Introduction to the Paranormal

Podcast 1 Script- Introduction the Paranormal

Welcome to my first podcast into the paranormal. This a series of 20 podcasts that explore four areas of the paranormal

1, Why are particular phenomena classified as paranormal?

2, Is the paranormal phenomenon defying scientific laws?

3, Is there proof of paranormal phenomena?

4, If there is evidence of paranormal phenomena, what is the best explanation?

I start with two quotes that define my approach.

The first is from Isaac Newton “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” – By exploring research already conducted into the paranormal phenomenon, we can draw conclusions about the paranormal.

The second quote is from Galileo “You cannot teach a man (person) anything; you can only help him discover it in himself (themselves).”

I hope you enjoy this series of podcasts, as I reflect on the mysteries of paranormal research and give you some food for thought.

On 21st September 1995- two students asked Jimmy Carter, the former US President, what was the oddest thing he experienced as president. His response was strange.

President Carter was describing an incident in March 1979, when a Soviet Tu22 bomber crashed somewhere in Africa. During the middle of the cold war, there was a race to recover the USSR jet. Using modern technology at the time, the US couldn’t locate the plane.

US spy satellites could find no trace of the aircraft, so the CIA consulted a psychic from California. Carter said the woman “went into a trance state and gave some latitude and longitude figures. We focused our satellite cameras on that point, and the plane was there.”

The US then turned to a new research program in California, called Star Gate. They used a psychic or remote viewer to pinpoint the wreckage. Despite the remote viewer being located thousands of miles away.

There are three general hypotheses in paranormal research: (1) hoax/fraud, (2) misinterpretation of research, and (3) genuine phenomena.

The Hoax or fraud hypothesis can be dismissed as illogical based on the evidence. It is not credible that remote viewing didn’t happen within the US Government at the time. The Stargate program ran between 1975 to 1995 and with successful trials, training programs, and thousands of operations.

The second hypothesis is the misinterpretation of results and can be explained by current models of the mind. In 1995, two researchers evaluated the program. Professor Utts concluded that there was definite evidence for remote viewing while Professor Heymann came to a more skeptical conclusion, Although acknowledging the significant findings. It is difficult to conclude with the skeptic from the evidence of Jimmy Carter, and the statistically significant experiments. I haven’t seen a plausible explanation that can explain the above, without accepting it as genuine evidence.

This leaves us with the possibility of a genuine phenomenon. The CIA open-sourced files had hundreds, if not thousands, of operational cases on remote viewing. They undertook training programs and produced statistically significant experimental data. If it is genuine, how can we explain remove viewing? We discuss in this 20 episode series of podcasts how this might be possible.

There is a documentary called Psychic spies produced by Russel Targ if you wanted an insider story on remote viewing.

We discuss remote viewing in more detail in a later podcast.

Part 2 The Start of Paranormal Research

The story of scientific research into psychical phenomena started in 1882 with the founding of the Society for Psychical research. The Chair was Henry Sidgwick, professor at Cambridge University, along with Frederic Myers and Edmund Gurney. They were respectable members of the scientific community interested in testing claims around mediumship, particularly the spiritualism movement. The movement was started by the Fox sisters in 1848.

Edmund Gurney was accredited to the discovery of hypnotism. At the time, hypnosis was considered paranormal, but it is now an accepted part of psychology. It was classified as paranormal as they had no understanding of its nature at the time. Later, due to experimental research, hypnotism became accepted in the scientific community.

Other societies were set up throughout the world to study paranormal phenomena scientifically. Including the American Society of research which was set up three years later in 1885. One of the founding members was a renowned psychologist from Harvard, William James.

Reports of paranormal phenomena didn’t start in the 1880s, and observations can be found across all ages and cultures. Since the 1880’s that paranormal research would be collected and studied systematically. Several academic journals are set up for peer review of research into the paranormal.

One of the early interests of paranormal societies was in mediumship, which was seeing an increase in popularity in the 1880s western culture. Mainly the increase in seances and becomes a business-like operation. Unfortunately, like today, many of these people were found the be frauds or not operating at the level required. But some mediums were believed to have a real talent.

There is a lesson in assumptions made in today’s mediumship research. If we find mediums who can produce consistent experimental effects and no evidence of fraud, this is suggestive of real mediumship. We can’t assume all mediums can produce such results. Also, in contrast, if a medium is found to be a fraud, doesn’t mean all mediums are frauds.

We can consider the 1880s the start of modern-day parapsychology being formed. The principle is still the same to test claims of the paranormal through systematic processes. However, today’s research contains a wide range of physiological measuring devices and recording equipment.

Part 3 What is paranormal?

What do the parapsychologists study? The current definition of paranormal/ parapsychology is “Scientific study of experiences which, if they are as seem to be in principle outside the realm of human capabilities.” The classifications into paranormal research during the 20th Century and the first part of the 21st Century can be classified into four categories. Although, there is overlap across the categories.

Spontaneous paranormal activity: These are cases of people witnessing hauntings or poltergeist activity.

Extra Sensory Perception: Or ESP for short or sometimes known as bioinformation. It includes research that requires a different sense that is considered outside of the current known senses, such as remote viewing, telepathy, and precognition.

Psychokinetic’s: Or PK for short or sometimes called bioenergetics. These can involve starring/attention research, and investigations into individuals who claim they can move objects with their minds.

Life after Death Research: As the name suggests some research can be classified as Near-Death Experiences, Mediumship, and Past Life Research.

I’m using the academic definition of paranormal research to define my research area. Therefore, I don’t cover areas like UFOs, Aliens, etc. I use open-source information, for example, research articles, books, etc. So, all my research sources are available to the general population.

Part 4 Type of Research

There are three main methods in testing claims of the paranormal. The methodology used will be related to the research question. For example, you can’t carry out laboratory work on Near-Death Experiences.

TypeMain StrengthMain Weakness
Self-reportCan capture personal experiences and look for common themes across the general populationNo way to independently verify someone’s experiences
Field investigationsThe ability to test when the experiences occurLacking the ability to control the environment
LaboratoryAbility to control the environmentCan’t test a range of phenomena that appear to happen spontaneously

Part 5 Do people experience paranormal phenomena?

The first port of call is whether people actually experience paranormal phenomena, and it isn’t some made-up story. I start this section with a quote from Richard Feynman “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Although not directly related to paranormal research, his thoughts are insightful.

Do people believe what they want to think and fool themselves? However, rationally it is equally appropriate for believers or non-believers of paranormal phenomena not to fool themselves to producing wrong conclusions.

The basic premise of paranormal research is similar to the founding members of the paranormal research society. Do People have strange experiences? If so, is there any evidence of these phenomena?

Haraldsson and Houtkooper,1991 surveyed over 18,000 people across 13 countries that assessed people’s paranormal experiences. They concluded.

When people were asked about experiences in telepathy, the researchers found, 34% of European’s and 54% in the USA had some experience of telepathy.

When people were asked about clairvoyance experiences (people predicting future events), the researchers found that 21% of Europeans and 25% of Americans reported experiences of telepathy.

When people were asked about their experiences in contacting the Dead, the researchers found that 35% of Europeans and 30% of Americans had at least one experience.

Several differences emerged between paranormal experiences and personality traits

(1) Education and age weren’t significantly related to experiences of paranormal events

(2) Women are more likely to report telepathy and contact with the dead

(3) People who believe in reincarnation and spirits are more likely to experience paranormal phenomena

We have seen that some people claim to experience paranormal phenomena. In a way, this is the starting point for all paranormal research. If people reportedly experience these paranormal phenomena, how can it be explained, and what are the implications for paranormal research. This will form the majority of podcasts.

Part 6- Understanding the Mind

The remaining part of this podcast is to discuss why we consider the paranormal phenomenon as abnormal, and how it fits into theories of the mind. There are two main debates around the brain and mind. First, there is the mind/body debate. Although we discuss this in more detail in podcast 3, it states there are two theories. The materialism that the brain generates all conscious thought. In contrast, the dualism hypothesis there is a degree of separation between mind and body. The majority of scientists believe in the materialism perspective. The second debate argues whether analogies of how the brain works are effective, such as cognition.

The majority of the Psychology Models of the Mind are based on classic theories, such as neurobiology and cognitive psychology. Researchers such as John Searle, have argued some models that psychologists use to describe the mind are inadequate, such as cognitive psychology. The criticism focuses on the human brain and the mind, having more complexity than a computer.

In Roger Penrose’s book Shadows of the Mind, he makes the argument that digital computer analogies don’t capture the complexities of consciousness. The idea is that the digital computer can’t recreate the brain, or come anywhere close.

In physics, there are two main areas of research. Classical physics that explains everything bigger than particles. Quantum Mechanics laws that can explain the very small world. Both types of theories have been proven in experiments, but sometimes contain conflicting information. Psychologists have chosen the classical theories to explain consciousness, but Penrose has put forward an argument that quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.

There is no law or evidence suggesting that Psychology should be using classical physics to explain the mind and consciousness. If we accept that consciousness exists, then there is no reason why classical laws are chosen over quantum mechanics.

Before going any further, we need to discuss whether the current paradigm of the brain and the mind are correct. We will use a proxy measure of treatments for mental health to examine how well scientists understand the brain.

There is clear evidence for mental health issues that exist within the population. However, across the same period, there have been numerous theories explaining mental health issues, and some quite frankly weird treatments. But how successful are the treatments?

Approximately 50% of clients will get better due to individual treatments, pharmaceutical treatments (drugs), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or Alternative Therapy. The most successful approach is a combination of treatments. Approximately 60% of people diagnosed with mental health issues see a reduction in symptoms if they combine the treatment programs. Therefore, we can conclude the model of mental health, show some signs of alleviating symptoms, but are far from perfect.

Approximately 20% of clients will get better due to thinking they are receiving an active treatment when they aren’t. This is called the placebo effect.

There are some other major limitations in treatments for mental health.

1, A fundamental problem is that we don’t know why treatments work for some and not others.

2, There is also a lag in pharmaceutical treatments, for example, biological imbalance appears corrected, but symptoms continue until a few weeks after.

I think there is a strong case that the psychology models of the mind are incomplete. We started with a case study of remote viewing to locate a plane. It is difficult to argue that this didn’t happen, or that the CIA did hundreds, if not thousands of operations of remote viewing. However, our psychology models can’t explain remote viewing. In addition, theories of mental states are incomplete. Therefore, we need a new way to look at the mind and body debate.

Thomas Kuhn’s (1962) book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was an influential book that examined the history and philosophy of science. Kuhn argued that science development isn’t a linear progression but relies on breakthrough moments for significant changes in the understanding of the world.

By our definition of paranormal, by exploring phenomena that don’t fit into our current scientific paradigm. We have two positions, one to accept, and another one to reject:

(1) the current paradigm of the mind is correct, and the paranormal phenomenon can be explained through these means.

(2) or the current paradigm is wrong, demonstrated by a paranormal phenomenon, and we need to have a new model of the mind.

The current Psychology paradigm we have around neuroscience and analogies to explain the mind and brain are all based on classical laws. To some extent, this has worked, but the proxy success rate of mental health indicates that it is an inadequate model. Theories have been developed in quantum mechanics within the model of the mind. So, there are two schools of thought, classical and quantum laws.

Albert Einstein perfectly summed up quantum mechanics as “spooky actions.” I will argue, and hopefully, you agree with my central thesis that the paranormal research challenges the paradigm of classical theory in explaining the brain and mind. Whether or not you decide if a paradigm shift is needed.

I argue that the 140 years of paranormal research challenges the paradigms produced by Psychology models of the brain and mind. I argue that paranormal investigation tests our common perception of the world. Paranormal phenomena aren’t beyond the understanding of science and don’t contradict with known laws of physics. These are quantum laws, which defies our common perception of reality.

Summary

Around a third of people have experienced paranormal phenomena. Therefore, it isn’t just a theoretical debate. In the series of podcasts, we explore whether people are mistaken in their experiences, or they have a genuine experience.

Remote viewing was both researched and used in operations by the CIA. Open-sourced information released by the CIA confirmed the use of remote viewing.

The definition of paranormal involves challenging the view of currently accepted models of the brain.

Theorists have argued that quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness. I argue that some experimental paranormal research tests this claim rather than paranormal being beyond the reach of science.

In the next 19 podcasts, we explore paranormal phenomena and come to a conclusion on its nature.

In the next podcast, we focus on the Cold War and the research programs from the US and the former Soviet Union.

The soundtracks were provided by Kevin MacLeod

The sound effects were provided by Pro Sound Effects

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