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Evidence for psychic phenomena

  1. Oct 14, 2006 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    If you think there may be something to it all, what you think is the best evidence for psychic phenomena?

    When I have reviewed various claims of psychic phenomena, one thing that I have noticed is that some skeptics will correctly state that there is no known proof of claims of psychic events, while others will state that there is no evidence to support such claims. I take issue with the latter. I think there clearly is evidence, and some of the best evidence that I've seen comes from police reports.

    Here is one example: The case of Etta Smith.

    I have seen the investigator in the case interviewed and state that he believes her story. Obviously this can't be used as proof of anything, but to me this seems to be evidence. What more can we expect? She doesn't otherwise claim to be psychic. Even if the phenomenon is genuine, we can't assume that people like Smith have any control over this ability.

    When confronted with cases like this, the skeptics resort to unproven theories or claims of dumb luck, which may be true, but we have no proof of this either. That being the case, as far as I can see, some of the more striking cases stand as evidence.

    Oh yes, my favorite part is where the skeptics state after the fact that they could have made the same predictions and led the police to the body, as did the "psychic". :rolleyes: Can you imagine the reaction from skeptics if "psychics" stated that they could have predicted something and that should be good enough! :rofl: Perhaps the skeptics should take up police work.

    Here is another link that came up.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2006 #2
    Stories like this don't strike me as evidence of psychic phenomena but of the mind's ability to put disparate facts together at a level below conscious awareness such that we know things with full confidence without being able to explain how.

    SelfAdjoint recently linked to an article on apperception that I found to be very enlightening:


    and another recent thread talked about the phenomenon of solving problems unexpectedly when we let go of trying to solve them:


    I believe that these cases of people having visions of body locations are not paranormal but the result of them having unrecognized expertize in the mundane matter of people's personal habits, plus a large collection of information about murders and the kinds of places killers leave bodies that they don't even realize they have. Each time such a person hears a news report of a body being found in a certain kind of place they make a mental note of it and the kind of victim and, perhaps, what may have made them vulnerable. Collecting data for their own safety,probably, they prick up their ears a little whenever they hear of someone being attacked or killed or going missing.

    Eventually, a news report of someone missing with a brief description of them: age, employment, family situation, when and where last seen, is all they need to know that person hasn't run off, they're dead, and given where they disappeared there are certain specific kinds of locations you'd want to search first for the dumped body. While the story may be of some conscious concern to them they aren't trying deliberately to solve it, and the solution comes to them in a dream, an unexpected "vision" or a moment of inspiration they weren't even pushing themselves toward.
  4. Oct 14, 2006 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    Evidence does not mean proof. What you are saying is that you have an alternative theory to explain the results. As I first pointed out, some unproven theory does not negate the evidence. If you could prove what you say about this case specifically, then the case could not be considered evidence for the paranormal.

    In the case of Smith, do you have any idea how many places there are in LA to dump a body? Frankly, to me it is absurd to think that the location of the body could have been deduced [as did the police]. A body might be found in nearly any alley or dumpster.

    More specifically, do you have one shred of evidence to support the claim that she could have deduced the location?
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2006
  5. Oct 15, 2006 #4
    The case is not considered evidence of the paranormal by me. I consider it evidence, yes, but see no straight line to the paranormal.

    The book you need to read is Mindhunter by John Douglas who helped start the FBI's serial killer profiling program. They didn't just study and interview serial killers but also worked heavily on victimology: studying the victims and why they were selected as good targets.

    Something you'd find out from that book, among many other things, is that killers don't dump bodies at the first convenient place. Where and how they get rid of a body is a highly personal thing to each killer and demonstrates a remarkable amount about how they felt toward the victim.

    Each aspect of a crime is the same: it seems random to a layperson, but Douglas uncovered all kinds of patterns that allowed him to deduce things about the killers with greater and greater specificity, untill one day he apparently blew his credibility by announcing a particular killer would have a speech impediment, probably a stutter. His colleagues thought he'd lost it. However, the guy who was eventually caught and confessed, did, indeed, have an egregious stutter. Douglas explains how he deduced the stutter from the crime scene with solid, straighforward logic, but for fellow law enforcement officers who wouldn't pay attention to how he analyzed the crime it was impossible to understand how he knew anything specific about the killer.

    If you know what you're looking at you can deduce remarkable things.

    All that applies to the general category of people having visions of where missing people's bodies are.

    In the case of Smith, specifically, though, we have the testimony of the female officer who said Smith was talking about books and movie rights in her cell. This leads to the suspicion she'd already discovered the body by complete accident, returned home to call the police, heard the news report about the missing nurse, and realized she was in a position to pass herself off as psychic for personal gain. She calls the police, reports her "vision" then returns to the canyon with her children, whose function is to act as witnesses to her "finding" the body (which she'd actually already found) then she calls the police again to confirm her previously reported "vision" was authentic.

    To her disapointment, they first arrest her as a suspect, but in her cell she fantasizes aloud to the undercover officer about the book and movie deal that will arise from her "psychic vision".
  6. Oct 15, 2006 #5

    I think the “placebo effect” might be a good place to start. It’s the one area I can think of where science embraces the fact that an unknown force within the human body actually exists. Must drive them crazy. But thousands and thousands of controlled studies have all concluded the same thing: That if a subject BELIEVES that they are taking xyz medicine for some ailment, the body heals itself on that belief alone - despite whether they are taking a sugar pill or the real deal. To me, this seems proof positive that the human mind is able to do things that are not yet fully understood. Who is to say that the same force within that causes faith (in a placebo pill) to work, can’t be used in other areas? And while faith healing is not nearly as well researched as the placebo effect, it surely must work on that same principle. The reason I’m not collecting my million bucks for proving that something paranormal is at play, if because the placebo phenomenon has conveniently been moved into the science category. Hmmm.
  7. Oct 15, 2006 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Then you are simply ignoring the facts. She said that she had a vision and then led police to the body. That is evidence for her vision unless and until proven otherwise.

    So the answer is no.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2006
  8. Oct 15, 2006 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    We have quite a bit on the placebo effect in the Credible Anomalies Napster

    I have never thought of this as something paranormal, but until we can prove what does happen, I guess that no one can say for sure that we have the science to explain it. And really this gets into what we mean by paranormal. If something can be studied and then explained, what was once deemed paranormal may one day be seem very normal.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2006
  9. Oct 15, 2006 #8
    evidence for phsychic phenomena is nothing but the wishes of the person intepritating it to fit the wishes
  10. Oct 15, 2006 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    Then you are also ignoring the evidence due to personal bias. You would have to justify your opinion in light of the example.
  11. Oct 15, 2006 #10

    Great, I’ll check out the link! Thank you. Well, the connection or point I was attempting to make was that we do have proof that the mind is able to heal the body on nothing more than a strong belief (placebo effect). So how far of a stretch is it to believe that psychics can do what they claim? If you take something that even most debunkers likely believe in - say, intuition - that’s getting pretty close to a mild form of the definition of psychic ability. If someone has an exceptionally strong intuition, does that make them a psychic? It depends on how a person interprets what constitutes a psychic. But everyone has intuition. We can’t prove that we have it, but we all know we have it, because we use it every day. And man, it’s right on most of the time.
    Yeah, I don't think of the placebo effect as paranormal either, because it has been proven. If physic ability were to be proven, I suspect that it would not be considered paranormal either.
  12. Oct 15, 2006 #11
    there is a prize to the one who can prove phsycic phenomena under controlled enviorments, none have even tried even when they have advertised it. This means that no one tries becuase they know they will fail (if someone has tried without my knowledge they did fail cause none have been reported sucesfull)
  13. Oct 15, 2006 #12
    Maybe they would have given the prize money to Edgar Cayce if he were alive today. He predicted both world wars, the deaths of two presidents, and even his own burial date of January the 5th (1945 I think). He performed something like 14,000 readings, all of which are documented. As far as I know, he never asked for a dime for any of it. I wonder how they will determine what success is? I'd be interested to learn of any controlled studies that compare and test claimed psychics to non-psychics where results are posted.
  14. Oct 15, 2006 #13
    Well, getting back to evidence. My take would be that there are only a handful of explanations that can logically pay claim to why some psychics have accurately foresaw or predicted events:
    - Lucky guess
    - Coincidence
    - Cheating
    - The real deal
    Odds are petty cool things. They can help us to weed out lucky guesses, coincidence and cheating. And they are predictable enough to allow casinos and the like to make a lot of money. There are obviously a lot of brilliant minds that visit this forum (I bow to you!), so how about we take a look at someone like Edgar Cayce, check out how often his predictions were right, and apply odds to the probability of those predictions coming true, versus the ones that he was wrong about? Check out this site regarding some of his predictions at:
    I concede that he was often wrong, but what are the odds that he was right so often? Let’s say that he was right 10% of the time. If a person can predict the future accurately that often, is it evidence that psychics are the real deal? How could it not be?
    P.s. I was wrong about Cayce not taking a dime for his work in the field, so let that be stricken from the record :)
  15. Oct 15, 2006 #14
    Here's my understanding of the word evidence:

    Just because testimony is offered as evidence doesn't mean it has to be accepted as offered untill proven incorrect. It's quite reasonable to say that what someone is purporting doesn't constitute the evidence (as in outward sign: indication) they claim it does at all, because it could also be offered as an outward sign, indication of other, different things.

    For instance: If I offer video of a machine with no apparent power source but a spinning rotor as evidence of perpetual motion, anyone with a little physics is free to say "All I see for sure is evidence of a flywheel", and they're not really under any obligation to disprove perpetual motion.

    Smith proved she knew where the body was. That is all. We are under no obligation to accept her apparent confidence she found out by psychic means.

    People have accurate intuitive leaps that aren't psychic, but which seem inexplicable to those around them because they weren't following the same train of thought. I offered the case of John Douglas as an example, and you (Ivan) dismissed it without explanation. His book, plus the two links I gave earlier, demonstrate that people are capable of remarkable fast, very specific, deductions under the right circumstances, deductions that can seem "magic" to others, even to themselves.

    On the other hand Smith may simple have discovered the body by purely conventional means and decided to leverage it into some money and fame. She might easily have driven by during the dumping, realized there was something really wrong about these three guys hefting something bulky from their car at night by a canyon, and went back later to check after hearing about the missing nurse. having acertained the body was there, she calls the police with her "psychic" vision, then returns with her children to "officially" discover it.
  16. Oct 15, 2006 #15
    The link posted by Ivan has a quote about the original 1955 paper on the placebo effect which says that paper is now in disrepute. many things the author presented as examples of his newly defined effect are now attributed to other causes. That's worth a read.

    In other papers he quoted it says he placebo effect only works on psychiatric/psychological problems, and on those physical problems that can be exacerbated by emotional stress. You can't cure tuberculosis or heal a broken leg overnight with it.

    It can do alot for physical problems whose outbreaks are stress dependent like herpes or asthma or seizures. It can't cure herpes, can't get rid of that virus from your nerves, but it can cut way down on the outbreaks which are often triggered by the physiology of stress.

    There is, really, no "unknown force" here. The brain regulates the body based on it's best peception of things. If you think you're in danger the brain will signal the adrenal glands to release adrenalin whether you're authentically in danger or not. Adrenalin suppresses the imune system. Long term low grade anxiety can lead, by direct, non-mysterious physical means, to poor health, greater suceptability to whatever bacteria you encounter.

    The Placebo Effect can alleviate much distress in any case where the problem is being made worse by the patient's state of mind. The current problem seems to be that physicians don't know how to bring it into play at will when they want and pharmeceutical companies don't know how to subtract it from the efficacy of their pills.
  17. Oct 15, 2006 #16
    the classical way of archiveng this is simple to give vague predictions and then people like you do the rest of the work
  18. Oct 16, 2006 #17
    Let me say that I cannot deny from my observations that you are obviously well read and incredibly bright. So I do hesitate to disagree. But to speculate that there is no “unknown force here” troubles me. As mild as you may diminish it to be, there is still a very unknown component to the placebo effect from everything I’ve read. And the reason I brought it up in this forum is that it is a missing link, if you will, to the existence of psychic phenomenon: It is indeed one of the rare areas that science endorses, even though it cannot be explained. If the mind can heal the body in the way the placebo effect does, it opens up an enormous door to what else the mind can do… case in point, psychic abilities.
  19. Oct 16, 2006 #18
    Nice job of thinking 'inside' the box. How about a real idea?
  20. Oct 16, 2006 #19
    I'm not presenting that as speculation but as an observation. If you look into standard biology just a little you'd discover all sorts of things that are known about the brain /body connection that aren't mysterious at all.
    Different sources will play up different aspects of it, for sure, and we'll always find an extreme faction that wants to place the emphasis on the most mysterious possible interpretation of anything they examine.
    I'm not sure that you properly understand the aspects that science can't explain. All that means is that they haven't figured out the mechanism that accounts for some of the more interesting tests they've done, like the one quoted about opiates. The same is true of a huge number of neurological and physical functions: they know what happens, but haven't figured out the details of the mechanism. There's no implication of an "unknown force", just that the situation is complex beyond our current level of understanding. Such things are constantly being cleared up, though. Last year, (or the year before?) two guys won the nobel prize for clearing up the nagging mystery over how sodium pumps in neurons worked. Apparently that problem had people baffled for a long time.
    It doesn't seem to boil down to the mind healing the body. Rather, the mind can block or interfere with healing by constant worry. To the extent the placebo effect stops a cycle of constant anxiety it stops the supression of the immune system and leads to the healing of colds and even wounds that were previously merely prevented from healing. Likewise it cuts down on the outbreaks of anything that is triggered by stress: gastro-intestinal ulcers, asthma attacks, etc. And, it should be obvious why it works, when it does, on purely mental problems like depression.

    So we can't get to the paranormal from the placebo effect unless we have lots of evidence of it working to cure things that aren't stress related and shouldn't be responsive to mere state of mind.
  21. Oct 16, 2006 #20


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    just want to clarify that this is about serial killers, who are killing as an emotional reaction. Professional killers generally try to be more incognito and less sentimental about hiding dead bodies.
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