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A Few Above Average Psychic Experiments Are Expected By Chance

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Posted by John Morgan Powell on March 13, 2001 19:04:21 UTC

Alex said

> Such experiments had been conducted and ARE
> being conducted by scientists and millions of
> ordinary people on various levels daily. Desire
> to be rich and famous is strong.

"experiments by millions of ordinary people" may be an exaggeration, unless you allow for the kind of casual testing people do with their horoscopes. "Let me read my horoscope to see how close it comes to predicting my day." This is not a good scientific experiment, but I think it could be considered a casual experiment.

"Scientists" just means some, not necessarily millions. I believe Alex is right. I suspect some scientists are doing their own experiments on ESP/Psychic phenomenon. IF a ESP-promoting scientist gets positive results he will want to publish the results and then write the possibly lucrative popular books because our society is filled with superstitious, gullible people. Negative results, unfortunately, aren't published enough.

There is a selection effect going on.

"Faith-promoting" miracles associated with LDS temple garments have a similar selection effect problem. Out of the millions of LDS members who wear temple garments (a special kind of underwear that the religion expects them to wear and which the wearer is promised physical and spiritual protection) a few each year have a miraculous brush with death or serious injury that might appear to be due to wearing the garments (for example, a burning accident that doesn't penetrate through the garments). On the other hand, the vast majority have accidents and either die or the injury doesn't seem to be prevented by the garment. LDS don't hear about the typical story. The rare "faith promoting" stories are circulated as evidence of the miraculous power of the garments. All you have to do is pay your tithing, do your church job, etc., and have enough faith. These stories, however, are in the "wings" of the normal distribution. Do you see the similarity with ESP experiments?

If enough experiments are done on a phenomenon that is variable with some common sense(such as guessing what exists in a room you can't see), you can expect by chance that some experiments will have above average results. If the experimentors tend to ignore or repeat negative runs then the results can appear to be even more positive.

When James Randi watched some scientists testing psychic phenomenon he noticed that the scientists were given alcohol before and during the test yet they were willing to sign their names to the validity of the experiment. If this is typical then one's confidence in "scientific" validation of ESP/Psychic phenomena is jeopardized.

These experiments must be done by different groups. Positive and negative results must be published and argued about. Skeptics have not accepted any of the proposed positive experiments of ESP/Psychic phenomena because of these kinds of problems.

Gravity seems to work whether you're a skeptic or not about gravity. ESP/Psychic phenomena seems to be a function of your belief in it. The less you believe it the less it occurs.

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