Originally posted by defenestrator
Sectors of the scientific community can be co-opted, infiltrated, or subjugated, but the scientific method itself is incorruptible, and the best tool
we have to further our understanding.
The scientific method is limited, clumsy, and flawed. Its only a hammer and not everything is a nail.
Have you heard of a scientist named Freeman Dyson? He wrote the foreward to a book that I think every skeptic should read. Here it is.
by Freeman Dyson,
Institute for Advanced Study,
Princeton, New Jersey
"This book begins with an extraordinary story about a harp - one that is typical of thousands of others in which somebody knows something without
having any normal way of knowing. This kind of extraordinary knowing is typically called extrasensory perception, or ESP. Since I am a scientist, the
story puts me in a difficult position. As a scientist I don't believe the story, but as a human being I want to believe it. As a scientist, I don't
believe anything that is not based on solid evidence. As a scientist, I have to consider it possible that Elizabeth Meyer and Harold McCoy might have
concocted the story or deluded themselves into believing it. Scientists call such stories "anecdotal," meaning that they are scientifically
On the other hand, as a human being I find the story convincing. I am impressed by the fact that Elizabeth Meyer is herself a scientist and would
normally be skeptical of such anecdotal evidence. She understands why the majority of scientists do not believe her story. She is eager to maintain a
friendly dialogue between skeptics and believers in ESP. She feels herself in many ways closer to the skeptics. But she does not have the luxury of
not believing the harp story, because it happened to her and she knows it is true. I am convinced, not by the story itself, but the portrait that
Elizabeth paints of herself as a scientist confronting a mystery that orthodox science cannot grasp.
The greater part of this book describes the history of ESP research, some of it is based on anecdotal evidence and some based on scientific
experiments. The Society for Psychical Research, with branches in England and America, has been the main collector and publisher of anecdotal
evidence. The society has been active for more than a century. It has published a large number of well-documented stories in its journal and in a
famous book with the title Phantasms of the Living. A phantasm of the living is an episode in which person A at a moment of extreme crisis or danger
is seen by person B hundreds of miles away. The society documented these episodes with firsthand testimony from A and B, recorded as soon as possible
after the events. The evidence is of very uneven quality, and all of it is anecdotal.
The scientific investigations of ESP have been pursued with dogged determination for long periods of time, initially by Joseph Rhine at Duke
University, later by Harold Puthoff at Stanford Research Institute, and recently by many other groups. The history of these efforts is murky, partly
because there were some accusations of cheating in Rhine's laboratory, and partly because much of Puthoff's work was sponsored by the CIA under
conditions of secrecy. Elizabeth Meyer gives us the clearest account of ESP research that I have seen, with an excellent bibliography of relevant
documents. The results of the scientific investigations were in the end disappointing. Investigators claimed to have positive and statistically
significant evidence of ESP, but the positive results were always marginal, large enough to be statistically significant but not large enough to
convince a skeptical critic.
There are three possible positions one may take concerning the evidence for ESP. First, the position of orthodox scientists, who believe that ESP does
not exist. Second, the position of true believers, who believe that ESP is real and can be proved to exist by scientific methods. Third, my own
position, that ESP is real, as the anecdotal evidence suggests, but cannot be tested with the clumsy tools of science.
These positions also imply
different views concerning the proper scope of science. If one believes, as many of my scientific colleagues believe, that the scope of science is
unlimited, then science can ultimately explain everything in the universe, and ESP must either be nonexistent or scientifically explainable. If one
believes, as I do, that ESP is real but is scientifically untestable, one must believe that the scope of science is limited. I put forward, as a
working hypothesis, that ESP is real but belongs to a mental universe that is too fluid and evanescent to fit within the rigid protocols of controlled
scientific testing. I do not claim that this hypothesis is true. I claim only that it is consistent with the evidence and worthy of consideration.
I was asked to write this preface because I published in The New York Review of Books a review of a book about ESP with the title Debunked!, by George
Charpak and Henti Broch. Elizabeth Meyer read my review and refers to it in her Chapter 12. In my review I said that ESP only occurs, according the
the anecdotal evidence, when a person is experiencing intense stress and strong emotions. Under the conditions of a controlled scientific experiment,
intense stress and strong emotions are excluded; the person experiences boredom rather than excitement, and so the evidence for ESP disappears. That,
I wrote, is why scientific investigation of ESP fails. The experiment necessarily excludes the human emotions that make ESP possible.
After my review was published, I received a large number of angry letters in response. Orthodox scientists were angry because I said ESP might be
real. True believers in ESP were angry because I said ESP could not be scientifically proved.
What I like best about Elizabeth Meyer is her eagerness, throughout this book, to maintain a friendly working dialogue between believers and skeptics.
I am happy that she and I can disagree and still stay friends."(emphasis mine)
edit on 5-2-2011 by Student X because: (no reason given)