Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Another non-dream related post, with apologies

One year later I make another post. This sporadic posting style should be over soon, as I approach the date of my viva examination for a PhD later this year. In the meantime, I wanted to post something somewhere to complain about iTunes, since their help system is so complicated that I couldn't do it there. To date, iTunes has spontaneously lost all of my music about five times. Most recently, it also lost all the music I bought through the iTunes store and a couple of movies I had bought this way. To get them back, I would have to download each one of them individually. Rather than go through the work of re-ripping my entire library of CDs (about 250 of them) and then downloading every single purchased item from the store--a process that takes about a week, I have decided to write it off as a loss and go back to listening to CDs. The albums bought on iTunes will be "upgraded" to hard copy CDs just as I did when cassette tapes went out of style and CDs took their place. At least, this is what I will do for my PC. My iPad is a different story. My iPad has never lost its library of music, not that it hasn't offered to perform this service for me many times. My version of the iPad O/S is old, but whenever it starts to download the new one, it warns me that to install the new system it will have to sync the music library on the iPad to the (erased) library on the PC. It does not offer the reverse option of updating the PC library to match the iPad. For this reason, whenever I get a message asking if I would like to update the iPad O/S to the new version, I cancel the operation. This means that my PC has lost my iTunes library, the money spent on it, and the time it took to transfer all that music from my CD collection (multiple times). In addition, my iPad cannot be upgraded without losing its iTunes library. My solution is to never upgrade the iPad until it dies and to never again use iTunes on my PC. To me it is like marrying a cheating girlfriend: why would you do it when you know you've been betrayed so many times before? To be fair, there probably is a way to solve the problems mentioned here without having to give up on iTunes or on updating the iPad O/S. However, whatever this method is, is not clear from the information I was able to find on the Internet or the Apple help site for iTunes after many hours of searching. If the information is that hard to find--even if it is there--it isn't worth my time to get it. AP

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Update for 2014

About the time my book Dreamer was published, I started this blog. At the time the subject of psi and dreaming was very much on my mind and I wrote frequently on those topics on the Skeptiko forum. Since then, I have barely contributed anything on Skeptiko or on this blog. The reason is that I have been devoting my efforts to work on my PhD studies. I am hoping this work will be concluded shortly, after which I can resume regular posting here. While working on the PhD, I have learned some things about research writing and methodologies that should have the effect of improving the quality of future contributions to psi research. Towards this end I have so far written three articles for science journals on the subject of psi. The first two were published by the Journal for Scientific Exploration, and the third is currently under review. The first of these articles discusses a methodology for analyzing spontaneous examples of psi. The second presents some OBE examples from my records for inclusion into the OBE literature. This post is not meant to do much more than remind visitors that I haven't forgotten my interest in psi research, but that I have been unable to put much time into it lately due to my studies. I visited the Society for Psychical Research in London when I was there for a conference last week. Surrounded by the many volumes in their library, I was reminded of the importance of parapsychological research. It may be some months more before I post again on this blog, but I will come back, and then have every intention of contributing regularly. AP

Friday, 19 October 2012

US politics

This post, I hope, is read as an example of the kind of funny things people often say, without intending to be funny. This is not meant as political commentary, though it is extracted from the US vice-presidential debates. I thought it was so funny when I first heard it that I expected it to be all over the news. Instead, it hasn't been commented on at all to my knowledge. So, since I think it is too good to let go, here it is:
During the vice-presidential debate, Paul Ryan and Joseph Biden were asked about their position on abortion. After Ryan's answer, Biden put on his straight face and announced that:
"I accept the Catholic church's teachings on abortion, but I refuse to impose it on equally devout other Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and all those other people."
Admittedly, he did include "all those other people", which can be understood to mean "everyone", but he said it at the end, tagged on and weakly said, as if he hadn't originally intended to mention them. His answer looks as if he interpreted the question to be a matter of religious tolerance. That is, tolerance of other faiths. However, it was on the subject of abortion, and all three of the religions he mentioned agree on this subject. According to them, abortion is wrong. So, as a "practicing Catholic", Biden doesn't want to "impose" the Catholic position on abortion, that it is wrong, on other religious people who agree it is wrong.
The reason I found this funny is that Biden clearly identified the wrong people when he was telling us who he wouldn't "impose" his beliefs on. If he had said, "I accept the Catholic position on abortion in my private life, but cannot in good conscience impose that on all those other people who disagree", he'd be in the clear. The mistake is a classic one for politicians. How do you get your message across without alienating half of the audience? He can't afford to alienate religious voters, but he also can't afford to alienate non-religious voters (or religious voters who disagree with the Pope on abortion.)So what does he do? What politicians have been doing for centuries: he ties his shoelaces together, takes a step, and says something that makes no sense while falling flat on his face.
The other thing about his statement that was interesting to me is that the naivete it revealed makes sense if Biden is not "a devout Catholic" but is instead one of "all those other people." He can't say it of course, but was this the same thing?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dream song

A couple months ago, I dreamed of a young singer in a tour bus, who sung a song just before injecting himself with what I presume to have been an illegal drug. I assumed he was committing suicide.
I dream of music infrequently, but when I do, it is almost always hauntingly beautiful, as it was in this case. The style of the song was the kind of high-pitched rock I remember hearing in the 1970's. It is so far from being my favorite genre of music that I didn't know what Led Zeppelin sounded like until I ran across an article about them around September of 2012. The article made me curious, so I looked them up on youTube. Again, not my kind of music, but the style of it was consistent with the song from this dream.
Normally I have very good recall of dreams, but certain types of things are more difficult to remember than others. One of those things happens to be song lyrics, words on paper, numbers, or other symbols typical of normal written communication. In this case I was lucky, because I remembered the lyrics pretty well. They are reproduced below:
"What do you say when the green turns to ash?
In the light!
What do you say when your friend is gone for good?
In the light!
Fighting in the darkness
To find the meaning
Finding nothing, going nowhere
In the night!
Knowing heaven is up there somewhere
seeking, not finding
the place they have gone to
In the light!
There is music and friends
Forgiveness and support
for all the wrong things you've done
In the light!
For all that you've done and I have not
As beautiful as it is
I don't yet belong
Leave me be, God, where I belong
Fighting in the darkness
In the night."


Friday, 24 August 2012

Lance Armstrong, doping, and sport

Lance Armstrong has been fending off accusations of doping since his first Tour de France win in 1999. Today I read that he has decided to forego arbitration in a recent challenge brought by the American anti-doping agency. This effectively allows a default judgment against him by that body and the loss of his seven consecutive Tour titles. While reading about the many doping scandals associated with cycling: Jacques Anquetil, Team Festina, Eddy Merckx, Steven Rooks, Richard Virenque, and many others, I can't help but be disappointed that riders feel they need to use various doping methods to compete with others who are doing the same thing. On the other hand, as a fan of the sport, I find it impossible to enjoy any race when there is no way to know if the race results are final because a doping agency can at any time claim that the winner was doping and should be disqualified. I don't mind the idea of doping controls in cycling. It is not good for the rider's health and should be discouraged. However, the sport ceases to be interesting when it is doping agencies and not the ability of the racers themselves that determines the winner. The racers may as well have the quality of their urine samples judged and skip the race. The problem, as shown in the recent events connected to Lance Armstrong, is that anti-doping agencies feel that they have the authority to retroactively punish riders at any time, regardless how many years have passed since the offense in question. Why, if for very good reasons that are part of US law, are statutes of limitations not a part of doping control? Also, if doping control measures are so inept that they cannot be relied upon until many years after a purported offense, how can a later test or re-evaluation be trusted after such a passage of time? Also, how can an accusation made years after the fact be done without compromising the person accused? One solution could be for doping control to be exercised up to the moment of a race, and then to end right there. Riders are pre-qualified to race, but once this is done, the race results will stand, no matter what is discovered after the fact. In this way, results can be trusted by the fans, races themselves will be more interesting to watch, and responsibility will be placed where it belongs: on the doping authorities. If their technology is not able to reliably pre-qualify riders, then the technology used to control for doping is not sufficient for doping control at all. Until a method can be invented that is capable of controlling for this prior to the commencement of a race, doping control will always compromise the quality of the races themselves and unfairly prejudice a rider's ability to defend against doping charges. We aren't in the middle ages any more, when late accusations had the weight of absolute proof, but in a modern age where the accused--at least usually--have rights. As Armstrong notes in his defense against the current charges, after taking thousands of doping tests and passing every single one of them, all of the forensic evidence is in his favor. If this is true, either that type of testing is completely invalid and should be immediately dropped, or it conflicts so severely with the witness testimony the USADA is relying upon that no impartial observer could hope to reliably sort out which is true. If the tests are right, then Armstrong is innocent and the witnesses are lying. If the witnesses are right, then the tests are invalid and should never be used again. Either way, without some kind of time limit during which charges may be made, cyclists are not treated fairly by the system and fans of the sport have their enjoyment spoiled by the ever-present possibility that race outcomes can be overturned at any time. If the cycling anti-doping agencies had the health of the sport in mind, they would be willing to submit to some controls on their own activities that would pressure them to make timely reports and to live with the consequences. For the health of the sport, some kind of controls need to be placed on the anti-doping agencies. At a minimum this should include pre-qualifying racers and a statute of limitations. Until these are enacted, I intend to boycott all cycling events. I've gone to the Tour de France twice in person, but next year, I'll be vacationing in some other country. I won't be buying the Tour highlights videos that I started buying in 1999, and will no longer be buying team jerseys. What the USADA has done to Armstrong and others is an affront to the sport, and until it is redressed, as far as I am concerned, the sport is dead.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A note on psi experiments in general

As I understand them, psi experimentation could be viewed as an altruistic exercise on the part of the experimenters, all of whom hope to explain a phenomenon that most people cannot directly witness themselves. It is the altruistic nature of this exercise that causes parapsychologists to work long hours on these subjects despite poor funding and heaps of scorn from other professionals, negative publicity, and the general public. It is altruism that causes these men and women to alter their experiments frequently, to answer questions or criticisms by skeptics. It doesn't even matter how well-grounded an objection is, they'll cater to the whims of people who haven't the slightest notion how experiments are conducted or how the data is interpreted or indeed what inadequate or fraudulent data looks like. If this weren't true, you wouldn't see Julie Bieschel going beyond double-blind experiments to triple-blind, quadruple-blind and even quintuple-blind. You wouldn't have Rupert Sheldrake using dogs as subjects, because that completely eliminates many objections about the motives of human subjects. You wouldn't have researchers discarding NDE data unless the subject was clinically dead, had a flat EEG, and was congenitally blind (as Ring did in one study.)

All of this, all of these ridiculous extremes, these cost the literature tremendous quantities of perfectly good data. But why is all of this valuable data sacrificed? Altruism. The people who do it are trying to explain a difficult thing to people who do not understand it and have no idea what it should look like. So they are patient. They know the objections don't always make sense, but they cooperate anyway because they know that they will be able to demonstrate something despite limitations that would have scientists in other fields crying "Foul!"

It can be quite frustrating, but on the other hand it is also true that bending to these often silly requests has its own challenge. "Can I show it in this way?" The parapsychologist might ask himself, and then with some pleasure discover that it can be done, like progressively increasing the difficulty of a video game. At a certain point however, the process no longer serves the original goal. It is possible to over train and in so doing lose the time for legitimate appropriate research that was instead spent distracted, working on ever-higher levels of difficulty that never connected very well with one's original research interests.

It seems to me that as long as experimental research is conducted by people who are genuinely interested in it and who think it is the most legitimate method of answering certain questions, it is a legitimate endeavor. However, when that same research is directed by the arbitrary and uninformed criticisms of people who are fanatically attached to the desire of curtailing, stopping, interfering with, or in some other way harming the research, one might expect that work to run aground from time to time.

It may be that psi research threatens other fields. Frankly, I think it not only does "threaten" other fields, but the facts behind the research, the reality it is based on, already makes a mockery of several basic principles in a variety of sciences. Reincarnation, spirits, telepathy, PK, spirit guides, all of these and other related phenomena show that there is much more than modern physics, medicine, or religion has seriously contemplated. For this, research into psi is dangerous because once these things are demonstrated, many ideas accepted for a mere two centuries or so, must fall. Why, with this opposition, do others persist? Because it is a part of nature to explain when asked a question, and to want to tell the truth if one knows it--particularly if others don't. Again, altruism.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Proof, God, and Richard Wiseman

Due to the unfathomable success of Richard Wiseman's books, most recently Paranormality, I have found myself explaining the errors in his book more often than I would like, particularly because I made an extensive review of the book earlier in this blog. A far better book on the same subject is Robert McLuhan's Randi's Prize. It's one thing to complain about the quality of evidence based on legitimate grounds, but quite another to pretend it doesn't exist at all as some skeptics like to do. When it comes to veridical OBEs however, they kind of have a point.

It isn't that such things don't exist in the academic literature, but there aren't very many of these accounts outside of popular books, like Robert Monroe's Journeys out of the body or my Dreamer: 20 years of psychic dreams and how they changed my life (note to self: shorter title next time). Another thing not often found in academic journals are accounts of spontaneous cases. The result is that the records I have in my dream journals are much stronger and more numerous than anything I've been able to find in academic journals. There is a problem however, that these are spontaneous experiences, and such things are frowned upon by researchers. I think I've designed a methodology for analyzing them that defeats the complaints, but we'll know for sure in a few months after the papers I wrote on the subject have been through peer review.

The method is quite simple: each entry is considered in the harshest possible light. They are treated in a demonstrably unfair manner that cannot possibly be considered as conducive to a positive result, yet the stronger examples survive the test. It is this sturdiness that gives me real confidence in my analysis of the veridical dreams I've had, and even to some of the non-veridical items such as those involving God and other religious figures.

I've had some criticisms of my book because I included a few chapters on these religious subjects, but ultimately that is what the book was about. My study of the dreams has shown me that mere evidence of paranormality is not very useful. More than that, without including the religious material, it is impossible to see the purpose of the veridical material. I continue to find it interesting that a person can be amazed by a simple veridical OBE or precognitive dream, then turn stubborn when God is mentioned. They are part of the same message and should be seen as connected. It isn't as if I didn't suffer from the same fault at one time, but having turned the corner on that issue a few years ago, it is becoming more difficult to remember the justification for it. Looking back on it now I think it came down to peer pressure.