In conclusion to this series I probably should say a few words on what I have learned.
For one, despite strong claims, the modern mediumship research (of about the last 15 years) offers no support for the reality of anything except well-known psychological effects.
But I am unsure to what a degree this constitutes evidence against mediumship. After all, maybe the researcher failed to find positive evidence because they are incompetent and not because it doesn’t exist. But that is a rather hefty charge.
Another possibility is that you just don’t find real mediums anymore. Maybe the lack of critical thinking among contemporary believers has allowed frauds and fools to crowd out the real talents. That’s not a very flattering possibility and will probably not go over well with believers..
But is there any nice way to explain where the evidence is off to? In principle mediumship should be dead easy to demonstrate (no pun intended).
Supposedly there were clinching experiments conducted at the beginning of the 20th century, 100 years ago which I have never reviewed. Were they really that impressive?
It seems more parsimonious that they were more along the lines of Robertson and Roy. With the occasional, inevitable fraud or perhaps fluke strewn in.
These researcher back then certainly couldn’t convince their contemporaries, perhaps for the same reason that modern mediumship researcher can’t? The charge of dogmatism against a generation of scientists that saw the rise of quantum mechanics and general relativity seems strange.
But historical claims are not what this post is about. It’s not even about scientific experiments or theories that directly challenge the underlying assumption of mediumship. It’s not about how mediumship can be regarded as a falsified idea.
Suffice it to say that the alleged modern evidence for mediumship is not. It doesn’t even suggest the existence of anything unexplained.
My Personal Opinion
Personally, I find the data whether coming from skeptics, believers or simply the non-involved to be convincing as to the non-existence of mediumship. It’s not just the more general, theoretical deductions from what science, especially biology and neurobiology has learned in the last 200 years. If dedicated believers these days can’t find a medium, if promises of money don’t lure out a real medium, what could there be?
And even if I’m wrong and there is be something there, where I haven’t looked, in the historical reports, in the absence of a genuine medium volunteering to aid in research there is nothing to be done. We can only wait until one comes forward or neuroscience finally stumbles across… something. Anything!
If you happen to have a genuine medium on your hand, why not do a test? You only need a bit of time and the willingness to put in a little effort. Here’s a primer on how to design a solid test that doesn’t end up replicating some known psychological effect.
There’s one final thing I want to mention. It goes here, because it didn’t fit anywhere else. It’s about an experiment by pod-caster Alex Tsakiris. He put together a little mediumship experiment around the end of 2008 / start of 2009.
The experiments were not that well designed but I won’t talk about that as the full details always remained sketchy. Information only dribbled out on his pod-cast and in his forum.
Two trial runs had been conducted and it had been announced that after the third was in progress. Results had been positive but the controls were lose. Controls meaning devices to rule out alternative explanations, mainly ways of cheating. The controls were persistently tightened and then something happened. It was never revealed what exactly, only that it was somehow surprising. Was it merely negative results or was some even caught hoaxing?
The fact remains that trial three was officially never finished for an unknown reason. Tsakiris announced that he had by no means aborted the experiment and intended to continue after doing some revamping. No results, no admission of failure, criticism diverted with promises for the future. And that was the end of that. That was the last experiment he ever reported.
Tsakiris has also tried himself at another paranormal phenomenon, psychic dogs, with an equal lack of success. This seems indeed to have changed his outlook somewhat. He now maintains that it is not about the data. See, that’s the problem with skeptics. They don’t care about the data. For them it’s all a matter of worldview.
The paranormal has already been proven therefore it’s completely pointless to run experiments.
Seeing this development play out on the pod-cast and the forum was eye-opening for me. The pattern is recognizable in with many parapsychological researchers but here I could see it unfold. It has certainly given me a new appreciation for the human capacity for delusion.