Why don’t self-proclaimed psychics win the lottery? Warn us of upcoming global catastrophes? Know when their family members and friends are going to die?
In being willing to delve into the world of psi (although a believer as I will assure you we are ALWAYS inhabiting this world, regardless of our “belief” in it), we must be willing to accept the same limitations in psi as we would any other scientific discipline. After all, despite myriad advances in the fields of biology and chemistry — two universally accepted “hard” sciences — there are still such ailments as the “common” cold, cancer, HIV, and a host of other problems that have yet to be fully solved. Hence, even the most adamant skeptic of the existence of psi would be forced to concede that it is only fair to judge psi as a human capacity, not a black and white ability.
Dean Radin, a prominent parapsychologist and Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), also points out that any skeptic’s argument about the burden of proof on scientists studying psi is unjust. The skeptic may ask, “If so many supposedly credible scientists are studying and exploring the existence of this “extra-sensory” capability they call “Psi,” why hasn’t it been universally accepted by now?”
This is a wonderful question involving multiple facets and requiring much attention. One simple response offered by Radin is the all-too unfortunate matter of funding. The funding for cancer research is not only double, not only triple, not only quadruple the funding for Psi research, it is exponentially higher. If the total amount of funding relegated for cancer research were converted to man-hours and compared with the funding for Psi research, the scientists focusing on psi would have a total of several hours to experiment with everything related to psi, while the scientists studying cancer have had several decades. And as of yet the “supposedly credible” scientists working to cure cancer have failed to do so, providing us only with diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment options.
The most academic, sound conclusion is that there is no such thing as perfect science. Just as there is no perfect chemistry, there is no perfect psi — it is all about experimental data. And isn’t it easier to dismiss that which is already on the fringe of acceptance than to be the outlier who seeks the truth? If it were not for Believers, the Skeptics would still be busy assuring us that the world is flat, that gravity is nonexistent, and that the atom is a fictitious product of fantasy.
Back to the initial question at hand — why don’t people calling themselves ‘Psychics’ have it made?
Because psi is a facet of human capability, it is often likened to such gifts as musical ability, artistic ability, or mathematical ability. Each human being has areas of creative ability that can not be uniformly explained in quantitative measure. Just as a Picasso can not be analyzed as more or less artistically sound than a Monet or Cezanne, a person with one strong psi ability, let’s say telepathy (the ability to know the thoughts of another), can not be analyzed as more or less psychic than a person with another strong psi ability, let’s say precognition (the ability to know about an event before its occurrence). The argument becomes not about the strength of ability, but about the way in which to judge various aspects of ability.
Picasso artworks have salient strengths in composition and Monet’s works demonstrate light ingeniously. Both are considered art, but their styles can be infinitely discussed. A telepath and a person capable of precognition are both psychic, but their particular abilities can be infinitely discussed.
Believing that a psychic should successfully guess lottery numbers is as ludicrous as expecting a biologist to predict the precise moment an organism will undergo a genetic mutation. The psychic is limited by myriad elements of expectation, imagination, and intention, just as the biologist may have sampled a million of the same type of organism, only for one outlier to prove the exception. Just because such phenomena may fall under the category of each’s respective area of expertise does not mean that either could successfully pinpoint anything with perfect reliability. Put plainly, psi is as unpredictable and predictable as life itself.
When it comes to matters that skeptics do not wish to believe, everything is a matter of black and white. Either psi is a perfectly understood single process, or the whole concept is nonsense. The Skeptic argues that “Believers” will read every ounce of experimental data related to psi with a skewed perspective of previous belief, while the Believers will argue that Skeptics do the reverse — chalking up any statistically significant experimental data related to psi as either fraudulent, faulty, or demonstrating something other than psi.
As with any science, “normal” or “replicable” refers to a range of probable outcomes based upon previous outcomes of multiple prior experimental observations. Therefore, the enormous advances in psi research over the past hundred years have been as a result of the same level of experimental rigor as any other science. Why else would parapsychology be given a place within such prestigious organizations as NASA, the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), the CIA, the APA (American Psychological Association), and scores of governmental agencies and government-funded scientific organizations throughout the world?
To examine the scientific concept of “Ockham’s razor” for a moment, which is the the more logical explanation:
*A majority of the world’s population is delusional and has experienced what they believe are real connections to what is, in actuality, a non-existent fantasy.
*A majority of the world’s population is logical and has experienced real connections to things that science can not yet explain fully.
While one belief claims a preposterous notion that science has answered all that there is to know in the universe (a claim no scientist can make credibly), the other belief allows for the natural progress and evolution of scientific knowledge which has always shaped our understanding of the world.
And when all else fails, the skeptic will say that believers in psi phenomena are ignorant, delusional, or just plain dumb. Interestingly enough, this concept has actually been studied as well. It has been statistically evidenced that belief in psi is correlated to educational level — in the positive. In other words, the more highly educated a person is, the more likely he or she is to believe that psi phenomena exist and have value.
As any student of parapsychology may posit, to be the kind of skeptic who still claims disbelief in the presence of experimental data (conducted at the same level as any other peer-reviewed scientific experiment) is an exercise in personal bias, not scientific scrutiny. It is for this reason that such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and J.J. Thomson could not deny that there could be no other explanation than psi to account for certain experimental findings. Unlike many in the scientific communities of their time (and any time, unfortunately) these people were forward thinkers, not the narrow-minded herd who will cling to belief in the face of evidence out of personal fear.
For progress to exist, there must be faith. This is why science and religion find themselves in collision much of the time, and why many leading scientists were and are also religious people. There must be open-mindedness at a level to which few scientists dare to go. But after all, belief in scientific phenomena does evolve in phases, to account for the rate at which strong-minded humans are willing to accept ideas outside their accepted construction of reality.
As Russell Targ, a pioneering scientist who aided in laser development and the remote-viewing program at SRI (The Stanford Research Institute) reminds us, Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
And to close, J.J. Thomson, credited with discovering both the electron and isotopes (and winner of the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics) said:
“Telepathy with the dead would present apparently little difficulty when it is admitted as regards the living.”
So the next time a skeptic tells you that no real scientists “buy” this “nonsense” about psi, feel free to tell them that those same crackpots who have given credence to psi have also helped to give rise to our current scientific worldview.
Further reference of parapsychology historical facts: