Caroline Watt interview - BBC Scotland

#5
Yes, I've just listened to it. She seems fair but why did she produce that silly paper on NDE's with Mobbs.
I can't answer that. But it obviously attracted far more publicity and attention than was merited, which wasn't helpful to the subject, since for whatever motive, it was clearly not balanced. I can't help but think that if it had been unbalanced in the opposite direction it would have been ignored or derided - there's a lot of inertia to overcome to get a fair hearing for these topics.
 
#6
I can't answer that. But it obviously attracted far more publicity and attention than was merited, which wasn't helpful to the subject, since for whatever motive, it was clearly not balanced. I can't help but think that if it had been unbalanced in the opposite direction it would have been ignored or derided - there's a lot of inertia to overcome to get a fair hearing for these topics.
Thanks, Typoz.
I agree with you. And as Bruce Greyson said, "If you ignore everything paranormal about NDE's it's easy to say there's nothing paranormal about them."
 
#7
I dislike how Dr. Watt early on in the interview, presumptively dismisses spontaneous cases as if no evidentiary scientific data or analysis could be substantiated from this particular line of paranormal research. This seems to be one of the most common Skeptical talking points one hears right now, without (as far as I am aware), any substantial psychological evidence or research that could be easily used to dismiss the well defined methodological collection of spontaneous cases, such as done by Myers, Gurney & Podmore, or Ian Stevenson, or collection of spontaneous evidence provided in early NDE research. It's as if this kind of scientific data has been by some Skeptic fait accompli completely dismissed as scientifically serious - even though many (very good) scientists have performed their research of psi based on Spontaneous cases.

So this I found distasteful immediately, along with already knowing about Dr. Watt's misrepresentation of NDE research with Mobb. There seems to already be a fairly strong bias against psi phenomena by her. However, this necessarily doesn't mean she cannot conduct good science in psi research - as some of the more famous psi researchers (such as Richard Hodgson) were very strongly Skeptical of psi phenomena as well.

I also find it curious how often the Ganzfield study is referenced these days, as if that is the only research that now lends itself to any potential of scientific credibility, despite the fact there have been numerous (books full) of other kinds of experimental research that has been conducted with psi, such as all the work coming out of the Rhine Institute, and there are numerous experimental studies peer-reviewed and published in the SPR throughout many decades.

The fixation on laboratory experiments also excludes the work in Mediumship and the possibility paranormal phenomena may not lend itself so easily to repetitive laboratory experiments - since it is a phenomena of the psyche, which is a complex arena and still a relatively unknown and unmapped area of science.

Even the paranormal evidence provided by the Analytical branch of psychology appears to be not "scientifically" accepted here, despite the fact that both Jung and Freud published papers on paranormal dreams that they had observed in their clients, and this has repeatedly been demonstrated in analytical psychology and the study of the unconscious for decades.

So in summary, I find Dr. Watt's research extremely narrow and her reasoning based on an (apparent) lack of knowledge of early paranormal research. The approaches she discusses in her research, may even be counter-productive to finding what could be characterized as an elusive kind of phenomena. And the dismissal of Spontaneous evidence is unwarranted in my opinion.

I do agree with her on one point she made: scientific research into the paranormal is not pseudo-science, and it is unjustly labeled as such.

My Best,
Bertha
 
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#8
I would like to add one more comment here after listening to the latter half of the interview. It is regarding the science (and research) regarding psi phenomena observed in human dreams.

Dr. Watt again, posits a common Skeptical position that any paranormal like observations/phenomena between dreams and what may occur either in the future i.e. a precognitive dream, or present (clairvoyant or telepathic) - it can be reasoned that this is mostly because people can have a general disposition of the possibility, and that given enough dreams, one will eventually find striking correspondence between any dream and some real life event outside the dream.

This is a very well known line of reasoning against the possibility of dreams demonstrating psi phenomena, and I completely agree with Dr. Watt here. However, what is a red flag to me, is that Dr. Watt appears to 1) Be completely unaware of some of the early scientific research regarding psi phenomena and dreams 2) Seems to assume this line of reasoning was not known by some of the early parapsychological researchers.

In truth, if one looks at some of the early SPR paranormal research, spontaneous cases of dreams were entirely thrown out if certain elements were not present in addition to the report of the dream itself. Some of these additional attributes, in order to be accepted as a certain class of "paranormal" dreams were 1) the extreme unusual vividness of the dream to the percipient (which is a well-known common attribute of psi type dreams) 2) the percipient either woke up in the middle of the night, or woke and took very unusual action based on the dream 3) was convinced their dream was something more than just a dream and it was unusual.

Now the above three elements are not something everyone reports with common everyday dreams. In fact, on the whole, most people forget their dreams as soon as they wake up. Even more rare - is waking up in the middle of the night and alarmingly reporting one's dream to someone else or writing your dream down in detail. Also - extremely vivid dreams are not a common psychological facet of dreams. Most people will not wake up and tell you their dream was something more than just a dream, or that it was a very vivid dream.

The early SPR research into dreams and possible paranormal phenomena used the above criteria among other criteria to select a certain class of dreams that would exclude Dr. Watt's and the Skeptical "talking point" that dreams can be randomly matched to general non-dream events. Given the class of dreams defined, and that death events can be statistically measured i.e death rate of a given population (such as the death rate in England) one cannot (so easily) argue as Dr. Watts might try to do here - that it would be just a random event for some person on a particular day, to have an extremely vivid dream, which they woke up in the middle of the night from, convinced it was something very unusual - wrote the dream down, or told others about the dream (or even claimed they had seen some kind of apparition along with the dream) - that somehow remarkably coincided with someone's death thousands of miles away - someone who as far as the percipient and others knew, was in perfectly good health at the time. In addition, given the known death rate, it could easily be determined what the statistical odds were of someone being able to randomly guess someone's death on a certain day.

My Best,
Bertha
 
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#9
Bertha has made some detailed criticisms which I tend to agree with.

However, I was also left with a sense of unease that there was something deeply missing in Caroline's approach. Perhaps it could be compared with treating the art of the novelist as being reduced to the process of typesetting the text. I didn't get the feel that Watt had a connection, an involvement with, the phenomena she is tasked with investigating. On the one hand this may reduce bias. But on the other I'm left feeling that she wouldn't recognise a psi event if it came up and bit her.
 
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#10
If there wasn't 100+ years of parapsychology, published in journals like the SPR proceedings in England and in the US, and other parapsychological associations etc. I would find Dr. Watt's interview more tenable. But the way she answered questions in the interview, it was as if no one but her had ever looked into psi phenomena as scientifically as she claims to be doing now.

Also, as I summarized in my previous post, her new project which she said she was embarked upon, to collect an anthology of dreams and then demonstrate how these dreams could be associated with normal events (and appear to be psi) - is not some kind of innovative concept that has never been discussed in parapsychology, but on the contrary, very early on, when looking at psi in dreams, many of the early psychical researchers realized that given the preponderance of different dream materials etc. one could easily make unfounded connections between dreams and real-life events. Therefore, they deliberately set out to examine only certain types of dreams (not all dreams) dreams that were unusual in nature, with specific characteristics that were not something one would normally experience each night. From what I heard in the interview, this did not appear to be Dr. Watt's methodological approach at all to her new 'dream' project. She seemed to lack any historical knowledge of previous parapsychological research, as if no previous science had ever been conducted with dreams. In fact, a good deal of science has been conducted regarding dreams, and the entire branch of analytical psychology (or depth psychology) founded by Freud & Jung heavily depends on what is empirically known about dreams, which arise from the unconscious (also heavily researched by analytical psychology).

It's almost as if Dr. Watt is using her position to do exactly the opposite of what she is claiming to do: she is using her position and funding to disprove psi phenomena. Much as she used her position and connections to publish a particularly misleading article regarding NDEs. One wonders what kind of article she may publish once she completes her latest project regarding dreams and psi? Will she claim that she has proven that paranormal dreams are nothing more than a type of wishful thinking? Will that be her conclusion based on very shallow premises and not very ground breaking, scholarly thought regarding dreams?

My Best,
Bertha
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#11
It's almost as if Dr. Watt is using her position to do exactly the opposite of what she is claiming to do: she is using her position and funding to disprove psi phenomena.
Aren't Caroline Watt and her partner Richard Wiseman leading figures in the Skeptical attempt to rebrand parapsychology as anomalistic psychology, "the study of human behaviour and experience connected with what is often called the paranormal, with the assumption that there is nothing paranormal involved"?
 
#12
Aren't Caroline Watt and her partner Richard Wiseman leading figures in the Skeptical attempt to rebrand parapsychology as anomalistic psychology, "the study of human behaviour and experience connected with what is often called the paranormal, with the assumption that there is nothing paranormal involved"?
That sounds like what they are doing. I am not familiar with either of them, other than the one interview I heard Alex conduct. But it really is remarkable given the majority of scientists who have done honest research in psi, have concluded (usually after decades of research) that psi phenomena is real. Some of them though, did set out like Dr. Watt (and her husband?) to disprove psi phenomena, so I guess that's legit on her part. But what I find not very legit, is this apparent lack of knowledge of the kind of parapsychological research that has preceded her (about a hundred years worth), the dismissal of Spontaneous psi evidence, and her (apparent) assumption that none of the research to date has provided scientifically viable data. That's a pretty massive claim that one usually only hears from extremely biased Skeptics, not from people who are knowledgeable and well-read in the paranormal literature.

My Best,
Bertha
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#13
That sounds like what they are doing. I am not familiar with either of them, other than the one interview I heard Alex conduct. But it really is remarkable given the majority of scientists who have done honest research in psi, have concluded (usually after decades of research) that psi phenomena is real. Some of them though, did set out like Dr. Watt and her husband to disprove psi phenomena, so I guess that's legit on her part. But what I find not very legit, is this apparent lack of knowledge of the kind of parapsychological research that has preceded her (about a hundred years worth), the dismissal of Spontaneous psi evidence, and this (apparent) assumption that none of the research to date has provided scientifically viable data.

My Best,
Bertha
Bertha, if you want to bone up on Wiseman's career of deceptive "debunking", see here for example:

https://weilerpsiblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/richard-wiseman-a-study-in-modern-psi-skepticism/
http://www.skeptiko.com/134-rupert-sheldrake-on-richard-wiseman-deception/
http://www.sheldrake.org/files/pdfs/Carter_Wiseman.pdf

Craig's article is a very good summary.
 
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#15
ps: I did actually listen to that interview by Alex as well, and didn't connect the name of Wiseman to the person who deliberately misrepresented Sheldrake's research. So thanks for the links. Pretty sad all around.

My Best,
Bertha
 
#16
So let me get this straight Caroline Watt is as close as you can get to another human and this human is Richard Wiseman, the dishonest skeptic ? I'm no scientist but that raises huge alarm bells to me ? Not that she is dishonest as such, but she can openly accept/ love such a person? The relationship must have an effect on her interpretation and views of any experiments she carries out? Is this just me?

I agree with Typoz, she appears to be open minded but after 30years of research she is still unconvinced? I too got the impression that even if she was kicked up the arse by a ghost she would interpret it in such a way to make the obvious confusing?The way we see skeptics here on the forum twist straight lines into spaghetti confusion that they alone can see.She is convinced that the people having paranormal experiences are convinced that they are real, she doesn't think there is much evidence of UFO/ Alien Abduction ??? 30 YEARS WORTH OF STUDY ????

It's a strange business this.
 
#18
When I've seen Caroline speaking at conferences, she has come across to me as having a pretty spikey and defensive personality... but her science seems very sound to me... Even if some of her experiments look unlikely to have any hope of producing a positive result... and she's upfront in saying that she has found an experimenter effect that is puzzling to her in a number of studies to investigate this effect... Not sure why she doesn't keep persuing that...

I got told off by her when I groned at the results of one of her precognitive dream studies after seeing the target they had used (film of a rock show drum solo) Which was frankly not emotionally strong enough...

She accused us of only saying that retrospectively, because we had now learnt the results of the study found no effect... She had a point... But she never gave us the opportunity... If she had shown us the target and methodology first... Then asked us whether it would produce some results... I would have said "no chance".

Yet when questioned, she did admit they got a very accurate hit... But as it wasn't the target, it couldn't be included in the results...

They had run out of the correct glue for sticking the electrodes to the heads of the precognitive dream study participants... So improvised with something else... One lady awoke and immediately reported a fearful dream where the electrodes got stuck to her head and hair and wouldn't come out....

Afterwards, the researchers tried to remove the electrodes from this ladies head, but the improvised glue wouldn't come free, and had become entangled in her hair... The researcher had to run off into Edinburgh to buy some solvent, so they could free the glue from this ladies head...

I thought it was interesting...
 
#19
I am in the process of re-reading portions of Myers, Gurney, and Podmore's seminal work in parapsychology "Phantasms of the Living" and I just came across a passage (in Chapter IV) highlighting the fact the early psychical researchers were well aware of the possible sources of human error and human confirmation bias, which, as Dr. Watt stated in the interview, leads people to believe their dreams are paranormal but in truth are not.

Excerpt from Ch. 4, Section 6:
We must allow, in the first place, for a common result of the belief in the supernatural influences and providential interpositions. Persons who are interested in such ideas will be keenly alive to any phenomena which seem to transcend a purely materialistic view of life. They will be apt to see facts of this class where they do not exist, and to interpret in this sense small or vague occurrences which if accurately examined at the time might have been otherwise explained. And where this tendency exists, it is almost inevitable that, as time goes on, the occurrence should represent itself to memory more and more in the desired light, that inconvenient details should drop out, and that the remainder should stand out in a deceptively significant and harmonious form.
My Best,
Bertha
 
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