Why don't the skeptics(Randi, et al) try and recreate the PEAR experiment?

It seems that Robert Jahn’s studies at Princeton on anomalous mental phenomena are considered the most credible evidence of parapsychological phenomena to date. Some critics claimed that one of the subjects (Operator 10) was responsible for most of the anomaies and that he was actually a team member. Upon further investigation most critics decided that it was very unlikely that this operator could have screwed with the data and that even without this subject there was a statistically significant result. One researcher did attempt a “similar” experiment by having subjects attempt to direct photons through one slit or another and they found nothing significant. I for one wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was possible to influence electrons but not photons. Bottom Line: Why the hell don’t we all get together and do this experiment once and for all with all the skeptics at the helm?

Linkage please?

Sorry Diogenes, I was purposefully avoiding providing links for a number of reasons but here goes:

Princeton’s site:



CSICOP (On Utt’s work):

Surf from there…

One more:


Well, after reading all the links, I think the experiment is intriguing but slightly fishy…

but that’s not really imprtant to the OP. Do you know if Randi, rt al, have been asked to replicate the experiment.? It sounds like at least one analogous experiment has been attempted with a light beam and it produced no results.

It seems like the experiment only works with that specific PEAR software, but theoretically it should work with any random generator. I wouldn’t mind seeing a retrial with new software, or some more analogous variations.

The fixed consistency of the results is, in itself, suspicious I think.

Yeah, everyone knows that electrons are way more suggestable than photons!

So, why exactly do you think that Randi et al. should do this? We already know what the result will be…Randi et al. will find no effect and then their critics will say it was because they did this or that wrong.

Why perform an experiment when you can already predict both the results and the reactions to the results?

Randi, or skeptics in general, do not attempt to prove or disprove the existence of paranormal powers. They only show that the evidence given for a particular claim is a hoax or a badly performed experiment.

What I think you do not understand is that no one is claiming that such powers do not exist, although it comes out that way, just that there is no evidence to prove that they do.

AFAIK, the Million Dollar prize is directed at individuals claiming they have special powers. Claims based on groups exhibiting small-magnitude statistical effects fall outside this category. (My WAG).

Of course it’s possible that Jahn has never applied for the prize/grant from Randi.

Still, Kid Charlemagne poses a question that I’ve wondered about. Why don’t you email Randi in a couple of days, after absorbing the comments on this thread?

Instead of asking the skeptics why they don’t run the test themselves, why not ask the proponents of such claims why they don’t invite the skeptics to help design proper tests beforehand?

When it comes to extraordinary claims the burden of proof lies firmly with the claimant. This must be the way of things otherwise all of science would be consumed pointless attempts to reproduce or ‘disprove’ the claims of every nutter in the world.

G. Cornelius and David B have it right.

“Prove that I’m wrong” is the stock in trade of every scam artist going, particularly those in the health/alternative medicine field. Because there is insufficient time and money to launch experiments to unmask all of the quacks, they get another bonus - the ability to claim that the skeptics are conspiring to block amazing new discoveries.

The thing is, this experiment has yet been verified, i.e., performed with success by another team. This alone casts doubt on it.

Having reviewed the responses and my OP, I see it came off wrong. I did not mean that the burden of proof lay with the skeptics or that they should recreate the experiment themselves. I actually meant exactly what David B suggested - Why not have the skeptics come in and monitor the experiments. My intention is not to pit believers vs. non-believers in a texas death experiment but rather to add the skills of trained devil’s advocates to the mix.

jshore, Nice use of fallacy to make yourself sound like an idiot.

I think that’s pretty much what KidCharlemagne was asking for in his OP. In fact, on preview, I’m now sure of it! :slight_smile:

Well, at least we’ve cleared that up. :smiley:

But seriously, I do think it would be wise for the proponents to invite the skeptics in – if they really believe in what they are doing. Too often those who promote this stuff see the skeptics as enemies and horrible evil debunkers who are just out to disbelieve, so they don’t want them anywhere near their experiments. Occasionally there are some who are willing to discuss things more rationally. But unfortunately not often enough.

Susan Blackmore is a good example of one who did – she originally believed in these things but did experiment after experiment with no positive results. She looked around the field and realized that those who were getting positive results were not doing things properly. She ended up being quite an active skeptic because that’s where the evidence led her.

Actually there’s quite a lot of truth in this perception. (Do you disagree?)

Do I disagree? Yes. I know lots of skeptics, yet none of them are horrible or evil. As for debunking – well, just remember that you can only debunk that which is bunk.

Well what I meant was more of your final phrase. Forgetting about whether skeptics are evil, the question is whether they are merely “skeptical”, or actually have a definite viewpoint on the subject and refuse to believe otherwise.

The affair discussed in this thread shows the downside of this aspect of skepticism. (Also notable is the statement by a couple of “skeptical” posters that the skeptic society in question makes no secret of their being biased.

Of course there’s no great crime in having a viewpoint (though I do think the term “skeptic” is in most cases a misnomer). But it means that the distrust that “those who promote this stuff” have is justified.

Of course we have a viewpoint – I don’t think anybody would claim otherwise. But that viewpoint is that we are, well, skeptical. We have looked at the evidence and find nothing but fraud and misconceptions. So we certainly aren’t going to believe it. However, that doesn’t mean we are closed-minded either. We just want to see the evidence, which, so far, has not been forthcoming. One way to help us see it would be, as suggested here, for the proponents to involve skeptics in experimental design, so they/we don’t come back later and say, “Well, sure, you got results that appear positive, but you have problems here, here, and here.” It seems it would be to everybody’s benefit (at least, everybody who really wants to find out the truth rather than just promote their own viewpoint) to handle it this way.

It shows that even skeptics are human. For the record, Truzzi (who died a few days ago) pretty much stopped being a skeptic and went on to write positive books about psychic detectives and contribute to [url="http://www.nonfictionreviews.com/cgi-bin/ae.pl?mode=1&article=article1210.art&page=1"a horrible “encyclopedia” of pseudoscience that ended up promoting the stuff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that the evidence led to the conclusions he reached…

If by “biased” you mean “biased in favor of objective evidence,” I completely agree. If you mean it some other way, you need to explain better.

Why is it a misnomer? Sure, there are out-and-out disbelievers, but they are by no means the majority of those who call themselves skeptics. An example: I have had creationists tell me they are skeptics about everything I am skeptical about, especially psychics (for example) except, of course, for creationism. But when it comes down to it, they aren’t really skeptics at all. They don’t believe in psychics because they are bible-thumpers who simply are disbelievers in anything not within their religious view.

Sorry, but baloney. They don’t like skeptics because skeptics point out the flaws when they try to promote their allegedly positive results. Like I said, if they really want to get to the heart of the scientific evidence, they would welcome skeptics to help design better experiments. But they haven’t.


Perhaps in some cases. But I think in the majority of cases that viewpoint is better defined as “I don’t believe that “paranormal” phenomena are real.” This was also the position of Truzzi, according to your review of the Encyclopedia which says that “it discusses how Truzzi left CSICOP because he saw it as “biased against anomalies rather than centered upon an open-minded skepticism based on the best scholarship.””


Of course. But there are two aspects here. One is the (apparent) dishonesty displayed in manipulating the results. The other is the bias which motivated them to do it to begin with. Anyone who felt motivated to shade the truth in order to arrive at a certain conclusion is clearly biased in favor of that conclusion. The facts as evidenced in that episode are evidence that some of the best known professional skeptics are motivated by the a priori conclusion that paranormal phenomena do not exist, rather than a skepticism about the proof to date.

Of course, once that bias is in place it is difficult to trust the fox with the chickens. Because, as you say, even skeptics are human.

See above.

I’m not sure what you are saying here. I would agree with you about the bible thumpers, but would put most non-bible thumping skeptics in the same class.