Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Thoughts about psi

I've been asked why I think the burden of proof should lie with the skeptic to prove that psi doesn't exist. This is my response below (a little tidied up).

There's nothing else to add apart from saying people have experienced psi throughout all cultures and throughout history, and furthermore scientific investigation in the form of Psychical Research and parapsychology suggests the existence of psi.

I'm well aware of the standard dismissal of such anomalous experiences as being due to folly, delusion, cognitive illusion and pathology and so on, and yes, I think such a dismissal is justified in most claims. I'm also leery of scientific results in the soft sciences. We are all, including scientists, very easily fooled, especially when a certain result is desired (although it is my understanding that in parapsychology a double blind protocol is normally employed).

None of this makes any difference to my belief in psi. But I can’t say anything in addition to the foregoing to make you question your beliefs, or disbeliefs. I would just say that at this moment in time science cannot explain consciousness. Indeed, at least with the present concept of science as dealing with the quantifiable (measurable), it seems science cannot in principle explain consciousness. It’s why we have had the mind-body problem for millennia, a problem that has become especially acute with the birth of modern science in the 17th Century.

You might retort that materialism explains everything. But there are many varieties of materialism and materialists vehemently attack each other’s variety of materialism saying it’s nonsensical! Eg Searle and Dennett. But the bottom line is that since consciousness is left out in our scientific description of reality, then we simply are in no position to stipulate that consciousness can’t have certain abilities. That includes the denial of mental causation as well as psi. We can only go by experiences, whether they be anecdotal, or more formal scientific investigations. Yes, they might all be wrong, we might all be fooling ourselves. But why suppose we are?

I know why, it’s our modern culture's metaphysical beliefs regarding the nature of reality. For sure, people don’t know what variety of materialism is correct, but they feel that some variety must be correct, or at least something like property dualism or epiphenomenalism. But I think all these positions are absolute nonsense, so they don’t have any hold over me. Since both anecdotes and scientific research overwhelmingly suggest psi, that’s what I’ll believe until someone provides any reason to make me doubt my beliefs.

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