January 13, 2005

An empirical argument against the reality of psi phenomena

Notwithstanding the popularity of the movie EVP and the belief in electromagnetic voice phenomena as the latest psi fad, we have good scientific arguments against psi.

A good reference like The Skeptic’s Dictionary will give you a rundown on the failure of psi research to produce scientifically verifiable evidence, as well as logical fallacies of psi boosters.

But I offer another argument against psi -- an inductive, empirical one.

It’s been 4 million years or so since our australopithecine ancestors pulled their knuckles off the ground and started their move toward becoming civilized human beings.

Or, more charitably toward the psi side, lopping off more than 2 million years of empirical arguments from science, it’s still been about 1.5 million years since the emergence of the genus Homo.

Or, even more charitably, it’s been about 200,000 years since the emergence of modern Homo sapiens as a species we would recognize.

One would think that with 100,000 years of development, not to mention either 1.5 million or 4 million-plus, that the entire species would be levitating furniture by now.

And that’s not just a snarky comment. If psi powers actually did exist, they should have a huge evolutionary advantage.

So, it seems obvious from an evolutionary biology examination of human history, that they don’t.

Let's look at some specific hypotheticals.

If I am a long early homo sapiens male of 100,000 years ago, and have telekinesis, I could use this to a number of evolutionary ends. One would be to be a better hunter, by directing my spear or arrow at the last second, by mental power, to assure a kill. Another would be to bend out-of-reach tree branches laden with fruit down to me, etc.

Now, the real kicker in terms of evolutionary biology is when that cute little number down the canyon in Cave No. 4 sees me doing this, or the results of this. Badda-bing, and Junior is soon born, theoretically inheriting my psi powers.

Or, take clairvoyance. Let's say I'm the gamma male, but the best mind-reader in my tribe. I can tell beta is planning a coup against alpha. If I play my cards right, I'm soon King of the Hill.

And, of course, once again, that hottie in Cave No. 4 sees me and ...

In either of the above scenarios, if the future Mrs. Me also has above average psi and wants to assist me, then we're money in the bank.

Since we don't see the vast majority of today's Homo sapiens walking around claiming psi powers, let alone actually doing something with them, it would seem obvious these powers don't exist.

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