Friday, July 14, 2006

Rupert Sheldrake Gets Air Time

I listen regularly to the BBC's weekly technology podcast, Digital Planet. Always interesting and fun. But I was surprised and disappointed by the podcast from 10 July. It included a segment on discredited parapsychological researcher Rupert Sheldrake, occasioned by his internet telepathy test.
In short, although Sheldrake commands some respect as a scientist because of his education and degree, he has clearly abandoned science in favor of theology and philosophy.

Skeptic's Dictionary
But the programme hosts' attitude was basically "this is funny stuff, but it's good to know that a Real Scientist such as Sheldrake is performing these Experiments to check it out". Sheldrake was allowed to quote, unchallenged, test results with great statistical significance suggesting that telepathy is real.

What the hosts should have mentioned, but did not, is:
  • That similar but more carefully controlled experiments have been performed time and time again without anyone finding any support for the hypothesis that telepathy exists,
  • That Rupert Sheldrake is a scientist with a really bad reputation, and
  • That Sheldrake's internet test is completely useless as it incorporates no way of ensuring that the subjects are blind to each other.
Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson, your show is usually excellent. But I'm very sorry: this time you've really slipped up.

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