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Why Parapsychological Claims Cannot Be True

The claims of parapsychology violate causality, time’s arrow, thermodynamics, and the inverse square law. They cannot be true.

The July-August 2018 issue of American Psychologist contained an article titled “The Experimental Evidence for Parapsychological Phenomena: A Review” by Etzel Cardeña. Cardeña is known for research on hypnosis and consciousness, parapsychology, and, interestingly, for his work in theater as an actor and director. The paper prompted us to examine and critique the science behind parapsychology (Reber and Alcock, forthcoming). This article is a summary of our arguments.

The American Psychologist is the flagship publication of the American Psychological Association (APA), the largest and most influential professional organization in our field, and it is sent to its nearly 120,000 members. An article being published within it is equivalent to granting the imprimatur of the APA. Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time the APA had entered this controversial domain of psychology; in 2011, another of its respected journals, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published a paper by Daryl Bem of Cornell University that purported to show evidence of precognition. Bem’s paper lit a small firestorm largely because Bem was well-known for research in fields outside of parapsychology. It was applauded enthusiastically by psi researchers and, of course, was immediately subjected to efforts at replication by other labs (which almost uniformly failed) and well-honed criticisms, including one by one of us (Alcock 2011).

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