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TitleSupernormal: science, yoga, and the evidence for extraordinary psychic abilities
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Table of Contents
                            Other Books by This Author
Title Page
Part I: From Legendary Yoga Superpowers …
	Chapter 1: Introduction
	Chapter 2: Yoga Explosion
	Chapter 3: Other Realities
	Chapter 4: Mysticism and Miracles
	Chapter 5: Unbelievable
	Chapter 6: Yoga Sutras
	Chapter 7: The Siddhis
Part II: … To Modern Science
	Chapter 8: Science and the Siddhis
	Chapter 9: Precognition
	Chapter 10: Telepathy
	Chapter 11: Psychokinesis in Living Systems
	Chapter 12: Psychokinesis in Inanimate Systems
	Chapter 13: Clairvoyance
	Chapter 14: Psi and Meditation
Part III: … And Beyond
	Chapter 15: Pragmatics
	Chapter 16: Future Human
Works Cited
Document Text Contents
Page 2


Page 171


Besides the bluster of asserting that a peer-reviewed scientific study
accepted in a prominent journal was “pure craziness,” it’s unfortunately
common to read about experts who go ballistic when learning about
effects that supposedly “defy almost every law of science.” In the same
news article, cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter of Indiana University
protested that, “if any of [Bem’s] claims were true, then all of the bases
underlying contemporary science would be toppled, and we would have
to rethink everything about the nature of the universe.”
Such alarming statements imply that scientific laws are carved in
stone like the Ten Commandments, and thus they are impossible to
violate, or at least they may be desecrated at risk of annoying Moses. In
fact, all scientific laws are just regularities that are true on average in
limited contexts. And in any case the “laws” that are supposedly violated
are never specified for the simple reason that .
Declarations like Hofstadter’s are based on anxiety, not by sitting down
calmly before the facts.
But the mere idea of precognition remains so upsetting to some
scientists that it becomes easier for them to believe that basic scientific
methods have suddenly and mysteriously soured, rather than to imagine
that the offending claim might be true.
This is not an unreasonable first reaction, because methodological
improvements are always possible. But it’s actually a classic catch-22: To
avoid facing the possibility that the “laws of science” are wrong, some
time-honored techniques used in thousands of previously published
experiments be wrong. But here’s the rub: Those very same, now
presumably wrong, techniques were used to establish the precious laws
of science in the first place!
In sum, we are required both to accept and to reject the same
This catch-22 is not new. In the 1930s, when J. B. Rhine’s ESP card
tests were showing remarkable success, critics insisted that the
mathematical methods he was using must be flawed. They just to be
wrong. The debate persisted until the criticisms were conclusively
rejected by the president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, who
at the time was Burton Camp of Wesleyan University. Camp finally

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released a statement to the press, which was reprinted in the first
volume of the Journal of Parapsychology. It read:

Dr. Rhine’s investigations have two aspects: experimental and
statistical. On the experimental side mathematicians, of course, have
nothing to say. On the statistical side, however, recent mathematical
work has established the fact that, assuming that the experiments
have been properly performed, the statistical analysis is essentially
valid. If the Rhine investigation is to be fairly attacked, it must be
on other than mathematical grounds.226

A modern example of this “something must be wrong” argument
appeared in an editorial about Bem’s study in the premier scientific
journal Science. Entitled “ESP Paper Rekindles Discussion About
Statistics,” journalist Greg Miller reported that:

“The real lesson to be learned from this is not that ESP exists, it’s
that the methods we’re using aren’t protecting us against spurious
results,” says David Krantz, a statistician at Columbia University.227

Another example is an article by journalist Bob Holmes in the
magazine New Scientist, with the title “ESP Evidence Airs Science’s Dirty
Laundry.”228 The dirty laundry is identified in a quote from a statistician
at Duke University: “An awful lot of what’s published out there is
wrong.” Holmes then continues,

Despite widespread scepticism from mainstream scientists, studies of
precognition and other forms of extrasensory perception crop up
time and again. In the 1940s it was card-guessing, in the 1980s the
ability to influence random-number generators, and in the last
decade so-called “presentiment”—in which volunteers showed
changes in skin conductance just before they saw disturbing images.
In every case, however, independent researchers failed to repeat the
initial results, eventually concluding that they were the result of
procedural flaws or coincidence.

As we’ve learned from our review of presentiment experiments earlier in
this chapter, Holmes’s opinion is spectacularly, stunningly wrong. He’s

Page 341

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