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2015 Vol. 79(2) 186-202

John A. Palmer, Ph.D.
Parapsychology Press


Williams, G. (2015). Article. Are Different Standards Warranted to Evaluate Psi? Journal of Parapsychology, 79(2), 186-202.


Are Different Standards Warranted to Evaluate Psi?

George Williams

Throughout the debate on psi, skeptics have almost universally insisted on different standards for evaluating the evidence, claiming that psi represents a radical departure from our current scientific understanding. Thus, there is considerable ambiguity about what standard of evaluation psi must meet. Little attention has been paid to the possible harm to the integrity of scientific

investigation from this resulting inconsistency in testing standards. Some have proposed using a Bayesian framework as an improvement on this dilemma in order to more explicitly model beliefs, assumptions, and background scientific knowledge, especially when evaluating a controversial hypothesis. Recently, Kuhn’s notion of paradigms, which constrains scientific research within boundaries believed to be most productive, has been incorporated into a Bayesian framework. Within this framework, I explore a likely paradigm or meta-theory used by skeptics that typically constrains research and makes it difficult for psi evidence to be accepted. It appears that such a paradigm would in many respects have difficulty accounting for consciousness, which is fundamental to an understanding of psi. I discuss why psi data are likely to play a key role in making progress in solving the problem of consciousness. Thus, applying different standards of evaluation to psi data is likely counterproductive.


psi debate, testing standards, Bayesian, Kuhn, paradigm

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