Natasha Demkina: The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes?

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Natasha Demkina: The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes?

Post #1  Postby Eroica » Wed Mar 30, 2005 10:35 am

Natasha Demkina: the Girl with the X-Ray Eyes?

History
I presume most of you are familiar with the details of this case. If not, the Google link above should prove useful. Basically, Natasha Demkina is a young Russian girl who has acquired a reputation as a healer, able to diagnose things like cancer, brain tumours, heart conditions, etc, merely by interviewing her patients.

Recently she went to America and was tested by CSICOP. They set up an experiment with strict controls and parameters. She was allowed to view - but not otherwise interact with - a number of people with various medical conditions, and was asked to make her diagnoses. She was told a score of seven hits would represent a pass: she scored six.

She was dismissed and sent back to Russia with a flea in her ear. The whole exercise was like an ambush. This is not science. This is politics.

Criticism of CSICOP
It is quite clear that the girl has an extraordinary talent, and a true scientist would be interested in getting to the bottom of this talent and explaining its nature. Perhaps Natasha is hypersensitive to body language and is capable of picking up subliminal signals from a patient's behaviour; perhaps she simply has a bedside manner superior to that of most doctors and is consequently better able to put patients at their ease; perhaps she is psychic and picks up unconscious messages from her patients when she converses with them. All possibilities deserve to be investigated.

If I were to test her, I would design an experiment that actually tested her unique ability to diagnose ailments simply by interacting with her patients. Yet this was precisely what she was forbidden to do in the CSICOP experiment. All they succeeded in proving was that she did not have X-Ray eyes, something we all knew beforehand.

A Fairer Test
She should be retested, and this time she should be allowed to diagnose her patients after her usual modus operandi. The patients chosen should be people who have not yet seen a qualified doctor or undergone any tests, and who have no history of suffering from the symptoms they present with (in other words, the patients have no conscious idea what is the matter with them).

Qualified doctors, watching Natasha's examinations from the wings, would then scrutinise her diagnoses, eliminating everything that any doctor could have guessed from what the patients said or did. Any of her diagnoses which it is decided could not be arrived at without further medical tests could then be investigated using all the resources of modern medicine.

Such an experiment may not result in a clear-cut answer to the question: does she or does she not defy current scientific thinking? But it may move us a step closer to understanding her abilities - something CSICOP was never interested in.
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Re: Natasha Demkina: The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes?

Post #2  Postby SkepticReport » Wed Mar 30, 2005 1:56 pm

Eroica wrote:Basically, Natasha Demkina is a young Russian girl who has acquired a reputation as a healer, able to diagnose things like cancer, brain tumours, heart conditions, etc, merely by interviewing her patients.


No, she is not. She is able to cold-read people. She relies heavily on feedback from people. She fires off a string of diagnoses, which are rarely confirmed. We only hear about her success-cases, never about those where she fails.

Eroica wrote:Recently she went to America and was tested by CSICOP. They set up an experiment with strict controls and parameters. She was allowed to view - but not otherwise interact with - a number of people with various medical conditions, and was asked to make her diagnoses. She was told a score of seven hits would represent a pass: she scored six.


This is not correct. She was told that a score of 5 out of 7 would represent a pass. She scored 4. Despite her claim that she can look into a patient, she was unable to see the metal plate in one of the subject's head.

Eroica wrote:She was dismissed and sent back to Russia with a flea in her ear. The whole exercise was like an ambush. This is not science. This is politics.


What, specifically, about the experiment is not "science"?

Eroica wrote:If I were to test her, I would design an experiment that actually tested her unique ability to diagnose ailments simply by interacting with her patients. Yet this was precisely what she was forbidden to do in the CSICOP experiment. All they succeeded in proving was that she did not have X-Ray eyes, something we all knew beforehand.


How would you rule out the possibility of cold-reading?

How many diagnoses should she be allowed to throw out?

Would she be allowed to make many mistakes, before she guessed something correctly?

Eroica wrote:She should be retested, and this time she should be allowed to diagnose her patients after her usual modus operandi. The patients chosen should be people who have not yet seen a qualified doctor or undergone any tests, and who have no history of suffering from the symptoms they present with (in other words, the patients have no conscious idea what is the matter with them).


This is highly unethical. People who are sick should first and foremost seek professional medical help. There could be something very serious wrong with them.

Eroica wrote:Qualified doctors, watching Natasha's examinations from the wings, would then scrutinise her diagnoses, eliminating everything that any doctor could have guessed from what the patients said or did. Any of her diagnoses which it is decided could not be arrived at without further medical tests could then be investigated using all the resources of modern medicine.


It is impossible to diagnose patients merely by guessing from what patients said or did.

Eroica wrote:Such an experiment may not result in a clear-cut answer to the question: does she or does she not defy current scientific thinking? But it may move us a step closer to understanding her abilities - something CSICOP was never interested in.


There is no reason to perform an experiment, if it doesn't give us a clear result. It will just add to the confusion. It will also give Demkina's believers a reason to claim that she had been successfully tested by scientists, when in fact no such result was achieved. We've seen that before.
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Re: Natasha Demkina: The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes?

Post #3  Postby Eroica » Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:36 am

SkepticReport wrote:
Eroica wrote:Basically, Natasha Demkina is a young Russian girl who has acquired a reputation as a healer, able to diagnose things like cancer, brain tumours, heart conditions, etc, merely by interviewing her patients.


No, she is not. She is able to cold-read people. She relies heavily on feedback from people. She fires off a string of diagnoses, which are rarely confirmed. We only hear about her success-cases, never about those where she fails.

Several thousand Russians would beg to differ. I was careful to say no more than that she "has acquired a reputation as a healer" with these abilities - not that she actually has them.

It is true that we don't have any proper statistics detailing her rates of success and failure: therefore we can draw no valid scientific conclusions. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The whole point of carrying out experiments is to determine conclusively whether she merely has the ability to cold-read people. You clearly believe that such is the case, and you are probably right. But you cannot state it as a scientifically proven fact. It is merely your opinion.

Eroica wrote:Recently she went to America and was tested by CSICOP. They set up an experiment with strict controls and parameters. She was allowed to view - but not otherwise interact with - a number of people with various medical conditions, and was asked to make her diagnoses. She was told a score of seven hits would represent a pass: she scored six.


This is not correct. She was told that a score of 5 out of 7 would represent a pass. She scored 4. Despite her claim that she can look into a patient, she was unable to see the metal plate in one of the subject's head.

I stand corrected. (I knew I have should have checked those figures before posting! :? ) However, I don't think the change invalidates my main point.


Eroica wrote:She was dismissed and sent back to Russia with a flea in her ear. The whole exercise was like an ambush. This is not science. This is politics.


What, specifically, about the experiment is not "science"?

I stand over my claim that the only scientific conclusion that can be drawn from the experiment is that Natasha Demkina, unlike Superman, does not have X-Ray eyes. Well, duh! Surely no-one needed a scientific experiment to show that her claim to be able to look into her patients and "see" their ailments was to be taken literally, implying that she actually had X-Ray eyes! I think it was clear from the outset that she was speaking metaphorically.

Eroica wrote:If I were to test her, I would design an experiment that actually tested her unique ability to diagnose ailments simply by interacting with her patients. Yet this was precisely what she was forbidden to do in the CSICOP experiment. All they succeeded in proving was that she did not have X-Ray eyes, something we all knew beforehand.


How would you rule out the possibility of cold-reading?

By comparing her diagnoses with the feedback she received. If a correct diagnosis resulted from cold-reading, it should be easy to demonstrate it by indicating the verbal or visible clues she used to arrive at such a diagnosis.

How many diagnoses should she be allowed to throw out?

As many as she saw fit. But they would all be taken into account, her failures as well as her successes.

Would she be allowed to make many mistakes, before she guessed something correctly?

She could make as many mistakes as she liked - but they would only serve to show that she has no special abilities. I'm not for one moment suggesting that a single lucky hit among dozens of inaccurate diagnoses should be regarded as a success.

Eroica wrote:She should be retested, and this time she should be allowed to diagnose her patients after her usual modus operandi. The patients chosen should be people who have not yet seen a qualified doctor or undergone any tests, and who have no history of suffering from the symptoms they present with (in other words, the patients have no conscious idea what is the matter with them).


This is highly unethical. People who are sick should first and foremost seek professional medical help. There could be something very serious wrong with them.

Of course only consenting adults, who have been triaged by a triage nurse, would be allowed to participate. Every day thousands of patients present at ERs with serious ailments and are compelled to wait hours before being examined by a doctor - plenty of time for Demkina to assess them.

Eroica wrote:Qualified doctors, watching Natasha's examinations from the wings, would then scrutinise her diagnoses, eliminating everything that any doctor could have guessed from what the patients said or did. Any of her diagnoses which it is decided could not be arrived at without further medical tests could then be investigated using all the resources of modern medicine.


It is impossible to diagnose patients merely by guessing from what patients said or did.

Perhaps "guessed" was the wrong word. I should have said "diagnosed", or even "suspected". After a preliminary interview doctors often suspect that their patient is suffering from a particular ailment, but they reserve judgment until further tests are carried out.

The point I was making was that if a patient was interviewed by Demkina and described symptoms which in themselves could allow a qualified doctor to diagnose - or suspect - a certain condition, we should not be stunned if Demkina arrives at a similar conclusion.


Eroica wrote:Such an experiment may not result in a clear-cut answer to the question: does she or does she not defy current scientific thinking? But it may move us a step closer to understanding her abilities - something CSICOP was never interested in.


There is no reason to perform an experiment, if it doesn't give us a clear result. It will just add to the confusion. It will also give Demkina's believers a reason to claim that she had been successfully tested by scientists, when in fact no such result was achieved. We've seen that before.

Are you seriously suggesting that scientists should refrain from carrying out a particular experiment on the grounds that it might confuse the public?! Should scientists really decline to investigate a serious phenomenon because the results of their experiment might provide their political opponents with ammunition?

Science ought to be about the objective search for truth and understanding, whatever the political consequences or ramifications. It was clear from the outset, however, that CSICOP were prejudiced against Demkina from the start and had no intention of doing anything but discredit her. They had already made up their minds - as you clearly have - that she was cold-reading. That, as I have said, is a hypothesis. It is arguably the most likely hypothesis (and probably the correct one), but it is still only a hypothesis until the case has been properly investigated.

I watched the documentary on television which followed the progress of the CSICOP test. I thought that we were going to see a fair and impartial experiment that would clearly demonstrate what was actually going on in this case.

Instead , we saw a bunch of bullies ambush a little girl and send her about her business.

"If you score 5 or more out of 7, you pass," they said. She scored 4, and they dismissed her as a failure. I wonder what would have happened if she had scored 5. Would they have ordered the textbooks to be rewritten, and school curricula to be updated? I think not. They would have scratched their chins and said, "Hmm, interesting. I think we should retest her."

Why is it that any successful experiment must be repeated ad nauseam before its conclusions are accepted as scientifically valid, while one failure is taken to be the last word on the matter in perpetuity?
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Post #4  Postby SkepticReport » Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:26 am

Eroica wrote:Several thousand Russians would beg to differ. I was careful to say no more than that she "has acquired a reputation as a healer" with these abilities - not that she actually has them.


I don't care that several thousand people, Russians or otherwise, would beg to differ. We are not talking about people believing they are cured, we are talking about whether or not they are really cured. We can't determine that from testimonials.

Eroica wrote:It is true that we don't have any proper statistics detailing her rates of success and failure: therefore we can draw no valid scientific conclusions. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


Yes, we can draw a valid scientific conclusion: She failed the experiment. She does not have X-ray eyes.


Eroica wrote:The whole point of carrying out experiments is to determine conclusively whether she merely has the ability to cold-read people. You clearly believe that such is the case, and you are probably right. But you cannot state it as a scientifically proven fact. It is merely your opinion.


It is my opinion, but I don't just pluck it out of thin air. I point to the experiment: She failed. What do you point to?

Eroica wrote:I stand over my claim that the only scientific conclusion that can be drawn from the experiment is that Natasha Demkina, unlike Superman, does not have X-Ray eyes. Well, duh! Surely no-one needed a scientific experiment to show that her claim to be able to look into her patients and "see" their ailments was to be taken literally, implying that she actually had X-Ray eyes! I think it was clear from the outset that she was speaking metaphorically.


That is a thoroughly unscientific approach: You start with the assumption that she does not have X-ray eyes. You have already brushed her claim aside, before she is tested.

She was extremely clear: She could literally see the blood, the organs, etc. There was absolutely nothing metaphorical about it.


Eroica wrote:By comparing her diagnoses with the feedback she received. If a correct diagnosis resulted from cold-reading, it should be easy to demonstrate it by indicating the verbal or visible clues she used to arrive at such a diagnosis.


From what you saw on the programme, would you say that she was cold-reading?

Eroica wrote:As many as she saw fit. But they would all be taken into account, her failures as well as her successes.


Unacceptable. This is the equivalent to the Rhine experiments, where the claimant was allowed to decide when to start and when to stop. She could simply stop when she was ahead.

She can have as many trials - warm-ups - as she wants, but we have to know when the real experiment starts and stops.

Eroica wrote:She could make as many mistakes as she liked - but they would only serve to show that she has no special abilities. I'm not for one moment suggesting that a single lucky hit among dozens of inaccurate diagnoses should be regarded as a success.


So, how many? Specifically?

Eroica wrote:Of course only consenting adults, who have been triaged by a triage nurse, would be allowed to participate. Every day thousands of patients present at ERs with serious ailments and are compelled to wait hours before being examined by a doctor - plenty of time for Demkina to assess them.


Now you have already diagnosed people: You know that all of them are, in some way, sick.

People who show up at ERs are rarely suffering from hidden diseases. It would be highly unethical to ask them to participate in an experiment, when they are in a situation like that.


Eroica wrote:Perhaps "guessed" was the wrong word. I should have said "diagnosed", or even "suspected". After a preliminary interview doctors often suspect that their patient is suffering from a particular ailment, but they reserve judgment until further tests are carried out.

The point I was making was that if a patient was interviewed by Demkina and described symptoms which in themselves could allow a qualified doctor to diagnose - or suspect - a certain condition, we should not be stunned if Demkina arrives at a similar conclusion.


We have to leave out the possibility that she can guess the disease, from the feedback she gets from the patients. There can be no feedback of any kind.

Eroica wrote:Are you seriously suggesting that scientists should refrain from carrying out a particular experiment on the grounds that it might confuse the public?! Should scientists really decline to investigate a serious phenomenon because the results of their experiment might provide their political opponents with ammunition?


No, I am not suggesting that. I am pointing out that it is futile to perform an experiment that cannot give us any answers either way.

Eroica wrote:Science ought to be about the objective search for truth and understanding, whatever the political consequences or ramifications. It was clear from the outset, however, that CSICOP were prejudiced against Demkina from the start and had no intention of doing anything but discredit her. They had already made up their minds - as you clearly have - that she was cold-reading. That, as I have said, is a hypothesis. It is arguably the most likely hypothesis (and probably the correct one), but it is still only a hypothesis until the case has been properly investigated.

I watched the documentary on television which followed the progress of the CSICOP test. I thought that we were going to see a fair and impartial experiment that would clearly demonstrate what was actually going on in this case.

Instead , we saw a bunch of bullies ambush a little girl and send her about her business.


I am still waiting for you to explain what was so unscientific about it. Be specific.

Eroica wrote:"If you score 5 or more out of 7, you pass," they said. She scored 4, and they dismissed her as a failure. I wonder what would have happened if she had scored 5. Would they have ordered the textbooks to be rewritten, and school curricula to be updated? I think not. They would have scratched their chins and said, "Hmm, interesting. I think we should retest her."

Why is it that any successful experiment must be repeated ad nauseam before its conclusions are accepted as scientifically valid, while one failure is taken to be the last word on the matter in perpetuity?


Nobody has said it was the last word. That's not how science works.

I can repeat Michelson's experiment in any classroom, and each time I do it, the theory is supported. But if I repeat it, and don't get the expected result, then you can see if you can repeat my results. If you can, then on to the next. And next, until we have something.

Replication is fundamental in science. Get used to it.
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Re: Natasha Demkina: The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes?

Post #5  Postby Loon » Thu Mar 31, 2005 5:39 pm

Eroica wrote:Basically, Natasha Demkina is a young Russian girl who has acquired a reputation as a healer, able to diagnose things like cancer, brain tumours, heart conditions, etc, merely by interviewing her patients.


This is absolutely true. She has acquired this reputation, though not everyone buys in, and the reputation is probably undeserved.

I don't know a whole lot about her. Perhaps a test staged at a non-emergency clinic where, with the patient's consent,  the doctor examines the patient and then lets her have time to talk to the patient and arrive at her final diagnosis before the doctor discusses the diagnosis.

I suspect that, should she get anything even close to significance, the most it would have to teach us would be about getting rapport with patients- i.e., we wouldn't see anything paranormal, but we might get some insight into human perception.

There is no reason to perform an experiment, if it doesn't give us a clear result.

There's no guarantee that any experiment will give us a clear result. If we do the experiment and get ambiguous results, we can refine the experiment.

Did the CSICOP work with the lady to determine the testing protocol like is done with the JREF challenge?
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Post #6  Postby Eroica » Fri Apr 01, 2005 10:39 am

I'm a bit exasperated with your response SkepticReport. You seem to see in my OP some sort of taunting challenge to your worldview - a  wild claim that there is a girl in Russia who has X-ray eyes and who is not getting a fair press. That was not the purport of the post. I was simply trying to point out that in my opinion the CSICOP experiment set out to prove just one thing: Demkina does not have X-ray eyes.

I accept that Demkina failed the experiment, and I accept that it proved conclusively that she doesn't have X-ray eyes and that she cannot literally see into people's bodies. If she really did make that claim, then her claim has been disproved. Let's put that argument to one side and take it for granted that we are all in agreement on this point: she doesn't have X-ray eyes.

But I still contend that this is the only conclusion we can draw from the experiment. If someone comes along and claims that she may not be able to literally see into people's bodies, but she does have psychic powers that allow her to somehow communicate with a patient's subconscious mind, and learn what is the matter with them, then we are back to square one. This is an unproven hypothesis and we need a new experiment to test it.

Most of us are unaware on a conscious level of what is going on in our bodies. If we have a brain tumour or a cancerous growth in our liver we may eventually develop symptoms that inform us that something is wrong, but we must go to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Extensive tests may then be required before we are informed that we have tumour - and even then we have no option but to take the doctor's word for it. Consciously we are still no more aware of the tumour than before.

However, it's possible (if not probable) that on some unconscious level we do know what is wrong with us. After all, our body's defences are fighting an ongoing war against the cancerous cells; and nerves are transmitting data to the brain from the damaged area.

Might there not be even the slightest possibility that someone with psychic powers could tap into this source of information and learn things about the inside of our bodies that can't be learned by conventual means?

OK, it's unlikely; and it seems clear from your posts that you are not disposed to even entertain the possibility that there are psychic phenomena that have not yet been discovered and explained by science. But I say that if there is the slightest possibility of such a thing, it should be investigated objectively and with an open mind.

Instead any such claims are viewed as challenges to science, to be firmly rebuffed and refuted - pretty much as you viewed my OP.

So I ask you - and anyone else who is interested: if someone made such a claim, how would you go about testing it in accordance with accepted scientific principles?
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Post #7  Postby Eroica » Fri Apr 01, 2005 11:00 am

Eroica wrote:It is true that we don't have any proper statistics detailing her rates of success and failure: therefore we can draw no valid scientific conclusions. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


Yes, we can draw a valid scientific conclusion: She failed the experiment. She does not have X-ray eyes.

That conclusion follows from the CSICOP experiment - not from the thousands of undocumented diagnoses Demkina has made in Russia.


From what you saw on the programme, would you say that she was cold-reading?

I really can't say. Unfortunately none of the diagnoses she made live in front of the cameras were earth-shattering. But we did hear testimony from one woman who described how Demkina examined her and told her that she had a cancerous growth in her left lung. The woman went to hospital and had tests, and true enugh she had a tumour in her left lung.

I know that this is anecdotal, but several similar such anecdotes suggest that there is something going on here that is something more than cold-reading.

I am still waiting for you to explain what was so unscientific about it. Be specific.

The CSICOP experiment was entirely scientific, but in my opinion it was not really testing Demkina's alleged ability. It was merely seing whether or not she literally had X-ray eyes. I never for a moment believed that she had - because such things are just too contrary to everything we know about how the eyes work. But I am willing to believe that there may be such things as psychic abilities, since we still know so little about the brain, the mind, consciousness etc.

Replication is fundamental in science. Get used to it.

I am used to it!  8)

I totally accept the fundamental principles of scientific method, including that of replication. But it must apply to failures as well as to successes. Too often an outlandish theory is tested, fails the test, and is dismissed there and then, without leave to appeal.

When Young "proved" the wave nature of light by demonstrating its diffraction pattern, some people thought that that was the end of Newton's corpuscular theory of light!

The remaining ponts you make are just criticisms of the "expperiment" I suggest. I accept that it is flawed and not very scientific. I would appreciate any help in devising an experiment to test my hypothesis. 8)
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Post #8  Postby JimTheBrit » Sat Apr 02, 2005 2:38 am

Natasha Demkina has made several appearances on UK daytime television, using her "powers" in her normal fashion and, on occasion, with (lax) controls applied. It's transparently obvious how her "powers" work. The majority of her utterances are very vague yet inevitably declared by the participants to be specific identification of maladies they suffer from or have suffered from in the past.
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Post #9  Postby SkepticReport » Sat Apr 02, 2005 7:28 am

Eroica,

Let's get one thing straight: Demkina was tested exactly for what she claimed she can do: She can see all through the body, through the bones, organs, whatever:

The mechanism of my vision is pretty simple. I have two ways of seeing: The first is normal, like everyone else. The second kind of vision I call "medical vision".

When the "medical vision" is switched on, I can see general traits. Like when you open an anatomy book, you see the anatomical structures.

If I need to examine a particular organ more closely, let's say the heart, lung, kidney or liver, I focus more closely on the details.

I can see all the processes at work, for instance the circulation of the blood or respiration.

That's a direct quote, unedited, from Demkina. She was tested for that, and she failed.

The biggest give-away was that she missed the metal plate in the patient's skull. I can easily understand if she doesn't know the exact medical terms, but - jeebus creebus - how can she possibly miss a metal plate, if she says she can see into people? She knew in advance that one of the 7 had the plate, so all she had to do was go through 7 heads.

She knew she had failed, before the results were in. Look at her behavior when it comes to the last 2-3 patients: Despondent. Completely lacking the confidence she has, when she does it at home, or even during the run-through in NY before the test: She whizzes through the diagnoses at a breath-taking speed. At home, she takes dozens of patients every day after school.

But when she can't get feedback, she clams up, takes forever to diagnose, knows she's a failure, and - lo and behold - she is.

She knows she's a fake.

Regarding her claimed success-cases: I haven't seen one single verified case where she was right. Not one. I don't care about the anecdotes, and I don't think they suggest that anything is going on. By that logic, there is something going on with regards to Santa.

We simply cannot look at the number of anecdotes. 1 million anecdotes are worth as much as 1: Zilch.

Can someone pick up subtle signs from patients who are not aware that they are sick? Perhaps. How would you test for it?

You suggest this is possible, so how would you test for it? If you can't even tell the signs of cold-reading, then how are you going to account for that?

I'm not going to do your homework for you.
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Post #10  Postby Eroica » Sat Apr 02, 2005 11:37 am

SkepticReport wrote:Eroica,

Let's get one thing straight: Demkina was tested exactly for what she claimed she can do: She can see all through the body, through the bones, organs, whatever:

The mechanism of my vision is pretty simple. I have two ways of seeing: The first is normal, like everyone else. The second kind of vision I call "medical vision".

When the "medical vision" is switched on, I can see general traits. Like when you open an anatomy book, you see the anatomical structures.

If I need to examine a particular organ more closely, let's say the heart, lung, kidney or liver, I focus more closely on the details.

I can see all the processes at work, for instance the circulation of the blood or respiration.

That's a direct quote, unedited, from Demkina. She was tested for that, and she failed.

Fair enough. I find it hard to believe that anyone would make such a claim and then allow herself to be tested on it, knowing that she must fail. I assumed that she was speaking metaphorically (or, at the very least, being loosely translated). If she still claims this ability, even after failing the CSICOP test, then I guess the only conclusion to draw is that she's a barefaced liar with a brass neck.

The biggest give-away was that she missed the metal plate in the patient's skull. I can easily understand if she doesn't know the exact medical terms, but - jeebus creebus - how can she possibly miss a metal plate, if she says she can see into people? She knew in advance that one of the 7 had the plate, so all she had to do was go through 7 heads.

Well, I'm glad that we can agree about something. Outside of comic books people just don't have X-ray eyes.


We simply cannot look at the number of anecdotes. 1 million anecdotes are worth as much as 1: Zilch.

I accept that no scientific conclusions can be drawn from anecdotal evidence. But they do serve a purpose by suggesting areas that may be worth investigating scientifically. In this particular case I guess it's not CSICOP's job to engage is such research, and I'm beginning to think I was a little unfair to them in the OP. If they were testing her on the precise claim she made, then she can have no cause for complaint.

Still, I would like someone to devise an experiment that could demonstrate conclusively once and for all just what it is that she does.

Can someone pick up subtle signs from patients who are not aware that they are sick? Perhaps. How would you test for it?

You suggest this is possible, so how would you test for it? If you can't even tell the signs of cold-reading, then how are you going to account for that?

I'm not going to do your homework for you.

This may take some time! Don't hold your breath. :D
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Post #11  Postby SkepticReport » Sat Apr 02, 2005 12:47 pm

Eroica wrote:Still, I would like someone to devise an experiment that could demonstrate conclusively once and for all just what it is that she does.


Why do you think that cold reading is not an explanation?

Eroica wrote:This may take some time! Don't hold your breath. :D


Get back when you have something.
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Post #12  Postby Eroica » Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:51 pm

SkepticReport wrote:Why do you think that cold reading is not an explanation?

I don't think that cold-reading isn't an explanation. It's probably the correct explanation, and I suppose Occam's Razor says we should stick with it unless something better comes along. I'm just saying that it hasn't been demonstrated conclusively that this is all that is happening here.
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Post #13  Postby SkepticReport » Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:56 pm

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:Why do you think that cold reading is not an explanation?

I don't think that cold-reading isn't an explanation. It's probably the correct explanation, and I suppose Occam's Razor says we should stick with it unless something better comes along. I'm just saying that it hasn't been demonstrated conclusively that this is all that is happening here.


You are trying to prove a negative: That something doesn't exist. We can't do that.

Why do you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments? The large number of anecdotes?
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Post #14  Postby Eroica » Sun Apr 03, 2005 10:39 am

SkepticReport wrote:Why do you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments? The large number of anecdotes?

CSICOP obviously considered her claims worthy of investigation. Presumbaly they were swayed by the reputation and following she had acquired in Russia, which in turn rested upon anecdotes. But the CSICOP experiment, as I have pointed out, did not in my opinion eliminate the possibility that there is something paranormal at work here. I would just like the matter resolved once and for all.

You are trying to prove a negative: That something doesn't exist. We can't do that.

In cases like this, it seems to be the standard policy to demand full scientific proof for any extraordinary claims, but to accept the skeptic claim of cold-reading as the default position, with no proof required.

Now, I have no problem with the first part. It's exactly as things should be. But surely one should be willing to apply the same standards of proof to not-so-extraordinary claims. Why should the claim that Demkina is merely cold-reading her patients not be subject to the same skepticism as her claims to supernatural powers?

Have any organizations like CSICOP or the Skeptics Society, or the James Randi Educatonal Foundation ever conducted tests to prove/disprove a claim that a particular phenomenon is merely a case of cold-reading?

If Demkina challenged you to prove that she was cold-reading, could you?
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Post #15  Postby SkepticReport » Sun Apr 03, 2005 10:49 am

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:Why do you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments? The large number of anecdotes?

CSICOP obviously considered her claims worthy of investigation. Presumbaly they were swayed by the reputation and following she had acquired in Russia, which in turn rested upon anecdotes. But the CSICOP experiment, as I have pointed out, did not in my opinion eliminate the possibility that there is something paranormal at work here. I would just like the matter resolved once and for all.


I didn't ask what CSICOP thought of her, I asked why you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments.

Eroica wrote:In cases like this, it seems to be the standard policy to demand full scientific proof for any extraordinary claims, but to accept the skeptic claim of cold-reading as the default position, with no proof required.

Now, I have no problem with the first part. It's exactly as things should be. But surely one should be willing to apply the same standards of proof to not-so-extraordinary claims. Why should the claim that Demkina is merely cold-reading her patients not be subject to the same skepticism as her claims to supernatural powers?


Because her claim is not just a claim among many. It is a claim that, if true, would completely topple everything we know about the universe. So, the onus is on her to prove herself.

And yes, it's an uphill battle, but that's the way it is. She's up against centuries of real scientific progress, but so what? All she needs to do is diagnose sick people, and she can't do that under controlled conditions.

Eroica wrote:Have any organizations like CSICOP or the Skeptics Society, or the James Randi Educatonal Foundation ever conducted tests to prove/disprove a claim that a particular phenomenon is merely a case of cold-reading?


You'll have to ask the organizations for details.

Eroica wrote:If Demkina challenged you to prove that she was cold-reading, could you?


I could show that she was using typical cold-reading techniques.
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Post #16  Postby Rolfe » Sun Apr 03, 2005 3:00 pm

It was certainly striking that she behaved exactly as a classic cold reader would, during the uncontrolled test which was shown on TV.  Throwing out a stream of guesses and latching on to any positive feedback.  Even so, she only got one correct diagnosis out of six.  (Though most of the remainder thought she'd got it right with them because of the rather skilled line of patter she was coming out with.)

The change of demeanour for the controlled test was striking.  She couldn't behave in that way any more, and she seemed completely at a loss.  If she'd really been able to see into these people's bodies in any meaningful way, the controlled test should have been a piece of cake.  No need to cast around at random, scan the whole body without knowing what she was looking for.  She was given a specific diagnosis, with actual x-rays, and only had to say which one of the seven people in front of her fitted that diagnosis.  If she could do what she claimed to be doing, this should have been much easier than the earlier test.

But instead of breezing confidently through it, she struggled and sweated.  The whole point of the protocol was to prevent her from cold reading, and without that she seemed to have no clue what to do.  Any protocol which lets her do what she usually does would simply be testing her cold reading skills, so pointless.  This protocol was well designed to home in on what she claims to be doing.

Yes, she did much better than I'd expected.  Eroica, have you looked at the JREF thread about this?  I began by thinking that she'd just struck a very lucky streak, but sufficient evidence was presented of opportunity to "cheat" that in the end I came round to the belief that the test, though well-designed, was badly implemented.

She apparently had a mobile phone, and text messages were flying around.  She also had the opportunity to see some of the subjects walk up a flight of stairs - helpful when guessing who had the artificial hip, for example.  Also, the x-rays themselves inevitably gave away some information about the subjects, making the guessing less random.  Even the demographics of the subjects provided clues.

My own criticism is that CSICOP arranged a test where there were significant chances to get useful information by normal means, and this probably resulted in the above-chance score.  This wasn't really very good tactics.

Personally, I'd like to see the test repeated with more time to be selective in the matter of the subjects to eliminate demographic and x-ray-related clues, and I'd can the whole thing rather than allow the girl any access to a mobile phone during the test.

Rolfe.
"The thing about medicine is, that it all comes down to the numbers."
- Dr. Stephen Franklin, Interludes and Examinations.
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Post #17  Postby Eroica » Mon Apr 04, 2005 4:37 pm

SkepticReport wrote:I didn't ask what CSICOP thought of her, I asked why you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments.

Nothing more nor less than scientific curiosity piqued by her reputation and the fact that she almost passed the CSICOP test.

Rolfe wrote:Eroica, have you looked at the JREF thread about this?

Thanks for the link, Rolfe.

Rolfe wrote:I began by thinking that she'd just struck a very lucky streak, but sufficient evidence was presented of opportunity to "cheat" that in the end I came round to the belief that the test, though well-designed, was badly implemented.

She apparently had a mobile phone, and text messages were flying around. She also had the opportunity to see some of the subjects walk up a flight of stairs - helpful when guessing who had the artificial hip, for example. Also, the x-rays themselves inevitably gave away some information about the subjects, making the guessing less random. Even the demographics of the subjects provided clues.

This certainly puts a different complexion on the results. To be honest, if she had scored just 1 or 2 in the experiment, I probably would have dismissed her as a crank. But when she came within just one success of passing what seemed to be an impossible task, I thought the case warranted further investigation.

It probably does warrant further investigation, but mainly because of the flaws in the CSICOP test which you refer to.
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Post #18  Postby SkepticReport » Mon Apr 04, 2005 5:44 pm

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:I didn't ask what CSICOP thought of her, I asked why you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments.

Nothing more nor less than scientific curiosity piqued by her reputation and the fact that she almost passed the CSICOP test.


So, you are basing it on unverifiable anecdotes and a test you think is poorly designed and performed?
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Post #19  Postby Eroica » Wed Apr 06, 2005 12:53 pm

SkepticReport wrote:So, you are basing it on unverifiable anecdotes and a test you think is poorly designed and performed?

Does it really matter what stimulates research?
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Post #20  Postby SkepticReport » Wed Apr 06, 2005 1:46 pm

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:So, you are basing it on unverifiable anecdotes and a test you think is poorly designed and performed?

Does it really matter what stimulates research?


Answer the question, please.
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Post #21  Postby Eroica » Wed Apr 06, 2005 5:10 pm

SkepticReport wrote:Answer the question, please.

Haven't we been through this already?

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:I didn't ask what CSICOP thought of her, I asked why you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments.

Nothing more nor less than scientific curiosity piqued by her reputation and the fact that she almost passed the CSICOP test.

8)
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Post #22  Postby SkepticReport » Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:27 pm

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:Answer the question, please.

Haven't we been through this already?

Eroica wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:I didn't ask what CSICOP thought of her, I asked why you think this is compelling enough to warrant further experiments.

Nothing more nor less than scientific curiosity piqued by her reputation and the fact that she almost passed the CSICOP test.

8)


I would like a clarification.

You have been highly critical of this experiment, arguing that it was poorly designed and poorly performed.

You acknowledge that the anecdotes are unverifiable.

Is this correct?
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Post #23  Postby Eroica » Fri Apr 08, 2005 11:22 am

SkepticReport wrote:I would like a clarification.

You have been highly critical of this experiment, arguing that it was poorly designed and poorly performed.

You acknowledge that the anecdotes are unverifiable.

Is this correct?

I now acknowledge that so far as it went the CSICOP test was properly designed and conclusive, though it only proved that Demkina does not have X-Ray eyes. It did not rule out the possibility that she has other "special" abilities (eg psychic abilities, or the ability to correctly diagnose illness by reading subliminal body language).

If what Rolfe says is correct, then the test was not conducted as well as it should have been. But this is largely irrelevant, as the flaws favoured Demkina.

Anecdotes are indeed unverifiable - mainly because they have already occurred, and did not take place under laboratory conditions.
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Post #24  Postby SkepticReport » Fri Apr 08, 2005 1:01 pm

So, do you still think it is compelling enough to warrant further experiments?
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Post #25  Postby Lucianarchy » Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:33 pm

Yes. But under better controlled conditions.
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Post #26  Postby SkepticReport » Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:57 pm

Lucianarchy wrote:Yes.

Why?

All we have are unverifiable anecdotes. What she is doing is indistinguishable from cold reading. And she failed the CSICOP test.
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Post #27  Postby Lucianarchy » Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:33 pm

SkepticReport wrote:
Lucianarchy wrote:Yes.

Why?

All we have are unverifiable anecdotes. What she is doing is indistinguishable from cold reading. And she failed the CSICOP test.


She was always bound to with such slack controls. That's why it needs to be done properly.
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Post #28  Postby SkepticReport » Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:49 pm

Lucianarchy wrote:
SkepticReport wrote:
Lucianarchy wrote:Yes.

Why?

All we have are unverifiable anecdotes. What she is doing is indistinguishable from cold reading. And she failed the CSICOP test.


She was always bound to with such slack controls. That's why it needs to be done properly.


But if the controls were slack, wouldn't she have passed?
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