UFO Conjecture(s)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Uncontrollable/Unknowable Aspects of the Paranormal: PSI, UFOs, et cetera

My brilliant “friend” Eric Wargo persists in trying to corral PSI [parapsychological or psychic faculties or phenomena] at his web-site, thenightshirt.com

The task is daunting but Eric’s erudition makes for an abstruse clarification of PSI that I’m wholly ill-equipped to conjure with, mentally.

But the problem isn’t confined to understanding PSI and attendant phenomena, such as UFOs or ghosts or anything remotely connected by being a weird representation of the unreal; unreal in the sense of reality as common folk understand reality.

The problem arises from the nature of the “beasts.”

PSI and its affiliated brethren of the fringe are evanescent, ephemeral in essence.

To try and understand PSI or UFOs is akin to trying to catch fog in your hands. One can get a slightly wet hand but nothing more. Fog dissipates upon contact.

My Facebook friend Greg Newkirk also pursues the amorphous elements that haunt our imaginations. He’s a ghost hunter and seeker of UFO ephemera. [See weekinweird.com for his exploits.]

But both men, try as they might, are left, hat in hand, as it were, with a kind of understanding of their obsessional interests but little else, I’m sorry to report.

It has always been thus, and while I applaud their efforts and thinking, I’m chagrinned by the effortful failure of their intellectual and/or physical pursuits.

Like ufology, trying to rein in PSI or ghosts will ultimately prove futile. (Ask our friend Paul Kimball who has also spent time and money pursuing spirits of the dead.)

As Shakespeare’s Hamlet says to his friend Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" and there is the caveat, Within Any Possible Universe, No Intellect Can Ever Know It All which is illuminated here:


Curiosity is a strange and dangerous thing as we all know, but I’m pleased that a few people I admire are not deterred by the debilitating and vain results of what are edifying effort(s) to explain the unknown, and unknowable.

RR

17 Comments:

  • Rick,

    On the topic of psi, I argue Dr. Julie Beischel of the Windbridge Institute has been investigating psi and coming away with more than damp hands. Same goes for the Rhine Research Center at Duke University.

    Eric Wargo is pondering the philosophy of psi, creating a framework for understanding with the potential to become a framework for the science once the mainstream gets over itself.

    OTOH, Newkirk is a folklorist and anthropologist focused on Americana and he does a damned fine job of his pursuit. The "paranormal" is just window dressing. Unlike academics, Greg's not afraid of getting his hands messy with "woo".

    By Blogger MrAnonymous, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • MrA...

    I'm a fan of both Wargo and Newkirk, as readers here know.

    Wargo is brilliant. Newkirk is adventurous.

    But they are dealing with ultimately unknowable "realities" as I've noted.

    Beischel and Rhine's acolytes likewise are (and have been) pursuing a chimera.

    I don't think either should drop their investigatory pursuits; curiosity and the search for truth, no matter how daunting, should not be set aside because such pursuits seem futile.

    But one should weigh what is important in life (for them) and determine if forsaking the pleasures of life, intellectual and otherwise, is worth their efforts.

    We all take paths which often prove worthless or less than rewarding. I just hope the guys hit pay-dirt before their lives come to and end and they've missed out on what is truly rewarding, whatever that may be.

    If a clarification of PSI comes from Eric's ruminations, good for him (and us) and if Greg gets a whiff of what his goblin thing is really all about, God bless him.

    Rich

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • Thanks Rich,

    I'll respectfully disagree with you about psi. I don't think it's unknowable. I also don't think it's the grab-bag it has always been made out to be. Things like telepathy, clairvoyance (remote viewing), even some (though not all) of the apparent “survival” evidence can arguably be reduced to precognition. And precognition is not magically getting information from “the future” in general; it is responding to emotionally salient information from our own future ... meaning the signal comes from inside our brains. That actually makes solving the problem a lot simpler.

    The idea that the brain can access information in its own future (and conversely, send information into its own past) sounds crazy, but multiple lines of mainstream science are converging on this exact conclusion: (1) physics is showing that particles’ behavior is determined as much by their future interactions as by their past interactions; (2) in special circumstances, systems can be designed in which information about particles' future interactions can be extracted beforehand (yes, informational time travel into the past ... but not using massively curved spacetime like black holes, just using a cluster of entangled and isolated atoms such as within a quantum computer); and (3) quantum biology and quantum neuroscience are hard at work figuring out whether, when, and to what degree the brain scales up quantum effects or even functions as a full-on quantum computer. Once #3 becomes a finding and not just supposition, precognition could naturally fall into place as a normal function—my bet is, even the main function—of the brain. The brain is going to turn out to be a truly higher-dimensional organ, with obviously mind-blowing implications.

    Thus, I think we are THIS close [holds thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart] to understanding psi, and even, given time, making it palatable to mainstream science. Doesn’t sound like “fog” to me.

    Not all paranormal topics are created equal though. UFOs? Yes, at this point, unknowable. That's why I don't expend much time anymore trying to solve that problem. I'll leave that one to you. :-)

    Eric

    By Blogger Eric Wargo, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • Eric:

    I think I may have gotten sidetracked by the "unknowable" link I found.

    I should have concentrated on the uncontrollable, my first inclination and title.

    I think you are parsing the topic precisely and insightfully, but you know that I think that.

    However, I'm reluctant to believe that one (anyone) can get a handle on PSI phenomena, in the sense that it might become "usable" somehow.

    One may understand PSI -- as you do more magnificently than anyone I know -- but one can't hope to tame the phenomena involved is what I should have pressed.

    You think, I assume, that someone (or a few) will get a handle on the phenomena and employ it judiciously and intellectually.

    Your citations about Dick and others indicates that "gifted" persons have already immersed themselves in aspects of PSI but just didn't know it or exploit it.

    That should have been my point: PSI is an uncontrollable beast (often unknowable to the persons experiencing it)....thus far anyway.

    You disagree surely, but there it is.

    Keep up the great work and let me, as a mugfaced bystander, try to get a thoughtful grasp of what you always provide.

    Rich

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • I don't disagree with you on the "uncontrollable" part. Those who try to use psi are often outwitted by it, for exactly the same reasons and in exactly the same ways that Freud described people being defeated by their unconscious. Our unconscious is the real "trickster." Conscious psi phenomena are probably mainly an occasional warning mechanism. (I keep thinking of all the premonitions Bruce Duensing was apparently experiencing in the months before his passing.)

    Psi mostly serves us when we are not trying to force it or control it. So, yes, on that I do agree.

    Eric

    By Blogger Eric Wargo, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • For the record, I actually got paid to go "ghost hunting," the exact opposite of spending my own money, as you imply. That would be crazy... but I'm always happy to spend someone else's money!

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • Lucky you, Paul....

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 14, 2015  

  • I agree with Rich that psi by its nature is elusive, it's like trying to catch a fog with a butterfly nut, and because psi is such a big part of ufology (at least as I see it), ufology remains elusive, slippery, it won't be pinned down. Fairy dust. And it will always be so.

    I don't think we can ever truly understand psi anymore than we understand much at all about nature and the cosmos, at best we may describe nature more accurately and hence psi more accurately. The thing is science can and does explain a lot away using bamboozling terminology and other collective deceptions. I can give lots of examples but I refrain...

    That said, Eric makes some interesting points. It's worth playing around with Eric's ideas about our future reaching back into our own lives and affecting our own lives accordingly, even if just as fun experiments and speculation. Take the mystery of human personality. Children just have their distinct personalities at a very young age, whilst still in kindergarden. Of course environment plays a role and as we grow older, life experience etc, but there is the mystery of intrinsic personality and explaining it away as nurture or it just is what it is, is not an answer. What if - if Eric is on the right track - our life experience and attitudes/mindsets when we are adults reach back into our past, when we are little children and shape our personalities as children! Do I really believe this? No, even for me this is too way out. However it's an interesting thought experiment and you know, if Eric's notions are even half right, then in theory I suppose it's possible. Sure it's bizarre but in principle what Eric is talking about is surreal and stranger than science fiction. Doesn't mean it isn't true because Nature herself is stranger than science fiction. I think as Rich implies we are all in the dark here, but that's why we shouldn't rule anything out. Who really knows?

    By Blogger Lawrence, at Thursday, October 15, 2015  

  • When it comes to paranormal events, say things like EVP's or audible voices coming from nowhere, it becomes increasing hard to surmise how the human mind might project such a voice on electromagnetic sound recorders, or heard disctincly in a house, fort, cave, or other place where two or more people hear a voice(s) very clearly.

    We might theorize that a ghost hunter may unwittingly project from the subconsious mind a voice or sound other than his own onto a tape recording device through some sort of psychic electromagnetic energy. A projection unknown to the investigator but replicating thoughts or memories or conjectors about what might be present or pulling from past memories or recollections of stories told.

    But the open air audible sounds, words, phrases, and so on often recorded live become much harder to explain since we cannot establish that the mind can speak from the subconsious in another voice without using the lips and vocal cords.

    In the past, I have observed the collection of EVP's on American Civil War battlefields at dusk and in the dark. In these cases recordings were collected without even asking questions, but merely sitting idle for 5-10 minutes on critical death zones on the battlefield. No one spoke a word when they were collected. No one was hoaxing by recording them earlier.

    Was someone present sending a psychic projection from their subconsious mind then recorded onto tape?

    Not certain we will ever know.

    By Blogger Brian Bell, at Thursday, October 15, 2015  

  • Disembodied voices on electronic gadgets are fascinating, Brian, but as you note, we have no idea where they come from or how.

    Then there is the why.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, October 15, 2015  

  • Well we have the 'stone theory' from the 1960's but then again it has been picked apart for lack of evidence as to how inanimate objects could possibly absorb events and then play them back at specific times.

    From direct observation of EVP collection, and from the recordings that seem authentic obtained by others, I note that none of them communicate anything that links them to common or mundane conversation past or present.

    There's never any "Hey honey, don't forget to pick up the kids.", or "What's playing on TV?", or even "Geet dem dare horses hooked up Willie...".

    Recordings tend to convey distress, emotional termoil, requests for help, or threats to vacate the unseen's private space.

    By Blogger Brian Bell, at Thursday, October 15, 2015  

  • Yes, Brian, always stressful responses or feedback.

    Bruce Duensing (may he rest in peace) insisted that electronics were intrinsic to such phenomena, and UFOs as well. (I think he got that from Persinger who's done much work on electronic interaction with the brain; but has been dismissed by other neurologists).

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, October 15, 2015  

  • Eric says, "The idea that the brain can access information in its own future (and conversely, send information into its own past) sounds crazy,"

    It probably sounds crazy because it is. All of so-called parapsychology is wishful-thinking, nonfalsifiable, evidenceless, stagnant nonsense; quantum woo is nonsense, it's just a load of bullsh!t talk used to justify any crazy idea, quantum consciousness to quantum Jesus; and quantum computers don't even exist yet.

    "but multiple lines of mainstream science are converging on this exact conclusion"

    No, they're not, that's just crazy talk, like nutty "UFO" disclosure talk, or crackpot Fred Alan Wolf talking "quantum consciousness." Anybody can claim anything using sciency-sounding buzzwords.

    "I think we are THIS close...to understanding psi, and even, given time, making it palatable to mainstream science."

    I think this is called "quantum wishful thinking," which means it's not ever going to happen because it's a baloney conclusion about a nonexistent thing, "psi,"--a pseudoscience for all the standard reasons--based on complete "quantum" bullsh!t. No offense intended, Eric.

    From every online guide to pseudoscientific baloney detection: If the speaker is not a bona fide quantum physicist and uses the word "quantum" to refer to anything other than quantum mechanics, it's most probably bullsh!t.

    "using a cluster of entangled and isolated atoms"

    Eric, "entanglement" simply refers to the indeterminate condition of a group of particles--not atoms--as described by mathematics. It's not some sort of magic to be exploited somehow. The difference in scale between subatomic particles and the atoms they compose is not comparable, the fantastic size difference is a barrier to any information exchange; what particles do at the ultramicroscopic scale is so utterly remote from the scale of the atoms they compose it's as if they exist in an entirely different realm--they DO exist in a different realm.

    And as such, the idea that the purely mathematical descriptions--in our macroscopic reality--of quantum mechanical conditions and events at the ultramicroscopic scale is just embarrasingly laughable sciency-sounding wishful thinking. It's quantum bullsh!t. Subatomic particles are bits of energy wriggling at light speed in multiple dimensions discrete from our own, that compose our own!

    Atoms aren't aware of quantum events--they're just math; molecules composed of atoms aren't aware of quantum events--they're just math; neurons composed of molecules aren't aware of quantum events--they're just math; and human brains composed of neurons aren't really aware of quantum events--they just do the math! (g)

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Psi#Psi

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Quantum_woo

    http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2010/04/07/the-worst-physics-article-ever/

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Friday, October 16, 2015  

  • "And as such, the idea or claim that purely mathematical descriptions--in our macroscopic reality--of quantum mechanical conditions and events at the ultramicroscopic scale determine them or them influence our thoughts is just embarrasingly laughable wishful thinking."

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Friday, October 16, 2015  

  • "All of so-called parapsychology is wishful-thinking, nonfalsifiable, evidenceless, stagnant nonsense" ... Really? have you actually read any of the evidence other than on pseudoskeptic sites that have an agenda?

    Zoam, the high-quality evidence for psi is massive, gathered by a lot of very smart people, and lots of other very smart people (including physicists) find it compelling ... but there are many psychological and cultural reasons certain folks hate the idea of it, on principle. One is that it is still in desperate need of a theory, and consequently has always been misunderstood and misinterpreted. The lack of a theory makes it unpalatable to those who want certainties. I can sympathize.

    I do get you about quantum speculation around psi. It's always been hand-wavey, and I'm guilty like everyone else. But you can't deny that major research areas currently include (a) ways to scale-up quantum effects in computers and (b) ways they already do scale up in biological systems, (c) including very probably the brain. Whether or not my particular theory has legs, it makes sense that these lines of research are going to produce or contribute to a viable theory of psi, eventually, one way or another. All that math, as you say, does add up to influencing how particles behave--it's the collective behavior of particles that, in a hypothetical quantum computer or quantum brain might theoretically carry information that the classical aspects of the brain might read. But yes, we're still a long way from knowing exactly how that might work. When I say "this close," I mean from a plausible theoretical framework, not from knowing the exact mechanisms.

    Eric

    By Blogger Eric Wargo, at Friday, October 16, 2015  

  • > the high-quality evidence for psi is massive but...

    Careful, Eric, of using saucer logic to make the case for psi.

    > One is that it is still in desperate need of a theory

    That is a reasonable statement.

    > The lack of a theory makes it unpalatable to those who want certainties.

    But that is not. Let me suggest a re-write:

    "The lack of a theory makes it unpalatable to those who want knowledge claims to be falsifiable."

    That's not asking for too much, I think.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Monday, October 19, 2015  

  • parapsychology

    "...parapsychology is the only realm of objective inquiry in which the phenomena are all negatively defined, defined in terms of ruling out normal explanations." James Alcock (2003)

    "Parapsychology is the search for evidence of paranormal phenomena, such as ESP and psychokinesis. Most scientists try to explain observed and observable phenomena. Parapsychologists try to observe unexplainable phenomena. All the other sciences have led us away from superstition and magical thinking, while parapsychology has tried to find a scientific basis for such things as divination and mediumship.

    "Much parapsychology today attempts to find statistical oddities that can't be explained either by the laws of chance or by any other known natural causes. Parapsychologists assume in such cases that they have found evidence for psi. ..."

    http://skepdic.com/parapsy.html

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Thursday, October 22, 2015  

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