Current Update as of May 04, 2003
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
What follows are brief summaries of three articles on state of ESP research. Although published a decade ago, the issues remain as described. Recent developoments in remote viewing and medical intuition seem to support the conclusion of the final article... Henry Reed
Is Too Scientific
has become too boring. It’s not getting anywhere in its trivial pursuit
of more-reliable, but less-meaningful numbers. The problem is that it
tries to be too scientific. That should read “scientific”— as in “quote,
quips are oversimplifications yet true to the spirit of a series of
criticisms hurled at parapsychology by one of its leading members during
his presidential address to the Parapsychology Association. Stephen
Braude, of the Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland, recently shared candidly about the pitiful state of
much parapsychological research. The occasion was the association’s
annual convention. Surely to elicit a rebuttal, Dr. Braude observed
that parapsychologists were a ‘pretentious” group, putting on scientific
airs. He sympathized with his colleagues, recognizing that they were
often under attack as fools for what they pursued in research; thus
they emulated the formalities of science in an attempt to gain credibility.
Yet that effort has not gained them much credibility and even less of
an understanding of psi. This anomaly called psi requires an anomalous
science, but parapsychologists tend to be rather conventional.
are squandering an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of scientific
inquiry. They could
be genuine trailblazers
with respect to their data and methods. But, in fact. parapsychologists
do not really operate on the frontiers of science; they are not the
pioneers they often fancy themselves to be (and others expect them to
be). Instead, they tend to be disappointingly unimaginative, shortsighted.
and conventional. They follow meekly in the already misguided footsteps
of traditional experimental psychology by slavishly conforming to methods
canonized in physics... They strive to make their work technically crisp
and fail to notice that it remains conceptually crude. I find this profoundly
for respectability rather than striving for understanding and trying
to be loyal to a method rather than to the demands of the subject matter
have a high price. Psychology itself made the same mistake and parapsychology
has followed suit. Wiring a yogi to an EEG may make an initial
impression on observing scientists, but they will soon lose interest.
In the meantime, we Haven’t really learned anything of significance
about the inward path to God, which may require a different sort of
careful observation than any EEG can provide.
than concede that psychic abilities, like most
human abilities, may
be best studied in real-life contexts where those abilities have genuine
dynamic relevance, they attempt to study psi in artificial settings
that. at best. are deeply significant only to the experimenter.”
hypotheses found in the Edgar Cayce readings may be an area where Dr.
Braude’s comments would also apply. Many of his ideas were presented
to individuals facing specific crises. Self-study, application in one’s
life, reflection upon results within the context of the Search for God
Study Group, as well as in the context of professional relationships
with on&s medical doctor are some real-life contexts that would
be appropriate for testing his ideas. Braude argues that a good case
study can be much more informative than a laboratory experiment. He
advocates a naturalist’s approach, perusing and systematizing a wide
range of observations. A.R.E.’s
home-study research program, coupled with a systematic analysis of ease
studies submitted by members, would appear to meet Braudc’s criteria
for the kind of pioneering research into psychic abilities he thinks
the field deserves.
Stephen E. Braude, “Psi and the nature of abilities.” Journal of
note: Eleven years after this article was published, Dr. Braude emailed
us this: "the articles (sadly)
Psychologists Alerted to Important ESP Research
believe that the replication rates and the effect sizes achieved with
this procedure are now sufficient to warrant bringing this body of data
to the attention of the wider psychological community.”
these words, Cornell University psychologist Daryl J.
Bern and parapsychologist
Charles Honorton (now deceased) make the newsworthy gesture of asserting
that there is now a repeatable experiment demonstrating psi. Parapsychology
has been hunting for such an experiment for close to 100 years. What
is even more newsworthy about their claim is that the American Psychological
Association is publishing it in one of their most reputable journals,
where it is sure to stir debate.
The experiment that is receiving this special attention is the “Ganzfeld” (meaning “entire field”), named for the homogeneous visual field created over the psi-viewer’s eyes by wearing “Ping~Pong”® ball halves bathed in a soft, red light in an otherwise sensorily deprived room. Relaxing in the Ganzfeld stimulates visual imagery, especially psychic imagery when a person in another room is trying to “send” pictures to the viewer. There have been many published reports in the parapsychological literature concerning the psi effectiveness of the Ganzfeld procedure.
occasion of this new report. prepared for the general psychological
community, is that in some recent studies Honorton successfully met
all but one of a new set of special criteria for proving psi. These
criteria had been laid out in collaboration with Ray Hyman, one of the
few vocal skeptics of parapsychology whom psi researchers take seriously.
They involved better controls to insure that there was no sensory contact
between sender and receiver, and several improvements in statistics
and in reporting procedures. In six years of research, until his lab
was closed because of lack of funds, Honorton completed eleven studies
with 241 subjects using the more stringent criteria as well as an automated
testing and evaluation procedure. It was the overall success of these
experiments that prompted this new report.
authors noted that besides meeting the test of statistical significance,
the size of the psi effect was in itself notable. The size of the effect
is a measure of how far away from chance levels was the viewer s accuracy
rate. The psi effect in these studies, to use a well-known basis of
comparison, was from three to four times as strong as the effect of
taking aspirin on reducing heart attacks among doctors. This Harvard
study received much publicity when the researchers terminated the study
early because they felt that the results were so strong it was unethical
to continue giving placebos to the participating doctors when it
was so clear that their
taking aspirin would have a life-preserving effect.
authors hope that other psychological labs will attempt to replicate
the Ganzfeld work. That type of replication, across several different
labs, is the one remaining criterion this work has yet to achieve. In
concluding comments about this replicability, they stress the importance
of future researchers creating a warm social ambience” among the participants.
a subtle factor that may well
play a deciding role in the results. The importance of this atmospheric
effect may well lead to some interesting debate and research in the
“Does psi exist? Replicable evidence
for an anomalous process
of information transfer.”
Psychological Bulletin, 199x
Needed for Scientific Recognition of Parapsychology?
more does the scientific establishment require to accord parapsychology
full recognition?” Alexander Imich offered a prize for the best essay
answering this question. The winner was Susan Blackmore, a British parapsychologist
known for her criticisms of psychical research.
is at a crossroads in its life. On the one hand, it has amassed an enormous
stockpile of research demonstrating the reality of psi, the psychic
factor. On the other hand, what few parapsychology labs we have are
beginning to close down for lack of funding. Psychical science is threatened
Blackmore points out that parapsychology doesn’t lack scientific recognition.
She argues that there really is no scientific “establishment” which
can grant or refuse scientific status to an enterprise; there are only
individual scientists and the activities they pursue. Parapsychologists
participate in these activities. In scientific journals they publish
papers that receive peer review and publish articles in other journals
and magazines as well. There is media coverage of psychical research.
Parapsychologists have professional organizations and participate in
conventions. All these activities allow for the dissemination of information
and the critical review of parapsychologists’ work. In these respects
parapsychology functions as a science.
is but one endowed chair in parapsychology, at Edinburgh University,
and no department of parapsychology at any university. This exclusion
from academic acceptance Black— more relates to the lack of funding
for psychical research. This lack is the critical ingredient in any
kind of meaningful recognition of parapsychology.
she analyses the criteria which funding agencies use for deciding what
research is to receive money, she concludes that novelty and practicality
are the key ingredients. In short, will the research lead to findings
that will make a difference? Parapsychological research, she
claims, fails miserably on both counts. The research done today is basically
the same as that done decades ago. Nothing changes, really. Furthermore,
no one has shown that an ESP effect has any practical significance.
Although the implications of ESP are enormous, they remain simply potential
implications—nothing that makes any real difference.
contrast, research into other areas of extraordinary human consciousness
has made significant progress, moving from the fringe into the mainstream.
Two of the examples she cites are lucid dreaming and the effects of
meditation. When researchers learned they could train dreamers to signal
their awareness of the dreaming process by controlled eye movements,
lucid dreaming gained new stature in the laboratory. Similarly, as researchers
found they could observe side effects and by-products of meditation,
funding poured in from many directions and supercharged the pace of
and when parapsychologists find not simply the repeatable experiment
but an effect that makes a difference in the lives of people or in how
scientists conduct their experiments, then psychical research can expect
the kind of financial recognition it seeks.
“Psi in science.” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,
April, 1991, Vol. 57, No. 823, pp. 404-411.
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