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Here's a synchronicity for you: I was just last week attempting to defend Piper's Wikipedia page from the skeptics patrol, which had the following argument:

1) Piper is a Spiritualist.
2) Spiritualism cannot be real because it conflicts with Science.
3) Wikipedia cannot conflict with Science, the ultimate arbitrator of reliable knowledge.
4) Therefore, any positive-sounding material on Piper's page violates Wikipedia's commitment to reliable knowledge.
5) Therefore, Piper should be described as a con artist, against EVERY biography about her ever written.

I disagreed, so I was branded a Spiritualist and harassed, even though I don't believe in communication from spirits.

Dear Michael,

Instead of reading pseudoskeptics blitherings. I have several dozen folds of used toilet paper you can have. FOB.

The Od ;)

Shil, I've been told essentially the same thing, though I've never tried to edit a Wiki article. Skeptics say that Wiki's official policy is to present mainstream information, not "fringe" theories. Since they define parapsychology as "fringe," they say that pro-parapsychology edits violate the policy.

On one hand, I can see a certain logic to this. WIki doesn't want to become a clearinghouse for every crackpot theory.

On the other hand, it's not clear that parapsychology really is a "fringe" science anymore. The ganzfeld tests have been written up in mainstream journals, as have Daryl Bem's precognition tests, etc. The CIA and other government agencies have funded research into psi. The Parapsychological Association has been affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest scientific society, since 1969.

However, it is true that research into life after death remains even more controversial than ESP research, so perhaps afterlife studies can still properly be considered "fringe" by Wiki's criteria.

Ultimately, I don't think it matters. If Wiki's articles on psi - and particularly on life after death - are too one-sided, people who are genuinely interested in getting the whole story will look elsewhere, and Wiki will lose credibility in this area. (I think this is already happening.)

I think that has already *happened*, Michael.

Great post!

Research into ESP is not more plausible than survival theories at all. That is what ghosts are - dead people.

Do you really believe that there are scientists that are so skeptical they publically claim that ESP exists but survival doesn't? HAHAHA, that is quite hilarious.

I would like to see these people that claim that ESP does actually exist first, before the concept of survival and ghosts is breached, just to remind them how wrong they are.

Charles Tart and Rupert Sheldrake are just two examples of contemporary scientists who are convinced that ESP is real, but remain unsure about survival. This position has been pretty common throughout the history of parapsychology; it's the basis of the super-psi argument. Frank Podmore, C.D. Broad, J.B. Rhine, and Eric Dingwall are some well-known names from the past who doubted survival but endorsed ESP.

Sheldrake is a Christian. He also believes stars are alive. Not sure where you heard he doubts survival.

This blog post gives what I think is an accurate assessment of Rupert Sheldrake's position on life after death:

I've read most of Sheldrake's books, and I don't recall that he has ever come out in favor of the view that there is an afterlife. The most he will say is that it's a possibility that has not yet been proved or disproved.

I don't know what Sheldrake thinks about stars, but Beyond Human Personality, by Geraldine Cummins, channels F.W.H. Myers as saying (essentially) that stars are alive. The idea does not seem plausible to me, though it is presented very poetically in Cummins' book.

"I don't recall that he has ever come out in favor of the view that there is an afterlife."

If you look at this video
(which gets interesting around the 18 minute mark) - he accepts that the dream (or astral) body survives death.

If somebody wants to get a comprehensive understanding of Piper, then they should read the *primary* literature - i.e. the papers/reports published by the original investigators. They should also read critical reviews of those papers, as well as rejoinders by the original investigators, *and* contemporary assessments of the literature. It shouldn't have to be pointed out that it's ridiculous and unethical for Wiki editors to *prevent* references to/from the Hodgson reports given that such reports are part of the *primary* first-hand literature and therefore highly relevant to assessing the question of anomalous information acquisition in the Piper sittings.

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