Extra-sensory perception has the tendency to be a very touchy topic to discuss. Much like any belief that is predominately believed through a gut feeling or faith, extra-sensory perception in my mind has many similar qualities to a religious belief system. The most interesting concepts often highlighted by magicians and illusionists (as a method of "debunking" claims of ESP) are those related to the nature of "hits" and "misses" in regards to psychics. It is fascinating at how true it seems that a psychic uses this method to "read" people and communicate ideas that these individuals want to hear. For example, John Edwards (a famous supposed psychic medium) could state to a group of people, "I sense someone died from cancer." A critical thinker then could analyze this and easily write it off as John Edwards just making a good educated guess (a hypothesis if you will) considering cancer is a major cause of death statistically speaking.
In order to beging studying extra sensory perception, one must be able to recognize their personal biases. I say this because ESP is a very biased filled and touchy subject. Much like religion, individuals can be biased towards believing it it because they want to believe in it, or because someone else insists it is right, real, and true (perhaps a good friend or a parent). In the same respect, those who do not believe in ESP must also be careful not to be biased in their studies as they could easily write off any valid arguments in support of ESP if they are compelled that it is "not real" (or if they simply do not want to be wrong in their judgement).
Before I continue writing the rest of this article, I would like to clarify that I do not personally believe in ESP, particularly in the form of psychics, levitation, and many other types of supernatural occurances. In many ways, I feel that new science and technologies are providing unique ways to potentially see into these supposed supernatural realms; however the lack of evidence provides no good reason to believe in these things with any certainty. We can see a glimpse of the potentiality to "prove" some extra sensory occurances through ghost hunters and similar individuals. These individuals and their "scientific" methods have been well documented in television shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. While there methods are certainly a move in the right direction, they still leave a lot to be desired. Though they seem to work in a very scientific manner, their experimental tests are unreliable because their environments and technologies have a lot of variables which cannot be accounted for without much more work. With that said, I return to my earlier point, bias can be a very dangerous problem with human beings; and while everyone is biased in one way or another, allowing biased to become a wall to avoid alternative explanations cause people to not want to even discuss an issue with another person.
Next, it is important for critical thinkers to analyze data for value and content. As the class analyzed pop-psychics such as John Edwards, we were able to analyze his methods and consider that he may be a scam. While I cannot say one hundred percent that John Edwards is a fake, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and just examine his practices. A good assumption about John Edwards is that he has a vested interest in making money with his psychic ability. Throughout time, he has proven to his audience that he is either telling the truth or just very good at deception and lying. If he is telling the truth, he is no different then a doctor charging a high price for a checkup. However, if he is lying, than he is a complete scam whom is very interested in just making money off of other people's emotions (which tend to drive them to his meetings in the first place). Critical thinkers also recognize illegitimate appeals to emotions. From the psychic videos we watched in class, it was fascinating to see how those individuals whom were seeking help reacted. Seeing a woman break down in tears after hearing something that was exactly what had happened, was very amazing to say the least. However, I ask the question, do these psychics look to hit on people's emotions? Anyone could respond to a psychics readings, however when a person is so moved to be emotional and to express their emotions through tears, the psychic can definitely use that against the individual to make him or her believe in his gift!
Lastly, it is important for everyone to delay judgment until adequate data is available. It is very easy for people to come to a quick conclusion about extra sensory perception. Whether a person believes in it based on an experience with a psychic or some other form of paranormal activity, or if a person does not believe in it based on seeing other people's experiences as false experiences; all individuals need to consider the fact that science has not proven ESP to be true (or likewise proved it to be untrue). I wonder if the scientific community will ever come to a conclusion on it due to its touchy, subjective, and faith-based belief system. It seems like a long stretch for science to flat out say: ESP is wrong. Perhapps, there will be a day when science is able to prove how valid ESP claims are. Until that day comes, I do not feel anyone has sufficient evidence to make a real judgement about the existence (or non-existence) of extra sensory perception. Of course, it is important to acknowledge that the burden of proof lies in the hands of those individuals making extra ordinary claims. As scientist Carl Sagan once stated, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This quote resonates with me still today, as it has been years since I began reflecting on the nature of extra sensory perception.