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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 » 29 Nov 2011, 04:15

I haven't looked too much into blackmore's stuff, I know other have. She's not very popular among the proponent crowd that's for sure.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 29 Nov 2011, 04:26

ProfWag,
If you're hanging your hat on Blackmore, you should know that people have dug into her studies and found that

1. She had about two years of experience, not ten and her experiments were regarded as being of relatively poor quality for the most part.
2. She also had trouble setting proper parameters and when this was done, her experiments showed some evidence of psi.
3. She has admitted that her experiments were not of sufficient quality and should not be used as evidence either way.
4. She has admitted that based on the evidence, psi is a possibility.

You can find this information in the book Parapsychology and the Skeptics, by Chris Carter.

And yes, I'm interested in psychology studies in this area. Any sort, including skeptical.
A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 29 Nov 2011, 19:51

craig weiler wrote:ProfWag,
If you're hanging your hat on Blackmore, you should know that people have dug into her studies and found that

1. She had about two years of experience, not ten and her experiments were regarded as being of relatively poor quality for the most part.
2. She also had trouble setting proper parameters and when this was done, her experiments showed some evidence of psi.
3. She has admitted that her experiments were not of sufficient quality and should not be used as evidence either way.
4. She has admitted that based on the evidence, psi is a possibility.

You can find this information in the book Parapsychology and the Skeptics, by Chris Carter.

And yes, I'm interested in psychology studies in this area. Any sort, including skeptical.

I don't hang my hat on any one person or one experiment. My Blackmore reference was off the top of my head. Most researchers agree that psi is a possibility. Most also agree (including Radin and Schwartz) that it hasn't been verified yet.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Jayhawker30 » 29 Nov 2011, 20:26

Don't sweat it, Prof. I verified it.

My mom says I'm a really honest guy, so you can trust me.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby TSM » 20 Feb 2012, 12:03

Hi all,

New to the forum, and thought I would throw my hat in the ring.

I've read and had discussions of this type for many years, and am familiar with many methods used to avoid the horns of a dilemma, or to create them if required. For me, it is an exercise in critical thinking more than it is a belief in either 'side' of a discussion.

I note that there has been a lot of discussion in this thread about evidence to support the observations or experiences of individuals, and what faith we can have in any conclusions reached through observations or experiences. The problem I see is that a paradigm must exist in which this dilemma can exist.

In this case, terms like evidence and proof are being bandied about, so let me select the scientific method as a paradigm for this particular dilemma (yes, this is a choice, with all it's inherent strengths and weaknesses). The Wikipedia article on this is not bad, so I'll leave it to be researched separately.

A little mind experiment is useful to demonstrate what happens when we apply the scientific method to the observations or experiences of individuals. In this experiment, we have a room with a single window. When I look through the window, I see an elephant. To me, this experience is entirely real, tactile, and is the truth. I will be comfortable to make future decisions based on my knowledge that the room contains an elephant. For example, I might call a friend over to also look at the elephant, and I won't worry that I will be ridiculed for seeing things which are not there.

If we consider the law of gravity, it has basically the same proponents - that I believe it to be true so entirely that I will not leap off tall buildings (even if offered $1,000,000) because I believe that the consequences will be dire. Does this mean that gravity is true, a fact? Look at the changes to the law of gravity made from Newton via Einstein to Hawkins and you might start to wonder, but nothing changes my decision not to jump off buildings. Am I missing out on easy money?

Part of the purpose of the scientific method is to eliminate the necessity of performing the observations ourselves, but provide enough evidence that we can comfortably make decisions, based on the conclusions of other people following the same method. For example, I have never ingested mercury or cyanide, nor do I know anyone who has, however, there have been enough scientific observations made of people who have that I am satisfied that it is not a good idea, and would not do so, even if offered $1,000,000, because I believe that the consequences will be dire.

OK, so we have defined a bit of a paradigm for ourselves. What of it?

CW has advocated that billions of people have experienced PSI. OK, so be it, who am I to argue whether that statement is true or not? I haven't done any studies or conducted any research. How does this information help me make decisions? If someone who claims to have psychic abilities foresees my future, and tells me that I will be injured in a car accident next time I drive to work, I will more than likely dismiss the warning, and drive to work the next time I am required to. Why? Because I have not seen nor heard of enough evidence to support the ability to foresee the future. In fact, I am willing to bet my life against the $40 it might cost me in a cab that there is no basis to the warning, and that I will be safe to drive to work. If I arrive safely, I will add that to the list of reasons to ignore psychic fortune-telling in the future. If am injured, then I will add it to the list of reasons to listen to psychic fortune-telling in the future. So far, the list on the negative is far longer. As with gravity, is this now the truth? Obviously not, but it will influence my decisions.

I also won't waste $1.30 a minute ringing the Psychic hotline, or 5 minutes of my day reading horoscopes. Why?

Billions of people may have experienced PSI - I wonder how many would make life changing decisions based on those experiences? Certainly some people do - just look at religion through the ages - but while those people continue to make differing and contradicting life choices, I wonder about the underlying reasoning for doing so. The experiences of PSI differ so widely and result in contradictory conclusions and as such, provide no basis for me to take action. I can't disprove the experiences, how could I, but if we can't find a way to sort the 'true' experience from the 'imagined' experience with some sort of reliable test, then listening to psychic experiences is as useful as reading drug store fiction.

You won't find many people jumping off 10 storey buildings - even if a massive prize is offered. It seems everyone's experience of gravity is in line with the scientific one.

So, yes, billions of people may have experienced PSI, and billions may have experienced gravity, but the outcomes, conclusions and behaviours are somewhat different. If even 100 people in the world openly ignored the laws of gravity and lived happy lives, I would have grave doubts about our understanding of gravity too. Until that happens...
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby NinjaPuppy » 27 Mar 2012, 08:13

Excellent post. Welcome to the forum.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 27 Mar 2012, 20:42

I agree with Ninja, it was a good post. Not much more than that to say...
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby RideTheWalrus » 31 Mar 2012, 16:38

You know, I have found that skeptics will deny great amounts of anecdotal evidence because 'they could be lying', or 'they could be mistaken', etc... so my question to those who try to hold the million dollar challenge up as evidence against the paranormal is simple. Why is Randi above this kind of skepticism?

To be an open minded skeptic, one must apply skepticism to both sides. If you dismiss the anecdotal because they could be lying, then I find it hypocritical to not dismiss Randi and his challenge. He might be lying too when he says he wants to find the truth.

To believe the million dollar challenge to be evidence of anything one has to assume that Randi genuinely wants to find the truth. The fact is that he might simply want to block the truth from coming out.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 31 Mar 2012, 18:16

RideTheWalrus wrote:You know, I have found that skeptics will deny great amounts of anecdotal evidence because 'they could be lying', or 'they could be mistaken', etc... so my question to those who try to hold the million dollar challenge up as evidence against the paranormal is simple. Why is Randi above this kind of skepticism?


First, welcome to the forum!

Secondly, you're right that the MDC shsouldn't be taken as evidence against the paranormal, but not because they could be lying or mistaken but because its simply not designed to disprove the paranormal. Aside from the fact that you can't disprove the paranormal with the MDC at best you could only prove a certain type of paranormal phenemenon, but even with the latter the MDC is not set up for that. Because the MDC is a one shot deal, not subject to replication, and not set up as a real scientific experiment. Really the MDC is a contest, not science. So on its own shouldn't be evidence one way or the other.

To be an open minded skeptic, one must apply skepticism to both sides.


Agreed


If you dismiss the anecdotal because they could be lying, then I find it hypocritical to not dismiss Randi and his challenge. He might be lying too when he says he wants to find the truth.


that's true, but just to point out whatever his motives with the MDC that has no bearing on whether the MDC is useful in helping finding the truth (which it is only marginally useful for anyway, as inferred above)

To believe the million dollar challenge to be evidence of anything one has to assume that Randi genuinely wants to find the truth.


No, to believe the MDC is evidence of anything one has to evaluate the quality of the evidence that comes out of it - regardless of Randi's personal desires.

The fact is that he might simply want to block the truth from coming out.


Sure, and to that end one should scrutinize the protocols and how everything is carried out.. But surely you could have a parapsychologist who wants to block the truth from coming out but nevertheless designs an experiment that is sound (not calling the MDC parapsychology, just making an analogy). Even if one hypotheses that one's intentions can affect the outcome of the experiment using psi - that's kind of begging the question here.

What you're talking about is Randi's bias - which should make us be cautious in dealing with him but in and of itself doesn't dictate whether the results are sound or not.

Like I said though- the MDC isn't science. JREF doesn't call it science. People who think it is science are simply wrong. Even if someone won the MDC it wouldn't be very strong evidence of the paranormal (but would certainly lead to some interesting follow up studies!)
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