Another question from Dikkii...
On ghosts: yes, you should stop trying. They fail the usefulness test - what possible applications would ghosts have once you found them?
These are people, remember. Many living people fail the usefulness test, but we don’t brush them aside. We look after them, we even give them jobs as administrators and politicians. Besides, I dispute your test of usefulness. One of many schisms in science centres on the debate of consciousness. What is it? Where is it? Well, we all think it’s in our heads because that’s where we experience it, so that’s a good place to start looking.
Some believe that consciousness is a purely physical matter, derived from chemical reactions and electrical impulses in the brain. But they can’t prove it. Others believe that consciousness operates through the brain but can exist independently of it. They can’t prove it either. Until one or the other finds proof, the debate will continue. There is a third possibility – that both are right. Consciousness may indeed be formed through chemical and electrical activity, but what form does it take? Does it die when the brain does, or does it continue? Now, I know you’re going to say ‘It dies when the brain dies’, and I’m going to say ‘Prove it’. You can’t. I can’t prove the opposite.
Perhaps it happens that way. Perhaps it doesn’t. Perhaps it sometimes happens and sometimes not. There’s only one way to know for sure at the moment. It’s a drastic step and a pointless one – if you died, and found that you did indeed still have consciousness, nobody in science will listen to you. A medium might, but that doesn’t help because science won’t listen to him or her either.
You could give the medium details of your life. If they are such intimate details that nobody can verify them, they prove nothing. If they are verifiable, the medium could have looked them up. Again, not proof.
It’s been tried. Earlier this century, an experimental procedure called cross-correspondences was applied to test whether the mind survived death. Participants agreed to send specific messages via mediums after their death (if possible, of course) and those left alive would collect these. The messages were coded, so the mediums would have no idea what they meant. Remember, they didn’t automatically believe the mediums were real either, so they didn’t use messages that a medium could get from cold reading.
Did it work? The answer is a resounding and disappointing ‘maybe’. The codes were so well done that those compiling them were dismissed with ‘Oh, you’re just taking random words and stringing them together’. Mediums were accused of using telepathy – which is odd because skeptics don’t believe in that either (I haven’t experienced it or studied it myself). Interest in the experiment faded after about 1935, because we were all a bit busy after that, and it was never revived. It takes a lot of setting up, and if nobody’s going to accept the results anyway, well, it’s difficult to find researchers willing to literally die for something that’s going to be ignored, and no scientist wants to be remembered as a kook.
There are a lot of references on the internet. Here’s a random one – I don’t endorse any of the views on any of the sites, I picked this one because it’s fairly complete. It's not unbiased but then I've never seen one that is, one way or the other. If people didn't have strong feelings on the subject they wouldn't go to the trouble of putting up websites.
A last note on the usefulness test. Science, in its true guise, is not interested in application. There's very little of that form of science left, now that even universities are run as businesses, but that's how it once was. They used to chase knowledge. Now they are forced to chase money. It's one of the reasons I'm not keen to go back.
Application came later. Knowledge was first. I doubt Einstein considered that his theories could be applied to produce atomic bombs. If he had, he might well have kept them to himself, and that would have held physics back by many years. On the other hand, we might not now be worried about getting vapourised in a flash. Knowledge leads to application, not the other way round, but there are also consequences to consider. Those are not always predictable.
More to follow.