Archive for April, 2018

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

A recent issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice has discussions of precognition by various authors. The discussion opens with an editorial by Erik Woody and Steven Jay Lynn (“Perspectives on Precognition.” Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2018, 5, 1–2). They write:

“The balance of this issue consists of five articles addressing what has variously been termed precognition, precognitive ability, and retrocausal or retroactive influences . . . In the first article, Schooler, Baumgart, and Franklin (2018) address how to strike the most appropriate and productive relation between Sagan’s “seemingly contradictory attitudes,” drawing an important distinction between entertaining versus endorsing anomalous phenomena like precognition. In the second article, Mossbridge and Radin (2018b) present a comprehensive review of existing empirical research on precognition, making the case that this body of work warrants scientists being open to this possibility despite its “bizarre or counterintuitive” qualities. The next two articles, by Schwarzkopf (2018) and by Houran, Lange, and Hooper (2018), are invited critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s (2018b) review, applying the “most ruthless skeptical scrutiny” in pointing out what these critics believe are crucial conceptual and methodological flaws in the research. A response from Mossbridge and Radin (2018a) follows these critiques.”

The editorial was followed by Jonathan W. Schooler, Stephen Baumgart, and Michael Franklin’s “Entertaining Without Endorsing: The Case for the Scientific Investigation of Anomalous Cognition” (2018, Vol. 5, 63–77. Here is the abstract:

Johnattan Schooler

Johnattan Schooler

“Empirical reports in mainstream journals that human cognition extends in ways that challenge the current boundaries of science (anomalous cognition) has been viewed with dismay by many who see it as evidence that science is broken. Here the authors make the case for the value of conducting and publishing well-designed studies investigating anomalous cognition. They distinguish between the criteria that justify entertaining the possibility of anomalous cognition from those required to endorse it as a bona fide phenomenon. In evaluating these 2 distinct thresholds, the authors draw on Bayes’s theorem to argue that scientists may reasonably differ in their appraisals of the likelihood that anomalous cognition is possible. Although individual scientists may usefully vary in the criteria that they hold both for entertaining and endorsing anomalous cognition, we provide arguments for why researchers should consider adopting a liberal criterion for entertaining anomalous cognition while maintaining a very strict criterion for the outright endorsement of its existence. Grounded in an understanding of the justifiability of disparate views on the topic, the authors encourage humility on both the part of those who present evidence in support of anomalous cognition and those who dispute the merit of its investigation.”

The target article, by Julia Mossbridge and Dean Radin, was “Precognition as a Form of Prospection: A Review of the Evidence” (2018, Vol. 5, No. 1, 78–93). Abstract:

Julia mossbridge 6

Julia Mossbridge

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

“Prospection, the act of attempting to foresee one’s future, is generally assumed to be based on conscious and nonconscious inferences from past experiences and anticipation of future possibilities. Most scientists consider the idea that prospection may also involve influences from the future to be flatly impossible due to violation of common sense or constraints based on one or more physical laws. We present several classes of empirical evidence challenging this common assumption. If this line of evidence can be successfully and independently replicated using preregistered designs and analyses, then the consequences for the interpretation of experimental results from any empirical domain would be profound.”

This is followed by two critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s paper, and by their reply.

D. Samuel Schwarzkopf, “On the Plausibility of Scientific Hypotheses: Commentary on Mossbridge and Radin (2018)” (2018, 5, 94–97).

“Mossbridge and Radin reviewed psychological and physiological experiments that purportedly show time-reversed effects. I discuss why these claims are not plausible. I conclude that scientists should generally consider the plausibility of the hypotheses they test.”

James Houran, Rense Lange, and Dan Hooper “Cross-Examining the Case for Precognition: Comment on Mossbridge and Radin (2018) ‘ (2018, 5, 98–109).

James Houran

James Houran

“Based on a review and meta-analyses of empirical literature in parapsychology, Mossbridge and Radin (2018) argued for anomalous replicable effects that suggest the possibility of precognitive ability or retrocausal phenomena. However, these conclusions are refuted on statistical and theoretical grounds—the touted effects are neither meaningful, interpretable, nor even convincingly replicable. Moreover, contrary to assertions otherwise, the possibility of authentic retrocausation is discredited by modern theories in physics. Accordingly, Mossbridge and Radin’s interpretations are discussed in terms of misattribution biases that serve anxiolytic functions when individuals confront ambiguity, with potential reinforcement from perceptual–personality variables such as paranormal belief. Finally, we argue that research in human consciousness should be multidisciplinary, and notably, leverage informed investigators in the physical sciences to advance truly valid and cumulative theory building.”

Julia A. Mossbridge and Dean Radin, ‘Plausibility, Statistical Interpretations, Physical Mechanisms and a New Outlook: Response to Commentaries on a Precognition Review” (2018, 5, 110–116).

“We address what we consider to be the main points of disagreement by showing that (a) scientific plausibility (or lack thereof) is a weak argument in the face of empirical data, (b) the statistical methods we used were sound according to at least one of several possible statistical positions, and (c) the potential physical mechanisms underlying precognition could include quantum biological phenomena. We close with a discussion of what we believe is an unfortunate but currently dominant tendency to focus on reducing Type-I statistical errors without balancing that approach by also paying attention to the potential for Type-II errors.”



Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Germana Paretti published an interesting article about Hans Driesch entitles “Hans Driesch’s Interest in the Psychical Research: A Historical Study” (Medicina Historica, 2017, 1, 156-162; author’s address

Hans Driesch

Hans Driesch

Here is the abstract:

“In recent times the source of interest in psychical research in Germany has been subject of relevant studies. Not infrequently these works have dealt with this phenomenon through the interpretation of the various steps and transformations present in Hans Driesch’s thought, from biology and medicine to neovitalism, and finally to parapsychology. However these studies identified the causes of this growing involvement in paranormal research either in the historical context of “crisis” of modernity (or “crisis” in psychology), or in an attempt to “normalize” the supernatural as an alternative to the traditional experimental psychology. My paper aims instead at throwing light on the constant effort by Driesch to conceive (and found) psychical research as a science of the super-normal, using the methodology successfully adopted by the scientific community (especially German) in the late nineteenth century.”

Driesch Vitalismus
Driesch Gesgische Vitalismus

According to Pareti:

“Asked to lecture on his conception of vitalism at Cambridge University, [Driesch] . . . met there Henry Sidgwick and he became interested in the research on psychic phenomena. He joined the Society for Psychical Research of London (SPR) in 1913, and he was its president in 1926-27. When he wanted to investigate psychic phenomena further in Oslo in 1935, the Nazis denied his passport, so he did not pursue this work further. Invited to lecture on philosophy by many universities (in Europe, United States, South America and the Far East), Driesch had the opportunity to work with some pioneers in the field of psychic research: Walter Franklin Pierce in Boston, Gustav Geley and Eugène Osty in Paris, Oliver Lodge in Britain and Albert von Schrenck-Notzing in Germany. He sat with mediums such as “Margery,” Mrs. Osborne Leonard and Willi and Rudi Schneider. Although impressed by Mrs. Leonard and the Schneiders, Driesch was not always convinced of the genuineness of mediumistic phenomena.”

Driesch Science Philosophy Organism

His vitalistic writings included the concept of entelechia. “Derived from a biological-metaphysical context, it denoted a vital agent, an internal perfecting non-mechanical principle existing in all living organisms, ‘a unifying, non-material, mind-like something’ . . ., and Driesch sustained that ‘we have an interaction in the purely natural sphere, i.e. between entelechy and the matter of my body.’ Nevertheless, the working of entelechia had to be parallel to that of the soul: ‘the working of my soul … and [its] certain states are ‘parallel’ to ‘my conscious havings’ . . . He admitted that, in fact, in the normal morphogenesis we do not know as entelechy acts, but it could regulate organic development and explain several paraphysical actions. Above all, paraphysical phenomena are cases of a kind of ‘enlarged’ vitalism, a ‘supervitalism’ . . . Although he complained that some critics erroneously mixed his psychology with his vitalism, Driesch was sure that vitalism represented ‘a fundamental breach’ in the normal science, being a bridge connecting normal (scientific) and psychical research. Therefore he refuted any psychophysical (or psychomechanical) parallelism, conceiving mind as an independent entity, ‘enthroned by the side of the physical body.’ Its physiological effects are well known, since a lot of bodily symptoms can be mentally produced (inflammation, pregnancy, stigmata etc.).”

“Neverthless Driesch did not deny matter and its role. ‘Matter is everywhere in the space,’ and the vital agent makes a constructive use of it, or, the mental part of the individual acts purposely on matter. Its influence is visible in the simplest of supernormal phenomenon, in which matter is under the influence of assimilation, an established process highlighted by Justus von Liebig in his organic chemistry. Materialisation and its varieties (telekinesis and levitation) constitute a kind of organized assimilation, a kind of supernormal embriology. So, if regarded as vitalistic actions, or forms of ‘behaviour’ of some unconscious entity, paraphysical phenomena lose their negative character of absurdity, since they respect the principle of economy or of parsimony, according to which no phenomenon may be considered fundamental if it can be reduced to another.”

The article also has interesting sections about other topics. This include Driesch’s ideas regarding methodology in parapsychology, and his mention of other researchers in his work.

Interestingly, the last issue of the Paranormal Review has an article about Driesch by John Poynton: “President’s Letter: The SPR’s Philosopher-Presidents: Hans Driesch.” Paranormal Review, 85, 4-5).

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Ohkado Masayuki has just published a paper entitled “Same-Family Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Japan” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 551-571). here is the abstract:

Ohkado Masayiki 2

Ohkado Masayuki

“This article reports five same-family cases of the reincarnation type occurring in contemporary Japan. The discussion will be within a set of widely adopted operative assumptions set out by Dr. Ian Stevenson and his colleagues: Streams of consciousness survive death of body and become associated with another body at another time, During the intermission period between lives, the discarnate mind retains the ability for psi perceptions and interactions, and may exercise choice in the selection of parents. The theoretical part of the present paper is with the limitation concerning auxiliary assumptions (Sudduth 2016), and the interpretations of the data adopted here (the survival and reincarnation hypotheses) are open to alternative analyses (notably, the Living Agent Psi hypothesis) as pointed out by Braude (1997, 2003, 2013) and Sudduth (2009, 2013, 2016), but it is beyond the scope of the present paper to deal with these issues. Of the five cases, the first three involve a deceased child appearing to be reborn to the same mother. One of the remaining two is a skipped-generation case, in which a deceased mother appears to have been reborn as a child of her daughter. The other is a case in which a deceased child appears to have been reborn as a daughter of his elder brother. This case also involves an “experimental birthmark.”

It is stated in the conclusion: “The present investigation raises an interesting question, which is to be pursued in future research: How common are same-family cases in Japan in comparison with other cases including stranger cases? Stevenson (1986:209–211) and Haraldsson and Matlock (2016:222–223) demonstrated that the percentages of same-family and other cases differ significantly from country to country (or culture to culture). According to the figures reported in Haraldsson and Matlock (2016:223), the lowest percentage of same-family cases is that of India (16%) and the highest is that of the Gitxsan of British Columbia (100%). As discussed in Yanagita (2013), skipped-generation reincarnation might have been considered “normal” in some areas in prewar Japan. With the assumption stated in the Introduction that culturally prescribed ideas about reincarnation would be carried into death and would influence decisions made in the postmortem state, the incidence of same-family cases is expected to be relatively high in such areas.”