Although there has been over a century of formal empirical inquiry, parapsychologists have clearly failed to produce a single reliable demonstration of “paranormal,” or “psi,” phenomena. Although many parapsychological research projects have been carried out under what have been described as well-controlled conditions, this does not by itself make a science, for unless and until it can be demonstrated that paranormal phenomena really exist, there is no subject matter around which a science can develop. Indeed, parapsychologists have not even succeeded in developing a reasonable definition of paranormal phenomena that does not involve, or imply, some aspect of mind-body dualism. Moreover, parapsychology has developed several principles (such as the experimenter effect) which can be used to explain away failures, and the use of these principles contributes to making the psi-hypothesis unfalsifiable.
The “anything goes” attitude in parapsychology, which seems to lend credence to virtually any “paranormal” claim, serves to weaken the credibility of parapsychological endeavors in the eyes of critics. This general willingness to suspend doubt is another indication that parapsychology is more than the quest to explain anomalous experiences, as is claimed. It is argued in this paper that parapsychological inquiry reflects the attempt to establish the reality of a nonmaterial aspect of human existence, rather than a search for explanations for anomalous phenomena.