The Weiler Psi

Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics

A New Paradigm: The Growing Rejection of Psi Skepticism

This has been a heck of a year in terms of psi and controversy.  And the year isn’t quite over.  It seems to be the year things have begun to change.  We saw this first with the big TED controversy.  If there is one lesson that stood out from that whole mess it was this: embracing a materialist approach to science is no longer considered by the public to be a safe, conservative position that demonstrates high standards.  It’s being increasingly viewed as a reactionary position.

The TED controversy was also the first sign we’ve had that the world’s intellectuals are abandoning materialism in droves and that there is an increasingly powerful alternate community that is drawing strength in numbers.  Rupert Sheldrake took on the incredibly reactionary tone of Wikipedia, (which I participated in.)  But the mess at Wikipedia has been noticed by others as well:  The paradigm is shifting and it’s producing all sorts of feather ruffling events as things move forward.   In addition we’ve seen the slow but steady rise of the Society for Scientific Exploration, a scientific journal that explores normally taboo topics.  It now has 800 members in 45 countries.  (You can only be a member if you’re a scientist.)

The latest, and perhaps one of the most significant changes is the new Skeptiko forum.  It’s being divided now, to deliberately change the nature of the primary discussions.  There will no longer be proof oriented discussions on the main forum.  In other words, it’s a given now, that psi is proven and skepticism about this proof is no longer necessary or welcome.

Because psi has been scientifically proven to exist beyond any reasonable doubt there is no point in getting into arguments with people who continually insist that it is not proven.  To use an analogy, if we are going to explore what it means to live on a round world, it becomes pointless to have discussions about whether it is flat or not.

There is now a secondary forum where such discussions can take place though, which acknowledges that this is not a settled question for many people.  This new forum perfectly mirrors the change that is taking place.  The skeptics are getting slowly left behind . . . but not just yet.  The skeptics on the forum, -and there are many-, sense the importance of this change and have argued passionately against it.

On the old forum, this was reversed.  The main forum invited proof oriented skepticism and those that wanted to explore beyond that had to go to a secondary forum.  The skeptics were quite happy with that arrangement, but now that it has changed they are having trouble adjusting to it.  They understandably want their objections to be front and center.

I think that Alex Tsakiris, (of the Skeptiko Podcasts), a former skeptic himself, is at the leading edge of a fundamental shift in the overall direction of this scientific controversy.  Change in the scientific community will probably not come from existing institutions doing an about face, but rather newer institutions gaining members and prestige that first equals and then eventually outstrips older ones.  Scientists, in other words, will start voting with their feet.

The change is coming very fast in social terms.  And it’s easy to see why:  the Internet.  It has changed the flow of information permanently in a way no one could foresee.  The gatekeepers are all still in place, but they can’t control every source of information.  All of the alternative sciences can now speak directly to interested people through websites and blogs which share scientific information.  And with that comes a secondary source of information: the alternative bloggers who behave like journalists, documenting and explaining the alternate sciences to the lay crowd.  I’m an example of this: I’m something complete new: a parapsychology journalist.  This wasn’t possible before the Internet.

There was no outlet for these kinds of articles.  Now there is and it’s a very powerful medium.  I’m currently getting about 20,000 views a month and while that’s quite a bit, Rupert Sheldrake gets upward of 1,000,000 views per month for his website and there are many, many more.  This kind of constant exposure is having its effect on the public debate.

I think that it’s only a matter of time before the mass media will have to deal with this.  An attitude of blanket skepticism will start eroding their reputations sooner rather than later.  How much sooner is anyone’s guess.  This is all brand new and the change that we are witnessing is unique in human history.  The Internet is changing the way the sciences are dealt with and it’s having its impact in every controversial area.  Parapsychology, the most mature of all the frontier sciences has had enough evidence since the 1950’s.  It’s fate of obscurity and misinformation was always a social one.

Consequently its promotion into the mainstream will come about only as a result of social change.  And it’s happening now.  I predict that the mainstream press will be the next place to start conceding that there is a scientific controversy and that they had better stop taking sides.  Once the mainstream no longer toes the materialist line, the last bastion of the scientific reactionary: academia, will come under assault.  They have been able to postpone this moment of reckoning for fifty years by simply avoiding the discussion, but that will be no longer possible once the mainstream media deserts them.

Once they have to start defending themselves constantly it will be like the TED controversy.  All stonewalling and no good arguments.  That state of affairs can’t last forever.  Scientists who are interested in these taboo subjects will be encouraged by what they see in the media and begin pushing their own institutions to change so that eventually the dam will burst.  At that point they will start ignoring the threats of the skeptics to blackball them.  When those threats finally become empty, the skeptics will have finally and completely lost.  The skeptics won’t change their minds, but they will lose the power to influence anyone else.  They will be left behind.

As of right now, no one really knows what this new world will look like.  How do you discuss psi scientifically as being simply proven?  What is there to discuss?  I was at a conference last month and I saw most of the scientists deal with skepticism at length.  Dean Radin devoted most of his speech to proof of psi.  Is this even going to be necessary in five years?

The new Skeptiko forum is a sign of fundamental scientific social changes ahead that will be coming from the most unexpected direction: the grassroots.  It is starting on a relatively obscure forum, but it is only a matter of time before it spreads.

36 comments on “A New Paradigm: The Growing Rejection of Psi Skepticism

  1. Anthony McCarthy
    November 20, 2013

    I recently looked at the all time statistics of my political, non-psi oriented blog and was surprised to find that the several posts I did which were critical of James Randi are still among those getting the most hits. Followed closely by some critical of the arch materialist PZ Myers.

    The majority of the population, including those who are highly educated, reject the materialist fundamentalists. As I said for progressive politics, if we entirely ignored the materialists and their ideological agenda, we’d more than make up the difference from the people the materialists insist on driving away. They have had ten years of pushing the most extreme of materialist agendas and still don’t come up to 6% of the population in the most rigorously done surveys. They should be dumped and marginalized.

    • billy_mavreas (@billy_mavreas)
      November 28, 2013

      i appreciate your blog because it seems to be rare to find take-downs of the ‘skeptics’ on non-psi blogs.

      i can’t very well make a decent point to a skeptical friend by sending them to a psi blog, now can i 😉

      • donsalmon
        November 28, 2013

        You might enjoy Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and His Emissary” and Charles Eisenstein’s “The Ascent of Humanity”. Both, in their own ways (Charles by talking about “the consciousness of “Separation” and McGilchrist by talking about unbalanced left hemisphere functioning) describe the consciousness that underlies skeptical (non) thinking. You’ll never convince them of anything by logic because what supports debunking (it shouldn’t be called skepticism which can be a noble position – Craig, for example, is skeptical of debunkers, as am I:>)) – is not logic. You’re dealing with fundamaterialists. You need to show them that you understand them – but this is tricky because it can seem condescending. Or you can choose as Craig, quite wisely, does – don’t bother with them, just be polite and save your energy for those who are open minded. (in other words, who are actually capable of thinking).

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  3. Jordan Wm. Burrill
    November 17, 2013

    Hi Craig and All!
    I just received my copy of Dr. Carpenter’s “First Sight” and am looking forward to diving into it! Thanks Craig!

  4. donsalmon
    November 12, 2013

    I agree with everyone here – great post Craig. haven’t been here for awhile, and I’m delighted to see you’re doing such great work.

    And yes, Jim Carpenter’s first sight theory is, I think, the best out there – (at least, in mainstream psych – I think Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga psychology has a lot that could add to it, but to be honest, contemporary science may not be ready for it yet – check it out at, at the blog pages).

    Keep up the great work, Craig!

  5. Michael Prescott
    November 11, 2013

    Very interesting and provocative post! I’d like to agree with the thesis, but I’m not sure I do.

    You can read books published in the 1950s by psi proponents stating confidently that J.B. Rhine’s work has proven the existence of telepathy (and I think it did), but sixty years later the subject remains deeply controversial. For that matter, you can read predictions by 19th century Spiritualists stating that materialism would be overthrown within a generation – and here we are, more than a hundred years later, with materialism still occupying the catbird seat in our culture.

    George Hansen may have been on to something in his book The Trickster and the Paranormal, where he argued that psi is a “liminal” (marginal) phenomenon, inherently ambiguous, elusive, and unstable, and always treated as taboo by “respectable” society.

    Though I may be a tad cynical, I suspect that the Internet is relevant to this discussion in a slightly different way: it tends to encourage people to hang out with like-minded friends, creating an impression of consensus where none exists. For instance, many political conservatives (including me) were convinced that Romney would win the 2012 election because we inhabited an online echo chamber; Obama’s relatively easy victory caught us totally by surprise. We were like Pauline Kael, who couldn’t believe Nixon had won reelection because she didn’t know anyone who had voted for him. (Nixon carried 49 states, but not Kael’s liberal Manhattan district, where all her friends were congregated.)

    My guess is that psi will not really become mainstream unless and until some useful technology can be developed around it. When people can buy (say) a telepathy-operated robot at Walmart, the debate will be over. But maybe psi really is too “liminal” to be harnessed in this way.

    If I had to bet, I’d predict that psi will remain a “fringe” topic five years from now – proven to the satisfaction of its proponents (like me), but still treated like a redheaded stepchild by academia and most media outlets. I’d like to be wrong.

    • Mark
      November 11, 2013

      Yeah, I was a bit concerned about the 5 years comment, as well. That being said, however, I think that it’s entirely possible that some of that stuff that Craig knows about that he is not telling us might mean that it is a definite possibility.

    • Stephen
      November 11, 2013

      I really don’t agree with George Hansen’s attitude. I used to be at a university where a pioneering quantum computing lab is located. At first, people from the lab would tell us things like, “This is never going to work; all our systems decohere too quickly to do anything useful”. But five years later they were much more confident, having achieved stable results in all their experiments and were looking forward to the first applications of quantum computers. Given that the amount of funding and manpower the quantum computing folks had was significant compared to what is devoted to parapsychology, I think predictions of psi always being elusive are way premature.

      In fact, in my personal research, preliminary results indicate there may be an easy way to reverse psi decline effects (at least for a certain kind of presentiment). I will run more experiments and publish the results.

      Studies show that taking a defeatist attitude in any endeavor means you are more likely to fail. And there isn’t anything “paranormal” about that observation, either. Thinking a task is hopeless means you don’t put in the effort needed to succeed and that other people won’t give their time and resources, either.

      • Stephen
        November 11, 2013

        I agree that a practical and widespread practical application would end the psi taboo. But there are many fields of science with no practical applications which are not controversial. Take the existence of strange, charm, bottom, and top quarks. They don’t even exist in our everyday world! – only in particle colliders. Yet no scientist I’ve ever met or heard of doubts their existence.

        Yes, psi is currently too weak for widespread and obvious practical application. But if researchers could come up with a theory of psi which connects to other fields including physics, biology, neuroscience, and psychology and this theory was consistent with all experimental evidence, the psi taboo would fall. I know many people don’t like the constant use of scientific reductionism but still, psi needs to be able to interact with the physical world since it has influence upon the physical world. Therefore, a modification or reinterpretation of some physics is necessary. This is why I reject theories based only on psychology. A physics component is necessary to form the bridge with the rest of our scientific understanding of the Universe.

        Even if you support full spirit-matter dualism, you must still explain how the spirit-stuff gets bound to certain brains+bodies in our physical world. This is not so easy but essential for a full understanding.

        • Jim Carpenter
          November 12, 2013

          I would argue that a successful psychological theory (I believe my First Sight theory is fairly successful) helps make a strong case for the normality of psi. As Daryl Bem said of First Sight, it shows that psi is not a psychological anomaly. This strongly implies that it must not be a physical anomaly either, since our psychological functioning and our physical nature are deeply conjoined. As you know, some bright physicists are working hard at trying to understand how psi is not a physical anomaly either, but that may take awhile. For one thing, there is still no really adequate physical account of many basic psychological phenomena, including consciousness itself, let alone psi.

          Regarding application of psi, I think it is not at all impossible, and its development can proceed just fine with adequate psychological theory, as long as it permits reliable predictions. See my chapter on applications in First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life.

    • billy_mavreas (@billy_mavreas)
      November 28, 2013

      “My guess is that psi will not really become mainstream unless and until some useful technology can be developed around it.”

      i’ve been thinking that any science that approaches the human energy field, auras, chakras and the like will open floodgates of application and mainstream acceptance.

      • donsalmon
        November 28, 2013

        Along the lines of what Jim talked about, I think that the “normality” is the key – technology will follow.

        There’s a very interesting youtube video of Richie Davidson, the neuroscientist who has been exploring meditation and affective (emotional) functioning in the brain.

        Most recently, he has published a book showing the positive effects of the development of a broad range of functions of the mid prefrontal cortex, including self awareness, self-regulation, response flexibility and empathy (you’ll find very similar descriptions in Dan Siegel’s “interpersonal neurobiology” – for more on that see

        The most interesting part of that video, for me, is where Richie predicts that by 2050, learning meditation techniques and understanding the functioning of the MPFC (mid prefrontal cortex) as well as its profound capacity to integrate a full range of “head” brain functioning (as well as the heart brain and enteric nervous system or gut brain) will be part of education from a very young age.

        And, (this is my addition to his prediction), when you have young children – very young children – 3 or even younger – developing the kind of spacious mind and emotional equanimity that comes from developing the MPFC, you will find – inevitably I think – that the sensitivity of young children to the “dream” and “subliminal” worlds – to the kinds of subliminal awareness that Jim Carpenter shows is essential to psi functioning – will be sustained throughout childhood

        This will naturally lead to adolescents, and finally, young adults who are open to a vast range of experience and realities that are unimaginable to even early 21st century scientists. As these young people go off to college and graduate school, and by the last 1/4 of the 21st century are in leading positions in research labs (which won’t in any way resemble the research labs of today) around the world (probably interlinked not only in hyperspace but perhaps in subtle as well as physical worlds!!), those technologies that Jim predicts will emerge as a natural consequence of this new openness of mind and heart (and most importantly, of soul).

        • donsalmon
          November 28, 2013

          and I should add, when I talk about “50 years from now” or the late 21st century, we’re probably all still reading that with out present consciousness. As our awareness of time and space changes, our whole conception – “conception” is not even the right word; our experience, our visceral sense – of time and space will be changed so much that to talk about centuries and the whole world and worlds will seem outdated. There is no language (well there is but it is rare) to describe this, but that language too, I think, will emerge.

          • donsalmon
            November 28, 2013

            that should read “with OUR present consciousness” – gosh, almost wrote OUR peasant consciousness – well, maybe that too:>))

    • Jordan Wm. Burrill
      December 9, 2013

      Hi Michael!
      Actually, all electronic devices (including vacuum tube tech.), require quantum mechanics to work. The amount of psi work (like RVing), being done with Binaural Frequency-Follow Brainwave Entrainment (BBFFBE), can be found at stores like Walmart, in bedded into music CDs for meditation. The CDs by Dr. Jeffery Thompson are a good example. It’s just that the pop culture is oblivious to what is in front of them. Sure, It’s a small beginning, but a beginning just the same.

  6. JordanBUrrill
    November 8, 2013

    Hi All!
    Yes, I agree! But, “Houston, we have a problem”. Our current tech is too primitive to gage or measure the underlying information-energy field ‘instruction set’, that orders these base-line fields into from wave-state superposition into quanta energy-information structural scaffoldings – such as quarks, mesons, gluons etc. of the ‘Yang-Mills standard model’ that produce the illusion of atomic (false-‘physical’), structures that are ‘solid’.
    At this point, we are forced to try measuring secondary effects.
    OR, use the quantum energy-information gathering abilities of our consciousness – which is what brings us back to the point of our discussion – human perception, subliminal processing and symbolic imagery, what Robert Bruce calls; “the angle of perception” – and the false controversy thrown-up by pseudo-skeptics.
    So, now that I have probably discouraged or confused a few folks – I need a drink 😀
    In short, any theory ultimately must be tested – no matter how convincing it will be.
    This is the current RV and investigatory project/question; “can I glimpse this underlying information-energy instructional set as Theosophists Annie Beasant and Charles Leadbeater did?”
    Cheers to All!

  7. Vortex
    November 8, 2013

    Hi Craig, here is Vortex from Skeptiko forum! You wrote:


    Can you elaborate a bit – what do you mean by “slow but steady rise”? I’m glad to learn that SSE are getting more influential, but more details will be useful!

    And SSE is not a journal – it’s a scientific society! 😉 The journal is the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE), published by SSE.

    • Vortex
      November 20, 2013

      Oops, the part of my reply – the quote from your article – diappeeared somehow!

      My full reply should look like this:


      Hi Craig, here is Vortex from Skeptiko forum! You wrote:

      “In addition we’ve seen the slow but steady rise of the Society for Scientific Exploration, a scientific journal that explores normally taboo topics. It now has 800 members in 45 countries. (You can only be a member if you’re a scientist.)”

      Can you elaborate a bit – what do you mean by “slow but steady rise”? I’m glad to learn that SSE are getting more influential, but more details will be useful!

      And SSE is not a journal – it’s a scientific society! The journal is the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE), published by SSE.


      Sorry it took my me so long to notice the problem with my reply… Well, you (and commenters on your blog) probably moved to the new blogposts anyway, so I don’t think it is important whether my reply was understood or not. However, I think that I have to correct my reply anyway – your older posts are still being read by many!

  8. Jordan Wm. Burrill
    November 5, 2013

    Hi Craig!
    Thanks for your latest email and continued good work! It is quite surprising to see the beginnings of the damn breaks. Public acceptance seems more open to psi than many might think. Hear are some example to consider; Just before Halloween the rather conservative FNC interviewed one of the members of the original “Ghost Hunters” 9th(?) season, series on the Syfy channel. And at least one of the participating reporters said he did ‘believe in ghosts’. And, speaking of psi on TV, my wife and I counted at least eight psi related programs on different cable channels at one point.
    It seems that some of the general public is more open to psi related ideas and programs.
    I think that much of the resistance and/or indifference comes from the academic dinosaur establishment and affiliates in the media – which are not looking for anything in consciousness research that could point to an form of ‘higher power’ and /or death survival – that would not jive with their materialist/reactionary atheistic agenda.
    I take this (what some would consider), extreme view because;
    1. From James Maxwell; forward, it was generally surmised that it would be eventually discovered that ‘everything really was organized energy information’ (from which quanta events would arise) – long before quantum field theory was fully formed.
    2. Einstein (who presented ‘Relativity’ in the very early 20th century AND believed in an ether-like universal field medium), – long before any current militaristic pseudo-skeptics were born!
    So, since the pseudo-skeptics (automatically, atheists), (like other breeds of fascists), feel no prohibition toward deception there will always bare watching – in terms of protecting civil liberties. Yes, I know this (in it self), sounds intolerant and prejudicial. But, they do have a ‘track record’ for us to see.
    Cheers Craig!

  9. Jim Carpenter
    November 4, 2013

    Please consider my First Sight theory, presented in a book of the same name. It sheds a lot of light on when we should expect expressions of psi, and how strong we should expect them to be.

  10. buzz
    November 3, 2013

    You certainly do not have to be a scientist to join the Society for Scientific Exploration. I highly recommend Associate Membership, available to anyone who supports the Society’s goals. Student membership is also available.

    • craigweiler
      November 3, 2013

      You do have to be a scientist to be a full member. Sorry that I didn’t make that clear.

    • mtpitre
      November 3, 2013

      Hey Buzz do you mind if recommend Dr. Melba Ketchum to your site? Right now she needs community to support her research.

      • buzz
        November 3, 2013

        Everyone is welcome to visit . Besides its fun conferences, SSE also offers a newsletter, peer-reviewed journal, magazine and online discussion group.

  11. mtpitre
    November 3, 2013

    Awesome Post Craig! Totally agree. Have you read about this scientist who is being harassed for finding hard dna evidence for bigfoot?

    I feel a lot of mainstream publications are being held at gun point by skeptics because a lot fear of losing their jobs. I bet if they wasn’t a issue scientist will do what in their hearts want to do, explore the many possibilities of the universe and phenomenon.

    The above scientist Dr. Melba Ketchum was being slammed by skeptics even after they couldn’t find a reason with her data to be wrong. They were displaying lies and slander it was horrible. I feel Skeptiko should do a chat with her.

    • craigweiler
      November 3, 2013

      Yes, I’ve been following the slander she’s been getting. It’s atrocious and I have commented when I could to counter some of the ridiculous nastiness.

      • mtpitre
        November 3, 2013

        Hi Craig thank you for reply, I contacted Alex on FB to see if he can do a interview podcast with her. In case he doesn’t he get the message send him a message on my behalf. That poor woman is slandered and lied about. I mean that is very unethical. If we can combine all of the paranormal communities together, we’ll be a stronger force against these people.

    • M. R.
      November 8, 2013

      I’ve never understood why people are so incensed about Bigfoot (both the proponents and the skeptics). I myself am undecided, but isn’t Bigfoot just another possibly unidentified species, of which many are discovered every year and many more will continue to be? Besides, even if Bigfoot were real, it wouldn’t change any political, philosophical, or religious debates, unlike psi and survival research. And unlike fraudulent mediums who give their sitters false hopes or fraudulent doctors/healers who kill instead of heal, even if the evidence for Bigfoot were fraudulent or a product of misidentification, it can’t possibly damage anyone, can it?

      Also, I have a problem labeling Bigfoot as “paranormal” and consider cryptids to be an entirely different subject from paranormal phenomena, but that may just be me.

      • mtpitre
        November 8, 2013

        Hi there I agree with you. I would say for skeptics it i easier to believe in Big foot than paranormal but yet skeptics are amiss about that too. Mind you if bigfoot is real it will just be a new species found. I heard of cases of scientific establishment doing this with giant squids in which they said giant squids were myth until that was debunked when they found giant squids. It says something about science when science doesn’t want to open itself things even more probably according to materialist standards rather than paranormal. That shows how many skeptic and scientists have cognitive biases already to things they deem outside of the establishment.

  12. Mark
    November 3, 2013

    I agree with you, Craig, that there are some aspects of this change that will be unique. However, there are some other aspects that will be in line with older paradigm shifts. I have never read any of his books, but I hear that Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes, among other things, about past grassroots efforts that have been critical to progress, but that are not reported on, properly, by many historians of science because they tend want to overplay the role of mainstream academics in progress, and underplay the contributions of everyone else. The link, below, is to a cold fusion website, but it has implications outside of the realm of cold fusion:

    If we could, somehow, change this society to one that Taleb argues in favor of, a society that embraces the “Black Swan” instead of trying to write it off, then we could see non-mainstream ideas that would have, otherwise, taken decades, centuries, or even millennia to be accepted being accepted in a few years, or less. I don’t know if it would be possible to create such a society, but we should try.

  13. Stephen
    November 3, 2013

    “What is there to discuss?”

    Simple. We need a “Unified Theory of Psi” which explains its effect size and relationships to physics and psychology. If we had a working theory, we could explain when and how much psi will appear and when it won’t. The theory would also suggest new experiments for scientists to try out. A psi theory would also point towards a theory explaining the relationship of the brain to consciousness.

    My current favorite (outline for a) psi theory is CIRTS,
    though it still has much to explain.

    • craigweiler
      November 4, 2013

      Jim Carpenter, who has replied above, currently has the best theory of psi I’ve seen so far. First Sight, which is the title of his book. My previous post covers just a tiny bit of that comprehensive theory, and I can tell you it’s very, very good.

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This entry was posted on November 3, 2013 by in parapsychology, Psi Wars, Skeptics and Skeptic Arguments, Wikipedia and tagged , , .
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