Is there safety in numbers when it comes to science? Some 90 scientists and academics have co-signed a letter, written by Etzel Cardeña of Lund University and published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, that calls for more mainstream support of open and honest investigation of parapsychological topics, and related mysteries of human consciousness. Cardeña stresses six points in support of his call:
1) Research on parapsychological phenomena (psi) is being carried out in various accredited universities and research centers throughout the world by academics in different disciplines trained in the scientific method (e.g., circa 80 Ph.D.s have been awarded in psi-related topics in the UK in recent years). This research has continued for over a century despite the taboo against investigating the topic, almost complete lack of funding, and professional and personal attacks. The Parapsychological Association has been an affiliate of the AAAS since 1969, and more than 20 Nobel prizewinners and many other eminent scientists have supported the study of psi or even conducted research themselves.
2) Despite a negative attitude by some editors and reviewers, results supporting the validity of psi phenomena continue to be published in peer-reviewed, academic journals in relevant fields, from psychology to neuroscience to physics.
3) Increased experimental controls have not eliminated or even decreased significant support for the existence of psi phenomena, as suggested by various recent meta-analyses.
4) These meta-analyses and other studies17 suggest that data supportive of psi phenomena cannot reasonably be accounted for by chance or by a “file drawer” effect. Indeed, contrary to most disciplines, parapsychology journals have for decades encouraged publication of null results and of papers critical of a psi explanation. A psi trial registry has been established to improve research practice.
5) The effect sizes reported in most meta-analyses are relatively small and the phenomena cannot be produced on demand, but this also characterizes various phenomena found in other disciplines that focus on complex human behavior and performance such as psychology and medicine.
6) Although more conclusive explanations for psi phenomena await further theoretical and research development, they do not prima facie violate known laws of nature given modern theories in physics that transcend classical restrictions of time and space, combined with growing evidence for quantum effects in biological systems.
Cardeña notes that though the 90 co-signers of the letter “differ in the extent to which we are convinced that the case for psi phenomena has already been made”, they are united in their view of science “as a non-dogmatic, open, critical but respectful process that requires thorough consideration of all evidence as well as skepticism towards both the assumptions we already hold and those that challenge them”.