Has anything unexplainable ever happened to you or someone you know? Have you ever had a dream that has come true? Have you ever thought about someone[SAL1] whom [SAL2]you have not seen in a long while, and you spot them [SAL3]at the grocery store the next day? Are these mere coincidences, or are there other [SAL4]paranormal forces at work? There are some who would [SAL5]say yes, some who would say no, and others who would say maybe. But no matter where you stand on the issue of extrasensory perception, or ESP, it is undoubtedly a subject that has captured the minds of believers and skeptics alike for many years.
According to James Alcock in his article “Extrasensory Perception,” ESP is the ability to connect [SAL6]in a way other than using the five senses, which are sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing. To communicate using anything other than these five senses would be an example of ESP[SAL7]. People who study ESP are known as parapsychologists. They study parapsychology. Parapsychology is then broken down [SAL8]into three separate types of paranormal experiences [SAL9](1). They are telepathy[SAL10], which is [SAL11]the ability to sense “the thoughts or feelings of one person by another in some unknown way,” (1) clairvoyance, which is [SAL12]“an awareness of objects, events, or people without the use of the known senses,” (1) and precognition, which “is [SAL13]knowledge of a future event by means of telepathy or clairvoyance.” (1) There is also a separate field of study that is linked to ESP, known as psychokinesis, which “is the mental control of physical objects” (1).
Telepathy involves communication between individuals
by using the power of the mind. Examples of this are a series of
experiments that [SAL14]J.B. Rhine,
a psychology researcher, and his wife set up that involved the use of [SAL15]telepathy
and Zener cards. Zener cards are “a set of twenty-five cards[SAL16], blank on
one side and containing a symbol on the other.
The set includes five cards of each of five symbols: a square, a circle,
a star, a cross, and three parallel wavy lines” (“ESP” 12). According
to the book, ESP: Fact or Fiction, in
It was not until later that
Clairvoyance is the ability to watch people or things
from a distance without the use of sight, meaning that someone who is
clairvoyant does not have to be physically close enough to the person or object
in order to view it. Often times [SAL24]people are placed [SAL25]in isolated
rooms and shown a picture of someone or something that they are to locate. According to James Schnabel, it was once thought [SAL26]that
It seems like a good enough idea, right? A lot of money could be saved [SAL29]if we could do away with expensive surveillance equipment and use the human brain for espionage. And the capabilities of so called [SAL30]remote viewers are limitless. They claim that they can see the past, present, and future. Remote viewers could become a major weapon in a war with any country. The problem was that there was not enough evidence to support the theory of [SAL31]remote viewing. Most of the time the remote viewers were completely wrong[SAL32], or they were given “subliminal cues or unconscious hints by those involved in the experiment” (White 122). It also seems unbelievable because if the U.S. or Russia had a group of people with powers such as these, wouldn’t it seem likely that one of them would have taken over the world by now? [SAL33]
Precognition is when [SAL34]a person is able to see events that will happen sometime in the future[SAL35]. Have you ever heard someone say, I knew that something bad was going to happen? This is an example of precognition. This is said [SAL36]to occur when you know that something is going to happen, and then it happens. There are more cases of this sort than any other type of ESP.
Dean Radin, president of the Boundary Institute, which is a parapsychological organization, gives a lot of credit to occurrences such as these. He writes about a colleague of his that was cleaning his revolver when he [SAL37]decided not to load the fifth chamber because he had a bad feeling. Normally Alex left the sixth chamber empty for safety reasons, but on this occasion he left both chambers empty because he felt that something bad was going to happen. A few weeks later, he was at a lodge with his fiancé[SAL38] and her parents when a fight erupted between her parents. Alex’s soon to be father-in-law pointed the gun at his wife and pulled the trigger. Luckily, the chamber that would have fired, the fifth, was empty due to the feeling that Alex had while cleaning and loading his gun (72). Was this a coincidence or a case of precognition?[SAL39]
Examples such as these are hard to use to prove ESP[SAL40]. Many times they involve a person’s “personal experience” (Schick and Vaughn 31). And along with personal experience comes the individuals [SAL41]own interpretations of what occurred. A question comes to mind. Did Alex really remember feeling scared at the thought of loading that fifth bullet, or did he remember it that way because of what happened at the lodge? [SAL42]
People all over the world report having these strange feelings, but how many times have you had a feeling, and nothing came of it? Nobody remembers those times. It would be silly to tell people that you had a feeling that something good, bad or just plain strange was going to happen, and it never did. Our minds choose to remember only the times when we are right about something. That [SAL43]sounds more like selective memory than precognition.
Psychokinesis is said to be the ability to move objects with the power of one’s mind. There was a famous Russian psychic, Nina Kulagina, who was supposedly able to move objects in such a manner. Some said her ability was so strong that she “had moved and stopped the pendulum of a wall clock, moved plastic cases, water pitchers weighing a pound, and an assortment of dishes, cups, and glasses. And all without touching the objects” (Ostrander and Schroeder 33). Nina became very famous to many scientists and reporters when they saw professional videos of her performing psychokinesis. They claimed that they saw her do all these things and there were “no hidden threads, magnets, or other gimmicks” (Ostrander and Schroeder 34).
The problem with Nina’s talent was that her videos were often taped in locations in which there was ample room for trickery and “were far from acceptable by basic scientific standards” (Polidoro 92). Some of the people who watched the videos and had knowledge of how to use magic to deceive people, felt that she was using simple magicians [SAL44]tricks to accomplish many of her so called feats of psychokinesis. Lucky for Nina, there is no way to prove any of these accusations because “no expert in conjuring techniques was ever present at Kulagina’s demonstrations” (Polidoro 92). They were probably not invited either.
Some people feel that animals have extrasensory capabilities. Studies have been done on dogs, cats, mice, fish, and even cockroaches. Scott Rogo writes about tests that were done [SAL45]on mice by two French scientists in which mice were placed [SAL46]in an electrified cage with two sides. One side of the cage would be randomly electrified at a time, leaving the other side unaffected. The mice would of course jump to the other side when the side they were on was electrified. But the scientists were more interested in the mice that jumped to the other side just before the side they were on was electrified (47). Could the mice have known when and where the electrical shocks were going to happen due to some type of animal ESP?[SAL47]
Unfortunately, animal ESP is lacking the strong evidence it needs to back it up[SAL48]. At the time of the previous experiment, researchers felt that this [SAL49]it was important because until that point, “the research done with animals was intriguing but did not show strong results” (Rogo 47). According to Rogo, this was impressive research to those who wished to prove that animals have ESP. The proof seemed undeniable, and the experiment showed promise until it was attempted [SAL50]by another researcher by the name of [SAL51]W.J. Levy. Although Levy claimed to have gotten the same results, he was later found to be making up some of his findings on other experiments (48). With the use of false results, out went Levy’s credibility and the credibility of the experiments. This meant trouble for the French experimenters. A scientific experiment that can’t be replicated is not reliable evidence that ESP exists.
Replication is important in the area of scientific research, especially with ESP. If parapsychologists could come up with the same results for the same experiments over and over again, then that might be proof that ESP exists. But according to James Randi, who is [SAL52]a professional magician and investigator of the paranormal, “none of the results…have ever stood the test of time” (3). It seems that ESP research is going nowhere fast. Sure [SAL53]there might be experiments conducted[SAL54] in which it seems that something paranormal is happening, but other scientists and parapsychologists have failed to reproduce those results.
It is easy to see why people would want to believe in something as awesome as paranormal capabilities[SAL55]. It would give us so many advantages. If ESP was [SAL56]a legitimate scientific finding, it could be used [SAL57]in countless ways. Crimes could be solved [SAL58]and catastrophes avoided just by asking a psychic a question. Should I invest in the stock market right now? Will my baby be born healthy? What are my lucky lottery numbers? These along with a myriad of other life altering questions could be answered [SAL59]just by asking a few simple questions.
When you look at it from that point of view, ESP seems like a gift, but to others it is something more dark and sinister. Doug Trouten says that some feel that ESP is the work of demons. There are some people who [SAL60]stay away from anything having to do with ESP. This is not because they don’t believe but because they do believe. People who generally tend to feel this way are people who have faith in some form of religion. It is easy to see why. For someone who believes in a being as powerful and almighty as God, it is not a far stretch for them [SAL61]to believe that people with ESP are being controlled [SAL62]by demons. ESP seems evil and demonic to them because mere people should not have such powers unless there was some type of supernatural forces at work (110).
Some see ESP as a gift and others as a curse, but is it a believable truth[SAL63]? In order for ESP to be a believable truth, it must pass the tests of logical possibility and physical possibility. ESP is logically possible because we are able to think about it and have rational discussions about it. In fact, if ESP was not logically possible, people would not be able to debate about its existence because debating involves the communication of thoughts. But “just because something is logically possible doesn’t mean that it’s real” (Schick and Vaughn 18).
Let’s move onto the next question. Is ESP physically possible? If you were to look at the scientific theories of today, then you would say that ESP is definitely not possible. But ESP research still goes on today despite the fact that it defies our current theories about the way the universe works. Why is this? It is because there are those who feel that “even if our best scientific theories seem to indicate that ESP is physically impossible, investigating it still has some value, for our best scientific theories may be wrong. The only way we can tell if they’re wrong is to test them, and investigating ESP continues one such test” (Schick and Vaughn 20).
If it is true that [SAL64]our theories are wrong, this would cause what is called a paradigm shift. A paradigm is the “theoretical framework that determines what questions are worth asking and what methods should be used to answer them” (Schick and Vaughn 14). In the case of ESP, there would have to be substantial scientific evidence that would cause scientists to change their views about how the universe works. If this evidence was presented [SAL65]and taken seriously, then a paradigm shift would occur. Scientists would have to formulate new theories or build on already existing ones in order to explain how ESP is possible. A paradigm shift is not so unheard of in our scientific past. There was a lot of controversy when Galileo’s theory of a sun-centered universe challenged the theory of an Earth-centered universe. But his “discovery of the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus” (Schick and Vaughn 15) was the proof that he needed. Reliable proof is what ESP research is lacking[SAL66].
When scientists do research, they must adhere to some rules. Steps are taken [SAL67]to ensure that the research is done [SAL68]in a controlled way so that results are not flawed [SAL69]by outside disturbances. Many people who claim to have ESP do not follow these rules. For example, Nina Kulagina might be taken [SAL70]more seriously by scientists if her experiments were carried out in a more controlled manner. Why didn’t she allow investigators to watch her first hand with their own eyes? If she truly had ESP, why wouldn’t she want to prove it? Why wouldn’t anyone who claims to have ESP want to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Something else about ESP research that is questionable is when [SAL71]parapsychologists use the positive and negative results of their research to “prove” that ESP is real. Positive meaning that it provides evidence that ESP is real and negative meaning that it doesn’t.[SAL72] James Alcock writes about a parapsychologist who was not getting positive results from a series of tests she was running, so her colleagues concluded that it was because she had become somewhat skeptical of ESP. They felt that she was affecting her research in a negative way with her own ESP abilities (“ESP Research” 129). Based on research like this, any evidence could be proof of ESP. Where would we be today if scientists conducted research in such a way?
Another reason for doubting ESP is that many researchers often have to interpret the meanings of their findings in order to prove that it[SAL73] is an example of ESP. Remote viewers often see things that are simply wrong, but the parapsychologists experimenting will twist the meaning of this [SAL74]until it [SAL75]fits what they are looking for. For example, if a viewer was asked to find a target, and they [SAL76]said the target was in a church, when in fact the target was no where [SAL77]near a church, the parapsychologist might say something like;[SAL78] the viewer was picking up on the target’s strong belief in God. It seems like they [SAL79]are reaching for evidence, or perhaps they are blinded [SAL80]by their belief in ESP and the paranormal.
Scientists have been researching paranormal activities for over a hundred years. By now there should be some compelling evidence of the existence of ESP, but this is not so. As science and technology have advanced over the years, so have the ways in which we conduct experiments, including those done on ESP. It seems logical that “if the phenomena under investigation are real, improved experiments should produce more significant results” (“Extrasensory” 3). In the case of ESP, the more advanced and controlled the research is, the less likely you are to find evidence favoring the existence of ESP.
Although there is very little scientific evidence that ESP exists and that we are on the verge of another paradigm shift, people are still going to believe in ESP and the paranormal because they want to believe. It is almost as if people need to believe that there is something extraordinary going on because it is more fascinating than the truth. Sure so called [SAL81]paranormal activities are interesting and can be quite believable, but do they really seem probable? The key to this question lies in the proof[SAL82], and the proof is just not there.
Schick, Theodore, and Lewis
Vaughn. How to Think About Weird
Randi, James. “Crusader Against Delusion.” World Book Online.
Alcock, James. “Extrasensory Perception.” World Book Online,
Alcock, James. “ESP Research Does Not Follow the Rules of
Science.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn
Schroeder. “Scientists Have Proven the
Ability of Russian Psychics.” ESP:
Fact or Fiction.
Rogo, Scott. “Animals Have ESP.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
Schnabel, James. “The CIA Successfully Used Psychic
Spies.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
Radin, Dean. “Laboratory Studies Suggest That ESP Is
Real.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
Polidoro, Massimo. “Russian Psychics Exposed.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
Trouten, Doug. “Christians Should Not Fool Around with
ESP.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
White, Michael. “The CIA Psychic Spy Experiment Was
Unsuccessful.” ESP: Fact or Fiction.
[SAL1] See comment #SAL3
[SAL5] 10 “some would …”
[SAL7] 10 “Communication … would exemplify …”
[SAL8] 22 Who does this?
[SAL9] 32 Presumably parapsychology is the study of three types of paranormal experiences: it isn’t the same thing as the experiences, is it?
[SAL10] 10, 13
[SAL14] 10 For example,
[SAL15] 10 experiments that used
[SAL16] 10 You could write a lot better than this, I think. The sentences so far are very sloppy.
[SAL17] 12 Better to cite the source away from the main text – citing it here makes it sound like the guy did the experiment “according to the book”
[SAL18] 22 by whom? Your use of passive voice obscures agency, and it’s important here because we need to know who we are being asked to believe.
[SAL19] 10 experimental conditions
[SAL20] 22, 43
[SAL23] 12, 22
[SAL26] 22 who thought this?
[SAL27] 25 whom
[SAL30] 6 so-called
[SAL31] 10 what theory? Or do you just mean remote viewing?
[SAL32] 32 You just said the results were “incredible” …
[SAL33] 38, 39 BTW, I thought the US HAD taken over the world.
[SAL35] 10 future events
[SAL36] 10, 22
[SAL38] 6 fiancee
[SAL39] 38, 39
[SAL42] 38, 39
[SAL45] 10, 22
[SAL47] 38, 39
[SAL53] 13 comma
[SAL54] 22, 10
[SAL60] 10 some people
[SAL63] 10 believable
[SAL65] 22 were
[SAL66] 10 ESP research lacks …
[SAL76] 3, 9
[SAL81] 12, 6 “Sure, so-called …”
[SAL82] 32 huh?
30% Deduction for tech errors. What happened to your writing here?