On Anomalistics Research - The Paradigm of Reflexive Anomalistics

Gerhard Mayer, Michael Schetsche

Abstract


Scientific anomalistics sees itself as a content-determined, and delimited area of science which is committed to the application of appropriate scientific methodology, as well as generally accepted, and necessary, scientific control mechanisms. The specification of research subjects is not the result of assignment to groups of phenomena of specific scientific (sub-) disciplines, but of the ascription of an anomalistic character which (at first) makes these phenomena, or experiences, a subject of anomalistic research. Accordingly, anomalistics is not characterized by its own specific methodology but is oriented by the requirements of the respectively concerned discipline(s) (physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, science of history, etc.). For a long time, (natural) science approaches have been considered paradigmatic for anomalistic research and for parapsychological research in particular. However, during the last few decades, social-scientific approaches and qualitative research methods have become increasingly important as supplementary and alternative methods. As a result, single case studies and the investigation of ostensible spontaneous psi phenomena have lost their often premature reputation of being unscientific. Qualitative research methodology, which is used predominantly in social and cultural sciences as well as in anthropology, now represents a useful supplement to quantitative approaches. In some cases, and for several research questions, it proves to be ultimately superior, because one can avoid the considerable reduction of complexity which is obligatory for quantitative methods. Therefore, the research, as well as the researchers, can come much closer to living-world manifestations of anomalistic phenomena and experiences than is the case with the relatively artificial situation in laboratory experiments. As we are trying to demonstrate in our paper, anomalistic research should be conducted in a reflective manner under the described paradigm of reflexive anomalistics. The term signifies a social scientific informed approach to anomalistic phenomena which is aware of (a) the epistemic particularities of the phenomena under research, (b) the precarious cultural (media, science policy) framework conditions of this research, and (c) the areas of tension between subjective evidence, scientific proof and social discourse. These factors have to be systematically taken into consideration when developing scientific research questions as well as methodological approaches.


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