Jessi's Reviews > Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory

Unbelievable by Stacy Horn
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's review
Jun 11, 09

bookshelves: favorites, nonfiction
Read in June, 2009

This was a great follow-up to the "Thoughts through Space" book (Sir Hubert Wilkins and Harold Sherman), which simply "is what it is" -- an account told through the lens of the cultural/historical timeframe (1940's) of one experiment on ESP/telepathy conducted independently by an author/journalist and arctic explorer....
This book is the story of the Parapsychology Lab at Duke University that flourished from the '30's to the '80's under the leadership of Dr.J.B.Rhine and associates. Horn's journalistic style gives a great, objective overview of the studies conducted by the lab during this time. The main paradox is that the experiments performed there do consistently show evidence of the existence of ESP. The same statistical methods used to evaluate these experiements are used today by pharmaceutical companies to determine the safety of their drungs and products, and have been carefully reviewed by mathmaticians for inconsistencies. The problem with consistently proving that ESP and telepathy occured in these experiments is that Dr. Rhine and company never figured out HOW or WHY these abilities were presenting. Rhine and his labmates went to great lengths to focus mostly on ESP related cases and not associate themselves with embellished "supernatural" claims. Rhine and the lab seemed to be constantly at odds with the scientific community and seemed to spend as much time defending their results to the scientific and medical community as they did actually experimenting -- it was an added complication that they never figured out how to explain the results they clearly got. One of the important themes raised by this story is the constriction and limitations built around the so-called scientific method of thinking -- specifically how much resistance there is to new thinking, new ways of viewing the world within the "scientific" community. How are we supposed to discover a new understanding of human nature when "science" is opposed to it before it even leaves the gate?!
Rhine and his partners at the Duke Lab suceeded in establishing the fact that "the more we know, the more we know we don't know" - especially in terms of the nature of consciousness. Perhaps their research will be revisited someday as cast a new light of understanding on the matter. Perhaps not.

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