A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology

By Paul Kurtz | Go to book overview

25
Parapsychology and Quantum Mechanics
MARTIN GARDNER

Watson: "This is indeed a mystery. What do you imagine it means?"

Holmes: "I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
A Scandal in Bohemia

Parapsychologists differ considerably about the "facts" of their trade, but there is a fairly solid core of beliefs on which most of them agree. They are convinced that psi powers (ESP and PK) are possessed in some degree by everybody, and to a high degree by a few. Almost all agree that psi forces are independent of time and distance. (ESP is defined here as the alleged ability to perceive or sense by means other than the known physical senses. PK is defined here as mind over matter—the alleged ability to move or alter objects by paranormal means.)

There is, of course, no way they can be sure that extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) are manifestations of a single power. Even ESP (which includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition) may, from their point of view, be a name for several kinds of interactions. However, parapsychologists have always been partial to the notion that a single force is responsible for both ESP and PK. If so, what kind of force is it?

Modern physics recognizes four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces. All are field phenomena with strengths that diminish with distance. As J. B. Rhine perceived early in the game, there is no reasonable way that any such force can explain the peculiar indifference of psi to distance and time. Moreover, electromagnetism, long a favorite among early researchers, seems ruled out by experiments that show that

____________________
Reprinted from Science and the Paranormal, edited by George 0. Abell and Barry Singer ( New York: Scribner's, 1983), with the permission of the Estate of George 0. Abell.

-585-

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