Fool’s Argument

Seventh of a series

This is the seventh in my review of the video production Does God Exist, brought to you by Focus on the Family, an agency for conservative Christian advocacy. The video is available on DVD from Amazon, and it is currently streaming on Amazon, free with Amazon Prime.

The previous episode featured creationist Stephen C. Meyer, continuing his discussion of the concept he elucidated in his book, Signature in the Cell, previously reviewed. This time Meyer makes a number of unrealistic assertions regarding intelligence and information.

The episode kicks off with narrator David Stotts (above) in a dramatized hike through some mountain country. He comes to a stream, and there on a rock is an arrangement of stones spelling out “DAVE.” He asks if we should conclude this arrangement was the result of natural forces. He cites wind and water. Of course not. Somebody placed those stones there to spell out his name. I noticed that Dave differentiates actions by people as outside natural causes. Hint, Dave. People are natural entities.

That gets the story rolling, and creationist Stephen C. Meyer takes over from there, presenting his case in a dramatized college seminar. I am posting a number of Meyer’s presentation foils by way of illustration. I will added the text to enable search engines to locate the material.

Meyer expresses wonder at reading Charles Lyell. Little did we know that Lyell, the “father” of modern geology, had the right idea all along.

The text:

“Principles of Geology:

Being an attempt to  explain  the former changes of the Earth’s surface by reference to causes now in operation.”

Meyer jumps on this and elaborates it into a justification for asserting that causes now in operation will include mental activity in the creation process. What Meyer fails to notice is that we do not presently observe mental activity in running the processes of the Universe. The Universe chugs along without, or maybe in spite of, mental activity.

He quotes Henry Quastler.

Here is the text:

Henry Quastler

The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.

I do not know whether Meyer expects anybody to read up on Henry Quastler. In any event, Quastler is clearly wrong on that matter, or at least Meyer is wrong in ascribing any useful implication. The fact is that, given a clockwork (deterministic) Universe, no new information is created. Everything can be inferred from the current state. The Universe is not clockwork. Purely random processes produce new information.

The theme of Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell, is that DNA looks an awful lot like computer code produced by a hard-working programmer.

The text:

When we find information in [a] DNA molecule, encoded in  digital form, the most logical conclusion is that the information had an intelligent source.

I m going to let that statement speak for itself.

Here is a diagram that shows we can rule out chance, necessity, and a combination of two, leaving only Intelligent Design to produce specified complexity or information. The conclusion is wrong in the strictest sense, for reasons previously discussed.

Meyer drills down on the previous.

Neither chance, nor necessity have provided a cause that is known to produce information.

Meyer is wrong in concluding chance does not produce information. It is the only thing that does.

He emphases his proposition, possibly in an effort to make it be true.

If you use Darwin’s method of reasoning, and apply it to what we now know about the inner working of the cell, you come to a decidedly non-Darwinian conclusion.

Meyer continues to emphasize that only a mind can explain information.

Wrapping up, Meyer contends that mainstream science insists you put on blinders and employ only natural methods to develop theories (explanations).

He cites the case of Scott Minnich.

Scott A. Minnich is an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho, and a fellow at the Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture. Minnich’s research interests are temperature regulation of Yersinia enterocolitica gene expression and coordinate reciprocal expression of flagellar and virulence genes.

Here is additional background on Scott Minnich:

There were two more scientific experts for the defense to dispense with first, but they added little to the case and seemed to do as much damage as good to the cause of intelligent design. Scott Minnich, the microbiologist from the University of Idaho, reiterated Behe’s testimony about the flagellum, but also admitted that in order for ID to be considered scientific, science would have to be expanded to include the supernatural. Coming at the very end of the case, and after a mind-numbing return engagement by the bacterial flagellum, this surprising agreement with the critics of ID was barely noticed among the exhausted spectators; but as the plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Harvey later noted, “We could win the case on that admission alone.”

Humes, Edward. Monkey Girl (p. 306). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The book is about the federal court case Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. In 2005 Judge John E. Jones III ruled that the Dover school system illegally attempted to introduce Intelligent Design into the science curriculum. In his 139-page ruling he found, among other things, that Intelligent Design is a religious concept. The defendants (Dover Area School District) failed to demonstrate a scientific basis for Intelligent Design.

Meyer and others initially planned to testify for the defendants, and for Intelligent Design by extension, but that did not come off:

Just before the scheduled depositions of three of the experts from the Discovery Institute— Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell— they all decided that they wanted their own attorneys present to watch out for their legal interests. (The other witnesses from Discovery, Minnich and Behe, had already been deposed by that point, without their own lawyers.) The attorney retained by Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell happened to be the attorney who represented the publisher of Pandas, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, and it was clear from comments made by Bill Dembski on his blog that the push for legal representation was coming more from the publisher, and perhaps the Discovery Institute, than from him.

Humes, Edward. Monkey Girl (p. 240). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

But here, Meyer recalls the situation at UI, where Minnich was an associate professor. The reaction of the science faculty was adverse, as Meyer explains. He goes on to elaborate the encounter a star pupil had with one of Minnich’s colleagues. The teacher asked his class if anybody believed in Intelligent Design, and this pupil raised her hand. The professor was amazed, and he was equally amazed when others chimed in, saying they found Intelligent Design to have merit.

Meyer continues with the discussion, recapitulating the stories heralded in the video Expelled, that features actor and economist Ben Stein. He repeats the false premise of the video that people were unfairly demeaned and persecuted for expressing support for Intelligent Design or else for casting  doubt on Darwinian evolution. The National Center for Science Education has posted a rebuttal of claims made in the video, rebuttals which Meyer does not disclose in  his discussion. For example, Meyer repeats from the video the assertion that people have been expelled, lost tenure, lost access to research funding. The case of Richard Sternberg is typical:

 

Expelled claims that Sternberg was “terrorized” and that “his life was nearly ruined” when, in 2004, as editor of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, he published a pro-intelligent design article by Stephen C. Meyer. However, there is no evidence of either terrorism or ruination. Before publishing the paper, Sternberg worked for the National Institutes of Health at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (GenBank) and was an unpaid Research Associate – not an employee – at the Smithsonian. He was the voluntary, unpaid editor of PBSW (small academic journals rarely pay editors), and had given notice of his resignation as editor six months before the Meyer article was published. After the Meyer incident, he remained an employee of NIH and his unpaid position at the Smithsonian was extended in 2006, although he has not shown up there in years. At no time was any aspect of his pay or working conditions at NIH affected. It is difficult to see how his life “was nearly ruined” when nothing serious happened to him. He was never even disciplined for legitimate violations of policy of PBSW or Smithsonian policy.

The NCSE site points out that, for example, Sternberg did not lose access to his research facilities at the Smithsonian, as Expelled contends. He was not forced to hand over the keys to his lab. Instead, another project needed his lab space, and more. Sternberg and another researcher were told to give up their space to make room  for the other project. Sternberg was offered a different space. He declined that offer. He was offered another space, which he accepted. The Smithsonian changed their access control and replaced mechanical keys with card keys. Sternberg was forced to surrender his mechanical key and to use a card key.

Meyer does not mention any of this. He exhorts his students—there must be some balance. A dichotomy exists. There are two competing views of science. There is a view that science deals only with natural phenomena and a competing (equal?) view that the supernatural must be given consideration.

Methodological Naturalism:

…only considers material  processes as explanations

There is something to be said about that statement. Methodological naturalism predominates modern science, and a compelling reason is that supernatural processes are never observed. Nothing supernatural has ever been observed in all human history. More specifically, I and a number of my friends have put up an award of $12,000 to anybody who can demonstrate the supernatural. The award was originally posted over 25 years ago, and no serious attempt has ever been made to collect the prize. A note to Stephen Meyer: the prize is here. Come and get it.

Episode 8 of this series is titled “The Return of the God Hypothesis,” and I will review that next. From Amazon: “When one takes all the evidence into account, there is a compelling case to be made for the existence of God. In fact, it may be the best plausible explanation for the origin of the universe and life itself.”

Advertisements

The American Way

highspirits-01

I was headed back home from vacation on Thursday, and it was a new month and a new issue of the airline magazine. It featured a short item, see above:

Shut Eye, the drama that debuts on Hulu this month, is not a flattering portrayal of the L.A. psychic trade. The show, in  fact,  depicts a world whose foundation is trickery and greed, which is a very long  way from the view held by real-life Hollywood medium Fleur.

[American Way, December 2016. p39]

Before responding to writer Derrik J. Lang’s glowing depiction of the Los Angeles psychic trade, I pulled up the first episode of Shut Eye and gave it a look. True enough, the show depicts the psychic business as a deep and hardened criminal enterprise, with David Zayas as brutal Gypsy gangster Eduardo Bernal in charge.

shuteye-01

Gypsy gang leader Bernal in Shut Eye

With that in mind, it is interesting to see how Derrik Lang interprets the psychic trade. Apparently Fleur is not one of those phony psychics (redundancy alert). Fleur, we are told is “a six-year veteran,” working out of a West Hollywood office and “not under a neon sign.” Guess what, that appears to describe the psychics in the Shut Eye criminal enterprise. None of them work under a neon sign.

Fleur’s clients include Lana Del Rey and Emma Roberts, two people I would not have known existed were it not for Derrik Lang and American Way magazine.

We learn more about Fleur:

Fleur is also unfazed by the perception of storefront scam artists like those in Shut Eye. “I’ve definitely had people come in who are extremely skeptical—even cynical—and after a session have sad, ‘Well, you must have hired a private detective.'” Even if she wanted to pull such a stunt, she says with a sigh, she couldn’t afford to.

Fleur doesn’t bother debunking the doubters, but she does point to one ability that suggests she is for real: a knack for multilingual communication that she doesn’t posses in daily life. “”The spirit world doesn’t speak in language, it speaks in energy,” she explains. “So I can read anywhere; China, India, Germany. It makes no difference.” Fleur recalls a hospital stay, still fuzzy from anesthesia, when she effortlessly chatted with a nurse’s deceased Filipina mother. “I don’t even remember saying any of this stuff.”

[American Way, December 2016. p39]

My own experience with phony psychics (redundancy) differs from that of Lang’s. In 1992 Mike Sullivan of The North Texas Skeptics checked with local (Dallas) psychic Bette Epstein:

Mike Sullivan
The Skeptic Newsletter Editor
P.O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
(214) 746-3288 Day
(214) 492-8998 Evening

January 28, 1992

Betty Epstein
North Central Tejas Chapter
American Society of Dowsers
5409 Farquhar Dr.
Dallas TX 75209

Dear Ms. Epstein:

I found The Dallas Morning News article on January 24, 1992 about you and your Society’s recent convention in Dallas quite informative. The abilities claimed by dowsers in the article are truly incredible, Ms. Epstein, and The North Texas Skeptics are interested in seeing if you or any other dowsers can back up those claims with proof. We are willing to provide you with a public forum in which you can submit those claims to open inquiry.

The North Texas Skeptics is an all-volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt scientific and educational organization dedicated to scientific inquiry and the examination of extraordinary claims. As part of our educational efforts, we present a series of free public programs on a variety of topics involving science and scientific inquiry. We would be delighted to have you or another of you members speak at one of our meetings. I’m sure our members and guests would welcome the chance to hear first-hand about your claimed dowsing skills or those of others. We have openings in our program calendar throughout 1992 for your presentations.

If you are not able to speak at one of our meetings, perhaps you would care to submit an article about your claimed skills and the evidence you have to support your claims. We would be happy to provide space for your article in our monthly newsletter, The Skeptic. I have enclosed a copy of a recent issue for your review.

You or one of your dowsing colleagues may also be interested in our $2,000 cash award. We have a standing offer to pay $2,000 cash to anyone who can prove a paranormal effect under scientifically controlled conditions, and we promise to publish the results of all such tests regardless of the outcome. If you or another dowser can prove the locating powers claimed in the newspaper article, the money will be yours, or you may wish to donate it to a charity of your choice. Please contact me if you are interested so I can forward complete details of our $2,000 challenge.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Mike Sullivan

Interestingly, we received a response:

January 28

Ladies and Gentlemen … 

Well … that was a real nice invitation … for me to do show and tell for your group.

But … I must decline.

You see … I have been blessed with lots of money and a wonderful practice of hypnotherapy … and I tithe to my favorite charities on a regular basis … so I don’t need your money to give to them. And … I’m not at all competitive about the dowsing thing. It is not the least bit important to me that anyone else believe it. I believe it .. I know it … It is a vital part of my life on a daily basis and is as real to me as breathing. I would never degrade my other senses by proving to your group that I can see, smell, hear, taste or feel … and I wouldn’t need to prove to you that I have a well-developed sense of energies that surround me.

So … thanks for the invite. I will pass this letter on the national headquarters and they can re-print it in the quarterly if so deemed. There will probably be someone who will take you up on your offer … someone with a different value system about dowsing than I have.

However … if your club would one day like to have a lesson in dowsing so that they, too, can develop their gifts of the spirit … I am an excellent teacher and am offering my time to you.

May the most joyous days of your past be the darkest days of your future.

Bette Epstein 
5409 Farquhar Lane
Dallas, Texas 75209

Sadly, nobody ever took us up on our offer. Bette Epstein did offer to have her young daughter submit to evaluation by us, but we demurred. It was Ms. Epstein who interested us, and we were a mite off-put at the vision of a crowd of grown men grilling a young child.

Since about the time of that NTS newsletter item we have had a $10,000 (now $12,000) award payable to anybody who can demonstrate the kind of thing Fleur brags about doing. That’s over a quarter of a century, and in that time we have been approached numerous times by claimants seeking the prize. Nobody has ever brought us anything to test, and we still have our money. You can read about these cases in a section devoted to the NTS Paranormal Challenge.

Thinking back, I am considering the money Barbara Jean and I paid for our American Airline tickets on our recent vacation. I am thinking I shouldn’t have to pay that much to have my intelligence insulted.

Myopia Writ Large

Reposted from The North Texas Skeptics

A review of the video Remote Viewing.

I’m going to recommend all skeptics watch this. It dates from 2009 and is only 20 minutes. I was able to watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video. Of course you have to have an Amazon Prime subscription, however you can watch it on YouTube by paying $1.99. Call it $2.00. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rlgcSCLzaA

You’re going to see some people you recognize, so I will start out with a cast of characters:

RemoveViewing-08

RemoveViewing-01

RemoveViewing-02

RemoveViewing-03

RemoveViewing-12

Charles Tart you are going to know for sure. He’s been familiar to the NTS for decades:

Charles Tart was a “parapsychologist” doing research at the University of California at Davis. He used a machine called a “Ten-Choice Trainer” (TCT) to help people with psychic ability improve their scores on tests for same. The test worked like this:

A sender in one room viewed a panel with ten playing cards, ace through ten. A randomizing mechanism would select one of the ten cards and would activate a light next to the card. The sender would then push a button, causing a signal to be sent to the receiver. This told the receiver that the sender was now looking at the selected card. The receiver would then turn a dial to select the correct card. The dial position was fed back to the sender in real time, allowing the sender to mentally direct the receiver to the correct card. Finally the receiver would select a card by pushing a button next to the card. If the receiver’s choice was correct, a chime would sound. This would provide positive reinforcement and would help the receiver to learn and to sharpen his extrasensory perception (ESP) skills.

Tart wrote a book describing his work, Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception, published by Chicago Press in 1976. In the book he claimed scores considerably better than could be expected by chance. He heralded his results a “breakthrough” in ESP research.

Came time for Gardner to review the book in 1977 for NYR, and he, as was his practice, went beyond checking for spelling and grammar. As Gardner reports, three of Tart’s colleagues at UC Davis wrote a critique of Tart’s experimental method. They had read Tart’s book and asked to see the raw data. Reviewing the data they realized, for one, the randomizer was not exactly random. They likened Tart’s protocol to a chemist using a dirty test tube and obtaining anomalous results, and they suggested that Tart repeat his experiments after fixing the problem of the non-random random number device.

Gardner saw an additional flaw in Tart’s technique. If the sender, subconsciously or deliberately, delayed sending his signal to the receiver, the receiver might pick up on this idiosyncrasy, and this could become a signaling path from the sender to the receiver. The receiver could pick cards depending on the amount of delay and could improve his score above chance.

Gardner also points out a finding by the mathematicians who examined the data. There is an unexplained absence of doublets. Not so many 2, 2 and 7, 7 sequences, for example, as one should expect. The TCT recorded only the receiver’s score, not the entire sequence of random numbers. This led to the possibility that the sender was hitting the send button a second time whenever the new number was the same as the previous number. The receiver could significantly increase his score by never choosing the same card twice in a row.

Wait, there’s more. The sender and receiver were in nearby office cubicles, and one sender, Gaines Thomas, revealed he would sometimes orally coax his own display of the receiver’s actions as he monitored them on his display. He would curse when the sender appeared about to stop on the wrong card. Whether the receiver was ever cued by these sounds coming from the sender’s cube is not known.

In response to the criticism, Tart revised his technique and repeated his experiments. He published his results as “Effects of Immediate Feedback on ESP Performance: A Second Study” in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.1 Gardner tellingly quotes a significant statement in the paper: “There is no evidence that more percipients scored significantly above chance than would be expected if no ESP were operating.”

Rather than admit the initial results were due to his own faulty technique, Tart, as Gardner reports, attempted to explain away this lack of success. Principally, there was a lack of ESP talent for the follow-up experiment. “In the last year or two, students have become more serious, more competitive, more achievement-oriented than they were at the time of the first experiment.” And more.

Tart asserted the results of the first experiment were so significant they could not be ignored. As Gardner comments, Tart could not reconcile that the first experiment demonstrated his failure as a scientist. Rather, his earlier results put the results of the second experiment into doubt. Gardner, and the reader, are dumfounded at the audacity. Not speaking for Gardner, I would add I am not in the least surprised by Tart’s reasoning.

The information I have on Lyn Buchanan may be stale:

Leonard (Lyn) Buchanan is the Executive Director of Problems>Solutions>Innovations(P>S>I) which started as a small data analysis company in the Washington, D.C. area in 1992 after Lyn’s retirement from the military.

In late 1995, when the US government declassified their Remote Viewing project, information became public about Lyn’s prior involvement with that project as one of the unit’s Remote Viewers, Database Manager, Property Book Officer and as the unit’s Trainer. Public demands for training and applications became great, and P>S>I moved into the remote viewing field full time, bringing with it Lyn’s extensive databasing capabilities. At the present time, P>S>I possesses the most complete body of data on the applications of remote viewing in real-world applications.

Major Ed Dames:

The world’s foremost remote viewing teacher, and creator of Technical Remote Viewing, Major Edward A. Dames, United States Army (ret.), is a thrice decorated military intelligence officer and an original member of the U.S. Army prototype remote viewing training program. He served as both training and operations officer for the U.S. government’s TOP SECRET psychic espionage unit.

Edward Dames is a ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Between 1979 and 1983, Major Dames served as an electronic warfare officer and scientific and technical intelligence officer.

In 1982, Ingo Swann, under the direction of Dr. Harold Puthoff, head of the Remote Viewing Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute, realized a breakthrough. Swann developed a working model for how the unconscious mind communicates information to conscious awareness. To test the model, the Army sent Major Dames and five others to Swann as a prototype trainee group.

The results exceeded all expectations – even those of Swann. In six months, Major Dames’ teammates were producing psychically-derived data with more consistency and accuracy than had ever been seen in similar intelligence projects using even the best ‘natural’ psychics. In late 1983, the team parted company with Swann. As the new operations and training officer for the unit, Dames took this breakthrough skill, dubbed ‘Coordinate Remote Viewing,’ and began a new phase of research, testing, and evaluation in order to both uncover its true capabilities, and to perfect its application to fit crucial intelligence collection needs.

Dr. Dean Radin:

Dean Radin, PhD, is Chief Scientist at the INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES (IONS) and since 2001 has periodically lectured at Sonoma State University and served on doctoral dissertation committees at Saybrook University and the California Institute for Integral Studies. His original career track as a concert violinist shifted into science after earning a BSEE degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For three decades he has been engaged in frontiers research on the nature of consciousness. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, Interval Research Corporation, and SRI International.

He is author or coauthor of over 250 peer-reviewed scientific and popular articles, three dozen book chapters, and three popular books including the award-winning and bestselling The Conscious Universe(HarperOne, 1997), Entangled Minds(Simon & Schuster, 2006), and a 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award, SUPERNORMAL (Random House, 2013). These books have been translated into 14 foreign languages, so far. His technical articles have appeared in journals ranging fromFoundations of Physics and Physics Essays to Psychological Bulletinand Journal of Consciousness Studies; he was featured in a New York Times Magazine ARTICLE; and he has appeared on dozens of television shows ranging from the BBC’sHorizon and PBS’s Closer to Truth toOprah and Larry King Live. He has given over 350 interviews and talks, including invited presentations at Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, and the Sorbonne, for industries including GOOGLE and Johnson & Johnson, and for various US government organizations including the US Navy and DARPA.

Dr. Jessica Utts:

Jessica Utts (born 1952) is a parapsychologist and statistics professor at the University of California, Irvine. She is known for her textbooks onstatistics and her investigation into remote viewing.

In 2003, Utts published an article in American Statistician, a journal published by the American Statistical Association, calling for significant changes to collegiate levelstatistics education.[3] In the article she argued that curricula do a fine job of covering the mathematical side of statistics, but do a poor job of teaching students the skills necessary to properly interpret statistical results in scientific studies. The argument continues that common errors found in news articles, such as the common misinterpretation that correlative studies show causation, would be reduced if there were significant changes made to standard statistics courses.

Utts was elected to serve as the 111th president of the American Statistical Association, with her term as President-Elect to commence in January 2015, followed by her term as president in 2016.

Up front be prepared to be impressed by the power of the mind and the remarkable phenomenon known as remote viewing. Lyn Buchanan asks, “Do you want the party line history, or do you want the real history?” Of course, we want the real history. And it is remarkable.

Being able to pinpoint a target anywhere on the globe within 35 feet. Locate terrorists, their hostages… We’ve been finding information that saved lives.

Folks, this is good stuff.

RemoveViewing-14

It was necessary for our government to engage in this research, because the Soviets were making great strides. They may have possessed the ability to beam some sort of energy at President Reagan during his participation in the SALT negotiations, thereby clouding his mind and putting the United States at a disadvantage.

Stop for a moment at this thought. There are many of the opinion that President Reagan’s mind did not require additional clouding, but that’s beside the point. We were concerned the Soviets were taking the lead.

RemoveViewing-07

This is not woo-woo stuff. The video shows actual hardware. We see what may be two large electrolytic capacitors, and if you have ever dealt with those, you know how dangerous they can be, what with their ability to store large amounts of electric charge at high voltage.

RemoveViewing-06

Proof of the ability of the human mind to work miracles is also demonstrated. Here are two shots from the video in sequence. Please observe the salt shaker has definitely moved.

RemoveViewing-04

RemoveViewing-05

Additional benefit was derived from this research when participants were asked to review satellite imagery from a site in Siberia. The remote viewer said there was a very large shed there, and the Soviets were building a huge submarine vessel. Officials scoffed until such day as the end of the shed was opened and the submarine was rolled out. The Soviets thereupon constructed a canal and floated the boat to the “North Sea.” I regret that my search of the Internet has failed to learn anything regarding a large Soviet submarine constructed in Siberia. I’m also having difficulty with this geography, because my impression has always been that no part of the North Sea touches Siberia.

RemoveViewing-09

There have been scoffers. A book by Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, pokes fun at this kind of nonsense. That was in 2004. A subsequent film came out in 2009, staring George Clooney.

RemoveViewing-11

And all that is just a preamble to the real substance: What is the truth behind remote viewing and the research that purports to support it? Some discussion:

RemoveViewing-13

Start with the ganzfeld effect:

The ganzfeld effect (from German for “complete field”) or perceptual deprivation, is a phenomenon of perception caused by exposure to an unstructured, uniform stimulation field.[1] The effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals.[2] The noise is interpreted in the highervisual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations.[3]

It has been most studied with vision by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of colour. The visual effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is “seeing black”,[4] an apparent sense of blindness. A flickering ganzfeld causes geometrical patterns and colors to appear, and this is the working principle for mind machines and the Dreamachine.[5] The ganzfeld effect can also elicit hallucinatory percepts in many people, in addition to an altered state of consciousness.

Ganzfeld induction in multiple senses is called multi-modal ganzfeld. This is usually done by wearing ganzfeld goggles in addition to headphones with a uniform stimulus.

A related effect is sensory deprivation, although in this case a stimulus is minimized rather than unstructured. Hallucinations that appear under prolonged sensory deprivation are similar to elementary percepts caused by luminous ganzfeld, and include transient sensations of light flashes or colours. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation can, like ganzfeld-induced hallucinations, turn into complex scenes.[5]

The effect is a component of a Ganzfeld experiment, a technique used in the field of parapsychology.

Remote viewing is often associated with the ganzfeld effect. The viewer is subjected to sensory deprivation, typically by having halves of ping-pong balls taped over his eyes to completely obscure vision without blocking ambient light. White noise is played into headphones the subject wears.

Next, an agent goes to a remote place and at a specified time views the surroundings. And takes a photo. The subject—the viewer—is then asked to make a drawing of what the agent sees. Next, an independent referee is shown photos of what the remote agent saw and compares these photos with what the viewer drew. Also shown are photos from disparate scenes. The referee is required to pick the photo what most closely resembles what the viewer drew.

While some experimenters have claimed remarkable success, my own observation of these experiments leaves me unsatisfied. A healthy degree of rigor seems to be lacking. We at the North Texas Skeptics have engaged in what we consider to be more controlled studies, one of which was related to our Paranormal Challenge.

A few years back Rechey Davidson contacted us:

Thanks for your response. Sorry for having a “bad” subject line. I was just told to contact you. Mr. Kramer has my application and letter of explanation of what ability I have. His letter said the application was accepted for preliminary testing. His letter seemed to indicate he was forwarding you the necessary information. Am I just needed to contact you to arrange for testing. What is the next step now? Do we meet or what? From the Challenge Instructions, it sounds like you want me to resubmit my description to you. If so, do I just e-mail you or mail you a letter? Do I tell you what I can do and you draft something back?

Briefly, I have been able to dowse maps of people’s homes (Or other locations) where they have lost specific items and have been able to tell them where the item is. They have, so far, been able to verify they found the item where I said it was. This has happened even if I have never been to their home. Do I just need to submit more detail and suggest how to test this or what? Thanks. Rechey Davidson

This is not exactly remote viewing, but it illustrates the methods we employ:

I scanned in the builder’s floor plan for my house and labeled the major rooms with capital letters. I sent Mr. Davidson a link to the scanned image, and he printed it out. He said he was satisfied with that, and we got started.

The object of our affection was my Nikon digital camera. I chose that because I only have one like it, so Mr. Davidson would not have the problem of dowsing for one of several identical objects.

We got started in early September and finished up two weeks later. Each day or so Mr. Davidson would send me an e-mail telling me in which room the camera was placed, and I would record his score and move, or not move, the camera to a different room. Here is the result:

  • Test 01: 7 September 2004, Camera placed in B, Davidson called E
  • Test 02: 8 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called G
  • Test 03: 13 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called L
  • Test 04: 14 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called F
  • Test 05: 15 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called H
  • Test 06: 16 September 2004, Camera placed in J, Davidson called E
  • Test 07: 17 September 2004, Camera placed in G, Davidson called B
  • Test 08: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called B
  • Test 09: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called E
  • Test 10: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called J
  • Test 11: 19 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called B
  • Test 12: 20 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called D

We all found it remarkable, but not impossible, that Mr. Davidson scored absolutely zero in twelve trials.

I have long considered how we would do a remote viewing experiment. It would go something like this:

  • Start off as before, sensory deprivation or whatever the remote viewer claims to require. The onus is on the remote viewer to perform.
  • Completely isolate the remote viewer from the remote agent. The agent is expected to be at a site of his choosing, unknown to anybody else conducting the experiment, at a given time.
  • At the given time a phone call verifies the agent is at the site, and is taking the photo.
  • The remote viewer is told to visualize what the agent sees and to make the drawing.
  • The agent produces additional photos of disparate sites.
  • The agent brings a collection of images, five or more, back to the location of the experiment. The photos are given to a referee with no evidence of when the photos were taken. The referee is given the drawing.
  • The referee must pick exactly one of the photos that best matches the drawing. All other photos are discarded.
  • If the chosen photo is not the one associated with the drawing, the test results are determined to be negative. There is no second guessing.

This latter point is something I find missing in descriptions of remote viewing experiments that show positive results. There is typically such language as, “This one was my second choice, and it’s the one taken when the viewer had the vision.” Or, “The referee chose this one, but it also resembles this one.” It’s this kind of stuff that points out the bad experimental procedure associated with remote viewing research.

The Jon Ronson book would make for a good review. I will obtain a copy and do a review. Watch for it in the next few months. The movie, as well.

Ring And Run

Ring ring

Ring ring

I am going back over some old ground. Previously I discussed a kind of advocate who has a message to get across and does so with great satisfaction. Then they exit quickly without accepting any rebuttal. I called this “ring and run.” There’s more. This kind of thing happens a lot in the world of skeptical analysis. Creationists are fond of the tactic. There’s the case of Jason Gastrich:

Stiffed Again

by John Blanton

We are known to be very skeptical, but it appears we are not very s-m-a-r-t. For the second time the NTS has been stood up by a creationist who arranged to do business with us. Maybe we should switch to a different deodorant.

On August 7 Jason Gastrich sent us the following e-mail:

Jason said he had debated many atheists, and he wanted to debate me. Jason was in California, and I was in Dallas, and never the twain should meet. However, Jason was willing to debate by telephone. I was heartened. My mistake. I checked into Jason Gastrich and realized he was a kook. Of course, that’s redundant, as I already knew he was a creationist:

Jason Gastrich—Obsessive Biblical inerrantist with a knack for not going away when ordered. Shoot-on-sight banned at Wikipedia. Was given a trial unbanning and managed to get himself rebanned that very same day for sockpuppetry.

So, I proudly announced that I would be debating a kook (again redundant again). Jason got wind of my remarks (he’s not psychic) and began to cool. Demands began to appear among the qualifications for the debate. Must not use a cell phone. Cell phones do not have good voice quality. Must have a test telephone exchange. He scheduled the test phone call, but he never phoned. Then he announced that he had phoned, and I had not answered (he did not phone), and the debate was off. Classic ring and run.

I was comfortable at home. The phone rang. It was a creationist in California (not Jason Gastrich). He had heartburn with some evolution shit his son’s teacher was pushing, and he wanted to vent on me. I was wondering why he didn’t take this up with his son’s teacher, but what the heck. He asked some nonsensical questions, and ended up asking if evolution had been proved. Of course not. Scientific theories are not proved. They are validated by their ability to explain the facts. When I gave the correct answer, “no,” he said thanks, that was all he needed to know, and he hung up. Ring and run. Literally.

In 2002 I debated creationist Don Patton at the atheists convention in Dallas (actually, near Dallas). The debate issue was “The fossil record is more compatible with the model of creation than the model of evolution.” I had attended many of Don Patton’s presentations at the local creationist group, and we were on a first name basis. It was friendly exchange, and there were a lot of atheists in the audience, and there were many creationist, as well. At the conclusion there was a sort of social atmosphere, and as I was standing around answering questions an elderly gentleman, a creationist, walked up to me and asked me if I thought I had made my case. I figured I had not convinced everybody, especially the creationists, and I told the man something like
“most likely not.” “Then you’re being dishonest,” he informed me, and walked away without hanging around for a response. Ring and run.

There is a guy who used to phone from time to time wanting to demonstrate psychic abilities for our Paranormal Challenge. One claim was that he could project his thoughts into my head. I told him to go for it, and I stood by to receive. I did not receive what he projected. He took offense. Some months later I got a voice mail on my cell phone telling me off. This was absolute ring and run.

About this time ten years ago Greg Nichols and Greg Willis contacted us. They came to our meeting in February 2004. They had a homeopathic product with amazing properties. Put some on the outside of a wine glass, and the wine will taste better! We could test that. I offered to run a test. No go. They started demanding control of the test, and they wanted proof of our non-profit status, and they wanted the prize money put into escrow. In all the e-mail exchange a reference was made to “snakes,” and that was inadvertently copied to Nichols and Willis. Things sort of went down hill from there, and any offer to allow us to test their produce evaporated. It was ring and run with flair.

So, that’s ring and run as I’ve seen it. I have said before that no matter what, I am always willing to talk, to discuss. When somebody is averse to that idea, then it says something about what confidence they have in their own perspective. For me it’s a useful piece of information, and it’s free.

Nathan Bar-Fields Challenge

Recently I received the following from Nathan Bar-Fields. To bring some readers up to date, for over 20 years several friends and I have funded a prize, now at $12,000, to anybody who can provide a demonstration of the paranormal. We conduct this activity under the title The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge. First read the e-mail from Nathan, then I will continue:

Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2014 05:10:25 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <e-mail address redacted>
Subject: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: skeptic75287@yahoo.com

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Nathan.  I’m a college student who is interested in psi, although I’m not 100% convinced it exists.  I’ve done quite a bit of self-testing. My experiments involve predicting binary numbers and events, which are generated using various methods (ex. random number generators, dice, etc.). My results are significantly above chance in each trial: 66%-85%, where we’d expect them to be 50% on average. I have received and followed advice from various scientifically and skeptically minded people, but I still get the same unusual results, provided the testing adheres to the following protocols:

1) Generously timed conditions (ex. 4 hours for 100 guesses, although I normally only need half that time.)

2) Split-second and direct visual feedback after each guess. That is to say after I guess, I need to see the result almost immediately if not immediately, and I need to see it for myself, not be told about it via a third party.

They suggested that I contact someone who can look at my process in person to see where the flaw in my methodology may be, if there is one. I originally contacted Chip Denman of the JREF, but it’s been over a month, and he still hasn’t been able to find anyone in my local area ( I live somewhere between Harrison County and Galveston County) who can help figure out if there are any methodological flaws in my experiment.  So I’ve decided to contact you to take your challenge listed here: http://ntskeptics.org/resources/the-north-texas-skeptics-paranormal-challenge/, since you are closest to me.  If there is some flaw in my method, I’m sure you’ll find it–or possibly them if there’s more than one thing amiss–and I’ll fail the challenge (but I’ll also know what I was doing wrong). But on the off chance you don’t find anything awry and I pass, then I’ll at least have money for travel to do better testing wherever I have to go to find out what’s going on wth me here.

I read all of your statements and requirements.  My responses to them are below.

“Claimant must describe the paranormal or psychic ability or power clearly and precisely. Claims must be specific enough to be scientifically testable. Claims must be clearly psychic or paranormal.

“Binary presentiment,” “binary ESP,” or “binary intuition” are the best descriptions for what I’m claiming to do.  Pick whichever suits your fancy.  To put it simply, I can sit in front of a computer that is set up to show me either a 1 or a 0 after I guess, and I can predict what the digit will be no less than 66% of the time, where chance would suggest a 50% success rate, provided the feedback is very quick (a second or less), and I see the feedback for myself, rather than through a third party like someone telling me, “Sorry, dude, it was a 1.”  The digits are randomly or pseudorandomly generated, depending on the RNG in question.  I normally do 100 guesses per testing session, so we’re talking about 66 out of 100 right (and 80% of the time guess #1 of guesses #1-#100 is right).  If my guess matches the digit (ex. I call out 1 or press the button for 1, and after I do that the number that shows up on the screen is also 1), that is considered a hit.  If it does not (ex. I call out 1 or press the button for 1, and after I do that the number that shows up on the screen is a 0), that is a miss.  The cumulative probablity of getting 66 out of 100 right by chance under these circumstances is around 1-in-1,000.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this is psychic or paranormal.  I’m still on the fence, personally.

“Claimant must specifically describe any proposed test procedures which will be used to demonstrate the paranormal or psychic power. Claimant and challengers must agree to the test procedures to be used before any tests are performed.”

Proposed Procedure

1) There is a random number generator.  Without question the most undisputable one would be a cesium-based RNG like I used when I was a student at Cal Berkeley.  However, those aren’t exactly the kind of RNGs one can just carry around.  I’ve been mostly, though not exclusively, using RANDOM.ORG which claims, “RANDOM.ORG offers true random numbers to anyone on the Internet. The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs,” as of late.  However, if RANDOM.ORG is not sufficient for you, I’m quite flexible.  If you want to use a cesium-based RNG, we’re going to have to find a university that stores one.  I believe Univeristy of Houston does.  If you’re thinking about another kind of mechanical RNG, that’s fine, but please keep in mind it needs to be able to show me a result no more than a second after I submit a guess.

2) The RNG will be hooked to a computer, and will randomly submit either a 0 or a 1 to the screen immediately after I submit a guess of 1 or 0 via a corresponding button or key on the computer.

3) Whatever number the RNG generates will be shown on my screen for immediate (or as close to as immediate as we can possibly get) feedback for me.  Again, we’re talking a second or a split-second.  No longer than that.

4) The guess will be marked as a hit or miss, depending if my guess and the number generated match or don’t match, respectively.

5) Steps 2-4 will be done a total of 100 times to make a test made up of 100 guesses.

5) I have a maximum of four hours to take this test, but it is perfectly fine for me to finish sooner than that.

6) I have the option to do a 15-minute pre-test to get a feel for the RNG if it isn’t RANDOM.ORG’s, which I’m more familiar with.  If it is Random.org’s RNG service, then there will be no need for the pre-test.

7) I must get at least 66 out of 100 right to pass.

8) The presence of an audience is fine, but they must be out of my field.  If there is an audience it would be similar to the testing conditions when taking the Graduate Records Exam–cameras in the testing room are fine, and people on the other side of a window are fine, but someone sitting right next to me or me doing this on a stage in front of an auditorium of people (as an example) is no bueno. Oh, I’m not sure what you may or may not be considering, but I’m okay with being searched for any devices on my person, if you think I may have a technology to somehow influence the RNG or the computer electronically. However, I’m not paying for a body scan or anything like that if that’s where your mind is going.  I’ll undergo one, but the bill is yours.

“Claimant must describe exactly what test results will constitute success or failure. If success and failure will be described in terms of statistical results, such results must be significantly beyond chance expectation.”

A success/hit rate of 66 out of 100 or higher has an expected 1-in-1000 chance.  I’d say that’s significantly above chance.  If I do this twice–once as a demonstration, and again for the actual challenge–we have something that isn’t just improbable, but ridiculous (though, again, I’m still not sure it’s psychic, but at least I’ll have money to research if it is).

“Claimant and challengers will each be responsible for their respective expenses, such as equipment, travel, accommodations, consultant fees, or other expenses.”

That’s fine, but two things. One, it would help to know where this will happen.  Your contact address is in Corrallton, but I went through the earlier emails with earlier challengers and it sounds like at least one of you are in San Antonio and were going to test there.  Where exactly would this all take place?  Of course, it probably would be best to do this at a university if they’re willing to allow us to use their nuclear based RNG.  And alternatively, they may be able to let us use it, but connect it remotely to a computer so we didn’t actually have to be on their campus.  In any event, let me know what your thoughts are.

Secondly, to minimize traveling (unless you’re coming to me), I’d like to do the actual challenge the same day or the next day after the demonstration, assuming I pass it to begin with.

In the event the claimant is successful under the terms and conditions of the protocol, challengers will immediately deliver the challenge prize to claimant or claimant’s designee, in full settlement of all claims.

Works for me.  I have my bank account number memorized.

Claimant and challengers waive all claims, damages, and causes of action against each other arising out of the challenge, for any injuries or damages of every kind, whether to person, property, or reputation.

I can’t think of any reason to sue you, or you to sue me.  And the test we’re doing isn’t in any way dangerous as long as the nuclear RNG–if we were to use that instead of another kind of RNG–was properly shielded and far enough away from where I’m testing.  So agreed, no lawsuits.

All agreements, protocols, correspondence, data, audio or video recordings, photographs or results made or obtained by either party during the challenge or negotiations leading up to the challenge may be used by either party in any way he or she may choose, including publication, and challengers and claimant both waive all exclusive rights to such information.

Agreements, protocols, and written correspondence are fine and good.  However, I want to be able see the final product of any audio or video recordings of me before I agree to them being used. Those type of media can be edited in very misleading ways.  Sorry, but I’m a skeptic too.   I’m not sure what you mean by data, but my birthdate, social security number, mailing address, and other PII items other than my name certainly cannot be shared with others.  I hope that’s not what you meant by “data,” but if so, I’m just making it clear that I will not and do not agree to that.

This offer is made by the challengers personally and not on behalf of The North Texas Skeptics or any other agency or organization, although others may be involved in the examination of claims.

Okay.

After challengers have received claimant’s offer to demonstrate a claimed psychic or paranormal ability or power, challengers will promptly enter into negotiations with claimant and attempt to arrive at a written protocol satisfactory to both parties. Neither claimant nor challengers shall have any right of action or damages against the other for failure to enter into the protocol or for failure to conduct any test or demonstration.

“Promptly” definitely works for me.  As I mentioned earlier, I’d prefer to do the demonstration and the actual test either the same day or on consecutive days, if I’m the one expected to travel rather than you guys.  I just can’t afford to be traveling back and forth for hours over a period of weeks to do this.

Correspondence sent to NTS regarding the NTS Challenge becomes the property of NTS and will be posted publicly on this web site and elsewhere.

That’s also fine.  I request that you do not publish my email address or my last name, in order to minimize potentially bizarre communications I may get from others. But if you decide to do so anyway, I reluctantly accept that.  I take it this email will not be edited or altered in any way if it shows up on your website.

I found this note from Nathan Bar-Fields to be refreshing in the highest degree. Nathan is articulate, and he is also detailed, to a certain extent. Compare this to some of the other inquiries we have received. Here is an example of what we often get:

Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2007 12:29:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: Francis Jones <e-mail address redacted>
Subject: Re: Challenge
To: skeptic75287@yahoo.com

My claim is this: 1) There is an inherent sixth sense that usually lays dormant in human beings. 2) There co-exist an inseparable, invisible, intelligent reality that has an effect on the material world. 3) From that invisible realm exists a supreme being, namely the “God who created the world,the God of the judeo-christian religion. 4) Concluding there is” life after death”.

It is obvious Nathan’s approach is more palatable. However, what he has proposed is, as with all the others, absurd. Let me summarize:

He is proposing to predict the outcome of a sequence from an RNG (random number generator) or at least a PRNG (pseudo random number generator). More explanation: There is not much of what we do that is purely random. In a lot of things preconditions determine the outcome in principle if not in practicality. For example, in the case of a football game between the Seahawks and the Broncos we can predict the Seahawks will win every time. There are some things that are purely random. These are events that don’t depend on initial conditions. Quantum mechanical events are a good example. A radioactive atomic nucleus will emit an alpha particle with a probability of 50% within the next specified time interval. There is no way of predicting whether the alpha particle will or will not be emitted.

What we do when we want the appearance of randomness is to employ a PRNG. The output of a PRNG is a sequence of numbers that is preset by the coding and the PRNG’s initial state, but cannot be readily discerned by even a very careful observer. Computer programmers use a function in the C programming language called rand (). The parentheses are part of the name of the function. The way it works is to first have your program execute a companion function srand (seed), where seed is some number you pick. This sets the initial state of the PRNG. Now, every time your program needs a new random number it invokes rand () to produce the next number in an apparently random sequence.

Suppose that I write the code to compute sequences of 0 and 1. I would do this:

rand () % 2

That will produce 0 for even output of the PRNG and 1 for odd output. I now get a sequences of apparently randome 0 and 1.

If a casual observer were to just watch the output of this program as it produces a 0 or a 1, and if this person were to attempt to predict the next number in the output, then we would expect him to be right about half the time. What Nathan is claiming is that he will be right at least 66% of the time. Nathan gives the odds of scoring 66 out of 100 at 1/1000. I do not know an easy way to do this calculation, but I computed some preliminary numbers, and 1/1000 seems to be a fair estimate.

Here’s what’s critical. The underwriters of the Challenge will pay off for demonstration of a paranormal ability. Obtaining a score of 66 out of 100 is not a paranormal ability. If we bring in 1000 contestants and let each play the game once, there is a good possibility that somebody will win by luck alone. No paranormal ability is required.

Significantly, what Nathan is claiming is that he has tested himself and has obtained 66 to 85 percent success. A problem with his statement of success is the lack of any detail. He does not describe completely how the test was set up or how it was conducted. If this were a scientific study being prepared for publication, then all results from all tests would be included, and there would be a lot more detail about how the whole business was carried out.

Let me continue with my dialog with Nathan Bar-Fields. I responded:

Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 09:08:37 -0800 (PST)Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 09:08:37 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,
To test your ability to predict random digits (1 and 0) we would do the following:
1. Write a computer program that generates pseudo random 1 and 0 sequences.
2. The computer program would use a well-known algorithm to simulate random numbers. Sequences are not truly random, but an individual would not have the ability to discern the sequence and predict the next output.
3. Run the program on a computer.
4. The subject would press a key on the keyboard, 1 or 0.
5. The program would immediately display the next random 1 or 0 in the sequence and would record the score, hit or miss.
6. The program would be ready immediately to accept the next input from the subject.
I will write the program, and if you like I will send you a copy. You could run the program on a PC (not a Mac) in a DOS window. You could practice with the program and verify your ability to predict the random sequence. This way you could determine whether you actually have the ability. This would be beneficial to do before you proceed further with this endeavor.
All correspondence related to the North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
Best regards,
John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Sun, 09 Feb 2014 17:35:24 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <Nth@groupmail.com>
Message-ID: <20140209223524.271320@gmx.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Hi John,
This sounds reasonable to me, and in contrast to our phone conversation, it sounds like now you have a better grasp of what I wrote.  I’m BCC’ing some of the critical-thinkers I know to see if this makes sense to them as well.  It doesn’t hurt to have a few extra eyes scanning for potential errors.While it seems generally fine, a few things pop out at me:

1) I want to make sure that we agree that I have a generous amount of time.  In the original email, I said at least 4 hours for 100 guesses.  Does that work for you?
2) I think it would be better to use an RNG or PRNG that neither of us has access to or any involvement in its creation.  This is why I suggested getting a local university involved. The University of San Antonio expressed interest, when I sent them an email.
3) I’m personally okay with using a PRNG instead of an RNG, but if it’s psuedorandom, I’m not sure if it is really presentiment that is being tested for, if I do unusually well on it.  It could be high-range pattern-recognition that explains the result.  Full disclosure:  As a kid, I was a mental calculator limited to intuiting the nth-terms of sequences and series. I was so good at it, I got the nickname “Nth” while in the navy as a nuclear tech.  I’ve wondered (and still wonder) if it’s really some calculating part of my mind that’s able to approximate the pseudorandom pattern of a PRNG now that I am an adult.   But if you’re fine with pseudorandom, I’m fine with it too.
4) When would be the earliest you’d be ready to do the actual test or preliminary test, rather?  I need  to make preparations for a hotel.
5) Also, I’m not sure what your response is to my request that the pre-challenge happens either on the same day as the challenge or the day after.
I trust this reply isn’t too long  for you, like you said about my first email.  In the meantime, yes, please send me the program so that I can test myself with it.

Best,

Nathan

Nathan followed up:

Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2014 06:54:38 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

John,

On second thought, I don’t want to delay this endeavor any more than I feel it’s going to be delayed.  Your PRNG program as a self-assessment test works for me.  I suppose one can’t do too many of them.  We can address the other things I brought up in the first email and in my first reply email after that.  When can I expect the program to be delivered to me? I happen to know it’s a program that can be created in less than an hour, so I hope I won’t have to wait days for it.  As soon as I get it, I’ll do a few sessions, perhaps even record one or two via Skype, and send them back to you in an email.

Regards,

Nathan (Nth).

I responded:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 13:24:38 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <Nth@groupmail.com>

Nathan,
I have [a] PNRG routine that I have used previously, and I will incorporate that into the demo. I have some errands to run today, but I will possibly be able to send you a copy of the EXE file tomorrow. There may be some difficulty sending the file, because really good mail services typically delete EXE files. No telling what is in the EXE file that can constitute a security risk.
All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
Best regards,
John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:45:11 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hello John,

I have to admit this is taking far longer than I expected. It’s been 7 days since I first contacted you, and I’m still waiting just to do this demo, in order to do the pre-Challenge, in order to do the Challenge.  But sure, if you think it’s going to take you a day (or more) to email me this demo,  then we’ll get over that obstacle too.  How about changing the .exe to something else like ._xe, and I can reformat it on my end? That’s usually the workaround for delivering .exe’s.  I suppose with our luck, it’s not improbable that we’ll run into another delay.  If that happens, then how about I just pay for the shipping and handling to have you express mail the PRNG to me as a CD?  You’ll obviously want my address, which I can provide to you over the phone.    In any event, yes the “promptly” element of getting all this underway is still as important to me as it is to you according to the content of your Challenge.

For the record, there are plenty of PRNGs (some claiming to be true RNGs) available through various websites that I could use to do this demo for you. I’d just record a session and send it to you.    Here are but a few.

Random.org
http://www.randomizer.org/form.htm
http://andrew.hedges.name/experiments/random/
http://graphpad.com/quickcalcs/randomN1.cfm
http://www.randomnumbergenerator.com/
http://www.psychicscience.org/random.aspx

and many, many more to pick from if any strikes your fancy.

Regards,

Nathan

Nathan further suggested the executable code could be sent in a zip file. I responded:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 19:08:37 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,
It’s not going to take me long to send the EXE file. What’s going to take some time is for me to write and test the code.
My best bet is to put the file on a Web site and send you a link. Your browser will ask if you really want to load the file, and it will save it to your computer if you approve.
John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 07:38:45 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hello John,

Thank you for responding.  I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who is willing to do a job thoroughly.  I take pride in being thorough about things I really care about as well.  Parapsychology is one of those things for me, especially how I’ve gone about my testing myself in the area of binary presentiment.  However–I’m just going to be brutally honest here, and I accept I could be far off the mark–it doesn’t feel like you’re being thorough, it feels like you’re being dilatory.  This is why I say that:

    • First there was no reply to my email, so I had to call you.
    • You couldn’t talk over the phone because you were at a store, but you said that you’d respond via email.
    • When I didn’t get the email, I had to call you again. We then discovered you forgot to respond to the email.
    • However, the email I sent was supposedly too long to read even though it was just a point by point reply to all the articles your Challenge outlines. We had to discuss this over the phone nonetheless because of that. I’d have preferred having a written correspondence rather than a phone conversation for obvious reasons, but sure, no problem.
    • Then there was suddenly a need for a demo before doing the Pre-Challenge, even though the website only mentions a pre-Challenge and a Challenge required.  I agreed to that demo, nonetheless.
    • However, I later got an email saying you anticipated that the demo would have trouble being sent via email.  No problem, I mentioned commonly known workarounds for that issue in order to get the show on the road.
    • Now that there is no justifiable delay for the demo’s delivery, creating the demo itself will take “some time” even though it’s just a PRNG (that you already have created according to your earlier email) with a stat counter and a save function–which I’m thinking we both know takes “no time at all” to whip up.

But I’m still willing to do this Challenge of yours to figure out what’s really going on here when I do this kind of test, assuming you are someone who can figure such a thing out.  It’s that important to me. The growing amount of intricacies on your end are what they are.  I will be ready on my end whenever you are finally ready.  However, if you would be courteous enough to let me know how long it will take from the time I first signed up for the Challenge on February 5th to actually being in San Antonio to do this Challenge, I would greatly appreciate it.  I am scheduled to travel all of March and some of April, so I need to know if I’ll have to cancel or rearrange my plans.  The sooner I know, the more money I can save.

I would also like to know where in San Antonio would the Pre-Challenge and Challenge happen if I were to do satisfactory on the demo.  I should start making hotel reservations this week before my remaining hotel.com points expire.

Sincerely,

Nathan

Nathan has claimed he can obtain 66 or better out of 100 in predicting the output of a PRNG. Since he has not provided any additional detail, I presume he means he can get this kind of result every time. That’s what would amount to a paranormal ability. In in this light I responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 10:40:17 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

Again, thank you for your interest in the NTS Paranormal Challenge. Also I appreciate your thorough critique of my process.

In case this information is of any use to you: Monitoring and responding to the Challenge mail is not a full time job for me. I also write a blog and have family responsibilities. When things get hectic I may not read my mail for several days.

I have concocted a computer program that produces pseudo random sequences of 1 and 0. I produced this under Cygwin on my PC. Apparently this program requires a Cygwin environment to run. Cygwin is free. if you already have it, then you will be run the program immediately. Else you will need to obtain Cygwin from the Internet and install it on your computer. I will send you the program shortly either way.

If you want to skip any at-home self test, then we can schedule a demonstration for the next few days. We can do it at my house in San Antonio. I live at [home address].

The pre-test demonstration is meant to save you and everybody concerned the time and expense of setting up a test that will not be successful.

You have claimed you can always score 66 (or better) out of 100. We will verify this by conducting multiple runs of 100 trials each. If you fail to score 66 or better on any of them it will be determined you are unable to perform as you claim. The number of runs will be agreed in advance.

All correspondence relating to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

Best regards,

John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

I followed up and sent Nathan the executable file:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 10:46:48 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

I am attaching the computer program.

John Blanton

Nathan responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 19:32:16 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hi John,

You’re very welcome for my interest, and I thank you for present/pAll correspondence related to the North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the In/div/divternet. ing the opportunity to get me one step closer to figuring out what I can do is really supernatural, preternatural, natural, or even just plain ol/p Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge/pe’ delusional.  And you can show your appreciation for my tho lt;skeptic75/emblockquote287@yahoo.comrough critique of your process by offering a thorough critique of mine with regard to this possible binary presentiment ability. That’s something I know you’re going to do anyway, so you have my thanks both in return and in advance.

I can empathize with having to juggle many hats.  That seems to be something all of my adult friends have to do.  I include myself in that set–with work, school, family obligations, volunteer work obligations, and this endeavor. It’s amazing that any of us ever get any of the things we have to get done accomplished. So yes, you definitely have my sympathy.  But even more than that, you have my gratitude for responding to my last email rather promptly despite all the other things you must handle in life.

You wrote:
“You have claimed you can always score 66 (or better) out of 100. We will verify this by conducting multiple runs of 100 trials each. If you fail to score 66 or better on any of them it will be determined you are unable to perform as you claim. The number of runs will be agreed in advance.”

I’m pretty sure  to see if I have binary presentiment, not if I can score at least 66% on every trial.  IN other words, I’m sure you would agree that I could not score 66% on every presentiment test from here to eternity, but presentiment could still be demonstrated.   It would be like a batter with a  .380 career batting average losing his or her claim as an unusully gifted batter because that one time he was 0.200. That doesn’t compute.  If I’m doing a total of 400 guesses for you and I get 300 right (for example), then I would have averaged 75% accuracy, and the chances of that happening by way of simple chance is greater than 1-in-86 septillion.    But if I got 70%, 70%, 65%, and 91% on the individual 100 trials I would have failed the Challenge despite presenting even statistically stronger proof than in any other cumulative trial set of 400  I’ve ever done, *and* despite in each trial of 100 I still managed to achieve something smaller than 00.02% that was a chance occurence in even my worst trial… all because I was one percent shy on one of the sub-tests? Not only would I have lost the Challenge, the results wouldn’t disprove to anyone with basic to advanced reasoning skills that this is binary presentiment, which is the aim of this Challenge, correct? To disprove “paranormal” claims.

No, what has just been proposed is not looking to see if I really have binary presentiment or not, it is to test if I get 66% or better every time I test, and that is not the same.   If there is a sound and scientific reason why an average of 66% right on four trials of 100 wouldn’t be confirmation that this is binary presentiment, then I’d love to hear it.   If there is no reason, then I think you mean if I fail to average 66% then I fail the Challenge, to which I agree.

As for me driving out to do this pre-Challenge and Challenge, I would like to be there next Wednesday, February 19th-20th.  Will that work for you? If so, I will make the reservations as soon as I hear from you.

Best,
Nathan

Once again Nathan has failed to provide complete details of his claimed paranormal ability. My response is to continue to assume his claim is for 66 out of 100 every time. If he wants to cllaim something else he will need to state what that is. He needs to be specific. In this light I responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 20:32:46 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

Thanks again. Here is some explanation for you.

What you have claimed is that you can score 66% every time. That is what we are going to test. If you want to change your claim and assert that you can score 66% some of the time, then I will devise a different test.

Take special note: This is not a test of mathematical probabilities. If we wanted to test probabilities, then we would just hold a lottery. It would be free for anybody to enter, and the first person to beat the odds would walk away with the prize. What we test is what people claim to be able to do, and we devise tests to eliminate virtually all chances of success by luck alone.

Here is a good time for you to reconsider if you wish. If you want to reformulate your claim, then it’s best to do that before we schedule any demonstration. In any event I will make myself available either Wednesday or Thursday of next week (19 or 20 February).

Let me know if you received the program and tested yourself with it. Remember, you need to install Cygwin, and you need to run the program in a Cygwin window.

The program has a fixed PRNG seed, so each time you run it you will get the same sequence. What this means for you is that if you are testing yourself there is no point in running more than one test. When I test you for the demonstration I will provide a different seed for each run of 100.

If you agree, then the demonstration will proceed this way:

1. I will run the test on my computer.
2. I will provide a different seed for each run.
3. You will sit at the keyboard and enter a 1 or a 0 each time the computer prompts for one.
4. You will be allowed 10 minutes for each run.
5. There will be 10 runs of 100 trials each.
6. If you fail to obtain 66 out of 100 for any run, the demonstration will stop immediately.
7. If you score 66 or better for all 10 runs you will be invited for a formal test for the Challenge and will be awarded the prize ($12,000) if you are successful.

If you think all of this is too much trouble, then you need to remember that you claim you can do this every time. If you can actually do this every time, then you will wind up making two trips to San Antonio, for which you will be paid $12,000. That’s better wages than most people can get anywhere.

Finally, if you are having difficulty with the program I sent, then I can arrange for you to test yourself without making a trip to San Antonio. I will run the program on my computer here. When prompted, you will send me your entry by e-mail. I will monitor my e-mail and provide prompt responses. Let me know it that will work for you.

All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

Best regards,

John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 02:38:47 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hi John,

Sorry for the typos in my last email to you. That’s very unbecoming of someon like me who is an aspiring science fiction novelist. My brain is not groggy now, so the wording in this email should be copacetic. Okay, so here we go…

You wrote:
> What you have claimed is that you can score 66% every time.

My mistake.  I thought my claim being presented was purely binary presentiment, but I definitely see how I worded this in a misleading way.  We can overcome this, though…

> This is not a test of mathematical probabilities.
> If we wanted to test probabilities, then we would just hold a lottery.

No, I’m pretty sure I described that the feedback needs to be a split-second after I guess, binary, bit by bit, and I have ample time for each guess; or the presentiment won’t show up in a measurable way.  In fact, I’m almost certain I’ve explained that more than once.  I’m unaware of any lottery that works that way, and I’ve certainly looked for any that does. The closest I can think of is roulette, but that darn immediate feedback issue happens.  Now, if you know of a lottery that would work, please give me a heads up, and I’ll just test if I have binary presentiment from the comfort of my home instead of doing this.

> What we test is what people claim to be able to do,

Cool, because I’m still claiming binary presentiment as what I’m seemingly able to do.

> and we devise tests to eliminate virtually all chances of success by luck alone

And that works for me.  This is good.  Multiple trials are a great way to do that.

> Here is a good time for you to reconsider if you wish. If you want to reformulate
> your claim, then it’s best to do that before we schedule any demonstration. In
> any event I will make myself available either Wednesday or Thursday of next
> week (19 or 20 February).”

Thank you for the insight and the scientific rigor. I really appreciate that.
I shared this email with a few of my skeptical friends.  One of them—the one who gives me the most frat boy grief about my claiming binary presentiment—was kind enough to play liaison here, translating what you’re saying from Skeptic-ese to something I’d understand better.  He wrote,

I think they just want to nail you down on a specific claim. You said 66/100, so they’re going with that. To some extent, you can set your own bar (above their bar for being impressed).

Imagine a crazy person who says that they can talk to animals. They start testing that, and then it turns into, oh, I can only talk to birds. So they try to test that, and then it’s oh, I can only talk to birds about music. Later it’s I can only hum to birds, and they appear disinterested. So they just want one concrete claim up front that they can test. That’s my sense anyway.

I think he’s read you correctly, and I can see where you’re coming from now.  You have my sincerest apologies for my part.  I‘ll rectify that now.

To be as specific as I possibly can be, I am interested in finally figuring out if I am demonstrating binary presentiment or not, and would like you to devise a test to do that.  The test will also be the Challenge.  Two birdies, one stone.  I do think your suggestion of multiple runs to definitively test for this possible ability is a good one, but if I were to fail to attain at least 66% on just one of the numerous runs, while doing that well or better on all the other runs in the session, that would not prove that I don’t have binary presentiment in my mind; it would prove that now the worst I’ve ever performed on a session is under 66%.  My average, however, would be even stronger proof that it actually is binary presentiment, yet I’d still have lost the Challenge. No, that won’t do.  We’ll have to come up with something that will work.  Thankfully, you and I are both great critical-thinkers and smart enough to get this done.

I normally reply point-by-point, but I jumped ahead and I see that it looks like the pre-Challenge you are proposing will include a total of 1000 individual guesses.  How many guesses out of 1000 or (I’m hoping for time’s sake) 600 would I have to get correct in order to reasonably suggest binary presentiment and pass onto the Challenge?

> Let me know if you received the program and tested yourself with it.
> Remember, you need to install Cygwin, and you need to run the
> program in a Cygwin window.

Found it in my Spam box.  It’ll be one of the first things I do in the morning. Thanks.

> The program has a fixed PRNG seed, so each time you run it you will get the
>  same sequence. What this means for you is that if you are testing yourself
>  there is no point in running more than one test. ”

Yes, I figured.  Or I could just do a session of 500 guesses, break it into 5 runs, and I would have an average for my personal records of self-testing.

> When I test you for the demonstration I will provide a different
>  seed for each run of 100.

Cool. Sounds like what I’ve been doing already.

> If you agree, then the demonstration will proceed this way:

I take it you mean pre-Challenge, because the program you emailed me is supposed to be a demo.  Am I correct here?

> 1. I will run the test on my computer.”

Mmm…okay.  But wouldn’t it be better to use a computer that neither of us had previous access to?  I’m thinking we contact a university or community college that is local to you and see if they’d be interested in hosting this pre-Challenge. Regardless if we agree to a minimum for each individual run or for the total session, this sounds like a valid issue to address.
>2. I will provide a different seed for each run.

I’m kind of skeptical of the program(s) being yours, and run by you.  Here’s the thing–you could program the response to be the opposite of what I guess at or around 50% of the time on one of the PRNGs. This is a realistic possibility.  I absolutely believe you wouldn’t do something unbecoming and tricky like that, but I try to separate what I believe from what I know, as I’m sure you do.  Would you agree that this is a valid concern on my part?  I’m thinking it would be better to have an independent 3rd party construct the PRNG or RNG, as well as to run it, which is why I suggested a local university in the first place. And I’m even cool with a community college.  There are a number of them in San Antonio to choose from.  I’d even let you pick the one, but we’d both have to agree which.  Does this make as much sense to you as it does to me or more sense?

> 3. You will sit at the keyboard and enter a 1 or a 0 each time the computer prompts for one.”

Okay.  I’m very good at sitting at a keyboard. I can do this part.

> 4. You will be allowed 10 minutes for each run.”

No way! There is absolutely no way I can do 100 guesses in ten minutes.  It sooooo does not work that way, which I clearly wrote out in my first email. In fact, I made sure that was marked as “1) Generously timed conditions (ex. 4 hours for 100 guesses, although I normally only need half that time.)”.  If you can’t find where I wrote that out, I can highlight it, because it’s definitely there in the first email.  I mean I can do 10 guesses per minute, but I’ll almost certainly wind up getting average results on at least one trial, and more likely on all of them.  In other words, if I passed the Pre-Challenge under this circumstance it wouldn’t be presentiment at work, it would be a divine miracle!

>5. There will be 10 runs of 100 trials each.”

Given my timed average (though I’d expect some additional time allotted for a Challenge and pre-Challenge), that would take me 25 hours to accomplish…without any breaks…in a day.  Yes, you’d be testing for binary presentiment, but you’d also be testing for fatigue, as well as the magical ability to add one more hour to an Earth day.  I don’t see what 10 runs for a Demo/pre-Challenge will accomplish that 4 or 5 runs won’t. Or I suppose I could do 3 sessions a day for two consecutive days.  That’s 6 runs of 100 trials each.  I’m willing to do that if the actual Challenge is on the same day or the day after (and I know what the Challenge is before I even get out there) the last pre-Challenge day.  I just can’t spend a week or so in your city, even though I’m sure the town is wonderful.

>6. If you fail to obtain 66 out of 100 for any
> run, the demonstration will stop immediately.

Drop it from “66 out of 100” to “59 out of 100,” then you have yourself a deal if you’re sticking to each and every session rather than an average over different sessions and different PRNGs. Again, it was not my intention to test if I will always score at least 66% on every test I ever take from now on. I’m just interested in seeing if I have binary presentiment.

> 7. If you score 66 or better for all 10 runs you will
>  be invited for a formal test for the Challenge and
>  will be awarded the prize ($12,000) if you are successful.

If you score 59 or better for all 6 runs you will be invited for a formal test for the Challenge and will be awarded the prize ($12,000) if you are successful.” works better for me. How about you?

We also need to discuss what exactly the Challenge is. No offense at all is intended here, but this is starting to feel a wee bit stretched out.  I rather the Challenge be logical than Herculean, but I’ll do Herculean (well, up to a point) if I must.  I am not going to do Sisyphean, though.  I don’t want to drive out there to do the pre-Challenge (please tell me that’s what you mean by the “Demo”), only to discover the details of the Challenge entail things we can’t agree on and I have to drive back empty-handed without even trying.

Regards,
Nathan (Nth)

I responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 08:37:40 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

To sum up:

Before we get serious about testing you, you need to say exactly what is it you claim to be able to do that is paranormal.

“Binary presentiment” is a term you have been using, but that does not have any meaning as far as the NTS Paranormal Challenge goes.

You need to state your claim in this manner: “I have the ability to predict the next output from a PRNG (1 or 0) at least 66 times out of 100.”

If that is what you claim, then that is what we will test. Before we set up a formal test you will be required to demonstrate that you can do that. If you fail in the demonstration, then we will conclude that your claim is false, and we will  not be interested in testing you regarding this claim.

If you successfully predict, say, 67 out of 100 trials in a session, then there are two possible explanations:

1. You really can do as you claim.
2. Your success was due to pure luck.

We need to remove all possibilities of success due to pure luck. There are tests that do not require multiple sessions to eliminate luck. Here is an example:

A person visited one of the NTS meetings several years ago, and he claimed he could walk through walls. I proposed to test this claim. We would point out a wall, and he would walk through it. If he could do it the first time we would agree he could do it the second time. He declined to be tested.

In my previous response I did mention 60 successes out of 100. I was ignoring your claim is the ability to obtain 66 out of 100. My apologies.

Yes, it’s going to be my program on my computer. Those are the rules. It’s my money, so I get to make the rules. If you do not agree with this, then we can halt the process at this point.

The term “pre-Challenge” is not one we use. We require a demonstration before I will get any of the other underwriters involved and set up a test for the prize.

Finally, it appears to me that if you are only interested in determining whether you have the ability you claim, then you can perform your own demonstration. Write a computer program and run it on your computer and see if you can predict the PRNG output as you described. If you determine that you cannot do this, then you will save everybody a lot of wasted time and money (travel expenses and such).

Remember the case of Rosemary Hunter. She claimed she could write on a piece of paper the same word I wrote on another piece of paper. I advised her to carefully verify her ability before she came out to Salt Lake City for a demonstration. She claimed she had verified her ability by testing with some friends. My guess is she did not. She went to great expense to come from Cleveland, Ohio, for a ten-minute demonstration that failed.

Be very sure you verify your ability before proceeding.

All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan makes the mistake of believing he is being specific. The term “consistently” is not anyway specific. An experimenter who says he “consistently” gets a certain result can later point to consistently getting that result every other day, or worse. I responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 11:26:42 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,
Then we are done. I believe you can obtain 66 out of 100 “consistently.” That is not a paranormal ability. I can do that myself. Come back when you can do it invariably.
All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
Best regards,

John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:09:11 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge

“Before we get serious about testing you, you need to say exactly what is it you claim to be able to do that is paranormal.”

My claim is that I can consistently–not invariably–score at least 66/100 on binary presentiment tests under the conditions I outlined in the first email.  If you don’t want to go searching for what those conditions were,  I’ll summarize them here.

1) Immediate feedback–no more than a second after I hit 1 or 0
2) Direct feedback–I see the result for myself immediately after each individual guess.
3) Generously timed conditions–At the very least 2.5 hours per session.  If I finish earlier than that, then cool beans for everyone.

Are we good now?

Best,

–Nathan (Nth)
P.S. I did your PRNG demo and got 69/100 (80 minutes). I haven’t turned it off, and will continue doing it for another 400 guesses so that I can have a total of 5 runs of 100, without starting from the beginning.  If the PRNGs I’ll be doing are like this, then I’m fine.

Take special note of Nathan’s P.S. If he did accomplish this, then his feat was remarkable. Why would this not qualify?

  1. We would have to take Nathan’s word for it.
  2. Given complete control of the program it would not be difficult to reverse engineer it, determine the value of the seed, write a similar program, run that program and learn the expected results.

Nathan sent a follow-up e-mail:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:41:27 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Fine.

I’d like to test if I can score 66/100  each and every time.  Either way the information would be useful.  But, I can’t do 100 guesses in 10 minutes.  I’ve never been able to do that, and I explained that in the very first email.

So are we back on?

Even better regards,

Nathan (Nth)

Nathan followed with this:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 17:41:53 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <Nth@groupmail.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

This may be a repeat email as I’m being told the first didn’t go through.

You know what, John? We only live once that we can prove.  I’m ready to go with the original demo you suggested and the original claim you want to test for.  I have to get at least 66% right on each run?  Okay.

However, we need to:

1. Agree that the PRNGs should be via an independent party rather than yours.
2. Come up with something better the 10 seconds per guess, as that will not work,  which I stated from day 1.
3. That the the pre-Challenge and Challenge are something I can do over no more than a three day period.
4. Discuss what the actual Challenge is.

I look forward to your response.

Cheers,

–Nathan (Nth)

So far a lot of talk, but no action. Nathan, as is the case with a number of people vying for the prize, would like to control the test. That is always a mistake. I and the other underwriters insist on complete control before we put our money out. I responded:

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2014 09:03:24 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

I am still available to see your demonstration. Note:
1. The PRNG will be mine on my computer.
2. Let me know how long you will require for each response. It had better not be a “guess,” because you are supposed to be knowing the correct response and not guessing. There has to be some reasonable limit on your response time. My time is limited.
3. There is no such thing as a pre-Challenge. If you qualify by your performance in the demonstration, then I will work with the other underwriters to set up a formal test. That will take whatever time it takes and will be more than three days.
4. We can discuss what an actual test will be: There will be a signed contract specifying what is to be done. The contract will include a clause that upon successful completion of the test (your claim is proved) you will be paid the prize by check immediately.
My position is, and what I expect to demonstrate is, that your claim is completely without merit. What you are proposing to demonstrate is known to be impossible. You are claiming to be able to do the impossible. You should not be looking forward to success.
The best advice I can give to you now is for you to demonstrate this to yourself. I believe, despite what you have told me, is that you have not performed this step. You need to do it.
Here is what you need to do before proceeding further:
1. Obtain a device that produces random sequences of 1 and 0.
2. Run the test yourself.
3. Score yourself just as I would when testing you. If you even once fail to correctly predict the correct output 66 times out of 100, then stop. You have disproved your own claim.
4. You really do not need a computer to do this. Flipping a coin produces a random sequences of heads and tails (1 and 0). Is there some reason you think this will not work whereas a computer-generated sequence would? If you believe a computer PRNG is required, please explain why.
What we at the NTS have found in the past is that claimants will play with their idea and try it several times. Then one time the result will come out the way they want, and they believe they have acquired the supposedly magical ability. Then they will stop testing and will come to us with the assertion that they have successfully tested themselves. Do not do this. You should attempt to refute your own hypothesis by all means possible. Before you proceed further I urge you take all possible steps within your ability to refute your own hypothesis. In your next e-mail response to me please tell me if you have or have not done this. If you have performed this procedure, then tell me what you did and what you observed. Be very detailed.
I’m looking forward to your response.
All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2014 16:46:49 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hi John,

Nice to see we’re tentatively back on.  Per your points:

1.  What proof do I have that my concern about any one of the PRNGs you create and run can’t be programmed by you to produce a sub par result regardless of what I guess? I need actual, conclusive proof–not your word– that it would be impossible for you to tamper with any of the ten programs to make it result in a score under 66%.  Additionally, I’d like to know your reasoning why an independent 3rd party (e.g., the math or computer science department of a college nearest to you) that creates the PRNGs per your specifications and run them instead of one of the people with a vested interest in the outcome (that would be both you and me) doing this is an unacceptable and unreasonable condition. Especially if the department is willing to proctor this for free. If you can’t come up with a good reason (“It’s my money” is not a good reason. That’s a similar argument that 3-card Monte hustlers on the street corner use for why they get to shuffle their cards), then we either get that third party or as you put it, the deal is off.

2. From the beginning I mentioned how much time I require for a run of 100 guesses. It was item #1 in the first email, in fact.  Feel free to check to make sure.  This means I told you *before* you said you want me to have only ten seconds per guess.  And I have repeated my requirement to you multiple times since then in our correspondence.  Again, my average is 2.5 hours, but I requested 4 hours just in case. The 4 hours is negotiable, but it has to be at least 2.5 hours per run.

3. Fine. Demonstration. Glad to hear it.

4. Yes, I know we can discuss what an actual test will be. That is a given.  My point is I want to hash that out now, not when I get there to San Antonio. This is for the sake of not wasting my or your time, and other $imple rea$on$. It is totally reasonable for us to have this figured out now, not when I get there, discover we can’t even agree on something for the Challenge (which was pretty darn close to being the case just through these emails regarding the Demo), and I come back home with an avoidable loss. As for your question about why don’t I just use a coin, if you (again) will just look at my very first email, I pointed out that I’ve used dice and other mechanical objects to make a mechanical RNG.  Matter of fact it’s in the very first paragraph of that very first email. If I hadn’t already explored mechanical RNGs (I’ve done four now–one nuclear, one coin, a few dice, and one CD), I wouldn’t have contacted JREF to help me find someone to establish a better testing protocol to figure out if this is really binary presentiment, and I wouldn’t have contacted you when Chip Denman couldn’t help.

As for your re-reminding me that you do not believe me when I say I’ve done this before, or that I’ve done this before under many different conditions to see what does and does not work, I’m indifferent. I see no point in recapping my testing history or getting affidavits for you. I say that because even if it is all true (which it is), you’re not testing to see if I’ve done this before.  You’re testing to see if I can do this now.  Furthermore, we should not be interested in what the other person believes. If we were just going to believe each other’s claims, then I wouldn’t be asking for the PRNGs to be created and ran by an independent 3rd party, and you wouldn’t be offering a Challenge to begin with.  No, it’s all about the empirical data and a protocol that is above scrutiny.

I gt;5. There will be 10 runs of 100 trials eadiv id=”yui_3_7_2_1_1392643703867_21593″ch.”/p pdiv id=”yui_3_7_2_1_1392643703867_22306″am also uninterested in your experiences with previous claimants (which you’ve already told me over the phone before) f3. Score yourself just as I would when testing you. If you even once fail to correctly predict the /pcorrect output 66 times out of 100, then stop. You have disproved your own claim.or the same reasons you’re uninterested in my experiences with previous testers. I see no reason to bring it up again.

However, you do raise a good point. While I have done this test somewhere between 100-200 times over the years, I’ve never done 10 tests in a row like we’re going to hopefully do if we can agree about point #1 above.  In fact, I’ve never done more than two in a day.  I’ll do three today, four tomorrow, and three on Sunday in order to better assess if that amount of testing in that amount of time lowers my lowest score.  I’ll also use a different PRNG for each test to better resemble the Demo.  Thankfully, there are at least a dozen to choose from online.  If I continue to get at least 66% right, then we’re golden.  If I get less than that, then we’ll have to do an adjustment about what my lowest %-age will be for a series of ten tests  in a row.

Now that I think about it, it looks like I’m going to have to schedule this Demo/Challenge over a weekend rather than during the middle of the week.  It’s going to be at least three days, and maybe four, depending on what the Challenge entails.  I can take one day off of work/class, but I cannot take off two.

[Pick your favorite closing],

–Nathan (Nth)

Nathan sent another note:

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:12:37 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: I have an idea.
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

John,

You wrote:

The PRNG will be mine on my computer.

I replied:

What proof do I have that my concern about any one of the PRNGs you create and run can’t be programmed by you to produce a sub par result regardless of what I guess? I need actual, conclusive proof–not your word– that it would be impossible for you to tamper with any of the ten programs to make it result in a score under 66%.  Additionally, I’d like to know your reasoning why an independent 3rd party (e.g., the math or computer science department of a college nearest to you) that creates the PRNGs per your specifications and run them instead of one of the people with a vested interest in the outcome (that would be both you and me) doing this is an unacceptable and unreasonable condition. Especially if the department is willing to proctor this for free. If you can’t come up with a good reason (“It’s my money” is not a good reason. That’s a similar argument that 3-card Monte hustlers on the street corner use for why they get to shuffle their cards), then we either get that third party or as you put it, the deal is off.

How about this:  You still get to come up with the PRNG is still yours, but the code is tested by a qualified and independent 3rd person from someone in the computer science department of the college nearest you–with you watching them to make sure they do not tamper with the code in any way. We can also arrange things in a way to make sure there is no communication between me and the third party in case you think I’m in cahoots with them.  And as soon as I get confirmation that it is not a code programmed to invariably give a result of under 66% independent of what I “guess” I immediately begin doing that run for that PRNG.  We repeat this procedure for every run.    Again, I just have to make sure there is no tampering on your part, just like you have to make sure there is none on mine.

Just trying to extend an olive branch here without compromising the integrity of the Challenge.

Best,

–Nathan (Nth)

Again Nathan is forgetting who is putting up the money for this prize. The conditions should have been clear by now, and those conditions are that we offer the prize, we set the rules. If you’re not interested in going along with our rules, then forget about going for the prize, and quit wasting everybody’s time.

More from Nathan.

Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2014 15:56:40 -0500
From: “Nathan Bar-Fields” <>
Subject: Parenthetically…
To: “John Blanton” <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

“Concerning your account of your evaluation of your previous performance results, I am quite sure you have never performed an adequate self-evaluation.”

It seems like we’ve been speaking a different language on numerous occasions, almost from the beginning.  For the record, I did not test me at Cal Berkeley’s Psychophysiology Lab back in the 1990’s.  The lab tested me. This should go without saying, but I don’t have personal access to a nuclear RNG like they did.  I also didn’t test myself at MIT’s Corkin Lab.  Again, they tested me (albeit with what I assume was a PRNG).   Yes, I do quite a lot of self-testing, but I also get tested by others.  You seem to be under the impression that I’m probably engaging in selective rememberance.  That couldn’t be further from the case. I definitely remember the failures (in fact, one of the skeptics I’ve been Bccing likes to occasionally bring one up), because they helped me figure out what to eliminate in order to isolate repeatable success.

The reason I know I need immediate feedback is because I did so abysmally on tests where the feedback was delayed. I had to do it multiple times to be sure it wasn’t a fluke.   The reason I know I need an adequate amount of time is because under speeded conditions my accuracy dropped in every session like that but one.  The reason I know I need direct feedback is because I did fantastically abysmal on a string of tests that did not employ that but were like the protocol in every other way.  The reason I know it has to be bit-by-bit rather than a string is because I  kept getting chance results over a long enough run when there was more than one digit to guess at a time.   And once it was clear that it didn’t seem to matter what the PRNG was in order for me to get the same results, it was suggested to me to try mechanical RNGs, on the suspicion that perhaps I’m doing some type of mental calculating.  I tested myself on those, and did well on everything but the dice at first (I tried to guess odd or even).  But when I painted the 3-sides white and 3-sides black, and guessed for that, then suddenly I got the results I usually get.  I then had others test me–as with the other tests– because I didn’t really trust myself.  One of those people is an on again off again member of the JREF.  Once he ran out of ideas of what could possibly be going on he suggested I contact the big boys of the organization, so I did.  That is how I eventually got to you.  I expected this exchange to go much more neutrally and productively than it did; just us focusing on creating an excellent testing protocol that is beyond reproach.  I could have potentially figured out what was really going on right here with this Challenge.  Instead we had this exchange.  That is unfortunate, but at least I now have a taste of what to expect if I choose to approach another sub-section of the Skeptic Society.

Please let me know when our correspondence (including this email) are up on your website, as I will link them to the college I contact as a reference when discussing a testing protocol to definitively figure out what’s really going on.

Thanks.

–Nathan (Nth)

I concluded with:

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2014 05:22:59 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

Thanks again for your interest in the NTS Paranormal Challenge. I am posting the correspondence on the blog today. See the link in my signature block below.

All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

Best regards,

John Blanton
http://specularphoto.com/blog/
214-335-9248

My conclusion is that Nathan is fooling himself by running inadequately controlled tests, or worse. My reason for saying this is that nobody has the ability to mentally predict the outcome of a random event. Additionally, nobody has the ability to predict the output of a pseudo random number generator by mental processes alone.

I make this statement based on a lot of past history:

  • In a history spanning hundreds of years nobody has ever demonstrated this ability.
  • Such an ability would be equivalent to predicting the outcome of a roll of dice. How come Nathan has not already been barred from all the casinos in Las Vegas?
  • The most prominent (most publicized) tests using random number generators have been at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab. This intensive study has never claimed results approaching what Nathan claims.

Wikipedia has a short write-up on the PEAR project.

PEAR employed random event generators (REGs), to explore the ability of test subjects to use telekinesis to influence the random output distribution of these devices to conform to their pre-recorded intentions to produce higher numbers, lower numbers, or nominal baselines. Most of these experiments utilized a microelectronic REG, but experiments were also conducted with a mechanical device which dropped balls down a peg-covered board. PEAR also conducted exercises involving groups of volunteers which, they claimed, produced more pronounced results. In all cases, the observed effects were very small (about one tenth of one percent), but over extensive databases they compounded to statistically significant deviations from chance behavior. The baseline for chance behavior used did not vary as statistically appropriate (baseline bind). Two PEAR researchers attributed this baseline bind to the motivation of the operators to achieve a good baseline.[9] It has been noted that a single test subject (presumed to be a member of PEAR’s staff) participated in 15% of PEAR’s trials, and was responsible for half of the total observed effect. PEAR’s results have been criticized for deficient reproducibility. In one instance two German organizations failed to reproduce PEAR’s results, while PEAR similarly failed to reproduce their own results. An attempt by York University’s Stan Jeffers also failed to replicate PEAR’s results. PEAR’s activities have also been criticized for their lack of scientific rigor, poor methodology, and misuse of statistics

Particularly telling is a statement by Nathan in the e-mail exchange:

I see no point in recapping my testing history or getting affidavits for you. I say that because even if it is all true (which it is), you’re not testing to see if I’ve done this before.  You’re testing to see if I can do this now.

That is properly indignant and also properly disingenuous. The real reason Nathan sees “no point in recapping my testing history” is 1) there is no history, or 2) he would prefer not to discuss the history.

Nathan also employs a tactic I often observe when a debater holds a weak position: He introduces extraneous points. In this case Nathan refers to “affidavits,” but I have never mentioned, nor do I require an affidavit, that is, a sworn statement. In science sworn statements really are worth the paper they are printed on.

If I hear any more about this from Nathan Bar-Fields I will update this post or else follow up with another post. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Update

4 March 2014

I have received additional correspondence from Nathan Bar-Fields:

Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge

FROM Nathan Bar-Fields TO You

Finally got around to reading it.
“If I hear any more about this from Nathan Bar-Fields I will update this post or else follow up with another post. Keep reading.”

Here you go! http://mentathlete.blogspot.com/2014/02/skeptic-paranormal-challenge.html

–Nathan (Nth)

Here is what Nathan posted on BlogSpot.com:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Skeptic Paranormal Challenge.

Hey guys,

I know I’ve been away from this blog for years, but life sort of happened. However,  I recently had something so interesting to share that I’ve decided to resurrect Mentathlete.

I’ve only casually mentioned this before, but I was a paid ESP test subject while in college.  I did unusually well on one particular type of experiment called binary ESP (also called binary intuition, binary precognition, and binary presentiment).  I didn’t think much of it during the time. It was in the category of my memory banks of “weird things I did for money” not “evidence I may have ESP.”  Testing for binary ESP is pretty simple. You have one of two choices–heads or tails, 1 or 0, male or female, etc.–and you have to predict which will randomly show up after you guess.  Chance says you should only be right 50% of the time, especially over a very long run of, say, 100 guesses. But during my testing days I always did well above chance, no less than 66% (66/100 guesses) and sometimes as high as 85%.

I mentioned that part of my history to a few of my skeptic friends years ago in a discussion, and it wasn’t until they pointed it out (with lots and lots of skepticism) that I had an inkling of how “odd” my experiences as an ESP test subject were.    My friends of course were all over that one to shred. It had to be impossible, after all. I submitted myself to all of their testing to find out–there was a lot of assumptions about what all I should be able to do, so consequently lots of variations on testing in the beginning.  This was actually good, because I eventually started figuring out what I couldn’t do, which resulted in a firmer description.

During this exploratory phase, it went from,
“I can score high on binary ESP tests” to
“I can score high on binary ESP tests if there is immediate feedback” to
“I can score high on binary ESP tests if there is immediate direct feedback”
and so on, until there was nothing else we could identify as a requirement.

After somewhere of the ballpark of 130 runs, it eventually became clear what were the requiring factors to consistently perform so robustly.

1 ) Generous amount of time to guess. I average about 2.5 hours for a run of 100 guesses.
2 ) Immediate feedback.  That is to say after I guess, I need a result in under a second.
3 )  Direct feedback.  I need to see the result for myself, not have a result reported to me by way of a second party.  This is simple if the number (I’m usually guessing “will it be 1 or 0”)  shows up on the computer screen I’m sitting in front of after I hit the button.
4 ) Feedback after each bit, not for a sequence.  So guessing for 1, then getting feedback, then 0  and getting feedback, then 1 and getting feedback works, but guessing for 101 will not.

Without these four, my results consistently return to predictable scores.

Given all the controversy over how to test for ESP, what I just described is a surprisingly simple thing to measure for if you use a good random number generator (RNG) or something mechanical like a fair coin. Yet I definitely have always done no worse than 66% on testing in the past and this should not be so unless I’m actually remembering the immediate future or there is a design flaw in the protocol that no one has yet found.  So after a lot of nagging by others and a lot of curiosity of my own, I finally mustered up the courage to have more sophisticated testing done to see what was going on, even though I had a good idea of what to expect for coming forward.

I contacted the Skeptic Society nearest to me for assistance to figure out what’s really going on here when I do this kind of test after my contacting JREF for assistance proved fruitless.  As it happens, the Skeptic group local to me sponsors a Challenge of their own, and I thought, “Hey, why not?” I must say I expected the correspondence with the Skeptic point of contact–a man by the name of John Blanton— to go much more smoothly than it did. A few bumps along the road of communication, sure, but not someone who was almost looking for a fight.   Instead, our correspondence got rather comical and very back-and-forth.*  I guess I was more disappointed than anything else, because I’d have rather flat out failed in testing than to not even get to test because my insistence that neither party be in a position where they could tamper with the RNG used was considered unreasonable.  I’m even more disappointed in his follow-up write-up because he–either intentionally or unintentionally–misconstrued quite a number of things that need to be cleared up, which I’ve done so here.  It’s a Google Doc set to be read by the public, but anyone who reads it can edit, unfortunately.

Having said that, his write-up wasn’t as bad as I thought it would have been. I can at least give him that.

For the record, I’m pretty sure that my results on this test are not paranormal.  It’s not because I don’t believe in ESP, it’s because this particular thing doesn’t “feel psychic” to me.  The closest thing I can liken it to is a stimulus-response memory, only the response precedes the stimulus in this case.  I’m also pretty suspicious–or perhaps curious–why I would be *this* consistent on this test and have such a large effect size.  It’s usually one or the other with ESP studies.

In fact, this endeavor has made me even more curious about what is going on here, so I’ll continue to do research, both on my own and collaboratively to get a definitive answer.  I swear it’s the most curious thing…

*For whatever reason many of my own emails he posted are mis-formatted, so you can sometimes only read glyphs and hypertext commands where you should be reading what I actually wrote.  I’m sure it’s just an accident, but if anyone wants an un-butchered copy just let me know as well as knowing where to send the emails.
Posted by at 11:50 PM
Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

[Some text removed]

In a follow-up e-mail Nathan sent me a link to a Goggle document:

John,

Thank you for a write-up that was fairer than I expected it to be.  Though, it is not to say I think it was completely fair or accurate.

If people only read one part of what I have to say as a response, it should be this:

I do find it strange that in all these points you brought up, the only one that was the actual deal-breaker—your eventual admission that you are either unwilling or unable to guarantee fair testing— is glaringly absent.  As I said before, whenever you can agree to fair (foolproof) testing, I will pursue the Challenge again. It’s thankfully that simple.
As for the peripherals, and those who don’t mind reading longer replies there are 8 things you mentioned that I’d like to clear up.  In some instances, it’s the third or fourth time doing so, so I’m not entirely sure a fourth or fifth time will do any better.  But it may help any unbiased person who casually comes across your blog entry about me to see a summary.

1. “Significantly, what Nathan is claiming is that he has tested himself and has obtained 66 to 85 percent success. A problem with his statement of success is the lack of any detail. He does not describe completely how the test was set up or how it was conducted. If this were a scientific study being prepared for publication, then all results from all tests would be included, and there would be a lot more detail about how the whole business was carried out.”

That’s not entirely true.  It’s true that I’ve tested myself extensively—and it’s certainly possible I did a poor job doing so, and it’s also possible I didn’t—but I’ve also been tested by others, including (but not only) by UC Berkeley’s Psychophysiology Lab and MIT’s Corkin Lab.  I‘ve mentioned this before, but for whatever reason your follow-up responses indicate it’s not registering when I say that.  In fact all of my initial testing was done by those two labs.  And yes, it’s true that I did not describe completely how the test was set up and conducted, but that had more to do with never being asked by you, and not making my emails any longer than they originally were—since one of the issues brought up over the phone conversations was that my emails were too long to read.

If you had ever asked, I would have obviously had no problem telling you.  As it stands, this is the first I’m hearing that you wanted to know this.  But I’m still not clear if you really do want to know, so I’ll just ask you.  Do you want to know the details, or was that just something to throw out there?

2. “Once again Nathan has failed to provide complete details of his claimed paranormal ability”

We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one, since I’m fairly certain that was outlined pretty clearly in the first email I sent.  I’m not sure if you recall it or not, but I proposed doing it (getting 66/100 or better) twice, which would have been almost 1-in-2 million odds of occurring by chance.  That sounds pretty detailed to me.

3. “Nathan makes the mistake of believing he is being specific. The term “consistently” is not anyway specific. “

Consistency does in fact have a specific meaning in any scientific study reliant on statistics. It is the king of predictive validators, no less.  I do apologize for assuming you knew what consistency meant. But if you had only told me that you didn’t understand I would have linked you to the technical definition.  Instead, you said “anybody can be consistent” the way I am, which didn’t really give me a lot to respond to, since your rejoinder was so over the top.

4. “So far a lot of talk, but no action. Nathan, as is the case with a number of people vying for the prize, would like to control the test. That is always a mistake. I and the other underwriters insist on complete control before we put our money out.”

My suggesting and actively seeking out an independent 3rd party in your area to verify the PRNGs used are legit is definitely *not*what one does to control the test.  It is what one does to make a test as above scrutiny as possible, and to ensure that neither party is in control of the test for obvious reasons.   As for you having complete control over the testing, I wish that was clearer, because when the Challenge says, “challengers will promptly enter into negotiations with claimant and attempt to arrive at a written protocol satisfactory to both parties” I reasonably thought it actually meant both parties negotiate about the protocol until both are satisfied.  If I had known you meant the exact opposite, I would not have wasted your time or mine.

5.  “Again Nathan is forgetting who is putting up the money for this prize. The conditions should have been clear by now, and those conditions are that we offer the prize, we set the rules.”

Actually it’s not very clear at all. In fact, the part of the Challenge I quoted in #4 response makes it sound like anything but.  You may want to reword your Challenge for future challengers, because what you wrote in it and what you are writing here are definitely two different babies.

6. “My conclusion is that Nathan is fooling himself by running inadequately controlled tests, or worse. My reason for saying this is that nobody has the ability to mentally predict the outcome of a random event. Additionally, nobody has the ability to predict the output of a pseudo random number generator by mental processes alone.”

No, that is not indignant.  That was simply factual for the very reasons I outlined. I do apologize if you took it that way, though. As for you claiming to know “the real reason,” without any evidence to support the claim, well, I’ll just let the irony sink in in its own time.

I have *no* problem discussing the history of my testing with you or anyone else. In fact I have discussed it numerous times elsewhere in cyberspace.  As a matter of fact the email exchange we first had had some of the people who’ve tested me Bcc’d.  Mind you, two of them still don’t think it’s ESP, but they do think it’s something and are as interested as I am in figuring out what that something is. The problem was (again) you never asked me this, didn’t really seem interested, and also complained that my emails were too long.  Describing the entire history—which I did for you in a later email anyway—would definitely have been another case of my writing something that was too long for you.  It is starting to sound like no matter what I do, you’ll find a fault.  An exchange is too long.  Fine, I make it shorter.  Aha! Now it’s evidence I’m omitting things!  See what I mean?

“Nathan also employs a tactic I often observe when a debater holds a weak position: He introduces extraneous points. In this case Nathan refers to “affidavits,” but I have never mentioned, nor do I require an affidavit, that is, a sworn statement. In science sworn statements really are worth the paper they are printed on.”

To be fair, you also didn’t ask for my testing history either.   I was just anticipating what all you could likely bring up in the future. It seemed reasonable to me that you’d possibly ask for affidavits.   I was just saying I can get them if you ever ask in the future, but it’s still irrelevant because they’d have no bearing on our proposed testing. So no, this is actually an example of the exact opposite of what you’re seeing into what I wrote.

Which is kind of why I contacted you to begin with! 😀  Believe me, I know enough about statistics and clinical testing to recognize my results are “absurd” as you’ve put it.  That isn’t what I’m questioning.  I’m questioning why they are absurd. You’ve mentioned several times that it’s probably due to me somehow fooling myself as the reason (though that overlooks that it would also have to be sloppy testing by those who tested me and the institutions that tested me as well).  The thing is until your “conclusion” is actually tested and tested properly, it’s not a conclusion, it’s a just a strong belief.  Plus your conclusion relies heavily on fallacious thinking (ecological fallacy, appeal to probability, begging the question…).   So I look at your “conclusion” and think okay, let’s test if it’s an inadequacy issue.   In fact, I’m eager to do just that.  The testing just has to be done fairly, which I’m surprised is even up for debate. One of the big complaints leveled at parapsychologists is that the testing they do is sloppy, after all.  We don’t want to do sloppy testing, do we? We want to do better than that.

7.  “In a history spanning hundreds of years nobody has ever demonstrated this ability.”

Okay.  That sounds like the ecological fallacy again, with a dash of appeal to history.  No one ran a mile in under 4 minutes until Roger Bannister did so.  I couldn’t imagine telling Bannister he couldn’t run a mile in under 4 minutes because no one in a history spanning a hundred years has done so before him.  No, I would just say, Okay, let’s see you run a mile in under 4 minutes. The only thing I can offer to counter fallacious thinking is critical-thinking, but it’s up to you to see it as such or not.

“Such an ability would be equivalent to predicting the outcome of a roll of dice. How come Nathan has not already been barred from all the casinos in Las Vegas?”

Well, again you would just have to ask me. You never did, and this is the first I’m seeing this question from you.  Here is the answer. When I first decided to use dice, I chose to predict if the roll would result in either an odd or even number to make it binary. My results wound up being chance.  So I then painted the odd sides white and the even sides black. It was only then—guessing if the roll would be black or white—that I wound up getting the very high results that I usually get. While impressive, this would not help me at the casino with gambling games that rely on dice.  Roulette is also something people suggest, but the time delay (remember the immediate feedback   requirement) is an issue.  So while what I do in testing is statistically equivalent to the casino scenario, it is not so procedurally.  And again, the binary presentiment only shows up for me under the protocol I outlined in the first email.

“The most prominent (most publicized) tests using random number generators have been at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab. This intensive study has never claimed results approaching what Nathan claims.”

Yes, that is definitely the ecological fallacy at play again, along with that dash of appeal to history we talked about.  I’m not sure what else I can say about that.

8. “Me: I see no point in recapping my testing history or getting affidavits for you. I say that because even if it is all true (which it is), you’re not testing to see if I’ve done this before.  You’re testing to see if I can do this now.

John: That is properly indignant and also properly disingenuous. The real reason Nathan sees “no point in recapping my testing history” is 1) there is no history, or 2) he would prefer not to discuss the history.”

No, that is not indignant.  That was simply factual for the very reasons I outlined. I do apologize if you took it that way, though. As for you claiming to know “the real reason,” without any evidence to support the claim, well, I’ll just let the irony sink in in its own time.

I have *no* problem discussing the history of my testing with you or anyone else. In fact I have discussed it numerous times elsewhere in cyberspace.  As a matter of fact the email exchange we first had had some of the people who’ve tested me Bcc’d.  Mind you, two of them still don’t think it’s ESP, but they do think it’s something and are as interested as I am in figuring out what that something is. The problem was (again) you never asked me this, didn’t really seem interested, and also complained that my emails were too long.  Describing the entire history—which I did for you in a later email anyway—would definitely have been another case of my writing something that was too long for you.  It is starting to sound like no matter what I do, you’ll find a fault.  An exchange is too long.  Fine, I make it shorter.  Aha! Now it’s evidence I’m omitting things!  See what I mean?

“Nathan also employs a tactic I often observe when a debater holds a weak position: He introduces extraneous points. In this case Nathan refers to “affidavits,” but I have never mentioned, nor do I require an affidavit, that is, a sworn statement. In science sworn statements really are worth the paper they are printed on.”

To be fair, you also didn’t ask for my testing history either.   I was just anticipating what all you could likely bring up in the future. It seemed reasonable to me that you’d possibly ask for affidavits.   I was just saying I can get them if you ever ask in the future, but it’s still irrelevant because they’d have no bearing on our proposed testing. So no, this is actually an example of the exact opposite of what you’re seeing into what I wrote.

I will leave it up to readers to analyze the foregoing interchange. If Nathan is available to provide a demonstration that takes less than an hour, then I will be interested in seeing it. If Nathan is willing to provide specifics of successful self tests he has performed, then I will be interested in reviewing these details.

It’s up to Nathan: Show me what you’ve got.