1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email

Parapsychology & Psychic Phenomena: Science, Pseudoscience, Religion?

Hyman's Categorical Imperative states: Do not try to explain something until you are sure that there is something to be explained. (Quoted from Ray Hyman) Unfortunately, parapsychology appears to be one massive violation of what Hyman advises. There is no particularly good reason to think that there is anything “paranormal” to explain in the first place, much less that parapsychology has anything substantive to offer in terms of explaining human experiences or the universe.

What is Parapsychology? Introduction to Parapsychology, Psychics, and the...
Defining parapsychology is not an easy task. The researchers who would have been expected to clarify things have actually contributed to the problem. Most definitions of parapsychology tend to emphasize negative aspects, defining it according to what it is not rather than what it is. The absence of a substantive definition is one of the things...

Who Cares About Parapsychology? Why Parapsychology Matters in Academia,...
Most psychology professors, people who work in a field related to parapsychology, are quite skeptical of psychic phenomena. The same is true of biologists, physicists, and others involved in the physical sciences. They do not put much credence in the claims of things like telepathy, clairvoyance or telekinesis. Many psychology students, however,...

Does Parapsychology Do Any Harm? Comfortable Beliefs vs. Uncomfortable Truths
A common objection to critiques of psychic and parapsychological claims is that neither research into them nor belief in them really does anyone any harm - does it? After all, if we are talking about unlikely, but ultimately harmless, beliefs, then why bother making a fuss? Let people continue with their notions about telepathy if it makes them...

Parapsychology and Spiritualism: Religious Origins of Parapsychology
Parapsychology tries to portray itself as a science, but it has more resemblance to religion than to physics or traditional psychology. The relationship between parapsychology and religion began right at the start because the field grew out of spiritualism, a 19th century religious movement. It continues today through parallels in the manner...

Spiritualism & Traditional Religion - The Relationship Between Religion &...
It is true that spiritualism presumably provided proof of the sorts of claims made by traditional Christianity for centuries, but this does not meant that Christian leaders eagerly welcomed it. Quite the contrary, actually - although a few certainly involved themselves with the spiritualist movements, this was often as a result of attempting to...

Religion and the Will to Believe: Spiritualism as a Response to Science &...
Parapsychology and the interest in spiritualism and various alleged psychic powers did not develop out of thin air. They are all, at least in large part, the product of religious hopes and aspirations - but more specifically, religious hopes and aspirations which have become disconnected from the anchors of traditional religious dogma and church...

Parapsychology and Religion: Self-Deception & Denial in Defense of...
The link between parapsychology and religion helps explain people’s incredible will to believe psychic claims. These beliefs are very often critic-proof - no matter what sorts of critiques are offered, people will continue to believe. It doesn’t matter if the alleged psychic is shown to be using tricks or even if they admit, openly, to using...

Parapsychology & Science: Why Do Some Treat Parapsychology as a Science?
Is parapsychology a science, a pseudoscience, or something else? Supporters and practitioners insist that parapsychology is a valid scientific enterprise, but those involved in more mainstream fields often have little more than derision for it. Parapsychologists act like they are involved in science, but they exhibit few of the standard...

Parapsychology and Scientific Experiments - The Relationship Between...
It is a very important aspect of the scientific method that any experiments be, in principle, replicable by other people. No matter what you are investigating, in order for your research to be scientific, some other person must be able to do the same experiments to see if she comes up with the same results.

Falsifiability: Is Parapsychology Falsifiable?
Scientific theories are falsifiable, and one of the characteristics of pseudoscience is that pseudoscientific theories are not falsifiable, either in principle or in fact. The principle of falsifiability or falsification was originally conceived of by Sir Karl Popper, an Austrian-born, British philosopher of science.

Controlled, Repeatable Experiments: Why Parapsychology is a Pseudoscience,...
These are two important factors of genuine science: controls and repeatability. Scientific theories are based upon and lead to controlled, repeatable experiments whereas pseudoscientific theories are based upon and lead to experiments which are not controlled and/or are not repeatable.

Dynamic Theories: Why Parapsychology is a Pseudoscience, Not a Science
In science, theories are dynamic - this means that they are susceptible to change due to new information, either from experiments done for the theory in question or done in other fields. This is because in science, theories are supposed to be driven by data rather than the other way around. The appearance of new data or ideas forces theories to...

Claims Commensurate with Evidence: Why Parapsychology is a Pseudoscience, Not...
In science, claims made are verifiable in principle and then, when it comes to experiments, in fact. In pseudoscience, there are extraordinary claims made for which incredibly insufficient evidence is provided. What’s important to understand here is that scientists are supposed to avoid making dramatic claims when only meager evidence is available.

Argument from Ignorance: Why Parapsychology is a Pseudoscience, Not a Science
In genuine science, no one argues that a lack of alternative explanations is by itself a sufficient reason to consider their theories correct and accurate. In pseudoscience, such arguments are made all of the time. In logic, this is commonly referred to as an argument from ignorance: something is claimed to be true merely because it hasn’t been...

Lack of Theoretical Foundation: Why Parapsychology is a Pseudoscience, Not a...
Although science is driven by data, strong theoretical foundations must exist in order to explain that data. Otherwise, all we have is a collection of possibly related facts, and what good is that? Science isn’t merely an attempt to collect data, but rather an effort to explain that data in an accurate, coherent, and useful manner.

Parapsychological Research: Testing Psychics and Parapsychology
Parapsychology tries to distinguish itself from run-of-the-mill psychics and reports of paranormal phenomena by its emphasis on science. If parapsychology is to make any of it respectable, it is through rigorous scientific testing. This is complicated by the fact that most belief in paranormal phenomena is based upon anecdotes and personal...

Parapsychology & Skepticism: How and Why Skeptics Critique the Claims of...
Skepticism is a fundamental aspect of science - without it, science would not be able to function properly. The skepticism is not, however, unlimited. It is not a question of doubting every single premise and proposition equally. Proper skepticism is contextual, selective, and constructive. Proper skepticism focuses in particular on those which...

Scientists vs. Illusionists: How and Why Parapsychology Tricks Scientists,...
Much research into the existence of psychic phenomena utilizes a false dilemma as a fundamental premise. Stated simply, it is alleged that those who have researched these phenomena and have ended up believing the events to be examples of genuine psychic phenomena, unexplainable by normal scientific methods and laws, must either be correct or...

Burden of Proof and Fraud: People who Make Paranormal Claims Must Prove Those...
One problem with the claims made by parapsychologists is that many fail to understand the nature of the burden of proof. There are those who assert that the real burden lies with skeptics - those who disbelieve in psychic phenomena are obligated to prove that they do not or cannot exist. This, however, is backwards.

Belief & Coincidence
One of the reasons people believe in psychic phenomena is not because of experiments which purport to show something statistically significant - these results only serve to bolster beliefs which already exist. People’s beliefs are instead based upon their own personal experiences. The more such experiences a person has, the stronger their belief will be.

Eyewitness Testimony and Memory: Human Memory is Unreliable and so is...
Reports from eyewitnesses play an important role in the development and propagation of both religious and paranormal beliefs. People are often ready to believe the personal reports of what others say that they have seen and experienced. Thus, it is important to consider just how reliable people’s memory and their testimony can be.

Our Malleable Memory: Human Memory is Far More Malleable Than People Realize
A good example of how malleable memory can be comes from Psychologist Ulric Neisser, a professor at Emory University in January 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger blew up just after lift off. The day after the disaster, he conducted an experiment in which he gave students in his freshman psychology class a questionnaire about the explosion.

Psychic Defense
Although it doesn’t seem to occur as often as psychic detectives, there have been cases where psychics have helped public defense lawyers. One famous example occurred in Watkins Glen, near Binghamton, New York, when psychic Philip Jordan was retained by the city to measure the 'aura' of prospective jurors in order to determine if they would be suitable for that particular case. The Public Defender did not object. The judges did not object.

Psychic Detectives: Parapsychology and the Law, When the Police Use Psychics
There is a long history of people trying to solve crimes by appealing to supernatural and spiritual powers. That continues today with 'psychic detectives,' people who claim to be able to use psychic powers to discover the location of missing people or the perpetrators of certain crimes. Although psychic detectives make dramatic claims on behalf...

Major Sources
Bibliographic list of major sources used when writing articles on parapsychology, psychics, and the paranormal.

Discuss in my forum

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.