Tuesday, January 11, 2011
[the crystal ball at work]
Daryl J. Bem, an emeritus professor at Cornell University, has written a paper claiming that people may be capable of intuitively sensing future events.
Apparently, most other scientists are outraged.
What's interesting to me is not the topic of psychic abilities in themselves. What I find interesting is the anger that this paper is arousing in other scientists. Why the emotion? What is it so horrifying? There is plenty of bad science being done (think of Margret Mead for example, or Freud) without any immediate, great outrage.
My impression is that scientists realize that psychic powers would imply the existence of a soul. A soul would imply the existence of a God who created it. God would imply that possibly God has spoken to people, that He wants something from us, that prophesy may be valid, that the clergy could therefore be more important than scientists. This article therefore strikes at the entire foundation of scientific prestige and power. Belief in God and the Bible, for example, would reduce scientists to being mere plumbers and mechanics, not the most prestigious intellectuals in society. (Consider how Charles Darwin, whose father was a freethinker, studied for the clergy in 1827 not because he had any particular interest in the subject, but his father felt that this would be at least an honorable vocation for him, thus avoiding the scandal of becoming an idle rake.)
It's a bit reminiscent of the horror that the Big Bang aroused for many years until the evidence could no longer be ignored.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:44 PM