Life Coach

Peter L Nelson PhD

Paranormal Research

Future of research into the paranormal.
For about 50 years I have been involved with the scientific endeavor to conduct research into what is called psychic or paranormal phenomena. The vast majority of these empirical efforts have centered on showing that this phenomena actually exists through the use of the same statistical research models as employed by scientific psychology and medicine.

Sufficient data is now definitely ‘in’ and, in spite of the denials by so-called skeptics, the statistical results are far more solid than what we see coming from pharmaceutical companies used to underpin the ‘safety’ and ‘efficacy’ of what our physicians are prescribing. Dr Dean Radin has provided us with an excellent summary of this statistical research and what it shows in his book, “Entangled Minds” (2009, Pocket Books. Kindle Edition). Although the presentation is a bit laborious, I recommend it to anyone who wants to see how large this effort has been and the reliability of the statistical results.

Parapsychological phenomena exists! Let’s stop trying to prove to the skeptics what they will inevitably deny, no matter how good the research designs and resultant data are. What is still missing from the research efforts to understand the paranormal is a good phenomenological mapping of the experiences and their relationship to how people allow this sort of information into conscious awareness. This phenomena is all about human perception and experience, so, without understanding the processes of attention and consciousness that allow for this kind of perception, we know very little other than, “it happens.”

What we see far too much of now is pseudo-theorizing about how this phenomena might be physically possible, given our current physics and the problem of the time arrow of thermodynamics. ‘Entanglement’, a hypothetical construct from quantum physics, has become the great explanatory ‘truth’ for many writers on the paranormal. It should be recalled that when the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment was first posited, it suggested that ‘entanglement’ of physical entities is in violation of Relativity Theory’s restriction based on the speed of light. It was offered as an absurdity that contradicts what we understand as possible in the physical world. However, the mathematical constructs of quantum mechanics appeared to allow this kind of interaction and when Alain Aspect (Aspect, A. et al (1982). Physical Review Letters, 49, 1804-7) in France experimentally demonstrated apparent “spooky action at a distance,” violating the speed of light restrictions, it certainly threw open new possibilities for some researchers to reframe what might be happening in the macro-world of paranormal phenomena as well.

The problem with ‘entanglement’ is that it is a hypothetical construct created to give a label to what might be happening in order to account for the observed data. It is not an actual known mechanism of the physical (micro) world much less a process that has been observed and mapped in the macro world of people, plants and things. Wittgenstein was right about the language game and how easily we get lost in it. Calling something ‘entanglement’ is no more explanatory than pointing at what you are now reading on your screen and in an attempt at explanation exclaiming, “Words!” We take our metaphors too literally.

During my half-century observing and participating in research into the paranormal I have seen the emergence of one self-proclaiming ‘theorist’ after another touting their ‘scientific’ explanation of the paranormal. In some ways it’s been like watching a bunch of grade-schoolers all with their hands waving anxiously in the air while shouting, “me, me,” to a teacher who has just asked the class, “Who is going to be the Einstein of parapsychology?” From my perspective, most of these proffered theories are neither explanatory nor theories in that they don’t offer an explanation that answers the question, “How does this work in human perception?” and have nothing useful to say about the human participant. After all, parapsychology is about human perception and behavior.

Over 30 years ago I suggested that we return to some naturalistic observation and was maniacally attacked by a prominent parapsychology researcher for suggesting that we do anything that was not strict, experimental laboratory research. I was in favor of the research that she backed, but I thought that we also should be exploring more about how people open to and understand what they are experiencing—an approach I called statistical psycho-phenomenology. I went off and did a lot of data gathering, published, but there was no response to this approach. A couple of PhD students asked me to act as external research supervisor in doing related work, but as soon as their internal committees saw what they were attempting, these students were forced back into the standard mold.

A couple of years ago I published a book, The Way of a Seer. Because the first 50 pages detailed some events from my life, it was confused with being some kind of memoir, which it is not. It is a behavioral and phenomenological case study of my life and a mapping of my own experiential understanding of what seeing, or paranormal perception, is about. It is a mapping done in a way that is consistent with my scientific publications on the topic—an account of what and how I experience the paranormal and its connection to attention-driven awareness.

For those who want to move past proving, yet again, that the paranormal actually happens, my book could be a useful guide in framing future research into the process of paranormal knowing. Positing grand so-called theories on how it may connect to the mechanisms of physics is somewhat benighted, considering that we do not know much about what paranormal perception actually is or how we do it.