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Across the Great Divide

“The Unanswered Question”

If you’re reading this, then that means we’ve survived the apocalypse. *Whew…what a relief that is. I really wasn’t looking forward to poor hygiene, scavenging for food and energy, and martial law in a wasteland of zombies and Mad Max wannabes.

So now that the doomsday prophesies have failed to come true (yet again) and we chuckle at the silliness of the paranoia that has raided the airwaves over the last few years we can return to the business of science and the quest for answers to questions that have yet to be fully understood and explained.

I’m a believer in the theories and principles of parapsychology- any of the long-time readers of this column know that. What they also know is that I don’t just blindly believe anything I read on the subject, or think that trolling around cemeteries in the dark constitutes valid scientific method. I look at things with a believer’s heart, but analyze them with a skeptic’s mind.

James Stein is a Professor of Mathematics at California State University whose previous books include The Right Decision: A Mathematician Reveals the Secrets of Decision Theory and How Math Explains the World. In a book that was released last week, The Paranormal Equation, Stein provides a new scientific perspective on what many consider to not only be unscientific, but  inexplicable- the realm of supernatural phenomena.

He travels through the various definitions involved by cracking open a Merriam-Webster dictionary and describing supernatural as “of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially: of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil.”

But science doesn’t restrict to the observable or visible universe. If it did, then subatomic particles, bacteria, radio, and x-rays would all be considered supernatural phenomena.

He further explains that the supernatural “depart[s] from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.”

Ah ha. Now this is certainly within the ability of science to explore.

Transcendent laws have been implied by mathematicians in recent decades, such as Godel’s 80 year-old Incompleteness Theorem– which establishes inherent limitations of doing arithmetic due to uncertainties.
Stein takes issue with combining words like ‘observable’ and ‘visible’ and states that once natural laws are uncovered, the events witnessed cease to be considered supernatural and lose their apparent mystery. So if science were able to adequately explain apparitions they would then cease to be seen as supernatural and henceforth be seen as natural.

Stein delves into detail in an attempt to explain that just because things which happen by chance doesn’t have to mean they should automatically be labeled as supernatural. A lot of parapsychology research, for example, points to chance when it comes to such things as ESP or clairvoyance- especially when those experiments are reproduced.

Many so-called ‘paranormal’ researchers and ghost hunters have no understanding of chance at all- or science for that matter.

Stein also explains that chance is actually incorporated into many of the cornerstone theories of physics. Given enough time, the most unlikely of things can and will happen as long as they are simply unlikely and not downright impossible- such as the ability of ice to form in warm water.

Stein is convinced, and successfully persuades the reader to believe, that paranormal phenomena must exist under the hypothesis that the Universe is infinite.

It should also stand that just because something is strange or unexplained does not mean that it is proof of the existence of paranormal activity or supernatural phenomena, either.

Gravity is an unseen force once completely misunderstood that is now accepted as scientific fact. The list of similar examples has grown exponentially in the last half century, so who’s to say what other theories studied by parapsychologists will eventually be proven and accepted by mainstream science?

**Happy New Year. Who knows what we will find in 2013 as we walk together through the veil and take a look across the Great Divide.

 

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions