A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology

By Paul Kurtz | Go to book overview

3
Psychokinesis: Fifty Years Afterward
EDWARD GIRDEN and ELLEN GIRDEN

Reliance upon the scientific method alone is the price of admissible evidence.

J. E. Coover, "Metapsychics and the Incredulity of Psychologists"

The controversy concerning experimental psychokinesis (PK), particularly at this time, requires some background about purported physical phenomena. The beginning of the modern period is associated with the organization of the Society for Psychical Research ( London), which celebrated its one-hundredth anniversary in 1982. The issues are still highly controversial, dealing with such concepts as mediums, reincarnation, apparitions, poltergeists, telepathy, and telekinesis.

In the 1930s, when J. B. Rhine moved to Duke University, he used card tests for telepathy and then dice tests for telekinesis, which he renamed psychokinesis (PK). The experimental work was kept distinct from the qualitative purported psychical phenomena. The PK hypothesis, however unsophisticated, is psychological in nature. For Rhine, "There is a direct psychical effect on the fall of the dice . . . and [it] may be termed psychokinesis, or PK" (EG, 354). The variable was wishing, which is subjective, unobservable, and unmeasurable. For Rhine and J. G. Pratt, in everyday language, if ESP represents "mind to mind," PK refers to "mind to matter" (EG, 353). Rhine had noted that "PK implies ESP, and ESP implies PK" (EG, 354). These definitions are not precise and, in anticipation, can result in confusion—when dealing with animals, is it PK or ESP? One compromise was a statistical approach by McConnell, Snowden, and Powell: "The evidence for psychokinesis thus rests on two statistical effects . . . total deviation from chance expectancy of wished-for die faces, and the occurrence of extra-chance declines on scoring rates for these faces" (EG, 355).

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In order to confine the references within reasonable limits, where possible citations will be quoted from the review (Girden, 1962a) from which the original sources can be obtained. The review will be identified in text as EG with the appropriate page reference.

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