Seeing the Future of Precognition

For those wondering why I haven't covered the big news this week about scientific evidence for precognition (e.g. New Scientist, Wired, Cosmic Log), it's because I also proved we could see the future by posting news about this research here on TDG more than two months ago. So not so much big news, as mainstream media catching up.

As I noted in the original story, you can download a preprint of the article from Daryl Bem's website. One interesting bit of 'new' news related to the research: Caroline Watt and Richard Wiseman have created a register for those wanting to try replications of Bem's experimental setup, so that they can perform a meta-analysis of all the registered studies after their closing date of December 1, 2011.

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kamarling's picture
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BBC Radio ran an interview about this on their Drive Time show. Someone with a suitably patronising tone (I think he was from the New Scientist) had to admit the results were hard to explain. He said that the way science works is that when someone gets results that just shouldn't happen, others try to run the same tests to see if the results are repeated. He expects that those who are less sceptical will get positive results while sceptical researchers will probably not.

He explains this as the experimenter effect which, in his view, means experimenter bias. Now, to me, it was clear that he meant by this that this researcher has probably been sloppy with his experimental controls. I've heard the same said of Radin, Sheldrake, Schwartz and others. Wiseman is usually at the forefront of those producing contrary results. My prediction is that he will be again.

daydreamer's picture
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Hi Dave,

I agree with you that it's a lazy response. Roll on the repeats hay.

I guess the problem with researcher bias (which is something we all have to accept, after all it is why skeptics get negatives just as much as why believers get positives) isn't when something strongly works, such as a combustion engine, but when a possible affect is smaller than the possible interference generated by researcher bias.

In fact, if we are even talking about researcher bias (as opposed to research fraud, such as the cherry picking of the pharma industry etc) in data then it says something about the size of the affect. If the affect is genuinely smaller than that which the researcher can create, even accidentally, then that is important and interesting data too.

None of that means it is not real though, just that it is hard and requires a better experiment than the ones being performed. It is a call for better, tighter, experiment design - not the usual fighting.

As for the experiment itself I am very excited. No less because it is so easy for you and me to replicate. When I read it I thought about writing a little program to test myself. What do you think, do you see a little Daily Grail research program coming about?

kamarling's picture
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I have to say that, so far, I have only had a cursory read of the experimental results but they do seem to echo the findings of Radin in his Presentiment experiments. I guess I'm more concerned with the sceptical reaction. The reason for my concern is as it ever was: unless sceptics can resist applying their own bias to results such as these, serious research will be stagnated for generations.

To reinforce the point of my previous post, here is the reaction (to the Daryl Bem story) from that bastion of rational thought, the Skeptics Dictionary, http://www.skepdic.com/precog.html :

Quote:

There is also the problem of cheating and sloppiness. Zealous psi researchers, depending on very small deviations from chance (Bem's subjects scored 1.7 to 3 percent above chance overall) to get the statistic they want, can't be assumed to always be honest and careful in the running of their labs.

kamarling's picture
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There is, of course, another explanation for the experimenter effect but this is certainly not one that the sceptics are likely to take seriously at all. I am talking about the observer (experimenter) influencing results simply because he or she believes in the possibility of a psychic effect. This obviously opens up the argument over the role of the observer and consciousness in measurement. Marilyn Schlitz has actually worked with Richard Wiseman to investigate these effects. True to form, she got positive results, Wiseman negative (in terms of psi effects). A bit more on that here:

http://www.esalenctr.org/display/confpag...

There have been other discussions about the role of the observer, right here at the Grail, and recently I had another go in this thread:

http://dailygrail.com/News-Briefs/2010/1...

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kamarling wrote:

To reinforce the point of my previous post, here is the reaction (to the Daryl Bem story) from that bastion of rational thought, the Skeptics Dictionary, http://www.skepdic.com/precog.html

I don't understand how TSD has any credibility in the skeptical community. And yet in a recent blog post Steven Novella proclaimed it a worthy reference for quoting from! Here's the sort of objective common sense we get from Robert Todd Carroll:

His method is to do just the right number of tests that will provide him with a large enough sample to ward off criticism that his sample was too small and that also provides data that deviate from chance expectation with "statistical significance."

For a 'skeptic', he sure seems certain of a lot of things.

To quote the Boing Boing meme, whenever I read the Skeptic's Dictionary the words "Christ, what an asshole" pop into my head.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things
@DailyGrail

kamarling's picture
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Greg wrote:

To quote the Boing Boing meme, whenever I read the Skeptic's Dictionary the words "Christ, what an asshole" pop into my head.

Glad I'm not the only one who thinks that :)

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I have to agree with you here Dave.

I think the answer for the moment, while it is difficult to get larger grants, is for private investment. Becoming a member of the Windbridge Institute for example.

Debates on the internet (podcasts etc) do seem to be becoming quite repetitive. Skeptics complain about experiment design and methodology and run for cover under that, while believers site the positive data without worrying too much about it. Its everywhere.

Allowing for the fact that there will be noisy believers on the skeptics side who are under the same delusion as believers on the other - where nothing will change their mind about their guesses no matter the alternatives, there are still plenty of people who will listen to data.

Changing peoples minds is a process though. I like many of the experiments I am seeing, but it is a process. When you get a positive it's time to do it again, if you can't make it disappear then cool, but try your best else you don't learn about what you are seeing.

We should all be trying to disprove rather than prove. Positives often prove nothing, it is only when you can no longer disprove that you (might) have what you are looking for. Scientists can learn from that too though. Too often scientists make the same mistake and try and prove their ideas rather than disprove them.

Trust can be gained by using the same ideas put forward for big pharma. There is nothing wrong with asking for trials to be pre-registered. I would love to see that so I can have confidence that negatives are not being hidden. I would also love to see the actual data, not just the tables showing the results.

I think anyone who is skeptical of something can be persuaded, so long as they see what they need to see pertaining to how they judge new information. Different people need to see different things. If the idea is to start winning over skeptics then people will have to start listening to them. If some people want better controls, or more advanced null hypothesis then meet their expectations. What's the point of doing the science if you don't intend to meet your critics with it - if it is only for the converted.

Like with Adam J. Rock, Julie Beischel & Christopher C. Cott's research. Great research and great to see a positive, but i'm looking forward to the Windbridge Institue addressing some of the concerns - then, over time, i'm sure that if they keep producing positives while listening to critics they will start to win people over with the more difficult people requiring more data and of a higher methodological standard. Bare in mind that we are still upping the anti on general relativity, changing the methodology and/or equipment used to test it. I would ask people not to be surprised when the same is done with less well proven ideas that could still be a number of things or have/be the result of conflating variables. That's surely part of the point.

kamarling's picture
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Daydreamer:
If the idea is to start winning over skeptics then people will have to start listening to them. If some people want better controls, or more advanced null hypothesis then meet their expectations. What's the point of doing the science if you don't intend to meet your critics with it - if it is only for the converted.

I think that if you were to put that point to Dean Radin or Rupert Sheldrake (as many have), they would tell you that they build in far more rigorous controls than is required in other "normal" kinds of research. They do indeed go the extra mile and recognise the requirements for extraordinary evidence. I know that sceptics have been invited - in a genuine effort to meet their requirements - to help with the design of experiments. There is a Skeptiko podcast in which Alex actually offers to fund that effort.

Of course, there is another aspect to all of this. Science does material science very well. What we are dealing with here is not necessarily material - in the sense that a scientist would understand the term. I suspect that some psi effects do not lend themselves too easily to the normal scientific method. Beliefs, observer effect and unknown - perhaps inter-dimensional - influences might be at play. I think that is possibly why the statistical effect is only a few points above chance, if at all.

I'll try an analogy: Let's say there is a cave-dwelling rodent and it is well known to science that these animals only venture out at night. One day a child says he was playing with the big cave rat in the daylight. Scientists say "impossible - it's eyes can't stand the light." They set out to prove it by bringing along cameras and viewing posts and coffee machines and tuna sandwiches, all of which the rodent can smell and it can also hear to hustle and bustle outside. Do we then expect it to come out and play? No, but to the scientists, they have run the experiment and got the "proof" they expected.

The pitfalls with psi experiments must be many times harder to allow for than my simple analogy because we don't understand what we are dealing with in the first place. For example, subjectivity is not allowed in scientific test results - they must be purely objective. I'm sure that subjectivity plays a much greater role in consciousness and awareness (psychic or otherwise) and we just can't measure intangibles. That is why I don't expect earth shattering results from Sam Parnia's AWARE project.

If we could design an experiment to tell me why someone falls in love with one person and not another (allowing for all the usual hunter-gatherer baggage), or why I like Pink Floyd but hate The Smiths, then I think we might be closer to scientific measurement of psi phenomena. I really doubt that we will ever achieve that. Certainly not if we insist on applying hard materialist dogma to the ground rules.

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You raise good philosophical and physical objections - one's I am not sure anyone has a way around yet. The invention of the rules of science, which as you say have done so much for discovery in the material realm, may well not work for rare - often seemingly near random phenomena. If we accept this, which I think must be one of the thing we seriously consider, where do we go from there?

Are the likes of Radin, Sheldrake, and Beischel slightly wrong, partially wrong or fully wrong? When I speculate that you and I could repeat a particular experiment am I making the same mistake? If science cannot see into the problem, then surely our attempts must fail.

Lets say I test my powers of psychokinesis. I flip a coin 100 times. It should come out 50/50. Let me do this for real. I am going to try and make it come out heads. Here we go.....
TTTHTTTTTTHTHTTTTHHTTTTHTHHTHHHTTHTHHHTHHHHHHH
HHHTHTHHTTHHHHTHTHTTTHTHHHHHHTTTHTHHHHHTHTHTTT
HHTHTTTH

That took 10 minutes! (and yes, I did it for real) Anyway, 53% heads. 3% away from 50/50 chance. Not bad, and surprisingly around the deviation often give for paranormal activity, which I would think lends credibility to my powers rather than detracting from them. Also there is a sequence of 10 heads! That has a probability of 0.00097% or 1/p a certainty of 99.99%!

I guess the problem for science here is that it cannot tell me whether I had a psychic incident. Even if we did that 1000 times and plotted each on a graph and saw that they fitted the probabilistic curve for the entire dataset science cannot see 'inside' the philosophy...

In my experiment did I make the mistake of 'proving' rather than 'disproving'. My little experiment does provide positive data for my paranormal abilities, no doubt about that. I have an experiment that adds weight. But can we use science on it? Mathematicians say yes, we can keep repeating it and see if it remains at 53%.

Would we have been tempted to ignore it if I had got 47% though? Surely that is what it means when we say science cannot see into the problem. That negatives do not mean anything...

I suspect you are right on a philosophical level, which is a problem for all of us. Perhaps Radin, Sheldrake, and Beischel, if their procedures can never reveal the paranormal scientifically over a growing experiment set of ever increasing experimental and methodological sophistication (like how they are picking general relativity apart) then I would argue that something else is required.

I know different people have different ideas on this, but take the example of putting someone in prison on a psychics testimony in court, or evacuating a city because a psychic predicts an earthquake, if the paranormal is to step out of the shadow of inherent unpredictability and error and be something we can use (even if we cannot know whether we are using life after death or some sort of quantum block universe super psi) some sort of method of investigation is going to have to be found.

I wonder for example whether psychic testimony, say identification of a face at a crime scene, has the same inherent problems as 'material' witness identification. Are the same subjective problems of recall and memory involved. Is this due to the 'material' brain, or does 'higher level' consciousness suffer from the same problems as are known to exist with witness testimony? It would be valid research I think, but if science can never, even philosophically, penetrate it, would you want a psychic witness giving evidence? Who would we know if a mistake was made?

These are many of the problems we will face if you are correct and science cannot penetrate the cloak. We will still have consolation in life after death though? Well, maybe not. As you say, quantum interpretations about subjectivity and the user collapsing waveforms etc muddies the water. I was thinking about quantum computers last night. The quantum computer 'somehow' arrives at the correct answer in a single collapse of the superimposed waveform. Quantum physicist struggle to answer what is going on, but in essence we could say that the computer is psychic. We have so far not been tempted to say that the quantum computer that humans have built survives after death, or is even alive - though I take your point (incoming point) that maybe the entire universe is conscious (or alive), though we are still redefining terms to do that, such as the meaning of being alive (respiration, reproduction, movement etc etc etc).

All good stuff.

As for your first point that they would say they have built more rigorous controls than 'normal' research expects. That is true. For example; if we want to know which soft drink on average tastes better we can just go and give it to lots of people and ask them. It might not be perfect, or allow you to predict who will and who will not like it, but it will give you some data on the original question. They are not talking about something insignificant though and the requirements change in relation to this. They are also researching a field where many of the experiments they perform have been repeated and failed. As you say, science maybe does not work here, in which case it will be both positive and negative; the successes and failures are part of the same mechanics, the same system and their successes are the opposite of the same coin as the skeptics failures, i.e. neither can 'prove' anything. If you are right.

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daydreamer wrote:

"I know different people have different ideas on this, but take the example of putting someone in prison on a psychics testimony in court, or evacuating a city because a psychic predicts an earthquake, if the paranormal is to step out of the shadow of inherent unpredictability and error and be something we can use (even if we cannot know whether we are using life after death or some sort of quantum block universe super psi) some sort of method of investigation is going to have to be found."

As you are a scientist, please correct me if I'm making unfounded assumptions here but wouldn't you say that scientists, by their nature, are only comfortable with absolutes? When I speak of subjectivity, I mean that we can't tie down evidence with the same precision achieved by the scientific method. By the way, I think you might agree that the precision we speak of may well be an illusion in the same way that physical solidity is an illusion.

I think that Quantum Mechanics and Relativity have shown that there really are no absolutes. In our own day-to-day world, the apparent precision of Newtonian science stands us in good stead. It is solid enough to allow us to make accurate predictions and to convict someone in a court of law.

When it comes to relying on the evidence of a psychic, I think we are into a different ball park. I think that subjectivity plays a much greater role. Some of the evidence will turn out to be accurate in a scientifically testable sense, while other evidence will seem wide of the mark or nebulous at best. This, I believe, is because we don't understand what we are dealing with. Sometimes I think that the old alchemists had a better grasp on this subjective reality than do modern philosophers and scientists. Jung probably came closer than most "moderns" in understanding the importance of symbols. If we are to make sense of evidence arrived at via psychic predictions or visions, then we need to expand our tool-set. Jung understood this very well, I think.

Jung applied his theories to dream interpretation. He regarded the symbolism to be more important than the literal content of the dream. So that a dream about death might not mean actual death at all ... it might mean a new beginning, for example ... but the important thing is that the archetypal symbolic meaning would be modified according to the subjective experiences of the dreamer.

So, while it might be nice to have a neatly wrapped up police case as is sometimes portrayed in popular dramas such a "Medium" on TV, the reality is hardly ever so precise. Science, therefore, has a much more difficult task in investigating these phenomena. Unfortunately, the philosophical bias of most scientists encourages the tendency to dismiss any such evidence as either coincidence or fraudulent or the result of delusion.

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Isn't one of your main points that in this particular subject area, an observer will always (or at least normally) influence the outcome of an experiment?

So if Alice experiments on Bob and Charles, to see if Bob can telekinetically tie Charles' shoelaces, the observed (by Alice) results depend not only on whether Bob is doing this or not.

The observed results depend on whether Alice prefer to believe that Bob is doing it, or Alice prefers to believe that Bob is not.

In this case, an interesting question is this: does Alice's preconditioned thinking affect only what Alice observes, or also what Bob is actually doing.

As an aside, about scientists being comfortable only with absolutes - no this is not the case. At lest no more so than anyone else. This impression is generated mainly by how science is presented to interested non-scientists by uninterested non-scientists :)

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kamarling's picture
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As I imagine it, the observer effect might ripple outward from each. Therefore you end up with criss-crossing waves of influence. Perhaps it comes down to strength of will, much like who throws the biggest stone into the pond. But then, that is only the way I imagine it - I make no claim to know how it actually works.

As for scientists and absolutes, I should remember that it was indeed a great scientist who removed the word from the lexicon of physics - replacing it with relativity. Still, not all scientists are great.

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I think we can be certain that Alice's observations are influenced by her prejudices of course. But outward from that, can Alice's belief strengthen Bob's ability, or can her disbelief weaken it?

That would be a sort of second layer of placebo effect. Interesting.

For the scientists, don't forget that Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrödinger did this stuff about 100 years ago. Their influence spread perhaps slowly in other sciences, but even slower in public perception of what science is.

For the hard core, Gödel and later Turing provided some good nails to the coffin of absoluteness.

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We are the cat.

kamarling's picture
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earthling wrote:

That would be a sort of second layer of placebo effect. Interesting.

Now if we think of concentrated negative thoughts - perhaps aided by a symbol for focus? A symbol such as a likeness or a small figurine, a doll? Beyond placebo - the dark arts? Voodoo?

Or concentrated positive thoughts, perhaps to aid healing. Again a symbol - perhaps Christ, or the Virgin? Prayer and miracles?

Who knows? Ultimately, I think that in order to allow secondary influences to seriously affect you, you yourself would have to believe that they can do so.

earthling wrote:

For the scientists, don't forget that Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrödinger did this stuff about 100 years ago. Their influence spread perhaps slowly in other sciences, but even slower in public perception of what science is.

For the hard core, Gödel and later Turing provided some good nails to the coffin of absoluteness.

All great thinkers. I'm not sure their message has spread to biologists yet, however.That era was truly a golden age for physicists.

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concentrated thoughts...you only have to watch the news over a period of a week or so to see this in action...all the proof people need is there in front of them but they fail to see it or choose not or even are unaware of the possibility.
Like the Qantas engine exploding. A very rare event and then to be followed up by another, very similar event.

You wrote:

"Who knows? Ultimately, I think that in order to allow secondary influences to seriously affect you, you yourself would have to believe that they can do so."

Like gravity, it matters not if you believe in it or not, it is still working all the same.

Combined conscious thought as an energy that creates events is a given. People just don't choose to see it in action. Once aware of this principal you can and will see the effects all around you everyday. There is no need for a leap of faith here.

"Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told."
LRF.

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I remember a guest lecturer at uni. She did a talk about geologists working with government, and about the interactions between scientists and government in general. She said that the biggest problem was that before politicians were willing to act they demanded absolutes, they wanted to know that event X was going to happen or that A through B through C would lead to a definite D. There are simple situations where you can say what will happen (a dam breaking will flatten a town and glacial melting is putting pressure on the dam etc), but as it gets more complicated (what day will the dam break on) politicians struggle with the lack of absolutes.

That's not a bad example of how the real world interface with science works, and how scientists work.

Is science as subjective as the paranormal? Dave seems to be saying not; that there is a clear difference, maybe a fundamental difference, between what science has so far some to understand, and what the paranormal offers/is. That whereas the relationship between scientific understanding and the material world has over time been a relationship of diminishing subjectivity, that we should maybe expect the relationship with the paranormal to be one of consistent subjectivity (sorry if i'm misunderstanding Dave).

That's interesting and I think we'll have to wait. My take on it is that the low frequency and predictability (generally) of the paranormal means that investigation is hard, but not philosophically impossible; and that mediums, which offer a window into more consistent performance can be used to infer abilities. That the paranormal is entirely subjective is difficult for me to entertain. It has been suggested that we live in entirely different universes (didn't Seth argue that?), cut off from one another, but transferring information psychically. If we each have our own universe and it is subjective then maybe we are all telling the truth, maybe in some peoples universes there is no paranormal, and in some it is everywhere. However, if it is more about interpretation and it is interpretation that is subjective and not reality that is subjective then from my take that only makes investigation more difficult.

Eg some Christians subjectively see Noah's flood as real and some subjectively see it as not real. Beautifully, most will manage this feat without ever looking at a rock.

So we are down to innate or non innate subjectivism at the fabric of reality. I don't know if that is a show stopper at the moment.

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Most people are perfectly capable of believing in two contradictory things at the same time. Since scientists are people, they can accomplish this feat easily :)

For example, practically everyone knows intellectually that they will die one day. But emotionally, almost everyone is immortal.

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I'll have another go at subjectivity and see if I can put what I said previously in context.

I think that the scientific method has been refined for purpose and that purpose is repeatability. If an experiment can be performed again and again and its results remain predictable and repeatable, then science will consider this as objective proof.

So science has defined the parameters of objective reality. We might call that normality. When designing an experiment, objective reality is assumed. Again, repeatability is the goal. But the paranormal is, by definition, not normal. Further, we do not understand how not-normal it is. We might be dealing with dreamlike reality, where symbols are a language and events can take place unconstrained by time or space. This is a reality in which the subjective is all that is important. Like a dream, the paranormal experience might happen in a framework similar to normal objective reality but it is only a convenient approximation. Convenient because it places the information in a context that is relevant to what is happening in the "normal" world.

Oh dear, it is getting late and my brain hurts. Goodnight.

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Well, the para-normal is by definition beyond the normal, sure.

But that defines our knowledge of the para-normal, it doesn't define what the subject actually is.

If some subject cannot be measured with current methods, we don't really know if that is because the subject is not measurable at all, or just not with the methods that have been tried. So by defining something as para-normal, we are defining out lack of understanding of it.

Or to go with Rumsfeld, the para-normal that is is well described by philosophy, spiritualism and religion are the known unkowns.

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Quote:

But that defines our knowledge of the para-normal, it doesn't define what the subject actually is.

Very true. What will be interesting is if we can discern what bits are subjective and which are not, then move into looking at the subjectivity. Is subjectivity itself subjective, or can we talk about it in a non-subjective way? Just like we can talk about the randomness in QM in a non-random way.

The trick in finding out has always been to never give up with the scientific approach. Many things looked paranormal, but were not. People did not give up no matter who told them to. I have not seen any type of proof that subjectivity is a real barrier, even if we accept that is what is going on. Is subjectivity the answer that people seem to think, or just the next puzzle?

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daydreamer wrote:

The trick in finding out has always been to never give up with the scientific approach.

I don't understand. What do you mean by the scientific approach? My point about subjectivity is that it isn't measurable. Why try to objectify something that isn't objective? I'm not saying that we can never know the subjective. I'm just saying that perhaps the scientific approach (as we know it today) is not the way to that knowledge.

There are other ways. These are methods that many already employ. I'm talking about direct experience. Now here is something that science could get involved with if scientists were prepared to embrace the subjective experience for themselves and then report back to their colleagues. The trouble is that the community tends to reject such activities as almost a traitorous act.

Thomas Campbell is a nuclear physicist who has invested much of his time and efforts into such a venture. His work follows on from that of the late Robert Monroe - another scientist who looked to direct experience through meditation to apprehend the mysteries of, for example, out of body experiences. Tom Cambell has published various lectures online and these are freely available on YouTube.

Bob Monroe started a self-help institute in California which charges huge amounts for CD sets of his meditation methods. I mention this for the sake of balance because here in the UK we are more than a little suspicious of high profit margins. Regardless of the profit motive, however, his methods seem to work for many although sceptics are quick to link the institute to countless cults and self-help scams. Here is a typical opinion from a member of the JREF forum:

Quote from the JREF forum:
"The monroe institue is one of those countless organisations that's trying to separate people of thier hard earned money by giving them hours upon hours of woo-woo talk about how a better man you are going to be, by learning to do OBEs. Out-of Body Experiences is nothing more than a mild hallucination, which takes place in a persons brain, nowhere else!"

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Hi Dave,
Thanks for the reply.

Quote:

I don't understand. What do you mean by the scientific approach? My point about subjectivity is that it isn't measurable. Why try to objectify something that isn't objective?

I mean't to make a composition of your ideas and Earthling's. As Earthling says.

Quote:

But that defines our knowledge of the para-normal, it doesn't define what the subject actually is.

If some subject cannot be measured with current methods, we don't really know if that is because the subject is not measurable at all, or just not with the methods that have been tried. So by defining something as para-normal, we are defining out lack of understanding of it.

It is not that I disagree with your notion of a subjective element (though I am apprehensive of your firm position on it 'Why try to objectify something that isn't objective?').

I am left wondering for example where the difference between the subjective experience of an OBE and the objective mechanism lies. I appreciate you would say that there is no objective mechanism, which may be true, but I don't want to just stop looking for one because you say so.

You do hint at softening's in your position

Quote:

I'm just saying that perhaps the scientific approach (as we know it today) is not the way to that knowledge.

and i'm with you on that, I cannot say what approach will work, but I would still like to have a go at making an idea, testing it, then letting others look at what I have done and be critical for the sake of being critical so I can try and improve it.

Quote:

Now here is something that science could get involved with if scientists were prepared to embrace the subjective experience for themselves and then report back to their colleagues. The trouble is that the community tends to reject such activities as almost a traitorous act

Then lets! What aspects of the two do you think could be convergent? What way would you try and separate out subjective experiences of the type that add noise, and those that are the baseline? For example, say we all see a wall in a dream, but for some of us it's colour is red and for some it is blue. Is the colour important, or not? Is it an artefact of the visual cortex, or does it come from 'outside'? There are so many questions; I would like to just get a small handle on how you want scientists to come towards the problem?

At the moment, right here in the material world, you could send 20 people off on an expedition to somewhere they have never been, say down a mine, or to a remote island. Let them see it for 10 minutes, then bring them back and record what they say. You will get a good mix of subjective interpretation. Visions, dreams and experiences of some far off world or dimension might be like that, but that is not to say that the other place is not objective and real in the same sense as the cave or island - especially if the faculties that for the subjective experience are different (like perhaps the visual and auditory cortex is still being used, but is not evolved for the processing of that kind of information and gets confused - maybe something better is needed - perhaps our interpretation can only be subjective, but that is a fault of our biology not a statement about reality).

There are so many questions, types of question, and avenues of questioning, that just saying it is subjective is not a good answer, though it is a good question.

I am with you on the idea of improving our thought processes on the subject though, developing new ways of thinking, and new ways of testing.

As for direct experience, that is ok, but I want a way to get around trust I think. I don't want to have to say to you 'just trust me' on the giant mosquito that attacked me in my room once or the man that used to stand over my bed at night. People had experiences of the volcano God's once too, now we have magma chambers and volcanic stratigraphy. We don't know where paranormal research will take us, it may take us no-where and there may be someone creative just around the corner.

What ideas do you have about how to look into subjectivity?

kamarling's picture
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Good Morning Daydreamer, I'll try to hack out this reply between breakfast and shower.

I fear my appreciation of subjectivity and yours are poles apart. Perhaps that is due to my lack of training in scientific investigation.

My point was that it when we experience something for ourselves, we gain knowledge that, while not objective data that can be catalogued alongside identical data from someone else, is nevertheless valuable as an insight into other aspects of reality. I get the impression that you would go so far as to train a team of investigators to visit the "psychic realms", or at least experience Out of Body travel but would then try to correlate their experiences and build up an essentially objective account of this other place.

What does it matter if one sees a blue wall and another sees a red one? What does it matter which neurones are firing in the brain. If the neuroscientists want to test brain activity for scientific purposes, that's fine - let's welcome that data and add it to the subjective accounts. But the subjective accounts will be about the whole experience - how it felt, what it meant for that individual, how whatever they saw related to their own lives, whether they felt happy and why. This is knowledge that you can't tune any instrument to record.

daydreamer wrote:

As for direct experience, that is ok, but I want a way to get around trust I think. I don't want to have to say to you 'just trust me' ...

This is the crux of the matter. Your scientific mindset is refusing to allow you past the objective barrier. You don't trust subjectivity - it just isn't real for you (apologies - I am surmising here - but only based upon your replies). This is what has been called the "Taboo of Subjectivity" (there is an academic book of the same title, I believe). Direct experience means just what it says - you find some way to experience it for yourself and then decide what that experience means to you. Over time there will be a body of anecdotal reports which can be analysed and debated - just as there are right now with NDE's. But science will need to overcome its distrust of the subjective in order to make progress.

I've mentioned it before but I'll say it again: there is a reason you chose geology. Your evidence is set in stone.

Sorry - that was all a bit rushed and I would probably add and remove points if I had a bit more time.

daydreamer's picture
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Cheers Dave!

Your right of course and I don't have too much problem with it. I definitely search for unifying commonalities as guides to what is outside our experiences. You are right though, I don't have to do that. In 50 years I will be dead and my experience of my own life will ultimately have been subjective, I can understand that.

We both accept that there are different parts to reality, we just wonder on where the lines between them really are, or if they are there at all.

I was on nightshift last night so I really must sleep, but i've been reading this weeks new scientist and it had something in it that might be relevant.

NS 2878 (Quantum time travel) pg 36

Quote:

According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM, there is no objective reality until a measurement is made. But we are beginning to learn that even that reality is a movable feast: the past state of a quantum particle has no more reality than its future state. Which is why post selection has an effect.

Now i know that the Copenhagen interpretation is disproven/expanded on so I expect the article is going to go on and explain why non-objective futures and pasts make time-travel possible, but I thought about this when I read it.

Not just because it is relevant, but how it is relevant to both of us. I wouldn't be surprised if science was playing catch up with the paranormal, especially as there is a sense in which paranormal explanations are like sci-fi explanations, which have always had fun being ahead of the work of science.

If quantum mechanics is able to add meat to your skeletal (better metaphor needed) ideas of subjectivity then cool.

I also appreciate how your idea of a conscious universe allows the idea of meaning in subjectivity to grow bigger. I guess if you think its a way of peering out, like a giant telescope, at meaning past our universe then the conclusion becomes attractive and even if this world is real in the sense of the meaning of the word information derived from it can be deemed of little importance next to the external subjectivity.

I think subjectivity can be taken so far as a philosophy that it comes to mean very little. In my head I could take it so far that I wouldn't even be able to describe it to somebody. At that point I would just feel like me, floating about in my own headspace, filled with myself. Good fun perhaps, and maybe meaningful, but i'm still tempted to ask 'why?'. That is my curse.

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daydreamer wrote:

Cheers Dave!

I know that I can come across as over-serious and preachy but I really don't mean to be. I never mean to offend. I look forward to our discussions - you reflect many of the issues I have with myself so, in a way, this is therapy. I have to deal with my own analytical mind which seems to prevent me from easily achieving "altered states" such as in hypnosis or meditation. I suspect that I reflect some of your own issues back to you too.

daydreamer wrote:

Good fun perhaps, and maybe meaningful, but i'm still tempted to ask 'why?'. That is my curse.

I think the 'why' is the important question. Sometimes I wonder whether [some] scientists mix up the 'how' and the 'why', or maintain there is no need for a 'why' at all.

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Quote:

I look forward to our discussions - you reflect many of the issues I have with myself so, in a way, this is therapy.

Me too, we might be from opposing poles, but at least it is the same magnet.

I never take it offensively. Criticism is fine, if thats even what we want to call what we are doing, but when philosophers sit down and pick at ideas i'd prefer to think it is a bigger and more important subject than criticism alone.

Quote:

I have to deal with my own analytical mind which seems to prevent me from easily achieving "altered states" such as in hypnosis or meditation.

Thats an interesting point. I have read elsewhere that the easiest people to hypnotise are scientists because the analytical brain detects abnormalities, which increases likelihood of suggestion - it gives you a pathway to the subconscious.

Quote:

I suspect that I reflect some of your own issues back to you too.

You definitely do. Mixing philosophy as an overarching subject type, mixing philosophical structure, with the differing philosophies, the philosophical content, creates a whole landscape of different possibilities - each of which can be used as a lens through which to view scientific results and scientific philosophy. Its one hell of a subject.

I know we shouldn't get carried away pretending we actually have answers to the philosophy, rather than free-floating data, but so far we don't have an answer to whether there is an answer.

As far as I am aware nobody has ever suggested an answer to the grandest questions, though many have been satisfied by various claims. A simple example is that of using God as the grand terminator. God creates everything and is landed on as a satisfactory answer to meaning, but ask who created God and rather than be given an answer you reach a taboo, a claim you are not supposed to question. Philosophically the question is entirely open, definitely in the way we do philosophy.

The 'hows' and the 'whys' are similar. Often they are the same thing, often they are not. Design seems to me to be an easy way to draw a line between them - asking 'why' as an equivalent to 'what for'. Then we get into what design means, then we have to get into what not-designed means, which means defining natural vs not-natural. By then we're back to philosophy.

The senses are perhaps a practical part of the definition. Perhaps the 'how' is formed sensorily, through careful study. Once you have the 'how' you can go on to discuss and try and detect the 'why', but to do it in reverse order and construct a 'why' without the 'how' is surely open to a broader input of philosophy, and hence a broader input of contradictory philosophy (if we are willing to use contradiction as a sign of error). Like asking 'what is something for?' when you have no idea what it does. Figure out what it does, then isnt it easier to ask the why?

All that is assuming that there is a 'why' of course, which is a typical response to some of the whys asked of some larger structures and concepts. Also there are different types of whys that appeal to our different emotions, so a 'why' answer is given, such as why is the planet Earth here (initial mass of silicon, oxygen, iron, aluminium around the sun condensed under gravity and underwent differentiation dependant on atomic mass), or 'why' are the gas giants what they are 'hydrogen and helium are less massive and so concentrated at the outskirts of the rotating proto solar system, these eventually condensed due to gravity into the gas giants). These 'whys' appeal to our neocortex, but our brains are made of more modules than that, they ask for different types of 'why'.

This is an important question. Should each property and entity in the universe have a 'why' answer that meets the satisfactions of each of our brain structures. Has Mars formed with multiple 'whys' that meet each of our emotional needs?

We could have fun with that all day, but if the answer is no, in any property or entity anywhere in the universe then we have an example of a philosophical 'why question' that lacks a philosophical 'why answer'. That would be an important step in looking at the relationship between hows and whys.

Equally though, if we can find a why that has no how that would be pretty cool too.

kamarling's picture
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What if God doesn't know what was before God? What If God doesn't know why God exists? What if that why is the reason for all the other why's?

thefloppy1's picture
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I love it when you guys have these disscussions. Always interesting and I gain much from them.

Maybe the "why" is not the pretence. Its a culmination of all the reactions after which is perpetual.

"Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told."
LRF.

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"In the beginning, there was nothing,

And God said 'Huh?!'"

;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

kamarling's picture
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Good. Very good :)

daydreamer's picture
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Quote:

What if God doesn't know what was before God? What If God doesn't know why God exists? What if that why is the reason for all the other why's?

I love the idea of that!

We'd have to change it though to - What if that don't know is the reason for all why's?.

Id also want to be cautious about people using a concealed - What if that don't care is the reason for all the why's?

I don't know if that terminator (to which everyone imagines the cyborg before the philosophy ;) ) evaporates if it only succeeds in terminating through ignorance rather than end. I mean, we can do that ourselves today! Hay-Ho though, its a novel new take on the terminator - God's ignorance, rather than God. Again, I think you might put yourself up against the taboo.

earthling's picture
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Perhaps it was the wrong decision in hindsight, but we all know these ultimate leader types, they can't admit that.

So all this confusion is due to a massive cover up. And for a change, it is working.

----
We are the cat.

thefloppy1's picture
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the word "why" was invented for all 3 year olds.....it's a very important stage of their development.

"Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told."
LRF.

daydreamer's picture
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From the website:

Quote:

Bem’s experimental design is straightforward and appears to reliably produce evidence for psychic functioning. Because of this, several researchers have expressed an interest in replicating his work. Although this is good (attempted replications are an important part of establishing whether an effect is genuine), such large numbers of unsystematic replications can be problematic. Some researchers might, for example, start an experiment, obtain initial results that are not in line with their desired outcome, and terminate the study early. Alternatively, they may complete the study but not publish it. These types of issues make it difficult to assess whether an effect has been replicated.

To avoid these potential problems, we believe that it is important to create a registry of attempted replications BEFORE the studies are conducted. As far as we know, this is the first time that this has been attempted with research into extrasensory perception.

I have alluded to this before. Having checked the websites of some of the big hitters publishing their research online I couldn't see any link to upcoming research listing trial sizes, start and stop times of experiments and dates when research will be published.

This would be a very easy thing to do to inspire confidence - else people will always be open to the criticism that they may only be publishing good data and shelving the rest, skewing analysis.

I know we haven't got the drugs companies to sign up to this type of ethical research (though headway is being made), but lets hope we might get others to first. That goes for skeptics too though, do you lot trust they aren't sometimes binning positive data, or just leaving it at the bottom of a pile? Trust shouldn't even be a question since we should be able to know what research is happening before it happens. No trust involved, just ethical standards of research.