Failing PSI

Brian Inglis The Hidden Power: Science, Scepticism and Psi. Jonathan Cape, 1986.

A rather unappetising mixture of credulity and ill-tempered polemic, which reveals lnglis's simplistic view of the world rather well. His world is divided into a handful of 'goodies' - Crookes, Richet, Schrenck-Notzig and other supporters of physical mediumship, who are perfect in every way, cannot tell a lie or let the wish be father of the observation; and on the other side a vast army of 'baddies', including the majority of the leadership of the SPR and most scientists, who have the temerity not to believe everything the goodies write without question. These baddies are the sceptics, who promote vicious 'scientism' and 'materialism', and are capable of every kind of blackguardism.

Inglis is no doubt correct to criticise those scientists who denounced psychical on slender grounds, or denounced the whole field because a certain medium cheated, or who sneered at ideas they could not understand. What a pity therefore that Inglis disposes of such ideas as Neo-Darwinism or structuralism with a sneer, and denounces the evidence for fossil man because an American once reconstructed a fossil human from a pig's tooth!

Works like this do no service to psychical research. In their indiscriminate attack and defence, real targets are missed. Thus Inglis is quite correct in his comments on the CSlCOP 'Starbaby' fiasco, but many readers will regard his criticism of that in the same light as his defence of Eva C., Ted Serios, Uri Geller, Clive Backster, etc. Furthermore, many scientists are going to get their impressions of the field, not from careful works, but from Inglis, as he takes another not inconsiderable step towards being psychical research's biggest public relations disaster since Conan Doyle. -- Peter Rogerson, Magonia 24, November 1986

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