Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Science and the scientific spirit

Of late I have been preoccupied with a lot of interesting phenomena of the paranormal kinds. I would go to the extent of admitting a degree of obsession with these topics, my favourites being Near Death Experiences (NDEs), Out of the Body Experiences (OBEs), Rebirth/Reincarnation.

Do I believe in these? If I have to reply very honestly, I am very intrigued, evidence which is being published seems strangely convincing, but if asked for a yes/no, I would have to say "I don't know". I would like to believe in it. I want to believe in it. My personal leanings would be towards belief. However, that is entirely besides the point. 

Any attempt at discussions with most people leads to one of two answers - a total belief (largely based on religious convictions and/or based on available evidence) or an outright denial. It is only a handful of people so far who have said "I don't know - maybe, may not be".

I have nothing against the people who disbelieve. My only arguments are against their reasons which are essentially the same as for a question like "Is there a God"? It would be, there is no "proof" orno "evidence" for such a phenomenon. They would go out of their way to give some neurochemical explanation to shrug off the evidence based on case studies which is being published these days. Never mind the fact that their explanation does not necessarily disprove the phenomenon. Does lack of evidence or proof constitute valid reason to negate a theory?

I wonder: why is it that we can accept mathematical equations which are "empirically formulated", but not other evidence. (I might be absolutely stupid, but frankly an entity like "pi" whose value is 3.14 to me appears to be empirically fixed. Where did they dream up the value from? The level of mathematics I studied in school/junior college did not give me any explanation on how it was derived. And I am sure it is the same for anyone whose field of expertise is not mathematics. But we have accepted this value "empirically" nonetheless and got through school quite uneventfully by accepting it as it is. Is there any "proof" for this value? There might be, but my level of knowledge in the field or the lack of it does not let me understand it. 

On what grounds can I refute studies which are published by leading psychiatrists or experts in the field? What is my level of expertise in this area)? 

Fair enough, one wants to think of possible alternative explanations - neurons are triggering all over the place, the person is in an altered state of consciousness - be it due to medication, trauma, level of suggestibility of the subject - whatsoever. But what is the harm in accepting that the other side may also be true? That there are many things we do not know and may not know for centuries to come, that there could be a dimension beyond our comprehension, beyond our ability to prove? 

The earth was spherical even before it was proved to be so. (How many people lost their lives because they said it was)! The earth did rotate around the sun even before someone came along and proved it. Until then anyone who said it was not the sun that rotated around the earth was accused of heresy with "grave" (pun intended) consequences. Gravity existed even before the apple landed on Newton's head. The proof came only later and then only on a chance. If that apple had not decided to fall off the branch on Newton's head, there is a possibility that the existence of gravity may not have been discovered for decades or centuries. Would that mean there was no gravity? Our ancients talked of "prana" and "vayu". How did we accept the existence of these without the proof?

Looking at the flip side of the coin, what makes an organization like NASA spend so many billions or trillions of dollars on launching space missions looking for life on other planets? Why don't they say, "We have never seen any such creatures so far. So they can't exist"? (Ironically all this goes on while "rationalists" try to claim that sightings of UFOs and extraterrestrials are fraudulent and reported by highly suggestible people). Isn't this a contradiction in terms of "science"? You spend so much of money trying to find life on other planets, but when someone says they have seen or photographed unidentified spacecrafts, you say it is rubbish. 

That there is no proof of NDEs or OBEs or of a "God" (definitions of "God" could vary and which definition is right or wrong is not the point of this discussion) does not necessarily mean that they do not exist. It only means that we do not have the means today to prove or to disprove their existence.

The very spirit of science demands that we approach any possibility with an open mind. And all such possibilities are valid unless proven to be absolute, incontrovertible impossibilities.