Well, my previous blogpost was poorly timed – I did not expect such an explosion on my Twitter timeline. I cannot reply to all (I am sorting Legos with my son on my day off, quite an important and pressing matter), and replying tomorrow during my staff meeting would be a bit rude, so let me clarify on a couple of things I have seen in the message centre of my iPad.

An apology to Daniel Lakens

First, I feel I have to briefly apolize to Daniel Lakens – the first two paragraphs of my post I made little fun of him. From my part in good jest, but I admit that I may have let some of my sentiment of annoyance towards Daniel’s occasionally moralizing tone shine through a bit too much. I’m sorry, Daniel, if I offended you – if anything, know I deeply appreciate the good work you’re doing.

Can you please derive psi from GTR?

Not sure if this was directed to me, but I’ve seen this briefly in a tweet. Er, no, I cannot derive psi from the general theory of relativity. But neither can the Stroop effect be derived from the GTR. So, it’s a silly question. If the question is “can you derive psi from known physics”, then it’s a different matter. Physical laws give the boundary conditions for normal biological functioning. Psi, according to many, cannot exist because these boundary conditions forbid it. I have argued that that is not necessarily true. That does not mean that psi exists, though – the existence of pink elephants and uranium-powered dragons is also not prohibited by physics, and their existence remains also unproven by many studies (my son and I prefer uranium-powered dragons over Russell’s Teapot, but essentially it’s the same argument).

By the way – I do suspect that the asker knows that GTR is indeed potentially problematic for psi. Most physics-based psi theories are based on the concept of quantum non-locality. The non-locality aspect of quantum theory is incompatible with GTR, but yet we know both are correct – it’s one of the great problems in physics. There is presently one theory that seems to integrate both successfully, based on the very speculative concept of spontaneous collapse of the wave function. If this theory is correct, this would rule out pretty much all non-local psi theories that assign a special role to consciousness.

There is no evidence for psi, can we please stop this non-sense?

True. There is no conclusive experimental evidence for the existence of psi. If such evidence existed, we would not have this debate. However, does this mean psi does not exist? No, of course not. But, “Russell’s Teapot!”, I hear you think. Sure, it would be, if psi would be confined to a (non-existent) lab-related phenomenon. However, paranormal experiences have been reported throughout history, by all cultures. Of course, the vast majority of these phenomena can be explained nowadays by normal psychological or biological processes (including fraud). Psi research, however, started with the aim to reliably recreate such phenomena in the lab. Which does not seem to work for many phenomena. Although that’s of course not very promising, we have to acknowledge that Reality is not confined to our labs. An inability to recreate something in a lab does not mean it does not exist, of course.

You are a@#$@@#$ psi-believer!

Well, not really. As stated above, I do not agree with people like Bem and Tressoldi that there is convincing evidence for psi. However, I also do not agree with people like Daniel Lakens and EJ Wagenmakers that psi research is nonsense. I do believe psi is a very worthwhile topic of study, if done properly, because a convincing demonstration of psi would be a breakthrough for consciousness research. Given that there is a continuous stream of experiments that do seem to show effects, and that I have been getting some odd (and replicable) results in a my own lab, I am inclined to keep a close eye on this line of research and give it the benefit of doubt. However, I do not expect others to jump on the bandwagon or make it priority research (yet).

What genuinely annoys me, though, is the patronizing, scoffing, ridiculing, and accusations of QRPs or outright fraud towards psi researchers by self-proclaimed skeptics. There’s a lot a chaff between the wheat, that’s absolutely true, but I would say it’s not really necessary to make fun of intelligent people who are really trying to do serious research.

Any more?

Not for now – but if you’ve got comments/questions re: this topic, please do engage.