Parapsychology and Self-Deception in Science by R. A. McConnell


Parapsychology and Self-Deception in Science
1983, 158 pages, 6" x 9", ISBN: 0-9610232-2-8, $10.00

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Chapter 1, titled "Escape From Reality, outlines this book, which was written in the spirit of the following excerpts:

"How important is scientific reality? How much are we willing to pay to know it ourselves and to have others know it? . . .

"Each of us creates an imaginary world as protection against its real counterpart, adding to it, piece by piece, over the years, until we have a comforting montage. In this process we ignore ideas that cause anxiety. We welcome the familiar and avoid the unknown. This description is as true in science as in the rest of life. Throughout our picture building we take care not to expose our innermost thoughts lest they be challenged. In this way we ensure our mental stability….

"How much is progress worth? Perhaps it comes down to a question of values. Are we willing, like Lady Godiva, to ride naked before our colleagues so that mankind may escape the toll of ignorance? Or do we treasure our privacy above our sense of professional fulfillment? As scientists are we engaged in a desperate search for reality, or are we members of a comfort-loving elite, paid by society to play puzzle games with nature? These are questions that might be asked of every scientist. They have a special relevance for parapsychology.

Chapter 2 is a paper by a distinguished physical scientist, C.K. Jen, who was born in 1906 in a remote village in North China, received his graduate training in the U.S., and was trapped in South China throughout World War II. At the time I knew him he was at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

On a lecture visit to the PRC prior to 1983, Dr. Jen, at the invitation of his host colleagues, had participated in three demonstrations of ESP involving a dozen young children, who successfully identified concealed Chinese ideographs with nearly 100% accuracy.

His son-in-law, Dr. Lewis Jacobson, was at that time a member of my faculty parapsychological advisory committee. Through him, I learned of Dr. Jen's parapsychological adventure and suggested that it be formally reported in the parapsychological literature.

When his paper was rejected for publication by the Parapsychological Foundation of New York because it was too spectacular to be believed, he graciously allowed it to be included in this book, which was then in preparation.

In the light of my professional relations with C.K. Jen and my personal relations with Lewis Jacobson and his wife, Dr Linda Jen Jacobson, the daughter of C.K. Jen, Dr. Jen's paper must, in my judgment, be accepted without reservation as establishing the widespread occurrence of high level ESP among Chinese children as described therein.

The importance of Dr. Jen's paper was magnified by a paper "Parapsychology in the People's Republic of China: 1979 - 1989" by Leping Zha and Tron McConnell (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 85, 119 - 143, April 1991). Dr. Zha, a physicist, was educated in China and the USA. His principal industrial experience has been in magnetic resonance imaging. My son, Tron, with an active interest in parapsychology since 1972, provided editorial support.

This 1991 paper, with 59 references to Chinese research, begins with a review of ESP among children under the Chinese name "Exceptional Functions of the Human Body." The experimentation spread to educational and research centers in large cities. On the basis of more than 500 trained scholars from more than 100 centers, it was estimated that ESP could be evoked in about 50% of children from roughly age 6 to 12, above which this seemingly innate ability disappears.

The publicity associated with the child ESP drew critical attention, and, as a result, interest shifted to Qigong as performed by adult, highly trained "Qigong Masters" as a part of "Traditional Chinese Medicine." Qigong divides into two forms: "internal energy Qigong" (ESP) and "external energy Qigong" (PK). The demonstrated effects resulted in high governmental and scientific interest both favoring and opposing Qigong research. As a result of unseemly publicity surrounding this controversy, the Party ruled in 1982 that all publicity on this topic must cease.

From 1983 to 1986, research centered within the Institute of Space Medico-Engineering with spectacular results by Qigong Masters. Beginning in 1986, Qigong burst into public attention as a Chinese cultural activity despite the ban against publicity. This activity was carried on as a money-making activity by numerous self-proclaimed Qigong Masters until the Beijing events of June 1989. Dr. Zha closed his paper with a warning that fraud and commercialization would soon lead to an adverse reaction at a high political level.

On 29 November 2001, Dr Zha delivered a lecture titled "Review of History, Findings, and Implications of Research on Exceptional Functions of the Human Body" at a five-day conference in Hawaii addressed to a mixed-level audience on bridge building between science and alternative medicine.

In the hard copy draft available to me (26 pages in length), Dr Zha expanded and continued his 1991 report. The new material described the opposition to external energy Qigong after the Beijing events of June 1989. More recently, the government has forcefully prosecuted "Falun Qigong" practitioners who have encouraged a cult religious movement involving many thousands of adherents, some of whom would rather die than renounce their new religion.

The publication of Dr. Zha's 2001 report will be welcomed. Meanwhile, I am inclined to give credence to the report's delicately handled account of gross PK. My interest in this account is made possible by my knowledge of the experience of two professional scientists, well known to me, who, to their own initial dismay, have produced "Uri Geller spoon bending." In one instance the phenomenon was repeated in my presence.

Chapters 3-5. In 1955 with R.J. Snowdon and K.F. Powell, I published a tightly controlled dice experiment (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 50, 269-275). Subsequently, assisted by T.K. Clark, I carried out an analysis of variance and an extended study of target-face distributions among the 167,000 thrown die faces. We prepared two papers whose findings we considered to be a major contribution to the literature of experimental psychokinesis. Chapter 3 discusses the rejection of these papers by the Journal of Parapsychology and The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. The papers themselves follow in Chapters 4 and 5. A condensation of these papers appears in Chapter 14 of my textbook Parapsychology in the Context of Science.

Chapter 6 tells in detail how my colleague, Dr. Thelma K. Clark, was required by an unfriendly faculty to spend 12 years earning an interdepartmental doctor of philosophy degree in biophysics and physiological psychology so that she might work with me in parapsychology. That the hurdles were high may be inferred from the following:

Based on rat brain surgery, her doctoral research led eventually to papers in Science, 190 (1975), 169-171, of which she was the senior author, and to papers in Behavioral and Neural Biology, 25(1979), 271-300, and in Brain Research, 202(1980), 429-443, of which she was the sole author.

The book closes in Chapter 7 with an invited lecture I gave in 1982 at Cambridge University on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the (British) Society for Psychical Research and the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Parapsychological Association.

I titled the lecture "Parapsychology, the Wild Card in a Stacked Deck" As I summarized it then, "The runaway train of history is whistling down the track upon us. If we have not heard it, that is because we prefer not to listen." I made a number of predictions for the year 2000 (some of which have been fulfilled.)

In that lecture I regretted the false optimism of the Global 2000 Report to the President, published in 1980. I accused its authors of using a straight edge ruler to perform a miracle of loaves and fishes. (They had merely extrapolated grain and ocean yields from 1960, through 1975, to 2000.) As I saw it, the assumption implied by the 1980 report was that "God will send a space ship to carry our surplus population off to a new planet. To future historians this hope may be known as the white man's cargo cult."

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