… the critics, represented here by Ray Hyman and Richard Wiseman, want parapsychology to declare itself dead. Hyman contests the claim, based on ganzfeld meta-analyses and supported by Dean Radin and Jessica Utts, among others, that the reality of psi has been established. Wiseman argues that parapsychology is by now ‘confined to the fringes of academia’.
However Wiseman also generously offers parapychologists ‘one last chance’ to prove themselves. They need to focus on one or two of the most promising approaches, he says, aiming for replications in a number of different labs, and pre-registering details in order to avoid the problems that arise with retrospective analysis.
If this approach yields a significant and replicable effect then the scientific mainstream would be forced to take the topic seriously and allow parapsychology in from the cold. If it fails the field needs to have the courage to accept the null hypothesis. In short, the time has come to put up or shut up.
Counter-arguments are put forward by Caroline Watt and Chris Roe. Watt, from the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, points out that parapsychology hardly exists as a discipline: there are fewer than 100 researchers working full time in the world, and many of those study not psi itself but other areas such as paranormal belief.
Roe, a psychology lecturer and psi-experimenter at the University of Northampton, adds that at least 16 UK universities have academic staff whose doctoral training is in parapsychology. Parapsychology has featured regularly at conferences organised by the British Psychological Society, and he personally has had papers accepted by its annual conference. Interestingly, the largest of the A-level (the standard pre-university qualification) examination boards for psychology includes ‘Anomalistic Psychology’ in its specification, including elements on testing of ESP and PK. This means, Roe says, that ‘future undergraduates will come to university with a grounding in parapsychology and an expectation that the subject will be represented on any comprehensive undergraduate syllabus’ – hardly characteristics of a subject confined to the fringes. …