pjrv : Messages : 3645-3663 of 4038
#3645 From: "Jason S. Shapiro"
Date: Tue Dec 30, ?003 9:04 am
Subject: Argh. fetik3
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 :? )
#3649 From: "pjgaenir"
Date: Tue Dec 30, ?003 6:?5 pm
Subject: Cleve Backster's Work (was: Argh? ). pjgaenir
> 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
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
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.
#3663 From: "Jason S. Shapiro"
Date: Fri Jan ?, ?004 10:53 am
Subject: RE: Cleve Backster's Work (was: Argh? ). fetik3
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? :? )