What’s the Harm?
Many of the features of today’s world, including homelessness, racism, the polarization of U.S., and the inability of the social sciences to effectively deal with these issues, and many more, are a direct result of a decision made centuries ago. This decision, continually reinforced every generation ever since, is now so ingrained that it is accepted, unquestionably, as unalterable physical fact. A “fact” that has rendered our social institutions utterly powerless to deal with the endless plagues of mankind: injustice, violence, discrimination, racism, poverty and addiction, just to name a few. How could one decision have such an overwhelming effect? Well, let’s see.
Let’s start with Renée Descartes, the 17th century philosopher who said “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes is credited with the idea that the mind and the body are separate, called mind/body dualism. While this was just a philosophical abstraction at the time, it has become been accepted as truth and, with the advent of modern medicine, has caused uncounted suffering as doctors refuse to acknowledge the effects of mental states on physical heath. But that is just one piece of the puzzle, for Descartes also said something else, which is another important piece.
In Descartes’ time, science wasn’t “science” yet, it was an avocation called “Natural Philosophy.” But, even at this early time, it’s fledgling dalliances with understanding the physical world was making the Catholic church uneasy. And in those days, when the Church was uneasy, people died. In order to defuse the situation, Descartes came up with a compromise: Use mind/body dualism to split the world into two parts, the physical and the mental or spiritual, then declare that the physical belong to man, and the mental and spiritual belonged to God. He hoped that this would allow him to explore the natural world without risking charges of heresy, but, as a consequence, marked off matters of the mind and spirit as exclusive territory of the church. Under this model, the current sciences such as psychology, sociology, neurophysiology would be strictly off limits, and would also eliminate research into mental illness, brain development, learning, and, of course, paranormal, or psi, abilities.
Now, let’s step forward a few centuries. On December 17, 2017, the New York Times published “Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program,” saying, essentially, that the US Navy admits that UFOs are here, they’re queer and we’ve been studying them behind your back. The most important fact about the programs in this article is found in a remark by one of the principals involved in this project: That they had to keep changing the project name, and moving it to different departments, to hide it certain members of congress who wanted to shut it down. Not because they didn’t believe in UFOs, but because they believed that UFOs were real and demonic, and the work of the devil. Let that sink in. The threat assessment decisions of the most powerful military on the planet, are based on defending ourselves fromdemons. Fringe whack jobs? Nope, conservative bible-belt Christians, the same group that elected Trump. To these people, Satan and demons are a very real force in the world, against that, what hope does science have?
Ok, we’re almost there, just one more piece, and we can put this puzzle together and see what the picture actually looks like.
The Church is often referred to as the “One Way to God.” Ever since the middle ages, has be very protective of this perceived monopoly on all things spiritual, which includes magic, and any threat to that monopoly was suppressed, often violently. Ever hear of The Inquisition, the Crusades? Yeah, you get the idea. (I know that many will object to the terms “magic” and “church” in the same sentence, but I ask you to keep an open mind. You’ll see why in a bit. Thanks.) Don’t think for a moment that the church’s intolerance and violent ways just disappeared as the world moved into the 20th, and now the 21st, centuries, they may not be declaring crusades against heretics any more, but their influence is still very strong and they keep a tight grip on spiritual matters. While that grip is subtle in science and academia, it can be brutal when necessary. Remember, the KKK is a deeply Christian organization: “The creeds, dogmas, and hymns of the KKK often made the religious, even evangelical, links quite explicit,” says Joel A Brown, in The Klan, White Christianity, and the Past and Present | a response to Kelly J. baker by Randal J. Stephens.
So, here we are in our current situation: We have a culture that prides itself on its staunch adherence to science and reason, while the majority worship supernatural beings. We speak endlessly about science-based and evidence-based reasoning and decision making, yet statements like this “…those who argue for the existence of the paranormal explicitly do not base their arguments on empirical evidence but rather on anecdote, testimony, and suspicion,” are presented as fact, without challenge, despite being demonstrably false. And the fact that you have never seen, or will see, any skeptic or debunker, no matter how enthusiastic or fanatical, attempt to “debunk” the claim of the Catholic church that the bread and wine of the Mass actually turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Christians all over this country still use their considerable financial, political and social capital to ensure that everything spiritual, magical or paranormal outside of the church is labeled bad, evil, and pseudoscience, while all the miracles and magic inside the church are good and holy, and also completely immune to the rigors of science and debunkers.
However, science has moved on, accumulating discoveries and experiments, replications and results to six sigma accuracy. Replicated results good enough to cause any competent scientist to agree that “There’s a there, there!” for any subject other than the paranormal. As Craig Weiler puts it in his article, A New Paradigm: The Growing Rejection of Psi Skepticism, in regards to discussions of paranormal research:
“There will no longer be proof oriented discussions on the main forum. In other words, it’s a given now, that psi is proven and skepticism about this proof is no longer necessary or welcome.”
I thought this was going to be a short post, but I’ve already gotten this far, and I only skimmed the background I wanted to cover. So, I’m breaking this into two parts. Part two will be out in the next week or so, there you can read how the Christian church’s need for a spiritual monopoly has seriously warped western society, and how its policies, aims and tactics toward that goal have encouraged the worst in us, and continuously undermine efforts to forge a more tolerant, healthy and just world.
For more historical detail about how the Church diligently fought to paint the paranormal as both evil and non-existent, at the same time, see Real Magic, by Dean Radin.
As always, tell me what you think! Respectful comments are welcome!