Blog Archives

Amazing mind reader reveals his ‘gift’


Watch this one all the way to the end. This is of course only a commercial, but it does raise serious questions about those posing as psychics who use these techniques in their practice. Indeed, they’d be foolish not to.

Monday’s Noontide Query: Double Standards


James Randi

James Randi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s something I’ve always been curious about — Actually, there’s far too much I’m curious about! — Most people are aware that stage-conjurors are doing tricks when they perform, and conjurors are generally up-front with this — honest liars who use the errors our brains make to fool us into witnessing the performance of faux miracles before our very eyes — as are their cousins, the mentalists, who fool us by feigning power over our minds and thoughts — successfully, I might add.

But self-styled paranormalists, so-called psychics and their supporters, who claim that their abilities are genuine, despite a lack of convincing evidence, with a suspicious unwillingness to provide it, are not held to the standards of reliability of conjurors and mentalists who tell us we’re being fooled…

Why?

Psychics and their supporters repeatedly say that they are “never 100%,” when a conjuror absolutely MUST be able to perform his tricks, to ply his trade and make his livelihood on stage, ALL of the time, or let’s face it, he’s not a very well-practiced trickster, is he?

Somehow, the paranormalists’ argument seems weak, or at least, uncompelling.

A magician whose tricks were only as reliable as those of people claiming genuine powers would quickly be out of a job.

At minimum, it only raises the question it is intended to rebut — Why should I accept that a power which works less often is more real than a more reliable effect — of the very same sort the psychic performs — especially when the former typically fails only in the known presence of trained magicians or other skeptical observers? — who just might recognize the alleged miracle for the trick it is by knowing or being able to figure out the technique it uses and thus expose the perpetrator.

So why the double standard? I’ve never heard an adequate justification for it, and arguments about the unreliability of mysterious mental phenomena don’t count — that’s just special pleading and assuming as proven what has yet to be demonstrated convincingly — bona fide paranormal mental abilities.

And magicians are people who have a considerable financial stake in consistency of performance, all the time, or at least all the time when on stage during a show.

It occurs to me that if alleged psychics say their powers are a reality, aren’t the stakes higher from a scientific viewpoint than the known tricks of conjurors?

There would be serious consequences to wrongly rejecting such a reality, were that the case, even though what they claim to do involves the very same efects used by people whom we know are tricking us, and who tell us so, and still do it anyway — 100%.

So,

Should psychics be held to lower, equal, or higher standards than magicians, when performing the very same feats as those in the stage acts of known tricksters?

Why?

Does anything at all justify a double-standard for performance reliability given the alleged “fickleness” of claimed psi abilities and the general consistency of conjurors’ stage-illusions?

If so, what?

Monday’s Noontide Query is a question that I pose to you, my readers, and do feel free to comment…I’m not a baby-eating ogre, and I don’t bite…much. This installment is published on Monday at 12:00 PM.

My (Non-) Psychic Predictions for 2012


Seal of the C.I.A. - Central Intelligence Agen...

Image via Wikipedia

I have a rather uncompromising view of the validity of psychics and the meaningful success of their annual predictions, which are either generic, high-probability events trivial to fulfill, much more specific claims that never actually happen and require much special pleading to support their alleged fulfillment, and those retrodictions, not predictions, only mentioned after the fact and shoehorned to fit the events they pertain to.

I’ve looked, and no psychic has yet accurately predicted anything important under adequate conditions, illogical, contrived and weak excuses to avoid being subjected to tests of predictive veracity notwithstanding.

Well, despite that, I’m a fair guesser, just as good as any “Intuitive” and best of all, openly in non-possession of any psychic abilities at all (skeptical ethics and all that), so I’ll offer a few predictions of my own, for the remainder of this year and come 2013, I’ll revisit this post, and we’ll see how well I did… or not.

So let’s get started… Each of these will have a likelihood rating using one of three emoticons -

:-) – Trivially likely

;-) – Maybe, could be made to fit

:-( – Definitely a stretch

  • Conspiracy theorists will fail to be convinced that President Obama did not get teleported to Mars during the 1980s as a project by the CIA to explore the Red Planet. :-)
  • Bigfoot will be discovered in a poll-booth voting for a Republican candidate (most likely Mittens) during election day this November, and DNA analysis will reveal him to be genetically engineered by Grey aliens, or maybe brought to Earth by Time Lords out for a spin in a TARDIS… :-(
  • A new fossil hominid will be discovered or revealed by investigation of previous dig samples, further developing our ideas on human evolution and overturning older, more erroneous ideas of same. :-)
  • In February, I predict that at least one earthquake will happen somewhere in the Western hemisphere give or take one or two weeks around the 15th. :-)
  • A new form of life will be discovered in hydrothermal vents in or near Antarctica. :-)
  • Several new exoplanets, even closer to Earth in size and mass than before, will be discovered in orbits near their stars close enough to bear life of a sort we might recognize. :-)
  • Yet another politician or other ranking public figure who can’t keep his todger in his trousers will be scandalized and forced to resign after getting caught. ;-)
  • Several more seemingly extraterrestrial signals will be picked up by SETI radio-telescopes. Most if not all of them will be readily identifiable as Earth-bound interference. :-)
  • Irresponsible predictions about the End of the World™ will reach a fever pitch and none of them will come true when or as predicted, be the date December 12, 21, or any other time of this year. :-)
  • Mister Eccles will learn to curb the use of his claws in play and become more sedate as an adult cat. :-(

And finally…

  • Ethnic Maya in Central America will rise up in wrathful protest vs the silly apocalyptic or transcendant claims that gullible people of West European religious traditions or practitioners of equally silly spiritual doctrines have superimposed over their early civilization’s otherwise perfectly innocuous Long Count calendar. ;-)

A Psychic Flubs Psychology Again


A couple of years back, I ran into a self-styled psychic who holds a number of interesting but erroneous views on the nature of reality and on the process and findings of science.

He has before attempted to get into the heads of skeptics with his amazing X-gene -  er, I mean “psychic” – abilities, but alas, those evil vibration-killing skepto-shields of ours prevent such nonsense.

I’ve critiqued his psychoanalysis of skeptics before, but he’s at it once again, so I’m going to play the role of the evil, closed-minded, fanatically materialistic skeptic, and try at a detailed but comprehensive deconstruction of one of his often convoluted arguments to see just where he errs in his reasoning.

In many instances, his resentment and tendency to attribute his own thinking and biases to others shows in his use of factual misconceptions and fallacies common in the fringe-community, in this case, about skeptics, using only the reliably inexpert testimony of his fellow paranormal proponents.

I’ll include excerpts from his post here is as much context as possible, and will attempt to avoid misrepresenting his arguments — They’re bad enough on their own without any effort on my part — posting his claims verbatim in block quotes followed by my rebuttals.

Psi skeptics tend to believe in evolution and climate change and favor liberal economic policies, much like many psychics and believers do.  It is rare for me to meet skeptics in real life, but when I do, these people are almost always polite, pleasant and courteous, much in contrast to the lunacy that I see on line.

So what causes these people to check their brains at the door whenever they discuss the topic of psychic ability?  There seem to be some personality characteristics that fit skeptics and explain why understanding psychic ability is so difficult for them.

One thing that I have heard several times from skeptics is that they are very hesitant to trust their instincts.  It is perhaps the single most important difference between skeptics and psychics.  Psychics and believers in contrast, normally trust their instincts.

From this one significant difference, all of the other pieces fall into place.  One of the most consistent traits that I have noticed from a wide variety of skeptics is that they don’t trust me.  Why should they?  Because I know more about this subject than they do.  The skeptics that I encounter rarely ask questions or wish to know anything about me at all despite the fact that I tell them that I am psychic.  (I can’t remember any skeptic asking me even the most basic question: How do I know that I am psychic?) They are, however, eager to tell me what they think that they know and then defend their position.

Have his psychic abilities never hinted at the possibility that his reluctance to substantiate his claims are perhaps the real reason skeptics think he is not genuine?

Has he even met any real skeptics? His universal generalizations on what skeptics believe, think, and know don’t show that he has.

Militant skeptics think that I am a fraud and moderate skeptics think that I merely have a mistaken belief based on the assumption that I am not very good at calculating probabilities or chance.

And who, pray tell, ascended to higher consciousness and made HIM the special center of the paranormal universe?

Maybe all those ‘skeptics’ who disbelieve him don’t self-identify as skeptics at all, they’re just smart-thinking people who don’t buy into what he says.

‘Militant’ skeptics would be imprisoning, torturing, lynching, tarring & feathering, censoring, burning at the stake, or coming after paranormalists with torches & pitchforks like angry villagers in 1950s schlock monster movies.

Given the lack of this actually happening, he has no business pulling the militancy card.

Next…

This lack of trust extends to ridiculous extremes.  After all, about ¾ of the world population believes in psi.[3] Skeptics are sitting on a rock in an ocean of believers and they do not trust any of them to be telling the truth about their experiences.

This is a simple ad populum fallacy, since no matter how many believe a thing true, they can still be dead wrong.

This applies to everyone, including 50 million Frenchmen, and every alleged psychic and believer on the planet.

Even if everyone in the universe believed that Xulleus the rabbit-god existed, it would still be fantasy, and an unshakeable belief in it a delusion.

Despite pronouncements to the contrary for millennia, belief doesn’t make it so, nor does it mean it is.

  5 billion people must be deluded or liars according to them.

He’s arguing against a claim no one is making. Straw-person much?

The only way that a person can maintain such an enormous conceit is if they do not trust themselves.  They see their own inability to trust their instincts and they have concluded that instincts are not to be trusted.

A corollary to this is that skeptics have more trouble relating to their own feelings.  This leaves them blind to situations where their emotions are controlling their logic and they are far more vulnerable to cognitive dissonance and less able to cope with it than those who are more aware of their own feelings.

If a person does not trust their instincts, then they must find something else to trust and it is understandable that they will not be particularly flexible about it.  Unsurprisingly, skeptics favor the status quo.  Science is the rock that they typically sit on, clinging to whatever the mainstream scientific establishment favors at the moment and even twisting it if it does not meet their internal image of what it is supposed to be.

For a person that does not trust the world inside of themselves, the world on the outside is all there is, which is how we get illogical and fanatical defenses of a materialistic view of the world even though science is pretty clear on the point that reality does not fit that description.

Trust is a right brain feature.  You have to grasp the essence of things in order to trust and you cannot get bogged down in details.  However, this is exactly what happens to skeptics.  Even in discussions with moderate skeptics, I have seen time and again that they do very well when involved in details.  When asked to consider things as a whole, however, they fail miserably.

Little more than a cheap ad hominem dismissal — “skeptics are wrong because they’re dogmatic, illogical and fanatical materialists who don’t trust themselves…”

It’s the oldest fallacy in the book — don’t attack the argument, attack the one making it — which to some extent is one of his main lines of argument in this, as well as the hasty generalization.

It’s typical of the sort who whine the loudest about personal attacks when they perceive themselves to be on the receiving end…

Frankly I’m at a loss at how to react to his claims, except perhaps to respond with a good old-fashioned Picard facepalm.

Methinks he doth project upon his perceived persecutors critics far too much.

Of the rare moderate skeptics who actually know something about the science of parapsychology this is a consistent feature of their evaluations.  They can pick at just about any single study and come to the conclusion that something is wrong with it, but entirely miss the fact that they always do the same thing. For instance:  a skeptic will find nothing wrong with this incomplete chart of parapsychological lab research and the skeptical conclusions:

Overview of Scientific Parapsychology Skepticism

Experiment Positive Outcome? Skepticism
Autoganzfeld*† Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Psychokinesis*† Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Staring Studies*† Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Dog telepathy Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Parrot telepathy Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Dice studies* Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Remote Viewing* Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Precognition* Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Zener Cards* Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
The Afterlife Experiments Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Global Consciousness Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Retropsychokinesis Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Plant and single cell organism telepathy*†† Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher
Distant Healing† (Braud) Yes Flawed methodology and/or Biased Researcher

*Studies replicated by other scientists

allegedly replicated — never successfully when studies are performed by non-believers in psi

†Meta analyses have been done.

Meta-analyses are only used for suggesting promising new avenues of research — formulating hypotheses, not testing them for a conclusion, as is implied here. Meta analyses are not magic proof techniques.

†† Cleve Backster, (retired) who performed the original experiments was not a research scientist, he was, however, one of the premiere polygraph experts in the world.

This is an obvious argument from authority — it’s irrelevant how great a polygraph expert Backster was, since he’s not a research scientist. Period. So his claims on plant perception by themselves mean nothing and without substantiation are of no value to science.

A skeptic will not be able to perceive this as a repetitive pattern of dogmatic denial, but will instead, want to focus on the specifics of each individual case to point out the perceived flaws.  It is almost impossible for a skeptic to grasp that the individual studies can have flaws AND there can also be a pattern of dogmatic skepticism. The skepticism as a whole has a flaw that cannot be seen in individual cases.

Do you notice something missing in the above table? I do.

There are flaws in parapsychology studies which he’s conveniently ignored. Biased Researcher is actually the root of the problem, for it leads to Flawed Methodology and at least three others:

  1. flawed reasoning, particularly such common fallacies as special pleading, begging the question, affirming the consequent, the appeal to ignorance, and the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, all supporting the use of the following…
  2. Inappropriate use of statistics, such as scoring systems not suited for the research protocol used, after-the-fact use of statistical methods on research data, or the misuse of meta-analyses; and lastly, least commonly…
  3. …fraud, most often pious fraud — actual fraud is rare, but it happens just often enough to taint the entire field of parapsychology with ill repute, which I think is unfortunate.

Also, his last statement is not coherent; focusing on the specifics of each case is just fair criticism and good science. Frankly, if accused of any crime, I’d rather the jury focus on the specifics of the evidence for my case and not dismissively ignore it regardless of the facts.

It’s nice to say that the universe is one big, wonderful, scary, unified whole, but it does one little good to dismiss a closely approaching asteroid that could kill everyone on Earth as an insignificant portion.

The author’s claim makes no sense, since the mere fact that a study, in any field, is shown to be seriously flawed is a good reason indeed to question it.

The only dogma lies in ignoring the flawed nature of these studies and ignoring that because of those flaws, none of them have ever successfully been replicated using an unbiased research protocol, then continuing to argue that taken as a whole, that they prove anything at all…

…when they prove nothing.

The rest of his article is just a summary of his previous claims, with his sources, such as they are, listed just above the post’s comments section.

Conclusion:

I found this article condescending and downright insulting in tone, like the very worst of skeptical criticism, and little more than an opportunity by the author to vent his evident dislike of skeptics by rehearsing his prejudices instead of actually asking skeptics what we think, feel, believe and imagine, and truly inform his readers instead of mislead them with such absolute garbage.

Not claiming to be psychic, and thus not claiming to know what’s going on in the author’s head, I must wonder how much of this nonsense he actually believes himself.

I think a little humility on his part would have helped the tone in his writing, but unfortunately that was not in evidence.

He assumes and presumes much that is simply not the case, not applying to any skeptic I’ve ever heard of. I can only say that despite the last couple of years or so, the factual and logical content of his writing still leaves much to be desired.

Tales of the Spam Box, w/ Humerosity



Here’s something fun I found in my spam folder just a few days ago. It’s an ad from an oxymoronic professional outlet of online (*drum roll*)  psychic consulting services, and I found it rather humerus in content, as fittingly, is the site itself.

Humerus enough to warm my cold, eldritch, inhuman heart…

Were these people even aware of my diabolical skeptic nature? Did they have any idea of the sort of abject cruelty I engage in with this sort of thing?? Unfortunately, I suspect that this was not the case. Muahahahahaha!

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our three most powerful weapons are fear, surprise, and a nearly fanatical devotion to the Church! Confess, heretic, or I’ll bring out…the comfy-chair…and the soft pillows!!”

Still, bad Monty Python paraphrases aside, it’s a good idea in my book to be wary of any attempt at looking professional when even the spambots sign what they send to other websites as something too generic, like ‘Expert,’ or ‘Admin,’ and having visited their website I noticed the same sort of thing going on. I mean, what’s wrong with doing what other spam accounts do and use absurdly silly but unique fake screen-names, like Sertiltpytuf, or some such, and impossibly long fake email addresses that never show up when you google them?

What’s up with that?

So I checked out their home-page, and I’d hoped that they would have more rigorous standards of webmastering quality on the site itself. Sadly, I was disappointed.

Well, even I can’t have everything…

Unfortunately, the text that follows is that of the entire comment, with no changes in spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization, or syntax…Note the interesting run-on sentence before the main paragraph.

Expert

http://www.myspiritualexperts.com

OUR PSYCHICS HELPS YOU THEY ARE TESTED AND TRUSTED

Our psychic always online for chat and e-mail
In order for psychic our experts to be authentic they of course have to be able to give accurate readings, and make accurate prediction on future events. In some situations, Our psychic experts will know where a pet or person is, or can find things that are missing.
Our experts can do :- love readings psychic readings astrology reading numerology relationship tarot card reading crystal ball reading aura reading angles reading and also career and financial readings.

Now concerning part of that: Just WTF is an ‘angles reading?’ I did a brief search on it, thinking perhaps it was some new sort of occultish divination using geometric forms, but instead was rather depressed to learn that it’s a misspelling of ‘angels reading,’ presumably some sort of cold-reading employing the conceptual element of imaginary divine emissary spirits.

*sigh* At least geometric forms have been shown to actually exist, even if in the abstract…

BTW, I used the [rel="nofollow"] command on that link just because I’m a big blue tentacled meany and don’t feel like doing them any favors.

Aliman, it looks like that prediction you tweeted me in jest just a few days ago came true, but I’m wondering if the ‘psychics’ saw it coming.

I suspect strongly that they did not…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,956 other followers

%d bloggers like this: