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Chris French Reverses Stance, Selflessly Declares Parapsychology Actual Science

by Sebastian Penraeth

In a surprising turn of events, Professor Chris French, a prominent figure within the skeptical community—and longtime slinger of the pseudoscience card—publicly revised his stance on parapsychology, declaring it a legitimate science. This marks a significant departure from the traditionally dismissive view held by most skeptics. Originally explored in a chapter of Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science, French subsequently published an article or two in The Skeptic magazine about his shift in viewpoint.

He rightly acknowledges the complexity of the demarcation problem—the challenge of distinguishing science from pseudoscience—and suggests that rather than strict criteria, a set of benchmarks indicative of good science can be more appropriately applied. These benchmarks include falsifiability, reproducibility, and a connection to the broader scientific community, among others.

“The best approach appears to be one that does not attempt to apply a definitive list of strict criteria but instead accepts that there are certain ‘benchmarks’ that characterise what we think of as good science.”

French’s reassessment was significantly influenced by a paper by Marie-Catherine Mousseau, which empirically evaluated parapsychology against these benchmarks, finding little support for its classification as pseudoscience.

Mousseau’s analysis is rooted in a comparative study of mainstream and “fringe” scientific journals, alongside observations from the annual meeting of the Parapsychological Association. Her findings reveal that unlike mainstream journals, which tend to emphasize positive findings, fringe journals demonstrated a commendable willingness to publish studies with negative outcomes. This practice is crucial for the scientific method, as it provides a more complete and honest picture of research efforts and outcomes. Almost half of the articles in fringe journals reported disconfirmation of hypotheses, a stark contrast to the mainstream journals in Mousseau’s sample, where ZERO reports of negative results were found.

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Sebastian Penraeth

Call for Grant Applications from Researchers in Subtle Energy and Biofield Healing

For researchers interested in exploring the science of subtle energy and biofield healing, the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is now seeking applications for a new grant/fellowship opportunity, which will provide six annual grants of up to $20,000 USD each, plus mentorship and community for emerging researchers across multiple disciplines. Backed by a collaborative group of...

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“A form of scientific fundamentalism”

In order to deal with cognitive dissonance, I argue that some skeptics use the same basic methods as religious fundamentalists [...who] often perform irrational cognitive contortions to dismiss evidence against their beliefs, such as when creationists try to explain the existence of fossils by saying that "God put them there to test our faith" (or...

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Chris French Reverses Stance, Selflessly Declares Parapsychology Actual Science

by Sebastian Penraeth In a surprising turn of events, Professor Chris French, a prominent figure within the skeptical community—and longtime slinger of the pseudoscience card—publicly revised his stance on parapsychology, declaring it a legitimate science. This marks a significant departure from the traditionally dismissive view held by most skeptics. Originally explored in a chapter of...

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“A form of scientific fundamentalism”



Comments on Steven Pinker’s view of the Paranormal

by Brian D. Josephson, Ph.D.

Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge
Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1973

Brian Josephson
Dr. Brian D. Josephson

In a talk in his BBC Radio 4 series ‘Think with Pinker’, Steven Pinker asked ‘why do so many of us believe in so much quackery and flapdoodle?’, characterising extrasensory perception as ‘paranormal woowoo’. I can imagine such language slipping out in the course of casual conversation, but on the BBC, in a programme where the text must have been carefully thought out in advance?

Something must have led to this being said in such an uncritical manner, so I thought I’d email Pinker to find out what had led him to speak in this way in regard to the paranormal. In response he came up with two arguments. The first has, at first sight, a degree of plausibility, and is the following: if there really are people with the claimed paranormal abilities, they could use these to win consistently at betting, and we would learn about that. However (as described in a recent Guardian article) it seems this does not happen, because when such people start to win significant sums of money the bookies take note, responding to the threat that they pose by imposing limits on how much they are allowed to bet. As a result, we cannot safely infer that there are no people who can use their paranormal abilities to win large amounts at betting.

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Brian Josephson

Brian Josephson
Dr. Brian D. Josephson

Cavendish Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1973

Biography
Cambridge Homepage

Comments on Steven Pinker’s view of the Paranormal

by Brian D. Josephson, Ph.D. Cavendish Laboratory, University of CambridgeNobel Laureate in Physics, 1973 Dr. Brian D. Josephson In a talk in his BBC Radio 4 series ‘Think with Pinker’, Steven Pinker asked ‘why do so many of us believe in so much quackery and flapdoodle?’, characterising extrasensory perception as ‘paranormal woowoo’. I can imagine...

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Pathological Disbelief: The Lindau Lecture

by Brian D. Josephson, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1973 Nobel Laureates’ Annual Meeting, Lindau, Germany – June 30, 2004 (download slides) Dr. Brian D. Josephson “The system built up over the years to promote scientific advance has become one that narrow-minded people can use to block any advance that they deem unacceptable.” Abstract: This...

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Call for Grant Applications from Researchers in Subtle Energy and Biofield Healing

The Biofield Research Fellowship Program

For researchers interested in exploring the science of subtle energy and biofield healing, the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is now seeking applications for a new grant/fellowship opportunity, which will provide six annual grants of up to $20,000 USD each, plus mentorship and community for emerging researchers across multiple disciplines.

Backed by a collaborative group of philanthropists and foundations called the Subtle Energy Collective (below), the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is funding rigorous examinations of biofield science with the goal of seeding a new generation of biofield researchers to advance the field and bolster its research base. In addition to grant funds, the Fellowship Program will provide Fellows with a collaborative community of emerging and established researchers and will pair each Fellow with a respected research mentor who has expertise relevant to their research. The findings derived from Fellows’ investigations will provide greater insight into biofield therapies and their applications for reducing suffering and promoting health and wellbeing.

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Modern Skepticism: Western Civilization’s Scientific Wahhabism

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Modern Skepticism: Western Civilization’s Scientific Wahhabism
–>

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, October 25, 2019
© Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

The history of scientific and medical research is pervaded with examples of denigration and suppression by a dominant scientific elite. In the absence of dissent, innovation and vision that promises progress and reform, a population succumbs to conformity and eventually stagnation. We only need to look at Iran under the control of ayatollahs, the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Wahhabi sect’s zealots in Saudi Arabia to get a snapshot of a repressive and ill culture that emerges when conformity is obligatory and dissent is outlawed and persecuted. Science, after it contorts into a secular religion unto itself, can likewise become totalitarian. Scientists are not less immune to bias, prejudice and fanaticism than the most staunch religious extremist. It is now time to make a concerted effort to expose the movement of modern Skepticism in its true colors.

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Medical Skepticism: Today’s Scientific Cultural Disease

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, August 5, 2019
© Richard Gale and Dr Gary Null PhD

Modern day Skepticism is one of those annoying contagions that won’t go away. It is rather like a persistent Candida yeast infection. It is painful to common sense. Worse, Skepticism flares up when you least expect it. On the internet, primarily on Wikipedia, its ideology and propaganda go largely unnoticed, camouflaged by sharp criticism serving as a non-appointed jury rather than an objective voice of logic. Therefore, we have no reservations in stating that the extreme scientific reductionism represented by Skepticism, especially biological and medical skepticism, is a serious threat to medical innovation, scientific discovery and in the long term public health. Although Skepticism has been a worldview dating back to the nineteenth century, today’s Skepticism is far more radicalized.

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Gary Null and Richard Gale

Founder and executive producer of the Progressive Radio Network, Gary and Richard respectively, shed light on skeptic skulduggery

Medical Skepticism: Today’s Scientific Cultural Disease

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, August 5, 2019 © Richard Gale and Dr Gary Null PhD Modern day Skepticism is one of those annoying contagions that won’t go away. It is rather like a persistent Candida yeast infection. It is painful to common sense. Worse, Skepticism flares up when you least expect it....

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Modern Skepticism: Western Civilization’s Scientific Wahhabism

!– Modern Skepticism: Western Civilization’s Scientific Wahhabism –> Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, October 25, 2019 © Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD The history of scientific and medical research is pervaded with examples of denigration and suppression by a dominant scientific elite. In the absence of dissent, innovation and vision that promises...

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The Evolution of Barbara Ehrenreich

A Skeptic’s Progress
by Ted Dace

After decades of concealing the mystical experience that wrenched open her mind at age 17, Barbara Ehrenreich was finally coming to grips with what happened that sunny morning in 1959. But now she faced a quandary. Long revered as a dedicated atheist, even accepting awards from organizations of “freethinkers,” a.k.a. skeptics, how could the noted author and theorist tell the world she’d once seen God – or if not God, at least the Other? By writing Living with a Wild God, Ehrenreich courageously broke ranks, demonstrating that the scientific mind need not be burdened by ideological “skepticism.”

Atheism ran deep in her family. Her dad, who’d escaped the mines of Butte, Montana by way of an education in metallurgy, liked to regale the wife and kids Sunday mornings with classic atheist tracts. So when 12-year old Barbara Alexander began to question the point of existence, the one place she would never go for answers was religion. This complicated her task enormously. Paraphrasing Pascal, “How shall we redeem this obscene slaughter called history,” ask Will and Ariel Durant, “except by believing, with or against the evidence, that God will right all wrongs in the end?”

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