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Intentions and their effects

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Jenny
909493.  Tue May 15, 2012 4:23 am Reply with quote

OK this looks pretty much like woo-woo to me, but I accept that I am inclined to be sceptical if not cynical, and it merits some attention.

Check out http://theintentionexperiment.com/the-experiments

I would not be linking this if I thought it to be a commercial venture - as far as I can tell the intentions (see what I did there?) are purely philanthropic.

What I'm interested in is the actual experiments, linked at the bottom of that page, and their results. Unfortunately my knowledge of statistics isn't good enough to assess the veracity of what they're saying - any interested posters with a better mathematical foundation than me care to have a look?

 
Neotenic
909552.  Tue May 15, 2012 7:52 am Reply with quote

How curious.

I'm not going to dig into the statistics in any meaningful way, but the phrase that was bouncing through my mind as I read through them - and the 'Peace' one in particular - was 'intercessory prayer'.

Effectively, what it seems to me we have here is a 'de-religionised' inquiry into prayer. Whether or not this is a pseudo-science similar to Intelligent Design remains to be seen - but I wouldn't be at all surprised if that turned out to be the case.

 
NinOfEden
909568.  Tue May 15, 2012 8:40 am Reply with quote

Well, there isn't any particular reason why prayer (in its broadest sense) should work, but so many people swear by it that it must be at least worth some serious study.

 
Jenny
909604.  Tue May 15, 2012 10:52 am Reply with quote

According to an article in The Straight Dope, any effect seen looks like placebo.

The placebo effect is in itself an interesting thing, but you can have a placebo effect from many things (qv homeopathy) without prayer being involved.

I note this website is looking at 'intentions' rather than prayers, though I'm not sure how (or whether) they define the difference between the two.

 
Spud McLaren
909613.  Tue May 15, 2012 11:22 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
I note this website is looking at 'intentions' rather than prayers, though I'm not sure how (or whether) they define the difference between the two.
I'd have thought that with intentions a group of people mentally act simultaneously to attempt to influence direct in some small way the way the universe works, whereas in prayer they might act individually and are asking A Higher Power to intercede on their behalf.

I'm sceptical but not cynical; I think we ought to give a cautious welcome to research (if it's reasonably impartial) rather than out-of hand dismissal.

 
Neotenic
909614.  Tue May 15, 2012 11:24 am Reply with quote

I certainly agree that the placebo effect is fascinating - but this set of 'experiments' has little to do with it.

I think 'coincidence' is a much better explanatory tool.

I've been popping back and reading a bit more of these every now and then through the afternoon, and I find that they are steadily making me more exasperated.

Reading the 'water germination' one, for example - the only potentially positive result they have found is that all 90 seeds watered with 'intended' water germinated, when 'only' 90% of those in the control groups did - and I would suggest that a bunch of people, effectively, cheer-leading the water had about as much impact on the germination process as whether the person whose piss ultimately became that water had fish fingers or roast chicken for dinner before visiting the smallest room.

However, I especially like the last few paragraphs of that particular note, where they tried the experiment with a group of what they call 'master intenders' - a group of luminaries that include in their number the authors of 'Chicken Shit For The Soul', and 'Seven Habits Of Highly Defective People'.

Or something like that, anyway.

Oh, and the one other named person is Lynne Twist, whose Wikipedia page was deleted in 2009 for 'blatant advertising', and nobody has seen fit to replace it yet.

The experiment failed, but the mitigating point they provide is a small work of genius.

Quote:
Sadly, Dr. Schwartz, who analyzed our results, finally determined that
the results of our small study were inconclusive.
The lab technician running the study inadvertently placed our jars of
water next to some equipment with high levels of electromagnetic
fields, which Dr. Schwartz believes interfered with the signal.


Of course, electromagnetism fucks with our best intentions. Which probably also explains why, whenever someone calls me on my mobile, I stop caring about animal cruelty.

 
Spud McLaren
909618.  Tue May 15, 2012 11:33 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
... I would suggest that a bunch of people, effectively, cheer-leading the water had about as much impact on the germination process as whether the person whose piss ultimately became that water had fish fingers or roast chicken for dinner before visiting the smallest room.
You wouldn't be making the case here for water having "memory", would you?

;-)

 
Jenny
909648.  Tue May 15, 2012 2:52 pm Reply with quote

I think Tim Minchin had the classic say on that one:

It's a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it's memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it's had in it!

http://www.lyricsmania.com/storm_lyrics_tim_minchin.html

 
dr.bob
909867.  Thu May 17, 2012 3:34 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
What I'm interested in is the actual experiments, linked at the bottom of that page, and their results. Unfortunately my knowledge of statistics isn't good enough to assess the veracity of what they're saying - any interested posters with a better mathematical foundation than me care to have a look?


I don't think that website gives enough detail for anyone to decide whether the experiments are scientifically rigorous, or if they're just making shit up.

I do notice that quite a few of the experiments make reference to the work of a certain Dr Gary Schwartz. According to wikipedia, Dr Schwarz has been criticised in the past for experiments that "deviate from the accepted norms of scientific methodology" and using "inappropriate statistical tests".

Wiki also tells me that Dr Schwarz was challenged by James Randi to reproduce his experiments with a view to winning Mr Randi's $1million prize but declined the offer apparently because he believed the panel appointed by Mr Randi would be biased.

I'll allow you to draw your own conclusions.

 
Oceans Edge
909887.  Thu May 17, 2012 6:35 am Reply with quote

Taking a glance at the website I am inclined to be a bit skeptical, and unlike Spud, I *am* cynical. However, I am also a pragmatic idealist - I do believe strongly, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. " There is still much to be discovered, and I welcome any serious research, unfortunately there's also a lot of hokey research out there and this one smacks a little too much of the whole 'rainbow bright' crowd.

I read a very good book some years back "Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics" which I won't really try to summarize or paraphrase here (because I'd do the book an injustice by doing so badly), but it examines the human thought process's role and affect in the quantum equation.

In particular I found the discussions on the Einstein / Rosen Paradox quite fascinating.

That I took a bit more seriously than I think I do this website.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that if Schrödinger's Cat teaches us anything, it's that what we've established as the "scientific method" in a Newtonian world is going to be fairly useless in a Quantum world. Does that mean we throw away all the accepted scientific principles and just 'make shit up'? I really hope not. I do think we have to remain open minded, that there is a lot of stuff we really don't understand about how the world works, and as Arthur C Clarke put it, "any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I'm inclined to believe that there is magic in the world and that it does follow rules and principles like any science or natural phenomenon, we just don't have the tools to test it. It's part of the reason I've always favoured the term 'metaphysics' (as opposed to magic or majick or.... *sigh*).

The pragmatic idealist in me says I want to know 'WHY' it works, but I don't have to know 'WHY' it works to employ or use the benefits of it. I don't entirely know HOW my computer does what it does, but I can use it just fine without that bothering me much.

I know, among the more serious practitioners of magik I'm a heretic, amongst the more serious scientific minds I'm a quack, but I do believe that the day when philosophy and science split into separate disciplines we did ourselves a disservice, and I like to think that there are those of us out here trying to put the two back together. We cannot truly understand how the universe works if we don't also consider ourselves and how we perceive and process those observations.

But yes, this bunch does sound a bit like they've been staring into their crystals for a bit long.

Edit:
Aside
: I'd love to have been a fly on the wall watching Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein verbally duking it out over what would become the accepted scientific method:

Wikipedia wrote:
Fifth conference:
Perhaps the most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons, where the world's most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg's "Uncertainty Principle," remarked "God does not play dice." Bohr replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do." (See Bohr-Einstein debates.) Seventeen of the twenty-nine attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.

This conference was also the culmination of the struggle between Einstein and the Scientific Realists, who wanted strict rules of scientific method as laid out by Charles Peirce and Karl Popper, versus Bohr and the Instrumentalists, who wanted looser rules based on outcomes. Starting at this point, the instrumentalists won, instrumentalism having been seen as the norm ever since[1] although the debate has been actively continued by the likes of Alan Musgrave.

 
Neotenic
909898.  Thu May 17, 2012 7:38 am Reply with quote

I just find myself thinking that if our intentions really did have a material impact on the world around us, we'd always get what we wanted for Christmas.

 
clack
909910.  Thu May 17, 2012 8:27 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
I just find myself thinking that if our intentions really did have a material impact on the world around us, we'd always get what we wanted for Christmas.
To take this point seriously for a moment -- think of all the "intentions" directed from Nazi concentration camps by the inmates. Millions of people praying in vain for deliverance. The Black Plague. Tsunamis. Etc.

I'm not saying that the mind can't have some very minor effect on the material world through some process we don't yet understand -- it's an interesting area of investigation for sure. But : I'm skeptical.

 
Neotenic
909927.  Thu May 17, 2012 10:03 am Reply with quote

Yeah - I do think this is definitely where the whole 'intention' thing really falls down.

Fundamentally, in order for 'intentions' to have an effect, then there has to be some form of external agent that can take them and convert them into action. Otherwise, they are just words.

So, I guess the question is, can 'intentions' work without there being a God? And, indeed, if all the intentions of the unfortunate people you mention came to nought, then we can't really escape the conclusion that, if He does exist, He's a massive shit.

 
dr.bob
909928.  Thu May 17, 2012 10:08 am Reply with quote

Oceans Edge wrote:
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that if Schrödinger's Cat teaches us anything, it's that what we've established as the "scientific method" in a Newtonian world is going to be fairly useless in a Quantum world.


I'm sorry but, as a Physicist, I can categorically state that this is definitely not the case. All of the experiments that have allowed us to explore the quantum world have been carried out using exactly the same "scientific method" that were used previously to explore Newtonian physics.

All that Schrödinger's Cat teaches us is that trying to explain the complicated mathematics of quantum mechanics in terms of something that people are used to seeing in the non-quantum world is fraught with difficulty.

Oceans Edge wrote:
I do think we have to remain open minded


That's true to an extent, though one is reminded of the famous Clint Dawkins quote "By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out"

 
Posital
909965.  Thu May 17, 2012 1:46 pm Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
That's true to an extent, though one is reminded of the famous Clint Dawkins quote "By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out"
+1 - takes note.

 

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