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Common Ground: Reconciling Faith, Science and the Paranormal

Common Ground-

Reconciling Faith, Science and the Paranormal

By

John D. Mimms

 

The purpose of this article is not to preach or suggest this is only one correct point of view. Every person has different values and beliefs that dictate how they perceive the world. I can only speak from the point of view of my own values. Having given this topic much thought, I believe that a similar objective approach can be taken regardless of your individual beliefs or values.

Faith, science and the paranormal are three disciplines that have been in conflict with one another through the centuries. The arguments have taken many forms from Charles Darwin and creationism vs. evolution to the Salem witch trials where the church burned accused “witches” at the stake. It is a conflict that has raged through the ages and is not likely to end any time soon. Is there any way to find some common ground between these three? I believe there is and they have more in common than most would think.

First, let me preface my view by discussing my background. I was raised Christian in a Southern Baptist church. I have always remained true to my faith but I cannot abide hypocrisy, and there is plenty of it to go around in all the major religions of the world. I began questioning some church dogma when I was a teen. Specifically the stance that dancing or even just taking a little sip of alcohol is a sin. Anyone that has studied the Bible, the Torah or Koran knows that this is a contradiction. Every religion without exception has denominations that take scripture out of context to suit their individual agendas. I know that will make some angry but the truth is that all are guilty of it including the Baptists.  Contradictions such as these started me on the path to objective thinking when it comes to all practices that come along with faith. It leads me to the realization that I need to take everything I hear with a “grain of salt” and do my own study on the subject. One of the primary teachings that it seems all religions have is that science has no place in faith and vice versa. I believed that for many years until I went to college. There I had a biology professor that presented me with a new way to think of things which has inspired me in my endeavors with science. He taught evolution, like every biology class does, but he presented it from another perspective. My professor called it “evolution through divine intervention”. This theory holds that evolution occurred but it was influenced by God. If you look at the creation story in Genesis, which was written many millennia before we had any scientific notion of evolution, it follows almost exactly in the steps that modern science believes that evolution took place. The path in Genesis states there was a void and shapeless earth, and then there was light with a sun and moon to “rule” the darkness (the Big Bang). Next, the land and seas were created and closely followed by grass and plants. Then the seas were given life, followed by animals on the land and, finally, mankind. The theory of evolution through divine intervention also states that the 6 “days” that it took to create the world are not literal 24 hour days as we know them. There was no concept of time when the earth was formed, therefore the days were put into the account to give early man an understanding that they could comprehend. There is a passage in the Bible from (2 Peter 3:8) that states “1,000 years is like a day to God” which leads us to conclude that God operates on a different time than we do. In comparison, the scientific theory states there was a “big bang” that formed the earth, planets and stars including our sun and moon. It goes on to state that life started in the oceans, then evolved into animals on the land and the finally evolved into modern man. Whether you subscribe to the religious aspect of creation or not, there is no dispute that they follow the same path in the order of things. The only difference is- was this caused by random chance or by some divine influence? That is open to each person to interpret for his or herself. But I believe it is undeniable that there is definitely a great deal of common ground there.

            Next, let’s discuss the common ground between faith and the paranormal. Without a doubt the common theme here would be the “soul” or “spirit”.  The Bible clearly states that everyone has a soul that continues on beyond the death of the physical body. Paranormal investigation’s main charter is to investigate claims of souls or spirits, “entities” that still dwell in a building or area. Both would initially seem to be on the same page, so why all the conflict? There are many points of view in organized religion as to what happens to the soul after death. A few branches of Christianity believe in purgatory, which is kind of a “waiting room” between this world and the next, while many others from Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, teach that the soul goes straight to heaven upon death of the body, while other believe the soul is in a state of sleep or “stasis” until the end of time. Hinduism and Buddhism both believe in a reincarnation of the soul to higher levels of existence. I personally find the verse in 1 Thessalonians  4:15–17 of the King James version of the Bible most compelling in that most religious authorities seem to overlook it:

 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

For me personally, the line “the dead in Christ will rise first” is the most compelling from a religious perspective to suggest that our souls remain here in some capacity until the end of time. This belief would be consistent with the objectives of paranormal investigation. The bottom line is that all major religions believe in the soul and paranormal investigation is more or less in search of scientific proof of the soul.

 To bring our three way common ground together, let’s discuss the aspect of the soul from a scientific perspective. In our limited scientific understanding there is no way as of yet to definitively prove or disprove the existence of the soul. That having been said, I believe the common ground here lies in the Law of the Conservation of Energy. This law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. This law has evolved from the work of many scientists over the centuries but the modern postulation first came about in 1844. William Robert Grove postulated a relationship between mechanics, heat, light, electricity and magnetism, by treating them all as manifestations of a single “force” (energy). Grove published his theories in his book The Correlation of Physical Forces.  In 1847, drawing on the earlier work of James Prescott Joule, Sadi Carnot and Emile Clapyron: German scientist Hermann Von Helmholtz arrived at conclusions similar to Grove’s and published his theories in his book Über die Erhaltung der Kraft (On the Conservation of Force, 1847). The general modern acceptance of the principles of the Law of the Conservation of Energy stems from this publication. Most scientists would probably agree that every individual has a life force or “energy” about them that dissipates upon death of the body. According to this scientific law, it is not gone or destroyed at death but has changed to another form. Whether this energy is the soul and has moved on to another existence or has just gone on to be ambient energy in the environment again is open to the interpretation and beliefs of the individual. I believe this is an area where legitimate paranormal investigation comes in to help science have a better understanding.

Why did I emphasis legitimate? As most of my readers will be aware, there are literally thousands of paranormal groups that spring up daily. There are as many different styles of investigating as there are groups. Many paranormal groups use mediums or psychics as part of their investigation tools. This is one area where common ground can be lost very quickly. To approach this from an area of faith, most major religions warn against psychics or mediums primarily because you open yourself up to deception from a negative entity (aka demon) or deception from the individual providing the “reading” or “communication” with the “spirit world”. From a scientific perspective, there is absolutely no validity to any information a psychic or medium provides us. A medium can claim there is a spirit present and they “see” them in the room. In every case you would have to take their word for what they are claiming. I’m sorry but that is just not good enough if you want to approach paranormal investigation from an objective point of view. The only way to bring all three disciplines together is to collect paranormal data in a scientific format. Then, and only then, can you bring your findings to both the scientific and religious communities and expect to have any credibility and common ground. I believe it is possible some day, but it is going to take a larger effort by the legitimate paranormal researchers.

Why do I bring religion into the debate? It is a fact that 84% of the world’s population claims an affiliation with some religion. The fact of the matter is that most people’s beliefs and prejudices are influenced by their religion. The simple math of it is that a large percentage of scientists, which I include legitimate paranormal investigators in that genre, have their own religious beliefs.  If they are not involved in religion they have their own individual core values that they draw from. Either way the scientific community has its own beliefs and prejudices amongst its members.  I will always remain true to my faith and nothing will change that. I have personally received criticism from the religious community on my involvement with paranormal investigation. This was not at all totally unexpected. But through my years of experience, I understand the importance of science in aiding our understanding of the universe and improving the quality of life of mankind. I have found my common ground and hopefully if you are willing to step back and take an objective, open minded view; you will find your common ground as well.

Isn’t science really man’s attempt to figure out how God did things?

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The Science of Hauntings

A few weeks ago I wrote an article called Common Ground; Reconciling Faith, Science
and the Paranormal. In that article I discussed a hypothesis I have been considering for
a long time regarding the science of the soul. I feel that this is an area that requires
further investigation because there are a lot potential explanations that can be derived
from this theory. The theory stems from the Law of the Conservation of Energy. This law
states that energy or matter cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed
from one form to another. This law has evolved from the work of many scientists over the
centuries but the modern postulation first came about in 1844. William Robert Grove
postulated a relationship between mechanics, heat, light, electricity and magnetism,
by treating them all as manifestations of a single “force” (energy). Grove published his
theories in his book The Correlation of Physical Forces. In 1847, drawing on the earlier
work of James Prescott Joule, Sadi Carnot and Emile Clapyron: German scientist
Hermann Von Helmholtz arrived at conclusions similar to Grove’s and published his
theories in his book Über die Erhaltung der Kraft (On the Conservation of Force, 1847).
The general modern acceptance of the principles of the Law of the Conservation of
Energy stems from this publication. The concept of mass–energy equivalence, as
expanded on by Albert Einstein and his famous E=mc2 formula, unites the concepts of
conservation of mass and conservation of energy, allowing rest mass to be converted to forms of active energy (such as kinetic energy, heat, or light) while still retaining
mass. Conversely, active energy in the form of kinetic energy or radiation can be
converted to particles which have rest mass. The total amount of mass/energy in a
closed system (as seen by a single observer) remains constant because energy cannot

be created or destroyed and, in all of its forms, trapped energy exhibits mass. In
relativity, mass and energy are two forms of the same thing, and neither one appears
without the other.
First let’s cover the most common classification of a “haunting” as generally accepted
by legitimate paranormal researchers. There are three types of hauntings recognized:
intelligent, residual and inhuman. An intelligent haunting is considered to be an entity
that is interactive with its environment. This can cover a wide variety of activities
including but not limited to auditory responses to direct questions, moving objects at will
and touching or hitting people. Much like a video tape, residual hauntings are
playbacks of auditory, visual, olfactory, and other sensory phenomenon which are
attributed to a traumatic event, life-altering event, or a common event of a person or
place, like an echo of past events. Ultimately, it is one that displays no recognition of its
environment and is repetitive. Alleged residual hauntings often center on moments of
intense emotion: someone’s beheading, a great battle, a murder, or even a
celebration. This would cover such things as witnessing an entity, noise or smells in a
repeating pattern. Some good examples of this would be seeing an entity walk down
stairs at regular times or hearing footsteps or other sounds at regular intervals. An
inhuman haunting would be considered as the presence of a negative entity, most
commonly a demonic presence. These are extremely rare and really have little to do
with this hypothesis but should be mentioned just the same so we have a clear understanding of all the possibilities of a haunting. The commonality between intelligent
and residual haunting is that they seem to be localized to a specific area. Science
would dictate that there must be some sort of environmental relationship between
these. Finding that relationship could be the metaphorical lock that is the counterpart to
the key which is the Law of the Conservation of Energy. If the two can be brought
together it may unlock our understanding of that, which is at present, considered
paranormal.
To start our exploration of the Law of Conservation of Energy (or Matter) let’s use an
example that is commonly performed in several college science classes. When a piece
of copper metal is heated in air, it comes together with oxygen in the air. Then if it is
weighed, it is found to have a greater mass than the original piece of metal. If however
the mass of the oxygen of the air that combines with the metal is taken into
consideration, it can be shown that the mass of the product is within the limits of
accuracy of any weighing instrument, equal to the sum of the masses of the copper
and oxygen that combine. This behavior of matter is in accord with what is called the
Law of Conservation of Matter: During an ordinary chemical change, there is no
detectable increase or decrease in the quantity of matter.

Conversions of one type of matter into another are always accompanied by the
conversion of one form of energy into another. Usually heat is leveled or absorbed, but
sometimes the conversion involves light or electrical energy instead of, or in addition to
heat. Many transformations of energy, of course, do not involve chemical changes.
Electrical energy can be changed into either mechanical, light, heat or potential
energy without chemical changes. Mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy in a generator. Potential and kinetic energy can be converted into one another.
Many other conversions are possible, but all of the energy involved in any change
always appears in some form after the change is completed. Once again, the Law of
Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can
change its form. Probably the most important thing to remember about this scientific
law is that the total quantity of matter and energy available in the universe is a fixed
amount and never any more or less.

The human body is a miraculous instrument. It is capable of so much that is still beyond
our scientific understanding, probably the most incredible aspect is the consciousness it
houses for each and every one of us. Our sentient nature gives us the ability to think,
feel emotion and to reason. As miraculous as this is, we do have a basic and primitive
scientific understanding. We know that thought is an electrical process in our brain. How
it fully works is still a long way from scientific understanding but we are scientifically
certain that this is an electrical energy process as well as biochemical. Aside from
thermal energy produced by the body, these are probably the two most important
examples of corporeal energy for our discussion. The body is constantly producing
these types of energy. When we are awake or asleep electrical, biochemical and
thermal energy is constantly being produced by the human body. The only time this
energy production ceases is upon the death of the body. So, what does this have to do
with the Law of the Conservation of Energy? To answer that question, I would ask
another one. What happens to that energy upon the death of the body? As discussed
earlier, that energy does not cease to exist, so it must have changed form. What form

has it taken? What environmental conditions reacted with, stored or redirected that energy? To answer this question should be the primary objective of anyone examining
this hypothesis. The answer could be the explanation man has been searching for for
centuries; the coupling of the Law of Conservation of Energy along with common
environmental conditions could be the answer, in this case, to understanding intelligent
hauntings. There are several possibilities for environmental causes which could include
everything from weather conditions to mineral deposits or construction material in a
specific area. I have an idea about quartz and limestone but we can save that
speculation for a different time.
Perhaps the electrical energy that left the nervous system of the deceased person’s
body contains their consciousness or “soul”. Upon exiting the body there could have
been an environmental cause to retain that consciousness in a particular area. It is a
distinct possibility; however, I believe we can more easily apply this hypothesis to a
residual haunting.
In a residual haunting there is a lot more potential energies that can come into play. In
this type of haunting the energy from a powerful event such as a battle, a murder, an
execution or possibly even a celebration. The theory would be that the energy from
these events somehow got trapped in the environment and is “playing itself back” at
regular intervals. This does go hand in hand with the Law of the Conservation of energy
in that this energy is not gone but is still trapped in the localized environment. What the
environmental conditions that I called the “lock” that we can apply our “key” to
remains to be seen.
In short, as paranormal researchers we should study any and all environmental data
regarding alleged hauntings whether they are intelligent or residual. Discovering the
common environmental component is paramount in this research. Is it possible that for

the last 161 years science has had the key to a proverbial environmental lock that

when opened could lead us to an understanding of the paranormal or more

specifically, hauntings? Maybe…

For all my Christian brethren, it is important to remember one thing. Science has been and always shall be man’s attempt to figure out how God did things. Nothing more and nothing less …

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