new age spirituality

What Is Parapsychology? An Introduction to Parapsychology

Parapsychology Definition

By definition the paranormal (psychic abilities, conscious survival of bodily death etc) lies beyond the bounds of conventional science. However, the discipline of parapsychology attempts to apply scientific method to the study of such phenomena, both to verify their existence and to establish the mechanism(s) by which they operate.

Laboratory and field research is conducted by universities and privately funded laboratories. Such research is usually published in parapsychological publications, and some articles have appeared in more mainstream journals. Experiments have included the use of random number generators to test for evidence of precognition and psychokinesis with both human and animal subjects, sensory-deprivation and Ganzfeld experiments to test for extrasensory perception, and research trials conducted under contract to the United States government to investigate whether remote viewing would provide useful intelligence information.

Current Evidence for Parapsychology

The position of many parapsychologists is that the existence of some forms of psi such as psychokinesis and ESP has good supporting evidence. The Parapsychology FAQ, published by the Parapsychological Association with authors including (among others) Dean Radin Ph.D, Charles Tart Ph.D, Roger Nelson Ph.D (PEAR Laboratory, Princeton University) states:

To be precise, when we say that "X exists," we mean that the presently available, cumulative statistical database for experiments studying X, provides strong, scientifically credible evidence for repeatable, anomalous, X-like effects.

With this in mind, ESP exists, presentiment (physical changes in skin reactivity, pupil size, heart rate, and other factors indicating precognition before a stimulus is applied) exists, telepathy (direct mind-mind communication) exists, and mind-matter interaction (previously known as psychokinesis or PK) exists. The survival of bodily death remains unproven, though there is suggestive evidence for this from the reincarnation research performed by Ian Stevenson and others.

In 1979, a survey of more than 1,100 college professors in the United States found that only 2% of psychologists expressed the belief that extrasensory perception was an impossibility. A far greater number, 34%, indicated that they believed ESP was either an established fact or a likely possibility. The percentage was even higher in other areas of study: 55% of natural scientists, 66% of social scientists (excluding psychologists), and 77% of academics in the arts, humanities, and education believed that ESP research was worthwhile. [Wagner, M. W; Monnet, M. (1979). "Attitudes of college professors toward extrasensory perception". Zetetic Scholar (5): 7–17.]

Given the relatively small size of psi effects statistical analysis is used to indicate the presence (or otherwise) of such effects. The most impressive results have come from meta-analysis of numerous individual studies, with the most convincing of these studies accounting for the "file-drawer" problem (ie non-significant results lie in the file drawer rather than being published).

Despite the weight of evidence supporting the existence of anomalous phenomena a large part of the established scientific community remains skeptical to the existence of the same. This is both understandable (as scientists seek to defend positions from which they have built careers) and in some respects positive (skepticism assists in the uncloaking of the inevitable fraudulent cases).

Perhaps there will never be absolute scientific proof of the paranormal, since the paranormal lies outside the range of events accessible to science. However this author remains optimistic that the already overwhelming and continually mounting scientific evidence will eventually at least force the establishment to admit that "something" strange is going on.

Why is Parapsychology Important?

If they exist, paranormal effects in the material world are both tiny and inconsistent. So why should we bother studying them at all? Since we exist in a material world most of us tend to focus our attention 100% upon the material world right up until bodily death.

But what if there were something more than the material world we currently inhabit, and we knew - or strongly suspected - its reality? What if we were something more than the physical bodies we currently perceive as being ourselves? Wouldn't that alter our perspective on the experience we call life? Wouldn't it make us contemplate our reason for being beyond the pursut of short-lived pleasure? Wouldn't it cause us to live our lives a little more purposefully? Ultimately, if parapsychology succeeds in (its very difficult endeavor) of verifying what it studies it, wouldn't it achieve all these things? And wouldn't that make it the most valuable area of human inquiry?

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Parapsychology".