I haven’t gone to any of their meetings, but their web site weirds me out. There’s the name: that space makes a difference. Freethought is “a philosophical viewpoint which holds that positions regarding truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, revelation, or other dogma”, and as I’ve said repeatedly, it is not a pointless label for thinking whatever you want (everyone gets to do that, whether you’re a hidebound Catholic or Islamist, or an atheist scientist). So I’m a little skeptical when someone confuses freethought with freedom to think any damn thing.
Then there’s the motto on every one of their web pages:
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!. Whoa, what? A Calvin Coolidge quote that reeks of Norman Vincent Peale and the Power of Positive Thinking? Look again at that freethought definition — does it mention that truth is determined by thinking really hard and stubbornly about it, or does it say something about “logic, reason, and empiricism”?
And this page:
Do People Have Psychic Abilities? Open-Minded Free Thinking at its Finest. It completely misrepresents the status of the science.
Let’s get real. There is no supernatural anything. Nothing is outside of reality. There is no single God, and no Gods, no Ghosts, no Goblins and no Ghouls. They are all fabrications of the human mind in an effort to make sense of what we experience but don’t understand. Our minds create an imagined reality or experience and we accept our imagining as something real. We seek a reason for existence and we just can’t seem to accept that IT JUST IS.
Nonetheless there is strong evidence for anomalous psychic experiences such as extrasensory perception. That doesn’t mean these experiences are outside of reality, that they are somehow supernatural. It just means we don’t understand these experiences and cannot explain them YET. That’s why we use science to study them. First to explicitly identify what it is that people are experiencing, and second to perform further experiments to understand how these experiences physically work.
No, there is no strong evidence for ESP. None at all. It’s been pursued for years by dogged people who think
persistence and determination alone are omnipotent, and that if they just keep chasing marginal statistical anomalies with sufficiently sloppy experimental procedures, they will be able to prove that it exists. But the author of this piece has their own interpretation: the scientific establishment has been conspiring against paranormal phenomena.
Unfortunately many skeptical scientists see the study of extrasensory perception as a threat to science. They have already decided these experiences cannot be real. To protect science from the “charlatan” scientists performing these experiments they created a committee to set up rules and tests that the parapsychology research results must pass before they can be accepted as valid science. So the parapsychologists went back, designed tests that met the very strict rules required, and performed the tests again. Many of the tests still came out positive for extrasensory perception. OOPS.
So the skeptical scientists went back to the their drawing board and made the tests virtually impossible to pass for just about any research. One of the skeptical scientists actually quit the committee having realized this was not about making objective tests for parapsychology research to pass. It was about making tests that did not allow parapsychology research to pass PERIOD.
Demanding greater rigor in the face of anomalous results is exactly what scientists are supposed to do; if the phenomena can not survive tests that exclude error and prosaic explanations, than the phenomenon is not what the psychic proponents think it is. This exactly what happened when some physicists found that neutrinos traveled faster than light: a surprising claim like that requires that other, alternative explanations be excluded, and careful repetition and analysis found experimental error that explained the result.
I suppose you could argue that “It was about making tests that did not allow physicists with faster-than-light research to pass PERIOD”. But this is how I see it:
So the chorus has sung and the final curtain has fallen on the faster-than-light neutrino saga. “The story captured the public imagination, and has given people the opportunity to see the scientific method in action—an unexpected result was put up for scrutiny, thoroughly investigated and resolved in part thanks to collaboration between normally competing experiments,” Bertolucci says in a CERN press release. “That’s how science moves forward.” Fair enough. But can we move on now?
The final curtain has also fallen on the psychic powers myth. Can we move on?