Criticizing Victor Stenger
Has Stenger proved that there is no God, as he clearly concludes in the very last paragraph of his book? (page 349: "The universe is not populated by mysterious forces, beyond our comprehension, that control our lives and destinies for some unseen purpose. Rather, thanks to science, humanity is in control and defines its own purpose.")
In this page, I include the full criticism that I presented to physicist Victor Stenger about his book "Has Science Found God?" (year 2003), and his answers (better say "answers"). I presented this in his mail list, avoid-L, in August 2005. Any further responses from Stenger are welcome.
Guidelines for reading the page below: texts written by Victor Stenger appear in red. Texts written by Julio Siqueira (me) appear in blue. Special comments or corrections appear in bold green.
From: Julio Siqueira <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: August 10, 2005
Subject: Re: Criticizing (Sticking up for) Victor StengerTo: AVOID-L@HAWAII.EDU
Dear Victor Stenger,
At 23:19 9/8/2005, Victor Stenger wrote:
----- Original Message -----
From: Julio Siqueira
Now, you say that you did not respond to me because I did not say anything that you had not already answered in your 1990 book. That is preciselly a perfect example of how you, sometimes, perceive what people say through a thick darkened "emotional glass". I said you did not even read the abstract of the PEAR 1997 article (Correlations etc...), therefore misquoting it, and you claim to have already answered that in 1990! (back causation...). I said that you did not read the discussion in the Sam Parnia's article of 2001, therefore misquoting it, and you claim to have already answered it in 1990... I said that you blamed Radin, in 2003, for a mistake he had been absolved by the accuser back in 1998, and you claim to have already answered that in 1990...
To Julio and any others who find flaws with anything I write:
Anyone who has been on this list for any length of time will testify that I am willing to listen to comments and criticisms of my work. Indeed, it is the main reason I maintain the list, although I do a learn a lot of other stuff, too. I have made many changes as the result of this feedback.
The above criticism is incoherent. I made no claim that I answered something in 1990 that appeared later in time. I really do not know what in the world you are talking about. I have no way to respond to such gibberish.
If you want me to respond, please
1. Quote me precisely, giving the exact reference.
2. Explain in rational terms--that is, not with ad hominems and name-calling--what it is that I said that is wrong. Provide evidence, references, or whatever is needed to back up your claim.
Ok, Victor, you ask not to receive name-calling (even though you have received none!) and calls my comments gibberish (stupid talk) from me...
I will repeat again. You answered me saying that I had not said anything that you had not already answered in your 1990 book. Do you remember having said that? The source for that is this very list (avoid-L). But it is impossible for you to have answered all my questionings in this old book of yours, since many of the problems that I comment happened later. They are explained very clearly above. Explaining it fully, now: First, I sent you (to avoid-L) a detailed (and long) critique, with full citations. Second, I sent you (to avoid-L) a summary of these. After it you replied saying that everything that I was criticizing had already been explained by you in your book in 1990. Third, I sent to you (to avoid-L) my last message, where I criticize your answer and where I point out clearly the items that happened after 1990 (your new mistakes - no one is perfect).
According to your request, I present the summary and the full critique below.
Correction: actually, Stenger did not say that his book of 1990 dealt with everything that I said. His actual words were: "I have not responded so far to Julio because he has not said anything that I did not answer already in my 1990 book Physics and Psychics, or if it involved later results, in Has Science Found God?". I was twisting things a little to stir the debate. But the core of the issue is right. He said: "I made no claim that I answered something in 1990 that appeared later in time.". In fact, he did not. But he did claim to have answered in 2003 (that is, he claimed to have answered in his book "Has Science Found God?") something that appeared later (that is, my critique to him, in August 2005). And the fact is that he did not answer that. Not in 2003, and not in August 2005...
In his book, "Has Science Found God" (2003), Stenger:
1- Fails to give the proper relevance to the political and social component in "man-made" "disasters", like the September 11 terrorist attack; even though he treated the whole subject in this preface fairly well.
2- Centers his argument on an illogical proposition; something like "To be true, God and Spirits must be made of immaterial stuff. But immaterial stuff is impossible. Therefore, God's existance, and Spirits' existance, is impossible".
3- Fails to report properly the true virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses of parapsychology. Invents things that do not exist. Therefore, Stenger leaves skeptic activists in trouble when talking to "non skeptics"...
4- Oversimplify the issue of how science declares that something is proved.
5- Did not read even the abstract of an article that he cited!!! (Correlations of Random... etc - PEAR 1997). (Gosh, not even the abstract?!). As an aftermath, Stenger states precisely the opposite of what the researchers actually claimed...
6- Fails to grasp the biological (therefore less mathematically precise than what we find in physics) component in psi experiments (micro-PK and Ganzfeld).
7- Keeps saying (in 2003!) that Dean Radin performed the metanalysis wrong (in Radin's book, the Conscious Universe, 1997), even though the source for this information, I. J. Good, withdrew this charge as back as 1998!
8- Read only the abstract of Sam Parnia et al's article (in the journal Resuscitation, 2001) about their prospective study on NDE, and did not even read the abstract of van Lommel et al's article (The Lancet, 2001) about the very same subject. As an aftermath, Stenger states precisely the opposite of what the researchers actually claimed... (again!).
9- Says that Susan Blackmore maintained her good name, even though Rick Berger caught her in serious fraudulent conduct...
10- Shows irrational signs of abhorring mysterious forces, especially those that might interfere purposefully in our lives, thefore leaving aside skepticism (i.e. "Science does not know if God or Spirits exist") and embracing declared Jihad-Materialism (i.e. "Science has proved that God and Spirits do not exist" - the example phrases are mine, not actually Stenger's. But his are pretty much the same...).
11- Ends up, counterproductively, legitimatizing the demands and tactics of the Wedge ID Movement (and similar ones).
FULL CRITIQUE - REVISED:
Dear Victor Stenger, (comments from any other list members are highly welcome)
I would like to ask you some questions regarding your book "Has Science Found God?" (year 2003). Also, I want to present some criticism to parts of it, especially some parts of the chapter ten, "The Breath of God", and further to correct a few pieces of factual information that you presented there. I present this as precisely and as carefully as I can, and in the highest spirit of constructive exchange of information.
Well, first it is unavoidable to comment on your very first question inside the book (preface), "Where was God on September 11?". I think you gave a fairly good treatment of the subject. You mentioned many other instances where man was allowed to hurt himself. And so, yes, the place where God was on September 11 was the very same place that he was during the Auschwitz genocide or during the Hiroshima-Nagasaki nuclear bombing, or during the attrocities committed by Japanese in China in World War II, and so on. But I think the negligence of God is more remarkable in calamities that were not brought about by man. You remind us that Islamism had some fault on September 11, but that must not be used to downplay the significance of the political and social background of the issue. Remember that after the World War II, the fiercely beligerant Japanese did not engage in retaliations (and they love to commit suicide attacks...), nor did the Germans after this very same World War. Possibly, the reason for this more benevolent reaction from these two highly combative and stubborn peoples was the fact that they were treated very nicely by the winning allies after the war. (The very opposite happened after World War I, and Germans grew pretty hostile in between World Wars as a consequence). Jews got their State after the Second World War. Palestinians (Arabs/Muslims) did not.
This is a very complicated political situation, but what I think is clear is that it is counterproductive to blame God (even if he does not exist...) for the actions of man. So, the natural catastrophes (and they abound!) are the examples that should really be used. Unless you want the anti-materialists throwing at your face: "You atheists had your chance, with China and USSR, and you killed more than twenty million people!".
That said, I move to "The Breath of God", in an attempt to see if "The Breath of Stenger" fares any better...
You focus your argument very much on the issue of the probable non-existance of immaterial substances. This suggests that if we find God and Spirits, immaterial subtances would be found then. But I think your reasoning is based on an illogical and impossible proposition. It does not matter ("matter"...) if Jews or Christians or Muslims or Vodooers think these things are immaterial. If they exist, they are something. In the end, we (i.e. science) will call these things matter. What else could it possibly be? As I have said here before: God is a Materialist Himself. (even if he does not exist...). I know that sometimes you address this issue, the possibility that these things are just matter anyway. But you put too much emphasis on the opposite strategy, which seems to be the same as: "To be true, God has to be made of impossible substance. But impossible substance is impossible. So God is impossible". That seems counterproductive to me.
This has led to some deeper logical flaws from your part. You say: "The laws of nature place no limitations on the contents of one's fantasies.". Actually, the laws of nature do place limitations on the content of our fantasies. Our fantasies are a hundred percent bound to the laws of nature. Just ask a kid (or a Noble Prize physicist...) to imagine the Unifying Theory of Quantum Mecanics and Gravitation and to present it to you so that you can solve your homework theorems.
But, yes, we (i.e. science) do have explanatory problems with some phenomena that we see around us, especially with the most ubiquitous of all: consciousness (that is, subjective experience; as a matter of fact, subjective experience is the only thing that anyone can be sure that exists...). And that is in bitter contrast with this phrase of yours: "No cognitive data or theories currently require the introduction of either supernatural forces or immaterial substances such as 'spirit.'". Contrary to what you say here (or imply here), some cognitive data does go beyond the explanatory power of conventional neurology. And that has to be known and analyzed. Not hidden.
Then you say: "Observations reported by parapsychologists that purport to demonstrate the psychic powers of the mind are not made with high-tech instruments. Rather, they relate to unusual human experiences, reported as anecdotes, or simple experiments that, in many cases, can be done on the dining table in your own home.". Sorry for being so direct here, but, why do you say such a thing if you yourself know that this is not true? You can't perform Ganzfeld at home, or REG influencing, and many other similar experiments. Parapsychology, even the best of it, does have serious problems. Very serious indeed: empirical, "replicational", theoretical, etc. Why not present the true problems of parapsychology, and in this way give the interested skeptics good info for debating with "non-skeptics"? Wouldn't that be far more productive, even to the skeptic movement?
In one point you comment, loosely: "In one seance, several eyewitnesses swore that famed medium Daniel Dunglas Home floated out one window of a seance room and into another.". Hyman says, in "The Elusive Quarry" (1989), that: "It is true that no one who has studied the reports of seances by Home or Crookes’s accounts of his tests on this medium has come up with plausible ways he could have cheated" (quoted by George P. Hansen). Do you have any news regarding Home that Hyman was not aware of?
And then you say: "Still, if the modern mediums came up with some verifiable prediction, that would give credibility to a spirit world. The medium never provides any information that could not be discovered by the standard techniques used by mentalists and fortune-tellers for thousands of years.". This is a lenthy issue, but basically that is not true. Medium Mrs. Piper is the best (and perhaps the only) example. Other similar situations do exist too, like the stevensonian cases ("reincarnation"), one of which I analyzed in detail, taking into account Leonard Angel's critique of the case (his critique was published in the Skeptical Inquirer in 1994). These things have to be analyzed, not hidden, and not mocked at.
Then you start the statistics issue: "I have already mentioned that some parapsychologists ask to be judged by the same criteria used in psychology and medicine, in which a result is published when one out of twenty results can be due to chance alone.". This is a good point that you make. Anyway, science is supposed to deal with provisional (i.e. temporary and conditional) truths, as you yourself stress in your book, not with dogmas. Even if telepathy in Ganzfeld was accepted as proved, the other proved things would not be thrown into the garbage (Have you thrown relativity theory into the garbage just because of quantum mechanics?). We would just have two sets of proved phenomena in disagreement with each other.
But actually, much more important than to declare psi scientifically proved, what is needed is to acknowledge the anomaly, or the apparent anomaly, and to inform the scientific community of that. You complain about the p value of 0.05. But the latest Ganzfeld meta-analysis has a p value of 0.0048, and when the authors (Bem, Palmer, Broughton, 2001) corrected for standardness, the p value reached 0.0002. What does that mean? Basically that psi research (some of it) and psi researchers (some of them) deserve to be treated with greater respect; for the benefit of all of us who want to know the truth about the phenomena of the Universe, and who need to harness its potential powers.
Then you move to PEAR. You say: "A careful analysis of this baseline data indicates it is too good to be true, since it does not display the full range of deviations expected from statistical fluctuations. This is explained away by suggesting that the subjects, either consciously or subconsciously, may have been trying to produce a baseline better than chance.". You cite Stanley Jeffers for that, who has a rather skeptic outlook on this matter (and his article ended up being published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies in 2003 - Psi Wars). This is bad, because you give to the readers the impression that this oddity was noticed by a skeptic, when actually the PEAR researchers are the ones who brought it up, in the very article (1997) of theirs that you yourself cite! (Correlations of Random Binary Sequences with Pre-Stated Operator Intention: A Review of a 12-Year Program). Not only does their explanation for the baseline sound very logical to me, they also stress that the baseline was different from the calibration line. I am not saying that there are no flaws in their work in this issue. What I am saying is that the flaws that you revealed in this section were your own ones, not theirs...
(By the way, this very Stanley Jeffers has an 2003 article, yes 2003!, where he finds evidence supporting micro-PK. "Effects of Frontal Lobe Lesions on Intentionality and Random Physical Phenomena". Morris Freedman, Stanley Jeffers, Karen Saeger, Malcolm Binns, Sandra Black. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 651-668, 2003).
Then you comment on three possible source of errors in the micro-PK studies: 1- Experimenters also acting as subjects. 2- Subjects left unattended. 3- Feedbacks given to the subjects during the experiment about the result of their influence on REG. Could you please explain to me how these things could turn into methodological flaws? Are you suggesting that, 1, because the experimenter knows that the radioactive decay source is The Declaration of Independence document, he would guess better as to when and how it would be decaying its atoms? Or, 2, that a subject unattended might kick the apparatus and torture the REG into yielding its decaying moments? Or, 3, that when I see dice falling with the number 3 facing up, I have reasons to believe that the probability of the number 3 appearing in the next run will be reduced? I am serious on that. I do not understand the point of that kind of criticism to the PEAR experiments.
Then you conclude: "They are like chemists who do not clean their test tubes, even though the sink is right over there in the corner of the lab, insisting that they know how to subtract the dirt from their sample theoretically.". That was a very harsh assessment of their conduct (or misconduct...). I will wait for your feedbacks on the paragraph above before I come to further conclusions on that.
You say that earlier work from Helmut Schmidt did not lead to one part in ten thousand in the deviation, but was much greater. How much was the deviation? I could not find it on the internet.
You say: "However, two experiments cannot be said to replicate one another when their results do not agree quantitatively. In this case, PEAR and Schmidt should be regarded as failing to confirm each other.". That is not usually the case when biological systems are at play (as is the case with micro-PK studies with REG). I had greater variations with my bacteria than psi researchers have with Ganzfeld results. And the standardness that I used was fairly good...
You say: "Even this interpretation is questionable, since they find no difference between their data taken with (presumably) true random numbers generated by quantum noise and pseudorandom numbers generated by computer algorithms.". Are you aware that the paper that you cite for that (Correlations, 1997) states precisely the opposite?... And at the very abstract?!
Two pieces from you are quite central to your line of reasoning: "In the natural sciences, an extraordinary phenomenon is not considered to be even tentatively established until it has been observed, in precisely the same form, in two or more independent experiments in which each experiment stands alone as being statistically significant. It is safe to say that this condition has not yet been achieved for psi or spiritual phenomena, despite experiments going back to the 1850s.". And also: "I cannot think of a single example of a new phenomenon in science that has been established by metanalysis.".
Metanalysis is a rather recent procedure. It is not surprising that no "new phenomenon" has been established by it. Of course that depends on what you consider a "new phenomenon". Aspirin preventing heart attack is a new phenomenon to me. Also, some quite extraordinary, and highly socially dangerous, claims (new phenomena...) from your fellow skeptic Steven Pinker have been advanced carelessly in his book "How The Mind Works", claims heavily based on these very metanalysis that you condemn (I am not saying that you support that; to do you justice, you warn the readers of this problem, and you are among the very few who do it; it is something that has to be no only acknowledged, but praised). Anyway, I do not like metanalysis. I think they are very very bad indeed (i.e. it is a bad tool). But I do not despise them. I think they do give valuable feedbacks.
But as to the procedures and strictures science uses in establishing new phenomena, things are not always as strict as you suggest. We do have phenomena that have been established not only on the basis of weak testimony of its ocurrence: we have topmost important phenomena that have been solidly established in the complete absence of any witnessing of its ocurrence whatsoever... The most important example is speciation through neo-darwinistic processes (nowadays, we do have some instances of occurence of speciation, but that was not the case until quite recently; yet, speciation through neo-darwinistic mechanisms was already established much before we found instances of it). [Correction: I see now that my previous example was a bad one. "Speciation through neo-darwinistic mechanisms" is not a phenomenon, but rather a theory. The phenomenon is speciation, and for that there is plenty of evidence. It is to "the theory of the origin of this speciation by means of neo-darwinistic mechanisms" that my reasonning can propperly apply. The examples that follow are better. But basically I do not think it is necessarily bad to demand more proof from parapsychology. What I think is bad is not to acknowledge its level of excellence, and the respectability of parapsychological researchers.]. We have some other weird and tricky examples too. Especially free will (which is a working concept of many sciences, even though it is not a phenomenon any branch of science claims to have established) and the absence of consciousness (do you know of anyone who was ever conscious of being unconscious?), a hallmark of neurology.
Further, some experiments in parapsychology, including some that tested telepathy in Ganzfeld, have yielded statistically significant results on their own, without the need of metanalysis.
There is an interesting passage where you say: "For example, Radin notes that 186 ESP card tests involving 4 million trials were published worldwide from 1882 to 1939. He takes these results at face value, downplaying any possibilities of cheating or other plausible explanations that skeptics have been able to uncover in virtually every case in which sufficient information about procedures has been made available.". Well, according to Matthew Smith, in "Psi Wars" (Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2003), as far as the cheating component is concerned, the "virtually every case in which sufficient information about procedures has been made available" amounts exaclty to TWO... (Well, actually to three. But since she changed sides, it might be more appropriate to leave her story for later... The other two cheaters were Soal, and an important assistant of Rhine).
Then you conclude from the review of Dean Radin's book (The Conscious Universe, 1997) in Nature, made by I. J. Good. You say: "How could two metanalyses result in such a wide discrepancy? Somebody is doing something wrong, and in this case it is clearly Radin. He has not performed the filedrawer analysis correctly.". I was very much surprised to find this statement in this 2003 book of yours. You had already said it before elsewhere (in a link that is no longer available on the internet - possibly it was a pre-release of the book; I still have the link, but it no longer works). Aren't you aware that Good himself acknowledged his mistake in the issue? Why don't you report that? You portray Radin's work together with instances where you get shocked at the ignorance of statistics from the part of psi researchers (you say: "One obvious fact that strikes me when reading many of the published papers on psi and religious scientific claims is the authors' often complete ignorance of statistics."), therefore leaving wide open the way for the readers to, consciously or subconsciously, reach the "guilty-by-association" conclusion.
Good acknowledged his mistake. See the links below:
You also comment on an article by Jeffrey Scargle, where he points out problems in metanalysis. Scargle's article is a masterpiece. If you take a look at the www.amazon.com site, you will see that Scargle made three (3!!!) reviews of the Conscious Universe. He studied the subject. He lurked and stalked his prey with care, wits, and determination. He knows what he is criticizing. He is an example to be followed ( ;-) ). And Radin did not despise his feedbacks. He incorporated them. (see the article "Meta-analysis of mind-matter interaction experiments: 1959 - 2000". Radin, D. I. & Nelson, R. D. 2000. - available at the site of the Boundary Institute). Radin incorporated both the feedbacks from Scargle and from Stokes.
Why not report that, analyze that, and show the flaws in that?
Then, moving to NDE and OBE, you quote from "Dying to Live" (Susy Blackmore): "Other cases of reported NDEs by blind people have been tracked down by Ring. None have proved to be more than anecdotal tales. In 1987 he told Blackmore that 'as much as this is the lore of NDEs, there has never, to my knowledge, been a case of a blind NDEr reported in the literature where there was clear-cut or documented evidence of accurate visual perception during an alleged OBE. (And you can quote me).'". I do not know if you are aware of Ring's book "Mindsight" (1999). There he presents one case that, from my point of view, comes close to that as yet lacking evidence above. I would say, "not close enough". So, again from my point of view, my main concern in introducing the content of the book "Mindsight" is to stress that what you said still seems to hold true. (I read "Dying to Live" too).
A little before that, you say: "Some authors disagree. They write about people who return from mystical journeys with information that they could not possibly have acquired by normal means. Surgeons will relate anecdotal tales of patients under anesthetic who later report details of the procedures performed on them. These may be explained by the fact that the senses, especially hearing, are not completely shut down by anesthetics. In any case, surgery is not the kind of suitably controlled experiment that can rule out such mundane explanations.".
"Anecdotal" reports vary greatly in their evidential strength. Some are so good that can be considered experimental results. The report of the case of Pam Reynolds (pseudonym) by Michael Sabom, in his book "Light and Death" (1998) is very strong evidentially. There is one other case, reported by Ian Stevenson's group, that come very close to it (Al Sullivan case). They do challenge the assumptions of neurology. Pam Reynolds' case was cited by van Lommel et al in their article (The Lancet, 2001).
Then, there is a passage where you include (you begin quoting from a newspaper report, or something like it): " 'A British scientist studying heart attack patients says he is finding evidence that suggests that consciousness may continue after the brain has stopped functioning and a patient is clinically dead'. However, when one reads the published article, there is no reference to the patienfs being 'clinically dead,' with irreversible loss of circulatory and respiratory functions or irreversible loss of neurological functions or the capacity for consciousness. Obviously such losses of functions were not irreversible because the patients were successfully resucitated. ... ... They did not return from the dead.".
And you continue: "Indeed, if you read the paper, the authors' official conclusions are weak and unremarkable: 'Memories are rare after resuscitation from cardiac arrest. The majority of those that are reported have features of NDE and are pleasant. The occurrence of NDE during cardiac arrest raises questions about the possible relationship between mind and brain. Further large-scale studies are needed to understand the aetiology and true significance of NDE.'.". It is amazing that, in this context, you quote from the abstract of the paper, and clearly you have not read even the discussion of the article itself. That is: you are quoting something that you did not read!
Indeed, if you read the paper, Victor, you find the following comment from the authors at the discussion: "The data suggests that in this cardiac arrest model, the NDE arises during unconsciousness. This is a surprising conclusion, because when the brain is so dysfunctional that the patient is deeply comatose, the cerebral structures which underpin subjective experience and memory must be severely impaired. Complex experiences such as are reported in the NDE should not arise or be retained in memory. Such patients would be expected to have no subjective experience (as was the case in 88.8% of patients in This study) or at best a confusional state if some brain function is re-tained. Even if the unconscious brain is flooded by neurotransmitters [18,19,22] this should not produce clear, lucid remembered experiences, as those cerebral modules which generate conscious experience and underpin memory are impaired by cerebral anoxia. The fact that in a cardiac arrest loss of cortical function precedes the rapid loss of brainstem activity lends further support to this view.".
Note that the very last thing that they say is "loss of cortical function" (read it as "flat EEG") and "rapid loss of brainstem activity". That spells: Brain's Shutdown. In the van Lommel et al article, they state literally "All patients had been clinically dead". ("Although all patients had been clinically dead, most did not have NDE"). There is nothing weak and unremarkable in that. Neither in van Lommel et al, nor in Sam Parnia et al. If there is any weakness or unremarkableness, it lies elsewhere...
So we get the bad feeling that, at the very least, you did not read well (if you read at all) something that you are presenting yourself to the public as someone who can give informed opinions about and trustworthy technical evaluation about. Now, you tell me, what is the difference from that to what so many pro-psi crackpots do?
Then there comes the traditional citation of The Blackmore Saga (!), the honest skilled seeker who turned into a skeptic. In her words (quoted by you): "Just a few years of careful experiments changed all that. I found no psychic phenomena only wishful thinking, self-deception, experimental error and, occasionally, fraud. I became a sceptic...". You say that she... "Susan Blackmore, who has managed to maintain her good name, recently wrote about her own thirty-year enchantment with psi:".
So she manage to maintain her good name...? Are you aware of the article were Rick Berger proves (yes, proves!) that Blackmore frauded her own experiments? Link below:
I made a careful comparison of Berger's exposé and Blackmore's attempt to defend herself. I have the article where she tries to explain her fraudulent conduct (I have it on pdf). She frauded.
Finally, in chapter 12, you state: "No scientific field except parapsychology has experienced over 150 years of exclusively negative results without being dismissed as a lost cause.". I really do not know where you got the "over 150 years" from. But surely, it was not from veridicality. As to the "exclusively negative results", since I, just like you, have some difficulty in sugarcoating things, I will then refrain from appending adjectives to it...
You believe that the Universe has no mysterious forces (forces beyond our comprehension), and you believe to be in control. That is your statement at the very last paragraph of your book. I respect your beliefs. They may be right. But please remember that they are just beliefs, as irrational and baseless as mine (afterlife, reincarnation, brahmanian God). Let's do Society a favor. Let's drive our private beliefs away from public endeavours, like Science. Unless you want to legitimatize The Wedge ID Movement's demands...
From: Vic Stenger <vstenger@MINDSPRING.COM>
Date: August 10, 2005.
Subject: Re: Criticizing (Sticking up for) Victor StengerTo: AVOID-L@HAWAII.EDU
I have read this over. I will check out the one or two items that are matters of fact. The rest is simply your opinions with nothing to back them up.
From: Julio Siqueira <email@example.com>
Date: August 10, 2005.
Subject: Re: Criticizing (Sticking up for) Victor StengerTo: AVOID-L@HAWAII.EDU
At 18:56 10/8/2005, Vic wrote:
I have read this over.
If you are claiming that you had already read it before (as you should have, since you answered my critique saying that you had already dealt with all its content back in 1990, therefore you unequivocally implied that you had read my full critique through after I first posted it), I can only say that I find it hard to believe. If you are just saying that you have read it only now, I think it is a shame, for you had already labelled it a "gibberish".
I will check out the one or two items that are matters of fact.
You keep surprising me with your astronomical demands for precision from others and your over too lax standards regarding the things that you say... The "one or two" matters of fact actually amount to four! I will list them again (it is already the third time. Oh Lord, will this ever end??!!...) below:
1- You did not read even the abstract of an article that you cited!!! ( Correlations of Random Binary Sequences with Pre-Stated Operator Intention: A Review of a 12-Year Program). (Gosh, not even the abstract?!). As an aftermath, you, Victor, state precisely the opposite of what the researchers actually claimed... (details in the full critique)
2- You Keep saying (in 2003!, in you book "Has Science Found God?") that Dean Radin performed the metanalysis wrong (in Radin's book, the Conscious Universe, 1997), even though the source for this information, I. J. Good, withdrew this charge as back as 1998! (details in the full critique)
3- You read only the abstract of Sam Parnia et al's article (in the journal Resuscitation, 2001) about their prospective study on NDE, and you did not even read the abstract of van Lommel et al's article (The Lancet, 2001 - ATTENTION PLEASE: this article by van Lommel was not cited by you, therefore I am not saying that you read van Lommel wrong; I am saying that you should at least have read the abstract of this article, for it is very much the same stuff as Sam Parnia's, just with more patients, and van Lommel's article was much more well known and popular among academics then than Parnia's) about the very same subject. As an aftermath, you, Victor, state precisely the opposite of what the researchers actually claimed... (again!).
4- You say that Susan Blackmore maintained her good name, even though Rick Berger caught her in serious fraudulent conduct... (details in the full critique)
I could even add some other items, that anyone (but you...) would classify as matters of fact:
5- "No cognitive data or theories currently require the introduction of either supernatural forces or immaterial substances such as 'spirit.'". - you are throwing in the garbage epiphenomenalism, and many other similar theoretical models for consciousness as well. (I could help you in throwing them away. What I will not help you is in pretending that they do not exist).
6- "Observations reported by parapsychologists that purport to demonstrate the psychic powers of the mind are not made with high-tech instruments. Rather, they relate to unusual human experiences, reported as anecdotes, or simple experiments that, in many cases, can be done on the dining table in your own home.". - This is a lie.
7- "No scientific field except parapsychology has experienced over 150 years of exclusively negative results without being dismissed as a lost cause.". - Another lie. There is no such thing as a parapsychology with over 150 years. And, again, you lax yourself into pseudocientific behaviour by saying "exclusively negative results". The most that can be said, especially by a man like you that demands so much precision from others, is that there has been "exclusively unconclusive results"; anything further than that (like "exclusively negative", or even "almost exclusively negative") is, if it comes from laymen, incorrect statement, and, if it comes from supposedly experts in the field (like you present yourself as being), plain lie.
The rest is simply your opinions
It is really close to it indeed (i.e. simply my opinions). Exactly like almost everything that you say in your book ("Has Science Found God?". 2003 - aside the theoretical and practical physics' stuff, which are unconclusive for the main line of reasoning in your book). Just your opinions, with highly questionable support, sold to the uninformed public as the conclusions of science and of rationality.
with nothing to back them up.
With much to back them up. Just like your opinions. That is why we must not disguise our opinions as scientific facts. Not me. And not you too. Especially when we talk to the uninformed public.
Ok, Victor. Thank you and all list members dearly for the attention and feedbacks. I really hope you can look beyond the darkened emotional glass and see the relevance of the things I am calling your attention to. I am sure that if you do it, you are not going to be any less skeptical or any less materialist. You will only be more precise, and less... counterproductive.
P.S.: please, take me out of the avoid-L mail list. If you or any other list members wish to contact me, regarding these issues or others, it will be a pleasure and an honor. Just write to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to stress again my full support to the organized skeptic movement.
Conclusion about Victor Stenger: Stenger likes to believe that he is a man with no beliefs. But the facts show that this is just an unbased belief of his...