Not Ready to Shift–Need More Proof!

There is definitely something to be said for the social phenomenon of ostracizing the unknown. We all are prone to becoming defensive of our current beliefs. However, when Galileo suggested that the Earth was round, there was no reason for people to want this to be true; it was a new idea without any positive implications, as it challenged the Catholic Church’s belief that Earth was the center of the universe. This isn’t to say Galileo should ever have been imprisoned, but simply that the situation was much different than our present situation with remote viewing.


Right now, there isn’t any reason why one wouldn’t want to believe in remote viewing. If proved to be true, remote viewing would provide a number of benefits. It could be used for the military, the police force, locating lost objects, etc–the list goes on! So why, then, would people want to ignore the plausibility for such an idea? The reality of the situation is simply that there isn’t enough evidence at this point to support the idea of remote viewing, and until adequate scientific conclusions can be made and replicated, we can’t rely completely on its validity.

 

Who Says Consciousness is Trainable?

In arguing that remote viewing can be taught through training our consciousness, one suggests that consciousness is a separate entity from the brain. Consciousness is a scientific mystery and there are many theories that exist regarding its origin. It has yet to be proven that consciousness isn’t defined by a monistic philosophy: that mind and matter are the same “stuff”. Remote viewing suggests a philosophy of Dualism, that there is a rigid distinction between mind and matter. It also suggests that there is such thing as a collective conscious, that our minds are all entangled somehow and interact with one another. In reality, it is very possible that the physiological processes that occur in our brains directly manifest our individual consciousnesses.

 

Reply to ‘CIA Sponsorship of Remote Viewing’

It is often said that the CIA sponsored SRI team produced successful trials of remote viewing. However, the word “successful” is yet another subjective characteristic. While there were some instances where the pictures drawn by the remote viewers matched the pictures present at the site, these were only a few out of hundreds and hundreds. This brings us back to the idea of the confirmation bias: where researchers (and in this case, military officials) look for evidence that remote viewers could actually match their assigned sites because they would like to believe in the reliability of remote viewing.

Over 24 years, $ 20 million was invested in this program; however, in the grand scheme of government investments, particularly over such an extended period of time, this is merely a blip on the government’s financial radar. On that same note–why did the funding stop? As researcher French points out: “It strikes me as incredible that funding would be terminated for such a promising program (with inherent risk that other nations would gain a lead in terms of psychic warfare) if the results produced were really so impressive” (French, 2010). Additionally, the fact that all participants have fully disclosed the details of their experiences with the government to the public, and that these participants have not since been apprehended by the CIA, one can assume these experiences were not deemed entirely crucial and valuable to CIA affairs.

Problem: Lack of Reliability

Whether or not psi phenomena exist or not, the current psychological studies have failed to provide adequate evidence at this moment. Researcher Christopher C. French provides an extremely reasonable review of several experiments which have investigated psi and remote viewing. He considers himself to be a “moderate skeptic,” and while he doesn’t doubt the potential for us ever to discover the existence of remote viewing, he argues that “further thought needs to be given to the strengths and limitations of meta-analysis [which] parapsychologists… appear to have embraced… as providing the royal road to scientific respectability.” Meta-analysis is the examination of an experiment by the experimenter, and there are several implications of this act which call to question the results of said experiment. French continues, “Parapsychologists are not only carrying out an essential service for their own discipline by attempting to resolve these issues but are also helping other disciplines that employ meta-analysis… At this stage it would appear to be premature for parapsychology to put all its eggs into the meta-analytic basket.” Therefore, it seems to be the case that the basis for deeming these experiments worthy of proving a genuine psi effect is hinged largely, if not entirely, on the artifact of researcher bias. Because these reports are rooted in biased, subjective meta-analysis, it is also very difficult for these experiments to be replicated.

This isn’t the only bias, in fact. Those entering the paranormal field for the first time will have no problem finding a book to support paranormal activities, such as remote viewing. However, often times, readers fail to realize that these books are uncritical accounts with little scientific evidence. This is due to the fact the publishers see the topics like remote viewing to be opportunities to sell, because surely one would rather read experiential anecdotes suggesting this phenomenon is real, as opposed to murky lab results that are open to interpretation (French, 2010).

Ultimately, it becomes a question of reliability. Can we trust that information is published to inform rather than entertain? Additionally, meta-analyses result in a lack of replicability; not only do these experiments fail to replicate one another, but meta-analyses are open to too many different interpretations.  

 

Remote Viewing: Nothing More Than a Magician’s Trick?

It has been proven that only 7% of the population does not believe, whatsoever, in any kind of paranormal phenomena. Could it be that this isn’t due to the actual existence of such paranormal phenomena? And if so, why do so many people believe in these supernatural forces?

The growth of the Internet is the first thing to consider, and as knowledge of psi phenomena grows, so does the number of imitations. Fraud has become more prevalent, as it’s been made easy for people to claim supernatural ability and to accrue web followers. In fact, many people who claim to have supernatural ability have been unable to execute their abilities while under scientifically controlled conditions. Targ and Puthoff, famous scientists from within the remote viewing field, argue that their performances may have been strained by the scientific environment, but how can such abilities be validated unless regulated? (Perlman, 2001)

There is also a greater psychological process occurring here on the perception end of such events–a process that innately wires us to make sense of that which we cannot explain. Psychologist Bruce Hood argues that since birth, we have conditioned ourselves to “fill in the gaps” of unexpected events. He uses the term “intuitive reasoning” to explain how our brains build theories of the world to explain unobservable events– it’s all a matter of how we perceptually process information gaps.  When babies are shown a magic trick, in which an object is originally held in one’s hand, and then disappears “mysteriously,” most babies express shock in their facial expressions. As Dr. Hood argues: “I believe that these misconceptions of naive intuitive theories provide the basis of many later adult magical beliefs.” These intuitive theories are so strong that even the most rational of people and scientists can be biased toward irrational reasoning. (Hood, 2006)

The second part of Hood’s argument is that humans tend to perceive events as a unquestionably linked. He adds, “Humans are causal determinists; we cannot help but experience the world as a continuous sequence of events and outcomes.” For example, when we are thinking about someone and they call us, we can’t help but think this wasn’t a coincidence. In reality, these things are usually reigned by chance, but they stick out in our memories because they are unusual. (Hood, 2006)

It seems that belief in remote viewing could very likely be explained by the ideas of intuitive theory and causal determinism. When a remote viewers predictions match the actual site, we immediately think this is out of the ordinary, and so we may believe that this can only be explained by a supernatural ability–that because one statement is (perhaps even vaguely) accurate, remote viewing is unquestionably validated. But are we no more observant than our infant selves? Our response to such events is very similar to our responses to magic tricks–we immediately attribute our lack of understanding to paranormal activity before considering what other force may be responsible–be it fraud or chance.

 

Reasons to Doubt Joseph McMoneagle

 

The host of “Put to the Test” narrated this testing of remote viewing. Upon first considering many of the statements concluded from McMoneagles attempt, this showing of remote viewing may seem very convincing. However, if you really consider each observation McMoneagle draws, you can see that each was much more general than we think.

A blogger from skeptoid.com did a very estute analysis of what actually might have happened in this experiment. As mentioned above, the researchers narrowed down the possible locations to four: a water slide at an amusement park, a dock along the river, a water wall, and a cement water fountain structure. McMoneagle observed that the location was near a river; not only is Houston famous for its rivers, but this observation would have applied to both the waterslide and the river dock. The next claim McMoneagle made was that there were perpendicular lines at the site, but in reality, most sites have perpendicular lines. He also claims that there was a pedestrian footbridge, which much more closely matches the description of the tree house and the waterslide. Spectators were also impressed by his guess that there was something large nearby that wasn’t a building–a statement which could be applied to any of the four drawings. And these are the statements that were emphasized in comparing his claims to the actual site–the television program failed to mention the statements which didn’t line up. McMoneagle predicted the woman at the site was on an incline, and that the dock was flat; he also mentioned a platform with a black stripe that is similarly nowhere to be seen. (Skeptoid, 2010)

As skeptoid points out: “Those were the only statements of Joe’s that they broadcast. Strangely, at no point did they ask McMoneagle to identify the location; they did not even ask him to choose from the four possibilities. Instead, they simply took him to the actual destination where the target person was, which turned out to be the dock, and the set out about finding matches to the actual destination.” (Skeptoid, 2012)

What I’m trying to get at here is that often times, people look for evidence when they want to believe something. This is a psychological tendency known as the confirmation bias.