Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Para Physics HYPOTHESIS2-FEW PEOPLE HAVE PSI ABILITY

Opposing Arguments The position that psi results are due to unknown methodological problems is a personal opinion that can be neither proved nor disproved, and therefore is not within the realm of science.

Parapsychological research is cumulative in the sense that it does incorporate previous research findings. Meta-analyses include all studies, old and new (see Radin, 1997). Early research is still examined for useful insights into psi (e.g., Honorton, 1975; Nash, 1989). Previous findings are incorporated in new research. For example, ganzfeld studies often collect data on classic moderating variables such as belief in ESP and the personality dimension extroversion. These factors have been found to be significant predictors of ganzfeld ESP performance (Bem & Honorton, 1994; Broughton, Kanthamani, & Khilji, 1990).Many of the experimental findings that skeptics interpret as evidence for methodological problems may actually reveal important characteristics of psi. In his criticism of ganzfeld research, Hyman (1994) admitted that some of the results uncovered by his analysis may possibly reflect characteristics of psi rather than methodological artifacts. This situation is an indication that the gap between knowledgeable skeptics and parapsychologists is narrowing. Slow but steady progress is being made in sorting out the many interacting factors. The meta-analysis evidence that z scores are not related to sample sizes needs further verification and may reflect characteristics of psi operation. As discussed later for Hypothesis 5, these findings have been proposed to be part of the evidence for goal-oriented experimenter effects (Kennedy, 1994, 1995).

Conclusion
The hypothesis that psi effects are due to unknown methodological flaws brings into focus the importance of understanding the elusive nature of psi. In the absence of a coherent explanation for the elusive nature of psi, the majority of scientists will almost certainly continue to believe that methodological flaws are the most likely explanation. As long as psi remains elusive and is conceptualized as an unexplained anomaly, neither side will have convincing arguments.Parapsychological research is more cumulative than the skeptics admit, but at the same time, the field has not provided alternative explanations for the problematic properties of the experimental results. Given the cumulative research findings and the scientific problem that the hypothesis of unknown methodological flaws is impossible to prove false, the overall scientific evidence favors the hypothesis that the elusive nature of psi is largely caused by factors other than methodological flaws.

HYPOTHESIS 2. FEW PEOPLE HAVE PSI ABILITY
Psi may be an ability that is very rare.

Supporting ArgumentsBoth spontaneous case studies and laboratory research suggest that only a minority of people have consistent, noticeable psi. Only about 1% of the volunteers who were screened for remote viewing ability were consistently successful (Utts, 1996). Broughton (1991, p. 10) noted that although surveys find that over half of the population report having had a psi experience, closer examination of the cases suggests that only 10% to 15% of the population have had experiences that appear to be possible psi. This estimate is consistent with early surveys (J. B. Rhine, 1934/1973, p. 17) and with later studies (Haight, 1979; Schmiedler, 1964). Given the well-established fact that relatively few psi experimenters consistently obtain significant results, combined with the evidence for psi-mediated experimenter effects (Kennedy & Taddonio, 1976; Palmer, 1997; White, 1976a, 1976b), Millar (1979) concluded that psi studies with unselected participants generally reflect psi by special experimenters.The steadily accumulating evidence for psi as indicated by meta-analyses suggests that the traditional working assumption that psi ability is widely distributed is valid (Radin, 1997). Parapsychology started by looking for participants with special abilities but moved beyond that when psi was demonstrated with a wide variety of participants and settings (J. B. Rhine & Associates, 1965). Even if psi ability is present for only a minority of people, there are still large numbers of people with psi ability. Although psi ability may not be distributed as widely as often assumed in parapsychology, people with psi cannot be considered rare. There are clearly substantial individual differences in the occurrence of psi. The distribution of psi may be a contributing factor, but other factors appear to have a larger role in causing the elusive nature of psi.

HYPOTHESIS 3. PSI DEPENDS ON SPECIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITIONS OR STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS THAT ARE PRECARIOUS
The traditional model for parapsychology is that psi is an unconscious process that has delicate and precarious links to human volition and conscious awareness (J. B. Rhine & Pratt, 1957). Special psychological conditions are necessary for psi to be guided by human intention or to have the unconscious psi information mediated into conscious awareness. In recent years, a more general model has been common, which views psi as a weak signal embedded in other cognitive activity (e.g., Bem & Honorton, 1994). The task for research is to find conditions that provide a more favorable signal-to-noise ratio.

Supporting Arguments
Throughout the history of experimental psi research, successful experimenters have consistently described certain conditions as being important for obtaining significant results (J. B. Rhine, 1934/1973; J. B. Rhine & Pratt, 1957; Targ, Braud, Stanford, Schlitz, & Honorton, 1991). These conditions include (a) high motivation, enthusiasm, and expectations by participants and experimenters; (b) attention to the task without distraction or boredom; and (c) an atmosphere of spontaneity. Some of the best results have occurred when the experimenters and participants were convinced that they were working together on research that was profoundly important for science and humanity.

It is difficult and precarious to maintain these psychological conditions during sustained research.

The hypothesis that altered states of consciousness can facilitate conscious awareness of psi information has a long history (Alvarado, 1998). Successful research with internal states of consciousness supports this view (Honorton, 1977). In particular, the ganzfeld procedure is a highly successful line of research (Bern & Honorton, 1994). Also, many experiments indicate that hypnosis is more psi-conducive than the normal waking state (Honorton, 1977).

Opposing Arguments
After 70 years of research looking for psi-conducive conditions, there is no evidence that psi can be demonstrated now more reliably than when this effort began. A review of well-controlled card experiments in the 1930s found that 27 of 33 (82%) were statistically significant (Honorton, 1975). For comparison, for the first ganzfeld studies, 23 of 42 (55%) were significant (from Honorton, as reported in Hyman, 1985, p. 5), and for the first remote viewing studies, 15 of 28 (54%) were significant (Hansen, Schlitz, & Tart, 1984).The common pattern throughout the history of psychical research has been for the replication rates for each new technique to decline, particularly as more experimenters become involved (Beloff, 1994; Pratt, 1978). For example, a meta-analysis of 30 more recent ganzfeld studies found nonsignificant results overall, with 6 (20%) significant at the .05 level with a one-tailed test and none significant at the .01 level (based on Table 1 in Milton & Wiseman, 1999). Many of these studies had larger sample sizes than the first ganzfeld studies. With the addition of a subsequent significant study, the meta-analysis reaches overall statistical significance, but the replication rate and effect sizes remain significantly lower than for the initial studies (Milton, 1999; replication rate comparison by the present author). Even for lines of research that do not show declines, there is no evidence that research is progressing toward increased occurrence of psi. For example, a meta-analysis of 309 precognition studies found no change in the effect size over a 50-year period (Honorton & Ferrari, 1989).As the replication rates in the previous paragraphs indicate, there is no evidence that the ganzfeld procedure increases the occurrence of psi. Direct evaluation cannot be done because very few ganzfeld studies have included a control group. However, a meta-analysis of 78 free-response studies that did not use an altered-state induction procedure found that the effect size was not significantly less than the effect size for the early ganzfeld studies (Milton, 1997). Studies that directly compared altered states with normal states are also inconclusive. With regard to hypnosis, Stanford and Stein (1994) concluded that the findings "make it difficult to draw substantive conclusions from the current database" (p. 235). Experimenter effects may dominate both hypnosis (Schmiedler, 1994, p. 114; Stanford & Stein, 1994) and ganzfeld (Milton, 1999) research.

The traditional strategy of looking for psi-conducive conditions has not been able to advance parapsychology beyond debates about the existence of psi. Factors such as motivation and expectation have little quantified supporting evidence and little predictive value. A review of studies of expectancy and psi concluded that "the data do not clearly support the hypothesis that high expectancy is psi-conducive, and, indeed, there is some indication that low expectancy may be so" (George, 1984, p. 203). Thus, studies of expectancy have exhibited the same type of inconsistent, elusive results as other lines of psi research.

Conclusion
The discussions and hypotheses about psi-conducive psychological conditions basically remain in the domain of lab lore rather than useful, predictive science. This approach has been extensively investigated and, with the possible exception of experimenter effects, does not appear to be addressing the major factors causing the elusive nature of psi.

HYPOTHESIS 4. PSI OCCURS FREQUENTLY WITHOUT BEING NOTICED (CONTD...)

17 comments:

Dr. Pragya bajaj December 4, 2008 at 4:40 PM  

here u cn start course Prachi
http://www.cottoncollege.org/Physics.htm

Er. Avinash Pandey December 4, 2008 at 4:59 PM  

According to its preface, the main purpose of Parapsychology in the Twenty-First Century is "to explore future directions of parapsychology" but that declaration is qualified by the statement: "reports of the current status of the field were considered crucial to the overall feel of the book" (p. 5). The preface also states that the book's advantage is that "it does not present the overarching viewpoint of a single author. Instead, through the wide-ranging interests and expertise of its contributors, it is representative of the field in general" (p. 5). However, even glancing at the table of contents makes it apparent that "the field in general" is far from represented. In addition, it is often unclear exactly how the content relates to "the future directions of parapsychology."

Anonymous,  December 4, 2008 at 4:59 PM  

addition, the content of some of the chapters is in direct conflict with the information or suggestions presented in other chapters. For example, in chapter 3, William Braud states: "whether psi occurs significantly more frequently or significantly more accurately [during procedures such as the ganzfeld] is not at all clear--due to the typical absence of appropriate contrast or control conditions with which these ostensible psi-facilitators could be compared" (p. 48). Then, in the very next chapter, Adrian Parker repeatedly references (but does not cite) the work of Braud but, in the words of the editors, "describes in detail the so-called Real-Time Digital Ganzfeld Technique (RTDGT)," concludes that "altered states are psi-conducive," and "argues cogently for the RTDGT to become widely available to researchers" (p. 65) even though Parker's extensive description of the RTDGT methodology does not include any of the "appropriate contrast or control conditions" suggested by Braud in the previous chapter.

Despite these limitations, many of the individual chapters that are included in this text contain interesting and informative reports on the current state of affairs in parapsychology and numerous predictions, suggestions, and warnings regarding its future as a scientific discipline.

Several of the authors provide an optimistic view of parapsychology's potential. Dean Radin speculates about the integration of parapsychology into mainstream fields such as physics, medicine, biology, and consciousness research, and perhaps even religion in an "era of para-integration" (although he also posits that the current time in history may be alternatively deemed "the age of depressing chaos" or "the age of absolute idiocy") (pp. 15-17). Robert Morris shares Radin's optimistic view regarding integration and claims that "before long the term parapsychology will naturally evolve into at least one, and probably several, more precise terms, as we develop the knowledge to inform that evolution"

Er. Puja Kapoor December 4, 2008 at 5:01 PM  

The Sociological and Phenomenological Issues section begins with another chapter from co-editor Lance Storm in which Storm describes parapsychology's specification and replication problems; discusses the roles of experience, belief, and statistics in scientific paradigm construction; and provides a socioempirical analysis of the skepticism about psi. Storm closes with: "Parapsychology must not resist the forces of social change, but must yield to them as part of an ongoing natural process that extends into the future" (p. 300).

In chapter 13, Robin Wooffitt proposes that the future of parapsychology should include an emphasis on the communication that takes place between all study participants, specifically through the use of conversation analysis. James McClenon, similarly to Christine Hardy in the previous section, discusses the evolution of psi abilities and experiences in chapter 14: "The Ritual Healing Theory: Hypotheses for Psychical Research." This theory

argues that genes related to dissociation increased in
frequency among ancient hominids since dissociation
alleviated negative impacts of trauma. Hominids devised
therapeutic rituals based on these dissociative capacities
and practiced rituals for many millennia, further increasing
the frequency of dissociative genotypes.
McClenon posits that the theory "provides hypotheses testable within the fields of psychical research, anthropology, social psychology of religion, folklore, history, physiology, and medicine" .

In the last chapter, "Experiential Research: Unveiling Psi Through Phenomenological Enquiry," Pamela Rae Heath asserts that the phenomenological analysis of subjective anomalous experiences (which are actually normal but usually weak or latent) can "lead to new insights not only about the experience itself, but also how one might better approach the topic using qualitative and quantitative methods" (p. 362). Heath discusses the history of phenomenology as a research tool and reviews how it has been used to analyze experiences of synchronicity; channeling, including the experiences of the mediums as well as the source entities; the near-death state; ESP; PK; and exceptional performance in sports. She closes by identifying several potential uses for this methodology in the future including the analysis of numerous manifestations of psi; elucidating the difference, if one exists, between ESP and PK; and determining the cause(s) of psi inhibition.

Overall, this book contains several relevant and useful chapters for a reader interested in the possibilities regarding, and suggestions for, the future of psychical research, but it also contains several chapters which do not address those topics specifically. The recurrent themes proposed by several of the authors regarding the future of this field include predictions of integration with other scientific disciplines, a move away from proof-oriented research and toward a more process-oriented approach, and the recognition that most experiences with the paranormal are actually more normal than previously believed.

Anonymous,  December 4, 2008 at 5:02 PM  

Hardy also discusses the evolution of the capacity for psi in humans and suggests that it can be directed by intention, "the setting of an aim and a proactive behavior" to fulfill it (p. 234), in order to address threats to our survival. Hardy states:

Such an evolutionary possibility would make sense in terms
of the survival of our species and Earth. The dangers facing
the human species, the quick extinction of thousands of
human cultures, as well as animal and flora species, the
ecological disaster looming over our planet--all of them
mostly due to crass ignorance of ecological interconnected
dynamics, and to a lack of planetary consciousness--all of
this could trigger the frantic search for solutions by the
collective unconscious, or Gaia consciousness. (p. 236)
Hardy concludes with the optimistic and heartwarming speculation that as psi abilities in humans become more widespread, it will lead people to develop a greater personal integrity, to pay more attention to their behaviors, to acknowledge their own shortcomings, to be less inclined to manipulate others, and to welcome the "richness of a world of divergent outlooks and perspectives"
Subjective Anomalous Events: Perspectives for the Future, Voices from the Past," Vernon M. Neppe and John Palmer make a case for the importance of subjective experiences, stating that "it is clear to us that the future of parapsychology requires a classification system for anomalous events and that the human sciences must also be involved". This latter point should involve, the authors propose, the education of psychiatrists and psychologists about the basic approaches to parapsychology, the reestablishment of diagnostic nomenclature, and a narrowing of what is regarded as abnormal. Neppe and Palmer describe several examples, both psychiatric and parapsychological, of subjective paranormal/psi experiences (SPEs) including hallucinations, delusions, out-of-body experiences, and near-death experiences. The authors' suggestions for the future integrate the analysis of subjective experiences with those occurring in an objective lab setting.

Er. Nidhi Mishra December 4, 2008 at 5:05 PM  

following Thalbourne's is a critique of the theory of psychopraxia by co-editor Lance Storm including another discussion of the three components central to the theory: the self, the pro attitude, and necessary conditions. Storm closes by stating that partial experimental evidence exists for two of the theory's propositions (pro attitude and necessary conditions) and then discusses them further with suggestions for their role in future experimental design.

"Tackling the Mind-Matter Problem from a Consciousness Perspective," Christine Hardy discusses the law of connective-dynamic emergence, a component of semantic fields theory, and how it addresses the mystery of the interaction between the mind and the brain. This theory proposes that "two systems may interact and influence each other, whether or not they are of a similar structural or organizational type"

Er. Nidhi Mishra December 4, 2008 at 5:06 PM  

main purpose of Parapsychology in the Twenty-First Century is "to explore future directions of parapsychology" but that declaration is qualified by the statement: "reports of the current status of the field were considered crucial to the overall feel of the book" (p. 5). The preface also states that the book's advantage is that "it does not present the overarching viewpoint of a single author. Instead, through the wide-ranging interests and expertise of its contributors, it is representative of the field in general" (p. 5). However, even glancing at the table of contents makes it apparent that "the field in general" is far from represented. In addition, it is often unclear exactly how the content relates to "the future directions of parapsychology."
There is no thorough discussion, however, of how parapsychology might interact with the fields of medicine, consciousness research, physics, anthropology, or philosophy in the twenty-first century though numerous authors support collaboration and integration with other disciplines. Furthermore, the section discussing experimental issues includes only a technical chapter proposing the use of a specific psi testing procedure (the ball drawing test) and two descriptive chapters on altered states of consciousness and forced-choice ESP tests. There is no discussion in this section regarding the future of parapsychological experiments in micro-or macro-psychokinesis, precognition, clairvoyance, and medium-ship and the survival of consciousness, nor any speculation about the empirical evaluation of other topics that may become part of parapsychology in the future.

Some other content lacking in this book was any in-depth discussions regarding (1) possible social, psychological, or medical applications of parapsychological findings for the future and (2) suggestions regarding the specific goals of parapsychology as a science in this new millennium. At the 50th annual Parapsychological Association (PA) convention, issues including the advancement of parapsychology as a science, the dissemination of parapsychological knowledge, and the integration of parapsychology with other scientific fields were discussed in an assessment of the goals of the PA. Chapters presenting issues such as these in detail would have fit well within this book (though several authors do reference integration with other fields in their chapters).

In addition, the content of some of the chapters is in direct conflict with the information or suggestions presented in other chapters. For example, in chapter 3, William Braud states: "whether psi occurs significantly more frequently or significantly more accurately [during procedures such as the ganzfeld] is not at all clear--due to the typical absence of appropriate contrast or control conditions with which these ostensible psi-facilitators could be compared" (p. 48). Then, in the very next chapter, Adrian Parker repeatedly references (but does not cite) the work of Braud but, in the words of the editors, "describes in detail the so-called Real-Time Digital Ganzfeld Technique (RTDGT)," concludes that "altered states are psi-conducive," and "argues cogently for the RTDGT to become widely available to researchers" (p. 65) even though Parker's extensive description of the RTDGT methodology does not include any of the "appropriate contrast or control conditions" suggested by Braud in the previous chapter.

Despite these limitations, many of the individual chapters that are included in this text contain interesting and informative reports on the current state of affairs in parapsychology and numerous predictions, suggestions, and warnings regarding its future as a scientific discipline.

Several of the authors provide an optimistic view of parapsychology's potential. Dean Radin speculates about the integration of parapsychology into mainstream fields such as physics, medicine, biology, and consciousness research, and perhaps even religion in an "era of para-integration" (although he also posits that the current time in history may be alternatively deemed "the age of depressing chaos" or "the age of absolute idiocy") (pp. 15-17). Robert Morris shares Radin's optimistic view regarding integration and claims that "before long the term parapsychology will naturally evolve into at least one, and probably several, more precise terms, as we develop the knowledge to inform that evolution" (p. 35).

This collection of essays also includes several more pessimistic yet clever analogies regarding the current state and future of parapsychology. Fiona Steinkamp states that "... parapsychology has grown from a baby to a toddler. It has grasped the methodology of walking, but it has yet to learn how to walk in a specific direction. There is no view of a goal or of the quickest and easiest way to get to that goal" (p. 157), but she goes on to state that "there is room for optimism" (p. 158). Stanley Krippner and Gerd H. Hovelmann maintain that parapsychologists "constantly carry what most women carry in large purses: much that is useless, a few absolutely essential items, and then, for good measure, a great number of items that fall in between. Parapsychologists' greatest difficulty lies in establishing which is which" (p. 168). James McClenon has an even darker opinion: "The field's deviant status suggests that future claims of replicability will be treated skeptically and that parapsychology will not gain acceptance in the near future" (p. 338). A review of the specific chapter content follows below.

Anonymous,  December 4, 2008 at 5:07 PM  

There is no thorough discussion, however, of how parapsychology might interact with the fields of medicine, consciousness research, physics, anthropology, or philosophy in the twenty-first century though numerous authors support collaboration and integration with other disciplines. Furthermore, the section discussing experimental issues includes only a technical chapter proposing the use of a specific psi testing procedure (the ball drawing test) and two descriptive chapters on altered states of consciousness and forced-choice ESP tests. There is no discussion in this section regarding the future of parapsychological experiments in micro-or macro-psychokinesis, precognition, clairvoyance, and medium-ship and the survival of consciousness, nor any speculation about the empirical evaluation of other topics that may become part of parapsychology in the future.

Some other content lacking in this book was any in-depth discussions regarding (1) possible social, psychological, or medical applications of parapsychological findings for the future and (2) suggestions regarding the specific goals of parapsychology as a science in this new millennium. At the 50th annual Parapsychological Association (PA) convention, issues including the advancement of parapsychology as a science, the dissemination of parapsychological knowledge, and the integration of parapsychology with other scientific fields were discussed in an assessment of the goals of the PA. Chapters presenting issues such as these in detail would have fit well within this book (though several authors do reference integration with other fields in their chapters).

In addition, the content of some of the chapters is in direct conflict with the information or suggestions presented in other chapters. For example, in chapter 3, William Braud states: "whether psi occurs significantly more frequently or significantly more accurately [during procedures such as the ganzfeld] is not at all clear--due to the typical absence of appropriate contrast or control conditions with which these ostensible psi-facilitators could be compared" (p. 48). Then, in the very next chapter, Adrian Parker repeatedly references (but does not cite) the work of Braud but, in the words of the editors, "describes in detail the so-called Real-Time Digital Ganzfeld Technique (RTDGT)," concludes that "altered states are psi-conducive," and "argues cogently for the RTDGT to become widely available to researchers" (p. 65) even though Parker's extensive description of the RTDGT methodology does not include any of the "appropriate contrast or control conditions" suggested by Braud in the previous chapter.

Despite these limitations, many of the individual chapters that are included in this text contain interesting and informative reports on the current state of affairs in parapsychology and numerous predictions, suggestions, and warnings regarding its future as a scientific discipline.

Several of the authors provide an optimistic view of parapsychology's potential. Dean Radin speculates about the integration of parapsychology into mainstream fields such as physics, medicine, biology, and consciousness research, and perhaps even religion in an "era of para-integration" (although he also posits that the current time in history may be alternatively deemed "the age of depressing chaos" or "the age of absolute idiocy") (pp. 15-17). Robert Morris shares Radin's optimistic view regarding integration and claims that "before long the term parapsychology will naturally evolve into at least one, and probably several, more precise terms, as we develop the knowledge to inform that evolution" (p. 35).

This collection of essays also includes several more pessimistic yet clever analogies regarding the current state and future of parapsychology. Fiona Steinkamp states that "... parapsychology has grown from a baby to a toddler. It has grasped the methodology of walking, but it has yet to learn how to walk in a specific direction. There is no view of a goal or of the quickest and easiest way to get to that goal" (p. 157), but she goes on to state that "there is room for optimism" (p. 158). Stanley Krippner and Gerd H. Hovelmann maintain that parapsychologists "constantly carry what most women carry in large purses: much that is useless, a few absolutely essential items, and then, for good measure, a great number of items that fall in between. Parapsychologists' greatest difficulty lies in establishing which is which" (p. 168). James McClenon has an even darker opinion: "The field's deviant status suggests that future claims of replicability will be treated skeptically and that parapsychology will not gain acceptance in the near future" . A review of the specific chapter content follows below.Apparitions and hallucinations (both external projections) differ from imagery (perceived internally). Unlike hallucinations, apparitions are never said to indicate psychopathology, and they convey veridical data that could only be obtained from an external source. In practice, the distinctions between apparition, hallucination, and imagery are blurred. L. E. Rhine (1981) believed there is a continuum between an apparition (seen within sensory range) and an ESP vision (seen outside sensory range). Evans (1984) places the apparition in the broader context of the "entity experience." Apparitions of the dead (ghosts) are usually associated with a particular building (haunting). Apparitions of the living or dying are of two types. A crisis apparition occurs when the witness supposedly sees a figure of another person (often a relative or friend) at another locality. An experimental apparition is deliberately produced; for example, a psychic goes "out-of-body" to another location to contact a target and then sees an apparition (MacKenzie, 1982). Evans (1984) distinguishes between stereotyped entities (such as the Virgin Mary) and generalised entities (such as UFO visitors). In one survey (Rees, 1971), 47% of 293 elderly people (mean age 75) reported hallucinations of their deceased spouse: 14% included visual sightings; the other 33% involved feelings and hearing, touching, and speaking to the spouse. Professional status, a happy marriage, and the first 10 years after widowhood were the best predictors of apparitions. In another survey (Berrios & Brook, 1984), 29% of 150 persons (mean age 77) reported visual hallucinations. Few elderly people tell others about their apparitions through fear of ridicule; this is a health concern.

A satisfactory theory of apparitions should specify whether the phenomena are objective or hallucinatory and should propose one or more plausible mechanisms by which the manifestations occur. An initial distinction can be made between (a) theories that attempt to account for the phenomena in purely normal terms and (b) theories that require a paranormal element (e.g., telepathy or the laying down of some sort of "psychic trace" in the haunted place). McCue (2002) has labeled theories of the first type "naturalistic" and theories of the second type as "psi-based." Psi-based theories can be divided into two subcategories: those positing discarnate agency and those that do not require the notion of post-mortem survival as it is generally understood.

The founders of the (London) Society for Psychical Research published their first case collection (Gurney, Myers, & Podmore, 1886), followed by the "Census of Hallucinations" (Sidgwick, Johnson, Myers, Podmore, & Sidgwick, 1894), in which data were gathered from 17,000 people, of whom about 10% reported some sort of hallucinatory experience. Some reports were of animals, and only 20% of the 830 realistic apparitions were recognizable as dead people (ghosts). This focus on "benign hallucinations" (from sane people) is important because such hallucinations differ from those associated with mental illness and drug states (Anderson & Anderson, 1982; Asaad & Shapiro, 1986).

Some studies (Mavromatis, 1987; Sherwood, 1999) have demonstrated that apparitions often occur in states of consciousness in which mental images are experienced as particularly lifelike and "real"-for example, the hypnagogic state (falling asleep) and hypnopompic state (waking up). In fact, a surprising number of normal individuals, when questioned, report a history of hallucinatory experiences (39% in Posey & Losch, 1983; 30% in Barrett & Etheridge, 1992; 12% in Sidgwick, Johnson, Myers, Podmore, & Sidgwick, 1894; 14% in West, 1948; 25% in McKellar, 1968; see also Tien, 1991). Moreover, there is evidence of quite substantial cultural variations in the disposition to have hallucinatory experiences (M-Issa, 1977, 1995). Psychotic patients with a history of auditory hallucinations differ from nonhallucinating patients and normal persons in having poorer "reality testing" (Slade, 1976). Reality testing refers to the ability to distinguish a present perception (reality) from a present act of imagination (hallucination or apparition). Reality testing is probably important also for normal people who report visual hallucinations or apparitions, although participants are recalling a memory of an apparition seen in the past. A better term here is "reality monitoring" (Johnson & Raye, 1981; Bentall & Slade, 1985), which refers to the distinction between a past perception and a past act of imagination. In conclusion, more than just skill at visual imagery (vividness) is involved. One aspect of reality monitoring is the ability to focus attention (absorption). Another aspect is the ability to create stories out of one's visual imagery (fantasy proneness).

Anonymous,  December 4, 2008 at 5:07 PM  

Wilson and Barber (1983) coined the term "fantasy prone personality" to refer to a small group of persons (about 4% of the population) who fantasize most of the time. They fully see, hear, and touch what they fantasize. Its basic feature is a deep involvement in fantasy, that is, a habitual capacity to suspend reality monitoring, unlike the momentary capacity indicated by absorption. The people studied by Wilson and Barber reported a high incidence of a wide variety of psychic experiences, including apparitions. A problem is that some participants had visual fantasies only with their eyes closed; thus, they could not see apparitions, which by definition require that one's eyes be open. In two studies (Council & Huff, 1990; Myers & Austrin, 1985), a strong correlation was found between fantasy proneness and absorption, and both correlated significantly with a measure of psychic experiences that included seeing apparitions.

Absorption is the capacity to focus attention exclusively on some object (including, mental imagery) to the exclusion of distracting events. The object seems to have a heightened sense of reality, as do apparitions. People must also have a motivation or need for the experience of absorption, as well as a situation suitable for inducing it (Irwin, 1985). High absorption indicates the ability to momentarily inhibit reality monitoring. The Tellegen Absorption Scale (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974) has been used by many researchers. Although the limited number of studies suggests no difference in capacity for absorption between experients and nonexperients, there is some suggestion that they may differ in their need for absorption (Irwin, 1985, 1989).

The concept of schizotypy is derived inductively from the traits and symptoms found in schizophrenia and schizotypal or borderline personality disorders. Three latent factors--cognitive-perceptual deficits, interpersonal deficits, and disorganization--appear to underlie the schizotypal personality in the normal population. Factor analysis of these traits reliably produces four factors, one of which (unusual experiences) contains items consonant with the positive symptoms of psychotic illness (i.e., hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder), together with cognitive disorganisation, introvertive anhedonia, and impulsive nonconformity. Healthy schizotypy is described as: "the uncoupling of the concept of schizotypy from the concept of disease" (Claridge, 1997). Healthy schizotypy represents a departure from the quasidimensional, pathological model for schizotypy and suggests an extension into a fully dimensional model (McCreery & Claridge, 2002) with health as a starting point (Claridge, 1997; Claridge & Beech, 1995).

Er. Paayal Sharma December 4, 2008 at 5:09 PM  

, despite the evident overlap between paranormal beliefs/ experiences and schizotypy, it does not necessarily follow that paranormal beliefs and experiences are associated with psychological ill health. McCreery and Claridge (1995, 1996, 2002) found that out-of-body experients showed signs of schizotypy but otherwise appeared to be healthy. The out-of-body experients had higher scores than nonexperients on positive symptoms of schizotypy but not on negative symptoms. Moreover, some of the experients seemed to be healthy not only despite their out-of-body experiences but also because of them. These individuals were called "happy schizotypes" (McCreery & Claridge, 1995).

Therefore, the apparitional experience--which refers to experiencing or clearly seeing a figure of human form, someone who was not physically present at that moment (Thalbourne, 1982)--and the sense of presence--which refers to increased, vivid sensations of some presence, as if someone or something touched or pressed on all or some part of the body (Cheyne, Newby-Clark, & Rueffer, 1999)--are phenomena worthy of study in their own right, like other aspects of human experience. Thus the focus is on the experience or phenomenon, whatever the interpretation. Apparitions, like everything else in the mental life of the healthy individual, do not occur in a vacuum but are closely interwoven with many other psychological and parapsychological processes.

For these reasons, I argue that apparition reports are part of human experience and as such deserve and require study in and of them selves, with and without efforts to relate apparitions to possible paranormal components. My perspective is consistent with Palmer's (1979) discussion of the importance of distinguishing conventional models of explanation from paranormal ones in parapsychology. It is also consistent with recent pleas to consider the experiential aspects of psi claims as part of parapsychological research without necessarily focusing on paranormal explanatory models (e.g., Alvarado, 1997; Schouten, 1986; White, 1990). To quote Irwin (2004, p. 10), "human experience includes a wide range of different dimensions and there are many more aspects of psi experiences to be studied other than ostensible paranormality." Little is known about the psychological factors and processes that underlie the apparitional experience, but there are indications in the psychological, parapsychological, and psychiatric literature that particular cognitive (mental) variables are important. Three of these cognitive variables are absorption, fantasy proneness, and proneness to cognitive-perceptual schizotypy.

HYPOTHESES

Although the present study is exploratory, six specific hypotheses are tested: Students who have apparitional experiences (AE experients) have a higher capacity for (1) absorption, (2) fantasy proneness, and (3) cognitive-perceptual schizotypy proneness than nonexperients, and students who feel a sense of presence (SP experients) have a higher capacity for (4) absorption, (5) fantasy proneness, and (6) cognitive perceptual schizotypy proneness than nonexperients.

From a total of 678 undergraduate students recruited from the psychology department, I received 650 usable questionnaires (95.8%). Participation was voluntary and the students received no pay. The students who returned the questionnaires included 494 (76%) females and 156 (24%) males, ranging in age from 17 to 57 (M = 25.57; SD = 7.23). Students who answered "yes" (one time, sometimes, or frequently) were grouped as "experients" and students who answered "no" were grouped as "nonexperients" (see Table 1).

Design and Materials

Students completed three scales: the Creative Experiences Questionnaire (25 true/false items; Merckelbach, Horselenberg, & Muris, 2001), which measures fantasy proneness; the Tellegen Absorption Scale (34 true/false items; Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974), which measures how frequently people engaged in absorptive activities; and the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire, or SPQ (74 yes/no items; Raine, 1991; Raine, 1992, Raine & Baker, 1992; Raine & Benishay, 1995), which measures three factors of schizotypy: Cognitive-Perceptual (e.g., "Have you ever seen things invisible to other people?" or "Are your thoughts sometimes so strong that you can almost hear them?"), Interpersonal, and Disorganized. The SPQ was given the pseudotitle Questionnaire of Psychological Experiences, Forms A, B, and C, in a counterbalanced order to encourage unbiased responding. The set of scales was given in a single envelope to each student during a class. Each student received vague information about the aims of the study and was invited to complete the scales voluntarily and anonymously in a single session, selected from days and times previously agreed upon with the teachers.

I developed an 18-item self-report inventory to collect information on spontaneous paranormal experiences, inspired by the English version of the Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences Inventory (Gallagher, Kumar, & Pekala, 1994), and Palmer's (1979) survey of students in Charlottesville, VA. The two questions on apparitions were: "Being awake, I have had the experience of hearing voices or seeing appearances invisible to others, which forewarned me about an impending danger that occurred shortly thereafter" (Spanish version: Estando despierto, he tenido la experiencia de oir voces o vet presencias invisibles para otros que me indicaban acerca de un peligro inminente que luego ocurrio) (Item 15). The question refers to "crisis apparitions," that is, visions seen or voices heard at the moment of an individual's death or during a time of great stress such as illness, serious injury, or a life-threatening situation. For sense of presence: "Being alone, I have had the vivid impression of a sensation of presence, but nothing was visible where I was" (Spanish version: Estando solo, he tenido la vivida impresion de una sensacion de presencia, pero invisible donde me encontraba) (Item 8). Both questions tapped three dimensions of experience: frequency (never, once, sometimes, frequently), subjective explanation (i.e., rational, unknown, paranormal), and positive or negative (emotional) impact ("none" and a 1-7 scale for some impact, 7 being the highest).

RESULTS

Data were compared on apparitional experience (AE) for experients, (N = 67) versus nonexperients (N = 583), and on sense of presence (SP) for experients (N = 295) versus nonexperients (N = 355; see Table 2).

Tests of Hypotheses

First, a two-sample KS test was used for comparing experients and nonexperients (TAS, p < .001; CP-SPQ p = .08; CEQ, p = .004), as it is sensitive to differences in both location and shape of the empirical cumulative distributions of the two samples. Because the data were not normally distributed, the Mann-Whitney U test was used to test the hypotheses
Hypothesis 1 was that AE experients would score higher on absorption than nonexperients on the TAS. This hypothesis was supported: the mean for experients was significantly higher than for nonexperients (z = 6.06, p < .001, one-tailed).

Hypothesis 2 was that AE experients would score higher on fantasy proneness than nonexperients on the CEQ. This hypothesis was supported: the score for experients was significantly higher than for nonexperients (z = 4.34, p = .0001, one-tailed).

Hypothesis 3 was that AE experients would score higher on cognitive-perceptual schizotypy proneness than nonexperients on the CP-SPQ. This hypothesis was supported: the score for experients was significantly higher than for nonexperients (z = 7.01, p < .001, one-tailed).

Hypothesis 4 was that SP experients would score higher on absorption than nonexperients on the TAS. This hypothesis was supported: the score for experients was significantly higher than for nonexperients (z = 5.19, p < .001, one-tailed).

Hypothesis 5 was that SP experients would score higher on fantasy proneness than nonexperients on the CEQ. This hypothesis was supported: the score for experients was significantly higher than for nonexperients (z = 5.17, p < .001, one-tailed).

Hypothesis 6 was that experients would score higher on cognitive-perceptual schizotypy proneness than nonexperients on the CP-SPQ. This hypothesis was supported: the score for experients was significantly higher than for nonexperients (z = 8.21, p < .001, one-tailed).

As a way of exploring gender differences, I split the data into males/females and experients/nonexperients and examined the number of participants who obtained scores at or above the mean with those who obtained scores below the mean, using the Fisher exact probability test. Analyses of the scores for males versus females were overall nonsignificant, which was also the case when experients and nonexperients were examined separately. In other words, I did not find evidence for gender differences in the data.

DISCUSSION

The characteristics of the apparitions (seeing or feeling presences) reported in this sample are similar to those reported in previous studies, and they are consistent with the core characteristics described by Osis (1986). The concept of reality monitoring may prove crucial to the more complete understanding of the apparitional experience, as this concept does not require that the apparitional experient be particularly skilled in consciously producing vivid visual images. The experience is a function of cognitive style rather than skill.

Anonymous,  December 4, 2008 at 5:10 PM  

An individual who grows to adulthood in a society that recognizes the existence of ghosts or that values spiritual experiences is more likely to attribute reality to the image of a deceased relative than a person who reaches maturity in a materialistic, scientifically oriented society. The impact of external stimulation on hallucinations also can be understood in terms of the source-monitoring hypothesis. In conditions in which external stimulation is degraded (either by sensory restriction or by white noise), individuals are likely to adopt more liberal criteria for assuming that perceived events are real and are therefore more likely to misattribute internally generated thoughts to an external source (Bentall, 2000). The impact of stress and emotional arousal on hallucinations can be understood if it is assumed that the cognitive operations involved in source monitoring, as in other cognitive operations, are disrupted by emotional arousal.

Er. Paayal Sharma December 4, 2008 at 5:10 PM  

The state of absorption could be associated with a low level of reality monitoring. While in this state, the focal object of attention, even if imaginary, becomes totally real to the experient (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). In this study, however, perhaps capacity for absorption is only one of a constellation of related factors, and style may be more important than capacity or skill. Or maybe we should distinguish between two types of reality monitoring: momentary attention and a more enduring propensity to suspend reality monitoring. The TAS measures only capacity for absorption, the extent to which a person can be so engrossed in a mental experience at a given moment that reality monitoring is temporarily inhibited. A scale that measures need for absorption, a motivational variable (Irwin, 1985), may indicate a more habitual use or recurrent desire to engage in absorbed mental activity, such that habitually poor reality monitoring becomes an enduring aspect of cognitive style.

I have used fantasy proneness because apparitional experients are clearly more fantasy prone than their nonexperient counterparts. This need not mean that all apparitions are pure fantasies, as some could still be veridical. It is possible that the absorbed fantasy state is a psi-conducive state. In other words, extrasensory information is incorporated into the ongoing fantasy and, because of low reality monitoring, witnessed as a hallucinatory image. Hence, in the context of this study, the distinction between purely subjective experiences and those considered paranormal (veridical) is irrelevant. Veridical experiences may depend on the same psychological predispositional factors as do nonveridical experiences (see Irwin, 1994, for a phenomenological approach).

The main analyses confirmed the two clusters of hypotheses: that apparitional experiences are related to higher levels of absorption and imaginative/fantasy experiences. This finding is also in conceptual agreement with studies which have found that measures of fantasy proneness seem to be successful predictors of psychic phenomena other than apparitional experiences (Myers, Austrin, Grisso, & Nickeson, 1983; Wilson & Barber, 1983). Such findings suggest that visions of ghosts may be related to cognitive processes involving fantasy proneness and cognitive perceptual schizotypy proneness, and that these factors are correlated. Raine observed that one of the factors, the cognitive-perceptual schizotypal factor (made up of unusual perceptual experiences, magical thinking, paranoid ideation, and ideas of reference) may be analogous to the positive symptoms factor (delusions and hallucinations) found by Arndt, Alliger, and Andreasen (1991) in schizophrenia. However, this may not be the whole picture. The low number of apparitional cases prevents us from exploring the influence of factors other than those measured by the CP-SPQ, TAS and CEQ, such as the context in which the apparitional and apparition-like experience occurred (e.g., emotional circumstances related to death).

Er. Paayal Sharma December 4, 2008 at 5:10 PM  

The apparitions question used in this experiment refers specifically to "crisis apparitions," that is, visions seen or voices heard at the moment of an individual's death or during a time of great stress, such as illness, serious injury, or a life-threatening situation. Although I restricted my sample to crisis apparitions, I see no reason to think that the correlations I found with the predictors apply only to crisis apparitions. Maybe this qualification defines the "cutoff point" between veridical and nonveridical apparitional experience. This question needs further investigation.

Apparitional experiences also have implications for the philosophy of perception. The occurrence of hallucinations, that is, perceptual experiences without justifying sensory stimuli, has long been one of the standard objections to the philosophical theory of direct realism (Goldstein, 1996; Matlin & Foley, 1997). According to this theory, we are in some sense in direct contact with the external world while we seem to be perceiving it, and not merely in direct contact with some mediating representation in our mind, such as a sense-datum or an image, which may or may not correspond to external reality.

This study demonstrates the viability of adopting a psychological approach in order to better understand the veridical apparitional experience. It is tentatively concluded that the constellation of interrelated factors that make up the construct of the "fantasy-prone personality" (Wilson & Barber, 1983) provide a psychological predisposition for the apparitional experience. It also supports the view that apparitional experiences of the type described here may have important clinical applications. Many therapists still regard a client who reports apparitions (or other possibly parapsychological experiences) as mentally ill or deluded. For this reason, fantasy-prone persons, fearing ridicule, often do not tell anyone about their experiences (Tart, 1983a, 1983b, 1984; G6mez Montanelli & Parra, 2003).

Dr.Nishi Chauhan December 4, 2008 at 8:17 PM  

Nice topic to post Prachi...hope u will carry on wid this very intrsting topic n yes nice comments.....
keep it up...now IITians seems 2 come of their own

Prachi Pandey December 4, 2008 at 8:28 PM  

@ Nishi y dont u write on Para Physics...i knw u r very much intrstd in it...

Prachi Pandey December 4, 2008 at 11:53 PM  

Much of alternative medicine, including Therapeutic Touch, is grounded on vitalism, the notion that living organisms possess some unique quality, an élan vital, that gives them that special quality we call life. Belief in the existence of a living force is ancient and remains widespread to this day. Called prana by the Hindus, qi or chi by the Chinese, ki by the Japanese, and 95 other names in 95 other cultures (Brennen 1988), this substance is said to constitute the source of life that is so often associated with soul, spirit, and mind. Wheeler (1939) reviewed the history of vitalism in the West and defined it as "all the various doctrines which, from the time of Aristotle, have described things as actuated by some power or principle additional to mechanics and chemistry." Modern theories of vitalism include those of Driesch (1914) and Bergson (1919).
In ancient times, the vital force was widely identified with breath, which the Hebrews called ruach, the Greeks psyche or pneuma (the breath of the gods), and the Romans spiritus. As breath was gradually acknowledged to be a material substance, words like "psychic" and "spirit" evolved to refer to the assumed nonmaterial and perhaps supernatural medium by which organisms gain the qualities of life and consciousness. The idea that matter alone can do the job has never proved popular.
Chi or qi remains the primary concept in traditional Chinese medicine, still widely practiced in China and experiencing an upsurge of interest in the West. Chi is a living force that is said to flow rhythmically through so-called "meridians" in the body. The methods of acupuncture and acupressure are used to stimulate the flow at special acu-points along these meridians, although their location has never been consistently specified. The chi force is not limited to the body, but is believed to flow throughout the environment (Huston 1995). When building a house, many believers rely on a feng shui master to decide on an orientation that is well-aligned with this flow.
As modern science developed in the West and the nature of matter was gradually uncovered, a few scientists sought scientific evidence for the nature of the living force. After Newton had published his laws of mechanics, optics, and gravity, he spent many years looking for the source of life in alchemic experiments. His search was not irrational, given the knowledge of the day. Newtonian physics provided no basis for the complexity that is necessary for any purely material theory of life or mind. This would require quantum physics. Furthermore, Newtonian gravity had an occult quality about it, with its invisible action at a distance. Gravity seemed to be transmitted across space with no intervening matter evident. Perhaps the forces of life and thought had similar immaterial properties. Still, Newton and others who followed the same trail never managed to uncover a signal for a special substance of spirit or life.
In the eighteenth century, Anton Mesmer imagined that magnetism was the universal living force and treated patients for a wide variety of ills with magnets, a therapy still being promoted today. He believed that a force called "animal magnetism" resided in the human body and could be directed into other bodies. Indeed, patients would exhibit violent reactions when Mesmer directed his energy toward them by pointing his finger, until the flow of "nervous current" would re-balance the patient's energies (Ball 1998). Today, "mesmerism" has become associated with hypnosis and disconnected from animal magnetism or other notions of a living force, but Mesmer's ideas have survived in various modern "holistic" theories that contradict science.
In the late nineteenth century, prominent scientists including William Crookes and Oliver Lodge sought scientific evidence for what they called the "psychic force" that they believed was responsible for the mysterious powers of the mind being exhibited by the mediums and spiritualist hucksters of the day. They thought it might be connected with the electromagnetic "aether waves" that had just been discovered and were being put to amazing use. If wireless telegraphy was possible, why not wireless telepathy? This was a reasonable question at the time. However, while wireless telegraphy thrived, wireless telepathy made no progress in the full century of uncorroborated experiments in "parapsychology" that followed (Stenger 1990).
Conventional medicine follows conventional biology, conventional chemistry, and conventional physics in treating the material body - a complex, nonlinear system assembled from the same atoms and molecules that constitute (presumably) nonliving objects such as computers and automobiles. Medical doctors are in some sense glorified mechanics, who repair broken parts in the human machine. Indeed, any stay in the hospital reinforces this image, as you are hooked to devices that measure blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation, and many other physical parameters. You are almost always treated with drugs that are designed to alter your body's chemistry. You usually get better, every time but once, but, unless you are a physicist, you tend to view the whole experience rather negatively.
No surprise, then, that alternative practitioners such as touch therapists find many eager listeners when they announce that they go beyond materialism and mechanism, and treat the really important part of the human system - the vital substance of life itself. People's religious sensibilities and images of self-worth are greatly mollified when they are told that they are far more than an assemblage of atoms - that they possess a living field that is linked to both God and cosmos. Furthermore, the desperately ill will quite naturally seek out hope wherever they can find it. So a ready market exists for therapists who claim they can succeed where medical science fails.

Anonymous,  December 4, 2008 at 11:53 PM  

UNIFIED BIOFIELD THEORY
The hypothetical vital force is often referred to these days as the bioenergetic field. Touch therapists along with acupuncturists, chiropractors, and many other alternative practitioners tell us that they can affect cures for many ills by "manipulating" this field, thereby bringing the body's "live energies" into balance.
The use of "bioenergetic" in this context is somewhat ambiguous. This term is applied in conventional biochemistry to refer to the readily measurable exchanges of energy within organisms, and between them and their environment, which occur by normal physical and chemical processes. This is not, however, what the new vitalists have in mind. They imagine the bioenergetic field as a holistic living force that goes beyond reductionist physics and chemistry.
By "holistic" here, I am not referring to trivial homilies such as the need to treat the patient as a whole and recognize that many factors, such as the psychological, emotional, and social, contribute to well-being along with the physical body. While this is often the example used by those who claim to practice holistic medicine, they imply something much more is at work in their treatments. Treating the whole person does not contradict any reductionist principles. Neither does the fact that the parts of a physical system interact with one another. Reductionism is not about a universe of isolated objects. The holism that goes beyond reductionism implies a universe of objects that interact simultaneously, and so strongly that none can ever be treated separately. This concept enters into the discussion of bioenergetic fields, where that field is imagined as some cosmic aether that pervades the universe and acts instantaneously, faster than the speed of light, over all of space.
Therapeutic Touch and other forms of "holistic healing" are now widely practiced within the nursing community (Rosa 1994, Scheiber 1997, Ulett 1997, Rosa 1998, Pryjmachuk 1998). These seem to be based on a theoretical system called "The Science of Unitary Human Beings," proposed by Rogers (1970, 1986, 1989, 1990). According to Rogers, "energy fields are postulated to constitute the fundamental unit of the living and nonliving." The field is "a unifying concept and energy signifies the dynamic nature of the field. Energy fields are infinite and paradimensional; they are in continuous motion" (Rogers 1990, 30). However, as Stranwick points out elsewhere in this volume, the energy field that Rogers talks about is apparently not the same one that touch therapists imagine.
The exact nature of the bioenergetic field is not unambiguously specified, even as a speculative hypothesis, in Rogers or the other literature on holistic healing. On the one hand, the biofield seems to be identified with the classical electromagnetic field; on the other it is confused with quantum fields or wave functions. For example, Stefanatos (1997, 227) writes: "The principles of energy medicine originate in quantum physics. Bioenergetic medicine is the study of human and animal bodies as dynamic electromagnetic fields existing in an electromagnetic environment."


AURAS AND DISCHARGES
Perhaps the most specific model for the bioenergetic field is some special form of electromagnetism. Advocates claim that measurable electromagnetic waves are emitted by humans."
In the Journal of Advanced Nursing, Patterson relates "spiritual healing" to the belief that "we are all part of the natural harmonious energy of the universe." Within this universal energy field is a human energy field "that is intimately involved with human life, often called the 'aura'" (Patterson 1998, 291).
Some self-described psychics claim that they can "see" a human aura. The claim has not been substantiated (Loftin 1990). Indeed, humans have auras that can be photographed with infrared-sensitive film. However, this can be trivially identified as "black body" electromagnetic radiation. Everyday objects that reflect very little light will appear black. These bodies emit invisible infrared light that is the statistical result of the random thermal movements of all the charged particles in the body. The wavelength spectrum has a characteristic smooth shape completely specified by the body's absolute temperature. As that temperature rises, the spectrum moves into the visible. The sun, for example, radiates largely as a "black body" of temperature 6,000 K, with a broad peak at the center of the visible spectrum in the yellow. At their much lower body temperatures, humans radiate mostly in the infrared region of the spectrum that is invisible to the naked eye but easily seen with infrared detection equipment.
The inability of the wave theory of light to explain the black body spectrum led, in 1900, to Planck's conjecture that light comes in bundles of energy called "quanta,"thus triggering the quantum revolution. These quanta are now recognized as material photons. It is somewhat ironic that holists find such comfort in quantum mechanics, which replaced etherial waves with material particles." Surely black body radiation is not a candidate for the bioenergetic field, for then even the cosmic microwave background, 2.7K radiation left over from the big bang, would be "alive." Black body radiation lacks any of the complexity we associate with life. It is as featureless as it can be and still be consistent with the laws of physics. Any fanciful shapes seen in photographed auras emanating from humans can be attributed to optical and photographic effects, uncorrelated with any property of the body that one might identify as "live" rather than "dead," and the tendency for people to see patterns where none exist.
Stefanatos (1997, 228) tells us that the "electromagnetic fields (EMF) emanating from bacteria, viruses, and toxic substances affect the cells of the body and weaken its constitution." So the vital force is identified quite explicitly with electromagnetic fields and said to be the cause of disease. But somehow the life energies of the body are balanced by bioenergetic therapies. "No antibiotic or drug, no matter how powerful, will save an animal if the vital force of healing is suppressed or lacking" (Stefanatos 1997, 229). So health or sickness is determined by who wins the battle between good and bad electromagnetic waves in the body.
Now it would seem that all these effects of electromagnetic fields in living things would be easily detectable, given the great precision with which electromagnetic phenomena can be measured in the laboratory. Physicists have measured the magnetic dipole moment of the electron (a measure of the strength of the electron's magnetic field) to one part in ten billion, and calculated it with the same accuracy. They surely should be able to detect any electromagnetic effects in the body powerful enough to move atoms around or do whatever happens in causing or curing disease. But either physics nor any other science has seen anything that demands we go beyond well established physical theories. No elementary particle or field has been found that is uniquely biological. None is even hinted at in the data from our most powerful detectors.
Besides the infrared black body radiation already mentioned, electromagnetic waves at other frequencies are detected from the brain and other organs. As mentioned, these are often claimed as "evidence" for the bioenergetic field. In conventional medicine, they provide powerful diagnostic information. But these electromagnetic waves show no special characteristics that differentiate them from the electromagnetic waves produced by moving charges in any electronic system. Indeed, they can be simulated with a computer. No marker has been found that uniquely labels the waves from organisms "live" rather than "dead."
Kirlian Photography is often cited as evidence for the existence of fields unique to living things. For example, Patterson (1998) claims that the "seven or more layers within an aura, each with its own colour," have been recorded using Kirlian photography.
Semyon Davidovich Kirlian was an Armenian electrician who discovered in 1937 that photographs of live objects placed in a pulsed high electromagnetic will show remarkable surrounding" aura." In the typical Kirlian experiment, a object, such as a freshly-cut leaf, is placed on a piece of photographic film that is electrically isolated from a flat aluminum electrode with a piece of dielectric material. A pulsed high voltage is then applied between another electrode placed in contact with the object and the aluminum electrode. The film is then developed.
The resulting photographs indicate dynamic, changing patterns, with multicolored sparks, twinkles, and flares (Ostrander 1970, Moss 1974). Dead objects do not have such lively patterns! In the case of a leaf, the pattern is seen to gradually go away as the leaf dies, emitting cries of agony during its death throes. Ostrander and Schroeder described what Kirlian and his wife observed: "As they watched, the leaf seemed to be dying before their very eyes, and the death was reflected in the picture of the energy impulses." The Kirlians reported that "We appeared to be seeing the very life activity of the leaf itself" (Ostrander 1970, 200).
As has been amply demonstrated, the Kirlian aura is nothing but corona discharge, reported as far back as 1777 and completely understood in terms of well-known physics. Controlled experiments have demonstrated that claimed effects, such as the cries of agony of a dying leaf, are sensitively dependent on the amount of moisture present. As the leaf dies, it dries out, lowering its electrical conductivity. The same effect can been seen with a long dead but initially wet piece of wood (Pehek 1976; Singer 1981; Watkins 1988, 1989).
Once again, like the infrared aura, we have a well known electromagnetic phenomenon being paraded in front of innocent lay people, unfamiliar with basic physics, as "evidence" for a living force. It is nothing of the sort. Proponents of alternative medicine would have far fewer critics among conventional scientists if they did not resort to this kind of dishonesty and foolishness. (For more discussion of Kirlian photography, see Stenger 1990, 237-241).


QUANTUM HEALING
"Quantum" is the magic incantation that appears in virtually everything written on alternative medicine. It seems to be uttered in order to make all the inconsistencies, incoherences, and incompatibilities of the proposed scheme disappear in a puff of smoke. Since quantum mechanics is weird, anything weird must be quantum mechanics.
Quantum mechanics is claimed as support for mind-over-matter solutions to health problems. The way the observer is entangled with the object being observed in quantum mechanics is taken to infer that human consciousness actually controls reality. As a consequence, we can all think ourselves into health and, indeed, immortality - if we only buy this book (Chopra 1989. 1993). "Quantum healing" is based on a particularly misleading interpretation of quantum mechanics (Stenger 1997). Other interpretations exist that do not require any mystical ingredients (see also Stenger 1995).
"Einstein" is a name found frequently in the literature on energy therapy. Stephantos (1997, 228) says: "Based on Einstein's theories of quantum physics, these energetic concepts are being integrated into medicine for a comprehensive approach to disease diagnosis, prevention, and treatment."
Einstein's theories of quantum physics? What theories are these? While Einstein contributed mightily to the development of quantum mechanics, especially with his photon theory, modern quantum mechanics is the progeny of a large group of early century physicists. Planck, Bohr, de Broglie, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Pauli, Born, Jordan, and Dirac each made contributions to quantum mechanics at least as important as Einstein's. Einstein's immortality rests securely enough on his two theories of relativity.
Referring to well-known promoters of quantum mysticism Fritjof Capra and Ken Wilber, Stefanatos (1997, 227) tells how "Einstein's quantum model replaced the Newtonian mechanistic model of humankind and the universe." Thus holistic healing is associated with the rejection of classical, Newtonian physics. Yet, holistic healing retains many ideas about the aether and action at a distance from eighteenth and nineteenth century physics. Its proponents are blissfully unaware that these ideas have been rejected by modern physics.
Never mind that Einstein was not the inventor of quantum mechanics and objected strongly to its anti-Newtonian character, saying famously, "God does not play dice." Never mind that electromagnetic fields were around well before quantum physics and it was Einstein himself who proposed that they are composed of reductionist particles. And never mind that Einstein did away with the aether, the medium that nineteenth century physicists thought was doing the waving in an electromagnetic wave, and a few others thought might also be doing the waving for "psychic waves." The bioenergetic field described in holistic literature seems to be confused with the aether. Or, perhaps no confusion is implied. They each share at least one common feature - nonexistence.
As the nineteenth century drew to a close, experiments by Michelson and Morley had failed to find evidence for the aether. This laid the foundation for Einstein's theory of relativity and his photon theory of light, both published in 1905. Electromagnetic radiation is now understood to be a fully material phenomenon. Photons have both inertial and gravitational mass (even though they have zero rest mass) and exhibit all the characteristics of material bodies. Electromagnetism is as material as breath, and an equally incredible candidate for the vital field.
Much as we might wish otherwise, the fact remains that no unique living force has ever been conclusively demonstrated to exist in scientific experiments. Of course, evidence for a life force might someday be found, but this is not what is claimed in the literature that promotes much of alternative medicine. There you will see the strong assertion that
current scientific evidence exists for some entity beyond conventional matter, and that this claim is supported by modern physical theory - especially quantum mechanics. Furthermore, the evidence is not to be found in the data from our most powerful telescopes or particle accelerators, probing beyond existing frontiers. Rather, it resides in vague, imprecise, anecdotal claims of the alleged curative powers of traditional folk remedies and other nostrums. These claims simply do not follow from any reasonable application of scientific criteria.
The bioenergetic field plays no role in the theory or practice of biology or scientific medicine. Vitalism and bioenergetic fields remain hypotheses not required by the data, to be rejected by Occam's razor until the data demand otherwise.

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