Writings of Dr John Palo

Scientists Can Be Unscientific

by John Palo, B. S., D. C., F. R. C.
One of the first requisites of science is evidence.  Such evidence goes to prove a thing is so or not so.  The conclusions from this accumulative inductive process have amassed for society a huge bank of scientifically validated information.  Such information is especially accurate in the fields of chemistry and physics.
     Of late, factions of the scientific world are looking into the world of paranormal phenomena.  Such studies can range from UFOs to psychic projection and reincarnation.  However, it seems these groups have been more concerned with the denial of paranormal phenomena, and the condemnation of adherents.  This type of criticism can be highly unscientific; it should not be confused with the findings of scientific research.  We must realize that even scientists make unscientific conclusions.
     In the light of such careless criticisms from otherwise reliable sources, it is appropriate to restate some basic principles of science; one being that we must produce evidence to prove a thing is so.  On the other side of the coin, we must produce evidence to prove a thing is not so.  This latter principle is what some scientists are forgetting, for without evidence, how can anyone scientifically claim a thing is not so?  Even scientists can fall into the Spencerian trap: "Condemnation prior to investigation."
     Happily, more recently there have been some waves in the scientific world in favor of less condemnation and more investigation.  This has long been the view of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, and its International Research Council and Research Staff.
     Early in this century, Dr. H. Spencer Lewis, former Imperator of the Rosicrucian Order, as president of one of America's first psychical research groups realized scientific research would help weed out the spurious from the valid.  He knew there was much charlatanism afoot in the field of psychic phenomena.  But rather than resort to wholesale condemnation, he sought out the elements of truth.  Science, he thought, could help expose the false.
Problem of Proof
     Paranormal research is not the easiest.  In retrospect, science has made its name on fairly easily controlled physical phenomena as found in chemistry, physics, and other patently physical areas.  As we extend into the less obviously physical worlds of psychology, sociology, parapsychology, and so on, the instruments of scientific measurement have less definitive input.  We enter a world of investigation which too often involves merely proofs of possibility and percentages of probability.  For example, the truth of a man's love for his wife may be difficult to establish scientifically.  But does that make it less a truth?  From all of Dr. Rhine's fine parapsychology research at Duke University, what conclusions can we draw?  It adds up to the fact that psychic projection and reception of thought are more than mere chance occurrences.  In other words, they are possible.  Mystics have known this for ages.  It is not news to them.  They have used these principles repeatedly in their personal lives and in their concern for humanity.
     In the initiatory sense of mysticism, much of the proof of such paranormal phenomena lies in the field of personal revelation.  The initiatory experience itself is not unlike the Gestalt concept of closure wherein life's experiences take on a new insight.  As a foremost initiatic organization, one of AMORC's main functions is to assist aspiring mystics in their evolution through such flashes of higher consciousness.  Through its exercises and initiatory rituals, AMORC sets a milieu for soul personality growth.  This growth is often attended by personal experiences with so-called paranormal phenomena.
     Many persons do not yet have paranormal experiences.  Therefore, such occurrences are difficult to test on the mass basis often demanded in an experimental design.  However, universality is not a true criteria of the validity of these occurrences.  Hopefully, more refined experimental designs will be constructed.  And, hopefully, these new approaches may result in a more productive scientific study of parapsychological, psychological, and physiological forces.  Perhaps, as Einstein has said, the right questions are waiting to be asked.
     The Rosicrucian Order is not and never has been locked into one area of research only.  Sir Francis Bacon, father of the scientific method and a former Imperator of the Rosicrucian Order, addressed himself to the inductive method of acquiring knowledge.  Subsequently, society branched out with scientific research in almost every area.  The Rosicrucian Order encourages and seeks to keep abreast of the latest scientific findings.  It also seeks to make its own contributions to that body of valid information.
     The Rosicrucian Order does not know if its body of knowledge about the paranormal can ever be made accessible to scientific measurement.  However, we must be mindful that science should not be wholly equated with truth.  Science is an approach to truth.  There is an immense world of truth beyond the limitations of science.  That which we do not know far outweighs that which we do know.  And, even what we do know is under constant amendment.  So, it is petty and undignified for anyone, particularly a scientist, to condemn fields of knowledge and potential knowledge without a thorough investigation.  This includes paranormal experiences of a psychic nature.
     The next time you come across someone who adversely criticizes you about something you know to be true from personal experience, ask that person about his or her background in the subject.  Often the background is non-existent.  The person is condemning you out of hand so to speak, without rational basis.  If a scientist so condemns you, ask him what experimental work he has done to prove you wrong.  Usually there is none.  He is condemning without investigating.  This is unscientific.  It is the antithesis of the scientific approach.  Such "condemnation prior to investigation" is an example of unscientific reasoning.
     While we all admire a person of great learning in one of the sciences, let us place certain limits on this admiration.  Remember, while there may be some exceptions, there is much truth in the idea of a scientist knowing more and more about less and less.  Therefore, he may be least qualified in the area of the paranormal.  After all, how valuable can any of our judgments be in areas we know little about?  So, when a scientist expounds critically upon an area outside his expertise, he is no different than the rest of us.  Even scientists can be unscientific.
Copyright 1979 Dr. John Palo

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