Medium (Research) Well Done

Alex Tsakiris, host of the Skeptiko podcast, is currently working with the panel from The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (most notably, Dr Steven Novella) in order to undertake a ‘bipartisan’ research demonstration on the claimed abilities of mediums. In a recent podcast, Tsakiris and Novella fleshed out the protocol for the demonstration (see here for the protocol text). This is a great step, with a group of skeptics finally cutting the talk, and getting their hands ‘dirty’ with some actual experimentation – in concert with someone (Alex) who comes from the other side of the fence when it comes to opinions on psychic abilities.

On the downside, I do see some issues likely to pop up. Firstly, the intrinsic nature of a ‘one-off’ experiment/demonstration such as this is likely to result in a dispute over the validity of the data – no real conclusion will be able to be reached without many more experiments of the same kind. Beyond that, I’m not sure a third party scoring protocol is the best way forward for research with mediums: the often-told story about sessions with mediums is that they bring up lots of nonsense, but then have one massive hit that is hard to dismiss by coincidence. I think this is best scored by the person themselves – though I’m not sure of the best way to approach it (multiple mediums, only one of whom is ‘genuine’?).

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this develops. In the meantime, Alex has also posted a new podcast interview with Julie Beischel, who is a bona fide researcher on this topic.