Monday, April 26, 2010

A Response To Derren Brown's Critiques Of Remote Viewing

First off, I need to go indepth explaining what Remote Viewing is, what Double-Blind Controlled Experiments have been conducted with Remote Viewing, showcase some of the best examples of Remote Viewing, and then deal with Derren Brown's two highly unimpressive video segments on Remote Viewing at the end of this article.

For those who are unaware of what Remote Viewing is ...

"Remote viewing (RV) is the ability to gather information about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means or extra-sensory perception or sensing with mind. Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance. The term was introduced by parapsychologists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff in 1974."

The most obvious question is, have there ever been any serious research studies into Remote Viewing, and have any Double-Blind Controlled Experiments been conducted that have yielded significant results, highly suggesting that there is something to it? The answer is yes.

US Government Research Into Remote Viewing :

"In 1972, Puthoff tested remote viewer Ingo Swann at SRI, and the experiment led to a visit from two employees of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. The result was a $50,000 CIA-sponsored project. (Schnabel 1997, Puthoff 1996, Kress 1977/1999, Smith 2005)

As research continued, the SRI team published papers in Nature , in Proceedings of the IEEE (Puthoff & Targ, 1976), and in the proceedings of a symposium on consciousness for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Puthoff, et al., 1981).

The initial CIA-funded project was later renewed and expanded. A number of CIA officials including John McMahon, then the head of the Office of Technical Service and later the Agency's deputy director, became strong supporters of the program.

By the mid 1970s, facing the post-Watergate revelations of its "skeletons," and after internal criticism of the program, the CIA dropped sponsorship of the SRI research effort. Sponsorship was picked up by the Air Force, led by analyst Dale E. Graff of the Foreign Technology Division.

In 1979, the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, which had been providing some taskings to the SRI investigators, was ordered to develop its own program by the Army's chief intelligence officer, Gen. Ed Thompson. CIA operations officers, working from McMahon's office and other offices, also continued to provide taskings to SRI's subjects. (Schnabel 1997, Smith 2005, Atwater 2001)


The program had three parts (Mumford, et al., 1995). First was the evaluation of psi research performed by the U.S.S.R. and China, which appears to have been better-funded and better-supported than the government research in the U.S. (Schnabel 1997)

In the second part of the program, SRI managed its own stable of "natural" psychics both for research purposes and to make them available for tasking by a variety of US intelligence agencies.


The most famous results from these years were:

* The description of a big crane at a Soviet nuclear research facility by Pat Price's (Kress 1977/1999, Targ 1996).

* A description of a new class of Soviet strategic submarine by a team of three viewers including Joseph McMoneagle (Smith 2005, McMoneagle 2002).

* Rosemary Smith's location of a downed Soviet bomber in Africa (which former President Carter later referred to in speeches).

“She went into a trance. And while she was in the trance, she gave us some latitude and longitude figures. We focused our satellite cameras on that point, and the lost plane was there.” - Former President Jimmy Carter

By the early 1980s numerous offices throughout the intelligence community were providing taskings to SRI's psychics. (Schnabel 1997, Smith 2005) The third branch of the program was a research project intended to find out if ESP – now called "remote viewing" – could be made accurate and reliable.

The intelligence community offices that tasked the group seemed to believe that the phenomenon was real. But in the view of these taskers, a remote viewer could be "on" one day and "off" the next, a fact that made it hard for the technique to be officially accepted. Through SRI, individuals were studied for years in a search for physical (e.g., brain-wave) correlates that might reveal when they were "on- or off-target".

At SRI, Ingo Swann and Hal Puthoff also developed a remote-viewing training program meant to enable any individual with a suitable background to produce useful data. As part of this project, a number of military officers and civilians were trained and formed a military remote viewing unit, based at Fort Meade, Maryland. (Schnabel 1997, Smith 2005, McMoneagle 2002)

Additional Information on the Early RV Experiments (Including Descriptions of Very Impressive Hits):

Some of the best results were with New York artist Ingo Swann. Puthoff and his colleague Russell Targ began testing Swann with objects hidden in boxes, and pictures in envelopes--experiments he regarded as a trivialization of his skills. Swann told Puthoff he could close his eyes and see anywhere on the planet. Give him any co-ordinates for latitude and longitude, the artist said, and he would describe what was there.

Swann apparently had some success with this, and the researchers thought they had a case of eidetic imagery--perfect visual recall from memory, from material presumably culled from maps. They chose more refined co-ordinates, down to buildings, and Swann still kept getting "hits" far beyond chance. This was the first indication of the military possibilities of so-called "remote viewing."

One remote viewer, Joe McMoneagle, was said to be particularly skilled. His job was remote viewing a large, mysterious building in the northern Soviet Union. "Most analysts though the Soviets were trying to build a miniature aircraft carrier," says McMoneagle. "We remote viewed the building, and determined that in fact they were building the largest submarine in the world. We were able to describe in detail the tubes and how they were mounted on the sides of the sub. It turned out to be the new Typhoon class submarine, the largest submarine in the world. It had exactly the number of tubes we said, and everything was essentially correct."

Under the DIA's wing, several successes were cited, including the finding of Brig.-Gen. James Dozier, kidnapped by the Italian Red Brigade. According to the physicist in charge of the DIA Stargate project, one remote viewer gave the name of the town where Dozier was being hid--Padua--and another gave the name of the building. Details down to the bed where Dozier was chained were apparently accurate."


The US Government spent over 20 years and millions of dollars on their own Remote Viewing Program, it was declassified by the CIA in 1995. It was called Project Stargate. The program's best Remote Viewers, Joe McMoneagle, Keith Harary, and Ingo Swann, produced numerous amazing dazzle-shot hits on a number of BLIND targets and locations (all done in controlled single-blind and double-blind experiments).

Here's some indepth information on this program ...

"The Stargate Project was the umbrella code name of one of several sub-projects established by the U.S. Federal Government to investigate the reality, and potential military and domestic applications, of psychic phenomena, particularly "remote viewing": the purported ability to psychically "see" events, sites, or information from a great distance. These projects were active from the 1970s through 1995, and followed up early psychic research done at The Stanford Research Institute (SRI), The American Society for Psychical Research, and other psychical research labs.


The Stargate Project created a set of protocols designed to make researching clairvoyance and out-of-body experiences more scientific, and minimize as much as possible session noise and inaccuracy. The term "remote viewing" emerged as shorthand to describe this more structured approach to clairvoyance. Stargate only received a mission after all other intelligence attempts, methods, or approaches had already been exhausted.


At its peak, Stargate had as many as 14 labs researching remote viewing. It was also reported that there were over 22 active military and domestic remote viewers providing data. When the project closed in 1995 this number had dwindled down to three.

According to Joseph McMoneagle, "The Army never had a truly open attitude toward psychic functioning". Hence, the use of the term "giggle factor" and the saying, "I wouldn't want to be found dead next to a psychic." As with all intelligence information, intelligence gathered by remote viewing must be verified by other sources. Remote-viewing information could not stand alone.


According to The Ultimate Time Machine by Joseph McMoneagle and Reading the Enemy's Mind: Inside Star Gate America's Psychic Espionage Program by Paul H. Smith, examples of confirmed future targets being sensed by Stargate remote viewers include:


* The predicted launch date for a newly constructed submarine months before it actually rolled from its construction crib and into the harbor by Joseph McMoneagle. McMoneagle guessed the submarine would be launched about four months later, sometime in the month of January 1980. Satellite photos confirmed this in mid-January 1980 According to Paul H. Smith, McMoneagle predicted several months in the future.


* The predicted release of a hostage in the Middle East and a correct description of the medical problem precipitating his release. The information was provided three weeks before the hostage takers made their decisions.


This conclusion seems to be associated with the following text: "When one of the hostages was released early because of medical conditions and shown the information we [remote-viewers] had accumulated, he was enraged. In his mind, the only way we could possibly had such accurate information, would be to have someone inside the embassy with the hostages..."

The information given by Keith Harary, at SRI, the Stargate Project, was: "He seems to be suffering from nausea. One side of his body seems damaged or hurt. He will be on an airplane in the next few days." The target turned out to be the hostage Richard Queen, held by Iranian militants and now desperately ill with symptoms including muscle weakness, lack of coordination, difficulty in vision, spasticity, vertigo, facial numbness, tremor, and emotional lability, multiple sclerosis, that affected his nerves on one side. In part due to his input, Harary says he was later informed by contacts at SRI, President Carter dispatched a plane to bring Queen home. There is no reference to a three week prediction. There is no mention of the Iran hostage crisis (November 4, 1979 - January 20, 1981) or this incident in the 1984 book, The Mind Race: Understanding and Using Psychic Abilities, by Russell Targ and Keith Harary, which centers around remote viewing experiments and SRI.


* Upon reading of the May 17, 1987, attack on the frigate the U.S.S. Stark in The Washington Post, Paul H. Smith became convinced that his remote viewing, three days earlier, of an attack on an American warship, including the location, the method, and the motive, was precognition. The American Warship "viewing" session was around 30 pages long, including writing and sketching of ships, parts of ships, map-like diagrams, etc.


In regards to Domestic Applications of what would become Remote Viewing, various field testings in remote viewing was done in the mid-1970s.

* In a particular well known serial crime incident, a single lone suspect in question was later captured by law enforcement and put into prison. About twenty years later the original lone suspect changed his confession, and verified almost exactly to what was remote viewed by those domestic remote viewer(s). On the eve of reopening this case, the FBI stepped in, and asked that the case be put on hold. This case has been upgraded to Classified, with no indication at this time that it will be reopened . This noted case has been published and later suggested by name in the movie Suspect Zero."


Project Stargate was eventually discontinued for various reasons ...

"In 1995, the CIA hired the American Institutes for Research, a perennial intelligence-industry contractor, to perform a retrospective evaluation of the results generated by the remote-viewing program, the Stargate Project. Most of the program's results were not seen by the evaluators, with the report focusing on the most recent experiments, and only from government-sponsored research.

One of the reviewers was Ray Hyman, a long-time critic of psi research, and another was Jessica Utts who, as a supporter of psi, was chosen to put forward the pro-psi argument.

Utts maintained that there had been a statistically significant positive effect, with some subjects scoring 5%-15% above chance.

Hyman argued that Utts' conclusion that ESP had been proven to exist, "is premature, to say the least." Hyman said the findings had yet to be replicated independently, and that more investigation would be necessary to "legitimately claim the existence of paranormal functioning.


Based upon both of their studies, which recommended a higher level of critical research and tighter controls, the CIA terminated the 20 million dollar project in 1995.

The official reason given for this was an unfavorable review by two scientists. However according to Joseph McMoneagle's book Mind Trek (1997) these scientists were not shown 99% of the documented results of remote viewing, which were and are still classified, were forbidden to speak with any of the remote viewers or project managers and were not given any means to evaluate the operational effectiveness of the information they were shown (1997: 218-229)."

However, that was not the only factor. Daz Smith, a noted Remote Viewer, also provided me with the following information concerning the dissolution of the program:

"Most of the program participants were rotating out of the program and even retiring form the Army so were freer to talk and setup their own rv projects, also one of the scientist involved for over ten years (Targ) had also filed a FOIA request for all information regarding himself. It was therefore inevitable that the program was about to go very public - so the only option they had was to crate a hurried fake/biased examination of the last ten project in the last few years work and not the entire 30+ years of scientific projects and claim it didn't work. yet the program managed to get funding year on year from congress, intel and the military based on the results each year - if it didn't work why did it go on for over 30 years?"

Here are several video segments where Remote Viewer Joe McMoneagle was Put To The Test on his Remote Viewing Abilities in Controlled Double-Blind Experiments:

An Anomalous Cognition Example with Mr. Joseph W. McMoneagle, July 1994

In this first video above, a random person is selected to take hundreds of different photographs around the city (Houston, a city Joe McMoneagle had never been to), these are later dwindled down to four carefully selected target areas (which are very different from one another), which are then placed in four sealed envelopes, mixed up and shuffled randomly, and then randomly numbered. One of these is then randomly selected (via dice roll) by yet another person as the target area. Another randomly selected person is then sent to the target area to be a beacon for Joe McMoneagle.

Joe McMoneagle is placed in a room, given a photograph of the target person in an unrelated setting, and is told to focus on her and her surroundings. He's HIGHLY ACCURATE.

Within minutes, his drawing has totally eliminated the other three possible targets, and is roughly 80% accurate (with dazzle-shot accuracy) on the exact target area.

National Geographic Remote Viewing Example with Joe McMoneagle (February, 2005)

The above video is another Double-Blind Experiment on Joe McMoneagle, this time done by National Geographic. In this experiment, out of hundreds of possible photographs, a random target location is chosen, a random individual is selected to go to the location, Joe McMoneagle is sealed off in a room, is shown a picture of the target person in an unrelated setting, and is told to focus on her and her surroundings.

This time, not only is Joe McMoneagle highly accurate, but the test goes one step further, where the present researcher, Dr. Edwin May, after JoeMcMoneagle leaves the room, is given the additional task to MATCH JoeMcMoneagle's drawing to the correct location, out of over a dozen possible photographs. (Dr. Edwin May too is BLIND to the target location.) Amazingly, he does match Joe McMoneagle's drawing to the correct target location.

ABC Nightline Report on the CIA Declassifying Project Stargate

All three videos link give detailed overviews of the program and some of it's biggest dazzle shot hits.

Here are some of the best hits by Joe McMoneagle, keep in mind that these were ALL drawn during DOUBLE-BLIND CONTROLLED EXPERIMENTS where he was given NOTHING on the target location :

Remote Viewing Example 1

Remote Viewing Example 2

Remote Viewing Example 3

Remote Viewing Example 4 Target

Remote Viewing Example 4 Drawing

Remote Viewing Example 5 Target

Remote Viewing Example 5 Drawing

Remote Viewing Example 6 Target

Remote Viewing Example 6 Drawing

Remote Viewing Example 7 Target

Remote Viewing Example 7 Drawing

Now, on to reviewing Derren Brown's two highly unimpressive video segments on Remote Viewing ...

There are two video segments of UK Skeptic, Mentalist, and Magician Derren Brown that I've come across that deal with the topic of Remote Viewing that I was highly unimpressed with.

The first video segment I've come across deals with, expectedly, a group of gullible New Agers who "Train Psychics" in an Institute for "Developing Psychic Abilities", in a Town that is *filled* with New Age Thinking, Propaganda, Services, etc, on every corner of Town.

Derren over-exaggerates how "well known" and "respected" they are. (I'd never heard of them, and their website is filled with typical New Age imagery and topics, just seems to be yet another dime a dozen New Age group to me.)

Here is a link to the video:

Derren Brown - Remote Viewing Clip

(I must point out here, isn't it funny how Debunkers in these videos tend to resort to using the "Best of us, worst of them" logical fallacy often? Where they tend to show the silliest proponents, New Agers in a New Age Town claiming to be "Psychic Trainers", while the Debunkers make themselves look good in comparison to the "gullible crazies", it's shooting fish in a barrel, plain and simple.

Why not interview far more *credible*, no-nonsense, Scientific oriented Remote Viewing Researchers with a great track record, such as Dr. Edwin C. May, Ph.D, who presided over the US Government's official Remote Viewing Program? Or world famous Remote Viewers who partook in that same US Government Remote Viewing Program with MANY Double-Blind Verifiable Dazzle Shot Hits, such as Joe McMoneagle? Hmmm?)

In this video segment, Derren arrives at this Institute claiming to be a Psychic wanting to take a Remote Viewing Test. He sits down with a pen and paper, while a woman goes into the next room within earshot of him to draw a series of random pictures, and he is suppose to successfully Remote View the picture she is drawing. (This is a very weak form of controlled Remote Viewing.)

He is in total verbal communication with the woman who is drawing the picture in the next room the entire time that he is suppose to be Remote Viewing, and while he talks to her, he lets slip all sorts of suggestive details that will influence what she is drawing (so he can easily guess her drawing).

For example, he says to her, "keep it simple, let your thoughts SAIL AWAY, and don't go OVERBOARD on detail", and surprise surprise, she draws a boat on the water, which he likewise draws a very simple representation of (very general looking, so that it could apply to any type of "boat in water" scenario she could draw via his subtle suggestions), among several other drawings she did that he likewise used subtle manipulation via inserting suggestive words to influence her outcome. (Only the boat example's subtle suggestions are shown, the rest were not used in the video, but are implied.)

These were all very simple drawings of very simple things, a banana, a religious symbol and bush, a boat on the water.

The "Psychic Trainer New Agers" are surprised and shocked, and praise him, and worry that he might take their job he is so good, one suggests that he wants to use the video to train other Remote Viewers. Alas, they'd been had.

I have praise on this segment only because he shows how *uncontrolled* remote viewing can be easily manipulated, especially if you are in direct verbal communication with the person drawing the target, where you can subtlely leak suggestive phrases to them that can influence the outcome of their drawing, and because he pwned some gullible new agers. But, all in all, it's shooting fish in a barrel.

The second video segment of Derren Brown's dealing with Remote Viewing was better done than the first one, but was still very very flawed.

Here's a link to the video:

Derren Brown and Dr. Carr - Remote Viewing

Right off the bat, he inaccurately claims that the US Government Remote Viewing Project was "wasted scientific research".

Apparently he seems to be very unfamiliar with the overall data and the most significant hits of the RV Program, not surprisingly.

In the video, he gets a Psychologist and Remote Viewer Trainer Dr. Carr (whom I've never heard of before, and who gets only a very few hits on Google, most leading to his own Remote Viewing Workshop Website, which resembles many such RV Workshops you'll find online from many different people who are into RV Training) and Derren asks him to do a controlled Remote Viewing Test with him, which he agrees to.

Derren then *highly inaccurately* claims that Dr. Carr is the "World's Foremost Authority On Remote Viewing", which is not even close by a long shot. I'd consider Dr. Edwin May, Joe McMoneagle, Keith Harary, or Ingo Swann a hell of a more significant authority on Remote Viewing. Dr. Carr was never involved with Project Stargate which set the bar.

Derren Brown has a target woman go out into the local city, and has Dr. Carr in his studio, and asks him to zero in on her location with his Mind and Remote View her, and then draw her current location and describe her surroundings and what she is seeing.

Dr. Carr spends an HOUR AND A HALF drawing HUNDREDS of different drawings, many of which are *very general* images which can be compared to an ink blot test.

He then selects five different images that could *possibly* match the location, AFTER the woman comes back into the studio and tells them both of her surroundings. He picks one in particular that could be vaguely and generally seen as resembling a Fountain that was near her target location.

Derren Brown also points out that Dr. Carr wrote out over a hundred different words which he believed corresponded to the target area, which, when you look at them all, could cover just about everything and any location.

I found this to be a very shotty experiment, with a less than impressive "Remote Viewer".

I praise the segment only for Pwning a less than impressive "Remote Viewer" who obviously doesn't hold a candle to Joe McMoneagle, Keith Harary, or Ingo Swann.

Now, compare this guy's methods to Joe McMoneagle, who would only limit himself to 20 minutes top on drawing a target. His drawings were done on several pages, were not vague, were very detailed and specific, very much fit the target area, contained words and phrases associated with the target, and were about 80% accurate overall.

Derren Brown makes the suggestion near the end of the program that someone should take a Remote Viewer's finished drawing of a target and match it to the exact target location using just the drawing.

Guess what? Dr. Edwin May did just that with Joe McMoneagle's drawing in the National Geographic Remote Viewing Experiment.

Closely examine JoeMcMoneagle's Remote Viewing drawings with their exact targets. Realize that he is BLIND to the target entirely, as is the researcher Dr. Edwin May. Compare these dazzle-shot examples with the pityful examples supplied by Derren Brown in these two video segments.

That's all that really needs to be said.

- Eteponge

Sources for Quotations: Wikipedia Articles on Remote Viewing.

7 comments:

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Joe Beech said...

It is interesting what you have written but the fact remains that the predominate source of your information is limited. You cite wikipedia as your source which is a good source of information however you are simply drawing all the evidence to reinforce your view rather than presenting a balanced view point. I am not out rightly denying that remote viewing is impossible, in fact I would wager that the human brain is capable of incredible things. However, the probability still remains that the majority of people who claim to practice this sort of remote viewing are frauds, as I believe to be Derrens point. In addition although you claim that there are successful examples and people who are credible your evidence to support this lies primarily with specific examples. Which could be put down to chance.

If I asked a 1000 people to attempted a number of exercises of remote viewing the chances are that some of them would through up seemingly impossibly accurate answers. This does not make them statistically significantly. Evidence has to lie with the majority not with the few. The chances are that the people you chose as your examples would also refuse to go forth onto such tests as crude and unscientific they may seem they do present a point. After all if such abilities are circumstantial then it does beg the question if they have any substance at all. Such ideas should never be completely discounted but if there is no scientific explanation then there is a limit to its credibility, reliability and real world use.

A representative sample of the population will almost always show the majority to be unsuccessful but with freak occurances and outliers which usually have some explanation, if not just chance.

As an example, you said that one person scored an 80% accuracy on his work. The questions that should follow should be. Is this consistently or just a one off test? What was the degree to which information was considered accurate? As you said before it is easy to obtain a number of very vague examples, which under some systems of testing may be deemed accurate. He may then have some specifics which seemingly impossible. The accuracy of the excess 20% is also significant; if this 20% was entirely unrelated then does this not suggest that there are in fact problems with the process and or again the possibility of foul play as Derren suggested. It also needs to be considered that there may be other methods of achieving the same results. For example if I had a very good geographic knowledge then I could most likely insure that the majority of the wording that I use was relevant in some way shape or form even if this required some extravagant linking.

As I said I am not disregarding the possibility but the point is this needs to heavily scrutinised and every avenue of explanation should be explored rather than simply excepting the easy answer. The reason I can't currently accept remote viewing to be legitimate is that there are far too many other possibilities.

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StuBell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StuBell said...

I don't know how familiar you are with Brown's work / shows etc but there's a good chance this is all staged, with the intention of making the average viewer think "was that genuinely real or was it fake?" He does that to heighten the effect of his stunts and tricks. It's just his MO. He did a segment in his last stage show which purported to be based on one of Targ's experimei...

Pat McDonald said...

It was staged. The real Dr Carr looks nothing like the man Derren Brown interviewed. See for yourself. This is the real one. Google him if you like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELWWbOzWwYQ

Agimaso Schandir said...

The series Pat Mcdonald references was shown in 1999, Exploring the Unknown:Remote Viewing. Derren Brown's The Events:How to be a Psychic Spy was done 10 years later. Googleing images shows that are the same person.