University of Manchester! Y U host Psychic?

Why is a top five-rated UK university with recent Nobel prize wins for research staff hosting a Psychic Night at one of its conference centres?

Woo at UoM

I know times are hard in the HE sector, but UoM is an esteemed centre of learning, not some dodgy two-bit end-of-the-pier show.

At least the events page at the Chancellors Hotel has the sense to state that:

Theatre demonstrations are to be deemed for entertainment purposes only.”

Still, given that there is zero/zilch/nada/none credible evidence that there is “life after death”, or that certain people can communicate with the dead, should an academic institution with the credibility of UoM give oxygen to this brand of charlatanry?

Hat tip to @Andrew_Taylor for pointing this out.

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8 Responses to University of Manchester! Y U host Psychic?

  1. Fellow UoM Rationalists, methinks a letter to the Registrar or even to Nancy may be in order. If I drafted something up (or copied it largely from similar efforts) in the next couple of days, would people sign it?

    Not that I expect the powers that be will take any notice of us….

    • xtaldave says:

      Not a bad idea – all we can do is try – I don’t have a feel for how annoyed the rank and file academic staff might be about this sort of thing.

      I suspect that apathy is going to be the prevailing feeling…

  2. CJ says:

    While I have no idea why UoM are hosting this nonsense it is completely untrue to say there is no evidence for “mediumship” etc or communication with deceased. There is a huge body of evidence; as there is for many claims. You might want strong evidence — the bedtime are the peer reviewed lab studies like Robertson and Roy or the windbridge stuff; but there is 130 years of scientific study of purported mediums, and some positive papers. Incomensurable maybe but there. 🙂

    • xtaldave says:

      Cheers CJ – have you got links to the papers?

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        The actual papers are buried in journals, but if you email me the author of one set of studies did give me permission to show them to any interested sceptic. Experimental research with mediums dates back to the 1880’s at least and the Society fpr Psychical Research Journals and especially the proceedings are full of classic studies of Eva C, Leonora Piper, Kathleen Goligher, etc, etc. More modern experimental work has been done by the US Veritas project, which I know little about, but Google Veritas and Windridge I think and you will find stuff, positive and critical, and probably an index of papers.

        The classic modern studies are Roy & Robertson, and while they are flawed, they are still fascinating because of what they tell us. (The last paper is the flawed one, in that it does not present the full set of results, and the complexity of the set up grows so heavy as they tested multiple hypotheses in one experimental set up (which admittedly took several years) it gets hard to follow. .)

        Here is Skeptic Report before the publication — http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=571

        The papers are

        Robertson, T. J. and Roy, A. E. (2001) A preliminary study of the acceptance by non-recipients of mediums’ statements to recipients. JSPR Vol 65.2

        Roy, A. E. and Robertson, T. J. (2001) A double-blind procedure for assessing the relevance of a medium’s statements to a recipient. JSPR 65.3

        Robertson, T. J. and Roy, A. E. (2004) Results of the application of the Robertson-Roy Protocol to a series of experiments with mediums and participants. JSPR 68.1

        These are the modern classics as far as I know, but others have pointed me to the stuff i mentioned from Windbridge. I’m not familiar with it.

        For a great discussion of formal protocols employed in testing mediums try European Journal of Parapsychology; 24.1, (2009) Jensen C.G (no relation) & Cardena, E A controlled long distance test of a professional medium – or email Prof Chris French, Prof Richard Wiseman or Ciaran O Keefe. All have posted material on testing psychics in formal conditions which is available on the web I doubt this bloke will volunteer for testing though!.

        If you want an overview of experimental research with mediums I’d recommend Broughton (1996) Parapsychology or Irwin & Watt (2005) AN Introduction to Parpsychology as reliable here.

        I have spent some years however on something more relevant here – how stage psychics work. I early on rejected the standard model of cold reading favoured by many sceptics, and have instead proposed my own suggestion, here…
        jerome23.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/how-sally-met-infamy-psychic-sally-morgan-caught-or-was-she

        I’d love someone to test this, and I think the UoM sceptics and rationalists would be ideal. After all, you only have to find some way of talking to the people who accept messages, though there may be ethical issues involved. I won’t suggest a method, but if you do test this naturalistic explanation I’d love to hear what you find!

        And sorry for being so pedantic about the “there is no evidence” formulation – it’s a pet niggle of mine. Evidence is data that can be used to support a hypothesis – much data is theoretically usable to support various hypotheses, occasionally in conflict – hence the terms underdetermination and incommensurability in Science writing. The formulation “there is no evidence for X” is something I have spent years knocking, and is usually attributed to Dawkins, though I have no strong evidence it was from him, as I have only hearsay (very weak evidence, but evidence!) .

        ;D Hope you don’t mind my pedantic silliness!

        All the best
        CJ x

    • I suppose that depends what you mean by “evidence”. It’s fair to say “there’s no evidence” for these things in this kind of context, I think, as long as when you switch into a more formal one you clarify things.

    • xtaldave says:

      Cheers CJ – I’ll take a look at the papers. I had a look around last night and found some papers by Richard Wiseman

      http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/academic-papers/

      Particularly:

      O’Keeffe, C. & Wiseman, R. (2005). Testing alleged mediumship: Methods and results. The British Journal of Psychology, 96(2), 165-179. Download here.

      My comment about evidence was indeed a more informal invokation of the word – I have no doubt (and indeed, have discovered) that there is a large body of published work on mediumship – and I have no doubt that some of these papers find positive results – however, I believe that the case of mediumship is somewhat analogous to that of homeopathy, in that there are many papers that purport to refute the null-hypothesis that homeopathy is nothing but a highly ritualised placebo, but such papers often have fatal methodological flaws, and as such the conclusions they draw do not hold water.

      The scientific consensus is that homeopathy doesn’t work – also the case with mediumship, I believe. Hence my statement that there is no *credible* evidence.

      The lack of any mechanistic information about communing with the dead serves to reinforce this.

      However, I am happy to admit that my depth of reading regarding mediumship is not as extensive as that of homeopathy.

      Cheers for the links,

      Dave

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