7 thrilling examples when science met spirituality
Many people think that there are two circles that don't overlap: science and spirituality. In this way of seeing the world, one thinks that either the metaphysical realm is "reality" or that only the world as described in scientific terms counts as real. No one can deny that science works amazingly well at producing technology and making strides in understanding the physical world, and very few people would say that there is no supernatural (or at least paranormal) element at work in the cosmos. However, seeing them as totally separate remains the norm in the scientific and psychic communities.
Thus, it may come as some surprise that science and spirituality intersect all the time. From experimenters finding an exact weight of the human soul to no less than the U.S. Army conducting field work on ESP and remote reviewing, time and time again scientists have found hard-to-deny evidence, if not actual proof, that the paranormal world is at least as real as the "spooky" (Einstein's word) world of quantum physics. Below are nine jaw-dropping times the veil between these ideas was thin, indeed.
In a Time magazine interview, the author of The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena told the documented story of Abraham Lincoln seeing his dark future just 10 days before his assassination. This precognition occurred during a dream in which he walked the halls of the White House, which was full of mourners clad in black. Not realizing he was dreaming, Lincoln asked one of the distraught guests what had happened. Imagine his surprise at the crying person's answer: "The president is dead."
Not only did he understand that the mourner was talking about him, but he also saw his own dead body lying in state at the White House, as is the custom when a president dies. Upon waking, Lincoln told no one about this vivid premonition, but after a week or so, he could no longer keep it to himself, telling his wife and a few close confidants just a few days before being killed by Robert Wilkes Booth's bullet. What's more, Lincoln told some members of his cabinet on the morning of his assassination that the night before he had an unsettling dream of heading out on a sailboat, heading for a distant shore.
There are few feelings as pleasantly mystical as having one's future divined—and, often, one's present explained—through a skillful medium's use of tarot cards. The art on the myriad versions of the famous Rider deck is enchanting in itself, but the order that cards comes out of fully shuffled deck, combined with the story that the psychic weaves around them, seems astoundingly unlikely to come randomly. And yet, that's how they seem. Mathematicians have done a study of the probability of getting any one particular card layout: there are more than 450 thousand possible combinations ... but only one works for the subject's exact situation.
Even skeptics have a hard time denying the uncanny nature of EVPs, the ghostly traces of voices and other sounds within apparently random electronic static. This is an area of paranormal study much younger than fields like dream work and tarot reading, since the electronic substrate is not much more than 100 years old. Add the reported results to the easy task of recording EVPs, and it's obvious the mechanical world and the paranormal are intersecting here.
The title of the Naomi Watts film 21 Grams refers to a 1907 experiment in which a scientist made careful measurements of the human body just before and just after death. Doing so, his results showed, allowed him to calculate how much a human soul—the same experiment on a dog came up with a null result—weighs. You guessed it: 21 grams.
Most evidence for reincarnation comes from individual accounts of a person with an uncanny knowledge of what seems to be a previous existence. But the author of "How to Use the Statistical Experiment to Test the Reincarnation Hypothesis of the Soul" notes that these unconnected accounts make for bad science as well as bad spirituality because they "are always accidental, not repeatable, and therefore unconvincing." However, he introduces a method impossible before computers and utterly convincing, even inarguable: statistical analysis. Through following his prescribed experiments, scientists will be able to test mathematically whether or not there is evidence for a life on Earth after the present one.
Built on a much shakier foundation but still fascinating, "The Scole Experiment" was conducted over five years to find evidence of the other kind of life after death: that of a spiritual realm where souls go after inhabiting the body. The very small sample size (one married couple) was compensated for by an open invitation for more mainstream scientists to evaluate the study's findings, which indicated—spoiler alert—that such a realm does, in fact, exist.
Remote viewing would have obvious benefits for intelligence-collected government agencies like the CIA and the FBI. After learning of Russian advances in paranormal spying during the Cold War, the U.S. Army created Project Stargate. This top secret operation (which has nothing to do with the movie and TV franchise) would provide benefits for the military for very little money and, attractively during the itchy-trigger-finger years of high U.S.-USSR tensions, involved no active engagement with the entities being spied on. Also noted in the Army's funding proposal was that there was no known defense against mediums peeking into other minds existing behind the Iron Curtain.
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This list is only a sample of the many intersects between the scientific method and reports of the paranormal. Personal accounts as well as other peer-reviewed studies are to be found wherever pure skepticism can be put aside and scientific evidence be accepted no matter where it points.
I'm a university-trained philosopher and dabbler in cognition, and some of these reports gave me a verifiablyspooky thrill. Did you get a chill reading this list? Did some items convince, while others missed the mark? Science and study of the supernatural benefit when interested people let their opinions be known. Please add to the conversation in the comment section below!