The Elusive Quarry


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Ever since the Society for Psychical Research was founded over a hundred years ago, parapsychologists have been attempting to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena - things like clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition, and remote viewing. This research into what is now often called "psi" has become increasingly technical. "Controlled" laboratory experiments have replaced "systematic surveys of spontaneous occurrences"; complicated statistical analyses have replaced anecdotal data. In short, psychical research has aspired to the standards of "hard science."

With what results? Ray Hyman is supremely qualified to say. A research psychologist held in the highest esteem by both parapsychologists and skeptics, Ray Hyman here reviews the history and methods of psychical research. The Elusive Quarry is Hyman's fascinating, fair-minded critique of the field, a book designed not to debunk but to discern.

In Part 1, "Parapsychology," Hyman gives us a historical overview: Over the past hundred years, what have been the strongest claims made for the paranormal? Hyman gives close scrutiny to what have been called "ganzfeld experiments," a body of research considered by parapsychologists to be especially compelling. Part 2, "Scientists and the Paranormal," focuses on the scientists themselves - from Michael Faraday and Sir William Crookes in the last century to Helmut Schmidt and his recent work with random-event generators. Scientists have been interacting with an admittedly unique group of people: psychics. Are their methods of testing and reporting appropriate for the phenomena under examination?

Hyman steps outside of the laboratory for his book's third part, "Psychic Phenomena," and evaluates the claims of "water witching," occult healing, and remote viewing. In doing so, he demonstrates that one's interpretation of scientific data is strongly affected by one's underlying belief - or lack of belief - in paranormal phenomena.

In Part 4, "The Psychology of Belief," Hyman vividly explains "cold reading" - that ability psychics have to convince strangers that they know all about them. It's an ability anybody can develop, Hyman says. The psychology is common, not psychic.

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Prometheus Books
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