Are our assumptions more anomalous than the phenomena?

Stevens, Paul (2009). Are our assumptions more anomalous than the phenomena? In: Smith, Matthew D. ed. Anomalous Experiences: Essays from Parapsychological and Psychological Perspectives. Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland & Co., pp. 50–60.



Psi: a neutral term denoting the unknown factors that underlie parapsychological phenomena.
Psi effects/phenomena: observable outcomes attributed to the action of psi.
Psi agent: a person thought to play an active role in the production of psi effects.

One major criticism of parapsychology is that it lacks accepted theoretical models, and that those it does have tend to make use of the more esoteric and speculative areas of physics. Part of the reason for the widespread scepticism and dearth of viable theories is, I think, due to the perceived properties of psi effects rather than properties that are necessarily real. Given our current knowledge, it is difficult if not impossible to model psi effects as the claimed properties rarely appear to be consistent with theory and observation in other areas of science. But are the claims often made for psi phenomena really justified? Here, I look at three of the more common claims made by parapsychologists and critically assess the assumptions that led to them. I will try to show how the different assumptions we make about psi effects can radically alter the physical requirements of any potential mechanisms and suggest alternative perspectives on some parapsychological phenomena.

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