Before the no-call list, most people would say if the phone rang during dinner, it was someone trying to sell them something.

Some people seem to have an innate sense of who’s on the other end of the line when the phone rings. When they answer, the common greeting they use is “I was just thinking about you!”

According to recent research conducted by Rupert Sheldrake, an English biologist, telephone - and even e-mail - telepathy exists.

Sheldrake’s research was funded by Trinity College, Cambridge, and he conducted experiments he claims proves precognition exists for telephone calls and e-mails.

Heather Winn, local resident and educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, believes guilt may play a part in the proposed paranormal activity.

“I have experienced the phenomenon with the phone,” she said. “I feel like it happens more often when you ‘know’ you should have already called that person and haven’t. It’s not just coincidence.”

The British Association for the Advancement of Science decided earlier this month to allow presentations promoting paranormal views, and Sheldrake was asked to participate.

Sheldrake’s trials included 63 volunteers who were asked to give researchers names and phone numbers of four relatives or friends. Those selected were then called at random and told to ring the subject who had to identify the caller before answering the phone.

By pure chance, people should get the right friend 25 percent of the time, but Sheldrake found they actually did much better, with a success rate of 40 percent in 571 tries. Callers were often several miles away, sometimes thousands of miles away, and distance did not affect outcome.

In a follow-up trial, the participants were videotaped to ensure they were not getting messages from their callers. The four subjects tested did even better than the previous trial.

“The hit rate was 45 percent, well above the 25 percent you would have expected,” Sheldrake told the British Association for the Advancement of Science. “The odds of this being a chance effect are 1,000 billion to one.”

The study was presented to the BAAS without challenge from the mainstream. The decision created a divide among members of the science forum, and two past presidents of the organization, including Lord Robert Winston, a fertility expert, and Sir Walter Bodmer, a geneticist and cancer researcher, have decried the decision to allow paranormal research to be presented.

In an interview with the Times online Bodmer said ideas, including those considered on the fringe, shouldn’t be suppressed, but it was in appropriate to have a session such as Sheldrake’s without having a more convincing view.

Other scientists said that, while discussion of the paranormal was acceptable, the panel’s lack of balance was “like inviting creationists to address the prestigious meeting without an opposing view from evolutionary biologists.” Several members said they would raise the matter with the body’s ruling council.

Dr. Sharon Winn, English professor at Northeastern State University, believes small sampling has become the norm.

“Minute samples seem to be acceptable today,” she said. “Many conclusions are reached with samples even smaller than this one [Sheldrake’s].”

The problem, according to Winn, is that the general public trusts anything that uses numbers.

“People will believe anything if one provides statistics, even though the statistics are spurious,” she said. “I think it was Mark Twain who said there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics.’”

Winn has her own scientific measurement for gauging statistical information.

“I don’t believe any statistical report until I pass it through my BS meter,” she said. “Though I’m very interested in the psychic, I suspect these statistics are really a product of the design of the experiment, though, who knows? Maybe we all really do have telepathy.”

Sheldrake’s other research work includes studies that claim to show blindfolded people can tell when they are being stared at, and that pets can communicate telepathically with their owners.


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