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Who Cares About Parapsychology?

Why Parapsychology Matters in Academia, Science, and Society

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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, are not so skeptical — they tend to believe that these phenomena are real.

Because professors, like most scientists, are disdainful about these claims due to the lack of reliable, experimental support for them, they do not cover parapsychological topics in their classes. In this, they are doing their students a disservice. Such classes would be a good format for introducing students to skeptical thinking and critical analysis. Moreover, it would get students into the habit of questioning and critiquing their own beliefs — something which few people are adept at.

It is also important to critique parapsychological claims because believers are active in promoting them to the rest of the public. Books which promote the parapsychology and the paranormal in general have a huge audience and even publishers dedicated to just such projects. Books which are critical and skeptical, however, have a history of being passed over and rejected.

Paranormal beliefs are already out there, and supporters cannot expect skeptics to remain silent or simply ignore them. In the marketplace of ideas, both believers and nonbelievers deserve to be heard. If parapsychological claims are valid, then the critiques of skeptics will only end up making the arguments of believers stronger and more sound. Critique should be welcomed, not avoided.

At the same time, if there is no scientific merit to parapsychology, that needs to be made evident as well. Only with open review and critique will people be able to see if it is indeed true that this particular emperor wears no clothes. It should come as no surprise that what we need is for parapsychology to be held to the same strict, exacting standards that everything else in science is already subjected to.

Why does parapsychology matter? It matters because people believe in it — not idly or indifferently, but actively and enthusiastically. People think of subjects within parapsychology as having every bit of the authority and power as anything else in science today. They are convinced of the ability of special individuals to move objects with their minds, to see the future, to talk to the dead, or find hidden treasure.

Obviously, if any of this were the least bit true it would have a profound impact on how we live our lives. Why use machinery to move objects when we could employ someone to do it with the power of their minds? Why put soldiers in danger seeking out enemies in houses when a psychic can let them know where the enemy is located? Why employ geologists with years of eduction to find oil or gold when someone can do it with a bent branch?

Of course, we don’t normally do these things — those with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of soldiers or locating new oil reserves would never be trusted again if they tried such methods. This alone should be enough to get people thinking that perhaps the claims of parapsychology aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Parapsychology matters because if any of it is true, it would fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe as well as how we live our lives. Everything would change, and on a very basic level. If it is not true, however, many people have wasted their lives in pursuit of a fairy tale and others are being taken for a ride by charlatans out to make some easy money. People believe in parapsychology. If they are right then that needs to be proven; but if they are wrong, they need to be made aware of it.

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