by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Paranormal Underground e-Magazine
From Wikipedia: Scientific method refers to bodies of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. (emphasis mine).
Did you know that quantum physics was advanced because one physicist – Max Planck – made a wild guess that he called an “act of desperation?” His act of desperation turned out to be exactly right – and Planck’s constant (h) is now a basic tenant of quantum physics. It is the physical constant used to describe the sizes of quanta in quantum mechanics. When he developed the constant, Planck was working the math backwards. It worked for him.
Sometimes an act of desperation like Max Planck’s becomes the hypothesis that leads to scientific discovery. The trick is in developing scientific protocols to objectively test the hypothesis. This is the basis for the scientific method.
Yep – paranormal investigation is currently far from a science, although there are many investigators in the field who are doing good work. The trick is in developing testable hypotheses and then following scientific method to test their veracity.
In this process, there is no place for belief or disbelief, because the interpretation of scientific results can be skewed by personal agendas.
The trick lies, then, in finding objective tests that gather evidence to either support or disprove the hypothesis. In science, you can learn as much by disproving a hypothesis as you can by proving it, so no truly scientific effort is ever wasted.
I think that what you see from those toiling in the trenches of paranormal investigation is people making their best efforts to come up with testable hypotheses. Many of the investigators I know are subjecting their evidence to the scrutiny of experts, returning and retesting, and trying to bring science into what they do in any way that they can.
Where science bumps up against belief, however, is where investigators have had amazing experiences. They’ve experienced objects being thrown in a room by an unseen hand. They’ve been scratched, slapped, and in one case, kicked in the nuts. Seriously. These are investigators who are pretty darn sure that they know that something is going on. They’ve seen it, felt it, experienced it. And they are making good faith efforts to quantify it, verify it and explain it.
So how does anecdotal and experiential evidence meet up with scientific method? And is it important that it does? I guess the answer depends on why you need to know the answers. Do you just need to know for yourself? If so, then your experiences will probably be enough. If, on the other hand, you are trying to advance the field in a scientific manner, then perhaps further quantification is warranted.
This brings up a good question. Can science prove all phenomena? I may be in a minority here, but I believe it can. If there is an observable phenomenon, then there are probably scientific reasons why said phenomenon is occurring. It may not be a science that we recognize or know of yet, but somewhere down the line, we will. Science advances every day, and we are nowhere near having discovered every law of nature.
At the same time, it may take just one investigator who works a problem backwards or makes an act of desperation in pursuit of the truth who finds that one thing that becomes the foundation on which the science of the paranormal is built. To all of those who are toiling in the trenches of paranormal investigation, thank you for your efforts. It is on your shoulders that we stand in order to gain scientific understanding.