Mad Science Becoming Respectable? It's More Likely Than You Think...

Mad Science Becoming Respectable? It’s More Likely Than You Think…

pscienceMainstream scientific interest in psi, and related topics, are gaining traction. A recent article by Etzel Cardeña at Frontiers In Human Neuroscience, with the help of 100 signatories, calls upon the scienfic community for open discussion on all aspects of consciousness, portending a serious challenge to reductionist materialists contending the mind is the brain. A mere epiphenomena of gray matter regulating the biological processes of life.

Frontiers In Human Neuroscience isn’t some fly-by-night publication established to promote alternative theories, I’m looking at you Melba Ketchum. They’ve been around since 2007, and in 2013 the Nature Publishing Group purchased a controlling stake in Frontiers’s journals.

With the rise of rabid, reddit pseudoskeptics, jumping on the bandwagon headed by Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, the late Christopher Hitchens, James Randi, among many others maintaining alternative models of consciousness are non-falsifiable.

Etzel makes a strong case for a silent majority supporting inquiry into topics labelled as ‘woo’, like ESP, precognition, and remote viewing.


Research on parapsychological phenomena (psi) is being carried out in various accredited universities and research centers throughout the world by academics in different disciplines trained in the scientific method (e.g., circa 80 Ph.D.s have been awarded in psi-related topics in the UK in recent years). This research has continued for over a century despite the taboo against investigating the topic, almost complete lack of funding, and professional and personal attacks. The Parapsychological Association has been an affiliate of the AAAS since 1969, and more than 20 Nobel prizewinners and many other eminent scientists have supported the study of psi or even conducted research themselves.

Despite a negative attitude by some editors and reviewers, results supporting the validity of psi phenomena continue to be published in peer-reviewed, academic journals in relevant fields, from psychology to neuroscience to physics e.g., (Storm et al., 2010; Bem, 2011; Hameroff, 2012; Radin et al., 2012).

Increased experimental controls have not eliminated or even decreased significant support for the existence of psi phenomena, as suggested by various recent meta-analyses.

These meta-analyses and other studies suggest that data supportive of psi phenomena cannot reasonably be accounted for by chance or by a “file drawer” effect. Indeed, contrary to most disciplines, parapsychology journals have for decades encouraged publication of null results and of papers critical of a psi explanation. A psi trial registry has been established to improve research practice.

The effect sizes reported in most meta-analyses are relatively small and the phenomena cannot be produced on demand, but this also characterizes various phenomena found in other disciplines that focus on complex human behavior and performance such as psychology and medicine.

Although more conclusive explanations for psi phenomena await further theoretical and research developments, 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 systems.1

Cardeña’s not alone when it comes to demanding science clean house, with a recent article at Edge asking “What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement?” Some of the topics up for review are intriguing.

For example, Frank Wilczek’s suggestion to retire the distinction between mind and matter.

We have learned what matter is. And our new matter, informed over the course of the twentieth century by the revelations of relativity, quantum mechanics, and transformational symmetry, is far stranger and richer in potential than anything our ancestors could have dreamed of. It can dance in intricate, dynamic patterns; it can exploit environmental resources, to self-organize and export entropy.

Douglas Rushkoff argues that atheism shouldn’t be a prerequisite for being a scientist.

By starting with Godlessness as a foundational principle of scientific reasoning, we make ourselves unnecessarily resistant to the novelty of human consciousness, its potential continuity over time, and the possibility that it has purpose.

Maybe the next time TED decides to have someone discuss maverick science, they won’t be so quick to bow to pressure and marginalize people like Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock.


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