An opinion piece in a journal catering to fringe claims calls for open mindedness in reassessing parapsychological phenomena. I have to say it leaves me scratching my head… Give us your thoughts.
Science thrives when there is an open, informed discussion of all evidence, and recognition that scientific knowledge is provisional and subject to revision. This attitude is in stark contrast with reaching conclusions based solely on a previous set of beliefs or on the assertions of authority figures. Indeed, the search for knowledge wherever it may lead inspired a group of notable scientists and philosophers to found in 1882 the Society for Psychical Research in London. Its purpose was “to investigate that large body of debatable phenomena… without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems.” Some of the areas in consciousness they investigated such as psychological dissociation, hypnosis, and preconscious cognition are now well integrated into mainstream science. That has not been the case with research on phenomena such as purported telepathy or precognition, which some scientists (a clear minority according to the surveys conducted1) dismiss a priori as pseudoscience or illegitimate.
The authors state that there is still ongoing research by professionals, that the current results can not be dismissed, problem with phenomena that cannot be produced on demand is not much different than other complex human behavior and performance study areas such as psychology and medicine, that the results do not violate physical laws, also — QUANTUM PHYSICS. Signers include familiar names like Daryl Bem, Robert Jahn [also see PDF link below] and Dean Radin.
So, the author(s) are attempting to justify restoration of parapsychological studies to the rightful place as a scientific field. I don’t find this to be compelling. I find pretty good reasons to give up on this line of inquiry, closed-minded rejection is not one.
Science progresses in understanding, eventually. If a field stagnates, then there is something amiss. There was certainly something amiss with psi research and it petered away for a good reason – it was unproductive. If psi researchers can come up with a new and different research plan that takes them forward, perhaps by partnering with quantum physicists – that is, people who actually understand how this might work – more power to them. Nothing prohibits that. They are free to publish (and to be criticized) like all other research. I don’t see a prejudice that would be any different from criticism for another field that is coming up short on convincing results.
Psi researchers want to change science to suit their needs [PDF]. Nope. The process works well as can be expected. I don’t see results being hidden or repressed. It’s not “science’s” fault that you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for. Many have given psi a fair shake since the 19th century and we are still no wiser about it. How much longer do we entertain this idea without definitive results?
There are so many points of dispute in this piece, I’d be here all day addressing each one. I thought it was an interesting look into the mindset of parapsychology researchers. Do they have valid points amid the muck? Is the new path of anomalistic psychology the more productive route?
Addition: Some responses from those who study Anomalistic Psychology