Re: Actually, Psychological Bulletin is a mainstream publication

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sat Dec 31 2005 - 16:04:09 MST

At 05:13 PM 12/31/2005 -0500, John K Clark wrote:

>Yes, just become a billionaire through the lottery and the debate is
>over, I was wrong and psi is real. We all know that will never happen,
>but why?

This seems an appealing, solidly commonsense objection, but only to those
who have absolutely no knowledge of the claims actually made by
parapsychologists today, typically in regard to observed effect sizes. It's
the kind of comic strip objection that would be relevant if professional
parapsychologists claimed X-Men powers, or endorsed the sorts of miracles
that were the fodder of 1950s Astounding science-fiction stories.

Incidentally, even supposing that you had the capacity to know perfectly
and easily in advance *by ordinary means* the winning numbers of a lottery,
I'm pretty sure there's no way to become a billionaire by using that
knowledge. A millionaire, sure, eventually.

But, as an hour or two reading the claims actually made by
parapsychologists would demonstrate, the size of the deviations from chance
typically encountered in traditional psi studies are of the order of one
extra correct guess per hundred (where p is 1 in 5), if not markedly less.
IIRC, the average PEAR deviation is of the order of one in 10,000.
Presumably this is due to the exceptionally tedious nature of the task they
set up, which is designed not to facilitate the purported phenomena but to
ensure that the data is recorded and archived in a watertight manner, and
that the analysis testing for paranormality is straightforward.

The Mega Millions lottery requires you to identify five numbers out of 56
and an additional one number out of 46. Quickly now, tell me your brilliant
protocol for achieving this aim given a phenomenon that manifests itself as
an excess of (at best) one extra correct guess in a hundred. It takes you
100,000 guesses to attain one standard deviation, which is hardly enough to
instil confidence. True, you're only risking a dollar, so you might be
prepared to stop after 100,000 guesses.

Of course, this brutal approach strips away all the inbuilt affordances of
the human mind, so one might suppose that if psi actually exists there must
be better ways to apply it. Thus, the development of protocols for what is
now called remote viewing. But this, too, is a procedure -- like according
one's memory of dreams -- prey to all kinds of noise, second-guessing,
elaboration. There is abundant evidence that remote viewers like Joseph
McMoneagle can do remarkably better than chance using these protocols, but
again it's very difficult to devise a method of coding a Mega Millions
lottery ticket into the kind of imagery identifiable by this process.

I used to think it would be very easy: all you need to do is translate a
sequence of decimal numbers into binary form and encode a binarized image
from it as the target: dark versus light for the first one/zero, male
versus female for the second one/zero, inside versus outside for the third
one/zero... The problem here is that a single mistake throws the whole
thing out. Okay, so we invoke redundancy. But now new hazards arise, not
least the necessity to find not just one but two or even 56 or 132 ace
remote viewers.

I've bored you all, I can tell. Killfile the gullible idiot. Such
incredible horseshit. Don't look, don't look.

Damien Broderick

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:54 MDT