Parapsychology is described as "the scientific study of the evidence of mental awareness or influence of external objects without interaction from known physical means." The scientific validity of parapsychology research is often questioned, by layman and academics alike. Anecdotal evidence is frequent and wide raning across cultures, but scientific proof, and the difficulty of reproducing parapsychological phenomena in controlled conditions, leaves parapsychology still a fringe albeit important field of investigation.
Status of the field
The standing of the field of parapsychology has always been controversial within the scientific community.
As its name indicates, parapsychology is sometimes considered a sub-branch of psychology, and this has arisen historically since it involved the study of apparent mental faculties. In its modern form, parapsychology is an interdisciplinary field, which has attracted physicists, engineers, and biologists, as well as psychologists and those from other sciences. (For an argument that parapsychological phenomena may not in fact be psychological.
Parapsychology often involves the use of new and untested technologies and methods such as neurofeedback, neuro linguistic programming (NLP) past life regression and so on.
Many people are not satisfied with the term, and have proposed alternatives, such as "psi research" (similar to the older term "psychical research"), but "parapsychology" is the term that has gained the greatest acceptance today.
Despite many scientists viewing parapsychology as something of a waste of time and resources, many people in general recognise the possible usefulness of research into why things that apparently have no explanation in mainstream science, happen or are thought to happen by many people the world over. And it is often the case historically, that scientists change their views over time as to what forms of scientific enquiry are useful. It has only been a few hundred years since the idea that the world wasn't flat was met with massive resistance by the Scientific establishment and the Church alike!
Parapsychology primarily deals with people and experiences that people have which are not satisfactorily explained by normal phenomena, or scientific enquiry in other fields. Whereas previously, science has effectively interpreted people's anecdotes of strange experiences as either hallucination, fraud, mass hysteria or daydreaming, parapsychologists try to study people's strange experiences from a psychological perspective, looking for evidence and cause for these experiences both in the minds of the people concerned, and in the world around them and how we react to the world around us.
Through the study of parapsychiology we find that people's unexplainable experiences are very common, across cultures. And that there are frequent occasions where people offer evidence of strange experiences that are common in time and place, but with no knowledge of one another, and no opportunity to conspire to mislead the investigator.
The main critisism of parapsychology is often that the parapsychologist is under pressure to produce results which justify their field of enquiry which pre-disposes them to interpret evidence in a biased fashion. But perhaps over time, the field of parapsychology will improve in standing and evidence of spiritual matters such as psychic ability will become more widely accepted.