At 01:46 PM 6/3/2005, rmiller wrote:

What do you mean by "the qualia approach"? Do you mean a sort of dualistic view of the relationship between mind and matter? From the discussion at it seems that Sarfatti suggests some combination of Bohm's interpretation of QM (where particles are guided by a 'pilot wave') with the idea of adding a nonlinear term to the Schrodinger equation (contradicting the existing 'QM math', which is entirely linear), and he identifies the pilot wave with "the mind" and has some hand-wavey notion that life involves some kind of self-organizing feedback loop between the pilot wave and the configuration of particles (normally Bohm's interpretation says the configuration of particles has no effect on the pilot wave, but that's where the nonlinear term comes in I guess). Since Bohm's interpretation is wholly deterministic, I'd think Sarfatti's altered version would be too, the nonlinear term shouldn't change this.

Seems to me you've described the "qualia approach" pretty well.

while on the other
side we have those like Roger Penrose who (I think) take a mechanical view (microtubules in the brain harbor Bose-Einstein condensates.)

Penrose's proposal has nothing to do with consciousness collapsing the wavefunction, he just proposes that when a system in superposition crosses a certain threshold of *mass* (probably the Planck mass), then it collapses automatically. The microtubule idea is more speculative, but he's just suggesting that the brain somehow takes advantage of not-yet-understood quantum gravity effects to go beyond what computers can do, but the collapse of superposed states in the brain would still be gravitationally-induced.

Penrose has a *lot* of things to say about QM---and his new book has the best description of fibre bundles I've seen in quite a while---but no, I didn't mean to suggest his entire argument was based on BECs in the microtubules. I suggested Penrose because his approach seems diametrically opposed to the qualia guys.

  All this model-building (and discussion) is fine, of
course, but there are a number of psychological experiments out there that consistently return counterintuitive and heretofore unexplainable results. Among them, is Helmut Schmidt's "retro pk" experiment which consistently returns odd results. The PEAR lab at Princeton has some startling "remote viewing" results, and of course, there's Rupert Sheldrake's work. As far as I know, Sheldrake is the only one who has tried to create a model ("morphic resonance"), and most QM folks typically avoid discussing the experiments--except to deride them as nonscientific. I think it may be time to revisit some of these "ESP" experiments to see if the results are telling us something in terms of QM, i.e. decoherence. Changing our assumptions about decoherence, then applying the model to those strange experiments may clarify things.


Here's a skeptical evaluation of some of the ESP experiments you mention:

Anyway, if it were possible for the mind to induce even a slight statistical bias in the probability of a bit flipping 1 or 0, then simply by picking a large enough number of trials it would be possible to very reliably insure that the majority would be the number the person was focusing on. So by doing multiple sets with some sufficiently large number N of trials in each set, it would be possible to actually send something like a 10-digit bit string (for example, if the majority of digits in the first N trials came up 1, you'd have the first digit of your 10-digit string be a 1), something which would not require a lot of tricky statistical analysis to see was very unlikely to occur by chance. If the "retro-PK" effect you mentioned was real, this could even be used to reliably send information into the past!

I spoke with Schmidt in '96. He told me that it is very unlikely that causation can be reversed, but rather that the retropk results suggest many worlds.

When these ESP researchers are able to do a straightforward demonstration like this, that's when I'll start taking these claims seriously, until then "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

The extraordinary claims---evidence rule is good practical guidance, but it's crummy science. Why should new results require an astronomical Z score, when "proven" results need only a Z of 1.96? Think about the poor fellow who discovered that ulcers were caused by helicobacter pylori---took him ten years for "science" to take him seriously, and then only after he drank a vial of h.pylori broth himself. Then there's the fellow at U of I (Ames) who believed that Earth is being pummeled by snowballs--as big as houses--from space. He was thoroughly derided (some demanded he be fired) for ten years or so---until a UV satellite saw the snowballs smack into the atmosphere. And not too long ago, there was the cult of anthropologists that believed the New World was populated just 12,000 yrs ago (give or take a thousand or two)--even as the evidence poured in refuting that view.

On the other side, we have guys like Harvard Epidemiologist Ken Rothmann, who claims disease clusters are not worthy of study (Keynote address: CDC "Cluster Buster" conference Atlanta, 1989). There are other examples, but to insist on some ridiculously high standard of proof for "new" results---extraordinary or otherwise, is merely being conservative to the point of inertia. In Jefferson's time, no reputable scientist believed rocks fell from the sky---they would believe it (maybe) only when one fell into their outstretched hand. The odds against that happening by chance would involve a Z score of about 20 or so.

Those who demand extraordinary evidence should have the courage of their convictions---and announce their criteria for belief in terms of a Z score---or probability. For your convenience, here's a table (calculated using Systat 10; n>500). If you want the entire table, you can find it here <<>>

Again, keep in mind that for much of science, a p<0.05 is fine (Z = 1.96) --two-tailed test.
Z score         Probability
3.01                             2.61 x 10^-3
3.5                      4.65 x 10^-4
4.0                      6.33 x 10^-5
5.0                      5.7  x 10^-7
6.0                      1.97 x 10^-9
7.0                      2.5 x 10^-12
8.0                      8.8 x 10^-16


Reply via email to