Is telepathy fact or fallacy? Can thoughts really be transferred through extrasensory means?

An old question has recently come to light in a new way; the research for which has been done by scientists and those who have opposed this research are also scientists. The question is: Can one person convey his thoughts to another person without the aid of any of the mediums of communication viz. the written or spoken word or body language? The condition being that the two persons must be totally away from each other, that is, they should be separated either by long distance or by some screen between them. In short there should be no possible direct or indirect contact between them. The majority of the scientists have been negating such possibilities for the past 125 years or so, and it is no surprise that they do so. As proved by science man acquires any and all types of knowledge with the help of his five sense organs (skin, eyes, ears, tongue and nose). There is no sixth medium through which knowledge can be obtained. Nevertheless, according to famous theory, there is such a medium, which is known as telepathy and about which a lot has been said – mostly in the form of criticism. In spite of this, a few years ago after 3,000 different experiments conducted under controlled testing condition in Great Britain, the statistics that were arrived at made telepathy a subject of research for the scientific lobby. The result of perfection was 32%. Obviously, this is very negligible but according to the law of chance a number greater than 20% is not possible. It is not possible that the guess is correct in 1/3rd number of cases.
Although these statistics are not enough to allow telepathy an entrance into the world of science, some scientists are ready to consider it is a subject that needs minute and detailed research. The rest of the scientists are firm on their non-believing status and their argument is also not base less. The rule of acceptance of any theory is that if one scientist arrives at a particular result, all the scientists should obtain the same result when they conduct a similar experiment.
Years ago, the transmission of thoughts from one place (person) to another without any medium whatsoever was known simply as ‘thought transfer.’ In 1882, the parapsychologist, Frederick Myers, gave it the name of telepathy (in Greek language ‘tele’ means ‘far off’ and ‘pathy’ means ‘feelings or emotions’ and hence ‘telepathy’ means ‘feeling from afar’). In Britain, Frederick Myers had also established a society for physical research in which other believers of parapsychology had also joined hands. The scientific world had no interest in their work because such things which are not understood with the help of the five sense organs do not enter the field of science. Nevertheless, Myers found a lot of supporters. Even after his death the research continued with the help different types of experiments.
The dramatic change in the field of telepathy came about in the first half of the 20th century. Some concrete proof was needed to know whether one particular person has sent a message and whether it has reached the corresponding person or not without any medium whatsoever. To fulfil these requirements a scientist named Karl Zener made five cards that had different patterns. One had a circle, the second a square, the third a star, the fourth the sign of plus and the fifth had three lines that looked like waves. In short the designs of all five cards were different. Twenty five such cards were shuffled and than the heap was kept on a table. The people sending the telepathic message had to take up a card each, turn it over and look at it with deep concentration for about a minute or so. The corresponding person, who was in another room, had to recognise the pattern through telepathy and draw it on a piece of paper.
The most noteworthy experiments (which science finally denied) were conducted by the biologist named Dr. Joseph Rhine of Howard University, USA. A total of 1,800 Zener cards were used during the experiments. There were two persons – the sender of the symbol and the receiver of the symbol – who were separated by a distance of 400 metres. There was no medium through which they could be in contact with one another. In spite of this, out of 1,800 symbols, the receiver drew 588 symbols correctly on his paper. This was a strike rate of 32.66%. The noteworthy fact was that there were not just 5 but 25 cards in each heap and once the cards were finished, the heap was shuffled once more.
To make the experiments ever more authentic, Dr. Joseph Rhine changed the method of experimentation. He decided to give $100 to the ones who repeatedly drew the correct pattern. The participants recognised 25 cards correctly at a stretch and earned a whopping $2500. Considering this from a mathematical point of view the possibility of such a thing happening was 1 in 30,00,000 billion (repeat, billion) times – and still it had actually happened!
Dr. Joseph Rhine was a very renowned biologist and so the experiments conducted in the presence of neutral eyewitnesses became the topic of discussion in the world of science also. The well known magazine named ‘nature’ reproduced his paper on this subject without any changes or verification just as he had written it, but in the editor’s column of the same issue they condemned his experiments. On the other hand, common man and few researchers got interested in telepathy, and so to understand the so-called mystery surrounding telepathy all types of weird experiments started being conducted.
One such method came to be known as ‘blank field’ in which all the five senses had to be cut off from the outer world. A ping-pong ball was cut into two and the pieces were fixed onto a person’s eyes, a continuous dull sound was fed into the ears with the aid of headphones, the taste buds of the tongue and the odour detecting ability of the nose were rendered functionless and the fifth sense organ, the skin, was also not allowed to function thereby restricting knowledge through touch. The purpose of rendering a person blank as far as the sense organs were concerned was to ensure that his physical sense organs could not aid him in any way in grasping and understanding the message sent by the correspondent. In the midst of all this seclusion if a message was received and interpreted accurately then it would definitely be due to telepathy.
The astonishing result of such experiments proved to be food for thought for the research scientist in Britain. One experiment was truly very important. The year was 1993. The researchers had got two rooms each with 30-centimetre thick walls built. The walls were further covered by steel sheets. The rooms were at a distance of 3 metres. In the first room the person who would receive the message was sitting with eyes covered with ping-pong ball semicircles and headphones on the ears. In the second room there was a television in front of the person who would send the message. A telecast showing pictures of a live eagle was going on and the sender was watching this programme with complete concentration.
As a possibility with the help of telepathy the words spoken by the receiver due to the scene that came before his covered eyes were: ‘I can see a black coloured figure. It is of a bird that has a sharp beak and its wings are turned down. Its beak is sharp like a needle. There is something that can fly or is flying. It is like a parrot that has long feathers. There are many fathers and very long…long…long…of the tail… is flying. A big eagle with its wings spread out…’
The description given by the receiver was unbelievably accurate and was exactly like the scene that was being telecast on the television in the other room. In spite of all his sense organs being cut off from the outer world and the room being completely sealed, how did the receiver describe the scene observed by the sender as that of an eagle in flight? Which was the medium that carried all this knowledge to him? After crossing out all the five organs the only remaining medium was that of telepathy. When the word telepathy was not known this success was possible (only just possible) through the process that was called ‘thought transfer.’
The suggestion of cutting off all the five senses of a human being was first given by Chuck Honorton of Psychophysical Research Laboratory of America. Most of the experiments related to telepathy were then conducted only in this manner. The logic behind his suggestion was that a human brain cannot do without gaining knowledge and information about the surroundings. It is necessary for the protection, security and survival of man. A human obtains knowledge through his sense organs; he then interprets this knowledge accurately and uses it to take care of his existence amongst all odds. For example, the sense of touch keeps humans safe from fire and the eyesight keeps humans safe from the snakes, while taste help them in differentiating between edible and inedible things. Even if one of the sense organs fails to work, the remaining four become all the more sharp to compensate for the failure of one. For example, the skin, ears, nose, and taste buds, of a blind person are more receptive than those of a normal person’s and so his daily routine does not suffer. Honorton stretched this type of simple and straightforward logic to the lengths of telepathy. His argument was that not just one, even if all the sense organs take leave a human can still gain knowledge with the medium known as telepathy.
Is there even an iota of truth in this theory? An example that proves that there is much more truth than just an iota of truth is that of the aboriginals of Australia. These native people have been living for almost 30,000 years in a dreadful and desolate region. This region is spread over an area of millions of kilometres. Surviving in this region is so challenging that the white community of Australia fears even to tread there, let alone settling down. Should a person unused to this area, which is locally known as the outback, get lost here, he will surely die to hunger and thirst. However, the nomads surviving here roam far and wide in search of food and fruits and yet stay in contact with each other in spite of getting separated time and time again.
In the 1950s this point became the topic of interest and research for scientists. After numerous experiments they arrived at the conclusion that these aborigines communicate with each other only through the medium of telepathy. During the process of evolution, to take care of their existence in unfavourable conditions, their brain developed the imperceptible ability to communicate through the medium of telepathy. They stay in contact with one another no matter how far away they are from each other and no amount of distance proves a hindrance for this. Dr. Marlo Morgan, the famous American genealogist was the one who did research at the extreme grass root level on the possibility of this ability (telepathy). In 1994, she wrote a book named ‘Mutant Message – Down Under’ (Australia is situated in the southern hemisphere and hence the title ‘Down Under’ was given). The scientific world has taken note of all the examples and evidence published by this female author – that they did not accept it as a science is quite another matter.
In short, just like palmistry, telepathy also is considered anything but a science today. There is no place for bending rules in science; one plus one has to always be two. Even if this sum is done continuously for a long period of time, never will the result be 2.1 or 1.9. Therefore, when we talk about telepathy, the result obtained should be 100% every time an experiment is conducted. Even if the result is 99.9%, telepathy cannot be called a science. The maximum success rate of telepathic experiments has been 72% once, but mostly it has not been more than 40%.
In such a situation, telepathy cannot be granted the status of science. On the other hand, one cannot deny that it is a good subject for research. 

More reading:
Telepathy (Wikipedia)

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