Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why is ESP lumped with less credible phenomena?

  1. Feb 12, 2007 #1
    there is something that has always bothered me about how society and the scientific community view paranormal concepts- it makes sense as to why things like ghosts/UFOs/fairies are not taken seriously- but the various subtle forms of mental phenomena called 'psi' or ESP are QUITE different in terms of credibility- lack of scientific knowledge of the physical systems involved[the brain and it's electrochemical structure] and the relative tameness of the reported phenomena-


    the rational basis for dismissing paranormal claims is the result of our empirical knowledge of the world- for example alien invasions are considered highly unlikely because well tested astronomy/astrophysics show us that the distances and number of stars and resource costs involved are highly prohibitive- and the study of the history of our own evolution and technical development compared to cosmic timescales would make it highly unlikely that visits between different evolved intelligent species would ever resemble the standard concept of biological alien flying to earth in a spaceship- similarly with ghosts everything that we know about biological death and chemistry shows no process whereby the structure of the brain and body is copied into some incorporeal medium after the death of the body that can continue an equivalent process of living/thinking without the biological substrate-

    however with ‘psi’ there is nothing like a body of empirical knowledge to provide any reasonable person with a bias against it! consider the science we DO have concerning the neurochemical system that is the brain:

    PHYSICS- the physics of the brain would be the physics of the complex micro/nanoscale electrochemical interactions of proteins and organic chemicals- chemistry covers the the vast majority of basic interactions of molecules- but the whole system could not be modeled to any accuracy without the physics of neurochemical systems given the complex interdependent feedback dynamics of neural systems- however at this scale WE HAVE NO THEORY- this is the micro scale where classical physics breaks down and quantum mechanics takes hold- and what we do know about what Quantum Gravity should end-up looking like actually IMPLIES some of the phenomenology of ‘psi’! the nature of an observer in a quantum system when considering a system in which billions of different measurements of electric currents are occurring and feeding-back with the system observed- and somehow these interactions emerge as the conscious observer- all suggest a quantum system in which the kinds of phenomena called ESP could occur- [no Penrose like microtubule device is needed] from an MWI point-of-view Psi would only be a trivial form of quantum interference that can cause some modulation of the history of an observer- although this sort of thing can lead to quantum flapdoodle of the worst kind- it should be noted that the most credible forms of psi experiments with RNGs and the experiments that demonstrate Bell’s Inequalities are essentially the same type of experiment!

    COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE- one could argue that if we understood how the brain functions and that observed function disputed the claims of PSI- then it would be reasonable to treat Psi like any other crackpot idea- however we only have some basic frameworks for theories of Consciousness/ Memory/ wakefulness/ qualia/ etc- and absolutely nothing we have seen suggests anything about Psi either way- only that we are dealing with a immensely complex system of electrochemical signals that somehow provides the brain with a computational substrate- we know that our minds are the sum result of how all these signals interact with each other and connect in a modular hierarchical fashion- but no details that could be the basis of support for or against subtle phenomena like ESP

    PSYCHOLOGY- now we have the slipperiest ‘science’ of all: psychology- what need be said here other than beside some basic behavioral tendencies there is no theory here at all- it is merely a set of notions generally applied to various obvious and conscious aspects of a brain’s output- again nothing here to show support for or against psi- other than perhaps knowledge that there are many ways the brain can trick itself- so Psi claims must be examined beyond eyewitness evidence


    to sum up- Psi/ESP phenomena are viewed as having no credibility among scientists and scientific bodies- however there seems to be no rational basis for this bias as the sciences we have to describe the brain: microscale physics [electrochemistry]/ cog sci/ psychology are all incomplete at best- and nothing in these fields really contradicts with the basic claims of Psi/ESP- so if the social bias by the scientific community against Psi is NOT based on empirical thinking is it perhaps actually a hold-over of more primitive superstition and fear against ‘sorcery’ propagated by The Church? this would make a lot of sense- considering it is Western scientists who typically are the most reluctant to even consider paranormal concepts-
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2007 #2

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Evidence? Can you show me official military or other accounts in which ESP was measured? I can reference military RADAR data that measured the presence of UFOs; in addition to simultaneous visual confirmations by multiple witnesses including pilots.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  4. Feb 12, 2007 #3

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Yeah, strange you are going into such detail regarding the lack of theoretical foundation (that isn't a good thing, btw...) and you don't mention at all the fact that psi phenomena are testable.....and they fail to show that the phenomena even exist.
     
  5. Feb 12, 2007 #4

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Russ beat me to it, and I speed read it.

    The apparent credibleness of ESP is offset by the ease with which it can be tested in a controlled environment (compared to the other examples you cite).

    And yet still not so much with the proof.



    [ EDIT ]Waitaminnit...

    "with ‘psi’ there is nothing like a body of empirical knowledge to provide any reasonable person with a bias against it! "

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this argument tantamount to "let's not let the facts stand in the way of something would be cool"?
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  6. Feb 12, 2007 #5
    the post addressed the specific issue: that REGARDLESS of evidence for or against there is no real theoretical problem with psi because there is no complete therory yet that models a complex system like the brain- it is frustrating that after I explicitly stated this the 3 responses thus far both miss the point and just go back to the 'extraordinary evidence...' rhetoric- all the other ESP threads deal with that and I generally agree with you- but this is entirely INVARIANT of evidence- it is a question of the rational basis behind skepticism in ESP BEFORE evidence is even considered- especially considering the lack of knowledge that doesn't support that skepticism

    "Evidence? Can you show me official military or other accounts in which ESP was measured? "

    "you don't mention at all the fact that psi phenomena are testable.....and they fail to show that the phenomena even exist."

    as to evidence- I refer to ther HUGE body of peer-reviewed published science that shows overwhelming evidence for Psi- 80% of Dean Radin's last book "Etangled Minds" was nothing but uninterpretwed data from 1019 published articles [only the peer-reviewed results published in Nature/Phys Rev/etc that survived skeptical challenges are counted] with [according to Radin] a combined probability against chance of 1.3x10^104 to 1 - this stands up as strongly as just about any theory in any physical science- onwe can argue that Radin himself is a crank- but here he just dumps experimental data without any interpretation- so any arguments againt Radin's personal views are irrelavant


    so once again: can anyone comment on the issue of this thread instead of the usual 'evidence' arguments found in all the other threads about ESP?

    it is precisely this issue of lack of knowledge that leads me to the conclusion that Psi/ESP are more credible than other 'parnormal' concepts-

    the only conjecture I make here is that bias against ESP has more to do with western religion than any actual scientific grounds- as there are no scientific theories yet for brain-like systems!
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  7. Feb 12, 2007 #6
    "I can reference military RADAR data that measured the presence of UFOs; in addition to simultaneous visual confirmations by multiple witnesses including pilots.""

    to illustrate the point I am making about the theoritical consideration and NOT evidence- let us look at UFOs and ESP-

    while there is some circumstantial evidence for UFOs- there is considerable theoretical evidence against the INTERPRETATION that UFOs are biologically evolved intelligence that built industrial spaceships and flew them through interstellar space to earth- the speed of light and the vast distances involved/ the limits of resources/ the limits of biology/ etc

    however- even only considering the very dubious anecdotal evidence for ESP/Psi [I am not dealing AT ALL with the "1019 credible experiments"in Radin's book] there is NO theoretical evidence against the basic interpretation of ESP as some form of modulation of the physical environment by the intent of a conscious observer- becasue there are no physical theories of the brain's function which favour or argue against that interpretation-

    "isn't this argument tantamount to "let's not let the facts stand in the way of something would be cool"?" obviously not! Occam's razor cuts off things that would be cool but have no theoretical basis- but in the case of Psi- there is no theory of the system involved- so Okham doesn't favor for or against- plenty of anecdotal evidence for- and circumstantial evidence against [frauds caught in the act] but no theoretical evidence for or against means no rational basis for SCIENTIFIC bias against ESP/Psi-
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  8. Feb 12, 2007 #7

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    "...there is NO theoretical evidence against the basic interpretation of ESP as some form of modulation of the physical environment by the intent of a conscious observer..."


    So ... your argument is that, since there is no evidence that says it CAN'T be true, that means it should be taken seriously?



    I refer you to Van Rijn:
    "I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?"
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  9. Feb 13, 2007 #8

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Sorry, that just plain isn't how science works. Unless you are expanding on an existing theory, science starts with the observation of and investigation of a new/unexplained phenomena.

    It is you who are missing the point - your argument is an irrelevancy.
     
  10. Feb 13, 2007 #9
    There is no evidence that there is not life somewhere out there in the universe that is using some as yet undiscovered physical phenomena to travel light year distances to visit Utah for Cow Love either.

    There are lots of things that we cannot disprove, such as me being ruler of the entire Universe, but that doesn't mean we should take it seriously.
    Science has to be based on evidence, there is nothing wrong with testing flaky science but don't say it's true just because you can't prove it's categorically not, make an assumption on the probability based on testable evidence; thats what science surely is all about.
     
  11. Feb 13, 2007 #10

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    By "theoretical evidence" SetAI means no theoretical foundation/explanation. There is certainly plenty of emperical evidence that says it isn't true, just no theoretical foundation that specifically addresses it (which isn't the same as a theory that rules it out - see below). As you said before, setAI is claiming it should be taken seriously because science hasn't ruled out the mechanisms by which it would work. That is certainly not scientific, as your invisible elf and my invisible elephant would attest (yes, my invisible elephant talks to me - does that make me psychic or just crazy?).

    And while specific mechanisms aren't discussed, there are plenty of related theories that certain psi phenomena would violate. Precognition, for example, clearly violates what we know about time and information. Telekenesis - motion without force? So while our understanding of the brain is incomplete, we have plenty of good, basic scientific theories that rule out pretty much every psi phenomena.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  12. Feb 13, 2007 #11

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    To be specific for you:
    1. Critical to your point, yet you are arguing around it.
    2. Not true.
    3. Not relevant.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  13. Feb 13, 2007 #12

    I point out that Van Rijn, like myself, has no backyard, thus there can be no invisible elf in it, though invisible elves may exist elsewhere. HA!
     
  14. Feb 13, 2007 #13
    While I don't disagree, i must take issue with your wording, its disingenuous.

    What is gravity in GR? Its not a force, motion due to gravity is really apparent motion in a non-inertial frame. Why do hurricanes spin? Its not due to a real force.

    What we 'know' about time and information applies in inertial frames where SR holds. In non-inertial frames all sorts of fun things can happen. Energy isn't even necessarily conserved then.

    I don't so much disagree with you, as much as disapprove of making statements about what we 'know' without considering the limitations of that knowledge. Assumptions are everything in the quest for Truth, and they must be ruthlessly minimized and prosecuted.
     
  15. Feb 13, 2007 #14

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Forces are tough because at some level all forces are invisible, but that does't change the fact that:

    1. Gravity is extremely testable.
    2. Gravity had a theoretical framework that accurately describes it.

    Telekenesis is/has neither.
     
  16. Feb 13, 2007 #15
  17. Feb 13, 2007 #16
    Either you're missing my point or you're ignoring it. I don't disagre with that. I simply took issue with how you presented it. I'm not arguing for telekinesis on the basis of what i pointed out, I'm simply stating that you over simplified your statement and dismissed the caveats that applied to it without even a consideration. It doesn't change the conclusion, but the method is more important than the conclusion--its what distinguishes science.

    I'm nit-picking, really.
     
  18. Feb 13, 2007 #17

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Perhaps I worded that badly. What I meant was that the effects of gravity can be measured in tests and the data is good (high s/n ratio, highly repeatable). Tests of psi phenomena tend to show nothing, extremely low s/n ratio, and/or lack of repeatability. Ie, test fail to verify that the phenomena exist at all.
     
  19. Feb 13, 2007 #18

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I guess I just don't see your point. Certainly I oversimplified my descriptions of the phenomena - it was a 10-line post in an internet forum, not even about those subjects per se!
     
  20. Feb 14, 2007 #19

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Note that here you stated "UFOs", not aliens from other planets. The evidence for UFOs is there. The question of interpretation is another thing altogether.

    If that sounds like nit-picking, then it is you who assumes that UFOs are flown by aliens, not me. :biggrin:
     
  21. Feb 14, 2007 #20
    I feel like the OP is saying something along the lines of :
    The belief that aliens live on pluto is credible because we cannot fully simulate the planet pluto with our computers. So we don't know enough about it. So it's credible. Somehow.

    Just because we cannot simulate the human brain doesn't mean we cannot attempt to disprove phonomonae through testing. To believe so is akin also to saying :
    You'll never know how fast an apple drops to the ground because we can't model the complete universe yet.
    The fact that we don't have the exact specifics on how something works doesn't mean we do not have the means to test what it can and cannot do. (thats a tough sentence to read)
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Why is ESP lumped with less credible phenomena?
  1. Definition of ESP (Replies: 13)

Loading...