Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Support for Parapsychological Research in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience

Last week, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, an open-access academic publisher and research network, published an opinion article titled "A call for an open, informed study of all aspects of consciousness", which calls attention to research on parapsychological topics, such as telepathy and precognition. Organized by Dr. Etzel CardeƱa, a professor of psychology at Lund University, the article stresses the following:

  • Research on parapsychological phenomena is being carried out by academics trained in the scientific method, and has been for some time.
  • Positive results from parapsychological studies have been published in an array of peer-reviewed academic journals.
  • Significant support for the existence of psi phenomena has not disappeared under increased experimental controls.
  • Research practices in the field of parapsychology (i.e. meta-analyses, trial registries, and null results reporting) further discourage the idea that these results are due to chance.
  • Like other studies of complex human behavior in psychology and medicine, the effect sizes are typically small and cannot be reproduced on demand.
  • Developing theories of psi phenomena do not necessarily violate the known laws of nature, especially giving consideration to modern theories in physics, and "growing evidence for quantum effects in biological systems".
The article is then signed by 100 university professors from over 20 different countries.

Other commentaries on the internet have characterized this announcement as "legitimizing" parapsychology and psychical research as a science (here and here).  However, I feel that this characterization falls short. 

Members of the Parapsychological Association (PA) were welcomed into the workshop of science almost fifty years ago when the American Association for the Advancement of Science accepted the PA as an affiliate organization. In recent years, around eighty Ph.D.'s have been awarded for research on psi-related topics in the U.K. alone. And as the article points out, over twenty Nobel prizewinners have supported psi research in some form over the years.  

Despite the negative impression given by some critics, the legitimacy of parapsychology as a science has been established for some time.  This is covered in the article's first point.  The next five points are about research results, and that is what makes the publication of this article a bold, and important moment in parapsychological history.

I encourage you to read the more nuanced version of these tenets, as 100 university professors don't simply come together over a few bullet points - but they do come together.  The article is brief, written in plain language, and access is free:

CardeƱa E (2014) A call for an open, informed study of all aspects of consciousness. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:17. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00017

(cross-posted to Reality Sandwich at: