Have you ever noticed that when you look at
a clock, it tends to be in some interesting pattern? Like 1:23 or 2:34 or 1:11 or 2:22?
Heck, look at the time right now. As I write this, it’s 11:11. Why is that? It seems highly unlikely, given
all the possible times that DON’T have such numerological significance. What explains
that phenomenon? Seriously, I’m asking. Pause the video and think about an explanation. Now, if your explanation involves something
about the Universe making us aware of itself, or that time is an illusion pulled over our
eyes, or quantum consciousness, or something equally creative, you may have a
promising future in the budding science of noetics. However, if your explanation included some
element of human psychology, the relative abundance of numerologically significant numbers
in digital time, or most especially confirmation bias, where we remember the hits
and forget the misses, I have bad news. Noetic science is obviously too sophisticated
for you. The term Noetic science was invented in 1973,
to give a name to an institute to study the supernatural elements of human consciousness.
The root means inner wisdom or intellect, and the actual scientific work
they do is, not to put too fine a point on it,
so badly done that it actually comes out the other side as anti-science. Their projects fail on so many levels that
we could simply package their documents up into a textbook on how NOT to do science.
I submit, as a single example, the Global Consciousness Project run by Princeton, also
called the PEAR project for Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research. Scattered around the globe at 70 different
sites are quantum random number generators, usually called eggs. They read a quantum bit
and register a 0 or 1. These results are synchronized and transmitted to a central
site (called the basket) at a rate of about 200 bit trials per second. There are 12 years
of historical data on the quantum states of these bit generators.
Usually, they add up the number of times that the 1, or on state is registered in those
200 bit trials. True randomness would predict a regression to a mean of 100 “on” states
per 200 trials, right? Like if you could flip a coin 200 times a second, heads should
come up about 100 times, allowing for a distribution of randomness. Now, what would you predict about the patterns
of these 70 different quantum random bit generators? Mostly you’d see noise, but sometimes
there would be anomalous blips where all the eggs give biased reading. Heads keeps
coming up, or tails. Now, if you are a budding noetic researcher,
you can conclude that some outside, global force is influencing the quantum state of
that bit trial. We could call this the global consciousness of the minds on planet Earth.
They are responding to some profound emotional stress and their response somehow
interacts with the quantum states of certain bits. Our minds influence the matter around
us, what they call the noosphere. These deviations, they hypothesize, are evidence
for the noosphere’s existence. If you are a real scientist, you might have
a different conclusion. Statistical methods allow for extremely rare random events to
occur. The fact that they happen to occur at
the same time as some global event may or may not be significant.
I have to admit nooetics has a certain coolness factor. I’m reminded of the poor folks
on Alderaan who cried out and were suddenly silenced, as relayed by Jedi Master Obi Wan
Kenobi. But as much as I would like to be a Jedi… I’d rather live in the real world.
I care if my beliefs are true, and self-deception robs us of our chance to face the
world honestly and see it as it is. So, let’s see which career is right for you.
Are you a Jedi, or a scientist. This is the deviation from 9/11/2001. The
single greatest tragedy in American history since the Galveston hurricane of 1900. The
timing of the attacks is given as crossed boxes, representing the window of time, the
blue represents a basic p value of 5%, which means that the odds of explaining these results
by chance are 19 to 1. Now the line does eventually cross this basic
significance line, but not until more than 3 hours after the first attack.
Now, as you stare at this analysis… do you think it supports the idea that people were
emotionally reacting to a tragedy? What if I show you data from a much broader
window of time. The data for 10 hours, from 4 AM Eastern to 2 PM on 9/11, it shows a spike
at around noon, but also a spike at 6 AM. Maybe that’s significant anticipation, right?
Maybe we just discovered that not only are we all part of the noosphere, but we’re
also all psychic. The blue curves here are 10 random days in
August, each of which shows very similar types of spike and troughs.
If we narrow the window back to 3 hours, the effect disappears. The noosphere makes no
response at all to this large national tragedy. If we expand it to 10 hours, or 10
days, the effect is not much more than a typical type of chance occurrence, properly
called an anomalous result. What happened at 6 AM on 9/11/2001 that the EGGs were
responding to, more than they responded to the loss of 3000 lives broadcast live around
the world? So where did they go wrong?
1. This is a classic case of data dredging. The whole research project is based on the
idea of coming up with the test after the data is obtained. This practice is called
HARKing, for Hypothesizing After Results are Known, or in more popular parlance, data dredging.
Scientists are always very eager to start obtaining results, but if they just pick a
methodology and start creating a data set, then decide what to do with it after the data
is in, they almost guarantee that the results will be invalid. Why?
Well, consider a hypothetical scenario. We take the entire state of Alabama, and we
measure their height, weight, IQ, street address, eye color, shoe size, favorite color,
criminal record, medical history, TV viewing habits, and childhood pet names. How many
associations could we find between one factor and another? If you lined up all the
data, you could find that shoe size determines whether a person likes the color blue, or
that brown eyed people are more likely to have asthma. There are a near infinite number
of possible associations, but most of them will be spurious.
If you watched my video on why most medical studies are wrong, or if you’re familiar
with John Ioannidis work, you’ll recognize that the PEAR project has a near 100% expected
false positive rate based on this design. It’s the reason medical reseach isn’t conducted
by grabbing 10,000 people off the street and trying to find ANY associations between diseases
and any other factor. Good science involves a specific hypothesis
first, then data collection, and analysis afterwards. 2. Every good scientist knows that the goal
of any test is falsification. How would you falsify the hypothesis that
global events of any significance have an effect on random numbers when analyzed after
the fact? Think about it. To falsify even a single notable
event, the distribution of values has to be completely random, evenly distributed,
and if the nooetic researcher is allowed to scan on either side of the event for 4 hours,
that means that for 8 hours, there are no slight changes to that normal distribution
of randomness. Actually, even an increase in the proper randomness
is subject to interpretation, which brings me back to the example of looking at
a clock when it reads 11:11. The human brain is a hyperactive pattern recognition
device. Stare at background noise for long enough and it will find a pattern, whether
it exists or not. That’s why good science is designed to remove
the scientist from the equation. We rely on objective test criteria as much as possible,
we agree in advance what a positive outcome represents, which
allows us to ultimately falsify our conclusions. Dean Radin has designed this
study to be unfalsifiable, and that’s the moment it stopped being science. 3. The effect is so non-specific as to be
meaningless Bob Park, physicist and skeptic, has suggested
that if they really want to convince skeptics, the Global Consciousness people
could set up a scale in a vacuum chamber that measures force or mass of even a microgram,
less than the weight of a grain of sand. Surely if we can affect matter, we could move
that tiny scale. There wouldn’t be the random noise or the reliance on statistical
probabilities. A good Jedi can lift a small spaceship… why not a tiny force on a scale?
It would remove that pattern seeking behavior as well, there’s no subjectivity.
Of course they won’t do this. 4. The entire process lacks any objective
controls. Even my 7 year old understands the idea of
an experimental control. We did the classic “plant in the dark, plant in the light” experiment.
He understood that the plant in the light was something we set up so we would
know what normal is, to establish a baseline of non-experimental intervention.
Where is the control set for PEAR? How do you keep 6.7 billion minds from being
surprised or angry or whatever? If this was actually being done scientifically, there
would need to be an egg shielded from all influence. You can’t pick yesterday’s scan
as the control data set, because you don’t know what influence it’s under. You can’t
ever know what a baseline actually looks like. 5. There is no reason to attribute anomalies
to any particular cause. I don’t know about you, but if I look up and
I see the clock say 12:34, I don’t ascribe that to much of anything except coincidence.
If my car doesn’t start and I’m late for work, and there’s a wreck along my path a
few hours later, I don’t see that as any agency protecting me from harm.
Such thinking is fine for people who are a little superstitious, or have a poor grasp
of rational or scientific methods. They aren’t
as cognizant of how our brains deceive us. However, the people behind PEAR have no such
excuse. They’re attributing anomalies to active agency without any explanation of why
they choose agency. What if random sunspot radiation or gravitational
fluctuations or the actions of invisible aliens are causing those deviations
from randomness? You’ve just developed a method to detect non-randomness. It’s not
evidence for anything specifically. It says a lot that they can jump from non-randomness
to the minds or emotional states of humans. Why not the flights of pigeons? Or
earthworm orientation? Both are just as arbitrary. In fact, we’ve come full circle
to what this truly reminds me of. I want to introduce you to Dean Radin’s spiritual
ancestors, the diviners. In ancient Rome, they scanned the sky for signs of lightning
or birds flying in a certain pattern, and that divined the will of the gods. What
PEAR does is no different. It is self-validating, self-deluding, anomaly seeking
behavior. It is certainly not science. If there is any science to be had, I would
suggest we conduct a study on the psychology of nooetic researchers. I hypothesize that
we’ll find some pretty desperate motivations.
Thanks for watching.