Jan Walleczek: Counterfactual Meta-Experimentation and the Limits of Science: 100 Years of Parapsychology as a Control Group

Are the limits of science, the limits of scientific reproducibility? In probing the meta-scientific question concerning the practical versus the fundamental limits of the scientific method, one may consider the large data base from 100 years of parapsychology.

Under the skeptical assumption that anomalous (psi) phenomena do not exist in controlled laboratory experiments, parapsychology as-a-whole represents a control group for assessing the practical limits of the scientific process. How to empirically distinguish between true-positive and false-positive effects in anomalies research? To address this question, the advanced meta- experimental protocol (AMP) was developed, which includes the concept of the sham-experiment, i.e., counterfactual meta-experimentation. As a first test case, the AMP was adopted in a large-scale, confirmatory replication attempt (10,000 test trials) of a widely- publicized parapsychological study, known as the Radin double-slit experiment on psycho-kinetic consciousness. The AMP revealed a false-positive effect upon determining the true-negative detection rate of the methodology used in the Radin experiment.

For the movement that seeks to reform the research process, counterfactual meta-experimentation provides a powerful tool for revealing the (possible) presence of false-positive effects in any experimental paradigm, including in parapsychology and anomalies research in general.

Reference: Walleczek, J. and von Stillfried, N. (2019) False-positive effect in the Radin double-slit experiment on observer consciousness as determined with the advanced meta-experimental protocol (AMP). Front. Psychol., doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01891.

Jan Walleczek

Director, Fetzer Franklin Fund and Phenoscience Laboratories

Jan Walleczek Ph.D. is Director of the Fetzer Franklin Fund, and a Trustee of the John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust. He lives in Berlin, Germany, where he founded Phenoscience Laboratories. Previously he was Director of the Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory at Stanford University Medical School, Palo Alto, California. Jan Walleczek studied biology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, followed by doctoral work at the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, and post-doctoral work at the Research Medicine and Radiation Biophysics Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley.His research interests are diverse, and his scientific publications cover the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, and physics. His work focuses on the foundations of quantum mechanics and the application to living systems of concepts such as quantum coherence, emergent dynamics, and the flow of information, a long-standing interest which he summarized as an edited volume for Cambridge University press titled “Self-organized biological dynamics and nonlinear control”. In addition to metascience and advanced research design, his professional interests include the philosophy and the foundations of science.