Monday, January 22, 2007

Adrian Parker's Fabrication of Reality.
Part IV: Some Final Notes.

(Download printer friendly PDF of all postings on Adrian Parker's paper in A4 format or US letter format.)

In A Compendium of the Evidence for PSI, Swedish parapsychologist Adrian Parker (Parker & Brusewitz, 2003) claims that most of the studies listed "would still [today] be quoted as providing strong evidence" of paranormal phenomena. As I have shown, that is simply not true. Both the Targ & Puthoff research, and the Schmidt studies are so flawed that referring to them as evidence of any kind must be considered, at least, naive beyond comprehension. But Parker is not naive; there is something very explicit and intentional in the way he perverts what Wiseman has written on the Delmore tests. And the systematic belittling of the criticism raised against the studies listed is far from accidental. Parker is out on a mission and the end justifies the means, even if they include deception.

Consider the Maimonides dream experiments. Taylor (1981) points to the fact that significant results don't matter if they are derived from subjective judging, as was the case in the Maimonides studies. Others have noted violation against experimental protocol as well as lack of replication (Hines, 2003). But Parker claims that no fatal flaw has been discovered regarding these studies. It's that easy – just stick your head in the sand.

The same goes for the Brugman experiments during the early 1920's. Parker conveniently leaves out that the subject, van Dam, was a performing magician specializing in finding hidden objects using unconscious cues from others. There were also indications that the targets were selected non-randomly (Björkhem & Johnson, 1986). But Parker claims that no flaws have been discovered in the Brugman studies.

In the case of the research at Duke University, Parker claims that it "requires special comment since there are so many misconceptions surrounding it" (Parker & Brusewitz, 2003). But Parker does not account for any such misconceptions or the possible relevance they have for his compendium. It may be that he feels obligated to assign a certain amount of text to Rhine's research, due to the lab's historical significance. Or maybe it's just a way to create an illusion of credibility regarding the Rhine research. In any case, no study conducted at Duke University would be considered providing evidence of PSI by serious researchers. The time before 1940, which Parker claims was a time of "experimental achievement," was in fact a period of immense sloppiness. For instance, the first editions of Zener cards used had such bad printing that the figures could be seen on the back due to an embossing effect or through the cards due to poor paper quality (Hines, 2003).

Poor experiment control, lack of replication, self-deception and wishful thinking marked the entire lab, before and after 1940. The most evident flaw, however, is perhaps best noted by Rawcliffe:

"Yet it is on the question of safeguards against sensory cues that all ESP experimenters are shown to be at fault. None of them appear to have studied this problem seriously and their claims to have 'obviated' all sensory cues are often pathetic in its naivety and evident sincerity. Pathetic too is their much advertised confidence that only parapsychologists can fully appreciate the problems raised by the exclusion of sensory cues in the ESP experimental situation. It is perhaps significant that nearly all the competent work on this important question has been carried out by individuals who were not parapsychologists at all." (Rawcliffe, 1959)

As usual, Parker tries to make it appear as if Hansel is the only one who has put forward severe criticism. In reality, the Rhine research has been scrutinized and criticized by so many researchers that even Rhine himself probably would have admitted most of the flaws. But not Parker.

It is evident that A Compendium of the Evidence for PSI is not worth the paper it's written on. But, you may argue, it has been published in an alleged scientific journal – the European Journal of Parapsychology! There must be something to it if an editor has decided to publish it!? So, who was the editor who published Adrian Parker's paper? According to the journal website, the editor that year was... uh, blimey! It was Adrian Parker who published Adrian Parker!

Adrian Parker is an illustrative example of what I think is fundamentally wrong with parapsychology as a field of science. First of all, too many parapsychologists are reluctant to distance themselves from the obvious con-men and frauds – "high scoring subjects", in the past and in the present. There is no scientific benefit in promoting scam-artists, or in treating them with some kind of "scientific respect". They are conjurers and belong behind bars, not in research labs.

Secondly, too many parapsychologists are reluctant to distance themselves from their crackpot colleagues. For instance, Adrian Parker goes around thinking that the reason his compendium has not been refuted is because it is supported by his peers. Having corresponded with some of them, it seems that very few, if any, has even read the paper. Thus, a crap paper is unchallenged and the blame is on the competent researchers who ignores it, not the incompetent who wrote it – he can't help himself. In the end, parapsychology as a field of science suffers and the methodological researcher has to share the title of 'parapsychologist' with the crank.

If parapsychology is to have a future as a scientific discipline, this has to change. The Adrian Parkers of the field has to be recognized and challenged.

Openly and often.

Go back to Part III: The Schmidt experiments


Björkhem, Ö., & Johnson, M., (1986). Parapsykologi och övertro. Forum.

Hines, T., (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. New York: Prometheus.

Parker, A., & Brusewitz, G., (2003). A Compendium of the Evidence for Psi. European Journal of Parapsychology, 2003, 18, 33-51.

Rawcliffe, D. H., (1959). Illusions and Delusions of the Supernatural and the Occult. New York: Dover.

Taylor, J., (1981). Science and the Supernatural. An Investigation of Paranormal Phenomena. London: Granada

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