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The Fallacy of Democratic Paranormal Science

PSI looks into ‘democratic paranormal science’, and whether this is one of the greatest barriers holding back psychical research.    

As we have written here before, the tragedy of psychical research is that whilst other fields of study have come on in leaps and bounds over the last hundred or so years, the field of paranormal study has hardly advanced at all.    

For a long time we could blame this on poor methods and poor funding: fewer people doing research, hence fewer outlets for the research. But recent years have seen the field of parapsychology raising its method game, and thousands upon thousands of part time paranormal investigators flooding the field.    

The advancement of science can be likened to building a house. Firm foundations are laid, and every new discovery – no matter how small – builds upon what we already know. With thousands of researchers all knowing the increasing foundations, and adding to them, psychical research could advance like never before.  

So what’s the problem? Paranormal research today seems to be built on the shakiest of foundations. No matter how much we like to think otherwise, so much in the paranormal investigation field is built on what we see in the media, rather than what we read in academic books and journals.    

Research is further hampered by a seeming ‘democracy’ of thought. Everyone assumes that no-one else knows anything, therefore people feel that every thought – no matter how unscientific – is equal to every other thought. We seem to base our knowledge on pub-style discussions of opinion and rather dubious hunches. After all, if no-one knows better than anyone else, then my guess is as good as anyone else’s, right?    

So rather than researchers assiduously reading the trials and tribulations of those who have come and gone before – learning and building – we all start from nowhere and, if the experience of the last ten years is anything to go by, get precisely nowhere either.    The field of paranormal research is weighed down by the fools gold of misattributed experience, topped up with pseudo-science, and no collaboration seems to be based on the sharing of knowledge and research.    

All the while educational charities like the Society for Psychical Research and the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena have accumulated the wisdom and research of ages, but few people seem to bother with them. After all, any one person’s random thoughts are just as valid as the accumulated scientific discovers of decades?    

Reading deeply into our subject and learning from our predecessors might be less fun than ghost hunting and making it all up ourselves, but are we really going to achieve anything?