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Paranormal College
Posted: 15 November 2009 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In my intro thread I posed a question regarding whether parapsychology is still taught in any accredited universtities.  At first look it seems that most colleges in the USA have abandoned such nonsense.  A short time of searching on the Web brought me to a startling discovery.  There is at least one college that still engages in such research and teaching.  Not only is it a fairly respected university but it is also right in my back yard!

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA includes a Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS).  This division claims to investigate such things as near-death experiences and “claimed memories of previous lives” but their specialty is… (are you ready for this?)... “a special interest in studying the evidence for survival after death.”  What exactly they mean by that is not made immediately clear though they seem to be looking at the possbility that the human conciousness might survive death.  This is a terrifying thought to someone with a deep fear of being buried alive.

While this certainly appears dubious it is possible that they are applying rigourous scientific measures.  The fact that the Dalai Lama is featured in a photo on their main page is not encouraging.  Although a quick check of the CFI website produced nothing definitive I hope that someone will let me know if this has already been investigated.

[ Edited: 16 November 2009 01:36 PM by Frederick Green ]
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Posted: 15 November 2009 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I remember when not too long ago, Sanjay Gupta, a doctor and a CNN’s chief medical correspondent said that some of what happens “after” we die cannot be explained by science. I thought that was very disappointing—I used to like him. Only then did I realize that Gupta was promoting his new book and has probably sold his soul to the goddesses Moneta. It is one thing when I hear about this nonsense at a party—or indeed on our CFI forum—but having a university wasting money on this trash or hearing about it from a medical correspondent on CNN is just depressing.

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Posted: 15 November 2009 07:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Searching for similar programs yielded few hits, fortunately. I don’t know how credible it is, but John F Kennedy University in California seems to offer a variety of woo courses, including an MA in Transformative Arts. The university has a School of Holisitic Studies.

Then there is the Paranormal University. (Warning: Ugly Microsoft FrontPage web site complete with blinking stars on black background.)

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Posted: 16 November 2009 05:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Honestly, I don’t have anything against a little of this sort of research being done, so long as it is done responsibly, as you say, “applying rigorous scientific measures”. I think we ought to be open to any sort of oddball research, so long as it is rigorous.

I say I don’t mind a “little” of it, though, because of course the chance of this sort of research leading to any positive result is nearly nil. So it’s a poor way to allocate resources to scientific investigations. But hey, if for a little money we can put yet another nail in the coffin of parapsychology, etc., then perhaps it’s worth it. (Let’s not forget that much of the great material in Skeptical Inquirer does come from rigorous scientific studies of this sort of stuff).

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Posted: 16 November 2009 05:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Frederick, your link is broken. Check the code. You have too many http arguments in the string.

Here is a link to the Types of Experiences We Study page at the University of Virginia Health System Division of Perceptual Studies. They study woo.

From the Advice to Parents page:

When a child talks about a past life, we suggest that parents avoid asking a lot of pointed questions.  This could be upsetting to the child and, more importantly from our standpoint, could lead the child to make up answers to the questions.  It would then be difficult or impossible to separate memories from fantasy.

From the Concerns About Hypnotic Regression page:

Persons considering hypnotic regression experiments should ask themselves: What benefit would there be for me in coping with my present difficulties if I did remember something that seemed somehow connected with them from a previous life? Would such a memory, even if it were real, remove the difficulties?

I would not attend a university that includes such a college.

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Posted: 16 November 2009 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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With all of my experience with children, I have yet to have any of them ever mention any hint of a ‘past life’.

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Posted: 16 November 2009 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Yes and this is particularly sad because UVA is an otherwise excellent college that was founded by Thomas Jefferson.

The good news is that the professor was reportedly funded by a private grant.

The bad news is that state dollars are certainly being wasted in some way here.  If nothing else those classrooms could be used to teach something worthwhile.

Not sure how to approach this.  Make an appointment with the department head and ask him straight up why they are teaching woo?  Find a student on campus who is willing to sign up for one of the courses and then write an expose’?  Contact the State Board of Regents and ask them why a state university is being allowed to teach such nonsense?

I am still hoping that there is at least a little bit of rational science going on in that department.

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Posted: 17 November 2009 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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dougsmith - 16 November 2009 05:01 AM

Honestly, I don’t have anything against a little of this sort of research being done, so long as it is done responsibly, as you say, “applying rigorous scientific measures”. I think we ought to be open to any sort of oddball research, so long as it is rigorous.

I say I don’t mind a “little” of it, though, because of course the chance of this sort of research leading to any positive result is nearly nil. So it’s a poor way to allocate resources to scientific investigations. But hey, if for a little money we can put yet another nail in the coffin of parapsychology, etc., then perhaps it’s worth it. (Let’s not forget that much of the great material in Skeptical Inquirer does come from rigorous scientific studies of this sort of stuff).

It might be a fun project for students, with the lesson being scientific process, practicing setting up studies, etc.

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Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

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Posted: 19 November 2009 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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asanta - 16 November 2009 02:49 PM

With all of my experience with children, I have yet to have any of them ever mention any hint of a ‘past life’.

I read one of Ian Stevenson’s books.  According to his collected data a disproportunate number of children who recall past lives died violent deaths.  I vaguely remember the number 5% as the percentage of people that die that way.

psik

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Posted: 19 November 2009 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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psikeyhackr - 19 November 2009 03:56 PM


a disproportunate number of children who recall past lives died violent deaths.

What type of correlation was the author trying to imply here?  Perhaps that parents who promote this knd of nonsense are psychos who kill their own children?

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Posted: 19 November 2009 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I shouldn’t speak for psikeyhackr, but I will, anyway.  I’m guessing that he meant that the children (and probably adults) who “recall” past lives recall having died a violent death in their prior lives.  If 5% of people die violently, but, say, 40% of the “recalled” deaths were violent, that would be strange.  I’m betting that it’s the same syndrome as that many who claim to remember prior lives, lived as famous people.

Occam

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Posted: 19 November 2009 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Occam - 19 November 2009 05:43 PM

I shouldn’t speak for psikeyhackr, but I will, anyway.  I’m guessing that he meant that the children (and probably adults) who “recall” past lives recall having died a violent death in their prior lives.  If 5% of people die violently, but, say, 40% of the “recalled” deaths were violent, that would be strange.  I’m betting that it’s the same syndrome as that many who claim to remember prior lives, lived as famous people.

Occam

I always found it amusing that those who ‘remembered’ living past lives were always nobility, when we know that the very wealthy was such a small percentage of those alive at any one time, and the percentage was even smaller in medieval times. I’ve never heard anyone state that they lived a perfectly ordinary and mundane life, and died an ordinary and mundane death!

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Posted: 20 November 2009 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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asanta - 19 November 2009 07:33 PM

I always found it amusing that those who ‘remembered’ living past lives were always nobility, when we know that the very wealthy was such a small percentage of those alive at any one time, and the percentage was even smaller in medieval times. I’ve never heard anyone state that they lived a perfectly ordinary and mundane life, and died an ordinary and mundane death!

My experience has been the same. At a fancy Halloween party I went to many years ago, there was a ‘psychic’ giving past lives readings. Since it was free, what the heck? According to her I was a good and benevolent king in one of my past lives. wink

As far as paranormal colleges, are you telling me that Miskatonic University doesn’t qualify?!  tongue laugh

Sadly, people seem to learn ‘all about’ the woo without any ‘formal’ training.

Derek

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Posted: 20 November 2009 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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asanta - 19 November 2009 07:33 PM
Occam - 19 November 2009 05:43 PM

I shouldn’t speak for psikeyhackr, but I will, anyway.  I’m guessing that he meant that the children (and probably adults) who “recall” past lives recall having died a violent death in their prior lives.  If 5% of people die violently, but, say, 40% of the “recalled” deaths were violent, that would be strange.  I’m betting that it’s the same syndrome as that many who claim to remember prior lives, lived as famous people.

Occam

I always found it amusing that those who ‘remembered’ living past lives were always nobility, when we know that the very wealthy was such a small percentage of those alive at any one time, and the percentage was even smaller in medieval times. I’ve never heard anyone state that they lived a perfectly ordinary and mundane life, and died an ordinary and mundane death!

In Mary Roach’s book “Spook: Science tackles the afterlife.” She went to India to investigate claims of children who said they were reincarnated. A very funny read, she is so witty. Anyhow, she found that the children were just repeating whatever family members were suggesting to them. They got special treatment and attention whenever they got something right, and the adults didn’t realize they were feeding the children answers. But she had a great time investigating, as is the style of all her books. The fun is ALL in her research. (I particularly liked her book on sex! Talk about research LOL )

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Posted: 14 December 2009 06:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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asanta - 19 November 2009 07:33 PM
Occam - 19 November 2009 05:43 PM

I shouldn’t speak for psikeyhackr, but I will, anyway.  I’m guessing that he meant that the children (and probably adults) who “recall” past lives recall having died a violent death in their prior lives.  If 5% of people die violently, but, say, 40% of the “recalled” deaths were violent, that would be strange.  I’m betting that it’s the same syndrome as that many who claim to remember prior lives, lived as famous people.

Occam

I always found it amusing that those who ‘remembered’ living past lives were always nobility, when we know that the very wealthy was such a small percentage of those alive at any one time, and the percentage was even smaller in medieval times. I’ve never heard anyone state that they lived a perfectly ordinary and mundane life, and died an ordinary and mundane death!

Yes, that is actually one of the things that drove me out from the New Age scene. At the regular monthly Hexen Stammtsich (witches’ pub moot) we had the usual suspects chatting on about how they were either/or/and powerful witches in a previous life (or there previous lives), druids, high priests, nobility, you get the idea. I took a few courses in mediaval history while at university and there it was fairly obvious that 90% of the population were not nobility and could hardly read or write AND the popular image of medieval witches is completely false. So I reconed taht there has to be something wrong with all those people happily chatting aw about their very happy. powerful and luxurious past lives.

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Posted: 14 December 2009 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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psikeyhackr - 19 November 2009 03:56 PM

According to his collected data a disproportunate number of children who recall past lives died violent deaths.

That’s because those with a violent death need to be reborn, to live their lifes again! tongue rolleye

GdB

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