7 Jan 2013
Yes, Virginia, There IS Parapsychology!!
I don’t know who made this meme, just know that I didn’t and that credit is due elsewhere.
I’ve been inspired recently by a conversation that I had with Aron Houdini to write one of my famous and highly-anticipated blogs. The topic of this blog is called, “Yes, Virginia, there is parapsychology.” You see, in this conversation, I found myself in the increasingly common and unfortunate position of having to explain that there really is such a thing as parapsychology and, just because it isn’t currently offered in the United States as a course of secondary study, it once was. Therefore, although there will likely not be a glut of parapsychologists entering the workforce any time in the near future, there are people who have degrees and professional designations from the time that it was, and there are entire organizations dedicated to parapsychology with strict guidelines for membership. You can’t just hit a few keys on the keyboard and buy a membership or offer up a link exchange – you actually have to work for it.
The usual target for this conversation is generally Loyd Auerbach. Although he is by no means the only degree-holding parapsychologist in the world (yes, I said degree-holding), he is the one who’s name everyone recognizes. He was country when country wasn’t cool. I will admit, I kind of geek out over him a little bit because I referenced his work so much during my formative years and, as such, I feel a duty to protect his work when it is thrown under the ugly bus that all of the attention-seeking, good-for-nothing-but-drama “paranormal investigators” drive around the interwebs, hanging out the virtual windows spewing their brand of stupidity and ignorance like unruly teenagers…all for the good of “the field.”
Since the current contrived bit of foolishness involves a push – by Aron Houdini – to regulate the field of paranormal research (ostensibly to eliminate fraud), I am going to use my own platform to do a little educating about parapsychology. To begin, I am not a parapsychologist. That is wholly my disappointment, but it is relevant so that the world knows that, although I have done much to inform and entertain regarding the subject matter, I do not now– nor will I ever call myself a parapsychologist because I am not a parapsychologist.
Parapsychology is the study of psi phenomena. The definition given by the Parapsychological Association is as follows: “Parapsychology is the scientific and scholarly study of three kinds of unusual events (ESP, mind-matter interaction, and survival), which are associated with human experience.” Perhaps more importantly is their definition of what is not parapsychology: “In spite of what the media often imply, parapsychology is not the study of “anything paranormal” or bizarre. Nor is parapsychology concerned with astrology, UFOs, searching for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, paganism, Satanism, vampires, alchemy, or witchcraft. Many scientists have viewed parapsychology with great suspicion because the term has come to be associated with a huge variety of mysterious phenomena, fringe topics, and pseudoscience. Parapsychology is also often linked, again inappropriately, with a broad range of “psychic” entertainers, magicians, and so-called “paranormal investigators” or “paranormalists.” In addition, some self-proclaimed “psychic practitioners” call themselves parapsychologists, but that is not what we do.”
This organization and other similar organizations like the Rhine Research Center and the Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential are dedicated to furthering the study of survival of consciousness and psi using innovative scientific research. I want to make sure that you all understand that the key word is scientific. Legitimate scientific research is strictly monitored and the results must be peer-reviewed. The peer-review process allows other scientists to critique the research and outcome of each other’s work. If a peer-review finds that a particular scientist’s work is lucid, well-thought-out, and repeatable, then it may be published in a professional journal. That is how a scientist builds a credible body of work.
Parapsychologists also don’t care if ridiculously ignorant “paranormal investigators” believe that they exist or that their work is legit. They do and it is. Full stop.
If, before climbing atop a soapbox made of equal parts self-righteous lather and desperation to remain relevant, one would do a modicum of research instead of spouting egregiously inaccurate information, it would afford a clear distinction between useless hobbyists and actual research.
Now, as for the topic of fraud in the paranormal – everyone who calls themselves a scientific investigator (who is not a scientist) is already a fraud. Psychics who call themselves parapsychologists are frauds. This communal bilge that everyone feeds off of is bullshit and fraud. Paranormal groups who received training from a television show are frauds. Some might even say that if you change your last name to a more famous one, it is fraud. Bullshit begets bullshit. If you didn’t at least learn the basics from material published by a parapsychologist, you are a fraud. Parapsychology came first. Paranormal investigation is its idiot nephew.
I expect that the people who read this blog will eschew it for a more popular and favorable account of what goes on within the “community,” but that is a never-ending cycle of voluntary ignorance. Fraud exists because people allow themselves to be taken advantage of. There is nothing mandatory about paranormal investigation. If you willingly shell out money for an investigation, you are an idiot and you forfeit your right to complain about any financial inconvenience that befalls you as a direct result. If you make an appearance at an event without a signed contract and you don’t get paid, that is not “fraud in the paranormal,” that is “you are an idiot and probably won’t let it happen again.” If you go into an unsafe building to investigate and stay even after you have recognized that it is unsafe, then you are an idiot and nobody will cry when you hurt yourself.
There is no need for a governing body, especially if the person leading that charge doesn’t even know what parapsychology is. What needs to happen is a little common sense, people. Are you all really that stupid? No, I don’t think you are all stupid, but I do think that everything that goes on in this “field” is fueled by the need for attention, be it the need by a well-known person to receive attention or by someone with a desperate need for recognition by a well-known person. In all cases, this is just another red herring that keeps people feeling like something important is happening, when it’s really not.
Please let’s not turn this into a reality show. Just ignore it and walk away.