Some people claim to have “the powers”, from ESP to PK to precognition. But science sees them all as deluded. Has anyone come across irrefutable proof either way?
You’ll find that on this issue, both the population at large and the scientific world are neatly divided into “skeptics” and “believers”, and within each group there’ll be lots of subgroups too. The skeptics will generally be filled with scorn not just for the believers or the concept itself, but especially for the presumed fake claims of psychic abilities. The believers, while not generally quite as aggressive against their opposition, also do their best to demonstrate the credibility of their claims. And the impassioned argument rages on.
Proving psychic abilities under controlled, rigorously scientific conditions, is difficult to say the least. The skeptics use this fact as proof positive that Psi abilities are fake, while the proponents argue that these rigorous conditions are antithetical to the proper functioning of these, and thus invalid.
But is there really NO proof? Interestingly, there actually is quite a bit of evidence, some of it achievable under rigorous scientific procedures. This evidence, however, irrespective of the validity of scientific procedures used to achieve it continues to be dismissed as anecdotal or flawed. Scientists who stick to their guns and continue proving the reality of the various forms of ESP, are marginalized and scorned – irrespective of their past academic achievements or the rigor of their testing procedures.
And yet, in spite of the likes of magician James Randi who’s offered a $1 million prize for “proof” of ESP (a challenge which is an eternally moving target, because it is Randi who determines what constitutes proof, not to mention the fact that he also hasn’t satisfactorily shown that he actually has the million bucks to spare!), both positions continue to stick to their guns.
So here’s the situation: scientific objectivity is clearly all too easily shoved aside and goal-posts routinely moved, each time a successful trial is conducted; while psychics – the supposedly real ones as well as the delusional ones or deliberately fake ones – continue to proliferate in greater numbers than before!
Is it possible to untangle this?
- There is actually ample scientific proof available that psychic abilities DO exist. Among the most convincing “conventional scientific” experiments are those conducted by Dr Rupert Sheldrake, and there is in fact a growing number of scientists who support him and validate his findings. At this stage in the game, the argument about those “irrefutable” findings has shifted to a definitional one along the lines of “sure, we can see that some some animals or people appear to receive signals in an unusual way, but is it REALLY a psychic ability?” In other words, goal-posts are always guaranteed to be moved to accommodate the doubters’ bias.
- There is also anecdotal evidence (which is NOT to say false, only that it’s not officially acknowledged or easily provable) of government programs all over the world, but most especially in the US and Russia (for example the so-called “remote viewing” program allegedly developed at the CIA) that not only is scientific validity of these phenomena recognized by high-ups in government and secret services, but it’s also routinely being utilized! And as always, when looking at it from the outside, you can either believe or disbelieve, basing on your bias and your available data.
- There is absolutely NO DOUBT that there are huge numbers of “delusional” or “deliberately cheating” cases out there. In fact, most of us have come across those and it’s those cases above all others which contribute to giving ESP a bad name. Many successful demonstrations CAN be (and often are) shown to be hoaxes, or to have alternative explanations.
Personally, I’m 99% with the scientific view that MOST of the psychic phenomena and claims we usually talk about are indeed false. But I do NOT agree, either on evidenciary or logical grounds, that the phenomenon doesn’t exist at all. We can quibble about its usefulness, actual power, accuracy or nature, but the evidence in support of its existence is – quite frankly – incontrovertible. Continuing to deny it is unscientific and clearly biased, and arguments pùt forth against it are often logically flawed or incomplete. Given that the default mainstream bias is always against it, there is no amount of proof that can change the closed minds. But the research into these phenonena must continue regardless.
Having said that, I would caution anyone to take the usual psychic claims with more than a grain of salt. The possibility of being duped by the unscrupulous as well as the naively-gullible must always be considered, and the chance of being misled by blindly believing in these things is great. So, keep your mind OPEN… but not so open that your brain falls out!
- Science Delusion, banned TedX talk by Dr Rupert Sheldrake
- Richard Dawkins and Derren Brown on Psychic Fakes