# New Book

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From the Preface

[An ESP experiment] “immediately appeals to his [or her] unconscious readiness to witness a miracle, and to the hope, latent in all [people], that such a thing may yet be possible. Primitive superstition lies just below the surface of even the most tough-minded individuals, and it is precisely those who most fight…”

C.G. Jung, 1952.

It is of natural science to investigate nature, impartially and without prejudice.

J.R. Smythies, 1967.

## Anomaly

• something that defies explanation – adds spice. Beyond spice, anomaly offers hope, the hope that something – whatever it may be – exists beyond the everyday. We humans live in hope eternally. But what exactly is an ‘anomaly’? I do not mean the kind of oddness or peculiarity in human behaviour that is everywhere to be seen. I am referring to things that really should not be so, the weird, the spooky, the face in the mirror that isn’t you. Anomalistic experiences are curious, strange, ‘funny peculiar’.  As we engage with the experience itself, we freely ruminate and craving to understand, we dig to discover something new. The goal here is to do precisely that, to dig below the surface of anomalistic experience, to take a close look at the psychology of the paranormal, to put psi ‘under the microscope’.  One should not be surprised if all is not as it seems and we can expect surprises aplenty here.

## I approached the writing of this book with anticipation

wondering where the adventure might lead. I hoped it would lead towards new insights, explanatory theory and nuggets of new knowledge.

In the end, I reached an altogether unexpected conclusion…

How, you may well ask, can that be?  Surely, an ‘expert’ about psychology and the paranormal should already have reached an opinion one way or the other, a strong point of view?

Not so.

I genuinely have no idea where this new investigation will lead.I write as a zetetic.[1] I have a map and a set of place names[2],  but what exists at each place is uncertain. I last visited this field 20 years ago. Now, with ‘new eyes’ and new evidence, one’s understanding could be significantly different compared to 20 years ago.  Unlike previous visits, I am giving the psi hypothesis an initial probability of being a real, authentic and valid experience of 50%.

Please take a minute to consider your own current degree of belief in ESP.  Indicate your current belief with an arrow on the Belief Barometer below.[3]

## My objective

is to cut a path through the vast, tangled jungle of publications with a machete that is sharp and decisive. With each new claim, one must reads, reflect, question, reflect some more, and ultimately decide at one particular moment the degree of plausibility that each specific claim possesses. Belief Barometers will be used to mark your and my degree of belief for each individual claim. The amount of variation in one’s degree of belief indicates a sensitivity to evidence.  If somebody simply says ‘0%’’ or ‘100%’ to absolutely everything, that surely indicates intransigence and intolerance of ambiguity.

One cannot profess definite explanations in advance because that would be blinkered. If we already KNEW the answers, we would cease to investigate, I would not be writing, and you would not be reading. The truth would already be out and we would be picking at the flesh of dead learning like vultures at a dead elephant.

No true zetetic starts from a fixed position. She/he suspends judgement while seeking and exploring with an open mind. In any science, all ideas are provisional, pending further investigation. Those who assert a fixed point of view before looking at the evidence break the ‘Golden Rule of Science’, which is to let conclusions follow the evidence.

## Anomalistic psychology

includes the entire spectrum of conscious experience in all of its glorious splendour. By examining in-depth the evidence both pro and con any particular claim, one gains an entitlement to offer conclusions. Even then, the conclusions are tentative, pending further investigation by independent investigators. I am also minded to recall Heraclitus’ well-known dictum, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.”  Having stepped into the paranormal river on a few occasions, it was each time a different river.

It is impossible here to include everything in Anomalistic Psychology. The selected exemplify phenomena that have received significant attention from researchers over the last 50 years.  Fun though they may be: Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, Clever Hans, mediums, Ouija boards, and stage mentalists didn’t make the cut. See them in the ‘red tops’ and on YouTube.

## Returning to the world of psi

after a 20-year respite, I am curious to see what has changed. Anomalistic Psychology is now the battle-ground of psi (Luke, 2011) and there is a growing stockpile of sophisticated methods and findings that can be considered to be supportive of paranormal interpretation.

My return to the field is not without some amount of trepidation, for now I risk being the target for pot-shots from both sides!

However, a strongly partisan view is unhelpful to making any progress in this, or any other part, of science.  Progress requires a dialogue between advocates of differing positions. I wish to put down a marker that says: “Peace. Nobody won. Stop fighting.” That’s not to say there won’t be criticism; there must be, otherwise there can never be progress.

## Evidence, critique, new theories

In this book, I present evidence, critique, and new theories. Whenever possible, I use verbatim quotations of advocates concerning specific claims. Nobody can ever legitimately say that a claim has been ‘disproved’; if the truth of a claim is undecided, it is only possible to say that it is neither confirmed nor disconfirmed.

Whatever one thinks, the world is always independent of how we might wish it to be. There is nothing wrong about believing in psi if one chooses to, and scientists have no place disparaging such beliefs. Belief in the paranormal is normal.

Sociologist Andrew Greeley (1991) put it this way:

“The paranormal is normal. Psychic and mystic experiences are frequent even in modern urban industrial society. The majority of the population has had some such experience, a substantial minority has had more than just an occasional experience, and a respectable proportion of the population has such experiences frequently. Any phenomenon with incidence as widespread as the paranormal deserves more careful and intensive research than it has received up to now….People who have paranormal experiences, even frequent such experiences, are not kooks. They are not sick, they are not deviants, they are not social misfits, they are not schizophrenics. In fact, they may be more emotionally healthy than those who do not have such experiences.” (Greeley 1975: 7)

Scientists should be agnostic about the ontological status of paranormal experience and examine the circumstances that constrain or facilitate exceptional experiences.  In approaching each claim, I maintain a zetetic viewpoint, neither believing nor disbelieving,  attending to the evidence. Only after one has completed a thorough survey of evidence is one entitled to an informed opinion. A zetetic must not be naïve, however.

### Master zetetic, Marcello Truzzi (1987):

“The ground rules of science are conservative, and in so far as these place the burden of proof on the claimants and require stronger evidence the more extraordinary the claim, they are not neutral. But, we also need to remember, evidence always varies by degree, and inadequate evidence requires a tolerant reply which requests better evidence, not a dogmatic denial that behaves as though inadequate evidence were no evidence” (p. 73).

### Astronomer, Carl Sagan (1995) also offers wise advice:

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones.” (Sagan, 1995, p 25).

## The first 20 years of the 21st century

brought many astonishing scientific discoveries: the first draft of the Human Genome, graphene, grid cells in the brain, the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cells, the Higgs boson, liquid water on Mars and gravitational waves. Not bad going in such a short time!  During this same period, Anomalistic Psychology has grown at an enormous pace with increased numbers of investigators and publications (Figure P2).  Disappointingly, however, new discoveries or theories are few and far between. If there has been one discovery, it might be stated thus: The science of anomalistic experience is more complex and obscure then most psychologists ever imagined. When we are at the beginning of new venture like this, we must not be deterred by having no real answer to two of the hardest questions in science: What is consciousness and what is it for? [5]

One of the greatest scientific minds of the last century, Stephen Hawking, stated:

“Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations” (Sample, 2011).

It has also been said that advances in science come not from empiricism but from new theories.

Parapsychology, like its ‘big sister’ Psychology, has always been heavily empirical and short on theory. The rapid growth is indexed by multitudes of empirical studies in the absence of notable theoretical developments.

By becoming more theory-driven, the field of ‘Psychology + Parapsychology’ as an integrated whole seems likely to make faster progress.

## It seems counterproductive to treat Parapsychology and Psychology as separate fields.

Bringing the ‘Para’ part back into mainstream Psychology helps to integrate the discipline. This book takes a step in that direction. Parapsychology and Psychology contain myriads of variables, A,B,C…N…X,Y,Z.  An established strategy for developing new research in Psychology and Parapsychology is for the investigator to identity ‘gaps’ in the field and to set about filling those gaps with correlational and experimental studies with almost every possible permutation and combination of variables.  The gap filling approach is one strategy for keeping productivity high but, often, it is at the expense of developing new theories. As already noted, the academic world is based on quantitative measures of performance[6] and the number of publications a researcher can claim matters. This drive towards publications leads to what I call ‘Polyfilla Science’.

## Polyfilla Science

For every ‘hole’ investigators can fill, they are almost guaranteed a peer-reviewed publication. ‘Polyfilla Science’ exists on an industrial scale, keeping hundreds of thousands of scientists busily occupied in hot competition. The ‘winners’ of the Polyfilla competition are the ones who tick the highest number of boxes and harvest the most citations.[7]

‘Polyfilla Science’ can be represented as a multidimensional matrix of cells where the task of science is viewed as filling every last cell in the matrix (Figure P3).  This method of doing science is more akin to a fairground shooting gallery than to theory-driven science.  In the absence of theory, many researchers use a Polyfilla ‘shotgun’ by testing a dozen or more “hypotheses” in one shot. Popular though it is, ‘Polyfilla Science’ isn’t the only game in town, and a theory-driven approach is also available.  Theory is used to identify the principles behind questions that need answering in a process of confirmation and disconfirmation of predictions. When one considers the fact that there are one hundred thousand psychology majors in the US alone, all needing a research project, it is no wonder the Polyfilla approach is so popular.[8]

#### The book is geared towards the needs of teachers, researchers and students interested in Anomalistic Experience, Parapsychology and Consciousness Studies.

In comparison to the scientific discoveries in other fields, Psychology or Parapsychology have made no world-changing discoveries in the last 50 years. By this, I mean discoveries that are worth telling your grandchildren. In my opinion, the lack of significant theoretical developments, and the Polyfilla Approach, are two of the main reasons for this lack of progress.  All this needs to change.

Avoiding the drunkard’s search

One must beware – and avoid – the drunkard’s search principle – searching only where it is easiest to look. You probably already know the parable:

A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his wallet and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost it here, and the drunk replies, no, and that he lost it in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, “this is where the light is”.

## We must look wherever psi could be found, not only where it is easiest to look.

The search for psi is a complex, winding trail of traps and pitfalls. When we observe evidence, we must not,  a priori, rule it out as subjective validation or confirmation bias. An openness to being wrong may cause uncomfortable feelings, but knowledge and truth are never givens. When we are lucky enough to discover something new, this is hard-won treasure.

I present here new theories in the spirit of open inquiry. There’s a saying that ‘today’s theories make tomorrow’s fish-n-chip paper’. Possibly, probably, these theories are wrong.  So be it. If possible, falsify my theories, throw them out, and develop better ones. By testing and falsifying existing theories, newer, better theories can be obtained and so on indefinitely. As I share thoughts and conclusions, the reader will be able to contest and challenge  and contrary evidence.

## Notes

[1] Zetetic from the Greek zçtçtikos, from zçteô [ζητέω (zéteó) — to seek] “to seek to proceed by inquiry”.

[2] [2] Tópos, the Greek name for “place” (τόπος); ‘topic’ in English.

[3] Belief Barometers appear throughout this book.

[4] The majority of so-called ‘skeptics’ are disbelievers and/or deniers who have adopted the label ‘skeptic’ for its more temperate connotations. The late Marcello Truzzi was one of two co-founding chairman of the leading US skeptical organisation CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). Truzzi became disillusioned with the organization, saying they “tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion… Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them.” Using the title of ‘skeptic’, Truzzi claimed that this association of debunkers could claim an authority to which they were not entitled: “critics who take the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves ‘skeptics’ are actually pseudo-skeptics and have, I believed, gained a false advantage by usurping that label.” Genuine or ‘classical’ skepticism is the zetetic view to suspend judgement and enter into a genuine inquiry that assumes any claim requires justification. Maintaining a zetetic position of open inquiry requires a steady hand and a critical mind. There is no room for naivety but a touch of Socratic irony may at times be helpful. A protracted correspondence between Martin Gardner and Marcello Truzzi , indicating their two contrasting viewpoints, has been published by Richards (2017).

[5] Nagel (2013) and Strawson (2006), among others, argue for the ancient philosophy of pan-psychism, in which all physical objects from atoms to the cosmos all have conscious experience.  Elsewhere, I have described Consciousness  as “a direct emergent property of cerebral activity” (Marks, 2019)..

[6] Numbers of publications, citations, grant monies, prizes, promotions and awards.

[7] One of the world’s most published and ambitious ‘Polyfilla’ psychologists told me a self-effacing story about the occasion he went for an interview at the University of Oxford. A member of the panel asked: “Dr X, you have a huge number of publications. But what does it all mean?” He didn’t know the answer and got rejected for the post.

[8] Polycell Multi-Purpose Polyfilla Ready Mixed, 1 Kg, i#1 best seller on Amazon.co.uk, 16 May 2019.

[9] The history of the field is adequately reviewed by others e.g. John Beloff (1993) or Caroline Watt (2017).

# Under the Wallpaper

One never really knows what might be under the wallpaper. Redecorating reveals secrets, a veritable archeology of habitation. When my parents sold up and bought a house about 50 years ago, they left few traces.  I often look down the street from the main road as I go past, to see if the place is still there, but only once have I walked to the house to see it at close quarters. One day when my nostalgia got the better of me I visited the building to take a closer look at our former dwelling, a ground-floor maisonette in Landport, Portsmouth.

## Three bright orange murals

Quite fortuitously, the owners were redecorating. I took the opportunity to knock on the door, but nobody was home.  Curtains were down, ladders were up,  paint cans, brushes all around, and – surprise, surprise –  peeled back wallpaper. I couldn’t resist taking a quick peak through the window at the bedroom where my brother Jon and I slept and dreamed over a ten-year period (see red arrow).

On Jon’s side of the room, as bold as brass, I could see three bright orange paintings – a trumpet, a bugle and a banjo. Immediately I knew these paintings were Jon’s. I knew how Jon would doodle and sketch things. Jon loved jazz.  If Jon painted anything, it would have to be these. I was seeing them for the very first time.  Jon must have done them after I had moved north in September 1966, shortly before Jon had moved to London as a professional jazz musician.

## Odds

What are the odds of seeing Jon’s musical murals on my only visit to the building in 50 years?

A) We need to estimate how likely it was that Jon had ‘received approval’ to do these paintings in the first place. It is difficult to put a hard-and-fast figure on this, but it is unlikely to have been more than one in 10.

B) Next, we need to make an assumption about how often the walls were repapered. I expect on average around once every five years, which would be 10 times in 50 years.  The probability that the wallpaper was peeled off on any particular day over 50 years (18,250 days) = 10/18250 = .000548 = 5.48 x 10 to the minus 4

C) Next, we need to calculate the probability that I would pay a visit on any particular day over the 29.5 years (10,767 days) that I was living in Britain over this 50-year period, which is  1/10767 = .0000928 = 9.28 x 10 to the minus 5

The odds for P (A +B+C) = 1/10 x (5.48 x 10 to the minus 4) x 9.28 x (10 to the minus 5)           = 50.85 x 10 to the minus 10 = 5.08 x 10 to the minus 9

or

5 chances in one billion

# Reality or Illusion?

I have provided accounts of five striking coincidences over my lifetime. The five events individually have odds in the range 10-9  to 10-18.  What are the odds that all five coincidences could happen to one individual?

To determine the probability of five independent events, A, B, C, D and E, all occurring, we need to multiply the probabilities of the individual events:

P(anB and C and D and E) = P(A)×P(B) x P(C)×P(D) x P(E)

The five coincidences, which were independent of each another, are as follows:

A) The Chiswick Coincidence: P=10-18 = one chance in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000  = one in one quintillion (a million, million, million)

B) Coincidence or Luck?: P = 10-10  = one chance in ten billion.

C) Citizen 63 – Marion Knight: P= 4.5 x 10-10  = 4.5 chances in ten billion

D) The Flying Horseshoe:  P = 1.3 x 10-12 = 1.3 chances in a million, million

E) Under the Wallpaper:   P = 5.08 x 10-9 = 5 chances in a billion

The combined probability of the five events is :

P =   10-18 x 10-10 x 4.5 x 10-10 x 1.3 x 10-12  x 5.08 x 10-9

P = 3 x 10-58

This is one of the smallest probabilities imaginable.

Yet, according to the accepted scientific theory, coincidences are chance events, and so there is nothing extraordinary here.

# The Flying Horseshoe

## A Mysterious Horse Shoe

It is one of our cultural beliefs that horseshoes are lucky. Almost everybody knows it. Many respect it. There is a cottage industry around it. Almost every “olde worlde” pub and inn in Europe displays one or more horseshoes. Almost anybody who has had contact with horses, and many who have not, keep a horseshoe on the mantle shelf, on a wall, or hanging on a door, myself included. Although skeptical about astrology, the Loch Ness monster, and leprechauns (to name but a few) I am today as capable of superstitious behaviour as anybody when it comes to horseshoes. Let me explain why.

One day I was clearing the junk out of my garage with the help of a local odd-job man, Bert, who had called by one day to see if I needed any assistance. After a couple or so years of neglect the garage was neck-high in newspapers, boxes, and various other recyclables. Bert and I set about the task and spent the better part of a morning cleaning it out very thoroughly.

Before Bert set off with a fully loaded van, he pointed to a rusty old horseshoe lying on the garage floor. I had certainly not been consciously aware of it and, presumably, the previous owners had left it there. “Look,” Bert said, “what’s this doing on the ground? You should hang it up. It’ll bring you luck.” I was surprised that he took this old rusty horseshoe quite so seriously, but, without further ado, Bert placed the horseshoe outside on the garage window sill next to the door. That was the last I thought about the horseshoe for two or three years.

On Sunday, November 1, 1998, I was making a hurried attempt to tidy up my back garden. I noticed the horseshoe lying on the ground. I hesitated for a few seconds, but decided not to pick it up, and left it on the ground. I remember consciously thinking to myself, What on earth are you doing almost taking this silly lucky horseshoe stuff seriously!? As usual in those days, I was fairly busy. After sending off a batch of edited manuscripts to the next issue of the Journal of Health Psychology on Monday, giving a lecture to the fifth-year medical students at Cambridge University on Tuesday, I was off to Milan on Wednesday to visit two research project leaders in northern Italy.

I was accompanied by my colleague Catherine Sykes. Following the two visits, Catherine and I had spare day on Saturday, November 7, to do some sightseeing. We were staying in Breschia, and decided to take a train to nearby Verona to spend a few hours there before returning home to London.

## A Mysterious Horse Show

After arriving at Verona train station, we discovered that centre of the city was a bus ride away. We walked out of the station and across the plaza to a bus stop with a mob of excited people, many of whom were foreign (i.e. non-Italian)  clearly in a hurry to go somewhere. Almost as soon as we arrived at the bus stop, a bus arrived and everybody crowded on, us included.  Mistakenly we assumed the bus was going to the town centre. It was absolutely crammed full of people like sardines in a can. After a minute or two of pushing and shoving to get a position in the jam, we asked one of our fellow travellers where exactly the bus was going. “Why, to the horse show, of course!”

So here we were being swept along by a chance decision to a horse show in Verona that we didn’t know existed until that moment! The bus was absolutely buzzing with people excitedly anticipating what – for them, and also for me – was to be a very special event.

Rather than get off at the next stop, we decided to stay on board and see what all the fuss was about. It was, we discovered on arrival at the show grounds, the 100th Fieracavalli, Verona 5-8/11/98.” This was certainly no ordinary horse show.

We were directed to the entrance gate for foreign visitors to discover hundreds of people crowding around with their passports. All foreigners with valid passports were to be admitted free of charge. After a few minutes we managed to get to the front of the line and were given our admission tickets. We entered the stadium and found thousands of people walking around many dozens of stands and marquees with every imaginable equine thing on display. There were saddles, riding gear, horse feed, anything that horses and riders could possibly want. Catherine and I strolled around the park with no real sense about what to look for, deciding to spend an hour there and leave…

## A Flying Horse Shoe

After a few minutes of exploration, we came to a large marquee. We could hear applause from an audience inside and we ventured in to find a few hundred people viewing a pony and rider contest from the tiered seating. We found some spare seats near the top of a tier in the second row from the back, and sat down. We observed a contest of skill and speed. Each pony and rider entered the arena and galloped at full speed around a small course marked out by posts, then raced to the exit. We watched three pony and rider teams. Then a fourth pony came into the arena and began its gallop through the course.

Suddenly, without warning, we became aware of a fast-spinning object flying through the air. In a split-second it became apparent that it was hurtling straight toward us. Catherine shouted out, instinctively I ducked, and like a huge bullet, the fast-flying object passed a few millimetres above my head. I felt its slip stream across my hair.

The object hit a man seated directly behind and above me squarely in the body. His wife screamed, but he was unharmed, the padding of his coat having protected him. It was a flying horseshoe!

Had I not quickly lowered my head beneath the horseshoe’s trajectory, I quite possibly would not have survived. At best I would have received a serious head injury. At worst it could have been fatal.

I thought immediately of the horseshoe lying in my garden. I had faltered over it but picked it up. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that I should have picked the horseshoe up and put it back where it belonged, on the windowsill.

We left the stadium is a state of mild shock. As we discussed the incident, the ‘take-home message’ was clear: Horse shoes are lucky.  Handle with respect!

The next time I was in the garden I immediately put the horseshoe back ‘where it belonged’ – on the shed windowsill.

What would you have done?

## Odds

We can calculate the odds of the flying horseshoe events as follows:

A) Find a horseshoe in the garden shed – 10 to the power -1 = 1/10

B)  Find the horseshoe lying on the ground immediately before visiting Italy, faltering, and finally leaving it there – 10 to the power -2 = 1/100

C) Following a crowd on a bus in Verona – 10 to the power -1 = 1/10

D) Discovering the horse show — 10 to the power -2 = 1/100

E) Entering a particular marquee – 10 to the power -1 = 1/10

F) A horseshoe flying precisely toward me. There are 360 degrees horizontally and 360 half-degrees vertically – 1/(360 x 360) = 1/129600 = 1.3 x 10 to the power minus 5

The combined probability of above A – E,  P = 1.3 x 10 to the power minus 12.

This represents odds of 1.3 in one million, million.

This coincidence was originally published in: Marks, D. F. (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2nd ed.), pages 248-250.

# Citizen 63 – Marion Knight

## What I Missed Seeing

It was 1963. I had played a minor role in a BBC documentary film “Marion Knight’ but had missed seeing it because I was travelling abroad. This was an era without video recorders or YouTube. If you missed something, you missed it, and that was that.

The ‘Citizen 63’ series received critical praise. The series was described as “One of the most significant TV shows of 1963“. Five individuals had been shown dealing with their everyday lives, their pressures, problems, beliefs and values: a businessman, a police inspector, a shop steward, a scientist and a ‘rebellious’ teenage schoolgirl, Marion knight.  The director, John Boorman, was working for the BBC in Bristol.  He later directed other documentaries, such as The Newcomers (1964). A few years later he was in Hollywood (Point Blank, 1967, Hell in the Pacific, 1968). Boorman returned to the UK to make Leo the Last (1970), Deliverance (1972), Zardoz (1974) and Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). He became more famous for Excalibur (1981), The Emerald Forest (1985) and Hope and Glory (1987) which brought a second Academy Award Nomination.

Commenting on Citizen 63, one reviewer wrote: “1963 was very much the coming-of-age for those children born in the aftermath of the Second World War. Free of the threat of war and no longer constrained by National Service and of the austerity years that followed there was a new found hope for the future that manifested itself in pop, fashion and a rejection of Victorian values and the social taboos that Britain had been steeped in since the turn of the century…Citizen 63 is an extraordinary record of a transitional period when conventions were being challenged at the very point when youth culture was about to explode in a way that would define the whole era.”

To quote Philip Larkin's poem:  "Sexual intercourse began In nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me) - Between the end of the Chatterley ban And the Beatles' first LP."

‘Marion Knight’ was screened on 11th September 1963.  Marion was depicted as a so-called “rebellious girl” from a secondary-modern school in Portsea.  Marion was a follower of the trad jazz scene and dismissive of the pop music explosion that was erupting at the time. Selected for “her feisty, opinionated approach to life…with qualities of “leadership and grace”, Marion was the girl-friend of my school mate, Nigel Banister.

John Boorman – Director and Narrator opened with the comment: This film is about one person, you may admire her, you may dislike her but from her we may learn something about ourselves, for she is part of our society – a “Citizen ’63”.

Still from Marion Knight (1963) with Nigel Banister (left) and Marion Knight

## What I Finally Saw

On 24th October 2005,  I was napping in front of the TV.  This was not a casual nap.  It was a definite mini-sleep, fully prone on the sofa.  When I opened my eyes, astonishingly, there on the TV was a B & W film showing two people I knew, Nigel and Marion, riding a motor bike. In one of life’s circles, this was the opening scene of ‘Marion Knight’, the film I had missed seeing in ’63.

#### What caused me to wake at that particular moment, I will never know.  I thought I must be dreaming. As I opened my eyes, this is what I saw: my two teenage friends Marion and Nigel, on a film made 42 years earlier.

The clip was included in a BBC2 documentary  The Battle for Britain’s Soul  about the decline of the Christian church in 1960s Britain.  The BBC website states: “Angels over battlefields, the birth of the welfare state, US evangelism and a revolution in sexual freedom are all factors in the evolution of today’s largely secular society.”  The film was presented by the ‘Hippie Vicar’, the Rev Peter Owen-Jones.  According to Peter Owen-Jones, Marion Knight’s comments about free love among teenagers were emblematic of the ‘sexual revolution’ that is alleged to have taken place in the 1960s, when church congregations went into  a sharp decline.

## What Were the Chances of Seeing This Clip?

I obtained copies of both programmes from the BBC Preservation Services Department. The Marion Knight clip lasted 40 seconds.  I normally watched TV during the evenings for around three hours. With four channels, I need to calculate how much television content was available for the whole time I lived in Britain in the 29 years from September 1986 to August 2015.  Removing holidays or trips abroad would reduce this time by about six months, leaving 28-and-a-half years.

The calculation follows:

ACTUALLY VIEWED (AV) 180 minutes a day for 28.5 years = 180 x 365 x 28.5 =  1,872,450 minutes of TV. Multiplying by 60 gives 112,347,000 seconds.

Bearing in mind that the total amount of evening television across 4 channels over this time would have been a lot more than this. Let’s say an evening lasts for 6 hours from 18:00 to 24:00.  Then the total evening TV content would have been:

TOTAL TV CONTENT AVAILABLE (TA) 6 hours = 360 minutes a day for 28.5 years = 360 x 365 x 28.5 x 4 = 14,979,600 minutes of TV which is 898,776,000 seconds.

The probability that the clip would have occurred in the TV content I actually saw would have been: AV/TA = one-eighth ( .125).

The clip lasted only 40 seconds. What are the chances of seeing this 40-second clip at the precise moment that I awakened?  Bear in mind the entire amount of TV I had actually viewed over the 28.5 years was 112,347,000 seconds.  The answer is:

40/112,347,000 = .0000003560

To allow for the fact that I only saw one-eighth of the total evening TV available, we must multiply this figure by 1/8, which gives: .00000004450

or 4.45 x 10 to the minus 8.

## A Boundary Condition

There is another factor to consider. The only possibility to view this clip was dictated by the fact that the producer of the 2005 BBC documentary ‘The Battle for Britain’s Soul’ decided to include this particular clip from the 1963 BBC film ‘Marion Knight’.  The chances of this event are difficult to estimate.  In round figures we could guess that it would have been be in the region of one in a hundred (10 to the minus 2).

This would put the combined probability of seeing the clip at around:

4.45 x 10 to the minus 10

or

4.45 chances in ten billion.

# Coincidence or Luck?

How many striking coincidences can we expect in a single lifetime? Setting the bar high, let’s define ‘striking’ as a probability of less than one in a billion. I list here a few of my own. The first set of coincidences was an incredible run of luck while travelling as a student. I feel entitled to count these as coincidences because, in each case, whatever we set our minds to, happened a few minutes later. It was a case of coincidence combined with luck. I estimate the probability of each of the four events as we go along, and give a final probability estimate at the end.

## 1) No Money in Cologne

In August and September 1963 I went travelling with a school friend Graeme Locke.  We travelled through the UK, Scandinavia and the two Germanies.  The trip of 2000+ miles took us over land by road and rail, and over sea ferry routes. For the road parts, we couldn’t hitchhike the whole time but we did so whenever we could. In East Germany, we travelled by train from Berlin to Cologne, one of the few approved routes available.

On arriving at Cologne station, we had a slight problem – we still needed to get back home in Portsmouth but were completely out of money. I say ‘slight’ problem, because it was soon resolved. We started a ‘porter service’ for people in need of help with their luggage. We stationed ourselves at the taxi drop-off point and, within no more than 3 minutes, arrived an elderly lady in furs with a luxurious set of four suitcases.

Möchten Sie eine Hand mit Ihrem Gepäck?

Sure enough, the dear lady needed some help to take her considerable luggage set to platform 13. We took it over, about three minutes work. Thanking us, the lady gave us a tip – a very large tip. From memory, is was 40 Deutsch marks – four of these:

In today’s money, it must have been worth at least €60, enough to buy our train+ ferry tickets to Dover, plus some change for a slice of pizza  [p = 10 to the minus 4].

## 2) No Money on the Ferry

OK, so far so good, we were aboard the Calais-Dover ferry, but now we were skint once again. In those days, before health and safety regs took over everyday life, people would be crammed into every available space on board the ferry. On every deck from aft to stern and from port to starboard, passengers were sitting cheek by jowl.

We got chatting to a Turkish student squatted next to us on his way to Fresher’s week at Newcastle University. He had a lot of questions because this was his first visit to England.

The bell rang for the first sitting of lunch. C’mon he said, let’s go for lunch. We explained our predicament, and instantaneously he just said, no worries, lunch is on me. We enjoyed a fulsome lunch with our new found Turkish friend [ p = 10 to the minus 2].

## 3) No Money at Dover

Here we were in Dover, as skint as badgers, and so we started hitching again. A vehicle driver stopped within a couple of minutes offering to take us to Brighton. The driver kindly dropped us at Brighton station with a 10/- shilling note for our fares to Portsmouth [p = 10 to the minus 2].

## 4) Ten Bob in Brighton

No way were we about to waste ten bob on train fares!  Off we went to the A27 hitching the last remaining stage to Portsmouth.  Our final driver, in the first car that came along the road,  lived at Havant, a few miles east of Portsmouth. He kindly took us to his house, cooked us beans and poached eggs on toast, and drove us to our respective homes in Portsmouth.

After our 2000-mile journey, we arrived home with a crisp 10 shillings profit! [p = 10 to the minus 2].

## Probability of the Sequence

The four events are estimated to have the following probabilities:

1) Lady gives us 40 D-marks at Cologne station: p = 10 to the minus 4

2) Student buys our lunch on the ferry : p = 10 to the minus 2

3) Man gives us lift to Brighton and a 10 shilling note : p = 10 to the minus 2

4) Man cooks us a meal and takes us home: p = 10 to the minus 2

The combined probability of these four events is:

P = 10 to the minus 10 = one in a 10,000,000,000

or one in ten billion.

# Polyfilla Science

## Gap Filling

Like any other science, Psychology contain myriads of variables, A,B,C…N…X,Y,Z.  An established strategy for developing new research is for the investigator to identity ‘gaps’ in the field and to set about filling those gaps with correlational and experimental studies. The latter involve almost every possible permutation and combination of variables.

The gap filling approach is one strategy for keeping productivity high but, often, it is at the expense of developing new theories. There are more than 5 million publications listed by Google Scholar that address a gap in the literature. Another five million address theoretical integration.

## Guaranteed Results

The academic world is based on quantitative measures of performance and the number of publications a researcher can claim matters [1]. This drive towards publications leads to what I call ‘Polyfilla Science’. You’ve used it, I’ve used it, everybody’s used it. It does the job perfectly well.  For every ‘hole’ investigators fill, they are almost guaranteed a peer-reviewed publication. ‘Polyfilla Science’ exists on an industrial scale, keeping hundreds of thousands of scientists busily occupied in hot competition. The ‘winners’ of the Polyfilla competition are the ones who tick the highest number of boxes and harvest the most citations.[2]

‘Polyfilla Science’ can be represented as a multidimensional matrix of cells where the task of science is viewed as filling every last cell in the matrix (see Figure).  This method of doing science is more akin to a fairground shooting gallery than to theory-driven science.  In the absence of theory, many researchers use a Polyfilla ‘shotgun’ by testing a dozen or more “hypotheses” in one shot. Popular though it is, ‘Polyfilla Science’ isn’t the only game in town, and a theory-driven approach is also available.  Theory is used to identify the principles behind questions that need answering in a process of confirmation and disconfirmation of predictions. When one considers the fact that there are one hundred thousand psychology majors in the US alone, all needing a research project, it is no wonder the Polyfilla approach is so popular.

## Never-ending Process

It doesn’t matter how may gaps and holes you plug, new ones always appear.

In comparison to the scientific discoveries in other fields, Psychology has made no world-changing discoveries in the last 50 years. By this, I mean discoveries that are worth telling your grandchildren. In my opinion, the lack of significant theoretical developments, and the Polyfilla Approach, are two of the main reasons for this lack of progress.  All this needs to change.

[1] Numbers of publications, citations, grant monies, prizes, promotions and awards.

[2] One of the world’s most published and ambitious ‘Polyfilla’ psychologists told me a self-effacing story about the occasion he went for an interview at the University of Oxford. A member of the panel asked: “Dr X, you have a huge number of publications. But what does it all mean?” He didn’t know the answer and got rejected for the post.

[3] Polycell Multi-Purpose Polyfilla Ready Mixed, 1 Kg, i#1 best seller on Amazon.co.uk, 16 May 2019.