This is my second interview with philosopher and writer Chris Carter. In this interview, Carter comments about the so-called Super-ESP or Super-Psi hypothesis, which is one of the main competing hypotheses of the survival hypothesis. I thank Chris for accepting again the interview. Enjoy.
Scientific theories are not speculation about particular facts; they are tentative explanations about how certain facts fit together. When Isaac Newton proposed that a planet and the sun are attracted by a gravitational force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them, he proposed a relation between masses and distances—a relation that of course became celebrated as the Newtonian theory of gravity.
3-Related with the previous question, some philosophical critics of the survival hypothesis argue that good scientific hypotheses must have predictive power in order to have explanatory force. They argue that the survival hypothesis is not scientific in this sense. In your opinion, has the survival hypothesis specific and novel predictive power? If not, in what does its explanatory force consist and in which sense it is a scientific hypothesis? If so, which specific bits of observational data follow deductively (or even probabilistically) from the hypothesis of survival?
4-Related to the previous question, some critics have also posed a more specific open challenge to scientific survivalists: If the survival hypothesis has testable, predictive consequences (as some survivalists think), could you just mention three (3) fairly specific, non-trivial, novel deductive consequences of the survival hypothesis (that match fine-grained descriptions of the empirical data), where these consequences are not also deductive entailments of any known rival explanatory competitor (e.g. super-PSI)?
5-Philosophers of science discuss the problems related with the explanatory virtues vs epistemic values when choosing among competing explanations for a given set of data. For example, sometimes two competing hypotheses have the same explanatory power, but they differ in others aspects like simplicity, internal and external coherence, systematicity, conceptual cost and so forth which favours one hypothesis over the other. In this sense, philosophical critics have posed another challenge to scientific survivalism: Can you explain how you arrive at judgments concerning the evidential probability of survival based on attributions of the alleged explanatory power of the survival hypothesis and/or the failure of competing hypotheses to deliver the explanatory goods?
6-The critics also say that scientific survivalists have never presented a positive argument for survival of consciousness. All of what they do (so argue the critics) is to mask the massive difficulty of presenting such positive case appealing to two questionable strategies: a) to present a bunch of apparently anomalous data, and b) to label traditional criticisms against the competing explanatory competitors which allegedly fail to account for the data. What do you think of this criticism? Is it possible to provide a positive argument for survival of consciousness which is not limited to the above two strategies alone?
7-In your book, you argue that one major objection to the super-PSI hypothesis as an explanation of the best cases suggestive of survival is that the evidence for the existence of PSI of the required power and range to explain the best cases is practically non-existent (so, the burden of proof is on the advocates of super-ESP to provide such evidence). However, some recent defenders of the super-PSI hypothesis have challenged that objection and have argued that the examples of super-PSI (that is, of forms of PSI of the required extraordinary power and range) are precisely the cases suggestive of survival. According to these critics, the super-PSI hypothesis is precisely and fundamentally the exclusive appeal to efﬁcacious living agent psi to explain ostensible evidences for survival. What do you think of this reply by the defenders of the super-PSI hypothesis?
12-Another reply by super-PSI advocates against the above objection is that survivalists assumes a fairly rigid border on the set of paradigmatic cases of psi. Suppose we're facing data that would require deviating from what we know about psi, if we were to explain them in terms of psi. From this viewpoint, one can look at cases that deviate in one of two ways, either as being an entirely different sort of phenomenon (as the survivalist maintains) or as being an instance that demands expanding the scope of paradigmatic cases of living agent psi (as super-PSI defenders mantain). In this case, it's a lot harder to decide on this matter than the survivalist do, and they seem to be largely unconscious of the problem here.
13- The information provided by mediums is in many instances contradictory about basic and key aspects of the afterlife or the spiritual world. For example, some mediums have provided information supportive of reincarnation, but many others have denied it or been skeptical about it. So, a contemporary medium like August Goforht, in a interview in Skeptiko commented "I have a huge library of books written by mediums and spiritualists that go back almost a couple hundred years. I noticed not a single one mentioned reincarnation". If reincarnation is a fact and mediums are largely reliable about the conditions of the spiritual world, one would expect a wider agreement about the reality of reincarnation coming from legitimate mediums and reliable afterlife communications. What do you think of the reliability of spiritualism in general and how do you explain the apparent disagreement about reincarnation?"
No, not really. I put those three words “gods in training” in italics for a reason. If some people find the expression blasphemous, then we can easily substitute expressions such as “highly advanced beings.” Some argue that we are all on a long journey to eventually become what men once called gods.
15-Would you like to add something else to end the interview?