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On The Warrior Prophet posted 23 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionOn The Warrior Prophet by TakLoufer, Candidate

Welcome to the board, Takloufer. Just a note (as much a question as anything else), I thought Michael Shermer and the Skeptical Inquirer people did a real number on Radin and the psi stuff.


I'm not aware of any article by Michael Shermer that attacks specifically Radin's book, but I take most of what Shermer says with a pinch of salt. The problem with skeptical publications and organizations such as Skeptic and CSICOP and others is that, like many of their pro-psi opponents, they have a strong ideological position to defend. Still, their articles are useful in seeing alternate explanations.

Some of the arguments against Radin's position that I've seen are the file-drawer effect and bungled statistics. The file-drawer effect is unlikely simply because the number of unreported experiments required to create a null effect is staggering. In the case of the ESP card tests (which are by no means the best evidence), for every reported experiment, 3,300 unreported experiments would have to have been done to bring the positive results down to null. In the case of the ganzfeld and autoganzfeld experiments (where cheating would be almost impossible), if I remember correctly (someone borrowed my copy and hasn't returned it), the required file drawer would have to be 400 or so unreported experiments for every reported experiment. Given the funding and equipment necessary to run a ganzfeld experiment, it's absurdly unlikely that so many experiments were carried out.

Radin has also been accused of making mistakes in his statistics. This started with a book review by I.J. Good for the journal, Nature. The review can be found here: [url:1rn75qyu]http://members.cruzio.com/~quanta/review.html[/url:1rn75qyu]. The problem is that Good misunderstood Radin's use of "more than a billion trillion to one" when calculating the probability that the card test results from 1882-1939 could be attributed to chance. By "more than a billion trillion", Radin meant something on the order of 10>2000 to one against. Most of the blame for this misunderstanding can largely be laid at Radin's feet. Since the intended audience of Conscious Universe was the layperson, Radin felt it necessary to make the 10>2000 a more easily understandable number. Radin's explanation can be found here [url:1rn75qyu]http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/psi/doubtsregood.html#correct[/url:1rn75qyu].

Regrettably, even after this misunderstanding, CSICOP still opted to use this review against Radin in Viktor J. Stenger's article "Reality Check: Meta-Analysis and the File drawer Effect". [url:1rn75qyu]http://www.csicop.org/sb/2002-12/reality-check.html[/url:1rn75qyu].

In any case, the usefulness of Radin's book is that it's a good starting point for better research and it brings to attention some very suggestive experiments. However, while his professional integrity is not as questionable as, say, Targ's or Putoff's (who are both very probably quacks IMO - they fell for Uri Geller's tricks, for Christ's sake!), he does tend to indulge in some minor tweaking of quotes. The skeptical book review at [url:1rn75qyu]http://www.skepticreport.com/psychics/radinbook.htm[/url:1rn75qyu] is most useful in this showing this, though I feel many skeptical publications are guilty of the same misrepresentations. If one looks though this buttressing, though, one can see that the ganzfeld experiments are the gem in the rough.

The ganzfeld and autoganzfeld experiments are, IMO, the best evidence of psi. Even though skeptics like Ray Hyman maintain that the ganzfeld does not prove the existence of psi, he hasn't given a suitable alternative explanation. Fraud and error have been ruled out, so now Hyman is focusing on statistical slips or sensory leakage (given that both the "sender" and "receiver" are both in separate, soundproof, electromagnetically sealed rooms, this seems unlikely). For more information, do a google on ganzfeld, Hyman, Utts, Bem, Honorton, Wiseman, and Milton. The controversy and debates over the last decade are really interesting, not to mention amusing as well.

The point is that it's hard to say what's a real effect and what's not, though I feel somewhat justified in thinking that at least the ganzfeld is a legitament phenomena.

I wouldn't argue the correlation between neurophysiologies and experiences is so much arbitrary, as you say, as it's simply inexplicable.


Well, it's arbitrary to us, as we have no explanation as for why "the smell of the ocean" should be felt when a certain neural configuration occurs. That in and of itself discredits elimnativism and shows that, if materialism is true, it is by necessity dualistic, split into an objective world of blind, dead matter and a subjective world that attaches qualia to certain configurations of this matter (brain states).

I'm troubled by the ontological extravagance of approaches like Chalmers, flummoxed by Dennett-like eliminativism, skeptical of Searle's 'levels of description,' and very amused by the quantum approachs taken by Penrose. The bottom-line is that nobody knows what the hell is going on, which is why, like you, I'm inclined to think there could be room for the 'extra-material' (or, more pragmatically, 'something beyond the ability of science to explain'). The question is one of making meaningful inferences beyond this point, which leaves me stalled in my agnosticism.


Well, my agnosticism is now leaning towards mental monism, since the "subjective world" obviously exist and everything we know about the objective world are, basically, useful fictions gleamed from our sensory perception. The world could very well be a coherent dream, and this would allow for consciousness to exist. Mental monism makes the "hard problem" easy.

The one thing I can say with certainty is that there is "something" missing from the current materialist paradigm.

What do you think of Nagel's 'double-vision' approach to the problem?


If you are referring to the subjective-objective duality of all objects (I haven't read Nagel yet, though he seems to be a sort of panpsychist), then I agree. As I'm not all that familiar with Nagel (though others refer to him often), I'll wait until I've read his work before I venture an opinion.

-Tak view post


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