Book Review: Parapsychology and the Skeptics: A Scientific Argument for the Existence of ESP Page: 59

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disallows such precise dating, but this and other sweeping statements
he made, such as "The culmination of this revolution was surely the
publication of Newton's Principia in 1687" (p. 5), show a regrettable
lack of familiarity with recent and fine-grained scholarship of
European science from the late Renaissance to the Enlightenment.
For some decades now, scholars have doubted that a finite Scientific
Revolution as such ever took place (e.g., Dear, 2001; Lindberg &
Westman, 1990; Shapin, 1996). For many more decades, history of
science scholars have also moved beyond hagiographical treatises on
"great men" and "great books" and instead focused their attention on
the complexities of discovery, science practice, and the scientific life.
For example, historians have examined the disjuncture between
laboratory notebooks and equipment capacities and the myths that
have grown up around individual scientists and their discoveries (e.g.,
Shapin & Schaffer, 1989) as well as the complex relationship of
scientists' personal interests and their contributions to "modern"
science (e.g., Dobbs, 2002).
Something hagiographical is visible in Carter's brief person-
centered depiction of the early history of psychical research and
parapsychology. Further, the author misidentified the cast of
characters who made up what Gauld (1968) has called the "Engine
Room" of the Society for Psychical Research. Although the philosopher
Henry Sidgwick was mentioned as one of the luminaries involved in
the founding of the organization, he was displaced from his position as
both a key member of the early core group and the husband of Eleanor
Balfour. Carter married Mrs. Sidgwick off instead to Australian
parapsychologist Richard Hodgson who, although active in the early
SPR, was known more for his key role in the rejuvenation of the
American Society for Psychical Research some decades later (and who
never married). Although the author emphasized the contribution of
the Balfour family as a whole-a good point that is not made often
enough-he missed two of its most important members: the Cam-
bridge physicist John Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) and his wife, Evelyn
Balfour (Lady Rayleigh). Both Eleanor and Evelyn Balfour served as
assistants to Strutt, and both were self-educated to a very high degree,
Eleanor being especially proficient in science and mathematics. It was
through their interest in formal higher education for women that they
met Henry Sidgwick, an ardent campaigner in the 1870s for the
founding of a college at Cambridge to which women might be admitted
(e.g., Schultz, 2004; Sidgwick, 1938).


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Zingrone, Nancy L. Book Review: Parapsychology and the Skeptics: A Scientific Argument for the Existence of ESP, review, Autumn 2009; Durham, North Carolina. ( accessed July 25, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library,; .

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