Explaining the unexplained

The paranormal has been a subject of controversy. The evidence is often problematic. Take, for instance, psychics. Scientists have investigated their abilities. In experiments, psychics fail to do better than guessing. In a controlled setting, a psychic is isolated so that others cannot supply the psychic with information. Sometimes psychics make stunning guesses, but not in controlled experiments. That may often be due to fraud or manipulation, but perhaps not in every case. The same is true for the paranormal in general. Many paranormal incidents could be natural phenomena or the result of fraud or delusion, but a large number remains without explanation.

Thinking that science will give all the answers is a belief too. It can become like a religion once you begin to discard evidence to the contrary. Evidence for the paranormal does not meet scientific criteria. Science requires, for instance, that we can use a theory like the existence of psychic abilities to make predictions that we can subsequently check. If a psychic does not do better than guessing during an experiment, there is no such thing as psychic abilities, at least from a scientific perspective.

And yet, there are countless testimonies of people who have witnessed unexplained phenomena. The total number of these incidents is impossible to guess, but it could be billions. In the early twentieth century, Charles Fort collected at least 40,000 notes on paranormal experiences. These notes were about strange events reported in magazines and newspapers such as The Times and scientific journals such as Scientific American, Nature and Science. Millions more might exist in other journals and diaries.

Strange things also happened to me. In December 2010, my wife Ingrid and I were sitting at the kitchen table. She was discussing her late mother and father. Her mother had outlived her father for more than three decades. She then recalled that her mother had once asked her father to contact her as a spirit if he was to die first. She then remembered her mother later saying that he had never made himself noticed, ‘not even by stopping a clock.’

Just after my wife had finished speaking, a gust of wind blew a flower pot over the balcony. It made a loud noise. Even though it was windy, the blow suddenly came out of nowhere. It was a bit eerie. The next day she noticed that a clock and an alarm clock were both back one hour. One was connected to the power grid while the other ran on a battery.

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So, did my wife’s father make himself noticed from the other side? Or were the wind gust and the clocks being back just bizarre coincidences caused by natural phenomena? Or did my wife made it up to have a good story to tell at birthday parties? I do not think that she did. Given the number of strange incidents in my life, I do not doubt it either. It is unlikely that she was mistaken, as she could only have noticed that these clocks were back by looking at other timepieces. And if she was wrong and did not find out about it, it still is a remarkable coincidence.

In virtual reality, the laws of nature do not have to apply. So clocks can stop for an hour, and elephants can fly. So far, we have not seen elephants fly, but it is possible in virtual reality. Psychic abilities may exist while the scientific method cannot certify them. And Jesus could have walked over water and revived dead people even though these stories may have been made up. Alternatively, the laws of nature could apply in an arrangement suggesting that someone is pulling the strings. The wind gust was already peculiar. The incident with the clocks made it even more mysterious.