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Unscientific Statement on the Non-Existence of Telepathy

by Dr Petrus Pennanen - Communication to the editors of Scientific American

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Dear Editors,
I was surprised to find an extremely unscientific statement in the Aug 2004 issue of your otherwise great magazine. Michael Shermer stated that "Science has unequivocally demonstrated that [people] can't [read each other's minds] - QED". A fundamental fact of natural science (as opposed to mathematics) is that it is impossible to prove that some phenomenon never exists. A phenomenon can only be studied through experiments and attempted to be predicted through theory. Maybe all performed experiments did not find the phenomenon, but that in no way proves that it never exists outside these experiments. That is plain common sense and a statement that such a proof has been made should never get published by a magazine calling itself "scientific".

In this case the statement is even more intellectually challenged as there is no physical theory available to describe and predict the phenomenon (consciousness and its thoughts). Even if such a theory would be found there and it would fit perfectly with all done experiments, there would be no way to be certain that it would fit the results of the next experiment. That's a big part of why science is exciting.

To claim a proof of non-existence is only possible by overriding the scientific method with a set of beliefs taken as facts. That is called religion. If you want continue to publish promotion of a religion as a regular column please replace "scientific" with "religious" in the name of your magazine to avoid misguiding your readers.

Kind regards,

Petrus Pennanen, PhD (theor. physics) Helsinki, Finland

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