Re: Shaggy Dog vs. Psychic Dog

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Aug 28 2001 - 20:48:11 BST

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    Subject: Re: Shaggy Dog vs. Psychic Dog
    Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2001 12:48:11 -0700
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    From: Vincent Campbell

    > <There was no refutation. Wiseman merely repeated the experiment,
    > got
    > > exactly the same results Sheldrake had gotten, and then tried to spin it
    > > as
    > > a refutation. According to Wiseman's own experiment, the dog, Jaytee,
    > > at the window 78% of the time that its master was on her way home and
    > > 4% of the remaining time.
    > >
    > > As Sheldrake says, "He makes no mention of the fact that Jaytee waits by
    > > the
    > > window far more when Pam is on her way home, nor does he refer to my own
    > > experiments. He gives the impression that my evidence is based on one
    > > experiment filmed by a TV company, rather than on more than two hundred
    > > experiments, and he implies that he has done the only rigorous
    > > tests of this dog's abilities. I confess that I am amazed by his
    > > persistence
    > > in this deception.">
    > >
    > This is a matter of personal dispute over methodological issues
    > between Sheldrake and Wiseman (and his colleagues). The important point,
    > clearly thought reasonable by the peer reviewed journal in which Wiseman's
    > piece appeared, was that were methdological question marks, and question
    > marks over interpretation of results. I have to say that the basic test
    > "does the dog go to the window or not" is an extremely superficial way to
    > test suppsoed psychic powers. You'd need to test hundreds of dogs,
    > thousands of times to even suggest a relationship when using such a
    > simplisitc measure.

    I think it's significant that the dogs Sheldrake tested spent nearly 80% of
    the time at the window when their owners were coming home and only 4% the
    rest of the time. Wiseman claimed that the dogs were simply spending more
    time at the window as time went on. He was forced to recant on this point.
    In fact, the dogs didn't spend any significant amount of time at the window
    waiting for their owner, no matter how long the wait, until the owner was
    actually headed home. Keep in mind that this is only a start. Sheldrake
    has since moved on to parrots, and apparently the results are more striking.

    > <Wiseman makes an equally absurd claim regarding Sheldrake's staring
    > > experiment, which involves a sequence of trials in which cometimes the
    > > individual is being stared at from behind while other times the subject
    > > not being stared at. Wiseman claims that subjects learn to detect the
    > > pattern in the allegedly random sequence. Wiseman claims Sheldrake's
    > > sequence is not actually random, though it was arrived at by flipping a
    > > coin, and that to make it truly random you need to play with the
    > > He says Sheldrake is sending out this allegedly random sequence to
    > > children around the world who then conduct their own staring
    > > In fact, he recommends that people create their own random sequence by
    > > flipping a coin, just like he did when setting up his experiment.>
    > >
    > In a recent issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, I think it was, the
    > mathematical demonstration of falsity in the supposed 'random' nature of
    > staring experiments is presented very plainly. You can either accept this
    > critique or demonstrate its inaccuracy you can't just dismiss it out of
    > hand.

    There's a touch of paranoia in Wiseman's critique. He's claiming that
    Sheldrake's sequence of trials-- in which some involved the subject being
    stared at while others didn't-- contains a subtle pattern. Sheldrake then
    instructs school children to replicate this pattern, which he claims
    resulted from tossing a coin. Then these children, who are actually
    following a deviously constructed "pattern," find that they have an ability
    to sense when someone is staring at them, thus ruining an entire generation
    of potential neo-Darwinists. Even if Wiseman is right that somehow
    Sheldrake's toin-cossing yielded nonrandom results, this doesn't change the
    fact that Sheldrake instructs people who conduct this experiment to come up
    with their own random results by tossing a coin. Thus, over time, numerous
    repetitions of this experiment should even out any randomly appearing
    patterns in the sequence.

    > >> But even if such studies suggested psychic dogs and people with
    > >> psychic eyes in the back of their heads, to leap from this to
    > saying the
    > >> cause of this is MR through MF, is a massive and invalid leap

    > <Sheldrake starts with the recognition that vision cannot be a kind
    > of TV
    > > screen in the back of the head, for this would imply the Cartesian error
    > > that we exist somewhere deep inside our brains. He argues argues that
    > > do
    > > actually see what's around us and not merely an image of it
    > > in
    > > our brains. Rather than passively taking in light, we cast a field of
    > > vision over everything we see. While I find this explanation
    > > to
    > > say the least, he does appear to have demonstrated that people can sense
    > > when others are watching them.>
    > >
    > No he hasn't. The empirical evidence for this phenomena is, at
    > best, ambiguous not conclusive. Your levels of acceptable evidence are
    > too low.

    It looks as though he has demonstrated it. We really need to see some tests
    to know for sure.

    > <As to the "psychic pets," Sheldrake explains this according to
    > morphic
    > > fields. Like termites in a nest or birds in a flock, the cells of our
    > > bodies are regulated holistically by a field. When a woman becomes
    > > pregnant, her fetus is simply another aspect of her body regulated by
    > > field. Rather than breaking, this field is merely extended when she
    > > birth. The mother and child are always connected through this shared
    > > field.
    > >
    > > But it doesn't have to involve childbirth. A collective field can
    > > among any two people or any group, no matter how large. It can also
    > > across species. Where there's "love"
    > > (or hate) there's a field embracing the individuals involved. Not being
    > > distracted by reflexive consciousness, dogs are much more aware of these
    > > fields. This is how they can sense when their beloved master is coming
    > > home.>
    > >
    > You don't really believe this do you?

    You don't really believe brains have calculators in them, do you? If birds
    had to compute the necessary equations needed to maintain the flock, their
    brains would blot out the sky. We can't even design a robot that can walk
    down a hallway without bumping into the walls. Are you claiming that
    brains, which evolved unconsciously, are vastly superior to current
    computing technology?

    > BTW it occured to me over the
    > weekend another way in which movement in flocks of birds can be quicker
    > one might expect- and something that certainly wasn't known back in the
    > 1930s- the capacity of many birds to be able to detect the earth's
    > field (which helps migratory birds for instance).

    Sheldrake was quoting research from the 70s.

    > > > 'Proteins called histones play such an important role in regulating
    > > > genes that we should think of them as a "histone code". complementary
    > > the
    > > > genetic code, says biochemist David Allis of the University of
    > > > "For some time now, we have known there is more to our genetic
    > > > blueprint than DNA itself", says Allis. individual genes can be
    > > off
    > > > by adding methyl groups to DNA, a process called imprinting. what's
    > > more,
    > > > imprinted DNA can be passed from one generation to another,
    > > > passing down information that isn't directly encoded in our genome.
    > >
    > <This is exactly what researchers were saying in the 80s, and
    > Sheldrake deals
    > > with this in The Presence of the Past. Yes, histones are among the
    > > "master
    > > proteins" that interact with genes, but this merely *describes* rather
    > > than
    > > explains what goes on in the cell. When proteins tell genes what to do,
    > > who's telling the proteins what to do? Why, of course, the genes are
    > > telling them. And these genes are instructed by still other proteins,
    > > on and on it goes like this, round and round. For every answer we
    > > at, another question automatically pops up. It's an endlessly recursive
    > > loop. There's no possibility that chemistry can ever explain the basis
    > > form in the body. It's a joke with no punch line, a shaggy dog story.>
    > >
    > You just can't see the possiblity of these things interacting due to
    > simple chemical reactions at all can you?

    I don't deny the importance of chemical reactions. The body does function
    at a chemcial and mechanical level. But this tells us nothing about
    repeating, organic structures, from proteins on up. It doesn't tell us
    anything about the organism as a whole or why the damn thing lives.


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