Are Paranormal Phenomena Real?

Is there any truth to the proposition that paranormal phenomena are real? If so, in what way? Is there more to this world than just atoms and the void? And does science have all the answers?  We discuss these issues.

 

This podcast is available in SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and GooglePlay.

Check out my most recent book, a new annotated translation of the great historian Sallust.

6 thoughts on “Are Paranormal Phenomena Real?

  1. I’m utterly astonished that you conclude on basis of ‘anecdotal evidence’, which is very limited in value, that ghosts/spirits/demons exist, let alone have intervened with physical reality.

    You talk about ancient and medieval philosophers from across the world and seem to at least partly follow in their thoughts. But it is a paradox that you use modern electronics and the internet to communicate this message, created by physicists and engineers, that absolutely in no way believe in this horseshit (which I can know because I study theoretical physics myself).

    Do you really believe that the truly(!) great minds of history; Einstein, Planck, Boltzmann, Kelvin, Schrödinger, Bohr, Feynman, Dirac, Fermi, Maxwell, Newton, Gauss, Euler, Cauchy, Riemann, Lagrange, Laplace, Legendre, Poisson, Hamilton; to name a few, believe in this nonsense? I think not! The difference is that all of the men listed above actually contributed significantly to the modern understanding of mathematics and physics, in direct opposition to the philosophers you quoted who have had pretty much no influence on the course of history.

    There is a huge difference between believing ‘there is something more than the standard model, quantum field theory and general relativity’ (which a lot of mathematicians and physicists do) and ‘that was a demon from hell that just appeared in the mirror’ (and which in some physical-law-breaking way created a divergence in the electromagnetic field near the mirror without a charge distribution and thus violated Gauss’ law together with Noether’s theorem amongst hundreds).

    I look forward to your reply. Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is good to discuss anything a mind can think of, also this subject. I just don’t share your opinion 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment, Sylo. Let me explain my position fully.
      First, please know that I am a rationalist and come from a scientific background. My father was a scientist, and I myself graduated from MIT. I have the highest respect for the scientific tradition and my books and articles confirm this. You have only to look at the portraits of scientists, mathematicians, and men of medicine that feature in those pages. So you are not speaking to someone who is unacquainted with these subjects.

      However, I strongly believe that science alone cannot provide all the answers for mankind. Philosophy, religion, art, and literature are just as important as science: perhaps they are more important. It is an old debate, one that goes back the old conflict between reason and faith. Mankind needs both. I find the attitude of many scientists to be unreasonably close-minded when it comes to discussing these sorts of subjects. For me, there is no conflict between faith and reason; the healthy psyche needs both. There is more to existence than what is purely material. Einstein believed the same thing, as did Blaise Pascal, and both of these men were accomplished scientists and mathematicians.

      I am also acutely aware of the pitfalls that intelligent men can fall into when it comes to these kinds of studies. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, certainly a genius, convinced himself that fairies existed and perhaps allowed his personal grief at the death of his loved ones to obscure his better judgment.

      When it comes to paranormal phenomena, I prefer to adopt the position of Cicero’s “New Academy,” which held that probabilities should be relied on. We cannot know anything with absolute certainly, they held; it is only more likely that something is true or not true. I’ve done some preliminary research on this subject, and have seen a great many of these interviews with people who claim to have had paranormal encounters. I have also been a practicing attorney for 18 years and can tell when people are lying, and when they are not. The is enough independent corroboration of this phenomena for me to believe that it is more probable than not that this subject warrants serious investigation. There is something here. It cannot be dismissed as hallucinations, neurological activity, or something else.

      I have not had a paranormal experience, but I’m willing to accept the judgment of Michael Crichton, who concluded the following after studying the subject extensively:

      “1. Consciousness has legitimate dimensions not yet guessed at…I acknowledge that on some level the difference between a real entity and a metaphorical entity may be slight indeed…

      2. At least some psychic phenomena are real…I’ve concluded that some people have the ability to know about past and future events in a matter that is not at present explainable…I have no idea of the limits of psychic ability.

      3. There are energies associated with the human body that are not yet understood. These energies can be felt and seen, and they are related to healing, sickness, and health…”

      I think it is critical for rational men to keep an open mind about these subjects. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that science has all the answers to everything.

      Like

  2. Thanks for your extensive explanation. I understand your arguments better now than before. Regarding science versus philosphy, religion and the arts, I also do not believe science alone is enough for mankind to live a good life. I do however believe that science is the only one way to understand physical reality, that is, experiences in life that are not limited to one person and which can reasonably be agreed to be observable for everyone, and can be consistently reproduced.

    For example, I believe it can be true that one person experiences something paranormal, but then I believe that the probability is by far the greatest that this experience is due to a ‘fluctuation’ in the mind of that person (as also induced by certain drugs), and not because the paranormal experience physically took place. In other words, if another (independent) observer were to be near, I do not believe that he would experience that paranomal activity as well. If the second observer would not experience it as well, it thus did not physically happen and thus was a manifestation in the mind of that first person.

    This might explain why paranormal activities are, more often than not, not agreed upon by independent observers and usually limited to one person. It also appears that the probability of experiencing a paranormal activity is directly proportional to the individual’s susceptibility (‘weakness’ of mind) to non-physical experiences and their degree of belief in religion. If the paranormal activity in question was actual physical reality, it would be independent from the individual’s mind, which does not seem to be true, as many religious people (especially women and uneducated people in general) claim to have experienced paranormal activities, while in general scientists and other rationalists do not seem to claim this near as often.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always been fascinated by this topic ever since I was big into magic tricks as a kid and read every book I could find on Harry Houdini, who was performing at the same time paranormal studies and spiritualism were popular. There are certainly charlatans and frauds, but then there are things that simply cannot be explained scientifically.

    Your podcast made me think of two articles I’ve bookmarked on the topic.

    https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/10/father-amorth-the-vatican-exorcist

    And then there’s the indispensable retired Marine Fred Reed.

    https://fredoneverything.org/of-knowing-and-not-knowing-elvis-haldane-and-excessive-self-confidence/

    Like

  4. For example, I believe it can be true that one person experiences something sexual, but then I believe that the probability is by far the greatest that this experience is due to a ‘fluctuation’ in the mind of that person (as also induced by certain drugs), and not because the sexual experience physically took place. In other words, if another (independent) observer were to be near, I do not believe that he would experience that sexual activity as well. If the second observer would not experience it as well, it thus did not physically happen and thus was a manifestation in the mind of that first person.

    Like

    • Funny, although a sexual activity does not, in contrast to a paranormal activity, violate physical laws. The domain of activities in my example are supposed to be physically not reasonable.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s