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 Theories of Telepathy and Afterlife Cause Uproar at Top Science Forum

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PostSubject: Theories of Telepathy and Afterlife Cause Uproar at Top Science Forum   Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:13 am

Scientists claiming to have evidence of life after death and the powers of telepathy triggered a furious row at Britain's premier science festival yesterday.

Organisers of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (the BA) were accused of lending credibility to maverick theories on the paranormal by allowing the highly controversial research to be aired unchallenged.

Leading members of the science establishment criticised the BA's decision to showcase papers purporting to demonstrate telepathy and the survival of human consciousness after someone dies. They said that such ideas, which are widely rejected by experts, had no place in the festival without challenge from sceptics.

The disputed session featured research from Rupert Sheldrake, an independent biologist who is funded by Trinity College, Cambridge, that claims to have found evidence that some people know telepathically who is calling them before they answer the telephone.

Other presentations came from Peter Fenwick, a doctor who thinks deathbed visions suggest that consciousness survives when people die, and from Deborah Delanoy of the University of Hertfordshire, whose work suggests that people can affect the bodies of others by thinking about them.

Critics including Lord Winston and Sir Walter Bodmer, both former presidents of the BA, expressed particular alarm that the three speakers were allowed to hold a promotional press conference. Some said telepathy has already been found wanting in experiments, and had no place at a scientific meeting.

"Work in this field is a complete waste of time," said Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. "Although it is politically incorrect to dismiss ideas out of hand, in this case there is absolutely no reason to suppose that telepathy is anything more than a charlatan's fantasy."

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