Parapsychology in the Twenty-First Century: Essays on the Future of Psychical Research

By Beischel, Julie | The Journal of Parapsychology, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview
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Parapsychology in the Twenty-First Century: Essays on the Future of Psychical Research

Beischel, Julie, The Journal of Parapsychology

PARAPSYCHOLOGY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: ESSAYS ON THE FUTURE OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH edited by Michael A. Thalbourne and Lance Storm. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. Pp. vii + 387. ISBN 0-7864-1938-8

According to its preface, the main purpose of Parapsychology in the Twenty-First Century is "to explore future directions of parapsychology" but that declaration is qualified by the statement: "reports of the current status of the field were considered crucial to the overall feel of the book" (p. 5). The preface also states that the book's advantage is that "it does not present the overarching viewpoint of a single author. Instead, through the wide-ranging interests and expertise of its contributors, it is representative of the field in general" (p. 5). However, even glancing at the table of contents makes it apparent that "the field in general" is far from represented. In addition, it is often unclear exactly how the content relates to "the future directions of parapsychology."

The book is divided into four sections: general issues, experimental issues, theoretical issues, and sociological and phenomenological issues. There is no thorough discussion, however, of how parapsychology might interact with the fields of medicine, consciousness research, physics, anthropology, or philosophy in the twenty-first century though numerous authors support collaboration and integration with other disciplines. Furthermore, the section discussing experimental issues includes only a technical chapter proposing the use of a specific psi testing procedure (the ball drawing test) and two descriptive chapters on altered states of consciousness and forced-choice ESP tests. There is no discussion in this section regarding the future of parapsychological experiments in micro-or macro-psychokinesis, precognition, clairvoyance, and medium-ship and the survival of consciousness, nor any speculation about the empirical evaluation of other topics that may become part of parapsychology in the future.

Some other content lacking in this book was any in-depth discussions regarding (1) possible social, psychological, or medical applications of parapsychological findings for the future and (2) suggestions regarding the specific goals of parapsychology as a science in this new millennium. At the 50th annual Parapsychological Association (PA) convention, issues including the advancement of parapsychology as a science, the dissemination of parapsychological knowledge, and the integration of parapsychology with other scientific fields were discussed in an assessment of the goals of the PA. Chapters presenting issues such as these in detail would have fit well within this book (though several authors do reference integration with other fields in their chapters).

In addition, the content of some of the chapters is in direct conflict with the information or suggestions presented in other chapters. For example, in chapter 3, William Braud states: "whether psi occurs significantly more frequently or significantly more accurately [during procedures such as the ganzfeld] is not at all clear--due to the typical absence of appropriate contrast or control conditions with which these ostensible psi-facilitators could be compared" (p. 48). Then, in the very next chapter, Adrian Parker repeatedly references (but does not cite) the work of Braud but, in the words of the editors, "describes in detail the so-called Real-Time Digital Ganzfeld Technique (RTDGT)," concludes that "altered states are psi-conducive," and "argues cogently for the RTDGT to become widely available to researchers" (p. 65) even though Parker's extensive description of the RTDGT methodology does not include any of the "appropriate contrast or control conditions" suggested by Braud in the previous chapter.

Despite these limitations, many of the individual chapters that are included in this text contain interesting and informative reports on the current state of affairs in parapsychology and numerous predictions, suggestions, and warnings regarding its future as a scientific discipline.

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