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Evidence for Psychic Phenomena

26 May 2014, 07:41

Not too long ago, I wouldn't have believed in anything 'supernatural' even if it struck me with a thunderbolt and called itself Zeus. Yet one summer's evening, I was hopping from website to website looking for anything interesting to pass the time, when I happened upon this video:

It's a talk given by Dean Radin, the senior scientist at IONS, the institute of noetic sciences in California, on the the evidence for psychic phenomena and the cultural taboo that has come to be associated with it. The talk shocked me, because here was a group of scientists who had empirically demonstrated the existence of psychic abilities. Period.

At first I thought to myself no ... there must have been methodological errors in their studies. Obviously I had just shown prejudice, so I watched the video again, read everything I could find on this area of research and the scientists involved. As it turns out, because there is such a strong taboo against the idea of a psychic anything, these scientists are especially careful not to make mistakes and are as rigorous as they possibly can be, because their work is constantly under intense scrutiny, and any flaws in their methods would result in a lot of public humiliation. Then I thought to myself no ... they must have misinterpreted the data. But once again, upon reading more, their analyses appeared sound and I couldn't find anything that suggests misinterpretation. (I know that I'm not an expert on statistical analysis, so I had to trust the analysis by the experts they got to crunch the numbers). Then I thought to myself no ... their studies haven't been replicated independently. Yet after a bit of research, I found that these studies have been replicated in laboratories all over the world (not in Africa though). Then I thought to myself no ... I just bloody well reject it!

Obviously something had changed in me, and I soon adopted the belief in psi. If you just raised an eyebrow, check out the site below. It's a collection of downloadable peer-reviewed journal articles on psi that Dean Radin put together. If you've got any criticism, please take the time to read through those studies first. Seriously. I might not speak to you again if you don't. Ever.

Before we go crazy here, a few points should be made:

The psychic abilities in question don't look anything like the movies. In fact they are weak, with very small effect sizes.

We are all aware of charlatans and frauds (or we should be at least) that are mostly responsible for the taboo against psi, and we should continue to be vigilant against them.

We are all aware of various forms of self-deception, like delusion, wishful thinking, embellishment, hallucination, (or we should be at least), and we should continue to be vigilant against them too.

The scientists who study these phenomena constantly make the point that if psychic abilities are real, then they must be a natural extension of the mind's capacities, and therefore they are not supernatural, unnatural, abnormal, supernormal, paranormal, or any other fantastic word typically used to describe them.

The scientists who study these phenomena also tend to assert that these abilities probably developed for the sake of survival. Think scenarios such as knowing when a predator is staring at you, or a mother who decides to move a baby to another room right before the room catches fire, etc.

Someone is bound to mention the $1M prize by hardened skeptic James Randi. Dean Radin and several other scientists have made the point that a study that would fulfill Randi's requirements to win the prize would cost well over $1M, while research grants for anything in this area is very difficult to come by. No one seems to care though.

Lastly, sure enough, after some messing around, I've had a few psychic experiences after all this happened. Have you had any such experiences? What are your thoughts on the matter?

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