The Quandry Over Science And The Paranormal


Approaching paranormal phenomena from a research perspective is often very difficult because even when the phenomena are seen as real they may be difficult to explain using existing rules or theory.  However, if you think ESP is a bear, try explaining quantum physics!

Over the last few decades the battle between science and the supernatural has radically changed.  The climate in both camps has shifted somewhat so that each has gone to the opposite side.  As we observe, Paranormal research has become more rigorous, statistical and computerised, while theoretical physics has beome more and more “occult”, cheerfully breaking practically every previously sacrosanct “law of nature”.  Thus to some extent the classic accusations made by paranormal debunkers could even be reversed:  Paranormal studies has laid itself open to cold scientific inquiry while today those who study quantum physics are open to the charge of embracing “supernatural” concepts such as negative mass, dark matter, worm holes, gravity lenses and time flowing backwards.

In this light previously unthinkable phenomena such as UFOs ESP or spirit entities appear somewhat less preposterous when we take the view that the new and unthinkable propositions of quantum physics just might be real.  On the whole this sober, functional approach to parapsychological study is proving effective.  This new look into paranormal studies is partly characteristic of the antiseptic atmosphere in modern ESP labs as well as the prevailing fashion in research in general.  There is also in it an element of bending over backwards to disarm suspicions and to meet the sceptic on his own empirical-statistical ground.

Paranormal studies are following in the footsteps of real science.  Not only are several universities getting involved in the research, but such conservative bodies as the Royal Society of Medicine, the American Philosophical Association, the Rockefeller, Fulbright and Ciba Foundations, have organised lectures and symposia on parapsychology.  The majority of academia remains hostile, although the giants had always taken telepathy and allied phenomena for granted.

Research in classical telepathy has at long last moved beyond the card-guessing stage.  The most recent experiments conducted by paranormal researchers suggests very intriging results.  Although these do not qualify as scientific evidence-except in solidly documented cases which are rare – the sheer weight of the material cannot be discounted.

The Weird Wonderland Of Physics

If the facts reported by paranormal researchers arouse incredulity and intellectual derision it is because they seem to contradict what most people know and believe to be the unmovable laws of physics.  The profound transformation of the physicist’s world view which began recently and shattered our fundamental concepts of the nature of reality and the meaning of natural law has also challenged the validity our world view of such things as space, time, matter and causality.  It is no coincidence that many leading physicists appear among the Presidents and Council members of paranormal research societies!  This cannot be helped because the deeper the physicist intrudes into the realm of the sub-atomic particles, hyper-galactic dimensions and string theory, the more intensely he is made aware of their paradoxical and common sense-defying structure, and the more open-minded he becomes towards the possibility of the seemingly impossible.  His own world, based on relativity and quantum theory is in fact a world of impossibles.  Its strange and tantalizing features are reflected in a remark made by Robert Oppenheimer, Chairman of the Los Alamos project:

“If we ask …whether the  position of the electron remains the same, we must say ‘No’; if we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘No’; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say ‘No’, if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘No’.

Does this dear reader sound odd to you?  It is important to be pre-advised that much of what comes out of the mouths of scientists who labor in the vineyard of particle physics and quantum theory is going to sound “odd”.  Consider this quote from Sir Arthur Eddington: 

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine”.

Today the strangest things are being uttered by people who would under other circumstances be considered cranks.  People who would study the elementary constituents of matter are in many cases Nobel prize winners and otherwise regarded as eminent in their fields.  Despite this they say the damndest things.

At the end of the day it is quite likely that scientists that study these tiny particles may just have to concluded that the elementary sparks that make up all matter are not actually matter at all, but rather processes.  This I am afraid to report is going to be MUCH more difficult for these scientists to explain.  So the question is put to you dear reader.  Which do you think is easier to believe in, particle physics, or the paranormal?