Welcome to Evidence Based Thought

20 06 2008

Welcome to the Evidence Based Thought blog. A skeptical blog authored by a group of like minded individuals in New Zealand that will look to discuss some contemporary issues from a position of scientific skepticism that relate to their home country and abroad.

The principal contributors to this venture are Ian Luxmoore, Grae O’Sullivan, Damon Coursey, Tony Andrews, and Christiaan Barnard. For a brief summary of their background and qualifications (or lack thereof!) please have a look at the About the Authors section.

While no subject will be off topic, it is anticipated that subjects that will be tackled will be principally be about the paranormal and alternative medicine. In an effort to balance things out some of the positive scientific developments will also be discussed.

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18 responses

10 07 2008
Pat

Hello Gents

Looks like NZSkeptics has a new rival! I don’t blame you – not a very active bunch, that lot. I look forward to reading some well researched and open-minded posts on all things paranormal.

Is there is a reason you have not announced the blogs existence on the SM website?

I am hoping that Gos’s SM post will contain a detailed expose as to how the SM Psychics acheive the amount of “hits”.

I hope your investigations include outrageous claims made by Skeptics e.g. what ever happened to the $2M Paranormal Challenge? Seems to have disappeared in a puff of smoke.

11 07 2008
Christiaan

Thanks Pat, while I am sure that members of the Sensing Murder forum will eventually become aware of this blog, the intended audience leans more towards the skeptically minded. I personally did not follow the $2 million paranormal challenge and while such challenges (including the James Randi $1 million challenge) are easy ways to end an argument with a believer (i.e. “so if their abilities are real then why don’t they take the challenge?”) it always has the potential to publically backfire.

When identifying evidence to support a scientific proposition it takes numerous experiments and publication of results, which are subject to ‘no holds barred’ attacks on their methodology, results, and conclusions by their scientific peers. It is very rare to identify one slam dunk experiment that provides the requisite proof to elevate a hypothesis to the position of scientific theory. It is a slow process, where eventually a consensus amongst the experts is gained through repeated experimentation and/or observation.

The public, generally speaking, are not well educated in the scientific methods used, or the underlying processes of publication and peer review, and often in the mass media science is portrayed as being very certain. Rather than hypothesis’s or theories being reported, it is single experiments that are reported which can give the impression science is often resolved through single experiments.

While I do not think that there is evidence of the paranormal, chance still plays a role in any experiment (hence the ongoing use of statistical analysis of data) and if a psychic was to beat the odds and successfully complete one of these challenges purely based on chance, the media would report it as proof of the abilities of the psychic.

However, from a scientific point of view it would raise an interest in the person, but in order for their abilities to be proven they would need to submit to multiple experiments to eliminate any other variables and the suggestion that it was chance.

I did like the idea of Randi’s where the challenge would be directed at the more high profile psychics rather than allowing any person (including people who were clearly mentally ill) to apply for the challenge.

It is this rigorous process that takes place within science that then gets applied to pseudoscience or bizarre claims, but as invariably the scientific method shows a lack of evidence for these positions scientists and skeptics are accused of being cynics and negative. But that demonstrates the people making the outlandish claims own misunderstanding of how science works.

11 07 2008
Pat

Hi Christiaan

You guys have been very active on the Sensing Murder forum for over a year now, but so far you have failed to find any evidence to back up your claims:

1. Where is the evidence the psychics are cold-reading?
2. Where is the evidence the psychics are given prior information on the cases?
3. Where is the evidence that there is a high number of “misses” that are edited out?
4. Where is the evidence that no new leads have been provided by the psychics?
5, Where is the evidence that police are not following up on any of the leads?
6. In other words, where is the evidence that each episode is not an accurate portrayal of what really takes place i.e. the psychics are given a photograph and then proceed to give accurate information on the case?

As an investigator yourself, maybe you could interview some of the key people involved as a starting point e.g. the producer, Tony Holland, Nigel Latta, one of the psychics, the cameraman etc.

Otherwise you add little to the debate other than your own unsubstantiated opinions and speculation. I look forward to some evidence-based-thought.

11 07 2008
Pat

Excuse typo – Tony Holland should of course be Duncan Holland.

Further to my post, Tony Andrews has made the following statements on the SM Website:

“How do they come up with exactly the same unknown evidence? – There are only two possible answers – (1) They are genuine psychics and are getting the same information from the same spirit. (2) They have colluded, and the unknown evidence has been script written in advance”.

and:

“Would just like to point out that collusion is only suspected. There’s no actual proof (yet), so it‘s not actually known (just most likely)”.

To which Sensing Murder have replied:

“You do not have any proof that collusion is occurring, nor will you ever get any …

Do you honestly think that the entire production team is part of a great conspiracy to defraud the public of New Zealand? Along with police who sit in on some of the readings? If so then perhaps you are more deluded than the “woos” and “soap-opera housewives” that you are so quick to judge.

Just because that great ‘scientific mind’ of yours can’t explain how it works, it does not mean that it is not happening”.

This reiterates the point in my previous post. If you going to make a claim that Sensing Murder is not being conducted honestly, then you better back it up with some evidence.

I don’t expect skeptics to prove the existince of spirits. But skeptics should be able to provide evidence to back up their claims.

18 07 2008
Grae O'S

Hey Pat! It is good to see you taking an interest in our little blog.

I was curious why you haven’t replied to my question about your wife’s studies around ASD therepies. I’d really appreciate it if you would have a look at this sometime.

As for your questions, I hope you have had a chance to read my posting on the SM programme. I actually don’t think it is possible for us to answer some of the questions you have posed in regard to the programme. It certainly would require us having a degree of access to the programme that I am sure Ninox would feel uncomfortable with.

I prefer to focus on the obvious flaws in the programme structure such as the lack of fairness and balance in the portrayal of what the Psychics come up with. Perhaps you would like to comment on that.

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