Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
This is a guest post by Monique Stevenson
Dear psychic community,
We, the scientific community, humbly apologize for the overwhelming damage we have caused you by repeatedly trying to ‘debunk’ you. We recognize now the pain and suffering we have caused you, both to individuals and to your community, and regret it wholeheartedly.
In the days of Houdini our actions were pure ignorance. Freud was still starting to guess that homosexuality wasn’t a disorder at the time, and as you can see from that link, it took us until 1986 to officially listen to him. ‘Debunking’ psychics made sense because, well, there were scammers, and they did use the names of loved ones to prey financially and emotionally on other people.
Later, however, there was no excuse. The University College London and the University of Granada both found synthesia linked to two psychic talents, reading auras and healing through auras. No connection was ever made, but mirror-neuron or mirror-touch synthesia may also explain, at least from our perspective, the mechanics of psychic empathy. We have even found evidence that telepathy is possible for non-psychics. Of course, these are relatively recent articles, but if you look at the tone they articles are written in, you realize the problem instantly: Anything mentioning psi is mentioned in the most negative sense, with the exception of the pure analysis paper. The University College London researchers even discuss a young girl whom you would consider psychic by implying she is a more ‘valid’ test subject for not being interested in her cultural heritage.
And this, to be honest, is why we owe you an apology. We do not know what it is like to be rejected by your parents for an inborn gift. We do not know what it is like to have an inborn and uncontrollable ability. And we do not know what it is like to live in a world where asking for help is in and of itself a crapshoot; where you might find help if you are alone, but you are just as likely to find someone who wants to prey financially on you, or tell you ad nausem that you’re crazy and your own experiences aren’t real. The scientific community did not have the power to stop this entirely—nothing can change the human ability for cruelty—but we have had, ever since the studies from London and Granada, the knowledge that you were neither lying nor crazy, and that you were experiencing an entirely natural phenomenon. We did not speak up. We did not confront famous ‘debunkers’, such as James Randi, who is not a scientist—you were the only ones to speak against him. We did not acknowledge that our silence gave implicit license to skeptics to deny everything you felt using our achievements and history.
At no point have we acknowledged that this phenomenon affects children, who grow up alone and afraid to speak of what they feel, because we have told their parents and friends since birth that psychics just aren’t real. A few hours spent on a psychic forum or blog could tell us that this had happened, but then, we could also just turn and ask almost anyone since most of the world has had psychic experiences. Among the psychic community, it is just as easy to find those who were left in this situation as those who, luckily, had inherited abilities from a parent. And if we asked these people, we would hear the same story over and over again: The constant fear of rejection, followed by those fears coming true, and then a long journey through denying their own abilities and living with the pain of the knowledge that those people you most love deny the existence of something as natural to you as playing the flute might be to another, culminating first in denial, and then a battle with yourself to accept something that should have been acknowledged from the beginning . We could not have stopped all of these events, but we could have prevented most of them from occurring.
We have never apologized to the LGBTQ community for the damage we caused to them. We have never apologized to the people of the world for the harm eugenics and racial theories caused. We have never even apologized to Daniel Shechtman, a researcher who discovered quasicrystals, but also served as a sudden reminder that even today, science can be more concerned with our established norms than the basic human dignity we should afford everyone. Although we have brought the world medicine, electricity, and longer life, we do not admit to our errors easily, if at all. We move on, but silently; we leave the damage we have caused for someone else to deal with.
But we want to. Scientists are as human as you.
We are sorry.
The Scientific Community
P.S. This may not be the letter the scientific community will ever write, but in an ideal world, there would be a way for us to understand what we have done, and are currently doing to not only the psychic community, but the others we marginalize, known and unknown. For now, this fictional letter will have to do.
Monique Stevenson is proud of her online invisibility, but has created a short bio here for anyone interested.