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Shermer Distorts the Meaning of 'Skepticism'

by Professor John Poynton President of the Society for Psychical Research
Letter to Scientific American

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The classical meaning of the word 'skeptic' is inquiring, reflective. Regrettably the word has taken on the meaning of debunking, generally without open-minded inquiry or reflection; this is the meaning displayed by Michael Shermer in his wholly uninformed comments about the literature of parapsychology or psychical research.

The major journals in this field conform to the standard peer review system, which among other requirements insists on controls in any test or experiment, and protocols that allow adequate statistics. Shermer demonstrates ignorance of positive results reported in this literature in his statement that 'Science has unequivocally demonstrated' that people cannot exhibit telepathy and clairvoyance.

What brand of 'science' is he writing about? It is disappointing to see a journal of science harbouring entrenched ignorance. For information, he and your readers might consult the website of the Society for Psychical Research, where abstracts of papers published in its journal can be found: www.spr.ac.uk

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