Seeing more ghosts

As the late, very great, Richard Feynman put it:

But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a conversation about UFO’s, or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I’ve concluded that it’s not a scientific world.

No, and it seems, sometimes, to be moving the other way. We’ll be bleeding patients and burning witches any day now.

For example, just yesterday, “Does ESP Exist? 11 Premonitions That Came True,” appeared in The Epoch Times (in my Flipboard Science category, of all things).

We read,

Though some psychologists and natural scientists remain skeptical, many agree telepathic abilities and related phenomena exist.

Chris Carter, an Oxford University-educated author of “Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics,” cited two surveys in an article he published in Epoch Times last year that show a majority of scientists believe in such abilities.

One survey was conducted among more than 500 scientists; 56 percent said extra-sensory perception (ESP) is “an established fact” or a “likely possibility.” The other survey was conducted among more than 1,000 scientists; 67 percent said it is an established fact or likely possibility.

I rechecked the date on the article. It wasn’t April 1st.

5 thoughts on “Seeing more ghosts

  1. Well, I’m tempted to say that at least some of what the psychologists and anthropologists call Magical Thinking is necessary and healthy. The person who would, without compunction, wear the sweater of a serial killer or drink from the cup of a mass murderer, simply because those things had been washed and therefore had no rational reason to be spurned, isn’t someone to be admired but shunned. Those aren’t the actions of a rationalists, but of a sociopath. Real people, if only at a deep, gut level, believe in things like essences and “spooky action at a distance.” Is it any less magical to think that your free will can bend your finger than it is to think that it might bend a spoon from across the room? Either way there’s a huge leap from “ghost in the machine” to material universe being bridged by God knows how. Yet we all (excepting the Calvinists) believe in free will, don’t we?

    Feynman is right: it isn’t a scientific world. And if we’d like to make “innate within ourselves” the skills necessary to navigate it, we’d all better get used to just how predictably irrational we are — and why that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Then again, I’m an ad man, so I’m biased. For more on that style of thinking, I recommend this TED video:

    • Jeff,

      Thanks much.

      “Magical thinking” is fine, as a source of hypotheses or for amusement when neither life nor too much money is at stake. What science does is test whether you can, in fact, bend a spoon from across a room. And if so, then what’s the underlying mechanism? A couple of centuries ago, the idea that we could see each other in near-realtime from across the planet would have seemed equally magical, especially when we can do it for free. Feynman’s objection to Geller wasn’t that his claimed ability wasn’t rational but that it couldn’t be demonstrated under controlled conditions. It was a carnival trick, in other words.

      Obviously we have to live in the world, so the better we can understand it, the better we will do. But that doesn’t mean that we have to surrender to ideologies or ignorance, which is, I’m sure, not what you are suggesting.

  2. Don’t discount the interchangeability between “rational” knowledge (scientific method), and “intuitive” knowledge (which some term mysticism). Linear reasoning does not equal “enlightenment”, nor does the strictly mystical (religious). A quote from Fritjof Capra, author of “The Tao of Physics”; “Physicists do not need mysticism, and mystics do not need physics, but humanity needs both”.

    • Tim,

      Mysticism may be necessary for humanity, but it’s not a great way to build an airplane.

      I have to admit that I’m failing to grasp your point with all this.

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