Dr. Andy Paquette knows peer-review and stat analysis, and how it didn’t work with COVID mask science.
[00:00:00] News clip: A large study on masks details their importance in the fight against COVID.
[00:00:04] Alex Tsakiris: Bullshit.
[00:00:05] News clip: For an in depth look, we spoke to one of the lead authors of that study, researchers at Stanford, Yale and UC Berkeley analyzed 350,000 adults in Bangladesh. Now they took half of that group and encouraged them to wear masks. 29% of them complied with that for about a 10-week period, they found that masks in general provided a 9% reduction in cases.
[00:00:29] Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, junk science and today in Skeptiko our guest, Dr. Andy Paquette will break down what is one of the most deceptive studies I’ve run across. I mean, this discussion even brought us back to the Sheldrick Wiseman days. But let’s roll on with the clip.
[00:00:45] News clip Speaker 1: Surgical masks were even more efficient reducing cases by 11%. Ashley Stusinskey, one of the lead authors in the study and an infectious disease Fellow at Stanford says the results offer a glimpse of just how much masks matter.
[00:01:01] News clip Speaker 2: So overall, we felt that this demonstrated that masks are highly effective in reducing COVID-19.
[00:01:08] Andy Paquette: Yeah, Alex, I gotta say, like a couple of things. I’m sorry, this is just first off, that first headline was much more sensational and then the second one, both of them are not based on any kind of foundation of evidence found in this article. But the thing that really got me was that clip of the TV news, so the TV announcer says that they found a 9% reduction in cases. And then the lady says yes, it’s 9% up to 11% for this other condition. And I’m thinking I just read that paper. And what they just said is wrong. It’s a 9% relative reduction, the actual absolute reduction was something like 0.002%, it was tiny.
[00:01:47] Alex Tsakiris: The headline to me is a big lie. And when I say big lie mean it’s kind of well-known and propaganda, is the best way to hide a lie is to make it a big lie, because little lies are liable to be exposed, if they would have just tried to bury this study and not put it out and someone stumbled across it and said, “Hey, here’s another no result, stack it alongside the Danish study that just came out randomized control study that shows no result, stack it along with all the epidemiological data, which we should talk about. I think what they’ve done is they’ve hyped it up in order to bury it. So the debate becomes, well, did they really do it? You know, did they do this right? Who did they forced to do it? When what the real story is another null result? Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore contrast your science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris. And today we welcome back Dr. Andrew Paquette to Skeptiko. Andy is probably best known, at least to Skeptiko listeners, for his work in cataloguing and analyzing just an amazing collection of dreams. And we talked Andy way back in the day, when this book dreamer 20 Years of Psychic Dreams and How They Changed My Life. When that book came out, and I have stayed in contact with Andy. He’s really become a friend of mine and a friend of the shows. He’s also I should mention, as you might have seen from the website of his that I pulled up there, he is just an incredible artist. And somewhat well known. He’s also a professional photographer, has done work in major publications, major media publications, maybe he’ll mention them that anyone would know. He’s also a graphic artist. And a couple years ago, he got his PhD from King’s College London, on something called spatial visualization among digital artists, which I don’t know what that means. But now that I’ve laid out Andy’s amazing background, I want to tell you, we are probably not going to talk about much of any of that today because Andy is this renaissance man, a bio that covers all these different things. But one of the things I always think of Andy and the reason he’s kind of my go to guy for this particular show is he is a scientist. That means he’s published in peer reviewed journals, particularly he’s published in the Journal of scientific exploration a couple times, but he’s also published in other peer reviewed journals. But the one that always pops to my mind is the Journal of scientific exploration because I know the standards there. I know how tough it is because it is its roots are as a parasite psychology journal, and para psychologists have been so picked on over the years, that they’re extra careful about how they do their work. And Andy has been extra careful about that. And I know over the years, as he shared some of his papers with me, I’ve seen how he sweated over the details of getting statistics right. And then a minute as we get on with this interview maybe leaving tell you about when he kind of leaned on Dr. Daryl Bem, very famous professor from Cornell, who’s also well published in this field and how Andy collaborated with him as scientists do to get their science right to get their statistics, right. So all that is just the background for why I felt Andy was a perfect, perfect fit as a go to guy to analyze this very, very interesting study that we’re going to look at today. But before we get into it, and we will get into it really quickly. Andy, welcome. Welcome back. And thanks for joining me, what else did I leave out of that intro bio there that you’d like to add?
[00:05:51] Andy Paquette: Well, you did leave out the writing I’ve been doing lately, because on a call, I was making a I guess it was about a year ago, relating to a photoshoot, I wound up instead of talking myself into a job as a staff writer, writing articles about current events, and that was for an online publication called Law Enforcement Today. And then I’ve been doing that more recently for Red Voice Media, where I’ve just become a regular columnist. So and as far as the number of articles at the Journal of scientific exploration, I believe it’s five that they published one for the International Journal of brain research. And another one that one that I did in a journal on education research, my research for my PhD was about the development of professional levels of competence. And I use computer graphics artists as a group that I was going to study to find that but the overall goal was just to look at how competence or proficiency or even expertise is achieved primarily because I wanted to contest the idea that you actually have to, like, study something hard for 10 years in order to gain expertise. My impression was, if you found the key concepts, that defined expertise, and you did it quickly, you would be an expert, even if it took you 30 days. And I was able to show that. There are probably a few other things I left out, but it’s good enough. You mentioned that I worked on Spider Man that movie or Daredevil, or Space Jam, he didn’t mention the games I worked on like Unreal and Parasite Eve or Full Spectrum Warrior, those are all big titles too. Anyway, you can go on, or my TV show forgot about that. I did a comic book, they became a TV series called First Round, it was awful, don’t worry about it. But still, it’s a TV show, not many people get this.
[00:07:43] Alex Tsakiris: So interesting background. And again, you have this kind of amazing graphic artists background, and there’s all sorts of interesting Skeptiko like stories about that, that we’ve connected on over the years. But what I’m really trying to punch up and tell me if I’m doing it too much is I think you understand how to analyze this mask study that was done on the impact of community masking and COVID-19. This is a study from Yale and Stanford, it made somewhat of a splash in the media because they found God darn it just put on those masks like we told you, here’s the best science, here’s the science you’ve been clamoring about waiting for here it is nail in the coffin research. So let me start with this. Andy, when did you first hear about this study? I know I sent it to you had you heard about it before then?
[00:08:38] Paquette: No, I hadn’t I the first time I knew about it was from you.
[00:08:42] Alex Tsakiris: I thought it might have been me who kind of turned you on to this because as you know, I’ve been on this mask thing for a while. And that when I say the mask thing, this idea of whether or not masks are really effective in controlling the spread of COVID among the general population. So we might get into that in a minute. And we have to differentiate between whether they work in a lab to whether they work out in the general population, but I’ve kind of really gone out there and I’ve hammered a number of guests on the show and even had a debate on the show, saying that masks don’t work, that you always get a null result whenever these studies are done. And then somebody on the Skeptiko forum pointed me to this what is published here in live science, and the title reads, Huge Gold Standard study shows unequivocally that surgical masks work to reduce COVID spread. So I started looking into that I found a similar article on the Washington Post I’ll read in that headline which is also sensational, massive randomized study is proof that surgical masks limit Coronavirus spread author’s say, and one other thing I want to share with folks is how it played out in the news, news being kind of in quotes here, but I wanted to play this how it was processed by mainstream media news.
[00:10:16] News clip Speaker 1: A large study on masks details their importance in the fight against COVID. For an in depth look, we spoke to one of the lead authors of that study, researchers at Stanford, Yale and UC Berkeley analyzed 350,000 adults in Bangladesh, they took half of that group and encouraged them to wear masks. 29% of them compiled complied with that for about a 10-week period, they found that max in general provided a 9% reduction in cases, surgical masks were even more efficient reducing cases by 11%. Ashley Stusinskey, one of the lead authors in the study and infectious disease Fellow at Stanford says the results offer a glimpse of just how much masks matter.
[00:11:01] News clip Speaker 2: So overall, we felt that this demonstrated that masks are highly effective in reducing COVID-19. And that if we were able to achieve even more uptake than the 29 percentage point increase, we saw, we would have probably been able to measure a greater effect.
[00:11:16] News clip: The study found people 60 and older they …
[00:11:21] Alex Tsakiris: I’m gonna pause it there. Were you able to hear all that?
[00:11:24] Andy Paquette: Yeah, Alex, I gotta say like a couple things. I’m sorry. This is just yeah. First off, the first headline was much more sensational. And then second one, both of them are not based on any kind of foundation of evidence found in this article. But the thing that really got me was that clip of the TV news. So the TV announcer says that they found a 9% reduction in cases. And then the lady says yes, it’s 9% up to 11%. For this other condition. And I’m thinking I just read that paper. And what they just said is wrong. It’s a 9% relative reduction, the actual absolute reduction was something like 0.002%, it was tiny. So for them to call that a 9% or an 11%. value, extrapolated from a nine to 11% relative value when you’re comparing two numbers that are almost identical, is really disingenuous. Now maybe they’re just stupid. I suppose that’s possible. They are …
[00:12:19] Alex Tsakiris: No, no, no, don’t go there with that second part. I want to roll this back a little bit, because I’ve just kind of played in the first impact. Because as I tell the story, I’ve been hammering the mask stuff forever, because I looked at the existing data, and the existing data always had a null result, whenever you took it out and tested it in the general population, no results, no results. Just recently, there was a Danish study published, same thing, no result, when we actually try and apply masking, to people in the general population, there’s no difference. It doesn’t make a difference, if you wear a mask, it’s not effective, no results, no results. That to me seemed to be the overriding data. So when I first heard this report, when it was published, on the Skeptiko forum, which is the first time I did and I found that article on life science, I gotta tell you, because I think this is where it hits people. My heart dropped and my heart dropped, because like, “Oh, my God, I’m an idiot. I’ve been wrong. And I’ve been spreading this stupid information. And here are these really smart people at Yale, and at Stanford. And they’re doing it, they’re way smarter than me about this stuff.” And they’re so confident, nail in the coffin, level of research, gold standard study, those are not my words, highest quality gold standard type of clinical trial, known as randomized control trial, should end any scientific debate. So says, Jason [unclear 13:56], an economist at Yale. And I want to get into this but I have to say is, as this first hit me and my kind of, like I say, my heart dropped. There are also a couple of things that immediately jumped out at me. And I want you to because we talked about this, and I want you to talk about it as well. When I heard such over the top language as should end any scientific debate, it did cast an immediate doubt my mind like, “Hey, maybe there’s something here that we need to look into.” What did you think when you read that kind of stuff?
[00:14:37] Andy Paquette: Look, there’s a couple of things like for instance, the comment about ending scientific debate, that one acknowledges that there is a scientific debate, which is in opposition to all the rest of the media signaling which is telling us that there is no scientific debate, because everyone agrees about this stuff, because science says, “Masks are good.” So the mere fact that there are saying this is the nail in the coffin of that argument is telling me there is an argument for why you are now admitting this here, which is something that you’re denying beforehand. So and when you use extravagant language like nail in the coffin, or examples like that, it also makes me highly suspicious. I mean, my tendency when I’m reading that kind of language or hyperbole is to not trust it. Yeah, I’m like immediately suspicious that what they’re saying is the opposite of what I’m going to find when I looked at whatever it is that they’re talking about, because that tends to be the case.
[00:15:31] Alex Tsakiris: For a pre published paper on top of it, right?
[00:15:35] Andy Paquette: Well, the fact that is pre published really bothers me, I don’t know what would persuade a real proper scientist to send out a document before it’s been peer reviewed. And to tout it as something that’s pre-publication version of something that they intend to put through peer review. To me that one reasons you might do that, I suppose is if you’re worried that it won’t pass peer review. And so you want to get a step ahead of that by getting some popular support for it among people who actually don’t know enough to understand the mistakes that you’ve made. Again, this is the direction my thinking takes when I see this, but frankly, I think it’s really bad manners to do it. But on top of that, I also think is bad science. Because the thing is, the peer review process is helpful to the authors, it’s very helpful, I wouldn’t want to present something that hadn’t been peer reviewed for a number of reasons. But one of them is, I rather appreciate the help I get for the people who peer review my articles, they don’t just put a stamp of approval on these things. And then send them in for publication. They make comments that are genuinely useful, I get those comments, I’m like, “Oh, Jee, I really should clarify this point, or I should correct this number.” And once I’ve done that, I feel a lot more confident in the paper. So if I do it before I’ve ever shown it to anybody for peer review, I’m thinking you know what, I have less confidence in my own work right now. Because it hasn’t been vetted by anyone else. So why is it that these guys are doing it?
[00:17:04] Alex Tsakiris: This really good point. So, there’s a number of ways we could tackle this study, you have a number of points that you’ve piled up, I do, too. But I don’t want to bury the lead. And I think the lead here is that when you analyze the numbers, this study actually proves the exact opposite of what it claims, because this study is confirmation of the null hypothesis. That is that there’s no evidence that masks work when you move them into the general population. And that’s kind of my working hypothesis, which we’ll kind of hash out later is that I think the hype on this study is kind of the head fake. Because if you really work out all the numbers, and you say, ‘Wow,’ this is, they did do a huge study. But the fact is, they got a no result. And that’s a replication in a sense of all the other no results. And the last thing you want is for that to get out. So the best way to go out there is lead out with a big lie that oh my God, this is the best study ever. Andy, I think you had a comment, I’ve pulled the numbers that I want to talk about up on the screen. But what did you want to say before we dive into this?
[00:18:23] Andy Paquette: What I want to say is that the way the study is written is deceptive on its face, it’s really clear that they’re intentionally disguising the actual findings of the study and the meaning of it. They are not making any comparisons to studies that come to different conclusions. Like for instance, the many studies you’re talking about that show that mask wearing has no positive benefit. And I know about those studies, and I’ve seen them so why they are left out of this makes no sense to me, because they wouldn’t take have this robust result, you would expect them to say, “Look at this, all these studies, X, Y and Z show or claim that masks aren’t effective, but we have proven them wrong. And this is how we prove them wrong. Nowhere do they address this. And that should have been right up front and it’s nowhere. I’m really disappointed by that. But then when it comes to the numbers, and you keep talking about this huge study, they get around 350,000 people in this study, but when I look at the actual number of people who are relevant to their conclusions, it’s a small number relative to these bigger numbers that they’re throwing around. And every single opportunity, they use the bigger numbers whenever they can, even though they’re not directly relevant to what they’re talking about. So that also bothers me anyway going.
[00:19:37] Alex Tsakiris: No, everything you’re saying is great. So, what I want to do next for people who are listening and aren’t watching this, I’m referencing now right out of the study, you can get this link right from the Washington Post. And by the way, you can also get a whole hashing out of this that we did on the Skeptiko forum. I kind of put up this post saying hey, help me out with this upcoming interview. And it was really great, I got a lot of posts. Not a lot of them I agreed with. But definitely it helped the whole process because it’s hard to figure this stuff out. Everyone makes mistakes here, they’re just like, we’re gonna point out that the scientists in this case made some mistakes. But the numbers can get a little bit confusing. But what I wanted to point out here is figure one is right out of the study. And this is the headline, big graphic. So again, they had about 340,000 people, they had 146,000 in the control group, and they had about 160,000. In the intervention group. Intervention group are people that they went and they pester the crap out of them to wear this mask for the 10 weeks in here is the result that they got, check this out people in the control group at the end of the day, and we’ll tell you how they got to this. But they figure out that 0.76% of their control group had COVID, the group that they pester the heck out of that group had a COVID rate of 0.69%. And they said, like Andy just pointed out, “Hey, guys, let’s get all excited. That’s a relative 9.3 reduction in COVID. Multiply that by all the people in the world, multiply that by all the weeks in the year, multiply that if we got people to double their mass, great, all of which you can’t do is total bullshit science.” But nonetheless, the real fatal flaw, the real junk science, part of this is in the numbers themselves. Here’s the little story I want to share with people, Andy, and then I want you to really take over on this. Here’s another way to think of his study. Let’s say, I had a magic pendant, a little magic pendant with a crystal and a little leather strap on it. And I said, “Andy, if you wear this magic pendant, you won’t get COVID.” And then I did my big study, and I came out and I proved it, guys. I proved it. And you came back and say, “Okay, well tell me how you proved it?” And I said, “Well, we took 1000 people, and how many of them had COVID at the end of it? Eight.” Now I’m saying eight because that 0.76% rounded up. Because it’s 7.6 people were rounded up to eight, and I’ll say eight people had COVID. And then you go Okay, well, how many people in your intervention group, the people who actually wore the pendant? So then and if you were to say, “Well, how many people that actually wore the pendant got COVID?” And I’d say, “Oh, yeah, seven out of 1000, who wore the pendant got COVID.” And you’d go, “Wait a minute, you said the control group eight out of 1000 head COVID. And in the intervention, the people who wear their magic pendant, only seven out of 1000 had COVID you’ve got this not a very convincing result.” And especially if you pressed me and said, “Well, how did you even measure whether they were wearing the pendant or not? How did you measure whether they had COVID at the end? What kind of test did you do? Is it possible that you made any mistake in terms of testing those 1000 people?” All those things would cast doubt on how accurate it was particularly when my end result is that this is the effect. The effect is a reduction from 0.76% to 0.69% it is miniscule. Anyone with common sense would tell you that is not a significant difference. Just because you wore the magic pendant. Maybe that’s a stupid example. But that’s what really brought it home to me is how they’re totally playing with these numbers in order to create the illusion that they’ve done something when in fact they’ve really done the opposite. They’ve confirmed that this is a no result. What do you think Andy?
[00:23:55] Andy Paquette: Well, yeah, and I’m sitting here thinking, you’re taking all my thunder here. Because all the stuff you say is right, I look at that. And frankly, I think it’s extremely dishonest for them to call that a 9.3% relative reduction in a scientific paper that’s going into a scientific journal, you would say what the reduction is not the relative reduction and if you wanted to make that a 99% relative reduction, you could do that just reduce those numbers enough, like, 0.001 to 0.0001, and you could have this incredible relative reduction, it’d be totally meaningless because the numbers are so small, just as in this case, and also because of the number of people involved. It’s, you actually can do that. So when I look at the paper, I’m seeing two things that bothered me, you’re focusing on the number and I think you should because it is an important defect. But the other thing is the way they reported is very dishonest. I would say, it’s manifestly dishonest, meaningfully dishonest, they’ve changed the meaning of what they did. How they did it and what it means. All of those things are reasons to not approve this republication, if I was reviewing this paper for a journal, I would not want to approve it just on that basis alone. Even that one line that you just showed there that image the graphic where it says, “Relative Reduction” right there, that word relative, they take that out and replace it with the absolute reduction, or it doesn’t get published. But this article is full of stuff like that throughout from front to back. The fact that they don’t bother mentioning competing theories. That’s a big problem for me. I don’t like how they, I forget where it is. But there’s one of these places where they drastically increase the numbers that are affected by this, provided their conjecture is true, but that’s provided their conjecture is true, which is not something I’m willing to grant is the case. And they give no justification for it. You know what I’m talking about, they have a number 2.5 in there, where they essentially multiply their results by 2.5 and say, “This is what the results would be if this fancy pants invented theory of ours is correct.” And I’m like, “Well, prove that first and then give me the 2.5. Because otherwise.
[00:26:12] Alex Tsakiris: It’s interesting, because where the 2.5 comes from if we are going to talk a little bit about the method that they use the protocols, what they did is they took this huge population in Bangladesh, which I have to say, once I got over the point of saying, this is all concocted, it’s junk science, and its intentionally junk science. You start questioning the whole thing. One, why do you need 340,000 people? I suspect that one of the reasons you need 340,000 people is what you just alluded to. And I want you to talk more about that, from your experience is when you have a really large population, it’s kind of easier to fudge the stats at the end of the day. I mean, if you had 1/10 of this, if you had 40,000 people, you’d still have a very significant study and you’d have a much more manageable study. Right?
[00:27:07] Andy Paquette: Okay, the thing that bugs me about this is that I’m not even convinced that there that 340,000 number refers to genuine participants in the sense that they are relevant to the claims that they’re making here. Yes, they had 340,000 people fill out a survey. But they did not give 340,000 people blood test to determine whether or not they had this, the COVID virus in them, they only had something less than 10,000, 9000 something of those people had that. So what they’re doing is they’re testing for zero prevalence. And their whole conclusion is based on changes in the amount of seroprevalence in one group versus another. And they’re saying it applies to 340,000 people, but they only gave the test to 9000 something.
[00:27:50] Alex Tsakiris: If you read the study, they do to go to great lengths to explain how they created this randomized group versus the control group. And they really want to hype that up because that they did and they probably did right. And how do you get the profile of the village that matches up and all the rest of this, all smokescreen, smokescreen, because as you said, what they do at the end of the day, is then they go and they pester the crap out of these people, they show them videos of their sports heroes in Bangladesh, and politicians in Bangladesh saying, “Wear the mask, wear the mask,” and then they go out and they have their little observers who they pay to go and observe people in the market, whether they’re wearing the mask, they haven’t, then they say, well, we should observe them in the mask too. You know, because mask wearing we already know that if masks are effective at all, they’re effective, where the virus is being spread, not outdoors in the market. But leave all that aside. Again, it just is a smokescreen. Here’s what I want to get to. At the end of the day, what they do is they say, “Okay, time to tally up the results. Let’s see who has COVID.” So this is not an unreasonable way to do it. It just has the high possibility of introducing air, and that is that they call everybody up. And they say, “Hey, that’s 10 weeks. Remember you were doing this study, how you feeling? You got COVID, got a flu, got a cough?” They go through the symptoms, and the person goes, “Yeah, don’t feel that today.” They say, “Come on in for a blood test, would you?” 40% both control is pretty much the same, both in the control group and in the intervention group, the people that they’re bugging to wear the mask, 40% of them come in, that’s where they get the 2.5 because 40% multiply 2.5 you’d get 100% but that’s fake. You can’t do that. All is you know, is that 40% of the people you called, came in. You don’t know which 40%, you don’t this is a telemarketing thing. You don’t know if you have somebody calling him up who’s really good at talking people. It has the kind of motherly vibe and it says, “Oh honey, you sound really bad. Now you should come in” and they get more people that come in and the other one, there’s all sorts of potential for human error. Because remember, at the end of the day, you’ve got a difference of one out of 1000 is the difference. If you lose a blood sample, if you get the wrong person to come in, if any of that changes, you have a complete no result, you don’t even have this kind of fake no result that barely jumps over some bar, I know you’re dying to jump in here, please do.
[00:47:18] Alex Tsakiris: The real problem to me that I’m trying to chronicle if you will, because I feel like I’ve been kind of part of it with Skeptiko is how rapidly they’ve undermined science. You don’t I mean, because like you did the thing with Daryl Bem for your journal of scientific exploration paper. I had Daryl Bem on the show. Let me pull it up.
[00:47:43] Andy Paquette: Hey, Alex, yes, while you’re while you’re doing that, I want to mention two things cuz I want to say this, and I’m hoping that it’s you find it worth including, number one, I love talking about how science is undermined. Okay. And I also think you and your Skeptiko program have done a lot to illustrate that. And then I really admire that work that you’ve done. So to me, the hallmark of Skeptiko, is you’re absolutely not afraid to deal directly with the people who disagree with you. And you, as far as I can tell, have honestly tried to find out if the other side might be right. You’ve asked them the questions you need to ask and you’ve listened to their answers. And you’ve waited until you’ve done that before deciding, Okay, wait a minute, this makes sense or it doesn’t. To me, that’s how this kind of inquiry should be conducted. And it is something that I don’t see very often anymore, at least not in these kinds of subjects.
[00:48:41] Alex Tsakiris: That’s nice of you to say, my concern is that in the 10 plus years that I’ve been doing this, it’s kind of coming up 15 pretty quick. I’ve definitely seen the shift. I definitely, have seen a shift and I want to talk about that with you. Because ultimately that’s what this whole thing is really about is how far down the path are we is this business as usual to what extent can we should we try to stop this? When I back in the day when I really had no clue. And I had Richard Wiseman and Rupert Sheldrake on their debating about dogs that know when their owners are coming home. And I don’t know if anyone remembers this show way back then. But we’ve really dug into those papers. And it was kind of a seminal moment because we got Richard Wiseman on. And he finally had to admit well, he wouldn’t admit that he was being intentionally deceptive, which he was, and shelled called him out on it. But he admitted, well, the data is the data. I can’t really argue against Sheldrick’s data. To me at this point that looks so refreshingly honest, from a very dishonest guy Richard Wiseman, that it’s almost a marker of how far we’ve slipped. I pulled up episode 170 with Daryl Bem responds to para psychology debunkers and I also pulled up way back, Skeptiko 126 Andy Paquette claims 20 years of history with pre cognitive dreams. The reason they’re linked is because you did lean on Daryl Bem, because you had a complicated statistical problem again, you’re super rigorous about the way you treat your data. And as such, you had data that you could really do real statistical analysis on it. And you had to really come up with some novel ways to do that. And I’m sure it spun your head around. Daryl Bem, Cornell University, published in top journals had the same problem. And when we did this episode on Daryl Bem, he comes to the same conclusion, intentionally deceptive and again, it was Richard Wiseman, who I don’t know, Richard Wiseman, he was kind of the guy that they leaned on to go debunk this stuff back in the day. But again, it was intentionally deceptive, but not to the order of magnitude that we see here. This, to me seems like a whole different ballgame. Where you have, like you pointed out at the very beginning, you have a pre-release paper that hasn’t even undergone peer review. And you immediately have the media access to the Washington Post, New York Times, Live Science, all the other places to make out and make all these outrageous claims. This is a new level that I haven’t seen before. And it just makes you wonder how far they’ve gone. And just kind of completely undermining serious scientific debate, serious scientific analysis on tough subjects, on the stuff that just doesn’t conform with what everyone already believes.
[00:52:00] Andy Paquette: Actually, I’m just gonna make a couple of comments on that, because I made a couple of observations I hadn’t really thought of until you started talking about this. So when I started getting into studying dreams, it was simply because I had evidence in front of me. And although I didn’t notice it, my wife did, she got me to look at it. But at a certain point, I started listening to your shows. And it was interesting, I actually really enjoyed hearing the adverse comments the people who disagreed with the fair psychology hypothesis, because it by listening to them, I felt actually better about some of the other conclusions I had made because they never made any sense. They very rarely justified what they’re saying very well. And I could very easily see through their arguments. If I hadn’t seen that I might have always harbored a suspicion that maybe there is a fantastic nail in the coffin argument out there just waiting to shoot down the idea that I’m having dreams about the future. But because I actually saw these guys heard them on your show, I was able to just realize that, that probably isn’t the case. But one thing that I did feel at the time is that this is pair psychology This is an inherently controversial topic there are a lot of people who just on the basis of atheism alone aren’t going to accept anything related to this and then you’re gonna have people for religious reasons aren’t going to accept it, then there’s a tiny sliver of people who are going to be open enough to actually pay attention to the data, and even the smaller sliver that are going to understand it and even smaller sliver that are gonna have access to the right data. So I was looking at the problem with skeptics and para psychology is being linked to that subject matter. But after listening to you talk right now, I’m wondering if we’re seeing dishonesty among scientists in parapsychology, why would we think it’s any different among scientists anywhere else? And looking at what we’re seeing right now makes me think, it is impossible that these guys suddenly became dishonest in the last 18 months, during the COVID pandemic. I think it’s been going on and we just haven’t noticed it, because the subjects were inherently less controversial. In other words, why question it? Okay, with a subject that is inherently controversial, parapsychology and I think this is also a very interesting data point. Para psychologists have been essentially forced to use far more rigorous methods than are used anywhere else. Because they keep on defeating the arguments the skeptics throw their way. But to do it, they have to keep on coming up with new methods that are even more rigorous. And what has happened is, they’ve essentially become almost I hate to say it this way, like superheroes among scientists, because the strength of the rigor that they’re applying is much greater then what you see elsewhere. So what that implies to me, if we’re seeing this high level of skepticism in this field with this level of rigor. It’s definitely happening everywhere else that is to say, the lies and obfuscation and so on. And nobody’s looking at it very carefully, because it’s not very controversial. So and then I started thinking about climate change science and conversations I’ve had with a good friend of mine who’s a high energy physicist and on the topic, and I’m thinking, you know what, this has been going on for a long time, there’s a very high level of productivity, a low level of skepticism. And I’ll tell you, I associate skepticism with the practice of genuine science. Be skeptical, look at the data, follow the data, come to conclusions that are based on the data. But what I’m seeing instead are people who are following whatever instinct they have, which may be a desire, and it may be something that is based on genuine investigatory perception, I don’t know. But in this particular case, it looks like these guys wanted money from who, and they figured this as a way to do it, because doing anything that’s going to support mass mandates is going to get the money. That’s the push right now. So just like jumping on the railroads, back in the 1850s. This is like a gold rush for people who do research, do something that’s going to support mass mandate.
[00:56:25] Alex Tsakiris: And that’s even putting a potentially positive spin on it. We don’t know if it’s more diabolical than that, more evil than that. But I just wanted to throw in, add little meat to the bones that you just laid out, because retracing that history of para psychology is really useful. I remember way back in the day, one of the things that the para psychologist really pioneered is – and Dean Raiden can be credited with this – is a very rigorous statistical look at the file drawer problem, both practically and statistically, in the file drawer problem in case people don’t know it is because people when they want to replicate and experiment, want a replication, they can be prone in some cases, either consciously or not totally consciously, to take a result that doesn’t get the result they’re looking for, and put file it away and never publish it. And that sounds really bad. But it wouldn’t be and particularly, parapsychology points this out, if you’re doing a Zen card, “Hey, can you tell what card I’m holding here secretly? Hey, if it just flops you just go, Oh, forget it, just put it away.” So he had a really complicated but useful way that has been adopted by other people too, for how to account for the file drawer problem. Another one is the experimenter effect. When they said, “Hey, we replicate this experiment as closely as we can. And we get a different result.” And when we really sort it all out, the only difference we can get, is the experiment, or is it possible that the beliefs and values on some level that we can’t completely measure of the experimenter is making a difference. These guys, these parasites, ecologist, apt actually pioneer this kind of work that has made its way into other branches of science for people who are willing to be truly open minded and truly want to figure out what’s going on?
[00:58:18] Andy Paquette: Yeah, you know, I was gonna say something else. But now that you said, bad, just gonna point one thing out, because I had to deal with the file drawer problem myself. If you look at my dream journal, I have, right now, it’s not open on my screen right now. But it’s somewhat in excess of 450, what I would call critical dreams, meaning I’ve checked them out, I’ve investigated them, I’ve got some kind of validation that these dreams related to something I couldn’t have had normal knowledge of. But that number has been relatively constant, since I stopped actively looking for validation. So as of 1991, that’s how many there are, and then flash forward 20 years, and it’s maybe a couple dozen more, because I only passively verify them now. That is to say, if something happens, and I just can’t avoid finding out that it’s valid, then I’ll write it down. But I don’t actively go out proactively and try to find validation. So you could look at this as either a proportion of 450 out of 800 dreams, which is a very high percentage of vertical dreams. Or you could look at in the context of the entire time, we’ve been keeping the journal, which is 13,300 dreams much smaller percentage, but it’s a misleading result, because the fact is, I haven’t been checking all that time. So how do I deal with the file group problem? Well, I report how many are in the journal and when I stopped checking them, and how many have been checked within that time period, and I ignore the ones that were checked afterward. So I’m able to deal with it, but I do deal with it. I have to think about it. And I think about it because of what you’re just mentioning from being [unclear 59:57] And I think it’s an important issue. And this is like these guys who did this article on the mask study, they’re so far from dealing with the founder problem, it’s embarrassing. But the other thing you mentioned about this being, like diabolical, I did want to talk about that. Because it’s true, you can actually be kind of nice in the way you talk about these various lies that are being promulgated on the, the people of this country in the world, actually, in this case, the people of Bangladesh, I guess, maybe there’s well-meaning people who have an idea and it doesn’t work, and they just don’t want to admit it, or they’re not able to see it. But when I look at studies like that just spontaneous miscarriage study among pregnant women from the CDC, that looks intentional, that looks like they are promoting something that they know will cause miscarriages on purpose, because to them, their goal of getting everyone vaccinated is more important than the health of these people. And that is diabolical, because at that point, they are doing something that they know is going to cause death.
[01:01:02] Alex Tsakiris: I’m with you. Well, I think you make a great point.
[01:01:05] Andy Paquette: Once I will say I save it for later, that’s fine. But I think it’s actually a very important distinction between people choosing on their own to do something that carries risk. And people being told they have to do something to carry risk. Because it’s like, if you tell everybody in the whole country, you have to play Russian Roulette, you’re guaranteeing a certain number of deaths. If you leave it up to them themselves, not all those people are going to try, it’s kind of like the coins flipped versus coins not flipped issue when you get to the [unclear 1:01:34] studies, I find this is a very, very interesting and very damning point when it comes to those mandates.
[01:01:44] Alex Tsakiris: Well, that kind of reminds me of a couple of points as we wrap this up that I wanted to, to mention that get buried in all this, one right off the bat when people think about masks, they’ve been kind of conditioned to get into this debate about whether masks work in a laboratory in terms of preventing the virus. And we’ve all seen the graphic on this. There’s a mask and there’s like this aerosol spray, that’s your photography, you know how they shoot it, and you see all this stuff coming towards the mask and either gets in or gets out. I can’t speak to the efficacy of those studies. And I think they’re all over the board. But what I do think is it kind of misses the point because the point is public health policy. And in particular, the point is science and scientific confidence. And whether public health policy should be based on science, which we all agree it should be. And to what extent does that science have to convince us in order for us to give up the rights that we normally think are our rights, at least in this country, as Americans, our default position is, hey, you can’t make me do what I don’t want to do if it isn’t harming anyone else. So if I want to wear a mask or not wear a mask, it doesn’t matter. It’s my choice. So the question is, what kind of science what degree of certainty would you need in order to have something that overrides that and that’s what we’re really talking about here. So that science is not laboratory science, that you would quickly get anyone to agree that what you’d have to do is go out and test it in the public and see if what you’re trying to implement as a public health policy, it really is effective. The other thing that I’d point out really quickly, because I’m kind of going on about this point, but I keep making it again and again, is because whenever we’ve done that, we always get a null result, we always come back and say, “Masks don’t seem to make a difference in the general public.” We’ve never really seriously considered the adverse effects. Because we don’t have to, because we’re not forcing people to wear masks, we’ve never really seriously considered the adverse effects. When we do when a couple of people have and they say, “Hey, there’s some pretty risky things that we might want to look into in terms of mask wearing.” So that’s all left out of the equation, because you shouldn’t be mandated because mask mandates aren’t really supported in the science after all.
[01:04:15] Andy Paquette: Well, when I see this kind of stuff going on, and anytime I see something that doesn’t really make sense to me like this, my first reaction is usually I need more information. I’m missing information on this. And I think this is one of those situations. Because the COVID pandemic reaction, based on the idea that COVID is super dangerous, does not match the data we have on the actual danger posed by COVID. Therefore, it’s unsupported. the wearing of masks is based on that. But that’s not supported properly there. And the masks aren’t supported properly, thanks to all the studies showing us that they’re not efficacious. And so the fact that we’re being told to do this anyway when the people who are asking us to do it, have to know that it doesn’t work. And we actually know that Dr. Anthony Fauci is on the record saying masks don’t work. Actually, several other doctors who are promoting the use of masks are saying essentially, it’s a placebo just to make people feel better. If that’s what they’re saying, then why are they attaching legal penalties to not wearing masks in Australia, for instance, or actually, even in New York City, they’re not now but a number of months ago, they were actually giving people tickets for not wearing masks in certain places. So that kind of thing bothers me but one thing you mentioned made me think of something. There’s a comic published in the 1940s. This is a Donald.com with a story called the Golden helmet. And the idea behind this story is that the golden helmet found in Labrador established the person is the owner of all of North America. And so it goes through a number of different people. Donald Duck gets it, evil lawyer, museum curator gets it, all these other people get it and they all say what they’re going to do when they own North America. So the museum curator says, “I’m going to make everybody go to museums every day of the week, and school is going to be all about going to museums.” This evil lawyer says, “He’s going to do all these evil things to take everybody’s money.” And then when Donald gets it, he says, “I’m going to charge people for the air they breathe, a sigh can cost a nickel, a gasp a dime.” But the point is that they’ve got this arbitrary designation of power that allows them to make everyone in the entire country do the same thing to their benefit. And no matter what it is, whether it’s going to museums, or being charged for the air you breathe, it’s evil, and it’s bad, and it’s unsupportable. So when I look at this, and you asked me so at what level do you think it’s okay for them to take this control over you? I don’t know that there is a level where I think that would be okay. I mean, you could have meteors hurdling from the sky, and the public address system could be saying, “Duck and cover” and I would still consider it my right, perhaps unwisely to stand out in front of a meteor Okay, and not be arrested for it. Okay. I’ll give you another example. I’m vegan. You know, I’m vegan. Would you like it if I said you had to be vegan, too, because I had the golden helmet. I don’t want that to happen. Why would I want to force you to do something you’re not comfortable with? It doesn’t make any sense. And that’s what the government now thinks they’ve got the power to do, I think and it’s not just our country. It’s like all over the world. It’s crazy.
[01:07:40] Alex Tsakiris: It’s not about science. It’s about compliance. I heard that the other day. I think it’s a great one. Andy, what’s coming up for you? We are I should mention; we are going to do another show. I don’t want to tell people what it’s about. But it kind of piggybacks on this one. Because it’s about following the science and where we might get if we follow the science and what that might get us into in the political and para political arena. But that’s all I’m gonna say about it. But what else is going on with you? What are you working on what’s happening?
[01:08:13] Andy Paquette: I want to answer that question, but I hate to tell you, I just had an idea to say something I want to say it okay. Fundamentally, science is about honesty. Science, that is not honest, is not science, period. Because if you don’t record what you’re doing, honestly, if you don’t state your goals, honestly, if you don’t report what you did, honestly, and if you don’t honestly evaluate what you’ve got, you aren’t doing science. Thank you. So you’re asking me what I’m doing? Well, I have to tell you, thanks to the pandemic, all the things I’d planned on doing, I’m not doing and I’m doing all sorts of other things instead. So I came here and I wanted to set myself up as a commercial photographer and I was really looking forward to like traveling around the country and doing portraits of prominent parapsychologists, maybe even you, you somehow became reachable where the heck over on the east coast and I wanted to do portraits of athletes. This is all the stuff I wanted to do and I was set up to do and I actually started doing but then COVID hit and all of a sudden it was inconvenient to be in the presence of other human beings. So studios were closed, I couldn’t get to models or clients or anything. So one day while I was talking to someone about doing a photo shoot, this guy turned out to be the publisher of a large online publication, he said, “Boy, you sure sound articulate. I’ll bet you’d be a good writer. Why don’t you write up some samples for me?” The next thing I knew, I’d written almost 100 articles for him and got paid for it. So now I’m officially writer I guess. And then I was approached to do a couple of comic books so, I did that, so I’ve done this. I also did do a few photoshoots get paid for those and my accountant is very confused. He’s like, “Andrew, what do I put down as your profession, because you’re doing these different things, and you’re getting money from different sources.” And I just started becoming a columnist for Red Boys Media. But what I’d really liked to be doing, quite frankly, is getting back to my art. And also I’m doing some research on the topic we’re going to be dealing with next. But that’s more of a hobby that I’m doing just for my own edification. And I’ve also been getting quite a few contacts related to my dream research, which kind of surprises me, it all started about, I think two or three months ago, when I think you recommended me to this lady who is an author, who apparently has written a lot of books,
[01:10:38] Alex Tsakiris: Tricia and Rob MacGregor have collectively written 100 books. And Rob has, he wrote all of the books for Raiders of the Lost Ark. He didn’t write the original ones, but he wrote a whole series with [unclear 1:10:53]
[01:10:57] Andy Paquette: So I didn’t know who they were when I did the interview, but apparently, they’re well known enough that I started getting a lot more context to talk to another podcast and so on. And I’m getting a lot of …
[01:11:07] Alex Tsakiris: Robin Trish, I just have to interject, Rob and Trish are super-duper well connected. And they told me after the interview, that Andy might just be the most psychic person that they’ve ever spoken with. And I think what they meant because Trisha is kind of tuned into the scientific kind of part of this, even though that’s not really her background, but they were just blown away at the extent to which you’ve documented this carefully and meticulously, and I just thought that was interesting. He might be the most psychic person I’ve ever spoken with.
[01:11:43] Andy Paquette: Well, something funny about that, talking about the relative percentage improvement that we were talking about with this case study here, I oftentimes kind of get so close to my data that I forget how unusual it is. So what will happen is I’ll go a few days without a dream that’s particularly interesting. And I’ll think, “Oh, well, I guess that’s done.” And then I’ll have one, but by the time I do, it’s, it’s been, you know, a couple of weeks. And so it’s like, “Well, this is unusual. Now this is rare.” And but then when I look at it from a greater distance, I’m like, “Well, wait a minute. No, I actually had several 100 interesting ones that year.” And when I compare that other people, it actually is a lot. But it’s hard to remember that sometimes.
[01:12:25] Alex Tsakiris: What I see in you, Dr. Paquette is someone who is constantly switching hats, like you said, your accountant is saying, and I think you are totally open to challenging what that even means, what consciousness means, what pre cognition means. We have no clue what that means. And that’s what I think your research points to. So the rigor with which you’ve taken on the real questions behind that is what I think really causes us to rethink what that even means, because I think there’s an important, recalibrating that needs to go on for the term psychic. And I think that’s what you’re in the process of doing. Because we need data. Otherwise, it’s just one person’s opinion. And you’ve never been the sage on the stage kind of type to say, do it. You’ve always been like, you just talked about, like, “Whoops! There it goes, again, what’s happening there,” kinda thing.
[01:13:24] Andy Paquette: Yeah, it’s kind of funny, and I’m kind of embarrassed that it took so long for me to notice because actually, I had some pretty significant events happen before I was paying attention. And I let them go, I’m kind of disappointed with myself for having done so. But anyway, as far as, that is concerned, I have to admit that after looking at it and making comparisons with other studies, I do have a lot of examples more than a lot of others. In fact, actually, although, one time I was very impressed with Robin Rose Journey’s Out of the Body series of books. I look at them now. And I think number one, I actually have more examples than he does in those books. And of course, who knows how many he’s got outside the books that he didn’t print, I’m sure he’s got plenty but the thing is, a lot of what I read in there comes across as conjecture as opposed to database and that bothers me a lot. But the other thing is, I think that pre cognition or and prophecy and by the way, I do define the two differently. Pre cognition is simply a view of the future. And prophecy is when you are shown the future within the dream. So it’s implies another agent. That’s …
[01:14:31] Alex Tsakiris: That’s your distinction. And I don’t know that would hold up to analysis. Maybe it would, but maybe it wouldn’t, I mean, what is the agency and how would we deconstruct that and from what perspective are we looking at it, we’re looking at it, everything looks like agents. Maybe from another perspective, it doesn’t look that way. I don’t know. I keep coming back to this thing that the little bit of evidence we have, and I’m not going to speak specifically to your evidence but I’m interested in what you think about your evidence suggests that we are definitely disadvantaged in our perspective. Because like people come but people like you come back I don’t want to take that out scratch that. People come back from a near death experience think, “Oh, I knew everything down here. I only know this tiny little bit.” People come back from out of body experience they go, “I knew everything. Now, I don’t,” so process that not as a story process that as what is the pattern there. The pattern says that we are very prone to being deceived down here. It’s just the makeup too many things run through the brain or whatever the fuck it is. But that would to me be one of the guideposts on all that conjecture about what prophecy and the distinction and spirit, it’s like, first thing we know is what if consciousness is fundamental, all that shit looks like it doesn’t matter. And then secondly, to the extent that it does matter, we would want to figure it out, we’re in the worst possible place to figure that out.
[01:16:04] Andy Paquette: Yeah, well, the way I look at that goes on the ocean floor. You have to send divers down there without welding torches, and they have to have the suits on that, essentially, unless you’ve got radios or whatever, they can’t hear anything. And all they can see is what’s directly in front of them. And they have no knowledge of what’s outside the water, basically. And they just focus on that one task. And to me, that’s what being born into a physical existence is like. So you can’t really and but the thing is, at the same time you’re capable of doing something important, even though you’re cut off from all those other normal sources of information. So I think that what we do here is actually important in some way, even though we have stripped ourselves of other abilities. But anyway, as far as what I’m doing, I mean, I’m actually wanting to get back to normal. Let’s just put it that way. I want to get back to normal. I’m writing right now I’m drawing comics, I want to do photos, but I want stuff to get back to normal. I want to go back to having to wonder what my neighbors are gonna think of wearing masks and not wearing masks. I want to go back to just being able to say, “Hi, how are you? It’s a beautiful day,” and not worry about that stuff. Because this is just really distressing.
[01:17:17] Alex Tsakiris: Well, Andy, it’s been great having you on and now I’m even more psyched to do this second show that we’re going to do in a week or two and we’ll bring that to people as well. So thanks again.
[01:17:29] Andy Paquette: No problem. That was great talking to Alex.
[01:17:32] Alex Tsakiris: Thanks again to Dr. Andy Paquette for joining me today on Skeptiko. I usually tee up one question from these interviews. But today, I have to tee up three questions in this kind of level thing that I do level one question is, do you think as we claimed this study shows a null result. That’s level one. Level two: Is this study big lie propaganda, as I claimed in this interview, and question three, level three, who’s behind this? And are they evil? Let me know your thoughts. Skeptiko forum is one place, email me, however, you find me. Until next time, take care and bye for now.
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