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ESP

September 21, 2010

For the general entry on Parapsychology, click here

The Claims:

Extra Sensory Perception, ESP, is the alleged ability to perceive what cannot be detected by any of our senses. ESP is also called the “sixth sense” or “gut feeling” and is one of the cornerstones of modern parapsychology. People who claim to have the ability to discern what appear not to be there are commonly called psychics. Extra Sensory abilities psychics claim to possess include:

  • Clairvoyance: the ability to see clearly without using the eyes
  • Clairsentience: the ability to feel touch without being touched
  • Clairaudience: the ability to hear where there is no sound
  • Clairalience: the ability to perceive smells without using the olfactory cells
  • Claircognizance: the ability to know that which is generally considered unknown
  • Cliargustance: the ability to taste without stimulating the tastebuds

Purportedly, there are several non-sensory ways of experiencing phenomena, including precognition, retrocognition, remote viewing (gaining knowledge about a distant target using paranormal means), telepathy (the transfer of thoughts or feelings between people without using the 5 senses), mediumship, auras and so on.

The Evidence:

One of the more well known studies for ESP is the so-called Ganzfeld experiment, which seemed to show some early positive results for telepathy. However, after finding serious methodological errors and correcting them, the study showed no significant evidence for telepathy.  Other studies in other fields of ESP similarly show no significant evidence for the effect in larger well controlled studies.

Studies on ESP continue to boast positive results. Invariably, these studies are smaller, have serious methodological errors and/or are plainly fraudulent. Such studies have proven to be unscientific due to inadequate methodologies and drawing conclusions without a basis in the statistical evidence of the study itself.

Conclusion:

Of all the studies done so far none have shown any evidence for ESP. Studies have either had serious methodological issues or have been downright fraudulent, much like many of the claimants of such parapsychological powers.

Links:

Wikipedia Page on Clairvoyance

Wikipedia Page on Parapsychology

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry on ESP

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