A Survey of Psi Research

Dream Telepathy

Over at his blog, Carlos Alvarado has a summary of a recent survey, by Dr Harvey Irwin, of 114 people involved in parapsychology - an attempt to understand the views of contemporary psi researchers.

From the abstract:

Some issues, such as the reality of psi and the importance of specialist training in parapsychology, attracted substantial consensus, but a disparity of views was evident on other issues (e.g., the unity of ESP and PK); somewhat surprisingly, developments in anomalistic psychology and mainstream concerns over probabilistic evaluation of hypotheses appear to be of limited interest to parapsychologists.

Some of the quick take-aways were:

  • When asked for their estimate of the reality of psi, using a scale ranging from 0 to 100%, the mean answer was 78.91.
  • When asked about the possibility that their interests were motivated by spiritual concerns, replies were spread fairly evenly: “strongly” 21%, “moderately” 29%, “slightly” 24%, and “not at all” 26%.”
  • When asked about belief in life after death: “strongly disagree” 3%, “disagree” 10%, “somewhat disagree” 1%, “neither agree nor disagree” 36%, “somewhat agree” 16%, “agree” 18%, and “strongly agree” 17%.
  • How many agreed with (ie. responded 'somewhat agree', 'agree', and 'strongly agree') the following diverse questions: "Ganzfeld now less effective": 18%; "survival research essential": 45%; "significance testing unsatisfactory": 48%.

Additionally:

Three survey items related to the use of constructs from the philosophy of science to discount some findings of parapsychological research . . . Although there was some variation in responses, approximately half of the sample deemed commentators’ use of the concepts of the need for replication and the principle of parsimony to be purely rhetorical devices in the criticism of parapsychological research. On the other hand, over 40% of respondents evidently saw more than rhetoric in the critics’ demand for replicability. Views were rather more cohesive on the third issue: only 13% of the sample believed parapsychologists were using the concept of psi-missing primarily to explain away inconvenient experimental findings.

An open-ended question about current problems of parapsychology elicited mention of low financial support, resistance from institutions to research, the views of critics, and other issues.

Link: Survey of Parapsychologist’s Opinions

News Briefs 09-02-2015

Attempt no landing there...

Thanks to @CatVincent and @AnomalistNews.

Quote of the Day:

It is useless to ask a Magician if God, angels or demons ‘really exist’. Simply by saying the words, you have made them exist.

Ask again whether these abstract entities can produce any effect on the physical world and they already have — they have caused you to ask questions.

Ramsey Dukes

The Man in the High Castle: Amazon's Pilot Episode Available for Free


Throughout most of his life, Philip K. Dick was obsessed with the concept of alternative realities. There was a time for instance, when he believed he'd switched places with his twin sister, who passed away only six weeks after they were born prematurely, and that he was the one who had died. On other occasion he became convinced that the Nixon regime was actually a 'projection' of the Roman empire in which he was still living, as a persecuted Christian of the first century A.D.

Schizophrenic delusions or perhaps glimpses of parallel universes, we'll never know for certain. What we do know is that his visions inspired his literary work, and in 1963 he won the Hugo award for his novel The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history novel in which the Axis powers won the 2nd. World War, and have divided the rest of the globe among themselves.

Now Amazon has made a video series adaptation of Dick's story --Must we still call these 'TV series'?-- Starring Rufus Sewell, Luke Kleintank, Alexa Davalos, and executive produced by Riddley Scott; you can watch the pilot episode for free by clicking here.

Here are a couple of segments to pique your interest:

Whether Dick would be pleased with this adaptation --or surprised with the fact that the United States is now more resemblant of a police state than ever-- is also something we'll never know... or will we?

News Briefs 06-02-2015

“Is the surface of a planet really the right place for expanding technological civilization?”

Quote of the Day:

“We should ask, critically and with appeal to the numbers, whether the best site for a growing advancing industrial society is Earth, the Moon, Mars, some other planet, or somewhere else entirely. Surprisingly, the answer will be inescapable — the best site is "somewhere else entirely."

Gerald K. O’Neill

Mummified, or Master Meditator? Is this Extremely Well-Preserved Buddhist Monk Actually Alive?

Mummified meditating Mongolian monk

If there's one thing better than Forteana, it's alliterative Forteana! So check out this mummified meditating Mongolian monk mystery posted at BBC News:

A mummified monk found preserved in Mongolia last week has been baffling and astounding those who uncovered him. Senior Buddhists say the monk, found sitting in the lotus position, is in a deep meditative trance and not dead.

Forensic examinations are under way on the remains, found wrapped in cattle skins in north-central Mongolia.

Scientists have yet to determine how the monk is so well-preserved, though some think Mongolia's cold weather could be the reason. But Dr Barry Kerzin, a physician to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told the Siberian Times that the monk was in a rare state of meditation called "tukdam".

"If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha," Dr Kerzin said.

The mummified/meditating monk was found after a man stole him and tried to sell him on the black market. The cadaver/near-Buddha is now being held securely at Mongolia's National Centre of Forensic Expertise.

Link: Mummified monk in Mongolia 'not dead', say Buddhists

Related:

News Briefs 05-02-2015

Keep calm and Grail on.

Thanks to Chris and Conner.

Quote of the Day:

"In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule."

~Nietzsche

The Wold Newton Meteorite: from Outer Space into Fiction

Wold Newton Monument

In a field in England, in the East Riding of Yorkshire to be more precise, amid the grass and nettles there stands a lone curious 24 foot (7.3 metre) red brick obelisk. Constructed more than 200 years ago, the column has, appropriately enough, something of a cartoon space-rocket about it. A plaque set into one face reads

Here On this Spot, Decr. 13th, 1795 Fell from the Atmoſphere AN EXTRAORDINARY STONE In Breadth 28 inches In Length 36 inches and Whoſe Weight was 56 pounds.

The "EXTRAORDINARY STONE" arrived during a thunderstorm and landed two fields from Wold Cottage, which was at the time home to a magistrate named Major Edward Topham. It was Major Topham who would go on to have the obelisk constructed in 1799. The stone created a hole 3.2 feet (1 metre) in diameter, embedding itself firmly into a layer of chalk bedrock beneath the soil. Topham's shepherd was within 450 feet (137 metres) of the point of impact. Nearer still was labourer John Shipley, who signed a deposition published alongside a reprinted letter by Major Topham in the Gentleman's Magazine for July 1797 stating that

He was within eight or nine yards of the stone when it fell, saw it distinct seven or eight yards from the ground, and then strike into the earth, which flew up all about him, and which alarmed him very much.

The Wold Newton Meteorite was the largest ever observed to fall in Britain, and is the second largest recorded in Europe (the largest being the Ensisheim meteorite which in 1492 landed in a wheat field in what was then Alsace). The great scientist and occultist Sir Issac Newton - not yet seventy years in his grave when the stone landed in Yorkshire -had famously stated that

To make way for the regular and lasting motions of the planets and comets, it is necessary to empty the heavens of all matter.

In other words, that there was no room in his model of space for free floating objects such as meteorites. Having formulated the Law of Universal Gravitation, Newton's ideas were generally taken pretty seriously. Consequently when the Wold Newton Meteorite was put on display in London in 1797 many took pleasure in deriding it as a fake, or at best a piece of debris thrown into the air by a volcanic eruption (which was, needless to say, unlikely in Yorkshire). The then president of the Royal Society of London, Sir Joseph Banks, was interested, however. Working with the chemist Edward Howard, Banks ... Read More »

Conner Habib: True Skepticism in NDEs


Conner Habib is definitely a polifacetic individual: An evolutionary biologist who studied under Lynn Margulis, yet rejects the current materialist paradigm predominant in modern Science; an intellectual interested in western philosophy, yet has the looks to be in the cover of GQ magazine; a popular performer in the gay adult entertainment industry, yet one who is involved in it by choice, and not because he's trapped in one of the common stereotypes promulgated by our prudish society --dude likes to #%ck and be #%cked, is all.

On his blog, he has republished an essay in which he looks at Dr. Eben Alexander and his best-selling book Proof of Heaven with a critical eye, while at the same time also criticizing the atheist debunkers who have been at the forefront of the attacks against Alexander and his purported NDE. Approaching these controversial subjects from the radical center? That's right up to The Grail's alley!

Conner takes issue with both the simplistic narrative embraced by Dr. Alexander as an experiencer --he went through clinical death while suffering from meningitis and thus 'went to Heaven'-- and the materialist thinking which adamantly concludes his cerebral cortex couldn't be shut down as he professes (it can't be, therefore it isn't); the same attitude that seriously hinders the scope of Science, by binding it to the naive illusion of dettached objectivity between observer and the observed phenomenon, and which negates any phenomenon that fails to meet the criteria of experimentation and replicability demanded by the scientific method.

We’re bound to bang our heads against the wall if we follow the path that Alexander or his critics have laid out for us. The lines are drawn and no one is going to switch sides, not only because Alexander hasn’t proved anything, but because the whole enterprise of foregrounding “proof” is misguided. Not only when exploring NDEs, but also in use of certain kinds of medicine, parapsychological phenomenon, and more. When it comes to non-materialistic and/or individualized phenomena, seeking proof above all else blinds us to the extraordinary and profound nature of subjectivity.

There may be overlapping (though not universal) themes — in NDEs, for example, “walk toward the light” and “everything is love” — in all non-materialistic phenomena, but they always intersect with and are informed by the unique matrix of the individual’s personality and social circumstances. One person may see a ghost, whereas another person in the same room may see nothing. Acupuncture may heal one person’s back pain and leave another’s unhealed. For the latter example, skeptics might be happy to cart out placebo, but they don’t have any real understanding of how placebo works, and it, too, affects different individuals differently.
Not only are the experiences individualized, but many of them exist within mind states (i.e., the content and contours of our thinking and feeling world, as opposed to physical brain states). Alexander can tell us all about the clouds and colors of the afterlife, but he can’t make us see them, because they intersected with his mind alone.

In other words, for certain experiences, reproducibility (and by extension, falsifiability), a bedrock of materialistic science, seems to go out the window

The idea that we can completely dettach ourselves from both our expectations and the world is akin to a religious belief, Conner writes.

For those who demand total objectivity, proof is Heaven, or God. It’s a distant principle which should be always appealed to, never questioned, and of which nothing is greater.

I find this observation useful for other 'damned' topics in the Fortean realm. Take UFO close encounters for example: By abscribing to a false sense of objectivity, both the true believers and the debunkers are forced into either accepting or flat-out rejecting the anecdotal evidence offered by the witnesses --it was either swamp gas, or a spaceship. They haven't entertained the possibility that on every close encounter, there's a deeply personal component of the experience meant for the witness alone and no-one else; at the same time, the phenomenon 'morphs' itself to the observer's expectations, just like the NDE narrative comforms to the the religious beliefs and aspirations of the dying patient.

The solution? Incorporate Subjectivity back into the scientific method:

A science more like Goethe’s or Bohm’s (and less like Alexander’s or [Sam] Harris’s), i.e., a science that asks us to think about our thinking while we observe, would help create better language for moments like this. There’s always a tension between individual experience (subjectivity) and being able to convey things in shared language (via objectivity and proof), but we need to balance the scales better. If we include subjectivity in our scientific processes, we do just that. Then the kind of approach popular skepticism supports becomes an option or an aspect of our scientific approach, not the only approach that thou shalt not have any other approaches before. That way, we can (rightfully) criticize Alexander on his deceptive claim to proof with questions like the ones I and Harris pose above, but we can also marvel at the account.

Of course, here at the Grail we've been skeptic of Alexander's highfaluting account about riding on top of a butterfly accompanied by his dead sister --even though the fact that he never met that person or even knew of his existence, is as fascinating as the fact that he managed to 'miraculously' recover from his E. Coli-induced meningitis to his doctors' amazement-- while at the same time taking issue with the Mind=Brain dogma of Materialism. Will we someday be able to finally move the discussion forward? God only knows*…

When Proof Is Heaven: Why Near-Death Experiencers and Their Critics Keep Getting Science Wrong

[Conner's appearances on the Tangentially Speaking podcast are also highly recommended]
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Further reading:

(*): Though getting Greg's book is certainly a step in the right direction! [Amazon US / UK]

News Briefs 03-02-2015

Hello out there?

Quote of the Day:

The sad truth is that outside of the alternative belief community, nobody's listening.

Nick Pope


Man Descends from the Sky and Lands at the Pyramids of Giza

When Pharaoh Khufu stood before his Great Pyramid 4500 years ago, I wonder if he could have imagined that in the future a flying man would descend from the heavens like a god. In order to advertise an energy drink...

...heeeeey, maybe that's the solution to the mystery of the pyramids!

I'm not saying it was Red Bull