Monday, November 15, 2010

Further Proof that Psychology is Not a Mature Science

From The Skeptic's Dictionary:
Psi researcher Daryl Bem (he of Bem and Honorton fame) has had a paper on precognition accepted by a peer-reviewed publication of the American Psychological Association: the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He's titled his paper "Feeling the Future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect." Anomalous retroactive influence is psiency talk for precognition. (Psiency is snarky talk for psi jargon.)

That's right - a journal published by the American Psychological Association is publishing a paper suggesting that precognition is real.

But we should totally trust what they have to say about suicide:

Suicide is the act of killing yourself, most often as a result of depression or other mental illness.

Sigh.

4 comments:

  1. My favorite bit:

    "We already know that if you do enough experiments there is a high probability that you will find some that yield the statistic you seek. But nobody in his right mind will identify a statistically significant statistic with real evidence of precognition. To Bem, Radin, and other psi researchers, I say: Just find one person who can reliably pick the winner at the race track or the state lottery, or give us fair warning of the next terrorist attack, and all skeptics will bow at your feet."

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  2. I'm not sure I agree with you here. Of course, a psi researcher has significantly lessened credibility, but you sound like you wanted a paper dismissed because it shows evidence for something that just can't be. I don't think this is a good reason, as it might still be of interest to the scientific community: explaining it away may be a non-trivial task.
    Also, backward causation is a known issue in philosophy (the philosophy of mind in particular)...

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  3. Constant,

    If the SD summary is fair, the problem with the study (in terms of academic standards) isn't that it investigates psi; it's that it characterizes psi -- a statistical anomaly -- in terms that strongly suggest a precognitional explanation, even in the absence of supporting evidence for any such thing.

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  4. I think this illustrates the key difference between "evidence-based medicine" and "science-based medicine."

    What I have a problem with is not the investigation of woo in general; it's the pseudoscientific investigation of woo presented by a peer-reviewed journal as if it were science.

    The biggest problem with the study, as RTC states it:

    "The real challenge, as I see it, is to prove that these statistical deviations from chance are not due to statistical flukes; faulty equipment; fine equipment affected by temperature, humidity, altitude, electro-magnetic interference from nearby equipment or personal items carried by subjects or researchers, etc.; errors in data recording, collection, collating, and in calculations from the data. The only alternative hypotheses Bem considers are precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and an artifact of the random number generator (RNG)."

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