Re: Free Will debate

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Fri Dec 30 2005 - 08:42:11 MST

I've got to say you are a difficult person to have a serious discussion

I am going to bring forward one of your comments and reply to that first:

> And I feel it is stupid to listen to psi “scientists” until they can
> produce one experiment, one, just one, that is repeatable. Until then
> they are witch doctors.

Those experiments exist. Could you say which of the journals that I
cited in my last message you have consulted? Some of these works of
scholarship have been around for 120 years, some at least 60 years, some
several decades. In most cases, four issues a year. I estimate you
would have some 800 to 1000 issues packed with about ten research papers
each. With only 1 in 10 of those papers being first-grade science, that
would still leave about 1000 papers packed with detailed information.
Could you please explain why, after reading those 1000 papers, you found
their contents less than satisfactory?

fudley wrote:
> On Thu, 29 Dec 2005 "Richard Loosemore" <> said:
>>what I was alluding to is the possibility that effects
>>happen in the world that are not random
> Then they have a cause, not almost a cause, or sort of a cause, or half
> a cause, but a cause.
>>but which are coupled to their causes (in
>>this case human wishes or intentions)
>>in a way that is barely governed
>>by any regular laws.
> Gobbledygook. To say something has a cause is logical, to say something
> does not have a cause is logical, to say neither is true is idiotic.

Well, I take your point, but what I was getting at was the idea that
there could be some types of "cause and effect" that look so different
from the usual stuff, that some of the *inferences* you were trying to
draw might get derailed. My comments were, in other words, specifically
in the context of the inferences you were trying to draw vis-a-vis free

Consider the idea that there may be some "causes" that are not local in
this universe. At the moment this is completely disallowed by physics
(okay, quantum entanglement folks, I know you are going to get on my
case here, but hear me out: QE always starts with local events).
Suppose, specifically, that thinking systems can bias the outcome of
some events. Imagine that there are new, as yet undiscovered laws of
physics that allow global, nebulous things like "thoughts" to make
things happen. And suppose that these new laws were such that there was
an irreducible random component in them, such that some thoughts have
effects and some don't, and no amount of further analysis allows an
internal mechanism to be discovered that pins down the connection
between thought and effect.

Now, this *could* be called a cause and effect relationship, as per
normal physics, but notice that it leads to a different conclusion in
the context of free will. It opens up the possibility that some events
in the world are (a) not being determined by normal physics, and (b) are
not completely random either.

Let me give a more specific example. You set up a quantum-event
controlled random number generator (the numbers coming out are
determined by exact timing of the decay events of a radioactive
substance, for example). Now you ask a person to try to influence it to
make certain numbers come out more often. Now suppose that the first
time you try the experiment, the numbers are indeed grossly skewed in
the desired direction. Was it random? No, it wasn't. Did it have a
normal-physics cause? No: quantum mechanics states that nothing can
bias the radiocative decays to happen according to certain pattern.

And then, if you generalise the notion of "cause" to include this new
thinking-caused effect (bring it within the gamut of "normal" physics),
you might find yourself consorting with a type of physical law that will
drive you nuts: the exact connection between "thought" and effect seems
to come and go, sometimes working and sometimes not, sometimes doing the
opposite of what you planned, sometimes fading away if you get bored and
do the experiment too many times. This is what I meant by capricious.

Now, if that is the universe we live in, would you say that thinking
systems are purely governed by physical law as we understand it at the
moment? I'm not so sure.

>>may lead us to call this something different than cause
>>and effect.
> The word is random.
>>it [psi] looks diabolically irregular and capricious.
> Suppose just for a moment that we lived in a world where psi did not
> exist but that almost every human being on the planet, including
> scientists (and me) wished it did, what do you suppose the results of
> psi experiments performed by third rate scientists would look like? They
> would look diabolically irregular and capricious.
> PS: we live in that world.

You can be profoundly insulting sometimes, about subjects on which you
are quite clearly ignorant. Do you have an epithet to describe _that_
kind of person?

> You:
>>>>I personally have very strong evidence that there is
>>>>something_ going on out there that is not encompassed
>>>>by normal science.
> Me:
>>>Then you should be writing your Nobel Prize acceptance
>>>speech not gabbing on the internet.
> You:
>>Please try to spare the sarcasm.
> No. If what you said was true, if you really do have “very strong
> evidence” for the existence of psi then you have made a HUGE discovery
> and the Nobel Prize is just one of the countless honors you richly
> deserve. In fact you are the greatest scientist since Newton. And that
> my friend is no sarcasm, provided of course that what you said was true.

If it was not sarcasm, then I accept the compliment, but with the
qualification that I would have to do so on behalf of at least several
dozen (and more probably a couple of hundred) dedicated, first-rate
scientists, who call themselves parapsychologists, across the world who
have done many, many more experiments than I have. My contribution has
been extremely small.

You'll forgive me, I am sure, if I misinterpreted your words as sarcasm,
given that elsewhere you refer to these people as "witch doctors",
"loonies" and "third rate scientists".

>>we tend to be treated with something less than respect.
>>From this day forward I solemnly vow to give parapsychology researchers
> all the respect they deserve.
>>many of us start to feel like doing something else
>>and not bothering until the world becomes a
>>little more mature about it.

>>you have laid out a version of reality that you would
>>*prefer* to be true, rather than the one that actually is true.
> What in hell are you talking about? I would LOVE it if it were true! I
> would LOVE it if every one of the claims made by the psi loonies turned
> out to be true! Who wouldn’t? I would LOVE to live in Harry Potter’s
> world! I would LOVE to take a remedial adult education class in potion
> making at Hogwarts!

A complete misunderstanding, this: you have laid out a version of
reality *in which parpsychologists are loony witch doctors and
third-rate scientists who have never produced any reliable experimental
evidence for paranormal effects*. That version of reality, which you
are repeating all the time, is a figment of your imagination.

> Unfortunately wishing does not make it so.
>>Some parapsychologists have done carefully controlled,
>>repeatable experiments that demonstrate the existence
>>of certain effects that appear to be inexplicable
>>by current laws.

Could you explain in more detail what you mean by this?

>>They publish these results in journals
> National Enquirer?
>>they meet and discuss them at conferences
> Star Trek conventions?
>>and they try to find new experiments they can do that will
>>probe deeper.
> They try to do experiments that will give a more positive psi result,
> but the do NOT try to do better experiments. That is not science. That
> is Cargo Cult science.
>>You can find these results in such journals as:
>>International Journal of Parapsychology
>>Psychological Bulletin
>>European Journal of Parapsychology
>>Journal of Parapsychology
>>Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
>>Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
> Well those are splendid sounding names, they have neat sounding words
> like “international” and “European” and “Journal” in them, I realty like
> the way they roll off the tongue, they sound very intelligent, highbrow,
> brainy, upper class, high IQ, downright spiffy; but why didn’t all those
> amazingly brilliant new Einsteins publish their remarkable discoveries
> in Nature or Science? Why do almost none of the authors of the articles
> in those “Journals” also write in mainstream respectable Science
> publications?
> In truth the “journals” you mentioned above are indeed excellent,
> excellent for lining the bottom of your bird cage with.
>>At the end of the day, though, it is frustrating
>>to work in a theoretical vacuum.
> Why? When Roentgen discovered X rays nobody had the slightest idea what
> they were, that's why he called them X rays. Nobody could explain them
> and they didn't fit in with any current theory, not one. Nevertheless
> scientists instantly accepted that they existed because although
> Roentgen's claim was absolutely extraordinary so was his evidence; he
> had a photograph of the bones in his wife’s hand, you could see the
> bones. Let me repeat that, you could see the BONES! And the woman was
> still alive! That is just about as good as is possible for evidence to
> get.
> Although he had no theory for this bizarre phenomena, not even a hint,
> his results were instantly accepted. Far from being an outcast Roentgen
> became an instant hero. He was the most respected scientist of his age
> and he received the very first (well deserved) Nobel Prize in Physics.
> The exact same positive response would happen if somebody could show
> that the paranormal existed, even if he couldn't explain one tinny tiny
> bit of it.

Who was the guy who came up with the theory of continental drift? Was
it Wegener? Is your study of the history of science as patchy and
selective as your grasp of current research? Or would you care to put,
alongside your account of Roentgen, an account of what happened to
Wegener as well?

> I’ve got to tell you, I’m not holding my breath.

Well, thank goodness. Your eyes are firmly closed, so I would be
concerned for your health if your mouth and nose were closed as well.

> John K Clark

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