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In Randi's Prize, Robert McLuhan notes that Leonora Piper claimed to speak with fictional deceased persons who were created just to catch them out. He also states that she claimed to speak with George Eliot who claimed to have met a character from one her novels in heaven and to speak with a clearly phony Julius Caesar.

While these facts do not rule out survival after death they seem to cast doubt on whether every medium is truly speaking with a deceased person, even if they convey generally accurate information.

Very good post. I think the evidence from mediums also dovetails with what we get from NDEs, which are not a rare experience. If there is no human survival, then it would seem that some very high-level human faculties, as expressed via super-psi and NDEs, really, really want us to believe in the Afterlife!

Another argument: If super-psi is the culprit, then why is evidence from mediums, on the whole, so consistent? Does a universal unconscious (sounds like Averroes, by the way) conspire with itself to keep telling the same story over and over?

To Jayman's point, my guess is that when mediums talk to non-existent people, they are creating a tulpa of some sort or another:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulpa

The tulpa then acts as a kind of intermediary with actual spirits.

Another possibility is that the Universe has a kind of "background intelligence" somewhat akin to the background microwave radiation, and the intelligence responds to the medium's call.

Could this "background intelligence" be the cause of super-psi and itself be "faking" an Afterlife for us? It's possible, but then we get into the whole Universe as consciousness thing and what is real and all that, anyway. I.e., what is the ground of an arbitrary Reality in the first place?

I don't think I'm up for ontology right now, so I'll leave it at that. :)

Cheers,

Matt

Super psi can't be falsified. Whatever evidence you get - 100's of spirits materializing at the same time and giving veridical evidence, 100's of people having simultaneous shared nde's bringing back the answers to scientific mysteries - whatever - someone can say it's super-psi.

The only thing you can do is to consider which hypothesis, super-psi or survival, makes more sense or is the simplest explanation of the evidence. However, that is a matter of opinion and opinions are influenced by psychological factors.

For example, someone with deep hatred for religion may never accept survival. In fact, some spirits even deny that they have left their physical body. Or, a parapsychologist who's career is consists of statistical analysis of the results experiments on ordinary people which demonstrate everyone has some small amount of psi, may act like the proverbial man with a hammer. To him everything looks like a nail. Every form of paranormal evidence can be explained by human actors without the need for spirits to explain them.

However my experience in mediumship classes at spiritualist churches leads me to prefer the survival hypothesis. I am not very psychic ordinarily. (I do experience a lot of synchronicities, but this suggest to me psi has occurred but only after I experience a coincidence. I hardly every understand I'm being psychic before or during something that turns out to be synchronistic.)

When I go to a class in mediumship I often have very strong visions and other sensations that turn out to be evidential of the relatives of my classmates. This makes sense if you consider that the dead relatives of my student mediums have a lot of practice communicating with the students classmates.

Also some mediums see and hear spirits as clearly and as if they were ordinary living people.

Some mediums say they can tell the difference between spirit communication and other forms of psi.

There are also philosophical arguments that if super-psi is true then it is evidence of survival. Look at

subversivethinking.blogspot.com

for articles on super-psi for more info on this.


The best evidence for survival is probably drop-in communicators.

http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/summary_of_evidence#summary_evidence_drop_ins
(if the links are stale at the above page you might be able to find the information using google)

In drop-in cases, a spirit who is previously unknown to the medium and sitters communicates through the medium for purposes of it's own. In one case a spirit asked that a missing limb recovered and buried with the rest of its body. This shows that spirit has independent existence and initiative.


Also strong evidence for survival, are the cross correspondences. In these cases spirits communicate a message in parts through multiple mediums, at their own initiative and not through the instigation of a human investigator. Understanding the message involves specialized knowledge known to the spirit but not the mediums or investigator but which can be obtained through research. This shows that the spirit has an existence independent from the mediums, sitters, and investigators and is capable of intelligent activity and initiative.

jshgfcre98ijyds,

Good points! I would add that I am a mediocre psychic and ultra-mediocre medium, and I would concur that my psi experiences and mediumistic experiences are different. There is a definite feeling of a presence and an external will when spirits desire to communicate.

Cheers,

Matt

Hi Michael and others,

From a purely perceptual or informational standpoint, super-psi may indeed be unfalsifiable, but the point is that we are not just perceptual or informational beings. We have a complex psychology involving strong motivational factors. Now, from a psychological perspective, it certainly is possible to falsify super-psi. There are cases, such as paranormal Drop-In Communicators and paranormal cross-correspondences already mentioned, in which there could have been no plausible motive for using psi subconsciously to get certain specific information. There even is evidence such as certain cases of the reincarnation type in which the subject showing the paranormal information in principle could not have had a motive for super-psi, because of the subject's developmental characteristics. For instance, a child who claims to remember a previous life of someone who is completely unknown to him or his family, and shows paranormal information of the life in question. Also, extensive paranormal skills in both mediums and young children cannot be explained by psi alone, as they'd involve practice to reach a certain level which can't be accounted for by gathering information about the skill alone.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that really could be explained by super-psi, primarily evidence of mediumship that occurs within a context in which researchers are deliberately striving for evidence, and regression data within a context of researchers aiming at demonstrating reincarnation. That is why, in my view, hardcore survival research generally ought to involve studies of spontaneous cases in "naive" subjects such as ordinary, unsophisticated spiritualists, and young children.

Also see: http://www.newdualism.org/papers/T.Rivas/index-53.html and http://www.txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=615 (Reincarnation),
http://www.merkawah.nl/images/stories/ltedittr.pdf (Near-Death Experiences).

Again, the falsification of super-psi is possible if one starts from a psychological perspective rather than a purely informational one. It is about specific types of paranormal cases rather than just stronger evidence for a paranormal process in general. For instance, evidence for materialisation is as such not very important for demonstrating survival as long as the people involved are eager to do so.

As I see it, falsification has in fact already been achieved but it remains always very important to collect more evidence.

Best wishes,

Titus Rivas, The Netherlands

Hello Titus. In your interesting link, you talk about split-brain dissociation and say:

“an actual co-consciousness is impossible to prove conclusively, and one self with only temporary functional dissociation is even the best explanation as split-brain patients normally show a remarkable psychological and motoric unity that can hardly be reconciled with the somatogenic creation of a new nonphysical subject by commisurectomy.”

I don’t understand this. Surely, up to the time of the split, the personal psychology would be the same, so there would only be a gradual divergence after the split. Elsewhere in your lecture, you talk about multiple personality so you believe this is possible?

Hi Ben,

I do believe that functional dissociation is possible but not in the sense of a separate co-consciousness. The self can only be conscious (in the sense of undergoing subjective experiences) in one stream of consciousness at the time. Accepting co-consiousness would mean accepting a literal division of the self.

In split-brain cases it might be possible that some of the stimuli only reach the unconscious mind and create a functionally separate secondary personality at that level. No matter how many "personalities" a conscious self possesses, it can only be conscious in one such personality at a time.

Otherwise, materialists would be right in claiming that the self gets divided as such (ontologically), and not just in the functional sense (psychologically). Also see this link to another article of mine:

http://members.multimania.nl/titusrivas/Dualismlives.html

"We have a complex psychology involving strong motivational factors."

While composing my comment, I considered pointing out that in order to argue that a paranormal phenomenon is due to unconscious psi you have to demonstrate how it fulfills a psychological need.

However isn't "proving the afterlife" a sufficient psychological need for an investigator, psychic, or anyone near the phenomenon? The person who seems to be producing the phenomena isn't necessarily the super psychic.

As I stated:

"On the other hand, there is some evidence that really could be explained by super-psi, primarily evidence of mediumship that occurs within a context in which researchers are deliberately striving for evidence, and regression data within a context of researchers aiming at demonstrating reincarnation. That is why, in my view, hardcore survival research generally ought to involve studies of spontaneous cases in "naive" subjects such as ordinary, unsophisticated spiritualists, and young children."

In such spontaneous cases, the phenomena have occurred before the investigators reached the spot, even if they are only verified later on. So they were certainly not created by the investigators.

As Stephen Braude pointed out in the context of reincarnation research, in cases of young children who recall a previous life as an unknown person, not even the parents could have had a strong motive to generate the phenomena. Besides, many such parents believe in reincarnation as part of their every-day world view already.

Here's a paranormal sickbed vision (studied by Anny Dirven and myself) that cannot be explained as the product of a conscious or subconscious motive:

http://members.multimania.nl/titusrivas/sickbed.html

Just one example of the many cases that simply cannot be satisfactorily explained by super-psi, i.e. evidence that falsifies super-psi.

Very happy that my dear friend Titus Rivas is on this blog. Almost no other commentator can match his vast knowledge about these matters.

Thanks, Rudolf, the same can be said about yourself.

BTW, something went wrong with the link to the sickbed vision. Here's a better one:

http://www.txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=616

"In such spontaneous cases, the phenomena have occurred before the investigators reached the spot, even if they are only verified later on."

Some parapsychologists would say that psi is not limited by time (or distance).


"On the other hand, there is some evidence that really could be explained by super-psi, primarily evidence of mediumship that occurs within a context in which researchers are deliberately striving for evidence, and regression data within a context of researchers aiming at demonstrating reincarnation."

Exactly. And when you add the fact that time and distance does not limit psi you have no way to rule out a super-psi motivation /explanation for any phenomena psychic or physical.

(My point is not that super psi is a reasonable explanation, my point is that it is not falsifiable.)

"According to her mother, Neska thought she recognised her deceased aunt Wiepke from a photograph after the sickbed vision. However, the person on the photo was not Wiepke, but a younger sister of her mother's. Remarkably enough, this younger sister did indeed resemble Wiepke very much, according to Neska's mother Mrs. Ong A Kwien."

If the visionary doesn't recognize the person in the vision, that is entirely consistent with the theory of unconscious psi. Her unconscious mind creates the veridical vision, but her conscious mind does not recognize the spirit.

I already answered your former message but it seems to be missing somehow??

Let me repeat my main point;

I'm not talking about functional limits of psi. I agree people might subconsciously influence someone else at a large distance etc. What I'm focusing on is psychological limitations of psi, not functional ones (in terms of how "super" it could become and to what extent it could overcome temporal or spatial limits). Even if we grant that psi has no functional limits, it still has to conform to general psychology. There is no evidence that psi has ever gone against psychological mechanisms, and as long as there is no evidence for this, we should (as a matter of parsimony) reject that it ever does.

Psi cannot simply paralyze another person's motivational structure. For instance, no matter how great psi could be, it would never explain why a child of 3 starts talking about a previous life and continues to talk about it for years, showing a lot of emotion, etc. The child has its very own motivational structure and this can't simply be switched off by another person's motives. If it could, cases of the reincarnation type should be seen as similar to zombie cases, whereas none of these children act as zombies.

I'm afraid you seem to be missing this point.

In the case of Neska, we're not saying that she could never have collected paranormal information subconsciously but simply that she did not have any motive to do so!
That is an altogether different argument.

She could have had if she knew there had been such a girl. She could then simply have focused through ESP on the characteristics of that girl to convince herself of life after death. However, she did have no such knowledge! So how could she have been motivated to clairvoyantly search for information about the girl? (Compare: drop-in communicators of completely strangers who manifest at circles who themselves show no interest in specific evidence.) Let's not forget that Neska is not a survival researcher!

Therefore, let's forget about the range of psi and concentrate on psychology in such cases. That way, super-psi really can be shown to be false.

Don't forget that we're talking about empirical science here, not mathematics. Falsifiability is always part of a general world view.

If we accept that there are psychological mechanisms and they cannot simply be overcome by another person's motives, then psychological arguments make super-psi falsifiable. Only if you believe that psychology generally does not matter for a person's motivation or behaviour or that psi is something that really can override psychology, does it makes sense to ignore this. If not, then super-psi has already been falsified many times.

Similar things have been said many times before, by the way. I'm not the first scholar to stress psychology in the survival debate. Other names include:

Ernesto Bozzano

Ian Stevenson

Alan Gauld

Stephen Braude

I agree with Rivas. Although the super-psi hypothesis can logically explain the facts of the information, can not explain the facts about motivation. Why in drop-in communicators the medium choose to display information about a certain deceased and not another? Why would a child in tune with the memories of a deceased person and not another? When there not are motives for these issues, the super-psi advocates are forced to consider that the subconscious acted without motive, arbitrarily, which is not scientific and opposed to psychology. Instead of the afterlife hypothesis can explain all the facts relating to the information and motivation, so it is more probable hipotesis taking into account all the data.

"Although the super-psi hypothesis can logically explain the facts of the information, can not explain the facts about motivation."

Good idea, but if what Michael in his main post says about the unconscious (which may be equated with the higher self) being altogether more powerful than the conscious mind is true, then observable psychology becomes almost irrelevant.

If you want to go down the "it could be. . ." rathole, you end up being Randi. Which I don't think is a good thing.

How about if we allow that things are what they appear to be until such a time as they are proven false? That works for virtually everything else in the world except those things that people furiously don't want to accept; then the Randi strategy come in as an excuse for the obvious things we can't accept.

Dean Radin wrote:


http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2009/04/two-recommended-books.html?showComment=1241716320000#c4522197827959198741

"If plain old vanilla psi provides us with an ability to gain information about virtually anything, independent of the usual constraints of space and time, then in principle that same ability can provide all of the evidence used in arguments for survival (possibly excluding physical effects, as that type of evidence is less certain in my view)."


Titus wrote:
"There is no evidence that psi has ever gone against psychological mechanisms, and as long as there is no evidence for this, we should (as a matter of parsimony) reject that it ever does."

I 100% agree that as a matter of parsimony you can reject super psi. In fact, I have read some of the works by those people who believe super-psi does not hold up when you consider psychological motivation. I agree with them as a matter of parsimony.

However that is, to my way of thinking, different from super-psi being falsifiable.

You can never know who the super psychic is so how can you say it would be going against their psychological mechanisms. Whatever evidence you cite, I can say someone at some time has a psychological need to believe in the afterlife and that person is a super psychic responsible for the phenomena. The super psychic might put thoughts into the mind of a medium or a child who seems to remember a past life. The relevant motivation is not the motivation of medium or the child it is the motivation of the unknown super-psychic. This is why I say that super-psi is not falsifiable even at the level of psychological motivation.

I agree that saying "super-psi does not depend on the laws of psychology" does not survive Occam's razor but Occam's razor is not the test for falsifiability. You can't falsify super-psi by identifying a case which lacks psychological motivation because you don't know who the super psychic is and what their motivation might be.

Another form of evidence I found to be a good argument against super-psi is Richard Hodgson's investigation of the medium Mrs. Piper. I wrote about it on my blog...


http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2009/05/further-record-of-observations-of.html


"Hodgson gave these ... reasons why he favored survival after death over telepathy as an explanation for Mrs. Pipers mediumship:

Skill in communicating varied with the spirit not the sitters. If Mrs. Piper obtained information from the sitters by telepathy, the quality of the information should vary with the sitter not the spirit.

All spirits had trouble communicating at first but improved with practice.

Spirits seemed to be confused for a few days just after death.

Stray thoughts from the spirits (not the medium or sitter) seemed to leak through into the communications if the spirit was having difficulty communicating.

Spirits of young children recently deceased tended to communicate more clearly than adults recently deceased.

Spirits unrelated to sitters sometimes came through to give messages to friends not present at the sitting.

Spirits responded to questions intended to prove their identity correctly but not always in ways the sitters expected. For example, a spirit was asked for a nickname of another person and replied with a nickname that had been used but was not the one expected by the sitter.

Sometimes the communicating spirit was unable to give information that was in the conscious mind of the sitter.

If the investigator ran the sitting like a telepathy experiment, less evidential information was given through the medium. If he treated the spirit like an actual person communicating under adverse conditions, the communication was improved. Beneficial treatment included maintaining a soothing manner, and letting the spirit say what he chose rather than subjecting him to a cross examination."

Ben said: "Good idea, but if what Michael in his main post says about the unconscious (which may be equated with the higher self) being altogether more powerful than the conscious mind is true, then observable psychology becomes almost irrelevant. "

The problem is that such a stand implies:
EITHER (A) that the unconscious (in the every-day sense) has motives that are COMPLETELY different from the motives apparent in the conscious mind. There is no convincing evidence for this. Instead, there's every reason to believe the conscious and the subconscious mind form a motivational continuum. Not even in the Freudian sense, the unconscious mind is relevant here because such an unconscious would lack the intellectual sophistication needed to achieve the kind of evidence we find.
OR (b) that we need no evidence to know the motivation of the unconscious mind to make such far-reaching assumptions. In other words, that we may postulate something as far-reaching as that without any supporting evidence.
OR (c) - identifying the unconscious with an Over-self (which is not typical for theories that postulate such a Higher Self, by the way) - that it has motives that are, again, completely alien to the normal self and that it is even impossible to find out what it really wants. This makes the super-psi theory dependent on the concept of a mysterious type of higher self that cannot be investigated in any way. I do admit that if you accept such a concept as a basis for your super-psi theory it does become unfalsifiable. However, my argumentation is aimed at more common types of super-psi theories, which claim they're rational and based on sufficient empirical evidence. Such super-psi variants that do not depend on the postulate of an completely unintelligible Higher Self, still remain falsifiable. Anyway, postulating an over-Self that the normal self simply cannot understand does not exactly make super-psi a parsimonious theory. But that is a different chapter.

In general though, super-psi remains falsifiable and has in fact been falsified on numerous occasions.

Titus

Ben: "The super psychic might put thoughts into the mind of a medium or a child who seems to remember a past life. The relevant motivation is not the motivation of medium or the child it is the motivation of the unknown super-psychic. This is why I say that super-psi is not falsifiable even at the level of psychological motivation"

I've already addressed this, namely where I said that this would go against the child's own motivation. It would make the child a kind of zombie. Please realise that we're talking about a strong identification here with strong feelings for a extensive period of time, at least in the case of reincarnation memories. This goes much further than putting simple thoughts into a child's mind or arousing simple feelings.

So, again, I do not agree.

It turns out I mixed up Ben with jshgfcre98ijyd.

Sorry for that!

"I've already addressed this, namely where I said that this would go against the child's own motivation."

The motivation in question is the motivation of the super psychic who is responsible for the phenomena. Any telepathic receiver can be influenced by another telepathic sender and the receiver's motivation is not necessary. Psychics the world over often report perceptions that upset them. The literature is full of this phenomenon. The child who seems to remember a past life may simply be a passive receiver to the unconscious motivation of a super psychic at some time and place.


I know of several people who complain about what seems to be spirits annoying them by interfering with their thoughts. The literature is full of this phenomena. These people do not claim or desire to be mediums. This annoyance goes against their psychological motivation, it makes them very unhappy, afraid, and they question their sanity. In some cases it goes against their religion. In some cases it exposes them to social ostracism or condemnation. Either these people they are producing it against their motivation or they are receiving it against their motivation. Either way, people can have psychic perceptions against their will.

In these cases, do we know it's really spirits annoying them and not super-psychics? Parsinomy does not guarantee correctness. How can anyone disprove with 100% certainty (falsify) the possibility that a child claiming to remember a past life is not experiencing thoughts placed in their mind by a super psychic the same way a person is annoyed by seeming spirits?


Also how can you ever truly know a person's psychological motivation? Mental hospitals are full of people with self destructive behaviors. If they were psychic why wouldn't they exhibit self destructive psychic behavior? No matter what a person does you can always make up a psychological motivation to explain it. The idea that psi requires psychological motivation itself cannot be falsified.

Again, I'm not saying that it is impossible that one person influences another person telepathically. In fact, many instances of telepathic communication involve such an influence.

What I was saying is that the extent to which a child should be influenced by another person to explain its amount of identification with a deceased personality is simply much too great to be acceptable as a theory. It is too implausible to be taken seriously (just like most skeptical theories of real psychic phenomena are).
Of course the child would have to be a passive receiver, that is not the problem. The problem is that, for all we know of child psychology, a child can't be influenced to such an extent without destroying its mental health. This could only happen if the child had no motives of its own. Of course, children DO have their own motivational life. Hence my comparison with such a theory with a scenario in which the child would be turned into a robot-like zombie, as in voodoo. Children who remember previous lives are not like that at all, which demonstrates that this theory simply cannot be true!

Then, you compare such cases to cases of mediums who are being influenced by spirits. Again, this is obviously different from these children! By the way, we do not know by definition whether such mediums are being influenced by spirits or, say, by some mental illness. Falsifiability of a theory does not imply omniscience in the interpretation of any case! It only implies that there are cases in which we may be certain enough (not 100% certain as in logic or mathematics, but empirically confident enough) that some theory does not apply.

Assuming that psi requires psychological motivation cannot be falsified, that is right, but it is part of anyone's general world view that people's behaviour always finds place within a psychological framework about human (or more generally, animal) behaviour. It's not an empirical theory but an a priori criterion for any acceptable empirical theory. That is, as long as you accept that psychology is primary in any type of behaviour, as I do. For me, it's almost a truism. I see no convincing way that one could deny it.

Finally, we do not know a person's complete motivation, but we do often (not always, falsifiability does not imply omniscience, as I just said) know whether it could in principle explain certain cases or not. More often than not, it is a question of the absence of certain motives. In a very young child or its immediate social secular environment that does not believe in reincarnation we can be absolutely sure, I would say, no plausible motive can exist to explain the child's behavior. And so on.

Let me stress once more that falsification always involves plausibility, not absolute certainty in the analytical sense. Even in the natural sciences.

The super-psi theory is indeed falsifiable in most cases.

I said:

"In a very young child or its immediate social secular environment that does not believe in reincarnation we can be absolutely sure, I would say, no plausible motive can exist to explain the child's behavior. And so on."

I meant to explain the behavior by anything else than REAL MEMORIES of a previous life, of course.

If we accept my general criterion of psychological (motivational) plausibility, the criterion also applies to real cases of memories of previous lives. I actually believe we should start from a continuum between psychological processes as we known them within one life to psychological processes concerning more than one life.
See: http://members.multimania.nl/titusrivas/amnesia.html

I said:

"In a very young child or its immediate social secular environment that does not believe in reincarnation we can be absolutely sure, "

By this, I meant "very sure" or "certain enough", of course, not absolutely sure in the analytical sense or else I would be contradicting myself :-)

(Why is there no editing option on this board?)

More generally, if we require absolute certainty before we may say a theory is falsifiable, no empirical theory could ever be falsified. In fact, there would be no such thing as empirical falsification.

Instead, we simply require plausibility. This is not the same thing as parsimony (some parsimonious theories are not as plausible as less parsimonious theories, and some plausible theories require more elements than are strictly necessary from a logical point of view), though it is related to parsimony. A parsimonious theory is often more plausible than a non-parsimonious one.

I can think of two more arguments against the super-psi hypothesis can explain all cases of phenomena relating to the afterlife. First, usually the main motivation for rejecting the afterlife hypothesis is that the mind is so closely related to the brain it seems that the mind must be produced by the brain, so that the mind could not survive the brain death. But such a production hypothesis not only is not compatible with the afterlife hypothesis, but also with the super-psi hypothesis because super-psi hardly be possible if the mind is produced by the brain and therefore confined to the limits of the body material. The other alternative is the transmission hypothesis, which not only supports the afterlife, but also has the afterlife as one of its consequences!
Second, if the super-psi hypothesis is true, then it is theoretically possible that these fabulous powers of the unconscious is manifested in a context that has nothing to do with the afterlife, but apparently this has not happened yet, which points against the super-psi hypothesis. One might object that just believing in the afterlife is a motivation strong enough to activate these powers of the unconscious, but this is not credible, because what motivates a person does not motivate another, in addition to survive danger, being with your loved ones, be happy, and so on., also tend to be very powerful motivation for most.

Hi Juan,

I agree that super-psi is incompatible with materialism.

See this letter I sent to the Editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies: http://www.merkawah.nl/images/stories/ltedittr.pdf

Concerning your second point: some subjects are even unaware of what death would mean if there were no afterlife, such as young children. So they cannot have the same kind of urge to prove survival as an older child or adult.

Off topic but may be of interest to some readers here:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/09/bad-science-research-error


"The statistical error that just keeps on coming

We all like to laugh at quacks when they misuse basic statistics. But what if academics, en masse, deploy errors that are equally foolish? This week Sander Nieuwenhuis and colleagues publish a mighty torpedo in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

...
When you drop the chemical on the mutant mice nerve cells, their firing rate drops, by 30%, say. With the number of mice you have this difference is statistically significant, and so unlikely to be due to chance. That's a useful finding, which you can maybe publish. When you drop the chemical on the normal mice nerve cells, there is a bit of a drop, but not as much – let's say 15%, which doesn't reach statistical significance.

But here's the catch. You can say there is a statistically significant effect for your chemical reducing the firing rate in the mutant cells. And you can say there is no such statistically significant effect in the normal cells. But you can't say mutant and normal cells respond to the chemical differently: to say that, you would have to do a third statistical test, specifically comparing the "difference in differences", the difference between the chemical-induced change in firing rate for the normal cells against the chemical-induced change in the mutant cells.
...
But in just this situation, academics in psychology papers routinely claim to have found a difference in response, in every field imaginable, with all kinds of stimuli and interventions: comparing younger versus older participants; in patients against normal volunteers; between different brain areas; and so on.
...


But the darkest thought of all is this: analysing a "difference in differences" properly is much less likely to give you a statistically significant result, and so it's much less likely to produce the kind of positive finding you need to look good on your CV, get claps at conferences, and feel good in your belly. Seriously: I hope this is all just incompetence."

"More generally, if we require absolute certainty before we may say a theory is falsifiable, no empirical theory could ever be falsified. In fact, there would be no such thing as empirical falsification.

Instead, we simply require plausibility. This is not the same thing as parsimony (some parsimonious theories are not as plausible as less parsimonious theories, and some plausible theories require more elements than are strictly necessary from a logical point of view), though it is related to parsimony. A parsimonious theory is often more plausible than a non-parsimonious one."

For a theory to be falsifiable you have to be able to identify a way to show the theory is false.

For example, if your theory is that all objects fall at 32m/s^2 in a vacum, you can falsify that theory by finding an object that does not fall at 32m/s^2 in a vacum.

If I say that children who seem to remember past lives are really affected by super-telepaths at some unknown time and distance who have a psychological motivation to provide evidence of the afterlife. How do you falsify that? You can say it is implausible (and I would agree) but what does that have to do with falsifiability?

Newtonian mechanics provides no cause for considering implausible hypotheses. Super-psi by it's very nature does provide cause for considering implausible hypotheses (any entity, anywhere in the universe, at any time in the past present or future, for any imaginable psychological motivation, might be the cause of any observed paranormal phenomena), that is exactly why it is unfalsifiable. You can say the super-psi hypothesis is implausible, but what does that have to do with falsifiability?

You can say it is only the plausible scenarios, ie where the child is the super psychic, that need to be falsifiable, but then you are ignoring the empirical evidence upon which super-psi is based: psi is independent of time and space. This is what allows for the possibility of an unknown person being responsible for the paranormal phenomenon.

Furthermore, plausibility is a subjective opinion. (The history of science is full of controversies caused by differences in opinion on which interpretation of empirical data is most plausible.) You can reasonably expand the possible super psychics to include members of the child's family, the investigator, members of the deceased person's family, friends of the child's family, friends of the deceased persons family, friend's of the investigator etc etc. Where do you draw the line, and how can you show there are no possible super psychics with no psychological motive?

"You can say it is only the plausible scenarios, ie where the child is the super psychic, that need to be falsifiable, but then you are ignoring the empirical evidence upon which super-psi is based: psi is independent of time and space. This is what allows for the possibility of an unknown person being responsible for the paranormal phenomenon."

I have really addressed this already and don't see the point of repeating myself once more. See my responses above.

What I meant about the relationship between plausibility and falsifiability is that a theory is only falsifiable to the extent that the arguments you give for its being so are considered plausible. In the case of the natural (meant as physical) sciences, one might erroneously believe that an experiment can prove (in the analytical sense) a theory false. It cannot, unless one accepts a general world view in which the demonstration counts as evidence. For instance, if one believes the physical world is the creation of our unconscious, there could be no physical laws (of Newton or the new physics or whatever) independent of the mind. I don't mean to say that I believe this, but I'm simply stressing that all empirical beliefs, including about falsifiability depend on one's (implicit or explicit) theoretical and ontological framework. Meaning that a theory can only be falsifiable given a certain more general framework.
Super-psi adepts who don't believe in an unintelligible Over-Self as the ultimate cause of mental processes, normally accept (everyday but also less usual) psychological mechanisms. If they do, they must from a rational point of view also accept the very limits those mechanisms impose on their theory. That is what makes their theory falsifiable and makes them worthy of criticism.

Theorizing cannot take place in a vacuum. That was my whole point about plausibility and its relation to falsifiability.

In other words, I admit there really is a variant of the super-psi theory that is unfalsifiable, namely the theory of an Over-Self that overrides anyone's personal psychology and whose motives cannot be understood by any ordinary mortal.

However, most super-psi adepts seem to endorse other versions of the super-psi theory. Those do not depend on the Over-Self speculations, but simply on an, as such not unreasonable, idea that psi could be limitless in the functional sense. They do not account for motivation but simply for the scope of the paranormal, for the extent to which there can be paranormal information or paranormal effects. These purely functional, non-psychological types of the super-psi theory can be falsified by cases that can't be explained by adequate psychological mechanisms in the living. Such super-psi theories only explain the scope of a paranormal effect, but not the motives behind them. As long as the motives remain psychologically imaginable, that is no problem. It becomes a problem when paranormal effects happen while no living person could have been motivated to cause them in their actual form. For instance, a researcher could be motivated to cause an identification with a deceased personality in an arbitrary child but he or she would not succeed in doing so as long as the child doesn't have any sufficient motivation to go along with it. To believe otherwise is to believe a researcher could be like a subconsciously powerful voodoo priest who turns other people into his puppets but keeps their overall personality intact!

Guys,

I think that what we're dealing with here is a variation of...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_demon

Way back in 1641, Descartes asked, "How do I know that everything I perceive is not created by an evil demon who intends to deceive me?"

A more modern variation of this is, "How do we know we're not living within a sophisticated computer simulation?"

Super-psi seems the same thing. "How do we know that there is not this force, intelligence, or entity intent on making us believe that there is an Afterlife when there really isn't?"

To answer this question, we need to explain the nature of Reality. I.e., it is an ontological issue masquerading as phenomenological issue.

That's why I think that arguing about falsifiability when it comes to super-psi is a category mistake.

Here's why. When we posit super-psi we are arguing ceteris paribus: i.e., what if everything we believe to be true were true AND there were this thing called super-psi. The mistake here is that, if we posit super-psi, then we can no longer assume that everything else we assume to be true is true!

For super-psi as posited would have the power not just to fool us about the Afterlife, it would have the power to fool us about everything else, too. We are back to Descartes' demon.

That's why the arguments by jshgfcre98ijyds and Titus are sufficient to dispel the notion of super-psi qua phenomenon. The spirits are acting as independent entities and *not* as telepathic impressions of the mediums. The mediums themselves assert that they are not being fooled. Once one says, "Well, maybe we're being tricked anyway! Super-psi is just that clever and powerful!" then one is positing Descartes' demon. And, at that point, one is making an argument about ontology, not a particular phenomenon.

"A more modern variation of this is, "How do we know we're not living within a sophisticated computer simulation?" - Matt
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The education of the soul is too important to leave it up to chance.

Spooky experiments that see the future
http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/01/04/132622672/could...

Is this evidence that we can see the future?
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19712-is-this-evidence...

Retrocausation in Psychology Today
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-thinker/20101...

Can This Black Box See Into the Future?
http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/126649/can_this_black_b...

In control? Think again. Our ideas of brain and human nature are myths
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/23/brain-so...

Is this REALLY proof that man can see into the future?
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23395112-details/...

"I knew that everything is perfect and happening according to some divine plan, regardless of all the things we see as wrong with the world."
- excerpt from Carl Turner's experience, http://www.beyondreligion.com/su_personal/dreamsvisions-kund...

and,

"I knew why there was bad in the world, I knew why there was good, I knew that every little thing that will ever occur here, is exactly planned out, in order to bring about something else. Everything we have ever done or known or will know, is perfectly planned out and perfectly in tune."
- excerpt from Jame's NDE,
http://www.nderf.org/james_e_nde.htm

Premonitions of Disaster, Titanic Aberfan Lusitania
http://www.atlantisrising.com/backissues/issue18/18premoniti...

"At its deeper level reality is a sort of superhologram in which the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously."
- excerpt from The Universe as a Hologram,
http://www.earthportals.com/hologram.html

I think Rivas is right, because the super-psi hypothesis can be interpreted as a purely metaphysical hypothesis, so it is unfalsifiable because no attempt to explain the reasons behind the paranormal, but also is as implausible as the demon of Descartes, or superpsi hypothesis can be interpreted as an empirical hypothesis, so it must be connected with the motives and whether it will be falsifiable, and in fact has been falsified at times.

I think Juan and I just experienced super-psi together. :)

Off topic but may be of interest to readers....

Below I quote from an article on an egregious case of scientific fraud in the US. It shows not just scientific fraud but flaws in scientific oversight and publishing. An investigator tried to minimize it by implying it is a rare case where several things went wrong simultaneously.

When you have several things of low probability, the probability that they all will occur becomes vanishingly small. These things must all be quite probable for them to occur together and therefore suggests there are many serious flaws in Science.

Where are the sceptics who claim to be protectors of the general public from charlatans? Is it possible that sceptics are not interested publicizing mainstream scientific fraud because that would belie their claims that mainstream scientists are trustworthy. Would it show that in comparison to mainstream science, sceptical criticisms of parapsychology are nit-picking. Are the sceptics afraid that investigating and publicizing mainstream scientific fraud will show the results of parapsychology are actually much more reliable than mainstream science completely undercutting their ability to dismiss parapsychology with misleading rhetoric and ridicule?


http://www.economist.com/node/21528593

"Investigations into a case of alleged scientific misconduct have revealed numerous holes in the oversight of science and scientific publishing

They reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that they could predict the course of a patient’s lung cancer using devices called expression arrays, which log the activity patterns of thousands of genes in a sample of tissue as a colourful picture (see above).

...

within a few weeks of the publication of the Nature Medicine paper a group of biostatisticians at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, led by Keith Baggerly and Kevin Coombes, had begun to find serious flaws in the work
...

in one of their papers Dr Potti and his colleagues had mislabelled the cell lines they used to derive their chemotherapy prediction model, describing those that were sensitive as resistant, and vice versa.

...

Another alleged error the researchers at the Anderson centre discovered was a mismatch in a table that compared genes to gene-expression data. The list of genes was shifted with respect to the expression data, so that the one did not correspond with the other.

...

In October 2009, officials from the university arranged for an external review of the work of Dr Potti and Dr Nevins, and temporarily halted the three trials. The review committee, however, had access only to material supplied by the researchers themselves, and was not presented with either the NCI’s exact concerns or the problems discovered by the team at the Anderson centre. The committee found no problems, and the three trials began enrolling patients again in February 2010.

...

Finally, in July 2010, matters unravelled when the Cancer Letter reported that Dr Potti had lied in numerous documents and grant applications. He falsely claimed to have been a Rhodes Scholar in Australia (a curious claim in any case, since Rhodes scholars only attend Oxford University). Dr Baggerly’s observation at the time was, “I find it ironic that we have been yelling for three years about the science, which has the potential to be very damaging to patients, but that was not what has started things rolling.”

...

scientists from elsewhere had claimed that Dr Potti had stolen their data for inclusion in his paper in the New England Journal, and officials at Duke had started the process of retracting three prominent papers,
...
journals that had readily published Dr Potti’s papers were reluctant to publish his letters critical of the work.
...

The university’s lapses and errors included being slow to deal with potential financial conflicts of interest declared by Dr Potti, Dr Nevins and other investigators, including involvement in Expression Analysis Inc and CancerGuide DX, two firms to which the university also had ties.

...

The process of peer review relies (as it always has done) on the goodwill of workers in the field, who have jobs of their own and frequently cannot spend the time needed to check other people’s papers in a suitably thorough manner.


....

a vice-chancellor in charge of clinical research, asserted that what had happened was a case of the “Swiss-cheese effect” in which 15 different things had to go awry to let the problems slip through unheeded."


"What I meant about the relationship between plausibility and falsifiability is that a theory is only falsifiable to the extent that the arguments you give for its being so are considered plausible."

Plausibility is an opinion. How can I tell that you are not defining plausibility so that the only cases in which you say the falsifiability is plausible are the cases in which it is falsifiable? That would really be defeating the purpose of considering falsifiability.

Falsifiability is not an opinion. A theory is falsifiable only when it makes specific predictions that can be tested.

Super-psi makes predictions that cannot be tested and is therefore not falsifiable ... unless you arbitrarily restrict the theory on a case by case post-hoc manner to make falsifiability "plausible" in order to get a result that confirms your personal bias.

In order to show reincarnation evidence supports your preference that the theory of the afterlife is true, you can arbitrarily restrict the super-psi theory so that in your opinion falsifiability becomes plausible, and fortunately for you, in that case, super-psi is falsifiable.

"Plausibility is an opinion. How can I tell that you are not defining plausibility so that the only cases in which you say the falsifiability is plausible are the cases in which it is falsifiable?"

I don't mean that you would do this consciously, deliberately. But the falsifiability test is an attempt to assess the value of a theory objectively. Once you start constraining it with plausibility you open your conclusions to the same unconscious effects of bias that experimenters use controls and blind protocols to avoid. How can you be sure your definition of plausibility is not affected by your own biases?

Dear jshgfcre98ijyds,

If plausibility is nothing more than an arbitrary opinion, then all science, including experimental physical science is nothing more than opinion.

Feel free to believe that, but I do not.
For me plausibility is a matter of rationality, not of arbitrary preferences.
You seem to restrict falsifiability to experimental data, but even there you cannot do so without invoking a principle of plausibility. There is always the possibility that instead of repeatable falsification of certain hypotheses, there really is a worldwide conspiration of pseudoscientists that simply fabricate the data, and so on. There is always a way out so that we can dismiss data as not convincing enough to falsify a hypothesis with sufficient certainty. (Actually, so-called anti-science people often say such things, so I do not even need to make this up!) That one msy measure some things in a more exact, quantified manner than other things, does not change this!

That we usually do not believe in far-fetched attempts to save a scientific hypothesis from what seems like reliable and repeated falsification, is based on the fact that we do not find such attempts plausible. Is that arbitrary? I don't see how.

By the way, it seems that implicitly you do not accept the reality of any psychological mechanisms whatsoever. If you do, however, what is your reason not to invoke them in the super-psi debate? What is not arbitrary about that then?


That will be quite enough, I would say!
On my part anyway.

conspiration = conspiracy, sorry.

I still want to add this:

Some supporters of theories such as creationism (of creation without any type of evolution, of the Darwinian type, in the sense of Intelligent Design or any other type of evolution) use immunization strategies to account for any type of evidence that might falsify their theories (for instance: evidence for the existence of links between species or evidence for a terrestrial origin of cetaceans). We typically reject such attempts, not because evolution would obviously be true a priori, but because the proposed alternatives are extremely implausible. That is a good example of the link between falsifiability and plausibility. It's alright if you try to avoid falsification of a cherished theory but you have to do so in a rational manner that does not imply (logically) possible scenarios that are too implausible to be taken seriously. Similarly, it's okay if a super-psi proponent tries to immunize falsifying evidence, but (s)he has to do so in a plausible manner. Otherwise he can't expect his attempts to be taken seriously anymore.

If you don't accept this, please realize the creationist prediction of the absence of any strong evidence that ponts to the existence of evolution is not falsifiable either!

Finally, here's a link to a short paper of mine about skeptics and falsifiability:

http://www.txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=603

Titus,

By the way, I had not seen your comments on the board until now (I've been participating for about a year, I guess), and I wanted to say that I found your words fascinating. Hope to keep seeing you here!

I am also going to read your paper on falsification and the skeptics (have it up in a tab for later).

Cheers, my friend,

Matt

I know it's off topic, but just thought I’d mention that David Thompson has issued a full response to recent criticisms regarding his mediumship. I guess it’s relevant here in that his phenomena may be superpsi or part psi-based.

Two, four, six, eight! Who do you reincarnate?

Dualism as it relates to seeming reincarnation cases:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/two-four-six-eight-who-do-you.html

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