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Old 04-21-2003, 04:44 AM
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James Randi - sincere skeptic or money-grubbing fraud? (dowsing)


Back in this thread (Does dowsing for water really work?) in Comments on Cecil's Columns there is a discussion of dowsing. On page2, peter morris shows up and starts claiming that James Randi is a fraud, just using the JREF Million Dollar Challenge as a publicity stunt, with no real intention to pay. Further, he claims that Randi misrepresents the claims of dowsers and then debunks the strawmen he creates, rather than addressing the real claims of dowsers.

Because the topic diverged from dowsing onto Randi and JREF, I'm creating this thread so we can continue the discussion.

I said:
Quote:
peter morris, your argument seems to be that dowsers claim that the locating of underground water is not by some mystical effect of the water upon the rod (or pendulum), but upon the person bearing the rod. Your claim seems to be that most dowsers understand the effect to be this way. Further, you claim that the real trick to dowsing is that the dowsers are picking up subtle clues from the surroundings and then making the rods move themselves.

I scratch my head. If dowsers are just picking up subtle clues from the surroundings and making the rods move themselves, what about it is paranormal?
peter morris said:
Quote:
Nothing watsoever. I never claimed any paranormal explaination for dowsing, quite the reverse. From the beginning my point was that it might work, through perfectly normal means. I always did express doubt as to the paranormal explainations.
Then I don't see what your problem with Randi is. The JREF Challenge is for any paranormal feat. If dowsers agree they are really detecting water via some natural process, then they don't qualify for the challenge. But if they think they are using a paranormal process, then testing the supposed process is valid, even if it precludes the non-claimed natural process. In fact, it must eliminate the known and explainable natural process as a possibility, to test the paranormal aspect.

So do dowsers claim to be reading the terrain and picking out clues, or do they claim to be using paranormal abilities?

You've been addressing only dowsers searching for water, specifically natural underground water sources. What about dowsers who claim to be able to find gold, brass, quartz, coins, buried archeological ruins, "ley lines", and just about anything else? What are dowsers doing when they dowse crop circles? How can they use clues from the terrain to find 17th century buried treasure? Are they deluded? How do you distinguish them from the ones who claim to find water, when the claimed mechanism is the same, and it's often the same people?

Quote:
However, I see Randi's tests as unfair for various reasons. My point has been condemnation of Randi, not support of dowsers.
Your justification for Randi's tests being unfair are that Randi uses buried water pipes instead of natural water sources, and you claim that Randi misrepresents what dowsers claim so he can attack the strawman.

Regarding the misrepresentation of the claim, you pick statements of Randi's explaining the ideomotor effect, and how very small, unconscious motions of the dowser are what cause the rods to move. You claim that dowsers themselves also claim that the cause of the rod movement is subconsious movements of their own. Your links have some flaws.

http://damkar.org/mudra2.html
Quote:
The nature of our thoughts and emotions are reflected in ideodynamic movements of the hands that are normally visible with their gestures, but that at times goes unnoticed or is invisible to the naked eye. Proof of this may be found in the occult art of dowsing where the imperceptible movement of the hand as motored by nerve impulses causes a pendulum to sway under direction of an unseen subconscious intelligence--the pendulum merely acting as an amplifier for the conscious aspect of the psyche.
This is the sum total of discussion of dowsing on that site. It is not clear from the context that this reflects the dowser's beliefs of their art. It is not clear if this is a synthesis of ideas including the descriptions from dowsing skeptics wrapped in mysticism.

your other link
Quote:
It is almost universally accepted that dowsing is a neurophysiological response and that the rods or pendulums are only present as a mechanical amplifier of otherwise unnoticeable small tilts and movements of the hand. The material and type of the rod doesn't matter.... The most common response is a subtle twitch of the wrist or arm, and learning to hold the rods with a particular extension and tension in various muscle groups is used to increase the magnitude of the response.
I read the link, and it's not clear from context when this explanation became "almost universally accepted" with dowsers. I submit that it is only recently, in response to the skeptics explaining the ideomotor effect. The dowsers have taken that and tried to incorporate it into their theories.

Quote:
In 1556 a German metallurgical text commented on the common use of dowsing to detect metallic ores while the author, AGRICOLA, pointed out that the dowsing instrument did not move of its own accord, but only in the hands of sensitive persons.
That statement is stand alone. Your interpretation is that it shows dowsers accepting the ideomotor effect as part of the process. All it really says is that "sensitive persons" must hold the instruments. It doesn't explain what they are sensitive to, or how their sensitivity affects the instruments.

Furthermore, this site also says:
Quote:
It is worth noting that a minority of dowsers dislike the neurophysiological viewpoint and feel certain that the rods move independently of the dowser, perhaps as a form of psychokinesis (PK).
Admittedly it says "minority", but again this is within the context that this is a recent acceptance of ideomotor effect and trying to incorporate it in "scientific" explanations of dowsing as a real phenomenon.

Note that you the one claiming that dowsers only expect dowsing to work on natural water sources. From the same site:
Quote:
This reflects the fact that it was traditionally known as water divining and was a commercially important means of locating water and minerals, but it is often used today to detect a much wider range of apparently 'unknowable' information, from medical diagnosis to the location of lost objects.
And especially this one!
Quote:
Novice dowsers find it relatively easy to detect steel and other electrically conducting materials, geological water, (particularly moving water), but they often find the results very confusing as there are too many responses and they cannot tell the difference between them. Experienced dowsers can detect almost anything at any distance, probably by utilizing psi capabilities, but minerals, oil, and disturbed ground such as archaeological sites and caves seem to be relatively easy. Wet sands and clays seem to reduce the 'penetration' of the dowsing ability through the ground.

The situation is confused for the novice by the tendency of buried structures (e.g. a pipeline) to create a series of parallel dowsing lines, similar, though not identical, to diffraction pattern. However, with experience the dowser learns to 'focus on the question' and can then get a reaction only at the centre line, without being confused by the parallels.
Both boldings mine. The first emphasizes the effect is through psi, as opposed to natural reading of terrain. The second states that experienced dowsers can read pipelines.

See, your objection to Randi using pipes is ill-founded. Your own cite says dowsers can read pipelines. So tell me again how Randi's tests using pipes are not fair?

Which still ignores the fact that the dowsers themselves who were being tested claimed they could find the water in the pipe, and got to pretest for themselves they could find the water running in the buried pipe where they knew it was running, and agreed that they detect it. They even felt they were detecting it during the test. How is it unfair to test someone about something they claim they can do?

I notice something else: you're busy complaining about Randi using pipes in the ground, but don't say anything about the Barn Study (the German study on dowsing linked by skepdic that you provided). The funny thing is, dowsers like to claim it provides evidence that dowsing works. But the barn study was conducted in a barn! They ran the test on the second story of the barn, with the pipes under the floor so they could be reconfigured from below. If dowsers accept a study conducted in pipes in a barn, how can they object to a study with pipes buried in the ground?

You also state that testing dowsers using water in pipes says nothing about their ability to find natural water. Yes and no.

The dowsers' claims on how they detect water do not rely on picking up subconscious visual cues from terrain. They rely on picking up ley lines or other mystical terms, psychic signals their subconscious picks up. To dowsers, there is no difference in how dowsing works on natural water versus water in pipes, or between water versus gold versus tin (see above link) or anything else. To them it is the same thing.

Randi sets out to test the paranormal claim. So the tests are designed to eliminate the physical terrain clues and such that the dowsers claim are irrelevant to their ability. The whole point is to test the psychic claim. You must eliminate the known causes for contamination (other information not directly related to the claimed source of information) in order to test properly.

Now I suppose one might want to test the visual terrain clues idea. Fine. But that's not applicable to the JREF Challenge, which only applies to paranormal abilities.

peter morris said:
Quote:
I said that Randi is a fraud and his offer of a prize is a publicity stunt to sell his books, not genuine offer at all, any more than the evolution or moon offer are genuine.
You have yet to provide evidence to back that up. For example, I previously asked you to provide a cite of someone who applied for the JREF Challenge and then backed out because Randi was being unfair, or someone who applied and failed the test and now is claiming Randi was unfair. Not just rumors of incidents, but names and dates (or at least approximate dates) so that we can verify what happened. And not just gripes, but descriptions of what was unfair and why it was unfair, and perhaps documentation (such as emails, letters, etc.) And that's descriptions from the claimant, not from you. I want why they think it was unfair.

Now as for evidence he is sincere, the JREF has about $1.1 Million in the bank in bonds specifically designated for the prize money. You can verify it yourself. Go to the JREF page and they give you the necessary information to contact the bank and verify it. When there is a test for the prize, Randi brings a cashier's check for the immediately payable amount (IIRC $10,000) which he gives to the neutral third party to hand over to the winner. If the claimant passes the test, they take that money home right then, and the rest of the prize money follows. That does not sound like the actions of a pure publicity stunt, that sounds like a sincere offer to pay.

Is the challenge about publicity? Certainly. The whole point of the JREF is to reach as wide an audience as possible to teach about the paranormal and the lack of proof for it. But the money is in the bank and ready to pay out.

So how is Randi a fraud? Because he hasn't paid it yet to anyone? Nobody has passed the Challenge. Does that mean the tests are rigged so nobody can pass? That's your claim, but no evidence. The point of the tests is to eliminate cheating (intentional or unintentional) so the only way to pass is to have paranormal abilities.

Does Randi expect to ever have to pay out? No. Not because he rigs the tests (how can he rig the tests when the claimants have just as much control as he does over how they are set up and judged?), but because he doesn't believe paranormal abilities exist. But So What? The money is there, and the test is designed to the claims of the applicant and the applicant gets control to ensure they are comfortable with the setup and can perform. You have not provided any evidence to the contrary. The only evidence you have provided is that Randi's tests don't match how you think dowsing works.
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Old 04-21-2003, 06:20 AM
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Quote:
Your justification for Randi's tests being unfair are that Randi uses buried water pipes instead of natural water sources, and you claim that Randi misrepresents what dowsers claim so he can attack the strawman.

As I noted in my contribution to that thread, the idea of testing a dowser by building a platform under which a hose could run actually came from a book that is pro-dowsing. It's cited by Martin Gardner in the chapter on dowsing in his book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Gardner's criticism was that, although this dowsing booster proposed the experiment, he didn't actually follow through on it.

Gardner never followed through, either, AFAIK, but Randi did. In collaboration with Italian television RAI they did a test where the built a set of three paths od PVC tubing, had it properly surveyed, then buried it. Then they had the dowsers come and, one at a time, try to locate the paths of the pipes through which the water was running. He describes this in detail in his 1980 book Flim-Flam!, and has done it at least once since. The dowsers agreed to the test conditions in advance.

So from the very start this method was the idea of dowsing folk, and it has been approved by the dowsers tested by it. Some may disagree about it, but it's clear that not all dowsers think this an unfair test, and certainly it's not an evil misrtepresentation devised by an enemy of the faith.
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Old 04-21-2003, 07:31 AM
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Before being tested, the applicants must agree to the test. In other words, they must agree it is fair and that it will test a specific ability they claim to have.

Randi does not run the tests.

Dowsing is also one in which Randi has had the most applicants, and after failing most offer excuses. Dowsers get hits at rates no better than random chance.
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Old 04-21-2003, 09:37 AM
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Sounds like peter morris has an axe to grind. The edge to his argument is certainly not keen.
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Old 04-21-2003, 10:46 AM
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Sure, there does seem to be "something" to dowsing in that experienced dowsers can find water in an area they know fairly reliably. But as some have said- it is most likely that they are relying upon environmental clues- some of which they may perceive subconsiously. Clearly, these clues will fail in the "Randi" test. However- Randi is not testing the subconsious environmental perceptions of the dowsers- he is testing their claims of paranormal abilities. He set up a doubleblind test, gets the testees to agree to it- then runs it- and then the dowsers fail(although in one instance I saw, the results of one dowser in one test was pretty amazing.)

Does Randi expect them to fail? Does he expect to keep his cash? Certainly- just as much as the dowsers expect to succeed, and get the cash. Are they also being "money grubbing frauds" because of their motives?

If all "dowsing" does is allow your mind to concentrate upon subtle clues your fully consious mind would otherwise not see- it is still pretty amazing. There is no need for paranormal or magic abilities.
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Old 04-21-2003, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by DrDeth
He set up a doubleblind test, gets the testees to agree to it- then runs it-
Sorry for the brief hijack, but I want to ask something quick if I can.

I'm always reading the term "double-blind" study in Skeptical Inquirer, and I can kind of infer what it means from the way it's used, but I've never seen a simple definition of what constitutes a "double-blind" test. Can someone help me out on that point?
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Old 04-21-2003, 11:05 AM
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A double-blind test means that both the subject and ttester are unaware of certain data.. For instance, in the dowsing experiment above, the location of the buried hoses would not be disclosed to either the dowser or to the person running the test (a third party would bury the hoses). This way, there is no chance that the tester could give away unconscious hints about important information. Some "psychics" are good at reading body language and other non-verbal clues. "Blinding" the tester prevents that.
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Old 04-21-2003, 01:37 PM
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DrDeth, having a dowser come up big one time can be considered an anomoly The feat must be repeatable.

Even with random chance, if you test enough people, even those who have no desire to find water, you'll end up with someone who actually finds water at a rate greater than random chance.

Odds are, if it was dumb luck, it won't happen again.
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Old 04-21-2003, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by DrDeth
Sure, there does seem to be "something" to dowsing in that experienced dowsers can find water in an area they know fairly reliably.
I was under the impression that, in most areas, pretty much anywhere you dig, if you go deep enough, you'll find water. Is there any evidence that dowsers really do better than chance? (And, just to head off a lot of pointless posts, let's avoid the anecdotes and stick with actual studies.)
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Old 04-21-2003, 06:35 PM
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They agreed to the fairness of the tests before they took them.
Grousing afterwards about them being Fixed is sour grapes.
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Old 04-21-2003, 08:04 PM
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If peter morris waves his little stick around, could he find this thread? There isn't much of a debate if everyone here (including me) agrees that dowsing is crap.
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Old 04-21-2003, 11:42 PM
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In the very least, I fail to see the "money-grubbing" part. It's not like Randi is franchanising.
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Old 04-22-2003, 01:20 AM
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Randi may well be money grubbing, which is to say he may well be no less and no more money grubbing than any other person who is very good at what they do, and makes money accordingly.

A top professional sportsperson might well be very money grubbing. But whether they are motivated by the money or by pure sportsmanlike values does not affect whether or not they are a good player.

The only issue, therefore, is whether Randi is good at what he does or not.

I'm happy to debate that, but moneygrubbingness is just red herring.
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Old 04-22-2003, 02:18 PM
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Further, for Randi to be a "moneygrubbing fraud", since Randi's pastime is semi-professionally (via book and lecture) debunking pseudoscience and quackery... well, for him to be a 'fraud' would mean that Randi would actually believe in the stuff.

Edwards, on the other hand, IS a moneygrubbing fraud, since I (well, in my opinion anyway) can't imagine he literally thinks what he does is authentic. He knows full well he's found a lucrative scam and he's milking it for all it's worth.
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Old 04-22-2003, 05:02 PM
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Podkayne, evidence in controlled tests? The best I've seen is the Barn study liked from the skepdic article. You can imagine how good it is if skepdic links it. Seriously, the Barn study was a German test of dowsing with some results that were interesting but non-repeatable. They got the best dowsers they could find and had them dowse the second floor in a barn for pipes under the floor. The water could be diverted into different pipes, at random. Various dowsers had good and bad results, but the ones who passed one test would then fail the next. In other words, lucky shots that didn't repeat. And dowsers use that study to justify dowsing works.

One of those other links mentions a 10 year case study of dowsing, but was a collection of dowsing results from use in the field, with no controls and no information about how data was collected. So it's really not better than anecdotal evidence.

I do wish peter morris would show up so this thread isn't wasted. I just couldn't continue the discussion in that thread after the moderator called the Randi stuff off limits.
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Old 04-22-2003, 07:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Doc Nickel
Further, for Randi to be a "moneygrubbing fraud", since Randi's pastime is semi-professionally (via book and lecture) debunking pseudoscience and quackery... well, for him to be a 'fraud' would mean that Randi would actually believe in the stuff.

Edwards, on the other hand, IS a moneygrubbing fraud, since I (well, in my opinion anyway) can't imagine he literally thinks what he does is authentic. He knows full well he's found a lucrative scam and he's milking it for all it's worth.
Not that I'm in any way trying to defame or cast doubt on the work of James Randi (one of the names on my Coolest People Ever list; just got a whole pile of books autographed by the man the other day), but it seems to me that even if he doesn't believe in the paranormal, he could still qualify as a 'fraud' if he were rigging his tests to disallow any possibility of success--say, for example, if a "dowser" took him up on his challenge and managed to locate the water pipes, but Randi decided that it must have been luck and falsifies the test results after the fact to avoid paying up. This would still be fraud, but not because he secretly believed in the paranormal; rather, sort of the mirror image of the spiritualists who earnestly believed in spirits, but who felt obliged to provide special effects at their seances so as not to disappoint the customers when the spirits failed to show up.

Obviously, if Randi were really in it for the money, he's chosen the wrong side; with his magician's training and showmanship, he could easily be making millions as a faith healer, televangelist, or psychic.
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Old 04-22-2003, 10:01 PM
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In the original thread, Pheonix Dragon said this:

Quote:
You keep saying that it's unfair, because [those dowsers that Randi tests] never claim to be able to detect water in pipes, but that is untrue. They do claim that they can detect water in pipes, right at the begining of the test.
To which peter morris responded:

Quote:
What part of "they were talking rubbish" didn't you understand?

I repeat what I have said so many times before. I think that most dowsers are liars, quite possibly all of them are. But I also think Randi is a fraud too.
peter morris, PD's comments (as is quite obvious from his quoted paragraph) concern your ongoing allegation that Randi's tests are unfair. You say that those dowsers tested by Randi are talking rubbish. Randi's tests prove those dowsers are talking rubbish. You appear to be in agreement with Randi on this point. So why are his tests (which obtain precisely the result that you would expect) unfair?

That is PD's point.

How about you state, succinctly, point by point, why you consider Randi to be a fraud? I know you say you've already done this, but humour me. Lay it out for me bit by bit.

Because as matters stand, your position just does not make sense.
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Old 04-22-2003, 10:30 PM
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Oh by the way, I haven't responded to you regarding Randi's "lie" about underground rivers.

Once again, what he actually says is:

Quote:
Besides, the "underground river" notion that dowsers maintain is sheer fiction, not supported at all by geological research.
You say that this is a statement by Randi that underground rivers are fiction. I say that what he says and means is that thenotion of underground rivers that dowsers maintain (ie that they are everywhere etc) is fiction.

If Randi meant what you say he meant, for what reason did he put the word "notion" in?

Try reading Randi's quote again. It doesn't matter how many times you read it, peter, the word "notion" is still there, isn't it?

You exhort us to read your posts carefully and respond to what you actually say. Perhaps you should apply the same exhortation to yourself.
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Old 04-22-2003, 11:24 PM
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peter, the point of the quote is in reply to your accusation that Randi does not test dowsers against their claims, but makes up different claims to test them against. Phoenix Dragon is pointing out that the dowsers themselves do claim to be able to find water in pipes, as opposed to natural water - they claim it when applying to take the test.

You also state that Randi makes them sign a form that states they agree with the test setup even if they don't. I'm sorry, but that's just ridiculous.
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Old 04-22-2003, 11:34 PM
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Thanks Princhester I was going to go into a long post of my own, but it looks like you (And Irishman) already covered all the posts I was going to cover.
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Old 04-27-2003, 07:45 PM
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Irishman, thank you for your polite message. I respect your right to disagree with me, as long as you keep itt civil, and not resort to name-calling like Princhester and his ilk.

However, I fear that you have misunderstood my position on a number of points.

Quote:
Then I don't see what your problem with Randi is. The JREF Challenge is for any paranormal feat.
In the first place, you have confused two seperate things, here, my comments about the lack of logic in cecil's column, and my opinion about Randi.

Cecil's column offers the theory of a dowser getting subliminal signals from the landscape causing the stick to move through ideomotor action. He then says that this proves dowsing is a fraud. That makes no sense at all. IF the theory is true, then the stick twitches when he moves over water, which he is unable to detect conciously. That seems like dowsing to me. If it looks like a duck... Rather than Cecil saying that its a fraud, he should say that it works, with a simple scientific explaination.

As to the part about "normal" versus "paranormal" the distinction is meaningless. What, exactly, is "paranormal" anyway? How edo you define what is paranormal?

Just as an example consider this: flowing water causes minute vibrations, someone might detect them subconciously, and the stick moves through ideomor action. Is that normal, or paranormal? What if flowing water creates a magnetic field, which some people might sense? Normal or paranormal? What if it makes a sound, below the level of concious hearing, but can be sensed subconciously? Normal or paranormal?

Paranormal merely means unidentified. Once you acknowledge the existence of something, it automatically becomes normal.

The issue should be whether dowsing works at all, by any method whatsover, with no distinction between "normal" and "paranormal".

Quote:
Your justification for Randi's tests being unfair are that Randi uses buried water pipes instead of natural water sources,
To be precise, I gave that as ONE example of how his test is unfair. I shall shortly be posting a detailed description of other reasons. Essentially, if psychics really do exist (which I doubt) I don't think they could pass his tests. They are too difficult, and the pass mark is too high.

Quote:
and you claim that Randi misrepresents what dowsers claim so he can attack the strawman.
I think that Randi just says any old thing against his subjects. It isn't that he intentionally misrepresents them, its that he simply doesn't care whether he quotes them accurately or not.

Quote:
(snipped for length)Regarding the misrepresentation of the claim, you pick statements of Randi's explaining the ideomotor effect ... You claim that dowsers themselves also claim that the cause of the rod movement is subconsious movements of their own. Your links have some flaws.... I submit that it is only recently, in response to the skeptics explaining the ideomotor effect. The dowsers have taken that and tried to incorporate it into their theories.
I doubt it, you are just trying to make excuses for him. I still stand by what I sdaid in my original post. A few hundred years ago dowsers were known as twitchers, because allegedly the water caused them to twitch. The rod or pendulum magnifies the twitch.

You give the man more credit than he deserves. Those people that actually believe in dowsing (which I don't*) pay no attention to Randi at all.

Quote:
Note that you the one claiming that dowsers only expect dowsing to work on natural water sources. From the same site:...

Both boldings mine. The first emphasizes the effect is through psi, as opposed to natural reading of terrain. The second states that experienced dowsers can read pipelines.

See, your objection to Randi using pipes is ill-founded. Your own cite says dowsers can read pipelines. So tell me again how Randi's tests using pipes are not fair?
sigh. This is getting tedious.

Let me state YET AGAIN that I don not actually believe in dowsing* You keep wanting me to explain and justify every little thing that dowsers say.

I really can't speak on behalf of those dowsers that think they can detect pipes. All I say is that a pipe and an underground river are DIFFERENT. Someone that can genuinely detect a river MIGHT NOT be able to detect a pipe. Claiming that one disproves the other is wrong.

Quote:
You have yet to provide evidence to back that up. For example, I previously asked you to provide a cite of someone who applied for the JREF Challenge and then backed out because Randi was being unfair, or someone who applied and failed the test and now is claiming Randi was unfair.
Just look at anything Randi has wriitten, he will cite numerous examples of such. His articles are full of people who backed out of the test, or who failed the test, and complained afterwards it was unfair. http://www.skeptics.com.au/journal/divining.htm for instance.

----------------------------------


*except, possibly, by the getting subconsious clues from the landscape method, and I even doubt that.
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Old 04-27-2003, 08:02 PM
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Quote:
You say that this is a statement by Randi that underground rivers are fiction. I say that what he says and means is that thenotion of underground rivers that dowsers maintain (ie that they are everywhere etc) is fiction.
Point one. Even if that is correct, Randi is STILL lying, since dowsers make NO SUCH CLAIM. When did you ever hear of a dowser saying that underground rivers are everywhere? They say the opposite, that underground rivers are rare, and only a dowser can find one. If you could hit an underground river anywhere, what would you need a dowser for?

Either way you look at it, its a lie.

Point two. you are talking nonsense. Nowhere does Randi say anything about underground rivers being everywhere, that's something you made up to excuse him. He wrote about the notion OF underground rivers, ie underground riversw ARE the notion.

point three. I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it at all, but for those sceptics claiming that underground rivers are fictional.

Miskatonic wrote : <<For the record, there are no "underground rivers". The occassional creek in a large cavern complex is about it. Water sits in aquifers.>>

Priceguy said <<I can't find where he says that. He does, however, say that underground rivers are fictional, and so pretty hard to find in the first place.... Yes, there's a difference between underground pipes and underground rivers. One exists, the other doesn't >>

So you see, other people interpreted Randi's words the same as I did. You had no complaint about them doing so when you thought it was true. Only when I proved that underground rivers DO exist did you start caring what Randi's words mean.

Lets just say that Randi's words are untrue in the sense in which Priceguy understood them.
  #23  
Old 04-27-2003, 09:00 PM
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Originally posted by peter morris
Irishman, thank you for your polite message. I respect your right to disagree with me, as long as you keep itt civil, and not resort to name-calling like Princhester and his ilk.
I will respond to the substance when I have time. For now, just so that there is no lack of clarity on this issue in this thread, and for the benefit of those who have only read this thread alone, peter morris's very first post on this topic and indeed on this messageboard, concluded thusly:

Quote:
Randi has made a fortune trading on the gullability of skeptics.:wally
I will not comment on that here. I have already done so elsewhere. I will not enter into any slanging match regarding this topic here, either. I just wanted the facts to be clear.
  #24  
Old 04-27-2003, 09:11 PM
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To princhester:

Quote:
How about you state, succinctly, point by point, why you consider Randi to be a fraud? I know you say you've already done this, but humour me. Lay it out for me bit by bit.

Because as matters stand, your position just does not make sense.
I shall shortly be posting an article explaining in detail why my opinion of Randi is what it is. But here's a brief summary.

Randi's tests are unfair because a real psychic would have to be very lucky to pass them. Imagine a psychic who could get the 1 in 10 chance 20% of the time. Randi, however, would demand that they score 4 out of 5 in a test. If they only scored 2 or 3 they are dismissed as a failure.

A real, fair test would be to see if the psychic can maintain a 20% score over a long series of tests. Randi demands an 80% score over a very short test. And that is not reasonable.

I will shortly post an example of Randi doing exactly this, with detailed analysis. Watch this space.
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Old 04-27-2003, 09:56 PM
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peter, we WILL need evidence that supports your example of "Randi would ask for 4 out of 5 when a psychic can get 2 out of 10, where random chance would be 1 out of 10"?

It's commonly known, or so I thought, that Randi does not arbitrarily set the pass/fail criteria on his own; it's set by mutual agreement between JREF and the applicant. If you have any examples to the contrary, you're going to have to remember to provide them. However, you'll have to provide specific, documented evidence that the applicant suggested a REASONABLE pass-fail criteria that Randi rejected.
  #26  
Old 04-27-2003, 10:06 PM
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Give the man a chance, RickJay. He said he was going to provide this shortly.

We are all waiting eagerly.
  #27  
Old 04-27-2003, 11:26 PM
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Originally posted by peter morris
Point one. Even if that is correct, Randi is STILL lying, since dowsers make NO SUCH CLAIM. When did you ever hear of a dowser saying that underground rivers are everywhere?
You have already said something similar in the pit thread, and Miller and I have taken this stance apart. To repeat myself:

Check out this and this and this and this.

That's all off the first page of Google, when I carried out the search that you yourself suggested. Seem to be a hell of a lot of claims out there that dowsers find underground rivers. None of them say precisely the words "underground rivers are all over the place" but given the frequency with which dowsers claim to find them, they must think that such rivers are comparatively common. Indeed, in the Australian Dowsing test page it is reported that two dowsers claimed to have found underground rivers (in different places) in a single non-descript patch of land. What an amazing day the dowsers had, finding two (of what you say they regard as) rare things in one day in one area?

So Randi is not lying, many dowsers do believe underground rivers are common.

Quote:
Point two. you are talking nonsense. Nowhere does Randi say anything about underground rivers being everywhere, that's something you made up to excuse him. He wrote about the notion OF underground rivers, ie underground riversw ARE the notion.
We all know precisely what he said. You keep leaving out crucial parts, but we know what he actually said. I'm sick of quoting it.

Again, no, Randi does not actually say dowsers think that underground rivers are "everywhere". You are taking my words over literally. However, Randi has mentioned several times that dowsers believe there to be underground rivers to an extent greater than, or of a nature not found in, reality.

See here and here.

Quote:
point three. I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it at all, but for those sceptics claiming that underground rivers are fictional.

Miskatonic wrote : <<For the record, there are no "underground rivers". The occassional creek in a large cavern complex is about it. Water sits in aquifers.>>

Priceguy said <<I can't find where he says that. He does, however, say that underground rivers are fictional, and so pretty hard to find in the first place.... Yes, there's a difference between underground pipes and underground rivers. One exists, the other doesn't >>

So you see, other people interpreted Randi's words the same as I did. You had no complaint about them doing so when you thought it was true. Only when I proved that underground rivers DO exist did you start caring what Randi's words mean.
Huh? Miskatonic specifically qualifies his comment that underground rivers are fictional by mentioning that there are rare underground creeks found in cave systems.

As to Priceguy and myself, I think that we all knew what Randi had written (the words "notion that dowsers maintain" were quite apparent to us) and we were all referring to that. It was only when you brought in your interpretation based on leaving those words out, that we had to spell out for your benefit that Randi's words were about dowsers notions and not about there being no underground rivers whatsoever.

You are just so determined to find fault that it's very difficult to discuss this matter with you sensibly because you are not trying to see the points we are making, you are just desperately seeking something, anything, that you can call a lie.
  #28  
Old 04-27-2003, 11:42 PM
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Randi has made a fortune trading on the gullability of skeptics.
This is interesting, since for a long time now, my working definition of "skeptical" is "the opposite of gullible."
  #29  
Old 04-28-2003, 12:58 AM
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Originally posted by peter morris
Cecil's column offers the theory of a dowser getting subliminal signals from the landscape causing the stick to move through ideomotor action. He then says that this proves dowsing is a fraud. That makes no sense at all. IF the theory is true, then the stick twitches when he moves over water, which he is unable to detect conciously. That seems like dowsing to me. If it looks like a duck... Rather than Cecil saying that its a fraud, he should say that it works, with a simple scientific explaination.
I see your point here. One could regard dowsing as "working" in the sense that the rod (or whatever) does twitch, and water very often will be found. And the dowser may well not have any conscious knowledge that the reason water is found. So on that basis, there may be a lack of intent to deceive and hence no fraud. Once again, you seem to be in agreement with Randi (despite your enmity for the man) in that he says that dowsers are often quite geniunely deluded and have no idea of the limitations of their "skills.

However, you would have to say that there is enough information on these topics out there that if you have an interest in the subject (as presumably dowsers do) you are at the least guilty of wilful blindness in failing to realise that your dowsing is a combination of self-delusion and the ubiquity of aquifers. And that it is hardly in your best interests to admit this to your customers.

Quote:
As to the part about "normal" versus "paranormal" the distinction is meaningless. What, exactly, is "paranormal" anyway? How do you define what is paranormal?

Just as an example consider this: flowing water causes minute vibrations, someone might detect them subconciously, and the stick moves through ideomor action. Is that normal, or paranormal? What if flowing water creates a magnetic field, which some people might sense? Normal or paranormal? What if it makes a sound, below the level of concious hearing, but can be sensed subconciously? Normal or paranormal?

Paranormal merely means unidentified. Once you acknowledge the existence of something, it automatically becomes normal.

The issue should be whether dowsing works at all, by any method whatsover, with no distinction between "normal" and "paranormal".
The points that you raise are interesting philosophical questions. I would basically agree with you that paranormal to some extent means unidentified. As (I think) Arthur C Clarke said, (roughly) "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from maqic".

We have asked you previously why Randi should give a paranormal prize (ie for achieving a task using paranormal means) to someone who uses normal means? Substitute your definition. Why should Randi give a paranormal prize (ie for achieving a task using unidentified means) to someone who uses identified means?

To expand, you seem to think that the paranormal/normal issue somehow is an impeachment of the Randi Challenge: in fact quite the opposite. Why? Because Randi has said often and loudly that he doesn't give a damn for what you say is how you are going to do what you do, you just have to do something that he regards as paranormal (ie for which he cannot identify any means).

So if you say to Randi you are going to apply for his prize by dowsing for water using geological clues he will say get stuffed, my prize is for paranormal (ie using your definition, unidentified) techniques. And that is fair enough.

If however you say you are going to apply for his prize by dowsing for water using subliminal vibrations (or whatever) he will say "fine, but don't bother even telling me about how, just do it under controlled conditions that rule out identified means of finding water (such as chance, or geological clues)." If you then do so, there will no doubt be a flurry of research, and perhaps it will be discovered that you were right about subliminal vibrations. Too bad, how sad for Randi.

There is nothing in his agreement whatever about him being entitled to his money back if science subsequently catches up.

Quote:
I think that Randi just says any old thing against his subjects. It isn't that he intentionally misrepresents them, its that he simply doesn't care whether he quotes them accurately or not.
Obviously, when you find some convincing examples of this that don't involve leaving out words, or strained interpretations, we will respond.

Quote:
You give the man more credit than he deserves. Those people that actually believe in dowsing (which I don't*) pay no attention to Randi at all.
Actually, per Cecil:

Quote:
The plunging-stick phenomenon is caused by a well-documented psychological effect known as "ideomotor action," first described in the 1800s and clinically demonstrated in the 1930s. What happens is that conscious thought gives rise to involuntary, usually imperceptible muscle movements.
So it is nothing or little to do with Randi: dowsers have had a couple of hundred years to try to think up excuses regarding ideomotor effect.

Quote:
sigh. This is getting tedious.

Let me state YET AGAIN that I don not actually believe in dowsing* You keep wanting me to explain and justify every little thing that dowsers say.

I really can't speak on behalf of those dowsers that think they can detect pipes. All I say is that a pipe and an underground river are DIFFERENT. Someone that can genuinely detect a river MIGHT NOT be able to detect a pipe. Claiming that one disproves the other is wrong.
Sorry peter but you really are being extraordinarily obtuse about this. First let's deal with the strawmen. We know that pipes and underground rivers are different. Secondly, we know that disproving one does not disprove the other. We know it, we've said it, Randi's said it, you've even acknowledged that he's never said to the contrary.

The issue, as we've made quite plain, over and over, is that you keep calling Randi a fraud and saying his tests are unfair, yet he tests dowsers who say they can find pipe, on pipe. There is nothing unfair about that. So why do you persist in mentioning such tests in the context of your allegations that Randi is a fraud and a liar? The only tedious thing is that you won't answer this question.

Quote:
Just look at anything Randi has wriitten, he will cite numerous examples of such. His articles are full of people who backed out of the test, or who failed the test, and complained afterwards it was unfair. http://www.skeptics.com.au/journal/divining.htm for instance.
Sorry peter you will have to do better. We want specific examples not airy vague references.

Firstly, however yes, there are no doubt complaints[i] about the tests being fair afterwards. Afterwards.

Do you actually believe those people? What did you expect? You've already said you think that dowsers are frauds and liars.

I just don't understand. Randi and the contestant agree on the test beforehand, but afterwards when they fail the contestant tries to say the test was unfair, and this makes Randi a fraud and a liar?

Secondly, as to backing out beforehand, that doesn't surprise me either, particularly as regards the type of potential applicant who knows they are a fraud. You will note if you read Randi's site that the most common type of applicant is a dowser. Why? No doubt because they are genuinely self deluded, as above. They don't know they can't do it under controlled conditions.

The most uncommon applicant I would guess is the high profile psychic. Why? Because they know they are frauds. Sylvia Browne being of course the well known example of someone who says they will apply for the prize but never does. Such people either never actually apply, or apply but then realise that Randi is very good at designing tests that do not allow cheating, and so they back out.

When potential applicants back out, they usually mumble vague things about Randi's testing being unfair and biased etc. They sound, in fact, just like you peter.

But when pressed, or when you try to get to the bottom of exactly why Randi's tests are unfair, you just get vague nonsense and prevarication.

Find me a cite of someone who backed out, and can describe exactly what Randi demanded that was unfair.

I have never seen such a thing, despite the obvious newsworthiness of such a story. You would think that a psychic who had approached Randi and found that his testing was actually unfair would be shouting that from the rooftops. But for some reason, they just go very very quiet.
  #30  
Old 04-28-2003, 01:06 AM
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Originally posted by Princhester
As to Priceguy and myself, I think that we all knew what Randi had written (the words "notion that dowsers maintain" were quite apparent to us) and we were all referring to that.
Yup for me. I worded my post badly. I didn't know someone was going to interpret it as me saying that there was no water underground anywhere in the world. My bad.
  #31  
Old 04-28-2003, 01:33 AM
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Well, Curt, there could be people that think of themselves as skeptics who are, in fact, not skeptical.

peter morris, thank you for your reply. I look forward to your promised posting of specific situations. In the meantime,...

Quote:
Cecil's column offers the theory of a dowser getting subliminal signals from the landscape causing the stick to move through ideomotor action. He then says that this proves dowsing is a fraud. That makes no sense at all. IF the theory is true, then the stick twitches when he moves over water, which he is unable to detect conciously. That seems like dowsing to me. If it looks like a duck... Rather than Cecil saying that its a fraud, he should say that it works, with a simple scientific explaination.
Except that the subtle clues from landscape are not guaranteed and do not occur all the time. The twitching also occurs any time the dowser is aware of what he's looking for, and knows it is there. The ideomotor effect is the subconcious movements in response to the dowser's expectations. Those expectations can be from environmental clues, preknowledge, or just self-generated expectation. If there's water there and he didn't consciously know it was there, there are other explanations. One is that there are some subconsious clues he's picking up. That is suggestive that dowsing is mildly effective in an intuitive, non-trained way. Another explanation is that all actual hits are in fact coincidences, and there are lots of actual misses that are regarded as hits because either nobody actually verifies them (digging a well), or by the time they do the dowser is long gone.

You are correct, Cecil doesn't spell all this out in longhand. He condenses it down. Maybe you don't want the bottom line, but how he got there.

Another thing, you keep harping on dowsing for water as if it is something completely different than dowsing for gold, or dowsing for buried treasure, or dowsing for archeological digs, or dowsing for "ley lines", or dowsing crop circles for signs of aliens. But dowsers themselves don't make this distinction. That's why skeptics (like Randi) treat all dowsing the same, and the explanation applies to water dowsing just like the above.

Quote:
As to the part about "normal" versus "paranormal" the distinction is meaningless. What, exactly, is "paranormal" anyway? How edo you define what is paranormal?
...
Paranormal merely means unidentified. Once you acknowledge the existence of something, it automatically becomes normal.
I think most people define paranormal as outside the bounds of the normal. This means some type of metaphysical explanation, vs. a physical one. Typically these are conditions that run counter to known science - not just unexplained things, but things that contradict what is known. I suppose something can move from paranormal to normal by becoming explained, and in the process losing the metaphysical explanation for a physical one. But doesn't that change the very phenomenon, if you change the description of how it works?

Quote:
The issue should be whether dowsing works at all, by any method whatsover, with no distinction between "normal" and "paranormal".
There Randi agrees with you. He doesn't ask for explanations, just demonstrations. My point in mentioning the distinction is to put criteria on the test applicants. If I claim to be able to make objects fall to the ground by letting go of them, how does that disqualify me from the challenge? Answer: the results are commonplace, expected, well-documented, reproducible, and explained. If I claim to be able to cure pneumonia with penicillin, again why should that be disqualified? Same reasons. What qualifies for the challenge is something that is bizarre, mystical, and outside the bounds of normal experience. What term would you use for that?

I said:
Quote:
I submit that it is only recently, in response to the skeptics explaining the ideomotor effect. The dowsers have taken that and tried to incorporate it into their theories.
You replied:
Quote:
I doubt it, you are just trying to make excuses for him. I still stand by what I sdaid in my original post. A few hundred years ago dowsers were known as twitchers, because allegedly the water caused them to twitch. The rod or pendulum magnifies the twitch.
Your cites did not prove your claim that dowsers were called twitchers. I'm sure people describe the rod movement as twitching, but your links did not show the rods themselves are called twitching rods, that the act of dowsing was called twitching, or that dowsers were called twitchers. The cites you provided that my comment was in response to is a fairly recent description of the status of dowsing. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that the comments that support ideomotor action as part of the process are incorporating what skeptics have said, and not offering that as a historical explanation.

Quote:
Let me state YET AGAIN that I don not actually believe in dowsing* You keep wanting me to explain and justify every little thing that dowsers say.
NO, I want you to justify what you said. You said that dowsers do not claim to be able to find water in pipes. But, in fact, they do. You're just wrong. It doesn't matter for this point if they can or cannot find water in pipes or water in the ground or water in cups, it matters that you said that they don't claim they can, but in fact they do claim they can. Do you now admit that dowsers do claim to be able to find water in pipes? Or do you still maintain that they do not?

Quote:
I really can't speak on behalf of those dowsers that think they can detect pipes. All I say is that a pipe and an underground river are DIFFERENT. Someone that can genuinely detect a river MIGHT NOT be able to detect a pipe. Claiming that one disproves the other is wrong.
That's irrelevant to the point I was making, which is what you said dowsers claim.

Look, how does one design a controlled test to look for underground rivers? It is a lot easier to control a test for water in pipes. So you ask dowsers if they can also find pipes, or only rivers. The dowsers say yes, they can find pipes, then you proceed with a test setup using pipes because you can control them.

To the dowsers, the claim is the same - they're finding water, in the same manner. The tests show they don't find water. Thus there's something wrong with their belief. Does that mean that, in the strictest sense, it's been disproven they can find underground natural water? No. But when you test different variations on the same theme (i.e. dowsing for anything else) and the results are negative, and you provide a scientific explanation for the visible effects, and you provide explanations for why it would appear to work, then it's pretty reasonable to conclude that the process of dowsing itself is flawed.

Now if you find a dowser who claims they are only able to find natural water, because they are picking up subconsious clues from the environment (rather than mystical energy signals), then you have grounds to examine that claim and look more closely. But until then, it seems unimportant.

I said:
Quote:
You have yet to provide evidence to back that up. For example, I previously asked you to provide a cite of someone who applied for the JREF Challenge and then backed out because Randi was being unfair, or someone who applied and failed the test and now is claiming Randi was unfair.
You replied:
Quote:
Just look at anything Randi has wriitten, he will cite numerous examples of such. His articles are full of people who backed out of the test, or who failed the test, and complained afterwards it was unfair.
http://www.skeptics.com.au/journal/divining.htm for instance.
You're completely ignoring the rest of what I stated which is the point of what I'm asking for. The evidence is not just the existence of someone making a claim that it was unfair, but the substance of the claim. What was unfair about it? What documentation is there that Randi was being unfair? Are there written documents to verify the description of events? I can claim you're being completely unfair because we met in secret where you told me you really are James Randi, and are just doing this thread for publicity. But can I prove that? Why should anyone else believe me? That's what I'm saying about these folks. They need to state why and how it was unfair, and offer some evidence to confirm their story. Otherwise it's just sour grapes.

Peter, I respect you for coming here to defend your statements in the face of a crowd of detractors and no supporters. But I'm still waiting for you to provide me something convincing.
  #32  
Old 04-28-2003, 02:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irishman
That's why skeptics (like Randi) treat all dowsing the same, and the explanation applies to water dowsing just like the above.
Irishman you need to be careful to be very accurate in what you say. If I have learnt one thing from debating with peter morris it is that you cannot afford to be sloppy when someone is trying very hard to discredit you. (I will now no doubt be a victim of Gaudere's law and be found to have said something really stupid above. Oh well )

No Randi does not treat all dowsers the same. Randi tests each one on the basis of what they say they can do. Which varies.

The Australian tests were an anomaly in that Randi was testing a whole bunch of dowsers who all claimed fairly common powers. Usually, each test is tailored.
  #33  
Old 04-28-2003, 08:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by peter morris
Randi's tests are unfair because a real psychic would have to be very lucky to pass them. Imagine a psychic who could get the 1 in 10 chance 20% of the time. Randi, however, would demand that they score 4 out of 5 in a test. If they only scored 2 or 3 they are dismissed as a failure.
Have you actually read the terms of the challenge that you are so busy trashing?
Quote:
Applicants must state clearly what they claim as their special ability, and test procedures must be agreed upon by both parties before any testing will take place.
If the claimant fails, it is because he did not perform as he boasted and expected. That't pretty much my definition of failure. How can a test be any fairer than that?
Quote:
Originally posted by peter morris
A real, fair test would be to see if the psychic can maintain a 20% score over a long series of tests. Randi demands an 80% score over a very short test. And that is not reasonable.
Randi doesn't demand anything. The claimant agrees to all conditions!

Reading between your lines, it seems like you feel that a claimant should not be required to perform perfectly. Is this because the claimed ability is not reliable? If the outcome of a test would be expected to be 10% accurate due to chance, and the claimant performs to the 10% standard, just how are we to tell the difference between special ability and random probability?

If claimant #1, claiming psychic powers, performs 10% accurately on a test, and claimant #2, NOT claiming any special powers, also performs to the same level, does this negate the psychic claims? Did #1 use his special powers, but #2 random chance? We cannot tell, but it strongly suggests that such powers are not in evidence.

It is a strong principle in scientific quest for the truth that if only one parameter is changed in a complex test, and the outcome is different, that parameter most likely contributed to the difference. For example, if you are testing a chemical in a beaker which is affected by pressure, heat and light, and altering only the pressure results in a different outcome, then pressure is most likely the cause of the difference.

To apply this principle to the dowsing tests, dowsers were shown where the pipes were and they agreed they could detect them 100%. When ONE parameter was changed (visual input) when the pipes were hidden, the results were significantly different. This strongly suggests that the visual input parameter was the cause of the initial success, and not psychic ability.
  #34  
Old 04-28-2003, 12:55 PM
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Hey! No fair shifting forums and not telling!

Seriously though, did Peter think he could make the same exact arguements in a different forum and get away with. Now he's pointing to my words and reading them wrong as well.

Sheesh.
  #35  
Old 04-28-2003, 02:03 PM
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test(s)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Randis' Application Rule number 5

In all cases, applicant will be required to perform the preliminary test either before an appointed representative, if distance and time dictate that need, or in a location where a member of the JREF staff can attend. This preliminary test is to determine if the applicant is likely to perform as promised during a formal test. To date, no applicant has passed the preliminary test, and this has eliminated the need for formal testing in those cases. There is no limit on the number of times an applicant may re-apply, but re-application can take place only after 12 months have elapsed since the preliminary test.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Peter Morris quote

Just look at anything Randi has written, he will cite numerous examples of such. His articles are full of people who backed out of the test, or who failed the test, and complained afterwards it was unfair. http://www.skeptics.com.au/journal/divining.htm for instance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

me-
The applicants are given a preliminary test before the real thing. Perhaps this is where the people backed out (or were asked to leave) before the actual test. The individuals that have supposedly taken the "test" have actually taken a preliminary test, of which no one yet has passed (as of the date the rules were released-has anyone gone on to the second test?). If they pass the preliminary test they still have to take another to get the million.

(Maybe Randi just doesn't want to have walk around with a 10,000 check in his pocket.)
  #36  
Old 04-28-2003, 02:30 PM
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Peter, I also wanted to give you advance warning that if you do come up with some specific examples of people who took the test where you or they claim it was unfair, I DO intend to ask JREf/Randi himself to provide their account of the test. It's only reasonable to do so to give us a fair chance at judging the merits of the test. So please make your examples specific.
  #37  
Old 04-28-2003, 03:06 PM
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Re: test(s)


Quote:
Originally posted by kenibbling pin
me-
The applicants are given a preliminary test before the real thing. Perhaps this is where the people backed out (or were asked to leave) before the actual test. The individuals that have supposedly taken the "test" have actually taken a preliminary test, of which no one yet has passed (as of the date the rules were released-has anyone gone on to the second test?). If they pass the preliminary test they still have to take another to get the million.
[/B]
To my understanding, its mostly a matter of convenience for both parties. Randi has waved the preliminary test for those who show up on his doorstep in Florida. The preliminary test is merely so those not in easy reach of the JREF can get a local 'contact' who will test them to see if they are worth any further investigation.
  #38  
Old 04-28-2003, 05:32 PM
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It's hard to think of Randi as a fraud. He's certainly exposed more than his share of frauds. What more does he have to do?
  #39  
Old 04-28-2003, 06:11 PM
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Musicat, I don't think there is any point in dealing with peter's promised cites about Randi till he's provided them. He says he is going to give real examples of where Randi has demanded that psychics perform better than they themselves claim they can perform, and then dismissed them when they fail. OK, we're all waiting.

Pay out the rope freely, Musicat...
  #40  
Old 04-29-2003, 01:00 AM
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Princhester said:
Quote:
Irishman you need to be careful to be very accurate in what you say.
I did think about that when I posted and debated leaving that sentence in. To clarify my intent I should rephrase:

That is why skeptics regard dowsing as a single phenomenon - because the dowsers themselves regard it so. Thus the explanation for why dowsing seems to work and what causes the stick or pendulum motion is the same for water as for the other targets.

But yes, Randi does look at the specific claims of the individual and test to those. Although it is certainly possible that he offers alternatives if they make the testing easier, so long as the changes do not conflict with the applicant's stated parameters and the applicant agrees to the changes.

Mr. Miskatonic, I did put two mentions in the original thread, and at least one other person referred to it. I can't help it if you can't read.
  #41  
Old 04-29-2003, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by peter morris

In the first place, you have confused two seperate things, here, my comments about the lack of logic in cecil's column, and my opinion about Randi.

Cecil's column offers the theory of a dowser getting subliminal signals from the landscape causing the stick to move through ideomotor action. He then says that this proves dowsing is a fraud. That makes no sense at all.
I agree. Thank God he actually says nothing like this.

Quote:
IF the theory is true, then the stick twitches when he moves over water, which he is unable to detect conciously. That seems like dowsing to me. If it looks like a duck... Rather than Cecil saying that its a fraud, he should say that it works, with a simple scientific explaination.
No, the stick moves because the dowser thinks he’s over water, whether there’s water present or not.

Once again, let’s review what Cecil actually says:

“Needless to say, dowsing is entirely a fraud, although often
an unconscious one. Innumerable experiments, beginning in
1641--that's right, 1641--have demonstrated that:

(a) The presence of water has no discernible effect on a rod
held above it, whether the rod is made of wood, metal, or
anything else.

(b) The success rate for diviners is about the same as that
for people who use the hit-and-miss method when looking for
water.

(c) Geologists trained to recognize telltale surface clues
(certain kinds of rocks and plants, various topographical
features) will invariably far outdo dowsers in predicting
where water will be found, and at what depth.

Nevertheless, belief in dowsing has persisted, partly because
most people secretly want to believe in magic, partly because
water is fairly easy to find in most parts of the inhabitable
world, and partly because the plunging-stick phenomenon
seems so convincing to untutored observers.“

I fail to see any sort of “lack of logic” in Cecil’s part. Dowsing doesn’t work for the reasons described above. Nowhere in the column does Cecil say, as you state, that because the stick moves through ideomotor action, dowsing if a fraud. That’s your claim, not his.

Quote:
As to the part about "normal" versus "paranormal" the distinction is meaningless. What, exactly, is "paranormal" anyway? How edo you define what is paranormal?

Just as an example consider this: flowing water causes minute vibrations, someone might detect them subconciously, and the stick moves through ideomor action. Is that normal, or paranormal? What if flowing water creates a magnetic field, which some people might sense? Normal or paranormal? What if it makes a sound, below the level of concious hearing, but can be sensed subconciously? Normal or paranormal?

Paranormal merely means unidentified. Once you acknowledge the existence of something, it automatically becomes normal.

The issue should be whether dowsing works at all, by any method whatsover, with no distinction between "normal" and "paranormal".
That is the issue. That’s why dowsing has been tested so many times. So far no one’s been able to demonstrate that dowsing will help you find anything other than gullible people. It doesn’t matter if the rod is moving because of the ideomotor effect or if the dowser has Parkinson’s. What matters is whether or not when the dowser says “There’s water here,” if water is actually present. And what has been shown is that when they do, they’re success rate is no better than chance.

--Patch
  #42  
Old 04-29-2003, 11:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irishman
Princhester said:
Mr. Miskatonic, I did put two mentions in the original thread, and at least one other person referred to it. I can't help it if you can't read.
Hey, I'm not blaming you, its Peter I'm blaming. First he continues in the AACC thread after everyone has bailed. Then he posts to the pit thread, then shifts to the GD forum.

Obsheesh: Sheesh!
  #43  
Old 04-30-2003, 07:13 AM
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Hey peter, I've been watching this space for days now. My eyes are getting sore. Are we nearly there yet?
  #44  
Old 04-30-2003, 07:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Princhester
Hey peter, I've been watching this space for days now. My eyes are getting sore. Are we nearly there yet?
He appears to have moved over to the sci.skeptic newsgroup at the moment, where he's not faring any better.

--Patch
  #45  
Old 04-30-2003, 08:55 AM
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Originally posted by RickJay
peter, we WILL need evidence that supports your example of "Randi would ask for 4 out of 5 when a psychic can get 2 out of 10, where random chance would be 1 out of 10"?
Actually if you look at the link about dowsing it is pretty clear. Dowsers testing for water in pipes had a 22% success rate when a 10% rate would have been predicted. But Randi declared it a failure because they had predicted an 86% success rate.

One might argue, as you seem to have, that it is only fair to hold these dowsers to their claimed success rate. But while it may be fair in terms of Randi's dealings with the dowsers, it is misleading in terms of demonstrating the inefficiency of dowsing. IOW Randi is being misleading by presenting his results as demonstrating that dowsing doesn't work, when in actually he appears to have demonstrated that it DOES work but just not as well as it's practitioners believe.
  #46  
Old 04-30-2003, 10:11 AM
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I'd like to see any cite that says what chance predicts for finding underground water. How do you calculate that, anyway? Walk over a 100×100 square foot piece of land (which may or may not have water under it); how can you say that chance predicts any success rate at all?

I mean, it's not like flipping a coin, where you know the number of sides on the coin; or guessing at cards where you know the number of cards in the deck, and how many suits there are.
  #47  
Old 04-30-2003, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by IzzyR
Actually if you look at the link about dowsing it is pretty clear. Dowsers testing for water in pipes had a 22% success rate when a 10% rate would have been predicted. But Randi declared it a failure because they had predicted an 86% success rate.
Izzy, what link are you talking about? There are multiple links in this thread, and the one that I see referring to a Randi test states that the dowsing success rate was 13.5% overall, not 22%. It was 22% in a subset of the tests (water pipes) and not all the tests, which included dowsing for brass and gold, which the dowsers had claimed they would be even more successful detecting.

I don't think I need to remind anyone that if random chance would expect 5 out of 50 and you get 11 out of 50, that is statistically unremarkable. I don't have the formula for calculating a binary probability in front of me, but if random chance says 11% and the dowsers are saying 90, and the results hit 13.5% (the actual success rate on the whole test) what do YOU think that proves?

And The dowsers agreed to this test and agreed to the success rate. If their methods only worked 20-25% of the time, sure, it would have been reasonable to simply run a great many trials to establish a strong confidence interval at 18-22% success. But they claimed 80-90% success, and scoring 13.5% in 111 tries when your success rate is normally 90% - well, it's impossible. In 111 tries, if your probability is .9, the likelihood of success in only 15 out of 111 trials is astronomically low.

This is why the JREF asks the applicants to set their OWN performance criteria.

Quote:
One might argue, as you seem to have, that it is only fair to hold these dowsers to their claimed success rate. But while it may be fair in terms of Randi's dealings with the dowsers, it is misleading in terms of demonstrating the inefficiency of dowsing. IOW Randi is being misleading by presenting his results as demonstrating that dowsing doesn't work, when in actually he appears to have demonstrated that it DOES work but just not as well as it's practitioners believe.
13.5% success when random chance dictates 10%, in only 111 trials, or 22% in 50 trials, demonstrates very little. No reasonable person could draw a positive conclusion from that. Now, if you made it 10,000 trials and they were still running 22% in a truly well-designed double blind test, I'd be convinced. Note that the dowsers performed WORSE on detecting brass than random chance would suggest, so it works both ways.

OF course, one could argue Randi hasn't proved dowsing DOESN'T work, and I agree. He hasn't. You'll also note in the link that he doesn't actually say "this test proves dowsing is false." But let's be clear; you have to prove it DOES work, not that it doesn't.
  #48  
Old 04-30-2003, 11:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by RickJay
There are multiple links in this thread, and the one that I see referring to a Randi test states that the dowsing success rate was 13.5% overall, not 22%. It was 22% in a subset of the tests (water pipes) and not all the tests, which included dowsing for brass and gold, which the dowsers had claimed they would be even more successful detecting.
I specifically mentioned water. I would consider dowsing for water as independent from dowsing for anything else, regardless of claims that it would be effective there as well.
Quote:
I don't think I need to remind anyone that if random chance would expect 5 out of 50 and you get 11 out of 50, that is statistically unremarkable.
Well its a good thing you didn't remind anyone of this because you would have been quite wrong. The likelihood of random chance producing any number greater than ten on such a test is less than 1%.
Quote:
And The dowsers agreed to this test and agreed to the success rate. If their methods only worked 20-25% of the time, sure, it would have been reasonable to simply run a great many trials to establish a strong confidence interval at 18-22% success. But they claimed 80-90% success, and scoring 13.5% in 111 tries when your success rate is normally 90% - well, it's impossible. In 111 tries, if your probability is .9, the likelihood of success in only 15 out of 111 trials is astronomically low.

This is why the JREF asks the applicants to set their OWN performance criteria.
Again, I am using water in isolation of other materials. (BTW, the likelihood of random chance producing greater than 14 successes out of 111 tries is about 14%, also a pretty impressive number. Nonetheless, I prefer to focus on water, which is - as I understand it - the most common application of dowsing, and where the results were most conclusive.)

In general, it appears that you made a fatal error by not bothering to actually calculate the binomial probabilities before posting your assertions.

I also note again that Randi's test might have done a fine job of demolishing the claims of the dowsers. What it did not do is a good job of establishing that dowsing does not work - to the contrary, in fact. The fact that the dowsers were claiming overly high success rates is irrelevant to the results of the test (other than the agreement between the parties, obviously).
  #49  
Old 04-30-2003, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by IzzyR
I specifically mentioned water. I would consider dowsing for water as independent from dowsing for anything else, regardless of claims that it would be effective there as well.Well its a good thing you didn't remind anyone of this because you would have been quite wrong. The likelihood of random chance producing any number greater than ten on such a test is less than 1%.Again, I am using water in isolation of other materials. (BTW, the likelihood of random chance producing greater than 14 successes out of 111 tries is about 14%, also a pretty impressive number. Nonetheless, I prefer to focus on water, which is - as I understand it - the most common application of dowsing, and where the results were most conclusive.)

In general, it appears that you made a fatal error by not bothering to actually calculate the binomial probabilities before posting your assertions.
I'm sorry, but there's no "Fatal error" here. i fgirued the probability was LOW - in my head I guess three or four percent - but 1-2% isn't a big deal. 14% is totally unimpressive; a 1 in 7 shot isn't proof of anything. 1% would be impressive if you could replicate it a few times; otherwise, there's no reason to think it any more than a fluke, especially when it's a subset of a less successful trial. (After all, the odds of doing unusually well on 1 of the 3 trial subsets are three times higher than on any one alone. I suspect that had they blown the water test but fluked out on the gold test, the dowsing crowd would be hailing that as a major victory, too.)

Again; the test does not prove, conclusively, that dowsing does not work. However, there is no question that it fails to prove it DOES, and it certainly proved the dowser's claims were false.

In terms of the fairness of the JREF challenge, a 14% fluke result that falls well below the stated claim is obviously not good enough to hand out a million bucks. I mean, not to point out the obvious, but if that was the standard you'd just have to spend a year lining up a dozen conspirators to take the same test, and in all likelihood you'd win your million bucks just by sheer force of numbers. To hand out the actual pot, JREF is perfectly justified in expecting results that go well beyond "unlikely chance" and well into "almost certain," just because otherwise they'd be handing out a million bones every three or four years to people who were just the luckiest 1%.

Quote:
I also note again that Randi's test might have done a fine job of demolishing the claims of the dowsers. What it did not do is a good job of establishing that dowsing does not work
And Randi never claimed it did, that I can see. He makes the assertion dowsing is phony, but there's more than this one experiment to say it's phony.
  #50  
Old 04-30-2003, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by RickJay
I'm sorry, but there's no "Fatal error" here. i fgirued the probability was LOW - in my head I guess three or four percent - but 1-2% isn't a big deal. 14% is totally unimpressive; a 1 in 7 shot isn't proof of anything. 1% would be impressive if you could replicate it a few times; otherwise, there's no reason to think it any more than a fluke, especially when it's a subset of a less successful trial.
This is ignorant and silly. Standard practice in statistical testing is to use a 5% likelihood as a benchmark, some use 10%. Less than 1% is quite significant by any measure. In fact, I'm frankly a bit skeptical as to your claim that when you said "statistically unremarkable", and "No reasonable person could draw a positive conclusion from that", you really had in mind a 3-4% likelihood. But we'll leave that aside for now. In any event, less than 1% is a pretty conclusive result.

14% is not considered statistically significant, but it is at least suggestive. Not "totally unimpressive".

Hey, no one can force you to believe in dowsing if you don't want to. You can believe that the test represented a 1 in 100 fluke, and no one can stop you. In fact, you can believe all sorts of strange things on that basis. But don't be distorting the results of the test. Under accepted statistical criteria it strongly supported some level of for dowsing, and to represent otherwise is misleading.
Quote:
(After all, the odds of doing unusually well on 1 of the 3 trial subsets are three times higher than on any one alone. I suspect that had they blown the water test but fluked out on the gold test, the dowsing crowd would be hailing that as a major victory, too.)
This assumes that the three tests are testing the same thing - they are not, as noted above.
Quote:
In terms of the fairness of the JREF challenge, a 14% fluke result that falls well below the stated claim is obviously not good enough to hand out a million bucks. I mean, not to point out the obvious, but if that was the standard you'd just have to spend a year lining up a dozen conspirators to take the same test, and in all likelihood you'd win your million bucks just by sheer force of numbers. To hand out the actual pot, JREF is perfectly justified in expecting results that go well beyond "unlikely chance" and well into "almost certain," just because otherwise they'd be handing out a million bones every three or four years to people who were just the luckiest 1%.
I've already made clear a number of times that I am NOT claiming that any of the dowsers should get a million bucks based on the results of the test. Enough times for you to have picked up on it by now. Please stop harping on the subject in your responses to my posts - it confuses the issue.
Quote:
And Randi never claimed it did, that I can see. He makes the assertion dowsing is phony, but there's more than this one experiment to say it's phony.
Of course there's more to it. But Randi clearly implies (in his "Results and Conclusions" section) that these tests support this claim. They actually support the opposite.
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