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In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Discussions about the James Randi Educational Foundation and its Million Dollar Challenge.

Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 24 Nov 2011, 14:25

Craig, if we all have similar brains, and our brain is hardwired in a way to see patterns, fill in the blanks of memory, perception, hardwired to see the snake in the grass, etc. then we should not be surprised that certain experiences happen and that people have similar perceptions. And we should not be surprised when their perception is incorrect.

No matter what there is something interesting going on with these experiences. But given how little we know about key components of these experiences, most notably how conciousness itself works - we can see how people can get it wrong. Indeed how everyone can get it wrong. We don't know how conciousness works at present so its possible that we all have it wrong. Again, that's why its a poor logical argument. And its difficult to even calculate the stats. No one knows how conciousness works and until we do (whether its material or not) then it puts in doubt any hypothesis on these topics.

(sorry, its late, I'm tired, I know I didn't express myself well there but I'm going to leave it. Might be confusing.)
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 24 Nov 2011, 23:23

craig weiler wrote:Oh for Christ's sake! Do the math. Any single person's experience might be explained away. When you're talking about billions of people though, you cannot statistically explain that away. The chance that they are all wrong is so infinitesimally small as to be non existent for all practical purposes.

All I'm arguing for here is the power of extremely large numbers. All of the arguments I've seen put forth do not apply here because they cannot possibly hold up statistically when applied over billions of people. . . unless you can demonstrate your case with actual evidence.

CW, I've asked you before but was ignored. Please be more specific as to your "billions of people" rationale. Billions of people have experienced what? Have billions read minds, talked to the dead, fortold the future, experienced deja vu', or just what. You are using that statement quite hapazardly and personally, I'm not sure it's appropriate but would like to see what reference you are using to help me determine if it's a valid statement. Thanks.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 25 Nov 2011, 04:06

CW, I've asked you before but was ignored. Please be more specific as to your "billions of people" rationale. Billions of people have experienced what? Have billions read minds, talked to the dead, fortold the future, experienced deja vu', or just what.


Pretty much any psi experience you care to name. We're talking about a LOT of people here and the range of experiences is quite wide. From mundane things like prayer or knowing what your spouse is thinking to the exotic stuff like poltergeists and spoon bending and out of body experiences.

It isn't so important what the experience was as it is that people have defined these experiences as psychic in some manner. The vast majority however, are going to fall into the categories of precognition, telepathy and clairvoyance.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 25 Nov 2011, 22:52

craig weiler wrote:
CW, I've asked you before but was ignored. Please be more specific as to your "billions of people" rationale. Billions of people have experienced what? Have billions read minds, talked to the dead, fortold the future, experienced deja vu', or just what.


Pretty much any psi experience you care to name. We're talking about a LOT of people here and the range of experiences is quite wide. From mundane things like prayer or knowing what your spouse is thinking to the exotic stuff like poltergeists and spoon bending and out of body experiences.

It isn't so important what the experience was as it is that people have defined these experiences as psychic in some manner. The vast majority however, are going to fall into the categories of precognition, telepathy and clairvoyance.

Thank you for answering my question. Unfortunately then, your statement of "billions of people" doesn't hold water with me and I hope you stop using that fallacy in your argument. Precognition, telepathy, clairvoyance, poltergeists, spoon bending, OBE, and a variety of other paranormal experiences are all different. If you would like to use a percentage such as "15% of the world's population have experienced telepathy" then that's one thing (I just made that number up--didn't look up what it actually is). But grouping those that have experienced telepathy with those that can bend a spoon are like grouping apples with rump roast. You could easily say millions of people have seen a cryptid. But does that mean that seeing Bigfoot makes the Loch Ness Monster real? No, not at all. You can't compare the two just as you can't say telepathy is real because billions of people have experienced telepahty, spoon bending, OBEs, ghosts, clairvoyance. Perhaps spoon bending is real, but OBEs aren't and so on. Hopefully, you get the picture.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 25 Nov 2011, 23:56

I didn't expect you, or any other skeptic to understand. This sort of reasoning seems to be an especially weak area for skeptics in general. It's an inability to see the big picture. You and most skeptics I have encountered have a need to focus on individual details.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 26 Nov 2011, 01:00

Yes. It's because it is the details that are important. The reason is that we are error-prone individuals with flawed perceptions. We are hardwired to spot patterns. And sometimes those patterns don't actually exist. To figure it out demands looking at the details, otherwise you are refusing to recognize our cognitive biases.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 26 Nov 2011, 06:41

No, Arouet,
Yes, details are important. That's why if you're going to hypothesize that billions of people are mistaken about their experiences you have got to show why. In detail. You, know, prove it.

So go ahead, show me the proof that these people are all wrong. It should be fairly obvious since this is so common. Proof, not theories.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 26 Nov 2011, 06:57

Craig, I'm not sure if you're being serious or not. You're asking me to debunk billions of hypothetical people. Worse, you're asking me to debunk hypothetical anecdotes about these hypothetical billions of people. And all we can do with these anecdotal stories is speculate, since we have absolutely no information.

We know that one person can be wrong about their psi abilities. Logically that means everyone can be wrong. The only way you can get to probabilities that some of them must be right is to establish that psi is real. Therefore you can't use their belief about psi as a premise in trying to prove psi. It's question begging.

Much better to deal with the actual studies of these potential phenomena and see what kind of consensus arises from them. But you don't want to talk about those. And I'm not saying I'm an expert on them either. I get lost in the stats too. The advantage of a forum is that you have a diverse group of people looking at it.

I still think voluntary OBE's is the simplest and cheapest way to prove to a very high degree of confidence that the mind is capable of existing outside of the brain. You've got one experiment in the 60s that apparently did it. Then the matter was all but dropped. Incredible. If I knew that that was possible and was a parapsychologist, and that there were people out there who claimed to do veridical obes, I'm not sure I could rest until I'd found a few people who could very simply demonstrate that psi is real.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 26 Nov 2011, 09:44

We know that one person can be wrong about their psi abilities. Logically that means everyone can be wrong.


Right there. That's your mistake. That is bad logic.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 26 Nov 2011, 10:41

craig weiler wrote:
We know that one person can be wrong about their psi abilities. Logically that means everyone can be wrong.


Right there. That's your mistake. That is bad logic.


Is there some sort of logical impossibility that precludes it? Which part of my premises or conclusions are wrong? I'll set it out more clearly:

P1. one person can be wrong about their psi abilities
P2. more than one person can be wrong about their psi abilities
C. therefore: it is possible that everyone is wrong about their psi abilities
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 26 Nov 2011, 12:12

P1 One person can be wrong about their psi abilities

P2 More than one person can be wrong about their psi abilities, however, the chance that everyone is wrong about their abilities becomes less and less likely as the number of people grows larger.

C. While it is not statistically impossible that everyone is wrong about their psi abilities, the number of people we're talking about is in the billions, making it very, very close to impossible that all those people are wrong.

That is to say unless you can demonstrate conclusively that some sort of psychological process is at work. Numbers this large demand a clear explanation.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 26 Nov 2011, 12:51

What you've just done, again, is set out the fallacy of appeal to population. We're back to square one. It's a fallacy. You have to establish the underlying reality of psi before you can apply your argument. I agree that if we accept that psi is real, then the more people that believe they use it, the more likely someone is correct about it. Your problem is that you're using their belief as evidence of psi - it's begging the question and a fallacy.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 26 Nov 2011, 18:19

craig weiler wrote:C. While it is not statistically impossible that everyone is wrong about their psi abilities, the number of people we're talking about is in the billions, making it very, very close to impossible that all those people are wrong.


As you, yourself, pointed out just a couple posts ago, we're not talking about "billions" so why do you keep bringing it up?
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 26 Nov 2011, 23:19

We are talking about billions, where did you get the impression that we aren't?
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby really? » 27 Nov 2011, 01:46

Begging the question fallacy That's the second fallacy he's used twice before.
you know CW you remind me of particular people on the JREF forum and Bad Astronomy forum that express their point of view with such absolute certainty they think everyone else is wrong.

CW just in case you don't know why you might are wrong to use the fallacy argument ad numerum here's why.
Argumentum ad numerum (argument or appeal to numbers). This fallacy is the attempt to prove something by showing how many people think that it's true. But no matter how many people believe something, that doesn't necessarily make it true or right. Example: "At least 70% of all Americans support restrictions on access to abortions." Well, maybe 70% of Americans are wrong!

Begging the question is no better. You assume the conclusion of your argument because no other conclusion is permitted.
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