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October 09, 2013

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I really enjoyed this. It was interesting hearing the different takes on the state of parapsychology. I found myself more at one with Phil Brisk's (not surprising as he's a friend) than Broughton's, the SPR president. While Phil acknowledged that there is a genuine communications issue given that we're in an "ideological war," Broughton's premise seemed to be that level of public attention follows automatically from interestingness of results. I wish I lived in Broughton's world, but I fear I'm actually living in Phil's.

Nice work Rob - makes up slightly for me not being able to be there!

interesting. thanks for the vid, robert !

i liked hearing how many universities offer course work or have depts. of parapsychlogy in the UK.

i think bare bone information like that can do plenty to bolster the public perception of the field. i think most lay people who tend towards the skeptical side of things due to it's accessibility via pod casts and such have no idea if parapsychology is even an actual academic field.

if average people knew parapsychology is an actual field of study performed by scientists in labs, and not by TV ghost hunters, they may be less hesitant to dismiss it out of hand.

the ideological war being won by hard line skeptical essayists/bloggers, etc. may depend on the public perception that psi research is NOT performed by scientists.

if the whole discourse can be steered towards an 'in-fight' of the sciences, with some folks dissing, essentially, their peers in another field, we may eventually witness a turning of the tides.

is it not common knowledge that due to increasing specialization in the sciences, geologists, for example, are not in the habit of making pronouncements regarding research in biology. why would it be then that a philosopher or psychologist would feel privileged to make a comment on another scientific field, in this case, parapsychology ? easy - the public doesn't know it's a scientific field.

all this to say that actual numbers of actual depts in actual universities around the world has to be broadcast, however small. it's crazy that this info cannot be easily dug up.

PSIwiki Rising !

"why would it be then that a philosopher or psychologist would feel privileged to make a comment on another scientific field, in this case, parapsychology ? easy - the public doesn't know it's a scientific field."

Right on the button, Billy!

I enjoyed getting a face and voice attached to the writing I have enjoyed for several years now. Thanks for posting it.

I am also optimistic. I think one of the reasons there isn't more of a buzz around some topics, like near death experiences, mediums etc., in the media is that they are so widely excepted by the public at large. It's not quite like saying, "News flash: water is wet." But I find whenever I bring up the question of ghost, for one example, invariable an interesting discussion, including personal experiences, follows. That wasn't the case ten or twenty years ago, when people rushed to distance themselves.

By one measure, US television is in a golden age of paranormal television. There are so many shows that I don't watch them all. I think we are actually winning the culture war.

I really enjoyed your presentation esp. with the music - gave a sense of going somewhere! I've dipped a little into Dr. David Luke's work (Greenwich Uni.) and find him very interesting. There seems to be quite some work going on in field anthropology in all this. Wondered whether anyone else has noticed this?

Thanks guys, it was fun to do - might do it again some time.

'I've dipped a little into Dr. David Luke's work (Greenwich Uni.) and find him very interesting. There seems to be quite some work going on in field anthropology in all this.'

Yes indeed. The buzz at the conference was that psychedelics research in particular is attracting interest and attention, large crowds at conferences, etc. So there's potentially a bigger audience for psi research - perhaps it just needs to be brought more into the mainstream of consciousness studies, made to seem more relevant.

' buzz at the conference was that psychedelics research in particular is attracting interest and attention, large crowds at conferences, etc '

i've been thinking exactly that.
the psychedelic community, MAPS, etc includes so many science heads ripe/rife with paradigm shattering ideas.

blogs like reality sandwich are PSI allies, as are the artists involved in the visionary art movement. lots of popular steam, there.

allies will gather

Hey Robert, thanks for the reply. Interesting you saw this at the conference.

I haven't commented for a while 'cause I've been hiding under the covers while the psychopaths that run our country (U.S.) held us hostage. Well, now that they've given us a temporary reprieve and we've avoided a total global economic collapse for the moment, I thought I'd peek out and see what I've been missing over at my beloved Paranormalia blog.

What a pleasant surprise! A polished homemade video showing a glimpse behind the scenes at the SPR, complete with a purple haired Gothic-looking paranormal researcher and a walking, talking Robert McLuhan. Robert, seriously - you look much younger than I expected. Your still photo doesn't do you justice.

All in all, I was heartened by the level-headedness of the researchers. Even the Goth lady sounded cheery and sane.
I thought about the difference in tone between this video and say...a typical video of your average Amazing Meeting, and the difference is striking. A lot of asymmetries could be pointed out, but the biggest one to me is ego.
Taking spirituality earnestly requires the sublimation of the ego (to one degree or another), and the SPR folks, like most professional paranormal/spiritual researchers I've seen seemed assertive, yet humble. The JREF types obviously are walking balls of self aggrandizement, which also explains their domination of the Wikipedia editing process.
They have the time and the energy to organize and attack, while us spiritually inclined folks don't seem to have the stomach for the fight. Apparently the food for that stomach is pompous-flavored ego, and we just don't have enough laying around to fuel the necessary aggression needed to win.

Huh. Maybe at some level the Buddhist's are wrong.

"The JREF types obviously are walking balls of self aggrandizement, which also explains their domination of the Wikipedia editing process."

Welcome back RabbitDawg! I think that is a big aspect of it.

On the same theme, though (which maybe belongs on the last post - but, what the heck), I just came across this on the Psi? Sigh blog re Skeptics in relation to their Wiki-fiddling activities: -

"They are characterized by a lack of curiosity and an abundance of free time. Let's face it, when you think that science has already figured out everything important (such as "Is there life after death?"), there isn't much left to do but mess with Wiki from the safety of mom's basement."

When combined with your observation, I think that makes the most concise appraisal of the situation I've seen yet!

PS MickeyD

It would appear that, for the present at least, militant skepticism is still having little effect.

Also, obviously, this has great relevance to Rob's film. Ironically the SPR Wiki page has been one of the victims of skeptic Wiki-fiddling (attempting to remove the list of scientifically illustrious past Presidents etc.).

But it would seem that the need for the SPR is just as great as it was in 1882. I can't think of many other scientific societies that could count five Nobel Prize winners and two British Prime Ministers in its past/current membership (and that's without including some of the most important founders of modern psychology).

And yet the shame is that the vast majority of the people in that survey probably didn't even know that the SPR exists. In recent years it has, perhaps, become a bit inward looking and, despite the fact that it has had notable skeptics in the membership - Wiseman, Blackmore, French being the most obvious examples - it has done little or nothing to counter the misinformation, although many individual members have tried (Rob being an obvious current example).

I don't think militant skepticism will ever make major inroads into the public imagination - too many people have had their own paranormal experiences,both real and imaginary. Unfortunately the skeptics have always been represented in academia by a noisy, bullying minority who have to date made sure that anything vaguely "paranormal" looking doesn't become a respectable object of scientific study or get research funding. The Wiki editing is an extension of this.

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  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

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  • We can always immunize a theory against refutation. There are many such immunizing tactics; and if nothing better occurs to us, we can always deny the objectivity – or even the existence – of the refuting observation. Those intellectuals who are more interested in being right than in learning something interesting but unexpected are by no means rare exceptions. Karl Popper, on the defenders of materialism.

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