Dr. Charles T. Tart on February 18th, 2016

Occasionally I get questions from students that strike me as of general interest, so here are some from a young woman and my responses, with my responses not at all comprehensive, but, hopefully, stimulating thoughts…

———- Forwarded message ———-

Subject: Questions about the field in Parapsychology
To: Office of the Parapsychological Association <office@parapsych.org>

Zener cardsHello my name is ***** and I am doing an Inquiry report on the necessary prep and day-to-day realities of the field of Parapsychology for my English class. If you, Charles Tart, or Carlos S. Alvarado have time to answer a few questions for me that would be amazing;

1.) Why do you think people look so down on the study of Parapsychology?

2.) What have people accused you of being because you are a Parapsychologist?

3.) What have TV shows and movies done to make people confused on the reality of these Phenomena? What TV shows or movies do you think have really made people confused?

4.) What are some scientific methods Parapsychologists use when experimenting or researching?

5.) What is some of the best evidence you put forth that a debunker still tried all they could to debunk?

6.) What made you want to go into the field? How can I try to get into the field?

Thanks again if you have time to answer these for me!

***********
This email was sent through the contact form at The Parapsychological Association.
http://www.parapsych.org

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Dear **********,                      Date Composed: February 18, 2016

So many questions!  I’ll try to give you some information to think about.

For my general understanding, though, you should see a book I published in 2009, The End of Materialism, available on Amazon as an e-book, and for career advice you should see my article on that at http://blog.paradigm-sys.com/careers-in-consciousness-research-parapsychology-andor-transpersonal-psychology/ .

I don’t have time to be comprehensive, but will toss out things to start you thinking.

1.) Why do you think people look so down on the study of Parapsychology?

It’s only been a few centuries in the West, a very short time in human history, since we stopped burning people at the stake that we thought had paranormal abilities, and murdering such people still happens in many cultures.  There is an element of fear of the paranormal, heightened by the entertainment industry, and the unadmitted fear has nothing to do with scientific evidence.  I don’t spend much time worrying about someone zapping me with their telekinetic powers, each of us is infinitely more likely to be “zapped” by some idiot driving a car while not paying adequate attention…

The people who look down on the study of parapsychology also, in practically every case, actually have no scientific knowledge of what it’s about, so you’re talking about irrational religious convictions rather than science.

2.) What have people accused you of being because you are a Parapsychologist?

Basically I’ve been accused of being stupid to think that there’s anything to parapsychology.  This must mean that I have a very complicated personality, because I seem to be reasonably smart in most areas of life.  In general, parapsychologists have been accused of being stupid and taken in by fake psychics or of being charlatans themselves, and while there are a very few charlatans and some fake psychics, that reality is not what’s behind these kind of accusations.  In science, demonstrable results are what counts, not what you believe about the universe.  Since the people who make these kind of accusations have almost never actually ever carried out a parapsychological experiment, you have to be very skeptical of their claim to be rational or scientific.

3.) What have TV shows and movies done to make people confused on the reality of these Phenomena? What TV shows or movies do you think have really made people confused?  

I don’t follow TV and movies that much.

4.) What are some scientific methods Parapsychologists use when experimenting or researching?

See my book, mentioned above.

5.) What is some of the best evidence you put forth that a debunker still tried all they could to debunk?  

On the rare occasions when there is a debate between a parapsychologist and one of the so-called skeptics, the so-called skeptics will make all sorts of vague general statements about the inadequacy of parapsychological experiments, but when asked to start commenting specifically on some of the thousand or more experiments that show evidence for parapsychological functioning, they will try to change the subject, or perhaps finally break down and admit that they haven’t actually read any of the experiments.  After all, since they know parapsychology is all nonsense, and there must be flaws in experiments even if they can’t figure out what they are, why should they waste their time reading experimental accounts?  That’s why I generally call these people pseudo-skeptics.

Actually being a skeptic is an honorable position.  It means you are interested in something and not particularly impressed with our current explanations about it, so would like to learn more about it and have better explanations.  But when you don’t bother to look at the evidence, that just means you’re not at all skeptical, you already have some other belief system that you think is being threatened, so you attack what you think of as your enemy.

The data of parapsychology don’t invalidate any of our best science, although they do indicate that there’s still a lot we don’t know.  That we don’t know a lot is, to me, exciting and challenging, and motivates me to try to find out some things.

6.) What made you want to go into the field? How can I try to get into the field?

As a psychologist, I’m interested in what things mean to people, as well as the way the world really is, so my initial interest in parapsychology came as a teenager when I became familiar with science and realized that the religion I was raised in was pretty questionable in lots of ways.  I discovered parapsychology and its early and more widely focused forerunner, usually called psychical research, and thought that it’s idea, that we could apply the methods of science to find out what might be real phenomena in religion and what was indeed nonsense looked like a very sensible way to start clarifying our knowledge.  I’m still working on that!

Good luck with your thinking!

Charles T Tart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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