Should scientists be dismissive of paranormal phenomenon such as ghosts, spirits and ESP?



Should scientists be dismissive of paranormal phenomenon such as ghosts, spirits and ESP?

As seemingly unexplainable events (data) have occurred and over the years, people have come up with paranormal claims (theory) to explain the phenomenon. For example, someone who seems to be able to know what another person is thinking is considered psychic because he has special powers and is able to do so. This is however, just an example of a pseudo-science, where the reasoning to link the theory and the observed data is flawed with misinterpretations of the natural phenomenon – Which could be that this person was just lucky or is really good at guessing.

Anything that does not follow the reasoning of the scientific method should be dismissed by the scientists. There are certain distinguishing features of the scientific method, namely, the falsifiability of the hypothesis and the reproducibility of the results. If any theory violates one of the points, then it will not be considered as science. The evidence presented for psychic phenomena is not sufficiently verified for scientific acceptance, and there exist many non-paranormal alternative explanations for claimed instances of psychic events. The paranormal theories have also been seen to be neither falsifiable nor reproducible. Hence, they cannot be considered as science, or rather, these are pseudo-science. Hence, it is reasonable that scientists dismiss them. Otherwise, the value of Science itself will be undermined as it is too inclusive of all possible “theories”.

Scientists should also dismiss the claims as they need to advocate the practice of scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is not only about knowing technical knowledge, but also the ability to think logically, and make sound conclusions after studying the presented facts. According to an article by National Science Foundation, they have observed that “people who believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena may have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. Their beliefs may indicate an absence of critical thinking skills…” .

Even as our knowledge and understanding of Nature and world increases, it does not naturally lead to the conclusion that scientists should not be dismissive of paranormal phenomenon. On the contrary, as scientists have more knowledge with new theories that are conceptualized and generally accepted and proven to be accurate, theories with no support from the scientific method should be frowned upon and dismissed by scientists. Scientists should be able to use the new knowledge to explain the observations made instead. As paranormal claims can only explain certain phenomenon, these claims have no degree of universality. It is the universality of laws that give rise to people’s faith in them. Hence, by application of Occam’s razor, we would pick the simplest solution, which is to use laws which have degree of universality to further explain those observed phenomenon.

Scientists should not be made to accept these possibilities on the reason that they have to be open to all possible suggestions so as to avoid missing out “a potential truth”. This is not a true claim. To say that scientists should accept that there is a possibility that the paranormal theory still stands, is to say that the scientific method is not a good enough sieve to eliminate the bad science from good science, as there is a “chance” that it might be correct although it does not pass the test of the scientific method. This would be akin to slapping the scientists in the faces for not believing in the scientific method which they have so fervently abided by.

If scientists were to believe in everything and accept the possibility that everything can happen, then there would be no ending of what is not to be believed. It does not help in the progress of science as it seems like there is nothing wrong and everything can be a possibility. It makes the study of science too trivial and unsatisfying.

Just because that scientific laws are unable to explain those paranormal phenomenon does not mean that the scientific laws are wrong. They just must be modified to provide a better and more encompassing description of nature. Hence, we should use current knowledge to push the boundaries of knowledge and to make hypothesis which can be tested.

To say that it is beneficial that scientists should be curious about and investigate all possibilities is not entirely true. In our world of finite resources, we must be prudent and focus our efforts on the most plausible and likely theories in order to be more efficient.

That being said, it does not mean that scientists should not investigate the observed data. It is just that they should abandon the paranormal claims. They should still formulate more hypotheses to find out the real reasons for the observed data. So, paranormal phenomenon will be given their chance of being evaluated and investigated by a thorough scientific method.

In conclusion, scientists should not dismiss the paranormal phenomenon because they do not like it, but rather, it is because through the scientific process, paranormal theories have been seen as insufficient to explain the phenomenon. Thus, scientists should be dismissive of paranormal claims.

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