Re: Psi and Science Fiction

Damien Broderick (
Thu, 05 Aug 1999 12:18:01 +0000

>> I've often wondered why SF writers tend to harbor a belief in 'psi'.

>> If only there were an SF writer on this list who had previously
expressed an
>> interest in psi who I could ask about the subject...

Ho ho. Okay, I'll bite... In my limited experience, most sf writers are as hard-bitten and skeptical as anyone else. But we use the narrative enabling devices to hand. Psi in sf is often pure magic (as is nanotech, etc), appropriately since so much sf/fantasy is consolatory illusion. John Campbell Jr, late editor of ASTOUNDING/ANALOG, might really have believed in psi, or then again he might have found it a useful rhetorical device for whipping up controversy in his pages. The many writers who then clambered on the gravytrain did so just because it was the way to get their fiction sold - and maybe because there's some pleasure to be had in working out the next tweak on a hoary plot gadget.

Meanwhile, I myself have used psi and UFOs in certain stories, but always in the knowledge that there is a difference between fact and fiction, Sherlock. Meanwhile meanwhile, I've also followed some of the statistical and experimental arguments, and actually do regard the matter as still open. I don't know how psi would work, or how it's consistent with what we know of the brain's workings, but the accumulated anomalous data at PEAR, for example, doesn't go away.

Then Eli wrote:

>I'd read a couple of "science fact"
>articles from people I later found out were lunatics, but they were very
>plausibly written. No exclamation points, just the reporting of
>experimental results and personal experiences.

I don't doubt it. I've visited several parapsychological research centers in the USA and found more lurking loons than I'd wanted to see. But which names would you cite in support of your own contention, Eliezer? You have evidence that, say, Prof Jessica Utts is a lunatic? Other than, circularly, her peer-reviewed-published conviction that psi is effectively proved by her meta-analyses of `good' experimental results?

Damien Broderick