Re: Parapsychology

From: no email ((no)
Date: Mon Jun 05 1995 - 18:28:30 BST

> From: "Thompson, Fiona" <>
> Date: Fri, 2 Jun 1995 16:25:05 GMT
> On reading Rao and Palmer Paper, I have questions to ask about the
> mind dualism and materialism thing. Am I right in assuming that if
> you are a dualist you believe that the brain and mind are separate
> things? The brain is a physiological entity that can be explained by
> science and the mind is an energy of its own which can not be
> explained by the laws of science. Am I right in assuming this is what
> Rao and Palmer think and that is why they present only the evidence
> for psi but don't present any empirical evidence for how it occurs?

You're right that that's what a dualist is. You're probably right that
Rao & Palmer are dualists. As for empirical evidence, Rao & Palmer are
trying to review the best empirical evidence there is for the existence
of purely mental, nonphysical effects (psi).

The course is on Debates, so some of the commentators (and Alcock) will
agree with you that that evidence is insufficient, others will not. You
have to survey the evidence and counterevidence (including the
methodological criticism) and the arguments and counterarguments.

> Also if is not possible to explain it by science, how is it to be
> explained and why are they bothering because their evidence seems so
> dubious anyway?

They don't say it can't be explained; they just say it's not physical.
What that MEANS is a more complicated question. What kind of
explanation is a nonphysical explanation? and where does it leave
physical explanations, causally speaking? Can psychic forces tamper
with physical forces and still leave everything working and making

And whether the evidence is dubious or not is what you need to discuss
with specific examples and critiques.

> A materialist on the other hand is someone who believes that the mind
> and brain are one of the same thing and that they are physical in
> nature, so that psi can be explained rationally by science but the
> explanations are yet to be discovered.

If the psi effects actually occur (which most materialists don't believe
in the first place), then, according to materialists, they will turn out
to be just physical effects (perhaps EEG effects affecting other
objects or minds physically).

But the materialist explanation of the mind as one and the same with
the brain is not entirely satisfactory either, as the modules on
consciousness show us (8-10): you don't even have to turn to psychic
effects to see that we have no idea how a mential act of will could
be the independent cause of even such a simple act as pressing a

> Does it therefore follow that if you are a materialist you probably
> don't believe [in psi] because it seems so irrational compared to other
> scientific laws and seems to defy them all? Are we to assume therefore
> that Alcock is a materialist?

You can safely assume that Alcock is a materialist. And he certainly
does not believe in psi. And, yes, he probably at bottom thinks it's
irrational to believe in psi. But others think otherwise. They all have
their own kinds of evidence and reasons. Survey them, giving the
substance of their evidence and reasons; then, if you like, say whom you
agree with and why, and what, if anything, should be done to settle the
matter: to take it out of the realm of debate and make it a question
that is settled the usual way empirical questions are settled.

> Another thing I'd like clarifying is the Ganzfeld Studies. What do all
> the different experimenters do? It all seems so unclear, complicated
> and unconvincing. Does the agent experimmenter deliberately try to
> read the mind of the subject which has just been in the light with the
> ping pong balls on his/her eyes and then chose the target? Where do
> the targets come from? Are they related to what the subject has
> reported on seeing? Are they trying to put forward the view that all
> this white light etc causes ESP because it reduces sensory output?

The experiments vary, but basically, one person is "sending" and the
other person (the one in the Ganzfeld) is "receiving." I look at a
picture, and concentrate on what it looks like; you, in another room,
looking at a Ganzfeld -- which is just a pink field, with no real forms
to interfere with your telepathic receiving powers -- report what you
seem to be seeing. If there is a psi effect, independent judges will
agree that what you say you see comes closer to what I was looking at
than some random control object.

Chrs, Stevan

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