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Erich: Keith, several scenarios come to mind, but it is not incumbent on me to explain how real paranormal effects could be lost due to poor controls.

Why do you feel that you have no obligation to back up your assertion? I don't think that you would let it slide if I asserted X, and then when challenged replied, "it is not incumbent on me to explain how" X is true.

I explained how contaminating Ian Stevenson's combination lock test of survival would not affect any negative/inconclusive results of that experiment, and yet you still objected.

If you cannot explain how, contrary to what I said, contaminating Ian Stevenson's combination lock test of survival would affect negative/inconclusive results of that experiment, then it seems to me that you continue to oppose what I said solely for the purpose of being opposing.

If you can imagine several scenarios illustrating your point for Ian Stevenson's combination lock test, or NDE target identification experiments, by all means, do share just one of them.

I don't think that anyone who asserts something with no intention of supporting that assertion is in any position to talk about "play[ing] word games within imaginary scenarios within ivory towers."

Either you can come up with a single example, or you can't. So which is it?

Keith writes,
The way I see it, if there is survival after death, this is not something that should forever remain a matter of contentious belief, or something that should be personally revealed to some people while others are left groping for the answer. If survival really does happen, that fact is so significant that it is something that the world deserves to know, not something to merely muse about while at a campfire. Death is a very personal inevitability that has all the appearances of being "the end." If that is not so, then millions of people who take death to be what it appears to be suffer needlessly. Science has the capability of answering that question decisively, or something near enough (i.e., of leaving superpsi as the only possible alternative to survival), if survival really happens.

Here's where you and I are definitely on the same page. I totally agree with this statement. I think if the afterlife is real, it needs to be out on the table and society needs to be aware of it.

It's more difficult to prove the negative, that there is "no" afterlife, as non-existence of consciousness is not exactly measurable. So the jury won't be decided anytime soon on the exact nature of death UNLESS survival is real, and is provable.

I believe survival has already been proven. So to me, it's more about increasing the scope of the evidence to propel it into mainstream awareness. The fact this question remains, the evidence is there, and it has not been conclusively determined by 'mainstream' science, and given the critical importance of this research, perhaps Keith and I could agree that this subject requires more funding and better more frequent experiments like AWARE.

(Imagine if the amount of research-funding into the Monica Lewinsky investigation were poured into studying the inevitable fate of mankind.)

On this subject, I wanted to touch on super-psi.

Keith had mentioned earlier that psi is not necessarily proof of an afterlife, even if psi is proven.

I think the evidence for psi is much harder to refute than survival, because there is much better, clearer data. This is why some skeptics have alleged super-psi may, as a legitimate phenomenon, be responsible for survival-phenomena.

If psi is real, it may not prove survival, but it lends an incredible amount of support for the survival hypothesis. And, if nothing else, has the potential to revolutionize the way we understand the mind. And that should not be considered a lightweight matter.

It would mean consciousness is operating on a multi-dimensional platform. Or, it has the power to transcend physical senses AND localization to the brain in order to: effect the outside environment, or detect and gather information beyond the brain.

This means that consciousness, by nature, can transcend a central locality, and this is the model of consciousness that is perfectly adaptable to survival.

So I would say that psi does not prove the afterlife, but it lends huge support to help understand HOW the afterlife could occur (a natural result of consciousness continuing to work independently).

I thought I had clarified. I am speaking to scientific method and your lack of observation of it.

I am not interested in conjecture games.

I am a scientist; not a philospher.

Once more, we do not know what the variables are. Therefore, we do not know what confounding variables could have what impacts.

This is very simple, Keith.

And for an additional note:

I strongly believe this issue, while hotly contested within its very specific niche, is going to be on the forefront of people's minds in years to come.

So, take some pride in the notion that everybody who is currently debating the issue of survival are, perhaps, the historic predecessors of what will someday be a very big deal.

I think the only reason it's not a "big deal" right now is because humankind is very caught up with surface-level affairs, and have not taken the time to really ponder mortality. Western society shoves the subject of death into the dark, to ignore. Someday that will change.

There is ONE way for "skeptics" and "survivalists" to reconcile their differences: we both want the subject taken seriously.

The only reason people feel offended is when a researcher attempts to DOWNGRADE the subject and the importance of it.

IE: when an uninformed scientist says to the media, IE CNN: "There is not one shred of evidence for the afterlife..."

This simply BURNS people up (it burns me up). The skeptics need to say:

"While there is a large amount of evidence to support the afterlife, we are doing our best to hold it to the highest standards. We don't want society jumping to conclusions based on events and phenomena we don't fully understand yet."

But, since I'm up all night waiting for a horse to foal I'll indulge you, Keith.

Here's one, albeit a little fanciful (though maybe not more so than some skeptical explanations that have come from you); if a medical staff is aware of the hidden sign and is opposed to the concept of NDEs as real, then they could send out some kind of psychic energy the interferes with an NDEr's ability to accurately see the sign.

Here's another; Medical staff could physically obstruct the view of the sign.

Another; medical staff could poorly - or not at all - record accurate reports of patients having viewed the sign. Or they could use preemptive dialogue that would discourage a patient from reporting seeing the sign..........

I can come up with all sorts of scenarios involving poor controls that have some level of probability from a survivalist viewpoint and that would serve to diminish the strength of the evidence pro-survival. You can't disprove them anymore than I prove them.

Erich: I am speaking to scientific method and your lack of observation of it.

Yes, Erich, I realize your intent. As you said earlier, you are immensely annoyed by me speaking my mind because I purportedly present myself "as a thorough authoritative scientific intellect when there really is very little science involved in what [I am] putting out there."

I get it; you don't like me. I'm quite used to it by now. But what does your annoyance at me speaking my mind have to do with whether contaminating Ian Stevenson's combination lock test of survival would affect negative/inconclusive results of that test? If it would, how would it? It's a simple question.

"We do not know what the variables are." Fair enough. But what does this have to do with my example? I wasn't asking why Ian Stevenson was a no show, a question for which your answer would be a good one. Maybe he was a no show because he was annihilated when he died; maybe because he immediately reincarnated and didn't remember the keyword in his next incarnation; maybe because he is unable to communicate with any living persons from "the other side." Maybe because he is trying to communicate, but the noise on the channel never ceases to overwhelm his own "voice."

That's all fine and well, but it doesn't answer the question I actually asked.

If you are smarter and/or more knowledgeable than me, and I can answer this question, then surely it should be a breeze for you to answer it. So what is your answer?

Normally I would let your inability or unwillingness to answer go, and take it as an implicit backing away from your earlier claims. But since you are the one who made a special point of opposing me just for the sake of being opposing, saying things like "your knowledge of the scientific method is appallingly inadequate," "maybe it is not the truth you are after," and "I suppose you will complain that I was harsh and mean and for that reason you won't address the point," I want an answer. I did address your point, despite your disparagement. Now it's your turn to address mine. Can you answer it without changing the subject, or not?

Perhaps when you behave more civilly I won't be inclined to continue to press you on a point like this. But since you weren't civil, back up what you said or admit that you were wrong. It's not really that much to ask.

I didn't see your reply when I posted.

Thank you. Was that so hard?

I still don't think that your examples really answer the question I asked, but at least I now have some inkling of what you were getting at.

Here's the simple reason why I don't think they answer my question: all of your examples--anti-psi psychic interference, sign obstruction, inaccurate recording of reports, or discouragement of reports--could occur even if no living person knew the visual content of the targets at the time of the experiment. So the contamination is not what would not have effects on negative/inconclusive results; your scenarios could hold whether contamination has occurred, or has not occurred.

Just a quick note to say I hope to reply to Keith's comments on naturalism. Just a little busy right now... but one little thought crosses my mind: if naturalism is well defined, can be falsified, and has supernaturalism as its antithesis... does this mean that if X-woo phenomenon is accepted... you (Keith) would then accept supernatural causation? I wouldn't! I mean, if you believe (conceptually) that supernatural causation doesn't make sense (like I do)... then supernaturalism can't really replace naturalism... thus maybe the distinction is not useful in the first place.

Haha... well I am sure this is not a watertight argument... like I said, just a quick note. I have work to do... :-)

Phew !....I wish I hadn't mentioned the lap-top, now. Everyone was hunky dory with each other and suddenly it's world war three again. Sorry !

One point did occur to me which I should have added earlier(went out to the pub) is that the lap-tops might present a fire-hazard (getting very hot in an already quite hot environment), so the hospital managers/health and safety etc might have ruled them out.

"I get it; you don't like me."

Keith, I don't know you. You just might be a good guy that I'd be friends with; or at least someone I'd enjoy having a beer with. In fact, I'll assume you are. Whether or not I like somone is based on they comport themselves generally and, especially, when faced with life's challenges. A sense of humor also goes a long way in my book. At the end of the day I don't give a plugged nickle about what someone believes. Too many times I have seen strongly held beliefs go right out the window when life tests the holder of those beliefs.

You are correct that your methodology involved in at least this topic annoys me for the reasons you quoted me as saying.

"So the contamination is not what would not have effects on negative/inconclusive results; your scenarios could hold whether contamination has occurred, or has not occurred."

I'm sure you're saying something here, but I'm not sure what the point is. I guess I am missing something that you feel is important (and maybe that is).

The first response that comes to my admittedly foggy mind is "so what". You wouldn't know the difference. And that's why proper control is important. You don't know what impact bad control will have; especially when you don't know what the variables are.

Also, "If you are smarter and/or more knowledgeable than me...."

Keith I didn't say these things; nor do I necessarily think them.

The point I was making is somewhat salient because it is not unlike the Randi challenge in some ways.

The insurance company I work for - and ones like it - hires people with economics/statistical backgrounds to do analyses upon which ride hundreds of billions of dollars. I am personally trusted to have my department do the calculations that involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

I have never met someone with a philosophy background who is trusted to do this work.

My approach is industry standard and yours is not. If your approach was equal to - or better than - mine, we would see people with your ideas about how to analyze real life data in my employment. There is, after all, sufficient money involved to incentivize the hiring of the best practice style.

This aspect of the industry is all about taking data pertaining to all sorts of human interactions, disease states, technological advancements, medical treatments and other events in decidedly uncontrolled situations and finding associations and probabilities such that business decisions can be made.

There is always room for your type of criticism of the results of our work because there's always enough uncertainty for the insertion of some alternative explanation. If we sat around considering every possible alternative scenario, nothing would ever get done and we'd go out of business. Some how, our methods give a certain enough view of reality that decisions are made, correctly enough of the time, that business not only goes forward, but remains viable year after year.

Erich wrote, "The data my department works with (actuarial, healthcare insurance)"

Cool. My father was an actuary. He worked with pensions, though.

Cyrus wrote, "... everybody who is currently debating the issue of survival are, perhaps, the historic predecessors of what will someday be a very big deal."

Joe Biden just emailed me to say it's a big f---ing deal.

"when an uninformed scientist says to the media, IE CNN: 'There is not one shred of evidence for the afterlife...' "

Paul Kurtz once made this very statement on TV show, saying in effect, "We'd all like to believe in an afterlife, but there is simply NO evidence for it." Kurtz had to know better, but he was betting the audience didn't.

Trev wrote, "the lap-tops might present a fire-hazard"

Laptops are also fairly expensive. Maybe it was a cost consideration. After all, we're talking about several hospitals, many rooms. And each laptop would have to be wired to an external power source, protected from outages or spikes, checked periodically, etc.

If AWARE is about as well known as the Pam Reynolds case, then it's not very well known. Aficionados like us are familiar with the Reynolds case; the general public isn't. Stop 500 people on the street and ask them who Pam Reynolds is (or Sam Parnia for that matter). I'd be surprised if even one of them could tell you. Subjects that are well-known don't garner tens of thousands of Google hits; they garner millions. For fun, I Googled "Jack Bauer" (in quotes): 2.4 million hits. The man on the street knows about Jack Bauer, but not Pam Reynolds.

The patients in the AWARE study are not afterlife enthusiasts; they're regular folks who wouldn't know Bruce Greyson from Bruce Wayne, or Sam Parnia from Sam Hill.

At any event, I think the discussion has made it clear why AWARE is not going to resolve anything. If positive results are obtained, the study will immediately be found to have fatal flaws. The staff could have talked about the pictures, the patient could have sneaked a peek, there might have been a faint reflection of the picture visible in a window, it was a lucky guess, etc.

'The patients in the AWARE study are not afterlife enthusiasts;'

That's very true, Michael. I don't think that the patients, in general, would be the slightest bit concerned about concealed targets.. trying to determine whether or not there is(separation) an afterlife. As most of us know, the prevailing 'atmosphere' in a emergency wards is earthly survival. I did think at first that a flashing green frog on a lap-top etc might be a great idea...but I can see now that practically anything is predictable if you want to be naughty.
Lets hope, as Keith says, that Sam parnia has done the job correctly.

By the way, I am not in any shape or form linked with or involved in the AWARE study.

Not that anyone would think I was, with the standard of my comments.(just don't want to prejudice the study)

MP, yes it is very interesting work. The whole corporate thing can be a drag, but some how I manage to get past that. My wife and I also breed, train and own thoroughbred race horses (she was raised in the business). Mysticism is my hobby, but spirituality has always been the focus of my life.

I am quite sure that no one I work with is aware of AWARE; or would be much interested even if you presented it to them.

Sadly, it seems that you are right that, no matter what, the AWARE study will be doomed to resolve nothing. As far as I am concerned a good "hit" or two would be appropriately subject to the kind of control issue questions that I raised and the type of objections that Keith would predictably raise. However, if there a numerous hits in varied settings and situations, then I would say that the results would be quite convincing.

That being said, if there are no hits I won't be convinced that NDEs are not "real" because, as others have said, I find it unrealistic to think that people experiencing an NDE would focus on some irrelevant sign; then again, the irrelavancy just might be what makes it an attractive point of focus and a lasting memory.

I googled the AWARE study to try to find details of how the experiment is set up. It's very secretive. I really could find anything that would tip me off to what is on the signs that will be placed in physically unobservable places.

I am signing off on this thread. It has been an interesting and educational few days. Thanks to all.

Ryan: if naturalism is well defined, can be falsified, and has supernaturalism as its antithesis... does this mean that if X-woo phenomenon is accepted... you (Keith) would then accept supernatural causation?

In a possible world where supernatural causation is an established fact, it would be unreasonable to deny that it happens--just as it is unreasonable to deny that the Earth is an oblate spheroid in our actual world.

So yes; if I was the character played by Brendan Frasier in the world depicted in The Mummy, I would concede that all sorts of supernatural events have happened; there would be no denying it.

Ryan: I mean, if you believe (conceptually) that supernatural causation doesn't make sense (like I do)... then supernaturalism can't really replace naturalism... thus maybe the distinction is not useful in the first place.

I don't think that supernatural causation is intractably problematic; conceptually, it is relatively unproblematic, in fact. There is an issue about how two radically different realms could interact, but this is the same issue that Cartesian dualism faces; and while that question is a good one, I don't think that it demonstrates that such causation is conceptually impossible.

If there is a problem with the natural-supernatural distinction, it is not a metaphysical or conceptual one. The only cause for concern is the diagnostic issue: how do we know that event X had a supernatural cause? And there I don't think that the distinction is particularly problematic, either; it is prima facie no more problematic than asking how do we know that event X had natural cause A, natural cause B, or natural cause C? The sort of diagnostic problems that arise for supernatural causation equally apply to identifying the natural cause of an event.

I don't think that a distinction can be avoided unless you are an idealist, solipsist, or maybe a panexperientialist (I don't know enough about the latter to say for sure), because the word "natural" has no non-trivial meaning on those metaphysical frameworks.

If the term "natural" is to have any substance, then there must be some properties that would make conceivable causes nonnatural. So if the natural is well defined, the nonnatural would have whatever properties are contrary to those that natural things have. And there are substantial definitions of the term "natural," e.g., "physical or supervenient upon the physical." On that definition, anything neither physical nor supervenient upon the physical would be nonnatural, straightforwardly. So conceptually, these categories are not problematic. Now posit that the cause of an event in our world is a nonnatural cause, and you have supernatural causation, straightforwardly.

Erich: I'm sure you're saying something here, but I'm not sure what the point is. I guess I am missing something that you feel is important (and maybe that is).

Let me correct it since the second "not" was included mistakenly. It should have read: So the contamination is not what would have effects on negative/inconclusive results; your scenarios could hold whether contamination has occurred, or has not occurred.

I'll make the point more explicit. If Ian Stevenson wrote down his key phrase, the one that would open his UVA combination lock, and this phrase was discovered, some living person/s would know the content of the key phrase, literally the key to Stevenson's experiment. If, despite this, no medium came forward claiming to have the key phrase, or claiming to have the correct key phrase, then the contamination would make no difference to the experiment, because it only becomes important if a positive result is reported. If no successful hits on the key phrase are reported anyway, the fact that contamination has occurred doesn't matter.

What you said does not change that fact. The conditions for the NDE target identification experiments that your scenarios addressed are parallel to those for Ian Stevenson's combination lock test. In NDE target identification experiments, too, no living person should know the content of the visual targets until after the study is over, after all NDErs have already made their reports. That controls for any other living person leaking the information (intentionally or by accident), as no living person can leak information that he does not have. This is the same rationale for double blinding drug studies, and this is why the previous target identification experiments were all methodological designed to try to eliminate the possibility of anyone knowing what the targets were. That's what it means for the studies to be controlled.

You said that anti-psi psychic interference, sign obstruction, inaccurate recording of reports, or discouragement of reports could prevent positive results from being reported when they might otherwise have been. That's true, but has nothing to do with some living person gaining knowledge of the content of the visual target (of what the target is), thereby contaminating the experiment.

Why? Because all of those things could happen even if no living person ever learned the contents of the targets. Someone could spray paint a paper target or short circuit a laptop without ever looking at the upward-facing target; indeed, in one of the previous target identification experiments, the targets were chosen randomly and placed facing away from the person setting the targets, so that even that person would not know what targets were at what locations. Imagine playing poker, but contrary to playing normally, facing your cards outward, so that everyone else could see the faces of your cards but you. That's analogous to this previous set-up, only there was no one else but the ceiling to see the "faces of the cards."

Similarly, one could discourage patients from reporting positive results, or purposely conceal such reports when they happen--but this could happen for any experiment of any kind. The occurrence of these scenarios does not depend upon any living person (other than surviving NDErs who saw them) knowing the contents of the targets. In other words, your concerns would be a concern for any experiment, even a flawlessly uncontaminated one. Therefore, your scenarios do not really refute my point that a contaminated experiment would not be an issue if there were only negative/inconclusive results. If Tart's Miss Z had never reported a target, the presence or absence of a reflective clock, or presence or absence of videorecording, wouldn't matter, since no positive result would've been reported.

Your complaint is akin to complaining that someone could break into the UVA and cut the lock off of Ian Stevenson's cabinet; yes, someone could do that, but someone could do it even without ever learning the phrase that would unlock the combination lock.

Erich: My approach is industry standard and yours is not.

What does your industry's requirements for your job have to do with the conditions for combination lock tests, or NDE target identification experiments, or OBE detection studies? As far as I can see your expertise here is no more relevant than the expertise needed to build submarines. No doubt, you have that expertise, and I don't; but what has that to do with the issue at hand?

MP: I think the discussion has made it clear why AWARE is not going to resolve anything. If positive results are obtained, the study will immediately be found to have fatal flaws.

Only if fatal flaws are present. If Parnia took adequate steps to eliminate them, then they cannot be pointed out. The buck stops at replicable positive results in a well controlled study. Once those are obtained, a finding simply cannot be denied. The facts would speak for themselves, and no spin could possibly change their import. And there is no excuse for Parnia not setting up the experiment adequately given that what needs to be controlled for has been made explicit in the literature. For now, I'm giving Parnia the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he's doing until the actual methodology is made public. If he doesn't know what he's doing, that would just be sloppiness on his part.

MP: The staff could have talked about the pictures, the patient could have sneaked a peek, there might have been a faint reflection of the picture visible in a window, it was a lucky guess, etc.

All of these things can be eliminated, and the probability of making a lucky guess can be made to be astronomical by making the visual target as specific as possible. You also fail to take into account the fact that a pilot study was done to test for these sorts of issues. The reason that computers are able to work as well as they do is because of vigorous pre-market testing. You "try out" your experiment on a trial (beta) basis before going full scale with it to work out these possible bugs. And we do know that there was a pilot phase of the AWARE study.

"The way I see it, if there is survival after death, this is not something that should forever remain a matter of contentious belief, or something that should be personally revealed to some people while others are left groping for the answer. If survival really does happen, that fact is so significant that it is something that the world deserves to know, not something to merely muse about while at a campfire. Death is a very personal inevitability that has all the appearances of being "the end." If that is not so, then millions of people who take death to be what it appears to be suffer needlessly" - Keith
--------------------------------------------

What if the death of someone we love were a lesson in separation? What it means and how it feels to be separate? And, the more emotional the experience the more powerful and long lasting the memory it creates? What if the feelings of oneness and connectedness in heaven were so powerful and overwhelming due to it's holographic nature that it was impossible to "become" a separate, unique, individual in heaven and the only way to do that was to first spend some time in the physical universe and experience duality and separation in every way, shape, and form possible? And what if we knew absolutely positively without a doubt that one day we were going to be reunited with our loved ones forever in the Spiritual Universe? Would knowing that for certain somehow take away some of that emotion and the death of someone we love would cease to be the most powerful lesson in what it means to be separate?

Live seems to be one big long lesson in separation, from the moment we are born and separate from our mothers and the umbilical cord is separated in two, till the day we die and our deaths become a lesson in separation to the loved ones we leave behind. We experience duality in politics, religion, race, language, dialects, gender, sexual orientation, wealth, looks, weight and height, education, wealth, arguing on message boards, etc. the list is endless. And duality oftentimes leads to separation.

And separation isn't just about people. Wake up during the night and use the restroom and that is a lesson in separation, pick a tomato off a vine and that is a lesson in separation, pick a grape and that is a lesson in separation. cut a steak into pieces and that is a lesson in separation. Drive a car and be upset at another car cutting you off and that is a lesson in separation. Separation doesn't have to be just about people.

In a hologram everything is infinitely connected to everything else, everything interpenetrates everything. I remember once reading an NDE of a woman and she said that we here in the physical universe can't begin to understand the overwhelming feelings of oneness in heaven.

The soul's lessons seem to be embedded in our everyday lives and it is holistically imprinted with what it needs to learn regardless of who we are or where we live or what we believe. Everyone experiences duality and separation, time and space, and makes memories of what it was like to live in a 3 dimensional + 1 time Universe. Perhaps the education of the soul is too important to leave it up to chance and everyone becomes enlightened and they enter that light.

Maybe we are like actors in a play and after we cross back over and become enlightened we will all be equal and we will see our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and everyone who was here with us as fellow actors who played their roles perfectly so that we all could learn the lessons that we were supposed to learn?

"Only if fatal flaws are present. If Parnia took adequate steps to eliminate them, then they cannot be pointed out."

My point is that no precautions or controls will ever be good enough to satisfy some critics. Look at C.E.M. Hansel's absurd objections to Rhine's work, in which he speculated that someone could have sneaked up onto the roof and spied on the tests through a skylight. (Even though there was no roof access.)

Or look at Hyman's critique of the autoganzfeld tests - experiments that he himself helped to design. Unable to find any errors, he still concluded that the results cannot be accepted because there might have been an unknown error.

I have no idea what sort of results AWARE will produce, but if veridical information is obtained, I can guarantee that some critics will immediately declare that all sorts of fatal flaws were present. This will be true regardless of whether or not there are any actual flaws.

Art: If one needs to experience "separation" for any reason, that can be achieved without creating the illusion that those separated from you are not merely inaccessible for a period of time, but have actually ceased to exist forever. And surely that is what death appears to entail. As C. D. Broad said in 1958, "if anything is certain, it is that the vast majority of dead men tell no tales and, so far as we are concerned, have vanished without a trace."

MP: I agree that it is possible, even likely, that when presented with replicable positive results from a well-controlled study showing veridical paranormal perception during NDEs, some scientists will initially conjecture alternative scenarios proposing normal explanations for those results. For several months, if I recall correctly, the experimental results ultimately confirming Einstein's relativistic prediction about a shift in the positions of stars behind the Sun due to gravitational lensing were debated, by people then unsympathetic to Einstein's theories. Ultimately, though, Einstein was vindicated by the data. It is both healthy and necessary for scientists to sort out that the experimental results really do demonstrate what they are claimed to demonstrate.

If there are no actual fatal flaws in the experimental setup, alternative scenarios will be shot down one by one until no explanation other than a paranormal one remains. In your example, Hansel's conjecture that someone might have snuck up onto the roof to view ESP experiments through a skylight was decisively refuted by the lack of roof access. End of story. The proper response to someone like Hansel is thus "Next!" So too for conjecturing that Pam Reynolds overheard an intraoperative conversation because she underwent anesthesia awareness, if in fact it is the case that her normal hearing really was impossible at the relevant time.

I think your other example, assuming it is faithful to the case, illustrates my point nicely. If Ray Hyman was literally unable to find any errors, then he seems to have been forced by the data to concede that what he had was replicable positive results from a well-controlled study (if, in fact, that's what we're talking about here). "There might have been an unknown error" is a reasonable thing to say if, in fact, some other error was possible that the study didn't take into account. But since there are only a limited number of possible normal explanations for information transfer, there are a finite number of logically possible normal explanations. One can only honestly say "there might have been an unknown error" if, in fact, one can list at least some of these alternative possibilities. If one really cannot even imagine a single logically possible alternative error, then on the face of it is false to say that there might have been an unknown error. If all of the logically possible "normal sources" errors have been controlled for--and I see no reason why that can't be done--and yet still replicable positive results are obtained by experiment, I don't see how that can fail to be a demonstration that the proposed effect is real.

Now, it may take some time for that information to be accepted and filter down to other scientific disciplines and the general public and so on, but ultimately once plate tectonics was demonstrated, did it not put in motion the general, mainstream acceptance that it occurs? Again, before it was demonstrated, it was healthy and necessary for scientists to debate it's truth--that debate is what ultimately forces the search for unequivocal data that settles the issue, thereby creating scientific knowledge.

So I disagree that no data will ever be good enough. It has been for other contentious scientific fields. Why would this one be any different?

I have no idea what sort of results AWARE will produce, but if veridical information is obtained, I can guarantee that some critics will immediately declare that all sorts of fatal flaws were present. This will be true regardless of whether or not there are any actual flaws

For me, the key of this problem is that the afterlife dispute is not only a scientific dispute, but a metaphysical one too.

And this is not a red herring, but a demostrable fact.

For example, discussing Global Warming or the 9/11 terrorist attack are disputes that don't involve metaphysical beliefs about the nature of reality, God or souls. It's purely a scientific dispute (and perhaps a political dispute too).

But the afterlife dispute is, in addition to a scientific one, a metaphysical one, because if the data is proven to be correct, it refutes a particular metaphysical thesis known as naturalism.

If afterlife is true, the naturalist conception of reality is proven false. Supernaturalism would be true.

Pretending the discussion is a purely scientific one, instead of a scientific AND metaphysical one, is simply illogical, ignorant or dishonest.

When metaphysical beliefs are in stake, a major motivation to reject the data is at stake, because deeper metaphysical beliefs are being challenged.

In that case, it's not a minor disagreement about the data, but a major disagreement about the fabric of reality.

This is why Hyman is a disbeliever even after the data he found was technically correct. His disagreement is not scientific (admittedly, he didn't have any proven scientific objection at all) but philosophical.

That some people fails to understand this aspect of the afterlife debate (and psi debete in general) is astonishing, and in my opinion it's intentionally concealed to make appear the debate as metaphysically neutral.

I think Michael has not intented to say that "no data will ever be good enough"; rather, his point is that no data will be ever good enough FOR skeptics committed to a rejection of the data.

Objectively and scientifically, the data might be good (as the data of remote viewing is), but failing to recognize the data by metaphysical reasons is what psychologically prevent some people to accept the the evidence.

This is why the aftelife debate is not analogous to other scientific disputes.

I agree with Michael: if positive AWARE results are found, professional "skeptics" will deny the results speculating about some possible flaws or any other excuses.

After all, given the background knowledge and a presumption of naturalism, a massive fraud, currently undetected flaws, technical incompetence, etc. will be always more likely than supernaturalism, isn't it?

"If one needs to experience "separation" for any reason, that can be achieved without creating the illusion that those separated from you are not merely inaccessible for a period of time, but have actually ceased to exist forever. And surely that is what death appears to entail. As C. D. Broad said in 1958, "if anything is certain, it is that the vast majority of dead men tell no tales and, so far as we are concerned, have vanished without a trace." - Keith
--------------------------------------------

We experience separation in this life for the simple reason of teaching us what it means to be separate.

And what if after we cross back over into the Spiritual Universe, and after we become enlightened, we somehow view our lives differently, or as Michelle M described of her near death experience,

"I felt an understanding about life, what it was, is. As if it was a dream in itself. It's so very hard to explain this part. I'll try, but my words limit the fullness of it. I don't have the words here, but I understood that it really didn't matter what happened in the life experience, I knew/understood that it was intense, brief, but when we were in it, it seemed like forever. I understood that whatever happened in life, I was really ok, and so were the others here."
http://www.nderf.org/michelle_m's_nde.htm

This isn't the main show. The other side will seem even more real to us than this side does. While we are here we believe this is all there is; for the simple reason that "knowing" would reduce the emotion we feel when things happen to us, and emotion is the energy of the soul. The more emotional the experience the more powerful and long lasting the memory it creates.

In the January 2010 issue of New Scientist Magazine their is an article talking about how these scientists found this "fuzziness" or "blurriness" to the Universe. This guy named Hogan, the director of the lab, said that he believed they had found evidence of the holographic nature of our Universe. He said that a hologram has by nature a certain inherent degree of blurriness; which explains why near death experiencers say that the other side will seem even more real to us than this side does. The Spiritual Universe is the holographic film from which this side is projected from.

And oh yeah, that C.D. Broad fellow? I'm sorry to say but he's just wrong. Many many near death experiencers come back and say flat out "you can't die. It is impossible to die." I remember watching on youtube the NDE of a pilot who died and he said he came back just to tell his wife that we can't die and that it is impossible to die.

And as far as the constant banter we exchange back and forth on message boards? Just more duality and separation. Little lessons in separation. I have no illusion that we will ever resolve the question 100% to everyone satisfaction. Science is incapable of that feat. Not going to happen. And it's that way for a reason.

ZC: But the afterlife dispute is, in addition to a scientific one, a metaphysical one, because if the data is proven to be correct, it refutes a particular metaphysical thesis known as naturalism.

I don't disagree that there are metaphysical aspects to the naturalism-supernaturalism debate, I just fail to see any import of that fact.

It's simply not true that there are no metaphysical aspects of scientific debates. Scientific method itself makes all sorts of metaphysical assumptions, such as that natural phenomena are law-governed, and that these laws apply universally, so that Newton's laws of motion are not just true in our solar system but across the universe, whether in the Pinwheel Galaxy or outside of the Local Group. Science also assumes realism, that the world is not just the contents of my own mind, with my own mind being the only thing that exists (contra solipsism).

Moreover, particular scientific disciplines make discipline-specific assumptions, particularly cosmology and quantum physics. It's a metaphysical issue, to some extent, how to interpret quantum mechanics (Copenhagen vs. many-worlds vs. other interpretations of QM). It's also a metaphysical issue whether nonlocality is real; my former philosophy of science professor, who does work in quantum cryptography, one told us students that one can explain the results of tests of Bell's theorem either by denying locality (hence, nonlocality) or denying the continuity of space (hence, discreteness), and given those options, physicists tends to find denying locality the least disagreeable way of making sense of the data. So there are metaphysical aspects to a number of scientific debates which are nevertheless capable of being investigated empirically.

ZC: If afterlife is true, the naturalist conception of reality is proven false. Supernaturalism would be true.

Agreed. There's no avoiding that implication, IMO, if you have a non-trivial definition of "natural," which would surely exclude transcendent realms like an afterlife realm as being a part of nature, rather than something beyond nature.

ZC: When metaphysical beliefs are in stake, a major motivation to reject the data is at stake, because deeper metaphysical beliefs are being challenged.

That may well be true, but that doesn't entail that the data cannot trump one's metaphysics. If the data are strong enough, something's got to give. Most people no longer view the Earth as the center of the solar system, because there is no denying these days that the Sun is the (near) center. A central metaphysical belief was once at stake--that human beings have a special place in the universe, below the angels, but above the brute animals (the great chain of being)--and with heliocentrism and evolution by natural selection that framework has largely dissolved away (at least among the scientifically educated) because the data forced its abandonment. Metaphysical concepts don't trump empirical knowledge.

ZC: This is why Hyman is a disbeliever even after the data he found was technically correct. His disagreement is not scientific (admittedly, he didn't have any proven scientific objection at all) but philosophical.

Perhaps you are right about Hyman's motivations. But at the end of the day, they really don't matter; whatever the reason for his disagreement, if he really doesn't have a scientific leg to stand on, then that fact speaks for itself. Either there is scientific reason for disagreement or there isn't. If there isn't, then that settles the issue scientifically.

ZC: That some people fails to understand this aspect of the afterlife debate (and psi debete in general) is astonishing, and in my opinion it's intentionally concealed to make appear the debate as metaphysically neutral.

It can be made neutral by appealing to the scientific issues alone. Skeptics can stop saying that parapsychologists want to believe in the wonderous, and believers can stop saying that skeptics want to believe in scientistic materialism. I doubt all representatives from either side will agree to that, unfortunately. (The best response to being "called names" is not to "call names" back, but not to participate in such trivial activities.)

ZC: I think Michael has not intented to say that "no data will ever be good enough"; rather, his point is that no data will be ever good enough FOR skeptics committed to a rejection of the data.

Fair enough, but that could be said of any skeptic committed to the rejection of data on any issue, whether it be evidence for evolution or evidence for global warming.

ZC: This is why the aftelife debate is not analogous to other scientific disputes.

There are political reasons to deny that global warming is happening. But these political debates take place outside of the scientific community. The scientific debate it over.

If the evidence were good enough, there is no reason why "metaphysical debates" could not take place outside of the scientific community, too. Right now many of the critics of parapsychology are psychologists who use similar tools to test for normal perception. The scientific jury is still out, then, on psi, in a way that it evidently is not for other issues.

People make much of the fact that scientists tend to be nonbelievers. But it was not always so. When Newton was a scientist, almost all scientists were believers. The times have changed, however. If anything, metaphysical presuppositions favored supernatural explanations at the advent of science. It was the failure of scientists to find any evidence for them that led to less and less confidence that supernatural causes would ever be discovered. Therefore if there is a "bias" against the supernatural, it is not an a priori one. It is a "bias" based on the fact that science has rendered supernatural explanations obsolete time and time again. Whenever supernatural explanations have been tried, historically, they have not been successful, whereas some natural explanations have been successful. If that historical happenstance had not happened, then probably contemporary scientists would not have become nonbelievers, since societal pressure has always been against nonbelief, never in its favor. Hence the discrepancy between how many (top or regular) scientists believe in God or the afterlife, and how many people in the general population believe in those things. Many more believe in such things in the latter population than in the former one.

ZC: After all, given the background knowledge and a presumption of naturalism, a massive fraud, currently undetected flaws, technical incompetence, etc. will be always more likely than supernaturalism, isn't it?

Did the background presumption of anthropocentric geocentrism always make geocentrism more likely than heliocentrism, or did the data force the abandonment of anthropocentric geocentrism?

Art: This isn't the main show. The other side will seem even more real to us than this side does.

That's easy to say when closing your eyes and imagining yourself outside of your life, remembering the major events of your life as if watching a movie.

The ability to merely imagine this, though, doesn't inspire the kind of certain feelings (at least for some of us) that you express. With this life apparently being all that I have ever known, speculations about the afterlife inspire the same amount of confidence in me about their reality as speculations about life on an advanced extraterrestrial planet. I may be able to imagine, even use CGI to construct, such a world, but that's quite a far cry from knowing that it's real in the way that I know that the grocery store down the street is real. Perhaps you'll never know that without visiting yourself. But it would at least be nice to know with the same confidence that one has in the existence of the city of Paris that the afterlife is real. I don't really feel that confidence. The afterlife is more like the extraterrestrial civilization for me. I can imagine a particular advanced society on an extrasolar planet (Avatar society, perhaps), but I can't really say I believe that it exists. That is a whole other level of confidence than merely being able to imagine.

As far as knowing that an afterlife exists reducing earthly emotions, I doubt that that would happen. Somehow I think that I would still try to avoid being stabbed whether I knew that or not. The pain would still be real for me in the moment, even if you can (merely) imagine stepping back from it as if it was an event happening to someone else.

And I disagree that Broad was wrong. Nearly dead people who recover may tell tales, but permanently dead men really do not tell tales. We don't unambiguously hear from Ian Stevenson, Susy Smith, or Robert Thouless, even though they explicitly went out of their way to ensure a method of being heard from unambiguously (cipher or combination lock tests of mediumship). So I think Broad was on to something. If we did umambiguously hear from permanently dead individuals, we would know already that they have survived death, and would not be arguing about it right now. Larry King Live would not do segments on "Is There Life After Death?"--as it does now--because that question would then make about as much sense as asking "Is There Life on Hawaii?"

"If we did umambiguously hear from permanently dead individuals, we would know already that they have survived death, and would not be arguing about it right now"

Frederic William Henry Myers

Hi Keith,

I'm glad you have a un-biased look on AWARE. As some have pointed out, there are people have probably made up their minds already about the experiment. I thought it was interesting to see you defend AWARE and seeing MP show the problems with it, it was like you guys swapped roles and I stepped into Bizzaro universe where everything is the opposite. I wonder if that's why Parnia has been reluctant to release full details of how AWARE works, because there maybe a possibility of contamination if public know how it works. For example, if people knew exactly where the targets were (not sure if this is a known fact or not), patients may deliberately try and look at the target by standing on their beds or something.

I'm not saying the data will never reach the point where all skeptics are converted. I'm just predicting it won't happen with the AWARE study, or with any other study in the near future.

Paradigms do change, but they change slowly. The paradigms you pointed to, like geocentrism, took generations to die out.

By the way, though it's off-topic, I predictably disagree that the scientific debate over anthropogenic global warming is over. Seems to me the debate is actually heating up ... so to speak!

"... even though they explicitly went out of their way to ensure a method of being heard from unambiguously (cipher or combination lock tests of mediumship)"

Even a clear success with one of those tests would not provide unambiguous evidence of life after death. It could be argued that the medium used retrocognition to see what combination was set, or used precognition to see what combination would open it, or accessed the Akashic Records where all knowledge is stored, etc.

Some cases have produced results similar to the ones you ask for. The case of the Chaffin will, for instance:

tiny.cc/j0vj0

The book and newspaper tests conducted by Charles Drayton Thomas with Gladys Osborne Leonard also produced very good evidence.

But of course all these cases can be disputed. Anything can be disputed, endlessly ...

KEITH:

“If we did umambiguously hear from permanently dead individuals, we would know already that they have survived death, and would not be arguing about it right now.”

If Zerdini unambiguously heard from permanently dead individuals, he would know already that they have survived death, and would not be arguing about it right now.

Zerdini is not arguing about it right now.

I would assume that the reason why Zerdini is not arguing about it right now is because...

ZERDINI:

“I personally saw a fully materialised spirit being in front of me which is why I ‘have knowledge that someone who has never seen such a thing lacks’.”

“The evidence was outstanding by any standards. For example, I spoke to my grandfather for nearly 40 minutes.”

“Regarding materialization - the difference between you and me is that I have experienced it in good light and you haven't - so there is nothing to discuss.”

“I will add, however, that while I held the hands of a materialized spirit he simply dissolved through my fingers. The dematerialization began from the feet up.”

“I have no desire to convince anyone or disturb their belief system. I simply share my experiences.”

Do not confuse Keith’s “we” to mean everyone, regardless of how it might sound.

His “we” only applies to those who have not had personal encounters such as Zerdini’s, which is really just saying what we already know, i.e., that skeptics have never had such experiences and therefore do not believe in them, while others (and what follows is not an exhaustive enumeration of all possible categories of “others”) either have had them and do, or accept as credible and accurate, and therefore as real possibilities, certain first person accounts of those who have.

Furthermore, Zerdini’s experiences may not be good enough for skeptics or scientists, but that just means that scientists/skeptics belong to a different category of “we” than those who HAVE had such or similar experiences belong to.

So do not be misled by the word “we” into thinking there exists some central authority in charge of deciding what is real and not real in the world, and then forcing their conclusions on everyone else.

At least not yet there isn’t. And there is an entire range of other paranormal phenomenon apart from the NDE, and which the AWARE study is not addressing, that isn’t going away, that requires explanation, and some of which supports the notion of mind body separation without appealing to the NDE at all.

Furthermore, as Richard Wiseman conceded:

"I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do."

One of the features of the NDE, i.e., accurate non sensory perception, is present in remote viewing experiments which, to Wiseman's satisfaction, have apparently been successfully conducted "by the standards of any other area of science."

Now Wiseman wants to change the standards.

We don't unambiguously hear from Ian Stevenson, Susy Smith, or Robert Thouless, even though they explicitly went out of their way to ensure a method of being heard from unambiguously (cipher or combination lock tests of mediumship).

Maybe they haven't yet found a suitable medium throgh whom they can unambigously communicate!

Perhaps, too, they have found that communication with the 'Other Side' is far more difficult than most people realise as William Barrett and FWH Myers discovered.

Nevertheless, the fact that many people have managed to communicate from the 'Afterlife' is sufficient to demonstrate that it is not impossible, just difficult.

"It doesn't happen on this blog that I've seen, but when people rant about "believing in fairies" or the Flying Spaghetti Monster and so on, I have to wonder what their problem is. It's so bitter, some of it. Why does free-thinking only apply to those who think in little boxes of so-called rationality?" (Louise responded in her post on March 30th 04:52 PM)

If you are referring to the commonly held belief in fairies, then I agree that they do not belong in this conversation. The reference to the book title, "The Psychological Belief in the Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries" by W. Y. Evans-Wentz was referred to in of Michael Prescott's previous blogs on another subject. He is best known for his scholarly work on the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" as well as introducing and interpreting other books on Buddhist philosophy.

The following is taken from the wesite http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/ffcc120.htm.

“In most cases, as examination will show, the evidence is so clear that little or no comment is necessary. Most of the evidence also points so much in one direction that. the only verdict which seems reasonable is that the Fairy-Faith belongs to a doctrine of souls; that is to say, that Fairyland is a state or condition, realm or place, very much like, if not the same as, that wherein civilized and uncivilized men alike place the souls of the dead, in company with other invisible beings such as gods, daemons, and all sorts of good and bad spirits. Not only do both educated and uneducated Celtic seers so conceive Fairyland, but they go much further, and say that Fairyland actually exists as an invisible world within which the visible world is immersed like an island in an unexplored ocean, and that it is peopled by more species of living beings than this world, because incomparably more vast and varied in its possibilities.”

There is a relationship between Celtic belief and the "Spirit World" is some manner. Personally, I do not believe in the fairy image that is commonly held. I do think that that more research needs to be done in this area.

John C., I love your description of Fairyland! It sounds so "holographic." It reminds me of something I read about Emmanuel Swedenborg in Talbot's Holographic Universe where he says, "Although it is not a feature reported by modern NDEers, Swedenborg said that he was astonished to find that in heaven there are also spirits from other planets, an astounding assertion for a man who was born over three hundred years ago!" http://www.soultravel.se/2004/040907-swedenborg/index.shtml

One thing being immersed in another also sounds rather holographic. It reminds me of a statement that Daisy Dryden made in her death bed vision description, "Two days before she left us, the Sunday School Superintendent came to see her. She talked very freely about going, and sent a message by him to the Sunday School. When he was about to leave, he said, "Well, Daisy, you will soon be over the 'dark river.` After he had gone, she asked her father what he meant by the "dark river." He tried to explain it, but she said, "It is all a mistake; there is no river; there is no curtain; there is not even a line that separates this life from the other life." And she stretched out her little hands from the bed, and with a gesture said, "It is here and it is there; I know it is so, for I can see you all, and I see them there at the same time."
http://www.survivalafterdeath.org.uk/books/barrett/dbv/chapter3.htm

and also something that Dr. Brian Green, author of The Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos said in an interview in National Geographic, "It's a very speculative idea that seems to, strangely enough, naturally emerge from string theory. Basically, the fundamental laws of the universe don't really operate in the environment around us. They may operate on sort of a distant bounding surface and give rise to the familiar world that we experience in much the same way that a thin piece of plastic, when illuminated correctly—if it's a hologram—can yield a three-dimensional image.

It might be that the deep laws are more like the thin piece of plastic existing on a thin bounding surface. Everything we know might be akin to a holographic projection of those distant laws."
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/03/0326_040326_briangreene_2.html


MP: Even a clear success with one of those tests would not provide unambiguous evidence of life after death. It could be argued that the medium used retrocognition to see what combination was set, or used precognition to see what combination would open it, or accessed the Akashic Records where all knowledge is stored, etc.

I'm sure survivalists would gloat if they could ever get evidence good enough to only be explicable by such exotic means! It seems rather premature to worry about any of those things, though, when simple phrases cannot even been communicated postmortem. That such phrases might technically be explicable in limited other ways is hardly significant given that they never have been communicated.

It's akin to saying that the UFO that landed on the White House lawn, technically speaking, might have been of terrestrial origin by future time travelers! You need to get evidence that good to begin with before worrying about merely potential technicalities like that.

dmduncan: Do not confuse Keith’s “we” to mean everyone, regardless of how it might sound.

I thought it was rather obvious that "we" referred to the bulk of humanity who have not had a personal revelation. Note that "those who have not had personal encounters" includes far more than skeptics, including those who never give these issues a second thought, and those who believe because of religious indoctrination or because they believe others' testimony to first-hand personal experiences. I only point this out because dmduncan equates "those who have not had personal encounters" with skeptics, when in fact it encompasses far more people than simply outright skeptics.

dmduncan: Furthermore, Zerdini’s experiences may not be good enough for skeptics or scientists, but that just means that scientists/skeptics belong to a different category of “we” than those who HAVE had such or similar experiences belong to.

I disagree with this. Zerdini's first-hand experiences might well have been good enough for skeptics or scientists, if such experiences had occurred to them directly.

So I doubt that skeptics and scientists belong to a different category, other than the category of those who have personally received a revelation, and those who haven't. But whether any given person is among the "chosen people" or not would seem to be dictated only by the luck of the draw, whether we are talking about manifestations of deceased people or visitations by little grey aliens.

dmduncan: “The evidence was outstanding by any standards. For example, I [Zerdini] spoke to my grandfather for nearly 40 minutes.”

I think the problem that most skeptics have with such accounts is that it stretches credulity to believe that such clear-cut, enduring manifestations could occur, almost at will (the will of the materialization medium), and yet never be documented in an undeniable way. If Zerdini can talk to a fully materialized version of his father for 40 minutes, why can't Larry King do it with his deceased father for the hour while the cameras roll, so that the rest of us can see such astonishing evidence, too? Why is the astonishing evidence impossible to capture in a verifiable way like this?

dmduncan: So do not be misled by the word “we” into thinking there exists some central authority in charge of deciding what is real and not real in the world, and then forcing their conclusions on everyone else.

"We" refers to what humanity has established as real via consensus reality. The remainder includes the unreal, but also what is merely possible. So the issue isn't about declaring X, Y, Z as real. It's about declaring A, B, C, and D as real, and nothing that X, Y, Z are not among that list. Perhaps someday they will be, but in the meantime, as a bouncer might say, they're not on the list.

dmduncan: Furthermore, as Richard Wiseman conceded...

I would note that Wiseman may have spoken too carelessly, or been misquoted. (Wiseman told Alex Tsakiris that this was a slight misquote from the reporter.) The reason I suggest this is because the quoted analogy by him immediately after does not support the conclusion you read from his words; namely, Wiseman stated that if he told you that a UFO was parked in his backyard, you'd want solid evidence; but if he told you that a red car was parked in front of his house, testimony alone would be sufficient to convince you (paraphrasing from memory). Since remote viewing is more like the UFO than the red car, I suspect that Wiseman's real meaning has been taken out of context by those eager to claim proof, though ultimately Wiseman himself should be consulted about his meaning.

Zerdini: Maybe they haven't yet found a suitable medium throgh whom they can unambigously communicate!

I can't speak to whether any mediums have come forward claiming to hear from Ian Stevenson (maybe they haven't), but back when Thouless died in 1984, about a hundred mediums claimed to be receiving communications from him (if I recall correctly); and there are transcripts of mediumistic sessions claiming communication with the deceased Susy Smith on Gary Schwartz's website (Google "Remembering Susy Smith's Soul").

Yet despite the fact that all of these people had simple codes to communicate (like a word or two--Thouless evidently used "Black Beauty," as a computer program deciphered one of his ciphers 12 years after his death), and supposedly communicated much more information than two simple words in their other mediumistic communications, they still could not get those two words through.

That makes rather suspicious that any of those communications were genuine, don't you think? How could you say how you were doing on the other side, or how other deceased people were doing, if you could not communicate two simple words? Or how could you not remember them, and yet remember that "Susy Smith" is a name that refers to you, and remember other deceased persons' names that the sitter is asking about? This selective ability to communicate or remember has to strike an impartial observer as rather convenient.

Incidentally, though it's slightly off-topic, not long ago MP said that Mrs. Piper never got caught cheating, but I think that that conclusion relies on a rather loose definition of "cheating." She may have never been caught consulting normal sources of information for the information that she produced that seemed to be of things "no one could have known" in the way that Arthur Ford got caught. However, all investigators agreed that the majority of the time, Piper fished for information and then fed it back to sitters, sometimes long after having fished for it. Is obvious fishing for information (the way a sympathetic observer described it--perhaps William James; I'd have to check), or employing other cold reading techniques, not cheating? One might think that anyone who employs cold reading techniques cannot be trusted (whether that be Piper herself or some alternate personality of hers) not to employ hot reading techniques as well if they were made available to her (or even ESP for those who want to go that route). Cold reading is not something that occurs accidentally--it is a technique designed to elicit information in a subtle enough way as to not give away immediately what you're doing. Someone who does that knows what they are doing. I'd say that counts as cheating, and undermines the credibility of the medium who uses it.

KA wrote: If Zerdini can talk to a fully materialized version of his father for 40 minutes,

This is incorrect. There seems to be a confusion between different seances.

It was not a 'materialized version' of my grandfather in the seance referred to.

My materialization experience took place in Johannesburg, South Africa

The IDV seances took place in England.

I spoke to my grandfather in an Independent Direct Voice seance as indeed I also spoke to my grandmother on another occasion. I also regularly spoke to a 16-year old lad who had died from cancer (his parents were present too).

If Larry King had been around at the time he would have had the same opportunity.

I can't speak to whether any mediums have come forward claiming to hear from Ian Stevenson (maybe they haven't), but back when Thouless died in 1984, about a hundred mediums claimed to be receiving communications from him (if I recall correctly); and there are transcripts of mediumistic sessions claiming communication with the deceased Susy Smith on Gary Schwartz's website (Google "Remembering Susy Smith's Soul").

Maybe there were a hundred people claiming to be mediums but I seriously doubt whether they were really mediums. In the more than fifty years researching this subject I have come across very few who merited that description.

I tried googling the reference you gave re Susy Smith but couldn't find anything.

I disagree with this. Zerdini's first-hand experiences might well have been good enough for skeptics or scientists, if such experiences had occurred to them directly.

Again, I repeat, the opportunity was there if the skeptics and scientists had wanted the experiences.

"Maybe there were a hundred people claiming to be mediums but I seriously doubt whether they were really mediums. In the more than fifty years researching this subject I have come across very few who merited that description." - Zerdini
--------------------------------------------

Speaking of which, I just went to Facebook and became a fan of George Anderson. I've seen him on TV and he's pretty incredible. Perhaps not as charismatic and entertaining as John Edward, but he's an incredible Medium. I'd love to have a reading with him.

Keith said: "Cold reading is not something that occurs accidentally"

Actually it does. Many people perform cold reading without intending to do so, or without perceiving to be doing so. We should be careful when trying to detect the "motivation" and "integrity" of people. (I myself had this very same problem some weeks ago pondering about a certain individual, and I must say it is very hard indeed to come to strong conclusions about the honesty of others, even though I may have rather solid "proof" that the person in question did not act in a very "correct" way...)

Keith again: "That makes rather suspicious that any of those communications were genuine, don't you think? How could you say how you were doing on the other side, or how other deceased people were doing, if you could not communicate two simple words?"

Well, a simple answer (though ad hoc, and as such resetting the research timeline back to time zero) would be that the surviving "personality" (or whatever it is) is most likely also telling incorrect things about how he/she is doing on the other side and also so regarding other deceased mates... One thing that seems pretty true is that communication with the dead, if it indeed exists, is filled with noise. Stephen Braude (in Immortal Remains) calls it garbage, if my memory serves me well. But he also warns the honest reader that valid information still exists inside all this garbage.

Keith more: "However, all investigators agreed that the majority of the time, Piper fished for information and then fed it back to sitters, sometimes long after having fished for it."

I think we are back to statistical issues and totalizing-words problems... Keith, are YOU really SURE that ALL investigators agree that the MAJORITY (50% + 1) of the time, Piper fished etc etc? Waiting for the relevant citations...

Keith: "Is obvious fishing for information (the way a sympathetic observer described it--perhaps William James; I'd have to check), or employing other cold reading techniques, not cheating?"

It may be cheating. If indeed Piper did it (waiting for the relevant citations...), I would tend to think that, in HER case, it was an attempt to cheat (pretty much deliberate and pretty much conscious).

Keith: "One might think that anyone who employs cold reading techniques cannot be trusted (whether that be Piper herself or some alternate personality of hers) not to employ hot reading techniques as well if they were made available to her (or even ESP for those who want to go that route)."

Sure, and we should not trust, too, that this medium would not commune with the dead when given the chance to... So a dishonest medium might resort to cold reading, hot reading, ESP, veridical communication with a deceased individual but not with the correct personality being talked about, and, last but not least, veridical communication with the appropriate deceased individual. All available to the dishonest medium, and all contacted and used by him/her (if souls exist).

Julio

A quote from Wiseman: "I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do."

Keith commented that: "I would note that Wiseman may have spoken too carelessly, or been misquoted. (Wiseman told Alex Tsakiris that this was a slight misquote from the reporter.)... ...
Since remote viewing is more like the UFO than the red car, I suspect that Wiseman's real meaning has been taken out of context by those eager to claim proof, though ultimately Wiseman himself should be consulted about his meaning."

Yes, that is the question. What was Wiseman's real phrase? And, topmost, what does he really think about it? (Let's allow him to produce a well thought-out phrase). The phrase that is attributed to him is, IMO, perfect. It is rational, it is honest (and this alone hints that it is not really his... ;-)), it is scientifically acceptable and cautious.

Julio

Keith said: "Sure. It may well be nomologically impossible for things travelling at less than the speed of light to exceed the speed of light, even if relativity theory is incomplete in various ways."

"No (subluminal) machine might ever be able to exceed light speed, even if we didn't understand the physics prohibiting it from happening."

Keith, we are living in a wondrous time of scientific possibilities, of quantum tunneling events, of wormholes' traversability, of Goedel's CTCs, and you insist on playing the Puritan Materialist sticking to long dead ideas of "things proved impossible by the laws of nature"...! Einstein found or created the theory of general relativity back in 1915. Only in 1949 did Goedel see in this very theory the elements that showed backwards travel in time was possible. For full 39 years, I repeat, 39 Years (!!!), tens and tens of mighty minds meticulously scrutinized this theory and no one, Einstein included, saw this "tiny" loophole!

Play the Moses holding the Laws_of_Nature tables if you will. I will stick to my wariness regarding all that instead...

Julio

Wiseman did clarify his statement. He indicated that he said, or meant to say, that ESP in general has been proven by the standards of ordinary science. He wasn't talking specifically about remote viewing. He seems to have been thinking of the ganzfeld tests.

Source: tiny.cc/fdaoa

How could Mrs. Piper have been deliberately cheating if she was in a trance? She was tested repeatedly to see if her trances were genuine. Nothing could rouse her -- not smelling salts, not pins poking her, not pressure applied to her hand that caused lingering nerve damage for days afterward.

Further, many of the tests conducted on Piper by Hodgson involved proxy sitters, who knew nothing about the deceased persons being contacted. It is impossible to use cold reading on a proxy sitter, since the sitter has no information to be obtained.

Keith's claim that someone who is brought to the ER with a life-threatening medical crisis might be primarily focused on deceiving the AWARE study researchers is, to me, clear evidence that he will always prefer to assume fraud, even in the unlikeliest scenario.

Earlier he reacted with disappointment when I said that his viewpoint logically entails that most people are stupid, delusional, or dishonest, yet what else are we to make of someone who assumes that a dying person in the ER or ICU would be focused on "cheating" on a test (a test that he probably didn't even know about in the first place)? Are people are always trying to put one over on us, even with their dying breath?

Keith says that after-death communications don't produce specific phrases - while ignoring the cases I cited, where highly specific information was conveyed. The R-101 case is another example, and of course there are many more. It's the specificity of some of the information received by mediums that makes mediumship interesting.

I think we've reached an impasse. Keith believes that a spirit world is so unlikely that any alternative hypothesis, no matter how far-fetched, is preferable. I'm not saying his opinions aren't interesting, and I appreciate his taking a considerable amount of time to participate in this thread (and others). But I don't see any point in debating him further, though others are certainly welcome to do so. It's not that it isn't fun and challenging, but after a while it starts to feel a bit pointless, because there's not going to be any meeting of the minds.

Hi Michael,

To be fair I think one has to play Devil's advocate. Keith could easily apply everything you mentioned in your last post about him, such as how there have been problems with mediumship in the past, etc.

I appreciate what Keith has to say at times, but I think Michael is right in that at this point, we're probably not going to reach a consensus anytime soon.

Keith: “I thought it was rather obvious that ‘we’ referred to the bulk of humanity who have not had a personal revelation.”

I wrote for the benefit of those to whom it may not have been as obvious as it was to you.

Keith: “Note that ‘those who have not had personal encounters’ includes far more than skeptics, including those who never give these issues a second thought, and those who believe because of religious indoctrination or because they believe others' testimony to first-hand personal experiences. I only point this out because dmduncan equates ‘those who have not had personal encounters’ with skeptics, when in fact it encompasses far more people than simply outright skeptics.”

Indeed. What I actually wrote was : “His ‘we’ only applies to those who have not had personal encounters such as Zerdini’s, which is really just saying what we already know, i.e., that skeptics have never had such experiences and therefore do not believe in them, while others...”

The “only” in that sentence modifies “those who have not had personal encounters such as Zerdini’s,”

Some of “those” are skeptics and some may be other things.

I then singled out “skeptics,” since they are probably the most vocal opponents of paranormal claims. So I first mentioned a group, “those who have not had personal encounters...” and then a subgroup of that group, who are skeptics.

I did not say skeptics were either the only members of that group, or even that the group did not contain non skeptics, since the rest of that paragraph goes on to note other categories, which I wasn’t interested in being exhaustive about, and which some people other than skeptics clearly belong to without having had experiences of their own: “while others (and what follows is not an exhaustive enumeration of all possible categories of ‘others’) either have had them and do, or accept as credible and accurate, and therefore as real possibilities, certain first person accounts of those who have.”

So. If I had wanted to speak only of skeptics, I would have moved "only" much closer to the word "skeptics."

Keith: “Zerdini's first-hand experiences might well have been good enough for skeptics or scientists, if such experiences had occurred to them directly.”

“So I doubt that skeptics and scientists belong to a different category, other than the category of those who have personally received a revelation, and those who haven't.”

Yes, that is the category I meant that scientists/skeptics who have not had such experiences belong to.

Skeptics and believers who both like to golf may belong to separate categories with regard to what they believe, and the same category with regard to their love of golfing. Thus the word “we” may have very different meanings in the context of the group being discussed at the moment.

Keith: “But whether any given person is among the ‘chosen people’ or not would seem to be dictated only by the luck of the draw, whether we are talking about manifestations of deceased people or visitations by little grey aliens.”

Some of it involves luck, but depending on how much you want to know, you can do things to increase your odds of being “lucky.” But it’s not going to be so easy as testing gravity by dropping a stone.

Keith: “I think the problem that most skeptics have with such accounts is that it stretches credulity to believe that such clear-cut, enduring manifestations could occur, almost at will (the will of the materialization medium), and yet never be documented in an undeniable way. If Zerdini can talk to a fully materialized version of his father for 40 minutes, why can't Larry King do it with his deceased father for the hour while the cameras roll, so that the rest of us can see such astonishing evidence, too? Why is the astonishing evidence impossible to capture in a verifiable way like this?”

Poltergeist activity has been captured. But nothing has been captured that you cannot explain away as fraud or special effects and calling the researchers liars or cheats simply because what they've captured on video is hard to believe.

If we are dealing with disembodied minds, then it’s not like observing the known reaction of two given chemicals in a test tube, which anyone on earth with a cheap chemistry set can perform for himself. We are dealing instead with a disembodied entity with unpredictable behavior, and too little is known about why these things happen when they do to answer those questions.

But they are good questions, and I wish I could give you a clear answer. Maybe someday we’ll know.

Keith: “’We’ refers to what humanity has established as real via consensus reality. The remainder includes the unreal, but also what is merely possible. So the issue isn't about declaring X, Y, Z as real. It's about declaring A, B, C, and D as real, and nothing that X, Y, Z are not among that list. Perhaps someday they will be, but in the meantime, as a bouncer might say, they're not on the list.”

The “remainder” includes a little more than that, Keith. We, i.e., the “chosen people,” and those who believe, belong to a different consensus, forced to belong to such by our experiences and/or our integrity.

Keith: “I would note that Wiseman may have spoken too carelessly, or been misquoted...”

MP may have cleared it up. But whether Wiseman said it about ESP or remote viewing, the most interesting thing about his comment, in the context of whether positive AWARE results would be accepted, is that WISEMAN BELIEVES paranormal x has been proven by any other standard of science, and then Wiseman’s response is to want to move the goal posts farther away for paranormal x than for anything else.

Julio Siqueira: Many people perform cold reading without intending to do so, or without perceiving to be doing so.

Cold reading isn't just shooting the breeze, it is conversation with an aim. Soliciting information by accident is a bit like soliciting money by accident. People solicit because they intend to do so. And it was the believers who investigated Piper directly who described Piper as, in their words, usually "fishing" for information.

Julio Siqueira: ...the surviving "personality" (or whatever it is) is most likely also telling incorrect things about how he/she is doing on the other side and also so regarding other deceased mates.

Well it's about time someone sympathetic to survival acknowledged this here. There have been many posts here about what the afterlife is like based on mediumistic communications. These posts implicitly accept that what mediums say about the afterlife reflects the actual nature of the afterlife (if there be one). But when these very same mediums get facts about this world wrong, or have to use cold reading to find out what sitters are looking for, I have no confidence in their pronouncements about what the other side is like, even if there is an other side. The "good" material is always some small fraction dissected from a larger mass of triviality.

Julio Siqueira: Stephen Braude (in Immortal Remains) calls it garbage, if my memory serves me well. But he also warns the honest reader that valid information still exists inside all this garbage.

An honest reader could not sweep aside the mass of garbage so easily, as if the fact that (say) 99% of Mrs. Piper's material is "garbage" does not undermine the remaining (say) 1% of her "gems." It all comes from the same source, and if the mass of that material is demonstrably untrustworthy for a number of reasons, the remainder that "cannot be explained" becomes rather suspect. Moreover, the features of Piper's mediumship do not scream out "noisy channel" nearly so much as they scream out on-the-spot improvisation.

In the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, M. H. Coleman wrote: "Keen now tacitly acknowledges that Mrs Piper's trance communications contain a good deal of bogus information, but he will not admit that this constitutes a problem. Instead he reiterates those examples that have been repeatedly cited as evidence of her paranormal abilities by a succession of commentators from Dr Hodgson onwards.... Thus it should be remembered that it was not until Professor Hyslop took over the investigation that conversational exchanges taking place in Mrs Piper's presence were recorded; and even these records did not include significant pauses, changes in facial expression, etc., which convey a good deal of information in normal social intercourse. When these sources are supplemented by subconscious cues provided by her sitters, it is not surprising that she could provide them with personal information, most of it probably obtained by her acknowledged 'fishing'."

Commenting on Mrs. Piper's abilities, C. D. Broad (while sympathetic to parapsychology) was not the first person to note that "gems of correct, detailed, and relevant information are nearly always imbedded in an immense matrix of twaddle, vagueness, irrelevance, ignorance, pretension, positive error, and occasional prevarication." Moreover, it has also been pointed out that her most impressive controls vouched for the reality of her obviously made-up ones, such as when the "George Pelham" control was absolutely clear that Phinuit was a real person. This is to say nothing of controls with good old-fashioned American Indian names like "Chlorine." Stephen Braude adds: "So it doesn't require much of a leap to suspect that realistic communicators are likewise creative constructs." (Immortal Remains, p. 34) Alan Gauld (no skeptic) also describes the Piper controls Phinuit, Chlorine, the Imperator group, Julius Caezar, and Sir Walter Scott as clearly inventions of the medium's mind, noting that the last two are "so totally unlike the originals that one can hardly even regard them as impersonations" (Gauld, Mediumship and Survival, p. 114). Gauld also writes:

"Even the most like-like and realistic controls, such as GP, show signs of being impersonations (not deliberate ones). They break down at just the point where Mrs. Piper's own stock of knowledge runs out, viz. when they are required to talk coherently of science, philosophy and literature (which the living GP could readily have done)" (p. 114).

Gauld goes on to talk about a number of other features of the Piper controls, for example, "evidence that the various ostensibly separate controls possessed a common stock of associations, which could hardly have been the case if they had really been separate personalities."

Controls of course offered excuses for their inability to match the intellectual prowess of the once-living persons that they claimed to be. Entering the body of the medium diminishes their intellectual abilities, they said, and yet: "The confusion which obliterates the controls’ grasp of science and philosophy does not prevent them from spouting reams of pompous nonsense upon religious and philosophical topics and presenting it as the profoundest truth, sometimes in the teeth of sitters' queries; so that we have to attribute to them not just confusion but downright tale-spinning, which was certainly not a habit of the purported communicators in life, nor yet of the normal Mrs. Piper" (p. 115).

E. R. Dodds once wrote: "The main points are the shiftiness displayed even by highly veridical communicators like "George Pelham"; their confident statements in cases where they can hardly fail to know that they are lying; the habitual lameness of their attempts to answer direct questions; and above all their acceptance of bogus personalities as genuine spirits..."

I could go on and on with this; such damning evidence is abundant, and reported even by those sympathetic to survival, but not so sympathetic as to be blind to the disturbing features of Mrs. Piper's mediumship.

Julio Siqueira: Sure, and we should not trust, too, that this medium would not commune with the dead when given the chance to... So a dishonest medium might resort to cold reading, hot reading, ESP, veridical communication with a deceased individual but not with the correct personality being talked about, and, last but not least, veridical communication with the appropriate deceased individual.

Surely you realize how absurd this sounds? Would you find it credible if I said to you: Sure, Ed Walters may well have faked his photographs of extraterrestial spaceships in Gulf Breeze, Florida, over and over again, using a model spaceship found by new homebuyers in his former attic that looks remarkably like what is shown in his photographs, but he still may have come in contact with real extraterrestrial spacecraft once in awhile, too! (This is in reference to a real case, BTW.)

Julio Siqueira: Keith, we are living in a wondrous time of scientific possibilities, of quantum tunneling events, of wormholes' traversability, of Goedel's CTCs, and you insist on playing the Puritan Materialist sticking to long dead ideas of "things proved impossible by the laws of nature...

If you want to pretend that nothing is ruled out by laws of nature, Julio, that's your prerogative. But scientists do not think that nothing is ruled out by natural law. They think that the laws we have are not complete. If we had the complete laws, some things would definitely be ruled out as impossible. I gave the example of any subluminal object going faster than the speed of light as something probably ruled out on a complete understanding (some physicists have speculated about ways to get around that barrier, but few have thought violating it directly was possible). Another good example is the possibility of creating a perpetual motion machine. Most physicists think the laws of nature make that impossible. Now, you may disagree with them, but I'd put my money on the people who've actually discovered how natural processes work well enough to make GPS satellites work.

Julio Siqueira: Einstein found or created the theory of general relativity back in 1915. Only in 1949 did Goedel see in this very theory the elements that showed backwards travel in time was possible.

I know of physicists' speculations about how to possibly travel back in time with rotating black holes and so on. But they think it possible because the laws themselves allow such loopholes. If the laws of nature did not permit something, like violations of the speed of light limit, or the violation of conservation laws by imagined perpetual motion machines, then it would literally take a miracle to make those kinds of things happen.

Julio Siqueira: Play the Moses holding the Laws_of_Nature tables if you will.

Call it what you will, but those "tablets" are what make global positioning systems possible. Why do you accept GPS data, given the possibility that no laws of nature mandate anything?

You might literally believe that anything is possible, but I don't see you jumping off a hundred-story building and flapping your arms because it's "possible" you might be able to fly. Not without putting a parachute or jetpack on, anyway...

MP: Wiseman did clarify his statement. He indicated that he said, or meant to say, that ESP in general has been proven by the standards of ordinary science. He wasn't talking specifically about remote viewing. He seems to have been thinking of the ganzfeld tests.

Yes, that's interesting. But it doesn't speak to what Wiseman meant by his quote, whether he was talking about ESP in general or RV in particular. The analogy used by Wiseman himself, quoted by the reporter, does speak to his meaning. Paranormal believers like to focus on the former while ignoring the latter quoted statement. Why did no one ask Wiseman what he meant by his example and "the usual standards of science?" He might have pointed out that by the usual standards of science, saccharin was once thought to cause bladder cancer, though that is in doubt now. If he meant something like that, there is nothing paradigm-shattering about his comments, even if those eager to shatter paradigms quoted his original comment without ever acknowledging his (potential) clarification.

In short, in order to know what Wiseman meant, you'd have to ask him to explain his comments.

MP: How could Mrs. Piper have been deliberately cheating if she was in a trance? She was tested repeatedly to see if her trances were genuine. Nothing could rouse her -- not smelling salts, not pins poking her, not pressure applied to her hand that caused lingering nerve damage for days afterward.

As I said before, "whether that be Piper herself or some alternate personality of hers." Even parapsychologists acknowledge that deception was involved; when they don't attribute it to Piper's conscious mind (as Martin Gardner did), they attribute it to her subconscious impersonation personalities that emerged in her trance state. Few parapsychologists who've investigated Piper concluded that she was communicating with actual spirits, and for good reason. Her "controls" have the features that creations of her own mind would have, and that external spirits would not have.

MP: Keith's claim that someone who is brought to the ER with a life-threatening medical crisis might be primarily focused on deceiving the AWARE study researchers is, to me, clear evidence that he will always prefer to assume fraud, even in the unlikeliest scenario.

This is not a fair characterization. I said that in order to count as scientific evidence, the experiment would have to control for such possibilities. When Jan Holden, who believes in veridical paranormal perception, says this, do you characterize her as always "prefer[ing] to assume fraud, even in the unlikeliest scenario"?

It doesn't matter what I or Gerald Woerlee or Charles Tart or anyone else says. Why do you make this an issue about personalities? If controlled experiments demonstrate X to be real, then they do so regardless of what anyone says.

And if an experiment does not demonstrate X to be real, because it doesn't get results or is poorly controlled, then it does not demonstrate it regardless of what anyone says. Tart's experiment with Miss Z left veridical OBE perception an open question because it was not well controlled. Imagine how much more useful that experiment would've been if it HAD been well controlled.

This is what objectivity means. The experimental results speak for themselves. No spin, one way or the other, is needed. Either an experiment provides conclusive results, or it doesn't. Why would anyone defend poorly controlling experiments? Why would you not want an experiment to be set up to provide conclusive results? Do you actually object to such experiments having controls that rule out such possibilities in the first place? The rationale for this is no different than that for double blinding. If that is not objectionable, why is controlling NDE target identification experiments objectionable?

Don't you want to know that it's real, rather than merely believe that it is?!

The whole point of doing controlled experiments is to provide scientific evidence. Is it wrong to want scientific evidence for X? Is one morally deficient for not believing X on less than scientific evidence, whether X is "black holes exist" or "veridical paranormal perception occurs in NDEs"? That's what gets me about a lot of believers. They get pissed off that I don't believe what they do, when I never told them that they could not believe. My reasons are my own. I want to be sure, to know scientifically, before I assent to treating something with the confidence of a known fact. Why is that so objectionable? If you do not want to do so, to each his own. But that epistemological stance has worked well for us for the last 400 years; it made possible the very computer you are using. If you accept the fruits of technology, you probably also ought to accept the science that made it possible.

MP: Earlier he reacted with disappointment when I said that his viewpoint logically entails that most people are stupid, delusional, or dishonest, yet what else are we to make of someone who assumes that a dying person in the ER or ICU would be focused on "cheating" on a test (a test that he probably didn't even know about in the first place)?

None of this has anything to do with my or anyone else's viewpoint. This is how science is done. Experiments are controlled so that their results actually signify something that one can have confidence in.

When Jan Holden says that controlled tests are needed to establish this scientifically, is that because she recognizes what science requires, or because she assumes "that most people are stupid, delusional, or dishonest"? Seriously: What's the difference between when she says it, and when I say it? Why must I do the latter rather than the former? An inability to answer such a simple question points to pure prejudice: because she's personally convinced, and I am not, and you don't like skeptics. The facts about what science requires remain the same, regardless of personal conviction for or against.

MP: But I don't see any point in debating him further, though others are certainly welcome to do so.

It's your choice to debate me or not. But the larger scientific debate remains. And it will not be resolved until scientific evidence, such as controlled experimental evidence, resolves it. If I never wrote another word, that debate would remain. Stevenson recognized this when he created his combination lock test. Parnia recognized this when he went out of his way to see AWARE through. That's why I presume that Parnia would actually make sure that his experiment was controlled. Tart didn't, and nothing changed. It's not about me at all. It's about what counts as scientific evidence, and those standards were set by the same scientific communities that required double-blinded drug trials long before I was born, and will continue to require them long after I'm dead.

Zerdini: I tried googling the reference you gave re Susy Smith but couldn't find anything.

Sorry, I said it from memory. It was actually "Celebrating Susy Smith's Soul."

John C, April 4:

Hi, sorry for the belated response. When I picked "believing in fairies" I was just taking one of the standard taunts some atheists use when they dismiss belief in any sort of spirit or deity. It could as easily have been the Easter Bunny, Santa (usually misspelt "Clause", sigh) or whatever. I have no particular belief or disbelief regarding the sort of spirits that might be labelled "fairies" - it was the use of the term by atheists I had in mind. Some of them seem to resent the notion of anyone believing in anything outside a laboratory!

Cheers,
Louise

"Well it's about time someone sympathetic to survival acknowledged this here. There have been many posts here about what the afterlife is like based on mediumistic communications. These posts implicitly accept that what mediums say about the afterlife reflects the actual nature of the afterlife (if there be one). But when these very same mediums get facts about this world wrong, or have to use cold reading to find out what sitters are looking for, I have no confidence in their pronouncements about what the other side is like, even if there is an other side. The "good" material is always some small fraction dissected from a larger mass of triviality."

Interesting, Keith, because I attended a reading last week that was just like that. I don't know if the mediums (media, lol?) were doing a fairly ordinary job of cold reading, or just lacked confidence in what they were getting. Most of it I felt very dubious about; it had some classic cold-reading elements (common names called, questions asked, and so on). But much to my surprise, one of them focussed on me, and did say some things she can't have known - for instance, that I have changed my name, and she said, correctly, the first two letters of my original name. There were one or two other things as well, though again, I'd have been happier if she'd just said them straight out instead of wanting information first, because she did then raise the element of doubt about whether she was genuinely passing on messages, or making very astute guesses.

There's also the matter of assumptions. When I told them at the end that the person speaking crossed over in 1643, they nodded wisely about reincarnation. I don't believe in reincarnation* and my soulmate (the one doing the talking) has said bluntly that it doesn't exist. So nothing he would have said then would have given the mediums reason to bring it up; it was their assumptions coming into play. (I do channelled writing with my man and he's discussed this at length.)

*apart from reintarnation of course, where one's reborn as a hillbilly ...

KA:

Zerdini: I tried googling the reference you gave re Susy Smith but couldn't find anything.

Sorry, I said it from memory. It was actually "Celebrating Susy Smith's Soul."

Thanks for the reference, Keith.

Good job you weren't communicating from the 'Other Side'.

I could have blamed the memory lapse on the medium!!

Just kidding, Keith.

Keith: And it was the believers who investigated Piper directly who described Piper as, in their words, usually "fishing" for information. (...) Even parapsychologists acknowledge that deception was involved; when they don't attribute it to Piper's conscious mind (as Martin Gardner did), they attribute it to her subconscious impersonation personalities that emerged in her trance state.

Well, extracted from "A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1889-1890, 6, 436-659. Frederic W. H. Myers, Oliver J. Lodge, Walter Leaf and William James.

And first we have the hypothesis of fishery on the part of Dr. Phinuit, as distinguished from trickery on the part of Mrs. Piper. I mean a system of ingenious fishing: the utilisation of trivial indications, of every intimation, audible, tactile, muscular, and of little shades of manner too indefinable to name; all these excited in the sitter by skilful guesses and well-directed shots, and their nutriment extracted with superhuman cunning.
Now this hypothesis is not one to be lightly regarded, or ever wholly set aside. I regard it as, to a certain extent, a vera causa. At times Dr. Phinuit does fish. Occasionally he guesses; and sometimes he ekes out the scantiness of his information from the resources of a lively imagination.

Whenever his supply of information is abundant there is no sign of the fishing process.

At other times it is as if he were in a difficult position,—only able to gain information from very indistinct or inaudible sources, and yet wishful to convey as much information as possible. The attitude is then as of one straining after every clue, and making use of the slightest indication, whether received in normal or abnormal ways: not indeed obviously distinguishing between information received from the sitter and information received from other sources.

The fishing process is most marked when Mrs. Piper herself either is not feeling well or is tired. Dr. Phinuit seems to experience more difficulty then in obtaining information; and when he does not fish he simply draws upon his memory and retails old facts which he has told before, occasionally with additions of his own which do not improve them. His memory seems to be one of extraordinary tenacity and exactness, but not of infallibility; and its lapses do introduce error, both of defect and excess.

He seems to be under some compulsion not to be silent. Possibly the trance would cease if he did not exert himself. At any rate he chatters on, and one has to discount a good deal of conversation which is obviously, and sometimes confessedly, introduced as a stop-gap.

He is rather proud of his skill, and does not like to be told he is wrong ; but when he waxes confidential he admits that he is not infallible : “ he does the best he can,” he says, but sometimes “ everything seems dark to him,” and then he flounders and gropes, and makes mistakes.

It is not to be supposed that this floundering is always most conspicuous in presence of a stranger. On the contrary, if he is in good form he will rattle off a stranger’s connections pretty glibly, being indeed sometimes oppressed with the rush and volume of the information available; while, if he is in bad trim, he will fish and retail stale news (especially the latter) to quite an old hand, and one who does not scruple to accuse him of his delinquencies when they become conspicuous.

This fallibility is unfortunate, but I don’t know that we should expect anything else ; anyhow it is not a question of what we expect, but of what we get. If it were a question of what I for one had expected, the statement of it would not be worth the writing.

Personally I feel sure that Phinuit can hardly help this fishing process at times. He does the best he can, but it would be a great improvement if, when he realises that conditions are unfavourable, he would say so and hold his peace. I have tried to impress this upon him, with the effect that he is sometimes confidential, and says that he is having a bad time; but after all he probably knows his own business best, because it has several times happened that after half an hour of more or less worthless padding, a few minutes of valuable lucidity have been attained.

I have laid much stress upon this fishery hypothesis because it is a fact to be taken into consideration, because it is occasionally an unfortunately conspicuous fact, and because of its deterrent effect on a novice to whom that aspect is first exposed.

But in thus laying stress I feel that I am producing an erroneous: and misleading impression of proportion. I have spoken of a few minutes’ lucidity to an intolerable deal of padding as an occasional experience, but in the majority of the sittings held in my presence the converse proportion better represents the facts.

I am familiar with muscle-reading and other simulated “ thought-transference “ methods, and prefer to avoid contact whenever it is possible to get rid of it without too much fuss. Although Mrs. Piper always held somebody’s hand while preparing to go into the trance, she did not always continue to hold it when speaking as Phinuit. She did usually hold the hand of the person she was speaking to, but was often satisfied for a time with some other person’s, sometimes talking right across a room to and about a stranger, but preferring them to come near. On several occasions she let go of everybody, for half-hours together, especially when fluent and kept well supplied with “ relics.”

I have now to assert with entire confidence that, pressing the ingenious-guessing and unconscious-indication hypothesis to its utmost limit, it can only be held to account for a very few of Dr. Phinuit’s statements.

It cannot in all cases be held to account for medical diagnoses, afterwards confirmed by the regular practitioner.

It cannot account for minute and full details of names, circumstances, and events, given to a cautious and almost silent sitter, sometimes without contact.

And, to take the strongest case at once, it cannot account for the narration of facts outside the conscious knowledge of the sitter or of any person present.

Rejecting the fishery hypothesis, then, as insufficient to account for many of the facts, we are driven to the only remaining known cause in order to account for them:—viz., thought-transference, or the action of mind on mind independently of the ordinary channels of communication. Whether “ thought-transference“ be a correct term to apply to the process I do not pretend to decide. That is a question for psychologists.

Keith: Few parapsychologists who've investigated Piper concluded that she was communicating with actual spirits, and for good reason. Her "controls" have the features that creations of her own mind would have, and that external spirits would not have.

Still, almost all concluded she had paranormal abilities. The discussion was only the source of information: spirits or telepathy?

http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Psychical_Research

For the same reasons the information nominally given by " spirits " of the dead through the mouth or by the automatic writing of Mrs Piper (Boston, U.S.) and other mediums may be explained by telepathy from the living who know the facts. This theory was rejected, for example, in the case of Mrs Piper, by Myers and Dr Richard Hodgson, who devoted much time to the examination of the lady (see Proceedings, vols. vi., viii., xiii., xiv., with criticisms by Mrs Sidgwick and the present writer in vol. xv. pt. xxxvi). In the late Dr Hodgson's opinion, the dead do communicate through the automatic writing or speaking of Mrs Piper. The published evidence (much is unpublished) does not seem to justify the conclusion, which is not accepted by Mrs Piper herself! Dr J. H. Hyslop has published enormous and minute reports on Mrs Piper, convincing to himself but not to most readers.

Best wishes.

Just to conclude my part in this already overlong conversation ...

Was Mrs. Piper a fraud? Keith seems to think so. He thinks she was using cold reading, and maybe hot reading (advance research) too. But consider these facts:

Private detectives were hired to follow Piper and intercept her mail, in case she was colluding with accomplices. No deception was found. Piper traveled to England, a country she had never visited, and was kept under virtual house arrest, while sitting with Englishmen she had never met, who were introduced to her under false names. She continued to produce evidential results.

In Boston, she often sat with sitters from out of town who arrived unannounced, using pseudonyms or no names at all. At other times, she sat with proxy sitters who knew nothing of the deceased people she was contacting and therefore could not unwittingly convey any information about them.

She worked with researchers on an almost daily basis for 20 years, receiving minimal compensation, far less than she could have earned as a working medium. She was literally poked and prodded and even injured by investigators seeking to rouse her from trance; none succeeded.

The people who worked with her day in and day out, including William James, vouched for her honesty. James said he would stake his reputation as a judge of character on Mrs. Piper's honesty.

But Keith says she was doing advance research (on anonymous, unannounced visitors?) and using cold reading (while in a deep trance, talking to proxy sitters?).

Keith seems to simply make up the figure that only one percent of Piper's communications were evidential. Why not 0.073963%, if we're pulling numbers out of the air? If Piper's messages were really 99% junk, would people as prominent as William James have spent so much time on her? If only 1% of her messages were accurate, how could she ever have developed a reputation as a medium in the first place? (And see Vitor's highly relevant comment directly above, which puts the lie to the claim that even the bare majority - much less 99% - of Piper's information was gibberish.)

Now, maybe extreme suspicion of someone claiming to have mediumistic abilities is justified. But how about extreme suspicion of the average person on the street?

When the average Joe is wheeled into a hospital suffering from a life-threatening medical crisis, Keith would have us believe that he is already scheming of ways of undermine the AWARE study. This patient, who is sick or injured to the point where he will be near death before long, is expected to know what the AWARE study is, and to know that this particular hospital is participating, and to have the motivation, stamina, and opportunity to sneak a peek at pictures hidden out of reach near the ceiling. He then slyly keeps his subterfuge to himself until he conveniently suffers a cardiac arrest and is resuscitated. Having survived this brush with death, naturally his first thought is that he can put one over on the gullible researchers by telling them that he had a veridical NDE.

Sure. Human psychology works just like that.

(And remember that the AWARE study is a large project, so if it does yield evidence of veridical perception, the evidence will involve many separate cases, meaning that not just one patient but many would have to behave this way.)

Why is this an issue about personalities? It's not because I'm trying to take cheap shots, though I can see how it could look that way. The fact is, this degree of near universal mistrust is an issue of personality. No experimenter can ever design an experiment that will rule out every speculative, groundless objection. It is impossible in principle. It simply cannot be done. Keith may very well believe that he only wants a well-designed experiment, but no experiment can ever satisfy his objections, because his objections are not grounded in the real world of real human experience. If even moribund patients in the ICU can scheme to deceive Keith with their last breath, then no one can be trusted, anywhere, ever, and no experiment that involves human beings can ever be deemed reliable.

That's why I think it's unproductive to continue this discussion, though others are certainly welcome to do so. Keith's view of human nature is so contrary to my own that we simply have no common ground to stand on.

Nevertheless, it's been an interesting conversation and certainly one of the longer and more substantive threads in this blog's history (and perhaps the thread will continue). Again, I want to thank Keith for taking a great deal of his own time to participate. We just don't see eye to eye on human nature. I think this psychological difference, rather than any dispute about philosophy or method, is at the heart of our disagreement, and it's not the kind of issue that can be resolved by more debate.

Okay, I'm worn out and all done on this thread. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves ...

Julio: What was Wiseman's real phrase? And, topmost, what does he really think about it?

He explained this in Alex Tsakiris' interview:

http://www.skeptiko.com/rupert-sheldrake-and-richard-wiseman-clash/

"Alex Tsakiris: Okay. I think that’s going to roll right into the next question I have. I have one question for each of you and then I want to give each of you a chance to respond like we just did. So, Dr. Wiseman, let’s start with you again. Here’s a quote that I think has generated quite a bit of stir and let’s drill into it a little bit. This is you being quoted in the UK’s Daily Mail: “I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven. That begs the question do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal?”

Then you went on in a subsequent interview and further refined that by saying: “That’s a slight misquote because I was using the term in more of a general sense of ESP. That is, I was not talking about remote viewing per se, but rather Ganzfeld, etc. as well. I think that they do meet the usual standards for a normal claim but are not convincing enough for an extraordinary claim.”

Now, I think you can see where I’m going with this, but in a most recent article in the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, titled, “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose,” you begin with: “After more than 60 years of experimentation, researchers have failed to reach a consensus about psi.”

I guess the question is this. Aren’t these two quotes of yours really at odd? I mean, if parapsychology research has really brought us to the point of proving psychic abilities by the standards of any other area of science, isn’t that quite an achievement? And shouldn’t we be really commending that accomplishment? I’m sure you’re going to have a lot to say about that, so dig into it in any way you like.

Dr. Richard Wiseman: First of all, I do actually commend parapsychologists. I count myself as a parapsychologist and carry out that research. That is, I was very much part of that community, not so much now. I do commend them for doing the research and doing it in a systematic way and attempting to be as scientific as possible. That has led us to a basic place which is messy in many ways.

But if you take the general ESP claim, which might include Ganzfeld and some of the other ESP paradigms as well, I think it’s true - I don’t know there’s any kind of objective way that could be measuring this, but my feeling is if that were a claim about the effect of alcohol on memory, then we’d go, yeah, there’s probably something to it. But the claim here is far more radical than that. It would lead to a massive shift within science. It would overturn most of what we know within psychology. I don’t know about other areas, but certainly within psychology. So for me the evidential bar, as it were, needs to be much higher than that.

I sometimes say to people it’s a bit like if I say, “Outside there on the road there’s a car,” you’d go, “Well, fine. I don’t feel the need to go outside and look at the car.”

If I say, “Well, it’s a spaceship,” then you might think, ‘Well, actually I do want to look at that. You know, an alien spacecraft.”

I say, “Yeah, it’s an alien spacecraft.”

Well, you wouldn’t take my word for it. You’d go outside. You’d require a higher level of evidence. And I think that parapsychologists by not far from 100 years of research have failed to come up with that level of evidence. It’s not to say they couldn’t in the future, but to me there just hasn’t been the level of progress that you would expect given the amount of work that’s been put in. So the article was really about how we might try to push that forward and try and get some closure, i.e., can we produce the level of evidence one would need, and if not, do we agree not to carry on with the endeavor?"

I would like to thank Keith for responding so thoroughly to my ideas on naturalism. My brain doesn't really work at the speed of an internet blog or forum, and I don't really like to make arguments or defend views that I have not thought through very carefully. So I will study a little more... and maybe in the future I will have some more developed thoughts on the issue.

I hate when I forgot to close the tag. Michael, can you do something about this?

Italics off. :-)

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