Arouet's (incomplete) analysis of Chapter IV of Phantasms

I was going to wait until it was complete but because Bertha keeps on bringing this up as evidence of my so-called dishonesty I am going to post my incomplete work.

Bertha and I agreed awhile back to each read something recommended by the other for discussion. Bertha suggested I read Chapter IV of Phantasms of the Living, by Edmund Gurney, and Bertha would read Chapter 8 of the Cochrane handbook.

Note, I am now no longer interested in having a discussion about this with Bertha. Despite several attempts to reach out, Bertha has consistently persisted in making nasty and derogatory posts about me, and misrepresenting what I wrote. Our interactions were all downside with no upside. It still amazes me that people who clamoured for his banning in his previous incarnations suddenly view him as a "straight shooter". In all his guises I've reached out to him as I've thought that we could have some good discussions. Unfortunately they end up the same each time and I've given up trying.

The writing style in this book is old, and dense. It does not make for easy reading. I was working on it a bit at a time, but my attention was often diverted. I recognized it was taking too long and so I sent a PM to Bertha in April where I told him that despite no longer engaging him on the forum, I was about halfway done my analysis and still intended to finish, but that it would not likely be for several months. I wrote that I trusted that there was no hurry.

You can yourselves why Bertha has chosen to leave out this information, and presents the situation in the way that he does. In any event, continue he does and so I am just going to post my work to date, but now no longer promise to finish. I may still decide to finish it if it tickles my fancy, but I'm not going to guarantee it. If I do, I will certainly post it here.

Part of the delay was due to a quite frustrating realization. The way I did this was to download the book, then I copied the chapter into word and took my notes and comments, deleting sections as I completed them. When I got to what I thought was the end of the chapter, I came to a rather depressing realization: what I had been reading was not the full chapter but rather a detailed synopsis! I hadn't noticed because rather than scroll through I had simply done a search for Chapter IV and jumped to the first entry following the table of contents!

So to that extent, I guess you can say that I actually did review the entire chapter. However, I wanted my review to be based on the full text, so I started over. The synopsis itself was long. The full chapter, I now saw, was really long! While I still wanted to complete the project, the wind was certainly out of my sails, this slowed things down further.

In any event, I'm going to post the work that I did now. Note, most of it was based on the synopsis and I recognize that this impacts on how I perceived what I was reading. Some questions that I raised may be answered in the full text.

Note, similar to what you will have seen if you've read any of my other paper summaries, what follows are my point form notes summarizing the contents of the text, with my comments and questions to myself in bracketed bold. For the most part, I have not gone back and amended notes, so what you are seeing is some of my mental processes. questions that I ask myself, opinions formed in real time.

Please note that I do not present any of the following as definitive,nor do I claim not to have made errors. Remember as well that what follows in the next post is based solely on my read of the synopsis. I started the process of going through the full chapter and will post as far as I got in the post after that.
(Edit: this is my analysis of the synopsis, looks like some of the formatting got screwed up in the conversion and there are spaces missing for some reason in many quotes.)

Please note that this is the only chapter of the book that I’ve read – though I probably will go through the rest of it at some point as it looks to be an interesting read and I like his basic approach ( accounting for the times).

Note that this book was written in 1886 and the author’s use of language is formal and not always easy to decipher. I’m going to lay things out as I interpret what he writes, though I expect that there may be different interpretations possible to certain passages. There are some bits where I really wasn’t certain what he was saying. I’m not holding out any of the following as definitive, but rather as an opening for discussion. Especially that I’m basically commenting as I go rather than giving a dissertation-like level of study to this text.

The chapter is titled “General Criticism of the Evidence for Spontaneous Telepathy”. In it he reviews problems with past research in this area and describes some of the methodology that he is using for this experiment along with a summary of his overall conclusion of the study.

(Note the headings I provide below are my own. I provide section references (§ x) to the actual text throughout. I provide my own thoughts and questions I ask myself in brackets as well. Note that most of the comments in brackets were put in as I read though I have gone back over it and added a few more.

The difficulty with studying spontaneous instances of telepathy

The author begins by noting the difficulty with studying possible spontaneous instances of telepathy: mainly that the person isn’t going to be aware of it coming in advance, making for difficult scientific study. He notes (§ 1.):

The methodofinquirywillnowhavetobethehistoricalmethod, andwillinvolvedifficultquestionsastothejudgmentofhuman testimony,andacomplexestimateofprobabilities.

He notes some of the difficulties with the evidence are:

· There are many people in the world.

· Mal-observation is easy and common.

· Exaggeration is easy and common.

(He’s alluding here to the law of large numbers and the falliability of human observation and tendency to exaggerate. I agree. One could add basic mis-remembering and confabulation here too – he refers to these below.)

Past Studies:

He recognizes that these are particularly problematic when it came to previous studies such as those evaluating the evidence in favour of witchcraft where:

· Direct evidence came only from the “uneducated class” (hey – his words, don’t blame me!)

· Those who studied it didn’t account for the possibility of self-deception on the part of the witnesses.

He notes that we now know that hypnotism, hysteria, and hysteron-epilepsy can account for many phenomena attributed to demonic possession. Note: this is not fraud, but genuine hallucination.

He notes that other more “bizarre and incredible marvels” had no direct, first hand, independent testimony.

The best cases he knows of in past studies could be explained as telepathic, but the evidence is not strong enough to support “definite conclusion.”

(The impression he gives is that previous work in this area is pretty fraught with risk of error.)

Present study:

He contrasts those past studies with the present study which he calls a “complete contrast” to those previous studies.

(I’ll have to take his word on this, I’m not familiar with the past studies)

The evidence in his study, he argues:

· Comes from mostly educated people, who were not predisposed to believe.

(I’m curious as to what exactly he means by “educated” and what he believes the significance is. He doesn’t elaborate much on that in this chapter. Presumably he describes this in more detail elsewhere in the book).

· The phenomena are not associated with prevalent beliefs or habits of thought.

(I’m curious about this as well as he doesn’t elaborate further here. He seems to be saying that the witnesses have no biases towards any particular view – although laudable to attempt, my view is that everyone has biases. That said, I get what he’s trying to do (assuming I’ve correctly interpreted it).

He notes despite this, we should not simply assume the evidence is trustworthy.

(He quite correctly notes that a person being educated and presumed without bias is not enough to rely on the account. When he writes “trustworthy” I believe he’s talked more about error than deliberate deception – which is my focus as well.)

He notes possible errors in the present study: (I consider this akin to risks of bias that Cochrane refers to.)

1. Errors of observation resulting in mistaken identity:

· stranger might be mistaken for a friend who turns out to have died at that time – and whose phantasm is asserted to have appeared

· he notes that this applies only to a small minority of the cases.

(I am interested to see how he evaluates this: error of observations can go beyond mistaken identity. Depends on the situation)

2. Error of inference:

· he says this is not a high risk of bias (his words are prominent danger)

· I think he’s saying here that the evidence they collected was what the percipient reports having seen or heard – not what the percipient inferred regarding what they saw or heard

(I can see this: he’s not documenting what the prescient infers about what they experienced, just what they experienced.)

3. Error of Narration:

· He considers this risk to be much higher, due to the tendency to make an account:

o edifying,

o graphic, or

o startling.

· He notes that the tendency towards the hyperbolic may be counterbalanced by the desire to be believed.

· He suggests that this has less influence in cases where the narrator is not personally responsible.

(He doesn’t explain how he reaches the conclusion as to when such hyperbole is more or less likely. I’m not sure if this is based on prior research or simply his opinion.)

4. Errors of memory

· This presents even more risk according to the author:

· He states that if the witness regards the facts in a particular speculative or emotional light, their memory will be apt to adapt to this view.

· Details will get introduced or dropped out so as to “aid the harmonious effect” (§6)

· He notes that even apart from special bias, the witness may fill in the pictures with wrong detail, or forget some aspects

(I agree with him on the high risk. I also agree that if emotion is involved that can influence – but as he notes, you don’t even need that to have wrong details accidentally incorporated into a memory, or other details forgotten. I wish he had gone into more of a discussion as to what factors let us have more confidence in the reliability of the memory, and what factors don’t. Also what they are based on. He discusses below the effects of time passing, but doesn’t discuss much about our capacity to accurate recall spontaneous events even minutes later. This has to be part of the analysis – though I don’t think it makes a difference in the results of this study, as per his conclusions below. It would be a factor going forward.)

He notes that we have to consider how these various sources of error may affect the evidence for a case of spontaneous telepathy.

He suggests four areas to examine:

(1) Aparticularstateoftheagent, e.g.,thecrisisofdeath.

· He attributes low risk or error here in that it will usually be clear what happened to him. (§8.)

(This is probably fair enough most of the time, will depend on the situation of course)

(2) Aparticularexperienceofthe percipient,e.g.,theimpressionofseeingtheagentbeforehim invisibleform

· Often have nothing but his own word

· but for what is required, his word is often sufficient.

· The author is making the important distinction (that I have made often and been derided for incidentally) between:

o the perception of the experience, and

o the correct interpretation of the experience.

· He notes that the interpretation could be erroneous, such as which hallucination.

· He writes: “Theriskofmisrepresentationissmallestifhisdescriptionof hisexperience,oradistinctcourseofactionduetohis experience,hasprecededhisknowledgeofwhathashappened totheagent.”

(I agree with him as to the difference between the perception and the interpretation. Should add onto this the error in memory problem: is: Is he remembering the experience correctly. Again, not crucial for the results of this study it seems but would impact future studies.)

(3) Thedateof(1).

· The author notes that when the description of the experience dates from a time subsequent to his knowledge of what has happened to the agent, there is the possibility that this knowledge may have made the experience seem more striking and distinctive than it really was. (§9.)

· He notes they did not detect “definite” instances of this sort of inaccuracy:

(Will have to see what he means by this. I’m not sure if this is indicating that he is looking for evidence of these errors rather than evaluating the risk of these errors as the Cochrane research suggests is the more sound approach.)

· He writes: “Norwouldthefact(oftenexpresslystatedbythe witness)thattheexperiencedidnotatthetimeofits occurrencesuggesttheagent,byanymeansdestroy—thoughit wouldofcourseweaken—thepresumptionthatitwastelepathic”

(Not quite sure what he’s getting at: Is he referring to times where the person reports the general experience before learning of the agent but doesn’t make the association with the agent until after?)

· His study has adopted an arbitrary 12 hour difference between the experience of the agent and the percipient (and notes that most occur much closer in time) –

· He will reject any case where the percipient’s experience preceded some grave event occurring to the agent, if at the time of the percipient’s experience the state of the agent was normal:

(seems to be saying not looking at pre-cognition?)

(4) Thedateof(2)

· The author attributes the biggest risk of misstatement to the matter of dates: That after the fact the instinct to simplify and be dramatic can lead to wrongly assuming the dates matched.

(while I agree there is risk here, is it bigger than re: the details?)

· He notes that often the date of the event re: the agent is published, and is often close enough to the percipient’s experience for the date to be safely recalled.

(again, not clear upon what he is basing this. Is it just common sense or the results of research?)

· Notes that the more time that passes the greater the risk of assuming the experience fell on the critical day. Certainty increases with time not diminishes.

· If the coincidence was then and there noted (does he mean documented or simply pointed out.) and if attention to others was called to it, may be possible to present strong enough case for its reality, even after lapse of considerable time.

He suggests that these evidential conditions can be put on a graduated scale: (§14)

· Second hand evidence excluded with the exception of when witness well acquainted with the original witness

· in “transmitted evidence” (not sure what this refers to – probably clear in later chapters) risk of error very high (suggests he is looking at risk rather than actually spotting evidence)

o frequent error is the shortening of the chain of transmission: 2nd or 3rd hand info being represented as first-hand – alleged coincidence suspiciously exact

· Study attempts to separate cases according to evidential value and focusing on cases with strongest prima facie probability that the essential facts are correctly stated.

· Even when facts correctly reported, strength vis-à-vis telepathy differ according to class:

o purely emotional impressions and dreams are very weak.

· doesn’t go into the other categories here (§16)

· Also depends on the mental qualities and training of the witnesses:

o doesn’t say what these are or how it affects things

(Given that he says that previous studies hadn’t looked at these things, it would have been interesting if part of this study was to document how the various risks that he identifies affects the reports - that is, if this study’s purpose was more to figure out what factors affect reports and how. as it stands, it is difficult to determine, based on what he’s writing here, upon what he is basing his conclusions here.)

· Each case evaluated on its own merits, by reference to variety of points.

· Number of coincidences:

o considers this all-important

§ few might be accidental

§ impossible to apply that hypothesis throughout

§ can’t just sweep evidence under the rug by mere general appeal to untrustworthiness of human testimony

(He’s essentially correct in his approach in terms of evaluating risk of bias vs. just blindly calling all human testimony untrustworthy. He’s gone into a number of factors related to how we should evaluate reliability though there is much more that could be said here. That said, for the time, he’s done a pretty good job of identifying areas of concern.)

§ If it is to be explained away, must be met in detail

(This line is potentially problematic but he doesn’t make the error I feared here in terms of his conclusions – I suspect this is a line that many people since have misinterpreted- reading into what he wrote something that he didn’t mean: ie: it appears to suggest that you have to identify the alternate cause to rule out telepathy, but I don’t think, given his conclusions below, that he really does mean that.)

§ “andthisnecessitatesthe confrontingofthesinglecause,telepathy,(whoseàpriori improbabilityisfullyadmitted,)withamultitudeofcauses, moreorlessimprobable,andincumulationincredible” (§17)

(He doesn’t elaborate here on the number of coincidences part, I assume there is more elsewhere so I can’t comment on this now.)

§ “§18.Withalltheirdifferences,thecasesrecordedbear strongsignsofbelongingtoatruenaturalgroup;andtheir harmony,alikeinwhattheydoandinwhattheydonotpresent, isveryunlikelytobetheaccidentalresultofamultitudeof disconnectedmistakes”

(this is a conclusion – will have to see how he gets there- also have to watch out for whether this is post-hoc exploratory grouping – Is he grouping these cases according to the categories he’s set out above, or are these post-hoc categories. For that matter, were those categories he laid out above decided before the study or after? As I said above, I hope part of this study documents how the factors he related above result in different types of accounts.)

Author’s Conclusions on the evidentiary value of the study

§ The author gives a preview of his conclusions.

§19.Butthoughsomemayregardthecumulativeargument hereputforwardforspontaneoustelepathyasamountingtoa proof,theproofisnotbyanymeansofanéclatantsort:muchoftheevidencefallsfarshortoftheidealstandard.Still,enough hasperhapsbeendonetojustifyourundertaking,andto broadenthebasisoffutureinquiry

§ The author therefore concludes:

o much of the evidence doesn’t meet the highest quality standards

o the evidence provided is strong enough, however, to indicate that further – higher quality – studies be done.

(This is the same kind of conclusions we see all over the place in parapsychology – there is broad agreement (including myself) that the higher risk of bias studies present the justification for pushing forward with lower risk of bias cases.

The fact the author acknowledges that most of the evidence does not reach the low risk of error status does not mean that his research is “flawed” or “sloppy”. As he stated earlier, this area of research is very difficult to capture in low risk of error ways.

I agree with the author that the value of the study is that it justifies further studies.

The author, sees promise in future studies, but does not promote this study as being sufficient in and of itself. Rather it is suggestive and warrants further research. The author does not consider it strong evidence – which puts the author at odds with some forum comments on this study which seem to consider it to be strong evidence. The author is not trying to make this study out to be more than it is, neither should readers.

§ As the author writes: this study is “atleastaninstallmentof whatisrequired.” (§20)

(the question then begs, since 1886 what evidence has been presented that improves on this. One poster in the forum suggested that this study remains to this day the best of the field on this topic. So we still await the higher quality studies that the author suggests should follow.)

Arouet’s General Conclusion on Chapter IV

Overall, especially given when it was written, the author has identified a number of areas that lead to a risk of bias. It is curious that when skeptics on this forum raise similar issues, using similar words, they are criticized for it.

The study of these biases has advanced since that time, and some ideas that he raises have become more fleshed out over time, but presuming his [Edit: I cut off there, presumably because I at that point realised that I had just wasted a huge amount of time analysing a synopsis!]
[Edit: The following is as far as I got in my analysis of the main chapter. Note,I tried to put myself in the frame of mind as if I was reading it for the first time. I wanted my preconceptions based on the synopsis to bias me as little as possible.]

· Prior chapters dealt with deliberate thought transference – deliberate desire to exert telepathic influence.

· Rest of the book deals with cases where no such desire or idea existed. The effect on the percipient, though connected with the state of the agent, was not an intended effect.

· represents marked change in the character of the evidence.

· Conclusions drawn from records of persons who were unaware at the time that would be used as evidence for telepathy or anything else.

· Facts known only through their report, have to determine whether report is distorted.

· Use the historical method. “Success will depend upontheexerciseofawiderandlessspecialisedformof commonsensethanwasrequiredintheexperimentalwork.[/quote]

(So the question will be: what effect does that have on the conclusions.)

· With experiments, only concern to be guarded against was possibility of conscious or unconscious physical signs.

(haven’t read those chapters but we know from modern research that there may be more things to worry about, depends on the experiment, so won’t offer an opinion now.)

· Possible sources of error:

o questions of character.

o General behavior of human beings in various circs.

o Unconscious workings of the human mind.

o Different sort of logic, involving often complex estimate of probabilities.

Previous false beliefs had evidence: (§2)

· notes that all sorts of false beliefs have previously been able to muster considerable amount of evidence in their support

· much not consciously fraudulent.

· “within certain limits a diligent collector will be able to obtain evidence for pretty well anything that he chooses.” short of some obviously ridiculous claims.

· “thefundofpossibilitiesinthewayofmal observation,misinterpretation,andexaggerationoffactsisstill practicallyinexhaustible”

· though true in general terms, “Ithinkthatitcanbeshownnot seriouslytoinvalidatetheevidencewhichisherereliedonas proofoftherealityofspontaneoustelepathy.”

(The question may not be does it invalidate the evidence, but is the evidence enough. Let’s see where he goes with this.)

Comparison to witchcraft:

· excludes much witch-evidence:

o confessions based on torture, terror, etc.

o irrelevant cases.

o evidence came from uneducated clases

o acceptance of evidence by better educated due to ignorance of the times

o they presumed that either the facts happened as alleged or the witness must be practicing deliberate fraud

(still see comments like that on this forum today!)

o since most cases no evidence of fraud – people were sincere – had to believe

· now have different methods:

o know that subjective hallucinations may be convincing, may seem real

o epileptics describing discussions with the devil – with precision, absolute belief.

o know now there is a condition, capable often of being induced in uneducated and simple persons with extreme ease, in which any idea that is suggested may at once take sensory form, and be projected as an actual hallunication.

(not sure about this last one, in terms of educated – seems to think educated are immune. He refers to hysterical girls believing they are possessed.)

· notes most reports not first hand

· uneducated minds:

o thatthere isacharacteristicofuneducatedmindswhichisonly exceptionallyobservedineducatedadults—thetendencyto confoundmentalimages,pureandsimple,withmattersoffact.”

(Don’t know how he comes to this conclusion. We have research today that doesn’t distinguish much between educated and uneducated. This suggests a risk of bias in his thinking: overvaluing educated opinion. Will see if he provides evidence for his assertion)

· He talks about the research into hypnotism.

(not sure, but I think that research has come a long way. Not sure how accurate the research he is relying on here is.)

· refers to witchcraft coming out of favour as skepticsm towards the supernatural advanced – but not because witchcraft was disproved

· Notes that he’s not going to revisit the older stuff, have difficulty enough testing the accuracy of contemporary evidence, not going to rest part of case on the records of a by-gone age.

(sounds familiar?)

· Old evidence never rested on:

o first-hand testimony

o educated witnesses

o intelligent persons

· excuses the intelligent people of those days because they lived at a time when science of psychology in its infancy. Necessary means of correction not within their reach.

(sound familiar?)

· people who were in direct sense witnesses were inclined to such beliefs to begin with, brought up in them, accepted them as matter of course

· no record of someone who denied their reality and then became convinced

(may be true, but not relevant. Ad hom argument. The fact that someone didn’t believe but then believed does not give us much probative value. The fact that he believes so is fallacious and worrisome.)

The present study methodology: §3

· Author contrasts the present study with past studies:

o Large number of first-hand witnesses are educated and intelligent, sobriety of judgment never been called into question

(I guess better than if they were known liars and idiots, but as I wrote above, I don’t think he’s justified why this should be relevant. He hasn’t explained what he bases it on. We have more recent studies which demonstrate intelligent, educated people are just as subject to wrong beliefs.)

o For the most part, not been inclined to admit the reality of the phenomena prior to themselves encountering it

(All this may be evidence of is the fact that the author is incorrect to presume that educated, intelligent people who have experiences are any less likely to be influenced by the same things that influence less intelligent and educated people who have experiences.)

o Seems to say that even some of these guys don’t regard the experiences as anything special or that there is a particular phenomena going on.

o Facts are no related to any particular form of faith- not facts in a belief of which any one is specially brought up.

(Good, but probably not much probative value to this in any event. Also curious to know how he determines this. If he just asked them are the biased in favour of this or that they might answer in the negative even if they are biased. They may not be aware of their biases)

o notes that the phenomena so sporadic, no clear link to common religious beliefs – seemed new to the subjects.

(Not clear how he is ascertaining all of this: perhaps he will expand later or in other parts of the book)

o He notes that even if ignorance, credulity and a predisposition to believe in a particular order of marvels are not the only sources of unconscious falsification in human testimony, still doesn’t mean bona-fide.

(appears that he’s not placing too much value on the above items in any event, so the risk of bias from those may not be that bad)

o he acknowledges other risks of bias:

Other Risks of Error: §4

1. Errors of Observation:

· Related to objective phenomena.

· Faulty observation: interprets real things in a way that does not correspond with reality.

· Whenever we can suppose it to have been possible, we are bound to exclude the case from our evidence.

· Provides examples of mistaken identity.

(He seems to correctly approach this issue from a risk of bias perspective: even if don’t know for sure)

· He presents the possibility of an alternative explanation: “Thedisappearancehereseemstohavebeenstrangely sudden;butwehavenotbeenabletocrossexaminethe witness;andoneknowsthatpeopleoffleshandblooddo sometimesgetoutofsightroundcornersinoddways.”

· He notes an example with possible expectant state of mind – favourable to such mistakes.

· Factors he considers:

o figure seen been out of doors

o at some distance

o very circumstances in which we know that spurious recognitions often take place

o nothing surprising in an occasional coincidence of this sort described.

(Fair analysis)

· may hear a call, and mistake voice for a friend and in due course news of death comes

· Notes that these cases only represent small fraction of the cases they collectied

· Large majority of cases he describes as “subjective phenomena” independent of any real objects in the environments, and mistakes are due to peculiar affection of the percipient’s own mind.

· He notes that the “Itisenoughforthepresenttonotethatthewitnesswhowould beanunsafeauthorityifhesaid“Seaserpentsexist,”maybea safeauthorityifhesays,“Isawwhatappearedtobeasea serpent”;andthisamountofassertionisallthatthetelepathic evidenceinvolves.Alltheaccuracyofobservationrequiredof thewitnesshastodowithwhatheseemedtohimselftosee,or tohear,ortofeel.”

2. Errors in inference:

· Says this is not a serious danger in this study.

· Not evaluating the truth of the inference, but just the fact that the person had the subjective impression of seeing his relative.

3. Errors in Narration

· More concerned with errors in narration and memory.

· Ask what are the conscious or unconscious motives which may cause person who belong to the educated class, and who have character of truthfulness, to narrate experiences of telepathic impressions in a manner that is not strictly accurate?

(Let’s see where he goes with this. I’m not sure motives are that important, nor honesty. Or rather, the more important question is capacity.)

· Desire to make the account edifying:

o enthusiasm for unusual occurance, can convince people to their view, can shape and colour account of it

o unconsciously adorn the tale

o specially necessary to bear this in mind when some particular type of story is connected with a particular religious sect

(true, but also in almost any other circ. too – question is how to control for it, will he address this?)

o He says then that telepathy does not specially lend itself to the support of definite articles of faith.

o Says that no one looking at their study likely to maintain that the errors of narration are due to propandist zeal

(But is he suggesting that the concern isn’t there in absence of propangandist zeal?)

· only mentioning it for sake of completeness

(it does seem that he only thinks it’s a problem for zealots.)

· Tendency to make account graphic and picturesque:

o say far more frequent

(this seems to confirm that he doesn’t think the edifying aspect applies in many other cases)

o desire to interes, desire to put oneself en evidence – to feed self-esteem through attention

o Make the story as good as possible.

o even with people who profess no bias in favour of the phenomenon, will still be there.

o the reader must decide for himself how far the evidence to be here presented bears the stamps of the wonder-mongerer

(Ok, but note that he is not suggesting attempts to control for this. How should the reader come to this conclusion? on what basis?)

o “thedangeristhereforegreaterinthe caseofastorywhichistoldoffhandandvivâvoceforthesake ofimmediateeffect,thaninthecaseofevidencewhichisfirst writtendownatleisure,andhasthentoundergotheordealofa carefulanddetailedscrutiny

(true – even better if written down right away)

o risk of being disbelieved, sense of accuracy becomes a sense of security

(ok, but based on what?? I get that he’s saying that some people will go out of their way not to try to embellish, because they don’t want to be seen to be crazy, but this doesn’t address whether the recall is correct)

o “Andwiththeclassfromwhomourevidenceischieflydrawn, thisinfluenceseemsnotlesslikelytobeoperativethanthe desiretosaysomethingstartling”

(He places way too much trust on this educated class. He still hasn’t addressed capacity – hopefully he will)

o says listeners retelling the tale more likely to make it sound embellished.

o first hand testimony more reliable

(reliance on first hand accounts good, but does it make the accounts reliable, or just more reliable than second hand accounts?)

4. Error in Memory (§6.)

· few realise the extent to which this risk exists

· “Foronewhoisinnocentofanydesireto impresshisauditorinanyparticularway,andwhosimply desirestotellthetruth,itisnoteasytorealisethathemaybe anuntrustworthywitnessaboutmattersconcerninghimself.”

(excellent! let’s see how he deals with this:)

· suggests will be dealt with more in the sequel

· describes roughly confirmation bias by those who believe in supernatural

· “Ofthecasestobeherepresented, however,onlyaverysmallproportionbetrayanyideaonthe partofthewitnessthatwhatherecountshasanyspecial religiousorphilosophicalsignificance.Ourinformantshave hadnomotivetoconcealfromustheirrealviewofthefacts; andiftheynarrateanincidentassimplystrangeor{i130} unaccountable,wehavenorighttoassumetheirevidenceto havebeencolouredbyanemotionalsensethatmaterialismhad beenrefutedintheirperson,orthatsupernatural communicationshadbeenpermittedtothem”

(Ok, but still really focusing on a narrow branch of highly motivated people – why assume this doesn’t apply to others. He’s not really talking about controlling for this, he’s just saying that he doesn’t think it applies in most of these cases. That’s fine if we’re just trying to assess whether a tale was accounted, but not if we’re trying to get to the bottom of it.)

· apart from emotional or speculative bias, there is a general tendency to make any picture of facts definite.

· memories often vague

· “Thesame applies,ofcourse,toeventsatwhichwelookbackthroughany considerableintervaloftime.”

(getting more to the point now- but then he moves on, hopefully he suggests what to do about this)

· lastly: tendency to simplify burden of memory

o can alter the character of the evidence

o details can change

o he says, thought that this is “by no means always what happens.” must not say that all men are exaggerators –

(that’s the end of his summary of main sources of error).

o Next step “fixwithprecisionwhattheactualopportunitiesfor perversionare”

Elements of typical telepathic phenomenon: §7

o [This is where I stopped)
Note to those reading this thread:

It has been many months since Arouet and I made a gentleman's agreement that we would both discuss a single chapter of Phantasms and I would inform myself of a particular paper that I had downloaded now almost half a year ago to review.

Arouet not just once but twice agreed to conduct this discussion. The first time we agreed I waited about a month and never received a single response from him. Then he finally admitted he had not got around to reading the chapter and was to busy.

A few months ago, we again made the exact same agreement to discuss this single chapter of Phantasms which Arouet had admitted he had failed to follow through on the first time we had agreed. I even set up an independent thread for us to conduct our discussion - which Arouet conveniently does not use here.

This is the first time I have been informed in the months intervening that Arouet even attempted to look at the chapter. Arouet never responded on the forum thread I created originally for the discussion. And he certainly has never informed me in these months of silence that he was engaged in actually reading the chapter he had promised to read. And apparently from what I can glean from his half-assed analysis above he never really did read the chapter in full- and as far as I am aware, has not once responded during these few months to my posts here on this forum.

So once again, you have a level of unusual disingenuity being engaged in by Arouet - in an attempt to paint a picture that is not genuine. I have the distinct feeling that after being pointed out to him a number of times that he had once again avoided following through on an agreement he made - he has made a half-assed attempt to demonstrate he read the chapter, with a half-assed analysis of that chapter - which he will refuse to engage in any kind of legitimate discussion as he originally agreed i.e.

"Note, I am now no longer interested in having a discussion about this with Bertha. Despite several attempts to reach out, Bertha has consistently persisted in making nasty and derogatory posts about me, and misrepresenting what I wrote."

In truth, there has been no discussion at all with Arouet in the last few months. I suspect I have been on his ignore list. Arouet never made one attempt (or indication) to reach out and continue the discussion we agreed upon (until now, and now he refuses to conducted the discussion as agreed upon). This is just a blatant dishonesty, piled on the lack of integrity or willingness to carry out the discussion he agreed to.

The only misrepresentation taking place here is the Skeptic Arouet's misrepresentation here of acting like he wasn't avoiding the discussion or that he's been dutifully attempting to carry out the discussion we originally agreed upon.

Arouet demands respect but gives little in return. This I have also seen with the Skeptic's on rationalWiki and Wikipedia and on these forums. They are engaged in a level of censorship, character smearing and deliberate misinformation and defamation in order to defend their Skeptical Atheist positions.

Once again, this kind of behavior is clearly evident in the way I am being characterized by Arouet right now, and being blamed for his many months of unwillingness to fulfill an agreement he had made a long time ago. Note that it is not me who broke the agreement (twice), it was Arouet, It was not me who has deliberately ignored the thread I posted for the discussion, it was Arouet. It is not me who claims I am knowledgeable on psi or nde research but when pressed, demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge or experience with the scientific research, it is Arouet.

Real skepticism is not denial - it is about being knowledgeable and critical of what you claim you are skeptical of. Nor is real skepticism engaging in character smearing other individuals or projecting your own lack of integrity upon them - like Arouet has engaged in here.

My Best,
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Thanks for doing this Arouet.

They do a good job of identifying the types of errors and biases which interfere with an accurate accounting of events. While they mention ways to reduce these errors and biases, they tend not to establish that these methods actually reduce error or bias (or to what extent). Too much dependence is placed upon education.

You find the same attitude towards the effect of education amongst physicians during that time period. There was a sense that education inoculated you against biases and errors of inference, so that medicine based upon careful observation and educated guesses at the expected outcome in the absence of the care, was valid. The problem is that we have discovered since (now that randomized controlled trials measure the expected outcome rather than guess at it) that we were woefully mistaken in that assumption. At the time Phantasms was written, scientists were not really aware of this. They talk about relative improvements in reliability. But what we are really interested in is whether the accounts can ever be improved enough to reach a useful level of reliability - they are at least more likely to be true than false.