Monday, 11 November 2013

Moderate Skeptic Chris French concedes that professional skeptics apply a worldview-induced double standard towards parapsychology

Sunday, May 29, 2011

By Jime


Some self-proclaimed "skeptics", specially the dishonest, propagandistic and charlatanistic ones, like to disregard the influence that ideology (specially, the materialistic-naturalistic worldview) has on the evaluation of the evidence for psi. For these ignorant charlatans, the evidence for a given claim speaks for itself and in the case of psi, there is not evidence at all for such a thing. For them, any reference to "worldview" questions, in the debate about parapsychology, is a red herring. (Obviously, you don't need to be a philosopher of science to know that NO evidence speaks for itself; on the contrary, the evidence is always relative to the hypothesis or hypotheses being tested, or assumed, because a piece of evidence is evidence for or against some hypothesis, and cannot be understood as evidence without any explicit or implict reference to some hypothesis; moreover, its evaluation is done in terms of a conceptual and theoretical backgrounds and assumptions. And the latter are in many cases influenced and even determined by worldview considerations).

For example, essential to the naturalistic worldview is the principle of the causal closure of the physical world. In means that non-physical causation on the natural world is impossible. As consequence, God, spirits, souls, etc. (even if they exist) cannot be causally efficacious. For this reason, you can read in the leading propagandistic website for atheistic naturalism,, a definition of the naturalistic worldview in terms of an affirmation of the causal closure and a DENIAL of souls or spirits: "The Secular Web is... an organization dedicated to promoting and defending a naturalistic worldview on the internet... Naturalism is the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system , which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it. Naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities -including God" (emphasis in blue added).

Stressed in blue are the essential beliefs of naturalism:

1-It's a worldview (Note: the next time you see a naturalist or atheist denying that naturalism is a worldview, you'll know with full certainty that you're dealing with an intellectually dishonest, ignorant, stupid and sophistical charlatan, not worthy of intellectual respect).

2-The natural world is a closed system (hence, not non-natural/physical causes can be efficacious).

3-There is no God, or non-material spirits, souls, etc. So, naturalism implies ATHEISM.

Are the above worldview's doctrines relevant to the evaluation of some parapsychology's claims? Obviously they are, because some parapsychological claims are contrary to such naturalistic beliefs. Think for example of the efficacy of praying, or psychokinesis, or near-death experiences implying the separation of the soul from the body.

If you're a believer of naturalism, you have (a priori!) to deny at all cost the existence of all these things. A consistent naturalist is necessarily a critic of all of these things (regardless of the evidence), because his worldview demands such position. Any evidence in favor of these phenomena will be relativized, dismissed, undermined, interpreted uncharitably or simply ignored by the naturalist, but the evidence against these paranormal claims will be stressed, supported, interpreted charitably, or even invented, because his worldview demands such consistent double standard.

Chris Carter has been one of the few thinkers who have realized the importance of worldviews in the evaluation of the psi controversy (see his book Parapsychology and the Skeptics and his contribution to the book Debating Psychic Experience). Carter summarizes his case with this words: "I am convinced that the key to a rational resolution of this matter lies in realizing that this controversy is not primarily about evidence, but rather about competing worldviews." (Debating Psychic Experience, p.78. Emphasis in blue added).

I haven't seen any better insight regarding the core of the debate about parapsychology than Carter's.

Sophisticated "skeptics" know that Carter is right. They fully realize that in the evaluation of the evidence for psi, beliefs based on worldviews are important and even determinant. Some of these skeptics, explicitly, appeal to the current "scientific worldview" in order to deny the existence of psi or cast doubts on its probable existence.

In the book Debating Psychic Experience, self-proclaimed "moderate skeptic" Chris Franch concedes that there is exist a double standard regarding parapsychology and that such double standard is justified by worldview considerations. In French's words: "Several commentators (e.g., Edge et al., 1986) have quite rightly pointed out that, contrary to popular opinion, direct replications are quite rare in all areas of science, including psychology. Furthermore, many psychological effects reported in the literature have turned out to be difficult, sometimes impossible, to replicate. This often comes as a complete revelation to new postgraduate students who, having been raised upon a diet of practical classes based upon carefully chosen, very robust effects, are shocked to discover that often they cannot even replicate the basic effects that they intended to investigate in their own research. It is argued that it is therefore unfair to single out parapsychology as a discipline that has a particular problem in this respect. Is this another example of stricter standards being applied to parapsychology than to psychology? Indeed it is—but with good reason. In some important respects, the publication of an unreplicable effect in psychology simply matters less than it matters in parapsychology... Firstly, because in the fullness of time a few papers with negative results will be published—and many other experimenters will also have failed to replicate the effects but not bothered to write-up their results. Thus, word will spread along the informal networks of researchers in this area. It may take some time, but eventually it will be generally accepted that this particular interesting hypothesis is not valid. But secondly—and much more importantly—whether or not the hypothesis is valid, no radical revision of our existing scientific world view would be required. In the case of tests of the psi hypothesis, positive results would require exactly such a radical revision. It is therefore much more important that we establish whether or not the claimed effects are replicable... The crucial importance of reliably producing a convincing demonstration of even a tiny psi effect under well-controlled conditions is that to many scientists, myself included, this would require the kind of radical revision of worldview that would make at least some of the larger scale paranormal claims seem more plausible (p.57-59. Emphasis in blued added)

Let's examine French's contention in more detail:

1-He claims that the "scientific worldview" (?) is affected by the psi hypothesis. Therefore, the "scientific worldview" is not neutral regarding psi, but that it is incompatible with it (hence the necessity of radical revision, if psi were real).

This implies that a believer in the "scientific worldview" (?) will be, a priori, hostile to the evidence for psi and will use double standard in order to evaluate psi claims with the purpose of undermine its scientific value. (Note that it is the position of the conservative dogmatist, not of the truth seeker. The latter would never use a double standard based on his own uncritical assumptions regarding what is the current worldview in order to favor certain scientific claims over other scientific claims).

2-Point 1 refutes that objection of skeptical charlatans according to which any reference to "worldviews" in the debate about psi is a red herring, and that "only the evidence" counts for the failure of the acceptation of parapsychology.

3-French concedes that the problem of replicatibility affects all the fields of science, including psychology. Many effects reported as actually existent in the scientific literature are not replicable or haven't been replicated. Therefore, the objection that parapsychological claims are not replicable is irrelevant, at least as an objection specific and distintive of parapsychology as a science.

Note that this concession raised the following problem: If many accepted claims in science are not replicable (and in this respect similar to parapsychology, according to French), then how the hell do we know if the "scientific worldview" is based, at least in part, on many of such non-replicable scientific claims assumed to be true? French doesn't answer this question, because he doesn't mention exactly which are the assumptions or foundations of such "scientific worldview" and which replicable evidence supports it.

Exactly which scientific claims are part of the "scientific worldview"? And how many of these claims are replicable or have been actually replicated? And more importantly, exactly in which respect such scientific claims are incompatible with psi?

French doesn't expand on this crucial point of his argument. He simply assumes that psi, if it exists, is incompatible with the scientific worldview (?) and the latter would require a radical revision in order to accomodate psi. Period.

Again, this is not the position of a true skeptic (let alone a "moderate" one). This is the position of the conservative dogmatist, who assumes that there is just ONE scientific worldview or one interpretation of it (which?), that such worldview is based on scientific claims (replicable or non-replicable? or both? Which ones of these claims are relevant to psi?) and that such claims are incompatible with psi (how, exactly?).

Although "professional skeptics" almost never define or explicate which worldview they have in mind, all of us know their worldview is atheistic materialism/naturalism. They intentionally or unintentionally, conflate science with naturalism, and from there they call "unscientific" any claim which is contrary to the materialistic and naturalistic worldview (like praying, or healing at distance, for example)

I think Chris Carter is right: such atheistic worldview is based fundamentally in the (already refuted) Newtonian physics. They have not incorporated the new physics "quantum mechanics" in their worldview considerations.

As Dean Radin wrote in reply to French: "I will simply state that a radical revision in our worldview has already been with us for 80 years; but because that worldview presents such a radical departure from everyday common sense, it is only now beginning to penetrate into the awareness of the psychological sciences. The “new” worldview is based upon our most comprehensive understanding of the physical world to date, namely, quantum theory."(p.115)

Perhaps you're thinking that Radin is too biased in favor parapsychology, and hence he's misrepresenting quantum mechanics in order to make it fit with parapsychology.

Well, let's quote professional physicists and skeptics of psi Bruce Rozenblum and Fred Kuttner. In their book Quantum Enigma, in the section entitled "Paraphenomena", they wrote:

That widespread acceptance of paraphenomena is sufficient reason for including some comment in our book. A more important reason is that certain competent researchers claiming to display such phenomena cannot be dismissed out of hand. But hard-to-believe things require strong evidence. If someone tells you that there is a black dog outside, you likely just accept it. If they tell you there is a green giraffe, you want to go see for yourself. As yet, evidence for the existence of paraphenomena strong enough to convince skeptics does not exist.

But if — if!— such a phenomenon were convincingly demonstrated, we would know where to start looking for an explanation: the quantum effects of consciousness, Einstein’s “spooky interactions.” (p.192)

The reference to the view that no evidence sufficient to convince skeptics exists is revealing of the authors' strong skepticism (and ignorance of the best scientific literature about parapsychology). Hence, they're not biased in favor of parapsychology.

The reference to the explanation of these phenomena (if they were proved to exist) based on quantum effects of consciousness, reveals that (contrary to French and other professional skeptics' misleading and pseudoscientific speculations) no radical revision of our scientific worldview is needed. Contemporary science, specially best tested scientific theory, namely quantum physics, provide a theoretical framework to explain these phenomena.

The evidence for psi is incompatible with naturalism and materialism, but not with science.

Don't let yourself be fooled by atheistic ideologues into the idea that science and atheistic naturalism are the same (or that science implies a naturalistic worldiview, as as defined by the website).

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