Can we peek into the future?
The short answer is yes. In this edition of For Your Consideration, we will begin examining a field of study that has revealed an extraordinary thing about our brains. Research suggests that we are aware of some things before they happen.
Let me repeat that. We may know that something is about to happen before it happens.
However, don’t get yourself booked on the Oprah show, start your own psychic podcast, or buy a crystal ball. We need to explore these alleged precognitive abilities before accepting them as fact.
We must approach all extraordinary claims with a critical mindset. Otherwise, we can be misled at best or made a fool of at worst.
Apparently, none of us are remarkable in our ability to see a bit into the future. According to some research, this evolutionary trait is hardwired into our brains.
Presentiment is defined as “An intuitive feeling about the future.” Premonition is a synonym for presentiment, along with precognition. Both are loaded words in the mainstream scientific community.
This may explain why the term “presentiment” was used to describe a feature of our physiology that causes us to react to future events before we are consciously aware of them.
Perhaps, the researchers chose this subtler term to move the concept of human precognition past the unwavering skeptics – those who say, “Human precognition? I won’t believe it regardless of what the evidence says.”
The “don’t confuse me with facts” kind of people.
But first – Credit, where it’s due.
Much of human existence was ruled by superstition.
Until the Age of Reason, more often called The Enlightenment, sorcery and magic determined the outcome of everything from diseases to predicting the weather.
We, as living beings, suffered mightily as a result.
The Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, killed 25 million people in the Middle Ages. This amounted to two-thirds of the population of Europe at the time.
People had no idea this devastating disease was caused by fleas borne on rats and humans.
It was generally believed that bad smells, or miasma, were the cause of the Plague. Doctors and practitioners wore silly-looking bird masks to treat patients, believing the long beak would keep the miasma at bay.
Since the Plague was blamed on the work of the Devil, remedies consisted of prayers and incantations.
(Author’s note: There were plenty of “bad smells” around during the Middle Ages. “Pee ew,” did it stink back then.)
As you may guess, medieval cures rarely, if ever, worked. The disease was basically a death sentence.
It would be another 500 years before science brought forth antibiotics and subdued Bubonic and many other transmittable diseases.
We have much to thank science for. With each successive generation, we enjoy greater longevity, fewer childbirth deaths, and a minor infection is not likely to kill us.
These blessings did not arise from voodoo magic – they are the products of science.
So, even if we believe some things lie outside the present realm and reach of science, we must acknowledge that we depend on the rigors of the scientific method.
We are merely fooling ourselves if we don’t. Science is all around us; it touches us, and we connect with it each and every day of our lives.
Science is intrinsically linked to technology. Through experimentation, science provides the knowledge to create the apparatus that puts scientific discoveries to practical uses.
Some say they distrust science. I would encourage those who do to live without technology for a week.
Too much to ask? Well, try it for a day then. You may find it quite difficult, if not impossible, to do.
Even those getting off the grid will have to employ some form of technology. Solar panels are the fruit of years of scientific work.
Your cellphone is a technological device that required decades of scientific research and hundreds of science-based disciplines to produce.
Humans are hard-wired to observe, give thought, then create. Short of stripping off all of your clothing and walking off into the wilderness empty-handed, you will continue to be affected by science.
If you were diagnosed with an operable malignant brain tumor, where would you seek help – a brain surgeon or would you wear a string of garlic around your neck?
Choosing surgery is choosing science.
Does science have all of the answers?
As researcher Dr. Julie Beischel says, “Science is not just a body of knowledge; it is a set of tools.”
Many scientists readily admit that there is much more to our world than science can account for at the present time. However, one may presume that by using the established tools of science, many of the current scientific enigmas will be resolved.
By tools, we mean observation, developing hypotheses, testing, collecting data, peer review and reproducibility.
As mentioned in earlier columns, we still know little to nothing about dark energy and dark matter; the invisible stuff that composes most of our universe.
Occasionally, what scientists discover, particularly in quantum physics, defies much of what is considered impossible.
A longstanding puzzle in quantum physics is the double-slit experiment.
Light is directed at a target interrupted by a barrier with two slits that the light must pass through. If unobserved, the target displays an interference pattern called a wave function. This is caused by the light passing through the slits and distributed onto the target as a wave pattern.
Yet, when the experiment is observed, the wave function collapses into a pattern of discrete particles (photons), analogous to bullets hitting a target. This suggests that the very act of observing the experiment causes the wave function to collapse into a particle state.
Although still hotly debated by theoretical physicists, it suggests that consciousness may impose a physical effect at the quantum level? If this is the case, it requires a revolutionary change in how we perceive reality.
Author’s Note: Keep in mind that there are other explanations for wave function collapse, although nothing definitive yet.
Mainstream science does not pay much attention to the subjective and anomalous. Not replicable and quantifiable, these ideas are often thrown in the paranormal bucket with ghosts, magic and UFOs.
Although, the latter may be undergoing a serious rethink lately by concerned government agencies, particularly those identified by three letters.
For scientists, even considering studying what is termed “fringe science” can be a career killer.
Fortunately, there are scientists brave and curious enough to pursue ideas that fall outside the orthodoxy of reductionist science. A case in point is the research on presentiment.
Science at the tipping point.
Science is and always will be an ongoing endeavor. In essence, it is a process.
Sometimes the results of continued scientific research replace longstanding beliefs with new ways of thinking about the nature of reality.
When and if we solve the mystery of dark matter, we may have to cast aside some old theories and adopt new ones. This is how science works.
Next week’s For Your Consideration will examine the most current research on human precognition. Controlled experiments have demonstrated that we respond to certain stimuli before the event happens.
If these assertions are ultimately accepted as fact, then the implications are staggering. We will have to embrace a new reality concerning the capacities of the human brain.
Stay tuned, and a Happy New Year to you and yours.