Amazon reviews are not the best place in the world to discuss controversial science. Unfortunately, neither is this book. Having finally bought and read it, I couldn't let the otherwise glowing reviews remain without some kind of counter-balance.
Chris Carter is clearly an educated, intelligent man but he makes one big mistake in this book. He approaches the subject of parapsychology with the view that if he can prove the skeptics wrong then that will automatically prove the opposite viewpoint right. And this is the theme that runs throughout the book: What is the claim? What is the skeptics' argument against? What is the rebuttal to that argument? And then stop. He does not seem to take his research any further than that, and he very rarely offers any original research of his own. I cannot help but notice that the sections of the psi debate that he focuses on are the same ones that have been discussed in depth on the internet.
This means that this book misses out a lot of the controversy regarding psi, since most of the strongest criticisms about psi come from within parapsychology itself. For example, Chris writes about the Slade trial in which Henry Slade, a medium who used slate-writing to get messages from the dead, was prosecuted. Chris Carter shows how the prosecutor was unable to successfully explain how Henry Slade achieved his results. And this is true: reading the reports in the Times, the case against Slade does not seem strong. However, Carter does not mention that, barely ten years later, the Society of Psychical Research published work by a conjurer Davey who was able to replicate all the slate-writing feats that psychics could achieve, and the phenomena was greatly diminshed as a serious source of investigation.
His chapter on the ganzfeld is also poor. He simply repeats what other people have written about the debate, rather than going back to the source material, such that mistakes they made are present in Carter's work, too. For example, he criticises Milton and Wiseman's negative meta-analysis for using the wrong statistical measure, but does not mention that Charles Honorton used the same measure in his positive meta-analysis. Why didn't he know? Because the second-hand source he was using didn't tell him.
He writes that in the debate in 1986 "none of the ten contributors" agreed with Hyman over the issue of his flaw analysis. The claim comes from a talk given by Radin, I believe, and it gives the impression that everyone agreed with Honorton. In truth, most of the ten commentators do not mention Hyman's flaw analysis and while it is true that none explicitly say "I agree with Ray Hyman," their response are a little more nuanced than Chris Carter implies.
Carter also writes that the critic Christopher Scott was convinced by Honorton's work. In truth, Scott was impressed by Honorton's debate but that didn't stop his conversion from believer to skeptic (largely caused by his role in uncovering the Soal fraud) which lead to him leaving the discipline a few years later, calling it "an empty field."
In trying to paint skeptics as cherry-pickers of the worst data, he does some serious cherry-picking of his own. In the section about Susan Blackmore, he references Berger's re-analysis of her work quite extensively but does not mention the numerous mistakes that Berger apparently made as listed in Blackmore's reply at all. Carter even attempts to show that Berger's paper was somehow responsible for a change in Blackmore's attitude. However, a careful reading of the quotes from Blackmore - putting Carter's misleading introduction out of one's mind - shows that both before and after Berger's paper her attitude is the same: "I don't know."
Not everything in the book is wrong. Wiseman's investigation into Jay-tee (the dog who knew when his owner was coming home) is hardly a shining example of scientific investigation. Nevertheless, the book is littered with little mistakes. Carter repeats the myth of museums in the eighteenth century throwing out their meteorite collections because the science establishment was so dead set against it. He also mentions the novella "Futility" by Morgan Robertson as evidence of a premonition of the sinking of the Titanic but even in that short section he gets the numbers wrong. The list of errors goes on, and this review is already long enough.
The lengthy second half of the book, where Chris Carter asks if parapsychology is really incompatible with modern science is a little outside my area of expertise, so I will not pass judgement on it. However, given his treatment of the history of parapsychology, I don't have a great deal of confidence.
Unless the reader has access to an extensive library of parapsychological sources so they can check on Carter's statements, I can't recommend this book. And if you do have such a library, then there's no need for you to buy this book at all. For a better book of the controversy between skeptics and parapsychology, I'd point people in the direction of Randi's Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters
or for a more academic overview of the evidence itself, Parapsychology: A Concise History (Studies in Psychical Research)
is an excellent place to start.