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Clairvoyance

September 21, 2010

For the general entry on Parapsychology, click here

The Claims:

Clairvoyance, literally “to see clearly”, is a form of ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) where the alleged psychic claims to be able to perceive that which cannot be detected using any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell). The clairvoyant is said to use his or her “inner eye” to see what is hidden for others. There are several different types of clairvoyance including:

  • Precognition: the ability to see into the future
  • Retro-cognition: the ability to see into the past
  • Mediumship: the ability to see and converse with spirits, the dead, angels, etc.
  • Remote-viewing: the ability to see a person or an event taking place in an area removed from the viewer.

The Evidence:

There are many ways in which an alleged psychic can put him or herself in a state where they are supposedly susceptible to clairvoyance.  These include using trance, dreams or sensory deprivation in which a fantasy prone person may very well have experiences that can have the feeling of being otherworldly or outside the normal realm. However, scientists can also replicate such feelings by stimulating the brain in different ways using drugs or by using magnetic pulses to stimulate the temporal lobes. There is also evidence that oxygen deprivation or seizures in the temporal lobes may induce these kind of hallucinations.

Claims of paranormal psychic abilities such as clairvoyance are highly controversial and are investigated under the field of parapsychology. However, these paranormal claims are not generally accepted by the scientific community and are often classed as pseudo-science.  Studies in parapsychology often appear to superficially resemble science, but often do not adhere to the standards we have come to expect from a scientific study. In fact in 1988 the US Research Council concluded that it “…finds no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years, for the existence of parapsychological phenomena.”

Conclusion:

There is no reason to believe that clairvoyance exists other than as a figment of our own imagination. In fact there are several “psychic challenges” that are willing to pay out handsomely if anyone would be able to prove the existence of any such ability in any person.

Links:

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

“God on the Brain” on BBC.co.uk

Wikipedia Page on Clairvoyance

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry on Clairvoyance

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