7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.3)

1. Stories about things parents would never have to teach their children in a just world: Story Number 1; Story Number 2.

2. Scott Lemieux reminds us that yesterday was the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest pitching duels of all time.

The Giants beat the Braves 1-0 on a solo home run by Willie Mays in the 16th inning. Juan Marichal, who was then 25 years old, got the win, pitching all 16 innings for the shutout. Warren Spahn, 42,  took the loss, pitching all 16 innings on the losing side. Giants manager Alvin Dark tried to pull Marichal for a relief pitcher in the ninth, but Marichal refused to leave the game “as long as that old man is still pitching.” Marichal wound up throwing 227 pitches in that game. Spahn threw 200 before Mays belted the 201st. Daniel Brown interviews some of the players from that game, which Jim Kaplan called “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched.”

3. Carlos Whitaker takes a look at the Oxygen Network’s new reality show, Preachers of L.A., which he finds “a bit nauseating.” The show appears, he says, “a bad idea all the way around.” He’s not wrong.

Watching the trailer I can’t help but wonder if the title refers to what it is these preachers preach — a gospel of “L.A.,” the good news of Hollywood and of Rodeo Drive. With only a few slight edits, this trailer could be teasing an upcoming documentary — a muckraking exposé of the salesmen selling “prosperity” as religion. Except that none of the preachers profiled quite seems to realize that they’re being exposed. They don’t seem to have more than the slightest inkling of how they appear to a watching world.

Related: “Irish Prosperity Gospel Church Collapses Under 18-million Euro Debt.”

Also related: Mark Evanier on “psychics”:

It is my belief that 100 percent of people who claim to have psychic or similar abilities are frauds. They are occasionally frauds who believe their own steer manure but they are still frauds.

See also the Kyle Swenson article he links to, in which grifters posing as psychic advisers fleece their marks with a message remarkably similar to what some of those L.A. preachers are saying.

4. Ralph Reed is not a “fraud who believes his own steer manure.” Ralph Reed is a fraud who believes in nothing. I’m not saying that because he is politically conservative and I am politically liberal. Ralph Reed is not politically conservative. He’s a parasite posing as a political conservative so that he can move among them and take their money.

5. I’m a big fan of the story of Peter and Cornelius in the 10th and 11th chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. Some American Christians, unlike Peter himself, think that story is just about shellfish, bacon and cheeseburgers and not the gospel of radical inclusiveness I see there. But that radical inclusiveness is a major theme throughout the book of Acts, not just in that one story. Here’s the sermon Katherine Willis Pershey preached on Sunday based on the story told in Acts 8. Same theme. You can’t miss it — the whole story revolves around one question: “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” The man asking that question is Gentile. And a foreigner. And a eunuch. And the answer to his question is “nothing.” Nothing at all.

6. Blow your mind. Or try to, at least. If you need help, here’s some good advice on how to do that from Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” and from Vi Hart’s “Twelve Tones.” That video from Hart is about 30 minutes. It’s more than worth it.

7. Item: “Chris Christie Vetoes Family Planning Funding for the Fifth Time.” So as one Jersey guy to another, here’s a word from the Boss:

Booby said he’d pull out. Bobby stayed in.
Janey had a baby wasn’t any sin.
They were set to marry on a summer day.
Bobby got scared and he ran away …


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  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    See also the Kyle Swenson article
    he links to, in which grifters posing as psychic advisers fleece their
    marks with a message remarkably similar to what some of those L.A. preachers are saying.

    So wait, because some “psychics” are grifters, we assume all of them are? Gee, does that mean because some preachers preach a false prosperity gospel we can assume that all preachers do so?

  • Guest

    Not sure I’m following the logic here – because all X are Y, then all Z are Y?

    If ‘prosperity gospel’ is false, then all preachers who preach it are false, but that doesn’t follow logically from the actions of psychics, who are all false if psychic powers are false. Maybe that’s what you meant? I had trouble getting there from your question.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    if psychic powers are false

    My point is that neither Swenson nor Evanier are setting out to support that claim. Instead, they are looking at a group of con-men who are pretending to be psychic in order to con people and extrapolating their behavior to assume that all people who claim to be psychic are doing the same thing.

    As I said, that would be more akin to looking at behavior of the “L.A. Preachers” and the message they are giving out and extrapolating that all preachers everywhere are doing the same things and preaching the same message.

  • Guest

    “My point is that neither Swenson nor Evanier are setting out to support that claim. ”

    Isn’t it the job of the psychics to support the claim that there are such things as psychic powers?

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Not necessarily. As someone with psychic ability, I don’t particularly care whether Swenson or Evanier believe I have such abilities. However, I do resent that they make assumptions about me based on extrapolations from anecdotal evidence/the behavior of other people.

  • Guest

    Would it be ethical or unethical for a psychic to receive money for their services without attempting to demonstrate that they can accomplish what they wish to be paid for? I would think they should. To do otherwise invites cynicism and skepticism.

    (Note that this is not about you personally, since as far as I know you do not accept money for psychic services.)

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Does a preacher need to demonstrate that God exists or that zie actually knows the mind of God before accepting money?

    I also suspect you are making a lot of assumptions and generalizations about what psychics promise.

  • J_Enigma32

    Well, not to press the issue, but if it does exist and if it is real, depending upon what it is, imagine what doors you could open up for future scientific research.

    I detailed some that I recalled above. Most psychic powers violate known laws of the natural science. For instance, precognition violates causality (which is a serious no-no, because once you violate causality, you run the risk of throwing out everything associated with reality as we know it). Psychokinesis violates the law of conservation of energy, since the human body doesn’t produce enough energy available as work to preform the task of manipulating objects, and it doesn’t have any broadcasting tools involved. It also violates Newton’s laws of motion, as is traditionally presented. Mind-reading is not likely because of how the human brain operates – you don’t have a complete thought until you think it, otherwise, thoughts are swimming around in there half formed, disorganized, off-kilter, and in the constant process of writing and rewriting. Clairvoyance may also violate relativity, since it seems to me like Clairvoyance is presenting us with an absolute frame of reference, something that the Theory of Relativity says doesn’t exist outside of Light Speed.

    If you have a psychic power, imagine what we could do with that if it did indeed exist. If we were able to prove that Causality did *not* exist, or there were exceptions to causality, it’d open up the door for Faster-than-Light travel and prove Old Man Einstein wrong, in addition to a whole new field of … well, every natural science. Our very notion of reality would be shaken down to its core – but in the long run, it’d help *so* many people.

    If Telekinesis existed, then that’d open the door to whole new ways of looking at thermodynamics, neurology, and classical, mechanical physics. Newton’s laws would either be rewritten or we’d figure out there’s an unknown force out there we’re capable of manipulating. And even if it was genetic, we could hunt down the gene involved in the mutation and open source it so everyone could benefit from it. Once we understood the effects of it, we could possibly replicate the effects in machinery and generate what would effectively amount to anti-gravity.

    Mind-reading would for entirely new ways of understanding the human brain, and open up all sorts of new doors to neurology. This includes medicine; if I can read your mind, and see what’s going on up there, I no longer have to rely on imprecise language to get through what I’m experiencing. You could also use that on patients who are comatose to figure out what they need. I mean, the potentials here are endless.

    I think Randi’s prize of a million dollars is so much chum to the major changes that the revelation of these powers actually existing, and more, would inflict on science, society, and our understanding of reality. I mean, it could push us forward *centuries*.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    But I note that you have consistently sidestepped my primary complaint: The fact that people point and say, “Look at what these people who claim to be psychics are doing! All people who claim to be psychic must be like that!”

  • Guest

    It’s not about the claim to be psychic. It’s about getting money for something they can’t deliver. There’s nothing unethical about claiming to be psychic. There is something unethical about claiming to be psychic to get money in exchange for a good/service the customer won’t receive.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Can priests deliver absolution? Can they offer god-honoring advice? Can they prove it? Do you have problems with priests accepting money?

    Now, please, address why you seem to think it’s okay for the linked articles to draw conclusions/promote stereotypes about all psychics based on some group of psychics they know about.

  • Lori

    These days priests don’t receive money for delivering absolution. Or at least if they do they’re breaking their own rules.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    So priests no longer offer absolution? Or are all priest positions now volunteer?

  • Lori

    To the best of my knowledge priests still offer absolution, but it’s one part of their job, for which they are paid. Priests being paid to grant absolution sounds like selling indulgences, which was officially disallowed in like the 1500s.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I see your point. I wasn’t referring to selling indulgences, however. My point — as I said in another comment — is that a lot of the job that priests get paid to do involve the performance of some sort of god-magic or otherwise relies on a claim of some sort of connection to or authority from the divine, and I know of no one who insists that priest prove the god-magic is real or they actually have that connection to or authority from god in order to get paid for the work they do.

  • Lori

    No, but there are parts of their job that don’t necessarily depend on the performance of any god-magic. Sermon quality, for example. The priest is paid for doing a job, much of which has no necessary magic component and can be judged the same way we generally judge quality of effort.

    The same is not true of paid psychics. (For purposes of this particular aspect of the discussion I’m setting aside those who pretty clearly sell entertainment and focusing on those who sell knowledge obtained via extraordinary means.) The psychic is paid for a reading and nothing else. If the basis of the reading is false then they’re in effect selling nothing. Or in some cases they’re selling untrained psychological counseling.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    No, but there are parts of their job that don’t necessarily depend on the performance of any god-magic.

    Do you really think that people who contribute money toward priests’ salaries aren’t in some sense also paying for the “magical” aspects of the priests’ jobs that they claim? That they would pay only for a “really good sermon?” (And aren’t sermons themselves supposed to be “divine guidance”?)

  • Lori

    People have different beliefs. In the church in which I was raised sermons are not considered divine guidance. They’re the preacher’s take on a Biblical topic. That take is based on study and training, not any sort of direct divine guidance.

    It’s probably fair to say that without the supposed divine connection most people wouldn’t be willing to pay priests or other ministers, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do actually do other things, and that some things often done by ministers have value whether god exists or not.

    A psychic who sells readings isn’t offering anything whose monetary value doesn’t depend psy talents being real and that person actually possessing them. In that sense I think it’s more comparable to faith healers than ministers in general, in the sense that faith healers really only do that one thing and the value of their ministry is wholly dependent on whether or not they can actually heal.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Faith healers? really? Because I’ve never promised to regrow a limb or cure any illness. I’ve offered what I see as likely and what they may want to consider doing. Some have found value in that.

    You clearly do not see value with that. Which is fine. I’m not trying to turn you into a client.

  • Lori

    I didn’t say that you promised to regrow limbs or cure illness and now feel like you’re deliberately misunderstanding.

    One more time—the comparison wasn’t between the claims being made. The comparison is between two types of businesses that each sell one product, the value of which depends on access to extraordinary knowledge.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I didn’t say that you promised to regrow limbs or cure illness and now feel like you’re deliberately misunderstanding.

    You seriously don’t see where that was offensive?

    Let’s try again. I’ve never claimed an accuracy rating of 100%. I simply claim that I get impressions and premonitions (though I will note that probably 99% of any information I offer has to do with the present rather than some future which isn’t set in stone anyway). I encourage any client to think about what I said and to apply their own reason and intuition (not to mention common sense) to it. The clients I’ve had have been quite satisfied with it and have found what I told them to be accurate (enough for their needs at least) and helpful.

    Quite frankly, i feel that what you think what I’m offering/guaranteeing is very different from what I actually am.

  • Lori

    You didn’t claim to be offended. You claimed that I had said something that I didn’t say.

    My comment had nothing to do with the service you offer. My comment was about the comparison you made to preachers. I pointed out why I don’t think the comparison is actually valid. That’s it.

  • SisterCoyote

    With all due respect, your consistent referring to priests as basically people taking money to perform “godly magic” is pretty offensive as well. I’m a generic-Protestant, not a Catholic, but I don’t think a priest or pastor’s salary depends on their “performing magic” or any such thing – and it’s hardly a highly profitable profession in any case.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Fair enough. You’re right in that not all denominations believe that their ministers are performing a mystical act when administering the sacraments. I apologize.

    Though I’m not sure how relevant the profitability of the profession is. As I pointed out elsewhere, the psychics I know aren’t even making a livable wage from their readings. I doubt that those who find the practice of taking money for readings as unethical will change their minds because of that fact.

  • Lori

    IME people do tend to view psychics who aren’t making a lot of money differently than those who are. It doesn’t necessarily change people’s level of belief in the phenomena, but it does tend to effect the perception of motive. People are way more likely to believe that a person who is getting rich is deliberately running a scam and that effects how people respond.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    IME, people tend to completely ignore the fact that psychics who aren’t making a lot of money even exist and instead talk about those getting rich in generic, unqualified terms. Yeah, maybe they don’t feel (quite) the same way about those who aren’t making a lot of money, but their focus and often unqualified statements makes it unclear whether they actually believe that such psychics (that is, ones not making a lot of money) even exist.

  • otrame

    Jarred, psychics, all of them, are either lying, kidding themselves, or mentally ill. I don’t know which you are, but I suppose it is number 2. Tell you what. If you can prove you have “psychic powers,” I know where there is a million dollars going spare, set aside just for people like you. You can win it easily, if you can prove those psychic powers of yours.

    Yes, I am being dismissive and contemptuous. Prove me wrong and I will apologize profusely. I mean it. I will.

  • Guest

    I’m not seeing:
    1. the connection to priests
    2. the stereotyping of psychics not asking for money

    Can you help ID these for me?

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    1. Priests make a claim to godly authority and working Godly magic for he benefit of their followers. Insofar as I know, priests are not unpaid volunteers. And yet, unlike psychics, you do not seem to demand that they prove that they can actually deliver on this godly magic they claim to perform.
    2. Even if you limit the stereotype to psychics who take money, the articles are still stereotyping a larger group based on anecdotes and extrapolation.

  • Guest

    “1. Priests make a claim to godly authority and working Godly magic for
    he benefit of their followers. Insofar as I know, priests are not
    unpaid volunteers. And yet, unlike psychics, you do not seem to demand
    that they prove that they can actually deliver on this godly magic they
    claim to perform.”

    That’s an untrue assumption and stereotype.

    You obviously don’t realize that I’m not a theist and have no need to defend priests.

    Your arguments about stereotyping lose some of their moral force as you do it yourself in this very thread.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    That’s an untrue assumption and stereotype.

    It may be an untrue assumption, but I fail to see how it’s a stereotype. I’m (1) only making this assumption about you and (2) I’m basing it on your own behavior as observed by me.

    You obviously don’t realize that I’m not a theist and have no need to defend priests.

    No, but you also don’t seem to be criticizing priests with nearly the zeal you do psychics.

  • Guest

    A stereotype is an oversimplified conception, opinion or image. See http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stereotype

    You developed an oversimplified conception that I didn’t want to talk about priests in a conversation about psychics because I believed in them. You even now claim I don’t criticize priests with zeal, rather than believing that I criticize priests with zeal elsewhere, while here I felt I wanted to talk about psychics and not dilute the issue by talking about priests.

    Why you believe this is unclear – possibly due to imperfect information, which is not a fault. What would be a fault is not realizing you have imperfect information and basing your discussion about me on information you don’t actually have.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    You even now claim I don’t criticize priests with zeal, rather than
    believing that I criticize priests with zeal elsewhere, while here I
    felt I wanted to talk about psychics and not dilute the issue by talking
    about priests.

    Notice I said you don’t seem to criticize priests. So even in my claim, I’m leaving the possibility that I’m wrong.

    What I note, however, is that you haven’t come right out and said, “You’re wrong. I do criticize priests with equal zeal. [Optionally: Here is an example.]” I find that…curious.

  • Guest

    I doubt you actually find that “curious.” Lots of people came here from the blog “Pharyngula” and are not particularly enamored of priests. Rather than “curious,” could you choose a different word?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Priests are not paid to perform miracles. Priests are paid to support their priesting lifestyle. If you can’t comprehend the difference between “Paid to be a priest” and “paid for absolution”, you’re being as willfully obtuse as the right-wing employers who claim that giving comprehensive healthcare to women is the same as using contraception themselves.

    In fact, the religions which practice pay-for-salvation are pretty universally derided as cults or scams

  • Space Marine Becka

    I think the big problem with the “It is my belief that 100 percent of people who claim to have psychic or similar abilities are frauds” is that a lot of people who claim to be psychic never try and make money out of it and a fair number (like my late gran) want it gone. It’s one thing to “believe your own steer manure” but another to be approaching suicidal because of it.

  • Isabel C.

    Well, it depends.

    On the one hand, I think Jonathan Edward and his crowd are exploiting grieving people and are generally vile human beings.

    On the other hand, if I went to Madame Rosa, the “psychic reader” whose assistants keep handing out flyers on Winter Street, I’d largely be going for the experience, to see how I react to her predictions, and maaaybe a little bit to hear my future, because hey, maybe it is for real, who knows? She knows that; I know she knows that–if anyone actually commands the Mysteries of the Universe, I doubt they use violet copy paper–and I don’t think she’s obligated to prove anything.

    There’s a lot of middle ground, too. Like, I seriously do not know about the Miss Cleo/Psychic Friends’ Hotline/etc–my instinct is that those fall more into things people do for kicks than anything anyone takes seriously, but that they’re more exploitative than the average boardwalk fortuneteller–and so forth.

    Tl;dr: Depends on what they’re actually getting paid for, what they’re claiming to accomplish, and so on.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    They psychics I know offer to tell you what they see, what impressions they get, and what they might suggest you think about. They certainly don’t claim 100% accuracy. They also expect and encourage their clients to engage the reading with their own reason and intuition.

    Also, they tend to offer a lot more advice along the lines of “you need to think about this/this is something that you may want to work on” than “there are riches galore/the love of your life/the solution to all your problems around the corner.”

  • Isabel C.

    Yeah, likewise.

    What readings I’ve paid for have also said “this person feels this way about you,” and “things are going to get eventful soon” and similar.* Which has been applicable, albeit general, but…you know, for twenty bucks at a RenFaire, that’s just fine.

    I wouldn’t advise paying more to get your fortune told *without* some kind of pretty conclusive demonstration than you’d pay for, say, a movie plus snacks, and I wouldn’t advise making a decision based on a reading in the face of all material evidence. But most psychics-for-hire don’t charge more than that, and don’t advise doing so.

    *Best one was a fortuneteller in New Orleans when I was twenty-two and down there on a college bus trip. “There’s a man back home thinking about you.”
    “Yeah–it’s my dad, and he’s chugging Maalox as we speak.”

  • Abel Undercity
  • otrame

    So cold readings with liberal use of generalities. The “secretly you wish to be happy” school of psychics.

    Not impressed.

  • MarkTemporis

    I laminated a woman’s Major Arcana once, and had a scare when I only counted 19, until I figured out which cards were missing: Death, Devil, Tower… She flat out told me that nobody wants to be told they’re going to die.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Sadly, some people take Miss Cleo and similar hotlines very seriously. Plus, the other problem I see with such hotlines is that there are those people who don’t want a psychic reading so much as they want someone to talk to(*) and who will listen to them. Considering what some of the hotlines charge per minute, that’s a pretty expensive conversation partner.

    (*) I still remember an experience I had toward the end of last year. I was helping out at the shop (sales and customer service, not readings) and a woman called to ask about readings. She then proceeded to tell me about her day and the logistics of whether she felt she could make it in for a reading that day. I think that if I didn’t have to go so I could free up the line, she might have told me her whole life story. I’m not sure whether she ever came in for a reading. I sure hope she found someone to talk to, though.

  • http://checkpoint-telstar.blogspot.com/ Tim Lehnerer

    What’s my favorite movie?

  • MarkTemporis

    I’m feeling a “tell…tell who? sky…space…”

  • http://checkpoint-telstar.blogspot.com/ Tim Lehnerer

    It’s actually George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”, but your answer is easily in the top five.

  • MarkTemporis

    We share a number of different fora. Never would have guessed that one. The remake was generally a stinker, but I *LOVED* the bit where they lose control of a chainsaw inside their badass armored van. Must steal for an RPG session.

  • http://checkpoint-telstar.blogspot.com/ Tim Lehnerer

    Sorry; the armored bus / chainsaw scene is in the Zack Snyder remake. That movie has some decent wonderful stuff in it, but overall I find it to be far inferior to the original. But it’s interesting to know that someone who just read some of my posts somewhere else could get within four spaces of my favorite without psychic powers of any kind.

    Edited to add: Whoops, misread your post. You too know that the chainsaw bus was in the remake.

  • Kyle Bunn

    If claims of psychic powers were new it would be foolish to assume, a priori, that they were all false. But all of these various claims are ancient and have been subject to increasingly rigorous testing as scientific method has been refined over the centuries. What we call “psychic powers” or “the paranormal” are precisely those claims which have repeatedly failed when tested in this way. So no, there is no need to assume all psychics are frauds, either conscious or self-deluded. There is simply a vast preponderance of scientific evidence that this is so, and nothing but the same old anecdotal evidence that it is not.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Then perhaps Evanier and Swenson should have pointed to that scientific evidence rather than relying on anecdotes.

  • Kyle Bunn

    The evidence is readily available and uncontroversial. Evanier and Swenson are not obliged to re-debunk psi or re-establish that the field has always been rife with charlatans before they are allowed to tell an interesting story.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    You call it telling an interesting story. I call it rank sensationalism.

  • LoneWolf343

    You call it “rank sensationalism.” I call it “nobody has been able to provide a sliver of real, verifiable evidence that it exists.”

    One of these is dubious puffery, and the other is a simple fact.

  • MarkTemporis

    Evanier and Swenson, like many other skeptics, is a bit more hostile to psychics than is warranted. Few skeptics care or realize that for many offering these services is an expression of their religion.

    I see little difference between fortune tellers and marketing / financial consultants except their manner of dress.

  • Space Marine Becka

    I could write a long post about why certain assumptions both skeptics and believers make about how psi would be if it existed mean that what we actually have is results that mean either psi doesn’t exist or those underlying assumptions are wrong (because the result if said assumptions were wrong would be the same as if psi didn’t exist).

    I won’t because I still don’t know how you’d test for the existence of psi if you didn’t make those assumptions.

  • Space Marine Becka

    Hmm someone really doesn’t like anyone intimating that maybe the evidence is inconclusive.

    So let me put it this way the vast majority of research into the possible existence of psi by believers works with the hypothesis: psi is general human ability albeit a weak one and the null hypothesis: psi does not exist while most skeptical research works from the hypothesis that psi does not exist with the null hypothesis that psi is a general human ability.

    The problem here that psi not being a general human ability does not necessitate psi not existing. That is in both cases they have their null hypothesis wrong.

    Also if psi exists I’m inclined to think it is either non-general or highly linked to stress events (or more likely both). That being so tests like the Ganzfeld and its ilk could actually be counterproductive resultswise.

    But then creating the sort of high stress event that the anecdata suggest trigger psi events in the wild (or events that are interpreted by the brain as psi if you wish) to see if the subject had a reaction would be unethical.

    Note: I’m not saying psi events exist (though it’s hard for me to write them off) but that even if they do we’ve been looking in the wrong place.

  • DStecks

    I’m inclined to think that if psychic powers existed, we would already know. Somebody, by now, would have demonstrated the ability.

    Think about it this way: one estimate for the number of people who have ever lived is 108 billion. 108,000,000,000. If one percent of one percent of one percent of humanity has psychic powers strong enough to be indisputable, that’s 1000 people in history, and not one of them ever decided to do anything with it. There are birth defects rarer than that, and we know about them (for example, the mysterious “Syndrome X” which causes people to stop aging in late infancy, which there has been 12 known cases of).

    Furthermore, if psychic powers were real and common enough that even one tenth of the people who claim to have them aren’t frauds, they’d be so common as to be mundane. In your post, you talk about powers possibly requiring a specific set of circumstances to emerge, but given the law of large numbers, that would still happen not infrequently. We’d hear about some toddler in India who can move stuff with his mind.

    So, in summary, psychic powers do not exist. Because if they did, we would know. Period.

  • Space Marine Becka

    I’m specifically talking about a hypothetical where psi is real, spontaneous and stress triggered. Not a person with psychic powers but stress triggered incidents that happen to people rather than being controlled by them. Slight but significant difference.

    We wouldn’t hear about the kid in India who can move stuff with their mind because there would be no kid in India who could do that. Rather there’d be a kid in India with the rather strange story of the day mummy died and all the pictures fell off the walls or similar.

  • caryjamesbond

    Well, we have a lot of circumstances of people under stress, on videotape. Everything from Navy Seal training to psychological experiments. Oddly enough though, all the claims of psychic abilities take place off camera…even for people who ‘know’ they have psychic abilities. You’d think they’d always carry a recording device or SOMETHING to at least give them a shot of recording it.

  • Space Marine Becka

    Since I started out primarily talking about cognition based psi events how would you catch them on camera? 1. they aren’t visible and 2. the primary stress event isn’t usually happening to the person having the cognition.

    PK being far more visible would be far more likely to be seen if it was real – which is why skeptics bring it up. However it’s also a different thing from knowing something by means unknown.

    As to the video thing for PK – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Things have been posted that purport to show it but anyone with patience and the right opensource software can do special effects in their bedroom nowadays so it proves nothing.

  • Lori

    You can’t catch cognition on camera, but you can record it. A simply diary system will do. Any time a person experiences a psi event they write it down. Unless the claims are so vague that they’re not falsifiable if psi is real you should, over enough time and enough claims, find some pattern that’s better than random chance.

  • Space Marine Becka

    Some people do do that. This guy for example http://vimeo.com/2315112 (I wish I could find that whole show – it was fascinating while I was watching it and while rather inconclusive as to what’s going on not as credulous as you might think and he clearly believes in himself and makes no money out of his dreams).

    My gran’s GP wanted to do a similar thing with her but she was having none of it. Which is a weird story *anecdote warning* (And yes I’m aware anecdotes prove nothing but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting).

    When I was a kid Gran was always apparently having premonitions (by always I mean several times a year) and they were always distressing. It’s fair to say if she wasn’t having premonitions she was having really bad nightmares that she was mapping on to real events after the fact but her details were not vague at all.

    This was causing her not to sleep because she was afraid she’d have a premonition and eventually, in late April 1979 she went to the GP and asked for something to stop her dreaming about the future. (no seriously that’s what she asked him) So he asked her to describe her most recent dream of the future and she did.

    In it she was in a large department store which was on fire and she and a group of women were trapped upstairs and trying to get out but there were thick bars on the windows and they couldn’t. He wrote it all down, put it in an envelope and had his secetary witness the date.

    8th May this happened: http://www.fireservice.co.uk/history/woolworths-fire

    She goes to see the GP again a few days later and he says. “Your fire happened”.

    She says, “It’s not my fire!”

    Anyway he wants to do this every time it happened with more rigorous date witnessing to build up a dossier of evidence (because you would, wouldn’t you?) but she just wanted it to go away. And she was so obviously distressed that he decided her mental health came first and gave her sleeping tablets which seemed to help.

    (end anecdote)

    Again not to prove anything – just an interesting story.

  • Lori

    Obviously I can’t comment on your grandmother. I have quite a few questions about the painter, the first of which is obviously what was the nature of the testing the video makers subjected the paintings to and what was the conclusion?

    Given that the video started with an exaggeration and an untrue statement, I feel skeptical. The voiceover says that the artist foresaw the destruction of the WTC. That’s at best an exaggeration. If his story is accurate he foresaw the destruction of two buildings that turned out to be the WTC, which is not the same thing. The untrue statement is that no one in the intelligence world predicted the destruction of the WTC. People did.

    I also have some questions about the dated photo of the 9/11 painting. Why did he take that sketch to the bank to have it photographed? There’s no indication that he did that with all the sketches of his visions, so why that one? Why take it to the bank to take a photo? Who took the photo? What does that person say about when & why the photo was taken? Has anyone qualified examined the photo itself for manipulation? Frankly it doesn’t look had to ‘shop.

    About the sketch identified as being of the IRA airport bombing. The artist’s position is that the shape of the grill on one of the cars is a very telling detail. How unusual was that car/style of grill in the UK at that time? I also find it interesting that that particular sketch was not of the event, but of the newspaper coverage of the event. In and of itself it doesn’t prove anything, but I would file it under “things that make you go “Hum?”.

    My thoughts on the general topic are sort of complicated, but the short version is that I don’t categorically dismiss the possibility of everything we call psi phenomena, but I subscribe to the idea that extraordinary claims absolutely require extraordinary evidence.

  • Space Marine Becka

    This is from memory, it’s a couple of years since I saw it.

    He does take all his drawings to the bank as I recall. It was important at one point because the investigators wondered if he had a large number of paintings that hadn’t happened in a drawer somewhere and the ones that had were just coincidence. So they asked the bank how often he came in (they kept a record) and it tallied with the number of paintings he had. They also examined the pictures for evidence of forgery. This part was mostly aimed at ascertaining that the paintings really did predate the events and had not been altered afterwards. By the end they were sure they did and weren’t. They even checked the clock in the bank and discovered it was a sealed unit.

    They also did a test where they showed various of the paintings to people and asked them to pick what they were of from a multiple choice list. The results were inconclusive – some like the concorde one, the tokyo sarin gas attack one (that one was perhaps the most astounding) and the 9-11 one all the participants selected the expected result on others answers were more random but the investigaters were unsure if that was because the events were less well known people didn’t know about them or because he was subconsciously mapping his paintings on to events when they happened and thinking they’d been fulfilled. So the results were inconclusive, they were convinced he was not a fraud but could not prove his genuiness either way.

  • Lori

    Why would the bank keep a record of the number of times the guy brings in sketches to photograph them? What form did their records take? Why does he take the photos at the bank at all? Is there some non-weird explanation for that? Also, if the clock is sealed how do they change it for daylight savings time?

    As for having people attempt to ID the subjects of the paintings, merely providing a multiple choice list skews the results. If even with that skew the results were inconclusive the test doesn’t lend a great deal of support to the notion that his dream are legitimately predicting the future. (It doesn’t prove that they’re not either.)

  • Space Marine Becka

    He takes the photos to the bank because of the sealed clock – the photos are taken there to provide independently verifiable dating evidence. I have no idea about DST – maybe it was just the calender unit, but I know they ascertained the clock date could not be messed with. I think they kept records because they keep records of all requests. That or he asked them to. Like I said it’s been a few years.

    I think the multiple choice is because of one of the old problems of parapsychology – fixed response tests like this are skewed but free response tests are harder to score. I think.

  • Lori

    I suspect that all they proved was that the artist couldn’t mess with the clock, which is not the same thing as saying that it can’t be messed with.

    Beyond that I won’t tax your memory any further because that’s not fair. I’ll just say that I remain highly skeptical.

  • Lori

    One other thing—about this:

    he clearly believes in himself and makes no money out of his dreams

    The only thing that we can actually say is that he presents himself as believing. That may sound like a nit pick, but it’s not. Also, the fact that he’s not making money off his dreams doesn’t doesn’t provide any evidence that they’re real or that he believes they are. His claims about his dreams have brought him attention, and for some people that’s worth more than money.

  • phantomreader42

    If this were the case, then we’d still expect to see certain things. If psi is stress-triggered, then psi events should be common in high-stress environments. Hospitals, for example, since the staff, the patients, and the visitors all have significant stress. Or prisons. Both those tend to be well-monitored, so if psi incidents happened they’d have a good chance of being documented.

  • dpolicar

    if psychic powers existed, we would already know. Somebody, by now, would have demonstrated the ability.

    If someone in 1950 said “billions and billions of people have lived on Earth and not one of them has been documented as breaking a 4-minute mile” they would have been correct.

    If they concluded on that basis that nobody could break a 4-minute mile they would have been incorrect.

    (There are millions of similar record-breaking feats in human history, this is just one picked at random.)

    Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to not believe in things without significant evidence, even if those things turn out to be perfectly possible. That said, it’s probably a good thing that some people try to do those things anyway.

  • phantomreader42

    Running a mile in five minutes is only a difference in degree from running a mile in four minutes. TELEPORTING a mile in an instant, using only the power of thought, is something very, very different.

  • dpolicar

    Absolutely true.

    But now we’re making a different kind of argument, about the implausibility of (for example) unaided teleportation given what we know about human abilities as a general class, rather than its impossibility given the lack of documented reports of it.

    Which seems to me a lot more viable an argument.

  • caryjamesbond

    If you said that it was physically impossible to run a four minute mile, you would’ve been incorrect. Nothing we know about human physiology contradicts the ability to run a mile at a speed of 15 mph. We know humans can run faster than that, at least for brief spurts.

    If you said a human being could run a one minute mile, you would be wrong. Everything we know about human physiology says it is impossible for a human being to reach an unassisted speed of 60 mph, let alone sustain it.

    everything we know about physics, time, and human physiology says that psychic abilities, of any kind, as ever described, are impossible. To claim that they ARE possible involves rewriting a lot of what we know about the world.

    Or they use well known cold-reading techniques easily replicated by anyone with proper training. Skills that are also easily developed naturally by someone reasonably empathetic.

  • dpolicar

    Correct. My response to phantomreader42 above applies here as well.

  • guest

    ‘If someone in 1950 said “billions and billions of people have lived on Earth and not one of them has been documented as breaking a 4-minute mile” they would have been correct.’

    That’s an interesting example. Bannister was actually the first (middle class) amateur to break the four minute mile; many lower-class people ran as quickly as that, or more quickly, for money, or as part of a wager, at least as early as the 18th century. So in fact this feat was being accomplished regularly, if not routinely, but it wasn’t being ‘documented’ by the correct people (though obviously documented well enough for significant sums of money to change hands). I heard about this in a lecture at the IET on engineering in sports; I’ll see if I can find more information if anyone’s really interested.

  • dpolicar

    Yup, agreed with all of this.

  • Mrs Grimble

    Yes, I’ve often wondered about “stress events” precipitating psy-powers. So do tell me how many of the desperate people who jumped from the burning Towers on 9/11 floated safely down to earth? How many parents have levitated a truck off their trapped child? How many soldiers have teleported themselves off the battlefield?

  • Carstonio

    What assumptions do you mean? I put claims of psychic phenomena in the same category as claims of supernatural beings or existences. While I don’t exclude the possibility of either, I want evidence for both that is testable and falsifiable.

    With the supernatural, the assumptions seem to work the opposite of what you suggest, where the concept’s definition excludes any testability or falsifiability. That strikes me almost as cheating. I don’t know if psychic phenomena would have all the same assumptions, but in my experience, most psychic claims involve one such assumption. That’s the “God of the Gaps” idea that the unexplained events in question can only be explained though a special sensory ability.

  • Space Marine Becka

    Assumptions like if people really sometimes have premonitions of stressful events then clearly if we test thousands of people by putting them in a mild altered state of consciousness, having them free associate, showing them four pictures having them pick the one that tallies best with their free association and then randomly selecting the target there will be a statistically significant skew towards the target.

    Therefore when that doesn’t work they say look premonitions aren’t real (skeptics) or keep repeating the experiment because maybe it’ll work next time (believers). It won’t, of course.

    All they’ve actually proved is that putting people in the ganzfeld doesn’t allow them to foretell the future which is interesting but it doesn’t preclude high stress events triggering premonitions since there’s nothing high stress in choosing a picture.

    And again I’m not saying psi is real or not real I’m saying the evidence is still inconclusive.

  • Carstonio

    Understood. Obviously that type of test couldn’t positively disprove psi. But it’s also no basis for saying that psi does exist as fact beyond the reach of science. The real difference between your position and mine is that I say the burden of proof is on claims that psi exists, and on claims that it doesn’t, not on any skeptics who want proof.

  • Space Marine Becka

    Oh I think psi of this sort would be theoretically provable. I don’t imagine a psi that is beyond the reach of science. It would be tricky due to ethical constraints and the spontaneous nature of the phenomenon but it should be possible.

    This is actually my “parapsychologists make me facepalm” rant as usually aimed at believers. It’s more “that didn’t work the first few thousand times you did it, so it won’t work now. Go look elsewhere” thing than a rant at skeptics not looking elsewhere. That’s not their job it’s the believers’ job.

    (I am a theist so I do believe in things that are beyond the reach of science but the things that may be psi are not them.)

  • Carstonio

    I feel that I have no basis for believing in the existence or non-existence of things beyond the reach of science, since I have no way of knowing either way. All I can say is that they might exist or they might not.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    A somewhat justifiable test would be to see if the ability could be replicated among animals in high-stress environments. Humans are not that fundamentally different that the ability should fail to manifest in the primates generally.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I’m reminded of the week in the psychic development class I took where we covered distance seeing. We were each given a sealed, unmarked envelope and told there was a picture of it. We were instructed to hold our envelope in our hands and note (and then write down) any impressions we got. Colors, emotions, senses of heat or cold. As I picked mine up, I immediately thought “sunflower.” I wrote it down as well as other impressions I got. When i opened the envelope, I discovered that the picture was indeed of a sunflower.

    When I took my second envelope and repeated the exercise, I got nothing nearly that precise in the impressions I felt. (In fact, I think the teacher stretched things to make a case that a couple of my impression fit that time around.) So maybe the experience with the first envelope was a complete fluke. All the same, it struck me as pretty remarkable, even if others might write it off as coincidence.

  • caryjamesbond

    But like I said in the other thread- that doesn’t explain why the human brain would have an organ for receiving this data.

    There is information-carrying stuff all around us- infrared, ultraviolet, radio, gamma rays, neutrinos. We are equipped to pick up a very, very small range of it. Sound/physical vibration, a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum, some chemicals. Many animals have better senses than us- dogs have better hearing, and many animals can smell water well before humans can.

    All these things have advantages.

    Now, for any sort of psychic ability to manifest itself, there has to be some sort of information carrying energy involved, either from another realm, or from the future, – exotic quantum entanglement, or tachyon bursts, or some other sort of exotic particle.

    But to do so would not carry more of a survival advantage than detecting alpha particles- less so. Being poisoned by radioactive materials,even without our modern nuclear society, happens more often than truly useful-to-a-caveman psychic events. (knowing grandma is ok and happy in another place is sweet and all, but on the savannah, it doesn’t get you meat or berries or a mate)

    So how did this physical yet undetected (so far) structure evolve, why did it evolve, and why is it not more widely distributed?

  • caryjamesbond

    Psychic phenomena is not like a supernatural entity, though.

    Claims of psychic powers are incredibly easy to test:

    “Tell me whats on this card. Bend this spoon without touching it/only touching it with a fingertip. Predict tomorrows lottery numbers. My grandmother had a special inside joke nickname for me, what was it?”

  • Carstonio

    That’s true for specific psi claims. My point was about any broad claims that psi exists or that psi doesn’t.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    “Tell me whats on this card. Predict tomorrows lottery numbers. My
    grandmother had a special inside joke nickname for me, what was it?”

    That would absolutely work if people who were claiming to be psychic were claiming to be “always on” and have unlimited access to all knowledge.

  • Lori

    People who sell psychic readings as a business don’t claim access to all knowledge, but they do sell a version of “always on” or “on, on demand”. That’s the nature of running a business.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Actually, the psychics I have worked with have had cases where they sit down to do a reading, realize they have nothing to offer the client in question, and send them on their way.

  • Lori

    Not being able to read a specific person is, I think, slightly different than what I’m talking about.

    I used to live in an area with quite a few psychics offering readings (of various sorts). They had business hours posted and I never passed one during the posted hours that didn’t have the “open” sign up/on. That would generally indicate that they felt able to offer readings on a predictable schedule. That in turn means being either virtually always on or having some highly reliable way of turning on when the demand arises. I don’t think occasional exceptions actually invalidate that as a general premise.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I don’t think occasional exceptions actually invalidate that as a general premise.

    I don’t know what the psychic shops in your area are like, but at the one I’m affiliated with, the weeks where the shop handles thirty readings split among six different readers is considered an exceptionally good week for readings. (Note: Every reader there has a primary source of income other than doing readings. No one there would survive if their primary source of income was readings.) Given the low level of traffic, I probably consider those exceptions more weighty than you might.

  • Lori

    I don’t know how those folks were making their living. I doubt that many of them relied on the reading business for all their income. Most of them were solo businesses though, so if you went there it was Clare (the only name I remember) no one, and Clare had regular business hours.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I admit that I mainly included the comment about the psychics at the shop I’m affiliated with having other primary sources of income to head off anyone who might have been tempted to jump in with, “You guys can make a living off that few readings?! Wow, you must be fleecing your marks for everything they’re worth!”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Not “always on”? Well that’s really convenient.

    Tell me, do you also have times where you randomly can’t add 2 and 2? Can’t see the color red? Can’t use adjectives? Can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw?

  • David S.

    Yes, there are times when I can’t see the color red. I suspect before we knew how the eye worked, the fact that you could see fine in dim light but couldn’t see colors was quite confusing.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That’s a completely different situation, an issue of insufficient sensory stimuli due to a lack of the physical stimulator (red light), not that your ability to perceive “red” isn’t “on” right now. That’s what Jarred is describing: that a psychic’s ability to perceive psychic stimuli only works sometimes. If you want to try and claim that it’s a case of not enough psychic stimuli available, that would first be equally convenient, and second be just as untestable. Whereas we can easily test, without human eyes, for the presence of red light in a dim room. And the reason we can so easily do so is because red light is a real, physical phenomenon, with physical consequences that go beyond human visual sense.

    Put simply, your counterexample isn’t remotely the same thing.

  • David S.

    A curtain is just as red whether it’s dark or not. I’m sure that a blind person would find it convenient that all of a sudden you claim you can no longer see just because it’s dark.

    For another example, a long-range radio can fade in and out depending on upper atmospheric conditions. You can call it convenient, but that’s just the way it is.

    We can easily test without human eyes for the presence of red light, using stuff we’ve developed only recently, using our knowledge of how light works. You’re putting the cart before the horse.

    I’m not arguing for psychic powers, but any real fair examination of them has to understand that we don’t understand how they work and that they, like most other things, may not be entirely reliable or consistent, especially when we don’t understand the compounding factors.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m not talking about what colors are reflected from objects, I’m talking about what light is available to be seen. In blue light, the curtain would appear black, that doesn’t mean that you’ve lost the ability to see red, there’s simply no red light to be seen. A blind person, to simplest definition, lacks the ability to see. A sighted person doesn’t gain and lose their sight at random intervals.

    “For another example, a long-range radio…”

    ..is again about a lack of physical stimulus to the radio, not that the radio is only capable of receiving a signal sometimes. Do you understand the difference.

    “We can easily test without human eyes for the presence of red light, using stuff we’ve developed only recently, using our knowledge of how light works.”

    The reason we can build such devices is because light is more than just something we can see. That’s true of every type of human sensory information. Furthermore, these particular physical phenomena are detectable by all but a tiny percentage of humans. So, verifying that the detection devices work is a simple task.

    “You’re putting the cart before the horse.”

    No, I’m putting the explanation after the evidence. I’m also demonstrating how your counter-example doesn’t apply.

    “any real fair examination of them has to understand that we don’t understand how they work”

    The question of “how it works” is irrelevant if the phenomenon can’t be demonstrated to exist at all. The idea that psychic abilities can be “on” or “off” is an attempt to get around that initial problem by alluding to (but not explaining) some sort of mechanism. That’s putting the cart before the horse.

    “like most other things, may not be entirely reliable or consistent”

    Really? Red light isn’t reliably and consistently an electromagnetic wave of a wavelength between 630 and 740 nm? You maybe wanna rethink that statement?

  • David S.

    about a lack of physical stimulus to the radio, not that the radio is
    only capable of receiving a signal sometimes. Do you understand the

    The difference between what? You’re looking at a radio that’s not receiving and claiming that’s because it doesn’t work. You could be a blind man looking at a sighted man and calling him a liar because when you pulled him into your indoors lab he couldn’t “see”, making the excuse it lacked something he called light.

    Do psychic powers lack evidence? Yes. Are they contrary to what we currently know of the universe? Yes.

    But it’s a basic logical failure to demand evidence of things you don’t believe that you wouldn’t demand of things you do believe in. Many animals won’t breed in the lab. A few, like the giant squid, we have no evidence about them breeding in the wild. That doesn’t mean we believe they don’t breed. Likewise, meteors don’t fall out of the sky on demand. That caused early scientists to deny their existence. Sometimes, that fact that something is not easily replicated in the lab is not good enough evidence to reject their existence, however convenient that would be.

  • J_Enigma32

    They don’t and won’t work for the same reason that perpetual motion machines don’t and won’t work: most will violate multiple laws of the natural sciences.

    Precognition: violates the Law of Causality, a founding principle and incredibly important underpinning in the sciences. Violate causality and you can throw out all of the following: Physics, evolution/biology, geology, medicine, cosmology, economics, law, and every other natural science.
    – Caveat: Quantum theory violates causality at times. But that’s because the little world is ‘effin weird, and none of the effects of the little world are applicable here in the big one (see: Schrodinger’s cat).
    – Note: This is the same causality that keeps most concepts of FTL travel/communication from being possible. This is also the same causality that may allow time travel in other ways, so figure that one.

    Psychokinesis: violates the Law of Conservation of Energy. Human beings have an average basic output of about 100 watts. That’s not enough available work to bend spoons or pick up objects.

    Mind-reading: Human brains don’t work that way. Your brain is a jumble of thoughts and ideas that only become coherent shortly before you know about them. Otherwise, anyone attempting to read through a mind will get pieces and bits of everything, no wholly coherent thoughts, and a lot of different base reactions. Even reading memories would be complicated because a) memories are formed in multiple parts of the brain and are not uniformly encoded (which is to say, some are more strongly encoded than others) and b) they’re constantly being edited by the brain. What’s more, the “voice” of the brain is little more than digital/analog signals that are converted inside of the soma of a neuron. You’d need something more than another brain to translate that, especially considering the brain doesn’t broadcast anything and doesn’t have the equipment for broadcasting.

    Retrocognition: Might be possible; I can’t think of any one this violates right off the bat, but we don’t have any verifiable evidence for and may be untestable given the nature of the retrocognitive assumption. Just as likely to be the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy (the same fallacy that drives premonitions and presentiments).

    Clairvoyance: Part of me wants to say this violates Relativity, since it implies the existence of an absolute frame of reference from which we can see things as they occur regardless how far out they are based off of our own frame of reference and am not familiar enough with either clairvoyance nor Relativity to make those claims on any sound reasoning, and have no evidence to support the assertion. Of course, all tests on the subject have disproved it as a valid hypothesis (MK-ULTRA, I believe was the CIA tests done to use clairvoyance to spy on the Russians).

    Object reading: Same problem as retrocognition, depending upon the object. Other than that, how are you reading the object? What’s being imprinted on the object? I can’t think of any reason why this would violate laws either, but there’s no evidence for it to exist, either.

    Just imagine how the world would be different if these powers existed – actually existed. If Precognition existed, then causality doesn’t. Which means FTL is possible. It also means that you can communicate with future version of yourself and affect the future. If Telekinesis existed, how would be preformed? Is it manipulation of gravity or dark matter? Imagine what that would entail – if we can manipulate enough dark matter to bend spoons at 100 watts, what could a machine that generates millions do? If mind reading were possible our brain would not be remotely like what we say today; how would out brain work? In what way is that changing human cognition, human perception, and the very nature of self, since self is an illusion created by the brain (similar to free will) in order to balance all of the inputs that it’s getting at once? Postcognition implies that there’s some sort of “residue” left over – what is it? Where is it? What’s it made of? How can manipulate it and use it to our own advantage; just imagine the impact that’d have on Archeology and Biology. We’d be able to shut Creationists up for good using Postcog Machines. Or they’d shut us up good with an ability developed to manipulate causality. Welcome to the “Causality Wars”; take a number and step at the back of the line, like you never did 40.5 seconds before this, before you stopped existing back in the past.

    Having said all this, I’m relatively sure – 99% sure – that psychic powers are impossible. They’re like magic: it doesn’t exist outside of fantasy and science fiction novels. I leave the 1% room there because there’s always the possibility (the canny point to the Laws of Optics and how Metamaterials forced a rewrite of those entire laws, but I would like to stress that Causality, Conservation of Energy, and others are slightly more ingrained in our natural sciences and are slightly more important than the Laws of Optics were), but it’s such a slim one that you’re on epistemically unsound ground by believing them. Some of them I would reduce it to less than 1% – for instance, Precognition.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’d leave open the mind-reading ability as it is always possible someone’s brain is a sufficiently sensitive antenna to other people’s EM signals (albeit they would be very hard to detect).

  • MarkTemporis

    Translating the EM signals back into brain activity is the real trick. How would you differentiate coherent thought from motor control and autonomic response?

    If you believe in psychic powers and the like, there really isn’t any scientific way to prove it. It’s more like the new-age/pagan equivalent of Christian miracles – an article of faith.

  • J_Enigma32

    Antenna alone isn’t good enough. You need a transducer, too (an example of a biological transducer is the inner ear, so they do exist). Since the brain doesn’t think in complete thoughts and the thoughts are jumbled and chaotic, even if it were a possibility, you would have a hard time understanding anything beyond static.

    What’s more, depending upon what frequency you were emitting them on, a brain that generated EM signals would screw with other, nearby signals. To test for it all you need is to project your own EM signals and varying frequency to see which ones are piggyback (are made stronger) and which ones are nullified (made weaker), and once you’ve got that signal, you can generate it that and aim it at a person who claims to be a mind reader to see if they can pick up scrambled signal and interpret it.

    Unfortunately, there’s a few issues. First is that the brain doesn’t generate EM signals (brain waves that you see are measurements of brain activity during certain stages of brain rest; they aren’t actual waves). It generates a weak EM field, but that’s true for the human body as a whole. Second, the brain doesn’t have the proper equipment to be an antennae/transducer. So without some heavy mutation in humans, that method would be so improbable as to be impossible. Your transducer is in your ear, but the ear doesn’t pick up EM fields or signals, it picks up air vibrations and turns those into analogue signals for the rest of the brain to interpret. Having an EM signal-transducer would go a long way, but you need to have some way for the brain to project EM waves with usable information. And it doesn’t that we know of, and it isn’t likely that there is one.

    Now, would I rule something like that out in a species other than humans? Not remotely. It violates no laws of physics and if you have different methods of cognition available for different species (radically different; I would expect if this is possible, it exists in some extraterrestrial species), then this is certainly a possibility. It just isn’t one in humans.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You, sir, are my hero.

  • Baby_Raptor

    There’s some massive pontificating going on in the comments at that preacher reality show post. I wonder if that man who was just *so grieved* by a Pastor possibly having a child out of wedlock understands that his judging and freaking out don’t make Christianity look much better than he thinks this show will?

  • aunursa

    What’s the relevance of the Seven of Nine photo?

  • Baby_Raptor

    Maybe she was one of the umpires. She’d scare me into staying in a game, for sure.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    It goes with the “7 Things…” headline. The last few posts in the series also used “7” pictures of one sort or another.

  • ReverendRef

    Ah . . . that makes sense. Although I probably would have figured it out sooner if the title of the post had been “7 things @ 9 o’clock.”

  • Mark Z.

    A Seven of Nine photo needs no justification.

  • FearlessSon

    Yeah, I was also wondering why there was a picture of Jeri Ryan dressed as her character from Star Trek: Voyager. I had to click it to find out. I thought maybe it was a story about her ex-husband, politician Jack Ryan.

    It was ironically their divorce, which once the case records were unsealed (against the wishes of both divorcees,) cost Jack Ryan the election and allowed Barack Obama to take his place in 2004, positioning him to make a presidential run in 2008.

    I thought maybe this was somehow related.

  • Veylon

    Wait a minute! Are we really just one divorce away from the Ryanverse being reality?

  • Veylon

    Argh! Forgive the double post. The link is this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Ryanverse

  • caryjamesbond

    Only if her ex-husband kills Irish terrorists.

  • Carstonio

    Ralph Reed believes in nothing? No question that his involvement with Northern Marianas makes him a fraud and a carny where abortion is concerned. But for separation of church and state, he gives every indication that he truly wants to grind the First Amendment into dust. That wouldn’t conflict with his scamming of religious conservatives. I’ll call him a fraud on Christian theocracy if he ever takes and raises money by representing secularists.

  • Lawrence Schuman

    And the Seven of Nine picture goes with the baseball story because of the eulogy Seven gives at the end of “One Small Step”. What do I win?

  • Carstonio

    The name Psychic Friends Network sounded to me like the members were telepaths engaging in mental texting. You would be talking with a member, and zie would suddenly freeze and hold a hand up to the side of hir head – “Excuse me, I’m getting a message from my Psychic Friend.” Convenient for requests to pick up something from the store, or invitations to dinner.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    OK, somebody’s gotta say it. Fred, if you fix just one typo this year, you should really take another look at the first line of the Springsteen song as you quote it there.

    Booby said he’d pull out. Bobby stayed in.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    “Bobby said he’d pull out. Bobby stayed in” = Bobby raped her. A trigger warning would really have been appreciated.

  • Jurgan

    That can happen by accident. That’s why withdrawal is not a recommended method of birth control- some men have less self-control than they imagine.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Meh, I’m already triggered as hell at the moment. But I’ve never been with a man, even when I was an 18-year old with another 18-year old, who could not pull out. I think the “oh I just couldn’t help myself” thing is bs.

  • Jurgan

    Maybe. It’s never happened to me, but I don’t really know how likely it is for others. I was told when I was younger that it happens, and I don’t have any sort of data supporting or refuting it, so I’m going to assume it’s at least possible.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    From Planned Parenthood:

    -Of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 4 will become pregnant each year if they always do it correctly.

    -Of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 27 will become pregnant each year if they don’t always do it correctly.

    Honestly, the method is so error prone that I think the only way to even do it “correctly” is to pull out well before the point of climax and finish through other methods.

  • caryjamesbond

    Not to mention that precum can also have sperm in it as well. A lot fewer but….only takes one.

    Condoms- one of mankind’s finer inventions.

  • caryjamesbond

    I’ve always used a condom because pulling out is so untrustworthy a method, and I can say from personal experience that, ESPECIALLY when sexually inexperienced, orgasm can just….sneak up on you. The first time I had sex, actually, I didn’t use a condom and I just barely managed to pull out in time. After that I was obsessive about it, and even with a condom and the reduced sensation that comes with it….yeah. Until you know what you’re doing, and Bruce rarely sings about sexual relationships where people are experienced, pulling out is untrustworthy for a reason.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Yeah, I have to go with Llira on this one. Also, trying to say something is an “accident” and then attributing it to “men having less self-control than they imagine” strikes me as somewhat contradictory.

  • caryjamesbond

    I dunno, that sort of seems like the very definition of accident. In any case where the accident is at all your fault, it seems to be because you thought you’d be safer and more in control than you were. than you were-whether driving at a certain speed, or pulling out in time.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    “Bobby said he’d pull out, and though he did, he didn’t quite make it in time and some of his ejaculate stayed in” doesn’t make for quite such a snappy song lyric.

    Not to say that scumbag dudes don’t take advantage of the excuse (and it’s entirely possible that Bobby was one of them), but you can’t take the most error-prone family planning method around and call the guy a rapist every time it fails.

  • Jurgan

    Regarding the Pastors of L.A.: These are some conflicted people, no doubt. They seem like they’re trying to do good and genuinely care about their parishioners. On the other hand, they are promoting the prosperity gospel and saying they deserve to be rich, which is a pretty vile heresy. My concern, though, is that these preachers are almost all black or Hispanic and they are shown with somewhat stereotypical possessions. If there is a backlash against this show, I can easily see it being racially motivated, and that’s not what the problem is. But can’t you picture criticisms of ghetto preachers with their blinged out cars? I don’t know if that will happen, but it seems likely.