The James Randi defense

Many people are influenced against the possibility of psychic phenomena by some of the real charlatans that exist in the “skeptic” community, James Randi prominent among them. I mean, I’m certainly down with the idea that parapsychologists subject their findings to scientific rigor, but having standards that are so much higher than those required for the rest of the scientific community isn’t really… scientific.

4 Responses to The James Randi defense

  1. imhotep January 9, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Randi is taking his lead from Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz).

  2. quixote January 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    The point isn’t whether the stardards are higher, but whether they meet the test of fulfilling the requirements. After all, if most science is done badly, that’s not a good reason to do all science badly. It’s a reason to bring all science up to standard.

    The scientific method is simple to summarize, harder to do. It’s based on measurable observations to confirm or falsify testable predictions, and where those results can be reliably repeated using the same methodology.

    (That right there shows why all the blather about science and religion is nonsense. There is no way to measure God. Or love or truth or etc., etc., etc. Those are completely outside the realm of science and the two different categories have nothing to do with each other. Religion will never find a cure for AIDS. Science will never tell you who to give the cure to. But I digress.)

    What’s wrong with all the studies of psychic phenomena that I’ve heard about is not the design of their experiments or their standards of proof. It’s in what they decide to measure. Stuff like “can you guess which picture is shown in the other room?” That’s not the sort of things people have premonitions about. It’s about danger or life-changing events. About things there’s no way to set up in a controlled lab situation. Setting up the usual pull-a-lever controlled psych experiments is just dumb in this situation. Psychic research will never get anywhere until they realize they’re an observational science, like astronomy, and all they can do is careful field studies.

    What they’re doing right now is like trying to study galaxies by measuring the inks used to make prints of the photographs of them. They’re measring the wrong things with the wrong rulers. So, garbage in, garbage out.

  3. James Randi January 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Remarkable… “Oddball” defines me as one of the “real charlatans that exist in the ‘skeptic’ community”. I’ve no idea why, and see no evidence offered to support that label. So, no discussion on that accusation.

    “quixote” can be responded to. He/she says there is “no way to measure God. Or love or truth or etc., etc., etc.” Hold on. Before we can measure anything, we must discover whether or not it exists; consider unicorns or Pegasus. As for a claim like premonition, that can very easily be directly, thoroughly, and definitively examined, and for years now I’ve invited claimants to this phenomenon to submit to me their premonitions – before the event, of course – but I have never received any such data… Why, I must wonder?

    And the suggested “careful field studies” approach is laudable, but has never provided any positive evidence!

    So where’s the “charlatan” here, I ask… James Randi.

  4. quixote January 11, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    You miss the point. There is no way to discover whether a subjective feeling exists. It would be like you telling me I don’t like strawberries. There is no way for you to know that. Just as there is no way for you to know what my experience of love or truth is. Those are not objective things that are out there waiting to be discovered. All you can say about them is they mean nothing to you. And nobody else can tell you that they do.

    Premonitions are another matter. They’re phenomena and can certainly be examined. Again, you missed the point if you understood me to be lumping them in with God. Inviting claimants to tell you their premonitions is a request for anecdotal evidence. It’s not a field study. It would be interesting if you did get that evidence, and it’s interesting that you haven’t, but it’s not the same as a study.

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