Parapsychology 101

Harvey J. Irwin. An Introduction to Parapsychology. 4th edition. McFarland and Company, 2004.

This latest edition of a standard text book on parapsychology defines the subject as “the scientific study of experiences which, if they are what they seem to be, are in principle outside the range of human capabilities as presently conceived by conventional scientists” and Irwin takes care to argue that in his view that the study of parapsychology does not entail automatic endorsement of the view that these experiences are caused by actual paranormal processes.

However despite the definition the subject matter of the book is rather narrower, it looks at the anecdotal and laboratory evidence for “psi and survival”, thus it treats Near Death Experiences but not alien abduction experiences, despite the similarities between the two and the possibility that they may have related causes. I also note that the range of potential explanations of some of these experiences and phenomena ranges within the parapsychological mainstream. Despite this there is a refreshingly generous treatment of spontaneous cases as compared with some similar works, and the book can be read quite easily by those without a PhD in statistics.

Irwin finally concludes that when all the factors of possible fraud, misperception, misremembering and exaggeration have been taken into account there is still a residue of both anecdotal and experimental evidence which points to something well worth investigating, whether or not this investigation would lead to major revisions within science.

For anyone wishing to see what parapsychology at its best looks like, then this book is as good as anything in the field.  | PR |

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