Should Religion, Science or Anyone Study the “Paranormal”?
In today’s post, we have the last (#7) of my points on a “Progressive Christian Invitation…”. As the post’s title suggests, a number of phenomena we sometimes call “paranormal” seem to be orphaned “children” in both the religious and scientific culture of the West. No one (with a few notable exceptions) wants to touch these controversial, sometimes ridiculed topics. Why? They are certainly popular issues and get a lot of attention within popular culture.
I could give detailed suggestions as to why, but will just briefly summarize. And that in terms of the major worldviews generally aligned with Christianity (as the predominant religion in the West) and with science (in terms of its main institutions and influence). A bit oversimplified, Christianity operates with a supernaturalist worldview; science with a purely naturalist one. “Purely” means that it is restricted to the “five senses” and what instruments are able to measure. Then added in is atheism–only what is matter or matter/energy exists.
There is a reason–a major one–this item in my Invitation is so important: the area we call “paranormal” may well hold the key to an opening of new and vital kinds of interaction between religion and science; between those inclined toward a supernatural understanding and those inclined (or immersed, as scientists) in a natural-only understanding.
The interactions or explorations potentially opened by taking the “paranormal” seriously are more far-reaching than this religion-science cooperation may sound. I’m talking about exploring very satisfying ideas that I know to be already well along in development (and will be exciting to take further). These can allow the moral and other guidance of Christian faith to make wonderful, consistent sense, for any and all of us. I mean from the “spiritual but not religious” to the religious to the scientific skeptic. And not guidance from Christian faith exclusively, but inclusively along with ancient wisdom and insights from other religious traditions.
What is so important that is in view in “paranormal” explorations is that borderland between the physical and the “energetic” or the “mind” behind everything, suggested at least as far back as Plato. There are a growing number of physicists, along with other scientists, who take this view they have helped me to adopt: All information is present everywhere all the “time,” and it is information that runs everything. (Sound like “God?” Perhaps “personal” as well as “impersonal”?)
We can best grasp this perhaps in relation to computers–with material, energetic tracks required in this case, and perhaps all cases–information may only have meaning when expressed with energy/matter.) Is it not at least possible that various paranormal phenomena are merely information/energy/matter expressions which are typically difficult (though not impossible) for us to pick up with our more gross senses, and even sensitive instruments? If this is not material forBOTH science and religion to explore, what IS?
So just below is the final point, in its summary form, of my Invitation. In the next post, I believe I will put up all the points together. At that point, I’ll invite comments on any or all of them.
For now, what interests you particularly about paranormal things… experiences you’d like to share, and maybe your way of understanding them, or puzzlement about them?
…7. We recognize the importance and pursue understanding of various phenomena not religiously tied and often labeled “spiritual” or “paranormal,” particularly near-death-experiences and their kin. God only knows why churches have so long avoided this, though we do have some ideas. We eagerly support ongoing research into and education about reincarnation and related issues, as they are an integral part of what religion deals with.