Tag Archives: Intention Experiment

Can we go back and change the past?

Can we go back and change the past? asks Lynne McTaggart in her latest blog post. And there we have a perfect example of Betteridge’s law of headlines. The answer is, of course: no.

One of the most basic assumptions about intention is that it operates according to a generally accepted sense of cause and effect: if A causes B, then A must have happened first.

No, that’s just the post hoc fallacy. Oh, wait: intention, as McTaggart defines it, is the post hoc fallacy.

This assumption reflects one of our deepest beliefs, that time is a one-way, forward-moving arrow. What we do today cannot affect what happened yesterday.

It’s more than an assumption, it is a fundamental law of physics. It is inherent in the structure of space-time, tied to the speed of light as the “cosmic speed limit”. There is some speculation as to the possibility of closed time-like curves, but this still would not permit us to influence past events – the “grandfather paradox“.

As an author of a book supposedly on quantum physics, you’d think Lynne would know this – but of course her book is actually quantum flapdoodleW.

There are, however, some cranks who think otherwise. I wonder if that’s who Lynne has been referring to? (Rhetorical).

However, a sizeable body of the scientific evidence about intention violates these basic assumptions about causation.

I see where Lynne went wrong there. There is no scientific evidence of intention. There’s a good deal of scientific evidence refuting it, and some pseudoscientific pseudo-evidence supporting it.

Since Lynne is a source and proponent of pseudoscientific pseudo-evidence in favour of intention, she naturally thinks it is scientific and evidence.

She is this: wrong.

The evidence is clear: just like homeopathy, the apparent effect of wishful thinking intention reduces as methodological rigour increases. It only “works” if you allow the subjectivity and bias of belief to skew the result.

Research has demonstrated clear instances of time-reversed effects, where effect precedes cause.

No, it has not. Retrocausality remains hypothetical.

Indeed, some of the largest effects occur when intention is sent out of strict time sequence.

Your logical fallacy is: begging the question. Lynne may believe that this is so, but the standard of evidence required to establish this as fact would be very high indeed, and since none of it has even been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal it’s safe to say that we are very much not there yet.

These studies offer up the most challenging idea of all: that thoughts can affect other things no matter when the thought is made. In fact, they may work better when they are not subject to a conventional time sequence of causation.

No they do not offer it up, they simply demonstrate that you are so caught up in belief that you have suspended your critical faculties. If your “tests” of wishful thinking intention show that it works backwards in time as well as forwards, that is clear evidence that your methodology is hopelessly wrong. Only a fool would conclude that this instead shows that they have the ability to violate causation. It is hubris of an extraordinary kind.

Princeton University’s former dean of engineering Robert Jahn and psychologist Brenda Dunne discovered this phenomenon when they investigated time displacement in their random event generator trials. In some 87,000 of these experiments, volunteers were asked to attempt to mentally influence the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ random output of random event generator (REG) machines in a specific direction anywhere from three days to two weeks after the machines had run.
As a whole, the ‘time-displaced’ experiments achieved even greater effects than the standard experiments.

Jahn is notorious. He was the founder of Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) and was (indeed still is) a believer in parapsychology. There are many skeptical reviews that challenge the validity of their claims (e.g. this in Skeptical Inquirer).

The important thing to remember is that science by definition generally cannot prove a negative; however, the effects proposed by PEAR always fit the following criteria:

  1. The effect size is very small. Only a very tiny amount of bias need creep in to produce this effect.
  2. The effect size is greater when subjectivity is involved in judging outcomes.
  3. The apparatus is generally not calibrated by running the trial with and without the purported input, sequentially.
  4. The effects are generally not replicable by independent groups.

This is not a sound basis on which to make any confident claim. There is too much risk of subtle and not-so-subtle bias.

This is well explained by Caroline Watt in this interview for the European Skeptics Conference podcast. A multi-centre study with pre-planned analyses and a pre-planned meta analysis showed no effect.

The very idea that intention could work equally well whether ‘backward’, ‘forward’ or in sequence made Jahn realize that all of our conventional notions of time need to be discarded. The fact that effects were even larger during the time-displaced studies suggested that thoughts have even greater power when their transmission transcends ordinary time and space.

Whereas it should in fact have caused him to go back and question  his assumptions and try more rigorous tests.

Future shock

Dean Radin, chief scientist for the Institute of Noetic Science, also tested the possibility that, under certain conditions, a future event can influence an earlier nervous-system response. He made ingenious use of a strange psychological phenomenon called the ‘Stroop effect’, named after its discoverer, psychologist John Ridley Stroop, originator of a landmark test in cognitive psychology.

Dean Radin does not “test” anything. He sets out to provide evidence to support a hypothesis: the very definition of pseudoscience. Bob Park, Richard Wiseman and Chris French have all analysed his and Jahn’s work and pointed out glaring flaws, on the border of outright fraud in places. Wiseman and Julie Milton have written an excellent book on how to exclude these biases.

The Stroop effect of which McTaggart speaks is the one in which people are required to read out the names of colours; when these names are printed on cards in the wrong colour, the speed and accuracy of reading reduces. This is actually relevant, but not in the way McTaggart thinks: it is a form of cognitive dissonanceW, which helps to explain why believers in some phenomenon find it hard to accept disconfirming results.

It is abundantly clear that the work of Jahn and Radin cannot be replicated by others in properly controlled conditions. They have a variety of excuses for this, all of which amount to special pleadingW.

Swedish psychologist Holger Klintman devised a variation on the Stroop test. Volunteers were asked first to identify the colour of a rectangle as quickly as they could, then asked whether a colour name matched the colour patch they had just been shown. A large variation occurred in the time it took his volunteers to identify the colour of the rectangle. Klintman discovered that the identification of the rectangle colour was faster when it matched the colour name shown subsequently. The time it took for people to identify the colour of the rectangle seemed to depend on the second task of determining whether the word matched the rectangle colour. Klintman called his effect ‘time-reversed interference’.
In other words, the later effect influenced the brain’s reaction to the first stimulus.

Woo alert.

The two papers by Klintman are:

  • Klintman, H. (1983). Is there a paranormal (precognitive) influence in certain types of perceptual sequences? Part I. European Journal of Parapsychology, 5, 19-49.
  • Klintman, H. (1984). Is there a paranormal (precognitive) influence in certain types of perceptual sequences? Part II. European Journal of Parapsychology, 5, 125-140.

Research published in parapsychology journals has to be treated with immense caution, due to the influence of True Believers.

And in fact in 1987 Camfferman tried to replicate the experiment (Time reversed interference: A replication study. European Journal of Parapsychology, 7, 13-31), and failed, following which interest in Klintman’s findings fizzled out.

It’s just one more in a long line of false positives caused by adding two and two and getting 5i.

Radin created a modern version of Klintman’s study. […] In four studies of more than 5000 trials, all four showed a retro-causal effect. Somehow, the time it took to carry out the second task was affecting the time it took to carry out the first one.

I’m pretty sure that this paper was published in Radin’s own journal, and has had no effective peer-review.

The implications are enormous. Our thoughts about something can affect our past reaction times.

They would be, if they were robustly established and independently repeatable. Which they aren’t.

So what on earth is going on?

Self-delusion, for the most part. Systematic, sustained and by now pretty much willful. Radin believes in precognition and is uncritical towards claims that support his belief.

Radin discovered more evidence that our mental influence is operating ‘backwards’ in an ingenious study examining the probable underlying mechanism of intention on the random bits of an REG machine.

No, he set out to produce more “evidence”, but he failed to follow an appropriately rigorous methodology so the result was what is technically known as wrong.

Radin first ran five REG studies involving thousands of trials, then analyzed two of his most successful experiments through a process called a “Markov chain”, which mathematically plots how the REG machine’s output got from A to B.

[…] Radin’s analysis of the data had one inescapable conclusion: this was not a process running forward, in an attempt to hit a particular target, so much as an “information” flow that had traveled back in time.

So, starting from the premise of precognition, he produced evidence of precognition. Voila! Homeopaths are very adept at this too.

There is a long history of PEAR and its fellow-travellers combining large numbers of failures to provide claimed success.

To pretend that his findings are compelling, even unarguable, as McTaggart seems to believe, is to overstate the case massively. The same problems noted above, apply: the effect size is tiny and independent replication is absent.

Seed moments

So if we’re not reaching back in time, but our future is affecting the present as it unfolds, just how much of the past can we change in the sticks-and-stones world of real life?

We can’t. These experiments, even if they did demonstrate limited precognition, would not allow wholesale violation of causation. And actually they are almost certainly bollocks.

And actually when one looks at the supposedly “robust” basis for Radin’s claims one finds:

Radin is aware of the file-drawer effect, in which only positive results tend to get reported and negative ones are left in the filing cabinet. This obviously can greatly bias any analysis of combined results and Radin cannot ignore this as blithely as he ignores other possible, non-paranormal explanations of the data. Even the most fervent parapsychologists recognize this problem. Meta-analysis incorporates a procedure for taking the file-drawer effect into account. Radin says it shows that more than 3,300 unpublished, unsuccessful reports would be needed for each published report in order to “nullify” the statistical significance of psi. In his review of Radin’s book for the journal Nature, statistics professor I.J. Good disputes this calculation, calling it “a gross overestimate.” He estimates that the number of unpublished, unsuccessful reports needed to account for the results by the file drawer effect should be reduced to fifteen or less. How could two meta-analyses result in such a wide discrepancy? Somebody is doing something wrong, and in this case it is clearly Radin. He has not performed the file-drawer analysis correctly. – Meta-analysis and the file-drawer effect, Stenger (emphasis added).

All scientific findings carry the caveat: this might be wrong, but…

Radin, like most parapsychology believers, is insufficiently self-critical, excuses away prosaic explanations, and seeks to support not refute his beliefs. Nothing Radin writes shows any hint that he considers that he might be anything other than correct, and this applies vastly more strongly to McTaggart, who doesn’t have any of the scientific background that would be helpful in understanding the risks of self-delusion in experiments with subjective or debatable outcomes.

For McTaggart, these are religious truths that she wants to be scientific, so she seeks science that supports her beliefs.

This is, of course, exactly how creation “science” works.

Psychologist William Braud has pondered this issue at length. He once observed that those moments in the past most open to change might be ‘seed’ moments when nature has not made up its mind – perhaps the earliest stages of events before they blossomed and grew into something static and unchangeable: the brain of a child, which is far more open to influence and learning than an adult’s; or even a virus, which is far easier to overcome in its infancy. Random events, decisions with equally likely choices, or illness – all probabilistic moments are those most open to change.

Always keep an open mind, just not so open that your brains fall out. Lynne McTaggart has a closed mind. Her mind is not open to the scientific consensus view on homeopathy, vaccines or anything else where she has made up her mind.

That’s presumably why her “intention experiments” are not considered worthwhile enough for publication in any reputable journal.

Although our understanding of the mechanism is still primitive, the experimental evidence of time reversal is fairly robust. This research portrays life as one giant, smeared-out here and now, and much of it – past, present and future – open to our influence at any moment.

No, the evidence is not robust, and our understanding is that the observed effects are consistent with bias. Prosaic, but science tends to be that way.

You generally can’t tell from McTaggart’s writing which studies she is referring to, but there are a large number of studies by Radin that have been systematically demolished. His “Global Consciousness Project” is actually a global nonsense project. Noetic “science” is just new-age claptrap and Dean Radin is a crank.

And even if all that were not true, the effect is so tiny (fractions of a percentage point different over large numbers of repetitions and very short periods) that it would be ignorable for all practical purposes.

But that hints at the most unsettling idea of all. Once constructed, a thought is lit forever.

Pure chopralalia. That sentence has no objective meaning whatsoever.

The results of the first Intention Experiment are in!

In a stunning development predicted by absolutely nobody except the entire skeptic community, the results of the first Confirmation Bias Demonstration – sorry, that should be Healing Intention Experiment – are in, and they show a resounding success.

In this first-of-a-kind-except-for-all-the-others experiment, Lynne McTaggart carefully excluded any mechanism for controlling for bias by ensuring that there was no blinding, that all outcomes were purely subjective, and by casting herself in the role of impartial arbiter of success.

A success measure was chosen which has no relationship to the literature on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the lead investigator – who apparently loves writing for peer-reviewed publication – scores the coveted zero hits in PubMedW.

Impressively, an experimental subject was chosen who could already produce the effect at will. This, combined with the lack of blinding means either that it cannot be definitively proven that the effect was exclusively due to intention (McTaggart’s version), or that the entire thing was a complete waste of time (the reality-based version).


On April 26, 2014, we ran our first Healing Intention Experiment, which randomly chose one of two patients suffering from extreme anxiety.

I think the original documentation said post traumatic stress disorder, which is more than just “extreme anxiety”, it’s a crippling reaction to extreme stress – but it’s also often misdiagnosed by quacks, who then proceed to “cure” it using bullshit.

This time we worked with Dr. Jeffrey Fannin, director of the Center for Cognitive Enhancement.  Dr. Fannin holds a Ph.D in psychology, has been involved in neuroscience for many years and has a good deal of experience in ‘brain mapping’ states of mental disorder such as anxiety, depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Fannin prides himself on his peer-reviewed journal articles, most recently, he says, in the International Journal of Management and Business, the go-to sources for cutting edge treatments for ADHD and other acute psychological disorders. A PubMed search reveals an interesting result: Fannin says:

Another of my passions is writing. I have authored and co-authored eight peer reviewed articles in the past two years that have been published in the world of neuroscience, as well as cross disciplines, some of these papers were presented at scientific and business conferences. Most recently, one paper is being published in the International Journal of Management and Business. The other article will be out in August 2012 in a journal of psychotherapy in Australia.

But a search of PubMed shows no results at all in indexed journals. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that PubMed inexplicably includes even quack and crank journals, such as Homeopathy.

I think it’s safe to say that the underwhelming results of this experiment will similarly escape the attention of the medical community.

Two patients of Dr. Fannin suffering from anxiety generously offered to donate their time, and allowed themselves essentially to be experimented upon using what is, by any regard, a most unusual therapy: the power of strangers’ thoughts. One was to be chosen as the target, and the other would be the control.

So the patients were not so much randomly selected as self-selected. From a group whose choice of therapist indicates a predisposition towards woo in any case.

Dr. Fannin hooked up both patients to an EEG (electroencephalograph) machine in order to continuously monitor their brain waves. He also attached an EEG to Mario, our  ‘intender’ sitting in another room, who would participate with us in sending intention to the chosen target.

This is beginning to sound like remote viewingW! The choice of EEG is interesting but not especially significant: it will undoubtedly pick up any placebo effects from the purportedly therapeutic intervention. As Andy Lewis has pointed out before, it’s very noticeable that quacks never test the efficacy of their intervention as a contraceptive, where failure will be incontrovertibly obvious.

I had placed the names of both patients in a top hat and pulled one out at random. It turned out I’d chosen Todd Voss, a Gulf and Afghanistan war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Kathy Martin, the other patient, was to act as our control.

Now I’m angry. I support Combat Stress, a veterans’ mental health charity. Unlike the passionate-about-writing Fannin, Combat Stress actually contributes to the literature on PTSD. Funnily enough, wishful thinking forms no part of their evidence-based therapeutic programme.

As we were broadcasting on web television through Quantum World TV, we were able to make use of a split screen, enabling the audience to see me, Dr. Fannin, the patients and their brain waves all in real time. We broadcast a video of Todd telling his story, then asked our audience to attempt to calm down Todd by at least 25 per cent and also to focus on increasing the alpha waves of his brain (the brain waves associated with greater calm and peace).

Would you expect a patient to become calmer during a talk therapy session, especially if they were told that they were part of a groundbreaking “experiment”? Of course you would.

Human brain waves come in different frequencies, from the very slowest, which are delta and theta, associated with deep meditation and sleep, to alpha (a calm, meditative state) to beta (everyday cognitive tasks) and gamma (extreme focus).  Dr. Fannin’s work entails translating the results of EEG readings into a tomography, or QEEG, showing difference frequencies of a person’s brain waves and comparing them to ‘normal’ brain waves.

They do. Specifically, asymmetric EEG results may be predictive of PTSD.

With brain mapping, a person’s entire brain frequency activity is depicted as a ‘map’ of 30 little ‘heads’ in different colours, each representing certain frequencies of brain waves. Green depicts wave frequencies that correspond most to ‘normal’; and a rainbow of colours are used to show how much a person’s brain waves deviate from normal (red, for instance, shows several deviations more than normal; blue, several deviations lower than normal).

“Brain mapping” has the authentic whiff of sciencey-sounding bullshit. It is the specialty of Fannin’s company, of course, but there’s no actual indication that it has any merit as a diagnostic tool.

Dr. Fannin carried out brain maps on both Todd and Kathy before the experiment, during the experiment, after the experiment and then a few weeks later, on May 13.

Bands of turquoise

The Intention Experiment was incredibly captivating; we could actually see the bands of turquoise, representing the alpha waves, stretch out and become more prominent.

Lovely. Pity that PTSD is seen primarily in the beta and gamma waves, really.

Brain mapping done before the experiment had showed certain areas of Todd’s brain with a frequency ‘signature’ characteristic of PTSD. Various brain maps made during the Intention Experiment show that Todd’s alpha waves increased to three standard deviations above normal. Furthermore, the area of the brain that is most representative of PTSD was almost completely normal during the experiment.

Who says this “frequency signature” is characteristic of PTSD? Combat Stress are not the only ones who find PTSD to be manifest in gamma waves. The literature includes extensive discussion of symmetry as a marker, but this is not mentioned by McTaggart.

Other analysis demonstrated that coherence within the brain -the ability of the brain waves to work better together and stay working together- also had improved.

Brain waves do not “work together”. That is meaningless psychobabble.

Finally, Dr. Fannin worked out what is called an independent t-Test to determine the statistical significance of the experiment. He discovered less than a 1 per cent probability that these results occurred through chance.

Wow! Someone ideologically committed to the experiment dreamed up a statistical test that showed it to be valid! That has literally never happened thousands of times before!

We’ll know if it was valid when the peer-reviewed paper is published a the peer-reviewed, PubMed indexed, high impact, psychology-specialist journal. If we see it in unreviewed, non-indexed journals, or in one that is outside its specialist area (say a management journal) then we’ll know that it’s junk.

The same effects were not evident in the brain maps of either Kathy Martin or Mario, our intender.  He had virtually no change in his alpha waves, and Kathy was affected minimally by the experiment as well. This appears to rule out the possibility that the changed outcome might be the result of the placebo effect.

In an n=2 study? Not hardly.

So, our results showed. . .

·      Todd’s ‘alpha’ brain waves increased to 3-standard deviations (SD) above normal during the Intention Experiment.

…with no evidence that this is in any way relevant…

·      The red spots on 12 Hz  -the brain-wave pattern representative of Todd’s PTSD- turned almost completely normal during the experiment.

…with no evidence that this is in any way relevant…

·      More of his alpha waves started working together and stayed that way (they became ‘coherent’).

…with no evidence that this is in any way relevant…

·      Independent t-Test measuring statistical significance shows less than 1 per cent probability results are by chance.

…with no evidence that this is independent, no maths shown, and no reason to believe the result…

·      The contrast with Kathy and with Mario would appear to rule out the possibility that the changed outcome was the result of the placebo effect.

…with no evidence of blinding…

These results were initially very encouraging, but there are other issues with the study that must be addressed.

Of course the results were “encouraging”< the experimenters are emotionally vested in the idea and not about to be discouraged; there is no evidence that they even defined in advance what response would be expected, whether the patients’ symptoms are due to alpha, beta or gamma wave activity, symmetry of activity or anything else. Basically they pointed the magic at someone, looked at what changed, and decided that this was definitely down to their having improved the patient.

This despite the existing literature on wishful thinking showing no support for any objective effect at all.

Yes, an n=2 experiment by people emotionally vested in wishful thinking and picking their own criteria rather than any functional measurement, decided that their results undoubtedly show their beliefs to be true.

I suspect I don’t need to further labour the deeply fallacious nature of this.

Limitations of the study

One difficulty with a study of this type that attempts a highly novel medical intervention is finding willing volunteers and creating such an experiment at reasonable cost.  (The human studies necessary to get a drug onto the market run to about $140 million, for instance.)

Actually, no, it should be trivially easy to recruit patients because the intervention is virtually free.

Dr. Fannin, who generously offered to carry out this experiment on a completely pro bono basis, was limited to those willing to undergo such an experiment among his own patient base, most of whom have already had treatment with him.

That’s a limitation, but not in the way McTaggart presents it. It means that the patients are not properly blinded, and have a bias towards believing the nonsense, making it trivially easy to generate expectation and other placebo effects with only modest cueing.

After the experiment was completed I discovered that Todd Voss had previously undergone two kinds of brain training, one with Dr. Fannin. Part of this training involves teaching techniques to increase a person’s alpha brain waves.

In other words, the subjects were not identical and the intervention subject was already able to generate essentially the measured effect when he knew it was required of him. So the entire result is invalid even without the fact that there’s no good reason to believe that this measure is relevant to PTSD severity.

Todd had been asked to make two testimonial videos nearly a year ago, one for Dr. Fannin, in which he described that he has learned how to control his brain waves, among other techniques, and was consequently improved.

When Todd’s symptoms returned (as described on his video he made for us), Dr. Fannin regarded him as a deserving candidate for our experiment.

OK, so the subjects were not just likely to be receptive,m they were cherry-picked.

Todd’s recent brain maps and new claimed clinical improvement are compelling, and we are extremely pleased that he reports feeling better, and will continue to intend well for him.

They are “compelling” provided you are determined to believe. If you apply even mild skepticism, they are a meaningless artifact of absolutely no proven significance.

All parties worked many long hours to carry out this experiment, and I am confident that all intended to provide a study of integrity.  My thanks to all for their tireless work to put this together.  I believe everyone acted in good faith.

Sorry? You think that good intentions and long hours excuse methodology this sloppy, and interpretation this biased? Try again.

Nevertheless, because Todd was previously taught techniques that purport to achieve the exact effect that we were attempting to achieve by intention, it is impossible to declare categorically, without doubt, that we’ve demonstrated that any changes in his brain were due to intention, rather than his own brain training.

Not only is it “impossible to declare categorically, without doubt, that we’ve demonstrated that any changes in his brain were due to intention”, any attempt to do so would be laughed out by the reviewers in any credible journal.

You took a subject who was able without intervention to produce a certain effect, you used an intervention he was told would be beneficial, and then interpreted ”precisely the effect he had been trained to produce unaided” as a result of wishful thinking. Pardon me if I find this underwhelming even in the context of the batshit craziness normally interpreted as positive results by lunatic charlatans.

I do wish to emphasize that Todd Voss is blameless; this is simply a problem of study design and the probable result of running a trial under many constraints.

Well, I guess that qualifies for a prize for understatement. Of course the subject is blameless: he is a victim of cranks.

Feelings of unity

The conclusions of this experiment may not be claimed as scientific, but it does not invalidate two important results: Todd is feeling better, much better.  And many of our participants had a profound experience, a deep connection with Todd and are feeling better too.

You are right, it may not be claimed as scientific. And if you attempt to do so, then be prepared to receive weapons-grade mockery.

Once again, we recorded an overwhelming number of feelings of unity and personal transformation:

‘At the onset of the 10 minutes I felt overwhelmed by love and was almost sobbing.’
For a good 5 minutes couldn’t stop the tears,’ wrote Melissa. ‘Very connected to Todd.’

‘I was completely overwhelmed by so much love’,wrote Karin. ‘I felt immense gratitude and tears just kept flowing. The energy kept flowing for hours and afterward I also slept peacefully. I felt deeply connected and at peace.’

‘Todd Voss, I hear the name constantly in my mind,’ wrote Chris. ‘It’s as if he has become part of me.’

And despite this you failed to spot that all you are doing is reproducing the failed experiments in intercessory prayer.

And we’ve discovered numerous people claiming their own kind of healing:

‘My carpal tunnel injury improved,’ wrote Joan, ‘and I felt very relaxed.  Even slept  better.’

‘I suffered with my knee for almost three years,’ wrote another participant. ‘After this experiment all the pain I used to have was gone, completely.’

‘My life  -everything about it-  my health, relationships, outlook, energy level, happiness, openness, etc. just keep improving; I’ve plainly shifted.’

Imagine – a lot of people who believe in the thing, self-diagnosing improvements in subjective symptoms. There must be a word for that…

At the end of our May 24 broadcast, we sent intention to our other patient, Kathy Martin, who was wired up with her EEG as well, and we will be reporting on that in a future broadcast and e-letter.

I confidently predict another exercise in confirmation bias.

A provocative question

This experiment should be regarded as posing many provocative questions. As always with the Intention Experiment, I continue to ask the most outlandish question of all: can a simple thought heal the world?  I will continue to be unafraid to ask that question, whatever the answer, with every future experiment. And with every answer  -no matter what that is-  we will continue learning and so will you.

No, Lynne, here’s a provocative question: if you are son confident this works, why not set up a properly controlled experiment observed by people who are skilled in isolating confounding factors. In other words, rather than seeking to confirm your beliefs (the heard of pseudoscienceW, pathological scienceW and the many other failings of cranks and charlatans), why not ”test” your beliefs, honestly, rigorously, and in front of a skeptical audience.

This is a rhetorical question, by the way: I know why you won’t do this. But it’s a shame, because it’s been a while since we saw an attempt at the million dollar challenge. This would undoubtedly qualify.


Why don’t doctors tell you that you can heal people by intending healing?

Because it’s hippy-dippy new age claptrap that has been extensively tested long ago and it isn’t worth a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys.

The Intention “Experiment”

Reblogged from ChapmanCentral with permission.

In science, an experiment is something you do to test whether something works or not, or to make a measurement to quantify something. In pseudoscience, an experiment is something you do to demonstrate your delusional beliefs to a credulous world. Which sort is Lynne McTaggart’s “Intention Experiment”? (As if you had to ask). It works like this:

  1. Someone registers a medical issue, such as a sore shoulder.
  2. People care.
  3. The person is asked if they feel better as a result.

Can you see where the problem is? It would be relatively trivial to test wishful thinking (or “intention” as McTaggart rather pretentiously brands it). The group of people with medical problems registers up front, they are randomly assigned to wishful thinking or not, both wishful thinking and non wishful thinking groups are given identical-looking output in terms of messages of support, and at the end feedback is gathered, then finally we match responses to group membership and see if the wishful thinking group fares differently. McTaggart’s wishful thinking is identical to intercessory prayer, which has been tested in this way. Guess what? It doesn’t work. Just like homeopathy and other inert interventions, the more carefully you control for confounders and bias, the less likely you are to find an effect. McTaggart shows no sign of having the intellectual honesty necessary to do a test like this. In promoting “The New Science” she is, in fact, promoting the same old pseudoscience. But don’t forget to click-through and buy the book, because otherwise you can’t possibly expect to understand the subtlety of it all.1 —- 1Statement may contain sarcasm.