1. Caught in the act
As you can read in a skeptical blog, in which the blogger himself expresses embarrasment, it is not the skeptics who have the right side of the dispute. Sheldrake tells the truth without exaggeration or froth. This is from the manual distributed at the meeting:
Part Three: The Media Skeptic. Encouraging a Skeptical Media Attitude.
How to be a media authority
Becoming an expert is a pretty simple procedure; tell people you’re an expert. After you do that, all you have to do is maintain appearances and not give them a reason to believe you’re not. I could be one of the leading experts on 19th century Bavarian Monkey Chess up until the moment I say something that totally contradicts what you know about this noble and lost game of strategy.
2. Wikipedia's damaged goods
Here is my response. I also told my correspondent that I knew exactly what he was talking about because I had encountered the same hostility from self-styled skeptical editors. It is unfortunate for Wikipedia.
And my response:
This is not a battle I would expect to win. But, sadly, it is one that Wikipedia is so far losing, and that means it will be damaged as an encyclopedic resource.
3. Carrier's argument was posted
to a psi discussion list with the annotation: "I stumbled on this: <http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2009/05/statistics-biogenesis_01.html>
which contains an astounding howler about patterns that supposedly make it easy to get better than average results when guessing when, say, a 6 will be rolled with a die."
A researcher responded:
By my latest count 24 presentiment experiments have been reported, of which 23 were in the predicted direction and about half were statistically significant. Two of those studies involved animals as subjects.
Complaints about lack of publications in "real" journals is a common critique, but it ignores that there are thousands of specialty journals out there, and all those journals are a necessity to provide genuine peer review given the many specialties in science. It also ignores real editorial prejudice, which as we've all seen creates a Catch 22 for anomalies work that is virtually impossible to break.
On the criticism about anticipatory effects, those of us who have conducted these studies have uniformly shown that anticipatory models based on statistical counting (a la gambler's fallacy) do not match the actual data. The presentiment anomaly does not appear as a gradually increasingly physiological arousal. It appears suddenly, just before the emotional or target stimuli.
As for convincing skeptics, I've given up on that long ago. It's a waste of time because it is based on the assumption that skeptics can be convinced rationally based on examination of better data, and that is clearly not the case. I'm far more interested in forging ahead and diving into the phenomena in new ways. I'll continue to archive my work in publications that are accessible in mainstream online bibliographies, and let history sort out who's right.
My current work is looking at brain dynamics in presentiment using a 32 channel EEG. I'm working with a mainstream EEG analyst who is independently examining the raw EEG data in a study just completed with 27 subjects (some of which are meditators and some controls). He is finding highly significant presentiment effects in our data using analytical methods considered state of the art in cognitive neuroscience, results that are much stronger than I had found using my own, home-grown analytical approach. I asked my colleague if he thought this outcome could be published in a neuroscience journal and he thought it could in terms of methodology and results, but whether it would was another matter. Editorial prejudice about psi within the neurosciences is entrenched and not likely to change just because of new experiments.
And from another researcher with high-level credentials in psychology who does psi research as well:
... to add to [this] account, I presented briefly at Bial a data reanalysis of erp data with ptsd and non-ptsd groups where we found cross interaction according to group for a presentiment effect, and most recently at our lab in a study with high and low hypnotizables we (DT is the PI for this) found again the presentiment effect, so make that 26 studies, ... a much larger replication rate than I find typically for many psychology studies.
4. For the last two decades, skeptics have
attempted to make the case that frequentist statistics which produce probabilities against chance for the null hypothesis are inferior to Bayesian statistics. The fact that two well-developed statistical perspectives on the same problem ought to give similar outcomes seems not to be recognized or accepted, at least by the skeptics who apply the Bayesian procedures to "disappear" evidence for anomalies such as those found by Bem. An excellent article on the issues that may underlie the mismatch of the two statistical approaches has been written by Bem and two statisticians, Jessica Utts and Wes Johnson, who is a prominent Bayesian himself. It is worth your time, and contains references to the original papers. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8290411/ResponsetoWagenmakers.pdf