Monday, December 31, 2007

Salaries at the Parapsychology Foundation

The tax return of the Parapsychology Foundation (PF) for 2005 (signed November 9, 2006) lists compensation paid to its officers. President Eileen Coly received $37,000 and Executive Director Lisette Coly received $90,020—the total being $127,020. No entry was made for “Other employee salaries and wages.”

That year the Foundation gave $18,000 in grants and scholarships.

Lisette Coly (b. 1950) and Eileen Coly (b. 1916)

In 2004 the Foundation moved its library on Manhattan’s upper east side to Greenport, Long Island—a move of 98 miles (MapQuest estimate). Greenport is near the northern tip of Long Island and quite remote; one would expect the library to attract few visitors. Indeed today (December 31, 2007), the Foundation’s webpage, “Library Basics,” includes this sentence: “The Library will be open on an occasional schedule through-out [sic] the summer of 2006 — if the flag is out, we’re in! — and by appointment.”

In decades past, the PF was also known for its conferences and lecture series, but such events now rarely occur.

Given the library’s remote location and presumably few patrons, and the paucity of conferences and lectures, one might expect the PF to turn its attention to its International Journal of Parapychology (IJP). In fact, the last published issue of the IJP was dated 2001. (Lisette Coly is Editor-in-Chief of the journal.)

The Foundation’s 2005 tax return reports that Eileen Coly and Lisette Coly each devoted an average of 40 hours per week to the PF. One wonders how their time was spent.


Coly, Lisette. (2005). Parapsychology Foundation on the Move. Parapsychology Foundation Now, Issue 4, Spring, pp. 1, 4. Available at: Accessed December 31, 2007.

Library Basics. [webpage of the Parapsychology Foundation website]. Available at: Accessed December 31, 2007.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marilyn Schlitz and Ian Stevenson: Embarrassed by Parapsychology

Marilyn Schlitz is the consummate insider in parapsychology. She conducted her first formal remote-viewing experiment in 1979 at the University of California at Irvine while she was an undergraduate. Soon thereafter she began working at J. B. Rhine’s Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (now the Rhine Research Center) in Durham, North Carolina. In 1982 she moved to the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio, Texas. She later worked for Science Applications International Corporation on classified research in support of the U.S. government’s psychic spying program. Interspersed with all her professional work, she earned a doctorate from the University of Texas and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Currently she is Vice President for Research and Education at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, California.

Schlitz herself has been a very successful subject in psi experiments, and she is known in the field as a psi conducive experimenter. She conducted a major study with skeptic Richard Wiseman. Together they tested people to see if they could psychically sense whether someone was staring at them. Both used the same laboratory and same procedures. She obtained statistically significant results; he did not (Wiseman & Schlitz, 1997).

During her career, Schlitz has collaborated with many major figures in the field, including Robert L. Morris, K. Ramakrishna Rao, Elmar Gruber, J. E. Kennedy, Charles Tart, Debra Weiner, Ralph Locke, William Braud, Helmut Schmidt, Gary Heseltine, Charles Honorton, Edwin May, Elizabeth Targ, Dean Radin, Nancy Zingrone, and Richard Wiseman.

In year 2000, Schlitz served as president of the Parapsychological Association (PA), the professional association of parapsychologists. In her presidential address that year, she stated:
“Today I direct the research program at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. We have about 40 projects on various aspects of consciousness. A number of them fall into the area of parapsychology, although I almost never use that word” (emphasis added, 2001, p. 342).
This statement was made directly to the Parapsychological Association. It was published in the Journal of Parapsychology. It is an astounding declaration. For a president of any professional organization to openly admit, in a presidential address, that she avoids being identified with the name demonstrates the disrepute, even shame, of parapsychology.

But Schlitz was not alone in her views. In fact, she echoed earlier statements made by another former PA president, Ian Stevenson.

Stevenson (1918-2007) was chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia medical school. He gave up his chairmanship and founded what is now the longest-running university-affiliated parapsychology research unit in the United States. His work focused primarily on reincarnation and other topics related to the issue of survival of bodily death.

In 1988 he published a guest editorial in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research asking: “Was the Attempt to Identify Parapsychology as a Separate Field of Science Misguided?” In that piece he stated:
“the words parapsychology and parapsychologist have gradually acquired negative connotations that are now proving gravely disadvantageous” (p. 310)

“the word parapsychology, originally intended to earn respect, now often evokes dismay and derision” (p. 311)
Stevenson described, in detail, the isolation and marginality of professional parapsychology. He discussed the same themes in a 1984 editorial titled: “Are Parapsychology Journals Good for Parapsychology?”

About 20 years ago he changed the name of his research unit from the Division of Parapsychology to the Division of Personality Studies. He hoped to avoid the stigma associated with the name. (The unit is now called the Division of Perceptual Studies.)

Schlitz and Stevenson devoted the bulk of their careers to parapsychology. They are highly respected within the field, but their observations on the field’s marginality were not altogether warmly received. But given their professional statuses, their observations are important.

Because of their social and career positions, Schlitz and Stevenson were required to be attuned to the views of academic and cultural elites. People familiar with Schlitz likely know of her social skills, which have served her well in her career. Stevenson, as a department chairman for 10 years, was undoubtedly adept at effectively dealing with people in positions of power.

The two recognized the marginality of parapsychology, especially within status-conscious, bureaucratic institutions, such as academe. But apparently neither understood that psychic phenomena themselves are inherently liminal, and thus marginal.

Let us remember that there has been a substantial effort to remedy the situation. The Society for Psychical Research has been in existence for 125 years, the Journal of Parapsychology for 70. The Parapsychological Association celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Yet leaders who have devoted the bulk of their professional lives to psi research, and who held relatively secure positions, still felt some embarrassment about being associated with the term parapsychology.

The fact is, the field is consistently marginalized, and frequently attacked. But the antagonism is not simply normal “opposition to new ideas.” After all, the phenomena are not new—they’ve been known for thousands of years. But the phenomena are liminal, and until researchers understand that fact, and the implications, they will continue to be puzzled by the low status of parapsychology.


Schlitz, Marilyn. (2001). Boundless Mind: Coming of Age in Parapsychology [Parapsychological Association presidential address for year 2000]. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 65, No. 4, pp. 335-350.

Stevenson, Ian. (1984). Guest Editorial: Are Parapsychology Journals Good for Parapsychology? Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 97-104.

Stevenson, Ian. (1988). Guest Editorial: Was the Attempt to Identify Parapsychology as a Separate Field of Science Misguided? Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 82, No. 4, pp. 309-317.

Wiseman, Richard & Schlitz, Marilyn. (1997). Experimenter Effects and the Remote Detection of Staring. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 61, No. 3, pp. 197-207.

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Web sources of possible interest:

Obituary of Ian Stevenson by Emily Williams Kelly at:

Stevenson, Ian. (2006). Half a Career With the Paranormal. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 13-21. Available at:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CSICOP to CSI: The Stigma of the Paranormal

A year and a month ago, on September 23, 2006, the Executive Council of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) met and decided to change the name of the organization to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). (CSICOP becomes CSI… [press release], November 30, 2006)

The January-February 2007 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer reflected the name change, and an article by editor Kendrick Frazier explained the decision. It included a revealing passage:

“Finally, many academics and others just didn’t want to be associated at all with anything with the paranormal in its name, no matter the context. Many of us understood, and some even shared the feeling.” (Frazier et al, 2007, p. 6)

This statement directly acknowledges that many status-conscious academics feel the stigma associated with the paranormal. This is despite the fact that CSICOP has had numerous high-profile scientists, including Nobel laureates, on its roster. Yet those credentials were insufficient to overcome the taint. Even debunkers are contaminated by associating with the paranormal.

This fact is important, but it is nothing new. For thousands of years, the paranormal/supernatural has been marginalized. There have been restrictions on approaching the realm, and rituals of purification were often required.

The ancient taboo is still active today. Members of religious congregations often encounter direct prohibitions. Within academe, derision and ridicule enforce the taboo—and CSI serves as an agent of enforcement.

But the stigma of the paranormal is not just any taboo. It’s fundamental to the nature of taboo itself. Freud had some insight into this. Drawing upon anthropological findings, in Totem and Taboo he noted that:

“For us the meaning of taboo branches off into two opposite directions. On the one hand it means to us, sacred, consecrated: but on the other hand it means, uncanny, dangerous, forbidden, and unclean.” (Freud, 1913/1961, p. 26)

The paranormal/supernatural is intimately associated with the sacred. Many debunkers seem to understand that fact, and it is no accident that CSI is thoroughly tied to anti-religious, rationalist, and atheistic groups. Parapsychologists, on the other hand, are largely oblivious to the connection.

The supernatural and the divine are part of the human condition, but they are non-rational. They can be studied empirically; patterns can be discovered and observed, but there are limits to knowledge of them.

Professional parapsychology is currently dominated by psychologists and physicists. They are largely unfamiliar with the concepts, tools, and methods of analysis developed in the humanities and social sciences. As such, they fail to comprehend the extent of their predicament, and the reasons for their marginality. This situation is unlikely to change any time soon.


CSICOP becomes CSI after thirty years: Name change reflects growth, focus on science and reason [press release]. Amherst, N.Y. (Nov. 30, 2006). Available at: Accessed October 22, 2007.

Frazier, Kendrick, and the Executive Council. (2007). It’s CSI Now, Not CSICOP. Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 31, No. 1, January/February. pp. 5-6. Article available at: Accessed October 22, 2007.

Freud, Sigmund. (1961). Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics. (Translated by A. A. Brill). New York: Vintage Books. (Original work published 1913)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Douglas M. Stokes’ Consciousness and the Physical World now available online

Douglas Stokes’ book Consciousness and the Physical World is now available as multiple Microsoft Word doc files at--

A paragraph from his Introduction reads:

        “This book retraces many of the themes of my earlier book The Nature of Mind (Stokes, 1997) and in places may be regarded as an updating of that book. It also contains a comprehensive updating of my chapter on theoretical parapsychology in Stanley Krippner’s Advances in Parapsychological Research series (Stokes, 1987). However, the central focus in the present book is much different from that in these two earlier works, as are the ultimate conclusions drawn.” (p. iii)

Stokes has been a significant commentator on methodological issues in parapsychology. He has published in parapsychology journals as well as in the Skeptical Inquirer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Response to Radin: The “Significant” Correlation Matrix (PA 1993)

Dean Radin has responded to my comments regarding his correlation matrix (this blog August 5, 2007), in his blog entry titled: “Trickster, or failure of imagination?” (August 14, 2007).

Radin took me to task for not mentioning the control matrix presented in his paper. I did not mention it simply because it did not answer the key question (i.e., did the experimental matrix have a significant, non-artifactual number [Ns] of correlations associated with p < .05?).

In essence, Radin conducted a 1-trial Monte Carlo simulation to assess the effect of dependence among elements in the experimental matrix. But a 1-trial simulation cannot adequately characterize the distribution of Ns or determine how much the significance level was affected by the dependence artifact. Radin’s control value was lower than the experimental value, but one cannot therefore conclude that the experimental value was significantly greater than chance, let alone defend the claim of p = .0004 (or p = .000779).

Had Radin conducted a more usual simulation, i.e., with a large number of trials, perhaps he could have legitimately defended the reported p value, or at least the claim of significance. But he didn’t do that.

Radin’s response to me indicates that he still considers the 1-trial control simulation to be adequate. Readers with some familiarity with statistics are now in a better position to assess his methods.


Radin, Dean I. (1993). Environmental modulation and statistical equilibrium in mind-matter interaction. In Marilyn J. Schlitz (program chair), The Parapsychological Association 36th Annual Convention: Proceedings of Presented Papers (pages 157-176). The Parapsychological Association.

Radin, Dean. (August 14, 2007). Trickster, or failure of imagination? [blog post]. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2007.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Salary in Parapsychology: Patrice Keane (ASPR)

The 2005 federal tax return of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) was signed by its president, Nancy Sondow, on November 2, 2006. Page 5 of the return lists the compensation for officers, directors, trustees, and key employees. That for Patrice Keane, ASPR Executive Director, is given below.


Years ago, the ASPR was one of the venerable institutions of psychical research. It was founded in 1885 through the efforts of William James, among others. In 1889 it became part of the Society for Psychical Research (British), but in 1906 it was reconstituted (Berger 1985). It regularly published the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research from 1907 until about 1997, when its appearance became intermittent. In July 2007, the ASPR mailed out copies of its most recent issue—dated January-April 2004.

The Society’s website ( currently includes three sample articles from the Journal. The most recent is from 1976—31 years ago. I could find no mention of any ASPR-sponsored lectures or conferences on the website. It is unclear what services the ASPR actually provides.

Its tax returns for the last several years list income from “membership dues and assessments.” The website indicates that regular membership is $70. Membership for seniors (over 65) is $45. Assuming that half of the members are seniors, the average dues are $57.50. The table below gives the estimated number of members based on these figures.

In 1989 total paid circulation of the Journal was 1747 (McCormick, 1989).

I briefly mentioned Ms. Keane in my book chapter “Anti-Structure and the History of Psychical Research” (Hansen, 2001, p. 197). She has provided a striking demonstration of the anti-structural effect of the paranormal on institutions.

In anthropological terms, anti-structure is a synonym of liminality. It is characteristic of the paranormal, and anti-structure helps explain why institutions in paranormal fields are exceptionally vulnerable to instability and fractionation. It also illuminates the paranormal’s marginality, which has been observed over thousands of years.

Parapsychologists resist the idea that their field is inherently marginal and unstable. But the entire history of parapsychology demonstrates the fact. The current condition of the ASPR is an example—and entirely consistent with trickster theory.


Berger, Arthur S. (1985). The Early History of the ASPR: Origins to 1907. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 39-60.

Hansen, George P. (2001). The Trickster and the Paranormal. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation.

McCormick, Donna L. (1989). U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Vol. 83, No. 3, p. 287.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dean Radin’s Statistics: The “Significant” Correlation Matrix (PA 1993)

In 1993 Dean Radin served as president of the Parapsychological Association (PA), the professional association of parapsychologists. By that time he had been working in the field for over a decade. He had held positions doing psi research at Bell Laboratories, Princeton University, SRI International, and the University of Edinburgh. This impressive set of credentials may have led some to feel confident in his experimental methods and statistical analyses.

At the 1993 PA convention held in Toronto, Radin presented a paper titled: “Environmental Modulation and Statistical Equilibrium in Mind-Matter Interaction.” It reported a study of a human’s mental influence on a Geiger counter.


Four Geiger counters were connected to a computer that recorded the radiation counts. The human subject attempted to influence one of the Geiger counters. The 65 test sessions each had two conditions (real-time and pre-recorded). For each condition, the computer randomly designated 25 influence periods and 75 control periods. Results from influence and control periods were compared for each Geiger counter, for each condition. Two measures were computed (effect size and F-score). Four Geiger counters, two conditions with two measures each, resulted in 4 × 2 × 2 = 16 outcome measures for each session.

In addition, 33 environmental variables were recorded for each test session (e.g., humidity, barometric pressure, time of day, local magnetic field, precipitation, sunspot number, background xray).


Correlation coefficients were calculated for each of the 16 outcome measures with each of the 33 environmental variables, which resulted in a total of 16 × 33 = 528 correlations.

Radin reported that the 16 × 33 matrix produced 44 correlations that were associated with p < .05. He then used the binomial probability distribution to compute the probability of obtaining that many, or (presumably) more, correlations associated with p < .05.

He reported a value of p = .0004.

I have been unable to reproduce this number; three online binomial calculators have all given me p = .000779. I did check the general accuracy of these online calculators by comparing their results with the Tables of the Cumulative Binomial Probability Distribution (1955) for similar values with N = 550 and p = .05. In any event, Radin’s reported result is statistically significant.

However, the binomial distribution assumes independence for each of the measurements. But the correlations were clearly not independent. For instance, the environmental variables included background X-ray flux and log of background X-ray flux, humidity and precipitation, sunspot number and sunspot number for the day before.


The program chair for the 1993 conference was Marilyn Schlitz, who is now Vice President for Research and Education at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where Radin is Senior Scientist. Schlitz was responsible for seeing that the papers were adequately reviewed. She has been involved in parapsychology since 1979.

Radin has been doing statistically based parapsychology research since 1981.

Readers who have some familiarity with statistics may wish to ponder the implications.


Radin, Dean I. (1993). Environmental modulation and statistical equilibrium in mind-matter interaction. In Marilyn J. Schlitz (program chair), The Parapsychological Association 36th Annual Convention: Proceedings of Presented Papers (pages 157-176). The Parapsychological Association.

Staff of the Computation Laboratory. (1955). Tables of the Cumulative Binomial Distribution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Zetetic Scholar Issue Nos. 1-5 Now Online

PDF files of Zetetic Scholar issue numbers 1-5 are now available online at:


In 1976 the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) was founded. [Earlier this year it changed it’s name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI).] Marcello Truzzi was one of the founders of CSICOP, but he left the organization in 1977.

From 1978 to 1987 he edited Zetetic Scholar, which carried many articles by both proponents and critics of paranormal claims. The journal fostered extensive dialogue and debate. It also published several exposés.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dean Radin’s Statistics: Entangled Minds, page 120

Dean Radin discusses a meta-analysis of 88 ganzfeld experiments in his book Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality (Paraview, 2006). Figure 6-6 on page 120 has a graph of the results.

The three-sentence caption is odd. The first sentence seems direct and plausible: “Cumulative average hit rate in the ganzfeld experiments, from 1974 through 2004, with one standard error bar.”

But the third sentence reads: “Each dot represents an experiment and the dates on the x-axis indicate the average year of study publication.” Can these two sentences be reconciled? It seems unlikely that each dot represents one experiment (the variance of the hit rates would be remarkably small). Why would the average year of publication be plotted on the x-axis? What range of years were used for each average?

I perused the book but could find no citation that might lead me to more description.

Before one relies upon Dr. Radin’s claims here, one may wish to seek further details of the meta-analysis.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nobel Laureates Invited to Parapsychology Conference

Nobel laureates have reportedly been invited to a conference on parapsychology to be held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The event, “A Meeting of Minds,” is to take place on July 15-16, 2007. The co-hosts are Jonathan Schooler and Dean Radin.


Nobelists Kary Mullis and Brian Josephson have been mentioned as likely attendees. Elizabeth Loftus, member of the National Academy of Sciences, has confirmed her intention to attend. Richard J. Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin who was included in Time magazine’s list of “the world’s most influential people” (see May 8, 2006 issue), was expected, but now likely will be unable to take part.

Some of the other invitees are said to be: Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert; Duke professor of philosophy and neurobiology, Owen Flanagan; Princeton psychologist, Jonathan Cohen; Morris Freedman MD of the University of Toronto; Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychology; and Ken Paller, psychologist from Northwestern University.

Paul Ekman, an expert on deception, reportedly served on the advisory committee, and Paul Werbos of the National Science Foundation was also mentioned in this capacity.

This is an “invitation-only” conference, apparently restricted to high-status scientists and selected “old guard” parapsychologists. A few academic members of CSI (nee CSICOP [Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal] ) are also anticipated to be present.

Reportedly, over 80% of the invited participants are aging white males.


There is some money behind this meeting, and the expenses of the invitees are to be covered. Financial backing comes from several private donors, the Bial Foundation, the Samueli Institute, the Fetzer Institute, and the University of British Columbia.


The expressed purpose of the conference is to explore why academia so actively avoids the paranormal despite the wide interest by the general public.

To acquaint the visiting scientists with the field and to facilitate discussion, parapsychologists will present evidence for the existence of ESP and review theoretical problems of the phenomena.


Will this effort succeed? Let’s remember, it’s been 125 years since the founding of the SPR (Society for Psychical Research). Parapsychologists have published their work continuously since that founding. Innumerable scientists have learned of the research through books, journal articles, and conferences. Yet the field is now no closer to respectability than it was during the 19th century. Arguably, it is further from it.

Yet still today, many parapsychologists seem to believe that if they present their evidence objectively to other scientists, the broader scientific community will begin to accept them as legitimate members. Traditional scientific funding sources will welcome proposals, major journals will seek papers on psi, and conferences will regularly include symposia on paranormal topics. But such hope is forlorn.

Parapsychologists do not seem to realize that their field is inherently marginal. Psi phenomena are liminal, and they carry a taint, a stigma. This is nothing new. The stigma did not develop with the rise of modern science, nor with advent of the Enlightenment, nor with the Reformation. The stigma has been seen for thousands of years in hundreds of cultures. Attempts to directly engage psi has consequences—one being the continuing marginality of psychical research.

Until parapsychologists recognize this state of affairs, they will remain bewildered—and bitterly disappointed.

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The information for this post came from a source who wishes to remain anonymous and from a short notice in the magazine Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness, No. 15, June-August 2007, page 40.