Natasha Demkina – The Girl With X Ray Vision

TV documentary from the Discovery Channel examined the case of a girl in Russia, Natasha Demkina, who claimed to treat people by seeing into them. (She says she can “look deep inside people’s bodies, watch their organs at work and spot when things are going wrong”). Natasha volunteered to be examined by CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) as she said she had nothing to hide and was keen on being examined scientifically.

The program showed how CSICOP set up the tests and it became apparent that Natasha was set up to fail. Initially she did a reading in her usual way and appeared to be quite successful. CSICOP then set up the following scenario: there were to be seven ‘patients’ who had certain conditions. The patients were seated and wearing special glasses so that Natasha couldn’t see their eyes. She had a list of seven conditions (including one patient who had nothing wrong) and she had to match the conditions up with the patients. CSICOP had determined that in order to be successful she had to get 5 out of 7 correct. Natasha complained about two of the conditions. One had a removed appendix and another had a shortened oesophagus. Sometimes, she said, a removed appendix was disguised by scar tissue and she also said that everyone had a different length oesophagus anyway. Now, as far as proving the issue at hand, it would have made no difference to CSICOP what the conditions were. They could have had one lung or any other ailment, however CSICOP refused to change these two ailments. Despite this, Natasha got 4 out of the seven correct.

The three that Natasha got wrong were the removed appendix and the oesophagus and she also failed to detect a man with a metal plate in his head (who it later transpired also had had his appendix removed). Richard Wiseman, one of the testers, said with some glee that if Natasha’s claims were correct and she had X-ray vision she should have detected the metal plate. Of course, Natasha made no such claim. She had simply said that she can “look deep inside people’s bodies, watch their organs at work and spot when things are going wrong”.

This has been examined in detail on few sites:

CSICOP vs Natasha Demkina

The Natasha Demkina Case

The tests were performed in part by Richard Wiseman, Ph.D, Professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is a renowned debunker and for another example of his misleading tests see a talk by Rupert Sheldrake.

CSICOP are not concerned with objectively investigating these claims but in debunking them, that is they attempt to ridicule such claims using pseudo-scientific technique

Richard Wiseman was quoted on the program as saying that if we were to accept such phenomena as Natasha Demkina’s as being true; we would have to throw out all our current scientific theories. This is complete nonsense. When Einstein produced his theory of relativity, the old Newtonian way of thinking didn’t suddenly become ‘untrue’. It became apparent that Newton’s theory was simply a special case of Einstein’s theory (that is, it applies when the relative speeds are very much less than the speed of light and when gravity is fairly low). So it is with psychic and other such phenomena. Scientific laws are simply a special case of Quantum theory, as a result of statistical averaging, and quantum theory is very much interlocked with psychic phenomena.

Note on the probability of getting 4 out of 7 correct matches. A statistician has calculated the odds as follows:

For a reasonable large number of patients and if the number of matches (ie matching a diagnosis with a patient) is relatively small then it doesn’t matter how many patients you have — the chances of getting exactly r matches right is:
1/(e * r!) where e = ~ 2.71818… and r! = r factorial

So match probability
0 1/e
1 1/e
2 1/2e
3 1/6e

So the chances of getting 4 or more right = 1-(1/e+1/e+1/2e+1/6e) = 1–2.666…/2.718… = =approx 1–0.981. That is, the chances she’d have got 4 or more right by chance is less than 2% — highly unlikely

(This approximation is pretty good for 7 patients & is actually conservative — it would gives a total of 0.996 for all matches — her chances of being right are worse than this)

Now if Richard Wiseman or CSICOP were genuinely concerned with real science they would have tested Natasha further and more rigorously. In fact he remarked that if the test was performed more rigorously she would have performed worse. In other words,

  • He admits that the test wasn’t as rigorous as it could be.
  • He has no evidence that she would have performed worse, after all that’s the whole point of a test.
  • If he had done the test properly he would have changed the two patients who Natasha said she would have issues with.

It is remarkable to me that people still refer to this program as ‘evidence’ that such powers have been debunked. Did they actually understand what they were watching?

By Philip Braham on August 18, 2018

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