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« Medium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois - Part III The RantsMedium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois - Part V »

Medium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois - Part IV
2005.03.17 (Thu) 00:00
The Success Rate of Allison's Powers:
"Well, maybe you're right. I don't like being wrong one bit. But, maybe this once I might be a little wrong."
— Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Previously, we discussed the seemingly flawed research conducted by Dr. Gary Schwartz which medium Allison DuBois leans on for validation of her powers, as well as Allison's questionable claims to have assisted various law enforcement agencies on active cases. Today we'll look at Allison's specific claims about the efficacy of her powers.

A criticism often leveled at skeptics is that they expect too high of a success rate from practitioners of the paranormal. As the story goes, these powers aren't perfect, and they don't always work. We've seen defenses of psychic abilities that state that a power may only work 3% of the time, but that when it is working, it is accurate a whopping 90% of the time. By doing some basic math, we calculate that our illustrative psychic in this example has a staggering success rate of...2.7% — hardly impressive. (Of course, we'd be hard pressed to understand the difference between psychic powers "not working" and psychic powers "working inaccurately" — but then, we never said that we were psychic.)

So how do Allison's powers stack up? Let's look at two accounts in which Allison addresses her accuracy. First, from Science Fiction Weekly:

Allison, have you ever been wrong on a case you were working on?

Dubois: No.

And from Zap2It TV News:

While early criticisms about the pilot have centered on just how infallibly omniscient the character of Allison seems to be, DuBois maintains that she's never been wrong while working on a case, [noting] that "the things you would think couldn't be true, happened."
We're always skeptical of those who claim to be infallible Now that's amazing! How does she back that up? As far as we can tell, she doesn't. Not at all. Ever. We are simply expected to take this on blind faith. The inimitable Dr. Schwartz, who has a "special place in his heart" for Allison, has said he has scored her at 73% to 94.4% effective (while providing few actual details of the methods or of what constituted success), so even he doesn't seem to be able to back up this level of claimed success.

So how can Allison truthfully make this claim? We've thought of a way. In fact, we at the Two Percent Company are going on record right here and now by saying that our collective psychic abilities have never been wrong while we were working on a case with a law enforcement agency. How can we make that claim? Simple — we've never assisted any law enforcement agencies with any of their cases, so how could we have been wrong? By the same logic, we must admit the possibility that Allison is being truthful, too, especially in light of the fact that the very agencies she has claimed to assist have flatly denied working with her.

That aside, what happens if Allison is wrong when she uses her abilities? From Science Fiction Weekly:

Dubois: And I've been told I was wrong before. And I'm looking at this going, "I'm not wrong. I know what this is." And then it pans out later, but I still have to sit there and grapple with the fact that I know what I know, but I'm being told that I'm wrong. And so I really had to get to a place where I know what I know, and you can look at me and say I'm wrong, but I know in the end you're going to realize that's the way it is. You just haven't seen it.

It sounds like Allison didn't watch enough Mister Rogers growing up; if she had, she'd know that it is bad manners not to admit when she's wrong. This tactic isn't so odd for psychics, though; she's just employing the standard John Edward defense for cases in which she appears to be wrong — she blames the subject for "not seeing it." That sounds an awful lot like the old office saying:

Rule #1: The Boss is always right.
Rule #2: If the Boss is wrong, see Rule #1.

With that kind of logic, maybe it isn't so hard to be right all the time after all.

— • —

Having examined all of Allison's claims to fame, tomorrow's Rant will take a look at how she responds to skeptics who question her abilities. Frankly, with all of the convincing evidence that we've waded through over the past few days proving her powers as a medium, we can't imagine why any filthy skeptic would question the great and powerful Allison, but hey — to each his own.

The Two Percent Company's Allison DuBois Week:
% Monday: An Introduction to Allison DuBois
% Tuesday: Dr. Gary Schwartz's Research
% Wednesday: Allison's Track Record Assisting Law Enforcement
% Thursday: The Success Rate of Allison's Powers (this Rant)
% Friday: Allison's Answers to Skeptics

— • —

Disclaimer: Throughout our posts, we are presenting statements and opinions of various third parties. The Two Percent Company makes no claims as to the accuracy of the statements of any third parties. In addition, any statements attributed to the Two Percent Company are strictly our opinion, and are not meant to be statements of absolute fact.



Allison DuBois: Debunked! (2%Co)

— • —
[  Filed under: % Allison DuBois Week  % Bullshit  % Two Percent Toons  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/87

Comments (11)

Anton Zolotnikov, 2005.06.12 (Sun) 12:56 [Link] »

1) I respect very much the goal of the authors of this website to get to the bottom of this complicated problem.

2) Some references related to this field may be useful both for the authors and readers of this website just in case if they don't know all of them yet:

Dean Radin, Ph.D. "The Coscious Universe. The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena". Harperedge, 1997. I read this book, it got a positive review not only of New York Times but also of Nobel Prize winning quantum physicist Brian Josephson, you can find a lot of links to Dr. Radin's research on the web.

A lot of information relevant to the topic of your website is collected on a website of Australian Lawyer Victor Zammit at http://www.victorzammit.com,
Victor Zammit's book is freely downloadable from his website.

Google Search for "Rosemary Brown", the musical medium will allow you to find a lot of related websites, one of the websites is at:

http://website.lineone.net/~enlightenment/rosemary_brown.htm

R. Brown's books referenced on this website esp. "Immortals by my Elbow" seem to be very relevant to the topics of your website discussions.
Long before Allison Dubois, R. Brown claimed in her books that 1) There are honest and dishonest mediums. Of course the very nature of mediumship phenomenon makes it relatively easy for charlatans to try making money in this field. 2) Even honest mediums do make mistakes because of considerable difficulties in communication with what is usually referred to as the Next World.

However because of the fact that charlatns do exist one should not jump into conclusion that all mediums are charlatans before considering available data.

A lot of data collected under strict conditions of lab experiment as well as related bibliography is given in the book by Dean Radin mentioned above. As for the fact that law enforcement agencies reject cooperation with A. DuBois, have you considered an option that for obvious reasons there might be a non-disclosure agreement in the corresponding contracts?



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.13 (Mon) 11:35 [Link] »

No disrespect to you, Anton, but your suggested reading list is a veritable cornucopia of pseudoscientific bullshit. The only thing missing is Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe, which makes a case for "scientific evidence of paranormal phenomena" using nothing but anecdotal reports, most of them centuries old. (Admittedly, the book starts out pretty cool, but degenerates quickly.)

Dean Radin? Another fantastic source of anecdotal evidence, hardly convincing. We feel that, like Gary Schwartz, Radin's "scientific controls" are highly suspect. That's sad, considering that James Randi has a whole team dedicated to coming up with completely controlled experiments, and could easily help out any scientist who was really interested in validating their claims. On Radin himself, we would recommend Bob Carroll's Philosophy 322 course — even just reading the course information is informative.

We're amazed that anyone could read our Rants, even just the Allison DuBois Week posts, and seriously offer up Victor Zammit as a reliable resource, considering the fact that we discuss Zammit in our very next rant! The guy's batshit insane. And we aren't tossing that term at Zammit lightly — from what we've read from the guy, we believe that he may actually be mentally deranged in a clinical sense. If he really believes the insane tirades that he publishes on his site, then we recommend intense psychological analysis. And there's a reason why his book can be downloaded for free on his website — in addition to being fucking crazy, Zammit butchers the English language like nobody we've ever seen before (and we've been forced to read fanfic from time to time). At any rate, he is hardly what we would call credible.

Musical mediums, on the other hand, have one thing going for them — they're absolutely hysterical. But...that's about it. We heartily recommend catching the musical medium who frequents Howard Stern's radio show, who sings such brilliant predictions as "Raul Julia will soon make another movie, and get an Oscar nomination" — several years after Raul Julia's death. So she's not much of a medium, and — having heard her — she's not very "musical," either. We'll certainly look into this Rosemary Brown character, but we can guess what we'll find.

However because of the fact that charlatns do exist one should not jump into conclusion that all mediums are charlatans before considering available data.

Anton, we've considered a lot of available data. Trust us, we're not "jumping" to any conclusions...the conclusions, more accurately, jump on us with their inescapable logic. As we've said before, believers in the paranormal have had thousands of years to come up with solid evidence of their beliefs, and failed; the solid evidence for the scientific worldview has been built up in a mere few hundred years. There is a simple, rational explanation for this disparity — paranormal phenomena do not exist.

As for your last conjecture — if Allison DuBois truly had a non-disclosure agreement with the agencies with whom she has "worked," then why would Allison be breaking the agreement so blatantly, opening herself up to major lawsuits? That makes very little sense. Allison is quite vocal about her alleged ties to law enforcement, to the point where a major network television show has been made about it! This would seem to not only break, but throw down and stomp on any NDA she might have signed. So it is pretty clear that Allison has not signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The only kind of non-disclosure that could exist given the current facts would be one that Allison forced the law enforcement agencies to sign, so that they would have no choice but to cast a veil of doubt over her work. If there's an obvious reason for this kind of agreement — well, we don't see it. Please help us understand why this course of action makes sense to you. For our part, we feel perfectly comfortable in saying that no non-disclosure agreement exists.



Anton Zolotnikov, 2005.06.13 (Mon) 19:31 [Link] »

Thanks for your prompt comment. I thought the following citation from a paper presented by a Ph.D. Richard Ruquist on "Quantum Mind II" conference held in 2003 /see full text of his paper on

http://www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com/arthunters/darkmatter2.html

is relevant to your discussion even though it is not about mediums but rather about people capable of Remote Viewing and who were employed by CIA for spying purposes:


"Remote Viewing has gone mainstream with the 27 January 2003 US News & World Report article on CIA spying. The US News article reports that funding was forthwith after two separate human receivers, given latitude and longitude of an USSR site, described an arrangement of buildings that was later confirmed by spy photography. In the subsequent research, rigorous scientific protocol was used and the results were positive, leading to medals of honor for a few well trained experts."

This can be easily checked by getting the original US News and World Report as of Jan 27, 2003. Dr. Ruquist BTW belongs to Harvard alumni. Though it's different from what Allison Dubois is doing, but don't you find it somewhat similar? 99% of people would probably not be able to do what these 2 "human receivers" did, but they did that nevertheless and got their medals of honor. However it does not mean that modern science can explain this phenomena.

I agree that science was built in a few hundred years, but it also means that there was only this few hundred years of availability of scientific methods to prove or disprove paranormal. Paranormal is related to the mechanisms of human thinking process never actually explained by modern science in a satisfactory way. It's vice versa the whole of our civilization (including science) was built with the help of human thought, but the problem is that until today nobody really knows what the human thought is. The challenge is that now the time is coming for the human thought to explain itself, and this is one of the REAL challenges of the current science. Speaking about science a Nobel Prize winning quantum physicist Brian Josephson supports paranormal research, please check out his website at

http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/.

Parapsychology as a science based on controlled laboratory experiments was founded only about120 years ago by a famous J.J. Thompson who BTW discovered electron particle, so this is relatively new branch of science, actually officially recognized as science in England, where there were about 50 Ph.Ds in Parapsychology as of 3 years ago. The point is: it is a relatively new science dealing with very complicated phenomena, science that is still struggling for its very existence because methods developed in more traditional fields of science don't work that well here. This may require development of new methods.

The well known Dale Carnegie once asked a scientist: "What are you trying to prove?". The scientist answered, that "we are not trying to prove anything, we are finding out facts" (citing by memory from D. Carnegie's well known book "How to Win Friends & Influence People", so this citation may be not exact, and I read Carnegie in Russian translation, but I believe I remember the idea right). This shows the position of honest science (not jumping into conclusions or emotions, but patiently researching the facts).

I am sorry due to my limited English, I just realized that rants are supposed to be very emotional by definition so may be it's not really a place for this kind of discussion. However science requires cold mind, and real scientists never pretend to know final truth, science has rather always been a process (of looking for truth) and it definitely is a process in such a new branch as parapsychology. Final answers are simply not known yet!

At the same time if you read a popular Brian Greene's book "The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory" available on amazon.com and probably in public libraries, you will see that along with very interesting popular discussion of the cutting-edge physical theory (Super String Theory), the author is occasionally pessimistic regarding the question if the science will eventually be able to explain the ultimate nature of reality. In other words science is great, but it may have its limits. For example science such as math and theoretical physics is always based on a set of axioms (or assumptions) following from ever changing experience(the more equipment you get the more experimental facts you measure). If you change just one axiom the whole branch of science built upon it is changing. However as you can see not only psychics but even cutting-edge physicists like Brian Greene talk today about hidden dimensions.

Wishing Good Luck to your website,

Anton

P.S. You are right, I did not get a chance to read all of your rants yet.

P.P.S. In Russia we have a proverb "hate is not a good advisor". So regarding "the obvious reasons" I am sure you will quickly figure them out if just as a thought experiment you imagine for a moment that what she is doing may actually be true and care for her just for a moment.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.14 (Tue) 10:24 [Link] »

Anton,

We'll go ahead and again recommend that you check out the Skeptic's Dictionary before citing questionable information. We're not telling you that you have to believe Robert Carroll, but at least hear him out. You might find that his version makes more sense than the paranormal explanations.

For example, he has a section on the CIA remote viewing experiments that you refer to in which he says, in part:

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said: "The CIA is reviewing available programs regarding parapsychological phenomena, mostly remote viewing, to determine their usefulness to the intelligence community." He also notes that the Stargate program was found to be "unpromising" in the 1970s and was turned over to the Defense Department.

In short, the instances of science "confirming" remote viewing are highly suspect, and have not been verifiably repeated. If there's one thing that is a hallmark of pseudo-science testing it is the old "unrepeatable results" outcome. But don't take our word for it — read up on what some skeptics have to say about these and other remote viewing experiments. We'll also recommend the entries in the Skeptic's Dictionary on subjective validation, James Randi's paranormal challenge, and ad hoc hypotheses. In addition, we'll note that the CIA's program did not utilize double blind tests, and that the single judge was familiar with the remote viewers. This is hardly good protocol.

Another thing that we've learned is that pedigree does not the truth make. So, just because someone wins a Nobel Prize, or taught at Harvard, or runs the CIA, it doesn't follow that they have any common sense or are trustworthy. Many of your statements seem to be arguments by pedigree, and we frankly don't give much weight to that approach.

You say about parapsychology:

The point is: it is a relatively new science dealing with very complicated phenomena, science that is still struggling for its very existence because methods developed in more traditional fields of science don't work that well here. This may require development of new methods.

We find it exceedingly odd that scientific methods that work in all other fields of science suddenly don't function for parapsychology. Why could that be? We aren't talking about how a tape measure can't prove that ghosts exist, we're talking about the basics of scientific protocol that function properly regardless of what field of science is being tested. We're talking about the scientific method itself, and the protocols that are used to test hypotheses ranging from cosmology to biology to chemistry to physics. They work for all of these fields, but they don't work for parapsychology. To us, this is just a major cop out that true believers lean on when they have no evidence.

You make this comment about science:

This shows the position of honest science (not jumping into conclusions or emotions, but patiently researching the facts).

We agree completely. In fact, we believe that you would do well to listen to this advice yourself. You seem to have a habit of believing the tripe that the true believers are shoveling without doing your own research. In effect, you are failing to patiently research the facts. We don't have to look any farther than your citation of Victor Zammit above. If you look to him as proof of anything, you clearly don't know what valid science looks like. His work is chock full of anecdotal evidence, and he jumps to conclusions with the agility of Pitfall Harry. So, we suggest that you do your homework before loading your gun with ammo such as Zammit.

And we agree that science doesn't have all the answers today. For all we know, there may be some answers that science will never provide. However, that doesn't mean that we should fill in the gaps with something else, especially if that "something else" is silly and hasn't got a shred of proof behind it. Religion is guilty of this approach, and parapsychology is no different. We rely on science to provide the answers to "mysterious phenomena" — we don't lean on more phenomena to explain the ones we already have. To date, the track record of science is pretty damned impressive. The track record for the paranormal is absolutely non-existent. 'Nuff said.

Anton, you also make a statement at the end of your comment that makes no sense at all to us:

P.P.S. In Russia we have a proverb "hate is not a good advisor". So regarding "the obvious reasons" I am sure you will quickly figure them out if just as a thought experiment you imagine for a moment that what she is doing may actually be true and care for her just for a moment.

Where do we begin?

First, while we dislike Allison, it was only after we studied her that we disliked her. So, our "hate" (as you call it) is studied, well-researched hate. As a result, "hate" wasn't our "advisor," but rather the logical outcome of a dispassionate analysis of Allison's claims. There is a difference, and we hope that you see it.

Second, the opening statement that you made about hate not being a good advisor does not in any way lead to the second statement (about the obvious reasons that there might be a non-disclosure agreement in place), nor do your remaining statements in any way prop up the "obvious reasons" for an NDA.

In short, we believe we spelled out very clearly in our previous reply why we believe that there is no non-disclosure in place, and in fact, we believe that we made a nearly incontrovertible case. To us, not only are there no obvious reasons why there would be a non-disclosure, but there are obvious reasons why there cannot be one.

So, we'll reiterate our question from our previous comment: What possible scenario supports the idea of there being a non-disclosure agreement between Allison and the law enforcement agencies she claims to have helped? Saying that "it's obvious" when it isn't obvious to us isn't a helpful answer. Adding "if you'd just be nice to Allison, you'd understand" doesn't do much for us, either. So, if you've got an explanation in mind, please let us know. If not, then at least agree with us that it isn't "obvious."

Do a little homework, Anton. You seem like a nice guy, but you too easily believe the bullshit peddlers, and don't look into the alternate explanations. We think you'll be a lot more informed if you just check out the other side of the story. Science can explain a lot more than you give it credit for.



Anton Zolotnikov, 2005.06.22 (Wed) 22:10 [Link] »


Law enforcement officials refused to admit that they worked with Allison Dubois because today's science can't explain how mediums work, so law enforcement cannot officially employ a medium or officially rely on medium's claims. So it's not really a non-disclosure agreement, as I called it in my first comment (my fault), they simply can't talk about it because it is unofficial.

If Stargate Program were to give zero results would it be turned over to Department of Defence? No, it would simply be discarded. So as it is well known it gave some results, but suffered from poor reproducibility as many other parapsychological experiments.

Setting controlled conditions in parapsychology is very difficult because to control conditions you need to know these conditions or parameters on which parapsychological phenomena really depend, and they are pretty much unknown. So these unknown parameters may very well keep changing from experiment to experiment like BTW many human abilities do. For example like shape of sportsmen may vary from season to season, writers, artists and all creative people have their ups and downs as it is well known. As we all know our own abilities can change a lot depending on many reasons. Yes, some people do have stable shape, but many don't. So if anybody takes part as a subject in a parpsychological experiment, do you think the chief of the experiment can really control all personall factors of the subject?

So citing the U.S. News and World Report, Special Issue of Jan 27, 2003, p.65: "the weakness of remote viewing, says Smith " is the weakness of any phenomenon that deal with the threshold of human perception. There are false positives, vague notions, and confused data that go with the territory". Paradoxically, for nearly a quarter of a century of American spying it was also a strength."



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.22 (Wed) 23:44 [Link] »

Anton,

We're willing to cut you some slack, as English is not your first language, but you made some points in your comment that are simply inaccurate, no matter what language they are written in.

Law enforcement officials refused to admit that they worked with Allison Dubois because today's science can't explain how mediums work, so law enforcement cannot officially employ a medium or officially rely on medium's claims. So it's not really a non-disclosure agreement, as I called it in my first comment (my fault), they simply can't talk about it because it is unofficial.

That holds no water at all. Law enforcement agencies are perfectly free to consult any quacks that they want to, officially or otherwise. In fact, some do admit that they consult with psychics. Some may follow this admission with the caveat that they did it to generate creative takes on stale cases, but others may do it because they were true believers. Either way, there is nothing stopping any law enforcement agency from consulting with a psychic. The problem isn't that they aren't allowed to consult with psychics; the problem is that the psychics don't have any psychic powers, and therefore don't produce any actual results. What you said just isn't accurate.

If Stargate Program were to give zero results would it be turned over to Department of Defence? No, it would simply be discarded. So as it is well known it gave some results, but suffered from poor reproducibility as many other parapsychological experiments.

You seem to be harboring a fundamental misconception about what constitutes valuable "results" in any scientific testing. Put simply, reproducibility is a critical factor in the success of scientific testing. Without repeatable results, a scientific test is a failure, no matter what the results seemed to indicate. If we conduct a single test that indicates that the earth is flat, but no one can repeat our test and come to the same conclusion, then our test is not validated. This is the state of scientific testing of psychics and mediums — any positive results are completely unrepeatable, and hence are not considered valid. Again, your statement just isn't accurate.

Setting controlled conditions in parapsychology is very difficult because to control conditions you need to know these conditions or parameters on which parapsychological phenomena really depend, and they are pretty much unknown. So these unknown parameters may very well keep changing from experiment to experiment like BTW many human abilities do. For example like shape of sportsmen may vary from season to season, writers, artists and all creative people have their ups and downs as it is well known. As we all know our own abilities can change a lot depending on many reasons. Yes, some people do have stable shape, but many don't. So if anybody takes part as a subject in a parpsychological experiment, do you think the chief of the experiment can really control all personall factors of the subject?

This is completely untrue. It is absolutely possible (and rather easy) to set up proper controls on any scientific experiment. It isn't necessary to understand how a particular event functions at a granular level in order to do so. If that was necessary, then we would never have made any scientific progress at all, since we seldom know the answers before testing begins. In general, the controls we are talking about are basic procedures followed in all scientific tests, or at least in all serious scientific tests. Claiming that "science" or "scientific controls" are broken when it comes to paranormal events is nothing but a lame cop out. So your statements just aren't accurate.

So citing the U.S. News and World Report, Special Issue of Jan 27, 2003, p.65: "the weakness of remote viewing, says Smith " is the weakness of any phenomenon that deal with the threshold of human perception. There are false positives, vague notions, and confused data that go with the territory". Paradoxically, for nearly a quarter of a century of American spying it was also a strength."

We call bullshit. We'll explain why. Your quote compares the inexact nature of remote viewing to the supposedly similar inexact nature of the known (and real) human senses. While we agree that seeing is not believing, we also are confident in saying that the errors that people experience when interpreting what they see with their eyes is nothing compared to the errors we've seen when people are trying to "remote view." Read both of Skeptico's posts about the well-documented failures of remote viewing. In these examples, we see not just vague details, and not just slight misses, but instead reams of massively incorrect information. It isn't like they saw Elizabeth Smart being held captive in a blue tube top and it turned out she was wearing a lavender tank top — no, they saw that she was dead (and included details!), and it turned out that she was alive! This is only one example of how completely wrong these Psi Tech remote viewers had it; Skeptico also illustrates other cases.

The bottom line here is that you are building a case on your own misunderstanding of what science is, and you are ignoring the evidence that refutes your viewpoint. If that's the direction you are determined to take, there isn't much that we can do to set you straight. You are welcome to your beliefs, but please understand that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to back them up at all; and please understand that, despite what you think, there absolutely should be such evidence if these "phenomena" are real.



Anton Zolotnikov, 2005.06.23 (Thu) 21:34 [Link] »

Dear Authors of the Great Two Percent Website,

As usual it is my pleasure to post a note on your site. For me this is also a chance to learn more of American culture and language.

Regarding the Pedigree and Recent News on Testing of a Russian Psychic

Would it make a difference 5 years ago if you put on a basketball team Michael Jordan or a player just accepted in Junior Varcity team? The answer is obvious even though we don't know what can happen 5 years later but the chances are very high that Michael Jordan remains a much better choice, right? The same happens in science, Nobel Prize can be considered one of the highest scores achievable in science. Needless to say that those Nobel Prize winners ARE the people who move science ahead considerably, much more then an average Ph.D. So of course when a complicated phenomenon is considered that requires science, though everybody can make a mistake, the chance is much higher that a Nobel Prize winner's opinion will make more sense than an opinion of an average Ph.D. or of laymen.

In any case Nobel Prize winners are the people whose opinion you want to know if you are concerned to be closer to truth. And they are often fun to read as well. So if you are interested to make any sense of parapsychology, there is a whole section on it on Dr. Josephson's website, where he pays due attention to sceptics opinions as well. Dr. Brian Josephson is a Nobel Prize winner in Physics (Quantum Mechanics). His latest analysis of a Russian Psychic Natasha Demina's testing by The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) is worth of attention of everybody who honestly try to make any sense (positive or negative) of paranormal. Here's a link to a corresponding section on Dr. Josephson's website:

http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/propaganda/

So for those who believe there is ABSOLUTELY NO paranormal data there would be good to learn the details of testing of Russian psychic Natasha Demina given on Dr. Josephson's website. For those who does not bother to go the website mentioned above I will provide a short version of this data here. It's interesting that there seem to be not enough people taking neutral position (like: let's find out the facts) regarding the paranormal. The case of Natasha Demina confirms it again. A 17 year old Natasha claims that she can see inside people, including all internal organs at work, and she can also see when something goes wrong. She was asked to find out diagnoses of 7 subjects, presented to her by the CSICOP Committee, by just looking at them. The subjects were numbered 1 through 7. Natasha was given a stack of 7 cards with 7 different medical conditions indicated on them. She was asked to put a subject number on each card with med. condition, corresponding in her opinion to this subject. However the CSICOP also made a kind of agreement with Natasha that she had to guess 5 or more correctly. This is where the fun starts but unfortunatly science ends. Can you make an agreement with Michael Jordan that he scores this number of points? When Natasha guessed 4 diagnoses correctly the CSICOP forced her to sign a protocol that she failed to demonstarte her abilities which she did(signed).

However as Dr Josephson is asking: is science made by forcing somebody to sign something? No, it is rather done by data analysis. Dr. Josephson is mentioning that a straightforward calculation shows that the chance to guess 4 or more out of 7 correctly by random guess is less than 1 chance in 50. So Dr Jospehson's point is that what should be considered as Natasha's triumph, was registered by the skeptical CSICOP committee as failure.

Now for those with not enough math experience to do "the straightforward calculation" mentioned by Dr Josephson, here is one of the ways to do it
suggested by a friend of mine, a C++ programmer with good math skills which I believe to be correct (those who consider math boring can skip it but will have to take our and more importantly Dr Josephson's word for the final result):

There are 7!/(3!4!) combinations of 4 patients out of 7 (7! means 7 factorial which is 7*6*5*4*3*2*1). For each of the combinations 3 other patiens got wrong cards. There are only 2 ways to assign all 3 wrong cards to 3 patients, say,
a,b,c:

b,c,a
c,a,b

Therefore, the total number of ways to correctly assign exactly 4 cards is 2*7!/(3!4!)

The probability is [2*7!/(3!4!)]/7!=2/(3!4!)=1/(6*12)=1/72

The probability to correctly assign at least 4 cards should be greater. Probably the simplest way to calculate it is to count the number of ways
to correctly assign exactly 4, 5, 6, and 7 cards. Importantly, these are independent events.
For 4 cards the number of ways (see above) is
2*7!/(3!4!) If exactly 5 cards are assigned correctly then the 2 other patients may be assigned wrong cards in only one way:
1*7!/(2!5!)
It is impossible to assign correctly only 6 cards.
There is only one way to assign correctly all 7 cards.
Therefore, the probability to correctly assign at least 4 cards by random guess is
[2*7!/(3!4!) + 1*7!/(2!5!) + 1]/7! =
[2*7*6*5/(2*3) + 7*6/2 + 1]/7! =
[2*7*5+7*3+1]/7!=
[70+21+1]/5040=1/54.7826

meaning 1 chance in about 55 or less than 1 chance in 50 which confirms the number given on Dr. Josephson's website. As for numerous replications, they are equally needed both to confirm or to reject Natasha's skills. I guess this would require financing the project if Natasha is available for more testing. However the skeptical CSICOP aleady closed the case by declaring it a failure. I am sorry but this is not the way it is done in science. So if some people hurry to make positive conclusions regarding parapsychological phenomena (like on www.victorzammit.com), some other people hurry with the negative conclusions. The truth obviously seems to be in the middle: Natasha's result shows that something is going on, and that it simply deserves more research, more testing.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.30 (Thu) 00:28 [Link] »

Anton,

Let's see what you have for us this time:

So of course when a complicated phenomenon is considered that requires science, though everybody can make a mistake, the chance is much higher that a Nobel Prize winner's opinion will make more sense than an opinion of an average Ph.D. or of laymen.

Anton, come on, work with us here. We covered this above. What you are doing here is making an argument from authority. We already told you that this type of argument holds no water with us. Go check out Skeptico's recent post to understand more about this type of argument and why it is ineffectual.

You continue:

Dr. Brian Josephson is a Nobel Prize winner in Physics (Quantum Mechanics). His latest analysis of a Russian Psychic Natasha Demina's testing by The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) is worth of attention of everybody who honestly try to make any sense (positive or negative) of paranormal.

And this is a perfect example of why arguments from authority are meaningless. Dr. Josephson is a quack. We don't think the good doctor has met a hokey line of bullshit yet that he doesn't embrace. Homeopathy, for example, as noted on the JREF site:

In April of 1999, Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson publicly challenged the American Physical Society (APS) to conduct tests of the claims of Dr. Jacques Benveniste in regard to homeopathy, at the same time predicting that the APS would fear to do so. I advised the APS to accept Josephson's challenge, and they did so. They also offered to pay all costs of the tests. From that day to this — three years and seven months ago — we have not heard from either Brian Josephson, nor Jacques Benveniste....

In general, arguments from authority aren't useful, but when this guy is your authority, you're only hurting your case. Please — pretty please — stop leaning on the argument from authority approach.

Back to your comments, Anton:

So for those who believe there is ABSOLUTELY NO paranormal data there would be good to learn the details of testing of Russian psychic Natasha Demina given on Dr. Josephson's website.

Once again, please don't assume that we aren't already aware of a given data set. We are well aware of Natasha and her documented failures to prove that her abilities are real. Once again, you are only reading the version put forth by the "true believers" and not balancing that with any other perspectives. We suggest that you check out the JREF write-ups on Natasha. They include, in part, the following:

In the test, Ms. Demkina correctly identified the medical conditions of four out of seven patients, and misdiagnosed three. She was informed in advance of the seven possible conditions, and was required to assign them correctly — a "forced-choice" test. She had claimed in advance that she would be 100% correct, but agreed with the researchers that she would have to get at least five successes to pass the test. Professor Josephson seems unaware that proper scientific tests require that the protocol be agreed upon in advance and then adhered to — as this one was; he prefers to re-structure the rules when the test fails to prove the point he prefers.

One of the test subjects had as her "secret" the fact that she had a hip replacement, and her somewhat awkward gait might have hinted at that. Also, Demkina's people were in conversation with some of the subjects before the test. These were both factors that should have been eliminated, I would say. One cannot make excuses after the test is agreed to and carried out, however. Those factors have to be eliminated in advance by the experimenters. To offer such facts as excuses would be to follow Josephson's methods, and I find that not acceptable.

Please note that one diagnosis that Natasha missed was a metal plate inserted in one of the subject's heads. How the hell does someone with "X-Ray Vision" miss a metal plate in someone's head? Hell, we could find it by touch alone! Talk about a blatant failure. The write-up by the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health on Natasha's testing addresses this telling blunder:

Demkina's most dramatic failure in the test was her inability to see the metal plate and missing bone in the forehead of one of the subjects. "She spent some four hours looking at the seven subjects and she still couldn't see the metal plate that anyone can find by simply touching the subject's forehead," Skolnick says. "That's utterly inconsistent with the claim that she can see abnormalities down to the cellular level and that she never ever misses."

We highly recommend that you read the rest of this report as well. It directly challenges the baseless claims being made by Dr. Josephson.

In short, Natasha was given a cursory and — as she agreed — an easy pre-test. Once she passed that test, she was to be tested more thoroughly. If you ask us, that was way too generous. However, she couldn't even manage to pass the easy pre-test! And you think we should be singing her praises for this? Unbelievable.

Once again, we return to your commentary, Anton:

Dr. Josephson is mentioning that a straightforward calculation shows that the chance to guess 4 or more out of 7 correctly by random guess is less than 1 chance in 50. So Dr Jospehson's point is that what should be considered as Natasha's triumph, was registered by the skeptical CSICOP committee as failure.

Ah, the old moving goalposts. Natasha agreed that this was an easy test, and in fact she claimed that she would correctly place all seven cards. That was her claim! She failed. The testing committee correctly labeled her failure as a failure! Where's the great injustice here?

Now for those with not enough math experience to do "the straightforward calculation" mentioned by Dr Josephson, here is one of the ways to do it suggested by a friend of mine, a C++ programmer with good math skills which I believe to be correct (those who consider math boring can skip it but will have to take our and more importantly Dr Josephson's word for the final result):

There are 7!/(3!4!) combinations of 4 patients...

[Lots of pretty numbers float by here, which we've excised for brevity's sake...]

...meaning 1 chance in about 55 or less than 1 chance in 50 which confirms the number given on Dr. Josephson's website.

We'll give you the benefit of the doubt on the math (mostly because we don't want to waste any more time checking it), but we completely disagree with your application of straight probabilities to this scenario. In order to explain why, we would like to draw a parallel if we can by discussing another highly unlikely event that most of us are probably aware of.

Let's say that our friend Steve is thinking about a song; then when he turns on the radio, that same song happens to be playing! What are the odds of that? It must be pretty astronomical, given the vast number of songs that have been recorded and released over the past century, coupled with the wide array of stations that the radio might be tuned to when he turns it on. Add to that the fact that commercials could be playing, or DJs could be talking — music might not even be playing at that precise moment. Mathematically speaking, using straight probabilities as you have above, this event (thinking of a song and then hearing it on the radio) should practically never happen to anyone. However, we can say that it has personally happened to us more times than we can recollect — maybe a few dozen times for each of our members. If we worked out the same calculations for this event that you quoted above, we would find that, mathematically, the chance of it happening should be as close to zero as to make no odds.

However, mathematics alone do not govern the real world. There are certain things that Steve knows or can assume in making such an assessment, consciously or by chance. First, if he is in his own car or home, he may know that the radio will be tuned to one of two or three stations. That would lead him to a rather smaller set of possible songs (for example, if the stations Steve listens to only play current "hit" songs or a limited genre). Further, if Steve is already thinking about a song, there is a fair chance that he's actually heard it recently (which explains why he's thinking about it!), which means that it could be one that is played often on the stations he listens to. So, if Steve is humming the current number one single, and he turns on the radio to his usual Top 40 hits station, the "odds" of that song being on are dramatically higher than the straight math would have us believe.

It's the same thing with Natasha's test. She had a limited set of ailments, and a limited set of people (seven and seven). She could also tilt the odds in her favor by doing some simple medical research. She was able to observe the people for signs of the ailments, and she took lots of time to do so (even though in her daily life, her "powers" were allegedly far speedier). All sorts of real world circumstances can drastically alter the outcome of events. So the straight math simply doesn't apply. Get it?

Back to your comments:

As for numerous replications, they are equally needed both to confirm or to reject Natasha's skills. I guess this would require financing the project if Natasha is available for more testing. However the skeptical CSICOP aleady closed the case by declaring it a failure. I am sorry but this is not the way it is done in science. So if some people hurry to make positive conclusions regarding parapsychological phenomena (like on www.victorzammit.com), some other people hurry with the negative conclusions. The truth obviously seems to be in the middle: Natasha's result shows that something is going on, and that it simply deserves more research, more testing.

No, Anton, we are sorry, but this is precisely the way it is done in science. The parameters of a test are agreed to in advance, the test is conducted, and the results are analyzed based upon the agreed to parameters. That's exactly what happened here. If you think science doesn't work that way, then you should do some more research.

Further, there would have been multiple replications of the test if she hadn't failed the preliminary test. But she did. The test was called a failure because it was a failure; all involved parties agreed in advance what results would constitute success, and Natasha's results fell short of that mark. She failed, and Dr. Josephson's whining doesn't change that at all. Are you truly unable to see this?

Put simply, Natasha's results show that she is either a fraud, or a very self-deluded young lady. We can't be any more clear than that.

We are happy that you agree that Victor Zammit hurries to positive conclusions regarding the paranormal, but please understand that we do not do the same when debunking those same events. Considering the innumerable tests of the paranormal that have been fruitless, we don't believe we (or other rational skeptics) have "rushed to judgment" at all. If anything, it's taking the true believers too damn long to come to the same — and, to us, obvious — conclusion: tests of the paranormal keep failing because the paranormal does not exist.

Once again, please do your homework before you toss cases like this on the table as your "proof."



Anton Zolotnikov, 2005.06.30 (Thu) 23:29 [Link] »

Dear Web Authors of "The Two Percent Company"

First of all thanks for information given in one of your earlier messages regarding law enforcement agencies who openly admit that they use psychic services, I simply didn’t know that and I guess I can now google it. I also followed your advice and read more regarding your skeptical sources on your website and using the links you provided (Skeptical Dictionary, and etc.). Thank you, that was interesting and we can discuss it later along with your latest note on Natasha Demkina. However right now the following seems more urgent, and like our earlier discussions it applies not only to the Section of your website titled: “Medium: The Dubious Claims of Allison DuBois –Part IV” but also to general problems of validity of paranormal research but I guess we should keep all these interrelated discussions on one page so that they make sense for a potential reader:

On Selecting Controlled Conditions

We are appealing to science and to importance of controlled conditions of scientific experiments so often in our discussions here on your web site so it may be more productive if we let science itself to be the judge. I believe a few examples of past as well as currently anticipated scientific discoveries may be helpful to understand that picking the right conditions for a phenomenon of UNKNOWN nature to manifest in a way when it can be reasonably interpreted is often the most difficult part of a scientific discovery. Making discoveries in science actually practically never was easy even though in some cases could partly be considered as a matter of luck. For example in physics theory pretty often predicts such conditions of experiment (required to register a new effect or particle) that are simply unreachable on the current stage of technology. This is currently the case with Super String Theory (SST), to register existence of tiny strings it predicts you need to build super powerful accelerators not available today. It's not only expensive and time consuming to build these accelerators, there is also a chance as with every new theory that it may turn out to be wrong and no strings will be found.

It happened differently when Pierre Curie researched and identified the composition of radium radiation a little more than 100 years ago after Henri Becquerel accidentally stumbled upon the fact that uranium minerals could expose a photographic plate through a heavy opaque paper. (As it was found out later Becquerel was actually dealing with gamma rays emitted by radium-226 being part of the uranium decay chain and commonly occurring with uranium). Not going into the details of discoveries made by Pierre and Marie Curie, we are considering here only how Pierre discovered the composition of rays emitted by radium. What conditions of experiment would he use to figure out what do these unknown rays consist of? Again he was the first one trying to understand the nature of these rays, so WHAT CONTROLLED CONDITIONS WOULD HE PICK? Could recent discoveries of a couple more sorts of invisible rays by Hertz and Rontgen possibly help him?

For example Hertz was the first experimental physicist who generated invisible electro-magnetic waves in 1888 using an electric circuit designed by him, that had a metal rod and a small gap at its midpoint. So when sparks crossed this gap violent oscillations of high frequency were set up in the rod. Hertz proved that these waves were transmitted through air by detecting them with another similar circuit some distance away. So as we can see the conditions necessary for generation and transfer of electro-magnetic (later called radio) waves found by Hertz had little in common with those under which invisible radiation was produced by uranium minerals containing radium. The difficulty was not in CONTROLLING conditions but rather in FINDING the conditions under which the radio waves were generated, transmitted and received in a reliable way. Once they were found controlling and improving them in industrial radios was much more simple.

Rontgen discovered another kind of invisible rays, x-rays when after studying electrical discharges in evacuated glass tubes he decided to explore the properties of cathode rays outside the tubes. You can read for example on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_R%F6ntgen about rather non-trivial details of his discovery but the point is that the final conditions that allowed Rontgen to observe X-rays had nothing in common to those under which radium radiation occurred. So the controlled conditions known from Hertz and Rontgen discoveries didn't apply to the rays with which Pierre Curie was dealing.

To analyze the invisible rays produced by radium Pierre Curie decided to try applying magnetic field. It was known in physics that magnetic field could turn a linear stream of particles however only if they had electrical charge (that was BTW not true neither for radio waves, nor for x-rays). So Curie placed a sample of uranium containing radium in a container having a slot, and arranged a magnetic field around the radiation beam coming out of the slot. The beam divided into 2 parts. Part of the beam continued to go straight, another part declined. He calculated that declined part consisted of the negatively charged particles later called "Beta Rays" and identified as electrons of certain energy. However experiments on absorption done with another part of the beam that went straight through magnetic field implied that this remaining beam still consisted of different components. So Curie along with Rutherford & Thomson working independently tried to apply much stronger magnetic field, which caused not only the beta rays to decline much more from their original straight path, but also divided the remaining "stubborn" beam into two components. One of them that still continued to go straight was later named gamma rays (they are electrically neutral). Absorption experiments later showed that the gamma rays flow was pretty homogeneous and they turned out to be photons of very high energy. The 3rd part of the beam that slightly turned (to the opposite side from beta) only in a very strong magnetic field was later called "alpha rays", and after appropriate chemical analysis they were later found to be nuclei of Helium atoms (with no electrons) having double positive charge and they were difficult to turn because an alpha particle is about 8000 times heavier than an electron (beta).

So by trial and error and based on his knowledge of physics Pierre Curie was gradually able to figure out conditions required to divide the UNKOWN RAYS into simple 3 components that it was possible to identify later. So Curie (along with Rutheford) found these CONTROLLED CONDITIONS (including magnetic field of certain strength, usage of container of certain shape, and etc.) under which the UNKNOWN RAYS could be analyzed and interpreted by trial and error. It is only AFTER this discovery (for which Curie got Nobel Prize together with his wife Marie Curie who did the chemical part of the work, discovering 2 new chemical elements Radium, and Polonium, 3rd receiver of the prize was Becquerel) that these conditions became STANDARD and could be relatively easily reproduced, and after additional work by Rutherford complete constitution of all 3 components of radium radiation was finally established. You can track a lot of details on Becquerel, Curie, and Rutherford discoveries using Google of course, one of the URLs is:

http://www.fofweb.com/Subscription/Science/Helicon.asp?SID=2&iPin=ffests0687

So there is very often no such thing as standard controlled conditions when you study unknown phenomena (including parapsychology of course). You can formulate some hypotheses about the possible nature of unknown phenomenon based on your knowledge and test them in different kind of experiments if these experiments are practically possible and not harmful to your subjects. If the results of your experiments are conclusive you can approve or reject your hypothesis. However the conditions under which a phenomenon becomes easy to understand strongly depend on the nature of the phenomenon and in most cases are completely unknown for new phenomena. The set of controlled conditions will become one of the final results of your work (if you are lucky). Of course later using these or varied conditions you can discover a few more similar phenomena but hardly something really new and different, that would in its turn require quite different conditions to manifest and be interpreted (compare conditions of Hertz' discovery of radio waves, conditions of Rontgen’s discovery of X-rays, and those of Pierre Curie's discovery of radioactivity as discussed above). For all these reasons actually making considerable contribution into science practically never was easy, even though not impossible as you assumed it after my first comment on problems with controlled conditions. However out of many millions of researchers who worked around the world during 20th century the total number of Nobel Prize winners (between 1901 and 2000) was only 719, as you can find in Google. This shows how really difficult it is to make a discovery. BTW many of these Nobel Laureates are the people who gave us things like X-rays, MRI, holography, atomic energy, and etc. that we use today in our every day life, but that were not around just a little more than 100 years ago. It's not at all about authority of some big bosses, it's about what these tallented people did for us (you and me) with their own hands and brains no matter how difficult it was.

In a special case of applied science, like pharmaceutical, when a new medicine targeting a specific disease is created and it needs to be tested, controlling conditions of a testing experimnet CAN REALLY BE EASY. In this case subjects having disease as you know are usually divided into 2 groups and the new medicine is given to one of the groups, and a placebo is given to another one. Testing of the subjects in both groups then allows to estimate the effect of the new medicine. So you probably meant THIS VERY SPECIAL CASE OF CONTROLLED CONDITIONS. (Though even in this case of applied science it happens that it is difficult to identify all possible side effects, that are often discovered years later, have nothing to do with researched disease and sometimes cause withdrawal of the medicine from the market. However this is beyond the scope of our topic). The point is that this relatively simple case of controlling conditions is usually not at all as challenging as FINDING those conditions under which the NATURE OF A COMPLETELY NEW PHENOMENON can for the first time be clearly demonstrated, measured and interpreted, which is a topic of fundamental (not applied) sciences.

Controlling conditions can be easy and straightforward for technology based on KNOWN science or when you repeat somebody's well known work (may be with little modifications) that unfortunately most of the regular scientists do and practically never achieve a breakthrough. If you want to get an idea of how much the controlled conditions in SCIENCE actually vary, a simple advice is to check it within the science itself and especially a fundamental science like physics, chemistry or biology. A relatively easy way to do that is to check out something like Scientific American, often describing latest scientific discoveries in popular and quite understandable form. Making discovery in fundamental sciences takes a lot of creativity, requires non-standard approach, so probably for this reason Einstein once said "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it".

Difficulties of parapsychological experiments are numerous: for example a simple idea that telepathic information may be transferred by electromagnetic waves (EMW) was tested to be wrong because telepathy seems to work even when a subject is inside Faraday Cage that cuts off EMW. Also you deal with people and you can’t for example impose a strong magnetic field in order to see how it affects telepathy because it is known to be harmful to human health. And of course people can cheat BTW not only in the role of subjects but also while being members of all kinds of committees.So it’s much more difficult to explore humans than research narural phenomena that at least never cheat.

So conditions for reliable data transfer by means of telepathy are not found until today not only because controlling humans is orders of magnitude more difficult than just controlling electrical chains in Hertz experiments but most importantly because the very nature of this kind of data transfer is still unknown. Meanwhile Hertz was doing his experiments based on theory developed by Maxwell earlier regarding the electro-magnetic nature of the waves, however the theory did not specify the specific conditions that Hertz found!

Hence we still don’t know what exactly is happening during parapsychological experiments like the one with Natasha Demkina, and they require more research, including search for conditions under which if possible these phenomena can be simplified, reliably reproduced and interpreted. Or building electronic equipment able to register them (sorry, neither blue prints nor standard procedures or any conditions known until they are DISCOVERED). Another approach as it is well known is used by Gary Schwartz who assembled together several most famous world mediums and got 80 to 90 % of coincidence in information they reported, however in my opinion more research is needed to get to definite conclusions. And again figuring out relevant not harmful CONDITIONS OF AN EXPERIMENT ( or even better inventing right measurement equipment) that may help understand and approve or reject the nature of paranormal seem to be the crucial problems not yet solved.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.07.01 (Fri) 13:24 [Link] »

Anton, are we just talking over your head, here? It's literally incredible to us that you haven't gotten the point yet.

The scientific method, as well as the practice of using standard scientific controls, is not about or limited to any particular line of scientific inquiry. You bring up a variety of different scientific fields, and you mention the distinct scientific controls used in testing phenomena within those fields, but you fail to see the simple fact that all of these controls are based on (or are extensions of) the STANDARD scientific controls used in any field.

To use your example of pharmaceutical testing: you point out that scientists will split their subjects into two groups. One group receives, essentially, no treatment (a placebo), while the other receives the new treatment undergoing trials. The effects found in both groups are recorded, analyzed, and compared. With a large enough sample size, a pattern emerges that the scientists can use to determine what effects, if any, the new treatment produces.

What you seem to be missing, here, is the ability to take a step back, and look at what the scientists are doing without the context of (specifically) pharmaceutical testing.

What scientists do is use the existence and effects of known phenomena to isolate the existence and effects of unknown phenomena. That's how science is done! And that's exactly what the scientists in your pharmaceutical example (and in any other example you care to bring up) are doing. By understanding the effects of the control stimulus (in your example: none, since it's a placebo), they can statistically compare the effects produced in both the control group and the experimental group, and isolate which effects must be the result of the experimental stimulus. An effect which is statistically prevalent among the experimental subjects, and statistically absent among the control subjects, can be safely interpreted as being produced by the experimental stimulus (again, provided you have a statistically significant sample size).

Combining the entire history of investigating claims of the paranormal, we have quite a large sample size. And yet, statistically (we know how much you love math), there have been no effects or results that cannot be explained by normal, natural phenomena. The fact that, for example, Natasha got about 50% of her guesses correct is pretty fucking blatant — we'd expect about the same of any other test subject who didn't claim to have special powers and simply used informed guesswork.

And you know what? Comparing the claims of paranormal phenomena to the claims of string theorists is fucking insulting. String theory may or may not be an accurate reflection of how the universe works — the jury's still out — but it was derived by analyzing physical properties of the universe and using mathematical proof to produce new theories regarding the infrastructure underlying those properties. The paranormalists' approach is to say, "Well, I've heard stories about this, so let's check it out!" That is not science, and it is ultimately fruitless.

In a very basic sense, it is precisely the same problem that we have with the fucking creationists. They want to be taken seriously by real scientists, but they have yet to come up with an actual hypothesis for creationism — it's all just handwaving, god-of-the-gaps, and arguments from ignorance. You, and other true believers of paranormal phenomena, have exactly the same approach. You want scientific tests performed on your supermagical subjects, but you have yet to produce an hypothesis to explain how or why their powers work. You want to jump right to the testing phase of the scientific method without enduring the hypothesis phase first. That is not science. Come up with a testable hypothesis and the scientists can work with you. If all you're going to say is "The Amazing Magical Jimmy can see through walls," then don't be surprised when the test is over after Dr. Real Scientist holds up his hand behind the wall, asks Jimmy how many fingers he's holding up, shakes his head, and sends him on his way.

By the way, you've totally blown our minds by referencing fucking Gary Schwartz as a credible source of information, considering we called him out on his bullshit in this very series of Rants. Go read it, along with some of the references provided within. Seriously, Anton, we've been debunking your references ever since you arrived here, and yet you keep tossing out loons to support your case. Do some homework on these people before you choose to believe them, and keep checking sources other than those of true believers before you make up your mind.

Also, please read an article or book on the scientific method, and proper scientific controls (or just scan the website of the James Randi Educational Foundation), before you continue in this discussion. You're embarrassing yourself.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.21 (Sun) 21:59 [Link] »

Looking over the past few weeks, we've come to the conclusion that the commentary on the Allison DuBois posts have bottomed out. Accordingly, we are closing all five posts to further comments. If you feel that you absolutely must make a comment in support of the luminously illuminated Allison DuBois, may we suggest that instead of posting it here, you simply shout it over the edge of a cliff of some kind so you can hear your own annoying echo validating your moronic statement. In fact, go ahead and throw yourself over the edge when you're done and do the world a favor. 'Kay?



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