A Response to Psychic Research

James Alcock of The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry responds to Cornell professor?Darryl Bern‘s controversial recent research on psi effects. “However, this is hardly the first time that there has been media excitement about new ‘scientific’ evidence of the paranormal,” writes Alcock. “Over the past 80-odd years, this drama has played out a number of times, and each time, parapsychologists ultimately failed to persuade the scientific world that their phenomena actually exist.” Alcock reviews past attempts at proving psychic phenomenon and Bern’s experiments. His conclusion: “Early excitement is often misleading, and as Ray Hyman has pointed out, it often takes up to 10 years before the shortcomings of a new approach in parapsychological research become evident.” [%comments]


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  1. Chris Masse says:

    Dean Radin (PhD) has responded to the critics. http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-comments-on-alcocks-comments-on-bems.html

    Will you please make his arguments available to the public? Thanks.

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  2. MikeM says:

    Isn’t it Bem? B-E-M. Not Bern, B-E-R-N.

    Why the ruckus? A result with a statistically significant result of say, 1 in 1000 chance of being by chance, will still happen by chance in 1 out of every 1000 experiments. I believe I learned that when I was at Cornell, by … oh yeah, Dr. Bem. I bet he’s laughing right now.

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  3. James says:

    I’m puzzled by the so-called Skeptical Inquirer’s attitude. Seems as though their skepticism (like that of global warming “skeptics”) is instead dogmatic denial.

    Now I don’t think that there are likely to be any psi phenomenon in the traditional sense, though I could always be wrong. However, if you but look at current neuropsychological research, you find it full of things like mirror neurons, oxytocin, the idea that some people are “mind-blind” because they don’t intuit what others are thinking, and much more. What are these, if not a pretty good stand-in for some of parapsychology?

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  4. M.M. says:

    BEM? Isn’t that a monster?


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  5. tudza says:


    Huh? What do any of those things have to do with parapsychology? I don’t see anything in the descriptions of those subjects that in any way relates to foretelling the future.

    If I were to guess your train of thought I’d say it was something like, “Hey, brains are weird, why not believe more wacky weird brain stuff.”

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  6. Venom says:

    Well said! Alcock rocks.

    James Alcock is one of the foremost critic of parapsychology, and I agree with his statements here. The best thing to do is “wait and see” with those kind of researchs. There are already at least 3 failures of replication published. Let’s see if this trend continues…

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  7. James says:

    Re #5: “Huh? What do any of those things have to do with parapsychology? I don’t see anything in the descriptions of those subjects that in any way relates to foretelling the future.”

    Why do you assume that parapsychology only involves foretelling the future? The classic Rhine parapsychology experiment involves mind-reading: having one person look at a card, while a second (who can’t see the card) tries to guess/perceive the symbol on it. Seems to me that that’s pretty darned simple, in comparison with perceiving complex motivations & emotional states in other people.

    (Which, incidently, my dog can do quite well. Either she reads minds, or has such superlative hearing that she can tell the difference between the Ctl-Alt-backspace, Ctl-Alt-Delete keystrokes that shuts down my computer – which means we might be going for a hike! – and all the other keystrokes.)

    As for foretelling the future, that’s easily done. NASA, for instance, spends billions to build space probes, and launches them off into space with a pretty good record of having them show up where they were supposed to be, some years later.

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  8. Panem et Circanses says:

    Per one of Larry Niven’s Laws, there is no parapsychology? Why not? Because it if existed, we as a species would have done something with it.

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