Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

To be or not to be! A "paraphysics" for the new millennium - Parapsychological Abstracts

What is Paraphysics?

The physical sciences are traditionally based upon a shared belief that it is possible to explain all natural phenomena within the context of matter and motion, against a four-dimensional background of space and time. As physics is primarily concerned with exploring interactions taking place between energy and matter within the physical world, it is assumed that all natural phenomena will ultimately be found to be physical in nature. Any observable phenomena, which can't be explained within the context of current physical theories or the prevalent scientific worldview, must be classified as paranormal, being caused by unknown extraneous factors that can neither be weighed nor measured.However, no existing physical theory is capable of providing a satisfactory explanation for the presence of consciousness in a human brain or the participatory role that an observer plays in quantum physics. Neither can it explain paranormal phenomena, such as Psychokinesis, Telepathy, Remote viewing, Clairvoyance, Out-of-body experiences, Spiritual healing or account for the possibility of Life after death. More advanced physical theories, such as ‘String theory’ have attempted to explain multidimensional phenomena beyond Einstein's four-dimensional space-time. String theory attempts to address the mystery of the multidimensional nature of reality by hypothesizing the existence of hyperspaces, which exist beyond the perceptual boundaries of the physical senses. Ultimately, it is believed that such a single unified theory will eventually be capable of explaining everything there is to explain. Paraphysics explores the nonphysical aspects of reality and is therefore considered to be the ‘physics of the paranormal’. Although the phenomenon it studies is not explainable within the context of current physical theories, paraphysics is nevertheless considered to be an extended branch of physics as it applies to the study of parapsychological phenomena. One of its primary concerns is the nature of the subtle relationships that exist between psychic and physical processes occurring in living organisms, which are different than those occurring in inanimate matter.

Although conventional physics and paraphysics both study natural phenomena, the real difference between them is the level at which the explanation of physical reality occurs. Paraphysics attempts to find a more fundamental level of reality than matter, energy and motion. Although these two divergent branches of physics are very specialized, it is generally believed by many paraphysicists that it is possible to expand the boundaries of current physical theories to include all paranormal phenomena beyond the present interests of science.

Because of recent developments in Quantum physics there is an increasing scientific interest in exploring these paraphysical frontiers, incorporating new theories and philosophical ideas, many of which first appeared in the ancient texts of the Far East. Essentially, paraphysics can be defined as a branch of physics which explores these outer boundaries of knowledge where conventional science fears to tread, with its main goal being the theoretical unification of the spiritual, psychological and physical aspects of our existence.
In 1974, Brendan O'Regan and James Beal declared the emergence of a new field of science, paraphysics. The decade of the 1970s also saw the first publication of the Journal of Paraphysics increasing publications and interest in paraphysics and physics of the paranormal; the entrance of physicists into parapsychology in larger numbers than ever before, resulting in new avenues of research; and the development of a secret government program for the study and application of paranormal abilities. These and related developments seemed to represent the culmination of a long evolutionary process by which normal physics was slowly coming to terms with paranormal physical phenomena; however, the acceptance of paraphysics as a legitimate field of science is yet to be accomplished nearly 3 decades later. In fact, at the end of the 2nd millennium, use of the word paraphysics has declined despite recent developments concerning the scientific verification of psi phenomena and a new mindset in parapsychology. be understood against the background of its initial development and the continuing evolution of physics itself. As a branch of theoretical physics, pamphysics is subject to all of the subtle changes of attitude within the scientific community at large as well as individual changes within both physics and parapsychology. The same evolutionary factors that have changed the landscape of modem physics since the 1960s, spawned O'Regan and Beal's announcement, and subsequently pushed the birth of paraphysics into the background of science have now opened new avenues of research, which once again demonstrates the need to establish paraphysics as a legitimate scientific endeavor. There is now reason to believe that science has at last matured to a level of understanding of nature that will allow physicists and other scholars to openly and seriously discuss the role and validity of paraphysics. Unusual play in young children who claim to remember previous lives. journal of scientific exploration, 14, 557-570. Among 278 cases of children who claim to remember previous lives, 66 (23.7%) engaged in play that was unusual for their families and had no model in family members or other obvious normal stimulus. This paper reports 25 examples of such atypical play. The play accorded with claimed memories of previous lives expressed by the children when they could speak. The child's unusual play sometimes gave the parents the first indication they had that the child was possibly remembering a previous life. In 22 cases, the child's statements were found to match events in the life of a specific deceased person. In such cases, the play was also found to correspond to some aspects of that deceased person's life, such as his or her vocation, avocation, or mode of death. In Japan, scientific studies dealing with anomalous phenomena are being actively pursued following a nationwide rise, nation-wide, in interest in supernatural phenomena including qigong, the phenomenon attributable to the Indian swami Sathya Sai Baba, and near-death experiences. Research into these topics has been done primarily by orthodox scientists who were expanding their professional territories to include even the parapsychological domain. Research bearing on parapsychology conducted in the 1990s is summarized under the headings of case studies; cognitive, social-scientific, and theoretical research; experiments with human, subhuman, and cellular targets; and physical/chemical studies. Remarkable contributions have been made by qigong researchers who have been working in this area for only a decade. Especially interesting results have been obtained in experiments on external qi, or what might be called bio-PK. However, the fundamentals necessary for a productive research program are still not sufficient ly established in Japan, and unless shortcomings are addressed, future research developments will be hindered.
Why is PSI so elusive? A review and proposed model
One of the most important and perplexing questions in parapsychology is why psi phenomena are so weak, unreliable, and/or rare. The usual working assumptions in parapsychological research appear to be that (a) many people have the ability to demonstrate psi (Pratt, 1978; J. B. Rhine, 1966) and (b) psi is guided by human motivation (J. B. Rhine, 1964; Stanford, 1993; Weiner & Geller, 1984). These assumptions lead to the prediction that psi effects would be much more widespread and consistent than they are. The gap between these assumptions and reality is the central challenge of parapsychology.Parapsychology may benefit from adapting the "correspondence principle" from quantum physics. The correspondence principle had an important role in guiding the development of quantum physics. Several concepts from quantum physics already have been incorporated into parapsychological thought, including "nonlocality" and the possible role of the "observer."
The correspondence principle states that the predictions from quantum physics must agree with classical physics in those areas in which classical physics was developed and works well. Quantum physics did not overturn classical physics, rather it supplemented it and made physics more complete. This principle prevented inconsistencies between the quantum predictions and established reality as we know it. In a sense, it defined the natural niche for quantum physics. After this initial understanding of quantum physics was achieved, practical applications were developed.
A correspondence principle for parapsychology would suggest that psi phenomena would be expected to be weak, unreliable, and/or rare. If this were not true, physics would never have developed as it did. Eisenbud (1992) devoted the greatest effort to exploring the implications of this basic concept.
Rather than viewing the elusive nature of psi as a temporary obstacle that needs to be overcome, this approach embraces it as a valuable guiding principle for learning about psi. In practical terms, the correspondence principle shifts or expands the strategies for research. For example, most meta-analyses in parapsychology have not included relatively straightforward analyses that might offer important insight into why 70% or more of the studies in most lines of research are not significant. Specific examples are discussed later in the section on suggestions for further research.
Whether or not the correspondence principle is useful for parapsychology, the question of why psi phenomena have historically been so elusive is a fundamental issue. Answers or assumptions for this question are a necessary step for developing realistic models of psi phenomena and for developing more reliable manifestations of psi.
The present article reviews and evaluates 11 hypotheses that may explain the elusive nature of psi phenomena. For each of the hypotheses, supporting and opposing positions are summarized and a conclusion presented. The supporting and opposing positions are presented for the sake of discussion and do not necessarily represent my actual opinions. Finally, a model is proposed that integrates several of the topics.
This is the skeptical hypothesis that psi does not exist. Most criticisms of psi research can be put into one of three categories: (a) supported criticisms that identify methodological weaknesses and discuss empirical evidence for the occurrence and impact of the weaknesses, (b) unsupported criticisms that speculate that certain methodological problems may have occurred even though the proponents have no evidence for the occurrence, and (c) wayward results criticisms that argue that certain research findings are more consistent with methodological artifacts than with the parapsychological assumptions or conclusions. The unsupported criticisms generally contribute little to scientific inquiry. The present discussion focuses on wayward results criticisms because these are the current state of the art for psi criticism and they apply to studies without identified methodological flaws. It should be noted that most skeptics do not have sufficient knowledge of parapsychological research findings and of research met hodology in general to proficiently implement this strategy of criticism. Hyman (1994, 1995) has done the most to develop this strategy.
Supporting Arguments
Parapsychological findings do not have the statistical properties expected for a real phenomenon amenable to experimental investigation. Statistical methods assume that the effects under study will be more reliable with larger sample sizes (z score will be proportional to the square root of n). However, parapsychological studies do not have this property. In an analysis of initial ganzfeld studies, the z scores were unrelated to sample size (Honorton, 1983). The subsequent ganzfeld series described by Bem and Honorton (1994) had an equivalent unexpected result (effect size inversely related to sample size) that was also found in an analysis of early ESP tests (Nash, 1989). A meta-analysis of studies with random number generators also found that the z scores were not related to sample size (May, Radin, Hubbard, Humphrey, & Utts, 1986). These findings are very consistent by parapsychological standards. The usual argument that the low reliability of psi results is due to poor statistical power (Utts, 1991) is ba sed on the assumption that larger studies have more reliable results. The evidence indicates that this fundamental assumption does not apply for psi research.
Why is PSI so elusive? A review and proposed model
After decades of involvement with parapsychological research, the founding statisticians expressed doubts that the experimental results were sufficiently consistent to meet the requirements for valid statistical analysis (Greenwood & Greville, 1979).
Braud (1985) commented that experiments designed to provide useful comparative information about the operation of psi seem less likely to get significant results than simple experiments designed primarily to provide evidence for the existence of psi. This observation is implicitly supported by the pervasive and otherwise inexplicable lack of control groups in prominent psi research such as studies investigating ostensible psi-enhancing properties of the ganzfeld procedure.
These findings and observations are more consistent with the hypothesis that the results are due to methodological artifacts than with the hypothesis that they indicate lawful but unexplained information transfer as conceptualized in parapsychological research.
Although specific methodological flaws that could account for recent meta-analysis findings have not been identified, the history of psychical research suggests that methodological problems are a likely explanation for the effects. For over a century, psychical research has been a continuing sequence of new test techniques heralded as definitive proof by their advocates and subsequently dropped from investigation when unrecognized methodological problems were found and attempted replications failed (Hyman, 1995). It can take years of detailed data analysis and attempted replications before the methodological problems are fully recognized. In addition, the fact that parapsychological findings are not cumulative and convergent suggests that there is not a meaningful underlying phenomena. For individual researchers and the field as a whole, each new research interest replaces previous interests rather than builds on them.
The lack of convergence is most apparent in the inconsistent results for specific research techniques. For example, the initial ganzfeld studies obtained significant results with pictures as targets. In a later series of studies that investigated the hypothesis that videotapes would produce better results than still pictures, the trials with videotapes were significant and the trials with still pictures were not significant, even though there was adequate statistical power based on the previous findings (Bem & Honorton, 1994; Hyman, 1994). These inconsistent findings suggest that the different results are produced by different factors, which raises the likelihood that the results are due to methodological problems rather than a common underlying phenomenon of information transfer (Hyman, 1995).
Other problematic issues related to the lack of cumulative findings include the lack of a theory or coherent explanation for the findings, the lack of an ability to predict when the alleged phenomenon will occur, claims for a wide diversity of manifestations (displacement effects, psi missing, position effect, etc.) that are unpredictable and difficult to distinguish from random fluctuations, widely differing results among investigators, and a negative definition of psi that is based on what it is not rather than what it is (Hyman, 1995).


  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP