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.

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.

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.




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.