Biography of Famous Paranormal and ESP Scientist J.B. Rhine Part 1

About the famous scientist J.B. Rhine who made study of parapsychology, ESP, telepathy and the paranomal respectable, biography and history of the man.

J. B. RHINE (1895- ).

Joseph Banks Rhine is given credit for making clairvoyance and telepathy respectable topics for scientific research, by virtue of his careful experiments in extrasensory perception (ESP) over a period of nearly half a century. Although only a few other psychologists agree that the existence of ESP has been proved, there is general acceptance now that the subject, to which Rhine gave the name "parapsychology," is deserving of scientific study.

Rhine was born in Pennsylvania, earned a Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago in 1925, did postdoctoral work at Harvard, and then began teaching psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. His interest in parapsychology was encouraged at Duke by the eminent psychologist William McDougall. Rhine announced his early results with ESP research in 1934, at which time he was given his own parapsychology laboratory. He was successful in attracting serious students as well as grants of funds for research. Contributors for ESP research have included the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Navy, among many others. After retiring from Duke University, Rhine established his own nonprofit organization, the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, whose activities include the Institute for Parapsychology as well as a publishing branch. Address of the foundation, which is supported by private donations, is Box 6846, College Station, Durham, N.C. 27708.

The methods, materials, and terminology adopted by Rhine became standard for the study of extrasensory perception (a name he bestowed on the subjects of clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition). For example, his standard deck of ESP cards consists of 25 cards in all, 5 cards with 5 different designs: a star, a circle, a square, a cross, and a set of wavy lines. He even recommended that the cards be shuffled in a certain way: at least 4 dovetail shuffles followed by a cut made with a knife or thumbnail. After the cards are mixed, the experimenter holds them while the "subject" calls--guesses, some would say--the design on each card (they are out of his sight, of course). If the person has the trait Rhine calls psi (pronounced like the name Sy), he will call more hits--that is, he will name the correct design more often--than could be expected if only sheer guesswork were involved.

The card-calling experiments are Rhine's best-known work, but he also initiated research in psychokinesis (PK), which is the ability to influence the motion of physical objects by using the force of thought or will power. Rhine's experiments in psychokinesis usually involved throwing dice while "willing" certain numbers to appear--an activity often pursued in non-scientific circles. His results persuaded him that certain persons possessed a certain amount of psychic ability at certain times. Adults, children, and even animals showed psi, but their ability to repeat high-scoring runs while being observed by outsiders has been lacking.

Rhine's work has not escaped ridicule by persons who associate ESP with magic and fortune-telling, although the quality of his procedures convinced most others of his personal integrity as a scientist. Rather than admit that ESP could conceivably exist, resolute critics claim that trickery and unintentional giveaway clues will explain how some individuals made such astonishing scores that even the laws of chance could not account for the results. Unfortunately for those who wish to prove that ESP exists, the high-scoring performances continue to be very rare and unpredictable.

Rhine insists that high motivation and enthusiasm must be present in order for the psi ability to appear. He describes instances when persons whose spirit was at top level scored 25 "hits" on the unseen pack of 25 cards. As in other occult phenomena, the presence of nonbelievers during the experiment seems to reduce the likelihood of obtaining favorable results. Long and tiring sessions are also unlikely to reveal psi, whether the task is naming cards or controlling the roll of dice. Critics have said that the remarkable results Rhine obtained in the early years of his experiments were caused by excessive motivation on the part of his assistants. When better controls were used, fewer great psychic performances were reported. Both Rhine and his wife Louisa have written numerous books and articles on extrasensory perception and their work is accepted as fully legitimate psychological research, although Rhine has remarked that only this branch of psychology is asked to take elaborate measures to prevent fraud during experiments.

Since the presence of psi in a person (he is called a sensitive if he has it) is always measured, in Rhine's work, in relation to the laws of chance, the psi research compelled the nonbelievers to reflect upon how statistics are used to draw conclusions. Rhine is accused of mistaking the occasional rare chance event--which the laws of chance say will occur--for a psychical episode. His steadfast willingness to do so, however, made him the foremost authority on extrasensory perception. When public interest in telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis increased in a so-called "occult explosion" starting in the 1960s, Rhine's work showed what kind of evidence would be needed to prove that such phenomena exist.

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