Psychic Detectives
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Guerrilla Skeptics

I use Wikipedia a lot in my journalism work, and I must say I've always found it an excellent resource. I know it has to be treated with caution, but in practice I assume it will be more accurate than not. So mostly I take it on trust.

Recently I've been poking around on the site to see how psi topics are presented. My impression is that a novice would come away with a pretty jaundiced view. It's obvious that sceptics are busily re-editing articles in their favour, and a reader has kindly sent me a link that shows how they do this. It's a project called Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, run by Susan Gerbic, who recruits sceptics to give pages a makeover, both those that publicise their own side (ie debunkers, key sceptic figures, etc) and also the opposition's (celebrity psychics, paranormal claimants, etc).

This is a specialised activity and Gerbic's blog gives tips and techniques. Recently she's gone global, getting sceptics to edit foreign language pages. It's all about creating perceptions - or I suppose they would say 'correcting'. The use of the word 'guerrilla' underlines its essentially hostile nature, but of course in their view the battle against superstition is just that, a battle. So they'll use whatever weapons come to hand.

And Wikipedia presents a rather large opportunity. It's easy to deflate a positive perception and replace it with a negative one. We encounter it all the time in sceptic discourse. The use of a 'however' qualifier at the end of a paragraph is often all it takes: 'Believers say they have uncovered X effect, however more careful researchers . . .' Look at this paragraph on remote viewing from the entry for 'Parapsychology':

Several hundred such trials have been conducted by investigators over the past 25 years, including those by the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR) and by scientists at SRI International and Science Applications International Corporation.[59][60] Many of these were under contract by the U.S. government as part of the espionage program Stargate Project, which terminated in 1995 having failed, in the government's eyes, to document any practical intelligence value.[61] PEAR closed its doors at the end of February 2007. Its founder, Robert G. Jahn, said of it that, "For 28 years, we've done what we wanted to do, and there's no reason to stay and generate more of the same data."[62] However, physicist Robert L. Park said of PEAR, "It's been an embarrassment to science, and I think an embarrassment for Princeton".[62]

This is cleverly done. One can see how an essentially neutral description might have been mucked about with by suitable insertions, particularly the rhetorical declaration at the end.

Always the aim is to round off any claim with a counter-claim. So in the section in 'Parapsychology' on random number generators a claim about meta-analyses consistently showing a statistically significant effect is followed by this:

The most recent meta-analysis on psychokinesis was published in Psychological Bulletin, along with several critical commentaries.[63][64] It analyzed the results of 380 studies; the authors reported an overall positive effect size that was statistically significant but very small relative to the sample size and could be explained by publication bias.

In other words, where the original claim was a general comment about many studies, this is a detailed comment about a single study. But precisely because it is detailed, it gives the impression of being more authoritative.

An awful lot of the sceptic material is just hostile opinion and rhetoric- as Park's comment above. In at least some cases this should be challenged.

In a review of parapsychological reports Ray Hyman wrote "randomization is often inadequate, multiple statistical testing without adjustment for significance levels is prevalent, possibilities for sensory leakage are not uniformly prevented, errors in use of statistical tests are much too common, and documentation is typically inadequate".[92]

Yes, Ray Hyman did write that in his review, but that's the only uncontested statement here. Citing a reference does not magically convert his hostile opinions into facts. Trouble is, this will not be at all clear to the casual reader.

Or this:

According to the skeptic Robert Todd Carroll research in parapsychology has been characterized by "deception, fraud, and incompetence in setting up properly controlled experiments and evaluating statistical data."[91]

In what world could someone like Todd Carroll, a compiler of spectacularly biased and poorly informed encyclopedia entries, be considered a serious authority? If this sort of thing is allowed on Wikipedia then what's to stop me inserting remarks like, 'According to psi-advocate Robert McLuhan, this type of critical commentary is tendentious tosh by people who haven't a clue what they're talking about."

We can't really complain about hostile editing, as long it stays within the Wikipedia guidelines for editors, which Gerbic seems committed to doing. As she sees it, it's all about insisting on backing up claims with evidence, which is what sceptics are all about. In fact I've even seen it suggested that Wikipedia is by nature a sceptical endeavour, since it depends on evidence. Some seem to have taken heart when its founder Jimmy Wales came out against homeopathy, a subject that infuriates them more than almost anything else.

I'm not sure how worked up I can get about Wikipedia's view of homeopathy or about celebrity psychics, who can look after themselves. Still, it's a pity that this key source for learning and education is so compromised as far as serious parapsychology is concerned. There is of course plenty of information about parapsychology, but little that isn't gummed up with sceptic disdain. Even aside from that, it looks rather flat and lame. What's to stop editors giving quotes from credible people - scientists, psi-researchers, experients who are well-known in other fields - that give their own enthusiastic responses? Why are the dullards, ignoramuses and professional nay-sayers getting such a free run?

We need to make it clear that our evidence counts as evidence. At the very least, if sceptics insert a long section at the end of an entry that promotes their views exclusively, under the heading of 'Criticism' or some such, then it seems to me to be perfectly legitimate to add a following section headed 'Responses to criticism', in which the key points would be rebutted, at leisure and without constant heckling.

I did briefly consider making contributions of my own, but where does one start? This is clearly a job for a specialist. We need our own Gerbic to help create a co-ordinated effort. For all I know, some-such project is being planned, in which case I look forward to hearing about it, and good luck!

The danger of course is getting into a tiresome tit-for-tat, with teams of rival guerrillas coming out at night and trashing the opposition's most recent efforts. In that case the victor would be whoever runs out of steam first. Actually I don't think it need come to that, and Wikipedia surely has ways of dealing with it. We don't need the last word; all we need to do is to put the carping in perspective, and ideally encourage readers to check out the subject for themselves in other sources, where they aren't going to be distracted by noisy sceptics.


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"We need to make it clear that our evidence counts as evidence...
We need our own Gerbic to help create a co-ordinated effort
". - Robert

Where do I sign up? It shouldn't be hard to do. The trick is to find a voluntary co-coordinator.
There are a massive number of paranormal, spiritual and psi/spirit related topics, organizations, people and ideas out there, so the next thing to do is compile a list.
Once a list is created (with periodic additions and adjustments via the co-coordinator), topics to watch could be assigned to individuals who would be responsible for monitoring the integrity of their assigned subject(s).
As long as the 'editor' was civil and supplied credible citations, I don't think Wikipedia would have a problem.
Not all assignments would be equal. Some folks are better informed about certain topics than others, and some folks have more time than others. For instance, I don't know much about quantum physics, but I'm quite familiar with IANDS (International Association of Near-Death Studies). I work 72 to 84 hours a week (self employed), but I can pop in an hour or two a day on the computer.There are journalists, scientists, homemakers, mechanics, waiters, doctors, unemployed liberal arts majors, and every type under the Sun out there that would love to be a part of such an effort.

I nominate Robert to get the ball rolling.

Addendum: 'The *loser* would be whoever runs out of steam first.'

Pedantry aside, "We need our own Gerbic to help create a co-ordinated effort." Agreed. That was my feeling from the start. But then I ask myself, why? Why bother? The truth is the truth and no amount of games playing and skullduggery will alter that. What are we (truth seekers?) afraid of? Why do the homework for others who apparently need to be spoon fed?

It looks a lot like a never ending nerd battle and I'm not sure it's worth the effort. Never fight the enemy where they're strongest.

What I've noticed is that while Wikipedia might persuade the most casual observer, most people can kind of tell that it's overly negative and will go beyond it if they're genuinely curious.

It may end up being the last skeptical stronghold long after they've lost the war.

I've had personal experience of this problem. Several years ago, C J Romer and I set out to improve the SPR Wikipedia page which was extremely sparse and uninformative. We kept the tone neutral but expanded the content so that it gave a more comprehensive overview.

What happened was that as we made incremental alterations, a sceptic kept changing them back, so that the whole thing was clumsily written and not worth using as a source, which was clearly the intention. This kept happening, we would make changes, the sceptic would undo them. This went on day after day, until we gave it up. The sceptic had more stamina, and won, because we decided we had more productive things to do with our time.

There are supposed to be Wikipedia rules against this sort of thing, and the individual had had a warning for similar behaviour elsewhere, but in practice, though I complained, nothing was done about it. Perhaps if the boot had been on the other foot action would have been taken.

I don't know what the SPR page looks like now but I wouldn't trust it as an impartial source of information. If you have a determined wrecker, it's not something worth fighting, there are other ways of getting good information into the public domain, this blog being an example.

This is nothing new, though appears from the examples given to have become more subtle. A number of years ago I looked up Rupert Sheldrake's entry on Wikipedia. It's current version appears to a be relatively straightforward biography, but at the time any reference to Sheldrake as even being a scientist was repeatedly struck out in the edit history..his status as such being vehemently denied by those doing the striking. Along with any other subject on Wikipedia deemed to fall into the Paranormal or Psi categories there was an insistence on rewriting any sentence that did not include the words "purported" or "alleged" to emphasise their dubious status. No doubt it still goes on.

A perhaps more freelance guerilla war goes on on Amazon too, as everyone here no doubt knows. Anything positively rated which might, by its subject matter, be presumed to contradict the sceptic worldview will have at least one one star rating and a suspiciously short review that gives no indication that the book in question has ever been read. The warriors who consider themselves a little more canny than their comrades will also often write a "I was really interested in reading this book, having read such positive reviews and being open minded, but was really disappointed."...followed by 1 star, naturally. (It always reminds me of the churchmen who realise kicking up a fuss only encourages people to see whichever blasphemous movie they'd prefer was never seen, so declare instead that they found it really boring....)

People who indulge in these strange tactics are, to be uncharitably blunt, not the sharpest tools in the box. I hold the strange honour of my review of Randi's Prize being the "most helpful" and therefore always appearing at the top of the page on Amazon UK. My review itself received comments from two individuals who were reviewing the review rather than the book, one of whom made it clear he'd not only not read the book but also that he's not read the review either! It's quite an amusing read as it can be fun biting back....

I swear, I detect a whiff of hubris in some of the comments here. It's as if people who are motivated to dig deeply into paranormal issues are the only folks who count.

Wikipedia appeals to the entire cross section of humanity, from the elite to the Great Unwashed. The elite's are going to believe what their fellow elite's tell them to believe, but the average curious schoolkid may initially take what they see in a Wiki article at face value, and move on.

Getting a full picture of any paranormal related topic takes a heluva lot of digging. Pseudo-sceptics can be intimidating and convincing. Maybe I'm being pollyanna-ish here, but a civil, concerted campaign to counter-balance sceptic attempts at repressing the open discussion of spirituality is the right thing to do.

Sure, Wikipedia can be a bear. I'm still disappointed that the link to Greg Taylor's article, Skeptical of A Skeptic was removed from the Leonora Piper entry.
But I have had successes myself. Back in the day, there was an effort to get the IANDS entry removed because IANDS was a "one sided advocacy group that supported a number of 'researchers' who believe that NDE's are somehow materially indicative of spiritualist planes".
I easily countered the attack by pointing out that (using the complaintants reasoning) the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry was a one-sided materialist advocacy group, therefore their entry should be removed, along with every article describing political parties.
Also, I've noticed that over the past year or so, Wikipedia has made a sincere effort to be more inclusive and fair in its articles.

I think a counter-balancing approach would be worth the effort, and once it got under way, it wouldn't be that hard to maintain.


Not sure what happened above. Anyway:

But isn't that just what the pseudo-skeptics do? Claim their efforts are in the interests of educating the gullible masses? Frankly, I find that approach insulting in the extreme. Argument rarely changes anyone's opinion.

One only has to visit places like the Sceptiko forum to see how futile it is to argue the toss. There are fundamentalists on both sides, and direct confrontations - like the infantile stand-offs, and deliberately antagonising moderation that one finds in places like Skeptiko, serve only to anchor the entire issue to street fighting level.

The more one engages with such people the more one espouses the cause of one's antagonist.

Ps. That should read 'Skeptiko forum'. 'Tis late. 8)

But Julie, Wikipedia isn't a forum, and if an obvious spat erupted, I'm sure the Wikipedia Admin would put a stop to it, much like Alex does when things get way out of control.

Yes, you have a point there, Rabbitdawg, in that Wikipedia isn't actually a forum. And, I suppose, for those who feel it worthwhile to spend their time and energy chasing pseudo-sceptics around the Internet there's no real harm in doing so. But it might help to bear in mind that, as Churchill famously said, a lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on. Isn't ther a certain indignity in all this?

That aside, the idea that Alex steps in to put a stop to the nonsense in the Skeptiko forum is a new one on me; things must have changed radically in there! He used to leave it up to one or two distinctly unpleasant control freaks.

Of all the research studies done by the SPR only this one is mentioned in its Wikipedia entry:
Psychological study

A psychological study involving 174 members of the Society for Psychical Research completed a delusional ideation questionnaire and a deductive reasoning task. As predicted, the study showed that "individuals who reported a strong belief in the paranormal made more errors and displayed more delusional ideation than skeptical individuals". There was also a reasoning bias which was limited to people who reported a belief in, rather than experience of, paranormal phenomena. The results suggested that reasoning abnormalities may have a causal role in the formation of paranormal belief.

My own reaction to all this is actually quite positive. If the "skeptics" were so convinced that the 'paranormal' doesn't exist, they wouldn't be expending all this time and effort to persuade the masses; they'd just leave the facts to take care of themselves.

The real motivation behind this activity is, of course, that the "skeptics" are whistling in the dark to reassure each other that they are still safe and secure under their fundamaterialist comfort-blanket.

These days I have no interest in debating "skeptics", any more than I would have in debating Christian Fundamentalists or members of the Flat Earth Society. Ultimately the science will win through, and psi will either be proven beyond reasonable doubt to be nonexistent, or it will be shown to be real - in which case we're in for a paradigm shift, and the "skeptics" can all pack up and get a proper job.

My sentiments exactly, Rupert.

*sigh* I'm swimming with sissies.

Oh well, maybe this is spinning gears, but I think a Guerrilla Sceptic Response movement would be fun. I have to admit that, after reading Greg Taylor's take on the matter, perhaps I'm giving the Wikipedia folks too much credit.
Nonetheless, a full throttled counter movement might be worth the effort, and would definitely be more fun than a barrel of Amazing Randi routines. I guess I'm weird like that.

IMO the good news is I can see the materialist fortress crumbling by the day. Mark my words - Materialism will be in the process of fighting for its life in mainstream science research within the next five to ten years, and that's being generous about the time frame.

Tell you what, our Rabbitdawg. You stage the battle and we'll buy the front row seats and popcorn. Whadayasay? 8)

I'm with you Rabbitdawg. I think this issue deserves a fightback. On the other hand I can't bear those aggressive ad hominem arguments in discussion forums - they're so depressing, the way it seems you can never, ever get someone to change or open their mind even a tiny bit.

But I think this Wikipedia issue is actually quite important. In the UK at least, and I think across western society, academia and official culture is dominated by the scientific materialist worldview - it's just the assumed truth in our society. That goes right across psychology, psychiatry and biology in particular, not to mention all kinds of wider attitudes, and quite apart from the narrow field of psi itself. I'm just as interested in how the cracks are appearing in biology as I am in psi and related areas - and believe me they are appearing in biology, through the discoveries of molecular biology that show how incredibly complex yet precisely ordered living systems are, while the gene explanation is falling apart.

As the evidence mounts that this broad worldview is a failure and factually wrong then I think the battle to defend it will intensify.

Intelligent, rational, articulate people are needed to put a different point of view. The problem is so often that it's either scientific materialism or it's religion. We badly need an evidence (and intuition) based alternative viewpoint presented widely.

I also agree that young people in particular use Wikipedia as a key source of info. Young people need to see a wider view without it being immediately rubbished.

So, anyway, I'd do what I can to help...

Wikipedia goes with what the scientific sources say from the overall scientific consenus. The overall consenus from the scientific community is that psi is pseudoscience. Wikipedia is not interested in promoting fringe/pseudoscience ideas. Perhaps you should create your own wikipedia called "paranormalwiki" or something like that if you want to promote your own ideas.

Anyone for a Wikipedia called 'round earthers'? 8)

I am an editor for Wiki. Maybie I can help?

Alot of the time I have problems trying to edit the pages because the skeptics come in and change eveything. It is frustrating, but I have a few pages that have been successful.

"but I have a few pages that have been successful."

what ones?

There have been several ones Smiley. Do I have to list them? Why?

They were awhile ago, and the edits stayed for over a year, finally a skeptic came in and changed things, but not just my change, they rewrote the entire page. It was the psychic detective page that was the latest.

I am wondering if there is any interest in really doing this, or are people just talking?

I tend to side with Weiler and Ruffles here and others, that Wiki is inflexibly biased, whilst pretending impartiality and neutrality. I think Rabbitdawg is being way too kind to Wiki. Wiki is fundamentally dishonest.

Vicki Lynn, your experience seems to prove the case of those - like myself - who are wary of Wiki, not the other way around. Frankly it is a waste of time, Wiki is tied to a desperate hewing to the status quo in science across the board and will resort to the same tactics that Big Science resorts to when defending the status quo - censorship, misrepresentation, whitewashing etc.

I think, without condescending people here, that there is too narrow a focus on psi among a lot of people (well those of us commenting here), and so one only thinks the bias re Wiki is with psi and Forteana. The bias, the misrepresentations, censorship is across the board re Wiki's coverage of science. It cannot be trusted with any scientific controversy or cutting edge science issue whatsoever. There is a long dark history here that unless you really do the research or the digging, you are not going to know about. It doesn't matter what your position is re other scientific controversies - evolution, global warming, GMOs, BigPharma medicine, 'cold fusion'; you are not going to know the deeper issues no matter which side you take, by going to Wiki. You will just be led further astray by Wiki.

Wiki cannot be trusted with any controversial scientific topic whatsoever, in fact any hot potato controversy across the board. It is woeful, disgraceful even, yet Wiki is only following the lead of respectable society and respectable mainstream status quo opinions. I don't want to be misunderstood here, I am not one of these conspiracy theorists who thinks all sorts of conspiracy garbage should be taken seriously, like the David Icke garbage (pick your favourite scapegoat to blame the world's and your own problems on). What I mean is that Wiki is Establishment Science dumbed down, it is palpably dependent on and pathetically tied to respectable consensus opinion.

The only think Wiki is useful for is general trivial knowledge, or knowledge on non-controversial issues, the history of some computer software, the moon landings etc. For that it's great and nothing else. Wiki at best is the triumph of trivial info over knowledge. At worst it is sinister, for the reasons I hint at.

Frankly, Robert and no offense, but when you say you generally trust Wiki and find it useful re journalism work, my God I shudder. That is so naive. I know of high school teachers who will give their kids automatic fails if the kids cite Wikipedia as a source in their projects, and rightly so. And the kids are told this upfront. Kudos to such teachers.

Trying to correct or improve Wiki on psi is a Sisyphean task. Anybody truly serious about any scientific topic doesn't waste his time with Wiki, or quickly learns not to; and those who are not serious, well they are not serious and that's that.

PS I am not to be confused with Lawrence B

"The only think Wiki is useful for is general trivial knowledge, or knowledge on non-controversial issues, the history of some computer software, the moon landings etc. For that it's great and nothing else. "

Just a sec.. Half a mo! There's considerable controversy surrounding the moon landings. Or does no one still believe they happened in the Arizona desert? Excuse me you chaps. I'm off to Wiki to get the heads up. ;)

Wiki seems to me like any source of information where we don't know the originator. Take it under advisement.

If one needs accurate information about a subject to make a serious decision, it is always wise to go to a reputable source. Since it is often difficult to know the bona fides of the sources for wiki articles, a degree of circumspection is probably in order.

Apropos the question of whether or not to "fight back" against guerrilla "skepticism", I would reiterate what I wrote on an earlier thread:

Truth will out. Materialism and religious fundamentalism are indeed beginning to fight for their lives, as their protagonists start to sense that both of these worldviews are long past their sell-by date, and that a new understanding is coming into being.

This is why the fundies are getting more strident. Whether they worship Jesus or Randi their backs are against the wall; they know it, and they're lashing out with increasing desperation.

You can't reason with these people. They will be left waving their flag for either Bronze Age theology or 19th century science long after the rest of the world has moved on.

Nobody needs to "fight" the "skeptics"; their view of the world will fall apart within a generation, as will that of the religious fundamentalists. A synthesis of science and spirituality is mankind's next great leap forward, and it will come without anybody having to fight for it.

We must be sisters under the skin, our Rupert!

Lawrence you obviously don't understand what wiki is. As I said before wikipedia goes with what the reliable sources say. What are reliable sources? Scientific sources etc. It goes with what the overall scientific consenus says. If there are 60 scientific papers claiming psychokinesis is illusion and fraud then that is what wikipedia cites. It doesn't go with a single source claiming psychokinesis has been proven. That would be in violation of weight. On paranormal articles on wikipedia there is no such thing as neutral point of view, becuase all the scientific references say it does not exist. Adding in a handful of fringe sources claiming these things do exist does not represent the scientific consensus and is pushing a fringe point of view.

There are no peer-reviewed scientific papers in mainstream journals concluding things like psi, aliens or spiritualism have been proven. If there was then this information would be put on wikipedia... there is no conspiracy to supress evidence for the paranormal. If the evidence existed it would be put on websites such as wikipedia but it does not exist in science.

LOL! Catch 22.

Seriously, Robert, doesn't this ilustrate my point? Who would want to deal with oiks like 'TheSmileys' and their similary uninformed next lines of attack?

Ps. 'Illustrate' even.

No sooner would you have defeated the arguments of one line of foot soldiers then another, similarly stupid/ignorant, battalion would come along. Is it really worth the effort?

Very strange ideas some of you have about Skeptics. Calling people "pseudoskeptics" doesn't make them so. Skepticism is a stance and process. Here is the ideal: No one is perfect but we this is what Skeptics aspire to practice.

If you included citations and references to your comments to balance the ones you disagree with, I don't see why that wouldn't be a worthwhile effort. But it's the citations part...It's not an easy job.

"Research has associated paranormal belief with low cognitive ability, low IQ and a lack of science education."

Get a science education Julie and maybe you would not believe in such silly things. :)

LOL! I'm a former lady chairman of British Mensa with a science education.

TheSmileys, spare me the patronizing remarks. I know exactly what Wiki is - it engages in censorship, misrepresentation and whitewashing, dishonest editing and alterations, distortions as does mainstream science, corrupted to the gills. A reinforcing loop, that only true believers in the status quo take seriously, and the naive. You're either one or the other. Or both. Catch 22 indeed as Julie puts it. The blind faith religious dynamic here and its irony lost on the true believers in scientific materialism.

Oh yeah the following folk all took/take the paranormal seriously: Newton, Robert Boyle, (they took the supernatural very seriously, considered it valid and real) Wolfgang Pauli, David Bohm, J J Thompson (discover of the electron), Oliver Lodge (one of the greatest physicists of his day), William Crookes (ditto), Brian Josephson (Nobel Laureate for his theoretical work on superconductors), Alfred Russell Wallace (co-discoverer with Darwin of the modern theory of evolution, one of the fathers of biogeography), Pierre and Marie Curie, Charles Richet (Nobel Laureate in medicine), Kary Mullis (Nobel for inventing PCR, revolutionized genetics), William James (father of American psychiatry), William McDougal (prominent psychiatrist), Camille Flammarion (noted astronomer), Carl Jung, Arthur Ellison (prominent engineer), Ulrich Mohrhoff (noted particle physicist), Arthur Balfour, Mark Twain, Theodor Landscheidt (noted solar physicist), Alister Hardy (famous biologist), Max Weber (one of the founders of modern sociology) Lincoln, Churchill, Hans Berger (invented the EEG), Ralph Abraham (noted mathematician), Robert Jahn, dean of engineering Princeton, Robert Broom (famous paleanthropologist), Gerald Hawkins (famous astronomer), Jacques Vallee, pioneering computer scientist, Hal Puthoff, noted laser physicist, Plato, Plotinus, Henri Bergson, George Washington Carver, Edgar Mitchell (Apollo astronaut). Way way way more scientists (physicists, biologists, anthropologists etc), mathematicians, academics, statesmen, philosophers. I haven't even gotten into their number from within the Orient and Russia. That's all just off the top of my head.

Rupert W and Julie, I don't share your optimism about the future, a Prague Spring as it were, that will shake up Big Science. I hope I'm wrong and you are right but I just don't see it happening. Circa 1970 there was a feeling things were changing for the better, the status quo of scientific materialism was heading for a fall in the West. Never happened even though the evidence of a hidden intelligence in nature has only grown considerably since then, and I don't just mean the evidence from psi, I mean the evidence from biophysics, genetics, physics, ecology and other disciplines. The reasons are complex of course, but science is not removed from society. One needs to get into the sociology of science to understand why the hoped for house cleaning (for the better) never happened and why I don't see it happening in the foreseeable future. Society, culture has to change first, and well if anything we are as deeply entrenched in destructive materialist attitudes and the like as ever before. The tail does not wag the dog. Anyway a complicated subject.

That patronising comment from TheSmileys neatly encapsulates everything that is wrong with the "skeptic" movement.

It's not surprising that there are an increasing number of recovering "skeptics" who have realised that their involvement with the movement was not motivated by a search for truth, but by their desire to feel superior to lesser mortals.

Exactly the same motivation, in fact, that fuels religious fundamentalists.

The more I see and hear of the "skeptic" movement, the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than a clone of fundamentalist religion, and attracts precisely the same personality types for precisely the same reasons.

Complicated indeed! BTW, you left out Goethe from your list of psi enthusiasts. 'Twas Goethe who said, 'The future casts its shadow before it'; I have always found that to be true.

Anyway, I agree, Lawrence, nothing will change in a hurry (things seldom do). But change will come. And, as I said at the beginning, the truth will always remain the truth, no matter how many try to deny it. Isn't that the story of The Emperor's New Clothes? Things will reach a point (tipping point?) when the absurdity of the current willful-blindness will be seen for exactly what it is: scientific fundamentalism.

Meanwhile, people such as our Robert here will help to nudge the process along. Alex Tsakiris is a significant figure too - but, sadly, he's let down by his Skeptiko forum - the atmosphere of which follows him around like a nasty smell.

"The more I see and hear of the "skeptic" movement, the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than a clone of fundamentalist religion, and attracts precisely the same personality types for precisely the same reasons."

Hear, hear! (And very succinctly put, if I might say so, Rupert.) 8)

"I know exactly what Wiki is - it engages in censorship, misrepresentation and whitewashing, dishonest editing and alterations, distortions as does mainstream science"

Lawrence there is no censorship. There are no scientific publications that prove the claims of the paranormal. The burden of proof is you on you believers to prove your stuff but over 150 years and nothing.

If your psi claims were real then we would have the scientific evidence by now, and it would turn science on it head, it would be all round the world in every scientific journal, and there would be a paradigm shift in science. Scientific journals like nature would have published it. But none exist in science. No shift has happened. Nothing repeatable. No conclusive scientific evidence :)

"The blind faith religious dynamic here and its irony lost on the true believers in scientific materialism"

Please study the definition of science. Science is the study of the physical world via empirical study and observation. Science is material. It is dishonest when you psi believers keep claiming science is non-material. If you were honest you would just admit your beliefs about paranormal and psi are metaphysical and beyond scientific study but you never do that :(

The Standard Model of physics (recently the Higgs particle was detected in proof) can predict particle values to 10 or more decimal places, so there can be no new mystical fields or forces or cosmic mechanisms to discover. Everything is therefore contained within physical reality and there is no room for Psi. The vacuum has the property that everything that is not forbidden by physical law does happen - so since the standard model is correct up to 100's of GeV, way beyond chemical phenomena of ~eV, there is nothing else to be detected. Sorry.

"Oh yeah the following folk all took/take the paranormal seriously"

Argument from authority but if you think you have a valid case, please cite their peer-reviewed scientific papers. Cheers :)

In an experiment using neuroimaging to resolve the psi debate (Moulton and Kosslyn, 2008) wrote:

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used in an effort to document the existence of psi. If psi exists, it occurs in the brain, and hence, assessing the brain directly should be more sensitive than using indirect behavioral methods (as have been used previously). To increase sensitivity, this experiment was designed to produce positive results if telepathy, clairvoyance (i.e., direct sensing of remote events), or precognition (i.e., knowing future events) exist. Moreover, the study included biologically or emotionally related participants (e.g., twins) and emotional stimuli in an effort to maximize experimental conditions that are purportedly conducive to psi. In spite of these characteristics of the study, psi stimuli and non-psi stimuli evoked indistinguishable neuronal responses-although differences in stimulus arousal values of the same stimuli had the expected effects on patterns of brain activation. These findings are the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of paranormal mental phenomena.

You have a peer reviewed paper there published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience and it has demonstrated that psi does not exist.

See what I mean, Robert? 8/

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I plan to reply in a separate post.

I would like to keep this thread on topic. As regards the last few comments, I've requested TheSmileys to stop posting and would ask others not to reply to him here.


As someone who is not only into psi but also very much interested in the occult, I myself believe in faeries (as well as psychic ability, magick, etc.) I've found TheSmileys rather condescending tone to be insulting, but hopefully if they follow Robert's request I won't see much more of it.

I might ask, though, in response to TheSmileys comment about mainstream scientists viewing us as a bunch of "kooks" - what exactly is wrong with being a kook?

Kooks are fun! (For the most part.) I've always been drawn to people who are eccentric or a bit different. I think we help make the world a more interesting place.

There's nothing wrong at all with being a "kook" or different or having non-mainstream ideas about how reality is. Sometimes I think scepticism of the sneering and rude kind is really just a vehicle for prejudice against people who are different - rather like homophobic attitudes.

hear hear, michelle !

we've seen mad pride grow

here's autistic pride

psi pride, right around the corner ?

"Kooks are fun!"

Couldn't someone make that into a bumper sticker?

I like the "psi pride" idea too. And how about a bumper sticker for UFO enthusiasts: "Glad to be Gray"?

Robert anything I read on Wikipedia these days I immediately seek to verify its claims elsewhere because it's being surreptitiously seized control of by a number of mutually obliged special interest groups who refuse to recognise their own tendencies to bias and agendas because they're utterly convinced they're right and anyone who disagrees's wrong and the only way you can get up the ladder of influence's by consistently demonstrating you're on message.

For instance I didn't know Jimmy Wales'd come down against homeopathy but that wouldn't matter if they reported all the facts and did so without burying the stuff that weakens the various agendas being pushed.

And once upon a time for instance Wikipedia used to mention Professor Madeleine Ennis' research on the Homeopathy page only to apparently revoke it by mentioning Randi's take before qualifying this by mentioning Ennis' own claims the protocols and procedures Randi's people used varied significantly from her own work.

Now though not only doesn't she even get mentioned on the Homeopathy page but on her own page both she and the research concerned receives a brief and cursory summary followed by a quote mentioning her own inability to explain the results followed by this conclusion "A team of scientists failed to replicate these results. These experiments were conducted by reputable scientists under protocols set by the James Randi Educational Foundation under their million dollar challenge" conveying the impression certain other scientists *ahem* mightn't be quite so reputable but now completely ommitting any original reference to or mention of or even a link to these comments of Ennis'

"I am quite horrified at the things that Lionel* was saying about how the histamine was made up. This does not sound like a good scientific method.

"[*NOTE: This refers to Lionel Milgrom, a chemist and a homeopath, who witnessed the making of the homeopathic doses of histamine and who observed extremely sloppy procedures. This information is a part of this body of evidence that expressed concerns about this study]
Again I find it fascinating that everybody is not trying to repeat the original observations i.e the extensive work published by Sainte-Laudy and Belon but rather the small experiment that I published but I suppose that since that is in the public eye it will stay wrong for eternity.

"Speaking to Wayne , he really knows very little about basophils, although he is an experienced flow cytometrist. He knew nothing about the commercially available kits looking at basophil activation (there are 2 good ones on the market) nor about the European study investing drug allergies using this methodology.

"As you know, I never agreed to approve his protocol i.e. assess if the study design was adequate to assess the expected differences.
I spoke to Wayne on 25 th November in the afternoon and merely commented on differences in his protocol. I can not say what impact they would have had as I have not tested out his protocol. It differs from the one that we were following i.e. the work published by Sainte-Laudy.

"He left the blood to sediment for 4 hours - this is far longer than we ever used.

"He used completely different buffers including the addition of foetal calf serum.

"He added in an ammonium chloride lysis step.
[NOTE: This step alone would be enough to consider this research to be junk science. Ammonium chloride would kill all of the basophils, even before any homeopathic medicine would be administered.]
He added in a passive sensitization step and said that the cells were used within 24 h for the assay (we would not leave our basophils hanging around for such a long time). They were left in the presence of 10% foetal calf serum (this is not a defined medium and could contain many things that might influence an assay).

"I do not know where he got his anti-IgE from (this was not given in the protocol) and I did tell him that anti-IgE varies from supplier to supplier and indeed from batch to batch.

"I had suggested that he tested all his donors using a dose response curve of anti-IgE - different donors respond differently to anti-IgE. It is common to have a bell-shaped curve. I suggested that he used donors that gave an activation of ca. 30-40%. I do not know how many donors he planned to use.

"In the multi-centre study invalid data points arose e.g. if there was no basophil activation (in this case measured by counting of cells) other data were eliminated if the partner data was missing i.e. if you did not have the matching treatment or control counts.

"Given the time scale involved I am not sure if he repeated the experiments with different donors or not.

"By the way - if they are trying to repeat the paper that I published on the flow ctytometric method then they should have done dose response curves for the histamine and not simply pick a few dilutions to test - but that is kind of obvious."

Gilad Atzmon's observed much the same sort of misrepresentational approach in relation to him and his writings but because he's supposedly persona grata that must make it alright.

Yet as someone trained at university to systematically lay down all the information weighing all the pros and cons before coming to a conclusion only at the end I've noticed the acceleration of this tenditiousness if not downright pushing of mutually supportive agendas and can only see it getting worse unless like the way say the BBC used to work all the parties are fairly represented on all subjects.

@ Billy and Rupert:

I've thought for a while now (quite seriously) that it might be beneficial for those interested in the paranormal, occult and everything that entails, to imitate what the gay community has done, in terms of gay pride events, marches, etc.

It has been a long and slow process for gays, but look how far forward they've come. They've doggedly kept at it, standing up for themselves, and they've won the public over. Good for them!

I think us paranormal/psi proponents need to do the same. The bullying that comes our way is really just another form of bigotry, yet it's bigotry that is socially acceptable.

I'd like to see paranormal pride marches or psychic pride events. People don't have to agree with us or believe what we do, but they should be urged to treat us kindly, fairly and with the respect that they would give to fellow human beings.

Craig Weiler's blog post here is excellent -

He compares the prejudice towards psychics with the prejudice towards gays. It's quite an interesting comparison and while psychics are, of course, not in the same boat as gay people, there are similarities.

And shall we have David Icke proponents dancing on the streets too, our Michelle? What you propose is a twin-edged sword.

I don't see why not, Julie. :) See, what we'd be demonstrating for is not the validity of our beliefs, but our right to be treated with kindness and respect, and out right to not be bullied. Whether or not our beliefs are true would not be the point.

I'm not saying the issue of validity should be ignored, but the point of 'pride' marches and events, as I see it, would be about social acceptance/tolerance of psychics, et al, rather than determining the validity of the beliefs.

With all due respect Robert, I hope you are also reading the "Talk" page associated with the Wikipedia topic. It can be very informative to see how decisions about what goes or stays in an article are made. I have lost all respect for Wikipedia after having created a Wikipedia topic and then watched it deteriorate before my eyes. That's not to say that I don't refer to articles for general information sometimes but anything that has two sides to the argument is useless. I believe that at least some of the moderators are people with time on their hands and nothing else to do but make asinine inconsequential grammatical changes and biased puerile additions and deletions to the articles. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had not even completed their high school education. Based on some of the comments I have read in the "Talk" pages some of them seem to remind me of adolescent boys spouting titillating gutter talk in high school locker rooms and then slapping each other on the butts with a wet towel.

I had my own experience in frustration with Wickipedia when I tried to add to the entry on the Kensington Runestone. I live in Minnesota and have visited the inscribed stone and even attended a couple of lectures by knowledgeable archeologists and geologists. One of these was by a University of Minnesota geologist who studied the rate of erosion of the inscribed runes. He concluded (and published a paper on the subject) that the extent of the erosion meant that the inscription had to be more than 200 years old. I inserted into the Wickipedia entry the previous sentence and included the proper reference. A month later, when I looked at the Kensington Runestone entry my insertion was simply gone. So much for Wickipedia's (already shaky) reputation for truth.

Dean you might want to read:,_not_truth

Wikipedia is not about truth, it is about what the reliable (scientific sources) say, i.e. the scientific consenus. Sources from reliable scientific journals (peer-reviews) etc. If the reliable scientific sources were saying the earth is flat then that is what would be on wikipedia... but as you know this is not the case! Of course scientific journals do not support paranormal or fringe claims.

All of you posting on this blog might be correct, perhaps psychic phenomena, mediumship, aliens etc etc are all real and "truth". But you have to understand there are no peer-reviewed scientific papers/journals claiming they are real, so it will never make its way onto wikipedia (and citing parapsychology fringe journals do not count, they are deleted and deemed pseudoscience). So this entire blog post is pretty futile, you have no chance of putting any of your claims on wiki regarding the paranormal, unless of course you debunk the paranormal!. Any fringe views are very quickly deleted on wikipedia, so you are wasting your time.

>> there are no peer-reviewed scientific papers/journals claiming they are real<<

Yes, there are. (And no, I don't just mean "parapsychology fringe journals", which is outrageously offensive given the rigorous standards most of them have and the fact that they often publish skeptical pieces...)

sorry but ur wrong n/a there are none.

I think "smiley" must set a record of persistent totally false statements.

I have noticed problems with Wikipedia on a number of controversial topics, political, economic, etc. I hadn't, before last Friday, found two websites instructing people into how to ideologically distort Wikipedia and "Web of Trust", and those just both happen to be ideological "Skeptics".

Wikipedia is a failed experiment, you can't trust any reference source in which the editors and authors aren't named and the fact checking process, likewise, in the hands of named people who will know their credibility is at stake. That's the only way to keep a reference work honest. Wikipedia makes a lot of that now totally outmoded "study" comparing it favorably to Britannica. Well, not on controversial topics, it isn't, and not consistently on any topic at any given time.

We know it is being slanted and that the people who control Wikipedia aren't interested in doing anything about that. They have no credibility and their resource is corrupted.

Smiley, are you seriously suggesting that there are *no* peer-reviewed articles/studies supporting the existence of psi phenomena *except* for those published in parapsychology journals? If so, I'd be happy to list some citations.

Or, do you instead mean that there are no *journals* that have the corporate view that psi phenomena are real?

If the latter, I agree. If the former, you’re just flat out wrong.

Storm et al. (2010), “A meta-analysis with nothing to hide: reply to Hyman”, Psychological Bulletin, vol 136, number 4, pages 491-494

J. Grinberg‐Zylberbaum et al. (1994), “The Einstein‐Podolsky‐Rosen Paradox in the Brain: The Transferred Potential”, Physics Essays, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 422-428.

Bierman, D. J. & Radin, D. I. (1997). “Anomalous anticipatory response on randomized future conditions”, Perceptual and Motor Skills, volume 84, 689-690

Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Anyones whos simply relying on Wikipedia obviously only has a passing interest anyways. I've never put much stock in Wikipedia as they have a history of skewering any alternative topic (as any observant person would know along with the same thing seen on other sites).

Pseudo-skeptics are propagating their own worldview to the masses, education and science are simply a guise for them.

The obvious weakness in Smiley's explanation of sources for Wikipedia articles is, of course, the subjective evaluative definitions of "reliable" , "scientific", "peer reviewed", "psuedoscience", "fringe views" and the like. Definitions of these terms for Wikipedia purposes ultimately lie within the eye-of-the-beholder , i.e. the moderators.

"Definitions of these terms for Wikipedia purposes ultimately lie within the eye-of-the-beholder , i.e. the moderators."

I agree, that is why someone needs to create a paranormal wiki, but nobody ever does. The two top wikipedia websites are the original wikipedia which gets millions of views and rationalwiki. Theres also stuff like metapedia and magicwiki that come up but not as often as wikipedia.

Due to the rise in anomalistic psychology... parapsychology is in a current bad state. Some of the few universities have even stopped teaching parapsychology courses and funding has stopped etc.

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