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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Monday, November 30, 2020

Researchers Won't Cooperate With a Survey Asking About Their Questionable Practices

 In the journal Science there was recently an article with a  headline "Largest ever research integrity survey flounders as universities refuse to cooperate."  It seems that some Dutch scientists created a National Survey on Research Integrity to learn more about the degree of poor practices occurring among science and medical researchers. The Dutch scientists had a real simple plan: just send many thousands of researchers a brief list of questions asking about "Responsible Research Practices" and "Questionable Research Practices." I am unable to find out what the exact questions are, as they are not listed on the web site of this survey. 

You would think that such a survey attempt would not run into any difficulty. But it seems that fewer than 15% of the scientists sent the survey have responded to it. The article tells us that "university presidents argued that a survey would just not be suitable for such a sensitive topic."  Only 5 out of 15 universities agreed to participate in the survey,  and only "on the condition that they could have a say on the survey’s setup and content."  This "have a say" amounted to pressure that more positive questions should be included in the survey, more questions asking about good behavior such as sharing data.  We can imagine a politician making a similar demand, which might work like this:

Journalist: Now, I want to ask about that rumor you are cheating on  your wife. 

Politician: Well, let's make a deal. I'll answer that question, but only if you first ask a question about the time I was nice to a hungry puppy, and another question about the time I gave some food to a homeless person. 

Despite the survey having been made more pleasant with questions about both good behavior and bad behavior,  only 13% of those getting the survey have answered it.  This is even though the survey was designed with some fancy scheme designed to "anonymize" individual responses, so that you can't tell who sent a particular response, and no one will suffer consequences from confessing bad behavior. It seems our scientists don't want to talk about all the poor  practices that are going on in science research. 

So the response of the typical scientist getting the survey is rather like the response of the politician below:

JournalistDo you often tell lies in your Senate speeches? 

Politician: No comment. 

Journalist: Do you sometimes take bribes? 

Politician: No comment. 

JournalistIs it true you are a bigamist? 

Politician: No comment. 

Luckily, we don't really need a survey to discover all the questionable practices that go on in scientific research. We can just do random inspections of scientific papers, using resources such as the Physics paper server at arXiv.org and the biology preprint server to find such papers.  Here is how some bad practices can be found:

  • In an experimental paper, do a search for the word "blind" to discover whether a blinding protocol was used. You will find that in very many or most such papers there is no mention of a blinding protocol, meaning there was a fair chance of biased  data gathering or biased data analysis, in which researchers see what they're hoping to see and find what they're hoping to find. 
  • In an experimental paper, do a search for the phrase "sample size calculation" to discover whether the researchers made any attempt to calculate the minimum study group sizes needed to get a robust result. You will usually find that they did not. 
  • In an experimental paper, do a search for the phrase "n=" and "n =" to find the study group sizes that were used. You will very often find that study group sizes smaller than 15 were used, meaning that there was a high chance of a false alarm because of a too-small sample size. 
  • Search for the phrase "conflict of interest" to find any conflicts of interest.  Such a search will often show that some of the researchers were employees of a company that stands to profit if the study claimed a positive result, or investors in such a company. 
  • Search for the phrase "registered" to see whether the study was a pre-registered study that declared (before it began) that it would test one particular hypothesis using one particular method.  You will almost always find the study was no such thing. Studies that were not pre-registered are often kind of "fishing expeditions" in which dozens of possible effects or correlations are looked for after the data has been collected; and when such "HARKing" (Hypothesizing After Results are Known) occurs, there may be a large chance of a false alarm.  
  • Analyze the paper to see whether the study's title made some claim that is never established by robust evidence, something that very often occurs.
  • Analyze the paper's abstract to see whether the study's abstract made some claim that is never established by robust evidence, something that very often occurs. A scientific study found that 48% of scientific papers use "spin" in their abstracts. 
  • Whenever you read some dubious claim that has a reference number, as if the claim was proven by some previous paper, track down the corresponding paper to find whether it actually showed or asserted such a claim. You will often find it did not. 

According to a previous meta-analysis, when asked if they had knowledge of a colleague who fabricated or falsified data, or modified research data, "between 5.2% and 33.3% of respondents replied affirmatively." According to Figure 5 of the same meta-analysis, six different studies found  that about 2% of scientists confess that they themselves fabricated, falsified or altered data.  We have every reason to suspect that the actual percentage of scientists doing such a thing is much higher, simply because the percentage of people who confess to wrongdoing will always be much smaller than the percentage that commit wrongdoing. One paper ("Analysis and Correction of Inappropriate Image Duplication: the Molecular and Cellular Biology Experience") concluded that "as many as 35,000 papers in the literature are candidates for retraction due to inappropriate image duplication."  They found that 6% of the papers "contained inappropriately duplicated images." A study tells us the following about a survey of scientists:

"Up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices."

In The Lancet, Stuart Clarke wrote the following:

"The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, 'poor methods get results'... In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours."

questionable research practices
Questionable research practices

We should remember that a good fraction of scientists are scrupulously honest people who rigorously follow high standards very carefully, but we should also remember that many are no such thing, and that some of the most important claims of modern scientists are claims that will not seem very well-established after we carefully inspect the types of questionable research practices and weak arguments used to try to substantiate such claims.  

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Mystifying Mrs. Morel

On page 30 of Eugene Osty's book Supernormal Faculties in Man, we read of a Mrs. Morel who was said to have paranormal powers. A woman presented to Mrs. Morel a cape, telling her that a jewel worn with the cape had been stolen. Mrs. Morel stated, "It has not left the house...I see her wrapping the jewel in an old newspaper and throwing it under a table in a long room like a hall." We are told that later that evening a servant reported finding the jewel "in the hall in an old newspaper. " 

On page 79 we have a report of how a mere glove was given to Mrs. Morel, who was asked "What am I to see about this woman?" and then told, "Look for what is troubling her at this moment." Mrs. Morel correctly said she saw that the woman had lost a large jewel, and also gave correct details about how the jewel would be recovered.

On page 96 we are told that Mrs. Morel was given a piece of ribbon and told that the person to whom the ribbon belonged had left his house before the Germans arrived, and was asked to "see what has happened to him since." We are told Mrs. Morel "gave his exact description" and gave a description of him going down 17 or 18 steps, carrying gold.  We are told that the scene described by Mrs. Morel was "exact," that the stairs contained 17 steps, and that the man had been carrying gold. 

On page 97 we read that a woman gave a letter to the hypnotized Mrs. Morel from the woman's husband (believed to be overseas), and asked Mrs. Morel to tell of his health.  Mrs. Morel said that the husband was "in this town, in Paris."  She gave the same answer eight days later. The wife later found that the husband had a mistress in Paris, who he was seeing during part of the time he claimed to be overseas.  

On page 99 we read that Mrs. Morel was given a photograph, face down, and asked about it by Eugene Osty. She first described exactly the person who had sent the photo to Osty. Asked to speak about the person in the photo, she correctly described the person as someone who had suffered "a quick transition from full life to death," involving "something in the head." The photo was of a man who had died fairly quickly from meningitis or some other cerebral affliction, dying in 15 days. 

On page 100 we read that a book of a dead soldier (an instruction manual in the artifical language of Esperanto) was given to Mrs. Morel, who was asked about its owner.  Mrs. Morel correctly described the soldier's death. 

The incidents above occurred when Mrs. Morel was under hypnosis.  We have here further evidence that clairvoyance can occur most dramatically when certain people are hypnotized, something that was abundantly described by quite a few nineteenth century writers, such as I quote in the posts here, here and here.  On page 120 we read this:

"Some few subjects, much more rarely met with, only show the faculty when in profound hypnosis. Madame Morel, from whom I have obtained several of the results quoted in this book, is of this type. She is hypnotized by the direct gaze, and suddenly falls into a sleep so profound that all mental life seems extinct in her brain ; she seems a body without thought or spontaneity, keeping any attitude in which she may be placed. But as soon as her psychism is called into activity by questions, one is amazed to find, in spite of the cataleptic state, the same intellectual activity as in the subjects whose faculty appears under light hypnosis or in the waking state."


On page 131, we have a general description of the amazing powers in Mrs. Morel: 

"I. Any object placed in the hands of Mme Morel almost immediately arouses the mental perception of one of the persons who have previously touched it, and allow of her receiving knowledge concerning that person's life. 

II. Each human individual who has touched the object may be evoked and cognized. The experimenter cannot know in advance which of the personalities will first come up. To reach the personality on whom investigation is desired it is sometimes necessary to dismiss a varying number of those that are not required. 

III. Human individuals connected with the lives of the persons who have touched the object may also, though more rarely, be cognized. This fact has caused some persons to take for errors revelations that were only misdirection of the faculty. 

IV. Each of the persons thus evoked is perceived distinctly, without there ever being transpositions or confusion of the physical states of the different persons who have touched the object. 

V. As soon as mental evocation of the personality has been obtained the object that called it up may be taken from the percipient and destroyed. The percipient, nevertheless, continues to describe the states of life in the distant person just as if he were present, or at any rate as if the object were still being held. 

VI. Every one of the personalities which have been evoked by contact can be cognized with reference to the totality of his being, in its whole duration and extension ; at whatever moment in the life contact may have been made. For instance, with an object touched twenty years before and never since, the percipient can cognize the life as it is at present and can recognize its course. 

VII. The physical and chemical nature of the objects is not a perceptible factor in their usefulness. With Mme M., however, the objects that stimulate best are those with which contact has been frequent and prolonged, and which have not been touched by others."

The skill described in Mrs. Morel has been given the name of psychometry, which means a paranormal ability to deduce information from a material object, relating to a person associated with that object. The Osty book is from the twentieth century, and there were similar  descriptions of psychometry incidents in nineteenth century books. One such book is Manual of Psychometry: The Dawn of a New Civilization by Joseph R. Buchanan M.D. Below is an example of one of the book's accounts of psychometry, and note how the author states that he successfully performed such experiments "more than a thousand times." 

"I was sitting with my young friend in an apartment in the Astor House, when I resolved to test his powers. I proceeded to my trunk and took forth four letters written by individuals of strongly marked and peculiar characters. I placed them successively in his hands and requested him to watch the mental impressions to which they gave rise in his mind, and report his conceptions of the characters of the writers. He did so, and his descriptions surpassed my anticipations. He entered into the spirit of each character as familiarly as if he had been in contact with the individual, and described not only his intellect and his principles of action, but even his personal appearance and physical constitution. He knew not of whom he was speaking — he did not even know what letters I had placed in his hands — yet I can say, without exaggeration, that his description would not have been more correct if he had described the individuals from familiar personal knowledge ! Does this statement, kind reader, appear utterly incredible? I have repeated such experiments more than a thousand times with similar results, and could adduce the testimony of thousands who have been the witnesses or the subjects of such experiments. If human testimony can establish any proposition, it is sufficiently strong upon this subject."

On page 37 the writer tells how tests of psychometry were particularly successful when he had subjects hold in their hands or hold to their foreheads a letter written at a time of strong emotion:

"I have usually selected for my first experiments, letters written under intense feelings. The best that I have used, is a letter written by a gentlemen of strong character and ardent emotions, immediately after the death of his wife. The overwhelming grief and agonizing sense of desolation, with which he narrated the death of his beautiful and queenly bride, never failed to arouse vivid feelings in those of high impressibility. In one of my first experiments, that letter was placed in the hands of a lady, the wife of Dr. C. of Boston, who, as well as her husband, was entirely skeptical as to such experiments. The first effect discovered was visible in the tears which she could not restrain. Several times, in other cases, I have simply placed the letter upon the forehead, and left it to tell its own tale of woe, in the sad countenance and tearful eyes of the subject of the experiment. Where the sympathy was thus complete, they were generally able, upon composing themselves, to inform me that the feeling aroused in their own minds, was that of grief — such as would be caused by the loss of some very near and dear friend or relative. Quite a number have been able to state, from their impressions, that the grief of the writer, was caused by the death of his wife ; and some have even vaguely described her appearance." 

On pages 46-48 Buchanan describes an experiment in which he placed a letter vigorously written by Andrew Jackson to the forehead of a Mr. K.  This Mr. K. correctly identified the tone of the letter, and also stated that the letter "was from such a man as Gen. Jackson."  Buchanan later reports trying the same experiment with a Bishop Otey, who said the letter was from "just such a man as Gen. Jackson" when the letter was placed upon his forehead. 

More recently, a book called Visions of Time by David E. Jones PhD presented evidence of psychometry involving people who told correct details about the people associated with hard-to-recognize  archeological artifacts presented to them.  His research is described here

Sunday, November 22, 2020

When Explanation Attempts Are Like Ring Kissing

The ancient philosopher Aristotle helped science get started, but for centuries Aristotle's followers helped retard the growth of experimental science. Again and again, Renaissance writers would speak as if there was no need to experimentally determine something, because Aristotle had taught what the truth was about some matter. It was eventually discovered that many of Aristotle's opinions were wrong, such as his idea that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter bodies. 

Scientific academia has failed to draw the right lesson from Aristotle fervor, which is never become some kind of devotee of any previous thinker on scientific matters. Nowadays in academia and its satellite  press workers, we see a blind devotion to the thought of the nineteenth century biologist Charles Darwin, a kind of fanboy fervor as astray as any Aristotle avidity of the Renaissance era.  The custom of kissing the ring is something some people do to pledge their allegiance to someone else, such as a pope or an organization head.  Darwin devotees keep pledging their ideological allegiance by writing pieces that are like kisses on the ring of a dead man. 

The latest "kiss the dead man's ring" piece in the science press is a laughable BBC article attempting to persuade us that Charles Darwin was some brilliant origin-of-life theorist.  Entitled "Darwin's hunch about early life was probably right," the piece is laughable partially because Darwin's published works contain no deep thoughts about the origin of life.  The only thing Darwin wrote having any relevance to the origin of life was a mere sentence he wrote in some letter on February 1, 1871. All he said was this: "But if (& oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia & phosphoric salts,—light, heat, electricity &c present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter will be instantly devoured, or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed."

Our BBC writer insinuates that this single statement was some theory about the origin of life. It was no such thing. It was merely a speculation about the origin of a single protein compound -- a very incorrect speculation, since proteins are not created from either ammonia or phosphoric salts.  The origin of even the simplest living thing would require the origin of many different types of proteins, almost certainly well over 50, along with a lot more, such as DNA.  There is a world of difference between a single protein and even the simplest living thing.  

We have two possible belief options here. Option 1 is you can believe that Darwin did not advance any such thing as a theory of the origin of life, but merely wrote a sentence suggesting a single protein may have originated in a warm pond. In that case, you cannot say that Darwin was probably right about the origin of life,  as you believe that he said nothing about it. Option 2 is you can believe that Darwin somehow thought the origin of a protein was equivalent to the origin of life, and that therefore he did advance a theory of the origin of life. If you take that belief option, then you must believe that Darwin was very wrong about the origin of life, because the difference between a single protein and the simplest living thing is like the difference between a single page and a book.  

So either Darwin did not advance a theory of the origin of life, or he advanced a theory that is dead wrong. It is quite false to claim (as the BBC article does) that Darwin advanced an idea of the origin of life that was "probably right." After describing his thoughts as a mere "beginning of a hypothesis," the BBC article confesses "it reads as if Darwin was thinking his hypothesis through even as he wrote it down," which makes it sound like Darwin gave no more than a moment's thought to such a question. So what is our BBC article doing trying to pass off such a fleeting half-thought as something profound?  

In the BBC article, we have the standard baloney about the Miller-Urey experiment: "In 1953, a young American student named Stanley Miller showed that amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, could form in a simple apparatus that mimicked the primordial ocean and atmosphere."  This very false claim (which has been told for seventy years in origin-of-life literature) continues to be repeated endless times by writers and scientists trying to persuade us that life may have naturally originated.  It is has been admitted for many years that the Miller-Urey experiment did not use a realistic mixture of gases corresponding to the gases that would have existed in the early Earth's atmosphere.  A second reason why the enclosed glass apparatus of the Miller-Urey experiment never "mimicked the primordial ocean and atmosphere" is that you cannot mimic the vast expanses of the ocean and atmosphere by using an enclosed glass apparatus that will tend to produce concentrations of chemicals something like 1,000,000,000,000,000 times more concentrated than would ever form in the open atmosphere and ocean.  A third  reason why the enclosed glass apparatus of the Miller-Urey experiment never "mimicked the primordial ocean and atmosphere" is that it used lightning-like energy running continuously for days, while in nature lightning only occurs at rare instances.  Claiming the Miller-Urey experiment was a realistic simulation of the early Earth is like claiming that a shaken Christmas snowglobe is a realistic simulation of a snowstorm.

We also have in the BBC articles some references to papers behind paywalls, references attempting to make us think that scientists have made some progress in figuring out some realistic chemical pathways by which building blocks of life could originate in a warm pond.  Scientists have not done any such thing, and they have made no real progress in substantiating the idea that life might have naturally arisen from chemicals. To the contrary, everything that has been learned about the functional complexity of life speaks against such a theory.  We know that a protein molecule typically consists of hundreds of amino acids arranged in just the right way to achieve some specific functional effect, making the accidental appearance of a functional protein molecule as unlikely as the accidental appearance of a poem as good as a Shakespeare sonnet from a bucket of Scrabble letters poured onto the ground.  We know that in countless different ways, life is almost infinitely more organized and functionally complex and fine-tuned than Darwin ever imagined, making claims that he understood something about the origin of species or the origin of life seem like some claim that Aristotle understood how digital computers work.  

The simplest living thing is a cell, and the building blocks of cells are proteins and nucleic acids such as RNA and DNA.  No experiment realistically simulating early Earth conditions has ever produced a protein, a DNA molecule, an RNA molecule, or even any of the building blocks of any such things.  The building blocks of protein molecules are amino acids, and the building blocks of RNA and DNA are nucleotides. No amino acid and no nucleotide has ever been produced through any experiment realistically simulating early Earth conditions. 

The BBC article also does the usual trick of referring to experiments producing mere fatty bubbles, and calling such things "protocells." Fatty bubbles are not the beginning of cells.  The BBC article also refers to some research with procedural flaws I discuss here, research which does not at all qualify as the production of amino acids or nucleotides through an experiment realistically simulating early Earth conditions.  The article makes this untrue claim: "There is also a lot of evidence that the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight can drive the formation of key biological chemicals – especially RNA, a nucleic acid similar to DNA thought to have been a crucial component in creating the first life." No, you can't use ultraviolet radiation to make RNA or any of the building blocks of RNA or DNA or a protein in any realistic experimental simulation of the early Earth; and ultraviolet radiation would have done more to hinder a natural origin of life than to help it.   

The BBC article conveniently fails to discuss the functional complexity required for even the simplest thing, fails to discuss the very high complexity and functional specificity of protein molecules, and fails to tell us that a self-reproducing cell would require many different types of protein molecules, each a different complex invention. Using a photo display size larger than any I have ever used on any of my blogs, the article includes a huge picture of Darwin, a picture that fills up my whole PC monitor.  That's the kind of thing that fanboy devotees do: they put up huge pictures of their idol like Marxists or Maoists erecting huge building-sized posters of Marx or Lenin or Chairman Mao. Of course, if you're trying to sell people on some accidental origin of life, it's much better to show some huge Darwin portrait than some visual that might give someone a clue about how organized the matter is in a cell, something like a visual of a protein molecule. 

complex protein

An exquisitely organized protein quaternary structure (see here for image credits )

In general Darwinism fails to explain the first stages of useful structures. This was pointed out very clearly in Darwin's time by the biologist Mivart, who wrote the following at the beginning of Chapter II of his book On the Genesis of Species: "Natural Selection utterly fails to account for the conservation and development of the minute and rudimentary beginnings, the slight and infinitesimal commencements of structures, however useful those structures may later become." Mivart devoted Chapter II of that book to many examples of "incipient stages" that Darwinism could not explain well, and asked, "how are the preservation and development of the first rudiments of limbs to be accounted for— such rudiments being, on the hypothesis in question, infinitesimal and functionless?"  A similar objection was made by physician Gustave Geley in his interesting work From the Unconscious to the Conscious.  He mentioned "embryonic" organs or structures that are "merely adumbrated" to refer to some mere useless preliminary fragment of an organ, limb or structure. He stated the following: 

"It is not difficult to show that neither the Darwinian 
nor the Lamarckian hypothesis enables us to understand 
the origin of characteristics that constitute a new 
species...In order that any given modification occurring in 
the characteristics of a species or an individual, should 
give to that species or to that individual an appreciable 
advantage in the struggle for life, it is evident that this 
modification must be sufficiently marked to be utilizable. 
Now an embryonic organ, a modification merely 
adumbrated, appearing by chance in a being or a group 
of beings, can be of no practical use and give them no 
advantage....Now an embryonic 
wing, appearing by chance, one knows neither how nor 
why, in the ancestral reptile, could not give that reptile 
the capacity or the advantage of flight, and would give 
it no superiority over other reptiles unprovided with the 
unusable rudiment. It is therefore impossible to attribute 
to natural selection the transition from reptile to bird. 
...Rudiments of legs and lungs would give no 
advantage to a fish...It is  indispensable that its heart, lungs, and organs of locomotion should be already sufficiently developed to allow it to live out of the water."

Exactly the same objection applies a thousand-fold when we realize that protein molecules (intricate and very "have to be just right" things that degrade in function very much under small changes) are not at all useful in some preliminary quarter-form or half-form.  A science site tells us that "proteins are fragile molecules that are remarkably sensitive to changes in structure," and a biology textbook tells us that "proteins are so precisely built that the change of even a few atoms in one amino acid can sometimes disrupt the structure of the whole molecule so severely that all function is lost." There are more than 20,000 types of such protein molecules in the human body, each a different complex innovation. What good is half of a protein molecule? No good at all. And what good is the whole protein molecule? No good at all, unless it is a part of some fantastically intricate functional system requiring enormous teamwork between very many types of protein molecules and other types of fine-tuned molecules. Such enormously fine-tuned teamwork involving so many intricate parts acting together with such teleological harmony would never accidentally arise in a warm pond. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

When Apparitions Act as News Bulletins

 In the posts below I have described about 200 cases of people who reported seeing an apparition of someone who had died, but whose death was unknown to the person just before they saw the apparition:

25 Who Were "Ghost-Told" of a Death

25 More Who Were "Ghost-Told" of a Death

More Accounts of Veridical Apparitions

Even More Cases of Veridical Apparitions

When Apparitions Serve as Announcements

Still More Cases of Veridical Apparitions

In this post I will give some more cases of this type. 

On pages 155-156 of the book Death and Its Mystery: At the Moment of Death by Camille Flammarion we are told of a Baroness de Boisleve who entertained several distinguished officials for dinner on March 17, 1863.  All of a sudden the Baroness gave out a scream and fainted. Upon awakening, she told her guests she had seen her son, his left eye a hideous bleeding hole. The son was known to be away on a Mexican expedition. The guests assured the Baroness she had merely hallucinated. But it was later found out that her son had died on March 17, 1863, killed by a bullet which had pierced his left eye.  We are told, "When the difference in time was allowed for, the hour of his death corresponded exactly to the moment of his apparition in the drawing-room of the rue Pasquier."

On page 257 of the book Apparitions and Thought Transference by Frank Podmore, we read this account by a Dr. Carat:

"On the night of the l0th June 1877 I had what might be 
called a telepathic hallucination. I cannot state the hour with 
absolute precision, but it was between ten o’clock and mid- 
night. About that time, ‘ between sleeping and waking,’ I saw 
the end of my room lighted up, the darkness was illuminated by a silvery light (it is the only word I can think of), and I saw my mother gazing fixedly at me, with a sort of troubled expression. After a few seconds it all disappeared....Next day I received notice of my mother's death."

On page 266 of the same book, we read this account of an apparition sighting with a very unusual auditory aspect:

"Suddenly I saw against the background of the door, which was opposite me, my father’s face. He wore as usual a black surtout, and was deadly pale. At that moment I heard quite close to my ear a voice which said to me, ‘A telegram is coming to say your father is dead.’ All this only took a few seconds.... On the evening of the same day, about eleven o’clock, we were taking tea in the company of several other people, among whom were Madame Y., her daughter E. Y., formerly an actress at the Court Theatre, and 
Mademoiselle M., who is now living in Florence. All at once 
there was a knock at the door, and the concierge presented a 
telegram. Pale with emotion I immediately exclaimed, ‘I know 
my father is dead ; I have seen. . . .’ The telegram contained 
these words, ‘ Papa dead suddenly. — Olga.’ It was a telegram 
from my sister living at St. Petersburg. I learned later that my 
father had committed suicide on the morning of the same day."

A very early case of a veridical apparition is to be found in the 1825 book Signs before death, and authenticated apparitions: in one hundred narratives by John TimbsOn page 44, we are told that in 1678 a Dr. Farrar made a pact with his daughter that whoever died first should appear to the other one.  The daughter died near Salisbury, 79 miles from London. We read the following:

"Her father lived in London, and the night on which she died, she opened his curtains and gazed upon him. He had before heard nothing of her illness ; but upon this apparition confidently told his maid that his daughter was dead, and two days after he received the news."

On page 157 of Louis Rhine's book Hidden Channels of the Mind, we have the following account of a young girl who learned of her father's death by seeing an apparition:

"I was sent next door to stay overnight with my girl friend. I woke up and at the foot of the bed was the most beautiful light I had ever seen. There was my father with his arms open to me and as I watched he was rising up. I called to my girlfriend, telling her my father was dead. We got up and lit the light. It was just ten after four in the morning; soon my uncle came from the hospital to tell us my father had passed away, and that he called to me as he was dying. He passed away at exactly ten after four."

The long book "The Debatable Land Between this World and the Next, with Illustrative  Narrations" by Robert Dale Owen is a fascinating exploration of paranormal phenomena, written by the author of the equally long and equally fascinating book "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World."  On page 457 we read the following account by Frederick Steins:

"It was on the thirteenth of December, 1847, as I was 
walking, with my two eldest sons, in Grand street, New York. 
It was in the forenoon, before twelve o'clock, and the side- 
walk was full of people. There the whole figure of my father 
suddenly appeared to me. He was in his usual dress, his well- 
remembered cap on his head, his pipe in his hand, and he 
gazed on me with an earnest look ; then, as suddenly, disap- 
peared. I was very much terrified, and immediately wrote home, relating what had happened. Some time afterward I received a letter from one of my brothers, written from Neukirchen, Rhenish Prussia, the family residence, informing me that on the morning of the thirteenth of December, our father had died there. At breakfast on that day he was in his usual health, and had been speaking of me with great anxiety. After breakfast he passed out into the yard ; and, in returning, he dropped dead, overtaken by a sudden fit of apoplexy." 

In the very interesting 1866 book The Night Side of Nature by Catherine Crowe, we have numerous accounts of people seeing someone that they did not know was dead, only to learn that the person had died on the same day, typically at the same time.  Below are some examples:

(1) A Mrs. K. saw her brother through the window, and looked around, expecting him to soon appear; but he did not.  We are told, "The intelligence shortly arrived from St. Andrews, that at that precise time, as nearly as they could compare circumstances, he had died quite suddenly at his own place of residence."

(2) Lord M. had gone out hunting, and Lady M. seemed to see him, as if he had returned. But then she and someone else were unable to find him.  We are told, "Before they had recovered their surprise at his sudden disappearance, he was brought home dead; having been killed by his own gun."

(3) Page 151: 

"Lord B. was in confinement in the castle of Edinburgh, under suspicion of Jacobitism, when one morning, whilst lying in bed, the curtains were drawn aside by his friend, Viscount Dundee, who looked upon him steadfastly, leaned for some time on the mantel- piece, and then walked out of the room. Lord B. not supposing that what he saw was a spectre, called to Dundee to come back and speak to him. but he was gone; and shortly afterwards the news came that he had fallen about that same hour at Killicranky." 

(4) Page 151: 

"Mrs. J. wakes her husband in the night, and tells him she has just seen her father pass through the room — she being in the West Indies and her father in England. He died that night."

"A lady, with whose family I am acquainted, had a son abroad. One night she was lying in bed, with a door open which led into an adjoining room, where there was a fire. She had not been to sleep, when she saw her son cross this adjoining room and approach the fire, over which he leant, as if very cold. She saw that he was shivering and dripping wet. She immediately exclaimed, 'That's my G. !'  The figure turned its face round, looked at her sadly, and disappeared. That same night the young man was drowned."

(6 Page 154: 

"Mr. S. C, a gentleman of fortune, had a son in 
India. One fine calm summer's morning, in the year 
1780, he and his wife were sitting at breakfast, when 
she rose and went to the window; upon which, turning 
his eyes in the same direction, he started up and followed 
her, saying. 'My dear, do you see that?' 'Surely,' 
she replied, 'it is our son. Let us go to him !'  As she 
was very much agitated, however, he begged her to sit 
down and recover herself; and when they looked again, 
the figure was gone. The appearance was that of their 
son, precisely as they had last seen him. They took 
note of the hour, and afterwards learnt that he had 
died in India at that period." 

"A lady, with whom I am acquainted, was on her way to India; when near the end of her voyage she was one night awakened by a rustling in her cabin, and a consciousness that there was something hovering about her. She sat up, and saw a bluish cloudy form moving away; but persuading herself it must be fancy, she addressed herself again to sleep; but as soon as she lay down, she both heard and felt the same thing: it seemed to her as if this cloudy form hung over and enveloped her. Overcome with, horror, she screamed. The cloud then moved away, assuming distinctly a human shape. The people about her naturally persuaded her that she had been dreaming; and she wished to think so; but when she arrived in India, the first thing she heard was that a very particular friend had come down to Calcutta to be ready to receive her on her landing, but that he had been taken ill and died, saying, he only wished to live to see his old friend once more. He had expired on the night she saw the shadowy form in her room." 

(8) Page 158

"One day the young baron was sitting alone on a seat, in the Bois de Boulogne, and had fallen somewhat into a reverie, when, on raising his eyes, he saw his father's form above him. Believing it to be a mere spectral illusion, he struck at the shadow with his riding- whip, upon which it disappeared. The next day brought him a letter, urging his return home instantly, if he wished to see his parent alive. He went, but found the old man already in his grave. The persons who had been about him said, that he had been quite conscious, and had a great longing to see his son; he had indeed, exhibited one symptom of delirium, which was, that after expressing this desire, he had suddenly exclaimed, 'My God ! he is striking at me with his riding-whip !' and immediately expired."

(9) Page 248: we have an account of a woman who saw an appartition of her mother, and heard from the appartition that she would die by midnight on that very day.  She did die unexpectedly near the stroke of midnight, despite being examined by a doctor earlier that day, one who could find nothing very wrong with her.  

In the book More Glimpses of the World Unseen by Frederick George Lee, the author quotes a reviewer of Lee's previous book who told of seeing an apparition that acted as a news bulletin informing him of the death of a friend. Referring to himself in the third person, the reviewer states this on pages 131-134

"The day was rather foggy, but there was no density of vapour, yet the door at the end of the passage seemed obscured by mist. As he advanced, the mist, so to call it, gathered into one spot, deepened, and formed itself into the outline of a human figure, the head and shoulders becoming more and more distinct, while the rest of the body seemed enveloped in a gauzy cloaklike vestment of many folds, reaching down so as to hide the feet, and, from its width, as it rested on the flagged passage, giving a pyramidal outline. The full light of the window fell on this object, which was so thin and tenuous in its consistency that the light on the panels of a highly varnished door was visible through the lower part of the dress. It was altogether colourless, a statue carved in mist. The writer was so startled, that he is uncertain whether he moved forward, or stood still. He was rather astonished than terrified, for his first notion was that he was witnessing some hitherto unnoticed effect of light and shade. He had no thought of anything supernatural, till, as he gazed, the head was turned towards him, and he at once recognised the features of a very dear friend. The expression of his countenance was that of holy, peaceful repose, and the gentle kindly aspect which it wore in daily life was intensified (so the writer, in recalling the sight. has ever since felt), into a parting glance of deep affection ; and then, in an instant, all passed away. The writer can only compare the manner of the evanescence to the way in which a jet of steam is dissipated on exposure to cold air. Hardly, till then, did he realize that he had been brought into close communion with the Supernatural. The result was great awe, but no terror ; so that instead of retreating to his study, he went forward and opened the door, close to which the apparition had stood.  Of course he could not doubt the import of what he had seen, and the morrow's or the next day's post brought the tidings that his friend had tranquilly passed out of this world, at the time when he was seen by the writer. It must be stated that it was a sudden summons : that the writer had heard nothing of him for some weeks previously, and that nothing had brought him to his thoughts on the day of his decease."

On pages 134-136 of the same book, we are told of a son who left his family to become a sailor.  The son's mother was suprised to see him,  at half-past 10 on March 16, 1850, until he "seemed to fade away." A few weeks later word arrived that the son had died by drowning "on the very day, and at the very time, at which he had appeared to his mother." 

David Belasco was the founder of the Belasco Theater which has operated in New York City for more than a hundred years.  On page 151 of the very interesting book Noted Witnesses for Psychical Occurrences, we read an account by David Belasco:

"I went to bed, worn out, in my Newport home, and fell at once into a deep sleep. Almost immediately, however, I was awakened and attempted to rise, but could not, and was then greatly startled to see my dear mother (whom I knew to be in San Francisco) standing close by me. As I strove to speak and to sit up she smiled at me a loving, reassuring smile, spoke my name — the name she called me in my boyhood — 'Davy, Davy, Davy,' then, leaning down, seemed to kiss me ; then drew away a little and said : 'Do not grieve. All is well and I am happy;' then moved toward the door and vanished...I went to luncheon during a recess, with a member of my staff, who handed me some letters and telegrams which he had brought from the box-office of the theatre. Among them was a telegram telling me that my darling mother had died the night before, at about the time I had seen her in my room."

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Stuck on Futile Methods, SETI Tribe Ignores Promising Leads

 Those who call themselves SETI scientists should not be called SETI scientists.

Such people are indeed scientists, but the kind of work they do is not  best described by the acronym of SETI, which stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. SETI is an extremely general-sounding term. A scientist engaged in SETI would be interested in any and all activities that might have a chance of showing signs of the existence of any type of intelligence at all existing outside of the surface of planet Earth. The scientists who call themselves SETI scientists are not that type of scientists.

Instead the scientists who call themselves SETI scientists seem to have a much more narrow interest: an interest only in discovering intelligent life existing on other planets. So we would be using a more accurate acronym if we called these scientists SETILOOP scientists. SETILOOP is an acronym standing for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Living On Other Planets.

The scientists who call themselves SETI scientists are addicted to fruitless methods of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their main method is to use giant radio telescopes to search for radio signals coming from other planets. This method has been used for 60 years, and has not produced any promising results. The same scientists use optical telescopes to search for signs of optical radio beacons or signs of engineering by super-advanced civilizations. Such methods have also failed.  

Such methods have been used fruitlessly to a gigantic extent. An article in Scientific American has a headline of "Alien Supercivilizations Absent from 100,000 Nearby Galaxies."  Below are some of the failed searches:

  • The SERENDIP project, surveying a large portion of the sky, the portion depicted in Figure 4 of the paper here, a project which a Sky and Telescope article tells us surveyed "many billions of Milky Way stars."
  • The Southern SERENDIP project surveying a large portion of the sky, the portion depicted in Figure 2 of the paper here.
  • A SETI project surveying a significant portion of the sky, the portion depicted in Figure 2 of the paper here
  • The all-sky SETI survey discussed here, which operated continuously for more than four years. 
  • The two-year southern sky SETI search discussed here, which observed for 9000 hours and "covered the sky almost two times."  
  • A recent failed search of 10 million stars using the latest and greatest technology. 

If there were a SETI monthly magazine, I imagine it would look rather like this:

Funny science magazine cover

Meanwhile, there have been many other techniques employed by humans that seemed to have turned up promising potential signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. But the kind of extraterrestrial intelligence suggested by such techniques is not necessarily intelligent life living on other planets. Such extraterrestrial intelligence could be some extra-dimensional intelligence. Or it could be some spiritual intelligence living in some mysterious realm we do not understand. Or it could be some non-localized intelligence not limited to one particular location. 

Let us look at some of these techniques. As you read over this list, keep in mind three things:

  1. There is no logical basis for assuming that we can know what beings from another planet would be like, or in what way they would choose to interact with us. SETI enthusiasts often say that extraterrestrials could have evolved many thousands or millions of years ago. The nature or behavior of beings so advanced would be unpredictable. We cannot know whether they would have shed their bodies altogether. Perhaps (as suggested by Arthur C. Clarke) they might have transformed into beings of pure energy. They might have moved out of our dimension into some other dimension, or maybe even created some other dimension. So there is no clear demarcation between such super-advanced beings and some other beings that might be called spirits, angels or deities.

  2. The term “extraterrestrial intelligence” applies to any intelligence at all existing outside of our planet, regardless of whether such intelligence arose on some other planet. If we imagine some realm of the dead beyond our planet, an intelligence existing in such a realm would seem to qualify as an extraterrestrial intelligence, even if such an intelligence originated on our planet.

  3. Communication through interstellar radio signals is an extremely imperfect form of communication because of the limitation that such radio signals can only travel at the speed of light. For example, it would take forty years for a radio signal to travel from some planet forty light-years away to Earth, and it would then take forty years for a reply from Earth to travel to such a planet. Because of all the drawbacks of interstellar radio communication, extraterrestrials might prefer to communicate through some other way (perhaps some spiritual way we don't understand).

Promising Lead #1: Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP)

EVP means mysterious unexplained voices that appear on tape recordings or audio recordings.  Since the phenomenon was first discovered in 1959 by Friedrich Jurgenson, many claim to have got inexplicable voices or messages through such a method.  Skeptical claims that the voices merely come from stray earthly radio signals could be tested by some method in which every radio frequency is listened to, in search of a radio transmission matching some voice mysteriously appearing on a recording.  Another method is to test whether such voices can be recorded in a room shielded against any possibility of radio waves transmitting into it. There has already been one paper published that claimed to get a positive result in such an experiment. In a room doubly shielded against electromagnetic interference, a mysterious voice was recorded that could not be accounted for. The failure of self-described SETI researchers to investigate this topic is puzzling, particularly given their expertise in related scientific areas such as radio transmissions. 

Promising Lead #2: Direct Voice Phenomenon

In parapsychology, what are called direct voices are audible mysterious voices that appear from no known earthly source, often at meetings called seances.  There is a great amount of evidence suggesting the reality of such a phenomenon, which I discuss here.  Why have our self-described SETI researchers failed to investigate this phenomenon? Perhaps because such voices often either claim to be from those who have died, or because such voices have often spoken details that seemed to be known only by those who have died. But since "extraterrestrial intelligence" can be any intelligence at all beyond our planet, there would seem to be no reason why a real SETI researcher would not investigate such a phenomenon (other than the researcher being scared of finding some evidence of spirits).  Of course, if the researcher was merely a SETILOOP researcher, he might have no interest in such a thing. 

Promising Lead #3: Automatic Writing

In parapsychology what is called automatic writing is typically when a person goes into a kind of trance, and then produces writing, perhaps not remembering anything that he wrote. The literature of parapsychology contains many cases of such writing seeming to show information that should have been unknown to the person writing it.  So we have evidence to suggest that automatic writing is a means by which some unearthly intelligence can mysteriously communicate with earthly minds.  So why have our self-described SETI researchers failed to investigate this phenomenon? 

Promising Lead #4: Ouija Boards

Although sometimes linked to evil events by cheesy horror movies that have little basis in fact, there seems to be little or no good evidence basis for regarding ouija boards as anything to be feared. In the literature of parapsychology there are many cases of astonishing output being produced by persons using ouija boards. Pearl Curran produced a great wealth of astonishing novels and superb poems (often with a high moral tone) using such a device, and published the results under the name of Patience Worth because she claimed these literary works were not her own.  Many examples of her output are given in this book, which describes her astonishing case. Given that they might have spiritual or psychic or mental capabilities thousands or millions of years more advanced than ours, it is possible that intelligences beyond our planet could somehow leverage an ouija board to send messages to humans. Why have our self-described SETI researchers failed to investigate this phenomenon? 

Promising Lead #5: UFOs

There have been innumerable reports of UFO sightings, but our self-described SETI researchers seem to show no interest in such sightings. Such a factor is another reason for thinking that such researchers are merely SETILOOP researchers interested only in a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Living On Other Planets, but not researchers interested in the possibility that extraterrestrial intelligences may have traveled to our own planet. 

Promising Lead #6: Massively Repeating Orb Patterns

Mysterious inexplicable patterns can arise very massively when ordinary falling water drops are photographed, with very dramatic unexpected pattern repetitions occurring in almost all of hundreds or thousands of consecutive photos.  This mystifying phenomenon is massively documented in the very long E-book you can read online here, which includes a huge abundance of photographic examples.  Such a phenomenon suggests the action of some mysterious unfathomable intelligence capable of manipulating matter with great precision.  Further investigation could conceivably reveal some kind of code by which information is being transmitted by some intelligence not of earthly origin. But our SETI researchers have given zero attention to such a promising lead. 

pattern from October 13, 2020 resembling mysteriously encoded information

Inexplicable face-like pattern photographed Dec. 5 2019

Promising Lead #7: Near-Death Experiences

In near-death experiences, people often claim to come into contact with some mysterious superhuman intelligence that is often described visually as some bright light. In near-death experiences there are also a wide variety of reports of coming into contact with various intelligences not living on our planet, which may be described as spirits or beings of energy or deceased persons or some type of superhuman or otherworldly minds. But our so-called SETI researchers do not investigate such experiences, and thereby act like  they were merely SETILOOP researchers interested only in a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Living on Other Planets.  

The Investigative Timidity of Our Self-Described SETI Researchers 

Why are our self-described SETI researchers so reluctant to pursue any of the leads I have discussed?  Why do they cling to research methods that have never produced any promising results?

Perhaps such researchers are people who abhor the idea of discovering any evidence that might suggest the existence of any such things as spirits or a deity or life after death. So they limit themselves to searching for radio signals from beings on other planets, or searches for signs in the sky that beings exist on other planets.  They may regard such searches as some kind of "safe zone" that will never provide the type of evidence they do not wish to discover. 

This does not make any sense. Besides the simple fact that such searches have produced no promising results (in contrast to the methods I have discussed that have produced promising results), there is the fact that such a "safe zone" is really no such thing. 

Consider radio signals picked up through giant radio dishes. There is no reason why signals received from beyond our planet would have to be from extraterrestrials living on some other planet. Such signals could be sent by some deity. Such a possibility was actually the plot of a movie made many years ago. Or, radio signals received by radio telescopes could be sent by denizens in some other dimension, possibly a realm of deceased beings.  So radio messages received by radio telescopes are not at all some "safe zone" in which a materialist can be sure he will only get proof he yearns for of beings living on other planets in our galaxy.  Any radio message received from the stars would probably be permanently controversial, for reasons I discuss here.  Some would say it was faked; others might say it was a message from God; others would say it was a messge from the devil; and EVP enthusiasts would probably say it was a message from the Other Side rather than some other planet. 

Rather than trying to confine themselves to such a "safe zone" that is not really any such thing, those who call themselves SETI researchers should start acting like true SETI researchers rather than mere SETILOOP researchers only interested in finding intelligence living on other planets.  A good rule for a true SETI researcher is to pursue any and all leads suggesting any type of intelligence at all outside of our planet.