On the way to work today I listened to this Skeptico podcast interview with Dr. James Alcock.
I noticed a few inconsistencies between what Alcock said and the psi research I am familiar with.
5:50 Alcock: "One would expect that over this length of time that there would be at least some phenomenon that was indisputable. Some phenomenon that however weak, could be reproduced by skeptical, by neutral scientists, but that's never occurred".
Wrong. Just as one example, quantum physicist Henry Stapp was at best neutral to the possibility of psi, but he participated in a fraud-proof experiment that provided strongly statistically significant evidence for PK effects.
It is true that those who are strongly skeptical to psi phenomena are quite unlikely to discover any evidence for it. Alex mentions a related phenomenon in the interview:
13:15 Drug research done at major universities is three times more likely to show efficacy of the drug if the drug company has sponsored the work.
Later in the interview, Alcock assures us of his intimate familiarity with psi research:
15:15 Alcock: "I've looked at probably as much parapsychologic literature, certainly as any "skeptic" and probably more than most parapsychologists.
Having informed the listeners of his bona-fides as an investigator of psi phenomena, Alcock later turns his guns on Rupert Sheldrake's research on staring detection:
28:40: I don't know if you're familiar with the staring experiments -- some of the early parapsychologists back in the 20s, did staring experiments, and they came to the conclusion there was nothing there, and this was then abandoned by modern parapsychology, no modern parapsychologist that I know of, apart from Dr. Sheldrake has had much, or any interest in this.
Actually, this is completely incorrect. Dean Radin covers a recent meta-analysis he conducted in his book Entangled Minds that showed an extremely significant effect. He has also conducted studies with statistically significant evidence for this phenomena. Other parapsychologists who have independently conducted recent research into staring detection with positive results include Jonathan Jones, Marilyn Schlitz, and D.L. Delanoy.
Somehow James Alcock missed this in his extensive review of the parapsychology literature that he alluded to above. In particular I am surprised that a "well-informed" skeptic missed the very prominent discussion of these experiments in Dean Radin's book Entangled Minds, which really has to be considered must-read book for anyone who wants to be abreast of the latest psi research.
There was something else about Alcock's statement that really bothered me. Let's revisit it again:
I've looked at probably as much parapsychologic literature, certainly as any "skeptic" and probably more than most parapsychologists.
I happen to agree with him that he is probably much more familiar with the literature than most psi deniers. However that's a pretty damning indictment, since he appears to be largely unfamiliar with the latest and most important published review of the parapsychological research (Entangled Minds). If the average psi denier is even less familiar with the research (and probably a lot less), can their opinion even be worth listening to? I guess that's what happens to any group of people who outsource their beliefs to a propaganda organization. . .