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Physics. Scientific Evaluation of Paranormal Effects Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2021

Introduction

The paranormal effect phenomena as a field of study have some divergent definitions that have sprung over for quite a long time and have developed several concerns as to its direction (Barr 31). The definition involves the concepts of spirits’ existence, unseen medium, mysterious subjects or objects, cult worship, magnetotherapy, redesthesia, enrgotherapy and many other phenomena (Lowski 689). In the physics study, it is considered an area that is continuously in existence. This is because it is concerned with matter with its elements, comprised of all aspects of existence and can never be depleted but only transformed to another. To physicists, it is only the methodology and setting for research that change everyday and this triggers the formation of several hypotheses to offer an explanation to any happenings or paranormal change of event, not content.

The scientific study of paranormal belief began with the study of superstitions (Irwin 215). He observes that during the fast decades of 20th century, superstitious beliefs were very common and were widely regarded in the educational circles as an indicator of the level of ignorance within the general community. Therefore Dresslar (215) as cited in Irwin (36) observed, “for the good cause of education, we must not fail to recognize the fact that underneath what passes for average culture there lies undisturbed a great mass of irrational predisposition”. From this observation, and particularly after the World War I and II, several researchers embarked on the mission to find the underlying factors that engendered superstitiousness and subsequently to develop educational programs that might effectively be implemented to undermine such kind of belief (Irwin 36). But the evaluation of paranormal belief appears to have persisted. Pioneered by the parapsychologists (physical researchers), its existence nevertheless created little impact on the explanations of the underlying reasons for the then widespread belief. This paper discusses how paranormal effect has been evaluated and viewed in the perspective of physicists and its impact in the overall study of physics.

The Dimensional Aspect of Paranormal Belief

The whole acceptance of paranormal belief seemingly began in 1970 when researchers started acknowledging the wider dimensionality of paranormal effect. In fact before the acceptance, many researchers posed very fundamental questions concerning the dimensionality and the limit of measurement of the phenomenon. Is paranormal belief a single or multidimensional phenomenon or do some of the specific beliefs that constitute it represents some sort of discrete, relatively independent facets of the paranormal belief? To understand this concept, it is logical to look at some of the brief historical studies done to unlock this dilemma.

The pioneer work of the dimensionality of paranormal belief appears to have been done by Jones et al. (1977) as cited by Irwin (41). Jones critically scrutinized the statistical data and came up with his analysis to help eliminate the redundant and the unsatisfactory items from the initial pool of 108 items (Irwin 41). His final version of the study involved the examination of the dimensionality of the statistical analysis that he called “rotated principled components analysis”, a technique that serves to identify factors or coherent, relatively independent subsets of variables being measured by an instrument (Irwin 41). Through his findings (Irwin 42), he suggests that the domain of paranormal belief is not homogeneous but multidimensional. These findings were against the then deeply entrenched belief among the researchers that paranormal belief is actually homogeneous, consequently invoking more interest in the factor-analytical physical science. The successive studies followed suit after this pioneer research.

Randal & Desrosiers (12) came up with the supernaturalism scale where they surveyed the astrological belief, faith healings, and the belief that plants are conscious creatures, ESP, UFO visitation, magic and witchcraft. They set a control experiment by wording one half of the statements in support of the supernatural belief and the other half were formulated in favor of the skeptics’ perspective. Some other statements as regards traditional religious faith were also included, even though this was not considered as part of the supernaturalism but acted as ‘buffer’ items that would help in obscuring the questionnaire purpose (Randal & Desrosiers 14). Some parts of their findings led them into a conclusion that there is strong evidence that some aspects of ‘supernaturalism’ have a scientific connotation and that paranormal belief is actually multidimensional in nature.

From this review, it is evident that presently available information provides a likelihood of the existence of a multidimensional facet of paranormal belief, even though more confident conclusion may wait for the yet to be done studies, expected to reveal the number and the identity of the belief components. However, presently it is acknowledged that the physics aspects of the paranormal belief is part and parcel of the physical combination of the paranormal study and any interrelations with the current scientific orientation is undisputable. Even though it may be inherent that these studies had the limitations associated with the periodical and methodological contexts, it is clear that uniform factor of science in the beliefs exists, thus making it a multidimensional phenomenon, and that physics has a role to play in this belief.

Physics and Paranormal Effect

What’s the Role of Physics as a discipline?

The basic concept behind the study of physics is that it deals with the study of matter together with its structural combinations and the movement of these structures, guided by specific laws. In summary, study of physics is in line with the ambition to unravel the true components of the world and their actions. The other concept to note is that research in physics in itself is truly guided by the technical methodology (including complex mathematics) of the studies as well as the theoretical observations, guided by our intuitions of the nature. In a nutshell, Feynman et al. (47) say that a physics researcher will base his or her research on the following ideologies:

  • An experiment where quantitative factors are observed by removing all the external factors of influence;
  • A well drawn hypothesis, normally in a kind of mathematical equations; and lastly
  • Verification of proving the accepted hypothesis of the set conditions.

It must be noted that all these experimental verification processes are as a result of a prior formulated hypothesis, which is actually an imagination of why a particular phenomenon happens or occurs- an attempt to justify an intuitive theory. If the first result fails, it does not necessarily mean the theory or the hypothesis is wrong, but the failure could be attributed to some other aspects as methodology and conditions of experiments (Feynman et al. 47). However, if the researchers believe that either the hypothesis, methodology, or conditions of the experiment was wrong, it may call for the formulation of a new hypothesis, change of methodology, or change of the conditions for experiment respectively (Feynman et al. 48). In other words, this will mean a repeat experiment but with one or two aspects changed to minimize or remove mistakes. This subsequently means that the hypothesis or the theory was strong and the researcher is still convinced that there is a reason behind the phenomenon; hence complete dismissal is not necessary. It must also be noted that theories in physics, just like any other scientific discipline, are not conclusive and therefore are not necessarily absolute facts because they rely on: preliminary reasoning, which will not necessarily lead to the intended fact finding, the measurement outcomes are approximated values once the uncertainties are reduced and thus may give inconsistent result from the theoretical hypothesis, a new phenomenon that was not considered may emerge and distort the findings especially if it was not taken care of when setting the experiment, and finally the experiment may be a victim of the researchers’ limited cognitive abilities of the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle (Iowski 687). This does not mean that physical laws have no basis towards absolute truth, but of course they are the absolute approximations of the underlying truth.

Iowski (688) observe that despite the fact that research in physics at times lead to the revolution of concepts in those earlier nature researches, it surely does revolutionize the laws of physics. To emphasize on this point, he outlines some principles of physics as earlier pioneered by Newton and Einstein. He observes that for over two centuries, the conservation of mass principle that was postulated by Newton was just emphasized by Einstein’s work linking the principle with velocity (Iowski 688). In principle, the emphasis on the theory was just but a confirmation of the importance of the Newton’s work and this in essence revolutionized the concept of mass. But it is clear that the theory of Einstein is approximating Newton’s theory because of the relationship between velocity and speed of light, and that velocity is a determinant of mass (a useful concept in the study of elementary particles as seen in accelerators) (Iowski 688). It is therefore worth concluding that in the views of paranormal physicists, it is not possible to unlock new theoretical findings but just to improve on the existing ones, which were based on the concept imaginations of some unreal phenomena in the world.

The Idea behind Quantum physics and Parapsychology

The discovery and improvement of physics have generally revolutionized the whole concept of parapsychology following the great discoveries of quantum physics about 200 years ago (Bednarek 337). Such discoveries led to the belief that human brain has the ability to find any solution to any problem that exists through analysis and “calculations”, and that the only limitation is in the mathematical complexity (338). The dominant theoretical idea was that the world only needs matter for all the answers to the extraordinary or ‘supernatural’ questions, hence the emergence of philosophy of naturalism (or materialism), which up to date still finds dominance among many researchers (Bednarek 338). In the 20th century, several discoveries revealed that the scientific knowledge that was meant to come up with more facts about the world did not live up to its billings. Furthermore, the hope that reliability of the equations of the classical mechanics would save the situation was disapproved by the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle and the discovery of deterministic chaos (Stewart 358). It was the discovery of quantum physics theories that proved to be widely dimensional in explaining the theories of physics, chemistry and molecular biology, in relation to atoms and elements.

However, this revelation still had some worrying deficiencies that are still a problem to date. The calculations in quantum physics provide only probable numerous results, hence research agreement may only come when large sets of parameters are measured (Barr 78). A good illustration on this point is found in science of radioactivity. It is said that certain isotope has half life of one hour; hence 50% of the atoms of this isotope will decay after this period of time. But this knowledge is not helpful when a researcher is interested only in following lifespan of a single atom on its own without involving the whole group of atoms (Barr 81). The only way to understand how an individual atom will behave is through what I would call “blind observation”, or observation outside the scientific explanation hence putting the measurements probable with some notes of certainty at the time of carrying out the measurement. In other words, the chance of certainty increases to probability of 1 for one particular probable result and diminishes to zero for the rest of the results (Barr 81). The other illustration is found in the experiment done on single photons by Lai and Diels (16). For the scope of this paper, I will not divulge much on the details of the research in terms of methodology but will only highlight the interpretation of the findings [for details of the research see Lai and Diels, 1992]. The result revealed that the two pathways set had the photon’s time of flight move simultaneously, a process described as a “linear superposition of states” in the science of quantum physics (Lai & Diels 19). During the time of measurement, the probability subsides and suddenly the process has one of the states receive a probability of 1 while the other reduces to zero probability (19-20). These changes can only be observed with the “naked eye”. But Lai and Diels (22) observe that the collapse occurs only after the observer confirms it with a measurement, thus giving an idea that these observations have some elements of paranormal elements of guesswork.

Iowski (689) brings out the concept that quantum physics’ reliance on paranormal ideas is a true manifestation of its position in the study of physics as a whole. He states that all the attempts that have been made to reveal the origin of quantum physics equations have not given any convincing answers. He therefore observes that the basic concepts of quantum mechanics are derivatives of complete knowledge of supernaturalism (690). In short, quantum physics relies wholly on the observer’s views and its laws are a derivative of the metaphysical assumptions.

The Big Bang Theory and Paranormal Effect

The field of Cosmology study is one area that has also proved very critical in the explanation of the paranormal effect. Cosmology has tried to justify the fact that the universe originated from a single element and has continuously expanded to date (Iowski 699). This theory has been referred to as big bang theory and recently, it got approval when it was awarded a Nobel price for its role in Physical science by determining the background radiation of anisotropy (Iowski 699). This theory intimates that the universe has a genesis and its projected end and the only problem with it is that measuring the time of beginning and (i.e. zero time) and projecting it to a distance future is not easy. Interestingly it is observed that near the time zero when the universe began, it must have been so tiny that it obeyed all the laws of quantum physics. Iowski (670) states that if such was the case, then the state of the universe was surely a superimposed line along the evolved quantum pathways and could only be realized and explained by a theoretical estimation. That only during this time, the observer’s appearance coincided with the fall of the wave function, leading to one particular pathway subsiding to one chance of occurrence thus the beginning of the universe’s existence (670).

Kurt Goedel’s theorem of mathematics brings out another belief that paranormal effect is a legitimate issue in the study of physics. According to this theory, it is stated that the arithmetic concepts found in the mainstream system of mathematics can never be confirmed with the use of any legitimate means within this system. The same dilemma brought about by this theorem can be found in the computers, where it is observed that the challenge is beyond computer programs and the only way to unlock the dilemma is with the human observation [Barr 115].

During this time of great technological advancement, it is hard to believe that everything that happens is as a result of our actions. The computers have made everything look simpler, making the interaction between people a cross the universe as easy as meeting in a club, even if its through virtual means hence making the globe a “virtual reality” where the center is controlled by one computer, manipulated by one God (Lowski 674). In summary, the availability of cosmological knowledge, ideologies of naturalism, the Kurtt Goedel’s theorem are all but paranormal knowledge, controlled by belief of existence.

Conclusion

It is noted that the study of paranormal effect phenomena has a possibility of highlighting or creating an impact on the several branches of science. The latest revelation of this is the increased interest in physics as a branch of science that is likely to have a significant impact on the rest of other scientific approaches to paranormal evaluation. This is largely because many science researchers have adopted what Bednarek (79) calls a ‘reductionist’ approach where the basis of describing the world on the science perspective is a pyramid-like structure, with physics occupying the base of the pyramid. In the physicists’ perspective, it is apparent that no scientific researcher will fail to acknowledge the value of parapsychology in the scientific evaluation of paranormal effects. This is considering the fact that it has been demonstrated in both several scientific studies and theoretical observations that at least one aspect of physics exists in them. One would argue that since the physical aspect of the world is more confusing and at times does not make sense, there is of course some room to reason out the existence of unusual phenomenon.

Works Cited

Barr & Stephen. Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. University of Notre Dame, Indiana, 2003. Print.

Bednarek & Stanislaw. Attitudes of Physics Teachers towards Paranormal Phenomena. Addison- Wesley Publishing Co., 2007. Print.

Feynman, R., Leighton, L. & Sands. Feynman Lectures on Physics, vol. I, Addison Wesley Publishing Co., 1968. Print.

Irwin, H. The Psychology of Paranormal Belief: A Researcher’s Handbook. UK, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2009.

Lai, M. & Diels C. Wave-Particle Duality of a Photon in Emission. J. Opt. Soc. Am. B9 2290, 1992. Print.

Lowski, H. The Genesis of the Quantum Cosmology Principles. Adam Mickiewicz: University Press, Poznan, 1999. print.

Randal & Desrosiers. Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources, 1980.

Stewart, I. Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos. Penguin Books, 1989.

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