Using Parapsychology to Test Physical Hypotheses
York H. Dobyns
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
A frequently invoked objection to parapsychological observations of presentiment or precognition is the alleged impossibility of causality violation. The strongest objection of this sort points out that if information can flow from the future to the past, it seems to be possible to set up a sequence of events that is inconsistent with itself, i.e., a “time paradox” in which one or more events happen if and only if they do not happen. In the 1990s groundbreaking work by Echeverria, Klinkhammer, and Thorne, analyzing ballistic trajectories in the presence of time-traversing wormholes, demonstrated that even granted the ability not merely to signal but to physically enter the past, it is not possible to create a self-contradictory sequence of events; one of several closely related but non-contradictory sequences will happen instead. Earlier work (2011) by the current author pointed to the experiments of Bem (also published 2011) as a possible direct test of the EKT mechanism for the avoidance of paradox in the presence of retrocausal information. A weakness of that analysis was that it addressed only one of Bem’s experimental genres (precognitive approach and avoidance). With the recent (2016) publication of a meta-analysis including 81 independent replications of Bem’s original nine experiments, it seems worthwhile to expand the previous work to include methods of making an EKT test with Bem’s other genres as well. The precognitive approach and avoidance experiment, as the name implies, involves precognition; it may be unconscious, but to be detected it must be manifested in the experiment as conscious choices of targets. Bem’s other experiments, on the other hand, use time-reversed versions of completely unconscious psychological processes (priming, habituation, and facilitation of recall). These remove the complication of the study participant’s conscious decisions from the analysis. A test of the EKT mechanism in a paradigm involving retrocausal information flow requires that the standard presentiment experiment be clandestinely interrupted, in a randomly-chosen subset of trials, by an attempted paradoxical setup in which accurate transmission of retrocausal information becomes self-contradictory. If the EKT mechanism is real, the signature of its operation will be a characteristic distortion of the experimental statistics. Reversed priming and reversed habituation experiments can both be modified to provide an experimental test of this prediction. While retroactive facilitation of recall can in principle be modified in a similar way, its structure necessarily limits the rate at which data points can be accumulated on the EKT hypothesis, to such an extent that collecting enough data for an EKT test would require an impractically large experiment. The ability to test a physical hypothesis of profound importance with a relatively simple parapsychological experiment would seem to provide an incentive for physicists to pursue or support such experiments.