Category Archives: Parapsychology Series

Parapsychology {6} ~ Why Is Parapsychology So Controversial? {1}

“Parapsychology has remained controversial, even with substantial, persuasive, and scientifically palatable results, for four main reasons ~

First, the media and much of the public often confuse parapsychology with sensational, unscientific beliefs and stories about “the paranormal.” This widespread confusion has led many scientists to simply dismiss the field as being unworthy of serious study, and thus they think it is not worth their time to examine the existing evidence.

In addition, thoroughly understanding the nature of the existing evidence in parapsychology is not easy. While the meta-analytic results are both substantial and persuasive, meta-analysis requires specialized knowledge to understand that form of evidence. For people who are not familiar with statistics, or who don’t trust it (which is usually a sign of misunderstanding), the evidence will not seem very persuasive. Those same people may then go looking for the big stuff, the psi-in-your-face, self-evident proofs, and they will find enormous amounts of anecdotal evidence but almost no scientifically credible data. They may then view lengthy discussions, such as the one in this FAQ, as proof that no one really knows what is going on, and that scientists are still basically waffling and indecisive about this topic.

Our response is simple: The scientific evidence for some forms of psi is extremely persuasive. By the same standards used to establish proof in other areas of science, we can say with high confidence that psi does exist, and we are beginning to learn a little about it, and why people develop this gift.

Second, even if someone wanted to study the evidence, much of the persuasive work is published in limited circulation professional journals. In the past, these were only found in a few university libraries, with scholars needing to request reprints and technical reports from individual authors (a cumbersome process at best). Fortunately, this situation has recently changed. There is now a subscription-based online library which includes all of the journals and proceedings ever published for the Society for Psychical Research, the Journal of Parapsychology, the European Journal of Parapsychology, the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Research in Parapsychology, and Psi Researcher – Paranormal Review. It also has some books available. Best of all, the database can be searched to pull up particular words, topics, or names. It is available at (See Where can I get more information?)”

Source ~

Parapsychology {5} ~ What Is Not Parapsychology?

In spite of what the media often imply, parapsychology is not the study of “anything paranormal” or bizarre. Nor is parapsychology concerned with astrology, UFOs, searching for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, paganism, Satanism, vampires, alchemy, or witchcraft.

Many scientists have viewed parapsychology with great suspicion because the term has come to be associated with a huge variety of mysterious phenomena, fringe topics, and pseudoscience. Parapsychology is also often linked, again inappropriately, with a broad range of “psychic” entertainers, magicians, and so-called “paranormal investigators” or “paranormalists.” In addition, some self-proclaimed “psychic practitioners” call themselves parapsychologists, but that is not what we do.

Parapsychology {4} ~ What Are The Major Research Approaches?

As in any multidisciplinary domain, there are many ways of conducting research. The five main methods used in parapsychology are ~

~Scholarly research, including discussion of philosophical issues and historical surveys.
~Analytical research, including statistical analysis of large databases.
~Case studies, including in-depth studies of personal psi experiences, field investigations, and comparisons of cross-cultural beliefs and practices related to psi.
~Theoretical research, including mathematical, descriptive and phenomenological models of psi.
~Experimental research, including laboratory studies of psi effects.
Although all five of these approaches contribute to the field, today the primary source of “hard evidence” in parapsychology is controlled laboratory experiments. By applying the exacting standards of scientific method, researchers over the past six decades have developed an increasingly persuasive database for certain types of psi phenomena.

Several major experimental designs have been developed during this time, and a select few experiments have now been repeated hundreds of times by dozens of researchers, world-wide. Sometimes these experiments are conducted as strict replications, but more often they are conceptually similar experiments that add controls or extend the range of questions addressed.

Parapsychology {3} ~ Why Is Parapsychology Interesting?

Parapsychology is interesting mainly because of the implications. To list a few examples, psi phenomena suggest (a) that what science knows about the nature of universe is incomplete; (b) that the presumed capabilities and limitations of human potential have been underestimated; (c) that fundamental assumptions and philosophical beliefs about the separation of mind and body may be incorrect; and (d) that religious assumptions about the divine nature of “miracles” may have been mistaken.

As an aside, we should note that many parapsychologists, take an empirical, data-oriented approach to psi phenomena, and specifically avoid discussing speculative implications that are not supported by data. However, some researchers regard the current findings of parapsychology as having a wide variety of important implications, including implications about the spiritual nature of humankind.

Parapsychology {2} ~ When Did Parapsychology Begin?

While parapsychological ideas have deep historical roots, Joseph Banks Rhine has been described as the founder of parapsychology as a scientific pursuit. In the 1930s, he and his colleagues at Duke University carried out studies of extrasensory perception using means such as card-guessing and dice-rolling to seek evidence.

Parapsychology {1} ~ What Is Parapsychology?

Parapsychology involves the study of a variety of proposed psychic phenomena by scientists and scholars, including the search for evidence of their existence. Among these phenomena are ~

~Precognition: perceiving information the future, such as in a vision or dream
~Clairvoyance: perceiving information about distant locations
~Telepathy: communicating mind-to-mind (without the use of normal senses)
~Extrasensory perception (ESP): perception that seems to transcend the five senses, encompassing the above terms
~Psychokinesis or telekinesis: manipulating objects with the power of the mind
~Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) (such as perceiving one’s own body from above)
~Apparitions and hauntings