The scientific method was formulated in order to establish whether a physical event, process or phenomenon is true or not.
Strict statistical analytical procedure, double blind testing, peer review and repeatability are demanded before anything is accepted or believed. This is as it should be; otherwise we can get into trouble or become victims of fraud or trickery.
But one thing that many so-called scientific-minded individuals forget is that the scientific method was devised to observe and investigate only physical phenomena, and not other types of phenomena. The assumptions, premises, paradigms of science are only useful when dealing with things that can be physically measured, weighed, smelled, touched, heard and perhaps tasted. Anything that cannot be detected by our physical senses or by sensitive instruments is deemed untrue or even nonexistent.
Path of least resistance
So when we try to apply the scientific method to something nonphysical, nonmeasurable or nonquantifiable, we get into a quandary. The path of least resistance is simply to declare whatever it is you are investigating to be untrue, or fraudulent.
When it comes to health, just because all medical tests prove negative does not mean everything is all right and that there’s nothing wrong with the patient. It only means that the present analytical tools or instruments we have are not always capable of detecting the real cause of the disease.
Perhaps we are using the wrong tools or the wrong logic when investigating nonphysical phenomena. Perhaps what we should really try to do is to look for other criteria or methodology when dealing with such things as psychic phenomena, or alternative healing methods, or consciousness.
If we cannot use exclusively the scientific method in determining the validity or genuineness of a phenomenon, what criteria can we use to arrive at a fairly logical or reasonable conclusion? I suggest we adopt the criteria proposed by the French Philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) to determine whether a testimony is acceptable or sufficient.
Voltaire proposed five criteria or conditions that must be present before accepting the validity of a testimony.
“A testimony is sufficient when it rests on 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.”
I believe that if we adopt the above idea for determining the validity of a phenomenon, process or method, then we will progress much faster in our understanding of the unseen aspects of our universe. With these criteria we can then with confidence examine things connected with the mind, spirit or the behavior of people. We need no longer be hampered by objections that apply only to physical objects or events coming from orthodox scientists.
We can even combine both the traditional methods of science and the criteria of Voltaire on those things that call for their employment, but should not insist on them when investigating things that clearly do not follow or obey physical laws—for example, psychic surgery, extrasensory perception, telekinesis, astral projection and miraculous healing.
In this new millennium we should welcome more innovative and unorthodox approaches in learning, in our constant search for what is true and beautiful, instead of insisting on the status quo.
As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t so. The other is to refuse to believe what is so.” INQ