Lawrence Krauss - Does ESP make sense?
Comment: 4 days ago
"...you started out this thread with an instinctive nescient position..." Yes, that's why I started with a question: "Isn’t ESP just subconscious cold reading?" Scroll up if you missed it the first time.
"You had already decided that nothing like that had been carried out successfully – your plausible story - apparently without the need for evidence." If that was true, I wouldn't have bothered looking Bem up. Incidently. you cherry-picked Bem, I never even heard of him. You also cherry-picked a super-softball interview with Bem by Skeptiko, a pseudoscience blog.
"Then you were confronted with the original scientific evidence, so you tried to find ways of discounting it without reading so much as the extract. Luckily, you found some quotes to selectively lift from RationalWiki, so you could maintain that original position. Panic over." Talk about making up shit.
"You seem unaware of any counterarguments, so as far as you’re concerned, the water must now be less muddy." Less muddy? I said the water is still muddy. Too muddy to see the river bed. Are you confused?
"... every one of the criticisms you cited (and continue to cite) is about the original research, and not the subsequent extensive replications..." Of course. The only criticisms of Bem's research that I'm aware of, are of his methods and of methods in experimental psychology in general. Replications of flawed experiments are not meaningful. Even the meta-analysis of the 90 replications is odd - a sigma 6 rating that drops to sigma 4 when Bem's original experiments are removed. Shouldn't the sigma rating remain more-or-less the same?
"... maybe “political shenanigans”. I didn't make that up. "One of the nine experiments in Bem's study ("Retroactive Facilitation of Recall") was repeated by scientists Stuart Ritchie, Chris French, and Richard Wiseman. Their attempt to replicate was published in PLoS ONE and found no evidence of precognition. Several failed attempts by the authors to publish their replication attempt highlighted difficulties in publishing replications, attracting media attention over concerns of publication bias. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Science Brevia and Psychological Science each rejected the paper on the grounds that it was a replication. A fourth journal, the British Journal of Psychology, refused the paper after reservations from one referee, later confirmed to be Bem himself, who "might possibly have a conflict of interest with respect to [the] ... submission."
Here are some criticisms of Bem's experiments - all of which are of methodology:
"Wagenmakers et al. criticized Bem's statistical methodology, saying that he incorrectly provides one-sided p-value when he should have used a two-sided p-value. This could account for the marginally-significant results of his experiment."
"After evaluating Bem's nine experiments, psychologist James Alcock said that he found metaphorical "dirty test tubes," or serious methodological flaws, such as changing the procedures partway through the experiments and combining results of tests with different chances of significance. It is unknown how many tests were actually performed, nor is there an explanation of how it was determined that participants had "settled down" after seeing erotic images. Alcock concludes that almost everything that could go wrong with Bem's experiments did go wrong."
"An analysis by Gregory Francis in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review ... Drawing on his own analysis and studies suggesting a discrepancy between the observed and expected null hypothesis rejection rates across the field of experimental psychology, he suggests that the standards and practices of the field are not functioning properly."
"The publication of Bem's article and the resulting controversy prompted a wide-ranging commentary by Etienne LeBel and Kurt Peters. Using Bem's article as a case study, they discussed deficiencies in modal research practice, the methodology most commonly used in experimental psychology. LeBel and Peters suggest that experimental psychology is systemically biased toward interpretations of data that favor the researcher's theory."
With that background, you can't seriously expect me to accept that scientific experiments have shown that ESP exists. You say there is "a small but surprising amount of scientific evidence for believing in such things (ESP)". Not if the methodology is flawed. Flawed methods will introduce bias which looks "surprising" if you believe the methods are flawless.
So I'm sticking with the default position for someone who is driven by evidence - if there's no empirical evidence that something exists, then that something doesn't exist. That is a position, not a truth or fact. My position is dictated by the status of the evidence - not by stories I make up, spooky parallels, or highly controversial experiments.