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Thread: Empirical Occultism?

  1. #1
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    Default Empirical Occultism?

    After seeing the term used on Occult Forums a while back, and a discussion I had today. Been inspired to write up what conditions an occult claim could be tested under, to see if it could survive the rigorous scrutiny of controlled test.

    And this is in the advanced section, not because it's particularly complex, but because all the other posts in this section seem philosophical or scientific in nature - rather than mere queries. Also, all of them are very verbose and long. This should fit right in.

    Some preliminary statements:

    There is no such thing as the creation of a tautology when inductive reasoning is used, therefore there is no 'absolute' proof that any claim is invalid. There are statistical tests which can be used to check the validity and strengthen the case that a claim is invalid, but again - it is not absolute proof. (if you're interested and have an interest or aptitude for maths, check out statistical hypothesis testing)

    However, to make conjectures about things that there is no absolute proof for is a part of daily life.

    For example "If I'm late for work today my boss will be pissed off" or "My wife will not like it if I go to an orgy covered in marmite." - there is no absolute certainty in these statements - as you can only know your boss's or your wife's response after they've done it.

    It therefore stands that lack of absolute disproof of something is a daft reason to still believe in something steeped in inductive reason. A belief is held due to its intuitiveness, functionality and proof.

    Eg, people don't expect light to randomly shoot down either of two slits when incident upon them, then create a pattern when the light interacts with itself - they expect this even less for electrons. And lesser still for free nucleons, but it still happens. It's been proved to happen, and it's functional to believe such a thing as it has great theoretical implications.

    A common complaint is that controlled studies somehow 'block occult energies' - while that may be the case, if the effects of an occult claim are completely falsified by several short sighted beardy people (including the women) who devote their lives to being sad acts, is it really that powerful a claim?

    Is going on a tirade about belief really necessary? Of course, because belief is a great enemy of honest disproof - and renders belief in something genuinely disproved as delusional. Furthermore belief itself can construe all kinds of things on rigorous tests - even completely invalidate them. In lieu of that, on with the rigor!

    Requirements To Be Tested

    For a claim to be tested, it must be falsifiable - that's a tautology. To resort to a cliché "invisible pink omnipotent, omnipresent sky leprechauns do everything in an undectectable way" - to make such a claim is unfalsifiable, doesn't make any real predictions (as it does not explain any observed phenomena) nor does it have any defined and testable mechanisms.

    However, this spell would be directly falsifiable: "Turning around counter clockwise three times while chanting incendia potentas while your hands are doused in petrol causes you to breath fire." - as it makes a direct link between a process and a result.

    Several things can happen - the result happens independant of the process (the man breathes fire due to EITHER the anti-clockwise turning, the petrol on his hands or the chanting). This is tested for by control groups - having people who do not turn around three times anticlockwise, do not have any petrol on their hands and also do nothing.

    Please note, this is an example to grasp the general concept - not a rigorous trial plan for that occult claim. You can do that bit yourselves, if you're reading this. (placebos instead of petrol in some control groups, turning clockwise in some - possibilities are endless)

    It is therefore concluded that either the whole process, or part of the process has no bearing on the result. And that the whole process, or part of the process - makes a false claim.

    (if P then Q, if not Q then not P - valid argument form)

    The result does not happen at all - then the claim is flawed. Individual parts of the claim MAY be true, however unlikely. And if you wished you may individually test these parts for increased rigor (it's not uncommon to claim that, if a particular claimant into selling your own snake oil.)

    The most likely experimental constrant in the spinny fire example would be that someone did it in their undergarments, or at least short sleeves to prevent a claimant carrying something to ignite any petrol. And to have their mouths tested for flame accelerant traces prior to the event.

    In the last case, that despite the controlled conditions - the occult claim happened. The experiment would be repeated, if the claims could not be duplicated at all, then the claim would still be considered false.

    The last bit, however, is most likely to happen during trials of mental powers which do not manifest physically (such as psychically predicting people's memories et cetera, against physical phenomena like elemental manipulation or telekinesis).

    [b]More Sophisticated Claims[b]

    Such as palmistry, tarot readings of people's futures, astrology and mediumship with the dead.

    These are generally tested in double blind trials, to prevent any observer bias.

    What is a Double Blind Test?

    If it is chemical things such as homeopathy or reiki - these are tested against placebos, if there is no difference between the control group and the test group, the process is deemed invalid.

    Before it is claimed that occult claims have a hard time of it with the scientific method, read the controversy on Rorschach inkblot tests - all theories are put under completely insane levels ofscrutiny for many years.

    Thanks for reading, and hope this stops some disinformation on what the scientific testing of occult claims would entail.

    Of course, all the material here can be found through google searches. The Randi foundation has excellent pages, so does the skeptic's dictionary.

  2. #2
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    Lets make sure not to equivocate 'empirical' with 'experimental'. Although experimentation is most rigorous way of acquiring empirical knowledge, everyday observation also qualifies. Would anyone say that child who learns to stop putting his finger on a stove because it hurts is not learning from observation because he hasn't instituted proper controls?

    As far as the state of the evidence, there is quite a compelling case for psychism. According the Parapsychological Association, Parapsychology FAQ Page 3 :

    To be precise, when we say that "X exists," we mean that the presently available, cumulative statistical database for experiments studying X, provides strong, scientifically credible evidence for repeatable, anomalous, X-like effects.

    With this in mind, ESP exists, presentiment (physical changes in skin reactivity, pupil size, heart rate, and other factors indicating precognition before a stimulus is applied) exists, telepathy (direct mind-mind communication) exists, and mind-matter interaction (previously known as psychokinesis or PK) exists. The survival of bodily death remains unproven, though there is suggestive evidence for this from the reincarnation research performed by Ian Stevenson and others. (Note that we are using the terms ESP, telepathy and MMI in the technical sense, not in the popular sense. See What do parapsychologists study?)
    Although skeptics take issue with parapsychological studies, I have never found their objections very compelling.

    As for Qi, the Chinese Academy of Science has acquired corroborating evidence for paranormal effects. Results are found here: "Link.YAN XIN QIGONG "

    And a while back, the Army funded a study in psychic vampirism. Although the researcher waxes rhetorical, the results are discussed here: Llewellyn Journal - Psychic Vampires

    Lastly, a link is in order to show why the Randi Challenge is bogus: The Myth of the Million Dollar Challenge | TDG - Science, Magick, Myth and History
    "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." - 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

    "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person... has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." - Colossians 2:18-19

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    Default

    Lets make sure not to equivocate 'empirical' with 'experimental'. Although experimentation is most rigorous way of acquiring empirical knowledge, everyday observation also qualifies. Would anyone say that child who learns to stop putting his finger on a stove because it hurts is not learning from observation because he hasn't instituted proper controls?
    Empirical here means testable and producing repeatable results. It is knowledge gained empirically that the wee dude prodding the heater is bad for his finger - the contention is on the nature of the claim. For example, if the child is put near the heater it's not sensible to conclude that the child caused the heater to explode if it did indeed explode because there's little reason to believe in a relation between the two.

    Although skeptics take issue with parapsychological studies, I have never found their objections very compelling.
    Ganzfeld experiment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Well statistical debates should be very compelling, as they're what the parapsychology institute uses as evidence for ESP phenomena, for the most part.

    As for Qi, the Chinese Academy of Science has acquired corroborating evidence for paranormal effects. Results are found here: "Link.YAN XIN QIGONG "
    That's pretty interesting, there's nothing glaringly wrong with it either. Though I'd like a look at the papers it cites - can't seem to find anything but references to them on google.

    And a while back, the Army funded a study in psychic vampirism. Although the researcher waxes rhetorical, the results are discussed here: Llewellyn Journal - Psychic Vampires
    The foundations of this one are rocky, it presupposes auras and there's been little evidence to suggest that measurable auras exist.

    And as for the last link - the speaker who they quoted uses a completely insane p-value, 0.005? Jesus.

    Also, the likelyhood any statistician would ever demand a p-value of 1*10^-6 is incredibly low - because precisely this thing would happen people would say it really isn't fair (it isn't, if the null hypothesis isn't concluded from that your claim's watertight, Jesus) ... The whole article stinks. Some of Randi's tests are televised, and contrary to the article Yuri Geller's claims were tested on TV.

    Also, the author seems to get confused between statistical hypothesis testing and actual probabilities of things happening.

    The experts quoted - the one on homeopathy is out of context, the parapsychology and QM conjunction based on the EPR paradox isn't actually science, they're essentially saying "Things can happen" and using that statement as a rhetorical proof of their claims.

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    Well, the main reason I wanted to be careful about the use of 'empirical' is that it has a historically wider use. The empiricist/rationalist debate in epistemology, for example, didn't rest on experimental methodology... at any rate, while I agree that scientific inquiry provides the best means of knowledge in magick, I would resist that it is the only means of knowledge. None of us functions on scientific knowledge alone.

    The foundations of this one are rocky, it presupposes auras and there's been little evidence to suggest that measurable auras exist.
    I think that Kirilian images are the results of high voltage corona effects, not "auras." Even so, qi vampirism seems to influence electricity, which is a noteworthy result.
    "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." - 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

    "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person... has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." - Colossians 2:18-19

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    I think that Kirilian images are the results of high voltage corona effects, not "auras." Even so, qi vampirism seems to influence electricity, which is a noteworthy result.
    Yeah, it's definitely kirlian photography - it's just the sheer dishonesty required to link Kirlian photography in an aura page - when there actually is aura photography which is colour symbolism of galvanic skin response tests.

    Qi vampirism seems to influence electricity
    If this is concluded from the paper with numerous Qi studies in it, it's a bit dodgy - none of the references I checked on it were easily obtainable from google.

    Though, to say X influences electricty is a bit redundant too, as if X is related to humans, and the brain works on essentially electrochemical effects...

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    No, I meant ths Slate study. I suspect he used "auras" in order to meet the typical Lllewelyn reader half-way. My point was that vampirism seems to influence electric fields around persons in ways that placebo vampires do not.
    "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." - 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

    "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person... has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." - Colossians 2:18-19

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