chapter  10
16 Pages

Telepathy, Evolution and Dualism

Constructive philosophical 'theorising' is nowhere more difficult or hazardous than in the field of ESP phenomena, for here one is never quite sure what the facts or preliminary data are. In saying this I am not simply referring to the denial by sceptics that there are any such phenomena. Even those who are generally sympathetic to the claims of psychical research may, with good reason, wonder which one-telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis or precognition-is the irreducible primary principle (process?) of which the others are secondary manifestations. Until Rhine performed his DT (down through) experiments with cards, clairvoyance was often regarded as telepathy where the subject acquired information about a physical object or event by 'culling' it from the agent's mind, which itself happened to have got it through normal sensori-motor means. With the success of experiments purporting to establish psychokinesis, it 1S being suggested that so-called telepathy is really only psychokinesis where the subject does not 'read' certain thoughts of the agent but 'causes' him to have these thoughts. But, once again, it is in principle possible to interpret all evidence for psychokinesis as really being evidence for precognition. Perhaps the present state of parapsychology is not too unlike that of the philosophy of perception a decade ago, of which Gilbert Ryle is said to have

remarked, 'it isn't only in the melting-pot-it's in it upside down'.l

But until suggestions to the contrary have been firmly established as facts, it is fairly safe to regard telepathy as an irreducible datum requiring philosophical-theoretical explanation. It is possible to take the view that telepathy is simply a statistical phenomenon,2 that is, the scores achieved by successful subjects in, say, the Soal-Goldney or Rhine-Pratt card-guessing experiments are not so much 'evidence for' a form of communication known as telepathy, but that so-called telepathy is no more than the 'factor' that causes these interesting and puzzling scores. Telepathy is not 'communication' in any recognised sense of the term, since the subject is not aware of being in communication with the agent whose thoughts he is trying to guess; he simply ticks certain numbers on a piece of paper which turn out (by a margin of a certain percentage point over mean chance expectation) to be the numbers symbolically representing certain pictures that the agent was supposedly concentrating on at a specified time. This coincidence, it might be argued, is what we call telepathy.