[extropy-chat] Precognition on TV

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Fri Mar 16 18:56:22 UTC 2007

Resend due to an ugly error in my previous text.
- Jef

On 3/16/07, Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote:
> On 3/15/07, Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote:
> > > Or the growing number of controlled
> > > "presponse" measurements, which physiological sensors register
> > > significant responses not only in advance of a stimulus having been
> > > generated but in advance of its being chosen at random from a
> > > possible set of stimuli. I would not be surprised if this latter
> > > protocol is what will finally establish the reality of some kinds of
> > > reverse causality in perception, and will be published in the
> > > heavy-duty scientific literature. It's sufficiently simple and
> > > elegant that it edges toward resembling classic probes of visual or
> > > acoustic acuity.
> >
> > With the links you provided, I started with the page by Utts and
> > Josephson at http://anson.ucdavis.edu/%7Eutts/azpsi.html:
> >
> > "In one type of experiment, a "target" photograph or video segment is
> > randomly chosen out of a set of four possibilities. A "sender"
> > attempts to transmit it mentally and a "receiver" is then asked to
> > provide an account either verbally or in writing of what she imagines
> > it might be. She is then shown the four possibilities, and selects the
> > one she thinks best matches her perception. By chance alone, a correct
> > match is expected on average one time in four, whereas the experiments
> > typically show the considerably higher success rate of around one in
> > three."
> >
> > These are /wonderfully/ significant results, published since 1996,
> > backed by the prestige of Brian Josephson!  Why in the last 10+ years
> > has this not been reproduced to the satisfaction of the scientific
> > community?  I will say that my own impression is that Ms. Utts is
> > quite enthusiastic about promoting this field (elsewhere she explains
> > that it has received only two months of resources, proportionate to a
> > century for standard psychology.)  I feel compelled to wonder at this
> > point whether this isn't an (unintentional) example of cherry picking
> > results.
> >
> > I'm looking forward to reading more of the references and will get back to you.
> Damien, I'm getting back to you after spending a few hours last night
> refreshing memories of this field since my last spelunking a few years
> ago.  I'm afraid the illumination in those passages hasn't improved,
> while sadly I find I'm navigating with slightly greater certainty than
> last time due to lack of new surprises.
> As I re-read about May, Utts, Radin, Puthoff, Geller, Boundary
> Institute, Susan Blackmore,  Ray Hyman,  the Stargate program, PEAR,
> and the various other scientific and pseudo-scientific conferences and
> studies on parapsychological phenomena, I see certain personalities
> and their (quite understandable) will to believe overshadowing any
> evidence.
> Edwin May's papers are perhaps the most credible in appearance,
> (especially in contrast to those of some of his associates, one of
> whom reminds me of PT Barnum in a lab coat) but his writing, some of
> it emotional, show the marks of a true believer who will continue to
> do whatever he can to prove what he already believes.  His papers on
> anticipatory galvanic skin response (1993, 1995) were interesting and
> while he acknowledged their weakness as retrospective analysis, I'm
> left wondering about the fate of the anticipated prospective
> experiments?  After the Stargate program was terminated it seems he
> joined Radin at the Boundary Institute and continued to publish
> additional interesting but non-conclusive papers.  But in over ten
> years couldn't he or someone else follow up on the ns-GSR paper that
> seemed so promising??
> Some of these people do appear to attempt good experimental protocol,
> but many of those around them (some who began as believers but
> eventually convinced themselves otherwise) observe a multitude of
> failures to account for bias and communication paths between
> experimenters and subjects.
> Indeed, wouldn't it be reasonable to say that any and all scientific
> experiments are tainted to some small degree due to the ultimately
> subjective nature of the enterprise?  So, when believers go looking
> for subtle effects, they are likely to find them, with just the
> quirky, unrepeatable, subjective nature which they have come to
> believe characterizes their subject.  What should we think of a
> putative effect that diminishes in proportion to experimental rigor?
> I do respect those who strive to uncover subtle anomalous effects --
> as I've said, this promotes the good by refining our understanding of
> our world, but I'm afraid that when I look at this field, I see hints
> that something subtle could just possibly exist, swamped by an
> overwhelming array of unscientific (but quite understandable) human
> factors.
> I am looking forward to reading your forthcoming book (and I'm halfway
> through that enjoyable collection of your short stories - thanks!)
> - Jef

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