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Can parapsychology supporters convert to skeptics?

Does it happen that so called “believers” in the paranormal and psi convert over time and become skeptics? Apparently, yes. And two interesting cases of such changes in personal position regarding parapsychology comes from people who actually took the time and energy to actually study it actively. The two people are Dr. Susan Blackmore (read her article from New Scientist from 2000 First Person – Into the Unknown) and Louis Savva (read his article from 2006 Why I Quit Parapsychology). They both started as believers and then, after actively studying and experimenting, came to the conclusion that no psi effects exist.

And more recently, the great blog Science is a method, not a position wrote a post Don’t set an impossible bar… where the author writes that going after finding the prove for psi may lead to the results of Susan Blackmore and Louis Savva. He writes:

I’d also suggest additionally that if one’s goal is primarily to “prove” psi or spiritual reality and “defeat” materialism once and for all one might well find oneself walking down the path tread by Susan Blackmore and Louie Savva, and ending up in the same place as they did. Because that kind of motivation does not seem to be correlated with fostering psi phenomena.

I wonder if myself with my Psi Experiments website will come to this? I sometimes feel that it might happen, as much as I’d like it not to be.





  1. Topher’s comment, as he also mentions Dean Radin, who I am also acquainted with, is well taken. You obviously are more serious rather than flippant about the realm and study of psi and paranormal capacities. Be advised: there is a very essentially connected condition of doubt and inconsequence, trying to choose the best terms… that links to the study of the field of subconscious related phenomena. This is more commonly a factor re: psi than in relation to the UFO/ET phenomena, which, if you study the relevant aspects, has some direct correlation to psi. The latter subject relates often, in a cultural world that wants to stay predominately material and economic, in material objects that offer photographic evidence which is typically viewable for sensational gratification. Psi does not have this component of fascination, however it would add to the context of ‘verification’.
    As a serious point to note. For decades MUFON and many independent authors sought to ‘change the tide’ of skepticism about UFOs by offering better evidence to ‘authorities’ (scoffing academics and debunkers). Finally, for the last couple decades, eventually, the tide of emphasis changed. People now publish and present evidence based simply on what they have discovered in their own specialty or subcontext. But, recalling the tangible difference I mentioned above, this subject revolves around experiences between fleeting observations, with or without tangible evidence all the way to personal interactions with ‘something’ that continues to interact with us.
    Psi is much more subtle. But the root of the problem in gaining, or losing, credibility lies at a deeper level than the tangibility of evidence. There is in the mentality of most all societies a desire to emphasize the rational and ignore (suppress, if you choose) the intuitive. Maybe this relates to the desire of the subconscious to remain ‘in the dark’. Not a subject for here, even though important to reckoning with the roots of psi.
    So if one has an incentive to ‘do psi’ and chooses first to ‘validate it’, seeing the controversy as a minor obstacle, then that person may not long remain focussed psi. People generally say they want to know various things about many topics but we live in a realm of ever greater information overload and promotion. To know more of the truth is less attractive to people in general than to be patronized, entertained and placated. That’s how we ended up with the current people in the White House. So this issue has world impact.
    If the person exploring psi is already functional socially anyway but is fascinated by the occult or hidden side of things and wants to understand more of reality than most choose to, and realizes that about him/her self… then fine. That person will likely see ‘more of the trees while also noticing the forest emerging from the haze’.
    I believe what I’ve written will not seem to be of much ‘help’ to you in the moment. I also believe that if you save it and read it again in a few months, and in another few after that.. it will then seem more valuable.
    Blessings ‘on the path’, Henry

  2. Yes, some people who start out with a belief in the paranormal (and more who start out with a belief in the supernatural, who may *call* their belief “paranormal”) come to lose that belief. Others who start out disbelieving in psi phenomena end up believing in it (both Dean Radin and myself, for example, fall in that category).

    I don’t think that a desire to produce objective proof of the reality of psi is particularly likely to cause one to switch from “believer” to “disbeliever”. Someone who has come to believe in psi more as a matter of self-image and based on what they fully know to be very weak personal experience, and embark on a personal campaign of attempting proof for self-aggrandizement, rather than as a scientific task to arrive at the truth, *are* likely to change camps.

    I don’t know anything about Louis Savva, but this certainly fits Susan Blackmore (just read her autobiography). Personally I don’t know anyone who has gone from being a believer in psi based on a strong evaluation of evidence (either personal or experimental) who has “switched sides” though I know some who have dropped out of active involvement because of societal pressures.