Paranormal researchers, Ufologists, Cryptozoologists, and those interested in metaphysics are sometimes confronted with a perceived majority who tell them that anything beyond the ordinary could not possibly exist. This prevailing feeling, which is itself far from anything more than an opinion (certainly not scientific) states that such things are literally impossible. And yet this same “status quo” opinion bears with it a long history of opinions that were quite simply wrong. The list of examples of the majority of skeptics being proven wrong is far longer than we could condense into one reading, but here are a few.
In 1876 with the invention of the telephone, Western Union distributed a memo decrying that the device, while intriguing, had no real applicable use in the world and would never have any real applications. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” In an interesting twist of fate, less than one hundred years later the telephone would be used in virtually every household with billions of dollars driving the industry that now far overshadowed Western Union. Additionally, Western Union’s primary means of transferring money would be via telephone.
In 1899, William Thomson would denounce Marconi’s miraculous technological achievement of radio by denouncing the device with, “Radio has no future.” That same year both X-Rays and Airplanes would likewise be denounced as being impossible hoaxes. Today all three objects have outlived their initial detractors and have become part of everyday life.
But those who prognosticate on the safe side and abandon the fantastic for the mundane have been in the past quite intelligent as well, with acclaimed physicist Albert Einstein declaring that nuclear power would be impossible. He would later contribute to physics in ways that would prove himself wrong.
And most other world changing events from talking films to the automobile had at one time highly respected individuals who considered them an impossibility. And now as we search the heavens for life this same overwhelming aura of impossibility pervades scientific inquiry. When will we as a culture understand that there are fewer limits to possibility than we could ever fathom? As we discover more about the universe around us, there are forces that largely provide us with evidence of ever expanding likelihoods regarding every aspect of reality. The more we achieve, the more complicated and filled with possibility the universe becomes. There are those who will always claim a mundane world with a future bereft of change, but those who challenge possibility and suggest there is something always left to be discovered are the ones who truly make things possible.
Of course skepticism is a healthy endeavor much of the time. To assume everything ever said is the truth is not only giving up control of your own destiny, but also can be dangerous when taken to extremes. On the other hand, belief just as skepticism also has its place. And if history can teach us anything about the world around us, it’s that the truly fantastic and exciting future that awaits all of us would surprise the most jaded of skeptics.