Customer Reviews: Best Evidence: An Investigative Reporter's Three-Year Quest to Uncover the Best Scientific Evidence for ESP, Psychokinesis, Mental Healing, Ghosts and Poltergeists, Dowsing, Mediums, Near Death Experiences, Reincarnation, and Other Impossible Phenomena That Refuse to Disappear (2nd Edition)
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If you want a book that has details and specific studies and bunches and bunches of references on Psi phenomena, this is it.
MICHAEL SCHMICKER gives the casual skeptic and the believer all the details and information anyone could want on a multitude of topics. From the table of contents this is what is covered:
Part I: PSIentific Facts
Chapter 1: Nobody Really Believes This Stuff, Right?
Chapter 2: Yeah, But I Bet They're All Wierdos and Nut Cases
Chapter 3: OK, But Do Any Scientists take This Stuff Seriously?
Chapter 4: But Science Says...
Chapter 5: The Times They Are A-Changing
Part II: Best Evidence
Chapter 6: Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP)
Chapter 7: Psychokinesis (PK)
Chapter 8: Dowsing
Chapter 9: The Mind-Body Connection: Mental And Faith Healing
Chapter 10: Death Bed Visions
Chapter 11: Near Death and Out-Of-Body Experiences
Chapter 12: Ghosts and Poltergeists
Chapter 13: Mediums and Channelers
Chapter 14: Reincarnation
Chapter 15: The Future of Science
FIRST HE GIVES US INFO ON ALL THE BELIEVERS OUT THERE. This list is sprinkled with many of the top scientists and world renown people of the last 2 centuries. So much for being a minority of odd balls.
THEN HE GIVES US NUTS AND BOLTS FACTS ON STUDIES DONE ON EACH TYPE OF PHENOMENA. Here is a fact-finders dream. This book references hundreds of sources of information on this phenomena. From the fringes to highly regarded institutions. When you read this, you will be astounded at the level of information provided. You could spend a lifetime reviewing all the references here. This book is a keeper once read for just this alone.
IF YOU ARE OF THE SCIENTIFIC MIND, this book gives you enough information to launch your own investigation into these recorded documentations of this phenomena. Let's face it, if we can use statistics to prove quality levels, prove scientific theorems we can also use it in Psi phenomena. This books points you to studies where scientists did just that. Excellent book. I'm going to dog-ear it for the references for sure.
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on June 9, 2001
Many of the people who call themselves skeptics are really cynics. Author Michael Schmicker calls them "debunkers" and says that the book is not for them. "Such self-appointed guardians of scientific truth share many of the traits of religious fanatics," Schmicker writes, pointing out that they are afflicted with a sincerity poisoned by an unshakeable belief in an immutable orthodoxy along with extreme zealousness in the hot pursuit and punishment of deviant thought and behavior as well as an atrophied sense of humor. This book is not for the cynic but for the true skeptic, someone with an open mind who is interested in examining phenomena that goes beyond the limits of science.
Schmicker examines the best scientific evidence, including the pioneering works of well-known researchers such as Sir William Crookes, who is credited with discovering the element thalium, Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. J. B. Rhine, Dr. Karl Osis, and many others.
If I were teaching an introductory course in the paranormal to college-level students, this would be the prescribed text. It touches all bases in the paranormal field, truly offering the "best evidence" in each subject matter.
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VINE VOICEon August 4, 2001
This is an interesting and well-written book and well worth reading for the "best evidence" it offers. It is certainly not just a credulous account, it does a very credible job of bringing some fascinating phenomena into the light. But I had to lower my rating a bit because I also found it very weak in its reasoning, conclusions, and scholarship, in its seemingly implied rhetorical purpose of putting the best evidence into rational or even scientific perspective.
The author seriously researched the evidence, and once he concluded that there was reasonable evidence for *something real* behind of the more seemingly unlikely phenomena, he seems to have made up his mind that the believers were right and the skeptics were simply being unreasonable. Clearly, this natural and very human leap of faith does not itself make this a balanced treatment, the author simply takes the side of the underdog, the psychic believer, and becomes a rational advocate in their behalf.
This is a reasonable thing to do, but the tone of the book misleads the reader into thinking this is a balanced treatment, or even a scientific one.
It is a very fair book in the sense that he considers the best evidence for things that seem impossible without rejecting them out of hand, which is laudable. But in doing so, he missed most of the important technical issues raised about each of the points of evidence. It isn't any more "open-minded" to reject skeptical explanations and interpretations out of hand than to reject credulous ones. The author takes a balanced tone, but does not produce a balanced treatment, indeed he sometimes bends over backwards to avoid seriously confronting the implications of the evidence he competently and clearly reviews. Some of the explanations just don't work. To his credit, he does point this out in places, but it doesn't make as strong an impression as the inference that the various "impossible" phenomena are actually real. The subtlety is lost on the reader.
In particular, the author does a very credible job presenting the _evidence_ for anomalous phenomena. I will agree with the other reviewers that far. But where he fails is that his scholarship is virtually non-existent. This may at first blush sound picky, but the reason this is an important criticism to the authors conclusions is that he takes almost no notice at all of the contextual factors in building theories for understanding the evidence. The intellectual history of the theories is missing. The evidence supposedly stands on its own, a very naive view of how science works.
In other words, his contribution here is to give us good evidence of something that really isn't all that hard to believe, that people have experienced and reported some seemingly inexplicable things. He is right that people who reject such reports out of hand simply out of surface implausibility would be cynics rather than reasoned skeptics. But he misses the nut ... because he doesn't review the whole issue of why one explanation is better than another. He often makes an intuitive but unscientific leap from something like "there is no way I can explain this experience" to "it must be a ghost !".
Evidence without context leaves us to simply apply arbitrarily selected theories, which is the greatest sin of weak parapsychology research. Good evidence of anomalies of information and energy transfer is not neccessarily also evidence for ghosts, reincarnation, or other elaborate supernatural beliefs. That's where the missing scholarship would have strengthened this book's message tremendously, and helped the author be more fair to the "debunkers" he glibly dismisses.
Logically, the fact that information or energy can be transmitted in some way that is not explained by one model obviously doesn't automatically mean that a spiritualist or supernatural model of similar anomalies is true.
One principle missed by the author provides an example. Information acquired in one sense at one time in one way can and is easily transformed by the brain into a completely different sense and a completely different form, at another time, which is amazing but not supernatural. People may detect illness in others by smell for example, and translate it to an "aura." Finding the diagnosis to be accurate wouldn't mean that the aura reading should be taken at face value as an electromagnetic reading of the spritual body.
Another similar case. The author sometimes talks about "mind" influencing "body," a scientific anachronism (since we now have evidence that is not reasonable disputable in neuroscience that the body embodies the mind). The phenomena of "mind over body," as remarkable as they can be, are more accurately considered phenomena of the body influencing itself in ways previously not known or not understood. Viewing them as influence of a non-corporeal spirit on a corporeal body is almost certainly archaic, and certainly unscientific. But the best evidence ?? The author does a very good job with the evidence, but misses the boat in the modes of explanation for that evidence, a subtle but crucial point for eventual understanding of the real phenomena behind the reported experiences.
I suppose I would give this book 4 stars if I weren't so disappointed by the missed opportunity here to do a really first rate job presenting the case for experimental parapsychology, which I think is often a worthwhile pursuit. But because of the lack of cultural or scientific context for the ideas, I have to give it 3, for a very good discussion of reports of anomalies but a failure to make anything of them. If we take this best evidence seriously , there are either more things in our natural world than we currently understand, or that there really is a supernatural world beyond our own. But we still have no idea even how to tell the one possibility from the other, other than making a metaphysical assumption. The author did the job of a good journalist, but not the job of a writer of exceptional books.
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on May 25, 2001
Do you have an open mind -- and are you ready to explore one of the most interesting collections of scientific evidence for paranormal phenomena ever assembled between the covers of a book?
If so, you're in luck! Michael Schmicker's book BEST EVIDENCE presents a comprehensive overview of a wide range of "psi" phenomena including: extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis (PK), dowsing, mental and faith healing, death bed visions, near death experience, out of body experiences, ghosts and poltergeists, mediums and channelers, and reincarnation.
What makes BEST EVIDENCE such a gem is that it not only clearly describes each kind of psi phenomena along with the facts supporting its existence and references to the original studies and sources, but it also includes some intriguing insights about why people sometimes avoid investigating the evidence surrounding paranormal phenomena. For example, Schmicker cites the work of researchers like Kenneth Batcheldor, who has identified two blocks to PK production (ownership resistance and witness inhibition). I find it just as interesting to examine the reasons why people find the subject of the paranormal disquieting as it is to see such a thorough review of the evidence showing how psi is a real phenomena which simply won't go away.
If you've ever wanted to tell your friends, colleagues and family that there is an ever-increasing body of scientific evidence proving that the paranormal is part of everyday life, this is the book for you!
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on March 26, 2001
Michael Schmicker has produced an excellent book for all interested in the study of psi phenomena. Not only does he provide interesting descriptions of evidence supporting these events, he lists the reference that may be used to obtain more veridical data.
The first section addresses important issues about belief systems as they relate to phenomena. You may be surprised at the famous scientists who have explored these areas. You may also be surprised at pronouncements made by other scientists deriding advances only to be proven wrong. After all, Lord Kelvin thought X-rays were a hoax. My favorite quote attributed to a chief skeptic was "An open mind is an empty mind."
I recommend this to all who are wondering if there is a scientific data to support unusual claims. Actually, there's a lot more than you might think and this book will give it to you.
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on April 22, 2001
Being left brained and somewhat a skeptic on the subjects of the book, I found the presentation of facts and documentation eye-opening and gripping. Many have experienced the "unexplained" and cast them aside as random events of no consequence. Michael Schmicker has given in "Best Evidence" a framework to consider other possibilities. As the book was read, I began to ponder, how many unusual events would be talked about if it was acceptable to believe the possibilities for other interpretations. A highly recommended read!
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on July 25, 2015
Well, I'm pretty much a believer so I didn't need to read all of the studies. The author warns that the book is more for people on the fence but I went ahead anyway. It concentrates a lot on ESP and other paranormal that are easier to test scientifically. I was more interested in seeing evidence of things that can't be tested in a laboratory, such as ghosts. As the author says, if you're a believer, you don't need to see the evidence. I'm not sure the unbeliever, especially the angry ones who only see fraud all around, will be convinced even with the positive lab results. But I appreciate the hard work the author has done to compile and document the results of scientific studies. It is well written and comprehensive and I hope will convince a few more people that there is more to being human than existing a few years and then disappearing forever.
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on March 28, 2001
In Best Evidence, Michael Schmicker presents a wealth of research on ESP, Dowsing, Remote Viewing, Distance Healing, and many other phenomena which are often termed "psychic powers."
Michael, having exhaustively researched these fields, presents the "best evidence" for each and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. However, after reading study after study (most of which are clearly documented), the average reader will have a difficult time remaining skeptical.
A favorite line of mine: "Even more spectacular -- though less important from a scientific proof standpoint because it was only accomplished once -- was [Duke University divinity school student and ESP laboratory subject] Pearce succeeding on one ocassion in getting 25 straight hits [correct card guesses] in a row. The odds against such a feat? One in 300 quadrillion."
Not a number we see very often.
Michael's book is excellent -- well-written, thoroughly researched, and open-minded. Highly recommended.
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on April 3, 2001
"Best Evidence" is the best compilation of psychic research to date. The author has done a commendable job of sifting through the mountains of pathological or fraudulent claims and flaky New Age fodder that exists in this field to pick out the gems of research that has been conducted at some of the most respected institutions in the nation, as well as by the U.S. Govn't in its Stargate program. Psychic phenomenon have been with us, in the forms that the author studies, in all cultures and throughout all phases of recorded and pre-recorded history. Hopefully, this book will spark a new interest in serious debate and study on these phenomena the author states in his subtitle "that refuse to disappear".
The reader will want to refer to this book again and again. Its main drawback is that it lacks an index for a quick cross-reference.
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on February 22, 2001
In Best Evidence, Michael Schmicker puts the normal in paranormal. I avoid books that debunk these subjects, and also books that hype them. Best Evidence, however, is a highly informative, highly readable treatment. The book is well researched and well organized, a fascinating study of paranormal events.
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