Distortions of the Past

Carlos S. Alvarado

Abstract


While no view of past parapsychological developments is free of problems, it is worthwhile to discuss how our accounts can be distorted, if only to be more aware of our working assumptions. In this address I will focus on the writings of parapsychologists, and particularly on some problems in these writings producing a distorted view of the past of the discipline. I argue that the past is distorted when we neglect the work of specific groups and individuals (such as lesser-known figures and women); when we see the past as a function of the present (neglect of unpopular ideas today, justification of research programs); and when we focus mainly on positive aspects of the study of psychic phenomena (neglect of critics and of examples of the rejection of the field). It is my hope that a consideration of these issues will assist us in expanding the reach of such writings.

Keywords: history of parapsychology—history of psychical research—great men history—justification history—presentism


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