171 thoughts on “Telepathic Boy?

  1. I guess I always wonder why we don’t all have that ability, if it exists in anyone. It seems like a useful skill that would be naturally selected.

    If they can ever show it under well-controlled conditions, that trumps everything. But we’ve been here before, and it seems that the better the controls the worse the performance.

    Glen Davidson

  2. Dr Powell claims to have already seen signs of telepathy in at least seven different people.

    Special abilities seem to be attracted to certain people.

    In all of history there are no well attested cases of ESP, and this guy as seen seven.

    I wonder if the kid can bend spoons.

  3. I suspect it would invoke a class of mechanism we don’t know / understand / be outside of materialism. What about that non-materialistic science you were so chuffed about. What does that think?

  4. Mung:
    I wish telepathic boy knew what people here were saying about him.

    Perhaps you could quote an example of what we are saying about him.

  5. I thought it was interesting that the researcher thought that autistic kids like Ramses were better candidates for telepathy because of the problems they have communicating with words. Why wouldn’t she think that autistic kids, especially the high-functioning ones like Ramses, might be better at picking up slight non-verbal cues from their mothers? For that matter, might she be more likely to use non-verbal cues, given his difficulty with speech?

    There really are a lot of questions that need answering before any conclusion of telepathy is made.

    Glen Davidson

  6. Richardthughes:
    I suspect it would invoke a class of mechanism we don’t know / understand / be outside of materialism. What about that non-materialistic science you were so chuffed about. What does that think?

    Are you talking to me? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  7. I don’t think one soul can read the thoughts of another soul.
    First autism, to me , is no mystery in these matters. its simply the triggering mechanism for the memory is not functioning normal. So they over remember and under remember. Learning math or languages is no big deal. its usually males also, I think, because of motivation overcome some other problems from the autism.
    The kid got two wrong. why? If can read mother etc then why error? Its possible the mother is giving clues that a child with great amility to memorize can work out. Possibly its just more calculus. A test should be without the mother around..
    Anyways some answer is there.
    They did not say if the child was having other problems except some comment about compensation for communication issues.
    I wish the best for the child and probably will be fine.

  8. There are some things I’d want to do to tweak the experimental conditions.

    First, I notice that in the example all the numbers are different. I’m not sure whether the experimenter asked for “random with replacement” or not, but in that example they were all different. If Ramses thought that the numbers were “random without replacement, or even (sensibly) cards from a single pack, then the neuroscientist’s probabilities are over generous. Reported savant skills include being able to figure out which cards are left when some have been eliminated (no, I’m not just basing that on Rain Man).

    Second, the last digit (which probably really was “eight”), was misheard by the experimenter, and she asked the mother for clarification. The mother knew the true answer, so did the experimenter.

    The fact that the experimenter thought simply using random.org made her experiment “scientific” doesn’t give me a lot of faith in her standards of experimental rigour.

    So first off, I would set it up so that the cards were clearly drawn “with replacement” in front of Ramses – this would mean you’d have greater power to “reject the null” on the same number of trials.

    If the effect was still there, we could probably conclude that Ramses really was “reading” his mother.

    Telepathy is one hypothesis, but there are others, and reading subtle and inadvertent body language is another. So the next step would be to find out whether he can do it when his mother is behind a screen.

    If not, it would suggest that the information transfer process is visual.

    I certainly don’t rule out “telepathy” – but we don’t have a mechanism for telepathy, or even clear evidence that it exists, so I’d want to rule out known mechanisms first.

    Once you’d done that, my first step in finding out the likely mechanisms for telepathy would be to use EEG, I think.

    Would be interesting.

    But rule out more straightforward (if nonetheless impressive) information transfer routes first.

  9. Rhine spent 20 years at Duke refining protocols. The better the protocols, the less ESP. I’m betting mom just has clever hands.

  10. William J. Murray: Perhaps. I just don’t understand what the big deal would be for “materialism” if telepathy was proven to occur.

    Whether it would be a “big deal” or not would depend on what the speaker means by “materialism”.

    Also on whether we could find a reproducible predictor of it.

  11. I should also point out that the video actually tells us nothing about the probabilities involved, as it does not say how many trials of 5 numbers were done.

    Sure, it’s just a journalistic report, but if the “neuroscientist” is a serious scientist, she shouldn’t be cooperating with this kind of invalid “demonstration” of a “scientific” experiment. Which in turn makes me doubt other things she says.

    It would have been perfectly possible to make this same video with proper (or at least much better) controls. But she didn’t.

  12. ‘Materialism’ (whatever that might be) would have no problem with telepathy, nor any other detectable phenomenon. I guess the relevance at this site is ‘skepticism’. I know the word ‘skeptic’ brings some people out in a rash when it appears not to be applied to ‘Darwinism’ (whatever that might be). Regardless, it is rational to be skeptical of telepathic claims.

  13. I have no more problem with telepathy than with my emails from Nigeria. They are real emails, and ESP is a real phenomenon.

  14. I just worked out (properly!) the chance of getting 3 or better correct, if Ramses knows that there are at most 4 of each number and assumes random without replacement (which he can probably see is not happening) and that all the cards are number cards, and it’s about .013, which is quite good (i.e. that is the probability under the null of guessing).

    But she was simply wrong to calculate the probability as (1/9)^5. Ramses is smart enough to make some practical assumptions about the distribution of numbers, given that the numbers are on cards. So again, her credibility drops for me on that error.

    Interestingly, I just looked again, though, and at least one of the ones he gets wrong, he is not looking at his mother. Of the three he gets right, we can’t see whether he is looking at his mother or not on one of them, but he is looking at her on two.

    So there is some weak evidence for, and none against, the case that he gets the info from looking at her.

  15. William J. Murray: I just don’t understand what the big deal would be for “materialism” if telepathy was proven to occur.

    Rather the point is that people have been conning other people since time began. While you personally are happy to be conned and to see others conned in the most despicable ways, others are not.

  16. William J. Murray: Perhaps. I just don’t understand what the big deal would be for “materialism” if telepathy was proven to occur.

    There wouldn’t be a problem. We would just start looking for the material cause.

  17. Elizabeth,

    Or it might radically alter our model of the world.

    Which would be cool.

    There lies the difference between science and religion.

  18. News: Neither hands nor eyes are clever. Hans though, perhaps.

    As for what ‘Darwinism’ might be, definitions don’t matter.

  19. Patrick:
    Elizabeth,

    There lies the difference between science and religion.

    Religion doesn’t radically alter our model of the world?

  20. OMagain: Rather the point is that people have been conning other people since time began. While you personally are happy to be conned and to see others conned in the most despicable ways, others are not.

    Why the personal attack?

  21. William J. Murray,

    Religion doesn’t radically alter our model of the world?

    Religions do not welcome disruptive changes to their models of the world, unlike the sentiment that Elizabeth expressed.

  22. William J. Murray: Religion doesn’t radically alter our model of the world?

    Depends on the religion, and depends on what kind of model. I don’t think religion has much effect on predictive models, except that some religious beliefs (e.g. YEC) lead to very poor ones.

  23. Patrick:
    William J. Murray,

    Religions do not welcome disruptive changes to their models of the world, unlike the sentiment that Elizabeth expressed.

    I don’t know anyone or any group – generally speaking – that welcomes disruptive changes to their models of the world.

  24. Elizabeth:
    But shall we talk about telepathy instead of religion, as that is the topic of the OP?Unless someone wants to make an explicit connection?

    Well, the author asked if non-materialists were excited about telepathy boy. The author has yet to explain the supposed connection between telepathy and non-materialism which the question apparently references.

    Which is, you know, why I asked what the connection was. In the first place.

  25. William J. Murray: I don’t know anyone or any group – generally speaking – that welcomes disruptive changes to their models of the world.

    Well, in general, the science community does! It’s what motivates scientists, I would say – the drive to find something that makes you think: hang on a minute, if what I’m seeing here is true, then we’ve seriously got to reconsider our model….

    I’m not saying that scientists are immune from being overly wedded to their own models, but the fundamental drive in science is to get a better model – and when that involves a major rethink, it’s very exciting! That’s where the Nobels lie, after all.

  26. William J. Murray: Well, the author asked if non-materialists were excited about telepathy boy.The author has yet to explain the supposed connection between telepathy and non-materialism which the question apparently references.

    Which is, you know, why I asked what the connection was. In the first place.

    So is it your view that non-materialism and religion are related? Or even that materialism is the same as non-religion?

    I’m genuinely curious because I really have very little idea as to what the word “materialism” is supposed to mean.

  27. EL said:

    Well, in general, the science community does!

    Not according to what I have read about the history of scientific advancements.

    So is it your view that non-materialism and religion are related? Or even that materialism is the same as non-religion?

    I don’t know what “materialism” means here. I’m waiting for the author to explain.

    I’m genuinely curious because I really have very little idea as to what the word “materialism” is supposed to mean.

    Personally, I think for the most part it’s a proxy for “non-theism”. I don’t think that it means much more than that here at TSZ. I think non-theism is often as religious as any theism, especially when it becomes anti-theism.

    But then, it appears the author is not going to enlighten us.

  28. William J. Murray: Not according to what I have read about the history of scientific advancements.

    We may be talking at cross-purposes. As I said, scientists are not immune to being biased towards their own theories. But science advances by altering our existing models, and big advances are made with big modifications. That doesn’t mean big modifications are not resisted – they are, and should be. That’s the origin of the phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. But if the claims are right, that evidence will be forthcoming – and, as I said, that’s where the big prizes are. That’s what makes science exciting – what motivates scientists, I would say. Confirmation and replication are boring (but important and under-rated actually). The dramatic breakthrough is what we all dream of!

    William J. Murray: I don’t know what “materialism” means here. I’m waiting for the author to explain.

    OK, well, nor do I. Do you have a view on the OP?

    William J. Murray: Personally, I think for the most part it’s a proxy for “non-theism”. I don’t think that it means much more than that here at TSZ. I think non-theism is often as religious as any theism, especially when it becomes anti-theism.

    Well, my impression is that it’s a word much more commonly used by “non-materialists” to distinguish what they reject, than by thus labelled “materialists” to identify what they accept.

    I don’t find it at all useful myself. For a start, we know for sure that there’s a lot more to the world than matter. There’s energy, for a start, and pattern.

  29. EL said:

    OK, well, nor do I. Do you have a view on the OP?

    Not enough information in the OP to have a view on it, which is why I asked. If you’re asking me if I think telepathy exists, I know it does. I just don’t see how it relates to materialism or non-materialism.

    You said earlier:

    Or it might radically alter our model of the world.

    Our? It wouldn’t alter my view of the world, or virtually anyone I personally know, one bit.

  30. William J. Murray: Not enough information in the OP to have a view on it, which is why I asked. If you’re asking me if I think telepathy exists, I know it does.

    So how do you think it works?

    William J. Murray: I just don’t see how it relates to materialism or non-materialism.

    Nor do I.

    William J. Murray: Our? It wouldn’t alter my view of the world, or virtually anyone I personally know, one bit.

    OK, mine, and the current standard model I guess. We don’t currently have an explanation, or even a reliable predictive model for it, and, I’d say, at present, even enough evidence that there’s anything that requires one.

    But if, for instance, it were the case that people could read other people’s minds without visual or auditory contact, that would certainly force me to rethink the way I currently model interpersonal communication.

    And if people could foresee the future, or observe the past, that would certainly require tweaks to the current standard models of what “the present” is, and what knowledge is.

    I would have said.

  31. EL said:

    So how do you think it works?

    When you think everything that exists is part of universal mind, the better question would be: what prevents it from always occurring?

    OK, mine, and the current standard model I guess.

    What “standard” model is that? What do you mean by “standard”?

  32. William J. Murray,

    Religions do not welcome disruptive changes to their models of the world, unlike the sentiment that Elizabeth expressed.

    I don’t know anyone or any group – generally speaking – that welcomes disruptive changes to their models of the world.

    You should associate with more scientists, then. Here’s a great example from Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”:

    “I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real… Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said – with passion – ‘My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.’”

  33. William J. Murray:
    EL said:

    When you think everything that exists is part of universal mind, the better question would be:what prevents it from always occurring?

    OK, so as a prediction of the hypothesis of a universal mind, it seems to fail. Why?

    What “standard” model is that? What do you mean by “standard”?

    I mean the current model of the nature of space-time, matter and energy. But it’s changed before, so it could change again.

    Or perhaps all that would need to change is our understanding of the nature of knowledge.

    But I’m not anticipating anything earth-shattering soon, because I have yet to be convinced there’s an explanandum.

  34. Hi William, author here! I was inspired by your posts here and at uncommon descent about science without materialism. You were my target audience! Do you need me to link to them? I don’t think you’ve changed reality enough to remove them.

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