Re: The influence of skeptics.

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Jan 02 2006 - 14:19:02 MST

At 03:48 PM 1/2/2006 -0500, John K Clark wrote:

> > Skeptics in such experiments have, in the
> > long run, significantly negative results
>...I predicted that Science or Nature will not publish an
>article reporting pro psi results in the next year, but being a skeptic
>my prediction is probably wrong if psi is real.

You did see the phrases "in such experiments" and "long run"? I hope I do
not need to emphasise that "long run" does not mean "let's wait for 10
years to see if a single prediction is proved to be correct, and if it
isn't let's wait for a hundred years."

>Let's hear some true believers take the other side

I certainly wouldn't call myself a "true believer" or even, in
parapsychological terms, a "sheep", but I'm sure I am closer to that than
John. However, my commonsense, history-based understanding of the journals
John quotes assures me that I should vote the same way he does. Hence
(according to John's parody of the protocol) my prediction is probably
right if psi is real, so we seem to have reached a deadlock.

>what experimental result would
>make you conclude that you were wrong and psi research is just a big
>waste of time?

I doubt that any single experiment could do that, but I'm pretty sure that
if honest researchers found after several years that all well-conducted
experiments had failed to achieve *significant* deviations from mean chance
expectation--that is, if the results agree repeatedly with the null
hypothesis--I would be inclined to abandon my interest in the field.

So far, this hasn't happened. On the contrary, as experimental protocols
have become stricter, data machine-recorded and readable and hence not prey
to unconscious human bias, and methods of analyzing the utterances and
drawings of remote viewers into formats susceptible of strict evaluation,
significant results (sometimes breathtakingly impressive) continue to be
reported. Unsurprisingly, these results hardly ever appear in the pages of
physics or chemistry journals, or the academic organs of swine science,
architecture, dentistry, the history of Chinese calligraphy, or many other
scholarly venues.

Damien Broderick

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