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Strong scientific evidence for mind-matter interaction

  1. Aug 15, 2003 #1

    hypnagogue

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    I'm posting this here because psi phenomena are typically not accepted as scientifically valid, and also because there have been a number of "if I saw valid, repeatable scientific evidence for psi I would believe in it" types of posts in this forum.

    Here is your valid, repeatable scientific evidence:
    http://www.boundary.org/articles/rngma.pdf

    Here's a quick summary:
    The article summarizes results in the scientific literature from 1959-2000 involving two related experiments. One involves subjects throwing a fair dice while consciously intending a certain face to show; the other involves consciously intending a random number generator to produce a value above or below the probabilistically expected value. The cumulative data involves analysis of 1.4 billion such random events which were acted on by conscious intention. The finding is that the effect of these conscious intentions on straying results from chance are small (roughly 1% above chance), but extremely statistically significant-- 16 standard deviations from chance. In other words, the probability that the "1% above chance" statistic itself is an artifact of random chance is less than 10^-50. The author goes on to refute the possibility that this result is produced by the filedrawer effect or variations in design quality using rigorous statistical methods.

    So... do you believe in psi now?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2003 #2
    Nope.
    I have several questions:
    1) Can we vouch for the methodology of the hundreds of tests done?

    2) Were all the experiments done exactly the same way?

    3) Is there any possiblity of controlling for rounding error, compounding error, etc?

    The simplest way to 'cheat' on this, of course, is to ignore the margin of error of each experiment.
     
  4. Aug 15, 2003 #3

    hypnagogue

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    I suggest reading the article.
     
  5. Aug 15, 2003 #4
    I did.
     
  6. Aug 16, 2003 #5

    hypnagogue

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    If you read the article, then you should see the quantitative, statistical consideration that was applied to the methodology of the tests to come to the following conclusion: "The outcomes of the RNG studies were not due to variations in design quality." It was also indicated that the studies were not all identical, though sufficiently alike to be counted as evidence for the same underlying phenomenon.

    As for rounding error and the like... I suppose there is no way we can tell right now, short of asking the authors. But the whole structure of the paper is built around statistics, and I doubt researchers with such a grasp of the power and applicability of statistics would fall prey to petty computational oversights.

    I suspect that had this paper been on something less controversial than something like psi, you would have never thought to have raised these questions. You wanted solid, repeatable scientific evidence... Here it is. Your response makes me doubt that any amount of evidence in support of psi would change your mind.
     
  7. Aug 16, 2003 #6
    I personally don't see anything wrong with trying to post this
    in philosophy and get a more philosophical and critical response.
    I believe that they are on to some kind of mind over matter interaction but this correlation is small and human error even
    in a practiced statistician is small. It is possible for some
    people to predict the outcomes of extraordinarily complex systems
    with fair accuracy without ever really knowing how they did it.
    A better expirement would be required rather than an accumulation of
    statistical data, it's very likely that the people who investigate
    this have some desire to believe in it and prove it and that
    willing it to happen could manifest itself into a very small correlation or if they don't find what they were looking for to give
    up on it and not report it, I mean how often does someone report
    a discovery that doesn't work? People voice their opinions when they are emotional about something more often, the more emotional the topic the more they want to let it out. If a soley mind manipulating matter process over a distance power did exist there would probably be a simple test for it, not a very elaborate and complex statistical analysis that leads to its very slight correlative existence, although it is still a possibility. Every once in a while I catch myself trying to move an object with my mind, something I use to do as a child, but then I just reach out a move the damn thing with my hand. I'm not saying it's impossible, only no one has ever done it beyond a doubt to my knowledge.
     
  8. Aug 16, 2003 #7

    russ_watters

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    No.
    Yep. 1% is considered a good level of precision in many scientific tests. So to me, this is more proof that ESP does *NOT* exist.
    Generally, such papers are written with a conclusion in hand before the writing starts. Incorrect (on purpose or not) use of statistics is a very common problem with ESP "research".
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2003
  9. Aug 16, 2003 #8

    hypnagogue

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    Re: Re: Strong scientific evidence for mind-matter interaction

    Why, because it is so close to 50% (chance)? If this is your reasoning then you are failing to take into account that the probability that the 51% statistic is due to merely chance is less than 10^-50. Analogously, if we flipped a coin 1.4 billion times and found that it landed on heads 51% of the time, and calculated that this result is a whopping 16 standard deviations from the expected value, the only rational conclusion would be that the coin is slightly biased to land on heads. It basically cannot be an artifact of chance; the effect is slight, but it exists nonetheless.

    If you read the other papers written on psi by Dean Radin (at http://www.boundary.org/experiments.htm), I think you will find that he treats all issues with very objective and carefully reasoned analyses.

    But perhaps more to the point, I find it frustrating that the criticism here is not leveled against all scientific findings. A truly rational and objective view on any scientific studies will not be systematically biased in any way; it looks here as if there is a systematic bias of heavier-than-normal criticism leveled against studies that deviate from the courses of research currently accepted by the common scientific community. For instance, if similar statistics had been used in support of some theory of quarks or to assert the existence of a new particle or some such, I truly doubt that the respondents thus far would have been as critical of it. Why? Because the criticisms are written with a conclusion in hand before the writing starts.
     
  10. Aug 16, 2003 #9

    russ_watters

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    Re: Re: Re: Strong scientific evidence for mind-matter interaction

    You are certainly correct. The problem comes from the interpretation of the bias. There are all sorts of things that can bias such a test. You can't automatically assume that the only bias in the test is the mental energy of the guy flipping the coin.
    It is. The difference here is that this isn't a new thing. Scientists get tired of debunking the same crap over and over again and start just ignoring it.

    More to the point, the statistical flaw in a "meta-study" is clear: When people do an experiment and don't get the results they expected, they often don't publish their paper. If you did an experiment and found no ESP, you'd scratch your head and start over. Negative results don't get published.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2003
  11. Aug 16, 2003 #10
    Only 1 percent? It seems like if somebody truly had "the gift" it would be much higher than that. Say like 80 percent, or 90 percent? But then again maybe it's more a matter of developing "the knack," like going to medical school and becoming a skilled surgeon or something?
     
  12. Aug 16, 2003 #11

    Hurkyl

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    Their discussion of the filedrawer effect is unconvincing (for instance, what about all of the researchers that didn't even publish one paper on the topic?), and some of the actual statistical work performed by the authors that is presented in the paper inspire little faith... only 10,000 samples to evaluate the mean of a distribution? An infinite distribution? Not to mention the fact the integral to directly compute it is a one-liner. (Incidentally, their first z'-bar of -0.105 is really -0.114, their second z'-bar estimate is right on, though)
     
  13. Aug 16, 2003 #12

    Hurkyl

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    I just read his paper on presentiment (Evidence for an anomalous anticipatory effect in the autonomic nervous system). Red flags are flying.

    In experiment 1, the subject pressed a button to start a trial, and a picture would appear 5 seconds later. The picture would be turned off 3 seconds later, and then the trial ended 10 seconds after that. During those 18 seconds, the physiological response of the subject was measured.

    In more detail:

    The subject presses a button.
    5 seconds later, the pseudorandom number generator is seeded with the sum of the CPU's current clock time and the most recently recorded physiological measurements. The PRNG spat out a number from 1-120 which selected the type of picture to be shown.

    Red flag #1: The PRNG only generates one number before being reseeded. This is improper use of a PRNG that invalidates all of its pseudorandom properties.

    Red flag #2: The physiological response of the subject is part of the reseeding process, making the behavior of the subject a direct factor in the selection of the image to display.

    Red flag #3: In particular, the particular measurements used are those recorded immediately before the picture is displayed, meaning that the algorithm for selecting which picture to display is directly influenced by the physiological response of the subject during those first 5 seconds.


    They don't give the details of the generation in the second experiment.
     
  14. Aug 16, 2003 #13

    Les Sleeth

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    You are exactly correct. You can tell instantly who comes in swinging, with a belief already in place, because every comment is designed to refute rather than explore.

    What I find ironic is that psi can be explained quite well with a 100% materialistic model. EM already is known to transmit everything from music to images, and if we are material, and are relying purely on EM for consciousness, then what's the problem with us being capable of working at least as well as a crude radio? Afterall, we have at least a few billions years more development behind our transmitters and receivers.

    The reason is, creationists have used psi as an argument for spirit, soul, universal consciousness, etc., and so those wanting to keep them at bay resist anything that can remotely be considered confirming. Personally, I think psi happens, and I also think at least part (if not all) of it is physical; so even if true, to me it gives no evidence of anything metaphysical. If there is something metaphysical, I think we have to look elsewhere and in another fashion to investigate it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2003
  15. Aug 16, 2003 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Re: Strong scientific evidence for mind-matter interaction

    An interesting notion of proof: Evidence that A is true implies that A is false.
     
  16. Aug 16, 2003 #15

    russ_watters

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    Sounds fine to me: so what frequency should I tune my radio to hear the emissions from my brain?

    More than that, how would simple radio waves influence the roll of the dice.

    Sorry, but if that type of thing really happened, we'd be able to detect it.
    Thats not what I said at all. That 1% deviation is simply not evidence that "A" is true. It is only evidence that "A" is false.
     
  17. Aug 16, 2003 #16

    Hurkyl

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    It is only evidence that "A" is false if "A" demands significantly more than 1% deviation.
     
  18. Aug 16, 2003 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    However this had not been established. It was only assumed to be insignificant.
     
  19. Aug 17, 2003 #18

    drag

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    Greetings !

    I really don't see the great problem here.
    Just put a phousand people in front of a small chocolate
    bar on a very sensitive digital pad in vacuum and see if
    any of them can make it move in the slightest.
    Same goes for telepathy, let a computer choose a number
    from 1 to 1,000 every time and let a person read it.
    Then allow in turns a few phosand people to make a few guesses
    each while sitting in a room with that numbers' person.

    Of course, this won't really work if only some small amount
    of people have any level of such "powers", but we'll certainly
    be able to simply solve the issue of potential general
    traits of this type.

    Live long and prosper.
     
  20. Aug 17, 2003 #19
    Of course I've heard of people picking up the radio with their dental fillings, although I think it's more of a mechanical effect, where the fillings vibrate into the jawbone which is then picked up by the ear. It's still interesting nonetheless.

    BEANOS - BNEWS - 010 - Dental Records

    Haypenny: Fifty Microvolt Molars by Peter Kelleher
     
  21. Aug 17, 2003 #20

    Les Sleeth

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    Good point . . . I should have been more clear. I didn't literally mean radio waves, I meant light might be the basis of consciousness. You may have caught me being overly generous toward materialist philosophy because I don't necessarily think ALL the light of consciousness is atomic in origin, and therefore can accurately be called EM.

    But think about it . . . you are aware aren't you? Do you want to allow for the possibility that soul/spirit is responsible for that? Are we humans not receiving EM messages incessantly from the outside world, proving we really are set up to interact with the EM world?

    Now, even if we assume EM is the only light working in consciousness, do you think we understand everything about the potentials of EM? Say yes, and I'll challenge you to explain consciousness, which I already know neither you nor anybody else can conclusively do.

    If you can't even account for the phenomenon of consciousness, how can you assume anything about what undiscovered potentials it might have?

    In your test for psi, you assume any influence consciousness might have on physical processes would be detectable. Well, if you think consciousness is nothing but EM, do you have a device to reflect what I am thinking now? If not, does it prove I am not thinking a particular thought, or does it prove that you don't have the means to detect my thoughts at that level (I know that I am thinking can be detected . . . but WHAT I am thinking cannot).

    So what if, for instance, the light of consciousness is a unique variety. What if it is just a tad more subtle than any EM detecting device we have is able to pick up on. What if that subtlety is exactly what makes consciousness possible? And what if, along with the marvelous potentials such subtlety allows for ordinary awareness, there are other potentials a small percentage of the population discover?

    Because no detection devices register psi effects does not mean it doesn't happen. However, I will give you this. From an empirical perspective, I also don't think we can say psi is true. For me it remains a matter where intuition most influences my opinion rather than hard facts.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2003
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