The Science of Psychic Powers

A commenter at Pigliucci’s blog offered a link to a collection of scientific research that supports the claim that humans have psychic abilities. Check out the list here.

I chose one article just to get a sense of the quality of the evidence, and I have to say that I wasn’t impressed. The article recounts an experiment where subjects were asked to decide whether they were looking at a real Chinese ideogram or a false one.

Before starting the experiment, participants
were asked about their familiarity with Chinese ideograms.
They were enrolled only if they declared no or almost no
knowledge apart from the capacity to recognize them as probably
Chinese or Japanese ideograms.

The participants were “psychically helped” in their decision by a distant researcher who knew which ideograms were real, and was sending helpful mental signals.

The study found that the participants did slightly better than would be expected by chance. So there’s evidence for “psi” — telepathic abilities.

It’s helpful that the study depicts the ideograms used at the end of the paper. I have to say, even though I’d tell a researcher I have “almost no” knowledge of Chinese ideograms, the fake ones look fake to me. I don’t read Chinese, but I’ve apparently seen enough to have a sense of what’s a real ideogram and what isn’t.

If all the evidence is this quality, they’re going to have a hard time convincing me. But maybe I’m just closed-minded?

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