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Discuss the note to the TED community on the withdrawal of the TEDxWestHollywood license.

For discussion: http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/01/a-note-to-the-ted-community-on-the-withdrawal-of-the-tedxwesthollywood-license


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  • Apr 5 2013: This is a meta-analysis of two pseudoscience studies. It's not actual research. Thus why they say, "It is concluded that there are hints of an effect, but also a shortage of independent replications and theoretical concepts." In other words "there might be something, but someone's going to need to verify if there actually is something and then figure out what it means".

    They did not, however, conclude "Yaay! Magic!"
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      Apr 5 2013: You need to provide references.
      • Apr 5 2013: Not when I"m referring to the article in the previous comment.
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          Apr 5 2013: Look up. There is no previous comment.
      • Apr 5 2013: Here is the actual conclusion written in the paper where the langauge has changes from, "there are hints of an effect," to, "We conclude that for both data sets that there is a small, but significant effect." Interestingly both the comments come from exactly the same paper, the first from the abstract at the beginning of the paper, the second written in the conclusion toward the end of it.

        We conclude that for both data sets that there is a small, but significant effect. This result
        corresponds to the recent findings of studies on distant healing and the ‘feeling of being
        stared at’. Therefore, the existence of some anomaly related to distant intentions cannot
        be ruled out. The lack of methodological rigour in the existing database prohibits final
        conclusions and calls for further research, especially for independent replications on
        larger data sets. There is no specific theoretical conception we know of that can
        incorporate this phenomenon into the current body of scientific knowledge. Thus,
        theoretical research allowing for and describing plausible mechanisms for such effects is
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          Apr 5 2013: Thank you, Gary!
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          Apr 5 2013: "The lack of methodological rigour in the existing database prohibits final conclusions and calls for further research, especially for independent replications on larger data sets."

          In other words, "We screwed up and want more money."
        • Apr 5 2013: Do you imply that the issue is settled with this? What is this "we", these are different researchers, collective blame? You would prefer this, correct? No more experiments, let's just move on and forget about all the anomalies. This I would consider an anti-scientific attitude.
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        Apr 5 2013: It isn't even clear which study he's talking about.
    • Apr 5 2013: Probably the two given below, but only one was meta, and no science was said to be actually harmed at SRI.
      The other was a real independent replication.

      "PEAR's Remote Perception program:
      Following Utt's importance on replication and Hyman's challenge on interlaboratory consistency in the AIR report, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research conducted several hundred trials to see if they can replicate the SAIC and SRI experiments. They create an analytical judgment methodology to replace the human judging process that was criticized in past experiments. The results of the experiments were consistent with the SRI experiments."
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        Apr 5 2013: Critique of the PEAR Remote Viewing Experiments

        "The research departs from criteria usually expected in formal scientific experimentation. Problems with regard to randomization, statistical baselines, application of statistical models, agent coding of descriptor lists, feedback to percipients, sensory cues, and precautions against cheating. Many of the issues of remote-viewing methodology were identified by Stokes and Kennedy over 10 years ago. It is concluded that the quoted significance values are meaningless because of defects in the experimental and statistical procedures."
        • Apr 5 2013: "We should point out that we have no reason to think cheating actually took place in the PEAR research. Dunne et al. (1989) noted that positive effects come from a large portion of the subjects. However, according to their Tables E and F, Subject 10 contributed 77 trials as percipient and 167 as agent, for a total of 244 trials (i.e., over 70% of the formal trials). Because the procedures allow deception by either percipient or agent acting alone, the contribution of that subject should be considered. If we remove Subject 10’s trials from the set, the z score drops from 6.355 ( p = 1.04 x 10-10 ) to 2.17 ( p = .015, one-tailed)."

          Thank you. These are serious flaws, if true. I agree randomization of target selection is absolutely crucial. Too bad. No further studies done after this? How did the researchers respond to the critics? I think it would be straightforward to do better studies. LET'S FINALLY CLEAR THIS UP!

          I think the case for Ganzfeld telepathy is much, much better, even excellent, though. Many, many replications over 90 years by different groups. Full randomization of targets. Anyway, we were talking about remote viewing.

          "Every meta-analysis of the ganzfeld database to date has shown significantly positive results, including one by Milton and Wiseman. When meta-analyses start to show consistency across multiple authors, including skeptics, there's good reason to believe that something interesting is indeed going on." Dean Radin


          Do you object this?
        • Apr 5 2013: You were telling me about the "goats" film and books. It'a fictional account, though. Here may be something to set the record straight.

          Sorry, bad audio.

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        Apr 5 2013: Thanks for clarifying that. I never thought that goats could be killed just by staring at them, but other people might have.

        An actual phenomenon that may have contributed to misinterpretation.

        Fainting Goats
        • Apr 5 2013: Thanks for accepting this as an actual contribution intended to rationalize the debate. What do you think should be debated here if not the scientific status and credibility of "individual speakers"? Suzanne's text? Quantum theory in relation to the (belief or hypothesis of the) living universe?
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        Apr 5 2013: You're welcome. I took it as a serious contribution.

        What do I think should be debated? Well, "pseudoscience" has been a term used in TED policy and official TED discourse. I don't know for sure, but I think there may be some people who think that the use of this term is tantamount to bigotry. It may well be, if what is being articulated are religious/spiritual beliefs and not objective science. Is that so? Does pseudoscience exist? If so, how can it be recognized? Should charges of "pseudoscience" be identified as a form of bigotry, or is are they fair in the context of discussions of mainstream science vs. fringe claims? Should "pseudoscience" become a casualty of the policing of political correctness in public discourse? I think those are significant issues worthy of debate.
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          Apr 5 2013: For example, is an identification of "pseudoscience" fair when applied to all assertions about the age of the universe being no more than 6000 years old and the reality of the Great Flood as a worldwide catastrophe from which only Noah and his family and other creatures on his Ark survived? Or is it only fair when those assertions are claimed to have been confirmed by scientific evidence? Or is it never fairly applied?
        • Apr 5 2013: I didn't look at the actual arguments for Creationism in the literal bible sense (this whole U.S. debate is a total non-issue here in Germany), but I guess one could label such as pseudoscience. I have no opinion on Graham Hancock, I did not even see his talk. I strongly question the notion of all parapsychology and for example, Rupert Sheldrakes ideas as just being pseudoscience, without further detailed argument.

          As TED is supposed to be about 'ideas worth spreading' it would not be enough to point to the mainstream opinions about his *hypothesis* of morphogenetic fields/formative causation, clearly presented as such. It could be a case of "not yet" accepted, and well worth spreading, which I think it is. This cannot be decided without looking at the details.

          "And scepticism, in the sense of doubt of the validity of elementary ideas—which is really a proposal to turn an idea out of court and permit no inquiry into its applicability—is doubly condemned by the fundamental principle of scientific method—condemned first as obstructing inquiry, and condemned second because it is treating some other than a statistical ratio as a thing to be argued about." Peirce

          "A naturalistic methodology (sometimes called an "inductive theory of science") has its value, no doubt. […] I reject the naturalistic view: It is uncritical. Its upholders fail to notice that whenever they believe to have discovered a fact, they have only proposed a convention. Hence the convention is liable to turn into a dogma. This criticism of the naturalistic view applies not only to its criterion of meaning, but also to its idea of science, and consequently to its idea of scientific method." Karl Popper
        • Apr 5 2013: Do Creationists propose new scientific experiments that could possibly falsify or support these "truths of the Bible"? Do they give detailed predictions? Well, Sheldrake does so, therefore it would be science, according to Popper.
      • Apr 5 2013: I think we should take some actual TED talks and work out what the actual policy is from them. So, we could take, eg, the "aquatic ape" talk and the "my stroke" talk and various others (Tweedle-Dennett and Tweedle-Dawkins spring to mind as immediate possible red flags) and then get someone from TED, who understands their supposed policy, to comment on whether those talks pass or fail. Then we can start talking in definite terms rather than woo(lly) phrases. Too much of this discussion has been one-step removed from the actuality.

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