The early days of psychology were interesting to say the least, and one of its leading figures, Carl Gustav Jung, a man not ordinarily noted for a skeptical view — indeed, a lot of his statements and more mystical ideas, such as synchronicity and the collective unconscious, have been widely adopted by the New Age movement — had some rather scientifically spot-on things to say about UFOs as a thing more of the inner world of the unconscious mind and human culture, not the outer world of the universe, and was rather sensible in his views on regression and what we refer to now as channeling. On that, Jung said this:
“One can very well…take it simply as a report of psychological facts or a continuous series of communications from the unconscious…They have this in common with dreams; for dreams, too, are statements about the unconscious…The present state of affairs gives us reason enough to wait quietly until more impressive physical phenomena put in an appearance. If, after making allowance for conscious and unconscious falsification, self-deception, prejudice, etc., we should still find something positive behind them, then the exact sciences will surely conquer this field by experiment and verification, as has happened in every other realm of human experience.”
A note on falsification in the sense of deceit: While elsewhere I’ve expressed a reluctance to invoke deliberate fraud as a factor in paranormal claims, I’m forced to concede that fraud, in both cynically willful and piously motivated forms, is much more common than I’ve given it credit for in the past.
While various sources of human error, not deliberate deceit, are still top on my list of hypotheses to consider, I keep the possibility of intentional trickery in reserve for those occasions when I’m given reason to suspect it.
We humans, after all, have a long history of fooling each other as well as ourselves, and this needs to at least be considered.
What of the pious fraud? Do such strange beasts actually exist? Yes…It is the sincere believer in some claim or other who is clever enough at rationalizing justifications, or otherwise self-beguiled, and thus often doing so with a clear conscience, to fudge things just a wee bit here and there, to protect and promote her conviction in the truth of the claim, and also to successfully convince others.
Thus not all deception by others is knowing or malicious, and often first involves the trickster tricking herself.
But Jung’s last sentence above runs rather closely with an idea I’ve had for a while:
There exists no real dichotomy of Western science vs postmodern parascience; there is only science…
…and then there is non-science — everything else in this great big wonderful universe that isn’t science — for we should consider that complements are not opposites.
The complement of ‘light’ is not ‘dark,’ but ‘non-light,’ after all.
Either we use science, or methods very similar to it, to figure out the world around us, or we do not.
Shall we use reason alone? Pure sense-data? I argue no to both.
I think that a much truer picture of the world is seen when we use reason and experience together, along with such things as our abilities to invent and test hypotheses, to associate concepts, to find and learn from patterns we note, when those exist, and maybe some occasional *aha!* moments, to see us toward getting answers to our questions when all of these are working reliably and used skeptically.
And let’s not forget memory, which allows us to keep things in our head from one instant to the next, despite its constructive nature and other fallibilities…
But all these things are fallible to a degree, though they can be very useful if we hone them and employ them carefully and wisely.
That’s what science does so well, better than any other idea we’ve come up with yet, only requiring that what we are looking for be real in a meaningfully knowable way and observable by whatever means is possible at the time, and finally, capable of independent verification no matter the attitude, worldview or beliefs of the questioner.
I await the day that someone, making an honest and careful effort to abide by the process and rules of science, not the denial or rejection of same, convincingly demonstrates at least one paranormal claim true.
Whether or not pigs learn to fly.