Thursday, June 30, 2011

Robert Jahn ~ I should have known better!

It was brought to my attention that this blog mentions Robert Jahn as a skeptic.  I had him on a list of people whose site needed a picture as well as a cleanup.  I gathered the names for that list from the Rational Skeptic Wiki Project that had a mix of skeptics and non-skeptics on it.  I went to Robert Jahn's Wikipedia page before he was brought to my attention and looked it over.  Not knowing who he is I thought he looked okay.  After I was told to look into his skeptical credentials further I looked at Google and really only found his academic webpage as well as the Wikipedia link.  Nothing enlightening.  Apparently there are several men named Robert Jahn so their pages were intermixed with the Jahn I am looking for.

So back to the Wikipedia page.  The person who asked me to look closer is someone who should know, Barry Karr, Executive Director of CSI.

Hopefully you are looking at Jahn's page right now, what you see here is badly referenced (see the flag at the top of the page asking for citations and cautioning viewers that the page has been written from a single source).  There is no picture, no personality, lots of red "dead links" this is what is called in Wiki language a "stub" page.  But skeptics also have badly maintained stub pages, and we have a whole list of people who need a picture.  So I'm learning nothing from just the quick glance.

Then I start reading his lead, the academics and prestigious schools just scream that this man is noteworthy.

Professor Robert G. Jahn is Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering and Applied Science of Princeton University. He founded in 1961 the first American laboratory dedicated to the study of Electric propulsion for spacecraft and satellites, the Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton University, and directed it for more than three decades. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and has been chairman of the AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee, associate editor of the AIAA Journal, and a member of the NASA Space Science and Technology Advisory Committee. He is vice President of the Society for Scientific Exploration and Chairman of the Board of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories consortium. He has been a long-term member of the Board of Directors of Hercules, Inc. and chairman of its Technology Committee, and a member and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Associated Universities, Inc. He has received the Curtis W. McGraw Research Award of the American Society for Engineering Education and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Andrha University.

So if Mr and Mrs America sitting on their couch read what I read (just quickly) how can you sum this man up?  Is he a scientist worthy of being someone we need to have his Wiki back?  Or what?  What I said to myself was "damn, this man sounds awesome".

So I ask Barry, "what are you talking about, nothing on Google is coming up on this guy other than solid academic links or the Wikipedia page where he looks like a good solid scientist".  Barry's reply is "do a search for him on and see what you get.

Well that was an eye opener!  There I find that this man was involved in the Bem paranormal experiments, and not on the skeptical side.  I had just read Jame's Alcock's critique of Bem and friends, I had made a lot of notes of how I intend to post the write-up from SI into several Wikipedia pages.  In fact the March/April issue is sitting next to my laptop where I can glance down next to the bowl of cherry pits and see the title "Proof of ESP?  Not Quite." looking up at me.

Then taking a third look at Jahn's Wikipedia page, there is a lot of information that should have raised a flag, like the mention in the above paragraph that he is the Chairman of the Board of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories". Which I have never heard of (nor has Wikipedia as the link is a dead one) but that word Consciousness is just one of those "hum" kind of words.

Then later in the Wikipedia page we find this,
"With Brenda Dunne, Robert Jahn established the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab in 1979 following an undergraduate project to study the low-level psychokinetic effects on electronic random event generators. Over the last 25 years and more, Jahn and Dunne claim to have created a wealth of small-physical-scale, statistically significant results that suggest direct causal relationships between subjects' intention and otherwise random results."
Brenda Dunn goes to a dead page as well.   An eyebrow raiser to say the least.  They claim to have  found evidence that a subject can change a randomizing machine.  Just the word "psychokinetic" should have set off an alarm, but I didn't notice it. 

Then the clincher that I didn't notice until the third time reading the page. 
"Experiments under Jahn's purview also came to deal with Remote Viewing (RV) and other parapsychological matters. More than 30 papers were published in peer-reviewed journals. Statistical flaws were proposed by others in the parapsychological community regarding some results in a few specific experiments."
Well oh well oh.  

No hyperlinks to the paranormal words that might set off a light bulb and explain the terms.  Only one slight criticism from this source that does not have a URL link associated with it, from a paranormal journal. 

Critique of the Pear Remote-Viewing Experiments by George P. Hansen, Jessica Utts, and Betty Markwich, Journal of Parapsychology, Vol 56, No. 2, June 1992, pp 97-113.


Here are the links to CSI articles I found once I checked on their site.

Back to the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair - Jan 2011

A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner - April 1998

A Korean Skeptic’s Report: New Ager-Occupied Territory - March 2000

What’s Going On At Temple University? - Oct 1998

Anomalous Cognition? A Second Perspective - August 2008

Tachyons and Other Nonentities - September 1994

Scientific Remote Viewing - June 1996

An Alien Taxonomy - June 1997

PEAR Lab Closes, Ending Decades of Psychic Research - June 2007

Barry Karr is correct, this man isn't unknown to us.  There are many articles written by skeptics devoted to informing the public about this man and his psychic research.  Wonderful.  But what about the rest of the world, I'm not saying that a high percentage of the 411 million hits to Wikipedia in the last 10 years ended up on Robert Jahn's page, but there it is for whoever wants to read it.  

Shame on us.  Why did we allow this to happen? I know what to look for, and I still missed all the red-flags.  And yes, you can make fun of me all you want, but the end result is the same.  Robert Jahn's Wikipedia page is in desperate need of a make-over.  

I've given you just a few of the links.  I've cleaned up the dead hyperlinks on the page as I couldn't stand to look at them anymore.  The discussion page has nothing except this "This article falls under the scope of WikiProject Paranormal, which aims to build a comprehensive and detailed guide to the paranormal and related topics on Wikipedia.".  Please people, lets get this taken care of. 


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