonder whether I will be truthful when I answer your next question, but I think I have been truthful so far in the posts I have made here. Sorry you think I might be dishonest.

Yes, I am looking forward to the TV programme about the Amityville hoax. But you say, “…when watching that programme, did you treat the programme maker's claims with any sense of skepticism, or did you believe that because their views mirrored the mainstream, there was no need to?”

Actually, Major, the programme has not yet been aired, so I have not yet seen it, never mind formed an opinion. If you have slipped through a paranormal time portal into the future, could you make a quick post to tell me what Wednesday’s lottery numbers will be? That will be sufficient evidence for me.

Science might well be arguing over phenomena that have been around for a long time. But there is no controversy over whether those phenomena are real, just what the details are. You give evolution as an example, but there is no doubt that evolution is a fact. When you argue over the details of how any paranormal phenomena work, you are arguing over something for which there is no evidence that it exists in the first place.

It’s getting late, so I’ll have to look at Kris’s comments later. He makes allusions to the military, so I’m not sure if you are both trying to get me in a pincer movement.

Not to worry, a sceptic’s work is never done.

Harley

Ah I would just shoot you :) A thoroughly non paranormal death I must say.

I understand your concerns about the paranormal but assuming the paranormal is true I think you will find that non paranormal stuff is still a greater threat you.

Psychic espionage and blackmail- Assuming real psychics exist the number of them who can pull this off is very very few. You might be better worrying about non paranormal means of the above .

Psychic murder- You didn't say it but I suspect people would still use the normal means.

poltergeist- nasty blighters however the odds of you coming across one is about the same as being struck by lightening. Worry factor zero, however unlike sharks their is no way per say to prevent it. Bummer. However known deaths from poltergeist is zero and they all eventually leave. Perk

Life after death- Does seem to be a reality but from everything I have read on it it is neither paradise or hell ( though it can be better then earth and a lot worse too) , what you do down here does affect it to a degree,however it can give a flip about religion. Down side is you still have jobs on the other side. Comfort factor pretty high for us non religious folks. Suck factor high for welfare bums. Criminal types are probably in for a rude, though amusing, surprise. Also does offer you a chance to directly discuss the conduct of the said poltergeist earlier. Not a bad thing if he was a real prick, which they tend to be. ( non pricks are called ghosts)

Just a few thoughts off the top of my head assuming those of us who learn toward parapsychology are correct.

"When you argue over the details of how any paranormal phenomena work, you are arguing over something for which there is no evidence that it exists in the first place."

No evidence? None at all? Now you may not accept anecdotal testimony as scientific validation, but it still constitutes a form of evidence. This is alongside evidence such as Gary Schwartz' study of mediums (since continued by others), Allan Botkins' work with IADCs, NDE research by figures like Pim van Lommel and David Fenwick, the cross correspondences etc.

Now it may not be enough evidence to seal the deal for you, but let's not muddy the waters by saying there is "no evidence".

Personally, I think the fear aspect is a large part of your argument. Why would the world plunge into chaos if the paranormal was proved to be true? Can someone today not blackmail someone who has a secret? And carry this on? Is the world in chaos at present?

It could be argued that atheism poses a similar threat to the world, because the resulting despair and nihilism that many would feel would be extremely destructive. Imagine if all 6 billion people in the world realised there was no purpose to life - okay, maybe a fair amount would still hold to certain morals and ideals but how many would have a 'live purely to satisfy your own needs' approach to life.

The conclusion is, it doesn't matter what the outcome of any investigations are, the truth is the truth.

So with regard to the examples of evidence listed above, what do you think with regard to them?

We also have more mundane but statistical evidence produced in things like the Rhine Study.

Harley have you ever studied these things just curious?

In the end I do not truly believe in the paranormal. I accept these unexplained things happen and I tend to accept them at face value but I think one day we will have normal explanations for them. As of now I am just curious to learn more about them.

I am far more comfortable now that remote viewing happened cause of what Wiseman said about it. If he is willing to concede that much, the evidence is almost certainly strong. However I do think remote viewing if it is going on today is certainly combined with satellites. That would be sensible in the end.

I don't worry about poltergeists. I am not longing for my next life. I take my medicine get my shots. I am quite content with mundane explanations when they fit the data. I enjoy rationalist literature. While fascinated by the paranormal it has not made me credulous. I can assure you over the years I have met some very dumb skeptics and gullible skeptics too.

BBC Horizon can go out on a limb sometimes - they interviewed Dean Radin about his studies on presentiment for one show a couple of years ago. http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2008/02/bbc-horizon-program.html
They speculated whether skilled fighter pilots can feel danger in advance, since that's what Radin's results shows . though I suspect he never found any fighter pilots to test (somewhere in his blog he stated women were better than men in general at presentiment, but psychriatists & skilled meditators are worse than average - since they have trained themselves to remain cool, whatever somebody says or whatever happens.)

Hi Harley

A small point and I think we have moved on from it: Your earlier example was regarding surviving military expeditions based on remote viewing you mentioned a 5% error rate then suggested no-one would be up for a 1 in 20 chance of survival - I think you meant 1 in 20 chance of death, unless you were suggesting the leaders actually wanted a 5% chance of success (which Kris is more qualified to comment on than me). It read like you reversed the logic in your argument.

I think Kris would be convinced if you could provide evidence to show that we don't survive, as would I. I suspect the problem is that you can't provide that kind of evidence by the nature of the question. This leaves the entire matter up for debate and opinion. For example - I may find a veridical NDE and cite that as evidence of survival. You may cite 1000 operations where there is no evidence of an NDE and adduce that as evidence that we don't have any consciousness apart from the brain and therefore there is no evidence to support survival. This is however not evidence of non-survival as you will appreciate. There only needs to be one documented and accepted case of survival to show it is possible, to prove we do not survive it is necessary to discount EVERY example of survival (not necessarily individually although that would be preferable).

What you have studied and why you have formed your opinion in the way you have, is a matter for yourself. Kris, Rob, The Major, you and me can read the same account and reach different conclusions about how much weight to give it - this seems to me to be the crux of the debate. I don't think that is a bad thing but I do think one should engage in this type of discussion with a degree of humility (unless one is playing devil's advocate of course).

The US military tends to frown upon missions with a 5 percent chance of survival. That is called a suicide operation. In general if the soldiers knew said mission had such odds they probably wouldn't do. Not like you would truly be executed for it now days.

Other militaries have historically not minded such odds before, but historically they have either been Asian or Islamic. Odd thing is you do get suicide bombers who survive ( I have an amusing story about that one if anyone is interested) and their are documented kamikaze survivors.

Kris and The Major – you seem to be coming at me fast and furious, as though you are trying to overwhelm me - which is often the tactic used by the believers to deflect questions they can’t answer. It is most commonly used by creationists in debates when they throw out lots of little “factoids” that would need a full essay each to address properly.

Nevertheless, I will try to address what I think are the most relevant factors, even though my comments have gone right over your heads.

The CIA does lie a lot. Maybe they are still operating Star Gate in secret? If so, their efforts are a demonstrable failure (demonstrate = proof, anyone?). Airports are about to introduce full-body scanners; psychics are not yet being used to weed out the terrorists. When they are, I will have a rethink.

Kris says he would shoot me. Well, he might have a gun; he certainly has no arguments.

He is right that the non-paranormal is a greater threat to me (or anyone, for that matter), but things that are not real are no threat to anyone anyway.

Poltergeists? Again, no threat from something that doesn’t exist. The evidence for such phenomena comes from inane books such as The South Shields Poltergeist (which has a foreword from the author of a similar book with a similar lack of testable evidence). But then again, anecdotes are all it takes. An anecdote is someone’s account of something they cannot explain, therefore it must be supernatural. But an anecdote is still not evidence of anything – it might be an initial observation of something unusual that needs an explanation, but an anecdote itself explains nothing: until it is tested objectively it is worthless.

For The Major’s benefit, let me clarify my point that there is no evidence for the paranormal. I usually say that there is no evidence that stands up to actual SCRUTINY. The Major mentions, as believers often do, Gary Schwartz, the man who used to do scientific research, but who has now gone over to the woo side. Schwartz takes part in his own experiments as a subject of his experiments. That is just ludicrous from a scientific viewpoint, and excludes him immediately from anything other than ridicule from the scientific community. The Major might not have read anything by Gary Schwartz, but if he has, and accepts it as valid, then he knows absolutely nothing about how science goes about its business.

Of course I can’t give any evidence that no-one survives death, you are asking me to prove a negative. But it is those who make a positive claim who have the burden of proof. If someone claims that there is an afterlife (or anything else paranormal), the onus is on them to provide evidence to support their claims. As a sceptic, I am just asking for evidence that can be supported, and I will point out weaknesses that I see in those arguments. Children believe they have conclusive evidence that the tooth fairy exists, but…

No, Major, fear has no part in my argument. And no, the world is not in chaos (depending on your definition of chaos) due to anything paranormal. You did not understand what I was getting at; perhaps observers of this discussion might.

Atheism is a very straightforward proposition: as an atheist, I do not believe that some god created everything that exists. If you need a god to tell you that killing another person is wrong, when it is clear from ordinary decency that it is wrong, you do not have moral values. Someone who does good things in expectation of a reward (heaven), and avoids doing bad things through fear of punishment (hell), is not acting out of ordinary decency, but through self-interest. If selfishness is the goal of religion, you are welcome to it. There are, of course more than six billion people on earth, but every one of them believes that the other fellow’s religion is false. Between them, in that sense, everyone on earth is an atheist. I suppose that also makes everyone on earth a blasphemer.

Paul – I didn’t say anything about error levels (although there are such things as margins of error), but I did mention levels of significance and levels of confidence in statistical analysis. I also mentioned the null hypothesis. And I did mean a one in twenty chance of survival, or a 95% chance of being killed. That is, in my example, the null hypothesis.

In science, no-one tries to prove their hypothesis. Rather, they try to prove the NULL hypothesis, which is the hypothesis that the thing being tested is false. It is easy to find confirming evidence for a hypothesis, but to find out if it really is true, one has to try to disprove it. This is the principle of falsifiability. My logic isn’t reversed, but there are many things in science that require common sense to be put to one side, and therefore science sometimes seems illogical to the layperson.

It is common for people like Schwartz, Radin and others to be quoted by commenters on this blog and elsewhere, but your (and Kris’s and The Major’s) criticisms of what I have said prove only that you do not understand how science works, and therefore you have no hope of ever understanding the valid criticisms other scientists make about their research. If you really think that a “scientist” who takes part in his own tests is doing actual science, then there is no way you will ever understand why current evidence supposedly supporting the paranormal might just not have any justifiable basis.

We might all reach different conclusions from the same data, but there are objective ways to find out what is going on. If we both hear footsteps in the night, we have the same data. You might think it is evidence of a ghost, but I’m more likely to think there’s a burglar in the house. And I think the burglar hypothesis is far more likely to be true.

You suggest that I should display some humility. Kris says he would just shoot me. It’s the first time I’ve had a death threat over a blog post, but I am not going to be humble in the face of that sort of nonsense. If Kris’s attitude is the sort of humility you think is fair enough to pass without comment, casual readers of this blog might wonder whether it is worth commenting here if they think any dissent is going to be met with that sort of thing.

If Robert wants his blog to be nothing more than a self-congratulatory backslapping club, all he has to do is ask me not to comment here anymore. Personally, I can take criticism (and admit error when I am mistaken about something).

Harley

It is obvious to everyone but you I was being tonque and cheek with you in that comment. You said I had you in a pincer movement which is a military term and a fairly complex thing to do . So jestingly I remarked I would you shoot you, cause you jested about the pincer movement. I think it should have been obvious the tone of my writing the response was less then serious.

In the end of the day your own side says you are wrong about Remote Viewing. So who should I trust on this, you are or Dr Wiseman? However I am rereading Parapsychology and the Skeptics by Chris Carter and it shows that in fact Project Star Gate was not nearly the failure you made it out to be. It in fact did get some credible hits, for example it found the exact location of a American General kindapped in Italy.

Me thinks this is just damage control on Harley's part. He way over reacted to the implication of the paranormal and he knows its. He didn't know much about remote viewing and was show how his own side says he is wrong. Seriously if he has a problem with remote viewing be practically proved I would suggest he take his complaint up with Dr Wiseman. Of course for good measure he has to imply we are closed minded. The idea that we might have studied this stuff more in depth then him will never occur to him.

Oh and for good measure he has to state we do not know how science operates. Oddly enough he concludes we cannot comprehend this stuff but he tried to explain it anyways. Anyone want to take a bet on if Harley has actually read a single book supporting the paranormal view?

As for the claim of a scientist taking part in his own tests invalidates it that is truly odd. Lets imagine a scientist is trying to create a medicine for cancer. Lets also say this scientist has cancer.

He does all the standard tests at first, double blind comparisions etc. Then he used the drug on himself and he reports what happens. Would this invalidate the data he gathered earlier. Of course not. So even if Shwartz did participate in his own study at some point it neither proves nor disproves his independent data. The fact Harley did not realize this speaks volumes about his critical thinking skills.

Lastly. I can give a dang about atheism. I am agnostic. I still think you labor under the view that paranormalist are religious people.

1. Is one post a day 'fast and furious'? I always wait for your response.

2. I wasn't aware that Gary Schwartz used himself as a subject in his own experiments. I'm not saying it's not true, just not something I was aware of. Do you have further information on this? Do you not think, even if he is, that it's merely another step of the journey where his experiments are leading him? He certainly used to use other mediums in his tests, so maybe he wanted to see what he could offer. Do you think Freud analysed his own life in relation to his theories?

3. What do you mean exactly by 'the woo side'? Isn't that just the phrase coined by James Randi to dismiss anything he has no understanding of?

4. So you don't believe murder is right because it's 'clear from ordinary decency'? Now, obviously, I think the concept of murder is indecent. However, what about abortion, capital punishment, adultery? You know, the murkier issues. What is this 'ordinary decency'? How do we define it? Should everyone in the world adhere to this concept, or to what they consider 'ordinary decency'? Look at how the Russian and Chinese atheist communist rules treated their subjects. How do you define to them what this 'ordinary decency' is?

5. Did I say I was religious? Or looked to God for my morals?

6. Does Dean Radin participate in his own experiments, as you inferred? Which ones?

7. Are you sure that your fear of the reality of the paranormal (if it was proven) does not bias you against the evidence, in the same way a creationist doesn't want to consider the evidence for evolution?

8. Have you considered the work of the Windbride Institute, along with Allan Botkin's work on IADCs?

I just found these quotes and it is a perfect example of what parapsychology is up against.

Skeptic Ray Hyman said this about the Ganzfeld experiments:

The SAIC experiments are well-designed and the investigators have taken pains to eliminate the known weaknesses in previous parapsychological research. In addition, I cannot provide suitable candidates for what flaws, if any, might be present. Just the same, it is impossible in principle to say that any particular experiment or experimental series is completely free from possible flaws. An experimenter cannot control for every possibility--especially for potential flaws that have not yet been discovered.

So even if parapsychologist gets it perfectly right the experiment doesn't count.

Or these quotes about ESP.

C.E.M Hansel

" It is wise to adopt initially the assumption that esp is impossible"

Herman van Helmholtz

" Neither the testimony of all the Fellows of the Royal Society nor even the evidence of my own senses, would lead me to believe in transmission of thought from one person to another independently of the recognized Channels of sense. It is clearly impossible."

and

Psychologist Donald Hebb

"Why do we not accept ESP as a psychological fact? Rhine has offered enough evidence to have convinced us on almost any other issue... Personally, I do not accept ESP for a moment, because it does not make sense. My external criteria, both of physics and of physiology, say that ESP is not a fact despite the behavioral evidence that has been reported. I cannot see what other basis my colleagues have for rejecting it... Rhine may still turn out to be right, improbable as I think that is, and my own rejection of his view is - in the literal sense - prejudice."

So this is the point of view of skeptics. Even if we prove our claims it is not proof. If we cannot make an experiment that eliminates potential unknown future errors the experiment cannot be accepted. No matter what evidence is presented it will not be accepted because such things are impossible.

Do we truly have to overcome such hurdles. What other area of inquiry is so hamstrung? Is it any wonder we ignore these skeptics?

Hi Harley
Having looked again at your comments it appears to me the example you used regarding fatalities in the military is exactly as I thought. You didn't mention the null hypothesis in the example you gave. I understand the how degrees of confidence work in science having an honours degree in a mathematical discipline thanks.

You will find that the SPR (as an example) has numerous reports, properly investigated regarding Poltergeist activity - the information does not come solely from 'inane' books and the phenomena is well supported by evidence of respectable people from all walks of life (including scientists).

Gary Schwarz did involve himself in his own research to some extent by replacing an absent sitter. I don't see how this necessarily invalidates what he found out as Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir William Crookes did the same thing - naturally you won't accept their findings either. Again that is a matter for you but simply dismissing it without a proper analysis of 'why' isn't helpful really.

On another matter; I cannot see how you could possibly have taken Kris's comment seriously.

Why don't you drop the persecution complex? I don't think Rob has censored any contributions on the blog and folks can form their own view on your (and others') comments.

Whatever you may think, I (and I suspect many others) are genuinely interested to hear why you are rejecting the documented research of other. Until you specifically say why you are rejecting it others will suspect you are relying on generic arguments and haven't read much, if any, of the research you reject.

Kris, The Major and Paul – I was hoping to make a post tonight to answer Kris, and a post tomorrow (today?) to answer The Major, and now there is a post from Paul that needs to be answered, too. I’ll try to answer all points in a single post, but yes, the posts and all the points therein are coming faster than I can answer in a short space of time. I keep unusual hours, and time is at a premium. I can only compose answers as I go, usually while I am on the move. Please bear with me and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

I gotta say Harley has been dropping some " huh" comments recently. How he got the idea I really meant violence toward him is beyond me... The tone of the post was less then serious.

Okay lets say Schwarz sat in one time for an absent sitter. So what? Mind you now I am not convinced that is an error but if it is it a trifling one.

The problem with that argument is scientific studies are rarely expected to be perfect. When a study is completed it goes to peer review. The peers try to find as many flaws as possible with it. If no flaws are found great! It obviously stands.

However if a flaw is found it doesn't automatically invalidate the entire study. The next question to be determined is if the flaw was great enough to invalidate the outcome of the study. If the flaw doesn't the study stands. If the flaw is great enough to possibly invalidate the study, well you do it again with flaw corrected.

For the life of me I am trying to figure out how Schwarz sitting in for a sitter one time would invalidate the entire study. I just don't see it.

Sounds fair to me

Might I recommend though you divide it into three posts one directed at the each of us.

There is no rush Harley - thanks for explaining though.

might be too late. Harley if you had general comments directed at all of us that should be a post to.

Kris – I was not really too concerned about what you said, but I was a bit miffed at the suggestion I should display humility whilst your own sarcasm passed by without notice. You’re the one who’s going on and on about it. I don’t think it’s worth any further mention.

You are suddenly a fan of Richard Wiseman? Have a look at what you said about him in a post you made on 29th May 2009:

http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/2009/05/patricia-putt-score-for-sceptics.html?cid=6a00d8341c6d8553ef01156fb91dfc970c#comment-6a00d8341c6d8553ef01156fb91dfc970c

“…Wiseman etc twist and distort evidence for the remaining unexplained cases to make them fit their preconceived notions.”

Suddenly Wiseman is on your side of the argument? I don’t think so. You have cherry-picked a quote that you can interpret in such a way as to make it look as though Wiseman believes that remote viewing is true, though I notice you have not emphasised his qualifying addition, “…but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do.” Quote mining is standard practice on your side of the argument.

In any case, you think it’s real, but you’ve already said you wouldn’t rely on it for your own personal safety. Why ever not, if it can find kidnapped generals with such stunning accuracy?

And, no, you do not know how science operates; you have shown that quite adequately. Remote viewing results are typically “judged” by someone who knows what the targets are. That leaves open the real possibility of subjective validation by the judge to exploit any ambiguities in the subject’s assessment of what the target is, and therefore claim a “hit” for something that is nothing of the sort.

So why suddenly mention a hypothetical doctor who is researching a cure for his own cancer, even if, as you say, he is doing double blind testing? Taking part as a subject in his own experiments certainly does invalidate his experiments. His own vested interests in the outcome are likely to bias the whole thing, and would automatically bar him from any chance of having his work published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The idea is absurd, but I’m not going to argue with you about that; I’m sure you can’t see anything wrong with your suggestion, but you will never understand why you are wrong.

The Major – you are right that one post a day is not fast and furious, but your post lists eight different points you think I should address – it might as well be eight separate posts. And Kris is certainly no slouch with the “post” button.

Schwartz’s The Afterlife Experiments has the details. But some people do not see any problem with him or other paranormal researchers taking part in their own experiments, and those researchers cannot understand why their experiments are not accepted for publication in peer reviewed journals. Surely you can see the problem when someone with a vested interest in the outcome is trying to prove – rather than falsify – a hypothesis.

With regard to Freud, what can I say? Psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience; you shouldn’t take it seriously.

“Woo” is a word I use infrequently. I admit it is not a term of endearment, but then again, people like me have to put up with being called “pseudoskeptics” – a made-up term that really means “denialist” – which I am not. I think Randi has a good enough understanding of the things he talks about.

I can see I am going to have to be very precise with every word I use. I used the phrase “ordinary decency” rather than something like “moral values” because all religious people claim to have moral values as a result of what their particular deity says is moral. They use those “morals” of theirs to justify atrocities that “ordinary decent” people find abhorrent. Around the world, those moral values lead to the murder of abortion doctors, and “unbelievers” being blown to pieces, and discrimination against gays, women, and anyone else that someone’s interpretation of their holy writings lead them to follow. And the different sects within any religion also disagree with each other about what those interpretations should be – often with bloody consequences. A simple example is within Christianity: the Catholic church does not allow women priests, but in the Anglican church it is common, and both believe that they have the correct interpretation of the same scriptures they both refer to.

Your reference to atheism seemed to imply the converse - that religion has some merit in guiding morality. If so, we’ll disagree there. We create our own values in life, and I think it’s a good thing that the church can no longer rule as it used to. How we deal with murder, abortion, capital punishment and a host of other issues is a matter for the law – which we all, as voters, have a say in, even though our say is indirect. Someone who murders an abortion doctor cannot be allowed to claim he did the right thing because he thinks he is following the moral guidance of his god. (There are, after all, several billion people who will say that his particular god is false) No, we have to work out morality for ourselves. It’s an imperfect system, but it’s the best we have.

No, Major, you did not say that you are religious, and I have no idea whether your personal moral values are based on what a religion says, or whether you have worked them out for yourself. Whichever it is, someone will disagree with you. It happens to me all the time.

I’m rather less familiar with what Dean Radin is up to, so I don’t know whether he makes himself part of his own experiments. It wouldn’t surprise me, though.

You seem to be convinced that I fear – or fear the consequences of - the paranormal if it is true. Not at all, Major. In fact, I have a secret desire that if it is true, then I might be the one to finally prove it. There must be certain advantages to winning a Nobel Prize, and the book deals, film rights, lecture tours and worldwide fame and adulation. And the money – don’t forget the money.

But it is not a matter of being biased for or against the evidence. The evidence has to be assessed on its own merits. And most of the evidence is in the form of anecdotes, which are fine as an initial observation that something strange might be happening, but an unexplained observation is not explanatory in itself. That’s where the likes of Schwartz comes in and buggers it all up, biasing his own experiments by taking part in them. With regard to creationists, they are merely programmed and unable to have an independent thought. (They wouldn’t dare to try it for fear of going to hell)

I’m not familiar with the Windbride Institute, etc., so I can’t offer a useful comment.

Paul – I’m glad someone here knows what a null hypothesis is. But let me restate what I was getting at earlier, maybe in perhaps a more familiar form: Randi – or any other sceptical group – that tests a psychic, might do so with the chance of a successful result (for the psychic) being, say, one in ten thousand. This is still the same kind of argument, but it is saying that the probability of the psychic passing the test is one in ten thousand if luck is all he or she is relying on, even if they sincerely but mistakenly believe they have such powers. I should have been much, much more explicit when I raised the point, and not assumed that people would follow what I was getting at. I can see how the way I put things will have given a misleading impression of what I actually meant; trying to show that hypothesis X is true by trying to prove it false (proving the null hypothesis) is counterintuitive to say the least, and might not even make sense to some. I’ll take the blame for not being clear enough. I’ll try to be more careful in my proofreading. In any case, for extraordinary claims about psychic powers, tightening the controls to prevent chance results is still quite fair, and very important.

The information that the general public gets about poltergeists does tend to come from books and articles they read, rather than direct experience, and I suspect that most of them will have little or no interest an anything that seems like complicated science. Whether someone who thinks they have witnessed a poltergeist is respectable or not is irrelevant as to whether it is true or not. People – including scientists – can be fooled. As I said about anecdotes, witnessing something is not the same as explaining it.

I’m pleased you know about Schwartz involving himself in his experiments. I have been accused of not reading any of that “research,” but when people (including The Major) are not aware of that when they demand to know if I have read it, I feel entitled to raise an eyebrow at the very least. Nevertheless, if Crookes and Lodge did the same thing, they shouldn’t have, and it does not mean that it is OK for Schwartz or anyone else. Surely you’re not saying that ignoring established methodology is acceptable? Peer review is a rigorous process intended to weed out weak research; it does not mean, “all my friends agree with me.”

I didn’t take Kris’s comment as seriously as he thinks. He’s the one banging on about it.

I don’t have a persecution complex. I think Robert is a fair person and I wouldn’t expect him to bar me or anyone else just for dissent, but obviously if someone were being gratuitously abusive and profane then things would (quite rightly) be different. What I had in mind was that I have noticed that on this and other similar web sites, regular commenters tend to spend their time just agreeing with each other; it’s only when someone comes in with a contradictory point of view that things start to liven up. What I meant might not have been obvious to you, but I don’t expect you (or anyone else, for that matter) to be able to read my mind.

If I am relying on generic arguments against the paranormal, it is only because others use generic arguments in their favour. I’m sure you’ll agree that the same arguments do get trotted out regularly. Robert wasn’t saying anything new when he said that paranormal phenomena are rare and not amenable to performance on demand. And perhaps I wasn’t saying anything new when I pointed out that psychic researchers appear to get consistent results despite that claim.

I would really like to know how it is that this extremely rare and elusive phenomenon appears on demand when a TV or stage psychic does his or her performance, while they consistently refuse to undergo an objective test like the Million Dollar Challenge on the grounds that they cannot produce those effects at will. (OK, Derek Ogilvie was an exception, but we know what happened to him. Maybe the other celebrity psychics can see the same thing in their own futures if they rise to the challenge)

You might be able to see the same contradiction that I see. Someone might produce the standard defence that the presence of sceptics “disturbs the psychic vibrations,” or some such thing, but I think that in those audiences it is almost certain there will be sceptics present who do not seem to disturb things. Last year I was at a psychic’s performance in front of a fairly large audience, and I can confirm that there was at least one sceptic present (obviously). But that did not stop him from producing limitless messages from the dead in a performance that, to me, was indistinguishable from cold reading.

I’ve been chipping away at this post all day, so at this late hour I can only hope and pray that I have not made any serious mistakes.

(Hang on a minute, there’s a contradiction there. Revised note: I merely hope I’ve not made any serious mistakes)

Disappointed Harley

I thought we had more coming. Oh well. However you did respond so you deserve a response back.

Wiseman. Oh this is an easy hurdle to hop. You said their was no evidence for remote viewing. I quoted Wiseman to show you how even a well known and credible skeptic disagrees with your view. The issue at hand was not whether he felt it was completely proven but whether he felt their was evidence for it.

However, here is the odd part. If you read what I said on January 15, 2010 at 12:47 PM you will see I in fact used the full qoute. So Harley condemned me for something I didn't do. Glasses fall off right then or something?

Yes I do feel he twist and distorts and that makes it all the better for me to use him against another skeptic. Basically Harley's views on remote viewing are so daft even Wiseman will not agree to them. Understand the point Harley?

Next hurdle for me to hop is why I wouldn't use remote viewing as an intel source. Well first off I didn't say that. I said I wouldn't use it ALONE as an intelligence source cause the military almost never uses one piece of intelligence. I also suggested that as of now satellite technology is probably more efficient then remote viewing. I suggested if remote viewing is still being used it is being used in conjunction with satellites. Seems pretty sensible to me.

Let me make an example. Let us say for argument I had the power of mind over matter. I could lift 20 lbs but it drains me and I cannot do it for long. However I can easily left 20lbs with my arms and do it often. Which way would be more sensible? Would using my arms invalidate my mind over matter skills though? Of course not. If so, why so?

Of course Harley suggest this possibility with remote viewing:

"Remote viewing results are typically “judged” by someone who knows what the targets are. That leaves open the real possibility of subjective validation by the judge to exploit any ambiguities in the subject’s assessment of what the target is, and therefore claim a “hit” for something that is nothing of the sort."

Of course he felt no need to offer an iota of evidence to support that claim and it never probably occurred to him why didn't Wiseman use that argument? Does that give you a hint, Harley?

Of course I don't know how science operates. Why cause Harley said so.... I wish I could make arguments like that and hope to get away with it. Oh well paranormalist are held to higher standards.

.Of course Harley thinks I am wrong about my views on peer review and experiment however I will simply repost my comments and let you the dear reader decide.

"The problem with that argument is scientific studies are rarely expected to be perfect. When a study is completed it goes to peer review. The peers try to find as many flaws as possible with it. If no flaws are found great! It obviously stands.

However if a flaw is found it doesn't automatically invalidate the entire study. The next question to be determined is if the flaw was great enough to invalidate the outcome of the study. If the flaw doesn't the study stands. If the flaw is great enough to possibly invalidate the study, well you do it again with flaw corrected."

Now Harley needs to explain how in my HYPOTHETICAL scenario or in the REAL scenario with Schwartz how such flaws invalidate the entire experiment. Of course he can't do that cause neither flaw is remotely bad enough to discredit the entire study. The best he can do is throw insults and guess what, he does. He can claim bias but that is a bet vague and of course data trumps all. Lets say a researched deeply believed nicotine caused cancer, would that now invalidate a study demonstrating nicotine causes cancer. Of course not.

Oh by the way you were the one who said I threatened you and you cannot evidentially read cause you missed how I quoted Wiseman properly.


This has got to be one of the easy skeptics I have ever come across. Next salvo Harley?

Paul and Major, you're up to bat!

LOL I was never much good with a bat :) - though we do have a small colony of them at the back.

Thanks for replying at length Harley. From a scientific point of view as well as from the perspective of evidence, whether a person is respectable or not does affect how their evidence is viewed. If a person has been shown to be fraudulent for example, I would not expect their claims to be given much credence and probably no attempt would be made to investigate or replicate them. Reputation is very important when we are asked to accept what another person tells us isn't it? Although replication of results is important, it isn't always possible on demand, this however doesn't mean the reported phenomenon did not occur and may simply mean that we don't know how to make it happen.

Given the above, I think it is rash to be dogmatic about whether particular phenomena or possible or not.

To imply that 'science' is some pure form of activity invulnerable to the imperfections of human nature would not be sensible, and not borne out by history of the subject. Given that, although the scientific method is an important tool, it cannot be relied upon to exclude phenomena which are not easily replicable surely? In that respect your appeal to the scientific process although reasonable is not sufficient.

To my mind there is evidence to support survival, there is evidence to support Remote Viewing and Telepathy. Some of it has been gathered in a structured way and some of it is anecdotal (in the sense that someone is describing what they saw). I agree that this doesn't necessarily explain HOW it happened, but the fact the events described happened is difficult (and I would say unwise) to reject in every case. The fact that there is room for fraud and error is a fact of every aspect life (including science).

Scientific progress has itself been made through what you would describe as 'unscientific methods' such as the example Kris gave, medics testing drugs or radical treatments on themselves - not very scientific I would agree but it did prove a point in some cases.

On to evidence: If someone I know well and believe to be of sound mind tells me they witnesses some event that defies my preconceived ideas about what is and isn't possible, I would be prepared to accept that is what they saw. As to how it happened one should consider all the options including the fact that the event (if it is appropriate) might fall into a category I didn't previously accept as possible. Simply to settle on an reason for the event because we prefer it or because it is more likely does not make it the correct choice. Is this process replicable? No not usually, such events appear to occur without warning and not at the behest of the person who perceives them and who often is just as surprised to experience them as the person to whom they relate it is to hear of the experience.

As far as Gary Schwarz is concerned I think Kris has a good point. Tell us why you reject his evidence and conclusions - if you are suggesting fraud or investigator bias show us where. I would probably accept the risk of investigator bias however to invalidate his results (which are detailed at length in his book) presupposes he either eliminated evidence which didn't fit his thesis (fraud) or he interpreted evidence incorrectly (error) - in which case it should be possible to point it out, or that he structured the experiments to ensure they endorsed his preconceived ideas (I have to say his experiments seemed perfectly reasonable to me - I may however be too ill-informed to form a sensible view). If you are simply suggesting this as a possibility then say that, but without a supporting argument it is almost an ad hominem attack and tantamount to saying "I don't believe what he says is possible therefore he has made a mistake or is cheating". I don't think that would be a very strong line of argument, do you?

Personally, I'm out. I'll narrow the debate because I just don't see the point:

"I’m rather less familiar with what Dean Radin is up to, so I don’t know whether he makes himself part of his own experiments. It wouldn’t surprise me, though."

And also:

"You seem to be convinced that I fear – or fear the consequences of - the paranormal if it is true. Not at all, Major"

which certainly flies in the face of:

"Major – you suggest I am afraid of the possible outcomes if the paranormal is true. Actually, everyone might need to be afraid if the paranormal is true".

I just can't see the point. Will this debate ever go anywhere?

@Major
You're right :)
I don't think it will go anywhere.

Some comments aimed at everyone, but in particularly Harley.

Harley if you want to be considered rational then you have to engage in rational discussion. Right now just off the top of my head I can think of three logical fallacies your arguments the issue of peer review makes. And be assured you have certainly made others.

First Fallacy

The excluded middle.

Your argument is this.

1.) the study is the perfect and accepted
2.) the study is flawed and rejected.

you forgot the other option of the study could be flawed but the flaws are not enough to invalidate it. That is certainly the most sensible position because many scientific studies have flaws in them but not of a nature that they would have likely affected the conclusion of the study. Seriously could you imagine how much research in any area would be hindered if we took Harley's views on this.

Second Fallacy

Poisoning the well.

You have hinted at times paranormal researchers cannot be trusted to conduct scientific research because they believe in the paranormal. The problem with that is obvious. The data rises or falls on it's own merits. Your argument never attacked the data, just the person.

The genetic fallacy

You confuse the origin of the belief with the validity of the belief. For example Schwarz believes in the paranormal for so an so reason therefore his data cannot be correct. The problem here is obvious. The data again rises or falls on it's own merits not the origins of it.

Here is an example below. " Well I know Atheism is bunk, John is just an Atheist cause he wants to insult people" . Even if true that John wants to insult people, what is wrong with his arguments for Atheism?

I for one want Harley to keep posting. This is your average skeptic. I have seen better and I have seen some worse ( seriously I got into a discussion with one who could not spell at all and he was a native English speaker. While this does not affect his arguments per say such demonstrated illiteracy makes you wonder how he can possible have studied paranormal arguments in enough depth). To me this is the face of skepticism that one is most likely to encounter and people who take the paranormal seriously need understand it.

Each of these traits are readily observable in Harley.

1.) a tendency to attack the person when he has no argument.
2.) an irrational fear of the paranormal
3.) a lack of understanding of basic logic
4.) despite claims to the contrary a basic lack of understanding of science
5.) at most a superficial knowledge of parapsychology, which he has gleaned in general from other skeptics
6.) an absolute inability to admit to error. A more objective person would have just admitted he was mistaken after basically he was told by an informed word class skeptic his views on remote viewing were flawed.
7.) an elitist attitude toward paranormalist, this can be seen in his use of phrases like " woo woo"

Kris – the only point I fully agree with you on is that you should not use remote viewing ALONE. Perhaps you would like to use this device as backup:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6997859.ece

You’ll probably want the new model; it has flashing lights.

Were you saying that I am illiterate? Oh… that explains the trouble I had unravelling what appeared to me to be your mangled grammar, spelling and syntax.

Whatever it was in the rest of that rant you were trying to pass off as logic, wrapped as it was in pure ad hominem, it could have come straight from the pages of the preposterous website skepticalinvestigations.org. I can no longer take you seriously.

Paul – we’ve spoken before about the fact that the way someone presents their personal testimony is important – their credibility is at stake. But it cuts another way, too – someone who has been found out to be wrong before might not be believed when his testimony is accurate. It’s a sort of “little boy who cried wolf” syndrome, I suppose. But I still say that a personal anecdote, however sincere the witness is, is not explanatory in itself, and needs independent (corroborative) evidence at the very least.

I think the only thing I might be dogmatic about is that I want evidence that stands up to scrutiny. I am confident that GPS is a fact because I have not only had the personal testimony of other people that it exists, I have also read about it, seen TV documentaries about it, and I also understand the Einsteinian principle of time dilation that requires the clocks on board GPS satellites to be reset regularly to compensate for that. The clincher for me, though, is that I also have GPS built into my car. In the old days I used those old fashioned maps to get me to places I was unfamiliar with; now I don’t. (I do keep an atlas in the car, however, just in case) If I ever meet anyone who doubts the existence of GPS, I think the most straightforward way to prove it would be to just demonstrate it.

Science is not perfect, of course. It just happens to be the best method we have to examine the objective reality that exists out there. It is certainly not, as you point out, invulnerable to the imperfections of human nature – which is exactly what I’m saying - but that is why experimenters’ personal bias has to be controlled for. When I spoke earlier about the bias that experimenters might bring into their experiments I was not trying to imply that such bias is deliberate. I have no reason to believe that Schwartz, for example, is dishonest in any way, it is just that his methodology leaves him open to justifiable criticism even if, by some unlikely chance, he happens to be right. The methodology of science tries to exclude bias that might be introduced despite the experimenters’ well-meaning honesty. The fact that some scientific experiments cannot be replicated is the reason why science does not accept them.

If there is evidence of survival, remote viewing and telepathy, then it is extremely weak. I am not suggesting that any data gathered should be discarded; it might come in useful later if any better evidence emerges. HOW these things happen could be narrowed down, however, if those who claim to have some extraordinary power would allow themselves to be tested in an objective way, if only to sift out those who definitely do not have the abilities they claim. The rest could then be examined more closely if there appears to be no other way to explain what they seem to be doing. But if you think it is acceptable for researchers to take part in their experiments, or conduct those experiments with slack controls, I see no easy way to bridge the gap between the two sides of the argument.

It’s true that some of the early pioneers were using methods – including testing their new drugs on themselves, but that would not be allowed today. Some errors were made, as well, but those were the days when the scientific method we know today was just beginning to emerge. There was simply no other way for them to do it. (We owe a great debt to the likes of Pasteur and many others)

If someone tells me they have witnessed something that does not fit in with my view of how the world works, I will accept that they have had an experience of some sort, but finding out what it was is the tricky bit.

With regard to Schwartz or anyone else, and in any field of research, controls have to be in place to prevent bias. But I am not suggesting that the problem is due to anything deliberate. It is possible to bias an experiment with no conscious intent whatsoever on the part of the experimenter. If the possibility of bias has not been removed, then any results are suspect. If you think it’s OK for some spoon bender to supply his or her own spoons, then I, for one, will be suspicious. I can bend spoons as a party trick, but I would not allow my audience to supply the spoons, or examine the ones I provided. By Kris’s standards of evidence I can give conclusive proof that I have all the psychic abilities of any other alleged spoon bender.

Major – perhaps we would fear the consequences if the paranormal were true, but I don’t really think it is, so overall, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

I agree we’re not going anywhere in particular with this discussion, but it started out with a comment from Robert about a non-psychic subject (dogs), so I suppose it could have gone anywhere.

Hi Harley
I think this discussion has been helpful. Your last posting Harley appeared, to me anyway, a lot less high-handed and dismissive than some earlier posts and there wasn't much I would disagree with in it.

The only observation I would make is that you say 'if there is evidence it is extremely weak'. Do you mean the evidence is weak or the effect? If you mean the evidence then I am not sure what you mean by 'weak'. If one accepts there is a genuine effect, however weak, then it exists. The question then may be how the effect is produced, which is I think the point you make.

Harley

I will just let people read my response to your "arguments". I think anyone who sits down and reads our discussion will see that I thoroughly refuted your arguments again and again. They will see you bring nothing to this discussion besides snobbery, irrationality and a general failure to read basic English.

As for the illiteracy thing. I am beginning to suspect you cannot read after comments like that!!

My earlier post in which Harley thinks I called him illiterate.

" I for one want Harley to keep posting. This is your average skeptic. I have seen better and I have seen some worse ( seriously I got into a discussion with one who could not spell at all and he was a native English speaker. While this does not affect his arguments per say such demonstrated illiteracy makes you wonder how he can possible have studied paranormal arguments in enough depth). To me this is the face of skepticism that one is most likely to encounter and people who take the paranormal seriously need understand it."

The context of the post ought to make it obvious that I was not referring to Harley. I am willing to bit anyone else who reads this but Harley will reach that same conclusion.

Harley doesn't have arguments. He has his ability to insult, lie, and never admit error. This folks is your typical skeptic.

Paul – it is never my intention to be high handed, but I admit I was becoming frustrated with Kris’s rantings. When he claims that people like Richard Wiseman are now supporting the paranormal, I have to wonder what on earth is going on in his mind. Wiseman, I think, is just very polite in the way he speaks, and he tries very hard not to offend anyone. That’s very laudable, perhaps, but it leaves the door open for uninformed people like Kris to try to exploit anything that will give his personal beliefs added credibility.

I don’t think, though, that we will be seeing Wiseman announcing his belief in anything paranormal anytime soon – if that happened, it would be something of a coup for those who support the paranormal, and would be headlines across the blogosphere. But if he ever did, you can bet I would sit up and take notice; if someone I respect as a scientific researcher announces that he has found something that indicates the existence of any psychic phenomenon, I really want to know about it. Wiseman has a certain credibility that Kris will never have.

With regard to the strength of the evidence for anything paranormal, it still hinges on what the evidence is, and what the effect produced is supposed to be. I showed one of my levitation tricks to someone a few months ago, and she was astonished that I could “lift” myself into the air without any physical support (that she could see). But she badgered me for months to show her again and again, and tell her how I did it; I refused until I finally couldn’t take the constant pressure for an explanation any more. And when I showed her how it was done, she was crestfallen, because it is so easy to do. (If you want to know how many magic tricks are done, you can find them on YouTube, just like I do)

That woman is an honest person who would have sworn on oath that she witnessed something that she could not explain. But if she swore on oath that it was paranormal, she would have been mistaken, but not lying. The effect is certainly there; the question is: what is it that is actually happening?

If you have checked the link I gave earlier, you will see that it goes to something that has dramatic, real-life (or death) consequences. It is a sort of dowsing rod that might have cost hundreds or even thousands of lives. The seller/inventor of this device is facing a possible charge of fraud. He is not now in the position of just being able to ignore Randi’s challenge; he will, in all likelihood, be compelled to defend his claims in a court of law. He cannot just ignore that. And while this is waiting to be worked out, others who have bought the device are being investigated to see if the money in their bank accounts can be justified by their known (legitimate) income.

It’s going to be interesting to see what transpires. You have made references before to what is important as evidence in a court of law, rather than the “court” of science, but at least we might at last have something that can only work if it is a paranormal effect, tested in a very public way, whether that person likes it or not.

The worst that can happen to someone who fails Randi’s challenge is that they do not collect a million dollars. This fellow might be looking at a long time in jail.

Jesus Christ

Harley, are you literate? Where did I say that about Wiseman?

I am still waiting for evidence I misquoted him.

You are not an honest man Harley. You have no problem misrepresenting people and ignoring points that utterly refute your sad wasted arguments.

Paul, Major my patience is done. Enjoy the sophist.

Understood Kris.

Harley, I have to say I am not impressed either way by Wiseman. There are far more eminent (in their day) scientists who have endorsed psi phenomena. I do recall seeing Wiseman on a TV programme purporting to investigate such phenomena and watched a fake seance - this was presented in a way that implied it was proof that psi phenomena were fake - now this wasn't necessarily Wiseman's fault however it was disingenuous in my view. I have to say I do not view Wiseman as an objective investigator although I may be doing him a disservice.

As for the 'dowsing bomb detectors': I don't think they are any more relevant than citing any other fraud (of which there have been very many). Either they were tested and somehow worked and what was subsequently supplied was not the same product or they were not properly tested (I would be surprised to hear this due to the nature of the product, the supplier and the theatre of operation) or there has been some collusion between supplier and purchaser. I hope the truth does come out. We will see.

I am conscious that this thread was about how pets and owners have an understanding and we have probably gone somewhat off-topic. Interesting conversations though.

Paul – I’m not suggesting that a fraudulent psychic being exposed as a fake disproves psychic phenomena anymore than someone found to be impersonating a doctor disproves medical science. Even when a psychic fails the Randi challenge, it does not prove that that person is not psychic, just that that person did not exhibit their claimed powers at that particular time. But at the same time, I don’t think the standard of proof of anything can be based on the eminence of the person who endorses something – not only psychic phenomena – but also anything at all. An appeal to authority carries no weight.

With regard to whether the alleged dowsing bomb detectors have been tested, I think you are being rather optimistic about that. A cynic might think you are making excuses. It is a fact that suicide bombers are routinely passing checkpoints in Iraq where the same “detectors” are also routinely being used (and failing) to prevent those attacks. Given the number of people who are being killed and maimed on a regular basis, this is not in the same class as whether some celebrity psychic is really talking to an audience member’s dead uncle. Celebrity psychics, also, are not saving people’s lives; I would have some respect for them if they were, but “I’m getting the letter J…” doesn’t cut it for me.

If and when this case comes to court, I think a pragmatic way to demonstrate the device’s efficacy would be for its inventor to be dropped by helicopter into the middle of a live minefield with one of his detectors, but with the assurance that he can go free if he can get himself out of it safely. The say-so of any eminent person, for me, would not be enough, but I would immediately revise my view about this device if its inventor could demonstrate, personally, that it works.

That scenario won’t happen, of course, but if it did, I would bet that the number of mines he would find would be precisely one. (OK, maybe two if he happened to land on a second immediately after he found the first, but that would have to be classed as a fluke)

Kris – if you really want to know what a sophist is, I suggest you read Plato’s Protagoras. For you, it will be like looking into a mirror.

Meh, Kris gets owned in every debate he enters, he's just to obstinate to realise it. And this is from someone pro-psi.

Really Jacob....

Care to demonstrate that. Talk is cheap.

Harley has claimed the following and I for one would like to see him back his claims.

a.) I threatened him
b.) I called him illiterate

I wish he would do a textual analysis of the passages in question and show how I did that. .

I wish he would show the following.

a.) Where I only semi quoted Wiseman
b.) Where I claimed Wiseman supported the validity of the paranormal, instead of simply observing that Wiseman himself would not agree with his views on remote viewing.

I want everyone to notice a tremendous weakness in Harley's approach. He commits the fallacy of the excluded middle. Let's look at the following.

Wiseman

a.) Wiseman supports Remote Viewing
b.) Wiseman considers Remote Viewing to be rubbish

Harley cannot conceive of possibility c, that Wiseman thinks by normal standards it has been proven but wants additional evidence cause it is in fact paranormal. Therefore considering all this I can point out that even skeptics would disagree with Harley on the evidential state of remote viewing.

Below is more examples of how Harley continuously commits the fallacy of the excluded middle.

Remote Viewing.

a.) the military can use it
b.) or the military can use non paranormal means

He cannot consider the following possibilities

c.) the military no longer uses remote viewing cause normal methods work better
d.) the military still uses remote viewing but along side other technologies

Scientific Articles. Harley views them this way.

a.) they are perfect therefore their research is proven
b.) they contain a flaw, therefore they did not prove their research

He cannot conceive of possibility c. While containing a flaw in the research the flaw in the research was not enough to invalidate the outcome. This by far is the most sensible view. Does he truly think scientist dismiss a study over any flaw? How much time and money would that waste?

Another criticism of Harley I suspect is correct is that he expects the paranormal to be common and very powerful. If anything it is super rare and research such as Ganzfield and The Rhine Study would show it is relatively weak. How can Harley be a serious critic of paranormal research if he does not know what it has concluded?

Now Jacob. Show me where Harley overcame those arguments ( except the last one, that is new). I have made them again and again. Where did Harley do this? Until then, you talk is cheap Jacob.

Kris – you’re the only one going on and on about your silly remark about shooting me. I didn’t take it seriously; you seem to be covering up your own embarrassment at the realisation of its asinine nature. As I read your ever-more desperate rants, I realise there is more danger that I might die laughing.

And leave Jacob alone; he seems like a sensible fellow to me.

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