Last semester I took a course called ‘Paranormal Psychology’ at university and eventually wrote an essay on whether I would consider it a pseudoscience. I just watched a ted-video by James Randi in which he explains why he believes that psychic abilities do not exist.
After I looked at plenty of research that tries to demonstrate the existence of psi phenomena (telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis (PK), near-death experiences, reincarnation…), I can confirm that parapsychology is marked with biased judges, small sample sizes, a lack of control groups, designs that are often hard to replicate, a long history of cheating and inconclusive results, data-mining, and selective reporting (Tuomela, 1987; Wiseman, 2009). I personally do not believe that people can communicate with the dead (which Randi goes on about a lot in his video, for example Sylvia Browne), and several people who call themselves ‘psychics’ (e.g. Uri Gellar) really just seem more like magicians (Randi shows in this video how you could simply bend material in advance and duplicate hidden drawings by turning your back, hide your eyes with hands in which you hold a little mirror so you can see what the person is drawing). However, I do believe that certain other things may be possible (e.g. near-death experiences); just because we don’t know how something works doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Not being a science because it doesn’t really fit the current criteria doesn’t make it any less plausible. All areas that are now well-established sciences were highly criticised at some point, for many it required new technologies to allow developments, improvements, and ‘proof’. Humanity has been able to discover a lot, but by all means not all there is to discover about life and the universe. Thus, we may not be able to demonstrate the existence of psi simply because our society is not advanced enough yet, but there’s no way of telling whether the paranormal really is para-normal or actually as ‘ordinary’ as anything else we ‘know’.