Mental Telepathy – Is It Real?
by: Steve Gillman
What is mental telepathy? Telepathy is defined as “communication through means other than the senses.” Add the “mental,” and you have the concept of minds sending and receiving information without the senses, using something akin to radio waves, “thought waves,” or whatever the various theories claim.
Mental Telepathy – A True Story
One day, when we were children, my mother and father were in another city an hour or two away, with relatives. They were playing bingo at a church. Meanwhile, near home, my brother Andy was thrown to the ground by a bully. His collar bone was broken. At about that same moment, my mother stood up in the middle of the game, and announced to my father, “Andy has been hurt!” They immediately left for home.
Was this mental telepathy? It sure seemed like it at the time. Or is there another explanation? More on that in a moment.
Let’s review the evidence for mental telepathy. That should take about a minute, because there is no good evidence for its existence. Now, if we are to review what passes as evidence, we find a common pattern. Tests that “prove” this phenomenon are done in some way that is very flawed.
The “researchers” in ESP (extrasensory perception) and related areas have less of an interest in the truth than in proving that these things are real (my opinion). This affects how they perform their experiments, often not because of dishonest intentions, but due to unconscious factors. The most common mistake made in this type of research is that of “selecting” results.
For example, guessing what suit a playing card is, you would – by the odds – be right about 25% of the time, because there are 4 suits to choose from. Suppose you try this with 10 trials of 20 cards each, and then repeat it with 30 other subjects, for a total of 300 trials. The subjects will do better than the odds dictate in some trials, and worse in others.
This is normal. A coin flipped many times doesn’t alternate systematically between heads and tails, but flip it enough times, and it will average about 50% heads and 50% tails. That is, it will if you tally all the flips. Concentrate your mental powers on heads, and then don’t count 100 of the flips that came up tails, and you have a test that “proves” you can affect the coin using the power of your mind alone.
Would scientists (or those that claim to be) do this? It happens all the time, but it is usually more subtle. Consider the card experiments. If the researcher already believes strongly in mental telepathy, he might unconsciously find reason to exclude non-confirming trials (the subject wasn’t ready, the “sender” wasn’t concentrating, etc.). Only count trials with the results you want, and you make it look like the subjects are indeed psychic.
An Explanation Of Mental Telepathy
A scenario: My mother knew that Andy was having trouble with this bully. Earlier in the day she had been nearby when Andy mentioned that he was worried, because he had to deliver newspapers near the house where this bully lived. She wasn’t listening, but the words registered in her subconscious mind. Finally relaxing at the bingo game, her mind finally processed the information, and she “sensed” that her son was in danger. Mother’s intuition we’ll call it – but this wouldn’t be mental telepathy, right?
Is that the explanation? No. It is one explanation. A more scientific approach than the one used by true believers, is to leave questions open. Hypothesize, perhaps, and test those hypothesis, but don’t assume an answer before there is good evidence. It better to leave things unexplained than to invent things and believe in them just because we want them to be true. We may never know what the explanation is for much of what is called “mental telepathy,” but do we need to know right now?