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Psychic Ability Claim Doesn't Hold Up In New Scientific Experiments

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the pre-imagining-the-counterevidence dept.

Science 315

cold fjord writes with some stunning news from the world of science, excerpting: "A new study has failed to find evidence that psychic ability is real. Skeptics may scoff at the finding as obvious, but the research is important because it refutes a study published in a psychological journal last year that claimed to find evidence of extrasensory perception. That research, conducted by Daryl Bem of Cornell University, triggered outrage in the psychological community when the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology announced in 2010 that the paper had been accepted for publication." Here's a link to the academic paper.

cancel ×

315 comments

in my minds eye (3, Funny)

pinfall (2430412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388203)

I see a flurry of dumb comments being posted on /..

Re:in my minds eye (0)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388219)

I viewed it first, but posted in the future.

Re:in my minds eye (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389313)

All I know is my grandma had precog three times in her life. the first time she begged my mom not to go riding with these other kids as something bad would happen, she and the other kids blew her off and an hour later the car was nearly cut in half when a drunk slammed them into a semi. luckily nobody died but the injuries were severe and they spent a good 6 months in the hospital. 6 years later again she begs them not to go, 3 of them including my mom refuse to go and the car they were supposed to be in blew a tire going around a steep curve, 3 dead and 1 mangled including the driver decapitated and finally the last time it happened she called my cousin's mom and begged her not to let her son out which by that time everyone had heard what happened when she said "don't go" so naturally she told her son he wasn't going anywhere and why but Mike thought she was full of shit and snuck out with his buddies to go on a beer run. They were missing for 4 days before someone finally found the wreck, they had been using a seldom traveled on back road they weren't real familiar with and missed a curve. the driver was cut in half, the guy in the back seat was throw so hard against the ceiling he snapped his neck, the guy in the front passenger had his left arm sliced off below the elbow and had bled to death trying to crawl up the embankment and finally my cousin was thrown through the window and pinned under the front of the car where the pressure against his lower abdomen was so great his kidneys and lower intestines basically died for lack of blood, he lived 3 days before finally succumbing to organ failure.

So all I know is if one of the females in my family (it was always the females that got "those feelings" never the males) called and said "I have a bad feeling, you shouldn't go out" my ass is staying parked friend.

Re:in my minds eye (1)

murphyje (965004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388239)

Bollocks! Nobody has ever seen, or heard of, this... this... Slashdot that you speak of! Therefore, nobody will post dumb comments because logic dictates that the one precede the other.

Not surprising (5, Funny)

mseeger (40923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388213)

I have foreseen that outcome....

Re:Not surprising (1, Funny)

JamesP (688957) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388353)

Funny how it's the skeptics who 'claim' they knew the results of this beforehand.

Oh, and by the way, when you do an experiment like that, make sure you use a proper random number generator. (one that has a *tested* uniform distribution - if you're expecting a uniform distribution of course, otherwise, test for the distribution you're expecting)

Re:Not surprising (3, Insightful)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388425)

Ah, yes, but then you'd have to know how to rigorously test for uniform distributions to obtain and interpret p-values and the like, and seriously (speaking of probabilities) what are the odds that a psychologist who takes the hypothesis of precognition seriously knows either statistics or how to design double-blind experiments properly?

rgb (speaking ex cathedra as the author of dieharder, which does indeed know how to test for uniform distributions as well as test random number generators in general many, many ways...;-)

Re:Not surprising (2)

JamesP (688957) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388459)

Most failures in 'randomizing' data are not difficult to detect (once you look at it)

Two examples.

1 - http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/12/the-danger-of-naivete.html [codinghorror.com]

2 - (this happened to me) program works on one compiler, in the other it gives strange results (this is a simulation of signal transmission over noise conditions). Turns out on compiler 'a' random() doesn't return a value from 0 to the maximum value of a long, but returns up to a value less than the maximum value

Re:Not surprising (4, Funny)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389053)

In this case, in order to get random numbers that are more random, I suggest that you generate a large number of them, say 10,000, and then take their average. </sarcasm>

Re:Not surprising (4, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388531)

Look at the available evidence - if there was any psychic ability then the chances are that it would already be well documented. Even a slight statistical ability would have big impacts in warfare, commerce and many other areas of life. Whether a single study will overturn this is unlikely, so making a prediction that study-X won't show psychic ability is valid.

If you want an analogy, imagine getting a big crowd of people together who believe in psychics, and who have handed over their name, address, CC details and other snippets of information - you could probably convince them that you're talking to their dead relatives, if you wanted to be a fraudulent shyster who likes making money from the grief and hope of the gullible.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39389233)

What about all the writings from Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, metaphysics, and other writings of the occult? I'd say it's been documented for, at least, hundreds of years.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39389391)

Something has been documented by that but I wouldn't call it psychic ability.

Re:Not surprising (2)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388699)

Like the sceptics who 'claim' that they knew subsequent tests will show neutrinos don't travel faster than light!

You use past results and experience to predict the future. That a single study showing positive results for ESP was flawed in some way, is a natural starting position. If this study had backed it up, then I'd still assume both are flawed in some way, just with a little less confidence.

Re:Not surprising (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389017)

Funny how it's the skeptics who 'claim' they knew the results of this beforehand.

Funny how it's the skeptics who 'claim' that an apple is going to fall towards the earth.

Re:Not surprising (2)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388771)

Problem with this study is that they didn't use genuine, top psychics in the field.

Re:Not surprising (5, Funny)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388827)

Actually, I believe there was a cable problem...

Well now.. (1)

SiliconSeraph (996818) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388231)

Lets just see if this stops the DHS from establishing a pre-crime department.

Re:Well now.. (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388535)

I suspect that if DHS set up a pre-crime department it wouldn't actually matter if the psychics really could predict anything...

Re:Well now.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388647)

stops the DHS from establishing a pre-crime department.

I'm confused. I thought the DHS is the pre-crime department.

What do I take on faith? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388235)

cain and abel. I take relativity on faith.

Social Psychology? (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388249)

If ESP is ever proven real, the ones that will be most interested are the physicists.

Re:Social Psychology? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388295)

ESP is already proven to those using it on a daily basis. Physicists shouldn't ever ignore aspects of reality, b/c what they aim to do is to describe reality. They haven't done imaging of electromagnetic fields around brains yet (which are the antennae for our consciousnesses which are located outside our bodies beyond time and space). The brain is a sequencer unit for the sole purpose of serializing perception. There's also a relationship between subatomic particles and their respective consciousness-lets, there's a transitional state between consciousness and matter called not-yet-matter. An Electromagnetic Unit is smaller than the smallest subatomic particle. It will all be proven with scientific studies one day when instruments have become even better. Physicists should use mathematics properly. Math is not a toy, it's a tool.

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388355)

What.The.Fsck?

Re:Social Psychology? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388399)

^This is how crazy you have to be to actually believe in ESP.

Re:Social Psychology? (3, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388623)

You don't have to be crazy. Uncritical or uneducated is enough. Keep in mind that the amount of logical and mathematical education most of the /. audience have is not representative for the general population.

There are a couple proven psychological traps at work here, such as confirmation bias, our inability to correctly estimate non-trivial probabilities, and more.

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388841)

Or religion

Re:Social Psychology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388423)

Someone mod this Funny

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388439)

ESP is already proven to those using it on a daily basis. Physicists shouldn't ever ignore aspects of reality, b/c what they aim to do is to describe reality. They haven't done imaging of electromagnetic fields around brains yet (which are the antennae for our consciousnesses which are located outside our bodies beyond time and space). The brain is a sequencer unit for the sole purpose of serializing perception. There's also a relationship between subatomic particles and their respective consciousness-lets, there's a transitional state between consciousness and matter called not-yet-matter. An Electromagnetic Unit is smaller than the smallest subatomic particle. It will all be proven with scientific studies one day when instruments have become even better. Physicists should use mathematics properly. Math is not a toy, it's a tool.

Wrong, all of it wrong.

You be trollin

Re:Social Psychology? (0)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388541)

You be trollin

He be.

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

Smekarn (1623831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388463)

And you "know" this how?

Re:Social Psychology? (2)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388561)

Timecube guy, is that you?

Re:Social Psychology? (1, Flamebait)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388653)

Actually, imaging of electromagnetic fields around the brain is done routinely, not so much by physicists but by scientists (e.g. biological psychologists and neurophysiologists) and physicians. The tools for doing so are things like EEG hardware, fMRI, SQUID-based transducers, implants, and more. The methodology has gotten so advanced that they can observe e.g. maps of lit neurons in the working visual cortex that correspond in a 1 to 1 manner to a presented visual field or differentiate the word you are thinking about from fMRI activity (from a palette of previously measured/associated words).

In spite of all of the many experiments that have indeed been done looking for a "soul" or a seat of consciousness outside of the actual physical brain, not one of them has succeeded and there isn't the slightest good reason to think that this is so. There is absolutely no observed or inferred relationship between subatomic particles and some ill-defined quantum of consciousness. Everything we know about consciousness (and at this point we know a rather lot) is entirely consistent with it being a high level manifestation of self-organizing critical behavior supported by an evolved and highly complex macroscopic physical substrate where the fundamental "units" of thought are neural transitions mediated by neurotransmitters -- pure electrochemistry, which is not only not subatomic it is molecular, superatomic involving many atoms.

However, observing the phylogenetic progression of intelligence and brain size, structure, and capacity, it is also perfectly clear that humans' ability to engage in "higher order thought" is intimately tied into language and semantics -- symbolic ontology -- which is at least two or three orders up from neural activity -- not only is it fundamental neurochemical, evolutionarily a control system for a complex pattern of entropy-generating biochemistry, it is the result of a subtle process of memetic evolution of self-consistent abstraction leading to the ability to actually "think" about our environment and make verbal, visual, symbolic inferences. In other words, it isn't based on smaller physical things, it is a reflection of coherent activity of the already macroscopic physical chemical processes of neural action, far more macroscopic and (by virtue of its organization) different in nature and character. As my (world-reknowned) instructor in statistical physics and complex systems (Richard Palmer) once remarked in a lecture on this very topic "more is different" and thought is the result of a lot more, and makes no sense at all interpreted as the motion of raw individual electrons, let alone "subatomic particles".

There is so much more to whack in your absurd statements. You assert that an "electromagnetic unit" is smaller than the smallest subatomic particle. Since physicists believe that "subatomic" (I assume that you mean "elementary") particles are point-like objects with no physical extent, that would be a neat trick. It is difficult to get smaller than "no size at all". You are obviously completely ignorant of actual electromagnetic theory, or you would be forced to put your statement in some sort of consistent relationship with our knowledge of the photon as an electromagnetic unit, electric charge as an electromagnetic unit, the actual elementary particles which have charge and which couple via electromagnetic interactions to other charged particles. Stating that all of this will be proven with studies "one day" when instruments have become even better is semantically null -- if scientists knew what would be proven "one day" without doing the experiments before the instruments in question have even been invented, they'd be -- wait for it -- psychic!

Oh, wait, I see, that's how you know all of this. And because you "just know" it via your ESP, you don't need to actually verify any of it by studying it or doing or even learning about the many subtle and excellent experiments that are done by neuropsychologists and biophysicists these days, let alone learn any actual physics.

Finally, physicists should indeed use math properly, as a toy and a tool. A tool to accomplish simple reasoning based on "known" (very strongly believed) physical science or to perform scientific analysis. A toy in the sense that mathematics is an example of a pure high-level semantic construction of the human mind -- we invent it as we go along, and invention is an activity that shares a lot of properties with play. By playing around with mathematical reasoning, we often invent new mathematics, extend the math we already know, gain insight into things we know (mathematically enough) one way but that can be understood another.

Fortunately, physicists as a general rule do use mathematics properly. After all, physicists (playing around) invented a rather large chunk of it -- so much so that for centuries there wasn't a particularly sharp line between "mathematicians" and physicists. Only in the last 130 years or so have the two fields somewhat separated, with some people being "pure mathematicians" and others (continuing) to be mathematicians that study branches of mathematics that actually apply to and have use or potential use in realized systems. And there are those who to some extent lament this latter state of affairs, see "Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty" by Morris Kline (which will also give you some idea of how deeply you malign all manner of philosophy in your reply).

rgb

Re:Social Psychology? (2)

darkstar949 (697933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388881)

Everything we know about consciousness (and at this point we know a rather lot)...

We may know a lot about how to describe consciousness and the parameters around it, but there is still a lot we don't know about it to include the core aspect of what it actually is and why it arises.

Re:Social Psychology? (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388655)

Dr. Gene Ray, I presume.

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388741)

TimeCubeGuy, is that you?

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

speedwaystar (1124435) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388789)

Physicists should use mathematics properly. Math is not a toy, it's a tool.

they've been educated stupid. ;-(

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389003)

And

wishing is making it so

?

Re:Social Psychology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388729)

Well, no doubt, since it might lend a helping hand to a possible precursor to proof of one-electron universe and various other theories that aim to explain such oddities with particle interactions.

I wouldn't be surprised if life were to have learned to take advantage of such a feature of reality, it has done pretty well taking advantage of weirder things, such as that fish species (forgot the exact name of it) that generates a plasma to create huge shockwaves to knock prey out.
Then there is the even weirder, the spider that lives under water by spinning airbubble sacs.
Evolution tends to use any and every means necessary to survive.

Whether or not we will ever find some sort of ESP or otherwordly connection between conscious entities is a going to be a hard one.
Consciousness itself is already pretty bewildering as a concept. It may well be that consciousness exists at the very basic levels of the make-up of reality that we won't ever be able to explain it, just model it and how it comes to be through various circumstances, such as a brain with a certain level of activity.
We may even be able to make artificial brains that actually do become conscious in doing such research.
Or it could be entirely trivial, which sort of hurts the head to think about since it means we are basically nothing. (which is true anyway, we aren't even a blip on the scale of the universe... what happens when the doors of infinity close is beyond us at the moment)

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

Poorcku (831174) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388939)

Physicists? if ESP is ever proven real, the ones that will be most interested are the military.

On a second note, if physicists are so interested why are they not researching it?

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388969)

> if physicists are so interested why are they not researching it?

Because it is easier to ignore the evidence then to be honest and admit there is something here we don't understand.
i.e.
http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/publications.html [princeton.edu]

Re:Social Psychology? (2)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389279)

Awww, that's cute! The best thing out of PEAR was the name "Strip Mind Media". The only stuff coming out of there that isn't understood is the fact that someone thought that it should have been funded in the first place.

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389339)

repeatedly linking to a pile of debunked nonsense again and again on slashdot doesn't make it true. the human mind is nothing more than a bunch of electrochemical reactions going on in a head, sorry.

Re:Social Psychology? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389325)

Biologists too. They'd be interested in demonstrating the unknown biological mechanism that makes the new sense work.

So, convince me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388251)

A new study has failed to find evidence that psychic ability is real. Skeptics may scoff at the finding as obvious

No, sceptics may consider the finding plausible but will question whether the evidence supports it.

RTFA: The peer review was not a double-blind study (4, Interesting)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388253)

The peer review was not a double-blind study.
Ergo: No scientific evidence, any finite conclusion is worthless.
You fail. Thank you very much.
End of discussion. ...
Then again, as far as I can read out of the article, the initial experiment wasn't a double blind test either.

However, the experiments setup looks interesting and - in a fully controlled environment - could statistically prove the existence of clairvoyance.

Bottom line:
We're just as smart as before.

Re:RTFA: The peer review was not a double-blind st (1, Informative)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389093)

You do realize Non-locality of Mind has already been proven, right?

See the documentary "The Quantum Activist". It features Dr. Amit Goswami, Ph.D, retired, Professor of physics at the University of Oregon's Institute of Theoretical Science for 30 years, so its not like it features some unknown nut-job.

Well worth watching.

Re:RTFA: The peer review was not a double-blind st (2)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389299)

This guy apparently stars in "science" videos for nut job cults:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amit_Goswami [wikipedia.org]

So he supports and probably is some nut job.

Interesting... (0)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388255)

A supposed scientific paper, which is claimed to prove a negative.

Re:Interesting... (5, Insightful)

bunratty (545641) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388271)

"A new study has failed to find evidence that psychic ability is real." TFS says they failed to have a positive result, not that they proved a negative result. I think the scientists who conducted the study would also be smart enough not to claim that proved that humans don't have psychic abilities. The best that science can do is provide evidence that humans have such an ability, or fail provide evidence.

Re:Interesting... (1)

arse maker (1058608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388547)

They don't have to be smart enough to realise it. As you say, its all science can do. It goes without saying. However the constant lack of high quality, reproducible results means any effect that exists is extremely small at best.

That's not really the interesting bit (5, Insightful)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388287)

A "negative" finding, as you put it, is really just failure to find a positive outcome. In other words, they were not able to replicate the original study even though apparently using the same methods. This doesn't prove that psychic phenomena does not exist. But it is a data point that suggests that there are no good scientific reasons to believe in psychic phenomena.

The real interesting bit of the article is this:

Wiseman has a registry of attempts to replicate Bem's work and has plans to analyze all of the data together, Ritchie said. One big problem facing the work is reluctance on the part of journals to publish studies with negative findings, especially those that are replications.

When Ritchie and his colleagues submitted their paper to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the journal that had originally published Bem's work, they were told that the journal does not publish replications.

"There's a real problem with finding shocking findings and then not being interested in publishing replications," Ritchie said.

That's the real controversy here. Many journals are biased against articles that describe attempts to replicate previously published results, even if the outcome is negative. This is a disincentive for scientists to engage in much of what would be very useful research.

Re:That's not really the interesting bit (4, Insightful)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388883)

That's the real controversy here. Many journals are biased against articles that describe attempts to replicate previously published results, even if the outcome is negative. This is a disincentive for scientists to engage in much of what would be very useful research.

This is dead on the money -- I agree. I keep Richard Feynman's "Cargo Cult Science" address here: http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm [lhup.edu] permanently open in a browser tab just to remind me how important replication really is. There is a major effort at the highest levels of the government that sit in oversight of the granting agencies and that ultimately fund the journals themselves (indirectly) to change some of this, because it is this very reluctance (plus a tendency to publish "results" but hide the actual data and methodology from precisely the public access and scrutiny and critical replication that is essential to the scientific process) that leads to a huge amount of junk science being published every year, much of it (sadly) in social psychology, medicine, and climate science, where at least two of these have enormous costs associated with error.

ESP, fortunately isn't one of them. As you note, it (as a hypothesis) could be true, but there is so far no good reason to believe in it. Such evidence as there is is anecdotal and fails to stand up in a reproducible way to skeptical critical tests seeking to verify the anecdotes. However, we can go farther than this -- ESP may exist, but it is in some sense a rare phenomenon if it does. If it were universal and common, we could hardly have failed to discover this by now. The many experiments that have been done seeking to confirm the phenomenon (and failing) have the effect of gradually lowering the plausible boundary of its existence, just as the many (failed) experiments seeking e.g. magnetic monopoles don't disprove their existence but they do establish plausible limits on how common they are (at least in the forms being tested).

ESP, unlike monopoles, suffers from a serious flaw as a scientific hypothesis. I can understand how a monopole might exist, and can further see how their existence has considerable explanatory power and esthetic appeal -- electrodynamics would become more symmetric, charge quantization would be "explained", if there was at least one monopole in the Universe. They consistently fit in with our existing knowledge. ESP, on the other hand, does not. There is not one single theory (that I know of) that offers a consistent explanation of how ESP could function in terms of known physical law. Indeed, things like precognition overtly violate so very many physical laws -- for starters, the second law of thermodynamics -- that verifying it might well require the complete rewriting of all the laws of physics. This is actually a serious problem. It is like "coming back from the dead" or other forms of supernaturalism and magic -- sensible people reject such hypotheses as the default belief (often in the face of various offerings of anecdotal "evidence") because, to paraphrase somebody (Thomas Paine?) it is far more easy to believe that a human is a liar or mistaken than to believe that the stars themselves have gone out of their courses. If true precognition were reproducibly demonstrated, analyzing the requisite dynamical flow of information involved would very much make the stars go out of their courses, with future complex phenomena causing entropic shifts in current chemistry. We do not, as a general rule, ever observe entropy-shifting effects preceding their causes.

rgb

Re:Interesting... (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388455)

Exposing an inconsistency in a positive claim is quite different, and much easier, than proving a negative. "You have failed to prove X" is not the same as "X is false".

Re:Interesting... (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389381)

Science can establish an upper bound on any claim you care to make.

It can't disprove existence claims. If you claim somebody somewhere has a psychic ability, that's easy to dismiss because no evidence is advanced, but can't be disproved.

But if you make a specific claim such as I can transmit my thoughts to my assistant in another room using ESP, that can be statistically proven or disproved.

science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388259)

That research, conducted by Daryl Bem of Cornell University, triggered outrage in the psychological community when the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology announced in 2010 that the paper had been accepted for publication."

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford

The Original Psychic Study was Good Science (-1, Flamebait)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388261)

The fact that they didn't replicate the original result once doesn't invalidate it. It could be that the retest was a "statistical fluke" in not being able to validate it.

In any case, although on a dubious subject the original study was exemplary science in that all the data and the process, including the source code for the original program, were made publicly available so anyone could see exactly what went on how how they might replicate it. Transparent science is good science.

Compare this to something like climate science where both the data and the models are private. Kind of scary when a pseudo-science is practicing better science that "real" science.

Re:The Original Psychic Study was Good Science (1)

pseudofrog (570061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388533)

Compare this to something like climate science where both the data and the models are private.

Your data to support this argument? There's tons and tons of data and source code you can download...who doesn't share?

Re:The Original Psychic Study was Good Science (1, Offtopic)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389011)

Compare this to something like climate science where both the data and the models are private. Kind of scary when a pseudo-science is practicing better science that "real" science.

I generally agree, but bear in mind that this is strongly dependent on agency supporting the research. NASA, for example, requires the publication of both methods and data. Hence if you want to replicate GISS, you can, or you can write your own alternative from the same data. HADCRUT, OTOH, has notoriously failed to provide full access to its source data and methodology. GISS is NASA, HADCRUT is whatever the hell supports climate research over in England. Different rules.

As I noted above, there is a lot of top-level pressure being exerted to change this (I've participated very briefly in some of the discussions) not just in climate science but in e.g. medical research where the costs of junk science and non-reproducible results or overt fraud are lost lives and billions of dollars. The problem is the journals -- they are not publicly funded, and have their own rules about publishing stuff on the side of the actual articles, plus the eternal paywall problem (where we the people pay for the research, but somehow have to pay again on an individual basis in order to read the publication of the results). The solutions to this sort of problem are all at least as bad as the problem itself -- I mean we don't really want the government in charge of the journals, do we? And yet neither is it reasonable for us to pay twice for the work they publish. And nobody has a good funding model that keeps the journals running independently without having individuals or institutions pay, even if a lot of what they use to pay with is (in the end) government grant money plus overhead galore. It's not a simple problem, although I think that we could solve it a lot of different ways if we really tried.

So yes, climate policies e.g. the "Carbon Tax" are enormously expensive, catastrophically expensive -- we're talking hundreds of billions of dollars a year, even more if they were fully implemented on a global basis -- so expensive that it actually becomes difficult to see how any plausible climate catastrophe hypothesized and projected to occur in 80 or 90 years could possibly compare to the catastrophic costs of the measures being taken to avoid it. The science projecting "catastrophe" is far from "settled" or universally accepted, in part because it is difficult -- the Earth's climate system is described by the coupled Navier-Stokes equation from hell, and is where Chaos theory was discovered -- and yet we find ourselves paying far more in the state of California alone to cut down on CO_2 emissions than it would cost to completely rebuild after a dozen catastrophic hurricanes. Common sense is lost in the circus of Chicken Little, with its "overheated" rhetoric. But this is just one manifestation of a far more general problem with the current science funding model, the constraints of the ivory tower (University system) and the journals.

rgb

Surprising :) (2)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388265)

I bet psychics did not see that coming :)

ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388277)

That's ridiculous and you know it -- you employ psychics.

Re:ridiculous (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388323)

That's ridiculous and you know it -- you employ psychics.

Of course I employ psychics; I'm a taxpayer.

Not really Psychic (3, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388279)

"retroactive facilitation of recall’, which examines whether performance on a memory test can be influenced by a post-test exercise."

All they are testing is pre-cognition, aka time travel of the mind, and really the least likely psychic power to exist. The ability to do this would pretty much break science.

disputed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388289)

they dont know my wife.

Why do slashdot nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388311)

list Jedi as their religion on the census, and enroll in Jedi academy hoping to learn the way of the Force.... and yet when anything about psychics is mentioned, they turn all skeptic and quote James Randi chapter and verse about how psychic powers don't exist, there's no such thing as spirits, ghosts, gods, reincarnation or afterlife?

Re:Why do slashdot nerds (2, Interesting)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388943)

> they turn all pseudo-skeptic and quote James Randi chapter and verse
FTFY. James Randi is a pseudo-skeptic -- he can't apply his skepticism towards his own skepticism.
See: http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/Page30.htm#RealSkeptics [debunkingskeptics.com]

> there's no such thing as spirits, ghosts, gods, reincarnation or afterlife?
WRT the afterlife, the only people you should talk to IMHO are people who have been declared clinically dead, and yet "awoke" 30 mins, 1 hr later. etc. Because unless you have been dead, you have _zero_ experience. Who would you rather learn from? Somebody who went through an "interesting experience" or someone who has no frame of reference or knowledge about a topic yet pretends to?

WRT reincarnation, the evidence is still controversial (i.e. as in, it goes against my belief system so I can't accept it.) It would be best to read the evidence for yourself and make your own mind up, instead of letting other people dictate what they _think_ is correct.

http://www.squidoo.com/the-best-reincarnation-books [squidoo.com]
http://letusponder.hubpages.com/hub/10-books-about-Reincarnation [hubpages.com]

1. Children's Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child, by Carol Bowman
2. Many Lives Many Masters, Brian Weiss
3. You Have Been Here Before: A Psychologist Looks at Past Lives, Dr. Edith Fiore
4. Children Who Remember, Dr. Ian Stevenson
5. Past Lives, Future Lives, Dick Sutphen
6. Reliving Past Lives, Helen Wambach
7. Edgar Cayce's Story of Karma, Mary Ann Woodward
8. Mass Dreams of the Future, Chet Snow
9. Reincarnation, Sylvia Cranston and Carey Williams
10. Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives, by Michael Duff Newton

Best of luck in your journey!

Re:Why do slashdot nerds (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389385)

Oh hey look, skeptics aren't skeptics because they don't always take public stands on political issues (despite the fact that many of them do). I love these "skeptics aren't skeptics" claims because most claimants never make their own argument, they just like to link to another one someone else made, usually in rant-format, that just furiously reiterates outrage that they don't accept magic and ancedote as proper argument or because they haven't addressed one particular issue or another; here, it's just a rant saying they must not be skeptics, if they haven't publicly come out on political issues they may-or-may not be informed about.

Which is even funnier, because if you actually follow these people, a lot of them do make mentions of these issues. James Randi once expressed some slight skepticism on global warming--a minority position in the skeptic community--listened to the arguments, and reversed his position a bit.

Also, a lot of skeptics are liberals--and not the kind of liberal I generally get along with, I don't like the skeptic community as a group of people because I simply think that, while their heads are in the right place in metaphysics their hearts are black and they're not very nice people--personal experience, one shared by some of my friends that are also intellectually on the same page as them. They definitely as a group tend not to support things like the Iraq war, so on and so forth, although there is a strange contingent among them that are highly in love with authority in all forms. A lot of skeptics are paternalistic liberals and I'm not sure why. This doesn't say anything about their skeptical activism though.

>Because unless you have been dead, you have _zero_ experience.

This is a howler because, by definition, death is a lack of biological functioning which entails a lack of ability to sense and perceive. By definition one cannot have experiences while dead. That's what death is. Dead. Asking what's beyond death is like asking what's souther than the south pole.

But it's hard to expect sanity from a guy trying to claim evidence of reincarnation (your personal pet issue that makes you angry with skeptics, I suspect) by bringing up books with little-to-no scientific content, without citing an actual single study, undoubtedly chock-full of anecdotes and personal, religious, spiritual belief without a shred of anything that would pass as evidence if held under the standard "scientific microscope."

Re:Why do slashdot nerds (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389025)

Because they have a well-developed sense of the boundary between fantasy and reality?

I'm just sayin'...

rgb

The journal does not publish replications (5, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388319)

This is the really interesting (and shocking) bit of the story. One has to wonder how much real understanding of the scientific method the editors of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology really have. If they don't understand the value of independent replication - then what are they publishing ? Interesting anecdotes ?

Re:The journal does not publish replications (0, Troll)

cribera (2560179) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388379)

This is the really interesting (and shocking) bit of the story. One has to wonder how much real understanding of the scientific method the editors of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology really have. If they don't understand the value of independent replication - then what are they publishing ? Interesting anecdotes ?

Psychology is hardly a real science, that's the answer to your question.

A wouldn't trust a lot in a 'Journal' of the so-called 'Social sciences'.

Re:The journal does not publish replications (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388629)

Psychologists understand the scientific method better than most physicists. Basically, when your models match the data 'reasonably well' rather than 'almost perfectly' you have to have a better understanding of exactly what these models mean.

Physicists aren't taught "Here is a model for attraction between masses which matches the following experimental observations ... we see a strong correlation r > 0.99999 and so reject the null-hypothesis at the p0.00001 level." However, they adopt this approach eventually when they arrive at the bleeding edge of research, such as the goings on at CERN.

Psychologists, in contrast, are taught to deal with inferential stats very quickly. Physics courses typically do not have an inferential stats component.

Re:The journal does not publish replications (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388819)

Yea they adopt this method which is what results in the Higgs being almost found withing a 95% certainty then vanishing. The method Psychologists use is not the scientific method, but rather a statistical method used only when the scientific method cannot be used properly. It is prone to statistical error. I've seen lots of statistical method papers that toss out data for absurd reasons like this circumcision study didn't use a placebo so I can toss it out. The statistical method allows data to be selected by the experimenter where in the scientific method data is king and trumps theory and hypothesis. Statistical modeling is only useful when you have no other option.

Re:The journal does not publish replications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388957)

Yeah, sounds like you know a lot about statistics. /sarcasm

Finding a strong correlation (e.g., r>0.99999) does not mean that the null hypothesis will be rejected ~at all~, let alone at the p=0.00001 level.

Re:The journal does not publish replications (2)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388911)

It's not just psychology. Most scientific journals are not much interested in replications or negative results. Generally, to get such things published, you need to embed them in a paper that also includes some novel positive results. This imposes a positive bias on the literature of unknown magnitude. The bias is likely greater for results that are surprising or otherwise exciting.

Re:The journal does not publish replications (3, Insightful)

arse maker (1058608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388513)

Journals not publishing null results or replications is a widespread problem that many reserches lament.

I've thought for a while that there should be a journal just for replication or null results to be published im. Even if the goverment has to fund it.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388321)

I don't see what the hoopla is... Science never holds up in psychic experiments either.

Experimenter as a variable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388327)

Bem also suggested that because Ritchie, Wiseman and French are skeptical of psychic abilities, they might have unwittingly influenced their participants not to display any clairvoyance. (The computer-based design of the study, however, is supposed to help prevent researchers from biasing their participants.)

"This does not mean that psi[psychic phenomena] results are unverifiable by independent investigators, but that we must begin regarding the experimenter as a variable in the experiments that should be included in the research designs," Bem wrote.

He shouldn't be surprised if it turns out he got positive results because this applies to him too.

Re:Experimenter as a variable (1)

AnalogBrain (1882306) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388559)

When proponents of ESP/PK talk about the 'experimenter effect,' they're considering the possibility that a skeptic can inadvertently disrupt an experiment with their own psychic abilities based on their expected outcome. In that case both the skeptic getting a negative effect and a believer getting a positive effect can be seen as evidence of psychic powers. Bem doesn't directly mention this in the article, but it's not clear that he's talking traditional experimenter's bias either.

Chasing Butterflies In The Dark (1)

ph4cr (775696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388361)

What is commonly called ESP has been under study by human beings for well over a century. Many claims have been made, many fads and frauds have come and gone. The anecdotal evidence of such exceptional human functioning is staggering and reaches into every human culture from the present into antiquity. Spanning the gulf of human activity from sport to religion and from philosophy to science. I have always found it odd that despite the fact that even the most current thought on consciousness can not explain its origin and function; we continue to view the core of our very being as something deterministic. This seems to be a common theme in the biological and psychological sciences. I see no need for a leap of faith. I'm an atheist. However I do think that it is time for the biological and psychological sciences to catch up with physics. Science also suffers from as much dogmatic attitudes as does religion. There have been many important studies by a variety of scientists with different approaches over the years that indicate that there is a deeper understanding to be had of our own nature. I think its time to stop picking teams and strong view points and to instead approach the understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe with open minds. Just a thought...

Re:Chasing Butterflies In The Dark (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389063)

However I do think that it is time for the biological and psychological sciences to catch up with physics.

But this is precisely the problem. Precognition violates the second law of thermodynamics. End of story. Not only does it violate it, it violates it badly. If "ESP" were demonstrated, especially things like precognition, it is very, very difficult to see how it could ever be made consistent with our current knowledge of physics. It would be as bad as Neo learning that his entire Universe is a sham, that we're all just power units in the Matrix with an entirely different physics one level up that trumps the apparent "rules" in this level at will.

Sure, sure, that would all be very exciting and might be true. But it is not plausible or best belief, without the very soundest and most reproducible of evidence. And sadly or not, we haven't a shred of reproducible evidence that thought is anything but a peculiar electrochemical process supported on the physical hardware of our brains in complete accord with, among other things, the second law of thermodynamics.

rgb

My favorite psychic-related news headline (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388363)

"Psychic Network Goes Out of Business Due to Unforeseen Financial Difficulties"

Peter did it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388371)

Lets see....urin and ink under high pressure is the punisment for writing piss in gods mind,
foul smelling black eyed witches!

Apparently using quantum entangelment, and manipulating individual atoms,
and some sort of of........subconcious version of a hexidecimal editor!

What starts out as editing of rts savegames... transfers to other areas

Qupid,Qubits and Armor online

New Orleans,Haiti, Fuk us him a, notoriious Tetrado Toxin using areas(Vodoo)
Christchurch New Zealand(zombie movies) profiting from tetrado / living dead.
Its a mistake trying to somhow integrate the torture religion Vodoo into Christianity!

Sane Peter(Holy Peter, it says so on the paycheck, if you read between the lines!)
and in the newsgroups........say it aint Peter!

So I can't ever have Jedi powers? (4, Funny)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388415)

Damn. Thanks for ruining my day.

Re:So I can't ever have Jedi powers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388519)

Exactly, you are too old to train them.

disputed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388427)

they dont know my wife

You don't say!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388465)

O.O [kym-cdn.com]

Nothing to see here (1)

arse maker (1058608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388495)

The past 100 years hasn't produced any repeatable high quality studies showing any psi effects exist.

If psi was a drug, the results are so terrible there is no way it would ever be considered for use.

But they will continue to go around in circles data mining to find anomalies to study then abandoning that modality once it cant be replicated.

If psi was real, the mechanism would be truely astounding. Physists would really have their work cut out for themselves. Strange they have never seen anything that could possibly support any psi phenomenons :p

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

darkstar949 (697933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388919)

Depends upon the effect and depends upon how rigorous you want the testing to be. I'd have to hunt around to find the sources, but there have been a couple studies over the years that were more rigorous that showed that clairvoyance may be possible on a limited basis due to studies that resulted in predictions slightly better than pure chance. Most of these studies involved people in separate rooms either drawing cards or similar while someone else tried to predict what they were doing.

Personally, part of the problem that I have with the studies in general is that you don't see a long like of people that claim to have a given ability lining up for them and it typically your average person off the street. Granted there might not be anything to the effects at all, but on the same token, if it is a rare ability then you aren't going to find it looking at the wrong part of the population (i.e. those who are aware of their abilities self-select to not take part in studies).

How to find a real psychic (1)

qwertyatwork (668720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388499)

Go in and tell them you have no money. Ask them for the winning lottery number, and tell them you will be back the next day to pay them.

Re:How to find a real psychic (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388897)

You won't find a real psychic that way. The real ones have long retired on their winnings. :P

Re:How to find a real psychic (1)

qwertyatwork (668720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388921)

You had me at 'You won't find a real psychic'.

Did he try shock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388509)

Am I the only one thinking Peter Venkman testing the effects of negative reinforcement on ESP ability?

Laughable Subject. (1)

LeAzzholeChef (2576267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388521)

Placing value on scientific finding is like placing value on the prediction of your dung coloration per-processed. Just because they cant scientifically prove there is no such phenomenon, doesn't mean there is none, it just means that man isn't bright enough to create an experiment that can.

nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388571)

that's nonsense and they know it, while under the influence of LSD I was telepathic, I could from reality by thinking about objects and yes "reality" would change, physically. Not hallucination. They use the word hallucination to cover up the power of the mind. ESP, telepathy, are all possible in humans, you just have to have an augmented mind to be able to realize that fact. The scientists measuring this can't grasp it because they are too book minded, what they teach in school.
 

Re:nonsense (2)

Shazback (1842686) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388751)

Hmm... So you're saying the best way to observe psi effects is to give people LSD? I urgently await your paper, or more likely your shaky cellphone videos with people mumbling and saying "duuuuuuude".

Re:nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39389111)

I merely stated that the power the mind has can't be measured by traditional measurements. It's more of a quantum science than something that we have the capability to measure (at the moment). LSD can help people experience such things, but I don't recommend it at all. I fucked myself up pretty bad from that stuff.

To quote Scott Adams: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388925)

"Every generation of humans believed it had all the answers it needed, except for a few mysteries they assumed would be solved at any moment. And they all believed their ancestors were simplistic and deluded. What are the odds that you are the first generation of humans who will understand reality?"

About testing psychic powers: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388941)

I'm not saying I believe in psychics, but:

There are so many facets to supposed psychic powers that you can't simply ask them to predict the next card out of a deck or what the next dice roll will be to disprove them.

Most supposed pre-cogs claim to only get mere glimpses of the future, not 20/20 vision of it.

'Supports vs Proves' is something we need remember (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389187)

Of course anybody with a hint of scientific curiosity, as I define as a genuine adherence to the search of knowledge through science/the scientific method, should conclude that this would only further SUPPORT the idea that no such thing exists [as opposed to adhering to the idea that it PROVES it outright exists, or doesn't exist], given how we don't know what methodology and technology will come out in the future, and what they will show about the human brain, or other areas of scientific study - look at our study of our universe, and how what we thought was proven before was contradicted in many areas.

tl:dr: Remember the difference between outright proving, and providing strong support for and idea

Of course. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39389203)

All the real psychics never admit to being psychic. They win in vegas or the lottery or the stock market and keep their mouths shut.

Because they can also see being cut up into little slices and studied by someone if the world ever really gets proof they are psychic.

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