Wednesday, March 14, 2012

But It Probably Wasn't The Ghost Of An Angry Santa

So what was banging away at night on the roof where Steve Volk lived when he was young? Was a ghost terrifying his family, trying to hack its way it, the same entity that yanked the covers off the beds of his sisters?

I don't know.

Volk describes the incident in his non-fiction book, FRINGE-OLOGY: How I Tried To Explain Away the Unexplainable —And Couldn't. As a reporter he couldn't write the typical joke article that laughed off the supernatural as the crazy delusions of fringe types. While tagging along with ghost-hunters, he could see that while many cases had earthly explanations, there were a few incidents that couldn't be dismissed so easily.

Unlike hard-core skeptics who create scientific justifications to dispel any paranormal ideas, Volk thinks some things are simply unexplainable.

Volk says that the supernatural and the paranormal are not the same. The supernatural is “of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe” which can involve God/gods/spirits/devils while the paranormal deals with "events or perceptions occurring without scientific explanation.”

He observes: "If we take these definitions, the supernatural seems to force us toward religion, while the paranormal merely forces us to say, 'I don’t know.' There should be no shame in that, but I think the faithful too often want to equate their beliefs with knowledge, while the skeptics fear that admitting a lack of a final answer opens the door to all manner of hoo ha, including God. The skeptics also tend to view the words supernatural and paranormal as if they are easily interchangeable, but whereas the supernatural seems to lie firmly beyond science, the paranormal waits patiently for the technology and the willing scientists necessary for its discovery."

At the same time Volk isn't totally anti-skeptic, mentioning he's a fan of Brian Dunning and Alex Tsakiris, two skeptical podcasters who try to bring together both sides to discuss issues. But there are those dogmatic/hard-core skeptics who want to stay inside their palaces of knowledge, not stooping to rub elbows with those they regard as intellectually inferior.

For example Volk describes the experience of Dr. Stuart Hameroff who spoke at the Beyond Belief Conference. Hameroff, a believer in human quantum consciousness, faced an unfriendly audience of atheist scientists and philosophers. Hameroff said the conference was like the Spanish Inquisition but in reverse, the skeptics attacking those who believed in religion with ridicule.

While Hameroff didn't have a problem with attacking organized religion, he thinks that there is room in science to explore spirituality. Why did he speak before such a closed minded crowd? Because hard-core skeptics want to replace organized religion with their own belief system.

Along the way Volk in his book investigates other topics as near-death-experience research, telepathy, and the Stephenville, Texas UFO flap.


Doug said...

We all share a common belief: That our beliefs (whatever those may be) are what everyone else should believe.

Nothing supernatural or paranormal about that, alas.

X. Dell said...

I couldn't say it any better than Doug.

Wouldn't it be nice if people thought of debate more in terms of collaborating, pulling together to understand some great mystery of the cosmos? Instead of thinking of debate as shout down, propaganda, or (worse yet) educating the "morons"?