Why is parapsychology considered a pseudoscience?

Question by Erifer F.: Why is parapsychology considered a pseudoscience?
My science teacher told me that parapsychology is considered a pseudoscience. A lot of people online though say its not, but other people say it is.

So please, may you explain why it is considered a pseudoscience?

Best answer:

Answer by Vincent G
“pseudo” means fake.

And since parapsychology is indeed fake, well, there you have it.

What do you think? Answer below!

12 Comments so far »

  1. eri said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 12:44 am

    Parapsychologists have never found any effect – they can study it all they want, but they’ve never gotten results that stand up to the standards of scientific evidence. So science gave up on it a long time ago. If they find something, they can be considered a science again, but until they do, it’s a pseudoscience.

  2. psiexploration said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 1:29 am

    The answer is that people (namely skeptics) consider it such mainly because there is no adequate (and generally accepted) theory of all psi (ESP, PK, Survival of Consciousness) phenomena.

    This is also true in all social sciences like psychology and sociology. Some people don’t consider social sciences as science either.
    However, physics also doesn’t have a unifying theory between quantum and classical physics so by the same definition physics is a pseudoscience.

    However, the longer answer is that your science teacher is wrong according to the largest science organization in the world, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (link below) that voted the Parapsychological Association (link below) in as an affiliate in 1969.

    Feel free to share the web sites with your science teacher. What is rewarding about teaching is that your students often teach you, here is your opportunity to educate your teacher.

    I have also included some articles below for your teacher to refute on scientific (statistical significance and methodology) terms.


  3. wushuboy001 said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 1:32 am

    Because it is not studied using the scientific method, or by any scientific means. In reality, no positive results have come out of a scientific approach to parapsychology. For this reason, most people just make up scientific sounding explanations for things.
    Here is an example of a psuedo-scientific explanation of a parapsychology phenomena.
    “Conservation of energy says that energy can not be destroyed or lost. Therefore when someone dies, their life energy must continue on. This is a ghost.”
    In reality, this make no sense in science, but to an everyday Joe, who knows little about science and the scientific process, this sounds like a reasonable argument.

    This is why its usually considered pseudo-science. Do not believe a word you see on so-called ghost hunting reality shows. Those shows are about as fake as they come.

  4. TR said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 2:18 am

    Your science teacher is correct.

    Contrary to some misinformation from another answerer, affiliation with a science organization (e.g., the AAAS) is not the criterion by which a belief is judged to be a legitimate science. If this were true, a Bachelors of Science in mountain climbing (the Alpine Club is also an AAAS affiliate) would be offered at all major universities.

    Also contrary to some misinformation from the same answerer, the lack of a “theory of all psi” is never cited as a reason for psi being pseudoscience by any skeptics I know of. Rather, the problem is that there isn’t any theory — at all. Parapsychology stands alone compared to the rest of science in the sense that psi is currently defined purely in the negative. That is, psi is defined as abilities beyond the reach of normal senses and physical interactions (paraphrased from parapsych.org). So we know what it’s not: it’s not normal sensing nor physical interaction. But what is it? Yes, it’s supposed to be mind powers, but this is vague handwaving. What is the mechanism? There isn’t a definition for that. And since there isn’t, this precludes the proposal of testable hypotheses and the formulation of scientific theories. If a hypothesis isn’t testable, it’s also not falsifiable, and falsifiability is another absolute necessity in the scientific method. In statistical terms, this means parapsychology’s only basis is the rejection of the null hypothesis.

    And this is essentially why psi remains a pseudoscience. In addition, reproducibility and reproduction of experimental results (really the hallmark of the scientific method) is completely missing so far from the library of psi evidence. Many parapsychologists do understand the scientific method and realize these weaknesses and are trying to do something about it, but so far not with much success. As psychology professor and parapsychology expert Ray Hyman has said, “Only parapsychology claims to be a science on the basis of phenomena (or a phenomenon) whose presence can be detected only by rejecting a null hypothesis… Parapsychology is the only field of scientific inquiry that does not have even one exemplar that can be assigned to students with the expectation that they will observe the original results!”

  5. Robert H said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 3:01 am

    Parapsychology is by definition a discipline that seeks to investigate the existence and causes of psychic abilities and life after death using the scientific method.

    Meaning they test claims of the supernatural using real world science.

    Therefore, parapsychology is NOT pseudoscience.

  6. Nice Guy said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 3:59 am

    I won’t give you a scientific answer. Others can do that far better . Besides, you really don’t need one. Parapsychology is called a pseudoscience because it’s not real. It’s all a bunch of foofwraw and bull doody. It really is just that simple.
    Listen to your science teacher. It’s obvious he’s not as easily fooled as some.

  7. j said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 4:31 am

    There is not a consensus on what is parapsychology, and there is not a consensus on its status as a science. Those are facts which anyone may verify by polls, etc.

    For example, is the study of childrens’ memories of past lives “parapsychology”? If so, then university professors at the University of Virgina are working in that field: http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/DOPS
    “Life before Life,” Dr. Jim Tucker, and
    “Children Who Remember Previous Lives,” Dr. Ian Stevenson; both of these men are/were university professors and psychiatrists.

    For example: is the study of human ability to influence by remote intention electronic devices “parapsychology”? Dr. William A. Tiller, one of the world’s leading experts in crystal materials research, of Stanford University, and colleagues there in the biology dept., developed professional, high-quality research protocols with double-masking, etc., to research this: http://www.tiller.org and “Psychoenergetic Science.”

    For example: is the study of pairs of meditators, who are then separated in Faraday cages in different locations, one of which subjects is then subjected to a unique series of visual stimuli, which both subjects’ brains simultaneously register, “parapsychology”? If so, scientists at some leading universities, beginning with Dr. Grinberg-Zylberbaum in University of Mexico in 1993, and similar studies replicating the significant results, at other universites, such as Sabell et al., 2001, Wackermann et al., 2003, and Standish et al., 2004, are doing “parapsychological” research of high quality showing nonlocal telepathy with non-EMF propagation.

    If studying and inducing statistically significant telepathy during dream experiments is “parapsychology,” then researchers at Stanford Univ. Medical School and at a prestigious NY medical hospital are doing so. Links at http://www.lucidity.com and http://www.stanleykrippner.com

    And the list goes on.

    Some further resources: Dr. Henry P. Stapp’s physicist’s view of “The Mindful Universe,” and physicist Dr. Amit Goswami’s “God Is not Dead.”

    Telepathy experiments at http://www.sheldrake.org

    Dr. Dean Radin, “Entangled Minds” and of http://www.noetic.org will be interviewed this Friday evening via http://www.coasttocoastam.com radio (click on “Radio Affiliates” button for local station).

    Dr. Carol Bowman’s work with children is profiled at her http://www.carolbowman.com and “Children’s Past Lives” has influenced the folks at http://www.soulsurvivor-book.com

    http://www.nderf.org and
    http://www.divinecosmos.com are examples of various levels and types of “parapsychological” research/work.

    So, after checking these resources, one may reasonably conclude that it is erroneously ignorant to state “parapsychology is pseudoscience,” etc.

    While there are many resources and many less-scientific claims, some quite good, e.g. Dr. Olga Kharitidi’s “The Master of Lucid Dreams,” Dr. Elizabeth Mayer’s “Extraordinary Knowing,” Paul Dong’s “China’s Super Psychics,” and Mark Prophet’s “The Path of the Higher Self,” a few general reference books:

    Irwin and Watt, “An Introdution to Parapsychology,”
    Schoch and Yonavjak, “Parapsychology Revolution,”
    Beloff, “Parapsychology: A Concise History,” and
    Alvarado, “Getting Started in Parapsychology.”

  8. Kobayashi said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 4:40 am

    Scientists find no proof it exist, frauds claim it exist, scientists refute them, is all fake.

  9. Tunsa said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 4:43 am

    The term “pseudoscience” refers to any field that is wrongly considered to be scientific by a group (and sometimes a large group) of people.

    As you can see from “j”s answer above, there is substantial scientific research occuring in this field at a number of universities. The work is following tried and tested scientific principles, methodology, and analysis techniques. Given that a scientific approach is being taken to this field, it is correctly considered to be a science. There are those who dispute the results or the conclusions of the researchers, but that is true of any scientific endevour. Review information about the history of germ theory to see an example of how scientific results are often the topic of controversy.

    Besides the actual science going on in the field of parapsychology, there is also a substantial amount of posturing and misinformation about parapsychology. Some people believe that parapsychology is involved with reading minds and telling the future. Other people believe that parapsychology is about finding bigfoot or ufos. Actually, it’s about studying phenomenon that cannot be explained by existing scientific theories and trying to determine the mechanisms that produce these phenomenon. That is science.

    Many fakers and con artists pretend to read minds, perform levitation, or predict the future using tricks or illusions. Some people see these magicians and immediately assume that all people who consider themselves to be psychics are using illusions. Therefore, they consider all psychics to be fakes, and parapsychology to be a fake science that is more concerned with generating interest through marketing and false claims than in pursuing sound science. It’s easy to understand how many people who are not familiar with the scientific studies and published papers would be taken in by people who claim to be “skeptics”, but who are really just focusing on the non-scientific presentation of con artists and charletons. It is wrong to dismiss all of the work in a field just because there are some people who are pretending that they have abilities or skills that are being studied in that field.

    Another answer presented a different view related to the foundation of research in parapsychology and the experimental approach to psi phenomenon. It discussed Ray Hyman’s quote that parapsychology is soley based on disproving the null hypothesis. In research design, the null hypothesis is regularly used to describe the results that would commonly be expected. This is not unique to parapsychology as it is a technique that is used in all science. This does not make parapsychology unscientific. It is appropriate to recognize that parapsychology has not come up with an acceptable hypothesis to describe the phenomenon that are being observed, but that does not invalidate the scientific approach to the topic.

    A couple of years ago, people were saying that the science behind climate change was psuedoscience. Before that, some people thought that those who presented cigarettes as harmful were using psuedoscience. Before that, relativity was considered to be psuedoscience. Before that, genetics and evolution. Many other examples exist, including many examples where the theories being presented have been largely dismissed as untrue by the scientific community. Parapsychology cannot be dismissed because there are events that cannot be explained by other sciences. Parapsychology is the attempt to find the truth behind these events and help them to fit into our theory of how the world works. That is a scientific endevour, not psuedoscience.

  10. Rviewer003 said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 5:19 am

    Parapsychology is considered unofficially by many skeptics to be a “pseudoscience” largely because they mistakenly or falsely claim it has produced “no effects.” This belief is completely mistaken. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed science papers and books reporting successful ESP and other parapsychology experiments done under very careful scientific conditions. By the standards of any other science, evidence for parapsychological effects has been fully demonstrated. Skeptics reject this evidence only because to accept it means they would have to change their views about the nature of the world and the completeness of physics. Ultimately, this all means that parapsychology really is a science, not a pseudoscience — and it is officially recognized as such by the AAAS, the leading science organization in the United States.

  11. Gary Y said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 6:03 am

    Short answer – parapsychology does not and cannot follow scientific method. All hypothesis need to be falsifiable, and parapsychology is not. Therefore it is a pseudoscience.

    Falsifiability means that the proponents must admit to the possibility that their theory is false, and furthermore have some idea in mind for how that might be demonstrated. Experiments are designed to test for exactly that state of affairs — if it occurs, then the theory is false. If it doesn’t, then the possibility that the theory is true is made stronger.

  12. military supporter said,

    Wrote on April 3, 2012 @ 6:29 am

    Parapsychology is not considered a pseudo science by skeptics. It is called that by nonbelievers. Skeptics want proof,they don’t disbelieve it. Nonbelievers try to pretend they are skeptics, but that is untrue. I would like to know where all these people who discount PSI come up with their proof. They claim it doesn’t exist but have no way to prove their statements. In my mind, this is no different than what the proponents say, except that the proponents are more open minded.

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