[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
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                 Issue #62                12-5-88
 
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                            (c) 1988


           On The Existence of Extrasensory Perception
                      by Margaret Mitchell

     The first article I will refer to is titled, "Psychic 
Powers," by Jennifer Boeth Donovan (Woman's Day, November 24, 
1987).  The author's position on psychic ability is that it does 
exist.  The stories used to illustrate the article were of an 
everyday variety, and rather "life-style" oriented.  Most of the 
stories cited were of the nature one might hear in a social 
setting, such as, "I had the strangest dream last night..."  
     In one example given, Ms. Donovan tells of a woman who had a 
dream about buying a clothing store she had shopped in once or 
twice.  The dream was so detailed that she even knew the location 
of a roof leak.  About a week later, she pulled in to the parking 
lot of that store without knowing why.  Entering the store, she 
made the owners an offer to buy it (meanwhile noticing the roof 
leak -- which she later found out had only appeared a couple of 
days before.)  The owners were incredulous.  They had only 
decided to sell the store a few minutes before, and not another 
living soul knew of their decision.  
     The tone of the article is one of positive reinforcement of 
the premise that extrasensory perception is real.  The author 
presents her case as a casual statement of fact that the 
phenomena of the paranormal is a fact of life that is pretty much 
accepted by everybody. 
     I believe that the author holds this position because of the 
tone of the arguments given in the article.  She presents her 
case from a more common point of view and with the ease of one's 
own convictions on the subject.  The preponderance of evidence 
was given in favor of the existence of these phenomena, while the 
few negative arguments, i.e.:  "They have not yet had any 
research that stands up to scientific validation..." are quickly 
dealt with using comments from an expert, Dr. Jerry Solfvin, 
whose field is the research of ESP.  Dr. Solfvin is a staunch 
defender of the research methods used, and cites one particular 
experiment that has been replicated (repeated) nearly 50 times.  
He feels that this provides statistically significant results.  
     There has been evidence over the years to convince certain 
researchers that there is some basis for this premise.  However, 
the biggest problem with making a solid foundation for it has 
been that no one can call upon this "extra sense" at will.  
Further complicating matters, there is a definite circus 
atmosphere that surrounds most discussions of this topic.  
     The people who claim to have ESP never know where or when 
the next episode will occur.  Some have "visions" for several 
months, then never again.  Others would have you believe that 
they can see into the future at any time.  It appears to be a 
random phenomenon, not one that is controllable, to be used at 
will. 
     The episodes cited in Ms. Donovan's article are those kinds 
of once-in-a-lifetime occurrences.  The subject has one brief 
experience with ESP, but no others.  It is very difficult to 
prove its existence with this type of proof.  No scientific data 
is offered in defense of the premise.  The author places the 
subject on a more popular, trendy aspect. 
     My overall view of this material is that it does not really 
serve the purpose of persuading the reader of the existence of 
ESP.  It has more of the flavor of "pop culture" or "what's hip 
now" to it.  The article never really gives the reader an insight 
into the depth of the research being done in this field, nor does 
it adequately convince the reader of the existence of 
extrasensory perception. 
     The article merely gives the topic a cursory going over, and 
then leaves the reader to form his own opinion based on the 
little information given. 
     Writing in the May, 1986 issue of Health, author Laurence 
Miller takes great care to present data supporting the existence 
of psychic phenomena in a clear and professional manner.  In the 
article, "Weird PSI-ence," his approach is one of validating the 
studies conducted and using the points of view of several 
different experts in this field.  The author takes great care not 
to present the data in a circus format.
     Miller holds this positive position based on results of his 
research into the subject.  As an educator and journalist 
specializing in brain and behavioral sciences, he has done 
extensive research in the areas of extrasensory perception and 
parapsychology.  He has spoken with many expert proponents in the 
field, as well as the ones who don't believe in the existence of 
psychic ability.  
     Great care was taken in the presentation of the material in 
a clear and concise manner, as opposed to the flippant attitude 
sometimes encountered concerning this subject.  The author has 
been convinced of the existence of the paranormal by his studies 
and a long association with the field of study. 
     Miller persuades me to agree with his position because, 
again, of the professionalism he shows.  He exposed both sides of 
the argument, all the while having a verifiable "pro" statement 
to counter the "con" platforms.  Miller has researched the 
subject thoroughly, using many sources to compile the evidence in 
the article.  The studies he uses as platforms have been ongoing 
for years and have included thousands of case histories, thus 
giving substantial credibility to the position he takes. 
     However, the fact remains that there is still no 
scientifically  accepted basis for proving the existence of ESP.  
The professionals involved with trying to prove its existence 
have not yet agreed among themselves upon a uniform profile of a 
human being who possesses these abilities.  The general public's 
fear of something it cannot see or control tends to make their 
job even more difficult.  It is difficult to accept something 
when the experts cannot even explain it to a precise conclusion. 
     My overall view of the material presented by Mr. Miller is 
that he takes a more clear, better defined position on the issue 
of extrasensory perception.  He sets out to provide a more 
scientific foundation for the acceptance of these phenomena.  
     I believe the author succeeds in giving the reader a 
balanced point of view, including both skeptics and supporters.  
The evidence provided supports the existence of ESP.  The author 
shows the path one can follow in pursuit of the paranormal, but 
makes clear that it is not the only one. 
     Reading Pamela Weintraub, in the October 1987 of Omni 
magazine, gives a quite different impression.  Her position is 
that these phenomena do not exist.  Her platform is based on the 
fact that she can show that each case can be taken apart to 
render it inconclusive, and that the evidence given is based 
solely on the say-so of the researcher involved.  To accept the 
premise of the paranormal is to delude oneself.
     Ms. Weintraub holds this position because, as stated in the 
article, "By Their Account," the data that tends to try to prove 
the existence of extrasensory perception is always most prominent  
when not being scrutinized by others.  As soon as it is tried 
again while under more careful scrutiny, the results are not 
convincing.  It would appear that the ability is something to be 
hidden from the light of day.
     The reason that I must agree with this negative assessment 
is that there is no set of standards by which we may prove the 
existence of ESP.  The data cited in this article cannot be 
duplicated, it seems, to obtain the same positive results claimed 
by the researchers.  It would seem, that by this reasoning, all 
new studies of the subject will continue to fail to prove the 
existence of the paranormal because there can be no set 
scientific tests that cannot be proven false. 
     I disagree with this position because to prove the existence 
of something as unknown as extrasensory perception, one cannot 
use the same criteria used to prove the existence of, say, a 
virus.  As the author herself points out, using a statement from 
one of her own sources, perhaps new and different methods will 
have to be created in order to try to prove the existence of 
these phenomena.  
     There have been many historic incidents were the tests had 
to be created to prove out a theory, where none existed before.  
One must always keep an open mind, especially when the unknown is 
involved. 
     My view on this material is that, based on the information 
given here, ESP cannot exist.
     People have been fooled for many centuries into believing 
that it does.  When hard-pressed to prove the information given 
is indicative of true extrasensory powers, it cannot be done.  
There are no "scientific" studies that cannot be refuted, and no 
standards seem to exist by which one could accurately judge the 
issue anyway.  It would appear that the human race has tried to 
prove the existence of the paranormal for centuries and is no 
closer now than it was 300 years ago. 
     Next we come to a very entertaining piece published in the 
January, 1986, issue of Science Digest, written by a "Dr. 
Crypton."  Using many references to the popular '60s TV show, 
"Mr. Ed," the good doctor takes the position that through the use 
of mathematics, it can be proved that ESP does not exist.  The 
one "true" science, mathematics, can prove the non-existence of 
any "untrue" science.  
     The basic test applied is one involving a deck of 25 cards, 
which consists of 5 groups of 5 symbols from which the subject is 
supposed to choose.  Dr. Crypton maintains that any statistician 
could guess a higher level of correct choices than someone who 
"sees" the hidden symbols on the cards. 
     The author holds this position on the basis that it is more 
the subconscious cues picked up by the study subject or by the 
mathematical application used by the study subject that allows 
for high scores in ESP testing.  The doctor is of the opinion 
that there is no true extrasensory perception, and that all tests 
and studies done to date can be shown to be seriously flawed.  
     I cannot find fault with this because the particular studies 
the author uses to build his case are those that have been, or 
can be, proved to be of a false nature.  Almost anyone, including 
animals, can learn to read physical cues and appear to possess 
ESP.  The author shows most "studies" are unable to prove that 
paranormal phenomena are real.  
     However, the author has only used examples that can easily 
be disputed.  He makes no attempt to explain other valid testing 
that doesn't seem to fit into the neat, clean cubbyhole that he 
has created to encompass all extrasensory testing.  The "knowing" 
that some subjects have shown can not be explained through 
mathematics and apparently could not find their way into the 
research material of the author.  
     I hold that Dr. Crypton had a prejudicial view to begin 
with, and only uses cases and facts which prove out his case.  He 
did not explore other sources of testing or cases that did not 
conform to his preset ideas.  The author does make the case, 
however, that a lot of the test results can be explained by the 
subconscious of the subject picking up the physical cues of 
others.  Unfortunately, he goes no further with this. 
     Taking a much more moderate tone is Phyllis Battelle, who 
did an article for the July 7, 1987 issue of Woman's Day, titled 
"Intuition -- When You Just Know."  She holds that there is a 
possible "sixth sense" and that human beings can learn to develop 
it.  The author's position is that no matter what it's called, 
e.g. "gut reaction," all people have the capacity for such 
extrasensory awareness.  The important thing is learning how to 
covert the intuitive "knowing" into practical "knowledge." 
     The author holds this position because she has reasoned that 
people have had this experience of suddenly just "knowing" that 
something was wrong or was about to happen, but have failed to 
recognize the feeling as precognitive or simply dismissed it 
completely.  Our society places more emphasis on the cold, hard 
facts instead of perceived intuitive senses.  Only the "nuts" 
listen and act upon that small voice or strange "feeling" that 
the mind is sending out. 
     I agree with this because the "knowing" that you suddenly 
have must have come from somewhere.  It's true that this 
"knowing" could partly from previously learned knowledge, but 
some of it seemingly must be coming from some other source.  How 
else could one explain the 3-year-old child prodigy who could 
read, write and play music, when he had never had any musical 
training?   How can one explain the sudden urge to pass up a bus 
-- after waiting a half hour for its arrival -- only to learn 
that a disaster later befell that same bus?  There must be some 
higher level where this "knowledge" comes from.  
     Flaws exist because the author utilizes too few experts in 
this field, and cites no pertinent studies that are ongoing.  The 
majority of the article is used to cite individuals' experiences 
with extrasensory perception, rather than exploring the hard 
study of the subject.
     My view on this material is that the author does succeed in 
raising several valid points in favor of the existence of ESP.  
There is no definite place or thing to point to and say, "That is 
ESP," but extrasensory phenomena do appear to exist.  It seems 
that it may be necessary to come up with a new set of guidelines 
in order to prove the existence of these phenomena, as the older 
criteria do not seem to fit.  Ms. Battelle points out that people 
are afraid of things that do not come from hard data or proven 
facts.  By definition, intuition is just the "immediate knowing 
of something without the conscious use of reasoning; therefore, 
it is irrational and does not exist."
     Another opinion on the negative side of this issue comes 
from "Exploring the Paranormal," by David F. Marks (World Press 
Review, May, 1986).  The author's position is that paranormal 
phenomena flatly do not exist, and says so pretty emphatically. 
Marks says, for example, "Parascience is a pseudo-system of 
untestable beliefs steeped in illusion, error, and fraud."
     He feels that man's belief in ESP is based on centuries of 
cultural traditions steeped in magic and religion, many features 
of which lend themselves to that belief.  There is no scientific 
explanation for the paranormal that cannot be proved invalid, 
according to Marks.
     The author's premise for this position is that there is no 
scientific method that could provide an accurate environment in 
which to test for the paranormal, or ESP.  He states that even 
the recognized experts in the field agree that the research 
methods and evidence gathered so far are too weak to conclusively 
establish its existence.  They admit that not one single 
experiment has been error free. 
     I tend to agree with this because all of the studies into 
these phenomena utilize methods that have already been shown to 
be easily discountable.  True science cannot prove anything using 
faulty data-gathering mechanisms.  In one instance, without 
actually claiming to be one, Marks pretended to be a "psychic" 
and did an "ESP" experiment in front of a very large class of 
psychology students.  After doing a series of simple magician's 
tricks, 90 percent of the class was left with the impression that 
he had some sort of psychic powers.  
     However, I disagree with Marks' position because he 
summarily dismisses all studies of the paranormal from all 
sources.  To the author's point of view, ESP is only the pursuit 
of fantasy, illusion, pseudo-religion and magic.  He holds that 
it can come to no practical conclusions whatsoever. 
     My view of this material is that author simply will not 
accept the existence of the paranormal ("parascience" as he 
refers to it from time to time) until it can be proved to his 
satisfaction.  "Parascience has all the qualities of a magical 
system while wearing the mantle of science," Marks says.  "Until 
any significant discoveries are made, science can justifiably 
ignore it."  

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.