A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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“To the present day, no one has come up with a persuasive experimental design that can unambiguously distinguish between telepathy and clairvoyance....Based on the experimental evidence, it is by no means clear that pure telepathy exists per se, nor is it certain that real-time clairvoyance exists." The evidence "can all be accommodated by various forms of precognition."--Dean Radin

Clairvoyance is an alleged psychic ability to see things beyond the range of the power of natural vision or vision assisted by technology. Clairvoyance is often associated with precognition (psychically knowing something will happen) or retrocognition (psychically "seeing" something that has already happened).  Psychically seeing things at a distance is sometimes called remote viewing.

Since there is no way to distinguish direct communication with another mind from communication with a present or past perception by that or some other mind, there is no way to distinguish clairvoyance from telepathy or retrocognition. Since there is no way to distinguish direct communication with another mind from communication with a future perception by that mind, there is no way to distinguish telepathy or clairvoyance from precognition. There is no way to distinguish telepathy, clairvoyance, retrocognition, or precognition from a mind perceiving directly the akashic record. There is no way to distinguish telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, or perceiving the akashic record from perceiving what is directly placed in the mind by Abraham's god (occasionalism). There is no way to distinguish telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retrocognition, perceiving the akashic record, or having perceptions directly implanted in our minds by Abraham's god from perceiving the hidden record of all perceptions in the eleventh dimension that is vibrating in the intersection between the tenth and twelfth dimensions. I could go on, but it would be too annoying.

People can have visions or relate stream of consciousness perceptions or feelings that can be interpreted as descriptions of places or things out of the range of vision. The fact that such visions can be subjectively validated as "accurate" does not imply that any clairvoyance has occurred. If a person could provide accurate and detailed descriptions of remote events on a regular basis, that person would be celebrated as truly clairvoyant. That no such person has ever existed in recorded history is a sign that stories of people with second sight are mythical exaggerations.

Anyone can throw out strings of words or sentences or draw pictures that other people can find meaningful and apparently clairvoyant. This fact, however, is irrelevant to establishing that clairvoyance is real. Subjective validation and selective thinking, acting in concert with wishful thinking, ignorance of cognitive biases, and occasional fraud can account for the widespread belief in the reality of clairvoyance. (Depending on which poll one cites, between 25% and 40% of us believe that clairvoyance is real.)

Attempts by scientists to establish the reality of clairvoyance have been going on since the middle of the 19th century. So far, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence indicates that clairvoyance does not exist. (For a short history of the attempt to establish by scientific means the reality of clairvoyance and other psychic abilities, click here. See also the entry on the ganzfeld experiments.)

See also Edgar Cayce, clairaudience, dermo-optical perception, dream, ESP, extraordinary human function, medium, mentalist, Raymond Moody, paranormal, parapsychology, psi, psi-missing, psychokinesis, telepathy, Zener cards, and "What If Dean Radin is Right?" by Robert T. Carroll.

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further reading

books and articles

Alcock, James E. (1981). Parapsychology: Science or Magic? Pergamon Press.

Alcock, James E. Science and Supernature: a Critical Appraisal of Parapsychology (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1990).

Alcock, J. (1995) "The Belief Engine," Skeptical Inquirer. 19(3): 255-263.

Alcock, James. 2003. "Give the Null Hypothesis a Chance," in Psi Wars - Getting To Grips With the Paranormal. ed. James Alcock, Jean Burns and Anthony Freeman. Imprint Academic, pp. 29-50.

Bem, Daryl J. and Charles Honorton (1994). "Does Psi Exist?" Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 115, No. 1, 4-18.

Blackmore, S. J. (1980). "The extent of selective reporting of ESP ganzfeld studies," European Journal of Parapsychology 3:3 , 213–220.

Blackmore, Susan. (2001.) "What Can the Paranormal Teach Us About Consciousness?" Skeptical Inquirer, March/April.

Blackmore, Susan (2003). Consciousness: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.

Christopher, Milbourne. ESP, Seers & Psychics (Thomas Y. Crowell Co. 1970).

Christopher, Milbourne. (1975). Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

Cole, Richard. "U.S. didn't foresee faults in psychic spies program," Associated Press, Sacramento Bee, Nov. 29, 1995, A2.

Frazier, Kendrick. editor, Science Confronts the Paranormal (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1986).

Frazier, Kendrick. editor. The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991).

Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1957).

Gardner, Martin. Science: Good, Bad and Bogus (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1981).

Gardner, Martin. How Not To Test a Psychic: Ten Years of Remarkable Experiments With Renowned Clairvoyant Pavel Stepanek (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989).

Gardner, Martin. On the Wild Side (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992).

Gordon, Henry. Extrasensory Deception: ESP, Psychics, Shirley MacLaine, Ghosts, Ufos  (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987).

Hansel, C. E. M. The Search for Psychic Power: ESP and Parapsychology Revisited (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989).

Hansen, George P. (2001). The Trickster and the Paranormal. Xlibris Corporation.

Hines, Terence. Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003).

Hyman, Ray. The Elusive Quarry : a Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989).

Hyman, Ray. (1995). "Evaluation of Program on Anomalous Mental Phenomena," Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 10 Number 1.

Keene, M. Lamar. The Psychic Mafia (Prometheus, 1997).

Luckhurst, Roger. 2002. The Invention of Telepathy: 1870-1901. Oxford University Press.

Marks, David. The Psychology of the Psychic (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000).

Milton, Julie and Richard Wiseman. (1997). Guidelines for Extrasensory Perception Research. University of Hertfordshire Press.

Neher, Andrew The Psychology of Transcendence (1980). This Prentice-Hall book is out of print. Used copies may be available from Amazon.com. It was reissued in 1990 by Dover Books as Paranormal and Transcendental Experience.

Radin, Dean (1997). The Conscious Universe - The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. HarperCollins.

Radin, Dean. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. Paraview Pocket Books.

Randi, James. Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books,1982), especially chapter 13, "Put Up or Shut Up," where he gives accounts of tests done on several psychics who have tried to collect the $10,000 Randi used to offer to anyone who can demonstrate any psychic power. So far, no one has collected, even though the offer is now $1,000,000!

Reed, Graham. The Psychology of Anomalous Experience : A Cognitive Approach (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988).

Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Random House, 1995).

Scott, Christopher. (1988). Remote viewing. Experientia, 44, 322–326.

Steiner, Robert A. (1989). Don't Get Taken! - Bunco and Bunkum Exposed - How to Protect Yourself  Wide-Awake Books.

Steiner, Robert A. "Fortunetelling," in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal edited by Gordon Stein (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996) pp. 281-290.

Stein, Gordon. editor, The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996).

Stenger, Victor J. (2002). "Meta-Analysis and the File-Drawer Effect." Skeptical Briefs.

Vistica, Gregory. "Psychics and Spooks, How spoon-benders fought the cold war," Newsweek, Dec. 11, 1995, p. 50.

Vyse, Stuart A. Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition (Oxford University Press 2000).

Wiseman, Richard and Matthew Smith, "Can Animals Detect When Their Owners Are Returning Home?" British Journal of Psychology, 89:453, 1998.

Wiseman, Richard  and Ciarán O’Keeffe. 2004. "Testing Alleged Mediumship: Methods and Results," by  (paper presented to the Parapsychological Convention).

Zusne,  Leonard and Warren Jones. Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking 2nd edition. (Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. 1989).


A History of Psi in the Ganzfeld by Andrew Endersby

The Best Case for ESP? (2000) by Matt Nisbet, Skeptical Inquirer

Science Frontiers on the Ganzfeld experiments (1993)

Security Measures in the Automated Ganzfeld

What's the story on "ganzfeld" experiments? (2000). The Straight Dope

Last updated 19-Sep-2012

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