What Is Mental Telepathy?
Telepathy is defined as "communication through means
other than the senses," so add the "mental," and
you have the concept of minds directly sending and receiving
information without the senses. This might be by using something
like radio waves, "thought waves," or whatever the
various theories claim.
A True Story
When we were children, my mother and father left one day,
to visit relatives in another city an hour or two away. They
went to play bingo at a church. My brother Andy, meanwhile, was
thrown to the ground by a bully, and his collar bone was broken.
Around that same moment, my mother stood up in the middle of
the game, and announced to my father, "Andy has been hurt!"
They immediately left and stared driving home.
Mental telepathy? It certainly seemed like it at the time,
but is there another explanation? Possibly, but more on that
in a moment.
Evidence for Telepathy
If we review the evidence for mental telepathy, it should
take about a minute, because there isn't much evidence. However,
if we review what passes as evidence, we find a common pattern.
The tests that "prove" this phenomenon are usually
done in some way that is very flawed.
Some "researchers" in ESP (extrasensory perception)
and related areas have less of an interest in finding the truth
than in proving that these things are real (in my opinion). This
affects their experiments. Often it isn't a matter of dishonest
intentions, but due to unconscious factors. The most common procedural
error made in this type of research is that of "selecting"
If you guess what suit a playing card is, you would - by the
odds - be right about 25% of the time, because there are 4 suits
to choose from. Suppose a "sender" concentrates on
the card while you guess. Suppose you try this in 10 trials of
20 cards each, and repeat this with 30 subjects, for a total
of 300 trials. Even without telepathy, test subjects will do
better than the odds dictate in some trials, and worse in others,
This is entirely normal. For example, a coin flipped many
times doesn't alternate systematically between heads and tails,
but flip it enough times, and it will average about 50% heads
and 50% tails. At least it will if you tally all the flips.
On the other hand, if you concentrate your mental powers on heads,
and then don't count 100 of the flips that came up tails, and
you have a test that "proves" you can affect the coin
using the power of your mind alone.
Would real scientists (or those that claim to be) do this?
Sometimes perhaps, but it's usually more subtle. Consider those
card experiments. If a researcher believes strongly in mental
telepathy, he might unconsciously find reasons to exclude non-confirming
trials (the subject wasn't ready, the "sender" wasn't
concentrating). Count trials with the results you want, and leave
out "bad" trials, and you make it look like the subjects
are indeed psychic.
Explaining Telepathy - Or Not
Getting back to the story with my mother, here's a scenario:
She knew Andy was having trouble with this bully. Earlier in
the day she was nearby when Andy mentioned he was worried, because
he had to deliver newspapers near the house where this bully
lived. She wasn't listening, but the words registered subconsciously.
Once finally relaxing at the bingo game, her mind processed the
information, and she suddenly "sensed" that her son
was in danger. We can call this mother's intuition - but this
wouldn't be mental telepathy, right?
Is that what happened? No, it is an explanation I just invented
as a possibility. A rational approach is to leave questions open
if there is no good evidence one way or the other. We might hypothesize,
and test those hypothesis, but it makes no sense to accept an
answer before there is good evidence.
That being said, if I could consistently "predict"
what was going on in other places, or other minds, I would use
such a skill. But I've seen little evidence of anyone doing this
consistently, and as far as how they might work if such skills
did exist, it is more useful to leave things unexplained than
to invent causes which we want to be true. Maybe we'll never
have a good explanation of what is called telepathy, but that's
better than having a false understanding.