The term “parapsychology” and terms used to describe the experiences and phenomena it studies have caused great debate within the field.
In 2018, Dean Radin, then president of the Parapsychological Association (PA), penned an article in Mindfield (the PA's newsletter) titled, “Toward a New PA for the 21st Century,” in which he proposes a new name for the field. In 2021, a counterargument, written by Paul Smith, titled “What's in a Name? A Lot Actually,” was published in the Journal of Parapsychology (you can watch a video presentation here).
Motivated by these two papers and other recent personal correspondence about the future direction of the field, on March 5, 2022, Windbridge Institute researcher, Mark Boccuzzi, moderated an online table discussion for members of the Parapsychological Association (PA) to examine the pros and cons of rebranding the field vs. defending the current terminology.
Mark's clear preference is protecting parapsychology's name, language, and history.
At the end of his talk, he presents an action plan to help overcome the current stigma attached to the terminology, which includes: a self-reevaluation of the field, the development, and deployment of open-access, multidisciplinary educational programs, a rapid response system to counter poor journalism and inaccurate information, and creating a more diverse, public-facing presence.
As part of this plan, Mark proposes a discussion concerning the scope of topics studied by parapsychology is warranted. Parapsychology currently investigates psi (precognition, telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis) and topics relating to post-mortem survival (afterlife research). While the study of psi phenomena and experiences may be acceptable to some mainstream researchers, Mark proposes taking a lesson from J.B. Rhine and rehoming afterlife topics. Many aspects of afterlife research are, for many, often inseparable from culture and religion and may still be too controversial, thus hindering wider acceptance of the field.
In what turned out to be one of the more lively parts of the discussion, Mark argues that the PA is perfectly positioned to drive this effort because of its:
- Status as the professional organization for parapsychology
- Long history (established in 1957)
- Unquie makeup of professional academic members
- Active affiliation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)