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Magical Thinking & the Paranormal

“Paranormal” is one of those adjectives that admits of many different definitions, as it entails somehow being “above” or “outside of” the norm when what constitutes “the norm” does not exactly admit of a clear definition. Despite this ambiguity, it is useful to think of paranormal phenomena as occurrences whose causes do not fall within the known natural categories of contemporary science. As such, paranormal phenomena (if real) represent events that potentially have supernatural causes. Consequently, ascertaining the reality of such events ought to be a primary concern of metaphysical naturalists, for if paranormal phenomena are genuine, they represent potential instances of supernatural causation which could decisively falsify metaphysical naturalism.

— Keith Augustine

Apparitions and Hauntings

Faith Healing

Magic and Witchcraft

Electronic Voice Phenomena James E. Alcock, PhD (Off Site)

Voices of the dead?

Essays on the Paranormal by medical expert Gary Posner. [ Index ]

Examining Miracle Claims (1996) by Joe Nickell

Flash! Fox News Reports that Aliens May Have Built the Pyramids of Egypt by Richard Carrier

Hallucinatory Near-Death Experiences (2003; revised 2008) by Keith Augustine

Even if we disregard the overwhelming evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain, there remains strong evidence from reports of near-death experiences themselves that NDEs are not glimpses of an afterlife.

The Near-Death Experience: Unanswered Questions (2009) by Gerald M. Woerlee

Since the publication of Raymond Moody’s Life After Life in 1975, several investigators have performed outstanding studies of the incidence and properties of near-death experiences. Unfortunately, many authors have enticed readers to accept uncritical supernaturalistic or paranormal explanations for NDEs, causing many good studies to languish unread by mainstream scientists. Despite over 30 years of public interest and scientific endeavor, many promising lines of research have not even been touched upon, while others have not been followed up. This article considers a select inventory of the gaps in our current knowledge of the causes and genesis of the NDE, with particular emphasis on whether NDEs represent scientific confirmation of life after death, or simply manifestations of brain function. The latter is implied by what is germane to the NDE itself, the psychological and sociocultural influences on NDEs, and what it would take to make it possible for something to leave the body during out-of-body experiences and see and hear events going on in the physical world.

Review of Psychic Medium Van Praagh on CNN’s Larry King Live (1999) by Joe Nickell

Review of The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain (2011) by Dan Ferrisi

Professor of Neurology Kevin Nelson has long had a fascination with near-death experiences. In his new book, The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain, Nelson provides a deeply neurologically driven interpretation of these extraordinary and often spiritual episodes. In this review, Dan Ferrisi analyzes Nelson’s principal arguments about how unusual brain activity might explain near-death experiences and finds them quite persuasive. The human brain, the most highly evolved organ of which we know, is capable of bizarreness far greater than we could ever imagine, and Ferrisi finds that Nelson’s scientifically literate book has much to teach us about it.

The Seven Critical Questions about Deepak Chopra by Paul O’Brien (1996) (Off Site)

This is a critique of Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. The purpose of this critique is to articulate exactly how and why Deepak Chopra’s ideas may be questionable.

See also:

Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (Off Site)

The CSICOP Annotated Skeptic Bibliography (Off Site)

The Skeptic’s Dictionary (Off Site)

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