Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Operation Stargate, The CIA and Psychic Spies

This is highly interesting.

This link points to an article about a rather dubious research project funded by the US military on psychic remote viewing. The "reporter" here seems to claim of only "reporting" the facts that such research work has been done. In reading this piece, as expected, there is a clear learning towards stating this unverified claims to be "facts".

But that is not the reason why I highlighted this article. Scroll down and read the exchange between her and a reader, Shawn Bishop, who happens to be a physicist. I could have sworn that he sounded like me because this would almost be the same thing that I would have blasted back at this reporter. The exchange and comments are quite entertaining to read, and for me, more interesting than the article itself.

Note that Bob Park has covered this way back when. I find that this reporter didn't get a well-balanced view of this project. She could have at least contacted Bob Park and get his opinion on this whole thing, rather than simply getting one view from someone who came out of the project itself. So I would certainly agree with Shawn Bishop that this is a very poorly done coverage of this topic.

Besides, these psychic stuff definitely qualifies as one of the criteria for Voodoo Science if we apply it to what has been outlined by Park:

3) An effect is always at the very limit of detection. All scientific measurements must contend with some level of background noise or statistical fluctuation. Normally, the noise problem can be reduced by shortening distances and increasing the flux. If the signal-to-noise ratio cannot be improved, even in principle, the effect is probably not real and the work is not science.

The most egregious examples are all in parapsychology. Indeed, in studies spanning more than a century, not one of the many thousands of published papers alleging t o have observed telepathy, psychokinesis, or precognition, has achieved any level of acceptance among scientists outside the parapsychology community. This is truly remarkable. I can find no other example of a research area in which such a huge body of work has failed so completely to persuade scientists outside the band of true believers conducting the studies. Indeed, in the case of parapsychology it is difficult to see how even the true believers remain convinced.

In the first place, there is nothing resembling progress in parapsychology. Ordinarily, the maturing of an area of research involves three phases: the initial studies a redevoted to showing the effect is real, and to identifying the parameters that control the strength of the effect. As the effect is made stronger, research moves on to identifying plausible mechanisms. The final phase involves controlled laboratory tests of these mechanisms. Research into parapsychology is still stuck in the first phase, with each new study merely trying, without much success, to establish that there is something to study.

It seems there is little that can be done to strengthen paranormal effects. There is no indication, for example, that distance is a factor. There are claims that sensory deprivation increases the sensitivity of subjects to paranormal stimulation. In ganzfeld experiments, for example, the eyes of the subject are covered with diffusers. Any effect, however, is still too slight to convince most scientists.


1 comment:

Moss David Posner said...

The criticisms leveled against the notion of Parapsychology are understandable but not entirely valid, as they do not take into consideration the fact that the subject is not large enough heuristically that there is a common consensus regarding methodology and measurement--in the field of Parapsychology..

The criticisms also do not take into consideration the very work that has been done--and validated:

Although the original work of Rhine at Duke University did come under criticism, the work has been repeated, with more rigorous design, and the results show clear that the nul hypothesis has been invalidated; and in the opinion of some, there are correlations that have been demonstrably measured. This was reported in "Psychology Today" and in other journals, within the past 5-10 years.

Regarding a paradiagm that might give a scientific basis for any such phenomena, the Theory of Scalar Physics provides this at least as a responsible base. This of course does not equate to proof, but it indicates directions to go to accomplish just this.

I refer you to the website by Tom Bearden, with which I am sure you are familiar. Leaving aside the emotional rhetoric regarding Col. Bearden, I have seen no responsible criticism of his theoretical base or mathematic derivations.

The nature of measurement is inseparable from the notion of scientific investigation. What is not clear is the valid nature of a variety of forms of measurement, which include not only quantitative and ordinal and semi-ordinal measurement but cardinal measurement as well. A fine example of semi-ordinal measurement can be found in the Alport-Vernon landmark study on Attitudes Towards the Church. An example of cardinal measurement responsibly done can be found in the work of Eric Berne, the founder of "Transactional Analysis."

(The simplest example can be found in his "Games People Play" which was a popularization of this original work in the "Transactional Quarterly" as I recall, in the 1950's.)

All of this, of course, hinges on the definition of "proof," among the other factors mentioned. I am currently working on a series of articles on this subject, as the traditional and classic definitions simply are far too limiting and do not allow for responsible inference.

I encourage your writing on this and related subjects. If you wish, you can reach me at: david.posner@comcast.net