[Originally posted on SWIFT, December 1, 2010]
In the current issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a respected publication of the American Psychological Association (APA), veteran psychologist and sometime psi researcher Daryl Bem has published an ambitious paper describing nine experiments which he claims demonstrate precognition, the ability to know the future – or perhaps, a phenomenon in which the future somehow appears to affect the present.
The paper has received a fair amount of attention in the short time since it has become public knowledge, and there is no shortage of discussion around the blogosphere and among other interested outlets, from Psychology Today to Wired magazine. Not the least of reasons why the paper is garnering such attention – the potential for shattering contemporary scientific knowledge notwithstanding – is the simple fact that a prestigious journal is publishing a paper about parapsychology at all, much less one in support of paranormal claims. Parapsychology hasn’t been in the news in any serious manner in quite a while – that is to say, outside of television screens and pop culture scenes, which both fuel and feed a gluttonous appetite for such fare, from dime-a-dozen talk-to-the-dead mediums to programs exploiting children by supposedly exploring their psychic abilities. (See: “Psychic Kids” on A&E for the most recent evidence that just when things seem to hit their lowest on the offensive and manipulative trash scale, someone finds a denominator a giant leap straight downward.)