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A skeptic’s view of telepathy

I wanted the novel x0 to take place in my own reality, even thought it is the story of two telepaths. So while writing I did a fair amount of research on telepathy and I tried to understand both extremes of belief. This post is about the one extreme, the people who feel very sure that there is no extra-sensory communication of any kind in any way at any time any how.

You might wonder what would motivate people to work so hard at proving that telepathy does not exist. At its best, this group appears to want to protect others from being taken advantage of. Articles detail many scams throughout history, some of them quite elaborate. Folks lost money putting faith in something they wanted to believe in, other times there were merely made to be the fools for the sport of it. I spent a fair amount of time at The Skeptics Dictionary and it does make fascinating reading. Check out some of their wonderful anecdotal evidence on just how much humans enjoy tricking each other.

From this website I also learned that at one time Stanford University had a Fellow in Psychical Research, and by 1917 Stanford had conducted experiments with over 10,000 subjects before they concluded that there was no evidence of ESP. Harvard and Duke both got in on the research (with Duke continuing theirs into the mid-1960’s) and the consensus seemed to be that when outright fraud was not involved then one person was unconsciously responding to sensory cues from the other.

The other purpose of these hard working telepathy debunkers seems to be exemplified in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by one of my favorite folks, scientist Carl Sagan. Dr. Sagan, and others like him, want to keep us from being afraid of the dark, so to speak.  By reminding us that the monsters we invent in our heads and the superpowers we assign them do not exist, they wish their fellow humans to calm down and enjoy life. Fair enough.

Finally, the best negative article that I read was “Why People Believe in ESP for the Wrong Reasons” by Sharon Presley on a website called Resources for Independent Thinking. She addresses the coincidences that tend to make the average person open to the idea (“I was just thinking about you when you called”) and applies logic to an emotional response. She makes a lot of good points.

Do I think there is another side to the story?  Of course I do, and that will be the subject of another post.


Posted by on October 18, 2012 in telepathy


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