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pjrv : Messages : 3645-3663 of 4038 
( ) ?006/07/01 15:59:15


From: "Jason S. Shapiro" Date: Tue Dec 30, ?003 9:04 am Subject: Argh. fetik3 Hello everyone! I have about 6 emails to this group sitting in my draft folder. For whatever reason, I just cannot finish any topic that I start writing on. Either it's just the fact that I'm still exhausted from my previous work/school schedule (I'm on day 6 of an 11 day break? ). In any case, I appear to be having a bit of "avoidance" myself :? ) One topic, outside of this group, that I had wanted to chime in on is in regard to Cleve Backster's work. Does anyone know if the challenges found in the "skeptics dictionary" was ever refuted? The thread that brought up this debate was found here: For some reason, this thread is bothering me more than usual. It's not a novel situation, by any means: the believer finds a few pseudo-science references to back up their belief, and the arm-chair skeptic finds a few narrowly focused / distorted references to back up theirs. Regardless, I am really drawn to post in this one, while simultaneously unable to finish a coherent sentence. Speaking of which, I'd better hit "Send" before this winds up as another message in my "drafts" folder :? ) -Jason


From: "pjgaenir" Date: Tue Dec 30, ?003 6:?5 pm Subject: Cleve Backster's Work (was: Argh? ). pjgaenir Hi Jason, > regard to Cleve Backster's work. > Does anyone know if the challenges > found in the "skeptics dictionary" was ever refuted? > The Skeptics Dictionary is pathetic. Every entry I have read in it where I know something of the individual or work is so filled with innuendo, assumptions and outright lies I can't believe anybody but scoffers would want to lay claim to it. That's me, diplomatic and unopinionated... TSD starts by pointing out that plants have no brains, and then claims Backster claims his work proves that "...plants experience a wide range of emotions and thoughts." What he claims is that when connected to a variety of sensitive equipment (GSR, EEG, etc.? ), plants show a 'response' to many different things. Dominantly and first, to living creatures in the plant's immediate environment, in particular including whatever individual normally feeds (waters? ) the plant. There is a great deal more complication that follows (caveats, exceptions, and more? ), but that's the base. I don't recall Backster saying that plants "have thoughts" (or brains? ) like humans for example; they may have a range of "response" (what humans call emotion? ), and they may respond in what appears to be accordance with human intent (which is where the 'reads human minds' came from? ), but that is a scoffer presentation, taking basic things reported and using hyperbole or assumption to present it differently and make it sound like things were presented which actually weren't. A good deal of the TSD article--par for the course--has nothing to do with science, research, or even intelligent inquiry, and is instead an attempt to portray the individual as a whacko, wannabe or fraud. This deliberate personal attack and then blurring the line between the individual and the actual inquiry (science? ) is another prototypical scoffer tactic. It is openly sarcastic. It makes assumptions. And it uses every opportunity to stupidly insert something negative no matter how weak, for example: "Backster admits that he committed a bit of petty larceny in the name of science: he went to another office, went into a secretary's desk drawer and retrieved some matches." Or underwriting negative inferences into simple facts, such as, "He has parlayed his doctorate into a position at the California Institute for Human Science Graduate School and Research Center...". He also uses Backster's LATER interest from, and speaking to, persons in fields like dowsing, remote viewing and more against him, as if any of this disproves whether or not a plant reacts under the conditions he specifies. In the thread you link to, the article (NOT written by Backster? ) mentions a little of his work and then says, "As the above scientific experiments have shown, plants and trees have emotions and even psychic powers." This is the kind of thing that scoffers love: they respond not to what someone citing research (even layman's research? ) has said was done but rather, to what the media says was done. This is straight out of Drasin's "How to Debunk Anything" guide. :-? ) In fact, even aside from the painful (and inaccurate? ) hype in that sentence, a real issue is that Backster's initial work was not scientific in the formal sense; he was a curious engineer with tech at his disposal, not a scientist in a lab with a pre-planned hypothesis. That does not make his findings less intriguing; it merely makes them more in need of replication by other parties. Many of the greatest discoveries in human history have been by 'creative engineers' and I see no need to insult someone for working with what they have got. Some people believe only those rich enough to have sat through a PhD should be allowed to study the world around them. I think it's a damn good thing that isn't the case. > The thread that brought up this debate was found here: > I just finished reading Backster's own book, PRIMARY PERCEPTION: biocommunication with Plants, Living Foods, and Human Cells. ISBN 0- 966435435 looks to be privately published through White Rose Millennium Press, you can order the book through He takes on the various critiques made. He says something that sounds amazingly similar to what a LOT of people ('real scientists' no less? ) have said who have been attacked by others who think they represent 'the establishment' say: that the replication attempts were... inadequate (in my words: bordered on stupid? ), that basic protocol issues clearly defined were pointedly ignored or avoided, which alone would prevent acquring the same results. In a different field, here is a similar example. When Richard Atkins first published his low-carb results, he emphasized that going above ~30 carbs a day just wouldn't work, period, that a few more really did matter. Endless replication attempts using 55-60 carbs per day didn't get his results and the media announced loudly that replication had failed. When he made recommendations for protein intake, and also commented about other things which had to be done (such as a certain water intake to mitigate that? ), studies then over- prescribed protein to people with no such mitigating factors and then announced to the world that the high protein diet would give you kidney stones. When he pointed out very clearly that if you dropped your carbs low you had to exercise, because the body would eat muscle otherwise including a little brain tissue, replications promptly dropped to nearly no carb with no exercise and then announced to the world that his diet would basically eat your brain LOL. When finally HE became the funder and hired third party researchers--this decades after he first published--he was finally vindicated, validated, etc. He had nothing but total BS attacks disguised as (designed-to- ? ) "failed replications" until then. One attempt to replicate in Backster's lab had scientists insisting on monitoring (watching? ) the plants. Because the plants seemed to respond more to humans than most anything, it is important to exclude that variable from studies when possible. Backster was trying to get them to understand that if you think a plant is responding to human thought, you have to control this variable, you have to get the human observation OUT of the loop--fully automate the experiment, so humans are not involved, and then come back and get your readings. The scientists not only balked but then, as if this resolved the issue, simply put a camera in with the plant and stood in the next room to observe! LOL! Talk about obtuse. You see, THEY don't believe in psi or that anything is 'aware' in the universe, so they refuse to control for such a thing. Because the plants were known to respond to human intent (including spontaneous emotion and other things that observation can bring? ), this muddied things--no longer a clean read, it couldn't be proven that every response of the plants was connected to the experiment any more. Backster would say that 'spontaneity' was critically important in all this. Replicators would want to schedule something happening, like they'd burn a leaf or kill a shrimp, on a set schedule. Backster says that the results of doing this is that the plant responds the first time and then usually doesn't respond again--basically they seem to numb themselves to it, though that is a human way of putting it. Plants also seem to have a "faint"-type response, where if something is extreme enough, they respond but then don't respond at all for awhile until they 'revive'. Skeptics would insist that it had to be scheduled-replicable and Backster would say the nature of what was being studied did not make that practical, that it either has to be fully randomized (as his brine shrimp experiments finally became? ), so that there was at least some degree of spontaneity, or there needs to be REAL spontaneity involved. Unfortunately it is difficult to plan to make things spontaneous. And, when the plant (like people generally? ) responds much more markedly the first (spontaneous/new? ) time something happens than to the same thing following, well this is difficult. In another example, Backster explained how a human having any interaction with the plant made the plant extremely sensitive to that human. To control for this he used diff plants for each trial, and the experimenters were only in contact with the plant for a few minutes to set them up and then immediately left. But the attempt at replication had the researchers--this is funny--using the same plants and spending lots of time gently bathing each plant leaf to clean it first, LOL. Completely negating what he was insisting was of primary importance, that the plants basically not be... biased to any human. If you can seem to track a human's spontaneous experiences/emotions half a planet away on a plant that is accustomed to them--that they water or touch--then obviously, getting the plant intimate with a human and then doing any study on the plant is going to find readings related to that human in the midst of everything else, making it all blurry and impossible to validate because all the variables aren't being controlled for. The biggest replication issue relates to spontaneity and the need for it, and the problem of getting that in planned research. His fully automated brine shrimp experiments are statistically significant, but that is to say--it took math to make it obvious. He also has an interesting story about going to the AAAS meeting years ago mostly to get attacked. In addition to other things, he made at his expense packets with information. He brought ?00. They "accidentally" lost them and instead decided to hand out a one- page thing of info biased against his work to the audience. What they didn't know is he had another ?00 in his hotel room which he went and got. When the response of the audience demanded more, they conveniently found his materials. When he went to give his slide show, the person running it 'accidentally' dumped the entire thing onto the floor in hopeless confusion. Fortunately he had them all numbered, so was able to recover. You know, this kind of thing, it's so typical... that is not about the science itself but I had to laugh reading it, I have heard so many things along these lines. One gripe skeptics often make is that if it works for real every grad student would love to prove it. Backster's had an equipped lab since '74 open to any grad student and all he sees is that students interested in the topic are discouraged from pursuing it, sometimes to the degree that the stability of their future (their reputation? ) seems in question if they dare study it. So that's a bogus complaint, given the culture of science itself is what is preventing more legitimate study. Quoting Backster here on replication issues he says: "After reviewing the methodology involved in replication attempts, I came to a conclusion that there needs to be, in some manner, a way to convince the academic community to include in their science courses methods of properly automating biology oriented experiments. I believe that the need for automation, and for awareness of methods of achieving meaningful automation, is mandatory when attempting biocommunication research. Otherwise the repeatable experiment will be elusive. The role of human consciousness appears yet to be understood by those attempting to conduct replication of such experiments." He mentions things like, going to Yale and working with a class there, and how wonderfully it went, all spontaneous working with this spider, and the students were so delighted and intrigued, and they taped an interview with him to play on the Yale radio the next day but ... it never aired. It is difficult when the 'accidental conspiracy' of human nature is working against you, I think... I'll add at the end here, that Backster's done research on other things and some of this has correlates in separately done research. For example, in STERILE chicken eggs, he detects what almost seems to be the ghost of a heartbeat. This reminds me of studies where clams boxed up dark and driven to Kansas and taken underground, adjust and show response to the moon/tides where they are (in Kansas? ) even though we have no idea how they know such a thing. Some of the quantum physics experiments done with saliva and semen may suggest primary perception as well, although we really don't know what it means... until we know, lol. PJ


From: "Jason S. Shapiro" Date: Fri Jan ?, ?004 10:53 am Subject: RE: Cleve Backster's Work (was: Argh? ). fetik3 PJ: Thanks for the reply (and sorry for the ambiguous 'subject'; I forget that these posts are archived!? ) > The Skeptics Dictionary is pathetic. While my "gut" tends to agree with this assessment, I haven't really gone through and a specific entry and critically analyzed it. Since this is one of the resources my arm-chair skeptic "friends" tend to cite, I'd best get to it. It's just so frustrating that a person can click on a link, and get some snappy quote as the basis for the debate. This allows them to argue about a topic without having *any* knowledge about it whatsoever. Conversely, the person arguing against the skeptic has to know the details inside and out, in order to be able to point out the half-truths, blatant lies, that they use as "facts." Ahh... the burden of responsibility :? ) > a real issue is that Backster's initial work was not > scientific in the formal sense This is the issue that I was most interested in. People were claiming he wasn't using the "scientific method." In his research. I understood that his initial work was informal, but didn't that change once he decided to continue? > One attempt to replicate in Backster's lab had scientists insisting > on monitoring (watching? ) the plants. Right - in fact, in the thread I pointed you to, one person commented how the lack of observation opens up the possibility of fraud. While I agree with this, in terms of believing another's claim; it does not explain why a researcher would worry that they would commit fraud against themselves (by replicating the experiment with this protocol? ). Self-deception is one thing; fraud is another... > Because the plants seemed to > respond more to humans than most anything, it is important to exclude > that variable from studies when possible. Given that most experiments in psi (and I realize that Backster wasn't claiming "psychic powers" here? ), tend to show that distance isn't a factor... would distance of the observers (removing them from the building? ) really make a difference? > One gripe skeptics often make is that if it works for real every grad > student would love to prove it. Backster's had an equipped lab > since '74 open to any grad student My guess is that most debunkers would claim that his lab/equipment was fixed in some manner. I really doubt that any successful experiments that he hosted would be considered uninfluenced. But there's always something... isn't there? :? ) -Jason

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