Paul E. Meehl & Michael Scriven

Compatibility of Science and ESP

As two of the people whose comments on an early draft of George Price's article on "Science and the Supernatural" he acknowledged in a footnote, we should like to clarify our position by presenting the following remarks.

Price's argument stands or falls on two hypotheses, only the first of which he appears to defend. They are (i) that extrasensory perception (ESP) is incompatible with modern science and (ii) that modern science is complete and correct.

If ESP is not incompatible with modern science, then the Humean skeptic has no opportunity to insist on believing modern science rather than the reports about ESP. If modern science is not believed to be complete or correct, then the skeptic is hardly justified in issuing a priori allegations of fraud about experimenters even when they claim that they have discovered a new phenomenon that requires reconsideration of the accepted theories.

In our view, both of Price's hypotheses are untenable. Whatever one may think about the comprehensiveness and finality of modern physics, it would surely be rash to insist that we can reject out of hand any claims of revolutionary discoveries in the field of psychology. Price is in exactly the position of a man who might have insisted that Michelson and Morley were liars because the evidence for the physical theory of that time was

Reprinted from Science 123 ( 1956) No. 3184, pp. 14-15, by permission of the authors and the editor.


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