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Old 19th December 2017, 07:19 AM   #81
Darat
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Originally Posted by P.J. Denyer View Post
I don't see why BobTheCoward's question is proving so controversial. From the point of view of the MDC a claim was paranormal if the JREF accepted that it was and claims on audiophile topics suggest that a degree of discernment in a physical sense that seemed abnormal could potentially be accepted. Yes, this is at the sensible end of the claim range but my personal opinion is that it is in the grey area where it might have been agreed. Others may disagree of course, I do not and never have spoken for the JREF.

Now possibly I'm setting myself up for a 'gotcha' from BTC, but I can't see anything terrible in saying that a genuine claimant could have been successful.
Especially after the record guy I think Randi was well aware of what claims would lie within the natural talent/skills of humans and what was claimed to be paranormal.
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:21 AM   #82
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
The doctor who met the woman was equally incredulous and thought the woman was nuts.
And? He and you both being incredulous has no effect on the reality.
Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
There is a leap to go from doctors being able to use smell to no doctor documenting their ability to smell and only this one person claiming to smell something no one else in the room can.
How do you know no one else could smell it?

You are making lots of assumptions, perhaps you should examine them first?
Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
And if this claim was not supernatural, but dowsing is, what about a claim that a person can smell water underground?
Really can't see what is supernatural about that - I can smell water underground! ETA: I can go one further, I can smell water underwater!
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:31 AM   #83
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I have way more questions about when the extraordinary becomes supernatural. What if someone claimed to run a two minute mile? A one minute mile?
In the case of extreme proficiency in skills that are established as possible, I don't think that there is a definable cut off point, just a grey area between what is definately possible and what is definately impossible with a grey area of what is theoretically possible but doesn't seem to be in practice in the middle.

A two minute mile would be 30mph, Usaine Bolt hits 28mph, all be it over shorter distances so the speed itself would seem exceptional but not paranormal, someone better qualified than me would have to comment on the possibility of sustaining that level of effort for two minutes. 60mph seems impossible to me so although the constraint is biology rather than physics (in the sense that it is possible for an object to travel at this speed), I would consider it a paranormal ability for the point of view of a test.

A quick caveat, definitions become important (a shaved cheetah with a drawn on mustache isn't 'someone', falling of a cliff with just enough incline for their feet to touch the cliff face a few times isnít running etc). Environment and time may change what is or isnít possible compared with existing attributes so the definition isn't necessarily set in stone.

Importantly though, if an ability is proven, then that most likely demonstrates that the person who made the judgement call on the part of the person who excepted it as supernatural was wrong (although making that call may have right based on current knowledge). As in this case it is an exceptional ability not an inexplicable one, in the hypothetical case where the results demonstrated the ability but even with study no mechanism could be found it would demonstrate a significant gap in our scientific knowledge, it would in effect be super-science not super-natural and open up new areas of investigation. Reality is always right, we may be in error. I use the terms supernatural and paranormal in the context of a test as 'an ability that does not appear to be possible, and/or explicable' by our current knowledge'.
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:34 AM   #84
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
On your second part, is it like porn? You know it when you smell it?
Okay now you've gone and made me imagine the smell of porn. Gross.

Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
And if this claim was not supernatural, but dowsing is, what about a claim that a person can smell water underground?
I agree it's a bit foggy, but since this is a real-world thing that was decided by real-world people I suspect there won't be a great internally consistent definition. I suspect they wouldn't have accepted this one, but we can't know for certain.

For myself, I would have turned this one down but allowed the dowsing one despite the similarities because dowsing, regardless of how they claim to do it, has a long history of both supernatural explanation and of failure under test conditions. I would therefore consider it both relevant and safe.

As I previously mentioned, if this woman claimed she wasn't smelling it but was getting information from the ghost of someone that had Parkinson's then I would probably take the claim at face value and if she then won the money and I later found out it's possible to smell it then... I guess I'm out a million bucks. Whoops!

Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
This whole thread will become a derail about epistemology, by grace of Bob's moving goalposts and JAQing off.
So a pretty typical thread on this forum then? I mean, replace the name Bob with whoever you want depending on the subforum, but...
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:38 AM   #85
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Especially after the record guy I think Randi was well aware of what claims would lie within the natural talent/skills of humans and what was claimed to be paranormal.
"I claim that I can decern Parkinson's sufferers from a control group by examining unlaundered clothes that they have recently worn"
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:47 AM   #86
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Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
Because:


This whole thread will become a derail about epistemology, by grace of Bob's moving goalposts and JAQing off.
There are not goalposts. I haven't taken a position here.
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:48 AM   #87
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
And? He and you both being incredulous has no effect on the reality.


How do you know no one else could smell it?

You are making lots of assumptions, perhaps you should examine them first?


Really can't see what is supernatural about that - I can smell water underground! ETA: I can go one further, I can smell water underwater!
Can humans smell H2O?

This claims that there are only two mammals that can smell underwater

https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/starn.html

Which I'm wondering if you being able to smell water underwater would be an extraordinary talent or supernatural.

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Old 19th December 2017, 07:50 AM   #88
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Yes. Yes they can smell water.
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:51 AM   #89
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The distinction often made is between unusual applications of existing senses and senses not documented by conventional science.
A girl was once tested who claimed to be able to read text while blindfolded. Her family and other supporters theorized that she was able to "see" through the skin on her face. It turned out that she was using a self-made "blindfold" constructed from swimming goggles with the lenses painted over. She had a natural indentation in the side of her nose that allowed her to see around the edge of the goggles. When she was properly blindfolded, her ability disappeared.
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:55 AM   #90
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Originally Posted by Armitage72 View Post
The distinction often made is between unusual applications of existing senses and senses not documented by conventional science.
A girl was once tested who claimed to be able to read text while blindfolded. Her family and other supporters theorized that she was able to "see" through the skin on her face. It turned out that she was using a self-made "blindfold" constructed from swimming goggles with the lenses painted over. She had a natural indentation in the side of her nose that allowed her to see around the edge of the goggles. When she was properly blindfolded, her ability disappeared.
What about seeing ghosts? Is that unusual application of vision or previously unknown sense? Or does it matter that the object sensed is unknown?
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Old 19th December 2017, 08:06 AM   #91
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
What about seeing ghosts? Is that unusual application of vision or previously unknown sense? Or does it matter that the object sensed is unknown?

Given that they are perceiving something completely outside the detectable electromagnetic spectrum, it would be an unknown sense. In that case, the difficulty is that they're claiming to be able to detect something that can't be detected by science, so it's a little hard to test. How do you determine if they're actually detecting something that you yourself can't detect? You start to get into the same territory covered by Sagan's Dragon in "The Demon-Haunted World."

"There's a fire-breathing dragon living in my garage."
"Let me see it."
"It's invisible."
"I'll hear it."
"It's silent."
"I'll detect its flames with a thermograph."
"It breathes room-temperature flames."
"I'll scatter powder on the floor to detect its footprints."
"It floats above the ground."
"I'll spray something into the air to coat its surface."
"It's intangible."
... and so on.

In theory, I suppose they could ask a ghost to convey information to them that they wouldn't be able to obtain through normal means, but that assumes that they can do more than just see ghosts and are capable of two-way communication.
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Old 19th December 2017, 08:08 AM   #92
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Originally Posted by Armitage72 View Post
Given that they are perceiving something completely outside the detectable electromagnetic spectrum, it would be an unknown sense. In that case, the difficulty is that they're claiming to be able to detect something that can't be detected by science, so it's a little hard to test. How do you determine if they're actually detecting something that you yourself can't detect? You start to get into the same territory covered by Sagan's Dragon in "The Demon-Haunted World."

"There's a fire-breathing dragon living in my garage."
"Let me see it."
"It's invisible."
"I'll hear it."
"It's silent."
"I'll detect its flames with a thermograph."
"It breathes room-temperature flames."
"I'll scatter powder on the floor to detect its footprints."
"It floats above the ground."
"I'll spray something into the air to coat its surface."
"It's intangible."
... and so on.

In theory, I suppose they could ask a ghost to convey information to them that they wouldn't be able to obtain through normal means, but that assumes that they can do more than just see ghosts and are capable of two-way communication.
Then what if we had our Parkinson's smeller before the existence of molecular theory and devices to measure odor? In that case, she is perceiving outside our ability to measure.
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Old 19th December 2017, 08:11 AM   #93
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dogs. woof. bow wow.
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Old 19th December 2017, 08:19 AM   #94
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Repeating Lukas1986's point, there are probably a lot of people who can smell Parkinson's. It's just that nobody associated the particular odor with the disease until now. I know that if I'm out in public, and I stand near someone with a noticeable odor, my first thought is usually "Geez, soap and deodorant aren't that expensive", not "I wonder if he has an unusual disease."
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Old 19th December 2017, 08:20 AM   #95
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
There are not goalposts. I haven't taken a position here.
There are, every time a question is answered, you move to a more nebulously defined one and ask people to answer that too.
You not taking a position is part of your schtick, you'll continue to 'just ask questions' until the entire thread is discussing what the precise definition of certain terms is, instead of the actual topic.
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Old 19th December 2017, 08:47 AM   #96
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Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
There are, every time a question is answered, you move to a more nebulously defined one and ask people to answer that too.
You not taking a position is part of your schtick, you'll continue to 'just ask questions' until the entire thread is discussing what the precise definition of certain terms is, instead of the actual topic.
Good answers inspire interesting questions.
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:01 AM   #97
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Can humans smell H2O?

This claims that there are only two mammals that can smell underwater

https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/starn.html

Which I'm wondering if you being able to smell water underwater would be an extraordinary talent or supernatural.
Neither. Surprised you can't.
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:02 AM   #98
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
What about seeing ghosts? Is that unusual application of vision or previously unknown sense? Or does it matter that the object sensed is unknown?
Matter to what?
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:04 AM   #99
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Then what if we had our Parkinson's smeller before the existence of molecular theory and devices to measure odor? In that case, she is perceiving outside our ability to measure.
What on earth are you claiming? That people couldn't smell before "the existence of molecular theory and devices to measure odor"?
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:13 AM   #100
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
What on earth are you claiming? That people couldn't smell before "the existence of molecular theory and devices to measure odor"?
I'm asking about a situation where only this person (and a select few) s capable of detecting the disease through this method (in a time when unable to detect what she is smelling).
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:27 AM   #101
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I'm asking about a situation where only this person (and a select few) s capable of detecting the disease through this method (in a time when unable to detect what she is smelling).
Why? It didn't happen.
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:33 AM   #102
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Why? It didn't happen.
I don't owe you an answer why. I tossed out the hypothetical. Answer if you wish. If you require a reason to answer it you will receive none from me.
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Old 19th December 2017, 10:01 AM   #103
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I don't owe you an answer why. I tossed out the hypothetical. Answer if you wish. If you require a reason to answer it you will receive none from me.
Well if you aren't interested in a discussion fair enough.
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Old 19th December 2017, 10:20 AM   #104
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In BTC world, hypothetical is the same as random nonsense.
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Old 19th December 2017, 10:40 AM   #105
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Originally Posted by fagin View Post
In BTC world, hypothetical is the same as random nonsense.
I don't require anyone to go along with a hypothetical scenario.
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Old 19th December 2017, 01:11 PM   #106
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That's big of you.
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Old 19th December 2017, 01:15 PM   #107
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Thankfully the world isn't bound by what you know and can understand. We can access knowledge that others have accumulated over the millennia of human existence and also the knowledge we have accumulated ourselves.

Many of us know that smell has long been a proven diagnostic tool that medical professionals use.
Conversely dowsing has been shown to be delusional bunk over and over
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Old 19th December 2017, 07:21 PM   #108
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We believe we have a pretty good understanding of the mechanisms by which senses function. Claims of sensing abilities that do not adhere to the known limitations of those mechanisms would therefore likely be considered paranormal.

"I can smell Parkinson's disease in humans" is not a paranormal claim by that standard. It's a specific sensation we're not accustomed to, but the mechanism is understandable by conventional means.

On the other hand, "I can smell roses from inside an airtight chamber" would likely be considered a paranormal claim. Just like "I can read numbers that are inside an opaque box."

The specific sense is not important; what's important is the lack of a known mechanism. You don't get credit for demonstrating ESP, no matter how many Zener cards you correctly identify, if you can see the cards. Or if the person administering the test says what they are out loud first.
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Old 20th December 2017, 02:13 AM   #109
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Can humans smell H2O?

This claims that there are only two mammals that can smell underwater

https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/starn.html

Which I'm wondering if you being able to smell water underwater would be an extraordinary talent or supernatural.
Bob did you actually read the link you posted? Those animals are not able to smell water underwater at all they can just smell underwater their prey and again a trail of scent this prey leaves behind, pheromones or other chemicals underwater:

Quote:
Dr. Catania used high-speed video recordings to film the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) and water shrew (Sorex palustris). He noticed that these animals blew small air bubbles and then inhaled the bubbles when they hunted for food. To test his theory that the animals were using the bubbles to smell, he built an underwater trail using the scent of earthworms, a favorite food of the mole, or the scent of fish, a favorite food of the shrew.
Source: https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/starn.html

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Old 20th December 2017, 03:48 AM   #110
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
We believe we have a pretty good understanding of the mechanisms by which senses function. Claims of sensing abilities that do not adhere to the known limitations of those mechanisms would therefore likely be considered paranormal.

"I can smell Parkinson's disease in humans" is not a paranormal claim by that standard. It's a specific sensation we're not accustomed to, but the mechanism is understandable by conventional means.

On the other hand, "I can smell roses from inside an airtight chamber" would likely be considered a paranormal claim. Just like "I can read numbers that are inside an opaque box."

The specific sense is not important; what's important is the lack of a known mechanism. You don't get credit for demonstrating ESP, no matter how many Zener cards you correctly identify, if you can see the cards. Or if the person administering the test says what they are out loud first.
But until this study no-one had established that Parkinson's actually had a smell. The ability isnít paranormal, and in hindsight it's easy to say that the claim wasn't, but without the use of hindsight it isn't so clear and could also depend greatly on how the claim was phrased.

In this case the subject was educated, honest, and interested in promoting the research, what if someone had this ability but didn't refer to it as 'smelling' in the claim 'sense' maybe? What if they were subconsciously picking up the smell but rationalising the knowledge in a different way because they were believers in auras or therapeutic touch? Or they had synaesthesia, or were just lying con artists making out that a mundane observation is communication from the great beyond?

I don't believe in the 'supernatural', any ability that that can be demonstrated can ultimately be explained and understood, increasing our store of knowledge in the process. I don't believe for a second that anyone is going to demonstrate dowsing, telepathy, telekinesis or precognition. But, a paranormal claim is when someone claims to be able to do something that our current knowledge says is impossible and that could include skills like this where a small but important piece of information is discovered.
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Old 20th December 2017, 05:18 AM   #111
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Originally Posted by Lukas1986 View Post
Bob did you actually read the link you posted? Those animals are not able to smell water underwater at all they can just smell underwater their prey and again a trail of scent this prey leaves behind, pheromones or other chemicals underwater:



Source: https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/starn.html
Reread what I wrote. " only two mammals that can smell underwater"

I did not say water underwater.
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Old 20th December 2017, 05:45 AM   #112
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On the 'smelling water' question, humans can't smell water, but they can smell the interaction of water with some other substances (petrichor for example). And, no, I don't think it's a possible mechanism for dowsing.
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Old 20th December 2017, 06:29 AM   #113
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Originally Posted by P.J. Denyer View Post
On the 'smelling water' question, humans can't smell water, but they can smell the interaction of water with some other substances (petrichor for example). And, no, I don't think it's a possible mechanism for dowsing.
So that would be supernatural?
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Old 20th December 2017, 07:56 AM   #114
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Originally Posted by P.J. Denyer View Post
But until this study no-one had established that Parkinson's actually had a smell. The ability isn’t paranormal, and in hindsight it's easy to say that the claim wasn't, but without the use of hindsight it isn't so clear and could also depend greatly on how the claim was phrased.

In this case the subject was educated, honest, and interested in promoting the research, what if someone had this ability but didn't refer to it as 'smelling' in the claim 'sense' maybe? What if they were subconsciously picking up the smell but rationalising the knowledge in a different way because they were believers in auras or therapeutic touch? Or they had synaesthesia, or were just lying con artists making out that a mundane observation is communication from the great beyond?

I don't believe in the 'supernatural', any ability that that can be demonstrated can ultimately be explained and understood, increasing our store of knowledge in the process. I don't believe for a second that anyone is going to demonstrate dowsing, telepathy, telekinesis or precognition. But, a paranormal claim is when someone claims to be able to do something that our current knowledge says is impossible and that could include skills like this where a small but important piece of information is discovered.

The JREF's million dollar challenge was geared specifically toward testing claims of paranormal phenomena. Hence, the challenges were generally conducted in ways that ruled out non-paranormal mechanisms. They were not out to discover new techniques or advanced levels of subtlety in the art of cold reading, nor in elucidating all the ways a dowser might, consciously or subconsciously, process sensory information from the surroundings. (Ability to sense slight local increases in humidity? A slight difference in the resiliency of the marginally damper soil over water sources? Clearly, testing using sealed vials of water hidden under boxes is going to rule out such effects, as remarkable or scientifically interesting as they might be as [non-paranormal] phenomena in their own right.)

In all cases, though, claimants participated in the test design and were willing to affirm, before the test at least (some changed their minds afterward), that the test conditions would not prevent the claimed ability from working.

So if the Parkinson-detecting person were under the impression that she was sensing etheric vibrations or seeing auras specific to Parkinson's patients, and described the ability as such, the test protocol might have either deliberately or accidentally ruled out detection by smell. Most likely the test would have involved something along the lines of, people with and without Parkinson's seated one at a time behind a full or (in the auras case) partial screen (being positioned while the claimant is out of the room, because Parkinson's symptoms include visible and audible gait changes) with the claimant approaching the screen and declaring yes or no for each patient. Whether the actual ability based on smell would still work reliably would then depend on the design of the screen, how close the approach, how long the claimant has to decide, and other such factors.

There's a good chance, though, that the very process of negotiating a protocol would lead to insight about the olfactory nature of the discerning ability. Getting claimants to clarify what they could do and under what conditions was always a key (and sometimes a very challenging!) part of the process. In the case at hand a dialog might go something like this:

"Can you do it blindfolded?"

"Yes, I tried it that way once and I could still tell."

"Does the patient need to be walking, or speaking, for you to tell?"

"No, I can tell even if they're sitting silently, or in bed asleep."

"Okay. Do you need to touch the patients?"

"No. But I do have to be very close to them."

"Okay, so you couldn't tell from, say, across a room."

"Well, sometimes, if they've been in the room for a long time. But I can always tell right away when I get up close."

"Is it possible you're smelling something, then?"

"I don't think so."

"Have you tried it wearing nose plugs, and holding your breath? If not, do you think you could arrange to try that on your own sometime?"

The JREF wanted to be able to declare a winning claimant's ability as not only a real ability but a real paranormal phenomenon. That was part of the prize they were offering. This made it important to rule out non-paranormal phenomena, including extraordinary but non-paranormal abilities and cases of honestly mistaken beliefs about the nature of an ability (the ESP prodigy who might not be consciously aware of being able to see the Zener card symbols reflected in the tester's eyes) as well as deliberate trickery. Being staffed partly by practicing magicians, they were aware that new stage-magic methods are being invented all the time; therefore their tests were designed to rule out not only known methods of fakery but all methods short of actual paranormal effects. So they don't want claimed clairvoyants to be using radios; that doesn't mean they don't think radio communication is a useful and important phenomenon. If radio weren't already known, and someone invented it, they'd still be unlikely to be able to win the JREF million dollar challenge with it, but surely there would be many other ways to profit from their breakthrough.

In a case like dowsing, if a dowser claimed to be able to mysteriously sense the presence of water with some (but less than 100%) reliability, but only natural sources of water in a natural setting in a familiar region while walking the landscape under the right weather conditions, the JREF couldn't and wouldn't test that ability. Because under those conditions, non-paranormal effects including knowledge of the local geology, observation of the contours of the ground, tangible differences in the soil characteristics underfoot, plant species or growth characteristics, smells, temperature, and other subtle information, combined with intuition and the ideomotor effect, could explain a success rate greater than chance expectations. If that's all the dowser claimed, then there would be no issue for the JREF to investigate. It was when a dowser claimed that his claimed successes came from being able to sense water directly at a distance regardless of intervening physical barriers that it became a paranormal claim, and possible to test as such, using vials of water and the like.

I agree with you that some cases of belief in paranormal abilities emerges from subtle and unusual but non-paranormal abilities of discernment and intuition. I also agree that smell is a likely modality in many such cases—not only unconscious detection of smells but also, I suspect, in cases of claimed interpersonal influence via paranormal means, the unconscious emanation of pheromones or other odorants.
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Old 20th December 2017, 09:42 AM   #115
P.J. Denyer
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
So that would be supernatural?
Dowsing as usually claimed (water in pipes, deep water or minerals, dowsing maps) would be. As such I have absolutely no belief they will ever be demonstrated.
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Old 20th December 2017, 10:08 AM   #116
P.J. Denyer
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
The JREF's million dollar challenge was geared specifically toward testing claims of paranormal phenomena. Hence, the challenges were generally conducted in ways that ruled out non-paranormal mechanisms. They were not out to discover new techniques or advanced levels of subtlety in the art of cold reading, nor in elucidating all the ways a dowser might, consciously or subconsciously, process sensory information from the surroundings. (Ability to sense slight local increases in humidity? A slight difference in the resiliency of the marginally damper soil over water sources? Clearly, testing using sealed vials of water hidden under boxes is going to rule out such effects, as remarkable or scientifically interesting as they might be as [non-paranormal] phenomena in their own right.)

In all cases, though, claimants participated in the test design and were willing to affirm, before the test at least (some changed their minds afterward), that the test conditions would not prevent the claimed ability from working.

So if the Parkinson-detecting person were under the impression that she was sensing etheric vibrations or seeing auras specific to Parkinson's patients, and described the ability as such, the test protocol might have either deliberately or accidentally ruled out detection by smell. Most likely the test would have involved something along the lines of, people with and without Parkinson's seated one at a time behind a full or (in the auras case) partial screen (being positioned while the claimant is out of the room, because Parkinson's symptoms include visible and audible gait changes) with the claimant approaching the screen and declaring yes or no for each patient. Whether the actual ability based on smell would still work reliably would then depend on the design of the screen, how close the approach, how long the claimant has to decide, and other such factors.

There's a good chance, though, that the very process of negotiating a protocol would lead to insight about the olfactory nature of the discerning ability. Getting claimants to clarify what they could do and under what conditions was always a key (and sometimes a very challenging!) part of the process. In the case at hand a dialog might go something like this:

"Can you do it blindfolded?"

"Yes, I tried it that way once and I could still tell."

"Does the patient need to be walking, or speaking, for you to tell?"

"No, I can tell even if they're sitting silently, or in bed asleep."

"Okay. Do you need to touch the patients?"

"No. But I do have to be very close to them."

"Okay, so you couldn't tell from, say, across a room."

"Well, sometimes, if they've been in the room for a long time. But I can always tell right away when I get up close."

"Is it possible you're smelling something, then?"

"I don't think so."

"Have you tried it wearing nose plugs, and holding your breath? If not, do you think you could arrange to try that on your own sometime?"

The JREF wanted to be able to declare a winning claimant's ability as not only a real ability but a real paranormal phenomenon. That was part of the prize they were offering. This made it important to rule out non-paranormal phenomena, including extraordinary but non-paranormal abilities and cases of honestly mistaken beliefs about the nature of an ability (the ESP prodigy who might not be consciously aware of being able to see the Zener card symbols reflected in the tester's eyes) as well as deliberate trickery. Being staffed partly by practicing magicians, they were aware that new stage-magic methods are being invented all the time; therefore their tests were designed to rule out not only known methods of fakery but all methods short of actual paranormal effects. So they don't want claimed clairvoyants to be using radios; that doesn't mean they don't think radio communication is a useful and important phenomenon. If radio weren't already known, and someone invented it, they'd still be unlikely to be able to win the JREF million dollar challenge with it, but surely there would be many other ways to profit from their breakthrough.

In a case like dowsing, if a dowser claimed to be able to mysteriously sense the presence of water with some (but less than 100%) reliability, but only natural sources of water in a natural setting in a familiar region while walking the landscape under the right weather conditions, the JREF couldn't and wouldn't test that ability. Because under those conditions, non-paranormal effects including knowledge of the local geology, observation of the contours of the ground, tangible differences in the soil characteristics underfoot, plant species or growth characteristics, smells, temperature, and other subtle information, combined with intuition and the ideomotor effect, could explain a success rate greater than chance expectations. If that's all the dowser claimed, then there would be no issue for the JREF to investigate. It was when a dowser claimed that his claimed successes came from being able to sense water directly at a distance regardless of intervening physical barriers that it became a paranormal claim, and possible to test as such, using vials of water and the like.

I agree with you that some cases of belief in paranormal abilities emerges from subtle and unusual but non-paranormal abilities of discernment and intuition. I also agree that smell is a likely modality in many such casesónot only unconscious detection of smells but also, I suspect, in cases of claimed interpersonal influence via paranormal means, the unconscious emanation of pheromones or other odorants.
The JREF MDC challenge didn't work quite that way though as I recall, the claim was accepted as 'paranormal' for the purposes of the challenge before a protocol was worked out and the negotiation of the protocol was to establish a mutually acceptable test of the ability, not to establish the mechanism. I don't recall dowsers ever being asked if they could detect water with nose plugs in? Or ear plugs? When Randi tested the dowsers in Australia the water running in theories would presumably be making a noise, but we don't believe it is audible. If a dowser passed and was later found to have had incredibly sensitive hearing would the result have been invalidated? No, because the claim was paranormal from the point of view of the test if the JREF accepted it for the test. It was a judgement made on the basis of what was known at the time. The protocol was set to eliminate known ways of gaining the information, smelling Altheimer's wasn't a known way of detecting it until these tests.

Yes, the idea of the challenge was to wave it in the faces of frauds but it also tested more reasonable claims from people with other claimed abilities that aren't recognised. To suggest that an unknown, but when studied entirely explicable, ability couldn't win a challenge, to me insults the integrity of the challenge. The difference between this case and the geology and radio examples you give are that while we know that the sense of smell exists no-one knew that Altsheimer's had a smell.
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Old 20th December 2017, 10:56 AM   #117
Lukas1986
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Reread what I wrote. " only two mammals that can smell underwater"

I did not say water underwater.
Agreed and I apologize but why did you then connect these animals with these two questions?:

Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Can humans smell H2O?

Which I'm wondering if you being able to smell water underwater would be an extraordinary talent or supernatural.
When both are asking the same thing - smelling water underwater?
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Old 20th December 2017, 10:57 AM   #118
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By contract, the JREF agreed that once they had accepted a claim as paranormal and approved the test protocol, a positive result would win the challenge and the money even if a non-paranormal explanation was later discovered (and even if that non-paranormal explanation turned out to be some sort of deliberate trickery that got past all their precautions).

That clearly wasn't the kind of result the JFEF wanted, though. Which is why tests were designed to rule out non-paranormal explanations. If they didn't make the dowser wear ear plugs, it's because they believed there was no possibility the dowser could hear the water running. And in that case (and all others we know of) it turned out they were right. But sure, if they'd been wrong and the dowser had super-acute hearing and won the challenge, they'd have paid the money per the contract. If the dowser's claim had been to hear the water or to need to be able to hear clearly for his extrasensory water perception to work properly, though, then making him wear ear plugs would make no sense; but neither would testing the claim as a paranormal one in the first place.

I can make a good comparison between the claimed ability that a certain person can smell Parkinson's and the claimed ability of a certain newly developed drug to cure a disease. Before they're tested, no one knows Parkinson's has a smell, and no one knows the drug can cure the disease. But we know some drugs can cure some diseases, and we know some diseases can be recognized by smell by some people. Thus the curing or sensing abilities in question would not be seen as paranormal claims unless non-paranormal explanations were ruled out (such as if the drug were nothing but water; or the Parkinson-sensing ability could be performed on a printed list of patient names).
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Old 20th December 2017, 11:16 AM   #119
Lukas1986
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Originally Posted by P.J. Denyer View Post
Yes, the idea of the challenge was to wave it in the faces of frauds but it also tested more reasonable claims from people with other claimed abilities that aren't recognised. To suggest that an unknown, but when studied entirely explicable, ability couldn't win a challenge, to me insults the integrity of the challenge. The difference between this case and the geology and radio examples you give are that while we know that the sense of smell exists no-one knew that Altsheimer's had a smell.
Good point however I personally think that this would not be taken as a winner for the paranormal challenge and it would not be taken as a paranormal claim at all because we already know that diseases have different smells and odours. Why Parkinson would be any different from other diseases? Second a lot of people have very sensitive smell that others cannot sense take even for example people with Asperger syndrome. Some of them I know can recognize some people according to their smell because they are very sensitive about smell others with Asperger are sensitive about touch etc.

However lets take a look at someone who was deemed as paranormal to see the difference. Take for example the case of Natasha Demkina she claimed she had X-ray eyes and could identify almost any kind of illness or see metal inside you. First Natasha claimed she has a super power/X-Ray vision that was never seen or experienced in any living being. Second she could diagnose not only one sickness but any you wish or could think of also she claimed she could see metal objects inside a person which is like a superpower. Third Natasha Demkina claims she had visions of this which is a paranormal background of the power or ability in question unlike smell.

The woman who identified Parkinson disease never claimed she had a paranormal background of her discovery. She never claimed she knows all the smells of every disease and can identify every disease according to smell. Third she has a sense that is common and it is known that some illnesses have odours. This is why this would not pass as a paranormal claim.

I am looking it this way and believe these are the reasons why this would not pass.

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Old 20th December 2017, 11:52 AM   #120
P.J. Denyer
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Originally Posted by Lukas1986 View Post
I am looking it this way and believe these are the reasons why this would not pass.
(Trimmed for space)

The question isn’t whether it would pass (we now know it would) it is whether it would be accepted. Take a look through the archive of JREF (and other testers I am sure) not all of the accepted claimed are totally whackjob, some are questions of discernment (eg. Audio cables). Some of the claimants didn't claim their powers were supernatural.

It's accepted that some diseases cause, not all of them, VFF claimed she could see missing kidneys, had she claimed to smell them do you think that everyone would have said "Fair enough that's perfectly reasonable"?

The problem is that after the test has been done and the results are in it's easy to make the call about whether the ability claimed was 'paranormal' or not, take away the Monday Night Quarterbacks aspect and I doubt there'd be such a strong consensus.

Again I think that a challenge that confirmed a previously unknown ability (although explicable within our scientific framework) would strengthen a challenge and prove that the challenge was fair and genuine. A result like this proves that the idea that Skeptics seek to prevent genuine claimants passing is not true.
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