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Paranormal is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of reported anomalous phenomena. According to the Journal of Parapsychology, the term "paranormal" describes "any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed physically possible according to current scientific assumptions."[1]


  • CLAIRVOYANT, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • Yet scientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence. Their experiments must have rigorous controls to eliminate spurious effects. And statistical analysis eliminates the suspicion (or at least measures the likelihood) that the apparent effect might have happened by chance alone.
Paranormal phenomena have a habit of going away whenever they are tested under rigorous conditions. This is why the £740,000 reward of James Randi, offered to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal effect under proper scientific controls, is safe. Why don't the television editors insist on some equivalently rigorous test? Could it be that they believe the alleged paranormal powers would evaporate and bang go the ratings?
Consider this. If a paranormalist could really give an unequivocal demonstration of telepathy (precognition, psychokinesis, reincarnation, whatever it is), he would be the discoverer of a totally new principle unknown to physical science. The discoverer of the new energy field that links mind to mind in telepathy, or of the new fundamental force that moves objects around a table top, deserves a Nobel prize and would probably get one. If you are in possession of this revolutionary secret of science, why not prove it and be hailed as the new Newton? Of course, we know the answer. You can't do it. You are a fake.
Yet the final indictment against the television decision-makers is more profound and more serious. Their recent splurge of paranormalism debauches true science and undermines the efforts of their own excellent science departments. The universe is a strange and wondrous place. The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudo-scientific charlatans. The public appetite for wonder can be fed, through the powerful medium of television, without compromising the principles of honesty and reason.
  • Richard Dawkins "Human gullibility beyond belief,— the “paranormal” in the media". The Sunday Times. 1996-08-25.
  • The popularity of the paranormal, oddly enough, might even be grounds for encouragement. I think that the appetite for mystery, the enthusiasm for that which we do not understand, is healthy and to be fostered. It is the same appetite which drives the best of true science, and it is an appetite which true science is best qualified to satisfy.
  • The whole art [of paranormal debate] thus consists of getting the charlatans to speak on the one hand and the distinguished scientists to speak on the other, provided the latter have nothing relevant to say on the subject.
    • Jacques Ninio, on how news organizations avoid using professional magicians to shed light on deceptive paranormalist practices, in The Science of Illusions, unspecified edition, unspecified page
  • Late planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator Carl Sagan, who was well known for being a “hard” and rigid scientist, was actually a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Not many scientists even entertain the possibility that what we call “paranormal” may in fact be real and in some way provable using the scientific method. Sagan was quite famous, yet his interest in the paranormal was and is not really known amongst the general population. He once wrote that “there are three claims in the (parapsychology) field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study with the third being that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation.” He wrote this in 1996. It’s now more than two decades later and the number of examples and evidence accumulated suggesting that reincarnation, or at least some form it, is real is quite eye-opening.
  • Who would want to be trapped in a house with an indomitable telepathic despot and have to guard your thoughts –or be voluntarily mindless- and endure that existence forever and ever?
  • How many people here have telekinetic powers? Raise my hand.
    • Emo Philips, in E=MO² (1985)
    • Subsequent variations on the joke by others:
    • All of you out there who believe in telepathy, raise your hand. All right. Now, everyone who believes in telekinesis...raise MY hand.
    • Everyone who believes in telekinesis, raise my hand.
  • When I think of me as a psychic, I get hung up because I seem to be in the company of so many nuts. Writers may be as nuts as anyone else but it's a nuttiness that doesn't bug me — there's no dogma attached.
  • Some claim that telepathy and clairvoyance and pre-vision of the future are high-level powers characteristic of the upper reaches. I am not in a position to judge whether such powers exist or not, though on the whole I incline with much hesitation to believe that in some form or other they do. But I cannot see anything particularly lofty about them. They may be consequences of high development, but in themselves they are merely strange modes of perceiving events of commonplace order.
  • If psychics were truly successful and if their results were not simply the consequence of trickery (at worse) or good interviewing skills (at best) — then why don't law enforcement agencies have psychic detective squads, a real X-files Unit, or other ways to integrate these paranormal investigative capabilities?
    • Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler; quoted in "Shoe leather, not sixth sense, breaks cases open",, (30 Marc 2005)

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