Arquivo da tag: Materialismo

Psi and Science (Psychology Today)

Why do some scientists refuse to consider the evidence for psi phenomena?

Original article

Posted June 17, 2022 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

Key points

  • In a 2018 survey, over half of a sample of Americans reported a psi experience; a 2022 Brazilian survey revealed 70% had a precognitive dream.
  • Some scientists will not engage with the evidence for psi due to scientism.
  • The ideology of “scientism” is often associated with science, but leads to a lack of open-mindedness, which is contrary to true science.

Psi phenomena, like telepathy and precognition, are controversial in academia. While a minority of academics (such as me) are open-minded about them, others believe that they are pseudo-scientific and that they can’t possibly exist because they contravene the laws of science.

However, the phenomena are much less controversial to the general public. Surveys show significant levels of belief in psi. A survey of 1200 Americans in 2003 found that over 60% believed in extrasensory perception.1

This high level of belief appears to stem largely from experience. In a 2018 survey, half of a sample of Americans reported they had an experience of feeling “as though you were in touch with someone when they were far away.” Slightly less than half reported an experience of knowing “something about the future that you had no normal way to know” (in other words, precognition). Just over 40% reported that they had received important information through their dreams.2

Interestingly, a 2022 survey of over 1000 Brazilian people found higher levels of such anomalous experiences, with 70% reporting they had a precognitive dream at least once.3 This may imply that such experiences are more likely to be reported in Brazil, perhaps due to a cultural climate of greater openness.

How can we account for the disconnect between the dismissal of psi phenomena by some scientists, and the openness of the general population? Is it that scientists are more educated and rational than other sections of the population, many of whom are gullible to superstition and irrational thinking?

I don’t think it’s as simple as this.

Evidence for Psi

You might be surprised to learn that the evidence for phenomena such as telepathy and precognition is strong. As I point out in my book, Spiritual Science, this evidence has remained significant and robust over a massive range of studies over decades.

In 2018, American Psychologist published an article by Professor Etzel Cardeña which carefully and systemically reviewed the evidence for psi phenomena, examining over 750 discrete studies. Cardeña concluded that there was a very strong case for the existence of psi, writing that the evidence was “comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines.”4

For example, from 1974 to 2018, 117 experiments were reported using the “Ganzfeld” procedure, in which one participant attempts to “send” information about images to another distant person. An overall analysis of the results showed a “hit rate” many millions of times higher than chance. Factors such as selective reporting bias (the so-called “file drawer effect”) and variations in experimental quality could not account for the results. Moreover, independent researchers reported statistically identical results.5

So why do some scientists continue to believe that there is no evidence for psi? In my view, the explanation lies in an ideology that could be called “scientism.”


Scientism is an ideology that is often associated with science. It consists of a number of basic ideas, which are often stated as facts, even though they are just assumptions—e.g., that the world is purely physical in nature, that human consciousness is a product of brain activity, that human beings are biological machines whose behaviour is determined by genes, that anomalous phenomena such as near-death experiences and psi are unreal, and so on.

Adherents to scientism see themselves as defenders of reason. They see themselves as part of a historical “enlightenment project” whose aim is to overcome superstition and irrationality. In particular, they see themselves as opponents of religion.

It’s therefore ironic that scientism has become a quasi-religion in itself. In their desire to spread their ideology, adherents to scientism often behave like religious zealots, demonising unwelcome ideas and disregarding any evidence that doesn’t fit with their worldview. They apply their notion of rationality in an extremist way, dismissing any phenomena outside their belief system as “woo.” Scientifically evidential phenomena such as telepathy and precognition are placed in the same category as creationism and conspiracy theories.

One example was a response to Eztel Cardeña’s American Psychologist article (cited above) by the longstanding skeptics Arthur Reber and James Alcock. Aiming to rebut Cardeña’s claims of the strong evidence for psi, they decided that their best approach was not to actually engage with the evidence, but simply to insist that it couldn’t possibly be valid because psi itself was theoretically impossible. As they wrote, “Claims made by parapsychologists cannot be true … Hence, data that suggest that they can are necessarily flawed and result from weak methodology or improper data analyses.”6

A similar strategy was used by the psychologist Marija Branković in a recent paper in The European Journal of Psychology. After discussing a series of highly successful precognition studies by the researcher Daryl Bem, she dismisses them because three investigators were unable to replicate the findings.7 Branković neglects to mention that there have been 90 other replication attempts with a massively significant overall success rate, exceeding the standard of “decisive evidence” by a factor of 10 million.8

Beyond Scientism

It’s worth considering for a moment whether psi really does contravene the laws of physics (or science), as many adherents to scientism suggest. For me, this is one of the most puzzling claims made by skeptics. Tellingly, the claim is often made by psychologists, whose knowledge of modern science may not be deep.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of some of the theories of modern physics—particularly quantum physics—is aware that reality is much stranger than it appears to common sense. There are many theories that suggest that our common-sense view of linear time may be false. There are many theories that suggest that our world is essentially “non-local,” including phenomena such as “entanglement” and “action at a distance.” I think it would be too much of a stretch to suggest that such theories explain precognition and telepathy, but they certainly allow for their possibility.

A lot of people assume that if you’re a scientist, then you must automatically subscribe to scientism. But in fact, scientism is the opposite of true science. The academics who dismiss psi on the grounds that it “can’t possibly be true” are behaving in the same way as the fundamentalist Christians who refuse to consider the evidence for evolution. Skeptics who refuse to engage with the evidence for telepathy or precognition are acting in the same way as the contemporaries of Galileo who refused to look through his telescope, unwilling to face the possibility that their beliefs may need to be revised.


1. Wahbeh H, Radin D, Mossbridge J, Vieten C, Delorme A. Exceptional experiences reported by scientists and engineers. Explore (NY). 2018 Sep;14(5):329-341. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2018.05.002. Epub 2018 Aug 2. PMID: 30415782.

2. Rice TW. Believe It Or Not: Religious and Other Paranormal Beliefs in the United States. J Sci Study Relig. 2003;42(1):95-106. doi:10.1111/1468-5906.00163

3. Monteiro de Barros MC, Leão FC, Vallada Filho H, Lucchetti G, Moreira-Almeida A, Prieto Peres MF. Prevalence of spiritual and religious experiences in the general population: A Brazilian nationwide study. Transcultural Psychiatry. April 2022. doi:10.1177/13634615221088701

4. Cardeña, E. (2018). The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review. American Psychologist, 73(5), 663–677.

5. Storm L, Tressoldi P. Meta-analysis of free-response studies 2009-2018: Assessing the noise-reduction model ten years on. J Soc Psych Res. 2020;(84):193-219.

6. Reber, A. S., & Alcock, J. E. (2020). Searching for the impossible: Parapsychology’s elusive quest. American Psychologist, 75(3), 391–399.

7. Branković M. Who Believes in ESP: Cognitive and Motivational Determinants of the Belief in Extra-Sensory Perception. Eur J Psychol. 2019;15(1):120-139. doi:10.5964/ejop.v15i1.1689

8. Bem D, Tressoldi P, Rabeyron T, Duggan M. Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events. F1000Research. 2015;4:1188. doi:10.12688/f1000research.7177.2

Katerina Kolozova on The Real in Contemporary Philosophy (Synthetic Zero)

Jan 15, 2015

The Real in Contemporary Philosophy

Katerina Kolozova

What Baudrillard called the perfect crime has become the malaise of the global(ized) intellectual of the beginning of the 21’st century. The “perfect crime” in question is the murder of the real, carried out in such way as to create the conviction it never existed and that the traces of its erased existence were mere symptom of its implacable originary absence. The era of postmodernism has been one of oversaturation with signification as a reality in its own right and also as the only possible reality. In 1995, with the publication of The Perfect Crime, Baudrillard declared full realization of the danger he warned against as early as in 1976 in his book The Symbolic Exchange and Death. The latter book centered on the plea to affirm reality in its form of negativity, i.e., as death and the trauma of interrupted life. And he did not write of some static idea of the “Negative,” of “the constitutive lack” or “absence” as conceived by postmodernism and epistemological poststructuralism. The fact that, within the poststructuralist theoretical tradition, the real has been treated as the “inaccessible” and “the unthinkable” has caused “freezing” of the category (of the real) as immutable, univocal and bracketed out of discursiveness as an unspoken axiom.

The romantic fascination with the possibility of self-invention, the dream of being the demiurge of oneself and one’s own reality, has been nesting in most postmodern readings of the idea of utter linguistic constructedness of the self and it’s jouissance. The theoretical trend of what I would call “cyber-optimism” of the 90’ was informed by the old European myth of transcending physical limitations by way of liberating desires from the body. Through prosthetic mediation, one would “emancipate” desire and re-create oneself as the product and the reality of pure signification. This is a theoretical trend mostly inspired by the work of Donna Haraway. However, in my view, one which has failed to see the terrifying void gaping behind that utter intentionality of the human mind that Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991) and Primate Visions (1989) expose. She speaks of the Cyborg we all are, a creature of no origin, “the bastard of patriarchal militarism” as the revolutionary subject that should aim to destroy the narratives of hierarchy which humanism and its anthropocentric vision of nature produce. Haraway radically problematizes the dualistic hierarchy which subdues and exploits nature. The Cyborg, that “militant bastard” of humanism, faces the horror of auto-seclusion in its narcissistic and auto-referential universe of dreams and desires informed by the universe of his philosophical fathers.

The realization about the fundamentally discursively constructed humanity, including its entire history of idea, its universe and horizon of thinkability, creates the following aporia: the limits of construction reveal a certain “out-there” against which one is constructed. The “out-there” has been habitually relegated by the postmodernists to the realm of nonsense which deserves no theoretical consideration insofar as it could only assume the status of the unthinkable real. Nonetheless, Baudrillard appealed to think it as affirmed negativity, and the Lacanians attempted to think it as trauma or “constitutive lack.” In Bodies that Matter (1993), Butler assigned the status of the real to some of the laws of phantasmatic construction of the body and gender. These efforts of invoking the real within a theory which is marked as predominantly poststructuralist seem to have failed to offer a satisfactory response to the ever increasing theoretical and existential need to reclaim the real. Hence, the emergence in the second half of the first decade of the 21st century of strands of philosophical thought such as “speculative realism,” “object oriented ontology,” Badousian-Žižekian realist tendencies in political theory and, finally, François Laruelle’s non-standard philosophy or non-philosophy. There has been a notable tendency in the last couple of years to subsume all these lines of thinking under the single label of “speculative realism.” The notion of “speculative realism” has taken a life of its own against the fact that virtually all of the prominent representatives of the heterogeneous theoretical trends it pretends to refer to do not endorse or even reject the label (except for some representatives of object oriented ontology).

All these trends to which the identification of “speculative realism” is assigned to, in spite of their fundamental differences, have something in common: they identify limitations to thought or discursivity precisely in the alleged “limitlessness” of thought, proclaimed by most postmodernists. The main epistemic problem of postmodern philosophy identified by the “new realists” is what Quentin Meillassoux, in his book After Finitude (2008), called “correlationism.” At the heart of postmodern philosophy lies “correlationism,” a philosophical axiom based on the premise that thought can only “think itself,” that the real is inaccessible to knowledge and human subjectivity.

Laruelle’s non-philosophy radicalizes the problem by way of insisting that indeed all that thought can operate with is thinking itself, and that the hallucinatory world of representation is indeed the only means and topos for mediating the real, viz. for signifying it. Nonetheless, according to him and radically differently from any postmodernist stance, the real can be thought and ought to be thought. Laruelle argues one should produce thought in accordance with the syntax of the real, a thought affected by the real and which accounts for the effects of the real. The real is not a meaning, it is not a truth of anything and does not possess an epistemic structure since it is not mirrored by and does not mirror any accurate knowledge of its workings. Therefore, a thought established in accordance with the effects of the real is unilateral. In non-philosophy, this stance is called dualysis. Namely, the radically different status of the immanent (the real) and of the transcendental (thought) is affirmed, and by virtue of such affirmation the thinking subject attempts to describe some effects of sheer exteriority, i.e., the real. The interpretation of these effects makes use of “philosophical material,” but it does not succumb to philosophy but rather to the real as its authority in the last instance.

Such fundamentally heretical stance with respect to the history of philosophical ideas or to the idea of philosophy itself creates the possibility of being radically innovative as far as political possibilities are concerned, both in terms of theory and action. In The Cut of the Real, I attempt to explore the potentiality for radicalizing some core concepts of the legacy of feminist poststructuralist philosophy. By way of resorting to some of the methodological procedures proferred by the non-philosophy, but also by way of unraveling a radically realist heuristics in the thought of Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray and Drucilla Cornell, I attempt to create grounds for a language of politics “affected by immanence” (Laruelle).



Katerina Kolozova, PhD. is the director of the Institute in Social Sciences and Humanities-Skopje and a professor of philosophy, sociological theory and gender studies at the University American College-Skopje. She is also visiting professor at several universities in Former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria (the State University of Skopje, University of Sarajevo, University of Belgrade and University of Sofia as well as at the Faculty of Media and Communications of Belgrade). In 2009, Kolozova was a visiting scholar at the Department of Rhetoric (Program of Critical Theory) at the University of California-Berkeley. Kolozova is the author of Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy (2014), The Lived Revolution: Solidarity with the Body in Pain As the New Political Universal (2010), The Real and “I”: On the Limit and the Self (2006), The Crisis of the Subject with Judith Butler and Zarko Trajanoski (2002), and The Death and the Greeks: On Tragic Concepts of Death from Antiquity to Modernity (2000).