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ChrLzs

Review - Sheldrake's "Dogs Who Know When..

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MrBene

I do encourage this although I'm not expert about dogs. I do know they have an extraordinary (or at least over our capacity) olfactory and hearing systems. I'll grab by example the behaviour regarding earthquakes and other phenomena (tsunamis) that seems to be "picked up" first by some animals (in this case, dogs) but I assume that they can smell/hear something that we can't. There are videos (if I recall correctly) about Chile's tsunami (when the waves are about to enter some cities) you can hear dogs barking a lot. 

My 16 years old dog (according to my former girlfriend) used to stand up and go straight to the window when I was coming home (like 1 block and a half). We used to live in a one way street, so it was kinda easy to see me coming. I guess he could hear me walking? Does he recognise step patterns? or smell my deodorant/perfume? I don't know. 

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baobei

I love this video.  It's so cool that her dog knows when she's returning.  She claims, in the video, she has performed this experiment many times, with the same outcome.

 

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Timonthy

I’m keen for you to go ahead. I’m not convinced that the experiment was conducted well. As I said in another thread; too many variables and their method didn’t seem great. 

I never made it to the data...

Will look forward to updates!

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ChrLzs
29 minutes ago, baobei said:

I love this video.  It's so cool that her dog knows when she's returning.  She claims, in the video, she has performed this experiment many times, with the same outcome.

While I appreciate your enthusiasm, I'd prefer not to have to also address posted videos - this is about the book..  I will address the behavior of 'Jaytee' (and that of her owner) later, when I get to that section of the book.

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Lilly

Read the book years ago. While I'm convinced that dogs are indeed using some sense(s) to know when their owners are returning, the experiment did not produce evidence of exactly 'what' sense(s) dogs are using to discern the owner's return. Could be canine hearing and smelling (which is far superior to ours) allows them this ability verses some type of ESP...or it really could be some type of ESP thingy we humans simply do not possess and can't figure out how to test for because it's so very different from our perceptions. 

This is an interesting subject, and I've seen it in action time and time again. I don't even remotely need a doorbell, my Ringo (2.5 year old collie) always knows when someone is coming to the house. A stranger gets barked at and looked at through the front window, a friend has him barking, grabbing a toy, racing around and eventually making a 'landing' by the front door. He always knows this far before the person is in view. I have no idea how he is able to distinguish a friend from a stranger before the person is within view or even near my property.

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oldrover

Yeah, I'm really keen to see this. I haven't read the book, but start of from the position that if Sheldrake is going to propose as yet unkown senses in animals, as an explanation for certain phenomena he's going to have to first demonstrate those phenomena are actually real. 

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ChrLzs

Before starting (yes, I'm a procrastinator!), I shall declare my own biases and a quick summary of my background.

1. I have a skeptical approach to Life, the Universe and Everything.  I think our Cosmos has enough beauty and wonder and complexity, without needing to claim angels, demons or the 'paranormal'... but if something new comes along and is proven beyond reasonable doubt, I'll happily embrace it...

2. While I don't have a science degree, I have had a *lot* to do with science (and engineering) in my worklife, including a long stint as the operations manager of a large marine research centre.  Over my career I learnt much about science and research and how it interacts with the wider society.. and, importantly, how to spot 'good' science.   I'm rather well-known for, and proud of, my ability to .. er .. not let any stones be unturned....  In other words, if someone presents a claim and I spot stuff they haven't thought of, or haven't fully thought through, then I will delight in raising those issues...

3. I'm semi-retired now, and my hobbies include photography and digital imaging analysis.  I love learning new stuff, and regard myself as pretty experienced when it comes to spotting bunk.  I particularly enjoy exposing fakery and hoaxes when they are used to con people out of money...

4. I don't currently have a dog, but my extended family has a total of 5.  My best friend, Snupy, passed away a couple of years back - he was a cross between a Jack Russell dad and a toy poodle/maltese mum:
snupy.jpg.bcfe99f3f7d4762b8c5a7fc62eddfff2.jpg
Cute huh?  He was a great companion and had a friendly and mischievous nature, and like most dogs {cough} would often hear/detect visitors well before I did.. but I'll leave those sort of anecdotes to Sheldrake, and the review to come.

Anyway, my apologies for taking a while to get started, and my thanks to those who have expressed their wish for me to get on with it!  Thanks also for the comments - I see some of you are already aware of some of the issues that I really don't think Sheldrake considered properly...  But I shall elaborate further once we get into the meat of the book.

 

Back soon-ish.  

 

Edited by ChrLzs
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Derek Willis

When I was young we had a dog - a Shetland Sheepdog - who would always begin barking before my mother put the key in the front door. The dog never barked before anyone else did this. This was quite fascinating, and being young at the when time Uri Geller was at the height of his fame, I thought there might be something in this psychic stuff. So, my brother and I carried out an experiment. We spent days during the summer holidays looking out of the window to see who was arriving. What we noticed was that my mother whilst approaching the house, or at the garden gate, or walking up the garden path, always found someone to wave to and say "hello" and pass a few comments. Usually this was one of the neighbors or a delivery man or whoever. As a control we asked our mother not to speak to anyone on a few occasions when she was nearing the house. You know what? The dog didn't bark. Obviously, with her keen hearing the dog could hear our mother. Needless to say, as soon as my mother returned to her normal habits, the dog began barking again.

But here is something I have never been able to explain. Before I was born there was a woman murdered in woodland near my home. The woman's body was found next to a particular tree. As kids we all knew where the "murder tree" was. However, we had to avoid walking with the dog near the murder tree because she would bark furiously, growl, and bare her teeth. The murder occurred twenty years before we got the dog, so I don't know what that was all about!

Edit: I think it would be great if you spent some time on this as it is one of the old chestnuts used in support of ESP. 

Edited by Derek Willis
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eight bits

Derek

Quote

However, we had to avoid walking with the dog near the murder tree because she would bark furiously, growl, and bare her teeth. The murder occurred twenty years before we got the dog, so I don't know what that was all about!

I conjecture the dog picked up on your knowledge that the tree was disturbing, for whatever reason, and therefore "protected" you from it. Also, if enough people avoided the tree when walking their dogs, then few dogs would leave community messages there, maybe making the tree anomalous for its absence of dog usage.

 

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Derek Willis
57 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Derek

I conjecture the dog picked up on your knowledge that the tree was disturbing, for whatever reason, and therefore "protected" you from it. Also, if enough people avoided the tree when walking their dogs, then few dogs would leave community messages there, maybe making the tree anomalous for its absence of dog usage.

 

I don't believe it was anything supernatural, i.e. ESP or such like. However, people did behave differently in the vicinity of the tree - speaking quietly, for instance. Humans can tell a person's mood by the way they look, sound and behave. I don't doubt a dog can do that also. But she didn't whine or anything like that; she was aggressive, which was far from her normal behavior. I had first been told about what happened when my sister took the dog near the tree whilst telling her boyfriend about the murder. Not able to resist seeing if it were true, I took the dog there a few days later. Thereafter I never took her too near. My brother also "tested" what had happened. We were then pretty much barred from taking the dog too close. But like I say, I am sure there is a rational explanation; but I don't know what it is.

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ChrLzs

These are great anecdotes and musings - keep 'em coming!  I do have some comments to add and potential explanations, but I'll mostly hold back until I get to sections of Sheldrake's book that are related.  But just to show that I have already thought about most of them - in regard to the dog-tree-growling thingy - first up, those taking him/her there may be giving subtle clues to the dog, as if you were saying "You should be worried about this area - danger!"*, or it might be that a fox or cat or another dog, perhaps one that your dog knows from elsewhere, has marked that tree with scent..  Also it could be things like a nearby power transformer or perhaps a ham radio operator, etc might be producing a very high frequency squeal well beyond your hearing...

I'll have a lot more to say on that sort of thing later..

 

* - see that cute little doggy above, who clearly wouldn't hurt a fly..?  Well, just by me putting a slightly concerned look on my face, and then looking anxiously left and right, he would take those hints and start growling as he looked for the 'threat'...  It was very sweet - but I can't imagine any dog or person would actually have been scared, with a face like that..

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eight bits

Derek

Quote

I don't believe it was anything supernatural, i.e. ESP or such like.

Ok; I didn't take your post as leaning that way at all.

Quote

But like I say, I am sure there is a rational explanation; but I don't know what it is.

I think you gave it already. The only lingering mystery is that the dog aggressed, which you didn't expect. That's not unusual - I don't mean the agression part, but that aggression, when displayed, surprises many dog owners, at least in my experience (been very wrong myself on occasion, too; hopefully, however, not because I forgot that even that sweetie pie whom ChrLzs posted about is a wolf).

Once you accept that you may have communicated threat without awareness or intent, then you've opened the door to ask what level of threat you may have unintentionally communicated. I think the dog read you as "Shields up!" and responded appropriately.

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Derek Willis
9 hours ago, ChrLzs said:

But just to show that I have already thought about most of them - in regard to the dog-tree-growling thingy - first up, those taking him/her there may be giving subtle clues to the dog, as if you were saying "You should be worried about this area - danger!"*, or it might be that a fox or cat or another dog, perhaps one that your dog knows from elsewhere, has marked that tree with scent..  Also it could be things like a nearby power transformer or perhaps a ham radio operator, etc might be producing a very high frequency squeal well beyond your hearing...

That is an interesting point. I am casting my mind back over forty years with this anecdote, but perhaps everyone with a dog had regularly visited the tree since the murder happened. Hence, the tree and the nearby ground may have been permanently "scented with dog", and that may have signaled "danger" to our dog. That said, I can't remember anyone else talking about their dog becoming aggressive when near the tree. I'm not saying they didn't; I just wasn't aware of it. I should have carried out an experiment and volunteered to walk dogs, and taken them to the tree.

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ChrLzs

Right, let's get started.. First Impressions..

This is a review of a book called "Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home", by Rupert Sheldrake.  It is subtitled "And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals".  ISBN 0 09 180150 8, Hutchinson, Random House, 1999 edition.

First up, I find it slightly amusing that the subtitle infers that the author cannot explain the dogs knowledge, and that there are more 'powers' that are similarly unexplained.

It becomes rather less amusing, and in fact completely contradictory when you then read the text inside the front cover, which states:

Quote

This book focuses on three types of perceptiveness: telepathy, the sense of direction and premonitions, and demonstrates how human psychic powers or sixth senses seem more natural, more biological, when seen in the light of animal behavior.

Wow.  Here, Sheldrake is referring to telepathy as fact, right next to sense of direction (which I think we can all accept as fact...!) and then premonition....?  Let's face it, if telepathy and premonition were both proven reality, then the dog behaviors that are to come are fully and easily explained, so the title is redundant...  Did Sheldrake actually use a proofreader, or consider basic logic as he typed this stuff up?

The book is off to a poor start and I haven't even started reading it!  Ah well, let's give Rupert the benefit of some doubt - perhaps all this will make sense when the book reveals its secrets...On the inside back cover, we find that:
Dr Rupert Sheldrake studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and Philosophy at Harvard.  He took a PhD in Biochemistry at Cambridge and was a Research Fellow at the Royal Society and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.  The author of four books and over fifty papers in scientific journals, he is married, has two sons and lives in London.

This all sounds good, but we will talk later about a few of the 'journals' that published most of his work, namely the Journal of Scientific Exploration, the Journal - Society for Psychical Research and the Journal of Parapsychology....

Lastly, in my first impressions, is the back cover of the book, which has 4 different 'case studies' briefly outlined.  I will look at each of these in detail later as they come up in the book.

 

In the next instalment, I'll look at the Preface and Introduction and open up the discussion on the most important topic here, which, imnsho, is... How should one go about this in order to avoid the terrible twins of experimental design, namely confirmation bias and cherry picking?  And what about the other traps?  I'm going to be writing up a big list, and then we'll look at all the claims made in the book while referring to that list...  Will Sheldrake pass the test?

 

Be afraid, Sheldrake fans....  

Edited by ChrLzs
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Derek Willis
1 hour ago, ChrLzs said:

Right, let's get started.. First Impressions..

This is a review of a book called "Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home", by Rupert Sheldrake.  It is subtitled "And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals".  ISBN 0 09 180150 8, Hutchinson, Random House, 1999 edition.

First up, I find it slightly amusing that the subtitle infers that the author cannot explain the dogs knowledge, and that there are more 'powers' that are similarly unexplained.

It becomes rather less amusing, and in fact completely contradictory when you then read the text inside the front cover, which states:

Wow.  Here, Sheldrake is referring to telepathy as fact, right next to sense of direction (which I think we can all accept as fact...!) and then premonition....?  Let's face it, if telepathy and premonition were both proven reality, then the dog behaviors that are to come are fully and easily explained, so the title is redundant...  Did Sheldrake actually use a proofreader, or consider basic logic as he typed this stuff up?

I would imagine anything printed before the main text was added by the editor/publisher - unless it is explicitly attributed to the author. Similarly, the blurb on the back of a book is the "hook" the publishers write. Even the title (particularly the subtitle) is likely to have been the work of the publisher. In this case it is the possibility that psychic powers are involved that will attract readers, even if the book itself is more balanced. I'm sure you remember the old journalistic maxim: Who cares about the headline "Dog Bites Man"? On the other hand, "Man Bites Dog" gets readers interested.

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Lysippos
1 hour ago, ChrLzs said:

Wow.  Here, Sheldrake is referring to telepathy as fact

How? 

How did you come to the conclusion the author refers to telepathy as a fact, from below quote? 

"This book focuses on three types of perceptiveness: telepathy, the sense of direction and premonitions, and demonstrates how human psychic powers or sixth senses seem more natural, more biological, when seen in the light of animal behavior."

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Derek Willis
1 hour ago, Scepticus said:

How? 

How did you come to the conclusion the author refers to telepathy as a fact, from below quote? 

"This book focuses on three types of perceptiveness: telepathy, the sense of direction and premonitions, and demonstrates how human psychic powers or sixth senses seem more natural, more biological, when seen in the light of animal behavior."

Personally, I can't see what other conclusion could be drawn from the sentence? For instance, what if the sentence began: "This book focuses on three types of senses: sight, hearing, and touch". Would you not conclude that the senses referred to are being treated as factual?

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Lysippos
21 minutes ago, Derek Willis said:

Personally, I can't see what other conclusion could be drawn from the sentence? For instance, what if the sentence began: "This book focuses on three types of senses: sight, hearing, and touch". Would you not conclude that the senses referred to are being treated as factual?

Interesting. 

Look forward to ChrLzs's response. 

 

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ChrLzs

Yes, as Derek says, he lists 'sense of direction' right beside telepathy and premonition.  There are no suggestions in the preceding or surrounding text that two of those are not accepted by mainstream science.  Sense of direction is definitely accepted by science, and there are numerous aspects that explain it - more on that later...

So maybe that text was added by the publishers, but this is his book and as far as I am aware, those words were not retracted in any subsequent editions.

Thing is, if you wish to be taken seriously as a scientist, you do not start off carelessly mixing accepted science with the 'paranormal'.  If this was a thesis submitted by a student at the research centre I ran, I would be horrified and not even bother reading further - I'd plonk it on their desk as rejected, and also want to know why they would make such a hideously UNscientific claim, before they had even started addressing the topic.

Anyway, no matter... to be fair - it is a book, not a thesis or paper for publication, so let's just excuse this stuff and continue..

(but I'm a little busy for the next day or so - I apologise for the delays that may arise..)

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XenoFish

Pets tend to know routines. If you come home every day at 5pm, fido might be waiting at the door. The sound of your footsteps, sound of your car, etc. Plus their sense are sharper than ours. Telepathic dogs, :lol:<_<seriously?

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Piney
On 12/6/2017 at 0:15 PM, Derek Willis said:

When I was young we had a dog - a Shetland Sheepdog - who would always begin barking before my mother put the key in the front door. The dog never barked before anyone else did this. This was quite fascinating, and being young at the when time Uri Geller was at the height of his fame, I thought there might be something in this psychic stuff. So, my brother and I carried out an experiment. We spent days during the summer holidays looking out of the window to see who was arriving. What we noticed was that my mother whilst approaching the house, or at the garden gate, or walking up the garden path, always found someone to wave to and say "hello" and pass a few comments. Usually this was one of the neighbors or a delivery man or whoever. As a control we asked our mother not to speak to anyone on a few occasions when she was nearing the house. You know what? The dog didn't bark. Obviously, with her keen hearing the dog could hear our mother. Needless to say, as soon as my mother returned to her normal habits, the dog began barking again.

But here is something I have never been able to explain. Before I was born there was a woman murdered in woodland near my home. The woman's body was found next to a particular tree. As kids we all knew where the "murder tree" was. However, we had to avoid walking with the dog near the murder tree because she would bark furiously, growl, and bare her teeth. The murder occurred twenty years before we got the dog, so I don't know what that was all about!

Edit: I think it would be great if you spent some time on this as it is one of the old chestnuts used in support of ESP. 

They sometimes use "cadaver dogs" at old crime scenes and archaeology sites. Some part of victim was still there. 

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ShadowSot

For the dog reactions mentioned above, there's something called The Clever Hans Effect

I wouldn't treat it as a blanket explanation, but we really aren't aware of all the subtle clues we give off. 

Animals are intelligent, especially the ones we've bred for our use. But not intelligent in the same way we are, and thinking so is where I think the trouble starts. 

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Lysippos
11 hours ago, ChrLzs said:

Yes, as Derek says, he lists 'sense of direction' right beside telepathy and premonition.  There are no suggestions in the preceding or surrounding text that two of those are not accepted by mainstream science.  Sense of direction is definitely accepted by science, and there are numerous aspects that explain it - more on that later...

So maybe that text was added by the publishers, but this is his book and as far as I am aware, those words were not retracted in any subsequent editions.

Thing is, if you wish to be taken seriously as a scientist, you do not start off carelessly mixing accepted science with the 'paranormal'.  If this was a thesis submitted by a student at the research centre I ran, I would be horrified and not even bother reading further - I'd plonk it on their desk as rejected, and also want to know why they would make such a hideously UNscientific claim, before they had even started addressing the topic.

Anyway, no matter... to be fair - it is a book, not a thesis or paper for publication, so let's just excuse this stuff and continue..

(but I'm a little busy for the next day or so - I apologise for the delays that may arise..)

I am bit skeptical of your simplistic rhetoric. 

Simply because there is no suggestion in the surrounding text, to indicate telepathy & premonition are not accepted by "mainstream science", the observer should not automatically assume the statement is to be considered a fact. That would be unscientific. 

The statement "it's a book, not a thesis" leads me to believe you don't have knowledge of what a thesis is. A thesis is making a point, using your research to back up the point. 

I have not read the book, hence I look forward to your review. 

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Timonthy
23 minutes ago, Scepticus said:

I am bit skeptical of your simplistic rhetoric. 

Simply because there is no suggestion in the surrounding text, to indicate telepathy & premonition are not accepted by "mainstream science", the observer should not automatically assume the statement is to be considered a fact. That would be unscientific. 

The statement "it's a book, not a thesis" leads me to believe you don't have knowledge of what a thesis is. A thesis is making a point, using your research to back up the point. 

I have not read the book, hence I look forward to your review. 

Well if the first part didn’t do it, the second did:

"This book focuses on three types of perceptiveness: telepathy, the sense of direction and premonitions, and demonstrates how human psychic powers or sixth senses seem more natural, more biological, when seen in the light of animal behavior."

That is directly suggesting that humans have psychic powers or sixth senses.

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