A Movement Building
A Philosopher Tackles Survival

An Appeal for Seriousness

Here’s a list of reasons why scientists should wake up and take psi research seriously. Worth a look, as much for the rollcall of signatories – around 90 (mainly) senior scientists – as for the content. By chance, I was in an SPR meeting yesterday that included four of them (Broughton, Carr, Gauld and Poynton), and one sent me the link.

I’ve been groping towards a more or less complete statement, something that covers all the main points and can be served up in a short space. This article, by Etzel Cardeña, is about the best I’ve seen. It’s succinct, yet seems to cover all the bases. It will be a great reference to have in public debates, not least those on Wikipedia talk pages, if the guardians of scientific propriety will allow it. I’d be interested to know if readers think anything could be added, ideally without subtracting from its admirable brevity.

Most scientists and academics aren’t naturally good at PR, which requires points to be put across in a way that readers or viewers can quickly grasp. (In parapsychology, alas, those that are good at it, like Richard Wiseman and Chris French, tend to be those playing for the opposition.) Some are good at popularising their subjects in books, but that’s not the same as having media skills. So it’s encouraging to come across a coordinated effort like this. Perhaps we’ll start seeing more like it.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

That's a very interesting short article and a very interesting list of signatories.

6) Although more conclusive explanations for psi phenomena await further theoretical and research development, they do not prima facie violate known laws of nature given modern theories in physics that transcend classical restrictions of time and space, combined with growing evidence for quantum effects in biological systems23-24.

Not sure about that, what about macro pk events and levitation?

Intrigued by some of the signatories - Philip "Stanford Experiment" Zimbardo, and Raymond Tallis, the British philosopher and neuroscientist. Tallis wrote a book on why neuroscience cannot fully explain human consciousness.

Tallis is a very,very smart guy - he's a poet as well as a scientist, and he's highly critical of what he calls 'Darwinitis' - the procrustean attempts by Darwinist ideologues to explain the whole universe, including all of humanity's inner experience, via Darwinian mechanisms.

Interestingly, he's also an atheist. For Professor Tallis, the possible reality of psi clearly doesn't conflict with his atheism - which is, as far as I have seen, definitely not the case for most members of the Organised Skeptic community. Judging by the extremely hostile reactions of the majority of skeptics towards any evidence supportive of psi, the latter appears to be a greatly-feared entity whose proven existence might open a terrifying, worldview-shattering doorway into the divine.

'doorway into the divine' - I like that :)

I too was struck by Tallis subscribing to this. I enjoyed his book about neuromania, but didn't find any reference to anything psi-related in it, and he is dismissive of quantum explanations of consciousness that psi advocates tend to favour.

I wonder if he sees supporting psi-research as another way to stick it to scientific orthodoxy, or whether he really does have some undeclared interest, in which case it might be one of the reasons why he rejects materialist views of consciousness.

For what it's worth, I've never regarded psi related stuff as being genuine phenomena (or even the possibility of there being an afterlife) as being, necessarily dependent on a theistic worldview. And I'm an NFSH accredited healer. I've endured occasional stick from some quarters about that attitude though - (you may have guessed) from both skeptics and believers. I'm simply not bothered about it. It's a non-issue for me. And I wouldn't even describe myself as 'agnostic' - I really just don't care.

When healing, it feels (if I think about it) like I'm 'tuned in' to something. But, if that something is a higher/wider sentient being, I don't get the sense that it's bothered about me not being bothered.

I came to the conclusion long ago that you can only 'believe' in your own view of god (atheists have one, BTW - that god doesn't exist, that counts), or a combination of your own and someone else's. If that's what gets some people through the night, then, great!

Here's a review of Tallis:

This list of prestigious signatories reminds me of a quote from Nancy Evans-Bush, when she was musing about the Eben Alexander hit piece in Esquire magazine. "The trap is that he [Alexander] has shared, like his ardent NDE followers, in the passionate but naive dream that if only a person of science claims truth for NDEs, a paradigm will shift and the world will believe."
The personal experience of a single neuroscientist with impeccable credentials, combined with convincing data could not overcome the seven fundamental forces of the materialistic scientist's Universe (electromagnetism, gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, power, prestige and funding - the greatest of these is funding).
The reality of standing up to the established system is brutal. For instance, privately, the key doctor tending to Alexander while he was hospitalized came to his defense, but she publicly washed her hands of the whole situation. She has a life, and bills to pay.

Success in pressing the science establishment to take paranormal research seriously can be accomplished, but keep in mind that progress will be a long, hard slog. If the materialist mainstream senses a genuine threat to their cherished paradigm, things will get bloody (metaphorically speaking).
Just look at how viscous the personal and professional attacks can get over well intended and polite "threats" like Dean Radin, Rupert Sheldrake and Daryl Bem.
A coordinated, civil, yet aggressive approach is needed. More offense, less defense. Kind of like the Michael Prescott blog approach, but on a larger scale. Put the information out there, present a reasonable case to counter reasonable critiques, but don't waste time arguing with agenda-driven trolls.

We can always tell ourselves that the journey is more important than the destination, or some pithy truisms like that, but the real good news is that the ball is already rolling and gaining momentum with the advent of the information technology age. At least for the moment, nothing can stop the dissemination of good information, but the trick is to get past the noise.
A well organized, solidly credentialed front can do that. How that can be accomplished is beyond my pay grade, but if enough respected, yet wounded scientists get pissed off enough, it can be done.

For myself, I would get behind and contribute to such an effort, because I'm more than ready to kick some prima donna materialist ass (metaphorically speaking, of course). :-)

"For myself, I would get behind and contribute to such an effort, because I'm more than ready to kick some prima donna materialist ass (metaphorically speaking, of course). :-)"


Well said RabbitDawg. Agree with every word.

The ball is rolling - at last.

RabbitDawg, Strictly the so-called Esquire "hit piece" on Dr. Eben Alexander was literally taken to pieces by Robert Mays, see here


Hi everyone!

Sort of long-time reader, but first-time poster.
I came across this video a while ago on YouTube which I think relates back to this post. It talks about the taboos in science and Dean Radin, then scoffs off consciousness and psychic phenomenon as irrelevant to the topic. The video isn't recent but the comments are and there's a small back and forth going on about supernatural phenomenon, which, like most YouTube comment "discussions," contains little to no facts. Feel free to jump in with some if you want.

Now, I like and subscribe to this channel. I love the science content but stuff like that always gets in the way. It's a constant problem in the YouTube science community, much like the academic science community. A good example would be this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixQbCXLUUj8
where, halfway through, it dismisses the psychic staring effect... and then links a wikipedia article as support. The channel in question has over 6 MILLION subscribers and this is the content they're sharing to them. That's a lot of materialist ass, RabbitDawg, you better bring your facts.

Also, thanks for the link Llewellyn!

Hi Natasha

The trollery of which you speak is only organised skeptics applying the methods they used from the movement-proper’s inception in the 1970s to the online medium. I’m referring to the letter writing campaigns: to the media (on occasions anything remotely sympathetic was said about the paranormal without a ‘skeptic’ there to comment), or university authorities (if a sympathetic parapsychologist, or scientist from another field, had been invited to lecture about psi related issues) etc.

Given that CSICOP (sorry, CSI) has had a ‘Council for Media Integrity’ for many years, and the Editorial Board of ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ was even prepared to publish an article (in 1991) about how to infiltrate ‘paranormalist’ groups in order to disrupt them, (that is now included on the syllabus for a program to educate the young about ‘Pseudoscience and Nonsense’), we really shouldn’t be too surprised at the present situation. It has been building for a very long time.

We see the all too familiar (to me and other long time observers of this) aggressive rhetoric and associated (unselfconsciously delivered) naff catch-phrases on YouTube, online book ‘reviews’, Wikipedia etc.

The style ranges from patronisingly polite, but creatively ill-informed; to extremely impolite, and merely ill-informed (and dense, in a ‘science is cool, way to go dude’ Bill and Ted, sort of way).

I think that RabbitDawg may have been referring to kicking ‘…some prima donna materialist ass’ rather higher up the skeptic troll hierarchy than the forum/blog comments etc. world. And I take his point about not feeding the lower species of skeptic troll. However, I do feel that the contributions of some in that regard (Ben Steigmann, for example) are extremely valuable in that they show people that there is a counter-argument out there, and it also exposes the aforementioned ill-informedness.

Incidentally, the article I referred to earlier is ‘Carrying the War into the Never-Never Land of Psi’, Part I (by Samuel T. Gill). In Skeptical Inquirer, 15:pp.269-273 and Part II in 15:pp.276-281.

It is cited here: -


Steve and Rabbitdawg: I would be right on board with supporters of paranormal research taking a firmer stance than they have so far and would do my best to support such an effort. There comes a point when you have to start standing up to bullies (which is what a lot of the aggressive sceptics are.)

It's interesting that outfits such as CSI considering infiltrating paranormal groups in order to work against them. I've been wondering if it might be useful to the pro-psi cause to put some moles of their own into sceptic groups - not to disrupt the workings of the groups themselves, but to spy on them and report on any wrongdoing that might crop up.

I'm not totally sure it would the best idea, because it does feel rather malicious to do that, but some sceptics are clearly prepared to encourage that sort of behaviour. I think people on the pro-psi side of the debate are in the tight spot of trying to set a balance between standing up to bullying behaviour but trying to avoid using the methods of the aggressive sceptics. Perhaps that has been putting them at a disadvantage.

That's an interesting idea, Michelle. I've often thought about attending a 'Skeptics in the Pub' event for a laugh. The only reason I haven't is that a) I don't usually have the time, and b) I'm not over fond of pubs - even if I'm in good company and don't have to stay in there for more than an hour ;)

Personally, I don't think I'd favour being underhand about it, though. I don't feel that is necessary and I have difficulty in imagining a situation where it would be.

Your comments about bullying really get to one of the central aspects of this though. I've had to deal with bullying in several professional contexts and I've occasionally played a part in having bullies released back into the wild from places where I've worked. An understanding of the psychology of bullying, in my view, needs to be to the fore in any organised response.

My "kicking ass" is really more like "tired of this bullsh*t and ain't gonna take it anymore" assertive passive aggression. The target isn't committed skeptics. Dawkins, Randi and the like are too emotionally and financially invested in their paradigms to engage in a productive discussion. When they can't win with reason or evidence, they resort to insults and rude over-talking; the Bill O'Reilly's of the reductionist materialist worldview.
No, the audience I envision are high school and college students, homemakers, professionals and everyday working (or wish they were working :-) people.

What I envision is an organization of respected scientists, researchers and journalists with a well constructed website, and a media department that could issue press releases. The researchers and scientists could weigh in on the details, and the writer/journalist division could create the final product for the media.
It would have to be a somewhat closed system in order to avoid tipping into the real fringe (no politics or 9/11 conspiracies, please! Just paranormal and spirituality related subjects).

Think: Dean Radin and/or Rupert Sheldrake come out with a mind-numbing statistical analysis, then Robert McLuhan and/or Greg Taylor make it understandable and interesting for the public at large. This is an oversimplified example, because it uses people I am familiar with to make my point, but it illustrates the idea.

"What I envision is an organization of respected scientists, researchers and journalists with a well constructed website, and a media department that could issue press releases. The researchers and scientists could weigh in on the details, and the writer/journalist division could create the final product for the media. "

Oddly, that's, pretty much, what I was thinking too, RD.

Off topic, but I thought you guys might be interested in this:


Jerry Coyne is going after Rupert Sheldrake again. Sheldrake is scheduled to give a talk at a public school in England and Sheldrake and his followers are going to try to get it cancelled.

I suggest those who support Sheldrake write to the school and encourage them to stand by their decision to have Sheldrake speak.

Whoa - just noticed my mistake!

COYNE and his followers are going to try to get the talk cancelled. Not Sheldrake, obviously!

Noted - thanks Michelle.

The comments to this entry are closed.