Parapsychology (from Greek para, "beyond, beside," and psyche, "soul"): the examination of psi effects, that is, forces, impacts, and phenomena that can be experienced by the senses but are not accounted for by the ►laws of nature as they are currently understood.
The concept of parapsychology was introduced in 1889 by Max Dessoir to launch a science that would explore "phenomena that transgress the normal life of the soul". Unlike ►esoterics, the mere belief in such phenomena, parapsychology attempts to establish statements about them by scientific means. Parapsychological research is divided up into three main areas:
Kinetic phenomena: All phenomena that have an impact on ►matter but cannot be explained in terms of the laws of nature as they are known to us at this point. This includes telekinesis, teleportation, levitation, apport, faith healing, stigmatization and bilocation.
Cognitive phenomena: The process of obtaining information in a manner not susceptible to currently available physical explanations. Examples are telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, ►astrology, and all other forms of fortune telling.
Afterlife phenomena: These include near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, as well as occultism, spook, and classic apparitions.
To investigate these phenomena, researchers collect reports from all over the world and conduct controlled individual experiments as well as statistical test series. Nonetheless, parapsychologists so far have not been able to establish the general validity of hypotheses about any of the phenomena mentioned above, or to even provide reliable proof of their existence. The difficulty here consists in the fact that any errors that occur in conducting statistic test series considerably falsify the results. To date, all test series conducted under scientifically reproducible conditions have yielded only minimal, statistically insignificant results. This is particularly unfortunate as the American author and magician James Randi has offered a reward of one million US dollars to anyone who can provide definite proof of the existence of any parapsychological phenomenon. The reward has yet to be claimed.
Parapsychology experienced its boom years in the 1950s and 1960s during the Cold War. At that time both Soviet and US American institutions explored the possible usefulness of psi effects for purposes of warfare. These programs were terminated in the 1980s, having yielded no results. Since then parapsychology has increasingly lost its attraction as a serious scientific endeavor. The only remaining university department of parapsychology in Europe is located at the University of Edinburgh.