PSEUDOSCIENCE AND THE PARANORMAL, by Terrence Hines. 2nd edition, Prometheus. ISBN 1-57392-979-4.

This book thoroughly demolishes the pretence that laboratory experiments in ESP have produced statistical evidence for the phenomenon’s reality. But like almost all writers on the subject, Hines treats telepathic communication and precognition as merely alternative forms of the same thing. ESP does not exist. But telepathy conceivably could exist, if there was a “fifth force” explain it, whereas precognition would require that information travel backward in time — an absurdity that can be refuted by the reductio ad absurdum it would produce.

In discussing the Alice-in-Wonderland rationalization of parapsychologists for the impossibility of obtaining positive results of ESP tests under conditions that rule out non-ESP explanations, namely, that “psi is shy,” Hines classifies the rationalisation as just one more non-falsifiable (and therefore unscientific) hypothesis, as indeed it is. But he might have made his point better by asking: If one force of nature, ESP, can feel insulted and refuse to manifest itself in the presence of a skeptic, how come magnetism does not refuse to do so? How come the nuclear forces are not shy? How come gravity is not shy? How come only psi is shy?

Hines’ several pages on how cold readings are accomplished are sufficiently detailed to satisfy all but the incurably gullible that the psychic scam relies on the Barnum dictum that there is a sucker born every minute. And in debunking perhaps the most widely believed claims of psychic prophecy, he shows that a passage by Nostradamus widely interpreted as a foretelling of the rise and fall of Napoleon could equally well be applied to Ferdinand II, Adolf Hitler, or any European ruler whose governance was less than beneficial.

Hines is himself not free of belief in pseudoscience. He authenticates the reality of hypnotism. According to Robert Baker, in They Call it Hypnosis, “Hypnotism does not exist, has not existed in the past, and will not exist in the future.” Hines has, however, withdrawn his endorsement of multiple personality disorder and acupuncture, mentioned favorably in his 1992 edition.

He also continues to authenticate the claim that victims of Tourette’s syndrome who engage in “uncontrolled swearing and use of racial and ethnic epithets” (p. 84) are not consciously playacting. The only reason Tourette swearing is viewed as involuntary is that the patients say so. I am not going to accuse Hines of gullibility. Ninety percent of his book proves that he is not. It is the psychotherapists who diagnosed (actually invented) imaginary illnesses who are gullible.

Hines’ chapter on psychoanalysis should be mandatory reading for all persons who still believe that Freud’s imbecilic fantasy differs in any way from spilling one’s guts to a bartender or a taxi driver. He ends the chapter with a debunking of hundreds of incompatible procedures lumped together as “humanistic psychology”, describing them as “all couched in layers of vacuous psychobabble and containing considerable amounts of pseudoscience”. Right on!

Hines catalogues an abundance of evidence that polygraphs are no more effective as lie detectors than tossing a coin, heads for Truth and tails for Lie. In an experiment conducted by the TV program 60 Minutes in 1986 (p. 430): “Several polygraph firms were called by CBS and told that there had been a theft…. In fact there had been no theft and all the ‘suspects’ knew that they were taking part in an experiment. Each polygraph operator was given a hint that one particular suspect was the leading suspect, but the hint concerned a different employee for each operator. The operators in each case identified the ‘leading suspect’ as the guilty party. Not one operator failed to make this incorrect judgment.”

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