Chris French, Ph.D.
Chris French is the editor of Skeptic magazine, a publication of British and Irish Skeptics, produced and distributed by CSICOP. He often appears on British radio and TV in the role of an “informed skeptic”.
French is head of the Psychology Department of Goldsmith’s College in the University of London, where he is also head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit. The purpose of this unit is primarily to investigate “why people believe in the paranormal” and it has “only a secondary interest in whether psi may, on rare occasions, naturally operate.”
French is under no illusions as to the prejudices of many of his colleagues. “Most psychologists could reasonably be described as uninformed skeptics – a minority could reasonably be described as prejudiced bigots – where the paranormal is concerned” (Skeptic 14(1)). He is also more self-aware than most skeptics about his own prejudices. As he wrote in Skeptic (14(4)): “I am biased in my approach to evidence relating to the paranormal … I make no claim to be a neutral assessor of the evidence”.
He takes the view that the on-going debate about the existence of psi “is more consistent with the notion that psi is a powerful illusion rather than the idea that it is real and we are making progress in understanding it”. Nevertheless, he concedes that: “Many of the most sophisticated experimental designs within parapsychology are easily on a par with the best psychological studies. Furthermore, some parapsychologists appear to produce evidence in support of the existences of paranormal forces even from such apparently well-controlled experiments.” In the end, he concludes, “only time will tell”.
Photo credit: Psychology Today