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346 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Depend On The Press For Science Reporting

  1. lizkat says:

    If you are taught in college and in medical school that there is not, and cannot be, any form of energy or field that is specific to living organisms, then you would probably never become interested in the subject.

    However there are researchers investigating biofields, energy healing, etc., because they realize that the “facts” taught in medical school can sometimes be inaccurate our outdated.

    One of the most significant disagreements between mainstream medicine and CAM centers on whether biofields and “life energy” can or cannot possibly exist.

    CAM says yes, mainstream says no. Mainstream won’t believe anything not published in its own journals, and it won’t publish anything it “knows” cannot be true.

  2. lizkat says:

    “Some sort of salmon homing or interesting social networking brain function? ”

    I think it would be nice if mainstream science would consider the possibility of “wireless” communication between brains. Why not? You don’t think it’s strange that machines can communicate without wires. Why do you insist it can’t possibly work with brains? Why are you so sure that our brains are isolated within our bodies and cannot receive electronic information from outside?

  3. Fifi says:

    weing – “Mainstream science is self-correcting. Pseudoscience is never wrong and therefore doesn’t require self-correction.”

    What weing said….

  4. Fifi says:

    michele – “I am not keen to discount any psi-like phenomenon that has not been scientifically explained. I suggest there can be interesting information to be had in unexplained psi-like phenomenon.”

    I agree entirely that exploring things that haven’t been explained is a worthwhile endeavor. The issue with most psychic type of stuff is that there are very good explanations about why we have these kinds of experiences that are based in solid physiology. I personally find it fascinating how our cognitive and biological glitches have contributed to folklore and have played a role in creating our cultures (and many religious beliefs). As someone who meditates, I find the narratives that people create around the experiences we can have meditating fascinating (almost as fascinating as understanding why we have certain experiences from engaging in certain practices). It’s pretty cool to have an understanding of one’s brain/mind and body from both a subjective and objective perspective.

  5. Scott says:

    If you are taught in college and in medical school that there is not, and cannot be, any form of energy or field that is specific to living organisms, then you would probably never become interested in the subject.

    However there are researchers investigating biofields, energy healing, etc., because they realize that the “facts” taught in medical school can sometimes be inaccurate our outdated.

    What this argument fails to consider is that “biofields” which can do what the woo-meisters claim are as firmly ruled out by current experimental results as the idea that gravity is a repulsive force.

    It is NOT simply declining to think about it; it’s thinking about it, considering it in relation to empirical results, and observing that it is grossly inconsistent with said empirical results.

    I additionally observe that you still haven’t made the slightest attempt to actually refute this point.

  6. BillyJoe says:

    lizkat,

    “You don’t think it’s strange that machines can communicate without wires.”

    No, because they have built-in transmitters and receivers.

    “Why are you so sure that our brains are isolated within our bodies and cannot receive electronic information from outside?”

    Because, despite extensive knowledge about human anatomy from detailed anatomical dissection by a large number of different anatomist all over the world over a long period of time, no one has yet been able to detect a built-in transmitter or receiver in the human body.

    “Why do you insist it can’t possibly work with brains? ”

    What do you think lizkat?
    What will it take to convince you that this is not possible.

  7. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    “Although I never really thought I was seeing ghosts, imagine my relief when I found out my visions were cause by a sleep dysfunction. Apparently, sometime you can wake up, but your sensory system is still in dream mode. So you are awake, but can see or hear elements from your dream. Often without remembering the dream.”

    This is called a hypnopompic hallucination.
    If it happens going off to sleep, it’s called a hypnogogic hallucination.
    The mechanism are a little different apparently, hence the different names.

    “In my family we also have the typical weird “everybody call at the same time out of the blue” phenomenon. This wouldn’t be so weird if we all weren’t so phone adverse. No calls for months, then all at the same time with no birthdays or holidays, etc in sight. Is it just a form of confirmation bias, noticing only when everyone calls? Or is there something else? Some sort of salmon homing or interesting social networking brain function? Or maybe someone already has an explanation and they just haven’t featured it on NPR ”

    Or may something quite mundane like….coincidence!
    Yes, coincidence.
    Coincidence is the result of pure random chance:
    Flip a coin 100 times. You will be almost guaranteed to get a run of 6 heads by pure random chance. If you show people four sequences of coin flips, three of which are fake and one real and you ask them to pick the fake one, they invariably pick the real one. If looks fake because it will have runs of heads and tails.
    I point out these coincidences in my family all the time and now they just roll their eyes. Lesson well learnt I think ;)

    (BTW, I’m afrad you reply held up in moderation will be read by no one. I suggest you post it again if you’ve had the forsesight to save it)

  8. lizkat on hypotheses that are cool to think about:
    “I think it would be nice if mainstream science would consider the possibility of “wireless” communication between brains.”

    Science has. It’s well documented. It’s chemical communication, such as pheromones.

    If you are talking about psi, again, science has. Carefully. For decades. Investigators have not found any good evidence that it exists, and if they can’t establish that it exists then they can’t look for a mechanism that would explain how it works.

    Yet again lizkat, what are your criteria for random, baseless hypotheses that you think science should investigate? Anyone can come up with an almost infinite number of random, baseless hypotheses. Some of them — like my billionaire hypothesis — are, as you put it, “nice.” Which are the ones that you think other people should investigate for you?

  9. weing says:

    “You don’t think it’s strange that machines can communicate without wires.”

    But we are communicating without wires right now. I have a wireless modem. Is that not woo enough for you? It would have been unbelievable 100 years ago.

  10. Harriet Hall says:

    lizkat said “You are obviously emotionally invested in atheism, and incapable of looking at evidence objectively.”

    This is the kind of comment I wish our commenters would avoid. Instead of drawing conclusions about the personalities of other commenters and insulting them, if you think they are wrong about something why not present evidence to demonstrate what you think is the truth and let others draw their own conclusions about your opponents?

    You have not even given us a concrete example of evidence that needs to be looked at objectively.

  11. lizkat says:

    “Because, despite extensive knowledge about human anatomy from detailed anatomical dissection by a large number of different anatomist all over the world over a long period of time, no one has yet been able to detect a built-in transmitter or receiver in the human body.”

    Very little is actually understood about how the brain works. There is nothing to rule out the possibility that the brain can detect electromagnetism, as well as generate it.

  12. lizkat says:

    “Instead of drawing conclusions about the personalities of other commenters and insulting them”

    But it’s perfectly ok for Fifi to draw that sort of conclusions? Why the double standard?

  13. Scott says:

    EM’s a dead end here, I’m afraid. If that were the mechanism of action, it would be almost trivially easy to detect, measure, and reproduce. Yet, this has not been properly done.

  14. pmoran says:

    “Why are you so sure that our brains are isolated within our bodies and cannot receive electronic information from outside?”

    Well, apart from never being demonstrated to the most ordinary standards of science, it looks very unlikely from what else we know.

    Electroreception is actually very common in fish and it even occurs in another mammal, the platypus. Two types of electroreceptor are known.

    If man was able to do something similar there would have to be similar receptors somewhere near the surface, definitely not buried in the brain and subjected to strong electrical fields and currents everywhere. We also sense everything else — touch, sound, sight, warmth, vibration and cold through exposure to the outside.

    No such suitable receptors or nerves have yet been found in man. That we encounter extremely powerful electrical fields all the time without being aware of them also makes them improbable.

    But there are so many rational objections to the idea of a healing bionergy that they cannot be dealt with in one post.

    Of course, the healing energy advocates bypass all these by moving in and out of mysticism — pleading science when they think it helps, and dismissing sciencce as inadequate and usually wrong when it doesn’t.

    They sincerely believe they are helping people, and they probably are in limited ways, just not in the way they think.

  15. weing says:

    lizkat,
    Come to think of it. 100 years ago and way before that there were those that pretended to communicate across distances. Serious scientists kept tinkering away and now we have what would have been considered miraculous then. The pretenders are still with us I see. BTW I have seen patients that are picking up radio waves that their neighbors are sending them to affect their minds. They are trying to tell them to do various things. Some of them quite bad. Is this what you are talking about?

  16. Harriet Hall says:

    lizkat said

    “But it’s perfectly ok for Fifi to draw that sort of conclusions? Why the double standard?”

    No, it is not OK for anyone, and there is no double standard. I said “This is the kind of comment I wish our commenters would avoid.” I meant ALL of our commenters, not just you.

  17. micheleinmichigan says:

    BillyJoe –

    Apparently I have both hypnopompic and hypnogogic hallucinations. I thought it was the same thing when waking and falling asleep. Interesting to know.

    Regarding phone serendipity. I have no problem with the chance explanation. That is kinda what I meant by confirmation bias. Good explanation though! I would like to know if my family has a higher occurrence than suggested by chance (four people calling the same person on the same day), but like I said the calls are quite far between. So I think I’ll be gone before we could get a reasonable sample.

    Regarding reposting the comment in mod limbo. That would be cheating, more effort than it’s worth and deprive me of referring to it incessantly :)

  18. Dacks says:

    lizkat,
    If you have ANY evidence to support your theories on energy medicine, seems like now would be a good time to mention them. Believe it or not, most of us are curious, not dogmatic, and are interested in thinking about things that challenge our preconceptions. That’s kind of why we are skeptics.

  19. wales says:

    I regret that I haven’t had time to participate further in the discussion on physics. I am able to do so now only because of insomnia. Someone asked why even entertain the idea of “energy healing”? (or I would substitute “any as yet unexplainable physical phenomena” here, as I have no particular investment in energy healing) I have two reasons. I quote the Quantum Enigma book at length here as it has opened my eyes to this matter.

    First, the most successful theory (quantum mechanics) of the most fundamental of sciences (physics) has proven the fact of nonlocality, quantum entanglement, call it what you will. An object has been proven to have an effect on a distant separate object, but with no known, observable or measurable mechanism of action. This is extremely odd. For me it demands further explanation, speculation and contemplation. John Bell (of Bell’s Theorem) believed that quantum mechanics reveals the incompleteness of our worldview. He said that he suspected “that the new way of seeing things will involve an imaginative leap that will astonish us”. To quote QE: “Bell’s Theorem has been called the most profound discovery in science in the last half of the 20th century”. (The authors suggest that Bell would have been awarded the Nobel Prize if it were awarded posthumously.) “It [Bell’s Theorem] rubbed physics’ nose in the weirdness of quantum mechanics. As the results of Bell’s Theorem and the experiments it stimulated, a once “purely philosophical” question has now been answered in the laboratory. There is a universal connectedness. Einstein’s “spooky interactions” do in fact exist. Any objects that have ever interacted continue to instantaneously influence each other. Along with Bell, we suspect that something beyond ordinary physics awaits discovery. Many would like to dismiss the enigma, our “skeleton in the closet” as merely a psychological problem, claiming that we just have to get used to the quantum strangeness.”

    Lest we minimize the importance of qm, the QE authors state “Quantum theory is not just one of many theories in physics. It is the framework upon which all of today’s physics is ultimately based.” And “Quantum theory is the most stunningly successful theory in all of science. Not a single one of its predictions has ever been wrong.” Okay, they’ve got my attention.

    Second, for those who would separate qm from classical physics and who claim that the quantum weirdness does not manifest itself in our macroscopic world, from QE: “Essential to the Copenhagen Interpretation was a clear separation of the quantum microworld from the classical macroworld. That separation depended on a vast difference in scale between atoms and the things we deal with directly. In Bohr’s day, there was a wide no-man’s land in between. It seemed acceptable to think of the macro realm obeying classical physics and the micro realm obeying quantum physics. Today’s technology has invaded the no-man’s land. With appropriate laser light we can see individual atoms with the naked eye the way we see dust motes in a sunbeam. The macroscopic apparatus in this case is the human eye. Quantum mechanics is increasingly applied to larger and larger objects. Even a one-ton bar proposed to detect gravity waves must be analyzed quantum mechanically. In cosmology, a wavefunction for the whole universe is written to study the big bang. It gets harder today to nonchalantly accept the realm in which the quantum rules apply as somehow not being physically real.” QE reminds us that “Quantum physics does not replace classical physics….. but encompasses classical physics as a special case.” That is a mind bending idea, our perceived macroscopic reality is a “special case” within the larger scope of qm.

    I also want to comment that since Scott claims to have a PhD in physics, on which I can only take his word, when his interpretations differ from those of the QE authors it must be attributable to a matter of opinion. I am also relying on the QE authors’ word for the facts of qm and their educational backgrounds and positions as UC faculty members are verifiable. I assume that Scott and the authors agree upon the facts of qm, but may disagree upon the interpretation/implications. They also seem to disagree on physics vocabulary, as the authors are comfortable discussing electromagnetism as a “force” rather than an “interaction”.

    It is understandable that most physics students and professional physicists, whose practical aim is to obtain a degree and a job, tend to overlook, dismiss or disregard the qm weirdness (though as the authors point out, that is in large part due to professors’ avoidance of the issue as too distracting), but in the interest of knowledge some physicists are not content to dismiss qm’s implications. As the authors state “Only a minority of our physics colleagues share our bias that the quantum enigma merits attention”. They may be part of a minority, but they are in good company (John Wheeler, John Bell, Albert Einstein, etc. etc.) Einstein (as well as many other physicists) had first-hand experience in contending with disbelief from his peers: “Ten years after Einstein’s work on the photoelectric effect, the American physicist Robert Millikan found that Einstein’s formula in every case predicted “exactly the observed results.” Nevertheless, Millikan called Einstein’s photon hypothesis leading to that formula “wholly untenable” and called Einstein’s suggestion that light came as compact particles “reckless.” Millikan was not alone. The physics community received the photon postulate “with disbelief and skepticism bordering on derision.” Even when Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1922 for the photoelectric effect, the citation avoided explicit mention of the then 17 year old, but still unaccepted, photon. An Einstein biographer writes “from 1905 to 1923 Einstein was a man apart in being the only one, or almost the only one, to take the light quantum seriously.”

  20. wales,

    So the idea of energy healing never occurred to you until you read Quantum Enigma?

  21. weing says:

    wales,

    If a PhD in physics disagreed with my understanding of a book on QM, I would think the problem was with my interpretation and would look for clarification. But that’s just me. I just started previewing the Teaching Company course on QM, it should be arriving in a few days. I hope to have an incomplete understanding of it in about a month, barring interruptions.

  22. Scott says:

    An object has been proven to have an effect on a distant separate object, but with no known, observable or measurable mechanism of action.

    This is not accurate. Entanglement is not actually an action or an interaction; it’s really pretty unique. And, in particular, cannot be used to explain the kinds of things you’re trying to have it do. Specifically, entanglement cannot transmit information – this is what saves causality in the presence of nonlocality. There are interesting implications of entanglement, but influencing an object at a distance is not one of them.

    when his interpretations differ from those of the QE authors it must be attributable to a matter of opinion.

    They do not differ. As weing indicated, the discrepancy you think you see is due to you not quite understanding what they meant. (No shame in that, it’s a very hard subject that takes years to wrap one’s head around.)

    As I read your comments, the particular points you’re inappropriately conflating are the idea of a macroscopic vs. quantum divide (which you correctly note is a largely false distinction, though in practice it is often a useful approximation) with the arguments I’ve made with regard to the energy scale of interactions. While these may seem similar to a layperson, they are completely different. (In particular, even what I referred to as low energy/macroscopic is still firmly within the “pure quantum” realm – more specifically, quantum field theory.)

    They also seem to disagree on physics vocabulary, as the authors are comfortable discussing electromagnetism as a “force” rather than an “interaction”.

    Either may be used, though depending on the context one or the other may be more appropriate (in high-energy physics, for example, “force” is not really suitable because, say, pi0>gamma+gamma can’t really be interpreted via forces – the more general “interaction” really works better). I’d really like for you to point me to where I said differently; the closest thing to it that I recall saying is that calling things like psi or qi “energy” is NOT proper physical terminology. Which it definitively is not.

    It’s also rather ironic that you talk about resistance to Einstein’s ideas in the same post you’re touting entanglement, given that Einstein considered entanglement untenable – he’s the “E” in the EPR paradox. (Note that I’m not saying it’s wrong or inappropriate, just amusingly ironic.)

  23. Scott says:

    It occurs to me that a clearer statement of the fundamental difficulty with postulated new interactions may be helpful.

    Any postulated new interaction cannot significantly impact the interactions of the Standard Model particles at energy scales accessible to current (i.e. pre-LHC) experiments. This is because the measurements of those interactions conform extremely tightly to the predictions of the Standard Model.

    Therefore, any non-SM interaction can have only very weak effects at currently accessible energy scales. They may certainly have very strong effects at higher energy scales, however.

    Biological systems, including humans, operate at very low energy scales indeed, compared to what current accelerators can reach. (eV vs. TeV), and are composed of Standard Model particles. Ergo, interactions relevant to biological systems would be easily accessible to current experiment. But, as we have noted, there is no room for new interactions accessible to current experiments.

  24. Fifi says:

    Scott – Thanks for taking the time to explain this. QM is way out my league – I do understand the limitations of my own knowledge and education and ability to discern the validity of a theory based upon this – but the leap to use it to explain psychic powers seemed to have all the hallmarks of previous attempts to claim psychic powers are real using the latest technology or physics theory. And, personally, I’m quite willing to take the word of the experts here (though I have no objection to the idea being used in scifi…fiction is fun).

    It’s a bit like how people constantly try to frame understandings of the brain in terms of the latest technology and then come to believe because they know something about how computers work that they entirely understand brain function! This is the danger with using metaphors to describe complex things we don’t entirely understand (or need highly specialized knowledge to understand), we risk mistaking the metaphorical object for the actual object/process rather than remaining open to understanding something on it’s own terms. (A bit like how people start to believe that because wifi exists then telepathy must…and how back in the day the telegraph and telephone were used in the same way.) Personally I think it’s much more interesting to actually try to understand why people have these kinds of experiences from a cognitive perspective – the brain and our experience of mind are quite interesting in and of them selves without having to make up extra magical abilities to explain things we may or may not yet understand!

  25. micheleinmichigan says:

    # Fifi
    “I do understand that this can be hard to grasp for people who do believe in god/s and because they hold faith based beliefs themselves it’s hard to imagine someone not having an equivalent faith based belief.”

    I’m getting in a tangential competition with FiFi.

    I had to come back to the above statement because I’ve been reflecting on it the whole morning. This would inevitably lead me to the place were all argument go, existentialism.

    Because the only meaning or certainty we have in life can be viewed as completely manufactured. I can say, honestly, that the pursuit of science and medicine is as much faith based as that of religion. It may use facts as tools, but the foundation, the concept that knowing more or healing more is valuable beyond someone’s subjective experience is as faith based as any religious belief.

    For example, I can say “I will support the most effective form of medicine possible to alleviate suffering” But the fact is, I am working on faith that lowering infant mortality and increase the human life span will alleviate suffering. When the earth’s population was 1/6, 1/4, 1/2 what it is today, wasn’t there more or less human suffering? One can argue about that all day, but the answer in the end would be subjective.

    I could use a hundred examples. But I know, at 3:00 am, everyone knows what I am talking about. All but the most dogmatic religious people at some point doubt their god. All but the most dogmatic scientific people at some point doubt they are making any difference at all. And I’m guessing we all know that their doubts are just as factual as their beliefs.

    The goals and meaning we inject into our lives are arbitrary. I believe this is a good thing. I can not imagine a way that humans could function without this sort of arbitrary faith or manufactured certainty.

    Belief in god is just a drop in the bucket of all the faith based decisions all humans make.

    My inclination is to separate religion and science. I believe they each function better that way. Of course I have very little evidence that that is true or that functioning better is a good thing.

    I will now return you to your regularly scheduled sensible conversation.

  26. micheleinmichigan says:

    “When the earth’s population was 1/6, 1/4, 1/2 what it is today, wasn’t there more or less human suffering?”

    correction, WAS there more or less human suffering?

  27. micheleinmichigan says:

    FiFi – “This is the danger with using metaphors to describe complex things we don’t entirely understand (or need highly specialized knowledge to understand), we risk mistaking the metaphorical object for the actual object/process rather than remaining open to understanding something on it’s own terms.”

    Excellent observation.

    I wish SBM had “I like” buttons on comment boxes. Save me looking like a “me too” commenting idiot.

  28. Fifi says:

    michele – “The goals and meaning we inject into our lives are arbitrary. I believe this is a good thing. I can not imagine a way that humans could function without this sort of arbitrary faith or manufactured certainty.”

    To wander down the philosophical path… I’m not sure if they’re arbitrary really (since there’s usually an internal logic to our goals and what we find meaningful and, in many ways, we learn to attribute meaning, it’s not random). It’s also worth noting that ethical behavior seems to have a biological basis, so that’s not particularly arbitrary or without causation. That said, on non-personal/non-human/objective scale I entirely agree. In many ways, what are our beliefs in god/s but a way to stave off existential angst? (As well as explain the unexplainable, god concepts to serve multiple purposes both individually and culturally.)

    I see science as a process or methodology, which is why it’s different than a religion or belief system to me. Certainly one can take on the information the process reveals as part of a belief system and some people do turn science into an ideology (but then it’s not really science anymore, or so it seems to me).

    Of course I have beliefs that guide my actions and that shape my perception of the world (some rational, some emotional, all the usual human stuff). That said, I don’t see a big conflict between acknowledging that an objective world exists independent of my perception of it (materialist philosophy apparently) AND recognizing that our subjective perceptions of the world are constructs (post-modern philosophy apparently…like quantum physics and mechanics, poor post-modernism has been abused by a lot of people that don’t understand what it is as cultural theory). This seems like pretty basic cognitive science to me but apparently a lot of people get very freaked out by objective/subjective and the idea that their subjective perceptions are a construct and not very accurate. I guess we all like to believe our experiences and perceptions are real because it’s how we locate ourselves in the world and it gives us a sense of control…keeping that existential angst at bay.

  29. Fifi says:

    One of the reasons I went into art (and then ended up as a writer) is that I find subjectivity and the huge diversity of human cognition fascinating, along with communication. Neurodiversity, perception and cognition are pretty damn cool, though I’d say our tendency to assume that everyone else experiences/perceives the world the same way we do causes a lot of misunderstanding and conflict. As an art AND science geek – and just someone who’s intensely curious about what’s going on inside other people – I do sometimes find it interesting to see how some people can’t imagine/think beyond their own perception or cognitive tendencies. (For instance, I’m equally comfortable having a discussion with someone very literal and on the autistic end of the cognitive spectrum as I am with someone on the schizophrenic hyper-symbolic-meaning-attributing end of the spectrum…it’s about understanding someone else’s cognitive style and internal logic rather than trying to make them conform to one’s own.)

  30. wales says:

    Scott: my mistake, you said “Because any form of interaction (that’s really what we’re talking about, not energy)” and I incorrectly remembered you referring to force here. Also I thought I made it clear that I agree any disagreement between you and the QE authors was with regard to interpretation/implications, not with QM theory itself. Also your comments on Einstein, exactly! He found the QM weirdness hard to swallow and could not just dismiss it in his own mind. Hence he was one of those scientists who thought it deserved attention.

    Alison: of course I had heard of energy healing before I read the QE book. But I had never really thought about what a mechanism might be. What got me going on this was a comment from the QE book “That widespread acceptance [among the general public] 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. 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”.

    Gotta run, hope to catch up on this later. Scott thanks for your explanations.

  31. wales on hypotheses:
    “Of course I had heard of energy healing before I read the QE book. But I had never really thought about what a mechanism might be.”

    What is the difference between that and, “Of course I had thought I might be a billionnaire before. But I had never really thought about what a mechanism might be.”

    What is causing you to entertain the hypothesis that energy healing exists? The same things that are causing me to entertain the hypothesis that I am a billionnaire — that it would be awesome if it were true? Or is there something else that is causing you to entertain that particular hypothesis?

  32. lizkat says:

    “If you have ANY evidence to support your theories on energy medicine, seems like now would be a good time to mention them. ”

    I already linked a recent mainstream review of 66 energy healing studies. The quality ranged from medium to high, and outcomes did not differ with quality. Overall, there was a moderate positive effect. There hasn’t been as much RC research on this as on drugs of course, since big drug companies have money. And drugs are easy to control with a placebo, while certain other kinds of treatment are not.

    “Believe it or not, most of us are curious, not dogmatic, and are interested in thinking about things that challenge our preconceptions. That’s kind of why we are skeptics.”

    No, that is not the case with the average SBM skeptic. I am a skeptic because I look at more than one side of controversies. I don’t assume one side is smart and the other is dumb. I assume that each side has different experiences and knowledge.

    If I see a study that shows evidence for energy healing I don’t automatically think there must be something wrong with it, because there is no plausible mechanism. And if a study shows no evidence for energy healing I don’t think it must be right.

    Some commenters said the studies in the energy healing review are all trash. But the only reason they “know” that is because they “know” that energy healing has no plausible mechanism.

    So the average SMB skeptic only believes what he/she thinks has a plausible mechanism. And he/she decides what is plausible or not based on his/her philosophy.

    Evidence does not matter. This is not EBM, it’s SBM, and there is a difference. EBM considers the evidence, regardless of philosophical preferences. SBM only considers evidence that fits what it considers to be scientific.

    The catch-22 is that if evidence contradicts something already “known” to science, then it has no plausible mechanism, and it cannot be real. So evidence doesn’t count, unless it supports your philosophy.

  33. micheleinmichigan says:

    FiFi said, “I’m not sure if they’re arbitrary really (since there’s usually an internal logic to our goals and what we find meaningful and, in many ways, we learn to attribute meaning, it’s not random). It’s also worth noting that ethical behavior seems to have a biological basis, so that’s not particularly arbitrary or without causation.”

    A discussion of philosophy is not complete without semantics.

    In regard to arbitrary I meant something like this.
    –adjective
    1.
    “subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one’s discretion: an arbitrary decision.”

    For example: one might choses their path for a variety of reasons; your biological inclination, your internal logic, the path of least or most resistance. But the enormous scope of random events and our inability to find solid evidence that any goal is truly valuable (when looked at from every possible angle) brings me to the conclusion that the actions we chose are based solely on one’s discretion.

    You can chose to do good or evil. Random events and subjective viewers will ultimately tell whether your actions resulted in good or evil.

    “I see science as a process or methodology, which is why it’s different than a religion or belief system to me. Certainly one can take on the information the process reveals as part of a belief system and some people do turn science into an ideology (but then it’s not really science anymore, or so it seems to me).”

    Although I understand what you are saying and agree. I want to clarify that I was not talking about science as ideology. In the context I was talking about, religion and science are both different tools (a screwdriver and hammer) that people use to accomplish their goals. We work on faith that the goals have value or that we are using the better tool. In truth, reality doesn’t have a rule against moving the goal posts.

    “I don’t see a big conflict between acknowledging that an objective world exists independent of my perception of it (materialist philosophy apparently)”

    I’m not sure if this is in response to my thoughts or another’s. I too see no conflict there. We do it all the time.

    “For instance, I’m equally comfortable having a discussion with someone very literal and on the autistic end of the cognitive spectrum as I am with someone on the schizophrenic hyper-symbolic-meaning-attributing end of the spectrum”

    We must be opposite sides of the same coin. I would say I feel equally uncomfortable with the two and most people inbetween. :)

  34. lizkat on evidence for energy healing:
    “I already linked a recent mainstream review of 66 energy healing studies.”

    Yes, but that doesn’t show that energy healing exists. It shows that being nice to people makes them feel better. We already have perfectly good explanations for the outcomes of the 66 studies (several of which were junk and many of which were negative).

    Going back to my sore thighs, yet again. If I already have a perfectly good hypothesis with excellent evidence (lactic acid), why would I bother randomly generating another hypothesis with no evidence (I’m under a curse)?

    If what we know about cognitive and interpersonal effects already explains the evidence, why would we invent some other force to explain it?

  35. weing says:

    “The catch-22 is that if evidence contradicts something already “known” to science, then it has no plausible mechanism, and it cannot be real. So evidence doesn’t count, unless it supports your philosophy.”

    What a load of bovine scatology. Evidence always counts.

  36. weing says:

    The money (evidence) left under your pillow was from your parents, not the tooth fairy. You just don’t like the explanation given by science for your evidence.

  37. micheleinmichigan says:

    “This seems like pretty basic cognitive science to me but apparently a lot of people get very freaked out by objective/subjective and the idea that their subjective perceptions are a construct and not very accurate.”

    Actually, I think I’m getting where you are coming from here. (?) I often get freaked out when I find that someone else’s subjective experience is vastly different than mine. I think the main reason is that I have chosen “getting along with people” as one of my (arbitrary) goals. Using self-observation to predict what others will think is one of the best (most intuitive) tools I have to predict another person’s reaction to something I do.” When I am confronted with the obvious flaws in that tool, I am left shaken. Perhaps I should choose a different tool or a different goal, as if it mattered.

  38. lizkat says:

    “Yes, but that doesn’t show that energy healing exists. It shows that being nice to people makes them feel better.”

    That’s why they try to use placebo controls. To be counted as high quality a study has to be well controlled and blinded. And the results were similar for high and medium quality.

    If you think the authors of the review are morons, then that might help you maintain your preconceptions.

    Otherwise, you might have to wonder about these results.

  39. weing says:

    If I flip a coin and call heads or tails and occasionally I call it, every once in a while I will call it right above chance. That does not prove energy, psi, or whatever. I used to fold a small piece of paper into an umbrella shape and center it on a pin and try to make it spin with my mind. I was surprised when it did. So, I placed my palm between the paper and my nose and the spinning stopped. My dreams of winning at craps at the casino were blown to bits. But I saved myself a lot of money.

  40. wales says:

    weing, by “interpretation” I was referring to Scott’s take versus the authors’ take on the Copenhagen Interpretation and the other 8 QM interpretation circulating, not to my interpretation of the QE book versus Scott’s. Many physicists disagree as to the interpretation/implications of QM, hence the 9 interpretations laid out in the book.

  41. micheleinmichigan says:

    weing, Why the heck would you fold a small piece of paper into an umbrella and center it on a pin, to test moving something with your mind? You have got some sort of methodical personality, don’t you?

    I was once amazed in a bar when my beer glass drifted slowly toward me. My initial assumption was that I was subconsciously using telekinesis to suggest another sip. Sadly, I noticed the beer was sitting in a puddle of condensation. Drat, those pesky laws of physics.

  42. Scott says:

    weing, by “interpretation” I was referring to Scott’s take versus the authors’ take on the Copenhagen Interpretation and the other 8 QM interpretation circulating, not to my interpretation of the QE book versus Scott’s.

    I have given no take on the Copenhagen Interpretation, nor does it (or many-worlds, or any of the others) have any relevance whatsoever to the discussion. It simply does not mean what you’re trying to have it mean.

  43. lizkat on placebo controls:
    “To be counted as high quality a study has to be well controlled and blinded.”

    Yes. I read the paper (oderb posted the link):
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816237/

    Most studies included some form of control: standard care, being put on a waiting list, the same person being evaluated both with and without an “energy healing” intervention. Some of them even included a placebo control of fake healing. From what I could understand, that meant that a healer would go to someone and sometimes do real Reiki and sometimes do fake Reiki (or whatever). This is not exactly blinded.

    In many studies, it wasn’t clear that the control and intervention groups had been randomized.

    In addition, blinding was not usually applied to the people who evaluated the subjects and interpreted the results.

    Simply saying Look! A study! doesn’t make it prove anything in particular. I didn’t see anything that jumped out as justifying any interpretation beyond the ordinary statistical, cognitive and interpersonal ones.

  44. EricG says:

    Well, here’s a bit of reporting that they may as well go after with full zeal.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_14501591?source=most_viewed

    lawyer instigated CAM lawsuits?! why I never!

  45. lizkat says:

    “If I flip a coin and call heads or tails and occasionally I call it, every once in a while I will call it right above chance. That does not prove energy, psi, or whatever.”

    And that is why experimenters use statistics. If something happens once in a while be chance we don’t consider it of scientific interest.

  46. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “the quantum effects of consciousness”

    Could you explain what you mean here?
    Because I think it could be at the root cause of your inkling that quantum physics could support PSI.

  47. Dacks says:

    lizkat,
    “I already linked a recent mainstream review of 66 energy healing studies.”

    Umm, could you link to it again? It’s not that simple to sort through 150 comments to find the one where you put your link.

  48. Dacks says:

    Make that 247 comments.

  49. lizkat was working with a press release, but oderb kindly linked to the paper itself:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816237/

  50. weing says:

    I’ve looked at the 4 top rated studies in terms of overall rating and methodology. The top 3 were negative. The fourth, Laidlow et al, looked like it was measuring emotional noise in the life of a medical student. I have to tell you that I am not impressed. As the quality of the studies beyond these is reportedly lower, then any positive results are likely to be less convincing. I will shift my limited attention to something more likely to be useful. Sorry.

  51. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    “My inclination is to separate religion and science.”

    Unfortunately this is impossible.
    Science has deconstructed religion.
    You now need cognitive dissonance to hold on to both.
    Yeah, life’s a bitch.

  52. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    The micropscopic/macroscopic divide re-revisited.

    You agree, don’t you, that “entanglement” and “Heisenberg” are nowhere in evidence in our macroscopic everyday word?
    Theoretically, yes, if you jump at a brick wall often enough you will eventually pass straight through unscathed like that “tunnelling electron”. In practice, however, you can jump at that wall every second for a trillion years and the probability that you will jump through that wall is still essentally zero.

    It’s the same with relativity theory. A muon can reach the Earth from outer space because of time dilation, but the difference in the ages between a stay-at-home agoraphobic twin and his brother who travel 20km to and from work everyday and takes weekend jaunts in the countryside and overseas holidays at christmas, is still essentially zero.

    You cannot invoke quantum physics (or relativity for that matter) to explain what happens between a quack practitioner and his patient.

    (And I’m still interested to hear what you meant by “the quantum effects of consciousness”)

  53. BillyJoe says:

    Fifi: “apparently a lot of people get very freaked out by…the idea that their subjective perceptions are a construct and not very accurate”

    My wife is one of those people. She is freaked out by a demonstration of the eye’s blind spot and by this illusion:

    http://www.optillusions.com/dp/1-67.htm

  54. BillyJoe says:

    Fifi: “This is the danger with using metaphors to describe complex things we don’t entirely understand…we risk mistaking the metaphorical object for the actual object”

    In the world of homoeopathy, Lionel Milgrom has made just that mistake. He used quantum entanglement as a metaphor and before long mistook it for the real thing. That is why clinical trials don’t work for homoeopathy, you see – because “observation collapses the wave function” (which is, of course, utter crock anyway)

  55. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    “I would like to know if my family has a higher occurrence than suggested by chance ”

    It would be almost impossible to tell. Outliers occur by chance alone. Your family may be one of them. Most cancer clusters are just outliers in the probability curve. Your chance of winning lotto is 1 in a million. If I were to say that you will never win lotto my chance of being wrong are aproximately zero. But there are people who have won lotto three times. They are also outliers in the probability curve.

  56. Fifi says:

    “In practice, however, you can jump at that wall every second for a trillion years and the probability that you will jump through that wall is still essentally zero.”

    Ah, like General Stubblebine of healthfreedomusa and The Men Who Stared at Goats infamy who tried to walk through the wall of his office every day? To no avail… Life really is stranger than fiction.

  57. micheleinmichigan says:

    BillyJoe “But there are people who have won lotto three times. They are also outliers in the probability curve.”

    Yeah, but I want to know how I can get to be one of those lotto outliers and not one of those lighting strike outliers (aside from avoiding open fields in thunderstorms).

    Obviously, a rabbit’s foot is the key.

  58. micheleinmichigan says:

    BillyJoeon 03 Mar 2010 at 10:18 pm

    micheleinmichigan,

    “My inclination is to separate religion and science.”

    Unfortunately this is impossible.
    Science has deconstructed religion.
    You now need cognitive dissonance to hold on to both.
    Yeah, life’s a bitch.

    BillyJoe, I don’t think we are on the same page. I did not mean to say that religion could be viewed as factual from a scientific perspective. I meant to say that as a tool, religion can be useful in meeting a goal. I other words reality is only important if reality is your priority.

    Perhaps, I am making it appear more convoluted than it is, but…

    If one’s goal is to live a long life with as few symptoms of disease as possible, then SBM is the way to go. But, some people may chose a goal of living an incredibly spiritually rich life and choose to make life span and symptoms as a low priority. Then religion may be the way to go. So I am inclined to separate the two. Because, yes, trying to meet both goals may create cognitive dissonance.

    So, I have occassioanally come across a scientific atheist who will deride a religion person’s view because they are not science-based. So! that is not religions goal.

    I have more often come across a religious person who will deride science for not incorporating religious beliefs. So! that is not what science is for.

    If some people are strongly attached to one tool or the other, it may create cognitive dissonance to incorporate both. But, if as a scientist you see that many choices you make in life are subjective and not fact based, it may not be so problematic to except a tool that is subjective and not fact based.

  59. Dacks says:

    Lizkat,
    Thanks for the links. I am not an MD, so the following is simply my take on some of the most reliable (according to the authors) studies cited in the paper. Here are the results, starting with the top of their list. I’ll keep a running tally of the effectiveness of the therapy being studied.
    3 notes:
    1. The criteria for including a study was very wide, including “spiritual healing,” “subtle energy,” “energy healing,” “biofield healing,” “external qi therapy,” “emitted chi,” “emitted qi,” “qi-therapy,” “Johrei,” “pranic healing,” “polarity therapy,” “Reiki,” “therapeutic touch,” and “healing touch.”

    2. The focus of the studies were likewise heterogeneous, ranging from chronic pain to bone marrow transplant patients, although the only outcome claimed in the conclusion was reduction in pain intensity, reduction in hospital anxiety, and reduction in agitation from dementia. In other words, no objective markers provided support for the energy field hypothesis.

    3. The studies that I looked at were all cited exactly once: by the review article you referenced.

    Cleland et al: “CONCLUSION: Spiritual healing does not appear to have any specific affect on patient asthma related quality of life.”

    Score:0

    Beutler et al: “In this study no treatment was consistently better than another and the data cannot therefore be taken as evidence of a paranormal effect on blood pressure. Probably the fall in blood pressure in all three groups either was caused by the psychosocial approach or was a placebo effect of the trial itself.”

    Score:0

    Meehan: “The hypothesis, that therapeutic touch would significantly decrease postoperative pain compared to the placebo control intervention, was not supported.”

    Score:0

    Laidlaw et al: “RESULTS: Mood scores on 5/6 of the POMS-Bi subscales were slightly but significantly more positive in the Johrei condition. State anxiety was similarly decreased. IgA levels were unchanged but cortisol levels were found to be slightly but non-significantly lower after Johrei than after the control condition and DHEA levels slightly but non-significantly raised, with a negative correlation between cortisol and DHEA levels.”

    Score: 2/5, slightly positive outcome. Note: positive outcome only found in the self-measured criteria.

    Woods, Craven, & Whitney: “RESULTS: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) (F = 3.331, P = .033) and the Kruskal-Wallis test (chi2 = 6.661, P = .036) indicated a significant difference in overall behavioral symptoms of dementia, manual manipulation and vocalization when the experimental group was compared to the placebo and control groups. The experimental (significant) was more effective in decreasing behavioral symptoms of dementia than usual care, while the placebo group indicated a decreasing trend in behavioral symptoms of dementia compared to usual care.”

    Score: ½. Experimental (therapeutic touch) seems to have an effect; however placebo TT also shows an effect.

    Smith et al: “RESULTS: A significantly lower score for central nervous system or neurological complications was noted for subjects who received MT comppared with the control group; however, no differences were found among the 3 groups with respect to the other 10 complication categories or in the total mean score for complications. Patients’ perception of the benefits of therapy (total score) was significantly higher for those who received MT compared with the FV control group. The mean scores on the comfort subscale were significantly higher for patients receiving both MT and TT compared with the FV control group.”

    Score: ? Massage Therapy , not an energy field therapy, shows some promise in some areas. TT only shows effect in subjective comfort scale.

    These are the studies at the top of the list, i.e., the most trustworthy. This is the best evidence out there. I can’t say it makes me want to go out and spend time and money trying out one of these therapies.

  60. micheleinmichigan says:

    BillyJoe, Thanks for the really good description of outliers. I’ve have been seeing that word in the media and have and been meaning to look it up.

    You seem to have a real knack for explaining concepts. This is one of the reasons I enjoy SBM. The opportunity to read comments about a broad range of science based subjects from a variety of personalities with varied expertise from around the world.

  61. wales says:

    Billy Joe I think you have arrived at the crux of the matter. Billy Joe said: “observation collapses the wave function” (which is, of course, utter crock anyway)”

    This is where we differ. I am taking the QE authors’ word that observation does in fact collapse the wave function.
    Quoting from the book Quantum Enigma about the probability interpretation of the wavefunction “Quantum probability is not the probability of where the atom is. It’s the objective probability of where you (or anyone) will find it. The atom wasn’t in that box before your observed it to be there. Quantum theory has the atom’s wavefunction occupying both boxes. Since the wavefunction is synonymous with the atom itself, the atom is simultaneously in both boxes. The point of that last paragraph is hard to accept. That’s why we keep repeating it. Even students completing a course in quantum mechanics, when asked what the wavefunction tells, often incorrectly respond that it gives the probability of where the object is. The text we teach from emphasizes the correct point by quoting Pascal Jordan, one of the founders of quantum theory: “Observations not only disturb what is to be measured, they produce it.” But we’re sympathetic with our students. Using quantum mechanics is hard enough without worrying about what it means.”

    This is what I meant by the quantum effects of consciousness. Counterintuitive, hard to swallow? Absolutely. But it is what the experiments prove. This is why the philosophy or interpretation of physics or “what it means” is so interesting. Anyhow, I have been repeating the same thing for awhile now. It’s been interesting, but I think it’s time for me to move on.

  62. micheleinmichigan says:

    “My wife is one of those people. She is freaked out by a demonstration of the eye’s blind spot and by this illusion:”

    Neat link. In my 2D design class in art school, I had a instructor who was very into optical color theory. Much of the class concentrated on exercises using color and value to create certain optical effects. (Such as in the link.) It’s essential for good graphic design, since certain color/value combinations are pretty much illegible. For instance colors of the same value, opposite from each other on the color wheel are optically difficult. So red text on a green field will appear to blur or buzz.

  63. Dacks says:

    Correction: I didn’t keep a running tally. The scoring got a little tricky…

  64. lizkat says:

    Dacks,

    There were 66 studies included in the review, none of them considered low quality by the authors. There was an overall positive effect, which did not differ according to quality. Your selection means nothing. And if a placebo has an effect that means nothing if its effect is less than the treatment.

    And the authors stated that there has not been a lot of research on energy healing. Certainly not published in mainstream medical journals.

    It is always possible to select studies out of a review that were negative, but why? If the authors had found that energy healing studies generally found no effects they would have said so.

    If your claim is that the authors are lying or stupid, which is possible, then the publisher made a mistake in accepting their review.

    If the publisher made that mistake, then someone will notice and inform them.

    As of right now, I don’t think that has happened. And like it or not, we should provisionally accept the conclusion, that more research is warranted.

    Even if that gives us an upset stomach. Otherwise, we are being dogmatists, not skeptics.

  65. Scott says:

    Lizcat,

    Did you not notice that those were the studies the authors considered most reliable? You can’t brush it off as cherry-picking. Nor, unless you can actually refute Dack’s points, can you reasonably claim that it must be considered valid unless the publisher retracts it! Bad studies make it through all the time, and these findings are MORE than enough to justify entirely disregarding the review, unless you are able to actually refute them.

  66. Dacks says:

    Liz,
    I just started at the top of their list of studies, going in order of what they (the authors) thought were the highest quality studies, and looked at the first five in descending order. (These are listed in table 3 of the paper)

    I’m certainly not claiming that the authors are lying or stupid. In fact, I’m not claiming anything. If you look at the specific studies, the first 3 most reliable studies show NO effect from any of the energy therapies, and the next 2 show small effects.

    There is no reason to accept the conclusions of the authors if they are contradicted by the data they are examining.

  67. lizkat,

    The authors regarded ten of the 66 studies as junk and excluded them from their analysis of which therapies might work for what.

    They also accepted placebo at face value, which I find difficult to understand given that blinding is almost impossible. Do they mean that the faith healer went to one person and did faith healing, and to another person and did fake faith healing? Where is the blinding in that?

    Most of the studies were not fully blinded. For instance, the person analyzing the data might know which group the results came from.

    Many of the studies were not randomized.

    Of the six best studies, none showed an effect of faith healing on objective measures.

    There is no need to invoke anything paranormal to explain these results.

  68. Dacks says:

    Here are the next five most reliable studies:

    Quinn “The theorem that eye and facial contact between therapeutic touch practitioners and subjects should not be necessary to produce the effect of anxiety reduction was deduced from the Rogerian conceptual system and tested. This theorem was not supported.”

    Score: 0

    Post-White et al: “MT and HT lowered blood pressure, respiratory rate (RR), and heart rate (HR). MT lowered anxiety and HT lowered fatigue, and both lowered total mood disturbance. Pain ratings were lower after MT and HT, with 4-week nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug use less during MT. There were no effects on nausea.”

    Score: a Hit!
    Except, again we are talking about therapeutic massage combined with healing touch, and it’s not clear whether they were ever given separately.

    Lin & Taylor – this is a meta-analysis, not a study.

    Aghabati, Mohammadi, Esmaiel: “The TT (significant) was more effective in decreasing pain and fatigue of the cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy than the usual care group, while the placebo group indicated a decreasing trend in pain and fatigue scores compared with the usual care group.”

    Another hit! And the placebo works, too!

    This reminds me of something….
    Woods, Craven, & Whitney: “The experimental (significant) was more effective in decreasing behavioral symptoms of dementia than usual care, while the placebo group indicated a decreasing trend in behavioral symptoms of dementia compared to usual care.”

    Movaffaghi et al: “CONCLUSIONS: Significant changes of both variables in TT and MTgroups suggest that more careful precision might be needed while selecting individuals as sham therapists in further experiments.”

    In other words – this results can not be confmirmed because of the poor quality of the study.

  69. lizkat says:

    “Did you not notice that those were the studies the authors considered most reliable? You can’t brush it off as cherry-picking.”

    Of course it is! What if you took only the most reliable from the top of the list, and it’s negative. Then you can say 100% of the most reliable studies were negative. You can choose whatever number of reliable studies you like, making sure they are all negative.

    “Another hit! And the placebo works, too!”

    Placebo usually works. That’s why placebo controls are used.

  70. Dacks says:

    lizkat, you are incorrigible!

    “Of course it is! What if you took only the most reliable from the top of the list, and it’s negative. Then you can say 100% of the most reliable studies were negative. You can choose whatever number of reliable studies you like, making sure they are all negative.”

    I took the top 11 most reliable studies IN ORDER – no picking or choosing. I swear to God, cross my heart, I did not look at any other studies than the ones I quoted. They just happened to have the results as shown.

    Your are right in pointing out that placebos work. I believe that in most studies the active therapy is compared to the placebo, as well as to the control, to see whether there is a significant effect above what is expected with placebo. I don’t know whether that was done in these cases.

  71. Dacks says:

    Lzikat,
    If your argument is that if I had only continued down the list to the lower quality studies I would have found support for the authors’ conclusions about the effectiveness of biofield therapies, well, you might be right about that. But I don’t plan to delve any deeper into this article right now.

    OTOH, if you have some evidence that really convinces you that energy healing can be measured, you could share it here.

  72. weing says:

    “There were 66 studies included in the review, none of them considered low quality by the authors. ”

    Then you obviously did not read the paper. They ranked the studies according to their criteria. If the top quality studies are negative and the quality deteriorates after that, why bother looking for anything at all in these studies? It’s a complete waste of time as far as I’m concerned. You won’t learn anything from it that you can rely on. If you want to entertain yourself with them fine. I’d prefer reading the Histories of Herodotus. Excellent reading BTW.

  73. LC says:

    In the first paragraph of this blog post, Val commented that not a single word made it into the article.

    Actually, it looks like there was a second article, released the same day in a different newspaper that’s part of the same chain (The Independent, as opposed to The Enterprise), which took the skeptical mindset and quoted Val extensively:

    http://www.somdnews.com/stories/02192010/indymor173133_32233.shtml

    Perhaps there is something to be gleaned here about the demographics of Enterprise readers versus Independent readers.

    (Apologies if someone already pointed this out — I did a quick search through the comments to see if anyone had, but I didn’t read all 274 of them to be sure.)

  74. weing says:

    “Placebo usually works. That’s why placebo controls are used.”

    I hear placebo parachutes work out of this world.

  75. lizkat says:

    “If your argument is that if I had only continued down the list to the lower quality studies”

    You took the first four. The fifth was positive, and the sixth, and the seventh. So you aren’t fooling me. Maybe everyone else here.

  76. lizkat says:

    “If the top quality studies are negative and the quality deteriorates after that, why bother looking for anything at all in these studies? ‘

    That is not what happened. They said the outcomes were unrelated to quality. But you need to know basic arithmetic to understand.

  77. weing says:

    “They said the outcomes were unrelated to quality.”

    Why did they rank them?
    If you question kids regarding whether they really saw Santa. You ask the teenagers and they all say no. You ask the 5 year olds and they all say yes. Who are you gonna believe?

  78. lizkat says:

    “Why did they rank them?”

    One reason they ranked them, probably, was to see if the outcomes were generally related to quality. If higher quality correlates with negative results, that is suspicious. That did not happen according to this review.

    “Who are you gonna believe?”

    I think that if we choose whether or not to believe scientific research depending on whether or not it agrees with a certain philosophy, then we are not being scientific at all.

    If you accept studies that are not perfect (and none are) because they support your preconceptions, and you reject others because you simply don’t like the results, then you are not a skeptic.

  79. lizkat says:

    Why did they rank them?

    One reason they ranked them, probably, was to see if the outcomes were generally related to quality. If higher quality correlates with negative results, that is suspicious. That did not happen according to this review.

    Who are you gonna believe?

    I think that if we choose whether or not to believe scientific research depending on whether or not it agrees with a certain philosophy, then we are not being scientific at all.

    If you accept studies that are not perfect (and none are) because they support your preconceptions, and you reject others because you simply don’t like the results, then you are not a skeptic.

  80. lizkat on ranking:

    “One reason they ranked them, probably, was to see if the outcomes were generally related to quality.”

    Yes, that is correct. They reported that the ten junk studies that they looked at were slightly more likely to be negative than the remaining 56.

    Somehow they forgot to look at the ten best studies and report that they were a lot more convincing of negativeness.

  81. weing says:

    I am very skeptical of that logic. You are saying that your rejection of higher quality studies do not support your preconceptions and acceptance of lower quality studies because they support your preconceptions make you a skeptic? Not in my book. I prefer the approach of higher quality studies disproving my preconceptions. Then I can learn something.

  82. Scott says:

    I find the dichotomy of simultaneously arguing “you only looked at the highest-quality studies; they were negative but you need to look at the lower-quality studies which showed positive results” and “there was no anticorrelation between quality and positive results” to be quite intriguing.

  83. Dacks says:

    “The fifth was positive, and the sixth, and the seventh.”
    Actually, no.
    #5 -The experimental (significant) was more effective in decreasing behavioral symptoms of dementia than usual care, while the placebo group indicated a decreasing trend in behavioral symptoms of dementia compared to usual care.

    As noted above, there is no mention of how significant the response was compared to placebo.

    #6 – This covered MT as well as TT: Both massage and Therapeutic Touch provide comfort to patients undergoing this challenging process.

    “Comfort” as an endpoint is not very compelling in my opinion.

    #7 – The theorem that eye and facial contact between therapeutic touch practitioners and subjects should not be necessary to produce the effect of anxiety reduction was deduced from the Rogerian conceptual system and tested. This theorem was not supported.

    Hmm, now what do you suppose “not supported” means?

  84. Dacks says:

    @LC,
    Thanks for the link. How odd that one newspaper chain publishes diametrically opposed articles at the same time. Call me cynical, but…

  85. micheleinmichigan says:

    Dacks on 04 Mar 2010 at 2:52 pm

    @LC,
    Thanks for the link. How odd that one newspaper chain publishes diametrically opposed articles at the same time. Call me cynical, but…

    It’s so much easier to keep your advertising that way. Gotta love the target marketing approach to “the news”. :)

  86. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “It’s been interesting, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”

    Well, not before you learn a very important lesson. ;)

    “I am taking the QE authors’ word that observation does in fact collapse the wave function.”

    It could be that they are wrong.
    Or it could be that you have misunderstood them.

    “The atom wasn’t in that box before your observed it to be there. Quantum theory has the atom’s wavefunction occupying both boxes. ”

    The problem here is the word “observation”.
    I think you have misunderstood what the word actually means (perhaps the authors have as well, but I haven’t read the book).

    Observation here doesn’t mean a person actually looking inside the box. You can’t actually see atoms after all. What actually happens is that you put a detector in the box (or both boxes). Before the atom is detected in one or the other box, the probability wave extends through both boxes. As soon as one of the detectors detects the atom in one box – well it’s in that box of course, and the wave function has collapsed.

    An important point here is that it does not require *you*, the observer, for this to happen. You could have set up the experiment and gone off to sleep, lapsed into a coma, or died and the detector will still detect the atom in one or the other box. Once you have set up the experiment, the experiment will run its course and *you* become completely irrelevant to the outcome.
    More importantly: it is the interaction between the detector and the atom that “collapses the wave function”. The observer plays no role whatsoever.
    And, most importantly: “consciousness” plays absolutely no role whatsoever in the “collapse of the wave function”.

    I suggest you read the book again and see if this is what the authors are actually saying. If not, I suggest you get yourself another book.

    “This is what I meant by the quantum effects of consciousness. Counterintuitive, hard to swallow?”

    Really, forget about “consciousness”, it has nothing to do with the experiment. When quantum physicists say they “observe” something, all they mean is that that put detectors in there. That’s all! The detectors are not conscious and your consciousness is not required.

    Of course, for energy medicine or homoeopathy or any other pseudoscientific idea to find its basis in quantum physics, it would need to be true that you could use consciousness to determine *how* the wave function collapses. There is definitely no room for that in quantum physics.

    regards,
    BillyJoe

  87. Fifi says:

    LC – “Actually, it looks like there was a second article, released the same day in a different newspaper that’s part of the same chain (The Independent, as opposed to The Enterprise), which took the skeptical mindset and quoted Val extensively:”

    Thanks for finding and posting this – interesting that it’s the same writer doing two completely different stories! And kind of strange that the writer didn’t tell Dr Jones that she was being extensively quoted in another article. It’s not actually that unusual that a newspaper will publish articles that contradict each other – it is pretty interesting that this chain has the same staff writer writing two different stories for two of their publications that were published on the same day. I’d be curious to know if the writer pushed to do one or the other, or if they were just assigned to do them both and had no say in the matter (staff writers generally write about all kinds of things).

  88. lizkat says:

    [yes, that is correct. They reported that the ten junk studies that they looked at were slightly more likely to be negative than the remaining 56.
    Somehow they forgot to look at the ten best studies and report that they were a lot more convincing of negativeness.]

    The didn’t find an overall correlation of low quality with positive results. So the positive findings most likely didn’t result from bad experiment design.

    So why are we even talking about it??

  89. lizkat says:

    [I am very skeptical of that logic. You are saying that your rejection of higher quality studies do not support your preconceptions and acceptance of lower quality studies because they support your preconceptions make you a skeptic?]

    I never said anything like that! There are a lot of energy healing studies with positive results, whatever quality. To reject all of them because you don’t personally believe in energy healing is not scientific.

  90. weing says:

    “There are a lot of energy healing studies with positive results, whatever quality.”

    Obviously the quality of the study doesn’t matter to you as you only seek to confirm your belief in energy healing. Being a “skeptic” you’ll take whatever quality. I’m not a “skeptic” and I seek only high quality studies that will invalidate my hypothesis that the intangible energy healing does not exist in reality.

  91. pmoran says:

    Thanks, Billyjoe for that explanation. It informed me as to the role, or rather non-role, of the human observer.

    Would it help if energy medicine proponents flung themselves at a diffraction grating at very high speeds? That might clarify some matters. :-)

  92. Scott says:

    I never said anything like that! There are a lot of energy healing studies with positive results, whatever quality. To reject all of them because you don’t personally believe in energy healing is not scientific.

    To reject low-quality ones because they are contradicted by higher-quality ones, is. And provisionally rejecting the concept because the overall weight of the evidence isn’t anywhere close to overcoming the immense weight of evidence against it also is.

    In all seriousness, the studies supporting energy healing would have to be EXTREMELY strong in order to have any chance against the many different well-understood lines of physics and biology that weigh against it. Whereas what there *are* isn’t enough to establish it as effective even in the absence of any countervailing evidence.

  93. Prometheus says:

    Wales commented:

    “This hypothetical fifth force, combined with the queer fact of nonlocality or quantum entanglement, and the hypothesized multiple dimensions and branes of M theory lead me to believe we are ignorant of much of workings of physical reality.”

    There are too many false (or unsupported) assumptions here for me to decontruct them all, so I’ll settle for one.

    Quantum entanglement affects only very small (atom-sized) objects, although it can be detected by macro-scale instuments. In large assemblages of “quantum objects”, the inherent randomness removes the “signal”.

    As a result, any time someone uses “quantum entanglement” or “nonlocality” as an explanation for a phenomenon seen in very large assemblages (e.g. cells), I know that I don’t have to read any further.

    It’s almost like a “crank litmus test”.

    Prometheus

  94. lizkat says:

    “Obviously the quality of the study doesn’t matter to you”

    Of course it does. I never said it didn’t. No study is perfect. The quality varies, and it matters. This is a really insane conversation.

  95. lizkat says:

    “the immense weight of evidence against it”

    WHAT evidence against it? One small study supposedly proved once and for all that energy healers can’t feel energy fields. One small study outweighs all the hundreds of positive ones?

    There is NOTHING in physics or biology saying that energy healing can’t work.

  96. weing says:

    “There is NOTHING in physics or biology saying that energy healing can’t work.”

    No. There is nothing in physics or biology saying that energy healing even exists.

  97. weing says:

    “One small study supposedly proved once and for all that energy healers can’t feel energy fields. One small study outweighs all the hundreds of positive ones?”

    If it was a good one it would outweigh an infinite amount of bad ones.

  98. BillyJoe says:

    pmoran,
    “Thanks, Billyjoe for that explanation. It informed me as to the role, or rather non-role, of the human observer. ”

    Thanks.
    Unfortunately, I think the intended target may have disappeared:

    wales: “It’s been interesting, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”

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