Anita Ikonen, aka VisionFromFeeling, for a while now has been yacking about being able to detect not only that a person is missing a kidney but which one by using her special powers. She's received far too much attention for this ridiculous claim, so let's put this to rest once and for all.
How the Claim Got Started
Long before Anita Ikonen became Vision From Feeling, she was Alenara the Breatharian. Her website is still on-line, so you can read for yourself how she was using her alleged Vision From Feeling to justify her dangerous advice about living on air. With her special powers she was able to see prana as well as see inside the human body (including DNA, which she says is a "complex combination of sound waves"). So, the first documented claims by her are from 2002.
Anita Ikonen first contacted the IIG in July of 2008 claiming to be in effect a human MRI. Like most paranormal claims, it was vague, but unlike most people making these claims, she seemed to be willing to have her ability tested. The IIG worked patiently with her to lay down a protocol, but Miss Ikonen could never make a solid claim that could actually be tested. What's important to note is that the IIG suggested missing organs, but Anita declined saying that really wasn't part of her ability. Sure, that sounds odd for a human MRI, but since there's no such thing, who are we to criticize?
In December of 2008 VisionFromFeeling, aka Anita Ikonen, hooked up with a local skeptics group in North Carolina called F-A-C-T (Forsythe Area Critical Thinkers). They indulged her several times as she attempted "readings" on members. As discussed elsewhere on this site, they concluded there was nothing worth investigating. However, this is where the missing kidney thing got started.
Yours truly, UncaYimmy, created a Health Questionnaire for Miss Ikonen to use during her readings rather than the free-form, wing-it style she was used to. I wanted her to formalize her readings by providing checkboxes for various ailments and conditions so she would have no excuse for "missing" something in a person. At first, Miss Ikonen refused to use the forms at the F-A-C-T meetings for some untold reason.
However, on the night she did a reading on Dr. Eric Carlson, she used the Health Questionnaire. On that form was a checkbox for missing a kidney. During this reading, Miss Ikonen did not tick off that checkbox. After the reading was over (there was nothing of interest), Dr. Carlson revealed that he was missing a kidney. Miss Ikonen did not say anything about it. It was several days later that Miss Ikonen decided that she did, in fact, detect that Dr. Carlson was missing a kidney, so she sent him an e-mail telling him as much. If you're shaking your head, you're not alone.
How Missing Kidneys Became Her Main Claim
For several months after this event, Miss Ikonen continued to do "studies" and other "investigations" into her claims with no particular emphasis on being able to detect missing kidneys (or any other missing organs). Most of us figured she had dropped it because it was such a ridiculous claim - what we call a post-diction. We figured she was quiet about it because she realized nobody would be dumb enough to believe it had any value.
We were wrong.
In July of 2009, the JREF broadcast live via the Internet a Million Dollar Challenge event with Connie Sonne at the JREF's The Amazing Meeting convention. It received quite a bit of buzz on the JREF forums with Miss Sonne getting at first lots of positive attention for actually being tested even though she failed. This soon turned into negative attention as Ms. Sonne accused the JREF of cheating. But attention is attention, right?
It was shortly after this event that Miss Ikonen announced that her reading with Dr. Carlson was her "strongest reading ever" and wanted to base her IIG test on being able to detect missing kidneys. I and several others at the time noted that this seemed to be little more than a grab for attention since Miss Sonne, not VisionFromFeeling, was the Queen of Paranormal Claimants over at the JREF Forums.
I said at the time that Anita was latching on to this missing kidney claim solely as a bid for attention and not because it was her strongest claim. As I pointed out already, she specifically rejected detecting missing organs when she first contacted the IIG. After her "post-diction" she pretty much dropped the subject and let this claim sit among the countless other ridiculous claims she has made, so how did it magically become something powerful and worthy of testing?
She Fails the IIG Test With Flying Colors
After several months of negotiation, Miss Ikonen finally agreed to a protocol with the IIG to detect the location where a kidney should be in three groups of six people (12 possible locations - left/right). In order to pass the preliminary test she needed to get all three correct, which in a perfectly random world would be beating odds of 1 in 1,728. She got one correct.
For those not familiar with statistics, she had a 23% chance of getting one correct with three guesses, which is about 1 in 4.35. That's about the same odds as flipping a coin twice and guessing heads or tails correctly both times. Stated another way, if 100 people took the same test that she did, 23 would do just as well. In other words, she accomplished nothing.
This, of course, didn't prevent Miss Ikonen from trying to spin the results her way. You see, she also guessed the right person but the wrong side in another trial. Guessing the person was not part of the test. Humans were just convenient containers for kidneys, and selecting the person is a necessary part of stating the location. Getting two people correct, if you're interested, is about 7.5% chance or 1 in 13. Nothing interesting there - a roulette wheel in Vegas has tougher odds, and people win all the time.
She Hedges Her Bets
What's most interesting about the IIG test are Anita's notes. You see, on each of the three trials, Miss Ikonen had a back-up guess. After the results of the first trial were revealed and Anita was shown to be wrong, she immediately grabbed her notes. Excited, she started to tell the audience that her back-up guess was actually the target. Just as quickly an audience member pointed out that she was confused about whom the target was and that her back-up guess was also wrong. It was as funny as it was pathetic.
So, let's consider her results with two guesses per trial instead of one. She had a 40% chance of guessing one location correctly or 1 in 2.5 (a virtual coin flip). How about guessing two people correctly? That was about a 26% chance or 1 in 4.
What her notes also mean is that she thought a kidney was missing in five locations where a kidney actually existed. Of course, she also "detected" a kidney in two locations where, in fact, no kidney existed. Even a child could see that there was nothing to her claim. Well, you'd think so, right?
Along Comes the JREF to Give Her New Life
Several months after the IIG Challenge, Miss Ikonen had seemed to quiet down. She was repeatedly suspended from the JREF Forums for personal attacks and harassing the moderators. We thought that perhaps we had heard the last of her, but it was not to be. Jeff Wagg, the Communications and Outreach Manager for the JREF, invited Miss Ikonen on his podcast radio show. It was a joke of an interview where he and the other hosts allowed her spew her nonsense without being questioned critically. If you can believe it, Mr. Wagg even called her results "interesting" and encouraged her to proceed with her investigation.
Shortly thereafter Miss Ikonen was banned from the JREF Forums just as she was banned from these forums. She started her own forums where she was the only participant. In June of 2010 she began dropping hints that she was going to be tested or at least give a demonstration. Wardenclyffe over at the JREF Forums sniffed it out and speculated that she was going to give a demonstration at the next TAM hosted by the JREF.
"No way," I figured. That would be ridiculous. I was wrong. It turns out that for some stupid reason the JREF gave the stage over to Miss Ikonen to "demonstrate" her skills. There were no controls, so any positive result would have been meaningless. But, seriously, does anyone think Miss Ikonen wouldn't have used a success to bolster her outrageous claims? Fortunately, Miss Ikonen failed to find the person with a missing kidney.
What's sad, though, is that the mentalist, Banachek, who is taking over the JREF MDC said, "in this case the result was negative and would been just as non important if positive." That's foolish and disappointing to hear from a skeptic. The demonstration was geared to fully allow Miss Ikonen to demonstrate her abilities, and she failed. This is important. It further demonstrates that no ability exists. Sure, a positive result would mean nothing since no controls were in place, but a negative result is a negative result.
Here's a clue, Banachek: More controls to prevent a false positive do not make a negative result more meaningful. What is the point of conducting challenges like the MDC if failures are considered unimportant? The whole point is to demonstrate that these claimants cannot do what we know to be scientifically impossible. We skeptics, quite frankly, need to hold up these failures for all to see. We need to shout from the rooftops that these claims are patently ridiculous and deserve no respect or attention. To call failures unimportant renders the MDC and all other challenges meaningless.
Here's another clue, Banachek (and the JREF): You were used. Yep, you were used by Miss Ikonen in her bid for attention. I said over a year ago that she was touting this missing kidney claim as a grab for attention in response to last year's TAM Challenge. Amazingly, she got the very stage she wanted despite her repeated failures. You disrespected the IIG, who spent an enormous amount of time and effort testing Miss Ikonen. And you disrespected the membership and moderation team of the JREF Forums by giving the stage over to someone who was banned from the forums for personal attacks and harassing the moderators.
If you wanted to demonstrate how difficult it is to test claimants, you should have interviewed the IIG members who tested Miss Ikonen. They were at TAM. It would have been a lot more useful than giving a narcissist the stage.
More Hedging Bets and the Final Tally
Of course, Miss Ikonen hedged her bets in this demonstration as well. She had five subjects. She said that two were missing a kidney and a third was probably missing a kidney (she "weakly" sensed a kidney once for a third person). Naturally, Miss Ikonen is spinning this as some sort of "hit" and further evidence she should continue this sham of an investigation.
So, what's the final tally? By my count Miss Ikonen has done readings on 23 people (18 at the IIG and five at the JREF). That's 46 locations. Four of those locations were missing a kidney. She made a total of nine guesses, and she got just two right. While it's a bit dubious to lump all these together, one way to look at it is that she had a 4 in 46 (8.7%) chance in each guess. By taking nine guesses, she had an 18% (1 in 5.5) chance of getting the two correct that she did (one "official" and one "back-up" guess according to her notes). She also had about a 20% chance (1 in 5) of guessing three persons correctly (two "official" and one as a "back-up" guess according to her notes). Officially, she's taken four guesses and gotten one correct, which is about a 1 in 3 chance. Big whoop.
That's with pure random chance. The reality is that she could see all sorts of clues about the subjects, including any "tells" that they were the target. The one she "officially" got right was actually a friend of a JREF member she had been told about, and that member was also a decoy in the test (not the best control, but understandable under the circumstances). And more left kidneys are missing than right, which Anita guessed exclusively at the IIG Challenge.
There's nothing to see here except a grab for attention by a narcissist. There is no paranormal claim to research. Miss Anita Ikonen, aka VisionFromFeeling, should either be ignored or be repeatedly told that she has repeatedly failed to demonstrate anything worthy of an investigation. Her failure should be shouted from the rooftops.
Note: This article may be reposted in its entirety on the Internet so long as there is a link back this page.