SRI Experiments with Uri Geller as video evidence

#1
The SRI tests are referenced frequently enough as solid evidence of paranormal ability that I wanted to create a thread to discuss it. This is an offshoot from a recent thread on the old Skeptiko forum, so I thought I'd give it a shot on the new forum and see how goes.

The video can be seen its entirety here.

Alex himself has voiced his opinion on the strength of the video in the past:
they are real and the researchers and camera people back them up... we have no good reason to doubt there [sic] authenticity... moreover, these are very qualified researchers performing very simple tests... I think the SRI vids are the real thing.
I enjoy following through on leads that may be evidence for particularly clear and strong paranormal effects, and the idea that this video was conducted under strict protocols designed by Targ and Puthoff was interesting enough to explore. I’ve taken a good look at the video, compared it against the corresponding research, and in my opinion the videos should not be considered strong evidence of the paranormal. In fact the SRI videos may have ultimately been damaging to Targ’s and Puthoff’s research and/or reputation.

As far as I can tell, the video only exists in the edited form linked above. I contacted SRI, Targ, Puthoff, Zev Pressman, and the CIA to get a better handle of how and when it was filmed, and to find out if there was a more comprehensive set of videos showing the complete unedited demonstrations. SRI responded saying there were no other videos, and nothing had been properly archived. This is disappointing and somewhat baffling. Targ, Puthoff and Pressman did not respond. At the CIA I spoke with several people, all of whom explained that to their knowledge nothing existed.

The main problem is trying to figure out exactly what the video actually is. It does not appear to correlate in meaningful ways to Targ’s and Puthoff’s research, and if it is supposed to correlate then it sheds a bad light on their methodology.

The film is described in the video as follows:
this film describes the five week investigation conducted at Stanford Research Institute with Uri Geller, a young Israeli. The film portrays experiments that we performed with him just as they were carried out. Each scene has been taken from film footage made during actual experiments. Nothing has been restaged or specially created.
As Alex mentioned Puthoff also has commented on the films authenticity. From D. Scott Rogo:
Not one millimetre of that film was a re-enactment' he told me. He also claimed that he had even procured an affidavit from Pressman certifying that the footage was filmed by him during the actual SRI tests. Dr Puthoff supplied me with this affidavit and urged me to get in touch with MrPressman, which is exactly what I did.
This insistence on the films authenticity is in fact the problem, because what the video shows is a complete lack of the methodologies and protocols described in the SRI research.

There are many many examples of this, and here is one. The research describes testing conditions as:
shielded room, so that from that time forward Geller was at all times visually, acoustically, and electrically shielded from personnel and material at the target location. Only following Geller's isolation from the experimenters was a target chosen and drawn, a procedure designed to eliminate pre-experiment cueing
In the corresponding section in the video Geller can be seen sitting in a room that is clearly not the shielded room described (it has windows with blinds for example), with multiple experimenters in the same room as he draws pictures and confirms them right on the spot.

It's similar with the other demonstrations, such as Geller sitting on the floor choosing metal containers with liquids while the experimenters casually sit in the same room joking around. If these videos are legitimately footage of the actual experiments, as Puthoff and others attest, then it raises serious doubts about the soundness of any of it.

A careful comparison of the published research and video shows these contradictions pretty much across the board, and opens up all kinds of possibilities for leakage. For example in this clip from 6:20 – 9:10 Geller demonstrates his ability to find the ball bearing hidden in a metal container. The most blatant potential leak here is the camera man himself, who is present for both the initial placement of the bearing by an assistant and the process of Geller locating it; it’s clear that he is present because he is moving the camera on its tripod. Targ is also in the room with Geller congratulating him, which is odd. I think it's important not to blow these off as inconsequential, unless one is willing to casually dismiss the importance of strict experimental protocol. Isn't that what all this is resting on anyways?

Here are the possible conclusions that make the most sense, none of which seem good for the research or researchers.

1. It is possible that Geller is demonstrating actual abilities. But you must also accept that Targ and Puthoff were not following any kind of clear protocol, and worse, breaking the protocols as described in the research. This raises serious doubts about soundness of the experiments.

2. The videos were setup or staged to gain traction for the research or for Geller. This is certainly possible and even understandable, but that would make everyone who swears by them including the researchers deceitful.

3. Geller, as a professional illusionist, manipulated the events of the SRI research to his own ends, leaving Targ and Puthoff who were honest in their efforts to make sense of what was going on.

For the reasons above I don’t consider the video strong evidence of the paranormal, and it seems more possible to me that the researchers were duped. I would like to hear others opinions/perspectives on it, as I'm sure there are possibilities that I haven’t considered. Please take a good look at the video and compare it to the correlating research papers so we can keep this discussion on point. And also, let's please keep this topic Randi-free!
 
#2
The main problem is trying to figure out exactly what the video actually is. It does not appear to correlate in meaningful ways to Targ’s and Puthoff’s research, and if it is supposed to correlate then it sheds a bad light on their methodology.

...

This insistence on the films authenticity is in fact the problem, because what the video shows is a complete lack of the methodologies and protocols described in the SRI research.
According to Ray Hyman, the mind-reading, etc. was done during breaks from the formal spoon-bending sessions, and was done under casual conditions.

Pat
 
#3
According to Ray Hyman, the mind-reading, etc. was done during breaks from the formal spoon-bending sessions, and was done under casual conditions.

Pat
Hi Pat. Not sure what you mean here, and I definitely don't think Hyman was right if he said that. Are you familiar with the video I posted and the corresponding research? The video begins with this:
this film describes the five week investigation conducted at Stanford Research Institute with Uri Geller, a young Israeli. The film portrays experiments that we performed with him just as they were carried out. Each scene has been taken from film footage made during actual experiments. Nothing has been restaged or specially created.
What's the formal spoon bending research?
 
#4
Hi Pat. Not sure what you mean here, and I definitely don't think Hyman was right if he said that. Are you familiar with the video I posted and the corresponding research? The video begins with this:


What's the formal spoon bending research?
I've seen the video, but not the research.

I'm working from memory here (uh-oh :)), but as I recall Hyman said there were strict controls in place for the formal testing. I thought he said Geller was being tested for spoon-bending abilities, or maybe just metal-bending in general, but I may have that wrong. What was being tested for in the published research?

Anyway, Hyman said that the testing sessions were stressful and that they would periodically take breaks to relieve the tension. During those breaks Geller would suggest other tests, which would be done informally, without controls, but were nonetheless recorded, and that's where the spectacular results occurred. He said the formal tests were unsuccessful.

I think I've found the video series I got that from, but it's like a 10-hour lecture series, so it will take a bit of time to track down the relevant part.

Pat
 
#5
I think I've found the video series I got that from, but it's like a 10-hour lecture series, so it will take a bit of time to track down the relevant part.
OK, I found it, and my memory is not as bad as I feared. What I wrote earlier essentially accurately reflects what Hyman said. Corrections/additions:

The formal tests were for metal-bending and other PK.
The paper was published in Nature.
The informal die in a box test, and maybe other informal tests, were included in the paper.
I don't think he mentioned filming of the informal tests, but he said something like "They took pictures."

Everyone can make up their own minds about how much credence to assign to the Hyman account, but it seems to me that if it's reasonably accurate, that could explain the discrepancy between the methodology reported in the paper and what is shown on the video.

Pat
 
#6
This insistence on the films authenticity is in fact the problem, because what the video shows is a complete lack of the methodologies and protocols described in the SRI research...And also, let's please keep this topic Randi-free!
this is over-top silliness... and we can't keep Randi out of it because he's the one who completely fabricated this myth of fakery. the admission of this is the starting point for me as it well-established and all other silliness flows from here.
 
F

Frank Matera

#7
I contacted SRI, Targ, Puthoff, Zev Pressman, and the CIA to get a better handle of how and when it was filmed, and to find out if there was a more comprehensive set of videos showing the complete unedited demonstrations. SRI responded saying there were no other videos, and nothing had been properly archived. This is disappointing and somewhat baffling. Targ, Puthoff and Pressman did not respond. At the CIA I spoke with several people, all of whom explained that to their knowledge nothing existed.
Whilst you were talking to the CIA did you also ask them if they could send you copies of video of the plane hitting the Pentagon on 9/11? I'm guessing you will get the same answer ;)

Not being funny here but it is an indication of how you can't trust everything people say when it comes to "We don't have anything". We are talking about a previously "Top Secret" program that the US Govt admitted they were running... the US Govt have shown they have a tendency to lie to people in the interest of "security".

Sure... the CIA said they stopped running PSI programs because of the lack of results... but one wonders why it would take them 20 years to come to that conclusion if there was "nothing to PSI". Raises more questions than it answers.

Here are the possible conclusions that make the most sense, none of which seem good for the research or researchers.

1. It is possible that Geller is demonstrating actual abilities. But you must also accept that Targ and Puthoff were not following any kind of clear protocol, and worse, breaking the protocols as described in the research. This raises serious doubts about soundness of the experiments.
Possible. As far as I am aware these tests were conducted by the CIA because they had an interest in the possibility of PSI being used as a method of spying. The aim was to prove if there was anything here that the CIA could use in war, rather than crossing every "T" and dotting ever "I" just so the study could be published in a Scientific journal... so this is entirely possible.

2. The videos were setup or staged to gain traction for the research or for Geller. This is certainly possible and even understandable, but that would make everyone who swears by them including the researchers deceitful.
I find this extremely unlikely, almost impossible. If they were being "deceitful" to gain money for the US Government research or for Geller, then the last thing they would be doing is publicising it. If they were found to have been deceitful they would all be looking at life prison sentences.

3. Geller, as a professional illusionist, manipulated the events of the SRI research to his own ends, leaving Targ and Puthoff who were honest in their efforts to make sense of what was going on.
As above. Would Geller be so stupid? We aren't talking about lying to a gullible bunch of housewives on morning television. It's the CIA he would have be swindling to try and get money.. and as I mention there are life prison sentences handed out for doing so.

For the reasons above I don’t consider the video strong evidence of the paranormal, and it seems more possible to me that the researchers were duped. I would like to hear others opinions/perspectives on it, as I'm sure there are possibilities that I haven’t considered. Please take a good look at the video and compare it to the correlating research papers so we can keep this discussion on point. And also, let's please keep this topic Randi-free!
Point 1, I can agree with is a possibility... but Point 2 and 3 I can't really swallow for the reasons I gave. "Occamz Razor" tells me the most likely explanation is not that Puthoff, Targ and/or Geller were trying to fraudulantly con the CIA into giving them money... and if they did they sure as hell wouldn't be publicising it.

So given that I don't believe Point 2 and Point 3 are credibile and that Manipulation could have occurred... I am not sure Point 1 carries much weight either as a result. You could make an argument to say "The video is irrelevant because video didn't show the protocol" but at the end of the day the video still shows something very interesting going on... and if it's not manipulation then there is only one other explanation. It shows a real phenomena.

I don't think you can disregard an entire video based on the same technique Randi used to ignore a certain Greek MDC claimaint... which is "Oh sorry you technically didn't fill out this form 5 years ago... so I am ignoring everything.... start again please".
 
#8
this is over-top silliness... and we can't keep Randi out of it because he's the one who completely fabricated this myth of fakery. the admission of this is the starting point for me as it well-established and all other silliness flows from here.
No, Alex. This has nothing to do with Randi. I have not read his book, and I don't care about his stance on this in the least. Your inability to accept that my post is the result of my own interest and pursuit of what the video is and what it purports is a bit bizarre. My points stand logically independent of Randi.

Would you like to actually take a crack at discussing any of the actual meat and bones of my post?
 
#9
Isn't it much easier to simply blame Randi, or Hyman, Wiseman or Shermer and then link every argument any other skeptic makes to them and declare the argument refuted? :D (ugh- want the good smileys back!!!)

I'm teasing you a bit Alex, but it has been your MO lately. The latest examples for me being my Lancet paper review where you saddled my arguments with some article that Shermer wrote, and before that you did the same with my research methodology thread which you saddled with some quotes from Hyman. The fact is it is quite rare than any of the skeptics on this site cite any of those guys - so bringing them into all these threads gets a bit frustrating.
 
#10
Isn't it much easier to simply blame Randi, or Hyman, Wiseman or Shermer and then link every argument any other skeptic makes to them and declare the argument refuted? :D (ugh- want the good smileys back!!!)

I'm teasing you a bit Alex, but it has been your MO lately. The latest examples for me being my Lancet paper review where you saddled my arguments with some article that Shermer wrote, and before that you did the same with my research methodology thread which you saddled with some quotes from Hyman. The fact is it is quite rare than any of the skeptics on this site cite any of those guys - so bringing them into all these threads gets a bit frustrating.
Your smiley face looks ill.
 
#11
Isn't it much easier to simply blame Randi, or Hyman, Wiseman or Shermer and then link every argument any other skeptic makes to them and declare the argument refuted? :D (ugh- want the good smileys back!!!)

I'm teasing you a bit Alex, but it has been your MO lately. The latest examples for me being my Lancet paper review where you saddled my arguments with some article that Shermer wrote, and before that you did the same with my research methodology thread which you saddled with some quotes from Hyman. The fact is it is quite rare than any of the skeptics on this site cite any of those guys - so bringing them into all these threads gets a bit frustrating.
It is possible that what Alex is suggesting is that the skeptical movement runs so deep, and has been so effective in its indoctrination, that it has in essence birthed a group of people that are incapable of reaching any conclusion outside their ingrained "materialist worldview". That's totally possible.

But I do think it's wrong to say my OP is self refuting simply due to a position of doubt.

Alex, I sincerely would like your feedback on the specific points I made.
 
#12
First, kudos to talking to people at the CIA about this. I wouldn’t even know where to start with that.

1. It is possible that Geller is demonstrating actual abilities. But you must also accept that Targ and Puthoff were not following any kind of clear protocol, and worse, breaking the protocols as described in the research. This raises serious doubts about soundness of the experiments.
Just to clarify, the video of Uri Geller reproducing drawings that are hidden in envelopes is not the same experiment as the one reported in Nature. The film was made in December 1972, and shows the preliminary experiments. The article in Nature in 1974 describes experiments that took place in August 1973. There are issues with the Geller work published in Nature, but this video isn’t one of them.

2. The videos were setup or staged to gain traction for the research or for Geller. This is certainly possible and even understandable, but that would make everyone who swears by them including the researchers deceitful.
The work did not convince the CIA. In 1973 they decided not to continue the work with SRI, although other government agencies stepped in to continue the funding.

3. Geller, as a professional illusionist, manipulated the events of the SRI research to his own ends, leaving Targ and Puthoff who were honest in their efforts to make sense of what was going on.
This is possible. Bear in mind that Geller was not told about the CIA funding the research, so as far as he was concerned, this was a handful of scientists in some uncontrolled experiments.
 
#13
No, Alex. This has nothing to do with Randi. I have not read his book, and I don't care about his stance on this in the least. Your inability to accept that my post is the result of my own interest and pursuit of what the video is and what it purports is a bit bizarre. My points stand logically independent of Randi.

Would you like to actually take a crack at discussing any of the actual meat and bones of my post?
are you aware of the Pressman/Randi thing. if not you need to research before you post further. if you have then you need to explain your position a little better. I'm not keen on letting folks drag threads into Skeptical silliness.
 
#15
Isn't it much easier to simply blame Randi, or Hyman, Wiseman or Shermer and then link every argument any other skeptic makes to them and declare the argument refuted? :D (ugh- want the good smileys back!!!)

I'm teasing you a bit Alex, but it has been your MO lately. The latest examples for me being my Lancet paper review where you saddled my arguments with some article that Shermer wrote, and before that you did the same with my research methodology thread which you saddled with some quotes from Hyman. The fact is it is quite rare than any of the skeptics on this site cite any of those guys - so bringing them into all these threads gets a bit frustrating.
I think what I just posted to Bishop applies to you as well Arouet... if you are note aware of the Pressman/Randi then you need to research before you post further. if you are then you need to explain your thinking. I'm not keen on letting folks drag threads into Skeptical silliness.

BTW no seems to like the new smiles very much, so pls suggest new ones (easy to find on google images)
 
#16
I think what I just posted to Bishop applies to you as well Arouet... if you are note aware of the Pressman/Randi then you need to research before you post further. if you are then you need to explain your thinking. I'm not keen on letting folks drag threads into Skeptical silliness.
My thinking about what? I was referring to my Lancet and Research Methodology threads, none of which have a thing to do with Randi.
 
#17
Ahhh - so nothing has changed then. Disappointing.
do you want to stay here Arouet?
My thinking about what? I was referring to my Lancet and Research Methodology threads, none of which have a thing to do with Randi.
then start a thread on that and point me to it... but this thread is about the SRI video... and Randi is right in the middle of it. so, either do a little research and move the conversation forward or move out of the way, but don't digress into skeptical silliness or I'm going to assume you have other motivations.
 
#19
Just to clarify, the video of Uri Geller reproducing drawings that are hidden in envelopes is not the same experiment as the one reported in Nature. The film was made in December 1972, and shows the preliminary experiments. The article in Nature in 1974 describes experiments that took place in August 1973. There are issues with the Geller work published in Nature, but this video isn’t one of them.
ersby I appreciate your clarification here.

Would you have any evidence or data that would suggest this video is not legitimate.

We all will have opinions, but I am interested in something more objective.
 
#20
The video definitely shows the same pictures as are reproduced in the CIA report, so it seems to be legit. If you go to this page...

http://www.urigellerinfo.com/

and scroll down to the bottom, there's a collection of pdfs from the Star Gate Archive relating to Uri Geller. The report I'm referring to is the one from February titled "Technical Memorandum"
 
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