Those “Closed-Minded” Scientists Are at it Again.

Psychic pair fail scientific test

A scientific experiment has found that two mediums were unable to demonstrate that they had special psychic powers.  The test by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, tried to establish whether mediums could use psychic abilities to identify something about five unseen volunteers.

The results, carried out under test conditions, did not show evidence of any unexplained powers of insight.

But medium Patricia Putt said this experiment “doesn’t prove a thing”.

Well, she’s right in one respect.  This doesn’t prove a thing … but since the burden of proof is on the part of these “psychics” to show that their abilities are real and can demonstrate results that go beyond that of random chance, the fact that the experiment proves nothing is pretty damning.  Besides, I cannot imagine any scientist who wouldn’t sell his own grandmother to be the first one to obtain conclusive evidence that psychic phenomena are both real and independently verifiable.  It would open up an entire world of new scientific research and take human psychological development into area we never previously thought possible.

In other words, there’s plenty of motivation to get to the right answer on this … no matter what that answer finally is.  In the meantime, can someone please tell me how these new age “sensitives” are allowed to take all sorts of nonsense they either made up or read about in a comparative mythology class, throw in some sciency-sounding words like “quantum” or “non-localized”, call it a healing modality without any experimental evidence to back it up, and NOT run afoul of the law?

This Halloween challenge was an attempt to investigate whether professional mediums could demonstrate their psychic powers in a controlled setting – by inviting them to deduce something about people they had never met and could not see or hear.

The experiment, designed by Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, asked two professional mediums to write something about five individuals who were concealed behind a screen.

These five volunteers were then asked to try to identify themselves from these psychic readings – with a success rate of only one in five.

This was a result that was “entirely consistent with the operation of chance alone”, said Professor French.

But one of the mediums, Patricia Putt, rejected the suggestion that this showed any absence of psychic powers – saying that she needed to work face-to-face with people or to hear their voice, so that a connection could be established.

Sure.  That’s how cold reading works.  Without the wealth of information in the form of body language, facial expressions, intonation, or other audiovisual cues gained from directly interacting with a person, it’s almost impossible to get what you need in order to show that your gifts are anything more than a combination of guesswork, behavioral analysis, and deduction.

Of course, to have a clientèle that’s already firmly convinced that what you’re doing is legitimate, there’s very little effort necessary.  All you need to do is throw them something so generic that it could apply to anyone and they’ll place it wherever it fits, ignoring anything that doesn’t add up.  Anything even remotely in the ballpark will further reinforce their belief.

“Psychic energy” was not likely to work in the setting created for the experiment, she said, and her success rate was usually very high.

… especially if no one was around except the two of them, and the probability of unintentional cooperation between “psychic” and customer was also very high.  Seriously, unless you’re going to a psychic or new age “healer” specifically to debunk them, why wouldn’t you want them to be successful in helping you out?

Ms Putt said the experiment was designed to confirm the researchers’ preconceptions – rather than examine the nature of her psychic ability.

“Scientists are very closed-minded,” she said.

It’s funny … I’ve been called that a number of times myself for calling bullshit on psychic phenomena and the whole idea of religion in general.  It’s not that I can demonstrate that God doesn’t exist or there’s no such thing as ESP, but at this point we have no evidence that either one exists.  That, to me, says that while either one may in fact be real, I have no justifiable reason to think they are until the evidence presents itself.

That, of course, doesn’t mean I’m closed-minded.  It only means I don’t believe everything I hear on the basis that it sounds cool.

The scientific community wants nothing more than for psychics to finally back up their claims of mystical powers with demonstrable evidence instead of just waving their hands about, throwing around some terms they have no hope of understanding, and taking the money of people who are willing to believe anything if it will help them.  Creating societies and other “modern mystery schools” among those with similar beliefs doesn’t give it any more legitimacy; it only gives a depressing figure of how many people believe things that have no supporting evidence.

She said there were fraudsters operating as psychic mediums – but that it was wrong for scientists to think that such mediums “were all the same”.

… says the person who claims that “scientists are very closed minded”.  Tell you what:  if you can demonstrate – under strictly controlled settings – that your abilities cannot in any way be logically or rationally explained by any other phenomenon other than some sort of psychic ability, then the scientific community will begin taking people like you – and ESP in general – seriously.  To date, no one in your position has been able to do so, so you’re relegated to shaking your heads at us and saying we’re unenlightened.

But Michael Marshall of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, who helped to organise the test, said it showed that claims to have special abilities “aren’t based in reality”.

I propose that anyone who makes the claim of “psychic powers” and wishes to charge people for their services has to pass a comprehensive exam for an appropriate license.  Under strictly controlled settings, it will determine the type of claimed ability (telekinesis, clairvoyance, etc.), its range, duration, and its effects on the target (i.e. healing, prediction of events, accuracy of description of deceased family members, etc.).  If they pass, then they can carry out their business.  If they don’t – and still attempt to sell their services – they will be fined.  Additional offenses should result in charges of fraud.

Personally, I see this as a win-win.  If ESP is shown to be real, then as I said we will make tremendous leaps in advancing the study of the human mind.  If it’s consistently shown to be nothing but empty claims, we’ll at least be able to keep desperate people from giving money to frauds and snake oil salesmen.

Seriously, with such little apparent regulation, I’m sorely tempted to start up my own business in the field.  Coming soon: Senator Jason’s New Age Generic Divination and Drive-Thru Reiki Shack!  I’ll even offer to do the all of it over the phone – or better yet, Skype – for the low low price of $300 per hour!  That’s $200 off my regular price … how can you lose??

Hell, a few of these on a regular basis and I could quit my day job …

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This entry was posted in Dr. Bob's House of Crap, generic skepticism, Science Marches On, The Illogical School and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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