UBC Theses and Dissertations
Uri Geller and the reception of parapsychology in the 1970s Green, Jacob Older
This paper investigates the controversy following the publication of work by scientists working at the Stanford Research Institute that claimed to show that the extraordinary mental powers of 1970s super psychic Uri Geller were real. The thesis argues that the controversy around Geller represented a shift in how skeptical scientists treated parapsychology. Instead of engaging with parapsychology and treating it as an incipient, if unpromising scientific discipline, which had been the norm since the pioneering work of J.B. Rhine in the 1930s, parapsychology's critics portrayed the discipline as a pseudoscience, little more than an attempt by credulous scientists to confirm their superstitious belief in occult psychic powers. The controversy around Geller also led to the creation of The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), one of the first skeptical organizations specializing in investigating supposed instances of paranormal phenomena. I argue that the shift in critics' attitudes and the creation of CSICOP were partially due to a fear among some scientists and their supporters that the scientific work on Geller would lend legitimacy to the "Occult Revival"—a term used to describe rising popular interest in the occult, astrology and psychic abilities in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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