Parapsychology, Spirituality, and the Battle Against Scientific Materialism — Conclusion
This follows on from an introduction, where I outlined the reasons why I think an acceptance of parapsychology is so important in modern times, part 1 where I described my personal experiences of ESP, part 2 where I gave a history of parapsychology research since the 1880s, part 3 where I discussed the question of why we as adults do not experience ESP more frequently, part 4 where I discussed the possibility of ESP in animals, part 5 where I discussed plants in relation to parapsychology, and part 6 where I discussed unconscious telepathy, synchronicity, and omens.
Ideas like those in part 6 are obviously too frightening for devoted scientific materialists even to contemplate. However, as I’ve tried to indicate earlier in the series, more normal and conscious forms of ESP have been demonstrated regularly in laboratories over a long period. This does not prevent some hardened sceptics from continuing to claim that ESP and parapsychology are unproven, impossible, and that anyone who believes in them are foolish and deluded.
One especially noteworthy organisation is CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Claims of the Paranormal, now renamed as The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and its associated publishing company Prometheus Books. Of the seven books of which I’m aware, whose exclusive purpose is to debunk claims of parapsychology and the paranormal, six of them are published by Prometheus. The quality of the arguments is usually poor compared to those of advocates of parapsychology. What is it exactly that they are afraid of? Why does a belief in telepathy and clairvoyance make them feel so uncomfortable and hostile?
By ‘scientific inquiry’ CSICOP does not actually mean an objective examination of the evidence, and a search for truth. They describe themselves as “a small scientific and educational organization advocating science and reason”. This seems to be something of a euphemism, however, for it might be more accurate to describe their attitude as ‘pathologically materialist’.
I’ll take a brief look at these seven books. On the whole they are written by people I’m guessing you haven’t heard of. I’ll try you with some names: Milton Rothman, Charles Hansel, David Marks and Richard Kamman. Perhaps slightly better known, but still relatively obscure, is the physicist Victor Stenger. You may have heard of Richard Wiseman, who sometimes appears on (British) TV. He wrote the one book not published by Prometheus, Paranormality: Why We Believe the Impossible, published by Pan Books.
Susan Blackmore is a name well known in parapsychological circles. She once had an out-of-body experience, after which she became very interested in parapsychology, and did much research. Having failed to obtain any meaningful results, she decided that, after all, there was no such thing, and then went over to the dark side. She has been a council member of CSICOP.
One name you might have expected to appear would be Richard Dawkins. He has been a fellow of CSICOP, and was the winner of their “In Praise Of Reason” Award in 1992. He did, however, get quoted on the front cover of Wiseman’s book, heaping praise on it, and wrote the foreword to one of Susan Blackmore’s books. Also, in collusion with Channel 4 television, he did once attempt to ambush the spiritually oriented biologist Rupert Sheldrake when making a series called Enemies of Reason. This was in 2006, when he was still claiming that there was no evidence for ESP.
And finally, a name you may have heard, the late James Randi, also known as the Amazing James Randi. This refers to his skill as a magician and escapologist but not, I would argue, as a psychic investigator. The title of his book gives an indication as to the quality of debate we sometimes encounter: FLIM-FLAM: Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions.
On that humorous and slightly ridiculous note I’ll conclude this series.
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