[ExI] Psi and gullibility

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Wed Jan 27 05:43:39 UTC 2010

On 1/26/2010 6:43 PM, Max More wrote:

>> > Damien suppose just for the sake of argument, that psi did not exist,
>> > don't you think that many and perhaps most members of the human race
>> > would nevertheless think that it did?

> My first reaction to this question was: "Yes, of course." Then -- me
> being an old and renewed major comic book enthusiastic -- it occurred to
> me that you could just as well ask: "Suppose that super-powers did not
> exist. (No one actually has super-strength, speed, intellect, agility,
> immortality, flight, invisibility, the ability to grow or shrink, etc.
> etc.) Don't you think that most members of the human race would
> nevertheless think that it did?

Max finally said "No" but I think it's clear that the answer is 
"Yes"--not in the sense that people think *they* have such powers, but 
all the litanies of defunct and active gods, demons, saints, angels, etc 
attest to this sort of belief. I suppose it's partly our infant memories 
of those supernatural humans, our parents, who were vastly stronger, 
smarter, knew the naughtiness of our secret thoughts, etc, and whom we 
wanted to please and have them love us; and partly the avid human 
response to superstimuli, even if we have to devise them in imagination.

I think the key merit of John Clark's question is that it highlights why 
most people who pride ourselves on rationality despise the idea of psi, 
rather than remaining openminded and exploratory about it: mad humans 
seem to make it a special feature of their delusions. They project their 
intentions upon the neutral activities of others, they are threatened or 
excited by "ideas of reference", they feel others putting scary thoughts 
into their heads, etc. I regard it as possible that psi actually is 
responsible for a quite small proportion of this, but mostly I assume 
it's a brain pathology that is often abolished by antipsychotic drugs 
(as Stathis tell us). But since real psi appears to operate at a low 
level for most of us, and gets mixed up with wishful thinking, 
paradeilia, imagination, etc, it's very easy to suppose that those who 
make strong claims for it are in the same camp as the crazies. (And some 
of them, admittedly, do seem to be. Then again, the same sort of 
accusation is made by all those reasonable people against 
transhumanists, singularitarians, cryonicists, CR dieters, etc etc.)

Damien Broderick

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list