Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Skeptics have the following argument:
The Argument from Evolution: “If Psi abilities actually existed, they would have a huge evolutionary advantage, and one would think that after at least 100,000 years of the existence of recognizable Homo sapiens alone, and at least 1.5 million years since the rise of genus Homo, the entire species would be psychic as a near-universal norm. The fact that we do not see this indicates that Psi probably does not exist.”
This is one of the few skeptical arguments that actually has a valid point and is worth taking a look at. The premise that psychic ability would would be a dominant characteristic and highly visible in everyone due to the obvious advantages for survival is certainly a reasonable one and worthy of discussion.
Why is it that we don’t see more psychic ability in humans? Let’s first examine the survival advantage of psi. How much psi does a person need for it to be an advantage? The answer is apparently, not very much. As shown here:
A study conducted in the 1950s examined train accidents, to determine whether people somehow avoided trains which were destined to have an accident (6). Taking as a basis 28 serous railroad accidents in the US, the researchers found a significant drop in the number of passengers present on the ill-fated trains vs. on the same trains one week earlier. More recently, researchers collecting spontaneous cases report that one of the most dense “spates” of premonitory dreams ever registered came in the days and hours prior to September 11 2001.
Anecdotal accounts of psychic experiences that prevented life threatening situations abound, which suggests that psychic ability lays dormant most of the time, suddenly becoming triggered in situations of mortal danger. This dormancy can be said to be demonstrated in a study contained in this paper: and explained in detail here:
the correlation resulting from the same 25 participants whose
data are summarized in Figure 3. About two seconds after the stimulus there is
a highly significant positive correlation between skin conductance arousal and
subjective emotionality levels of the pictures. This means, as expected, that the
strength of the orienting reflex is proportional to the emotionality of the
pictures. In addition, as predicted by presentiment, a similarly significant
positive correlation is observed before the stimuli were selected. This is
important because it indicates that the participants were presponding
proportionally to the emotionality of the future images, which is what we’d
expect by a genuine time-reversed effect.
What this demonstrates is that everyone experiences a sort of low level precognition all the time, but this gets dialed way up for some people who are not normally psychic during life threatening emergencies even to the point of them acting subconsciously in their own best interest. Psychic ability it would appear, does indeed exist as an evolutionary survival trait, with everyone having just enough ability to save their own skin, and most people have no more than absolutely necessary.
Why is nature parsimonious with psychic ability? On the surface, it would appear to be a fantastic trait giving the possessor of strong psychic ability a tremendous evolutionary advantage. To answer that, let’s look at another trait that on the surface, appears to give a tremendous evolutionary advantage: aggression.
Aggression is well known to carry huge evolutionary advantages, but when we look at humans and animals, we find wide differences in aggressive behavior. Why? Because there is such a thing as too much aggression. If this trait gets beyond a certain point, it becomes an evolutionary disadvantage leading to injury and premature death because the animal or human fights when it should flee.
Psychic ability is directly correlated to higher levels of emotional sensitivity. The higher the level of emotional sensitivity, the more maladaptive the person becomes. To put it another way, psychics are weird and the more psychic they are, the weirder they get. An individual who is easily overstimulated, craves solitude, responds to to psychic stimuli as much as the physical and cannot relate easily to others is not going to be a top survivor. Psi is an ability whose usefulness for survival diminishes past a certain point and like aggression, too much of it can actually work against survival.
What nature appears to do is to provide societies with a limited number of psychic people as a means to increase the group survival chances of that society. Most indigenous tribes have one single person designated as their spiritual leader with one apprentice. This person is usually not the leader of the tribe, but a person apart; the duties are recognized as different and it’s easy to see why: psychic people are not usually the best leaders. So what we have here is a way of selecting the psychic people of the tribe and putting them in a position where they can best help the tribe as a whole, either with their psychic ability or with the extraordinary creativity that comes with psychic ability while minimizing the negative characteristics that come with it.
We know that evolution is complex with many trade offs and psychic ability is no exception to this. With a little common sense and understanding of the intricacies involved, it is not hard to understand how psi can fit into the evolutionary process.