13 February 2007

PEAR Labs closes/relocates

Thanks to Sclerotic-Rings for the head's up. Princeton's Engineering Anomalies Research Lab is closing due to lack of funds, 28 years after its inception.

The group studied whether consciousness affected random events on a large statistical scale. They found minute but statistically significant influences from human thoughts, or (take your pick) statistical anomalies in their data. They published peer-reviewed articles about their work, and also published later work that failed to confirm their original work.

In the end, they say they have proven that consciousness does play a role in random events, denying the current state of physics that allows for no mechanism for such an interaction. I say that they may have valid arguments against current physics, however they fail to do the thing that real scientists do: propose an alternate hypothesis that can be further tested. To me they are no better than those who support Intelligent Design. I agree entirely with IDers' claim that Darwinian Evolution has flaws - (1) Punctuated Equilibrium has supplanted Darwinian evolution, so they're really barking up the wrong tree, but (2) Irreducible Complexity is something that is not well-explained by any of our evolution models. However, by failing to propose an alternative scientific hypothesis that does fill in the gaps of evolution, ID fails to be science. Similarly, it appears that consciousness could affect random events, but the PEAR Labs researchers fail to to propose any mechanism by which it might do so.

Until then, I will remain skeptical.

And to round off this discussion with a little humor...


utenzi said...

Punctuated equlibrium has supplanted natural selection? You might want to do a wee bit of research on that one, ZP! You're going to end up in the ID camp yet.

There is no one theory of evolution that works in all situations. That's reasonable because all sorts of situations exist to push speciation. PE works great during situations of rapid change but Darwin's theory holds well for gradual change.

zandperl said...

As I understand PE, it is a modification of Darwinian evolution that is more accepted by biologists today. DE says that natural selection takes place over millenia and is a very slow process. PE says that this is the case most of the time, except when some dramatic event occurs that rapidly changes the environment of a species, and then evolution happens explosively.

PE does not deny natural selection, just specifices the circumstances under which it is more likely to happen quickly vs. slowly. It explains the apparent "gaps" in the fossil record, where species appear to be "created" overnight, as in reality they evolved too rapidly (on a geologic time scale) to show in the fossil record due to some catastrophic event, but still through a process of gradual natural selection.

If my understanding is incorrect, do please correct me.

zandperl said...

Also, as I understand it, punctuated equilibrium is to Darwinian evolution, as General Relativity is to Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. It's a refinement of the original theory to account for additional information.

utenzi said...

Nope. Evolution has been around at least since the Classical Greeks. Darwin proposed a theory to explain it, phyletic gradualism. PE is a different theory to explain evolution.

Your summation of PE is quite nice, ZP. It's definitely not a case of needing to accept one theory or the other--the two complement one another.