Friday, June 09, 2006
TELEPHONE telepathy, the spooky feeling that tells you when someone is going to phone, really exists, scientists heard yesterday.
Parapsychologist Dr Rupert Sheldrake insists the phenomenon is far more than just coincidence.
In tests, 45% of volunteers correctly "guessed" which of four randomly picked callers were about to phone.
Repeated hundreds of times, the odds against this happening were "1,000 billion to one," said Dr Sheldrake, from Cambridge University.
But his research, together with that of two other paranormal investigators, sparked huge controversy at the BA Festival of Science in Norwich.
Some leading members of the research community did not think they should have been allowed a platform, organised by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA).
Dr Sheldrake has previously spoken of his theory of "morphic fields" which he believes psychically connects people who have close relationships.
He said the new findings supported the idea that extra sensory perception works best between individuals with an emotional bond.
An estimated 80% of people claim to have experienced the phenomenon, he told the meeting at the University of East Anglia.
To recruit for the study, Dr Sheldrake advertised for volunteers who believed they had encountered telephone telepathy.
Participants were asked to name four individuals they knew to act as "senders." For each trial, a sender was picked at random to make the phone call, without the volunteer’s knowledge.
The volunteers were invited to predict who would be making the call a minute before the phone started ringing.
Dr Sheldrake defended his decision to explore areas outside mainstream science, even if the results appeared to break the laws of physics.
"If we discover a knew kind of field connected with mental phenomena, it wouldn’t mean that science collapses in a heap of rubble," he said.
Professor Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, who has conducted many studies of the paranormal, said: "The issue is about controversy and balance in science. This is not a balanced panel.
"He is reporting results that are far higher than those usually found by parapsychologists, and there is good reason to be sceptical."