Outside of philosophy of science circles, few people have ever heard
of Imre Lakatos. Lakatos, who died in 1974 at the age of 51, was a
peer of Thomas Kuhn, now famous for bringing the word "paradigm" into
popular use. Lakatos's ideas about scientific progress are subtler
than Kuhn's notion of sudden paradigm shifts, but in other ways they
harmonize. I won't go into detail now, but one of Lakatos's points is
important to what I have to announce here.
Kuhn's revolutionary ideas exposed the role of the "Old Guard" in
slowing scientific progress. The Old Guard is the gatekeeper of
social and scientific orthodoxy. Its ranks are filled with
scientists, academics, scholars, professors, and theorists. Defenders
of the status quo, they have committed their careers to a certain way
of approaching the world. They are so invested in the old way of
doing things that they are obliged to allow only small, acceptable
changes to the old paradigm and fight against the new.
Thomas Kuhn told us why they do it. Imre Lakatos told us how they do
Members of the Old Guard don't just argue against new ideas that
conflict or contradict the paradigm they zealously defend. And they
don't just ignore or reject new perspectives, new tools, or new
findings that don't square with the world view they are committed to
protecting. They actively resist change by denying to any researcher
who fails to win their approval the means to make progress in the
field. The Old Guard owns the resources that make research possible.
What are these resources? First there are the official publications,
the refereed journals, the textbook publishers. If your experiment
fits inside the borders of the old paradigm, your findings stand a
good chance of being published in journals or books where others can
see them and build upon them. What you discover becomes part of the
world's knowledge base.
If, however, you research a phenomenon that is deemed inappropriate --
that is, for example in the case of ESP or remote viewing, considered
`pseudoscience' -- it does not matter how carefully you work, nor how
profound your discoveries. The Old Guard will spurn you. You will
not get published, no one will notice your work, and no one will build
on your findings.
But that is not the only way the Old Guard keeps the new paradigm at
bay. The most powerful means to enforce orthodoxy in science is by
controlling the money. Nearly all research requires some level of
funding. Whether it is for specialized instruments, data processing,
analysis, test tubes, meters, office materials, compensation, or
travel -- without funding it is difficult to do much worthwhile
research. Super-colliders, quantum computing, genetic modification,
stem cell research, or even grizzly bear reproduction receives
billions, millions, or even scores of thousands of dollars in grants
and research funds. There was a time when ESP and other kinds of
parapsychology research received not millions, but at least thousands
of dollars a year. But as the skeptic movement gained strength, the
funds for ESP research dried up. And the skeptical community, along
with mainstream science that the skeptics have managed to co-opt,
wants to keep it that way.
It is time, however, for a change. Thomas Kuhn knew that the Old
Guard doesn't last forever. (One saying has it that "Science
progresses one death at a time.") And Imre Lakatos told us that old
"scientific programmes" eventually give way under pressure from the
Ironically, the Obama presidential campaign has shown us the way.
Whether you intend to vote for Senator Obama or against him, you have
to admire the genius in how he funded his campaign. He mostly
by-passed the fat wallets of the political establishment -- the
political Old Guard -- and appealed directly to the common man (and
woman). Though I'm sure Obama appreciates big checks he receives from
people with lots of money, his real strength comes from those who are
only able to contribute in denominations of 20, or 50 or 100.
Opinion polls regularly show that a large majority of the populace
continues to recognize the reality of ESP and other of what we have
come to call `paranormal' phenomena. The smaller minority who don't
believe in these things include many in the intellectual elite -- the
scientists and skeptics who make up today's Old Guard. They are the
ones who hold the purse strings. As long as we must rely on them to
open up those purses before we can do more real research into
non-local consciousness, that research will never be done!
But we can learn from Barack Obama's example how to make an end-run
around the Old Guard to help bring new life to the scientific
exploration of ESP. The International Remote Viewing Association
(IRVA) wants to lead the way. To accomplish this IRVA is doing three
IRVA is in the beginning stages of building an online resource of
information to help those interested in scientifically investigating
remote viewing create good quality research projects and experiments,
while avoiding mistakes that have been made in the past. Why reinvent
the wheel, when so much is already known about what can go wrong and
how to avoid it?
IRVA has activated the Gabrielle Pettingell Memorial Research Fund.
You can make your tax-deductible contribution by mail or online at
http://www.irva.org. (Click on the "Contribute to IRVA"
link at the top.) We encourage you to be generous, but welcome any
amount from $10 to $10,000 or more. You can be sure that your
contributions will used only for worthy research projects (IRVA
retains 5% of contributed funds to offset processing and banking
IRVA is in the process of sponsoring its first-ever remote viewing
research project. In November a group of six experienced remote
viewers will gather and, assisted by four additional research
personnel, will to do four sets of double-blind remote viewing targets
while being monitored by an operating random event generator (more
details are available at the CRV REG website ).* This
experiment is being coordinated by consciousness researcher Melvin
Morse, MD, IRVA's secretary John P. Stahler, and IRVA's president,
Paul H. Smith. Expenses will run about $2,000. You can earmark your
contributions for this experiment by noting `RV/REG experiment' on
your check or online transaction. (Any funds received beyond what is
needed for this experiment will be kept on account for use on another
experiment in the near future.)
You may have heard of guerrilla marketing. Now we open a new era of
Guerilla Funding. You have a chance to join a movement that aims to
overwhelm the Old Guard. Become a part of future history by joining
with us today.
Paul H. Smith, IRVA President
*As of November 2008 the data collection phase of this project has actually now been completed. The link points to the project report.