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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween Masquerade of the Skeptics

Tonight is Halloween, a night for masquerades.  There will be less trick-or-treating this year because of  the COVID-19 problem, but there will still be many masquerades. Little girls are dressing up as princesses and little boys are dressing up as superheroes. We also see the masquerade of skeptics that always appears around Halloween, when we see a bunch of stories online with titles such as "Why Your Brain Causes You to Believe in Ghosts" and "How Your Brain Causes You to Hallucinate a Ghost."  When they author such stories, skeptics masquerade as apparition scholars, and they masquerade as people who understand some neural basis for belief or some neural basis for hallucinations in normal people. 

In general, our skeptics are not apparition scholars, and are not scholars of human observations of the paranormal or human reports of the anomalous. The literature on human reports of the paranormal is a vast body of literature consisting of so many books you would need a small library to hold all the books.  In general our skeptics show no sign of having read any such books, other than a few books written by fellow skeptics. They do not busy themselves reading the classic observational reports of apparition sightings. They do not study the countless volumes of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research or the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, even though such volumes can be very conveniently obtained online at sites such as www.archive.org or this site.  

But in their Halloween articles attempting to debunk apparition sightings, our skeptics try to masquerade as scholars of the paranormal.  We can tell they are no such thing by their lack of references to the relevant scholarly and observational literature. We can also tell their lack of scholarship on such topics by their incorrect generalizations about apparition sightings. 

A skeptic describing an apparition sighting will tell us all kinds of imaginative narratives that do not match the observational characteristics of apparition sightings.  He may say that you went to some spooky house and got scared, and that fear caused you to hallucinate seeing a ghost. Or he may say that you were filled with grief, so your brain caused you to see the ghost of some person you wanted to believe has survived.  He will not typically provide narrative examples of such cases, because there are so few of them. 

What our skeptic will not tell you about is a type of apparition sighting far more common, that he cannot explain.  In this type of apparition sighting, a person who is in a completely normal state of mind will suddenly be surprised to see an apparition of someone he did not know was dead or even close to death; and will then soon learn that the same person died about the same time the apparition was seen.  There are hundreds of cases of such apparitions, which you can read about hereherehereherehere, herehereherehere and here.  Our skeptic will typically not know about such cases, because he is not actually a scholar of human reports of the paranormal, but merely masquerades as such a thing. 

Another very common type of apparition sighting is when the same apparition is seen by multiple observers.  Examples can be found here, here, here, here, here and here. Our skeptic will conveniently ignore all such cases. 

Because he has not actually made a scholarly study of apparition reports, our skeptic will continue to advance his lame "fear or grief causes hallucinations" theory, even though such a theory totally fails to explain any of the more interesting reports of apparition sightings,  which occur to people when they are not afraid or grieving, and often involves more than one observer seeing the same apparition, which could never happen from brain hallucinations.  Our skeptic will not cite any scientific experiments supporting his theory, because it is a fantasy without experimental support. 

If there was some tendency for people to hallucinate when they were afraid or grieving, it would be very easy to prove such a thing with experiments. For example, you could test 100 subjects with an experiment in which you told them something terrifying, such as that a tornado or earthquake will soon strike the building they are in.  Then ask such people to describe what they saw, to see how many of them hallucinated. Or you could tell 100 subjects a lie that some beloved figure or one of their relatives had died.  Then ask about their observations, to see how many of them hallucinated from grief. Of course, there are no experiments supporting the fanciful notion that fear or grief causes hallucinations of apparitions. 

Besides masquerading as scholars of the paranormal, our skeptical writers of Halloween stories about apparitions will engage in other types of masquerades.  They will masquerade as people who understand some neural basis for hallucinations in normal people. No one understands any neural basis of why normal people would report seeing dramatic things in front of them that are not there.  Or, our skeptic may masquerade as someone who understands some neural basis for belief.  No one has any real understanding of how a brain could create an idea or form a belief or store a belief.  Just as no one can give a credible explanation of how a brain or neurons could either store a memory or remember something for decades or instantly retrieve a memory,  no one can give a credible explanation of how a brain or neurons could derive or deduce a belief or preserve a belief or store a belief.  So when skeptics write articles with titles such as "Why Your Brain Causes You to Believe in the Paranormal," they are masquerading as people who know something they do not know.  No one can explain why your neurons or your brain could ever handle any such thing as forming a belief or neurally representing a belief or preserving a belief, but we do know a little about why some people may think they understand things that are a hundred miles over their heads.  It has to do with the fact that the mind can take pleasure from such intoxicating but groundless conceits.

When someone imagines that there are memory traces in your brain of the sensations you had years ago, he is at least suggesting an idea based a little bit on reality (the reality of you having such sensations long ago); but it is an idea ignoring the neural reality of short protein lifetimes that should prevent any such traces from surviving for more than a few months (the brain replaces its proteins at a rate of about 3% per day).  But the idea of beliefs stored in brains is not based on any neural reality. If I one day think to myself, "If there came to our planet lizard men from outer space, they would be evil," and then that thought becomes a belief in my mind, this is nothing based on any neural reality, since I have never even had a sensation of lizard men. If there were any neuroscience understanding of how a belief could be stored in a brain, we would sometimes read very concerned writers talking about the grave danger of some government or neurologist changing your beliefs or political views or religion by doing something to your brain or giving you some pill.  We read no such stories.  

The complete lack of any understanding of how a brain could store a belief is shown by the fact that there is not even a word for the concept of a place where a brain stores a belief. There is a word ("engram") for the dubious claim of a neural storage place of a memory, but there is not even a word in neuroscience literature for an alleged neural storage place for a belief.  The lack of such a word is Exhibit A that there is no real scientific basis for the claim that brains store beliefs. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

NASA's Asteroid-Stuff Retrieval Mission: The Spilling Boondoggle

The OSIRIS-REx mission is a billion-dollar NASA mission designed to retrieve some matter from an asteroid, and return it to Earth.  It is rather hard for me to imagine a less worthy way to spend a billion dollars. Asteroids are lifeless dry rocks in space that contain nothing very interesting.  We already have a pretty good idea of what makes up an asteroid. Many meteorites have hit the Earth, and scientists who have analyzed their composition have a basis for inferring the element composition of asteroids.  A science site tells us that most meteorites "are fragments of asteroids."

Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Nobody is interested in the exact composition of asteroids other than a very tiny tribe of scientists such as planetary geologists.  If we get back a little asteroid material from the mission, the results will be a complete yawn to 99.9% of the people who read the results in their science news feeds.  It will be some very boring result such as "80% iron and 20% a combination of nickel, iridium, palladium, and  magnesium." 

Will we be able to know from such a retrieval what is the average element composition of asteroids? We certainly will not. This is because the mission is only getting material from one little part of one asteroid.  The material retrieved could easily be not  representative of the average element composition in the asteroid that the craft landed on, and could easily not be representative of the average element composition in asteroids in general. You can no more tell  the element composition of asteroids by getting a sample from one little spot of one asteroid than you can tell how North Carolina will vote in the next election by randomly picking a single house in North Carolina and asking the owner how he will vote. 

The mission successfully landed on a near-Earth asteroid, and is coming back to Earth with the sample it retrieved.  But now we hear that the sample is spilling into space. A news report tells us that the mission was designed to retrieve 60 grams of material, but the spacecraft is "continually losing between 5 to 10 grams of material."  Will there be any of the sample left by the time the spacecraft returns to Earth?  Only time will tell. 

Even if the spacecraft does return with some asteroid material, it will return with an essentially worthless payload. Why did we spend a billion dollars on such a project of so little interest to the public, when so many scientific projects of high interest to the public are not being undertaken?

I can give two reasons. The first is that NASA is now a privileged fiefdom that believes it is entitled to billions of dollars of annual funding, even for projects not very useful or interesting.  Submitting exorbitant budget requests each year, NASA is now like some billionaire's daughter who thinks she is entitled to a weekly allowance of a million dollars. The second reason is that a thousand worthy scientific projects that are of high interest to the public are not being undertaken because scientists have taboos against doing various types of research, and seem to be afraid that there might occur observations defying their cherished dogmas.  For one tenth the cost of the boondoggle OSIRIS-REx project, you could do a hundred "bang-for-the-buck" scientific research projects relating to topics such as hypnotism, ESP, inexplicable healings, deathbed visions, near-death experiences, UFOs, fortean phenomena, apparition sightings, humans who seem to have inexplicable powers, and people with high cognitive abilities and highly damaged brains. Such projects would be of very high public interest. Previous investigations on these topics give strong reasons for thinking that very important and very interesting results will come from further investigations into these topics. But research into such topics is not federally funded largely because many of our scientists have effectively declared most such things as taboo areas unworthy of further inquiry. Maybe our scientists are afraid that investigations in such areas might lead people to think things that our scientists don't want them to think, such as the idea that people have souls, or that the dogmatic proclamations of professors can be cast into doubt by observations from people who are not professors.  

And so we spend a billion dollars retrieving a worthless, boring clump of dust and rock that only a tiny tribe of specialists are interested in, rather than using a tenth of that money to get results that have great relevance to who we are and the fundamental nature of life and mind, results that almost everyone would be interested in. 

The current NASA budget is about 22 billion dollars. Using 2020 equivalent dollars, we could calculate that over its history of more than 60 years, more than a trillion dollars has been allocated to NASA.  But if asked to name a single important thing that was ever discovered by NASA, the average person would be unable to think of anything. 

Here is a reasonable proposal:

(1) Reduce NASA's budget by 50%, which would prevent it from running boondoggle projects. 

(2) Use one-half of the savings to help reduce the ever-more-out-of-control US budget deficit, currently at 3 trillion dollars.

(3) Use the other half of the savings to fund a new government agency called the National Discovery Administration, which would have a mandate of producing important new discoveries, by funding many small research projects with a potentially high bang-for-the-buck, regardless of whether they had anything to do with outer space, and regardless of whether they violated the belief taboos of the professors. 

(4) Every five years evaluate how many important discoveries this new administration has made, and sharply decrease its budget if it has not made any important new discovery of general interest to the public. 

Postscript:  A tiny piece of asteroid material gathered from a Japanese has been analyzed by scientists. The result is completely boring. But you wouldn't know that from the very misleading headline in the Daily Mail: "Water and organic materials essential for life on Earth are found on the surface of an ASTEROID for the first time."  The actual details in a scientific paper with the give-you-the-wrong-idea title "Organic matter and water from asteroid Itokawa." In the paper we find that this water is merely about 100 parts per million (less than in the sand dunes of the Sahara desert), and that the organic matter is biologically irrelevant carbon stuff, not any of the amino acids or nucleotides that are the building blocks of the building blocks of life. We already knew from meteorites that asteroids have water in such very tiny trace amounts, and that asteroids have such biologically irrelevant carbon compounds.  All in all, this tends to confirm my opinion that sample retrieval missions from asteroids are pointless boondoggles. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Scientists Have a Hundred Ways To Conjure Up Phantasms

Well, that was exciting while it lasted. 

Phosphine is a gas mainly produced on Earth by living things. On September 14, 2020, a scientific paper entitled "Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus" claimed to have detected the "apparent presence" of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. Following their long-standing tendency to hype like crazy any story that may serve as clickbait to produce more page views and advertising revenue, a host of web sites began proclaiming that life or a sign of life had been discovered at Venus.  

I may have been the first one in the blogosphere to make a substantive criticism of this claim, since I published on the next day a post entitled "No, They Haven't Detected Life at Venus," in which I cited several reasons for doubting the idea that the paper had provided any evidence of life at Venus.  I said on September 15 that an alternate explanation was that "an error in interpretation could have occurred in spectral data that is hard-to-interpret because of overlapping signals from a variety of different gases in the atmosphere of Venus," and that such a possibility was "not very unlikely." I also pointed out the substantial chance that merely geological processes could have produced phosphine, and pointed out the lack of any plausible scenario for life on Venus, given the incredibly hostile conditions both on its hot-enough-to-melt-lead surface and its clouds (having almost no water but lots of sulfuric acid vapor). 

Days after my post, we began seeing on some sites such as www.liveScience.com and the National Geographic web site some articles (such as this one) questioning whether any sign of life had really been discovered on Venus.  On October 19, 2020 there appeared a scientific paper with the title "Re-analysis of the 267-GHz ALMA observations of Venus: No statistically significant detection of phosphine."  The paper doesn't merely question whether evidence of life on Venus has been found. The paper tells us that no robust evidence of phosphine has been discovered in the atmosphere of Venus. 

The five authors of the scientific paper provide a critique of the  September 14 paper claiming evidence for phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus,  saying that the paper used a dubious statistical technique that "leads to spurious results." The five authors state that the data actually provides "no statistical evidence for phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus." 

If the five authors are right, then we have here another example of what goes on so very often: scientists conjuring up a phantasm by using dubious methods that lead them to suggest the existence of something that does not really exist.  What we should never forget is that when you're a scientist, there are always a hundred ways for you to get some illusory evidence that is just a false alarm.  This doesn't require or typically involve any outright deception. It merely requires for a scientist to use some method that isn't quite right. 

One extremely common way for a scientist to conjure up a phantasm is to use too small a sample size or too small a study group size, which tends to result in false alarms. Scientists know how they can avoid this sin: by doing a sample size calculation to determine the minimum study group size needed to produce a moderately persuasive result, and to only use study groups with such a size. But a large fraction of scientific studies (particularly animal neuroscience studies) fail to include such a calculation, and fail to have adequate study group sizes. 

Another way for a scientist to conjure up a phantasm is to prune or filter his data until the desired thing seems to appear. It might be that when considering his full data set, there will seem to be no evidence of some thing (call it X) that the scientist wants the data to show evidence for.  But the scientist can prune the data at its beginning or end, until some evidence of X seems to show up. For example, if there were 4 weeks of data collection, the scientist can just get rid of the week 1 data or the week 4 data, or maybe both weeks of data. Or, the scientist can apply some "data filter" which gets rids of certain data points, until some evidence of X seems to show up.  The decision to apply such a data filter can often be rationalized in various ways, to make it sound like some "quality filter" excluding "bad data" or "outlier data."

Another way for a scientist to conjure up a phantasm is to collect data in a biased way that will maximize the chance that the desired result will appear. I will give a hypothetical example. Let us imagine that you are a scientist who wants to show that rainy days in New York City cause a higher chance of 300-point drops in a stock market indicator such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  You might begin recording daily stock market results on a rainy day in which there was a 300-point drop in the stock market.  You might then continue to record daily results, and conveniently end your data collection on a rainy day in which there was more than a 300-point drop in the stock market.  Given such convenient start and stop points of your data collection, you may well be able to write up a "statistically significant" correlation between rainy days in New York and 300-point drops in the stock market. But if you had resolved beforehand to start collecting data on some day 14 days in the future, and continue collecting data for exactly 100 days, then the desired result would probably not show up. 

Once so-called "raw data" has been collected, there are 1001 ways to "massage" the data before it is analyzed, some of which may make sense and some of which are dubious. A scientist can produce all kinds of rationalizations for particular data exclusions and data inclusions and data averagings and "data smoothings" and "weighted averagings" that may have been used, which can have a huge effect on whether some illusory phantasm shows up. 

Moving from the topic of data collection to data analysis, there are innumerable ways in which a scientist can conjure up phantasms by some kind of data analysis that isn't quite right. Don't be reassured when some science paper claims that it uses some kind of "standard software" for data analysis. There is almost always no such thing as a "standard analysis" of data. There are standard software tools used for data analysis, but such tools can be used in a million valid ways, and a million dubious ways. An example is Microsoft Excel, the leading spreadsheet program.  There are a million bad ways to use it, as well as a million good ways. 

A science paper may try to reassure you that it used some standard software for doing some type of data analysis (such as measuring brain scan data or trying to measure "freezing behavior" in mice).  But there are always countless different ways to use such software, some good and some bad.  Every software program has program settings or startup options or menu options that allow you to customize how the program is used. Software programmers usually ask "how can I give the user the freedom to do exactly what he wants," and almost never ask "how I can make it so that there's no way to use the software in a stupid way." 

Another way a scientist can conjure up phantasms is by failing to do a preregistered study that announces an experiment will be testing one very specific hypothesis, and going on a kind of "fishing expedition" within his analytic activity. For example, let's imagine the scientist does brain scans looking for some correlation between some behavior (or some aspect of thinking) and activity in some brain region. By failing to limit himself to checking one small specific part of the brain corresponding to a previously declared hypothesis, and giving himself the freedom to check any of 100 small parts of the brain, he will have a good chance of finding some tiny region that weakly correlates with the behavior or aspect of mentality.  That's simply because given 100 parameters that show random variations, and the freedom to check any of them, it's easy to get something that looks like a slight correlation, even if only chance and not causation is involved.  The name sometimes given for this procedural sin is HARKing, which stands for Hypothesizing After Results are Known. 

Then there's the matter of what the scientists wishes to call attention to in writing up the paper.  Examining exactly the same data, one scientist may choose to make some little data anomaly get special treatment by referring to it in the paper title, while another scientist may "bury" such a data anomaly by mentioning it only in a footnote or in the paper's "supplemental information."  

Or a scientist can conjure up some phantasm by simply having the paper announce something was found that was not actually found. This is a surprisingly common sin. A scientific paper found that 34% of scientific papers "used language that reviewers considered too strong for their strength of causal inference."  Such unfounded claims often occur in the title of scientific papers, which often proclaim some result that is not justified by anything in the paper. 

A scientist may conjure up a phantasm by carefully cherry-picking some examples supporting some speculative idea, while conveniently failing to mention other examples that argue against such an idea. I have recently read two scientific papers that mentioned some evidence for some speculative idea, and conveniently failed to mention the largest studies done on the topic, which presented data against such an idea. 

A scientist may conjure up some phantasm by using some loaded term that isn't appropriate. For example, he may refer to some brain region being "activated" when some mental event occurs, even though the brain region is actually constantly active, and is merely showing something like a 1% greater-than-average activity, something that will randomly occur in different brain regions when nothing special is occuring.  Or the scientist may refer to a "gene regulatory network," rather giving you the idea that genes act like some committee members making decisions. Genes are mere mindless low-level chemicals.  Or the scientist may claim that some behavior is caused by "hard-wiring" in the brain, even though no one has ever found any brain structure (other than reflexes) that determine behavior. 

The things mentioned above are generally not clear-cut deceptions. But it does sometimes happen that scientists conjure up a phantasm by simply using language that is just plain false.  For example, many a scientist has spoken of DNA as being a blueprint or recipe for making a human. Containing only low-level chemical information and no instructions for making anatomy, DNA is no such thing, and bears no resemblence to either a blueprint or a program or a recipe for making a human or any other organism.  "DNA as a blueprint for organisms" is one of the most notorious phantasms of scientist literature. 

Scientists have a hundred ways to conjure up illusory phantasms, and once a phantasm has been conjured up, there are many tricks by which the phantasm may be made to seem like something real, such as the use of complex charts and thick jargon which make the problematic presentation seem very scientific. All in all, we may say that the power of scientists to give you an impression of the reality of something illusory is comparable to the similar power of Hollywood's CGI special effects wizards. 

Postscript: Now we have two additional papers saying that there is no phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. One paper by a single author states, "There is thus no significant evidence for phosphine absorption in the JCMT Venus spectra." Another paper with many co-authors is entitled, "No phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus." 

The case of the "phosphine at Venus" error might give you the impression that scientist errors are quickly corrected. That sometimes happens, but other scientist errors may become enshrined and persist for decades or centuries.  A particularly notorious example is the case of the fraudulent or erroneous embryonic drawings made by biologist Ernst Haeckel.  The drawings were made to try to give evidence for the idea that early stages of the human form resemble animals from which humans were originally descended.  For well over 130 years, the bogus drawings were some of the chief evidence cited for the doctrine of common descent, the idea that all organisms have a common ancestor. You may still find these bogus drawings in evolutionary textbooks at your local library. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Levitation Reports: The Best Cases

Modern scientists typically maintain that nothing can rise into the air without there being some physical explanation for such a rising that scientists can explain. Those who maintain this opinion have typically never studied any of the very many accounts refuting such an opinion, accounts often written by very reliable observers.  Such accounts seem to establish very well the reality of inexplicable levitations utterly beyond the power of scientists to explain. 

In his massive two-part 1857 work A Treatise on Turning Tables, the Supernatural in General, and Spirits, Agenor Gasparin described some examples of inexplicable levitation, along with innumerable accounts of tables mysterious turning or tilting.  On page 53 we read the following description of the levitation of a table:

"Let us return to the demonstration par excellence the elevation without contact. We began by accomplishing it three times. Then, as it was suggested that the presence of witnesses exercised a more certain influence over a small table than a large one, over five operators than ten, we caused a round table, made of spruce, to be brought in, and which the chain reduced one-half, sufficed to put in rotation. Whereupon, the hands being raised, and all contact having ceased, the table elevated itself perpendicularly seven times at our command." 

In Volume 9 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, beginning on page 245, we have a long account of paranormal occurrences at seances of the very well-respected figure William Stainton Moses.  The account includes numerous reports of levitations.  For example, on page 301 we read a witness stating, "The table was floated to the level of our heads; this in clear light."

In a previous post I quoted an account of how a large number of distinguished professors witnessed the levitation of a table at a seance of Eusapia Palladino. Here is part of the account quoted: "By the light of three lamps the table round wbich the experimenters were seated was seen to rise as high as nearly half a yard (4oc.) or to float in the air untouched, without any contact with Eusapia, for about twenty-five minutes."  Such levitations were observed very many times on many different days by professors during experiments with Eusapia Palladino, under conditions in which she was physically constrained or observed so closely that no secret fraud was possible. (Transgressions under looser conditions do nothing to discredit such observations under stringent conditions in which secret fraud was impossible.) Numerous photographs of such levitations have been published.  Below is one, from a page of an Italian book:

Eusapia Palladino table levitation

On pages 417-418 of this book we have a description of a session with Palladino attended by Professor P. Foa and two doctors. We read not merely descriptions of levitations of a table, but the mysterious piece-by-piece dismantling of a table before the eyes of witnesses. We are told the table "continued to break up under the eyes of every one present," and that "its different parts were torn off, then the boards themselves went to pieces."

Referring to table levitations at the seances of Palladino, an observer states this:

"I have probably seen several hundred of these levitations, now, under every conceivable condition and in excellent light, and I consider them so far established that, as Count Solovovo said, the burden of proof is now on the man who asserts that they are not real ; not upon the man who asserts that they are. I have seen levitations take place time after time in a brilliantly-lighted room, when Eusapia's feet were clearly seen, when her knees were held, and no part of her clothing was in contact with the table, when her feet had been tied with rope to the feet of her chair, when both Eusapia's feet were held under the table by a third controller, when the ' stocks ' ap paratus was in use, when the controllers on either side of her passed their hands to and fro repeatedly between the medium's legs and body and the table, when her hands were off the table altogether, when the medium was standing up. These levitations, too, were not all of them of the sudden, almost instantaneous character seen by us in Naples. We have had levitations lasting twenty and twenty-five and thirty seconds, and even longer, as timed by the watch on the stenographer's table. These levitations, too, some of them, have been two feet or more from the floor....During nearly all these levitations the controllers had ample time, as a rule, to pass their hands between the table and the medium's body, in order to prove that no hook or similar attachment was possible, as Mr. W. S. Davis suggested, and, in fact, publicly stated was the case !"

In the previously mentioned post of mine I also quoted a professor Murani who reported seeing levitations of the medium M. Amedeo Zuccarini. In the photos preceding page 136 of the publication here we see a man suspended about 18 inches above a table, with two observers holding his hands (something done to rule out trickery such as using a hand to hold on to a wire hanging from the ceiling).   On page 136 we read this:

"Our hands, not bent at all, but drawn upwards by the medium's arms, simultaneously felt that his body was ascending. The duration of the suspension was variable, lasting while we could count from four to thirty-six, as also was the distance of his feet from the surface of the table (approximately from two to twenty inches)."

The key issue here is whether Zuccarini could have been propping himself up using the hands that held his. The testimony that such hands were "drawn upwards by the medium's arms" rather than pushed downward rules out such a possibility. 

Volume VIII of the Annals of Psychical Science (July-September 1909) has a long account by the distinguished scholar and psychical researcher Julian Ochorowicz, author of the long and fascinating work Mental SuggestionOchorowicz describes at great length a long series of experiments with Stanislawa Tomczyk, who among other wonders could apparently manipulate the dials or needles (under glass) of various instruments. Tomczyk was also apparently able to levitate a variety of objects. The beginning of the volume contains nine very clear photos of such levitations.  Two of them are below. 


Mysterious rise of a magnet

Tomczyk in action

Although there is no sign of such a thing in any of the photos I mentioned, Ochorowicz mentions sometimes very faintly seeing a thread-like thing between Tomczyk's hands, but only seeing such a thing during some of the levitations.  On page 369 he describes levitation which cannot be explained by any thread between the hands:

"From the moment when I mentioned having seeing a thread, the medium behaved as if she wished to contradict these suspicions in various ways: the thread being no longer visible, the medium held her hands motionless for the greater part of the time, and in spite of this, objects were raised and removed, sometimes to right and sometimes to left, sometimes even turning, and when she raised her hands parallel with the object, she moved the fingers about or executed little descending and ascending movements, independent of the object. Her hands, always very cold and very wet, were, moreover, empty, and did not leave the table a single instant."

On page 370 Ochorowicz formulates the following remarkable hypothesis compelled by his strange observations:

"It is possible to create mediumistically, between the medium's hands, a sort of thread, possessing for some minutes a certain consistency, which diminishes and disappears with the putting apart of the hands. The formation of the mediumistic thread is accompanied by a sensation of chill. This thread, created by the unconscious imagination of the medium, seems to present a case of objective material ideoplasm : the strong desire to raise a small object at a distance, brings by association the idea of a thread which would do this." 

In investigations of the medium Indridi Indridason, many reports of levitations were made, both of inanimate objects and of Indridi Indridason himself. Below are some excerpts from a paper by the distinguished researcher Erlendur Haraldsson:

"At the Second Congress in Warsaw in 1923 Nielsson reported on violent poltergeist phenomena around Indridi, much of which took place in full light and involved violent levitations of Indridi and those who tried to protect him from attacks... After the summer of 1905 movements and levitations of objects continued. For example, a table would levitate without anyone touching it, and on another occasion the sitters were unable to thrust a levitated table down with their hands. Knocks and bangs on walls and floor and in mid-air were common. There were levitations of the medium....Movements and levitations were frequent, of objects, small and large, light and heavy, and over short or long distances within a room or hall and sometimes quite high....Many levitations are reported, often with the medium holding onto another person."

Below are some quotes from the work "The Icelandic Physical Medium Indridi Indridason" by Loftur R. Gissurarsun and Erlendur Haraldsson:

Page 70: "A small table with three legs levitated so high that it 'bumped' into the sitters' faces...The sitters then tried with a very heavy table, which tilted a few times without being touched and once levitated completely off the floor."

Page 71: "A small table was abruptly levitated off the floor and up onto another table....Then another table behind Indridason levitated and landed on the table they were sitting at." 

Page 76: "Very soon the medium was levitated in the basket chair a great distance from the floor -- the creaking in the chair being heard while it glided, containing the medium, above our heads -- and was eventually rather noisily deposited on the floor behind the chairs."

Page 116: "The zither levitated many times.  It was seen flying at different speeds in various directions (the phosphorescent tape indicating this). There is no doubt that some of the movements were so far away from Indridason that he could not have reached them."

Page 126: "Many of the objects that moved and levitated around the hall were borrowed from various people."

The eminent scientist William Crookes was the co-discoverer of the element thallium, and was the inventor of the Crookes tube that was the forerunner of all television sets.  Crookes reported observing inexplicable levitations of both objects and people. In his Researches into the Phenomena of Modern Spirtualism, he states on page 37, “On three successive evenings a small table moved slowly across the room, under conditions which I had specially pre-arranged, so as to answer any objection that might be raised as to the evidence.”  Crookes states on page 40, “On five separate occasions, a heavy dining table rose between a few inches and 1 ½ feet off of the ground, under special circumstances, which rendered trickery impossible.” He also states on page 41, “At another time two children, on separate occasions, rose from the floor with their chairs, in full daylight, under (to me) most satisfactory conditions; for I was kneeling, and keeping close watch upon the feet of the chair, and observing that no one might touch them.”

 Describing levitations of the medium Daniel Dunglas Home, Crookes states the following on page 38:

"The most striking cases of levitation which I have witnessed have been with Mr. Home. On three separate occasions have I seen him raised completely from the floor of the room. Once sitting in an easy chair, once kneeling on his chair, and once standing up....There are at least a hundred recorded instances of Mr. Home rising from the ground, in the presence of as many separate persons."

On page 5 of his book Mysterious Psychic Forces, the astronomer Camille Flammarion states the following:

"I have so often seen a rather heavy table lifted to a height of eight, twelve, sixteen inches from the floor, and I have taken such undeniably authentic photographs of these; I have so often proved to myself that the suspension of this article of furniture by the imposition upon it of the hands of four or five persons produces the effect of a floating in a tub full of water or other elastic fluid, that, for me, the levitation of objects is no more doubtful than that of a pair of scissors lifted by the aid of a magnet."

 Very specifically, Flammarion states on page 6 that on March 29, 1906, he saw a table rise 15 to 20 inches above the ground while he and the medium Eusapia Palladino were standing above the table with their hands on it (the other observers being at a distance), and also while one of Eusapia's hands was resting on Flammarion's hand. On page 7, Flammarion says, “This phenomenon of levitation is, to me, absolutely proved, although we cannot explain it.” He also states this on page 7:

"I will add that quite often the table continues to rise even after the experimenters have ceased to touch it. This is movement without contact."

On page 47 of his book On the Threshold of the Unseen, the physicist William Barrett describes an experience in observing a levitation:

"Then the table began to rise from the floor some 18 inches and remained so suspended and quite level. I was allowed to go up to the table and saw clearly no one was touching it, a clear space separating the sitters from the table. I tried to press the table down, and though I exerted all my strength could not do so; then I climbed up on the table and sat on it, my feet off the floor, when I was swayed to and fro and finally tipped off. The table of its own accord now turned upside down, no one touching it, and I tried to lift it off the ground, but it could not be stirred, it appeared screwed down to the floor. At my request all the sitters' clasped hands had been kept raised above their heads, and I could see that no one was touching the table; — when I desisted from trying to lift the inverted table from the floor, it righted itself again of its own accord, no one helping it."

Below is a report from page 340 of Volume 18 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, involving the  medium Stella Cranshaw, and referred to as Stella C.:

"The sitters having taken their places at table, incense lighted, and musical - box started , the ' Slade' table began to move almost immediately . It then started turning ( compelling the sitters to leave their chairs ), and was at once levitated to the height of several inches. Within the next twenty minutes the table was completely levitated at least six times — once for six seconds at a height of about six inches. During these levitations , which took place in the full light of the 60 - watt red lamp, the finger-tips only of the sitters were on the table top . Ceaseless movement of table followed , and once it turned over ; and then , upon request, righted itself....The sitters and medium pushed their chairs well away from the table; linked hands and held them high in the air; and without the slightest contact with sitters or medium , the table ( weight 43.5 lbs . ) , with a few preliminary raps and creaks, slowly moved . These movements without contact were kept up for nearly ten minutes, the table moving in every direction , with decided attempts at levitation...During one of these violent manifestations , the table was poised upon two legs, and the combined efforts of Captain Bennett ( exerting his entire strength ) , who was pushing the table - top in a downward direction , and the other sitters , who were trying to pull the table down , could not shift the table from its poise on two legs."

On page 341 of this account, the observer (Harry Price) states that once when a table was moving "of its own volition" during one of the seances of this Stella Cranshaw, the temperature inexplicably dropped to 43 degrees in the seance room.  On page 343 we read this about a seance with Stella Cranshaw:

"Several complete levitations were accomplished, the table finally turning over with its four legs upwards. In this most difficult position, again the table rose completely, some of the levitations being of 4 , 5, or 6 seconds’ duration."

Following page 285 of Volume VIII, No. 50 of the Annals of Psychical Science (April - June 1909), we have a long description of levitations at seances of Francesco Carancini, which are preceded by quite a few photos, one of which (Figure 37) shows a violin floating in the air. Figure 5 shows a table levitating above the shoulders of the medium, and Figure 7 (shown below) shows a trumpet levitating in the air.  The text describes observers witnessing levitations matching those shown in the photos. 

On page 305 of this account we read this: "At the seance held on the evening of November 27th, 1908, the phenomenon of the levitation of the medium occurred; he was levitated to the height of one yard, a phenomenon distinctly visible to the spectators; the controllers verified all absence of support from the table or chair."

W. J. Crawford was a lecturer in mechanical engineering, and the author of some conventional scientific works such as Calculations on the Entropy-Temperature Chart.  After years of research, Crawford wrote the book The Reality of Psychic Phenomena: Raps, Levitation, Etc.  The 270-page book describes in precise detail Crawford's exact experiments in which inexplicable levitations abundantly occurred. 

On page 44 Crawford states this:

"The levitation of the stool was the most spectacular case of the phenomenon I have seen. So high was the stool in the air, it is no exaggeration to say that if I had bent my head I could have walked right under it from one side of the room to the other."

On pages 62-63 Crawford tells us that he saw a 16-pound table levitated to a height of 2 feet, 5 inches, and that this occurred at his own house. We are told the table was "levitated many times,  the longest period being certainly over a minute."  The location of his own house rules out any possibility of some trickery prepared at some special room of a psychic.  A similar situation occurred with Crookes, who reported observing levitations at his own house.  Of course, since Crawford was an expert in mechanical engineering, he would have been the type of person most likely to have spotted any mechanical trickery if it had been rigged up at someone else's house, and he never reported seeing such a thing. 

On page 63 Crawford tells us this about one of these levitations of a 16-pound table observed at his own home: 

"During one of the levitations...I entered the circle and pressed down with my hands on the top of the table. Although I exerted all my strength, I could not depress the table to the floor. A friend who is over six feet in height then leaned over the circle and helped me to press downwards, when our combined efforts exerted to the limit just caused it to touch the floor."

While such a thing might happen if there were very powerful air jets coming from under the table, such jets could never have been installed through trickery in Crawford's own home, undetected by a mechanical engineering expert such as him. 

In his book The Reality of Psychic Phenomena: Raps, Levitation, Etc. (which can be read here) and his book Experiments in Psychical Science (which can be read here), Crawford describes exhaustive experiments with mysteriously levitated tables, none of which revealed any evidence of fraud or trickery. Below is Figure 1 from his Experiments in Psychical Science

Here from page 8 of the book is the text describing this figure, and the next figure:

"At a recent seance the table turned over on its side with edge of surface and two legs on the floor, surface remote from medium. Then it levitated in that position (Fig. 1) remaining in the air for about half a minute, with lowest edge about a foot above the floor. The surface (S) was about 4 feet from the body of the medium. It levitated again in the same way and then turned over in the air, very slowly at first and then jerkily, until its surface was horizontal and it had attained a normal levitated position. Fig. 2 gives successive positions."

Here from page 9 of the book is the Figure 2 mentioned in the text above:

Given unlimited piano wire and air jets to play with, a magician would be unable to achieve such a manipulation of a table in the air. 

Quite a few witnesses have reported levitations occuring during poltergeist incidents.  The Psi Encyclopedia's article on the famous 1977 Enfield poltergeist case includes reports of several levitation observations. 

Claims are sometimes made that levitation is unthinkable, as it would involve a violation of the law of gravitation. Such a thing is not at all true. We need not believe in any suspension of gravity during levitation, but merely the application of some unknown force exceeding the weak force of gravity. Every time you jump in the air you are exceeding the weak force of gravity that acts like it was trying to keep you from rising.   

As remarkable as inexplicable levitation is, I do not regard it as anything like the most impressive paranormal manifestation ever documented.  As described in the accounts above, levitation does not involve any extremely precise control over matter. I think a far more impressive manifestation is the unexplained phenomenon of dramatic patterns very massively occurring during photography of falling water drops, with hundreds or thousands of consecutive repetitions of very distinctive patterns or motifs, which has been enormously documented in published photos.  That phenomenon involves a degree of precise control over matter far greater than takes place during any reported paranormal levitation. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Shown UFO Videos, Professors Act Like Deers in the Headlights

 I was watching an old repeat of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and I saw a scene in which Captain Picard and Counselor Deanna Troi are instantly transported into the office of a scientist, surprising the scientist. The two announce that they are from the Federation of Planets.  Deanna Troi says that Federation personnel such as her like to make such appearances to scientists, because "'scientists generally accept our arrival more easily than others." I don't know what might have caused the script writer to include such a line.  On planet Earth, it seems that our scientists are mostly notoriously hostile to all reports of UFOs and countless other anomalous or paranormal phenomena. 

Last year a web site did a story in which widely discussed UFO videos were shown to two professors. The videos were those widely seen videos released by the Department of Defense, in which pilots reported seeing mysterious objects moving inexplicably at incredible speeds.  The videos were taken in-flight by the observation equipment on the jets of the pilots. 

When asked to comment on these videos, our two professors didn't act like people having some prepared talking points to combat something they didn't want to believe in. Instead, they both acted in a "deer in the headlights" manner, as if they were utterly unprepared for such queries.  The professors sounded like some high-school student lamely muttering something in response to some question he was totally unprepared to answer.

One professor stated, "The difficulty with this kind of problem is that you can't plan for it," seemingly suggesting his lack of any previous thought on how to react when encountering an observational anomaly.  Then later in the article the same professor states, "You can't plan for it."  As if these two statements were not sufficient to convince us that the professor was really, totally unprepared to be encountering an observational anomaly, the same professor states the same thought for the third time later in the article. He again states, "The difficulty with this kind of problem is that you can't plan for it." Earlier in the article, the other professor agreed with this silly thought. 

Such a claim of "you can't plan for it" is very much untrue.  Scientists can plan for how to respond to such videos of observational anomalies. They can have an intelligent strategy on how to respond to such videos and other evidence of observational anomalies. 

Here is a general plan for how to respond to observational evidence of hard-to-explain anomalies:

(1) Quality-check.

(2) Promptly publicly document.

(3) Classify characteristics.

(4) Look for historical matches or similarities.

(5) Archive.

The first aspect of such a plan is to quality-check the report of an observational anomaly. This should involve an effort to detect signs of fraud or error. For example in the case of a UFO video, the following things can be done:

(1) An analysis can be made of the observational report connected to a a video, such as analyzing the claimed observational conditions, and analyzing the consistency of the report, and the reliability of the observer.

(2) A frame-by-frame analysis can be made of the video, using tools such as fpmpeg, which allow you to convert a video into a sequence of photos that can be analyzed individually. Such a frame-by-frame analysis can help weed out any fakery that might be in a video.

(3) An analysis can be made of other observational reports and videos published by the person connected with a video, to help judge whether that person is a reliable witness, and a credible source of information. 

Other quality-check methods can be made of similar reports of the anomalous and seemingly inexplicable, such as reports of Bigfoot sightings or ghost sightings. 

The second aspect of such a strategy would come into play only if the video or report of an anomalous observation has checked out successfully after being subjected to a quality-check. Then the report of the anomalous observational event should be promptly and publicly documented.  You publicly document something when it is carefully written up in some kind of information source that the public can access. 

The sooner that an observational report appears after the event occurred, the more reliable report is. For example, if you record an account of your near-death experience the day after it occurred, such a report has more weight than some report you may write years later.  A publicly accessible documentation of an anomalous event has much more value than some private documentation such as something written only in your diary.  The more people publicly document observational anomalies, the more likely that people will begin to recognize that certain types of anomalous phenomena are really happening. 

The third part of the five-part strategy listed above is classification.  For example, a UFO video would be analyzed for its main anomalous characteristics. Nowadays various types of software have features that can aid in classification. Such features may be called tags, keywords, topics or hashtags. Such classification activity is a key part of scientific activity.  Scientists should not just observe and experiment, but spend great amounts of time classifying what they have observed.  Proper classification efforts may require the introduction of new terminology or neologisms to describe novel phenomena for which no previous term existed. 

The fourth part of the five-part strategy is to search for previous reports that had similar observational characteristics.  If a match was found, the person documenting the incident would discuss how the other videos or observational reports had similar features.  Doing such a search requires a scholarly literature carefully documenting various types of observational events or anomalies, or a database of such observational reports. 

When AIDS first appeared in the US in the early 1980's, every report of an AIDS-like syndrome was a freakish anomaly observation. When COVID-19 first appeared in late 2019, every report of it was a freakish anomaly observation.  Scientists started to realize that something very worthy of their attention was afoot in these cases when pattern-matching was done, with multiple instances of the anomaly report being compared to detect a recurring pattern.  

Proper pattern matching requires scholarship of similar previous anomaly reports.  Such pattern matching is very unlikely to successfully occur when researchers fail to research the related literature.  A scholar who has studied the history of anomalous events in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries may be able to easily match some report of an anomalous occurrence with similar reports from those times.  A person who has not studied such things will be unlikely to successfully find historical matches and similarities after receiving a report of the anomaly.  Currently 95% of the authorities who declare that certain types of paranormal events are impossible have never bothered to make a substantial study of the relevant literature (something that requires reading hundreds of the right books).  Such authorities are like people who never saw a movie or read about movies who declare that movies are impossible. 

The fifth part of the strategy is to archive.  Once observations have been made of anomalous phenomena, and such observations have been written up, it is of great importance that such written reports by archived, so that they are not lost to posterity.  An anomalous phenomenon may occur at rare intervals over many decades or centuries. The reality of such a phenomenon may never be recognized unless reports of such a phenomenon from previous decades and centuries are preserved.  

Observational reports appearing on Facebook feeds or Twitter feeds may not last very long.  Such reports may last longer if they are written up in books.  One of the best ways of archiving reports of anomalous phenomena is to write up such reports in a book, and upload such a book to www.archive.org, where the book can be available as a free download.  Such observational reports will then presumably be publicly available for many decades. I routinely read reports of anomalous phenomena that were written in the nineteenth century, by reading online books that have been uploaded to www.archive.org. 

So we see that we can indeed plan for what to do when some very unexpected anomalous observation occurs.  "You can't plan for it" is not at all true. We live in a vastly mysterious universe in which incredibly puzzling things happen very frequently, often things totally defying the expectations and belief dogmas of scientists.  There is no excuse for not having a plan or strategy for how to handle reports of such anomalies. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Another E-book of Mine, Readable Online for Free

 In 2013 I wrote a book entitled 50 Hints of Cosmic Purpose, which has been on sale since then on www.amazon.com. I have now uploaded the book to www.archive.org, where it is available as an E-book that can be easily read for free, without any login required.  You can read the book at the URL below:


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

They Claim Thousands Yielded Macroevolution, But Billions Did Not Yield It

 A recent story on the phys.org site creates a wrong impression. Referring to some study about the number of people who have a particular artery in the arm, the story states, "Dr. Teghan Lucas from Flinders University says this study into the prevalence of the artery over generations shows that modern humans are evolving at a faster rate than at any point in the past 250 years. But the real truth is that macroevolution (the appearance of complex visible new biological innovations) is failing to appear from the human population, to an extent that should cause great doubt about claims of a merely Darwinian evolutionary origin of human beings. 

The median artery is an arm artery that appears early in the development of a human, but normally disappears or changes into some other arterial structure. The phys.org story cites a study claiming that while there used to be only 10% with such an artery in the nineteenth century, there are now about 30% with such an artery. But the medical reference here claims that only 10% of people living now have such an artery.  And the autopsy study here of 60 people in 2012 found only 6.6% of the arms studied had such a median artery. The 2015 autopsy study here found only 6 out of 100 cadavers had a median artery.  So how can a new study be claiming that 30% of us nowadays have a median artery?

In any case, it makes very little difference whether more people nowadays have such an artery.  There is no clear survival or reproduction benefit from having such an artery as opposed to alternate arterial structures, so citing it as evidence for natural selection is very dubious. Nowadays having a median artery is associated with the troubling problem of carpal tunnel syndrome.  And even if there were to be more people with such a median artery, it would be a mere example of microevolution, not macroevolution. Microevolution is some minor tweak in an organism that is not any major complex visible biological innovation. 

We know of a few minor examples of microevolution occurring in humans, such as the ability of more humans to digest lactose, and the ability of some humans to breathe better at high altitudes.  But no one has ever observed macroevolution in the human population. Macroevolution is the alleged appearance of major complex visible biological innovations in organisms due to natural evolutionary processes.  For example, if a species that did not have wings once evolved into a species that did have wings, that would be an example of macroevolution. And if a species that did not have eyes ever evolved into a species that did have eyes, that would be an example of macroevolution. 

Recorded history provides no example of macroevolution occurring in the human population. We have Egyptian statues and bas-reliefs of humans dating from 5000 years ago, and the humans depicted look just like the humans of today.  We have priceless ancient literary works such as those of Plato, proving that humans were capable of brilliant thought and writing thousands of years ago. If humans from five thousand years ago were transported to the current age, they could pass for modern humans. 

Evolutionary biologists claim there was in the past some huge amount of macroevolution that caused rather ape-like ancestors to transform into humans capable of speech, writing and city building. But a study of the growth of human population will cast doubt on such claims. 

The number of humans that have lived has been estimated at 100 billion. But a web site discussing this issue tells us that 99% of these people have lived in the past 10,000 years. Since 8000 BC some 100 billion humans have lived, but in the period between about 400,000 BC and 8000 BC, the total number of humans or pre-humans who lived was quite probably no greater than about a billion, and very probably less than 3 billion (the average population size being only about 20,000 or smaller for most of this time).  The web site discussing the issue states at 8000 B.C. the total number of humans who had ever lived was only about a billion. 

But we know there has been no macroevolution of humans since 8000 BC -- only a little microevolution like better lactose digestion and better high-altitude breathing in some people.  A statue from about 9000 BC shows a human with the modern human form, as do skulls and skeletons from around such a time.  We also know from archeological records that humans were building towns around such a time, in places such as Jericho. We also know from cave paintings that something like modern humans existed around 30,000 B.C.  

So if you believe the conventional account, you must believe that a totality of no more than 3 billion humans or pre-humans living before 8000 B.C. underwent enormous macroevolution (resulting in humans that had language, abstract thinking and symbolic abilities), but that in 100 billion humans living since 8000 BC there has been no such  macroevolution. Such an idea is not credible.  Why would there be such dramatic macroevolution during less than 3 billion lives, and no macroevolution during the subsequent period in which there were 100 billion human lives?  We would think the opposite would be more likely. 

A science site says, "An effective population size of 10,000 has been estimated for the most recent common ancestor of modern humans and of Neandertals (Ptak et al., cited in Premo and Hublin, 2009)." Conversely, our planet has had billions of humans for about 70 years. According to the account of our evolutionary biologists, from a population of only about 10,000 or a few tens of thousands of organisms before 50,000 B.C. there came some dramatic burst of macroevolution transforming ape-men into humans, but no such macroevolution has come from any of a population of billions of humans living in modern times.  This claim is as fishy as the recent claim that the number of humans with a median artery has sharply increased, contrary to those two autopsy studies I mentioned. 

Below is a table summarizing various studies or claims relating to the prevalence of the median artery in the forearm:



What Percent Had a Persistent Median Artery

“Prevalence of the Persistent Median Artery”, an autopsy study of 60 corpses



“Persistent median artery of the forearm and palm: a cadaver study into its origin, course, fate and clinical significance”


“A large, well developed persistent median artery extended to the palm and contributed to its vascular supply in 6 out of 100 upper limbs dissected.”

“Prevalence of Bifid Median Nerves and Persistent Median Arteries and their Association with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a Sample of Latino Poultry Processors and Other Manual Workers”


"We screened 1026 wrists of 513 Latino manual laborers in North Carolina for bifid median nerves and persistent median arteries using electrodiagnosis and ultrasound...3.7% of wrists had a persistent median artery independent of subgroup ethnicity, age, gender, or type of work."

“Recently increased prevalence of the human median artery of the forearm: A microevolutionary change”


“A total of 26 median arteries were found in 78 upper limbs... a prevalence rate of 33.3%”

Altogether this data presents no real evidence that persistent median arteries in the arm are becoming more prevalent.  The attempt of the last of these papers (the Flinders University study) to sell their outlier result as evidence of recent microevolution is unfounded, and their sample involving only 78 limbs is much less reliable than the 13 times larger sample of the 2010 study finding a prevalance of persistent median arteries only one tenth of what the Flinders University study found (a prevalance of only 3.7%).  We seem to have here an example of the "cherry-picking for Charles" that is done so often by Darwinism enthusiasts. 

When discussing the unlikelihood of getting dramatic macroevolution from a small population, and the relation of population size to the likelihood of there appearing large complex evolutionary innovations, our biologists try their best to cloud the waters by distracting us with side points. But the matter will be more clear to anyone who considers a hypothetical example.  Requiring almost infinitely improbable protein molecule innovations and so much more, the appearance of a macroevolution innovation largely by random mutations can be compared to some typing monkey accidentally producing a brilliant essay or a clever computer program.  Now imagine if some huge group of scientists tested for years billions of monkeys trained to sit at keyboards and type, and saw no such worthy outputs ever appearing from their efforts.  It would then be very dubious for such scientists to claim that such worthy outputs came in the past from a group of only about 15,000 such typing monkeys.  It is just as dubious to claim that some tiny population of perhaps 15,000 yielded some gigantic marvel of macroevolution, when no macroevolution at all has come from population sizes 300,000 times larger.