Monday, November 10, 2008
The Veterans of The Psychic Wars
"The free, unhampered exchange of ideas and scientific conclusions is necessary for the sound development of science, as it is in all spheres of cultural life." (Albert Einstein)
"Textbooks present science as a noble search for truth, in which progress depends on questioning established ideas. But for many scientists, this is a cruel myth. They know from bitter experience that disagreeing with the dominant view is dangerous - especially when that view is backed by powerful interest groups. Call it suppression of intellectual dissent. The usual pattern is that someone does research or speaks out in a way that threatens a powerful interest group, typically a government, industry or professional body. As a result, representatives of that group attack the critic's ideas or the critic personally, by censoring writing, blocking publications, denying appointments or promotions, withdrawing research grants, taking legal actions, harassing, blacklisting, spreading rumors."
(Brian Martin, Stamping Out Dissent, Newsweek, 26 April 1993, p.49-50.)
The Psychology of Cultural Signal Noise and Paranormal Physics
I was musing over the life and times of one of my favorite and irascible scientists, the iconoclastic Brian Josephson, winner of the Nobel prize. From his Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, he has explored the paranormal, an area staked our and inhabited by the barkers and sideshow tents of popular culture, where the most tenacious angels of our better nature fear to tread. However, when we use the word paranormal,it is shorthand for the demonstrative and unknown relationship(s) between mind and matter.
The skirmishes over the existence of psychic phenomenon, as a portion of the paranormal as well as the relationship between mind and matter is akin to a proverbial intellectual war that has a fascinating cartography where the whims and appetites of popular culture, the self censorship of scientists, the self serving interests of power wielding editorial censorship,the cranks and lunatics, the laboratory protocols and the entertainment industry dart and dash, hide behind trees, take defensive positions, exploit the others weaknesses and perform a ballet of considerable mayhem. Brian Josephson stands there in the thick of it, yielding no ground.
"I call it "pathological disbelief". The statement "even if it were true I wouldn't believe it" seems to sum up this attitude. People have this idea that when something can't be reproduced every time, it isn't a real phenomenon. It is like a religious creed where you have to conform to the "correct" position. This leads to editors blocking the publication of important papers in academic journals. Even the physics preprint archive blocks some papers on certain topics, or by certain authors."
We shoulder our way through the crowded midway, where we bump into the rigged and proverbial toss games, the pitchmen, the hyper ventilated emotions to consider the issue of credibility,in a arena of bread and circuses dominated by David Blaine, The Amazing Kreskin or David Copperfield, we consider that credibility is the only commodity a scientist possesses which allows him to pursue his vocation.
Then we have another entanglement within popular culture that serves as a intermediary nexus where reality, subjectivity, fact and fiction become entangled. As having some experience with the psychic nature of the paranormal in how it manifests itself in an opportunistic manner, one must seek answers for oneself as a valuation of one's experiential reality versus that of a larger consensus. It has been noted by others that, at times, under the proper conditions we experience a paradox in that a fiction can reveal the kernel of truth around which it has been innovated.
"Essentially the phenomenon can be divided into two parts. The meandering nocturnal lights are the real mystery and still remain unexplained by astronomy. The objects and apparitions seen on the ground, or close to it, comprise the second part. These range from complex hallucinations to elaborate transmogrifications, often accompanied by incredible distortions of reality and manipulations of time and space. Such manifestations have been known, and recorded, throughout history, and their true nature was recognized and defined thousands of years ago. Collectively, American ufologists are ill informed and poorly educated in history, philosophy, and the behavioral sciences. So they have failed to recognize what is actually happening (in contrast to what they think is happening). Ufology is essentially a new system of belief, not a new system of scientific fact. As such, it is no more substantive than the study of angels and the medieval cataloging of chimeras. Indeed, the deeper one penetrates into the ufological problems, the more he finds himself rediscovering Heraclitus."
This is what keeps most scientists away from the paranormal as a matter of pragmatism, guilt by association by entering a field ripe with a variety of lunacies and Trickster elements of the human psyche which conceal the enormous potential that the paranormal jealously shields, as Keel infers. Then at the same time, the persistence of the paranormal provokes a tunneling of reality wherein it becomes demarcated as a fiction wrapping itself in truth or a truth enveloped by fictions.
Then again, we see that there are some notable exceptions of some who chose to take a preeminent risk by pursuing the intangible made material. This video is an excellent primer on the relationship between physics and the paranormal.
Another veteran of these theoretical boundaries between heresy and doctrine is Dean Radin who has persistently insisted on walking back and forth over this disputed territory with a intellectual courage that one would reasonably admire, whether you agreed with his views or not.
The transactional nature of knowledge is that it must be purchased. It does not drop from the sky as if it were pennies from heaven. The price is a combination of sacrifice and self motivation toward the work required in order to grasp it. While the nature of the paranormal is largely confined to it's tabloid coverage, it should give us some hope that there are those individuals who have the intellectual courage and temerity to persevere in the face of ridicule, or worse, censorship, certainly a sin of omission.
Perhaps it is not the truth we pursue that is either blame worthy or praise worthy but ourselves as those who have been left with conviction it wants nothing more from us than to present choices. What we chose may in the end may be more important than the nature of the truth we seek.
I remember a discussion I had nearly forty years ago around a campfire outside of Walnut Creek, California, that we has built out of dead fall. Someone said "whenever there are more than two people in a room, you have a political situation." Not much as changed either institutionally or otherwise, unless you place your ear to the ground, and fall willingly into the dream we all co-inhabit, listening to the a hundred voices, a thousand anecdotes that ripple like waves on the shore of an island
yet uncharted, that we drift toward, carried by the arms of a current whilst we sleep. Here's to the navigators and the explorers, the tides and currents moving them toward a future that we are composing on a blank sheet of paper..we carefully seal the bottle and let it drift away atop the sea. The night watch remains posted, and the rumors of land just beyond the horizon accompany us like a talisman that seals us within the promise of the first light of morning.