Captain Bob Thread

#81
I think the law of large numbers discussion is another area that reflects the prior assumptions of each side.

Most of us can agree that the law of large numbers is basically true - that is, that as low-probability events are given enough chances to occur, they eventually will.

Skeptics use this as justification for dismissal of unusual events. Entering the discussion assuming something is impossible, the skeptic can just invoke the law of large numbers and walk away, mentally noting that it was merely a strange coincidence. Because if the paranormal explanation is assumed impossible, then extremely low probability possible explanations become attractive.

Proponents then accuse the skeptic of refusing to address the details of the case. I think that is a fair critique, since the law of large numbers adds no new information to the discussion of any particular case. In other words, it cannot be used to say what happened - it only says that a mundane explanation is not impossible. And for the skeptic who assumes that all paranormal phenomena are impossible, not impossible is a good enough probability. When a coincidental explanation is proven possible, it's 'case closed'.

Interestingly, if you assume a non-zero probability of psi, the law of large numbers works in proponents favor. For example, If the probability of a person experiencing psi on a given day is 1 in a trillion, then the law of large numbers says that psi will occur to some people on some days. Of course, the low probability makes it hard to catch, hard to prove, and hard to study in a lab. It is only the skeptical assumption that psi does not exist (probability = zero) that leads to dismissal.

That being said, I don't see a clean way to apply any of this to the Captain Bob case, so I'm sorry if this is getting too far off topic.
 
#82
When big numbers are applied to a phenomenon, rather than an individual case, the claim ceases to make any sense. Skeptics ask for empathy, then offer logical non sequiturs as a basis for argument. Big numbers, is not a mathematical appeal.
 
#83
That being said, I don't see a clean way to apply any of this to the Captain Bob case, so I'm sorry if this is getting too far off topic.
The way to investigate cases like this which are virtually impossible to test in formal experiments is as I said in my prior post, a critical analysis of the fact as Stevenson did. And yes, the bias can work either way, so if you feel you can't objectively examine the evidence then you'd best not even bother.

Interestingly, if you assume a non-zero probability of psi, the law of large numbers works in proponents favor. For example, If the probability of a person experiencing psi on a given day is 1 in a trillion, then the law of large numbers says that psi will occur to some people on some days. Of course, the low probability makes it hard to catch, hard to prove, and hard to study in a lab. It is only the skeptical assumption that psi does not exist (probability = zero) that leads to dismissal.
The law of large numbers can account for the same person winning a million dollar lottery several times. If the exact same person wins the lottery a thousand times the only reasonable explanation is that something else is going on. People who associate with genuine psychics on a daily basis witness the equivalent of this.

Cheers,
Bill
 
#85
The way to investigate cases like this which are virtually impossible to test in formal experiments is as I said in my prior post, a critical analysis of the fact as Stevenson did. And yes, the bias can work either way, so if you feel you can't objectively examine the evidence then you'd best not even bother.

The law of large numbers can account for the same person winning a million dollar lottery several times. If the exact same person wins the lottery a thousand times the only reasonable explanation is that something else is going on. People who associate with genuine psychics on a daily basis witness the equivalent of this.
There's a disconnect for me here. On the one hand you and others have stated that these things happen every day and are common occurrences. But then on the other hand every case is nearly impossible to fact check. This Captain Bob case is a prime example, in which there have been several instances of incorrect reporting noted (getting a basic like the number of days wrong between death and the sighting redefines sloppiness), no security footage, and no way to check passenger manifests or anything else. Plus it was 20 years ago. Then you have people saying things that they seemingly made up or can't or won't back up in any meaningful way, such as Robertson's colleague Archie Roy saying "We've investigated, there are witnesses...". Witnesses? What witnesses? What is he talking about? There's no mention of any witnesses anywhere, beyond Bob himself, which you think would be a crucial piece of cross testimonial information with something like this.

I don't wish to belabor this, and I do understand that these cases can be tough to pin down. My own investigation was halted by legal barriers (passenger manifests are not available to the public) as well as simple consideration for those involved (it's way to sensitive an issue to actually contact the Macleod family). But where is the case, of the many thousands of common occurrences that happen every day, where the evidence is laid plainly before us? Why won't the fates align to give us that one epic case that defies obstacle?
 
#86
Why won't the fates align to give us that one epic case that defies obstacle?
Real life is not a laboratory, and percipients are not lab rats. The Captain Bob case is as close to authoritative as anyone is likely to find. A man with a reputation to lose, and a self confessed skeptic and atheist does not change his view of the world by mistaking the date he saw someone, or thinking a person looked like somebody else. Neither does he voluntarily suffer the scorn of a position he understands well, unless he believes his case to be watertight. That other people don't consider it so cut and dried is less of a problem, he infers, than not speaking out about who he saw.

Nobody says crisis apparitions happen every day, although they may do, somewhere. They are a phenomenon with a history and a set of characteristics, and they fit in with similar cases. Only today I was watching a documentary on the Vietnam war in which the sister of a man killed in action is visited by him in a vivid dream, and shows her the hole in his stomach, before she has any idea he is dead. Yesterday I was reading about the singer Eartha Kitt, whose daughter claimed spoke to people she couldn't see in her final days. On neither occasion was I looking for evidence of post mortem communication. These cases are common. How we perceive them is up to the individual.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#87
Why won't the fates align to give us that one epic case that defies obstacle?
This is the million dollar question, that I'm not sure anyone has a good answer to. When the Transcendental Experience saves you from your own mental states, and you have weird experiences all your life, you start to wonder how could it all be a hallucination. When you have a lot of them, on top of synchronicities, you wonder if you're really on to something...until the experiences drop and you're back to doubting again.

As such I shift between three explanations - the obvious one is nothing is happening.

The second is there's a Trickster at work, whether an entity or some property in the "game", that doesn't want humans to have 100% certainty about the Numinous. It seems to me there's a potential journey to be made, where one has to follow the "small voice from afar" if one is to have any hope of certainty. Maybe it isn't yet time for us as a species to become acquainted with the Numinous?

Finally, and perhaps the most clear headed, is the notion of invariants. High invariant processes/reactions don't change when brought into a lab, yet at the same time high invariant phenomenon is objective stuff that is amenable to reduction. Subjective phenomenon, basically stuff related in some way to consciousness, seems to be much more sensitive to emotional and in some cases spatio-temporal context. Kripal makes note of this in Embracing the Unexplained.
 
#88
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I think the law of large numbers discussion is another area that reflects the prior assumptions of each side.

Most of us can agree that the law of large numbers is basically true - that is, that as low-probability events are given enough chances to occur, they eventually will.

Skeptics use this as justification for dismissal of unusual events. Entering the discussion assuming something is impossible, the skeptic can just invoke the law of large numbers and walk away, mentally noting that it was merely a strange coincidence. Because if the paranormal explanation is assumed impossible, then extremely low probability possible explanations become attractive.

Proponents then accuse the skeptic of refusing to address the details of the case. I think that is a fair critique, since the law of large numbers adds no new information to the discussion of any particular case. In other words, it cannot be used to say what happened - it only says that a mundane explanation is not impossible. And for the skeptic who assumes that all paranormal phenomena are impossible, not impossible is a good enough probability. When a coincidental explanation is proven possible, it's 'case closed'.

Interestingly, if you assume a non-zero probability of psi, the law of large numbers works in proponents favor. For example, If the probability of a person experiencing psi on a given day is 1 in a trillion, then the law of large numbers says that psi will occur to some people on some days. Of course, the low probability makes it hard to catch, hard to prove, and hard to study in a lab. It is only the skeptical assumption that psi does not exist (probability = zero) that leads to dismissal.

.
I know it sounds like all skeptics say it's impossible and some do, but what some of us say is, it's not as probable as an answer that the most fitting answer requires it to be psi.
 
#89
If someone says to me "Steven Novella is a smart neurologist, and he's a skeptic materialist so it must be true", one can say that this is a rubbish argument without making any judgement whatsoever over the truthfulness of skeptical materialism.

If someone says "some unusual happenstances have a mundane explanation, but the sheer number of these events means something paranormal must be going on", one can hold that argument to scrutiny, without passing any judgement on whether or not psi exists.

One that note. I'm open to physicalism, and I'm open to the immaterial (although I have serious doubts that science can say much about it). However the game-playing "Trickster" explanation, as discussed by Sciborg, seems to be the worst sort of special pleading without any sort of evidence whatsoever.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#90
If someone says to me "Steven Novella is a smart neurologist, and he's a skeptic materialist so it must be true", one can say that this is a rubbish argument without making any judgement whatsoever over the truthfulness of skeptical materialism.

If someone says "some unusual happenstances have a mundane explanation, but the sheer number of these events means something paranormal must be going on", one can hold that argument to scrutiny, without passing any judgement on whether or not psi exists.

One that note. I'm open to physicalism, and I'm open to the immaterial (although I have serious doubts that science can say much about it). However the game-playing "Trickster" explanation, as discussed by Sciborg, seems to be the worst sort of special pleading without any sort of evidence whatsoever.
Oh, I agree the Trickster explanation is the absolutely worst one, especially at first glance. But people have brought it up again and again, to the point there's a book about it.

You hear about incredible abilities that dissolve once someone gets to the lab or tries to observe or reproduce phenomenon, or how even with good data something always seems to hurt replication. Even among acquaintances the unreliable nature of uncanny abilities comes up.

I lean more toward the invariant explanation, but the Trickster thing aligns well with a lot of people's experiences of the Numinous. For example the appearance of the Carnivale or Clown comes up a lot in DMT experiences, though sadly it's unclear now how to even try and find a control group that you could be 100% certain hasn't read something about this commonality on the 'net. Hancock mentioned early DMT trials with this commonality, but sadly he veers off into some stuff about soul hybrids instead of focusing on that data. Guy really frustrates me...
 
#91
You hear about incredible abilities that dissolve once someone gets to the lab or tries to observe or reproduce phenomenon, or how even with good data something always seems to hurt replication. Even among acquaintances the unreliable nature of uncanny abilities comes up.
What we have in the lab are poor to barely mediocre abilities, probably still showing a small but significant effect. But some people are not convinced that we’re not just seeing methodological noise. In real life, there are people who demonstrate genuine psychic phenomena. I have no doubt in any corner of my mind that will eventually be proven.

People who can do this in real life with reasonable reliably are relatively rare, and even they have difficulty with incorrectly interpreting interpretations they get. This is a major aspect of the phenomena that we need to accept and understand, and it should a surprise no one. It pisses me off to no end when skeptics say stupid shit like "if they have these powers surely they would be able to do X, Y or Z." They say this despite the fact that the rest of us have problems communicating our meanings with each other via written or verbal communication (look at this forum for evidence). Now we have a class of people that are dealing with very subtle subconscious perceptions and they expect them to be dead accurate and demonstrated on demand. It is that kind of judgment of the phenomena that I am most skeptical of with regard to an accurate assessment of what is occurring.

Cheers,
Bill
 
#92
What we have in the lab are poor to barely mediocre abilities, probably still showing a small but significant effect. But some people are not convinced that we’re not just seeing methodological noise. In real life, there are people who demonstrate genuine psychic phenomena. I have no doubt in any corner of my mind that will eventually be proven.

People who can do this in real life with reasonable reliably are relatively rare, and even they have difficulty with incorrectly interpreting interpretations they get. This is a major aspect of the phenomena that we need to accept and understand, and it should a surprise no one. It pisses me off to no end when skeptics say stupid shit like "if they have these powers surely they would be able to do X, Y or Z." They say this despite the fact that the rest of us have problems communicating our meanings with each other via written or verbal communication (look at this forum for evidence). Now we have a class of people that are dealing with very subtle subconscious perceptions and they expect them to be dead accurate and demonstrated on demand. It is that kind of judgment of the phenomena that I am most skeptical of with regard to an accurate assessment of what is occurring.

Cheers,
Bill
Not my quote Bill :)
 
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