Exposing PseudoAstronomy

December 9, 2011

Skeptiko Host Alex Tsakiris on Monster Talk / Skepticality, and More on How to Spot Pseudoscience


Introduction

A few weeks ago, I learned that the popular Monster Talk podcast would be interviewing Skeptiko podcast host, Alex Tsakiris. They ended up later posting it instead on their Skepticality podcast feed, and the interview also was episode 153 of Skeptiko; it came out about two weeks ago. The interviewers from Monster Talk are Blake Smith, Ben Radford, and Karen Stollznow (the last of whom I have the pleasure of knowing). Got all that?

If the name Alex Tsakiris sounds familiar but you can’t quite place it and you’re a reader of this blog, you probably recognize it from the two previous posts I’ve written about him on this blog. The first was on the purpose of peer-review in science because Alex (among others) were talking about how peer-review was a flawed process and also that you should release results early without having a study completed.

Fourteen months later, I wrote another post on Alex, this one being rather lengthy: “Skeptiko Host Alex Tsakiris: On the Non-Scientifically Trained Trying to Do/Understand Science.” The post garnered a lot of comments (and I’ll point out that Alex posted in the comments and then never followed-up with me when he said he would … something he accuses skeptics of not doing), and I think it’s one of my best posts, or at least in the top 10% of the ~200 I’ve written so far.

This post should be shorter than that 2554-word one*, despite me being already in the fourth paragraph and still in the Introduction. This post is further commenting on not the actual substance of Alex Tsakiris’ claims, but rather on the style and format and what those reveal about fundamental differences between real scientists and pseudoscientists. I’m going to number the sections with the points I want to make. Note that all timestamps below refer to the Skeptiko version.

*After writing it, it’s come out to 3437 words. So much for the idea it’d be shorter.

Point 1: Establishing a Phenomenon Before Studying It

About 8 minutes into the episode, Karen talks with Alex about psychics, and Alex responds, “If you’re just going to go out and say, as a skeptic, ‘I’m just interested in going and debunking a psychic at a skeptic [sic] fair,’ I’m gonna say, ‘Okay, but is that really what you’re all about?’ Don’t you want to know the underlying scientific question?”

Alex raises an interesting point that, at first glance, seems to make perfect sense. Why belittle and debunk the crazies out there when you could spend your valuable time instead investigating the real phenomenon going on?

The problem with this statement – and with psi in general – is that it is not an established phenomenon that actually happens. Psi is still in the phase where it has yet to be conclusively shown to exist under strictly controlled situations, and it has yet to be shown to be reliable in its predictions/tenants. By this, I mean that psi has yet to be shown to be repeatable by many independent labs and shown to be statistically robust in its findings. I would note the obvious that if it had been shown to be any of these, then it would no longer be psi/alternative, it would be mainstream.

Hence, what the vast majority of skeptics are doing is going out and looking at the very basic question of does the phenomenon exist in the first place? If it were shown to exist, then we should spend our time studying it. Until then, no, we should not waste time trying to figure out how it happens. This really applies to pretty much everything, including UFO cases. In that situation, one has to establish the validity by exploring the claims before one looks at the implications, just like with alleged psychics.

A really simple if contrived example is the following: Say I want to study life on Io, a moon of Jupiter. I propose a $750 million mission that will study the life there with cameras, voice recording, chemical sensors, the works. I would propose to hire linguists to try to figure out what the beings on Io are saying to the probe, and I’d propose to hire biologists to study how they could survive on such a volcanic world. NASA rejects my proposal. Why? Because no one’s shown that life actually exists there yet, so why should they spend the time and money to study something they don’t know is actually there? And, not only that, but Io is so close to Jupiter that it’s bathed in a huge amount of radiation, and it is so volcanically active that it completely resurfaces itself every 50 years, making even the likelihood of life existing there very slim.

Point 2: Appeal to Quantum Mechanics

I’ll admit, I have a visceral reaction whenever I hear a lay person bring up quantum mechanics as evidence for any phenomenon not specifically related to very precisely defined physics. At about 12.5 minutes into the episode, Alex states quite adamantly that materialism (the idea that everything can be explained through material things as opposed to an etherial consciousness being needed) “is undermined by a whole bunch of science starting with quantum mechanics back a hundred years ago … .”

It’s really simply basically practically and all other -ly things untrue. Alex does not understand quantum mechanics. Almost no lay person understands quantum mechanics. The vast majority of scientists don’t understand quantum mechanics. Most physicists don’t understand quantum mechanics, but at least they know to what things quantum mechanics applies. Alex (or anyone) making a broad, sweeping claim such as he did is revealing more their ignorance of science than anything else.

Unless I’m mistaken and he has a degree in physics and would like to show me the math that shows how quantum mechanics proves materialism is wrong. Alex, if you read this, I’d be more than happy to look at your math.

You will need to show where quantum mechanics shows that consciousness – human thoughts – affect mater at the macroscopic level. Or, if you would like to redefine your terms of “consciousness” and “materialism,” then I will reevaluate this statement.

(For more on quantum mechanics and pseudoscience, I recommend reading my post, “Please, Don’t Appeal to Quantum Mechanics to Propagate Your Pseudoscience.”)

Point 3: Appeal to Individual Researchers’ Results Is a Fallacy

A habit of Alex is to relate the results of individual researchers who found the same psi phenomenon many different times in many different locations (as he does just after talking about quantum mechanics, or about 45 minutes into the episode where they all discuss this, or throughout the psychic detective stuff such as at 1:30:30 into the episode). Since I’ve talked about it at length before, I won’t here. Succinctly, this is an argument from authority, plain and simple. What an individual finds is meaningless as far as general scientific acceptance goes. Independent people must be able to replicate the results for it to be established as a phenomenon. The half dozen people that Alex constantly points to does not trump the hundreds of people who have found null results and the vast amount of theory that says it can’t happen (for more on that, see Point 6).

For more on this, I recommend reading my post on “Logical Fallacies: Argument from Authority versus the Scientific Consensus” where I think I talk about this issue quite eloquently.

It’s also relevant here to point out that a researcher may have completely 100% valid and real data, but that two different people could reach very different conclusions. Effectively, the point here, which is quite subtle, is that conclusions are not data. This comes up quite dramatically in this episode about 22.3 minutes in when discussing the “dogs that know” experiment; in fact, my very point is emphasized by Ben Radford at 24 min 05 sec into the episode. For more on this sub-point, I recommend reading my post from last year‘s Point 1.

Point 4: Investigations Relying on Specific Eyewitness Memories Decades After the Fact = Bad

The discussion here starts about 36 minutes into the episode, stops, and resumes briefly about 50 minutes in, and then they go fully into it at 1 hour 13 minutes in*. For background, there is a long history of Alex looking into alleged psychic detectives, and at one point he was interviewing Ben Radford and they agreed to jointly investigate Alex’s best case of this kind of work and then to hash out their findings on his show. This goes back to 2008 (episode 50), but it really came to a head with episode 69 in mid-2009 where they discussed their findings.

Probably not surprisingly, Alex and Ben disagreed on the findings and what the implications were for psychic detectives (Nancy Weber in this case). If you are genuinely interested in this material, I recommend listening to the episodes because there is much more detail in there than I care to discuss in this quickly lengthening post. The basic problems, though, were really two-fold — Ben and Alex were relying on police detectives remembering specific phrases used by the alleged psychic from a case almost 30 years old (from 1982), and they disagreed on what level of detail counted as a “hit” or “miss.”

For example, when Ben talked with the detectives, they had said the psychic told them the guy was “Eastern European” whereas they had separately told Alex that she had told them the guy was “Polish.” Alex counted it as a hit, Ben a miss. I count it as a “who knows?” Another specific one they talk about in this interview is “The South” versus “Florida” with the same different conclusions from each.

To these points, both scientists and skeptics (and hopefully all scientists are appropriately skeptical, as well) I think can learn a lot when looking into this type of material.

First, I personally think that this was a foolish endeavor from the get-go to do with an old case. Effectively every disagreement Ben and Alex had was over the specific phrasing which, unless every single thing the alleged psychic says is recorded, you are never going to know for sure what she said. Human memory simply is not that reliable. That is a known fact and has been for many years (sources 1 and 2, just to name a couple). Ergo, I think the only proper way to investigate this kind of phenomenon where you have disagreements between skeptics and other people is to wait for a new case and then document every single part of it.

Second, one needs to determine a priori what will count as a hit or miss (“hit” being a correct prediction, “miss” being wrong). In the above example, if they had agreed early on that Nancy Weber only needed to get the region of the planet correct, then it would be a hit. If she needed to get the country (first example) or state (second example) correct, it would be a miss under what the detectives told Ben. This latter point is the one that is more relevant in scientific endeavors, as well. Usually this is accomplished through detailed statistics in objective tests, but in qualitative analyses (more relevant in things like psychiatric studies), you have to decide before you give the test what kinds of answers will be counted as what, and then you have to stick with that.

It should be noted that hits vs. misses was not the actual crux of the disagreement, however. It was the level of specificity the psychic claimed (“Polish”) versus what the detectives told Ben they remembered (“Eastern European”), and then the broader picture to how well that information will help solve a case.

I actually encounter the same thing when grading essays. This is one reason why teachers in science classes like multiple-choice questions more than essays (besides the time it takes to grade): It’s much more quantitative to know the answer is (A) as opposed to parsing through an essay looking for a general understanding of the question being asked.

*I’ll warn you that this goes on for about a half hour and it’s somewhat difficult to listen to with all the shouting going on. If you’re scientifically/skeptically minded, listening to this is going to make you want to smack Alex. If you’re psi/alternative minded, listening to this is going to make you want to smack Ben. This is why I try not to get into the specifics of the exact case but rather point out the process and where the process is going wrong here.

Point 5: Confusing Different Causes for a Single Effect

About 41 minutes into the episode and then for several minutes on, the conversation turned to the idea that psychics help with the grieving process. The reaction from me (and then the hosts) was pretty much, “Duh!” As Blake points out just before the 43 minute mark, “How many times did the [psychic] say, ‘Oh gee! That person’s in Hell!'” Thus, probably, not helping the grieving process.

The conversation steered along the lines of the three hosts of Monster Talk trying to point out that yes, the effect of the alleged psychic talking with the grieving person is that the grieving person felt better. But was the cause (a) because the person was actually psychic, or (b) because the person was telling the grieving people what they wanted to hear that their loved one was happy and still with them and they would join them when they died?

Alex obviously is of the former opinion (after pulling out yet another argument from authority that I talked about in Point 3 above). The others are of the latter. But the point I want to pull from this is something that all scientists must take into account: If they see an effect, there could be causes other than or in addition to their own preferred explanation. That’s really what this case that they talk about boils down to.

For example, we want to know how the moon formed. There are many different hypotheses out there including it formed with Earth, it was flung off Earth, it was captured, it was burped out, or a Mars-sized orbit crashed into Earth and threw off material that coalesced into the moon. I may “believe” in the first. Another person may in the last. We both see the same effect (the moon exists and has various properties), but how we got that effect probably only had one cause. Which one is more likely is the question.

Point 6: It’s Up to the Claimant to Provide the Evidence

I know I’ve discussed this before, but I can’t seem to find the post. Anyway, this came up just before the 52 minute mark in the episode, that Alex frequently states it’s up to the debunkers to debunk something, not for the claimant to prove it. (To be fair, in this particular interview, Alex kinda says he never said that at first, he only says it when it’s a paradigm shift kinda thing that’s already shifted … which it so has not in this case. But then he does say it …)

Blake: I think most skeptical people believe that whenever you’re making a claim that you have the burden of proof every time. And it never shifts …

Alex:… And they’re wrong because that’s not how science works. Science works by continually asking hard, tough questions and then trying to resolve those the best you can.

I’m really not sure where Alex gets this first sentence (the second sentence is correct, but it and the first are not mutually exclusive). It’s simply wrong. In no field is this a valid approach except possibly psi from Alex’s point of view. If you make a claim, you have to support it with evidence that will convince people. If I say I can fly, it shouldn’t be up to you to prove I can’t, it should be up to me to prove I can. It’s that simple. And Alex gets this wrong time after time.

This is further evidence (see Point 2 above) that Alex has no actual concept of science and how it works. And before you accuse me of ad hominems, I’m stating this in an objective way from the data — his own statements that have not been quote-mined (go listen to the episodes yourself if you don’t believe me).

But it continues:

Ben: So who does have the burden of proof?

Alex: Everybody has the burden of proof and that’s why we have scientific peer-reviewed journals, the hurdles out there that you have to overcome to establish what’cha know and prove it in the best way you can. It gets back to a topic we kinda beat to death on Skeptiko and that’s this idea that also hear from skeptic [sic], ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.’ Well of course that’s complete nonsense when you really break it down because scientifically the whole reason we have science is to overcome these biases and prejudices that we know we have. So you can’t start by saying ‘Well, I know what’s extraordinary in terms of a claim, and I know what would be extraordinary in terms of a proof,’ well that’s counter to the idea of science. The idea of science is it’s a level playing field, everybody has to rise above it by doing good work and by publishing good data.

(Ben Radford corrects Alex on this point about 54.7 minutes into the episode; feel free to listen, but also know that the points he makes are not the ones I do below. Well, maybe a bit around 56 minutes.)

I know I’ve talked about this before, but not in these exact terms. What Alex is talking about – and getting wrong – without actually realizing it is how a hypothesis becomes a theory and the lengths one has to go to to overturn a theory. That’s what this nugget boils down to.

If you’re not familiar with the basic terminology of what a scientist means by a fact, hypothesis, theory, and law, I recommend reading one of my most popular posts that goes into this. The issue at hand is that it is effectively established theory that, say, people cannot psychically communicate with each other (yes, I know science can’t prove a negative and there’s no Theory of Anti-Psi, but go with me on this; it’s why I said “effectively”). Even if it’s not an exact theory, there are others that are supported by all the evidence that show this isn’t possible nor plausible.

Ergo, to overturn all those theories that together indicate psi can’t happen, you have to have enough convincing and unambiguous data to (a) establish your phenomenon and (b) explain ALL the other data that had backed up the previous theories and been interpreted to show psi is not real.

This is summarized as, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” That’s the phrase, not “proof,” which in itself shows yet again that Alex misses some fundamental tenants of science: You can never prove anything 100% in science, you can only continue to gather evidence to support it. “Proof” does not exist, just like “truth,” as far as science is concerned.

Final Thoughts

Well, this post ended up longer than I had initially planned, and it took several hours not the least of which is because I listened to the episode twice and it’s almost two hours long. I hope that through this I’ve been able to illustrate several points that you and everyone needs to watch out for when evaluating claims.

To quickly recap:

  1. You need to establish that a phenomenon exists before studying it.
  2. Don’t appeal to quantum mechanics unless you actually know what quantum mechanics is.
  3. A single or small group of researchers’ results are not convincing, no matter who they are.
  4. If you want to study something that supposedly happens every day, don’t choose an example that’s 30 years old.
  5. A single effect can have multiple or different causes, including one that you don’t like.
  6. The person making the claim has the burden of evidence … always.

In the end, I’ll admit that this was personally hard to listen to in parts. I took issue with Alex constantly refusing to admit certain things like the detectives saying one thing to him and another to Ben and saying Ben was lying about it and that he should say (what he didn’t say) to the detectives’ faces. That was just hard to listen to. Or Alex’s refusal to directly answer some questions in ways that would have made a politician proud. Another point that was hard to listen to but oh so sweet in the end was Alex claiming that Karen had invited him on but Karen said that Alex had invited himself on. Alex insisted that wasn’t true and said Karen was wrong and he had the transcript … and then a few seconds later the transcript was read and Alex clearly had invited himself onto their show.

But, those are my personal and more emotional observations after listening to this. Do those change what we can learn about the scientific process and where pseudoscientists go wrong? No. Alex Tsakiris continues to unwittingly provide excellent examples of how not to do science.

15 Comments »

  1. Just a few quick observations/thoughts I had while reading:

    A phenomenon being “established” is subjective. One man’s phenomenon may be another man’s B.S. So saying something is worthy of investigation, while it may not be under one scientist’s reasoning, another may have completely different reasoning that leads them to investigate the existence of a claim or experience. i.e. A physicist may think psi is garbage and not find it worthy of scientific attention, or not an ‘established phenomenon”, but a psychologist may be fascinated with the belief in psi abilities and therefore find it extremely worthwhile.

    From what I know about the research of psi, there has been statistically significant results, sometimes repeatable. Even Sam Harris has pointed this out. So, considering in some cases and in some ways, a phenomenon has been ‘established’. Unfortunately, when something is not repeatable multiple times or on command, it tends to be dismissed. However, this doesn’t mean that something is not happening.

    There have been many criticisms, historically and currently, of the scientific process. Even by scientists themselves. Recently, most notably, criticism about the peer review process. While it does work better than anything else we may have at our disposal, it is not a perfect process, as any true scientist would admit.

    Lastly, Karen did invite Alex onto Monster Talk when she was interviewed on Skeptiko. I don’t know what transcript he was reading on the podcast b/c I have not listened to it yet (I’m a bit behind on the drama as it has played out), but the invite was on a transcript on the Skeptiko website:

    “Dr. Karen Stollznow: Oh, and I don’t think he (**meaning Ben Radford**) would deny that. I think he’s happy to do that and I think there are external issues that I should not treat myself today. Not here now. But I do extend the invitation to you for MonsterTalk, to be on our show, and we’ll talk about the topic of your choice.” Link: http://www.skeptiko.com/karen-stollznow-on-psychic-science/ . Not that it really matters, but the fact remains.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a “fan” of Alex Tsarkiris, I am not a believer of psi, and I am not anti-science. I only wish to point out the logical statements that jumped out at me while reading.

    Now, I’m off to listen to the podcast….. 😛

    Comment by Misty — December 9, 2011 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

    • Some quick points: Yes, peer-review is flawed, but as you said, it’s the best thing we have out there. I’ve written extensively on peer-review, and most recently on retractions with a case study just afterwards.

      As for Alex inviting himself on, I’m referring to episode 129 and I searched for the first mention of “Monster.” What came up is the following:

      Dr. Karen Stollznow: I’m not about to speak on Ben’s behalf, but it seems to me like the story’s still open.

      Alex Tsakiris: Ben is-this is not a point I was going to get into but Ben is welcome at any time to come on and defend himself–or not even defend himself-or to present his side of the case. Or invite me onto MonsterTalk. Happy to do that. It’s just…

      The line you’re quoting happened several seconds later, after Alex said, “invite me onto MonsterTalk.” You’re right, though, it’s a minor point that has nothing to do with the merits of the scientific process I wanted to emphasize, and that’s why I put it at the end.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 9, 2011 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

  2. It’s wonderful that Stuart used the example of Jupiter and its moon Io as an example, especially about Io’s surface, etc. That information just happened to be published some five months BEFORE NASA’s “official discovery” of it by none other than…Billy Meier, the living nemesis of the all things rigidly, unscientifically skeptical.

    An additional delightful fact is that a skeptic who set out to “debunk” Meier’s Jupiter-Io information actually ended up confirming it:

    http://theyfly.com/Meier-Jupiter-Info.htm

    And now that Meier’s verifiably previously published information is being corroborated at a a steady rate:

    http://theyflyblog.com/?s=spinach

    …the deafening silence from the fundamentalist skeptical pseudo-scientists may indicate that they are in deep medita… ooops, I mean thought about how to combat, ignore, attack, or otherwise pretend that the elephant isn’t sitting in the room.

    One may enjoy reading Stuart’s pseudo-scientific sophistry, as well as that of his supporters in the peanut gallery here:

    https://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/new-interview-on-the-conspiracy-skeptic-podcast/

    As luck would have it, I’m being interviewed on C2C (we all know what show that stands for) on Sunday night. I do hope to have the opportunity to mention Meier’s verifiably preemptively published (PROPHETICALLY accurate) Jupiter-Io information…and Stuart’s very Church-like refusal to look through the telescope.

    P.S. Why do I have the funny feeling that Stuart chose to mention UFO cases and the Jupiter-Io information just to get me to…liven things up here?

    Comment by Michael Horn — December 9, 2011 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

    • Your conspiracy senses tingle at the slightest bit of unrelated information. I chose Io because it’s one of the most inhospitable worlds in the solar system other than Venus, but we can actually see Io’s surface in optical/visible light. And here I thought you were banned from C2C and quite happy with that.

      BTW, this is the only comment you’ll be permitted to make with links back to your site on this post. Others will be blocked.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 9, 2011 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

      • I don’t believe in conspiracies but it’s quite possible that your own subnoxious mind (we ALL have them) prodded you to invite the opportunity to deal with your own denial.

        As for C2C, dang, that surprised me too. Actually, now that Meier’s specific prophetic information and warnings are being corroborated with such frequency, it’s a credit to the show that they want me to address such things. You can view it as a good lesson, a teaching by example moment where discovering the truth trumps beliefs, personality issues, etc. Of course to me the big mystery still is just WHY the skeptics are so adamantly opposed to Meier being authentic. If something is true…isn’t that what’s important? And isn’t it easy enough to determine the truth?

        And don’t worry about links, etc. By now anyone who’s interested can easily enough find my site, blog, etc.

        Of course I do take delight in saying that more than 100,000 people have now seen our film on Meier online.

        Comment by Michael Horn — December 9, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  3. Dearest Stuart,

    You waste, twiddle and fritter away your apparently not so valuable time, with multi-hour podcasts and writing up blogs galore, attempting to debunk conspiracy 101 bs, like planet x, nazis living under the south pole, hollow earth theory, bla bla bla …. I guess all that makes you feel all ivory-towerish, above conspiracy freaks and tin foil hatters and the like ….. whoop dee f%^&*g doo!

    You have apparently lumped BIlly Meier into that pile of nonsense, out of the fear that one of that ilk may actually, not only know more than pseudo-genius pSteuw, but could actually teach you a thing or two or three-thousand …. , thereby crumbling your intellectual ivory tower made of sand ….. do you fear learning or just learning from certain people? I mean it could not be possible that some unintellectual, uneducated, one-armed farmer from the Swiss Alps could actually know what he has written about .. it must be the greatest hoax ever, else pStuew and all his scientific matinee idols/heros, like Phil what’s his name, really ain’t all that hot.

    How about debunking the voluminous Meier info/material, in lieu of the nonsense you currently waste your time with, and the time of your 1/2 dozen (+/-) fans … .. out of 25,000 plus pages that Meier has written, there must be something you could cherry pick …. or (non-existent) god forbid, verify; other than taking the easy way out and alluding to and yelling retrodiction

    Come on pStu, do it.

    Regards,
    Bruce

    Comment by Bruce — December 10, 2011 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  4. Wow, great blog. I’ve heard you on a couple podcasts and have enjoyed them. Reading this was a lot easier than actually having to listen to Tsakiris. And you weren’t kidding about all the Billy Meier non sequitur nonsense. Thanks!

    Comment by Funston — December 10, 2011 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Funston; I’m glad you liked the post.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 10, 2011 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

  5. Stuart

    If you delete valid comments (which you do) then I cannot see any validity in your stance (what ever it may be) as you will not and therefore I assume cannot defend it . You are just playing with your self and your self esteem. Don’t bother playing the ‘scientist’ card anymore.

    Comment by John — December 11, 2011 @ 11:16 am | Reply

    • I have never deleted “valid” comments. I have not allowed comments that are off-topic to go through, per my comment policy. That said, this post is about the methodology of science versus pseudoscience. If you would like to comment on that and what I wrote, feel free. If not, don’t.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 11, 2011 @ 11:18 am | Reply

  6. This is a great list and matches my experiences with debates online.

    I find the use of QM to explain pseudoscience phenomenon quite annoying. There is a streak of utter dishonestly and deception when someone pulls out QM to explain something.

    Comment by ND — December 14, 2011 @ 12:08 am | Reply

    • Agreed, mostly. Hence what I called an admittedly visceral reaction as soon as I heard Alex say “quantum.” However, I’m not entirely sure that with him it’s deception, or at least deception on purpose. I have a feeling that most of these folks take that QM claim from the new age gurus they follow. Those bigger players I think are likely more knowledgable about how they’re deceitful, if for no other reason than they’re bigger targets and skeptics have pointed out to them before that their QM claims are nonsense.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 14, 2011 @ 12:16 am | Reply

  7. There are clearly scientific methods and unscientific methods but surely the important question is whether science is the correct ‘way forward’ for mankind. As has been pointed out many times by Darwinists evoloution does not have any particular purpose. Is that really as far as man has got?

    Comment by Mickx — December 14, 2011 @ 8:16 am | Reply

  8. […] has written an unfair blog post about Alex and his interview on the awful monster ball podcast: Skeptiko Host Alex Tsakiris on Monster Talk / Skepticality, and More on How to Spot Pseudoscience Ex… The writer said: […]

    Pingback by Skeptical Blog post about Alex - Parapsychology and alternative medicine forums of mind-energy.net — January 3, 2012 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

  9. I used Quantum Mechanics as part of my degree/PhD in chemistry. Students were routinely told not to puzzle too much over the counter-intuitive nature of the subject, but to concentrate on the calculations! This encapsulated the fact that the *meaning* of QM is still up for grabs.

    Clearly people understand QM at different levels, and we should be careful about demanding that they can write down (and solve) Schroedinger’s equation before letting them use the expression. Having said that, I would certainly cringe at some uses, such as ‘quantum poetry’!

    If psi is real (and I would give it a 70% chance) it clearly has to somehow mesh with conventional science. It clearly has more chance to relate to QM, with its random collapse of the wave function and entanglement, than to classical physics, which is known to be fundamentally wrong, but still useful (because it is much easier to calculate with) for many purposes.

    I’d say Alex has interviewed a great many interesting people in his podcasts, and many of them are scientists, such as Rupert Sheldrake, who are working to show that conventional science is incomplete, and that ‘paranormal’ phenomena are real.

    It is a sobering fact that Brian Josephson takes psi very seriously, and has a Nobel Prize for physics. The effect for which he is famous, is based on QM.

    Comment by David Bailey — January 4, 2012 @ 1:06 pm | Reply


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