Guest column: Terminological reform in parapsychology: A giant step backwards

Parapsychologists have never been entirely satisfied with their technical vo- cabulary, and occasionally their discontent leads to attempts at terminological reform.1 Recently, a number of prominent parapsychologists, led by Ed May, have regularly abandoned some of parapsychology’s traditional and central categories in favor of some novel alternatives (see, e.g., May, Utts, and Spot- tiswoode, 1995a, 1995b; May, Spottiswood, Utts, and James, 1995). They rec- ommend replacing the term ª ESPº with ª anomalous cognitionº (or AC) and ª psychokinesis (PK)º with ª anomalous perturbationº (or AP). Advocates of these new terms also propose replacing the term ª psiº or ª psi phenomenaº with ª anomalous mental phenomena.º Superf icially at least, these proposals seem merely to be modest extensions of parapsychology’s increasingly fre- quent use of the term ª anomalousº as a substitute for ª paranormal,º a practice which (although controversial) is not without merit, and which Palmer has vigorously defended (1986, 1987, 1992). But in my view, the proposed new terminology creates more problems than it solves.
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