IF "paranormal" was observed, would it be parnormal?

Still working in what sense? Certainly not in the sense of always holding true in our universe. Still working in the sense that they remain true or approximately so in certain situations, but fail in certain other situations? Well, sure; but this is nothing special. This happens in science all the time. No one thinks the discovery of the convertibility of matter and energy, say, was orthogonal to science, simply because it was a previously unknown possibility.

This is odd. First of all, a source is found, in some sense: the mind is clearly a source of ability to move objects. If you can find something underlying that, great, and if not, well, whatever. I mean, the old rules would still be a special case of the new rules; if you don’t mutter any magic words or attempt any telekinesis or whatever, then everything proceeds as before. But if you do do such things, then you need to take into account the new rules.

I really don’t see any reason to not consider this science. It’s not like science crumbles to bits at every discovery of a new phenomenon with interesting properties.

Orthogonal to science in what way? In a world containing Hogwarts, the scientific method would be perfectly capable of discovering and codifying all the various rules governing the world which are taught at Hogwarts, would it not?

Er, lost the edit window, but amend the first lines of the second paragraph above to:

This is odd. First of all, in this case, a source is found, in some sense: the mind is clearly a source of ability to move objects, in this case. If you can find something further underlying that, great, and if not, well, whatever.

Not really. First, scientists would just operate under the assumption that there’s an energy source they can’t detect, just as they did the opposite with neutrinos ( they assumed that energy that vanished was going somewhere - and were right ). And second, if it operates according to rules, then science should apply; it would be just a new branch of it.

Faith in science is unnecessary, since science works. Nor does science preclude things being beyond human understanding in the first place.

God/religion doesn’t explain anything, to begin with; it’s more an evasion or silencing of explanations. And science is perfectly capable of explaining spontaneous cures; it just can’t tell which explanation applies or the details involved, because we can’t yet monitor someone’s body down to the cell/molecular level 24 hours a day. Just because someone isn’t looking at something when it happens doesn’t make it into some science-shattering mystic event. Nor does the fact that science doesn’t yet understand something down to the tiniest detail.

And it included the old rules as special cases - matter was still conserved except in the case of nuclear reactions. The process begins when you actually do the observing. We’ve never observed the paranormal (and the placebo effect doesn’t qualify) so we’ve never had any issues.

I’m talking about the energy requirements. Consider Yoda moving Luke’s fighter. You can compute the energy needed for him to do this. Sure Yoda might initiate it, but where does the energy come from? Not from his mind - all that energy in that medium would blow out his fuzzy little neurons. Obi-wan gave the impression that the Force gave access to some sort of energy pool - if that were confirmed, then there would be no violation of conservation laws. But if there was no such source of energy I’d contend that the action would violate scientific laws with no greater law to replace it. There is the principle of uniformity. You can’t say energy is conserved unless it isn’t!

Hmm. I’m not sure if experiments that succeed if you’re a wizard and fail if you’re a Muggle get covered under the scientific method. In any case, there are rules for magic, and what happens violates the rules of science. Is there a unified theory that covers both? I’ve read all seven books, and it doesn’t look like it.

The reason I’m interested in this issue is that I think it provides a very good reason to suspect that the paranormal does not exist. Unlike TV or movies, where ghosts and ESP are demonstrated with no more than a ho-hum from science, actually proving these things exist would rock science so greatly that it would make relativity as significant as a typo in the Principia. After 400 years you’d think we’d see some indication of this if it were true.

Impossible to explain is far different from “not yet explained.” Someone claiming something is impossible to explain has a very heavy burden, and nothing we’ve seen so far comes even close to this. I don’t think we can explain dark energy yet, but this isn’t an impossible task.

Since we know of spontaneous remission without a faith healer involved, to claim that faith healers are responsible would take an experiment with a population of real faith healers and fake faith healers, and see if the real ones did better. I believe that there is little followup on the patents of faith healers. You can’t measure the impact five minutes after the healing - you have to come back a year later and see if the “healed” patient is still around.

The placebo effect is a splendid example of something perhaps not yet explained which certainly can be. So I agree that it is a terrible example of the paranormal.

Human consciousness. A verifiable phenomenon by our own self awareness.
“As there is no clear definition of consciousness and no empirical measure exists to test for its presence, it has been argued that due to the nature of the problem of consciousness, empirical tests are intrinsically impossible.”
If you have a scientific explanation for the real and verified phenomenon of consciousness, I’d like to hear it. Give me a formula, a test, a way of proving your explanation.

Well, this is what I’m talking about. We could say “energy is still conserved except in the case of telekinetic reactions” or whatever the situation would be. If we can still formulate rules to describe the new phenomenon, it seems just as good as any other phenomenon in science.

Sure you can; you did just above. Energy and mass are individually conserved except where you have mass-energy conversion, in which case you have a conservation property only for the two as a whole. Now, I don’t know how our hypothetical telekinesis will work, but we’ve stipulated that it’s governed by some simple rules, even if they’re not rules in line with our current scientific understanding. Great; so then science will be augmented with these new rules, and telekinesis becomes a scientific phenomenon on the same level as any other.

I don’t have any actual familiarity with the Harry Potter series, but the experiment wouldn’t be “If I, the experimenter, personally mutter these words, …”, but, “If I, the experimenter, get a wizard to mutter these words, …” I.e., the situation here in terms of testability is no different from our ability to formulate scientific principles which apply only to females or only to those with blood type AB or only those with sickle-cell anemia or anything of that sort. It’s not like one has to personally have sickle-cell anemia in order to study the rules governing it.

Well, again, it’s not clear to me in what way this magic “violates the rules of science”. It may conflict with our current scientific laws; however, the scientific method is well-equipped to deal with this, by augmenting those laws with the rules for magic which it can discover. Science isn’t just a word for our current deeply-held beliefs, carved into stone; it’s a process, and part of that process involves updating, a willingness to accept and describe new phenomena that violate cherished beliefs if and when such phenomena are observed.

I’m not arguing that ghosts or ESP or whatever actually do exist; I agree that they are monstrously unlikely. But all the same, should they be discovered somehow to exist, it wouldn’t mean the end of the science; if there were rules governing their behavior, then they would become part of science.

That is to say, though ghosts and ESP are not a part of our world, there are possible worlds in which such things exist. And, in those worlds, they’re just as ho-hum to the everyday scientist as the existence of cetaceans or gravity. There’s no fundamentally anti-scientific aspect to them.

What does human understanding have to do with it? Was *everything *paranormal before humans existed?

To assert that a particular phenomenon is beyond human understanding says nothing about the phenomenon, and everything about humans.

Having said that, can you produce evidence of a phenomenon that is now and forever will be beyond human understanding?

Can’t prove a negative. You know that. Can’t prove what we don’t know or what we won’t know. That would require time travel. And a few other impossible things.

What we can do is ask you to prove that science can explain everything. Explain human consciousness. It’s that simple. Do it or don’t.
And before humans no, nothing was paranormal. There was no science and there were no explanations. There was no human perception before humans existed. There were no words or ideas.

It’s *your *assertion. “Some things are beyond human understanding.” Prove it.

I can, however, prove that 2+2 is not 5. Thereby proving a negative.

  1. You said “beyond human understanding.” Nothing about science. 2) Who said “science can explain everything?” That’s a bit of a straw man.

Was the nature of the phenomena different? That’s the question. And the other question was, in essence, why is *human *understanding the benchmark of what may or may not be paranormal?

I don’t believe anything’s beyond human understanding, but I’ll cheerfully accept some things are beyond human verification, i.e. we accept Euclid’s axioms of geometry without being able to actually prove any of them. Given that the guy who first proves one of them wrong gets a Fields Medal and yet they remain, I’d say they’ve stood the test of time.

Anyway, “paranormal” has been so relentlessly used to spray perfume on bullshit (i.e. give a veneer of respectability to claims of ESP and alien abductions and whatnot) that I suggest anyone who wants to seriously argue in support of the concept find another word.

Human consciousness is a self-ordering process built on a highly complex highly permeable mechanism, by the way.

What would it mean to prove one of Euclid’s axioms of geometry wrong?

I mean, we’ve known for a while now that they don’t accurately describe physical space; general relativity imposes non-Euclidean geometry upon the structure of the universe. But a mathematician’s concerns, qua mathematics, are not with the contingent properties of physical reality, and the axioms do fairly indisputably define a certain kind of mathematical system, regardless of what that system can be used to model.

Can Euclid’s axioms of geometry be right or wrong? What would the criteria of correctness be?

I suppose there was a thread on this recently. I should clarify that perhaps the physical universe needn’t be taken as “truly” non-Euclidean, if one is willing to contort and contrive in other ways; certainly, though, it is quite convenient and natural, given the observations we have, to take it to be non-Euclidean. All the same, the rest of my point stands.

Of course I accept that some things are beyond human understanding – where did you get that idea?

Let’s consider a hypothetical case. You observe X, and cannot explain why it happened. Here are some possible solutions to your quizzicalness. First, solutions I can support:[ol][li]Someone with a greater or more specific knowledge than you might be able to explain it, or[]Your observation was flawed, inadequate or influenced by misdirection or ignorance, and no rational explanation is possible given the facts as you see them[]Although the smartest man on earth cannot explain it now, future research may provide an explanation.[/ol]Here are some solutions I cannot support:[ol][]It was a miracle, or something outside of or contradictory to known natural laws, or[]It was caused by a supernatural being or entity who is not constrained by natural laws.[/ol]Now if you say faith in science is the same as faith in religion, consider that [ul][]Science has continually strived to learn what is actually true and has accomplished much over the last 2000 years[]Science makes predictions and tests for accuracy, then discards what turns out to be incorrect,[/ul]while religion[ul][]Has contributed nothing to knowledge except fanciful explanations that either cannot be proved or have been shown to be very wrong[]Has been unable to define how the universe works except after the fact thru data mining and stretching ancient texts beyond belief.[/ul]I have “faith”, as you put it, in science since it has proved to be the best vehicle we have yet devised to learn how the universe works. I do not have “faith” in religion or any of the occult “sciences” because they have been total failures at the same task.[/li]
Faith in something that has a long, proven track record is quite different from blind faith because your priest or shaman told you to believe it. The latter kind of faith I define as “not wanting to know what is true”.

And that word is “unknown”, which does not imply a supernatural force. “Paranormal”, at least in the vernacular usage, does. If you say “because we don’t know, then it must be unknowable”, you have stopped looking for causes and will never progress further.

Think what would have happened if Newton said, “I wonder what caused that apple to fall on my head? Oh, well, it must be some nasty, devilish demon playing around. Or maybe it’s a paranormal force we can never understand. Yeah – that’s the ticket. Now who wants apple pancakes for breakfast?”

Nothing, I’m sure. It’s not like geometry would vanish overnight. However, the person that did it would probably get famous, which provides serious motivation, which is why I figure the axioms stand because despite highly-motivated people trying to break them for centuries, none have succeeded.

Heck, relativity didn’t make classical Newtonian mechanics vanish, either. For 99.99% of practical applications, relativity is little more than an asterisk pointing to a footnote referencing a trivial correction one can make to one’s figures, if one feels like it.

Similarly, I don’t buy into any of the crap currently labeled “paranormal”, since the label is just a means to sell falsehoods to suckers. If any of it was real, there’d be serious scientific study to analyze and improve it and Uri Geller clones would by now be driving turbines with their minds. Similarly, in Exodus 7, Aaron needs God’s help to turn a staff into a snake, but two Egyptian priests also manage this impressive feat (albeit producing weaker snakes). If this technology was in Egypt’s hands circa 1300 B.C.E., why didn’t they use it and improvements on it to fend off being conquered by Nubians, Assyrians, Persians and Macedonians? Heck, if a priest can turn a stick into a snake, why not train thousands of priests and build defenses consisting of walls of sticks that get all hissy when an invading army tries to scale them? And why not try for something cooler, like turning rocks into camels or trees into elephants? This technology was shockingly under-utilized in ancient Egypt.

Not at all. Just because I’m never going to get pregnant, being a man, doesn’t make pregnancy a violation of science. I would regard Muggles as the equivalent of a human subspecies born without hands, who cannot therefore use most tools. That doesn’t mean that tools are a violation of science either.

I think you are confusing science with scientific knowledge. Science is the technique; the scientific method, and the endeavour of gathering knowledge with it. No doubt the magic in the Potter books violates known scientific knowledge, being fictional, but has anyone in the novels ever tried to understand magic via the scientific method ?


We know that it’s generated by the brain. The proof is that drugging or damage to the brain can distort, suppress or destroy it. We don’t know the details as to how it works or what it’s for, if anything, but that doesn’t make it “paranormal”.

Yes, there is proof of faith healings, tons of it. From Lourdes were it is documented daily and attested to by medical doctors. Skeptics by the nature of their belief systems will never find any evidence for anything they don’t believe in.


There is plenty of others if one wants to research it.

I’m not sure you understand the thrust of my question. It wasn’t “What would the consequences be of proving Euclid’s axioms wrong?”. It was “What does it even mean to prove Euclid’s axioms wrong?”. Or, “What does it mean to say of one of Euclid’s axioms that it is right or wrong?”.

A structure is a Euclidean geometry if it satisfies Euclid’s axioms of geometry; otherwise, it’s not a Euclidean geometry. Euclid’s axioms hold true in all Euclidean geometries, by definition. Euclid’s axioms don’t have to hold true in all structures, and, of course, they don’t. They don’t even have to hold true in the geometry of physical space of our universe, whatever that means, and on perhaps the most reasonable interpretation, they don’t.

From my perspective, it’s no more meaningful to speak of Euclid’s axioms being right or wrong than it is to speak of the group axioms being right or wrong. Interpreted as a claim about some specific structure (say, physical space, or tuples of reals in the standard way), they can be right or wrong, but on their own, they just describe a class of mathematical structures, without making any assertions.

Where in your link is such documentation?