Signal to Noise: A Fundamental Problem for Phenomenology | John B. Alexander

There are signals that can be detected or transmitted by human practitioners of remote viewing, dowsing, remote healing and other psi fields. That those signals exist, and can be detected or transmitted, is a basic premise under which psi operates. Those signals can transmit information about places, events, or other conditions that are determined to be objective targets. Scientific experiments demonstrate psi influence as statistically significant effect replicable over time.

Many counter-advocates deny the possibility that psi signals exist despite a considerable body of evidence that has been amassed. More perplexing is that some of these signals seem to violate existing notions of time and allow for both precognition and retrocognition. However the strength of those signals and effects, when compared to other information/effects, is often referred to as noise, a description of the information background environment. In fact, the “signal-to-noise ratio” is commonly used to address these issues in all signals analysis.

Throughout history psychics have made claims about their efforts in obtaining accurate information. Traditionally, they focus on extraordinary success stories supported by anecdotal evidence. Rarely acknowledged are the dramatic claims and predictions that are demonstrably wrong. In reality, such claims are seriously damaging the credibility of the entire field while clearly providing the legitimate skeptics with viable ammunition with which to attack the basic validity of all research in phenomenology.

Media attention often focuses on fast-breaking dramatic stories and pays little attention to fact checking. In their venue, the entertainment value outweighs the facts or real newsworthiness of the event. Concocted stories often are reported as if true and such events taint public perception of credible research.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to elucidate the endemic signal to noise issues attendant to all psi research. Efforts are needed to enhance weak signals while decreasing background noise. If we are to attain appropriate status in scientific disciplines, the researchers must be prepared to address both positive and negative outcomes as well as their relevancy to the public.

Bio: John B. Alexander, Ph.D. is a long time researcher of phenomenology and an SSE councilor. He retired from the Army and later Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is broadly published in many areas. His most recent book, UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities, was published by St. Martin’s press in Feb 201. More information is available at

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Recorded at the 30th annual SSE Conference in 2011 at the Millennium Harvest House in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

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Published on November 12, 2018