Wednesday, July 30, 2014

UFOs and the Paranormal Taint

"Back off Shermer!"
Paranormal stuff is stupid, right?

And UFOs are the stupidest.

Not according to Charles Tart, veteran researcher and author of Transpersonal Psychologies and Altered States of Consciousness, and most recently The End of Materialism.

But, if you take yourself seriously as an academic, a writer, a researcher, a scientist, or, well, as anybody except a total fool, giving paranormal topics serious uptake will give you an indelible case of the 'paranormal taint', and you will be snickered at and ostracized forever after.

The term 'paranormal taint' has nothing to do with ass, although you may well utter a synonym for 'rectum' when someone treats you as though you have it.

In The End of Materialism Tart goes after what he calls 'scientism', which is based on ridicule and on simply declaring something you don't like 'impossible'. Not science at all, but more like someone who plays a scientist in the theater of his or her own mind.

The scientific method by contrast is a step by step method of inquiry which can be summarized as including 1) hypothesis, 2) observation, 3) experimentation, 4) replication, and 5) peer review and criticism, which, ideally, will get you back to step 1) all over again, refining the discoveries as you go.

Tart has spent most of his life using the scientific method to experimentally show that some paranormal topics are real and worthy of continued study. He calls these 'the big five', and they include 1) telepathy, 2) clairvoyance, 3) precognition, 4) telekinesis, and 5) psychic healing.

What does all this have to do with UFOs?

A lot, actually.

Nothing slathers a person with more paranormal taint than talking about UFOs in a serious way, and yet, thousands of people have had encounters, sightings, and even repeated contact. Many of these people are respected scientists, pilots, military personnel, and government officials.

You might think, so what's wrong with approaching the topic in a scientific (not scientistic) way?

Nothing really, and some people are starting to do it.

In fact, Tart's critique of scientific materialism and the exclusion of all nonmaterial topics from serious study is just one of a rash of recent books calling for the same. Many top thinkers are coming out and saying that science, while it is great and useful and has led to many discoveries, is not the be-all and end-all philosophically.

I will be listing some of those books in future posts.

For now, I just want to say that one of the many reasons UFOs continue to fascinate me personally is that they represent the most irrationally tainted of all paranormal topics. I have the sense that this is important, that in fact we've shoved all of our worst fears and rejected bits onto these unknown aerial whatsits, and for that reason alone we should be interested in taking them more seriously.

So that's my justification. I think it's a good one.

How about you?

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