Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Are Skeptics Their Own Worst Enemies?

The experimenter effect, or the effect that the observer has on the observed (whether that be people or atoms), is well known in many areas of science. The field of parapsychology is no exception. Certain researchers seem to be psi-inhibitory – their presence consistently prevents the appearance of any evidence for psi. On the other hand, psi-conducive researchers consistently obtain results demonstrating evidence for psi. While research into the characteristics of the two groups is ongoing, it does seem as if psi-conducive experimenters are in general more positive in their attitudes towards psi than their psi-inhibitory counterparts.

Does this imply that it is possible that an attitude of skepticism towards the paranormal and metaphysical can actually block any such phenomena from occurring? I would argue that it can. The sceptical view, however, raises the question whether some researchers consistently don’t find psi because it doesn’t exist. Like any other scientific field, parapsychology is judged on replicability of results. Although all scientific fields experience some inconsistency in findings, parapsychology has perhaps had the most difficulty in overcoming this and establishing a credible knowledge base. It remains one of the field’s most vexing problems.

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