Parapsychology/Sources/Theoretical Models

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Theoretical models[edit]

Alvarado (2006). Human Radiations: Concepts of Force in Mesmerism, Spiritualism, and Psychical Research (c.f. Ludovici (1961). Religion for Infidels, Pt. II, ch. II-VII: The Attributes of The Life Forces. (A Nietzschean critique of Christianity by Anthony Ludovici, which contains within it material tangentially related to psychical research (this guy, along with his disciple William Galey Simpson is a more eloquent representative of White Nationalist ideology (which I collect info on here, but can be partially refuted by items like this: (and in addition to Ludovici's arguments against mixing, see in which the author argues that miscegenation is beneficial owing to hybrid vigor), and I personally have come to abhor it after communication with more intelligent representatives of it and being rejected due to Jewish admixture, and I personally think it is compelling to those who embrace it (and partially justified insofar as it emphasizes conservation, similar to wildlife preservation - this overview of Japan provides analogy, and this intro to Oswald Spengler provides a cultural reference point) but bigoted in its current form and to be opposed in favor of a kind of "Qualitarianism" emphasizing intellectual, but also moral prowess. Ludovici, in spite of being on the extreme right, nevertheless presents here some extremely important information). This chapter is of particular importance, and I will explicate on its contents at a later time (it entertains neo-Lamarckianism, on that, see: - from the period of my flirtation with the extreme right on which see my comments above). I will say this though - one relevant text that immediately comes to mind is McDougall (1911). Body and Mind: A History and A Defense of Animism. (McDougall at this point, had abandoned some of the productionist model he previously had shown in his review of Myers' text - embracing animism but rejecting survivalism. Incidentally, Rupert Sheldrake's "Morphic Resonance" hypothesis is was informed by experiments conducted by McDougall and replicated by others, alongside other corroborating observations. Sheldrake is a current target of defamation, famous for his hypothesis of morphic resonance, which he describes as "a process whereby self-organising systems inherit a memory from previous similar systems. In its most general formulation, morphic resonance means that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits. The hypothesis of morphic resonance also leads to a radically new interpretation of memory storage in the brain and of biological inheritance. Memory need not be stored in material traces inside brains, which are more like TV receivers than video recorders, tuning into influences from the past. And biological inheritance need not all be coded in the genes, or in epigenetic modifications of the genes; much of it depends on morphic resonance from previous members of the species. Thus each individual inherits a collective memory from past members of the species, and also contributes to the collective memory, affecting other members of the species in the future." ( He wrote: "In mechanistic biology, a sharp distinction is drawn between innate and learned behaviour: the former is assumed to be 'genetically programmed' or 'coded' in the DNA, while the latter is supposed to result from physical and chemical changes in the nervous system. There is no conceivable way in which such changes could specifically modify the DNA, as the Lamarckian theory would require; it is therefore considered impossible for learned behaviour acquired by an animal to be inherited by its offspring (excluding, of course, 'cultural inheritance', whereby the offspring learn patterns of behaviour from their parents or other adults).

By contrast, according to the hypothesis of formative causation, there is no difference in kind between innate and learned behaviour: both depend on motor fields given by morphic resonance (Section 10. 1). This hypothesis therefore admits a possible transmission of learned behaviour from one animal to another, and leads to testable predictions which differ not only from those of the orthodox theory of inheritance, but also from those of the Lamarckian theory, and from inheritance through epigenetic modifications of gene expression.

Consider the following experiment. Animals of an inbred strain are placed under conditions in which they learn to respond to a given stimulus in a characteristic way. They are then made to repeat this pattern of behaviour many times. Ex hypothesi, the new behavioural field will be reinforced by morphic resonance, which will not only cause the behaviour of the trained animals to become increasingly habitual, but will also affect, although less specifically, any similar animal exposed to a similar stimulus: the larger the number of animals in the past that have learned the task, the easier it should be for subsequent similar animals to learn it. Therefore in an experiment of this type it should be possible to observe a progressive increase in the rate of learning not only in animals descended from trained ancestors, but also in genetically similar animals descended from untrained ancestors. This prediction differs from that of the Lamarckian theory, according to which only the descendants of trained animals should learn quicker. And on the conventional theory, there should be no increase in the rate of learning of the descendants of untrained or trained animals.

To summarize: an increased rate of learning in successive generations of both trained and untrained lines would support the hypothesis of formative causation; an increase only in trained lines, the Lamarckian theory; and an increase in neither, the orthodox theory.

Tests of this type have in fact already been performed. The results support the hypothesis of formative causation. The original experiment was started by William McDougall at Harvard in 1920, in the hope of providing a thorough test of the possibility of Lamarckian inheritance. The experimental animals were white rats, of the Wistar strain, that had been carefully inbred under laboratory conditions for many generations. Their task was to learn to escape from a specially constructed tank of water by swimming to one of two gangways that led out of the water. The 'wrong' gangway was brightly illuminated, while the 'right' gangway was not. If the rat left by the illuminated gangway it received an electric shock. The two gangways were illuminated alternately, one on one occasion, the other on the next. The number of errors made by a rat before it learned to leave the tank by the non-illuminated gangway gave a measure of its rate of learning: Some of the rats required as many as 330 immersions, involving approximately half that number of shocks, before they learnt to avoid the bright gangway. The process of learning was in all cases one which suddenly reached a critical point. For a long time the animal would show clear evidence of aversion for the bright gangway, frequently hesitating before it, turning back from it, or taking it with a desperate rush; but, not having grasped the simple relation of constant correlation between bright light and shock, he would continue to take the bright route as often or nearly as often as the other. Then, at last, would come a point in his training at which he would, if he found himself facing the bright light, definitely and decisively turn about, seek the other passage, and quietly climb out by the dim gangway. After attaining this point, no animal made the error of again taking the bright gangway, or only in very rare instances.[i]

In each generation, the rats from which the next generation were to be bred were selected at random before their rate of learning was measured, although mating took place only after they were tested. This procedure was adopted to avoid any possibility of conscious or unconscious selection in favour of quicker-learning rats. This experiment was continued for 32 generations and took 15 years to complete. In accordance with the Lamarckian theory, there was a marked tendency for rats in successive generations to learn more quickly. This is indicated by the average number of errors made by rats in the first eight generations, which was over 56, compared with 41, 29 and 20 in the second, third and fourth groups of eight generations, respectively. [ii] The difference was apparent not only in the quantitative results, but also in the actual behaviour of the rats, which became more cautious and tentative in the later generations. [iii] McDougall anticipated the criticism that in spite of his random selection of parents in each generation, some sort of selection in favour of quicker-learning rats could nevertheless have crept in. In order to test this possibility, he started a new experiment, with a different batch of rats, in which parents were indeed selected on the basis of their learning score. In one series, only quick learners were bred from in each generation, and in the other series only slow learners. As expected, the progeny of the quick learners tended to learn relatively quickly, while the progeny of the slow learners learned relatively slowly. However, even in the latter series, the performance of the later generations improved very markedly, in spite of repeated selection in favour of slow learning (Fig. 29).

Graph Figure 29 The average number of errors in successive generations of rats selected in each generation for slowness of learning. (Data from McDougall, 1938).

These experiments were done carefully, and critics were unable to dismiss the results on the ground of flaws in technique. But they did draw attention to a weakness in the experimental design: McDougall had failed to test systematically the change in the rate of learning of rats whose parents had not been trained.

One of these critics, F.A.E. Crew, of Edinburgh University, repeated McDougall's experiment with rats derived from the same inbred strain, using a tank of similar design. He included a parallel line of 'untrained' rats, some of which were tested in each generation for their rate of learning, while others, which were not tested, served as the parents of the next. Over the 18 generations of this experiment, Crew found no systematic change in the rate of learning either in the trained or in the untrained line. [iv] At first, this seemed to cast serious doubt on McDougall's findings. However, Crew's results were not directly comparable in three important respects. First, the rats found it much easier to learn the task in his experiment than in the earlier generations of McDougall's. So pronounced was this effect that a considerable number of rats in both trained and untrained lines 'learned' the task immediately without receiving a single shock! The average scores of Crew's rats right from the beginning were similar to those of McDougall's after more than 30 generations of training. Neither Crew nor McDougall was able to provide a satisfactory explanation of this discrepancy. But, as McDougall pointed out, since the purpose of the investigation was to bring to light any effect of training on subsequent generations, an experiment in which some rats received no training at all and many others received very little would not be qualified to demonstrate this effect. [v] Second, Crew's results showed large and apparently random fluctuations from generation to generation, far larger than the fluctuations in McDougall's results, which could well have obscured any tendency to improve in the scores of later generations. Third, Crew adopted a policy of very intensive inbreeding, crossing only brothers with their sisters in each generation. He had not expected this to have adverse effects, since the rats came from an inbred stock to start with.

Yet the history of my stock reads like an experiment in inbreeding. There is a broad base of family lines and a narrow apex of two remaining lines. The reproductive rate falls and line after line becomes extinct. [vi] Even in the surviving lines, a considerable number of animals were born with such extreme abnormalities that they had to be discarded. The harmful effects of this severe inbreeding could well have masked any tendency for the rate of learning to improve. Altogether, these defects in Crew's experiment mean that the results can only be regarded as inconclusive; and in fact he himself was of the opinion that the question remained open. [vii]

Fortunately, this was not the end of the story. W. E. Agar and his colleagues at Melbourne University carried out the experiment again, using methods that did not suffer from the disadvantages of Crew's. Over a period of 20 years, they measured the rates of learning of trained and untrained lines for 50 successive generations. In agreement with McDougall, they found that there was a marked tendency for rats of the trained line to learn more quickly in subsequent generations. But exactly the same tendency was also found in the untrained line. [viii]

It might be wondered why McDougall did not also observe a similar effect in his own untrained lines. The answer is that he did. Although he tested control rats from the original untrained stock only occasionally, he noticed 'the disturbing fact that the groups of controls derived from this stock in the years 1926, 1927, 1930 and1932 show a diminution in the average number of errors from 1927 to 1932'. He thought this result was probably fortuitous, but added: It is just possible that the falling off in the average number of errors from 1927 to 1932 represents a real change of constitution of the whole stock, an improvement of it (with respect to this particular faculty) whose nature I am unable to suggest. [ix]

With the publication of the final report by Agar's group in 1954 the prolonged controversy over 'McDougall's Lamarckian Experiment' came to an end. The similar improvement in both trained and untrained lines ruled out a Lamarckian interpretation. McDougall's conclusion was refuted, and that seemed to be the end of the matter. On the other hand, his results were confirmed. These results seemed completely inexplicable; they made no sense in terms of any current ideas, and they were never followed up. But they make very good sense in the light of the hypothesis of formative causation. Of course they cannot in themselves prove the hypothesis; it is always possible to suggest other explanations, for example that the successive generations of rats became increasingly intelligent for an unknown reason unconnected with their training. [x]

In future experiments, the most unambiguous way of testing for the effects of morphic resonance would be to cause large numbers of rats (or any other animals) to learn a new task in one location; and then see if there was an increase in the rate at which similar rats learned to carry out the same task at another location hundreds of miles away. The initial rate of learning at both locations should be more or less the same. Then, according to the hypothesis of formative causation, the rate of learning should increase progressively at the location when large numbers are trained; and a similar increase should also be detectable in the rats at the second location, even though very few rats had been trained there. Obviously, precautions would need to be taken to avoid any possible conscious or unconscious bias on the part of the experimenters. One way would be for experimenters at the second location to test the rate of learning of rats in several different tasks, at regular intervals, say monthly. Then at the first location, the particular task in which thousands of rats would be trained would be chosen at random from this set. Moreover, the time at which the training began would also be selected at random; it might, for example, be four months after the regular tests began at the second location. The experimenters at the second location would not be told either which task had been selected, or when the training had begun at the first location. If, under these conditions, a marked increase in the rate of learning in the selected task were detected at the second location after the training had begun at the first, then this result would provide strong evidence in favour of the hypothesis of formative causation.

An effect of this type might well have occurred when Crew and Agar's group repeated McDougall's work. In both cases, their rats started off learning the task considerably quicker than McDougall's when he first began his experiment. [xi]

If the experiment proposed above were actually performed, and if it gave positive results, it would not be fully reproducible by its very nature: in attempts to repeat it, the rats would be influenced by morphic resonance from the rats in the original experiment. To demonstrate the same effect again and again, it would be necessary to change either the task or the species used in each experiment.

References AGAR, W.E., DRUMMOND, F.H., AND TIEGS, O.W. (1942) Second report on a test of McDougall's Lamarckian experiment on the training of rats. Journal of Experimental Biology 19, 158-67.

AGAR, W.E., DRUMMOND, F.H., TIEGS, O.W., and GUNSON, M.M. (1954) Fourth (final) report on a test of McDougall's Lamarckian experiment on the training of rats. Journal of Experimental Biology 31, 307-21.

CREW, F.A.E. (1936) A repetition of McDougall's Lamarckian experiment. Journal of Genetics 33, 61-101.

McDOUGALL, W. (1927) An experiment for the testing of the hypothesis of Larmarck. British Journal of Psychology 17, 267-304.

McDOUGALL, W. (1930) Second report on a Lamarckian experiment. British Journal of Psychology 20, 201-18.

McDOUGALL, W. (1938) Fourth report on a Lamarckian experiment. British Journal of Psychology 28, 321-45."

I will explicate on Ludovici's thesis later, but as for Shedrake, one item people like to use to attack him is this article in a book by Alcock making an erroneous criticism of Sheldrake’s experimental methodology particularly with regards to phantom limbs: This article, which is a copy of the article “Brugger P, Taylor KI. ESP: Extrasensory perception or effect of subjective probability? Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 10, Numbers 6-7, 2003 , pp. 221-246″: is so untrue and defamatory that JCS published an official retraction in the next issue of the journal. From p.2 of JCS Volume 10, no 11 (2003), we find that “The article ‘ESP’ by P. Brugger and K.I. Taylor, published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 10, Number 6-7, pp. 221-246, erroneously states that an experiment with a flawed design (using ‘made up’ random numbers instead of a true random sequence) was performed by Rupert Sheldrake (p. 231) In actuality, Sheldrake was reporting the results of an experiment done by amateurs which had been sent to him. He himself identified the above flaw in the text of his descriptions, and it is his criticism of this work that is quoted by Brugger & Taylor (p. 231). We apologize to Dr. Sheldrake for this error.” - see facsimile here: Other information put forward by some skeptics is in bad faith and is inaccurate - e.g. - they minimize his credentials, when he was indeed a research fellow of the Royal Society, as is supported here:

Ben Goertzel has written on the fact that the physicist Lee Smolin has independently come upon a Quantum physics argument - the "Principle of precedence" - that mirrors the hypothesis of Sheldrake: He quotes an interview given to Smolin where Smolin says "nature is developing habits as it goes along." See for corroboration the article “Adaptive state of mammalian cells and its nonseparability suggestive of a quantum system”, published in the journal “Scripta Medica”, the abstract of which states: “Established mammalian cells were assayed for their resistance to different selection conditions which had not been used against these cells before, including exposure to thioguanine, ethionine, high temperature and a protein-free, chemically defined culture medium. Single assays were negative, showing that the cell lines contained no spontaneous mutants, or that these were present in a number below detectable limits. To obtain such mutants, we designed experiments of mutant isolation by serial assays. The cells were kept growing without selection and, at each passage, cell samples were withdrawn and assayed for resistance in separate cultures. As a result, we found no mutants at the beginning, then a few and, finally, a great number. This was in conflict with the postulate of random occurrence of mutants and, furthermore, with their spontaneousness. On the contrary, the results provided evidence that mutants occurred as an appropriate response to selection pressure. The most amazing feature was that this response could be detected in cells growing without selection and never exposed to selection pressure before. If one tried to explain the adaptive response in terms of signals, the signals would have to travel from the exposed to the unexposed cultures. The results are instead discussed in terms of adaptive states and the nonseparability of cellular states due to quantum entanglement of cells, in particular daughter cells, distributed between the exposed and unexposed cultures. Whatever the mechanism, we concluded that the finding of resistant cells in growing unexposed cultures, as a response to selective pressure on cells in physically separated cultures, tends to render meaningless any theory based on the spontaneous origin of mutants.”: Also see the article "Evidence of Collective Memory: a test of Sheldrake's theory", published in the Journal of Analytical Psychology: - the article can be read here: The conclusion notes that "The presence of collective memory was tested by having three groups of students learn the morse code, which had been previously learned by a large number of people, and a novel code that had never been learned by others and was constructed to be of equal intrinsic difficulty. As predicted, the Morse code was initially easier to learn, and the Novel code itself became easier over the three groups. The results confirm Sheldrake's theory and lend credibility to Jung's concepts of the archetype and the collective unconscious while suggesting that the ladder contains much more than archetypal memories."

For rebuttal to attacks on Sheldrake's psychical research,Sheldrake (2000). David Marks and John Colwell - Flawed Criticisms of 'Staring' Evidence, Sheldrake (2004). The Need For Open-Minded Scepticism: A Reply to David Marks, Sheldrake (2005). Michael Shermer's Attacks, Sheldrake (2013). Richard Wiseman's claim to have debunked "the psychic pet phenomenon", Sheldrake (2013). Response to Robert Todd Carroll's comments on my reply to his article on N'kisi)

Alvarado (2011). Psychic Phenomena and the Vital Force

Myers (1903). Scheme of Vital Faculty. (taken from pp. 505-554 of Vol. II the 1903 edition of Myers' Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death)

Carington (1920). A theory of the mechanism of survival: the fourth dimension and its applications

Geley (1921). From the Unconscious to the Conscious.

Hoffman (1940). ESP and the Inverse Square Law.

Rao (1978). Psi: Its Place In Nature.

Schmidt (1982). Collapse of the State Vector and Psychokinetic Effect.

Walker (1984). A Review of Criticisms of the Quantum Mechanical Theory of Psi Phenomena. (contains rebuttal to derogatory comments by Martin Gardner concerning Walker's previous work)

Bohm (1896). A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter (remembering the previous arguments concerning Sheldrake, Bohm thought Sheldrake's theory was compatible with his own: See also the following item below cited by Josephson)

Josephson & Pallikari-Viras (1991). Biological Utilisation of Quantum NonLocality (This paper shows that hidden variable models of Quantum Mechanics are consistent with psi, the mechanism being David Bohm's nonlocal quantum potential.)

Stapp (1993). Theoretical model of a purported empirical violation of the predictions of quantum theory.

May et al (1995). Decision augmentation theory: Towards a model of anomalous mental phenomena

Jahn & Dunne (2001). A Modular Model of Mind/Matter Manifestations (M5)

Rauscher & Targ (2001). The Speed of Thought: Complex Space-Time Metric and Psychic Phenomenon

Houtkooper (2002). Arguing for an Observational Theory of Paranormal Phenomena

Bierman (2003). Does Consciousness Collapse the Wave-Packet?

Josephson (2003). String Theory, Universal Mind, and the Paranormal.

Dunne & Jahn (2005). Consciousness, information, and living systems

Henry (2005). The mental universe

Hiley & Pylkkanen (2005). Can Mind Affect Matter Via Active Information?

Lucadou et al (2007). Synchronistic Phenomena as Entanglement Correlations in Generalized Quantum Theory

Rietdijk (2007). Four-Dimensional Physics, Nonlocal Coherence, and Paranormal Phenomena

Brovetto & Maxia (2008). Some conjectures about the mechanism of poltergeist phenomenon

Bierman (2010). Consciousness induced restoration of time symmetry (CIRTS ): A psychophysical theoretical perspective

Tressoldi et al (2010). Extrasensory perception and quantum models of cognition.

Scharf (2010). Pseudoscience and Victor Stenger’s Quantum Gods: Mistaken, Misinformed and Misleading.

Temkin (2011). Extrasensory Perception As a Natural, But Not Supernatural Phenomenon.

Hameroff (2012). How quantum brain biology can rescue conscious free will.

Tressoldi (2012). Replication unreliability in psychology: elusive phenomena or “elusive” statistical power?

Taylor (2014). The Nature of Precognition.

Grosso (2015). The "Transmission" Model of Mind and Body: A Brief History. (in Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality edited by Edward F. Kelly, Adam Crabtree, and Paul Marshall. This deals with the filter theory of consciousness, which has a long history going back to the Greeks and the German Idealists, but was articulated in a relevant form by FWH Myers in Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death. That thesis was defended in Kelley et al (2007/2010). Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, a book which is based on studies and synthesis of prior philosophical and psychological theoretical contributions (and based on the synthesis of Myers, which it seeks to further validate and corroborate), though makes some use of well documented cases for illustrative purposes. It draws on much data outside of parapsychology, though it makes reference to that data in an appendix. Its purpose is to falsify the view that mind=brain, and argue in favor of the filter theory of consciousness. A dispute over the text occurs in Ash et al vs. Kelley (2010-2011). Dispute over Irreducible Mind. (positive reviews of the text are here and here). The neurologist Sebastian Dieguez’s review of “Irreducible Mind", published in Skeptic Magazine, was negative, and this prompted a back and forth dispute, though in the parts of the blogosphere dedicated to the subject. In contrast, the academic physicist Henry Stapp of UC Berkeley lauded the book, and and contributed a chapter to its successor, Beyond Physicalism, entitled "A Quantum-Mechanical Theory of the Mind-Brain Connection"

− And the academic neurologist David Presti of UC Berkeley had a very positive view of the book, saying "This is an extraordinary book. Despite the awesome achievements of 20th-century neuroscience in increasing our knowledge about the workings of the human brain, little progress has been made in the scientific understanding of mental phenomena. This book infuses new hope into the issue of scientific approaches to the study of these phenomena. In the arena of neuroscience of mind, it is the most exciting reading to have crossed my path in years." Presti also contributed a chapter to its successor, Beyond Physicalism, entitled "A Psychobiological Perspective on "Transmission" Models". A late pioneer within this group which is pushing this perspective was the late Ian Stevenson, on whom see BMJ (2007);334:700 - Professor Ian Stevenson, an emperor in parapsychology. (See also the writings of the philosopher Robert Almeder in the survival of consciousness after death section below, which defend Stevenson the against various attacks he received. Also useful is Emily Williams Kelley's 2013 text Science, The Self, and Survival After Death: Selected Writings of Ian Stevenson, on which see also Matlock's (2013) Review of "Science, the Self, and Survival After Death: Selected Writings of Ian Stevenson" by Emily Williams Kelley. And see Andreas Sommer's 2015 article Reincarnation Research and Myths of Scientific Practice.)