Michael Persinger

Chris Rutkowski rutkows at ccu.umanitoba.ca
Fri Sep 24 10:22:37 EST 1993

In <199309231954.AA13479 at kepler.unh.edu> dmn at kepler.unh.edu (There's a seeker born every minute.) writes:
>    A few years back, I read an article in _Omni_ (yes, I know, the 
>national inquirer of science...) about Michael A. Persinger, a neuroscientist
>from Canada (Univ. of the Laurentians?). Persinger claims that he
>can induce mystical or quasi-mystical states in patients via magnetic 
>stimulation of their temporal lobes. He believes mystical experiences are
>caused by micro-seizures in the brain. A book of his detailing this theory
>is _Neuropsychological (or physiological) Bases of God Beliefs_. 
>    Have any neurologists or psychologists heard of this man? Is he a 
>reputable neurologist? A quack? Is he ever referenced by others in the
>field? Does anyone know if he's still researching this sort of thing?  
>Any recent (1992 - present) articles by or about him in the journals?

Not Persinger again!

Yes, he is still researching, if you can call it that.  Persinger is
convinced that UFOs, ghosts, paranormal experiences, religious
hysteria, mysticism and most other borderline phenomena can be linked
to the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the temporal lobe.  

Unfortunately, while he produces very nice correlations and p-values,
his methodology seems somewhat flawed.  In one study, he used a listing
of UFO cases to show a connection to earthquakes more than 500 km away
from the sighting locations.  When it was pointed out that most of the
UFO reports were merely airplanes and stars, he brushed the criticism
aside by saying that the 95% IFO "noise" wouldn't obscure the "real"

Persinger has published over 100 articles in generally scientific
journals, but has been largely ignored by his colleagues because of his
maverick studies which encompass geophysics, neurophysiology and
psychic phenomena.

Basically, he has an interesting theory, but it is not rigourously
supported by other studies.  It SOUNDS like good science, but something
went awry somewhere.  His original doctoral advisor thinks he is
reading far too much into his data these days, too.

When Persinger's research was brought up in this newsgroup a year or
two ago, I was asked to post a list of published criticisms of his
theory.  He never seems to mention any of these anymore.  Here's a
report of the list:


My published criticisms of the TST:

Geophysical Variables and Human Behavior: XVI. Some Criticisms.
PERCEPTUAL AND MOTOR SKILLS, 58, 1984, pp. 840-842.

Geophysical Variables and Behavior: XXXIV. Further Comments.

Earthlights, earthquakes, UFOs and the TST; or, Who is Micahel
Persinger and Why is He Saying Those Things About Me?
INTERNATIONAL UFO REPORTER, 11 (1), 1986, pp. 4-8.

Explaining Everything with the TST: A Response to Paul Devereux.
INTERNATIONAL UFO REPORTER, 11 (6), 1986, p. 22.

UFOs as Natural Phenomena.
In: Evans, H. & Spencer, J., eds.  UFOS 1947-1987: THE 40-YEAR SEARCH
FOR AN EXPLANATION.  London: Fortean Tomes, 1987.  pp. 273-279.

Geophysical Alternatives.
In: Spencer, J. & Evans, H., eds.  PHENOMENON.  London: Futura, 1988.
pp. 301-307.

UFOs and Cancer?  
[with del Bigio, Marc]
CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION JOURNAL, 140, June 1, 1989, pp. 1258-1259.

Radiative Processes and the Generation of UFO Experiences.
INTERNATIONAL UFO REPORTER, 14 (5), 1989, pp. 9-11, 23.

Critical Comments About Earth Lights and the TST.
JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES (n.s.), 2, 1990, pp. 144-146.

The TST: Down for the Count.
JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES (n.s.), 2, 1990, pp. 166-168.


Other Critical Works

Mauge, C.  "Persinger's Tectonic Strain Theory: Strengths and
Weaknesses". MAGONIA, no. 24, November 1986, pp. 13-18.

Campbell, S. "Lights of Fancy". PROBE REPORT, 3 (4), April, 1983.

Campbell, S. "UFO Data [letter]". NEW SCIENTIST, September 15, 1983, p.

Campbell, S. "UFOS and Faults [letter]". NEW SCIENTIST, October 20,
1983, p. 217.


Another book by Persinger, TM and CULT ANALYSIS, was very unfavourably
reviewed in CONTEMPORARY PSYCHOLOGY, 26 (5), 1981, being called
"appaling", "pseudoscientific" and "misleading".  The title of the
review was "Fundamentals of Nonobjective Analysis"!


Chris Rutkowski - rutkows at ccu.umanitoba.ca
University of Manitoba - Winnipeg, Canada

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