MadSci Network: NeuroScience

Re: Mind Power

Area: NeuroScience
Posted By: Joe Simpson, MadSci Admin
Date: Thu May 15 11:13:26 1997
Area of science: NeuroScience
ID: 863710654.Ns
Dear Mr. Peterson,

  If you were to take a good, hard look at all of the facts, data, and research
that has been performed on so-called "psychic" abilities, I am extremely
confident that you would find that no good, solid evidence that such abilities
exist, in anyone.  No carefully controlled scientific studies have been able
to report such powers although several have attempted to.  And although it
is true that the CIA (and the KGB) did try to harness the powers of these 
supposed paranormal phenomena, there is no evidence that they discovered anything
at all.  I think it is a very good bet that those sorts of experiments were
abandoned decades ago (although one never can tell with these types of organizations.)
  Does this mean that paranormal powers absolutely, 100% do not exist?  No.  It is
essentially impossible to prove a negative.  To prove that ESP, etc. did not
exist, you would basically have to test every single person on the face of the
planet.  If you didn't find anything, then you would be justified in denying
the existence of psychic powers (although you still couldn't deny the POSSIBILITY
of such powers.)  Obviously, this will never happen.  So people will go on
hoping and wondering, even though all the available evidence indicates that 
psychic phenomena are not real.
  I can't point you to any good Web sites myself.  If you start searching the
Web, you will quickly find out that it's very hard to separate the good stuff
from the trash in such an extremely controversial field.  Duke University
(Durham, North Carolina, USA) did have a serious scientific program in paranormal
research for a long time, but I don't know if it still exists.  I would say
if you come across studies or reports from Duke, they are likely to be more reliable and
careful than those done anywhere else.

  You can probably tell from what I've written that I don't believe in psychic
powers.  So I really can't address the issue of whether we all have these powers
or if only some of us do.  Basically, I think that none of us do.  And I know
that most scientists agree with me.  That doesn't necessarily mean we're right,
but it will take a whole lot of solid evidence to change our minds.  And given
the record of paranormal research so far, I just don't think it's likely to
happen.  In fact, I'd bet good money that we will find evidence of an alien
intelligence somewhere in the universe before we prove the existence of 
supernormal powers of the mind.

Joe Simpson
MD/PhD Student, Neurosciences
 School of Medicine
MadSci Administrator and Neuroscience Moderator

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