## Cracks in the Matrix

• 493
I imagine this might be an odd question but I guess I might as well ask it since it is unlikely to be craziest question make in an OP.

Years ago, James Randi often challenged various claims about psychic or similar "powers" where an individual would receive a certain amount of money if Randi couldn't prove that such powers where some kind of trick or if there was some way to show that it was indeed some kind of psychic phenomenon. Needless to say, there was never a time when someone took the challenge where they ever able to win Randi's challenge.

Although nobody was able to take Randi's challenge successfully, there are those that believe that either the right people never bothered with it, or perhaps the parameters of the test where not the best in doing such test.

In a nutshell, I'm wondering if anyone on the forum knows about instances of either psychic abilities and or paranormal where investigated which may have supported (or not supported) the claims that such things exists. While it is almost a given that the majority of such instance where merely tricks and/or something other than psychic abilities/paranormal, I believe it is at least plausible a very small fraction of them could be real.

1. Are psychic abilities and/or paranormal events real? (25 votes)
No
56%
Yes
36%
Other
8%
• 150
In a nutshell, I'm wondering if anyone on the forum knows about instances of either psychic abilities and or paranormal where investigated which may have supported (or not supported) the claims that such things exists. While it is almost a given that the majority of such instance where merely tricks and/or something other than psychic abilities/paranormal, I believe it is at least plausible a very small fraction of them could be real.
I agree that it's plausible; we can't prove psychic/paranormal abilities are impossible. On the other hand, we've had centuries to uncover positive proof and what do we have so far? No much. So I'm skeptical.
• 9.8k

I recommend a book by Martin Gardner - "Science, Good, Bad, and Bogus." It discusses many claims of scientific proof for psychic powers which have been shown to be false. Sometimes the problem was caused by bad science performed in good faith, but often it was a case of fraud. It's a good book. Gardner focuses on the types of errors investigators make in psychic experiments.
• 9.8k
Are psychic abilities and/or paranormal events real?
Insoafar as there is corroborable evidence, they are; lacking corroborable evidence, they are not (i.e. indistinguishible from fictions).
• 3.9k
Just ask yourself if it is more likely that a teapot is orbiting Mars. This seems at least physically feasible whereas when it comes to psychic powers there is no feasible mechanism known by which to gather evidence.

If such phenomena can be actively observed and recorded enough then a mechanism can be uncovered. Should we be concerned with hypothesising about how a cat paint a picture that is indistinguishable from a work of Salvador Dali? I don’t think so … but you could argue that no cat has claimed they can.

This basically comes down to people believing the impossible. Humans are incredible in that we can sometimes pull of the seemingly impossible.
• 7.6k
I detect a fallacy in Randi's Challenge.

The late Randi's position

1. Psychic P's powers are inexplicable by science $\to$ P's a true psychic.

A psychic P's powers maybe explicable with a yet-to-be-discovered scientific theory. Mercury's orbit wasn't deemed a psychic phenomen when Newton's theory couldn't explain it.

2. P's a true pyschic $\to$ Pyschic P's powers are inexplicable by science.

Affirming the consequent/converse fallacy.
• 8.8k
Should we use the scientific method to prove the validity of a supernatural power, that power will no longer be supernatural, but will be natural, and our inquiry will then turn to better understand this newly discovered physical property.

That is, we don't abandon science when we come across new data that challenges our prior theories, but we modify our theories to meet the new data.

So, if I can read others' minds, then we'll need to track down how that is. Given we have tremendous preexisting data on this topic, it is unlikely there is a way previously undiscovered.
• 680

I have heard of this case several times before, it is supposed to be quite extraordinary.

Presuming this is real, I wonder what is any standard of evidence would be required before it is accepted.
• 10
"Psychic" abilities are real, but depending on where you're coming from your perspective must be shifted so you can not only recognize the phenomenon but understand it.

Some people will not even see what is happening to be able to understand it. In the video dclements posted, the people who contacted JREF were either rejected, couldn't deliver, or never showed up. Sometimes a person will have a static idea of what it's supposed to be. But unless they are seriously dedicated they may never see that specific demonstration and not recognize the more mundane but real manifestations of "psychic" abilities.
• 7.6k
In one video the late Randi makes an interesting remark. He says that one self-proclaimed psychic's hit rates were no better than chance. To llustrate, given an MCQ with 4 options and 1 correct answer, self-styled psychics get it right 25% of the time i.e. it's no better than your average person's wild guess. So much for the paranormal.

A question

A natural question given the above statistical/probabilistic framing of psychics and their powers is why nobody's concerned about success rates < 25%?. This is also, a mathematician might say, statistically significant. As per probability, guessing should get you to around 25% on an MCQ exam where each question has 4 options and 1 correct among them. However, some results (in MCQ exams) are much, much, lower than that. One who consistently gets less than 25% in MCQs with this format is (also) breaking the laws of chance, oui monsieur? What gives?
• 493
I agree that it's plausible; we can't prove psychic/paranormal abilities are impossible. On the other hand, we've had centuries to uncover positive proof and what do we have so far? No much. So I'm skeptical.
I could be wrong but there have been certain physical phenomenon that not well understood until either around 200 years ago or even a hundred years ago. Maybe psychic/paranormal is just another physical phenomenon that we just haven't been to figure out yet.
• 493
I recommend a book by Martin Gardner - "Science, Good, Bad, and Bogus." It discusses many claims of scientific proof for psychic powers which have been shown to be false. Sometimes the problem was caused by bad science performed in good faith, but often it was a case of fraud. It's a good book. Gardner focuses on the types of errors investigators make in psychic experiments.
Thanks. :D

When I have a chance I will try to check it out. If you can can you give me a short summary of what the book is about?
• 493
Insoafar as there is corroborable evidence, they are; lacking corroborable evidence, they are not (i.e. indistinguishible from fictions).

I agree the corroborating evidence isn't enough to show that any hypothesis yet made is accurate enough to explain the physical phenomenon well enough or that any claims about it (such as people being able to talk to the dead, predicate the future, etc.) is hardly anything more than pure fiction.

However there still remains a problem that certain physical phenomenon happen that is observed that defy what we know. A similar problem exist with the "UFO phenomenon". For years people have claimed (and even have videoed) situations where they see something in the air that is unlike any other aircraft made on earth yet there has never been any concrete evidence of UFOs, except perhaps the videos create and made public recently by the US Air Force. Even at this time they are not saying that such phenomenon are "really" UFOs, all they can note is that such aerial craft move and operate in a way that no aerial craft made on earth (or any known craft made on earth) can do things that such craft do.

I don't know but maybe part of the problem with UFO's is that "IF" there happens to be other being that come to our planet to observe us it is plausible that they have enough technology available to them that it often makes it hard for us to know about there presence. Or even "IF" we did uncover such evidence it is also plausible that any government that has access to such evidence would want the general public to know about it.

While the UFO phenomenon and the psychic/paranormal phenomenon both seem to have problems where people observe "strange things happening", yet there never seems to be a way to show how such events are either based on known physical phenomenon or some kind of mental delusion that causes someone to think they are seeing something that isn't there.
• 493
"Psychic" abilities are real, but depending on where you're coming from your perspective must be shifted so you can not only recognize the phenomenon but understand it.

Some people will not even see what is happening to be able to understand it. In the video dclements posted, the people who contacted JREF were either rejected, couldn't deliver, or never showed up. Sometimes a person will have a static idea of what it's supposed to be. But unless they are seriously dedicated they may never see that specific demonstration and not recognize the more mundane but real manifestations of "psychic" abilities.
Shed

One of the things I heard that were not allowed are the so called "Psi Wheel".

Psi wheel
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psi_wheel

While it a given that it is feasible that one could try to cheat while moving such a wheel, I think a demonstration where someone is able to move a Psi wheel seems so trivial that Randi didn't want to bother with it and/or have to figure out how it is caused by known physical phenomenon. It is also possible that part of the problem may be that there seems to be a lot of people able to make a Psi wheel move but not all the time. Because of this, it could be just a headache for Randi and others to have to deal with such claims and/or have to deal with someone who could make it move one day but not others.

To me it seems like it is kind of a head scratcher that there is phenomenon that is fairly common that can't be explained by no known physical phenomenon, but is not really bothered with by the scientific community as a whole.
• 9.8k
When I have a chance I will try to check it out. If you can can you give me a short summary of what the book is about?

It's a book of examples of purported psychic phenomena which, on examination, were shown not to be authentic. Some of the examples were poorly designed and implemented, but sincere, scientific studies. Others were bogus claims and performances by so-called psychics. Here's what Amazon says:

In this lively collection, Gardner examines the rich and hilarious variety of pseudoscientific conjectures that dominate the media today. With a special emphasis on parapsychology and occultism, these witty pieces address the evidence put forth to support claims of ESP, psychokinesis, faith healing, and other pseudoscience.
• 9.8k

I just remembered this. A possible scientific explanation for ESP and a worrisome sign for the future.

• 4.1k
I believe it is at least plausible a very small fraction of them could be real.

They aren’t.

Yes, everything we know about the world could be mistaken. But I think it’s obvious people want to believe in magic, and that delusion, trickery, and irrationality help fill that void.

That 33% of respondents said “yes” is embarrassing.
• 493
I just remembered this. A possible scientific explanation for ESP and a worrisome sign for the future.
I'll have to try to read up on such technology. It kind of reminds me of how back around 2010 Popular Science wrote an article about "The Best 10 Jobs to the Future".

The Best 10 Jobs to the Future
https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-08/10-best-jobs-future-0/

Most of them were just wild fantasies of what people might be doing in the future, however the technology to make such things possible are several hundred years from where we are now. However there was one job that although it is sounded almost as wild and craze as the others the technology was just around the corner. That job was the "Forecaster of Everything". In a way it wasn't something exactly new since statistics (and perhaps other things as well) have been used for a very long time in helping us see a little bit into the future. However a new technology called data science is being used to help us see into the future and/or glean information that might not be otherwise possible.

Can information gained through data science related technology be used by a person (or persons) in a way that makes it seem like they have powers similar to ESP? I don't really know, but I'm guessing it is unlikely that with what is available that it is possible. However in the next 20 to 50 years with some supercomputers coming closer and closer to having the same computational powers of the human mind, it is a given that new possibilities will open up and make it more easier to predict what will or will not happen in the future.

I don't know if you ever heard of a series called "Person of Interest", but I guess you could say it is about a billionaire programmer and an ex-US spy working together to try and stop various threats. On of the interesting aspects of the show is the programmer uses a computer (which is given the uncreative name of "the machine") that supposedly is constantly evaluating terra-bytes of seemly unimportant data about things going on around the world, and/or things that would have little meaning to the rest of us but when put through several algorithms it can locate terrorist and/or other issues before they even happen. Of course it is almost a given that such technology does not exist or at least nobody is claiming to have a system that can do anything like it.

Person of Interest
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person_of_Interest_(TV_series)
Person of Interest- The Machine
https://personofinterest.fandom.com/wiki/The_Machine

A similar work of fiction is a movie called "Minority Report". The only major difference is that instead of using a machine to predict the future there are three individuals known as "Precogs" that are "sensitive" to certain events (such as crimes where someone murders someone else) and they have visions of it before it happens. With Minority Report that is the additional problem of a concept of "pre-crime" where the police uses some kind of system of predictive policing to charge people with crimes before they are able to commit them. Of course there are many potential moral dilemmas that come with individuals or institutions having access to information about future events that the rest of us don't have and what they actions they can take when they know it.

Minority Report
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minority_Report_(film)
Precogs
https://minorityreport.fandom.com/wiki/Precogs
Precrime
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Minority_Report#Precrime
Predictive policing
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictive_policing

Hopefully I haven't strayed too far from the original issue I posed in the OP.
• 7.6k
An intriguing connection to make - that betwixt the paranormal & technology.

Debunking is painful, both for the debunker and the debunked!
• 493
They aren’t.

Yes, everything we know about the world could be mistaken. But I think it’s obvious people want to believe in magic, and that delusion, trickery, and irrationality help fill that void.

That 33% of respondents said “yes” is embarrassing.

There is a difference between what is typically considered to be "magic" and something that is a physical phenomenon that we have yet to understand. I could be wrong but certain fields like hypnosis used to be consider merely pseudoscience until they were understood better. Even recently the government acknowledged that not all unknown/unexplained aerial phenomenon are caused by something along the lines of confused pilots, pranksters, or swamp gas as there have been too many documented evens by either Airforce or Navy pilots who have seen/videoed such craft to be able to merely dismiss them.
• 5.2k
@Sam26 's arguments about out of body experiences can be quite convincing. Have a look in their post history if you're interested.
• 3.9k

We remember that discussion differently then.
• 4.1k
Even recently the government acknowledged that not all unknown/unexplained aerial phenomenon are caused by something along the lines of confused pilots, pranksters, or swamp gas as there have been too many documented evens by either Airforce or Navy pilots who have seen/videoed such craft to be able to merely dismiss them.

I think they can and should be dismissed as utter nonsense, if what's claimed is that because something is unidentified or unexplained, it must be a sign of alien life, supernatural forces, or magic.

The reason for not believing in these claims is the same for everything else: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan was right. So there's no sense wasting time about it simply because we'd like to believe in it.
• 5.2k
We remember that discussion differently then.

Probably! I remained unconvinced, but it took decent effort for me to feel like I'd unravelled things. Worth engaging with I feel regardless. At the very worst, you engage with a sophisticated reasoner (@Sam26) who's thought a lot about why what they're saying is good evidence. It would be nice if other supernatural claims were that well fleshed out.
• 3.9k
The reason for not believing in these claims is the same for everything else: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan was right.

And David Hume.

That maxim is not by itself dispositive though. If an eyewitness account comes from someone you are inclined to consider trustworthy, unlikely to be mistaken, and with no reason to lie, that has to count for something. @fdrake could fill in the details much better than I, but the point can be made in Bayesian terms: the chances of Reliable Ron making such a claim, given that it's true, are higher than the chances of him making such a claim given that it's false. If you believe your boyfriend is visiting his parents, but a good friend tells you she saw him at a bar last night, you're going to take that seriously, and it's going to move your prior.
• 3.9k

Agreed. And I just invoked your name in post about Sam's central focus, the evidentiary value of eyewitness accounts. Freaking kismet.
• 4.1k
If an eyewitness account comes from someone you are inclined to consider trustworthy, unlikely to be mistaken, and with no reason to lie, that has to count for something.

I don't think there's much lying involved. I'm sure people really believe in all kinds of supernatural, magical stuff. People believe in angels and demons and ghosts, for God's sakes. I'm sure it's all sincere.

That being said, I think the hypothetical trustworthy friend's account would mean exactly nothing to me -- if what's being claimed is that everything I or anyone else has ever known about the world is wrong and the laws of nature have been suspended. That person is simply delusional and wrong, whatever they thought they experienced. The principle still stands: an extraordinary claim (aliens, bigfoot, ghosts, angels, unicorns, Santa Claus, the teapot orbiting Mars) requires extraordinary evidence -- no matter who is claiming it.

I bet on reality every time over subjective experiences and supernatural claims.
• 5.2k
That being said, I think the hypothetical trustworthy friend's account would mean exactly nothing to me -- if what's being claimed is that everything I or anyone else has ever known about the world is wrong and the laws of nature have been suspended. That person is simply delusional and wrong, whatever they thought they experienced. The principle still stands: an extraordinary claim (aliens, bigfoot, ghosts, angels, unicorns, Santa Claus, the teapot orbiting Mars) requires extraordinary evidence -- no matter who is claiming it.

Do you think you could play this rejection game on hard mode? Like if you discarded your priors about how nature worked, would you be able to conclude that supernatural claims are bogus methodologically rather than being inconsistent with well established theory? Not saying such a strategy is required, just wondering the style of your disagreement.
• 2.2k
Probably! I remained unconvinced, but it took decent effort for me to feel like I'd unravelled things. Worth engaging with I feel regardless. At the very worst, you engage with a sophisticated reasoner (@Sam26) who's thought a lot about why what they're saying is good evidence. It would be nice if other supernatural claims were that well fleshed out.

I also remain unconvinced. You gave it a good effort compared to the other responses, but the argument's conclusion follows with a high degree of objective certainty. It's probably one of the strongest inductive arguments you could construct based on testimonial evidence.
• 5.2k
I also remain unconvinced. You gave it a good effort compared to the other responses, but the argument's conclusion follows with a high degree of objective certainty. It's probably one of the strongest inductive arguments you could construct based on testimonial evidence.

:up:
• 2.2k
I haven't been posting much, but I'm always lurking. :smile:
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