I'd appreciate critical comments on this essay connected with the sad loss of Edgar Mitchell a few days ago. Factual and logical flaws, please swing
This NY Times obituary of Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell mentions briefly his famous ‘space ESP’ experiment.
In 1971 he published an article called “An ESP Test from Apollo 14” in the Journal of Parapsychology. I have read and studied the published
report. It is not online anywhere, nor is it distributed at all widely.
The description of the ESP experiment in the NY Times is inaccurate. Mitchell made ‘sending’ sessions both on the way out to the moon and the way
back. Several participants concentrated at preset agreed-on times and wrote down the Zener card symbols they thought Mitchell was sending.
But Mitchells claim that 51 of 200 guesses were correct was unjustifiable for two reasons.
First, due to rescheduling of major flight events, Mitchell did not ‘send’ at the same times that participants were ‘listening’, and several
participants skipped many of the planned ‘sendings’, or did a second listening period immediately after an earlier one. Mitchell was faced with
the challenge of selecting which ‘listening’ runs needed to be compared to which ‘sending’ runs, and after several straightforward schemes
kept generating essentially random results, he hit on a matching scheme based on numerical sequence of sessions.
Everybody's 1st session would be compared to his 1st sending, everybody's 4th session to his 4th, and so forth, no matter WHAT the actual date/time
of each event. Since different participants had different total numbers of listenings, the unmatching sessions would be disregarded.
This meant that when some participants missed sessions, their later listening sessions ‘skipped’ down the list of Mitchell’s sendings, so that
the sending which one participant’s listening was being compared to would be different from another participant’s listening, even though both
participants’ listenings had occurred simultaneously. As I recall, this also sometimes had a listening being scored against a sending that had not
yet even occurred.
The second reason to question the results of the report is that this process of repeatedly redefining the matching sending/listening pairings based on
the resulting scores is of course a fundamental violation of experimental protocol [scoring criteria defined IN ADVANCE and then followed] and would
result in the experimental results being discarded, in any truly scientific activity.
If your arrow misses the target bulls-eye, you are not allowed to walk over and paint a new bulls-eye around where the arrow hit, which is in essence
what Mitchell had done.
Another major reason to discard the experimental results is that it was totally uncalibrated. Mitchell had not made a dry run experiment with him
still on Earth, nor did he ever make one after his return. When examining the effects of a NEW factor in a process [spaceflight, in this case]
standard experimental protocol requires that the tests be performed both WITHOUT the factor and then WITH the factor [and preferably then again
WITHOUT the factor].
It was a bold experiment, I applaud the creativity of the concept. But in preparation, execution, and data reduction, I think it was badly bungled.
There was nothing genuinely scientific about it.