Fringe Science

By GrabBag | CrackpotPhysicist | 16 Oct 2020


Science is a method of embracing new ideas and performing experiments to refine our understanding of how the universe works. In this environment, you would expect scientists to pay very close attention to outliers - experiments that have counterintuitive or perplexing results. But in reality this is often not the case. Instead of embracing new contradictory or unexplainable evidence, scientists often dismiss research as "fringe" or pseudoscience. And let's be fair - there's quite a bit of cult quackery out there, but the tendency of people with power to maintain the status quo by controlling information is a common occurrence throughout history and definitely persists today. Whereas in the past we may have seen religion being at odds with science, today we are seeing science at odds with itself.

A good example of this is Rupert Sheldrake, who studied whether or not people could detect if they were being stared at even though they couldn't see the person staring at them. His experiments always show that people have some unknown ability to accurately detect if they are being stared at, with statistical significance. A few of his subjects were highly gifted in this ability, being "nearly always right". However, when the experiments were performed independently by certain skeptics (with smaller sample sizes), they determined the odds were random chance. Is this confirmation bias or something else?

Sheldrake's theory, morphic resonance, describes how things have a kind of "telepathic" link. This definitely sounds like hogwash, but what's very refreshing to me is that Sheldrake doesn't claim to understand the exact mechanism behind this; he just looks at the data and draws natural conclusions. He's combed through evidence of learned animal behavior that is spread across vast geographic distances far too quickly for any other mechanism to explain. Many experiments have confirmed this effect on a variety of species, even in controlled conditions where knowledge could not be spread in any other way. This doesn't just happen in animals however, this phenomena is present in how certain types of crystals are created in laboratories. New crystalline formations are very difficult to produce initially, but as the process is repeated over time it naturally gets easier without any changes in procedure.

Morphic resonance could also be used to describe how groups of meditators can cause a significant reduction of violent crime in an area. This is called the Maharishi Effect and it's been proven to work in peer-reviewed studies, where it resulted in a 16% drop in crime rate. According to the charts, the effect compounds over time so it definitely seems possible to get even better results. A government-funded program to keep this operation going could have an enormous impact on society. Less crime means fewer victims, more happy productive people, and millions of tax dollars saved.

Still not convinced? Russell Targ performed research funded by the CIA to determine if extrasensory perception (ESP) is real and if it can be reproduced under controlled conditions. They determined it's possible to get 98% confidence in "remote viewing" experiments where an individual moves their awareness to a specific place and time and describes what they experience. People can see things they have no prior knowledge about, anywhere in the world. The design of the experiments was meticulously rigorous, eliminating all possibilities of manipulation and trickery. You can read about it in Targ's books, or watch his TEDTalk on YouTube.

So can this all be explained by physics? I recently wrote an article about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where I described how all possible timelines of the universe coexist simultaneously. A single particle can interfere with different probabilities of itself and other particles. I believe ESP abilities could be described by applying quantum phenomena to consciousness. In a normal state of perception, your awareness is in a state of decoherence, meaning it's experiencing a single timeline and not the greater multiverse. But when you clear your mind and detach your awareness from the "here and now," you increase coherence and gain ESP ability.

There is still so much that we don't understand about the universe. By ignoring things that don't fit nicely into our scientific framework, we perpetuate confirmation bias on a large scale. We should be receptive to new ideas, especially when they are backed by real experimental evidence. Only by analyzing the exceptions can we begin to improve our understanding.

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