Henry Margenau

Former president of the American Association for the Philosophy of Science, a physics professor at Yale University and former editor of "Reviews of Modern Physics". Margenau made his start in physics at the University of Nebraska.

ESP in the Framework of Modern Science

 - Henry Margenau -

Luncheon address given at the ESP Forum sponsored by the A.S.P.R., 20 November 1965.

          AS I look upon many researches in paranormal psychology and ESP, I am reminded of the state of affairs in physics some seventy years ago when scientists had first learned about the phenomenon of radioactivity. People might have gone around with Geiger counters or similar devices. They would have found them clicking here and there and everywhere - but just a little bit. On this evidence physicists surely could have tried to convince their colleagues that this was a real effect, that there was indeed something important in the idea of radioactivity - the emission of charged particles which was not understood by anyone at the time.

However, in those days physicists did not content themselves to collecting samples and measuring them promiscuously. They did not go from one place to another making statistical studies of the intensity of this effect. Instead, they succeeded in finding circumstances under which the phenomenon became enhanced and became controllable. In other words, they were very specific, and by being specific, persistent, and judicious in their selection of experimental conditions they transcended the need for statistical arguments and probability estimates of validity; they uncovered clear evidence of the existence of the effect. My point is simply this: in order to study these obscure things, one must practise selectivity and concentrate one's attention upon instances where positive results are incontrovertible and, of course, demonstrably free of fraud. I suppose I am really doing nothing more here than echoing Dr. Pratt when he made a plea for the intensive study of high-scoring ESP subjects. I believe that as long as you go around making statistical studies everywhere and on everybody, you are not likely to be convincing for a long time to come.

Now the second thing needed, I believe, is theory. No amount of empirical evidence, no mere collection of facts, will convince all scientists of the veracity and the significance of parapsychologists' reports. He must provide some sort of model, to use Dr. Murphy's word; he must advance bold constructs - constructs connected within a texture of rationality - in terms of which ESP can be theoretically understood. The remainder of my paper will centre on possibilities of constructing such vehicles of understanding.

In order to put these problems in their proper context, let me say a few words about a matter which may at first seem irrelevant here, a few words about the competence and the limitations of science in general. Science is more than a mere collection of facts, a catalogue of observations. Observations alone, facts alone, lack the cohesion, the logical consistency, which every science demands. Science is a style of inquiry; it is a peculiar way of organizing human experience which integrates and thereby confers lucidity, clarity, and cohesion upon our immediate sense impressions and upon our observations. Every kind of human experience, or fact, is at first vague, meaningless, incoherent. Because of this, the scientist finds it necessary to set up or construct, vis-a-vis every given set of unorganized experiences, a model, originally invented by the human mind, which stands somehow in correspondence with the facts themselves. These constructs are not introduced arbitrarily without rhyme or reason. They are subjected by the scientist to certain requirements, called metaphysical requirements(1). Among them are the following:

(1) A more extensive account may be found in the author's The Nature of Physical Reality (New York: McGraw Hill, 1950).

1. They must be fertile in a logical sense; that is to say, they must make a difference to what you are observing or explaining. An idea such as the Berkeleyan God who causes every event in the world by merely thinking about it, the theory according to which every happening in the world is a thought in the mind of God, provides no fertile scientific explanation because it cannot be tested effectively; it does not furnish any way of understanding or of checking. All scientific constructs must satisfy the 'principle of logical fertility; they must make a difference to your pursuits.

2. They must be extensible. Science rejects them if they merely illuminate a very small part of your immediate experience, only a few of the facts you wish to explain. Useful scientific ideas must have a fairly inclusive reach.

3. They must be richly interconnected among themselves, aside from their reference to facts. By virtue of this pervasive relationship, the ideas of science permit themselves to be controlled by general principles which are not directly suggested by the scientific enterprise itself. It is not allowable for a scientist to employ an idea in terms of which he can explain one or two observations while the idea does not set itself into some logical relation with anything else. Large internal coherence between constructs of explanation must be sought, although it is not always achieved.

4. There must be simplicity. A scientific theory must be formulated in terms, or in mathematical equations, which are in some sense simple. To be explicit, invariance with respect to transformations is the present version of simplicity in physical science.

5. There must be a certain elegance ruling the manipulations of the scientific constructs which serve as explanations of the obscure facts.

6. The principle of causality comes into play here too, but this is a rather technical philosophical matter which hardly needs to be discussed in the present context.

These, then, are the metaphysical requirements of every science. Notice that the list does not contain one which was held to be important and clinching in the sciences of the last century, namely the requirement of detailed pictorability. The models used in modern science, the constructs of explanation, do not have to be Couched in terms of visual concepts. We no longer explain the Atom in terms of a group of electrons moving mechanically around a nucleus, each electron having a certain trajectory and occupying a definite point in space at a specified time. The electrons of today do not have paths any longer. Their motions are not visualizable at all, and this for various reasons like the following:

Electrons are far smaller than a wavelength of light and hence they have no colour. Their position cannot be ascertained by the usual kind of physical experiment, which involves the reflection of electro-magnetic or other kinds of signals from the entities themselves. Such procedures would fail simply because the entities are too small. Trying to find out where an electron is would be very much like trying to find out the position of a ping-pong ball by shooting cannon balls at it. No, in a very fundamental sense these entities have lost the facile attributes of localizability in space and time. We operate in terms of probabilities, and these probabilities may be the irreducible determinants of natural happenings. What I am saying here is that the requirements upon the constructs in terms of which we now explain the physical world have become exceedingly elusive and abstract.

So much for the metaphysical requirements. There is also the well-known empirical requirement of verifiability, of experimental or observational confirmation.

I sometimes find it useful to present the pursuits of science, its methodology, by means of a graphical analogue. Imagine with me all the obscure facts, all the unconnected observations, these contingencies which do not explain themselves, as being mapped on a certain plane, the 'protocol' plane of human experience. From that plane we can go by means of rules of correspondence into the domain of theory, where you manipulate logically fertile constructs. After passing into that domain, you can now calculate, you can now reason. Reasoning amounts to an ideal movement among, to a transformation of, the constructs of explanation. Such a procedure, which is essentially that performed by the theoretical scientist, leads to a certain place within the field of constructs where you can again use a rule of correspondence (operational definition) which permits you to return to the protocol plane of experience, to 'Nature' if you please. This picture, together with a more detailed exposition of the scientific method, can be found in the book already mentioned (note 1).

Now, that latter transition is a prediction. The empirical requirement of verification insists that a circuit from a certain point in the plane of protocol observations into the domain of theory and back again to observation shall be successful. In other words, you must be able, as outlined elsewhere, to predict, not on the basis of some a priori kinds of concepts, but to predict on the basis of having previously injected into the scientific theory a material bit of knowledge at some other place in our diagram.

Forgive me for being so technical in my discourse. I shall soon try to be much more specific and concrete, but I thought it well at the beginning to say a few things about the workings of scientific theories in general.

There is one further point of rather general import which I must not leave unmentioned. Old-style science, the physical science of last century, believed that its fundamental premises were secure and not subject to question or to change. To be sure, scientists spoke of postulates, of axioms. These included the basic principles of arithmetic (the postulates concerning natural numbers), basic principles of geometry (the postulates of Euclid), the six principles of physical science (the law of conservation of energy, momentum, etc.) These were Truths, with a capital T, embedded in human knowledge, truths which had to be accepted by every sane mind, truths which carried within themselves the affidavits of their validity. Now this attitude has changed. The modern scientist has learned that even his postulates are held on trial. The whole business of science is in a flux: science is a progressive, self-corrective, dynamic enterprise which subjects itself, in response to the ever-present threat of falsification, to repeated changes and revisions of its fundamental tenets. To put bluntly, science no longer contains absolute truths.

We have begun to doubt such fundamental propositions as the principle of the conservation of energy, the principle of causality, and many other commitments which were held to be unshakeable and firm in the past. And this has, I think, an interesting bearing upon your own pursuits, for it means that the old distinction between the natural and the supernatural has become spurious. That distinction rested upon a dogmatism, a scientific dogmatism, which supposed that everything in the way of fundamental facts and basic matters was known and that there was an obvious distinction between what was possible and what was not possible. Today we know that there are many phenomena on the fringe, at the periphery of present-day science, which are not yet understood, which are still obscure, but which will nevertheless be encompassed by the scientific method and by scientific understanding in the future.

An analogy which does not appeal to me as a description of science is that of the picture puzzle, the pursuit of finding facts, then putting them together and somehow discovering a pattern in them, a pattern whose completion closes and solves the scientific problem. This analogy is incorrect because you cannot resolve scientific problem in any manner that is ultimate.

I like to think of science as a crystal which grows within an amorphous matrix of liquid experience. This amorphous matrix - unorganized, interesting because of its caprice, the chicanery of chance which it embodies - is most important in our lives. But somehow our minds are disposed to organize this material, and the organization is very much like the growth of a crystal within its liquid environment. Nobody can tell where the crystal is going to grow. Starting unpredictably from some small seed, it stretches out a long arm in one direction, or it proceeds on a broad front along another. But whatever it does, it changes the amorphous liquid into a pattern, a lattice, which makes prediction possible, which confers order upon the constituents of the matrix and understanding upon those who perceive it. Now this process of crystal growth is not self-limiting - if the vessel permitted it, the crystal would grow for ever. And yet it would never exhaust all the infinite supply of liquid. The crystal of science will go on growing for ever. And since the number of facts, these immediate experiences in the protocol plane of which I spoke, is practically infinite, one sees no limit at all to the growth of science and there will probably never be a time at which all the liquid, unorganized and therefore occult matrix of human experience will have become crystallized into a rigid scientific pattern.

Now science contains a great number of unorganized facts, not only those of psychical research. There are many, many experiences surrounding us on all sides which are at least as challenging, at least as mysterious, as those upon which you have bestowed your attention. Let this not be forgotten. Here I am coming down, in somewhat more definite terms, to matters that stand for discussion. I would like to speak of three effects, clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition, albeit very briefly and inadequately, for I lack a complete knowledge of the facts. These facts, incidentally, I shall assume to be correct, since I have no competence to doubt them. It would seem just as unreasonable for me to doubt what Dr. Murphy and other psychologists of high repute tell me about parapsychology as it would be to doubt the reports of highly esteemed astronomers like Dr. Allan Sandage about quasars. As a matter of fact, I am as disturbed in my own mind, and at the same time fascinated, by the things I read about quasars as I am by clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition. Acquaintance with some of the active researchers in the field of psychical research has given me an extremely high regard for their ability to judge evidence and detect deception, an ability which I have at times found wanting among friends in the physical sciences where, because of greater stability of knowledge, it is no longer needed.

Now, in connection with clairvoyance, I think that first of all it must not be forgotten that all primary knowledge - the knowledge which is finally crystallized in the various sciences - arises from within consciousness. Consciousness is the primary medium of all reality. Even the external world is initially a posit, a projection of consciousness, which can be tested by its consistency with other items of consciousness, with the totality of human experience. That projection, the external world, takes on ontological existence after being tested and confirmed within conscious experience along the lines of scientific method which I outlined so vaguely a few moments ago. To believe in the 'existence of an external world' aside from its consistency with experience is an ontological commitment which we need not face in the present context. Let me merely say that if you stipulate the transcendental existence of an external world outside of mind, you are making an ontological leap - a natural one, for everybody makes it - which involves the freezing of a certain epistemology by fiat into a definite form.

At any rate, if we employ the methods I have outlined, we arrive at a theory of ordinary perception which I would like to illustrate by means of a very simple diagram (figure 1). Let me picture a person's consciousness (C) as a circle. Now, right round that circle is a concentric ring which I will call body (B). The body is in immediate contact with the mind, with that area of consciousness within which all experiences arise. Now let the circle to the right represent an object (O), a physical object. There are physical effects (PE), effects which by now are reasonably well understood and which somehow link the object with the layer around consciousness called the body. The study of the interactions between the object and the body falls under the principles of physics. Now the miracle in all this, at the present time, does not reside within this field of interaction between the object and the body; the miracle occurs when anything that takes place in the body emerges within consciousness. We don't know how this happens at all. We do have some rather vague theories - psychophysical parallelism, panconsciousness, and all the rest - but the point I am making is that the phenomenon of ordinary perception of the object out there, the ingression of the effects of that object into consciousness, poses an obstacle to understanding tantamount to a miracle. And that miracle is the conversion of the physiological stimulus into a conscious response.

The relation between physical effects within the body and the emergence of experience within consciousness is not strictly a causal relation. There is no theory of cause and effect which can validly, fruitfully, contain this kind of transition. From the scientific point of view, it is just as mysterious as anything we encounter in the field of parapsychology. Science, as I have said, regulates the transmission from O, the object over there, to the periphery of consciousness, but it does not explain at present how that periphery is crossed.

Let me now recall to you briefly the laws of physics in their most general features for there may be a lesson in them for psychical researchers. In this transition from the object to the body we have discovered the following things:

First of all, there is the principle of conservation of energy. This is an all-pervasive law which is partly being read from nature, partly being injected into nature. It is not merely a generalization of empirical fact because whenever we find something which violates the principle, we are tempted to invent a new form of energy. Let this be acknowledged. Helmholtz 'proved' the principle of conservation of energy in the 1850's, but his proof involved the assumption that there exists a new kind of energy previously unknown, namely, potential energy. Only by introducing this as an additional concept was he able to prove the law. The addition was proper because the concept proved fruitful; it satisfied all the metaphysical requirements.

Today, the principle of conservation of energy is thought to hold in nearly all domains. However, it is not valid without exception. At the forefront of current physical research, in the fields of quantum theory and elementary particle physics, the principle of conservation of energy is frequently breached because we find it necessary to invoke the existence of 'virtual processes'. Virtual processes do not conserve energy. They follow no ordinary law, but are confined to extremely short durations. In a very short time, every physical process can proceed in ways which defy the laws of nature known today, always hiding itself under the cloak of the principle of uncertainty, to be sure. The point I am making is that when any physical process first starts, it sends out 'feelers' in all directions, feelers in which time may be reversed, normal rules are violated, and unexpected things may happen. These virtual processes then die out and after a certain time matters settle down again in obedience to the principle of conservation of energy. The term 'virtual' is not synonymous with 'unreal', for these processes cannot be ignored without falsifying the scientific prediction of actual events.

A great deal is made of the fact that physical processes decline in intensity with an increase in distance. I was greatly interested in Dr. Osis' remarks this morning concerning the possible relations between ESP and distance. This appears indeed as a worthwhile field of experimentation. It is quite true that most physical processes follow an attenuating law of some sort. However, it should also be recalled that not all interactions obey an inverse square law - in fact, almost none do. Only interactions between physical points follow an inverse square law, and strictly speaking there are no physical points. An electric field in front of a charged plane of infinite extent shows no attenuation at all. It would be as strong at a distant star as it is right in front of the plane. There are 'resonance forces' encompassed in modern quantum theory, which may possibly have interesting applications in biology and in psychology and which decrease very slowly with distance.

Today physicists hear a great deal about Mach's principle. This principle in effect says this: Newton's laws as they are usually understood are nonsense. Inertia is not intrinsic in the body at all; it is induced by the circumstance that the body is surrounded by the whole universe. It is for this reason that a force is needed to accelerate an object. Thus Mach believed, tentatively at least, that the existence of inertia in an isolated body is a consequence of the fact that there are distant masses of stars around it. We know of no physical effect conveying this action; very few people worry about a physical agency transmitting it. As far as I can see, Mach's principle is as mysterious as your unexplained psychic phenomena, and its formulation seems to me almost as obscure.

Men in theoretical physics today invoke a principle known as the 'exclusion principle'; it was discovered by Pauli. The exclusion principle is responsible for most of the organizing actions that occur in nature. We actually speak of 'co-operative effects'. All of these are brought about by the so-called Pauli principle, which is simply a principle of symmetry, a formal mathematical characteristic of the equations which in the end regulate phenomena in nature. Almost miraculously it calls into being what we call exchange forces, the forces which bind atoms into molecules and molecules into crystals. It is responsible for the fact that iron can be magnetized, that matter cannot be squeezed together into an arbitrarily small volume. The impenetrability of matter, its very stability, can be directly traced to the Pauli exclusion principle. Now, this principle has no dynamic aspect to it at all. It acts like a force although it is not a force. We cannot speak of it as doing anything by mechanical action. No, it is a very general and elusive thing; a mathematical symmetry imposed upon the basic equations of nature producing what appears like a dynamic effect.

Towards the end of the last century the view arose that all interactions involved material objects. This is no longer held to be true. We know now that there are fields which are wholly non-material. The quantum mechanical interactions of physical psi fields which play an important role in the theory of measurement - interestingly and perhaps amusingly, the physicist's psi (the square root of a probability) has a certain abstractness and vagueness of interpretation in common with the parapsychologist's psi - these interactions are wholly non-material, yet they are described by the most important and the most basic equations of present-day quantum mechanics. These equations say nothing about masses moving; they regulate the behaviour of very abstract fields, certainly in many cases non-material fields, often as tenuous as the square root of a probability.

Finally, there has emerged in these studies the view that there can be no instantaneous action at a distance, that there must be causality of a specific kind. This means that there can be no causal connection between two events at different points in space if they are farther apart than the distance which light could travel within the time interval between the two events. Such is one meaning of causality in modern physics. It imposes a real limitation upon what can actually happen in the world. Yet, if you assume the correctness of that principle (and there are few who doubt it), you will not get any effective limitations upon what you report as being the case in your studies of ESP and other paranormal occurrences. For the restrictions imposed by causality involve events so far apart in space or so close together in time that they would hardly come under your observation with the techniques presently available. I am saying that the principle of causality as it is now conceived by the physicist is almost without significance for paranormal effects.

The foregoing remarks were meant to show that physics, indeed all so-called exact sciences, are not closed books, that they contain many unresolved problems which are not entirely without analogy, and perhaps even of some relevance, for the worker in psychical research. They also suggest that current physics is different from the science of the last century and that some of its ideas are as difficult to grasp as those of parapsychology.

Now, let me speak very briefly about a few present possibilities which are sometimes invoked for explaining clairvoyance. Here, I fear, my conclusions will be somewhat discouraging. In quantum mechanics one meets an effect which is called the 'tunnel effect'. It implies that if you set up an obstacle between two bodies which would normally stand in physical communication via electro-magnetic signals, through the passage of photons, electrons, or other kinds of particles (the situation is perfectly general) you cannot with rigour exclude all possible transmission of effects, all communication. To be sure, in classical physics, if a particle coming from one body and going to another does not have enough energy to surmount the obstacle or barrier, it simply cannot get through. According to quantum mechanics, this is no longer true. If a lot of particles - a lot of photons, electrons, neutrons, or whatnot - are emitted by an object, some will get through under practically all conditions. In other words, complete screening is no longer possible. Now, I am not suggesting that you can explain clairvoyance by the transmission of a few photons from the distant event to the person who perceives it clairvoyantly. Nevertheless, there is perhaps something here to be thought of a little further. But I see no great promise in this direction.

Another thing which I cannot leave unmentioned is the possibility of a supra-conscious inference from present clues (this would apply to telepathy and precognition as well as to clairvoyance). I know this has often been thought of by psychical researchers, but it seems to me so important that perhaps it should be reconsidered. I don't quite know how it happens, but our minds seem to be endowed at times with a peculiar clarity in which we see and understand clues present in a given situation in a way which seems wholly incomprehensible when viewed as commonplace perception. I myself had this sort of experience when I was young. We played a game and we called it telepathy. Of course it had nothing to do with strict telepathy, but its full explanation still eludes me. Later we called this parlour game muscle reading; undoubtedly you are familiar with it.

One person went out of the room and the rest of the group decided on something he was to do, some action he was to carry out such as going from one room to another, opening a drawer, taking out a certain object, taking it to another room, finding a person, putting the object in his pocket, taking something out from another pocket, and so on - a long series of tasks like that. Then, when this had been decided upon, the subject would come back into the room and a member of the crowd would grasp his left wrist and think very hard, very intensely and seriatim, about the actions the subject was supposed to perform. And believe it or not, he went right ahead and carried them out correctly. Now, this is a very simple thing. Most people could learn to do it in a few days and the success was very striking to the onlooker.

While this procedure seems miraculous, I am sure it is capable of being understood and analysed in terms of ordinary physiology and psychology. The subject adjusts himself very delicately to the impulses he gets from the other person's hand and proceeds to carry out the required actions. There were those who could perform similar feats even without bodily contact, chiefly, I believe, by scrutinizing the facial expressions and the involuntary gestures of the onlookers. I'm not sure that something like this, supraconscious inference from present clues, may not have something to do with clairvoyance and some of the other phenomena in which you are interested.

Now let us leave clairvoyance and turn to telepathy, the transfer of information from mind to mind. Look again at the diagram illustrating ordinary perception (figure 1). I want to change the circle marked O (for object) on the right to represent another person. There will then be the area of consciousness (C) surrounded by the concentric ring which I called body (B). Now the ordinary explanation of communication, which involves first a conversion of a conscious stimulus into a bodily response and calls upon the laws of physics to explain communication of the signal from one body to another, and then finally the conversion of a physiological stimulus into a conscious response, contains two mysteries. Let this be carefully noted. Now, if one is willing to accept the possibility of telepathy, of direct contact between minds, he thereby reduces these two mysteries to one. And speculations concerning such a possibility are in my opinion by no means unscientific per se; as a matter of fact, from the point of view of simplicity such a thesis is more satisfactory than the view which involves two mysteries. You know, of course, that many forms of religion are based upon the possibility of direct, bodiless contact between God's consciousness and man's.

I have already mentioned muscle reading in connection with the unravelling of semi-conscious clues. One might properly wonder whether, in the absence of a scientific explanation at the present time of ESP and related phenomena, a little more thought should not be given to those occurrences which lie on the boundary between the normal and the paranormal - to 'semi-normal' phenomena. I cannot believe that there are any discrete, quantum-like transitions in human experience. There must be an area where wholly inexplicable things merge with those that we understand as normal happenings. Let me illustrate:

When I was a youngster of fourteen, I had to take an examination in a distant town. I had to go away from home for the first time. The examination was a three-day ordeal. On the evening before the last day I tried to recall what I had learned about geology because I knew perfectly well that we were going to be quizzed the next morning on the geologic periods. To my great frustration, I couldn't recall them at all; I knew nothing about them. I went to bed in great perturbation. During the night I had a dream: I found myself at home, took my geology book from the shelf, opened it, and read the page on the geologic periods. I knew them the next morning, and I passed my examination.

Now I don't know whether this is anything of interest to psychical researchers, but I do think it is one of these semi-normal boundary occurrences. And perhaps an examination of the things which we half understand and therefore ignore might lead towards an opening of comprehension of those phenomena which are at present completely obscure.

A few words remain to be said about precognition, a field which seems rife with conjectures of a quasi-physical sort. Unfortunately, I know of no physical theory available at present which can be drawn upon to explain temporarily prior knowledge of coming events - except again through an analysis, perhaps unconscious or supraconscious, of pre-existing causal clues. Two hypotheses have been invoked most frequently to account for inverted knowledge of a causal sequence. One is Feynman's theory of time reversal. It is alleged to permit time to flow backwards, since it assigns meaning to trajectories of electrons in which the time-axis is reversed. These are, in fact, normal paths of antiparticles, positrons in this instance, on which the latter travel forward in time.

The time concept has been greatly distorted by philosophers who fail to distinguish between time as a conscious, protocol experience, the 'stream vector of consciousness', and time as a theoretical construct. No physical theory is qualified - by virtue of the methodology outlined earlier - to say anything about the structure of subjective time. Physics deals with measured, objective time, which means the construct. This, however, is connected with the stream of consciousness by rules of correspondence which must conform to immediate experience. To put the matter simply, even if constructed time flows backwards, as in the case of the normal motion of a positron, the relation between constructed time and consciously experienced time must be such, and is meant to be such, as to leave conscious time flowing forward. I have dealt with this and other related matters elsewhere(2). This does not rule out such radical reinterpretations as precognition might require. The point is that contemporary physics provides no example of it.

(2) Henry Margenau, 'Can Time Flow Backwards?' Philosophy of Science, Vol. 21, 1954, pp. 79-92.

Another instance I have seen cited focuses on the circumstance that quantum electrodynamics features Feynman diagrams in which the effect precedes the cause. A nucleus is supposed to explode before the missile reaches it. But the correct interpretation of these diagrams recognizes no causal connection in these cases: the nucleus happens to explode with a certain (very small) probability spontaneously before the missile arrives, and a causal sequence is simulated by the fact that the emitted positron later collides with an electron passing near the nucleus in an act of mutual annihilation.

An artifact occasionally invoked to explain precognition is to make time multidimensional. This allows a genuine backward passage of time, which might permit positive intervals in one time direction to become negative ('effect before cause') in another. In principle, this represents a valid scheme, and I know of no criticism that will rule it out as a scientific procedure. If it is to be acceptable, however, a completely new metric of space-time needs to be developed, a metric which will account not only for the facts to be explained, but also for the known laws of physics which can be fully understood without it. Remember the principle of extensibility!

I have probed physics for suggestions it can offer towards a solution of the sort of problems you seem to encounter. The positive results, I fear, are meagre and disappointing, though perhaps worth inspection. But why, I should now like to ask, is it necessary to import into any new discipline all the approved concepts of an older science in its contemporary stage of development? Physics did not adhere slavishly to the Greek rationalistic formulations that preceded it; it was forced to create its own specific constructs, even to the point of denying the basic geometry of Euclid. Lo and behold, these were later shown to be compatible with, and often generalizations of, earlier more primitive notions.

Hence I should think that the parapsychologist need not be discouraged by the lack of suitability of physical ideas, or ideas strictly based on present-day physics, for his purposes. If his facts are clear, reproducible, and beyond the vagaries of chance, then I see no reason why he should heed the objections of unimaginative colleagues in the physical sciences.

The parapsychologist, I think, is not likely to find theories which will illuminate his area of interest already prepared by physicists. He must strike out on his own and probably reason in bolder terms than present-day physics suggests. The only bridle upon his speculations is occasioned by the need for empirical verification and by those clearly recognizable metaphysical principles which control all of science. The concepts of parapsychology may well turn out to be at first completely different from the concepts of contemporary physics. The other behavioural sciences are not fashioned precisely after the patterns of inorganic behaviour; yet they are acceptable and they succeed. And so, if I may return to my initial story, I would say, 'For the present, let the dam telephone ring!' Tolerate the strident critical voices of hard-boiled, pragmatic, and satisfied scientists without too much concern, and continue his own painstaking search for an understanding of new kinds of experience, possibly in terms of concepts which now appear strange.


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