How to be psychic

By Phil Plait | September 18, 2008 9:00 am

Do psychic powers exist? I don’t think they do, but that’s because for decades all sorts of tests have been run, and when they are done correctly there is no indication that anyone has any sort of psychic ability at all.

That doesn’t stop people from believing in them, of course, just as it doesn’t stop hundred of frauds from tricking people into that belief… and out of their money.

The How-To series of videos on YouTube just put up a video on "how to read people’s [sic] minds", and it’s a relatively decent (though somewhat irritating) list of steps you can take to fake your way through a reading. And Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge gets a plug in the end! So that’s cool.

How many of these tactics do you see so-called "psychics" on TV use? Yeah, all of them. What does that tell you?

Tip o’ the wizard cap to BABloggee Steve Ulven.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Skepticism

Comments (141)

  1. Gnat

    Have you seen the show Psych? Not only is it hilarious, but it shows how the main character pretends to be psychic. There’s also a new show coming this fall called The Mentalist, and in one of the previews the main character says, “I used to pretend I was psychic”. I actually think that’s pretty refreshing take…especially after shows like Ghost Whisperer.

  2. Quiet Desperation

    Yes, I am psychic. Wait, I mean, no. No, I am not the brain specialist. Wait. What?

    Have to wait til I get home. If I watch videos at work, federal spooks drop out of the ceiling and totally muss up my hair.

    But as a skeptic. I say no humans are psychic.

    Now cats? Absolutely!

    Except for skeptical cat, of course.

    http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/skeptical-cat-is-fraught-with-skepticism.jpg

  3. A lot of those tricks will also work for picking up women at a bar.

  4. Thanks for the instructional videos! Considering the intellectual wasteland in the Panhandle of Florida, I think I can make A LOT of money off these rubes. :)

  5. I really can’t stand things like Ghost Whisperer or Medium. They just annoy me too much. Fringe is the latest pseudo-crap-fest to appear that is pushing all the right annoyance buttons. I won’t be watching any more Fringe. The funny thing is I still love things like the usual sci-fi stuff mentioned here, and most recently the vampire thing True Bloood is very cool, but Fringe, Medium & Ghost Whisperer really get my goat.

    Speaking of Medium I think it was Randi who said it is medium because it is neither rare nor well done.

  6. Cheyenne

    BA – Wish you all the best in your new role as JREF pres to battle these “psychic” frauds. Supposedly conjuring up people’s dead relatives, reading minds, etc. is a pretty lame (actually, awful) way to scam people out of their dough. There are a lot of people (sometimes good, decent people that just don’t know any better) that fall prey to these losers and it’s always good to see somebody like you call them out on it.

    I still like that YouTube clip of Uri Geller looking like a total buffoon on the Carson Show (something Randi engineered).

    Here’s my version of a psychic prediction – none of those boffos will ever pass the million dollar challenge. And to any self proclaimed “Psychics” that might read this blog – if you are what you say you are- take the challenge! If you won’t, you’re just a sad, lame con artist (the last of many) that hasn’t done anything with your life. And you probably smell a bit too, it’s something about psychics, might be the home-shopping club perfume. They waft like gas station bathrooms.

  7. Another Eric

    “I see that your future is ahead of you, although your past is behind, but still your present is now! I predict that your day will be uneventful, but yet some eventful things will happen. You will meet a man, or a woman, who may or may not talk to you. Your future looks bright, as you will come into money, and as long as you don’t get fired or quit your job, you will continue to come into money…”

  8. Dan

    Why does “people’s” make you “sic”?

    The way I learned it, the apostrophe only goes after the “s” if the “s” was added to make the word plural. “People” is already plural, so the apostrophe goes *before* the “s” just like it does for the singular noun.

    (And by the same rule, if the singular noun already ends in “s” the possessive is “‘s” and not just a trailing apostrophe.)

  9. Heh… this is great! Thanks for the tip, Phil.

    It reminded me of a story I heard from an editor I used to work with who got his start at a smalltown newspaper. They got columns, including their horoscopes from a subscription service. One time the horoscope column didn’t come in so he and the other editors just made one up. Nobody noticed the difference from the “real” one.

    Heh. Heh.

  10. Sarcastro

    The effect? I’ll tell you what the effect is, it’s pissing me off!

  11. Joe

    I’m with Dan, I think “people’s” is correct. For the same reason we have a “Men’s Room”

  12. maidden

    Seconding Dan’s comment, I don’t see anything wrong with the title either.

  13. Sili

    Yeah. I’m too dense to pick up on those clue thingies. (Or too lazy.)

    I knew about the mirroring, though. To the point that I go out of my to not do it in therapy …

  14. Kevin

    The girl is thinking “how did I get in the room with this idiot who escaped from a mental institution?”

    Oh yeah. Psychics should be institutionalized.

  15. Maugrim

    Dan has it right – “people’s” is correct. BA loses 32 grammar nazi points!

  16. Dan:

    Why does “people’s” make you “sic”?

    I was going to say the same thing. Here’s an extract from Wikipedia:

    When the noun is a normal plural, with an added s, no extra s is added in the possessive, so pens’ lids (where there is more than one pen) is correct rather than pens’s lids. If the plural is not one that is formed by adding s, add an s for the possessive, after the apostrophe: children’s hats, women’s hairdresser, some people’s eyes (but compare some peoples’ recent emergence into nationhood, where peoples is meant as the plural of the singular people). These principles are universally accepted.

    Click on my name for the link to the full article.

  17. Steve Ulven

    Yay, I finally provided a tip that made it on the page! Actually, I didn’t think the video was very good. The only reason I thought I’d send it along is because they did mention Randi at the end. I guess it’s not horrible for those who aren’t interested in the topics like we are and know what “psychics” are all about in the first place.

  18. I really can’t stand things like Ghost Whisperer or Medium.

    I don’t mind them. After all, in those fictional worlds, ghosts and psychic powers really do exist and (in the case of Ghost Whisperer anyway) have measurable effects on the day-to-day world.

  19. Adela

    You don’t need to be psychic when you know the rules of the universe that science teaches. Even human beings are predictable when you have enough data.

  20. Interestingly enough, these very same techniques are used in some Christian circles. The charismatic church I was part of would practice prophesying over people as we prayed for them. We used these very same techniques when “interviewing” people

  21. “Even human beings are predictable when you have enough data.”
    Psychohistory!!!

    ahem. I’m better now. anyway, that was a funny video, and it also reminded me of a South Park episode

  22. Quiet_Desperation

    I really can’t stand things like Ghost Whisperer or Medium. They just annoy me too much. Fringe is the latest pseudo-crap-fest to appear that is pushing all the right annoyance buttons.

    They are just fantasy. Honestly, I really don’t fathom the extension of real world skepticism into the realm of fiction. If you are going to reject simple psi powers (which were happily used by the likes of Asimov and Silverberg and Heinlein), you have to reject *all* FTL drives, small hand weapons that can put out a megawatt laser beam, humanoid aliens and just about all the other staples of “hard” SF. Psi powers are no worse than Brin’s E-Level Hyperspace or the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.

    Medium is actually well done. Her “powers” are not perfect, so most episodes she has to puzzle out what the heck the visions are trying to show her. There’s an internal consistency to them. Her ability sometimes has negative consequences, both to her and her family and people she works with. When she was exposed to the public by a reporter at the end of season 2, the D.A. she worked for had to resign, and the cop who knew her secret nearly had his career wiped out.

    I thought Fringe was OK, too. I’ll be giving it a chance. The old crazy scientist character is a hoot.

    Honestly, these shows have LESS impossibilities per episode than Star Trek or Stargate or Galactica.

    Speaking of Medium I think it was Randi who said it is medium because it is neither rare nor well done.

    Yeah, well, Randi should probably avoid TV criticism if he’s going to be so stodgy. Should probably avoid stand up comedy, too. I doubt he gave it a chance as a *drama* and got to know the characters and season story arcs.

    And as much as I respect Dawkins, I remember thinking what a complete tool he was when he picked on the original X-Files for having paranormal events in it. Gee, Richard, I guess they should not have advertised it as a science fact show. Oh, wait, they DIDN’T.

    But, each to his own in the end, I guess. I just think it’s silly to apply skepticism to fictional worlds.

  23. I figure, since we’re talking about the minds (plural) of people (plural) it should be “peoples’ minds”.

  24. QD, the reason shows like Medium and Fringe makes me cringe personally is that I look around, and I see people stupid enough to actually think that it lends their irrational beliefs some sort of credibility!

    I had someone say that because the antagonist in “The Mummy” understood Hebrew, that was an indication (or proof) that the Jews really were slaves of the Egyptians at one time… Yeah, people ARE that stupid….

  25. tai

    I believe if we were talking about the minds of peoples, then it would be peoples’, but since the minds of people makes more sense in context, people’s is correct.

  26. billsmithaz

    Personally, I can suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy a good, well-written supernatural drama, whether it’s book, movie or TV show. The fact that I’ve never seen persuasive evidence that ghosts exist doesn’t keep me from still loving The Sixth Sense.

    My only trouble with these genres is that, as Larian said, some people use movies like this as a validation of the paranormal and psuedoscientific.

    This kind of thing isn’t limited to the skeptic vs paranormal view, though. Take a look at historical dramas. They normally play fast and loose with actual history, but many people interpret “Based on an actual event” as “The Truth In Every Detail.” TV crime dramas pick up on sensationalistic real-life, high profile cases and present highly fictionalized and even more sensational versions of them, then bill the show as “Ripped from the headlines!” For people whose critical thinking skills may not be very well developed, that gives the show the feel of a documentary rather than a drama.

  27. Celtic_Evolution

    As rare as it is that I ever get a chance to use my English degree for anything tangibly useful, I feel I must jump at the chance! And I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with the posters who believe the correct usage in this case would be “people’s”. “Peoples” in its plural form generally refers to a uniquely identifiable group, as opposed to a general use of the plural of “person”. In this case, the context indicates that the use of “people” refers to “an unaccountable or indistinct mass of individuals”, whereas “peoples” would be used to identify a plural, but unique and identifiable group.

    So, I believe that the correct usage here would be “people’s”, and no (sic) is required.

    Now I must go and hose myself off, as I am now covered in pedantry.

  28. another vote for “people’s”. if we were talking about “peoples’ minds”, we’d be talking about the collective hive-minds of distinct populations (nations or tribes, for example)

  29. Quiet Desperation

    QD, the reason shows like Medium and Fringe makes me cringe personally is that I look around, and I see people stupid enough to actually think that it lends their irrational beliefs some sort of credibility!

    OK, but that’s not the show’s fault. I know Medium uses the name of a “real” psychic, Allison DuBois, but the show is a completely different universe – one where psi powers actually exist. ;-)

    NBC hasn’t mentioned the link since the premiere. I watched a “making of” short with the writing team, and they never even mentioned the real Allison. They were concerned with plotting the season arc, exploring the effect Allison’s abilities had on those around her, managing continuity and other basic speculative drama stuff. They enjoyed setting up each episode as a little puzzle for the viewer as well as the characters.

    Ad for Fringe, geez, it just started. Let’s give this “Pattern” thing a chance to play out. Hopefully they know where they are going with it, unlike the X-Files. It seems a little more straightforward: someone is conducting scary experiments using anyone in the general population they feel like as their lab rats. You don’t even need the fringe stuff for that to be disturbing.

  30. # Sindri Says:
    A lot of those tricks will also work for picking up women at a bar.

    No wonder I can’t convince anyone I’m psychic, OR get a date!
    ;)

    J/P=?

  31. Celtic_Evolution

    QD

    It’s funny… my wife often comments about how it’s strange that I can be such a rabid skeptic and yet still enjoy sci-fi and fantasy shows and movies as much as I do. I gently explain to her that I accept the shows for what they are, entertainment, and understand the reason the genre is called fantasy and science fiction. I accept the complete disregard for reality these shows are based on as a premise, and simply enjoy them for what they are.

    I also explain that it’s my firm grasp on reality that allows me to enjoy these genres for the escapethey provide from reality.

    The Lord of the Rings series are some of my favorite movies, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start looking for Hobbits in the woods.

  32. Crux Australis

    My wife’s aunt thinks she is psychic (at least, she sees ghosts and ‘fairies’). Some of us believe her, some don’t. I’m in the latter group. I don’t think it hurts, though, because a) she doesn’t take any money for it, and b) those who do believe her are family members who love her, and don’t make any life-changing decisions by her. When she says things like “there’s a little girl waiting for you” to my pregnant wife, that’s a little annoying, but if we don’t end up having a girl, then my wife’s attitude is “it wasn’t ‘meant to be’”.

  33. quasidog

    Unless you are trying to pick up an Intelligent woman.

  34. quasidog

    @ Celtic_Evolution

    I get that a lot too from my parents or friends that only watch football :/ I usually explain to them that if they have that point of view, they really need to learn to differentiate between fiction and non-fiction. I think that is a basic skill everyone needs to learn at a young age. I reckon it’s the people that are confused with this seeming conflict of interest that are the most vulnerable to being fooled by people such as mind readers and other tools.

  35. As a psychic of just a few short years, I can tell you that we don’t test well – for whatever reason.

    Isn’t it enough that we’re able to give names, numbers and other details without any previous knowledge, as such.

    And for the record, I have never charged a dime for my services.

  36. IBY

    You know, somehow the methods seem familiar, I wonder why, hhmmm… Jeez, I wonder what that could mean.

  37. Celtic_Evolution

    You know, though… in defense of Larian’s point, I will point out, the one thing that does sometimes get under my skin is that in many, if not all, of these shows, there is always a character… a “skeptic”, who finds the abilities, or situations, central to the plot absurd. And inevitably, that character is always portrayed in a very negative light. And I think that gives many people a very negative view of skeptics in general.

    A perfect example of this is in “Field of Dreams”. Amy Madigan’s character’s brother comes across as an over-bearing, selfish, boorish know-it-all for having the audacity to question the decision to tear up their family’s only source of income because her husband was hearing voices. In the real world, this man should have been commended and praised for being the only person who seemed to be looking out for the best interests of her family, yet he’s portrayed as someone the audience is meant to side against… all because he thinks reality is a better reason for making decisions than loopy delusions.

    And this happens all too frequently in this sort of genre… and it does occasionally temper my enjoyment of a show or movie.

  38. You want apostrophe abuse?! I’ll show you apostrophe abuse!
    http://wordsplosion.com/category/possessionism/

    This is a great video. I hope a lot of the believers see it and realize that they’ve fallen for this.

  39. ad

    What part of “we don’t test well” didn’t you understand Phil?

  40. ad — well, none of that sentence makes sense. If you don’t test well, then how do you know you’re a psychic?

    Which part of that don’t you understand?

  41. Dr. Phil Plait, check out BadPsychics.com.

    Click on my name for the link.

  42. Jose

    @ad
    Go easy on him. Didn’t you read Home: tired and lazy? Lack of sleep and over-caffeination has impaired his grammar and sarcasm detection.

  43. Davidlpf

    Ivan3man couldn’t find a website called goodpsychics.

  44. @ Davidlpf

    The only good ‘psychic’ is a dead psychic! :-)

  45. Davidlpf

    I wonder if they ever see it coming.

  46. ThinCritter

    Lets all see how many social mirrorer’s we can catch out by turning a cheek cup into a nose scratch.

  47. Five psychics were up late one night playing poker with Tarot cards. One of them got a ‘full house’, and the other four died suddenly. :-)

  48. I do love fantasy and sci-fi tv and movies – X Files, Lost, Heroes, BSG, Buffy, Angel, Sarah Connor, Benny Hinn and Dr Who. Most recently True Blood showed how a well done first episode can get you (me) hooked. It isn’t the fantastic elements of Medium, Ghost Whisperer and Fringe that stick in my craw. They are just not good tele.
    You could say Medium takes place in a fictional alternate universe where the paranormal takes place but the chief conceit is that it is based on a true story. Same with Ghost Whisperer. It is based on Van Pragh and Edwards. Too much real world baggage to be entertaining if it was actually good television. Formulaic. Same with Fringe. It was soooo predictable and trying too hard to be the new X Files for the noughties. One episode does not a season make but it is off to an ordinary start.

  49. Davidlpf

    It is kind of funny how woo makes good fiction.

  50. Jose

    Why are you all so against Woo?
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/woo/
    It was so good that it appears to have actually broken the Tomatometer. It couldn’t even register a score.

  51. IVAN3MAN

    @ Davidlpf

    The problem with some people is that they can’t separate fact from fiction — like the Bible or the Qur’an.

  52. MachineElf

    Phil wrote:

    “Do psychic powers exist? I don’t think they do, but that’s because for decades all sorts of tests have been run, and when they are done correctly there is no indication that anyone has any sort of psychic ability at all.”

    Citations?

  53. I accept the complete disregard for reality these shows are based on as a premise

    Agreed with you there. I can accept that things that aren’t real are “real” in fictional shows…as long as those things are treated consistently, just as they’d have to be in real life. It’s when assumptions and premises are changed at the whim of this week’s plot that I get a headache.

  54. the chief conceit is that it is based on a true story.

    I have to wonder if that sort of marketing hook actually brings in all that many additional viewers. I suppose it would depend on how many followers the real-life person has in the first place.

    Heh, I’m having flashbacks now to watching Yahoo Serious’ portrayal of Albert Einstein.

  55. Jose

    @MachineElf
    I’ve issued you a “Failure to Google” citation:

  56. gordy

    I KNEW you’d say that! (pick a phrase)

  57. MachineElf

    Jose said:

    “@MachineElf
    I’ve issued you a “Failure to Google” citation”

    Phil made an unequivocal statement, which suggests that he’s well read on the matter. I think it’s fair to ask him for some references, don’t you?

  58. MachineElf, you haven’t been here much have you?

  59. MachineElf

    Shane wrote:

    “MachineElf, you haven’t been here much have you?”

    That would be incorrect. I’m a long time visitor who visits regularly. I just don’t comment much. The history of psychic research, as well as mentalism, is a particular interest of mine – so it makes sense for me to read the particular research that Phil is referring to.

  60. Brasidas

    Why the “sic”??

    “People’s” means “of people”.

    Where would you put the apostrophe?

  61. @MachineElf

    Phil made an unequivocal statement, which suggests that he’s well read on the matter. I think it’s fair to ask him for some references, don’t you?

    No. Not when the information you seek is so readily available to anyone. His statement is a well established fact. So called psychics always fail to show even the slightest inkling of psychic powers when tested under circumstance that don’t allow them to cheat (consciously or unconsciously). And when I say always, I mean always. If you want to argue the point, just refer to proper studies that have shown psychic powers to be real. Good like finding one.

  62. Ad Hominid

    I haven’t trusted psychics since one of them told me Jimmy Carter would win the 1980 election. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was also about the time I discovered James Randi and Martin Gardner.

  63. MachineElf: You almost managed to shift the burden of proof there. Nice try.

  64. MachineElf

    Lars wrote:

    “MachineElf: You almost managed to shift the burden of proof there. Nice try.”

    You’re jumping to conclusions. I’m not saying that psychics have proven their abilities. I’m simply asking Phil to back up his statement “for decades all sorts of tests have been run, and when they are done correctly there is no indication that anyone has any sort of psychic ability at all.” As someone who has read plenty on the topic, his citations for that statement…interest me greatly.

  65. MachineElf

    Jose wrote:

    “If you want to argue the point, just refer to proper studies that have shown psychic powers to be real. Good like finding one.”

    Ditto to what I wrote above. You’re putting words in my mouth. I haven’t argued at all in favour of psychic abilities (though the topic interests me greatly) – I’m simply asking for citations for Phil’s statement.

    Quite interesting to watch the defensive reaction of a few people here, when all I’m doing is what anybody interested in scientific truth would do – asking someone to back up a statement about scientific studies showing something. Or is that not the done thing around here?

  66. MoMan

    MachineElf: you be annoying. Must someone provide citations for each and every statement when that would be nothing more than an exit when others are trying to stay on the main road? Were you just trying to say, “Look at me! I’m the real skeptic. I’m the smart one here.” Quarrelsome, I’d say.

  67. Celtic_Evolution

    MachineElf -

    You’re confusing dumbfounded with defensive. Honestly… are you so lazy that you need Phil to back fairly well established points of fact with a myriad of citations?

    Here… here’s an unequivocal statement for you: Gravity keeps me from flying off the surface of the earth and being flung into space.

    Would you like a citation for that? Or can we drop the facade.

  68. MachineElf

    Celtic_Evolution said:

    “You’re confusing dumbfounded with defensive. Honestly… are you so lazy that you need Phil to back fairly well established points of fact with a myriad of citations?”

    No, I’ve already pointed out that I’ve read quite a bit on this topic – it’s nothing to do with being lazy.

    The problem is that everyone likes to say that this is a “fairly well established point of fact”, when in truth, I don’t think many people at all have even looked at the history, or the research. Perhaps you can cite me these papers?

    I find some quite perplexing cases in the field of psychic research. I also find obvious (and surreptitious) frauds which taint the argument that this is a genuine skill. I also see amazing abilities shown off by mentalists which show we should be very careful in testing psychics. What I have not found, though is “decades all sorts of tests”, and even more so “done correctly”. And that is a point not in favour of either the skeptical argument or the psychic argument. It’s just a plain point of fact that I don’t believe the topic hasn’t been tested in a truly scientific way.

    So the citations would certainly be very handy – perhaps I’ve not read deeply enough, perhaps Phil’s idea of “truly scientific” is different to mine, or perhaps Phil is just assuming something that isn’t true. All would offer a learning experience I think.

    But I do stand by my observation that the defensiveness of posters is interesting.

  69. Celtic_Evolution

    Michael Horn… is that you??

  70. Celtic_Evolution

    I find some quite perplexing cases in the field of psychic research.

    Citations, please?

  71. quasidog

    How come psychics always react badly when being exposed as frauds, while at the same time admit they ‘don’t test well’ and other really strange argument’s, that seem to be pointless and counter-productive to their cause. Win the million buck Randi is offering you fools. If you can get some stupid number or name from some person … why not just do that in front of Randi and just win. How come some psychics go to work (as psychics) earning crap money, when there is one million bucks just sitting there ready to be taken. If you can turn it on for your job as a psychic, turn it on for an easy one million. If I was a psychic I would just do it. …. but they obviously can’t do it because they are all deluded or full of it.

  72. Celtic_Evolution

    It’s just a plain point of fact that I don’t believe the topic hasn’t been tested in a truly scientific way.

    For 100 points… who wants to tell me all the things wrong with this sentence?

  73. MachineElf

    Celtic_Evolution wrote:

    “For 100 points… who wants to tell me all the things wrong with this sentence?”

    Yeah, that’s a fair point. That was pretty damn horrible.

  74. MachineElf

    Celtic_Evolution wrote:

    “Citations, please?”

    Leonora Piper would be a good place to start. I’ll post a few things tomorrow – late at the moment though, and my eyes are hanging out of my head (and there’s 2000 odd pages of S.P.R. reports to pick from). Perplexing isn’t the word for Piper…as Frank Podmore said of her, if she is a cheat, she sets a benchmark beyond any other cheat on Earth. Trance state, ‘communication’ through vocals and writing with both hands (with reports of all three simultaneously), mirror writing, testing over the course of 15 years by some of the best scientists of the time. Equally, some important failures, and apparent fishing expeditions. But perplexing – certainly. If not ‘psychic’, then well worth studying at least for other abilities of the human brain.

    More tomorrow.

  75. MachineElf

    Quasidog wrote:

    “How come some psychics go to work (as psychics) earning crap money, when there is one million bucks just sitting there ready to be taken.”

    That would assume that Randi’s test is “truly scientific”. Which it isn’t (1 off test, virtually unattainable p-value, inability to evaluate ‘dazzle’ shots, etc).

    Which returns me to my point.

  76. JackC

    What *I* want to know is – why is that guy in his underwear and what is that mess on the telly?

    What a very odd video.

    JC

  77. Well, first of all… Piper? All the claims and foofooraw concerning psychic abilities and you’re going to reach back 100 years? Come on… do you think with the methods available in the late 1800′s that a charlatan like John Edward could be as easily debunked as he is today? Were Edward alive then, doing what he does now, he would have been a million times more famous… or infamous. The main reason Piper stands out from others is that she was so “nice”, and “unassuming”. But again… I’m really not going to try to refute the abilities of a late 19th century “medium” with the methods used at the time.

    So… for your homework, please visit the JREF website… follow the link by clicking my name… if you are a regular here, then you should already know what that site is and why you really need go no further. The million dollar prize has been in place for many many years now and has yet to be claimed. But tit’s not for lack of testing. The criteria and testing process is laid out in very specific terms. If what you say is true, then one would have to assume someone would have been able to meet this challenge. Yet the money continues to sit unclaimed.

    If psychic powers are real, and so many people already are in it to make money, this challenge should have easily been met by now.

  78. That would assume that Randi’s test is “truly scientific”. Which it isn’t (1 off test, virtually unattainable p-value, inability to evaluate ‘dazzle’ shots, etc).

    HERE is where you lose all credibility… please explain yourself. What makes this test, in your mind, “unscientific”. And please be careful how you respond. Be specific… there are more than a few “scientists” on this site who think Randi’s test is more than adequately scientific.

    I eagerly await your explanation.

  79. Celtic_Evolution

    I said:

    But tit’s not for lack of testing.

    Oh dear me… Freudian slip… sorry about that… interesting that spell-check didn’t catch that one. :)

  80. quasidog

    @ MachineElf : quote “That would assume that Randi’s test is “truly scientific”. Which it isn’t (1 off test, virtually unattainable p-value, inability to evaluate ‘dazzle’ shots, etc).”

    I don’t care.

    Just read the cards, or pick the numbers or whatever it is psychics claim to do. Excuses about the validity of Randi’s test are are a great way to misdirect people away from the fact

    ….. psychic power is BS.

    Btw, Randi’s tests seem pretty fair from a scientific viewpoint … I don’t see what the problem is. If anything …. go on there and prove Randi wrong! Make a fool of him! If I was a psychic, that was constantly being debunked by the majority, and there was an opportunity for me to ….

    A. prove everyone wrong.
    B. prove Randi wrong.
    C. win a MILLION dollars
    D. become the first psychic proven scientifically, and become famous
    E. make more money

    ….. I would do it in a second. Kill many birds with one stone. Answer the question once and for all. Shut everyone up. Omg …. so easy, but for some, earning crappy money by reading some poor saps mind, in a stall at some hippy fair, seems to be more logical ?

    Just prove it. It really is not hard. Or is it ? … Excuses ? Lies ?

  81. Todd W.

    @CE

    Of course spell-check wouldn’t catch the name of a type of bird. No harm, no foul (or is it fowl? :P )

  82. Trance state, ‘communication’ through vocals and writing with both hands (with reports of all three simultaneously), mirror writing.

    I can’t write with both hands (Well, not very well), but I can do a trance state and ‘communication’ through vocals. I just tried mirror writing, and it’s surprisingly easy. Give me a couple of hours to practice, and I’m pretty sure I could do it all at once. Since I can’t do the writing with both hands, perhaps I’ll incorporate something like hopping on one foot, or maybe I’ll do it while driving my car and steering with my legs. I think I should be ready to take my act on the road by tomorrow. And please if you’re not a believer, don’t show up. Skeptics have a draining effect on my powers. Admission is 100,000 Lira. 200,000 if you want me to heal you. But you can get in free if you allow me to test your um…..little birds that CE mentioned.

  83. What exactly is “communication through vocals”? Is that just a fancy way of saying talking?

  84. Celtic_Evolution

    Yes, well… that’s nothing… when I’m thirsty, Instead of drinking, I absorb liquid through imbibing…

  85. Celtic_Evolution

    which, incidentally, tends to put me into a trance state whereby I speak nearly incoherently and can write equally incoherently with my feet…

  86. Jose

    I forgot to mention that I don’t even need to eat or drink. I absorb all the nutrition I need directly from the sun. If you do see me eating, it’s only because I like to.

  87. Chris A.

    @MachineElf:

    You want citations? Try these:

    Skeptical Inquirer, v.1, no. 1
    Skeptical Inquirer, v.1, no. 2
    Skeptical Inquirer, v.1, no. 3
    Skeptical Inquirer, v.1, no. 4
    Skeptical Inquirer, v.2, no. 1
    Skeptical Inquirer, v.2, no. 2
    .
    .
    .
    Skeptical Inquirer, v. m, no. n, where 1<=m<=32, and 1<=n<=4

    In other words, if you’re hard pressed for citations of

    1) Studies where psychics fail to demonstrate their claimed abilities under controlled conditions, and

    2) Studies where psychic abilities appear, but the test is flawed

    you’re not trying very hard to find them.

  88. JT

    That would assume that Randi’s test is “truly scientific”. Which it isn’t (1 off test, virtually unattainable p-value, inability to evaluate ‘dazzle’ shots, etc).

    Randi’s tests are “truly scientific”, as I’m sure many of the scientists he consults with and has administer the tests will attest too. As for the low p-value, what sort of p-value would you suggest. Keep in mind that this is for $1 million, so a p-value that would allow 1 in 20 or 1 in 100 to succeed by blind chance is completely ridiculous. At any rate, the conditions of the test are agreed to by the testee before hand, so they have no cause to complain when they inevitably fail.

    As for the low p-value even being an issue, you are aware of the meaning of that term in statistics, correct? It is the probability of a false positive assuming a “completely random” result set. Isn’t the entire point of the test to prove the existence of some factor (a “power” if you will) that allows the testee to succeed at a rate higher than blind chance? If anything, a more rigorous test should allow for more opportunity for the alleged psychic to display even a very subtle power. That is, of course, if the power actually exists.

  89. Going all the way back to the first comment… “Psych” is a greatly entertaining show. I watch it every week. My only problem with it philosophically is the implicit assumption that in order to fake psychic powers, one must have Holmes-ian, near preternatural observational skills. In reality, all it actually requires is the willingness and ability to lie without remorse.

  90. Gary Ansorge

    MachineElf:
    Disclaimer: The following is ANECDOTAL and is not to be considered evidence of any “additional” sensory input.

    BAck in 1988, I was working at E.F. industries in El Segundo, Ca. While having a conversation with my boss,”BoB, and a subordinate, Mike King, we were discussing the heavy handed BS some managers use when I clearly heard Mike say, “Yeah, and then they cut off your Balls!”
    It was such an unusual thing to hear him say, in the context of an employee to a manager, that I turned around and repeated to Mike what he’d just said,,,
    ,,,Mikes eyes got really big, he stepped back and said ” I was thinking that, but I didn’t say it,,,”
    ,,,two weeks later he was no longer employed with us, by his own decision.

    Telepathy would definitely be a two edged sword. On the one hand, a functional telepath (ie, one who could turn it on/off at will) would be some one fearsome to be around. Imagine, all our secrets exposed, without our wishing it,,,bummer!!!
    On the other, how isolated such a One would be,,,

    I expect if Randi had ever confronted a real teep, he would be distinctly uneasy,,,

    GAry 7

  91. MachineElf

    Celtic_Evolution wrote: “Well, first of all… Piper? All the claims and foofooraw concerning psychic abilities and you’re going to reach back 100 years?”

    Er…I said I found some cases extremely perplexing. You asked for a citation for that. I offered probably the most perplexing case of all, and also probably the most documented. Please don’t shift the goalposts. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not arguing in favour of psychic abilities here. In case you haven’t been paying attention, my main point has been that (contra Phil’s assertion) there is very little truly scientific testing worth quoting over the decades, and so I’m not sure how anyone can conclude that scientific testing has proven psychic abilities are bunk (or the opposite).

    If you asked me for a citation on the skills of cricket batsmen, I would have brought up Don Bradman, even though he played more than 50 years ago. The same goes for Piper – either she had some sort of psychic ability, or she had some sort of latent ‘normal’ abilities in the trance state, or she was a fraud like we have never seen. Certainly a “perplexing case”, which you asked for.

    CE: “Come on… do you think with the methods available in the late 1800’s that a charlatan like John Edward could be as easily debunked as he is today? ”

    Please detail how the methods were different, and what ‘charlatan’ skills John Edward has that were unable to be detected by members of the SPR. I think they were more than well-equipped to detect frauds, and they did so regularly. In fact, this statement makes me suspicious that you actually haven’t read the Piper documentation…I would hope that is not the case.

    CE: “The main reason Piper stands out from others is that she was so “nice”, and “unassuming”.

    Again, based on that reply, you either haven’t read the documentation, or you’re being deliberately evasive. Some of the main reasons she stood out: that she submitted to methodical testing by scientists, for close to 20 years, underwent surveillance, was never given access to sitter’s names or backgrounds, and yet produced convincing results without once being detected in fraud. There are hundreds of pages of transcripts of the sessions, which appear to show her stating highly specific facts about unknown people which defy the fishing explanation. She convinced some of the top scientists of the time that she had genuine psychic powers. All this while being in a trance state (confirmed by all who tested her). *That* is why she stands out. There were plenty of other “nice” and “unassuming” mediums who are not regarded as being of the same interest as the Piper case.

    That is not to say that the Piper case is unassailable. Hall and Tanner brought up some worthwhile skeptical arguments in Tanner’s book “Studies in Spiritism”. But I don’t treat Hall and Tanner with any more authority than I do William James and Richard Hodgson. I have some questions over all investigations of Mrs Piper, but overall it is fascinating, and perplexing. Anyone who doesn’t find this case interesting hasn’t read the documentation.

    In the words of Frank Podmore, a member of the SPR known for his harsh skeptical stance:

    “If Mrs Piper’s trance utterances are entirely founded on knowledge acquired by normal means, Mrs Piper must be admitted to have inaugurated a new departure in fraud. Nothing to approach this has ever been done before. On the assumption that all so-called clairvoyance is fraudulent, we have seen the utmost which fraud has been able to accomplish in the past, and at its best it falls immeasurably short of Mrs Piper’s achievements. Now, that in itself requires explanation. We know somewhat of the conditions and the limits of fraud, and if all clairvoyants are simply tricksters it has to be explained why Mrs Piper is so incomparably superior to all her fellows….on the assumption of fraud the tremendous gulf between her and them is an almost insuperable obstacle.”

    CE: “HERE is where you lose all credibility… please explain yourself.”

    I thought I did. The p-value is perhaps the most important aspect. I don’t argue with Randi’s insistence of odds of 1 million to 1 (as has seemed to be the case until a recent relaxation to odds of 100,000 to 1) – he’s having to protect a lot of money against some fool getting lucky. But that doesn’t make it scientific. As Chris Carter points out (prior to the ‘relaxation’ of the p-value required):

    “If Randi were genuinely interested in testing unusual claims, then he would also not insist upon odds of at least one million to one against chance for the results. Anyone familiar with scientific studies will be aware that experimental results against chance of say, 800,000 to one would be considered extraordinary; but results this high would be, according to Randi, a “failure.” “

  92. MachineElf

    Jose said: “I can do a trance state and ‘communication’ through vocals. I just tried mirror writing, and it’s surprisingly easy. Give me a couple of hours to practice, and I’m pretty sure I could do it all at once.”

    I await your YouTube video with great interest. Later this afternoon then? Please be sure to have a skeptical scientist test your trance state (as Piper did), and reveal plenty of highly specific facts about three complete strangers you have never met, while in your genuine trance state, by talking and writing with both hands simultaneously. That should put paid to any further talk about the case of Mrs Piper being “perplexing”…

  93. MachineElf

    JT said: “As for the low p-value, what sort of p-value would you suggest. Keep in mind that this is for $1 million, so a p-value that would allow 1 in 20 or 1 in 100 to succeed by blind chance is completely ridiculous. At any rate, the conditions of the test are agreed to by the testee before hand, so they have no cause to complain when they inevitably fail.”

    I couldn’t agree more JT. I would do exactly as Randi has done if I had a million dollar prize to protect.

    That does not make it a scientific appraisal of psychic abilities though does it? Neither does some deluded fool agreeing to those conditions.

    To pass Randi’s tests, you have to beat odds of around 1000 to 1 in the preliminary test, and then 100,000 to 1 in the final test (formerly million to one). So, if you had psychic skills and could produce results against chance in the region of 800 to 1 (pretty impressive), you wouldn’t even get past the preliminary.

    I don’t regard that as scientific, and nobody else should. But I welcome real scientific testing to settle the matter in the future, hopefully.

  94. MachineElf

    Chris A. said: “You want citations? Try these:

    Skeptical Inquirer, v.1, no. 1
    Skeptical Inquirer, v.1, no. 2″

    Oh I do hope that’s you joking. You want to cite a magazine, when I’m looking for “truly scientific” tests? I didn’t even realise that SI was peer-reviewed (<— that was me joking).

    Jose said: "What exactly is “communication through vocals”? Is that just a fancy way of saying talking?"

    and Celtic_Evolution said: "Yes, well… that’s nothing… when I’m thirsty, Instead of drinking, I absorb liquid through imbibing…"

    Really? You guys need to make fun of someone using the word "vocal"? That would be what I called being "defensive" . Do you want me to stop talking so "fancy" and dumb things down a little? And I took so long consulting my dictionary and thesaurus for that obscure word "vocal" – I thought it would impress you scientist guys…

    And all I wanted was a citation for Phil's claim. I feel like I've been McCained.

  95. Biff went to a storefront psychic for some spiritual guidance: “There seems to be a horrible, dark cloud surrounding me.”

    “I know”, said the psychic, “and for a hundred dollars, I can rid you of it.”

    Biff thought the fee was high, but, eager to be cured, he handed over the money to the psychic. After pocketing the fee, the psychic then pulled out a book of matches and lit one.

    Then Biff asked: “What do you call this dark and horrible curse?”

    The psychic waved the match down behind Biff and said: “Mexican food!”

  96. Jose

    @MachineElf

    Really? You guys need to make fun of someone using the word “vocal”?

    I’m not making fun of you for using the word “vocal”. I’m making fun of you because you seem to think that “talking” while in a trance and writing is something “perplexing”. I think you’re easily perplexed.

    I await your YouTube video with great interest.

    Oh no. I don’t perform for free. I’m not as charitable as Mrs. Piper. You’ll have to buy a ticket like everyone else.

    Maybe you should start by telling us how to scientifically test a psychic in a way that would meet your rigorous standards instead of just making vague criticisms. I’d like to be defensive, but I’m not exactly clear on what I should be defensive about.

  97. quasidog

    So many words MachineElf. Could I be bothered reading it all. No.

    Excuses and Misdirection. Professed psychics should just win the million, or get a job. Anything else is unacceptable. They have had enough time to prove it.

    This is really pretty much as stupid, as some street magician trying to convince someone magic is actually real. The same people that think psychics are legit, probably also think Chris Angel can actually levitate, and David Blane can survive locked in ice, and Merlin was a real figure in history.

    All psychics need to prove it works, without fail, or go and get a real job. ‘Stealing’ ( yes it is stealing ) money from old senile people and others that are easily fooled, is pretty much evil. ( Yep .. evil ). There is nothing innocent about convincing others something is real, when it clearly is not.

    ITS A ‘MAGIC TRICK’! A trick. Misdirection. Cold reading. End of story.

  98. n9891q

    Just got back from Las Vegas (eh) where I saw Penn & Teller. Great show. In the middle, Penn does this great demonstration of his psychic powers. Fantastic – I recommend the show if you’re ever lucky (?) enough to be in Las Vegas.

    Is Penn psychic? Of course not. Is he doing psychic things? Of course not. Is he as good as a professional psychic (one who makes money at the craft)? Of course not. Penn’s better!

  99. Celtic_Evolution

    You know, MachineElf, I had started to write this word for word “battle-response”, and then I decided that you already wrote all I really need to say here.

    Regarding the Piper case, you sum up nicely the final analysis as you quote Podmore:

    “If Mrs Piper’s trance utterances are entirely founded on knowledge acquired by normal means, Mrs Piper must be admitted to have inaugurated a new departure in fraud. Nothing to approach this has ever been done before. On the assumption that all so-called clairvoyance is fraudulent, we have seen the utmost which fraud has been able to accomplish in the past, and at its best it falls immeasurably short of Mrs Piper’s achievements. Now, that in itself requires explanation. We know somewhat of the conditions and the limits of fraud, and if all clairvoyants are simply tricksters it has to be explained why Mrs Piper is so incomparably superior to all her fellows….on the assumption of fraud the tremendous gulf between her and them is an almost insuperable obstacle.”

    And this is where we diverge. You and I look at this and see two completely different statements. You see this is an affirmation that her powers are quite possibly genuine, and I see it as a complete agreement that what Mrs. Piper has done is indeed “inaugurated a new departure in fraud.”

    And before you toss out any more ad-homs about my level of knowledge and understanding in the Piper case, let me assure you that I’ve done my homework, and I’m aware of the Tanner debunkings of Piper as well as the work of William James, not just in this case but relating to others as well… I know how intrigued he was by it… and my feeling on James is that he was indeed intrigued by Piper… but I am no more convinced that he believed she had psychic abilities than I am that he believed anyone had them. My take on reading his work regarding Piper is that he found her ability to ferret out information with very little foreknowledge to be fascinating, from a sociological and psychological standpoint. That is, I’m pretty sure he was convinced she was a fraud, but was simply amazed at her proficiency.

    But, at the end of the day, the BEST that anyone has ever been able to say about Piper is that her ability, while fascinating, is inconclusive as to it being psychic. And I’m sorry, if your best example is one that can be, at best, described inconclusive and is over a hundred years old, and none better have been presented since then, I remain unconvinced.

    And I’m really not interested in listing the ways we might be better equipped to detect fraud in psychic investigations than we were over 100 years ago. I’ll simply throw your own analogy back at you: If I’m looking to study the skills of a cricket batsman, you can be damn well sure that I while I might use Don Bradman as an example, I will be much better equipped to study and analyze his technique today than I would have been 50 years ago. So let that one sink in and let’s not try to argue it again, ok?

    So, going back to your supposed point, that Phil gives no citations for his claim… well… I call “shenanagins” on your prior claim of being a regular reader. If this were true, not only would you already know of the many times this subject has been discussed here before, but just within the past few weeks Phil put up a video of Johnny Carson’s famous episode debunking Uri Geller, and showing Randi debunking other “psychic” claims. How is it that you, a devoted and regular reader, missed that?

    It’s been said here a million times before but it bears repeating. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary PROOF. Not interesting or perplexing stories. And despite Carter’s claims of what should be considered extraordinary by JREF, no-one’s even come close to that p-value, so the point is really moot. The point in lowering the p-value was not one of acquiescence to the complainers, necessarily, it was done to show that even this p-value can not be approached, and frankly, you could halve that again and no-one would be able to touch it. But for a true psychic, such a p-value should be easily attainable. And it just isn’t… so honestly, what more is there to say?

    As far as the fun we took with your “communication through vocals” phrase… lighten up for cripe’s sake… we like to have fun around here in addition to talking seriously about whatever topic might come up, and that was just… funny. Sheesh. Talk about defensive.

  100. Celtic_Evolution

    Oh, and by the way, it comes of as a little dishonest when you ask for citations, are provided them (the Skeptical Inquirer examples given by Chris A), and then summarily dismiss those citations because, well, as you put it, “Oh, I do hope that’s you joking”. Good refutation.

    I may have dismissed your Piper example, but at least I presented a cogent reason for doing so, and engaged in a discussion regarding those reasons.

    So why don’t you tell us which citations will be acceptable to you so that we don’t have to guess at which ones might be summarily dismissed without explanation.

  101. Nathan, “Nature” is a magazine. “Science” is a magazine. What is your point?

    What is a trance state and how did they test for it 100 years ago?

    A million to 1, 900 to 1 or 2 to 1 odds. So? The psychics make a claim, they agree to a test on that claim, they pass or fail. Your P value is a red herring.

    Bradman’s record has been unequalled. For 50 years we’ve been comparing batsman to Bradman but there is no quantifiable way of making a valid comparison. So what? It is fun to speculate though. Was the Don a better batsman than Babe Ruth a hitter?

  102. MachineElf

    Jose said:

    “I’m not making fun of you for using the word “vocal”. I’m making fun of you because you seem to think that “talking” while in a trance and writing is something “perplexing”. I think you’re easily perplexed.”

    I think you’re misrepresenting the situation. I pointed out that (a) she was in complete trance (b) she could communicate with 3 people *simultaneously* by speaking and writing with both hands (sometimes mirror writing to boot) and (c) while in this trance and communicating, she presented highly specific names and facts – to complete strangers who were under assumed names – which were (seemingly) unknown to her. Yes, I find that perplexing. I don’t necessarily say it’s proof of psychic abilities. But perplexing, certainly.

    Jose said: “Oh no. I don’t perform for free. I’m not as charitable as Mrs. Piper. You’ll have to buy a ticket like everyone else.”

    So how much is a ticket? You said you could learn this in a few hours. Doing so would largely put paid to the alleged special abilities of the “greatest medium of all time”. Surely that’s worth a few hours? I’ll give you $200 to see the video, that’s not a bad ticket price?

    You were the one that said it could easily be done in a few hours. Ante up my friend.

    (BTW, Mrs Piper didn’t do her readings for free. She was on a fixed salary with the SPR.)

    Jose said: “Maybe you should start by telling us how to scientifically test a psychic in a way that would meet your rigorous standards instead of just making vague criticisms.”

    My “rigorous standards” would be the same standards applied to any other field. A series of tests, not one-offs, and look at the significance of the results. I’m not so sure how to incorporate things like “dazzle shots”, which are hard to grade but are probably most responsible for people’s insistence that the medium gave them something they should not have known (ie. if the medium has nine misses, but then on the tenth provides highly specific information which is spot on – for example something like “your mother’s name is Virginia, when she was ten she fell off a horse and broke her right leg, and had to use a cane for the rest of her life” – where does that leave us with a 1 in 9 hit rate?)

    But I’m not out to redefine scientific testing of mediums at this stage. I’m just asking for Phil’s citations for his claim. Once we see those tests, we can argue whether they were scientific or not.

  103. Oh crap, just realised I directed my last post at Nathan. Sorry Nathan, it was supposed to be for MachineElf. Here is it is again…

    MachineElf, “Nature” is a magazine. “Science” is a magazine. What is your point?

    What is a trance state and how did they test for it 100 years ago?

    A million to 1, 900 to 1 or 2 to 1 odds. So? The psychics make a claim, they agree to a test on that claim, they pass or fail. Your P value is a red herring.

    Bradman’s record has been unequalled. For 50 years we’ve been comparing batsman to Bradman but there is no quantifiable way of making a valid comparison. So what? It is fun to speculate though. Was the Don a better batsman than Babe Ruth a hitter?

  104. MachineElf

    Celtic_Evolution said:

    “And this is where we diverge. You and I look at this and see two completely different statements. You see this is an affirmation that her powers are quite possibly genuine, and I see it as a complete agreement that what Mrs. Piper has done is indeed ‘inaugurated a new departure in fraud.’

    And before you toss out any more ad-homs about my level of knowledge and understanding in the Piper case, let me assure you that I’ve done my homework, and I’m aware of the Tanner debunkings of Piper as well as the work of William James, not just in this case but relating to others as well… (snip) I’m pretty sure he was convinced she was a fraud, but was simply amazed at her proficiency.”

    Well firstly, Podmore’s article makes clear that he thinks the claims of fraud are nonsense. The section I quoted was simply to highlight the context for anyone wanting to make the claim. For you to say you “see it as a complete agreement” that Mrs Piper was a fraud only shows that you haven’t read the article.

    Beyond that, William James hardly did any investigating of Mrs Piper (even if Martin Gardner wants to focus on him). Richard Hodgson spent the longest, tested the most and released the transcripts of the sessions. James Hyslop was the next most important tester and chronicler, after Hodgson’s death. Between them you can read around 1500 pages of transcripts and commentary, which are the most valuable in evaluating Mrs Piper’s alleged abilities. But, to return to William James, his own writings also make clear that he did not regard her as a fraud. He tended more towards the conclusion that telepathy/access to some communal mind was occurring.

    So, between your statement about Podmore’s conclusions, about James’s conclusion, and James’s importance, I continue to think that you haven’t read the documentation. You know, it’s only an ad-hom when it’s not true (though I wouldn’t have categorised it as harshly as that, personally)… ;)

    CE said “So, going back to your supposed point, that Phil gives no citations for his claim… well… I call “shenanagins” on your prior claim of being a regular reader. If this were true, not only would you already know of the many times this subject has been discussed here before, but just within the past few weeks Phil put up a video of Johnny Carson’s famous episode debunking Uri Geller, and showing Randi debunking other “psychic” claims. How is it that you, a devoted and regular reader, missed that?”

    Are you wanting me to say that I think Carson and Randi offer scientific tests? And that Geller is a medium? I’ve never seen citations for Carson before.

    I’ve read BA for quite a while now, contra your assertion (or is that an ad-hom?!). I think Phil’s a great public face for science and astronomy (another of my favourite topics). I’m looking forward to the direction he takes the JREF in. I have noticed though that on a number of occasions he has thrown out this “Psychic skills are bunk” line, without ever providing any context. I would hope someone of his standing isn’t just parroting the party line, without doing some research (I do realise that he’s a very busy professional – but if he wants to throw lines like this out to the public, he can at least expect some accountability, no?).

    CE said: “But for a true psychic, such a p-value should be easily attainable.”

    What grounds do you have for that statement? A ‘true psychic’ (whatever that may be) may well only be able to – over prolonged testing – produce results marginally above chance (but still signficant). We don’t know the mechanism (under the assumption that there is some sort of psychic ability of course) – so how can we say what p-value should be attainable?

    CE said: “As far as the fun we took with your “communication through vocals” phrase… lighten up for cripe’s sake… we like to have fun around here in addition to talking seriously about whatever topic might come up, and that was just… funny. ”

    I think you’re being disingenous here (my opinion entirely). It probably would have been more funny if there was some humour in it. I do funny pretty good, and I’ll join it when I can. But you guys need some more time in the small clubs working on your material if you thought that was just “…funny”.

    But I can see my question about providing citations isn’t welcome here, so no more posts from me – I leave you all to your certainty over psychic phenomena. Feel free to have the last word if you wish.

  105. MachineElf says “A ‘true psychic’ (whatever that may be) may well only be able to – over prolonged testing – produce results marginally above chance (but still signficant)”

    I’m not sure you understand what is meant by significant. Statistically speaking significant may not necessarily be very important or meaningful. It goes both ways, what if she produced results marginally below chance. The result is still significant but it doesn’t really mean much.

  106. Jose

    William James@MachineElf
    OK, I’ll be serious now. You’ve been investigating Leonora Piper for longer than I have. Please direct me to evidence that she did anything extraordinary. All I can find are anecdotes and testimonials of people who sound more gullible than skeptical. Where’s her video?

    I pointed out that (a) she was in complete trance (b) she could communicate with 3 people *simultaneously* by speaking and writing with both hands (sometimes mirror writing to boot) and (c) while in this trance and communicating, she presented highly specific names and facts – to complete strangers who were under assumed names – which were (seemingly) unknown to her.

    People think the Sylvia Browns and John Edwards of the world presented highly specific names and facts. Big deal. People, even smart people, are fooled by cold readers. Especially when they’re not aware of how it’s done.

    My “rigorous standards” would be the same standards applied to any other field. A series of tests, not one-offs, and look at the significance of the results.

    How do you get someone who makes a living off being a psychic to subject themselves to repeated test in order to prove that they’re not psychic? I think what usually happens is that a psychic submits themselves to testing, and don’t like the results. Then they’re forced to make up some excuse as to why they were off that day, and then refuse to ever be tested again. The best we can do is look at the fact that no one has ever shown any evidence of psychic powers under controlled circumstances. Combine every one-offs test ever done, and you still have nothing.

    I’m not so sure how to incorporate things like “dazzle shots”, which are hard to grade but are probably most responsible for people’s insistence that the medium gave them something they should not have known (ie. if the medium has nine misses, but then on the tenth provides highly specific information which is spot on – for example something like “your mother’s name is Virginia, when she was ten she fell off a horse and broke her right leg, and had to use a cane for the rest of her life” – where does that leave us with a 1 in 9 hit rate?)

    You don’t seem to understand how cold readers work. They make vague generalized statements until they get hits. Then they latch on to those hits and repeat the process. By the end people think they received highly specific “dazzle shots”. But they never did.

  107. Jose

    Ignore the William James at the beginning there. I was trying to delete that paragraph.

  108. Trance state, ‘communication’ through vocals and writing with both hands (with reports of all three simultaneously), mirror writing, testing over the course of 15 years by some of the best scientists of the time.

    Mirror writing is nothing special. I used to watch my undergrad linguistics prof take notes in mirror writing during student presentations; she could write as just as fast in mirror as I could regularly. In fact, all of these sound like skills that could be learned with a bit of practice.

  109. Michael

    I am genuinely amazed at the number of people arguing for “scientific” tests who obviously have no idea whatsoever what science entails. They call themselves “skeptics” but all I’m seeing are very fuzzy thinkers grinding axes. (Yes, I do have a degree that was to a great extent centered on scientific method and statistics, unlike a lot of the posters above, apparently).

  110. Jose

    @Michael
    I am genuinely amazed at the number of people arguing for “scientific” tests who obviously have no idea whatsoever what science entails. They call themselves “skeptics” but all I’m seeing are very fuzzy thinkers grinding axes. (Yes, I do have a degree that was to a great extent centered on scientific method and statistics, unlike a lot of the posters above, apparently).

    Please tell us what science entails. You can’t leave us hanging like that. And I don’t have a degree centered on scientific method and statistics, so if you could dumb it down for a fuzzy thinking simpleton, it would be greatly appreciated.

  111. Dr. Brett Cohen

    There was a man named Harry Kahne in the early 1900′s who had a stage act of writing with both hands in different languages while being hung upside down and singing – at the same time. The audience would call things out and he would transcribe them. This man ‘s act was much more difficult than most of Leonora Piper’s.

    He trained himself for this with various mental exercises in a progressive manner, just as a weightlifter trains the body. His system works quite well, and taken to the extreme gives a person such great control over his mind that anyone of his era could have deemed it “supernatural”. These days it is “pushing the boundaries of science” the only difference is the semantics. The feat remains the same.

    I’m a neurologist and I can’t explain the process at work behind such mental ability, though it certainly exists.

    That said, I agree with MachineElf, you are all being extremely defensive (and offensive) over trite, niggling little arguments.

    Try as he might, Plait can’t prove his claims any more than Simon Newcomb could prove man would never fly. Faulty logic is at work here. The reason the citations are not forthcoming is because THEY DON’T EXIST. Based on current understanding a conclusion cannot be made EITHER WAY, and that drives religious, er, I mean “skeptical” folk absolutely insane.

    At this point common science has not moved on to the level where it can definitively prove anything except the dogmatic behavior of its adherents.

    (p.s.- I’m surprised none of you have attacked the man based on his tag, a reference to DMT, one of the ultimate unsolved mysteries of our day…)

  112. John Grant's Corrupted Science Bookcover

    Come on you guys. It went far enough. We all know psychic abilities do not exist because Jesus is no longer among us. It’s really, really wicked to mention there is anyone else who can do them, because he would be Jesus, right? That’s the real reason for the p odds 1:100.000 or even 1:1.000.000 in the Randi Challenge – why, he’s keeping those money for Him in case he shows up, so he won’t be needing to burden himself with any of those pesky daily jobs we all have to. All he needs to do then is to heal like a 100.000 people in front of Randi (a quick calculation taking into consideration Randi’s daily time for this, people dying after being healed of natural causes gives us a span of 10-30 years to complete this easy task) and he’s off! Dang, a million bucks in 30 years will be awesome to have, now wouldn’t you just LOVE to be Jesus now, would you! Repent, sinners!

  113. someone

    Actually it is not astonishing that there is no “true psychic” which has ever accepted Randis challenge. If you look at quasidog’s points:
    >A. prove everyone wrong., B. prove Randi wrong.
    Why should they do this? They *know* everyone else is wrong. No need to prove it.

    >C. win a MILLION dollars
    If someone is a “true psychic” he doesn’t need Randi’s million dollar. If he can look into the future, he can get rich at the stock exchange. If he is telepathic, everyone will donate him everthing he need. If he is a telekinet, he can steal everthing…

    >D. become the first psychic proven scientifically, and become famous
    This will just stop a “true psychic” from stealing what he needs.

    >E. make more money
    see C

  114. Jose

    Try as he might, Plait can’t prove his claims any more than Simon Newcomb could prove man would never fly. Faulty logic is at work here. The reason the citations are not forthcoming is because THEY DON’T EXIST.

    What are you talking about? People claim to have psychic powers. When they’re tested in a controlled setting that doesn’t allow them to cheat, their psychic powers have failed them EVERY time. What’s so hard to understand?

    Based on current understanding a conclusion cannot be made EITHER WAY, and that drives religious, er, I mean “skeptical” folk absolutely insane.

    Nobody’s is claiming to have proved that psychic powers don’t exist. There is just not the slightest shred of evidence to support the existence psychic powers, and that drives moronic neurologist, er, I mean “folks with poor critical thinking skills” absolutely insane.

  115. Dr. JEdwards

    This thread makes one lose one’s faith in science.

    And yes, I meant exactly what I said in the previous sentence – especially the “faith” part.

    There are over 100 posts on this thread, many of which are directed at MachineElf, but almost all of which wildly miss the point that MachineElf made.

    Seems like he was referring to the following text, which I’ll annotate:

    [F]or decades [i.e., for at least twenty years] all sorts of tests [i.e., a wide variety of tests, presumably involving guessing cards, remote viewing, precognitive abilities, etc.] have been run, and when they are done correctly [i.e., there is a large body of "tests" out there, some of which have been done "correctly" and some of which have been done "incorrectly"] there is no indication that anyone has any sort of psychic ability at all [i.e., only "incorrectly" done tests have yielded results that tend to show the existence of "psychic" ability.]

    Now, it is proper for someone who puts forth a proposition that is based upon factual assertions to be called upon to support that proposition by providing those underlying facts. A proponent who refuses to support his proposition, or who declares his proposition to be so obviously true that it requires no support, or who relies on logical fallacies to support his proposition will likely see his proposition fail when it is brought before impartial judges.

    The proposition here is plain, and it is an assertion of historical fact that is amenable to support and citation – Namely, that there have been “tests” run over a period of at last twenty years that have been “properly” done, and all of them have yielded no support for psychic phenomena.

    The fair question is this: Kindly cite a few (let’s say “three” for starters) of such properly done tests. Something that was peer reviewed would be quite nice. And, no, Johnny Carson isn’t an acceptable reference, and neither is the Randi thing.

    Both the results of these tests and a bit of insight into what, in the writer’s mind, has historically qualified as a “properly done” test of psychic ability, would be interesting to the reader.

    If the writer’s initial proposition was indeed based upon facts, and wasn’t a mere statement of “faith,” then responding directly to this inquiry should be a simple matter. But we shall see…

  116. Amazing

    Jose said:
    “What are you talking about? People claim to have psychic powers. When they’re tested in a controlled setting that doesn’t allow them to cheat, their psychic powers have failed them EVERY time. What’s so hard to understand?”

    You, as several others here, don’t seem to understand something. The statement you just made is not based on fact, it is based on the cursory superficial idea you came up with after you read what you deemed “enough information” to have decided on what reality is. You are not citing specifics of historical scientific investigation. You are assuming you know all of the scientific information that is out there. To cite a magazine that is designed to entertain people with a skeptical leaning is absurd.

    So many people seem to choose to make definite statements on complex subjects because it puts them in a position of power and authority. Just like most of you are doing now. It’s not a simple answer. Even though your entertainment magazine panders to your desire to feel secure about reality and to have a strong position to speak from, it is not a replacement for scientific process. That magazine is a collection of people’s OPINIONS after they investigated as much as they chose to, about subjects that are more complex than can be sufficiently described in several paragraphs in a magazine.

    To ignore anomalies in reality or ascribe them to “nuts” who refuse to see your reality is what keeps science in its neat and tidy space. History has shown that is what has kept scientists from moving forward. Sometimes only when mavericks have spoken out about anomalies that don’t fit the wonderful secure picture that is presented as “the picture of reality” has science moved forward in leaps and bounds.

    Who’s nuts? People that want to cling to their concept of reality because of what they read in a magazine? People who are sure there is psychic evidence out there without scientific evidence? Or people that leave the door open because there hasn’t yet been enough scientific evidence either way? To claim it is one way or the other without SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE is nuts. Your claims that there isn’t true scientific evidence is more correct than not, however there is more CLEAR evidence of anomaly than there is of no evidence at all. But to just blurt out with closed eyes that something doesn’t exist because a magazine said so is a scary thing for many intelligent people to have to witness.

  117. Amazing

    I’m sorry, to be fair, Phil Platt did give us some information that we can use to base our decision on:

    “I don’t think they do, but that’s because for decades all sorts of tests have been run, and when they are done correctly there is no indication that anyone has any sort of psychic ability at all.”

    Using the “All Sorts of Tests” method has been useful in the past. I know many major breakthroughs have been made using this method. We should incorporate it more into our scientific process as often as possible. Also, the test result of “any sort of” is a great testing method. Hopefully they are using the “any sort of” method with the LHC tests that are being performed. I just hope they “are done correctly”, based on, er, whatever it is they base it on. You know what? I don’t really care. I just want to know the results! Camon, give me a quick sentence on what I should think about it so I can file it away as reality.

    And concerning the wonderful million dollars, screw that. Think about it. A magician (The Great Randi) comes along and says he’s putting up a million dollars if someone can do something. You don’t think that’s a “trick” in itself? It’s for hype, a gimmick. You know how much airplay Randi got out of the Uri Geller debunking? But more so, who cares? Right now there is a group of doctors who are performing actual scientific research into life after death/out of body experiences where the results will conclusively show a result one way or the other.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2980578/Scientists-study-out-of-body-experiences.html

    Why can’t they have more tests like that? It’s because of the giggle factor that people like these “skeptics” are creating. But guess what? These “skeptics” are making MONEY off this topic. Off of you. They don’t care if scientific information is found or not found. They care about sensationalism and the bottom line, money. So the more you are “in their camp” the more they love it.

    (Quick disclaimer: I really don’t know the specifics of the million dollars so it’s unfair for me to just call it a trick I suppose. However, in the context in which it was created, it seems to me, in my opinion, to have been a stunt that a man who made his living off of keeping his name in the public and appeared on the Johnny Carson show many times, created in order to stay in the limelight. It also is so similar to what the famous magician Harry Houdini did in his life, and that it just makes me go, hmmmm)

  118. The Eleven

    So why not some citations. Are there any in Nature?
    If you make a satement you should back it up when asked.
    All I see now is a religious site that won’t allow it’s dogma to be questioned.

  119. Jose

    @Dr. JEdwards
    This thread makes one lose one’s faith in science.
    This thread is making me lose my faith in doctors.

    And yes, I meant exactly what I said in the previous sentence – especially the “faith” part.
    OK, I get it now. You meant “faith” faith. I thought meant Faith Hill.

    The proposition here is plain, and it is an assertion of historical fact that is amenable to support and citation – Namely, that there have been “tests” run over a period of at last twenty years that have been “properly” done, and all of them have yielded no support for psychic phenomena.

    You’re right. You win. Nobody has ever taken the time to study this in a scientific manner. Scientists are too close minded to ever consider the possibility of psychic powers. We’re all just repeating something some lie the Amazing Randi is purported to have said once. If only we had some means to look up the truth for ourselves? Some tool that would allow the common man to see if these studies really exist or not? Ah well, a man can dream!

    @Amazing
    You, as several others here, don’t seem to understand something. The statement you just made is not based on fact, it is based on the cursory superficial idea you came up with after you read what you deemed “enough information” to have decided on what reality is. You are not citing specifics of historical scientific investigation. You are assuming you know all of the scientific information that is out there.

    Zing! Nailed again! Man I can’t catch a break today. I was assuming that I knew all the scientific information out there. But I guess I’m just an idiot. I keep using this interweb thing, but I can only find the “scientific” information that refutes it.

    Right now there is a group of doctors who are performing actual scientific research into life after death/out of body experiences where the results will conclusively show a result one way or the other… Why can’t they have more tests like that?

    Wow. Finally, for the first time ever, there are some people willing actually put psychic phenomena to the test! I can’t believe it took so long. And when it turns out there’s nothing, certain people will once again pretend that it never happened, or come up with reasons why it was unscientific.

    But guess what? These “skeptics” are making MONEY off this topic. Off of you. They don’t care if scientific information is found or not found. They care about sensationalism and the bottom line, money.

    I’m going to quit my job and become a debunker! There’s soooo much money to be made in not conning people out of their money!

  120. Harry
  121. Dr. JEdwards

    Jose -

    This is quite black and white.

    You can either provide cites to the “tests” (all sorts of them, by the way) that have been “correctly” done over “decades” that back up the statements in the original post or you can’t.

    No need to throw hundreds of words at the issue.

    Just cite a few tests please, or we will quite reasonably assume that you can’t.

  122. Buzz Parsec

    To all the fake doctors and elves out there: No one is citing the scientific literature at you because they all refuse to fall into your trap. The burden of proof is on YOU! You cite something that purports to prove any psychic phenomena exist, and we’ll cite a scientifically valid refutation. Until then, shut up unless you have something other than innuendo. (The only case you’ve cited so far is Mrs Piper, who died over half a century ago, and is thus unavailable for further investigation.)

  123. Dr. JEdwards made a request: “The fair question is this: Kindly cite a few (let’s say “three” for starters) of such properly done tests. Something that was peer reviewed would be quite nice. And, no, Johnny Carson isn’t an acceptable reference, and neither is the Randi thing.
    and again “Just cite a few tests please, or we will quite reasonably assume that you can’t.”

    Well ok, if you insist. Here are 4 for starters…

    1. O’Keeffe, C. & Wiseman, R. (2005). Testing alleged mediumship: Methods and results. The British Journal of Psychology, 96(2), 165-179.

    2. Wiseman, R. & Greening, E. (2002). The mind machine: A mass participation experiment into the possible existence of extrasensory perception. The British Journal of Psychology, 93, 487-499.

    3.Milton, J. & Wiseman, R. (1999). Does psi exist? Lack of replication of an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 125(4), 387-391.

    4. Wiseman, R., Smith, M., Milton, J. (1998). Can animals detect when their owners are returning home? An experimental test of the ‘psychic pet’ phenomenon. British Journal of Psychology, 89, 453-462.

    Why isn’t the Randi thig acceptable? There isn’t a more rigorous or fair test around or is that the problem?

    Lastly I must apologies to my fellow skeptics because I know the burden of proof is on the woo heads but I’ve posted these citations because the woo heads seem to think they don’t exist. Obviously they will attempt to discredit any citation but the fact is they do exist and that is all they were asking for.

  124. Amazing

    I just want to say that I was trying to trap you into the woo. I almost had you. For just a moment I thought I might have tripped you. Did you feel how close you were to it?

    But damn it you wisened up and closed ranks and you are safe again. From the woo.

    Man you people are fuc*in nuts. It’s like a cult with it’s own dogma. Close up your ranks and make sure the woo doesn’t get you. You have no idea how bizzare this looks from outside your ranks. Woo. Wow. I will leave you to whatever it is that this is.

  125. So do I have the win Amazing? I’m guessing yes because of the descent into ad-homs.

  126. Jose

    And there are literally hundreds more studies done by actual scientists in the past century than the few Shane has mentioned. Heck, I’m willing to bet there are hundreds where the researches actually came to the conclusion that psychic powers are real. Sadly (and that’s a sincere sadly), those studies have had flawed methodologies.

    To say that science hasn’t taken the subject seriously is even more bunk than the possibility that psychic powers exist. I can allow for the possibility that psychic powers exist, but to pretend that science has ignored the subject is pure hogwash. It might even qualify as impure hogwash.

  127. Dr. JEdwards

    Shane – It seems that you descended into the ad hom first by calling people “woo heads” and the sort, which is what Amazing was reacting to when he wrote his post. Hard to see how you can blame him for hitting back.

    Several of you are completely missing the point regarding the “burden of proof.” Shane went so far as to apologize for posting some references by saying:

    “Lastly I must apologies (sic) to my fellow skeptics because I know the burden of proof is on the woo heads but I’ve posted these citations because the woo heads seem to think they don’t exist.”

    This entirely misses the point and is, therefore, wrong.

    Let me rephrase the statement that we were trying to discuss, and modify it a bit:

    “Do cougars exist in the North Carolina mountains? I don’t think they do, but that’s because for decades all sorts of wildlife surveys have been conducted, and when they are conducted correctly there is no indication that any cougar exists in the North Carolina mountains at all.”

    Now, if you read that statement, and asked the author to provide you references to those wildlife surveys, you wouldn’t view it as an acceptable answer for the author to tell you that the burden of proof of showing the existence of cougars is on you, and they are not at all obliged to provide references to any of the surveys. You weren’t talking about the existence of cougars in the first place – you were talking about the existence of the surveys. And if the author called you a woo head, that wouldn’t be helpful either.

    At least Shane provided a few references. Of course, one of them involves animals (Woof Woof), another is particularly interesting because it is the highly controversial Milton/Wiseman stuff which isn’t really a “test,” but there is no point in disecting each of them here.

    And as a final point the Randi thing isn’t acceptable for a whole host of reasons which, frankly, I don’t have the time or desire to go into here, but I’ll say two quick things about it:

    1. Let’s say someone passed the Randi test, then would everyone reading this (a)immediately, forever and irrevocably start believing in PSI phenomena, or (b)turn around and start second guessing the testing procedures, claim “fraud,” or ascribe the results to luck? The question being: How probative would a Randi test actually be in the minds of the readers here? Are people so trapped in their dogma that they would doubt the results of their own test?

    2. If the PSI effect is small and variable, as some say, then there would seem to be much better ways to test for small and variable phenomena than a Randi test.

    Signing off now….

  128. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Dr. JEdwards

    What complete and total hogwash!

    First of all, don’t tell us the Randi test isn’t acceptable but then refuse to provide reasons because “you don’t feel like it”. I’m just going to take your word for it? Back up your claim or don’t bother to make it. You took the time to write the rest of the evasive drivel you wrote, why not take the time to expand on the only point you make that is of any interest to this conversation? So unless you can give your “whole host of reasons”, you may as well not bother making the statement.

    1. Let’s say someone passed the Randi test, then would everyone reading this (a)immediately, forever and irrevocably start believing in PSI phenomena, or (b)turn around and start second guessing the testing procedures, claim “fraud,” or ascribe the results to luck? The question being: How probative would a Randi test actually be in the minds of the readers here? Are people so trapped in their dogma that they would doubt the results of their own test?

    Classic. Look at what you did. You pre-supposed a scenario, invented an unsupported response, and then had the gall to criticize the response YOU created! Unreal. To actually answer your question from the perspective of a skeptic, I would answer this way: I would treat the results the same way I would treat the results of ANY scientific study. The Randi challenge is set up to be performed using the principals of the scientific method. If someone were to pass the test, I would then consider the possibility of psychic abilities to be real, and I would gladly see the money handed over to the person who passed the test. But, as a scientist, I would expect to see those results independently and then peer-reviewed to ensure the research was conducted properly. After that, I would consider psychic abilities scientifically valid. You know, that’s the way science works.

    This is a fully moot point however, as so far this has never come close to happening, not in Randi’s challenge nor in any other truly scientific study. You’d think if this stuff were real, that wouldn’t be the case. But as I’ve heard before, psychics just don’t test well.

    2. If the PSI effect is small and variable, as some say, then there would seem to be much better ways to test for small and variable phenomena than a Randi test.

    Well, the problem with that statement is that it’s a supposition made only by supporters of psychic abilities. Science doesn’t need to accept that supposition. Science needs only to test a claim in a scientific manner on its merits alone. The problem with what you are saying is simply that one could then go and adjust the testing criteria in varying degrees until it matches up with an already demonstrated result. That is not science. That’s the exact opposite of science. That’s starting with the the answer and then adjusting the questions so they match the answer. That’s how religion works… not how science works.

    Having reviewed your comments, JEdward, I find your argument horribly weak.

  129. Celtic_Evolution

    Left out a word in my prior post. It should read as follows, with the omitted word in bold:

    “But, as a scientist, I would expect to see those results independently reproduced and then peer-reviewed to ensure the research was conducted properly. After that, I would consider psychic abilities scientifically valid. “

  130. Jose

    @Dr. JEdwards
    Shane – It seems that you descended into the ad hom first by calling people “woo heads” and the sort, which is what Amazing was reacting to when he wrote his post. Hard to see how you can blame him for hitting back.

    You began your first post with a lame cheap shot at the posters here. Amazing started off by making ridiculous false assumptions about posters here, and then accused skeptics of being in it for the money. So spare us the whining.

    No need to throw hundreds of words at the issue. Just cite a few tests please, or we will quite reasonably assume that you can’t.

    Shane was kind enough to do this. So what do you do? You change the subject.

    If you have honest questions or doubts, and you express them in a polite manner, people will be polite back. If you act like a pompous idiot, we’ll have a little fun.

  131. Dr Evil

    And at the end of it all, what have we established?

    That you’re all going to believe or disbelieve the same thing you did at the start of the conversation. Time and effort well spent. I feel dirty for having read most of it.

  132. Jose

    @Dr. JEdwards
    Here’s the part of Phil’s statement you have a problem with again.

    Do psychic powers exist? I don’t think they do, but that’s because for decades all sorts of tests have been run, and when they are done correctly there is no indication that anyone has any sort of psychic ability at all.

    Asking for a citation for a statement like this is absurd. Here’s why. I’m sure Phil has come across many well done studies that have failed to show evidence of psychic powers in his lifetime, but I doubt he’s kept a running list. I’m also guessing he’s busy, and doesn’t want to waste a couple of hours tracking them all down to satisfy a few people who like to express doubt about things, but are to lazy to track down the information themselves. So why don’t you get off your behind, and take the time to inform yourself about the subject before unleashing gems like This thread makes one lose one’s faith in science.

  133. Celtic_Evolution

    Dr. Evil

    Conversation on divergent points of view is always valuable. Must every conversation result in a changed opinion in order for it to have value? What a ridiculous premise.

    Perhaps you shouldn’t bother wasting your time reading conversational threads. I’d hate for you to spend your entire life feeling dirty.

  134. Jose

    @Dr. Evil

    Boy, you sure put all of us in our places! Are you the “that’s gotta hurt” guy of the of the blog world? (That’s a Seinfeld reference, if you didn’t know.)

  135. Calling someone a woo head isn’t an ad hom it is plain good old fashioned name calling. Probably a bit to provocative and unnecessary and if I was a better person I would apologise (spelled it proper that time too). But Dr. JEdwards, you only asked for some citations. We did that and all I hear now is the sound of moving goalposts.

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