Ouija Boards: How can you be sure spirits are communicating?

Another great video, this time about Ouija Boards. Are they really spirits, or are we trying to convince ourselves thy they’re communicating with us?

Science of Scams shows what happens when a haunted house tour group uses a Ouija Board, then show you how you can test if it’s you, or spirits moving the glass!


My response to Paul H Smith regarding prima facie evidence

This is post two of a series, see the previous post here.

2. On the subject of prima facie evidence: By prima facie evidence I mean something along these lines: a remote viewing result that so clearly resembles the correct target, that any unbiased rational agent would acknowledge a match, assuming no other disconfirming facts.

By disconfirming facts, I mean that the result was produced by a scientifically-sound experimental protocol, and was not the result of fraud, sensory leakage, or other similar non-ESP source.

I would suggest there are a number of problems here:

  1. Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning “at first sight”. It is generally used in common law to denote a case that is strong enough to justify further discovery and possibly a full trial – it is not a term often found in science, as scientific investigation generally labels this as an observation, of which the causal agent is to be narrowed down and identified. Wikipedia explains this problem:
    “It is logically and intuitively clear that just because a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts that both the notion of the evidence presenting a case in a self-evident manner and the facts actually being facts (which, presumably, would require evidence of at least a minimum degree of quality) can often be reduced to entirely subjective interpretations that are independent of any truthful merit by sufficiently skilled individuals. That is to say, appearances can be deceptive even to the objectively minded, and they can be subjectively interpreted (meaning that what amounts to a prima facie case for one judging individual would not do so for another). Just because a matter appears to be evident from a certain presentation of the facts it does not follow that that matter has any truthful validity – which would limit the common sensical utility of prima facie evidence.”
    For example, being found standing near a dead gunshot victim with a smoking gun in your hand would establish a prima facie case for murder.  It may turn out it was not the man holding a gun, but someone else who shot the man dead, and the man charged with murder was firing at that other person.We can not use prima facie evidence as “strong” evidence for anything; merely as a basis on which to undertake further investigation – this is in keeping with our best investigation methods.Additionally, the reasoning used to support Remote Viewing on the basis of prima facie evidence is erroneous; even if one tries to support such a claim by verbosity: 1,000,000 erroneously controlled results are still wrong, no matter the number.
  2. “Assuming no other disconfirming facts, “scientific investigation does not “assume” no other disconfirming facts, it systematically seeks to remove factors other than those that are implicated in the hypothesis. Indeed, this is what the result should be when you refer to a “scientifically-sound experimental protocol”, however, the problem is that you explicitly state that it is assumed that prima facie evidence is the result of such a process; this of course is one of the matters of contention.

Science accepts this kind of prima facie evidence all the time. Some examples are a variety of psychological experiments and in the various taxonomic sciences, which could not exist without prima facie judgments concerning isomorphisms among exemplars of plants, animals, geological structures and so on. Prima facie evidence of the sort I have in mind would be problematic only in cases where it is the _only_ evidence available, or if the protocols under which it was produced were either undisclosed or demonstrably flawed.

As mentioned in point 1, prima facie evidence is accepted all the time as the basis for further investigation, not as evidence for or against a hypothesis. Assuming RV is an actual Psi pheneomena, one could use prima facie evidence if testing a novice of Remote Viewing for the basis of further investigation. It can not be used to validate Remote Viewing if such evidence is not established.

In the case of remote viewing, high-quality prima facie results are not the only evidence available, and any prima facie results offered as scientific evidence are accompanied by documentation of the protocol under which it was produced.

In this case, the evidence presented would not be considered prima facie results; they would be results produced by what is reported to be a rigorous scientific investigation of the hypothesis. If you have such results, including the protocol documentation, fantastic; then please present those protocols to justify the results, that is – all results, not just those considered to be a significant match to the target.

On the other hand, I do _not_ mean by “prima facie evidence” merely anecdotal reports or results that bear only a vague and perhaps accidental resemblance to the intended target.

I didn’t think you meant that, so that’s fine.

Here are some examples of prima facie remote viewing results. Since they were meant merely to show examples of solid remote viewing results, I have not provided a detailed description of the protocol. However, I can guarantee that they were all produced under appropriate blinding conditions with controls to preclude pre-knowledge of the intended target, sensory leakage, or cheating. http://www.rviewer.com/Student_Sessions.html

I would consider these examples of prima facie results (in the strictest sense), and I do  acknowledge that you are using them as an example of a strong remote viewing result. However, without seeing the hypothesis, testing methodology (or indeed details about how they are judged, and by whom) or indeed any statistical information (i.e. how many tests were performed, by whom and conditions of each test, if they differed), no tentative conclusion can be made.

However, I do acknowledge that the Student Sessions were not supposed to lead to a conclusion, but merely a presentation of what you (and perhaps your peers) consider a strong remote viewing result.


Richard Wiseman, a Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is releasing his latest book, Paranormality in America later this week. His book covers fortune-telling, out of body experiences (OBE), the concept of “Mind over Matter”, Talking with the Dead, Ghost Hunting, Mind Control, and Prophesy. You can read an introduction to his book here.

In conjunction with the launch book, a free app – also called Paranormality (developed by Sarah Angliss) has been released that exploits inattentional blindness, one of the many flaws we can fall victim to.

Whip out your phone and demonstrate to them they have psychic abilities! Your “victim” will be presented with three spoons, of which they must pick one to focus on – Ask them what it is, after all – you’re only going to press the “On” button – but, after pressing the ON button, their chosen spoon will begin to bend!

Learn about the trick by watching the video below!


You can of course, check out an earlier app that exploits such cognitive flaws – Telepathy

Paul H Smith in Response to Subjective Validation

This is part of a comment left by Paul H Smith on this post about Remote Viewing. It is part of a series that will address his points of contention.

1. Concerning subjective validation: I feel the need to amend my original argument against subjective validation/confirmation bias as an adequate explanation for remote viewing by making my argument stronger (rather than weaker): Subjective validation cannot be used to explain _any_ instance of actual remote viewing. It can only explain either 1) cases where real remote viewing took place but the viewer rates his or her performance more highly than it deserves; or, 2) false positives (cases where remote viewing is claimed to have occurred but has in fact not). You have demonstrated in a round-about way an instance of case 2).

I am not asserting that Subjective Validation to be an explanation OF “actual” remote viewing, My assertion was that Subjective Validation to be a phenomena that can lead to people to believe they are performing remote viewing when they are not; and as you have noted – this is a Type 1 Error – a false positive.

To rehash (for the benefit for readers who are not aware of what subjective validation is). Subjective Validation is the pattern-seeking tendency of humans to misread either unfavorable, or even neutral evidence as being positive support for a preconception.

This occurs when two or more unrelated events are deemed to be related because of an expectancy, or the hypothesis being tested demands there is a relationship.

This processes is evident in other paranormal research, such as that of the Global Consciousness Project.

Note, indeed, that it is according to your own criteria alone that you can count your demonstration as “remote viewing.” Merely performing an arbitrary sketch, matching it to a presumed RV target, and then self-declaring that you have performed RV does not in itself constitute RV. (Indeed, if you were my RV student, even if you were really trying to execute a real RV session, I would have counted your result as a miss.)

I absolutely agree. It is not appropriate that I judge my own sketches, however, my intention was not to perform a rigorous investigation in to Remote Viewing, but to demonstrate an example of how subjective validation and confirmation bias can lead to an erroneous conclusion.

There is thus no inconsistency in my objection that your claim commits a logical fallacy, even though I acknowledge that some remote viewers may be unaware of subjective validation (and may even have performed weak or no remote viewing and used subjective validation to try to interpret it as a success).

From what I understand, you claimed that I had committed the logical fallacy of “Begging the Question” , better known as “Circular Reasoning” – yet, I am unsure how you have come to this conclusion. There is no argument presented in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true.

Though my post is not long, perhaps I have missed it, if this is so can you can you please point it out so I can address it?

I argue that what you have done is claim that you have performed remote viewing when in fact you haven’t.

Your demonstration may bear a superficial similarity to remote viewing. But it presents no external nor internal identities with remote viewing. For your argument to go through, you must claim that what you did is identical to remote viewing. But by attempting to assert such an identity based only on a superficial similarity, you commit a logical fallacy, because no such identity exists.

As stated, I am not genuinely claiming to have performed an “actual” remote viewing at all, nor have I genuinely done so in the past. In fact, in my original post, I explicitly state: “Which means what? I’M PSI! It’s so obvious! .. No. Far from it.”

Again, my intention was to present information that demonstrates a psychological phenomena that can lead people to a Type 1 Error; a Type 1 Error that can easily lead someone to _believe) they have remote viewing abilities, or a _demonstrating_ “actual” Remote Viewing when they are not.

Subjective Validation is obviously something can be controlled against – through a number of methods, but this is not the end all of the problems with the assessment methodology.

Your demonstration may bear a superficial similarity to remote viewing. But it presents no external nor internal identities with remote viewing. For your argument to go through, you must claim that what you did is identical to remote viewing. But by attempting to assert such an identity based only on a superficial similarity, you commit a logical fallacy, because no such identity exists. You can only escape this charge by demonstrating that your performance is indeed identical to remote viewing. But this you cannot do, because the only linkage with actual remote viewing is the (very) superficial similarity and your self-declaration that it is remote viewing. Thus you beg the question.

It seems you’re misusing “Begging the Question”, or at least using in a different way that is contrary to its references to a logical fallacy.

An Example would be:
“Remote Viewing is a real phenomena because I have experiences that I consider good examples of Remote Viewing.” This is a statement begs the question (as it uses circular reasoning). The question it begs is: “How do you know your examples are remote viewing?”.

If I am appear to be confusing the issue, Grammar Girl may help in distinguishing the two.

Indeed, the existence of significant numbers of prima facie remote viewing results (which I turn to next) makes the subjective validation argument against remote viewing of little weight.

Additionally, Prima Facie results is not evidence AGAINST subjective validation. Subjective Validation is not even an argument AGAINST remote viewing, rather an phenomena that may lead to a Type 1 Error in regards to Remote Viewing. It is merely one of the many phenomena that must be controlled for in the analysis of a “Remote Viewing Sessions”.

Read the next post HERE (when it is available)

Audience Call for “The One”

As noted in a previous post “Unemployed? Here’s Training, and a Free Toss to a Job Application!” Australia’s Channel 7 is recreating their psychic-search for “Australia’s most gifted Psychic” in a reality-format show called “The One”.

During the last airing of “The One” Richard Saunders of Australian Skeptics appeared as the shows’ voice of reason.

If you’re on the fence about it and unsure, before you go, I recommend researching “cold-reading“. You may have heard about this from TV series’ such as “The Mentalist”, in which the main character was a former cold-reading mentalist pretending that he was psychic, and TV series “Psych”, in which the main character uses logic and reason to solve cases for the local police whilst also pretending that he was psychic.

There are some excellent references to things such as the Barnum Effect and how it relates to cold-reading on the internet, such as this one from Dennis Dutton.

Cold Reading is the term of art used in the magician’s trade to describe the practical use of the Barnum Effect in the give-and-take of an interview situation. Though interest in the technique by professional psychologists dates from the late 1940’s, it has long been put to profitable use by fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, tarot card readers, astrologers, tea leaf readers, spirit mediums, and others who wish to convey the impression that they possess paranormal insight into the client’s personality, current life situation, and future.

There is this video of about Derren Brown giving an “astrology” reading.


And I highly recommend the following video of Brian Brushwood
of “Scam School” at his “Scams, Sasquatch, and the Supernatural” lecture.


You can become a member of the audience for “The One”, and I would encourage it, as I will be considering putting in an application for some tickets myself. – Just go HERE. Ticket Applications close June 28th, 2011.

OMG! I can haz Remote Viewing!

The other day I thought I’d check out the Australian Skeptics Facebook Page. I didn’t have to scroll far to see someone advertising their conference on Remote Viewing – The bloke’s name is Stephen Hamper. While he was quite confident in his belief, he was less than impressive when asked for evidence.

So, what is remote viewing?

Having read and liked the explanation given at Skeptic’s Dictionary, I’ll lift it from there:

Remote viewing (RV) is a fancy name for telepathy or clairvoyance, the alleged psychic ability to perceive places, persons, and actions that are not within the range of the senses.

Kicking over some stones

On my little quest for knowledge about Remote Viewing I came across a forum where people were posting their “Target Reference Numbers” or TRNs. They are basically a way to file your “targets”; which, in good practice should not be used on yourself, but rather someone else – Like me, for instance.

From RVcommunity.net



Am I PSI?!

After reading it I thought “Great! I’ll give this a go!” I should point out that I followed the instructions and conducted my “remote viewing” session first. This comprised of me tracking down a pen and some paper.

Having prepared, I began to scribble and came up with this little masterpiece:

My RV Scribble

I’m going to stop right here and explain how some of this may seem to work; one of the phenomena is subjective validation, which occurs when two unrelated or sometimes random events are perceived to be related on the basis of a preconceived belief or some kind of expectancy – and of course, when a hypothesis is SEEKING a relationship between the two events. This is basically confirmation bias – you expect something is going to happen, and when it does (or as similar as you are willing to accept it does) you consider it a HIT.


For Example, my scribble It’s utterly useless. I did not spend any amount of time trying to do a “session”, yet let’s look what happens when we go looking for similarities between the my scribble and the target.

So, what was the image I was Remote Viewing?

TRN "3276-1870"



And what have I got?

VIOLA! I can Remote View! We can draw similarities between the two. The beak, the Head, it’s all there. That’s a WIN!

I'm PSI!

Which means what? I’M PSI! It’s so obvious! .. No. Far from it.

Let’s step back. I didn’t need to do much square-peg in to birdhouse-circle stuffing to get a correlation between the two.

This goes to show without an ounce of effort a vague scribble can be compared to an image, a photo, etc – and when you’re looking for it – might make you think you can remote view!

There are a number of other things that can be done to make Remote Viewing seem plausible, and for that, I refer to PROJECT ALPHA – Where a couple of ballsy magicians fool PSI researchers, despite having told them how to catch them out.

Unemployed? Here’s Training, and a Free Toss to a Job Application!

Unemployed? Need a Job? Fear not! Your financial success is at hand!* You’ll have the opportunity to go on Television and entertain millions of people! The Glitz! The Glamour!

All ye need do is spend 10 minutes watching this engaging educational video to learn the tricks of the trade! You’ll learn to be able to make people feel connected – and they’ll pay you handsomely for it!

* No guarantee of job satisfaction; people with moral integrity need not apply – unless you’re delusional.

Training Video

Watch the following Educational Video about how you can be right 84% of the time without any skill at all! Hosted by Brian Brushwood (From Revision3).


“I’m sensing that the murder victim was a child or possibly an adult, whose name starts with a consonant or possibly a vowel.”

If you want to learn about OTHER tricks of the trade, you can see the entire video here.

Career Opportunities!

With the Training Video out of the way, now you get a job as a psychic!

Get Employed

By far the most preferred route (who wants to deal with the ATO, Credit Card Systems, and supplying TFN’s anyway) for the MILLIONS of GIFTED entrepreneurs get yourself listed on the PSYCHIC DIRECTORY! Just by sticking to the training video, you’ll be 84% accurate!

Where’s that promise about a job application? Well! You can go be a phone operator at PSYCHIC JOBS AUSTRALIA! Just fill out the form, and viola!

You may even feature on Psychic TV!

You could try your hand at..

Stage Shows!

You can perform Live-Psychic Medium Stage Shows at clubs, social events, birthdays – just like a clown! The likes of Mitchell Coomes, Silvia whats-her-name-vulture woman, and John Edwards!

People will turn up to see your performance and ACTUALLY Believe you have paranormal powers! However, to really excel in this field you should take a secondary course in Cold Reading!

Psientific Researcher

That wasn’t a mistake, you can be like retired Victor Zammit – AFTERLIFE RESEARCHER! All you need to do is reject reason and rationality, succumb to a myriad of false presumptions, then embrace the positive energies of logical fallacies!

If you’ve worked in a profession that’s legitimate, you can even make that a reason for people to believe you – regardless of the evidence! A wonderful example of an Appeal to Authority!

Career Development!


It's on again!

The National-wide Search for THE ONE is ON …. again!

The search for “Australia’s Best Psychic” is getting rolled out for a second time. The “reality” show “The One” was first produced in 2008 and judged by psychic Stacey Demarco and sceptic Richard Saunders (from Australian Skeptics and The SkepticZone Podcast).

This years’ show is yet to name a host, but production starts in June!


Not for you?

That’s OK. It’s probably for the best.

As a reward, enjoy this trailer for a new show to be premiered on ABC1 on June 15.

Hosted by Lawrence Leung – UNBELIEVABLE!