The science of the unscientific
Is there a science or academic discipline that studies or investigates strange and paranormal phenomena?
Many perhaps will answer “none” to this question. For how can something unscientific be studied systematically or scientifically? It seems like a contradiction in terms at first glance.
But if there is a science of dressmaking or haute couture, how to cut hair or bake a cake or cook a hamburger, why can’t there be a science of the unscientific?
Actually, unknown to many in the Philippines, there is science that studies paranormal or strange phenomena. It is called parapsychology in some western countries and psychotronics, paraphysics and bio-energetics in Russia and some European countries.
Masteral and doctoral degree courses in parapsychology are available in the curricula of the University of California in Los Angeles, Duke University, World University of America in Ojai, California, John F. Kennedy University, the Utrecht University in the Netherlands and a university in Sweden.
Schools and universities in the Philippines do not offer courses in parapsychology. And there is nobody in this country who can legitimately call himself or herself a parapsychologist, although there are some who claim to be so.
I have never claimed to have a degree in parapsychology, although many parapsychologists abroad consider me as such, because of the extensive research I have done in this field and the many books and articles I have written on this subject.
What does parapsychology study? Everything beyond science and religion. It has studied or investigated such diverse topics as telepathy or mind-to-mind communication, telekinesis or mind over matter, clairvoyance, spirits or apparitions, paranormal phenomena and even UFOs.
Parapsychology was admitted as a member of the American Society for the Advancement of Science in 1969, mainly through the advocacy of anthropologist Margaret Mead, best known for her book, “Coming of Age in Samoa.”
It was admitted as a legitimate member of the scientific community by only a small margin of votes. And some conservative members even lobbied against its inclusion as a science, calling it a pseudo-science.
Parapsychology, or whatever it is called, is important because it is the only science that dares to probe or investigate phenomena that mainstream science refuses to look into. Human knowledge would have advanced much faster, had conventional science not chosen to ignore strange or mystical phenomena.
Scientists could have taken inspiration from such intellectual and scientific geniuses like Nicola Tesla, Carl Jung, Sir William Crookes, Emanuel Swedenborg, etc., who dared to tread into forbidden or unknown fields despite warnings from their more conservative colleagues.
In the Philippines, there have been sporadic and feeble attempts to introduce parapsychological studies into universities. But these were largely regarded with suspicion by the academic community.
In 1982, for example, I taught a course on parapsychology as an elective under the sociology department of De La Salle University for one semester. It registered the highest enrollment as an elective during that year.
Unfortunately, I had to stop teaching it because of my full-time work in a large rubber shoe manufacturing company.
In 2005-2007, I taught Parapsychology and New Age Philosophy under the philosophy department of San Beda College (now a University) in the evening. Again I had to give up teaching it after two years because of my full-time corporate work. I had by that time already established the Inner Mind Development Institute, and was frequently invited to lecture in foreign countries.
To my mind, the main problem with the science of parapsychology is not the lack of a legitimate subject of study, but its tendency to borrow the methods of orthodox science in order to gain legitimacy as a valid science in the mainstream scientific and academic communities.
I don’t think this is the correct approach, precisely because parapsychology attempts to study and understand things that are beyond conventional science.
Mainstream science was meant to study only physical phenomena, whereas parapsychology was established because of the desire to understand nonphysical phenomena, or the interactions between physical and nonphysical phenomena.
Instead of using generally accepted laws of physical science in establishing the validity of a testimony or phenomenon, we should perhaps adopt the criteria suggested by 17th-century French philosopher, Voltaire.
According to Voltaire, a testimony is valid if the following requirements are met:
“First, a great number of very sensible witnesses who agree in having seen well;
“Second, who are sane bodily and mentally;
“Third, who are impartial and disinterested;
“Fourth, who unanimously agree;
“Fifth, who solemnly certify to the fact.”
Since most of the important phenomena studied by parapsychologists are nonrepeatable—for example, astral projection, ghostly apparitions or precognition—the above criteria suggested by Voltaire might be the most viable tool that can be used to study nonphysical phenomena.
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