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Advances in Parapsychological Research

The latest edition of Advances in Parapsychological Research is now available, and Carlos Alvarado, Visiting Scholar at the Rhine Research Center, has a nice write up on the contents over on his blog, Parapsychology – News, History, Research:

“The editors set the tone of a positive but realistic attitude to parapsychology in their introduction when they point out various problems in the field. They conclude: “In the current historical moment, an advocate of the psi hypothesis might argue, with some justification, that the existence of psi is well established . . . However, parapsychologists are mindful that evidence will remain ineffectual when refracted through the epistemological lenses of a counter-advocate who privileges rhetoric over substance . . .” (p. 7). Similarly, in his essay Tressoldi argues that while evidence of ESP in the ganzfeld is good, “its widespread acceptance now hinges on cultural changes that would allow for respecting the data” (p. 197).

The usefulness of the volume lies in the author’s coverage of several areas and topics. This includes research programs (Nelson), specific areas of research (Rock, Friedman and Jamieson, Feinstein, Modestino, Sherwood and Roe), theoretical concerns (Storm), statistical issues (Tressoldi), and conceptual considerations (Braud).”

This is the 9th volume of the series, and comes 16 years after the last volume was issued in 1997.  The interim between publications marks a shaky time for the field with backlash from the media exposure of the United States government’s “psychic spy” program, know as Project Stargate in one of its iterations, causing issues with funding, as well as an increasingly active skeptical sub-culture which was able to make in roads within the mainstream media in light of the public’s confusion over how the U.S. military and intelligence services could be involved in what was assumed to be fringe scientific areas. 

As Ed May, a former Project Director on Project Stargate, has noted a number of times, the public exposure and dismissal of the program had more to do with internal politics, biased right-wing religious rhetoric (which is ironic considering that in this they share similar views with the stridently secular skeptical sub-culture) and careerism than it did with the actual effectiveness of the research. During a seminar at the Rhine Research Center earlier in the year, May noted that not only did the American Institutes for Research review of the research come to mixed conclusions, it was later revealed that most of the project reports remained sealed and untouched years after the A.I.R. had issued its final verdict. This draws into serious question what can be gleaned from any official statements on the project regarding it’s success or failure from those who were not on hand during its operative phase. 

With this in mind, Advances in Parapsychological Research 9 provides an in depth review of research up to this point, as well as some insights into potential areas for growth in the field. Editors Stanley Krippner, Adam Rock, Julie Beischel, Harris Friedman and Cheryl Fracasso have gathered together key papers that allow the reader to catch up and become acquainted with the current standing on most of the central areas of parapsychology and have included an essay by the late William Braud which opens up a more philosophical approach to the field that aligns with current movements such as the mytho-poetic approach favored by researchers such as Jeffrey Kripal, Rice University, and the anthrpological approaches championed by the peer reviwed Paranthropology Journal edited by Reality Sandwich contributor, Jack Hunter.

For more information on the volume itself, head over to Dr. Alvarado’s blog for a full overview:  Parapsychology – News, History, Research

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