Why is paranormal research ignored?

#1
In a Random Stuff Thread conversation between soulatman and me he wrote:

"Then why are certain "bodies of knowledge" ignored when they threaten the dominance of certain philosophical explanations, and theories? Why are NDE studies for example not admitted to those "bodies of knowledge" revealed by scientific enquiry by subscribers to a particular form of promisory materialism?
The data from NDE studies is scientifically valid, and the hypotheses around the data are falsifiable. Why does the mainstream status quo, ignore it?"

I thought, and he agreed, that these questions deserved a thread of their own.

To begin with, "science" is not a monolithic thing. It is practiced by individual scientists, at individual labs, taught by individual academics. As far as I know, there's no board or organization that decides what goes into and what stays out of the body of knowledge of mainstream science. Each scientist makes up his or her own mind as to what is relevant and worthwhile, as well as what areas to personally pursue. Problem is, areas of inquiry where there is little or no interest can lie fallow.

More to come, but hopefully that will get the ball rolling.

Pat
 
#2
The simple answer is that because it is too weak to really capture the interest of most researchers. I think parapsychologists could improve the situation (in light of limited resources) by focussing on strengthening the research in one or a few areas. With interest comes more resources.

Linda
 
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Frank Matera

#3
The simple answer is that because it is too weak to really capture the interest of most researchers.
You and I both know it has absolutely nothing to do with it being "too weak". It is because of the Dogma within the Science community to get involved in any research with the word PSI in it. Bullying, ridicule and ultimately loss of earnings are the reason most Scientists will not touch it.

As Dean Radin points out.... 70-80% of people indicated they have an interest in PSI or life after death yet only something around 0.3% (It's less than 1%) of educational and science institutions have anyone that is even remotely doing work in the PSI field and that number accounts for both skeptic and proponent.

Normally where you have public interest in a subject... you have institutions funding studies... yet Science is full of people more interesting in wasting their time conducting carefully designed studies funded by coffee and pharmaceutical companies to show that caffeine helps heart disease and that taking disprin can decrease your chances of getting a heart attack... even though the data to support this is statistically 5 times less than the data to support telepathy using the Ganzfeld.
 
#4
You and I both know it has absolutely nothing to do with it being "too weak".
Obviously I don't know that, since I just said the opposite. :)

Now, I am happy to admit that I don't know if it is only because it is too weak - that is, if the evidence was strong (and I would be happy to discuss what is meant by "strong" and "weak" in terms of evaluating research), would it still be ignored? I'm not sure how to find out, except by presenting strong research results, though.

Linda
 
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Frank Matera

#5
Obviously I don't know that, since I just said the opposite. :)

Now, I am happy to admit that I don't know if it is only because it is too weak - that is, if the evidence was strong (and I would be happy to discuss what is meant by "strong" and "weak" in terms of evaluating research), would it still be ignored? I'm not sure how to find out, except by presenting strong research results, though.

Linda
Well so far evidence shows that it is being ignored and scientists are being bullied into keeping quite and not investigating PSI. I can understand why.

You have guerilla skepticism groups out there targetting any Scientist that takes an interest in PSI using borderline slander to discredit something independant of the actual data. Wikipedia, Rationalwiki being just 2 examples of organised disinformation and bullying of anyone who dares investigates PSI.

Dean Radin does a very good presentation on exactly the evidence and the reasons for why PSI is ignored within the Science community and it has almost nothing to do with lack of evidence.

 
#6
Sooner or later in this research, one way or another, you come up against "the hard problem". From an individual research scientist's point of view this is a huge potential dead end. Years of a career could be wasted for very little meaningful reward. Bluntly, there's easier ways of earning a buck.
 
#7
Well so far evidence shows that it is being ignored and scientists are being bullied into keeping quite and not investigating PSI. I can understand why.

You have guerilla skepticism groups out there targetting any Scientist that takes an interest in PSI using borderline slander to discredit something independant of the actual data. Wikipedia, Rationalwiki being just 2 examples of organised disinformation and bullying of anyone who dares investigates PSI.
Actually, I strongly suspect that most scientists couldn't care less about guerrilla skeptics or rational wiki, if any even know about them. The spheres that scientists travel in have almost nothing to do with internet squabbles.

Dean Radin does a very good presentation on exactly the evidence and the reasons for why PSI is ignored within the Science community and it has almost nothing to do with lack of evidence.
I'm not at all interested in any particular individual's opinion. I'm much more interested in simply looking at the information directly (because I can, and because it's what I'm used to doing - nobody in medicine says, "it's right because Osler says so"). I've made a concerted effort to look at the primary research in most (if not all) of the various areas of parapsychology, evaluating the strength of that research. I'm happy to discuss the primary research, starting with the strongest research (some of the mediumship research) in terms of design and implementation.

Linda
 
#8
Actually, I strongly suspect that most scientists couldn't care less about guerrilla skeptics or rational wiki, if any even know about them. The spheres that scientists travel in have almost nothing to do with internet squabbles.
I agree, but I also suspect there's a chilling effect due to the fear of being seen as suspect by their peers if they indulge in that "woo stuff." Or worse yet, by their superiors, and funders.

Pat
 
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Frank Matera

#9
Actually, I strongly suspect that most scientists couldn't care less about guerrilla skeptics or rational wiki, if any even know about them. The spheres that scientists travel in have almost nothing to do with internet squabbles.
I find that very hard to believe. The last time I looked Scientists were human beings... nobody wants to have their professional credibility questioned and slanderous comments made about them to the point they can no longer get a job. It has an effect on their ability to do their work and Scientists are being targetted if they dare align themselves with PSI research.

There is no better example of this than TED banning the talk by Rupert Sheldrake based on absolutely nothing but as a result of a concerted Guerilla Skepticism effort to have him quietened... quoting him as "unscientific" and a "Pseudoscientist". TED completely made up a list of issues they had with his talk, nearly all of which were proven afterwards to be false and yet still the talk was removed and Sheldrake denounced as a heretic and Pseudoscientist.

So I strongly suspect you have no evidence to suggest that scientists couldn't care less about having their reputation and scientific credentials discredited by a bunch of radical skeptics when the evidence shows that it has a negative effect on their career and that they are actively trying to "right the wrongs" of things like Wikipedia.

I'm not at all interested in any particular individual's opinion. I'm much more interested in simply looking at the information directly (because I can, and because it's what I'm used to doing - nobody in medicine says, "it's right because Osler says so"). I've made a concerted effort to look at the primary research in most (if not all) of the various areas of parapsychology, evaluating the strength of that research. I'm happy to discuss the primary research, starting with the strongest research (some of the mediumship research) in terms of design and implementation.

Linda
Not an opinion I would have thought. Watch the video I posted... he backs it up with evidence. He gives actual examples of studies showing that not only is there enough evidence to suggest PSI is real and that there is something going on, but he also shows examples of Science publications deliberately misleading the public by making claims about studies which are simply not true.

The title of this thread was why is paranormal research ignored... and that video absolutely shows why it is. If you would like to discuss mediumship research and design and implementation then perhaps another thread should be started based on that. I don't think the design and implementation of 1 or 2 mediumship studies is going to answer the question of why Science does not take PSI seriously.
 
#10
There is no better example of this than TED banning the talk by Rupert Sheldrake based on absolutely nothing but as a result of a concerted Guerilla Skepticism effort to have him quietened... quoting him as "unscientific" and a "Pseudoscientist". TED completely made up a list of issues they had with his talk, nearly all of which were proven afterwards to be false and yet still the talk was removed and Sheldrake denounced as a heretic and Pseudoscientist.
I thought the issue was caused by Coyne getting uppity, where he ended up being a suspected member of the "anonymous science board."
 
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Frank Matera

#12
I thought the issue was caused by Coyne getting uppity, where he ended up being a suspected member of the "anonymous science board."
Yup well Coyne is the radical atheist guerilla skeptic I am talking about. He went on the attack to try and get Sheldrake silenced and in the process TED just took his word as gospel... only to end up with egg on their face when they realised the reasons they gave for removing Sheldrake's talk were not only wrong but some of their claims were not even in the video.

It was after that, which people started suspecting that this "Anonymous science board" either didn't exist or was made up of these Guerilla Skeptic/Atheists.
 
#13
Is this not all the same question? Why is the research ignored? by TED? by academia? by Coyne?

Linda's point is over research quality. Without denying the validity of the research, in NDE all the data we have is anecdotal and without a testable mechanism. That sort of thing makes a difference in science. Whether you call that "dogma" or not depends on your perspective...

I suspect Parnia is the best hope for uniting the camps.
 
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Frank Matera

#14
Is this not all the same question? Why is the research ignored? by TED? by academia? by Coyne?

Linda's point is over research quality. Without denying the validity of the research, in NDE all the data we have is anecdotal and without a testable mechanism. That sort of thing makes a difference in science. Whether you call that "dogma" or not depends on your perspective...

I suspect Parnia is the best hope for uniting the camps.
Pat did mention NDE in the original post...but I don't personally believe NDE evidence is the yard stick for proving PSI because so much of it is anecdotal and NDE's also go against not just scientific belief but in some cases the "religious" belief of Atheists. You aren't going to be convincing Atheists (Which like it or not make up a significant portion of the Science community) to spend any of their valuable time with studies of NDE regardless of how good the data is.

If the question is why does Science deny or ignore PSI then I don't believe we should start with NDE's. Lets start at the basics by looking at the basis of wat PSI is made up of. Telepathy and testing via the Ganzfeld.

Once Science accepts Telepathy is a real phenomena (And they have no reason not to) then the remainder of the PSI jigsaw can be put into place because Telepathy is the starting point. Mediumship is as a result of telepathy, NDE's are feelings and emotions outside the physical body just like telepathy etc etc. I fear that by focussing on NDE's first it just makes it harder overall. NDE's are the symptoms and doesn't really explain anything... Telepathy though explains how it is done.
 
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#15
only to end up with egg on their face when they realised the reasons they gave for removing Sheldrake's talk were not only wrong but some of their claims were not even in the video.
They certainly aren't behaving like they have an egg in the face, since their viewership ratings are still quite high. As I recall, hasn't TED locked and deleted most of that conversation by this point?

That said, I think they just attack Sheldrake because he's an easy strawman argument. He has a pet theory that he occasionally mentions in public, and its easy to attack that [MSRR] in a disingenuous way to cast doubt on his work without actually going in to the specifics of Wiseman's failed replication being poor science itself [DSPF].

The simple answer is that because it is too weak to really capture the interest of most researchers.
I think the important distinction with this argument which is often ignored, is that the existing evidence's validity isn't being denied by moderate skeptics. When you get down to the whitepapers and core results of the Ganzfeld analysis you don't actually get proof of telepathy, you get a highlighting of an anomalous result. Radin has spoken on this matter as well in his blog, where one of the sample transcripts was posted which contained descriptions of other target images as well; he mused that it could be precognition of the moment they are given the target images just as much as it could be legitimate telepathy. So this isn't just a skeptical nitpick, actual researchers in the field share the same concerns. A statistical anomaly by itself doesn't really interest people all that much.

I was reading about the Moulton and Kosslyn paper from 2008 which “failed to prove ESP” but it was then pointed out to them that fMRI alone cannot discern two thoughts in someones mind, which lead to other references via the book Mysterious Minds by Krippner and has references to other similar studies with more successes. When you cross reference the statistical anomaly in the Ganzfeld with more advanced, instrumented tests such as these, then you start to create a much more interesting picture which begins to need more detailed explanations than arguing over if there is a statistical fluke at hand. Showing two minds with consistent activity across two separate points starts to become curious indeed.

And that, I believe, is where the evidence could be considered “too weak.” It's not so much that there isn't evidence (there is suggestive evidence, in my opinion, but most are self-labeled as pilot studies and calls for more research) but what the evidence suggests within the papers themselves is too small to attract much attention.

(Moulton and Kosslyn themselves later talked with Radin who filled them in on the work prior to theirs which did have significant effects, and he pointed them towards the revised Ganzfeld citations instead of the Wiseman papers.)

Once Science accepts Telepathy is a real phenomena (And they have no reason not to) then the remainder of the PSI jigsaw can be put into place because Telepathy is the starting point.
They appear to be getting to that point slowly; there are only a few well known advocates with ties to researchers and a lot of researcher names that don't draw skeptical fanfare because they quietly publish in parapsychology journals. As the research becomes stronger through experiments (especially the neurological ones, where they are actively monitoring for specific effects) it really doesn't matter what skeptic groups say in public.

Bibliography

MSRR: Michael Shermer, Rupert's Resonance, 2005, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ruperts-resonance

DSPF: Rupert Sheldrake, Michael Shermer - Do skeptics play fair?, , http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/shermer.html
 
#16
Yes Frank, the OP referred specifically to NDE. I think we're all in broad agreement...

In summary (and in a push for consensus): Psi (Ganzfeld) shows the best data, would have the best chance of winning over the broader science crowd, and things are gradually moving that way. Linda's point about concentrating on narrower, tighter studies in those areas seems valid.

There is a perception in the skeptical community that the tighter the controls in psi studies, the more the effect evaporates. This shouldn't be that hard to prove one way or another surely?
 
#17
There is a perception in the skeptical community that the tighter the controls in psi studies, the more the effect evaporates. This shouldn't be that hard to prove one way or another surely?
As I recall there were some of the early Ganzfeld results that did diminish as more controls were added, but they still produced some which were interesting. Personally I am less interested in the ones claiming success which only barely above chance; I am more interested in the ones (e.g. where artists or music students were used) which scored 10-20% above chance.
 
#18
Given that Rational Wiki, Guerilla Skeptics and the TED controversy are all new, but the taboo against psi in science isn’t, then I think it’s safe to assume that those three things don’t cause (or even perpetuate) the taboo.

Putting things in perspective, people were even skeptical of mathematics once upon a time. In the 1260s, Roger Bacon complained of writers who put maths as one of the seven black arts, because of it’s links with astrology. At best, the prevailing opinion was that mathematics might be considered “useful”, and this continued until the 1600s.

I agree with fls, in that Science does not seem impressed because the psi effect in the lab is not much more than a deviation from chance. The use of meta-analyses to demonstrate the robustness of this deviation is common but, as Kennedy pointed out, scientific controversies are not solved by meta-analysis.

If science can be defined as “the study of what works,” then parapsychology needs to start working, if you see what I mean. It needs its own double-slit experiment: something with more statistcial power and less time and effort than, say, the ganzfeld. Personally, I think the best bet is Radin’s presentiment protocol, where people seem to react to pictures (measuring skin resistance) before they see them. It’s simple, elegant, it makes sense in an evolutionary context (since such a skill would be an advantage).

It may seem dry as a bone and deadly dull to focus on one thing, but I think those results (if they remain as they are) would interest the scientific community. Perhaps I’m being over optimistic, but bear in mind that most of the “low hanging fruit” in science has been discovered (at least, so it seems) so a protocol as simple as this, that appears to give some very interesting results, would be welcomed.

References

Kennedy, J.E., (2013) “Can Parapsychology Move Beyond The Controversies Of Retrospective Meta-Analyses?”, Journal of Parapsychology, vol 77, p 21-35

Taylor, E.G.R. (1954) “The Mathematical Practitioners of Tudor Stuart England”
 
#19
Science does not seem impressed because the psi effect in the lab is not much more than a deviation from chance. The use of meta-analyses to demonstrate the robustness of this deviation is common but, as Kennedy pointed out, scientific controversies are not solved by meta-analysis.
I think its important to highlight that the deviation from chance does exist, it's just not very wide.

I think the evolution of the Ganzfeld are the EEG studies. Both are slow-burning and costly experiments to set up, but they seem to be producing consistent effects.
 
#20
I agree with fls, in that Science does not seem impressed because the psi effect in the lab is not much more than a deviation from chance. The use of meta-analyses to demonstrate the robustness of this deviation is common but, as Kennedy pointed out, scientific controversies are not solved by meta-analysis.


If science can be defined as “the study of what works,” then parapsychology needs to start working, if you see what I mean. It needs its own double-slit experiment: something with more statistcial power and less time and effort than, say, the ganzfeld. Personally, I think the best bet is Radin’s presentiment protocol, where people seem to react to pictures (measuring skin resistance) before they see them. It’s simple, elegant, it makes sense in an evolutionary context (since such a skill would be an advantage).

I am glad to see here both ersby and fls, because they are among the most sensible skeptics I have met on the JREF forum. Especially ersby has done a giant and laudable work with ganzfeld research.


I agree about the presentiment studies. But here is the problem of funding of more similar studies. Skeptics have been very effective in taking away funding from parapsychology. Many times money given to parapsychological research in a will has gone to skeptical research.


In my opinion the sad situation where parapsychology is now in has come because parapsychologists have ignored spontaneous phenomena and poltergeists nearly totally. There the effects have often been everything else but weak. Parapsychology has lost the interest of general public because the usually minimal effects in laboratory are too far from everyday life. The scientific world ought to be interested in the results in laboratory, but that has not happened.
 
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