[ExI] Psi (no need to read this post you already knowwhatitsays )

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Sun Jan 10 17:58:32 UTC 2010

On 1/10/2010 10:17 AM, John Clark wrote:

> I think the moral is that before you develop an elaborate theory to
> explain something make sure that there is an actual phenomena that needs
> explaining. After well over a century's effort not only have Psi
> "scientists" failed to explain how it works they haven't even shown that
> it exists.

You *don't* know that, because you refuse to look at the published 
evidence##, because it's not in the Journal of Recondite Physics and 
Engineering. But I tend to agree that theorizing in advance of empirical 
evidence is pretty pointless--and yet the usual objection to psi from 
heavy duty scientists at the Journal of Recondite Physics and 
Engineering is, "We don't care about your anomalies, because you don't 
have a *theory* that predicts and explains them." My guess is that at 
some point a new comprehensive theory of spacetime and symmetry will 
emerge to account for quantum gravity, say, if the Higgs fails to 
appear, and one of its elements will be the surprise finding that 
certain psi functions fall out of the equations. Which is why it makes 
no sense to bet on when the topic will finally be deemed publishable in 
Nature or Science. You can bring in plenty of evidence of a small effect 
size, but without a theory to make everyone comfortable the evidence 
will be ignored.

I *suspect* the same might be true of "cold fusion." There does seem to 
be quite a lot of evidence, but as yet no acceptable theory, so it's 
easier to assume it's a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. But as 
I've said before, my dog isn't in that race so I don't know enough about 
the form at the track.

Damien Broderick
##Here's a typical example of this sort of self-satisfied dismissal; I 
quote at some length from my book OUTSIDE THE GATES OF SCIENCE:

<In September 2006 the science editor of the Times of London reported 
shocked uproar created by a public session favorable to parapsychology, 
run under the auspices of the British Association for the Advancement of 
Science (the BA) during that nation’s “premier science festival.” The BA 
festival’s organizers “were accused of lending credibility to maverick 
theories on the paranormal by allowing the highly controversial research 
to be aired unchallenged.” Interestingly, the outraged critics cited 
were all given their titles (Dr., Professor, even Lord), while those on 
the session panel, including Dr. Rupert Sheldrake (a former research 
fellow of the Royal Society) and Professor Deborah Delanoy of the 
University of Northampton, went without.

In light of the evidence we have considered so far, the objections 
quoted seem no better than tantrums and self-confessed ignorance. ... A 
delicious exchange in a subsequent BBC interview with chemist and 
science writer Dr. Peter Atkins and Dr. Sheldrake makes the point even 
more clearly:

	Interviewer: On the other hand when [Sheldrake] produces his evidence, 
he said 25% was what you would expect, but what he got was 45%, that is 
	Atkins: No, that’s just playing with statistics.
	Interviewer: Let’s put that to Rupert. Rupert Sheldrake, he says you’re 
just playing with statistics. He doesn’t believe a word of it. What do 
you say to him?
	Sheldrake: Well I’d like to ask him if he’s actually read the evidence? 
May I ask you Professor Atkins if you’ve actually studied any of this 
evidence or any other evidence?
	Atkins: No, but I would be very suspicious of it.

Although participants on the panel noticed no furor, the fuss is 
reminiscent of what happened in 2001 when the Royal Mail in Britain 
published a special brochure to accompany their issue of special stamps 
to commemorate British Nobel Prize winners. Dr. Brian Josephson, Nobel 
physics laureate in 1973, took the opportunity to draw attention to 
anomalies research: “Quantum theory is now being fruitfully combined 
with theories of information and computation. These developments may 
lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within 
conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the 
forefront of research.” Nature was more amused than affronted: “But few 
physicists accept that telepathy even exists, says Andrew Steane, a 
quantum physicist at the University of Oxford. Robert Evans, a physicist 
at the University of Bristol, says he is ‘very uneasy’ about something 
from the Royal Mail saying quantum physics has something to do with 
telepathy.” Josephson responded in the Observer newspaper on October 7, 

	The problem is that scientists critical of this research do not give 
their normal careful attention to the scientific literature on the 
paranormal: it is much easier instead to accept official views or views 
of biased skeptics . . . Obviously the critics are unaware that in a 
paper published in 1989 in a refereed physics journal, Fotini Pallikari 
and I demonstrated a way in which a particular version of quantum theory 
could get round the usual restrictions against the exploitation of the 
telepathy-like connections in a quantum system. Another physicist 
discovered the same principle independently; so far no one has pointed 
out any flaws.

An academic and science correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph, 
Robert Matthews, commented sharply in November 1991: “Just consider: 
there is no credible evidence that time travel has ever been achieved, 
but that has not stopped serious scientists pondering ways in which it 
might be. In contrast, there is now a wealth of evidence for the 
existence of ESP, obtained by researchers from reputable universities on 
a repeatable basis. Yet, any scientists who dare suggest ways in which 
ESP might be possible can expect a heap of ordure to be tipped on their 
heads by fellow academics.”

Really, the objection that conventional scientists raise against the 
idea of psi is not that the evidence is deficient. Most of them have 
never looked at it, carefully or at all, although many note acerbically 
that they see no sign of psi disrupting the results and meter readings 
in their own labs. More crucially, the motive for dismissing psi is that 
the reigning theories of science (or so it’s asserted) do not leave any 
room for psychic phenomena. Albert Einstein, who at times expressed an 
interest in such anomalies and even wrote a preface to Upton Sinclair’s 
Mental Radio, eventually rejected the topic as unscientific when he 
learned that ESP failed to obey the inverse square law, falling off 
sharply with distance, and therefore could not be regarded as a form of 
transmission akin to radio. That was a quite remarkably limited view of 
the possibilities available for scientific explanation, but then 
Einstein didn’t like quantum theory, either. Indeed, in a January 2004 
debate on telepathy sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts, Dr. 
Sheldrake observed:

	There’s no inverse square law [in psi or the quantum theory of 
nonlocality]. When Einstein first realized this implication of quantum 
theory, he thought quantum theory must be wrong, because if it were 
right, it implied “a spooky action at a distance,” as he put it. It 
turns out quantum theory is right, Einstein’s wrong and that particles 
or systems that are in part of the same system, when apart, retain this 
nonlocal connection . . . If quantum theory is truly fundamental, then 
we may be seeing something analogous, even homologous, at the level of 
organisms. Insofar as people are thinking theories of telepathy, then 
this is one of the prime contenders.

In that debate, Sheldrake’s opponent, anatomy professor Lewis Wolpert, 
offered the standard complaint, after first ritually denying that any 
acceptable evidence can be found: “I suppose, as a scientist, it’s 
slightly weird that what the people [do] who work in this field is just 
to provide more examples. They make no effort whatsoever to understand 
what’s going on.” Although Sheldrake replied: “There’s no shortage of 
theoretical work in this area,” still the argument typically leveled 
against the reality of psi by scientists is that there’s no sound theory 
to support it. Raw observations are not enough. You need a powerful and 
principled theory to constrain your observations, to predict in advance 
what will happen reliably under exact circumstances, and, just as 
importantly, what can’t happen, and why your story is better than the 
other guy’s.>

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