Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Publishing A Turd Is Still A Turd

OK, I've made wholesale judgement of something that I haven't read, and something I don't have a very good knowledge of. In other words, I'm doing exactly what I've criticized crackpots for doing. I fully admit it, and I'm fully owning it! So there!

But really, as I've mentioned earlier, you can only counter crackpottery with another crackpottery. And I'm going to judge this with the same level of superficial knowledge as this person is doing by invoking his superficial level of knowledge of quantum mechanics. I think that is a fair deal, no?

This article out of Cornell highlights a series of publication on ESP and other paranormal phenomena. Oh yes, that again! Supposedly, this series of publication is based on new research that somehow shows "convincing" evidence for it. But just in reading this article, are you truly convinced?

In one experiment, Bem asked students to pick one of two curtains as the one they thought contained a picture behind it. Although the students correctly chose the correct curtain 53.1 percent of the time, which appears to not be too different from the expected 50 percent, Bem believes this value is, in fact, statistically significant and unlikely to appear by chance.

A paper published by researchers at the University of Amsterdam suggests that Bem uses incorrect statistical methodology by using one-tailed tests instead of two-tailed tests, which would be more difficult to prove significance for. By re-analyzing Bem’s data using a different set of statistical analysis tools, however, the researchs show that Bem’s data is not statistically significant. Bem believes this claim is “an absolutely ridiculous argument to be making” and that the assumptions used by the University of Amsterdam researchers are “unrealistic.”

Er... yeah! Of course!

But it gets better when physics is invoked.

It is Bem’s belief that there is “nothing in physics that is contradicted” because although ESP might not be in line with Newtonian physics, it is in line with quantum physics.

He added, “The fact that we do not have a mechanism to explain it is a major deterrent. But almost every theory first started out as an unexplainable phenomenon.”

Er... what is it with "quantum physics" that is consistent with this cra... er ... study? Let me guess. He's invoking quantum entanglement? Superposition? The Cat? If he is, he is barking up the wrong tree, very much like Deepak Chopra. And thus, my point about superficial understanding of something. But what is funny is the gall he had to say that " ... almost every theory first started out as an unexplainable phenomenon.. " Since when is this something new to be "first started out"? Claims of ESP and such have been made for decades, even longer! In all of those years, they still can't get out of first base, out of the "discovery" mode. Other legitimate phenomena have gone beyond the discovery/confirmation phase and now have proper theoretical descriptions.

This thing cannot get beyond the fact that they can't differentiate their signal from random noise. The statistical analysis of such a thing is suspect. It is why the effect is not convincing.


1 comment:

El Charro said...

In case you're interested in seeing a funny portrayal of this research: