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Dreams

Essay by 24  •  November 6, 2010  •  5,392 Words (22 Pages)  •  817 Views

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Introduction

It is almost human nature to believe in supernatural forces. As humans we sometimes allow our imagination to bleed into realityÐ'-our five senses are ultimately processed by a brain biased by imagination. It is comforting to believe in such things as predestination, benevolent coincidences, or cosmic forces. These tendencies are only further fueled by a media hungry for shocking stories and friends eager to relate anecdotes which can be interpreted too loosely. Still, you might think your mind could separate truth from fantasy when presented with such stories.

Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case. Even when we are rationally presented with clear evidence to the contrary, a decent conjurer or performer can still cause the members of his or her audience to doubt the facts and believe the performer is blessed with paranormal psychic ability (see Frazier, 1986, page 57; and Skeptical Inquirer Nov./Dec. 1995: "Eyewitness Testimony and the Paranormal"). Somehow, to the audience, special powers are often the most believable explanation for a magical display. I've felt the same thing sometimesÐ'-it's a struggle between my gut feeling and my rational mind.

This paper will attempt to document, with supporting references, what exactly has been revealed by scientists' latest research into the paranormal. Evidence will be provided both for and against the conclusions of these studies. One hot area of research, the ganzfeld studies, will be targeted specifically. The verdict will be delivered on the existence of some of the more outlandish phenomena you may hear of occasionally in the news. The history and public perception of paranormal studies will be briefly examined, as well as the role of the media, as a reflection of society, in perpetuating certain beliefs. I will close the paper by presenting a comprehensive conclusion which outlines exactly what is known about reproducible paranormal phenomena.

Why Study Psi?

Scientists specifically label anomalous (unexplained) phenomena as "psi" and those who study such phenomena as "parapsychologists." I've always been curious about the existence of psi, taking the occasional anecdote or news report with a dose of wonder and a grain of salt. At times I assumed all psi phenomena must be hoaxesÐ'-why else would there be so many knowledgeable skeptics? If something exists as profound as precognition (knowing something will happen before it happens, with no obvious scientific explanation), why exactly hasn't it been proven by scientific study? And its power harnessed? And furthermore, in our ravenously capitalistic society, why can't you buy it on every street corner? On the other hand, there were times when I thought psi must be realÐ'-how else could there be so many stories and anecdotes? What is the catalyst behind the multitude of stories reported by the media? Why can most people name at least one friend who seems to have had a psi experience?

After having heard way too many stories, I wanted to get to the bottom of all this. I wanted to discover the truth about the paranormal. One phenomenon providing impetus for my investigation has been one of the largest syndicated talk shows on AM radio, Coast to Coast AM with George Noory (formerly with Art Bell) which often broadcasts sensational stories and interviews with questionable scientific backing. Topics include past lives, extraterrestrials, crop circles, government conspiracies, ghosts and spirits, remote viewing of the past and future, etc., stretching the limits of believability nearly every night of the week on AM radio. Sometimes legitimate research is presented, but normally the guests submit very speculative stories and their claims are left with very little supporting evidence. This show demonstrates that there is a rather large audience open to pondering wild conjecture on these topics. With so much information broadcast every night, and with so many people talking about these unnatural phenomena, I felt I couldn't reject these reports without digging up some facts myself on some of the more flagrant stories, and starting to build my own foundation of what we know to be real. I wanted to make the most informed, rational decision possible.

I was hoping to quickly uncover a documented consensus among researchers, and have some rational proof on hand to which I could refer anyone else when this somewhat emotional topic might arise. Well, the results of my labor have fallen slightly short of my expectations, but they have still been extremely enlightening. I have found precious little evidence to back up the existence of most psi phenomena, especially the more blatant stories which grab most people's attention, and, of course, no experiment can ever prove that psi doesn't exist. However, my beliefs are now more defined, focused, and well-grounded.

I've documented my discoveries here because I will most likely revisit this subject in the future as I find more time and as more research accumulates. I also hope that this informal discussion will pique the interest of others and maybe help direct their own personal research into the subject. Furthermore, I invite anyone with more information to forward it on to me and help uncover any inaccuracies, particularly in my conclusion. All opinions are welcomed, especially those backed by references to a scientific study or a published article or news story.

A History of Parapsychology for the T.V. Generation

Scientific progress has been slow to reveal anything definite about the reality of psi. Precognition (predicting the future), psychokinesis (controlling an inanimate object with the mind, including poltergeist cases), telepathy (communication between humans at an extrasensory levelÐ'-not involving the five senses), clairvoyance (telepathic messages from an inanimate object), and remote viewing (clairvoyance without temporal restrictions) have or have not been satisfactorily demonstrated under rigorous conditions, according to what parapsychologist you talk to. Very few in the scientific community, however, have remained all that satisfied with the evidence that exists so far.

After centuries of the ceaseless advance of mankind's foundational knowledge in many areas such as biology and physics, in which theory has been built upon theory, each one more or less testable, statistically replicable, and more carefully measured each time, why is parapsychology almost lacking

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