Nature's introduction to Targ/Puthoff Uri Geller paper

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Nature's introduction to Targ/Puthoff Uri Geller paper

Postby Hidden Hand » Tue Aug 15, 2006 2:57 am

Randi devotes most of his weekly commentary for April 30, 2004 to replying to Puthoff & Targ's rebuttal of 24 errors that they claim were in Randi's book "The Magic of Uri Geller".

It is very interesting, but most interesting is Randi's reprint of the page and a half editorial introduction to Targ & Puthoff's paper on the SRI/Uri Geller ESP experiments (apparently "Information Transmission under Conditions of Sensory Shielding", Nature, October 18, 1974 - which is online here), which is invaluable reading for understanding how the editors and peer reviewers felt about the T&P paper. Some extracts:

1. There was agreement that the paper was weak in design and presentation, to the extent that details given as to the precise way in which the experiment was carried out were disconcertingly vague. The referees felt that insufficient account had been taken of the established methodology of experimental psychology and that in the form originally submitted the paper would be unlikely to be accepted for publication in a psychological journal on those grounds alone. Two referees also felt that the authors had not taken into account the lessons learned in the past by parapsychologists researching this tricky and complicated area. {snip}

3. All the referees felt that the details given of various safeguards and precautions introduced against the possibility of conscious or unconscious fraud on the part of one or other of the subjects were "uncomfortably vague" (to use one phrase). This in itself might be sufficient to raise doubt that the experiments have demonstrated the existence of a new channel of communication which does not involve the use of the senses.

Very considerable advance publicity — it is fair to say not generated by the authors or their institute — has preceded the presentation of this report. As a result many scientists and very large numbers of non-scientists believe, as the result of anecdote and hearsay, that the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was engaged in a major research programme into parapsychological matters and had even been the scene of a remarkable breakthrough in this field. The publication of this paper, with its muted claims, suggestions of a limited research programme, and modest data, is, we believe, likely to put the whole matter in more reasonable perspective.

The claims that have been made by, or on behalf of, one of the subjects, Mr. Uri Geller, have been hailed publicly as indicating total acceptance by the SRI of allegedly sensational powers and may also perhaps now be seen in true perspective. It must he a matter of interest to scientists to note that, contrary to very widespread rumour, the paper does not present any evidence whatsoever for Geller's alleged abilities to bend metal rods by stroking them, influence magnets at a distance, make watches stop or start by some psychokinetic force and so on. The publication of the paper would be justified on the grounds of allowing scientists the opportunity to discriminate between the cautious, limited and still highly debatable experimental data, and extravagant rumour, fed in recent days by inaccurate attempts in some newspapers at precognition of the contents of the paper.

People interested in reading more can find another skeptical POV here, and for the opposite POV (anti-Randi) here.
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Postby ryguy » Tue Aug 15, 2006 2:30 pm

I'd love to hear a point of view on that from "resistthem".... :)

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