Parapsychology: Science or Pseudoscience?

#1
Is parapsychology a science or pseudoscience? You tell me. Also, why do you think parapsychology is so controversial?


Addendum:

The following is a link to a paper published in the "The Journal of Parapsychology." It raises issues pertinent to the subject matter of this thread, namely, that psi effects are capricious, actively evasive, and unsustainable. Here's an excerpt from the abstract:

"Many parapsychological writers have suggested that psi may be capricious or actively evasive. The evidence for this includes the unpredictable, significant reversal of direction for psi effects, the loss of intended psi effects while unintended secondary or internal effects occur, and the pervasive declines in effect for participants, experimenters, and lines of research. Also, attempts to apply psi typically result in a few very impressive cases among a much larger number of unsuccessful results. The term unsustainable is applicable because psi is sometimes impressive and reliable, but then becomes actively evasive." (source: p. 1, (Abstract), "The Capricious, Actively Evasive, Unsustainable Nature of Psi: A Summary and Hypotheses" by J.E. Kennedy, published in the "Journal of Parapsychology," 2003, Volume 67, pp. 53–74 )
"The Capricious, Actively Evasive, Unsustainable Nature of Psi: A Summary and Hypotheses" by J.E. Kennedy
 
Last edited:

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#2
It's a science. As with every branch of science, there is some pseudoscience involved. I do wish the researchers would do more theorizing so that experiments can be designed to test derived hypotheses.

~~ Paul
 
#6
It's the scaffold of a science struggling to investigate phenomena which, if real, outstrip the simple realisms that underly the original structure of the scaffold.
Along these lines I think it has taken on a difficult subject that faces certain challenges in terms of setting up protocols and isolating the effect, not to mention financial restrictions. These challenges result in the fact that it is difficult to perform experiments with the lowest risk of bias and thus a paucity of experiments of the highest quality (ie: sufficiently powered, low risk of bias, isolated variables). This should not disqualify the field as being considered scientific.

That said, I think discussions such as this serve as a distraction and shifts focus away from the case by case approach that should be employed when evaluating parapsychological experiments.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#7
My view is the exact complement that. It's a pseudoscience. As with all pseudosciences, there is some science involved.
I'm perfectly happy to believe that I have placed the slider in the wrong position. It would be interesting to know where the slider goes for other psychological (pseudo)sciences.

Apparently I'm willing to call an area of investigation a science even when I doubt every claimed result. That is rather quirky.

~~ Paul
 
#8
The core or kernel of a problem I suspect to be acting here is whether we can simply do "more of the same" in order to elucidate these phenomena.My suspicion is that we actually cannot do that, and in attempting to do so, we're setting ourselves up for all kinds of problems with respect to a closure that the methods cannot deliver.

I know this view isn't popular. It's not what people "want to hear." Everyone wants to believe that tools which have been productive and liberating of progress in the past will continue to be such, because it's those comfortable shoes we've been used to wearing in addressing the cosmos. But I think the threshold we now approach is where the cosmos starts to trump the method, to be honest. The old shoes may have to be retired. Or at least given a heavy makeover.

Imo,of course.
 
#9
Anything using the scientific method irrespective of phenomenon is science. For example, the discipline of cognitive psychology makes many theories just on apparent mental models and tests their derived hypothesis with test participants, but these models and phenomena are all in the mind, there's no material reality needed. Does that mean its not science?
 
#10
Hmmm...interesting question. Both Jay and Paul seem to have the meat of it.

I suspect the answer depends upon whom you are talking to - whether you are worried about stepping on someone's toes or whether you don't want to leave a misleading impression of your own credulity. ;)

Linda
 
#11
I suppose it depends on whether you can be convinced by evidence, or whether you rely on your biases to guide you. If you can be convinced by evidence, then psi is real. Period. Parapsychology meets or exceeds any sane scientific standard. By any ordinary measure it is not just a science, but psychic ability itself has been proven to exist.

The only question here is this: Can you hold parapsychology to a sane, ordinary scientific standard instead of the usual insane one?
 
#12
I suppose it depends on whether you can be convinced by evidence, or whether you rely on your biases to guide you. If you can be convinced by evidence, then psi is real. Period. Parapsychology meets or exceeds any sane scientific standard. By any ordinary measure it is not just a science, but psychic ability itself has been proven to exist.
The only question here is this: Can you hold parapsychology to a sane, ordinary scientific standard instead of the usual insane one?
This depends on how you define "ordinary scientific standard." The evidence shows that psi effects are unsustainable.

"Many parapsychological writers have suggested that psi may be capricious or actively evasive. The evidence for this includes the unpredictable, significant reversal of direction for psi effects, the loss of intended psi effects while unintended secondary or internal effects occur, and the pervasive declines in effect for participants, experimenters, and lines of research. Also, attempts to apply psi typically result in a few very impressive cases among a much larger number of unsuccessful results. The term unsustainable is applicable because psi is sometimes impressive and reliable, but then becomes actively evasive." (source: p. 1, (Abstract), "The Capricious, Actively Evasive, Unsustainable Nature of Psi: A Summary and Hypotheses" by J.E. Kennedy, published in the "Journal of Parapsychology," 2003, Volume 67, pp. 53–74 )
 
#13
This depends on how you define "ordinary scientific standard." The evidence shows that psi effects are unsustainable.
You aren't addressing the experimental evidence, such as the Ganzfeld and if you noticed, this paragraph is addressing the nature of psi, not whether it exists. The latter seems to be assumed here. Read Jim Carpenter's book First Sight if you want an actual working theory of why these things occur. Some psychology would also be useful in understanding this.
 
#14
You aren't addressing the experimental evidence, such as the Ganzfeld and if you noticed, this paragraph is addressing the nature of psi, not whether it exists. The latter seems to be assumed here. Read Jim Carpenter's book First Sight if you want an actual working theory of why these things occur. Some psychology would also be useful in understanding this.
Kennedy in his paper (which was published in the "Journal of Parapsychology") proposed several hypotheses "why these things occur" (not least, that a "more likely explanation is that some type of higher consciousness influences or guides the occurrence of psi). The point I'm raising here is that these are some of the reasons why parapsychology is so controversial. Psi could indeed be real. But it may not be truly amenable to the scientific method due to these reasons.
 
#15
Kennedy in his paper (which was published in the "Journal of Parapsychology") proposed several hypotheses "why these things occur" (not least, that a "more likely explanation is that some type of higher consciousness influences or guides the occurrence of psi). The point I'm raising here is that these are some of the reasons why parapsychology is so controversial. Psi could indeed be real. But it may not be truly amenable to the scientific method due to these reasons.
You're not aware of the Ganzfeld? Or several other well replicated studies? The science that proves the existence of psi is sound. The controversy over the science is just an indication that something emotional is at play.
 
#16
You're not aware of the Ganzfeld? Or several other well replicated studies? The science that proves the existence of psi is sound. The controversy over the science is just an indication that something emotional is at play.
I've read several of Radin's books on the subject. So, I'm informed as to what is considered by proponents to be the basic evidence. The following "YouTube" video is a talk given by Dean Radin in which he presents the evidence for psi.

 
Last edited:
#17
I've read several of Radin's books on the subject. So, I'm informed as to what is considered by proponents to be the basic evidence. The following "YouTube" video is a talk given by Dean Radin in which he presents the evidence for psi.

Well, they're the experts. This is what they spend their life doing and if treat them like any other scientist with a specialty, you'll believe what they have to say on their specialized subject rather than others who have not studied the same subject so thoroughly. And that includes absolutely every skeptic not actively doing research in that field. Wiseman and French really, and that's pretty much it. They do so little research however, that their opinions are not on a par with real parapsychologists. This is where people like me see whether they're dealing with ingrained skeptical bias or not. Those who trivialize the real experts are undoubtedly not objective.

I haven't pigeonholed you into the hopelessly biased camp, by the way. It is quite a journey to become convinced by the evidence and it is very time consuming, particularly if you have any previous beliefs to overcome and you may be in the middle of it. I don't know. The hardest part is evaluating the skepticism because it takes ten times the effort to disprove bullshit than it does to create it. But if you keep at it, you do see after a while that the legitimate skeptical objections have been handled and that the skeptics expend an awful lot of effort to go after increasingly trivial and often nonsensical issues in an effort to not be wrong. Or they statistically re-arrange the deck chairs and then claim that they have The Answer.
 
#18
Well, they're the experts. This is what they spend their life doing and if treat them like any other scientist with a specialty, you'll believe what they have to say on their specialized subject rather than others who have not studied the same subject so thoroughly.
I'm raising issues that were put forth by parapsychologist J.E. Kennedy (an expert in the field) and written in the "Journal of Parapsychology." Also, Susan Blackmore (who was a parapsychologist and an expert in the field) has raised some of the same issues to argue that parapsychology is not a science.

By the way, I believe in the reality of psi phenomena. But I'm questioning the legitimacy of parapsychology as a science.
 
#20
By the way, I believe in the reality of psi phenomena. But I'm questioning the legitimacy of parapsychology as a science.
I've read a lot of Kennedy's stuff and he raises some pretty important concerns, imo. That said, the types of issues that he raises are limited to the relatively small field of parapsychology, but apply across the board.

It is normal for science to start with smaller, less reliable studies and proceed to more reliable studies with the more promising hypotheses. These more reliable studies are much more resource intensive of course. What this also means, is that even in other sciences not every promising hypothesis gets to benefit from higher quality studies.

There has been a lot of research in the last number of years looking at research methodology in terms of what methods have been demonstrated to reduce bias risk and produce more reliable results. These studies have also found that there exist many many studies out there that haven't used the most reliable results. And remember of course that many studies would have been done prior to new advancements in research methodology.

Parapsychology has always been a small field and while I don't know the numbers, I understand to have struggled to get funding for large scale studies. It also has a particularly challenging research subject that presents particular challenges.

My point is that simply because we might conclude that parapychological research has risks of biases along the kind mentioned by Kennedy does not suggest that it should be labelled "pseudoscience". Parapsychology has done a pretty good job of identifying some hypotheses that merit further study, even some that might lead to changes to our understanding of physics, biology and other sciences. The fact that there is more work to be done, and challenges to overcome does not diminish the work that has been done to date.

Kennedy's criticisms of parapsychological experiments are constructive, not condemning. They look to the future of parapsychology.

Note as well that many parapsychologists acknowledge that risks of bias exist in their papers. Very seldom do I see a paper that puts things in the definitive manner that some people do on this forum. They are perhaps less careful with their words when speaking live, but I think some leeway is to be given there for any scientist. I put much more weight in their published papers than in their public comments, which will often not reflect certain nuances that would drag down an interesting presentation.
 
Top