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Give life after-death research more credit

By Kris McIlwaine
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 8, 1999

To the editor,

I must take issue with Alumnus Kirk Sibley's letter yesterday to the Wildcat, in which he disses Schwartz and Russek's research on a psychic's ability to communicate with the dead. Sibley makes no argument about the research design being flawed or any way in which these UA researchers have misinterpreted their data. No. He merely whines that he wishes more university funds could instead be spent for his pet little vocational degree program, MIS.

Since Sibley's degree is in business, we cannot expect him to understand something like science, the intellectual bases of which include a value placed on explanation.

Yes, Kirk, if you think what psychics do is bogus, then you've got some choices: use one of the most powerful tools humans have ever developed, the scientific method, to systematically analyze and evaluate the seemingly bogus phenomenon (which is what Schwartz and Russek are doing), or throw up your hands and say, "Hmmph! Psychics are nuts, and so are those who study them. Case closed!"

I don't know how things are done in the MIS program, but for those of us who do science, "case closed" is never good enough. Some of us at the UA use university resources to describe, analyze and explain what goes on in the world, and unusual phenomena are no exception. When we come across unusual phenomena that seems inconsistent with our theoretical frameworks, we don't just stop and go home. We propose new hypotheses about what might be going on, test these hypotheses against further data, and continue asking questions.

That is what Schwartz and Russek are doing, trying to get to the bottom of how psychics are able to accurately report on things they seemingly have no "normal" way of knowing about. Schwartz and Russek's method may actually get us some answers eventually, which is pretty exciting. Who knows what key aspects of the physical/non-physical interface we may have misunderstood? On the other hand, the know-nothingism of Sibley gets us what? More dollars of MIS so the UA can turn out yet another zombie manager-type who is a "specialist" on information but has no intellectual tools with which to make sense of the information or see how it relates to contexts that matter? Now that's a scary prospect. Happy Halloween, indeed.

Kris McIlwaine

Sociology graduate student

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