The Other I

July 16, 2010

Telepathy

Filed under: Intriguing Science — theotheri @ 9:13 pm

I used to think the idea of telepathy was more off the wall than I do now.

Mostly scientists have dismissed it as superstitious nonsense, not because there aren’t some strange things they can’t explain, because there are.  But scientists tend to dismiss explanations of phenomena if we have no hypotheses, no idea at all how they might occur.  Since we have no scientifically respectable idea how telepathy might actually take place, we tend to say it doesn’t.

But two things give me pause.

The first is that science, from physics to biology, from physiology to psychology, is full of the most extraordinary phenomena, and explanations for them that surpass the understanding of the intelligence of most humans.  Quantum mechanics above all seems to me to be almost literally incredible.  And yet it is at the cutting edge of seriously serious science challenging some of the brightest people the world can find.

The second thing that gives me pause is the increasing evidence that communication seems to pervade the universe.  Particles seem to communicate with each other across vast distances at incredible speed, plants communicate with each other, the cells in our body communicate with each other, birds and worms and fish and whales communicate with each other.

So maybe – just maybe – telepathy isn’t such a wild idea.

Though, like everybody else, I have no idea how it might occur.  And I suspect I’m not the genius who’s going to make the break through in figuring it out either.

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5 Comments »

  1. People who do not believe in telepathy are welcome to explain how some dogs can sense the owner’s epileptic attack coming on.
    A.

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    Comment by budavar — July 16, 2010 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

    • Great example of what I was getting at. And dog’s ability to sense the onset of an epileptic attack is just for starters.

      The problem with giving “telepathy” as the explanation, though, is that telepathy is really the question. We know (sort of, more or less, at least some people do) how the internet works. Or telephones. Or radios. Or televisions. But we don’t know how the events that we credit with telepathy actually work. At this point, I think it is fascinating.

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      Comment by theotheri — July 17, 2010 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

      • Indeed. Examples like this make me think of Clever Hans, the counting horse.

        It turned out that Hans couldn’t actually count, but was reacting to the involuntary reactions of his human trainer & audience – reactions which the people were unaware of.

        The co-evolution of humans and dogs has been longer and deeper than that of humans and horses, so it is little surprise that dogs can pick up on human signals which humans may not be aware of.

        For example it has been discovered that dogs focus on the right-hand side of a person’s face, which is the side more expressive of (human) emotion, while showing no such bias when looking at other dogs’ faces.

        With this kind of perceptual subtlety going on there could be a lot more options to exhaust before needing to resort to telepathy as an explanation?

        Thanks,
        Chris
        thinking makes it so

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        Comment by Chris Lawrence — July 18, 2010 @ 9:47 am

      • Chris – Thank you for this small mystery-solver. I suspect that nobody acquainted with animals – including Budavar – would be surprised at this example of their intelligence. And it’s an illustration of why I say “telepathy” is really the question, not the answer. I suspect that the evidence illustrating telepathy is a mixed motley ranging from imaginative reports of events that are easily explained with our current level of understanding to some serious experiences of quite sober people which at this point simply seem inexplicable. I also suspect that many of these diverse experiences can or will be explained by a variety of different scientifically-verifiable approaches, some of which we have not yet identified. Whether any of them will ever be called “telepathy” I do not know.

        Someone asked me yesterday if I believed in ghosts, and listed a series of mysterious events that seem to suggest that ghosts were real. I said the same thing as I do about telepathy. I’ve had some experiences that I cannot explain, and which some people would say were ghosts. Since we don’t understand ghosts any better than we understand telepathy, I prefer to say that things happen which do not seem explicable with our current level of knowledge. Saying they are evidence of ghosts simply pushes back the point at which I don’t understand.

        I would be amazed if you don’t agree. But then life is full of explicable surprises!

        Thank you.

        Whoops – I mean inexplicable surprises, of course. TOI

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        Comment by theotheri — July 18, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  2. In the interest of reductionism (of which later) I took the easy way and looked up “telepathy” in the Webster. “Communication between minds by means other than the ordinary and normal.” Only a few hundred years ago using a telephone would have made us all either practitioners of witchcraft or telepathy. So we are three definers of the word: Chris, TheOtherI and myself. There are probably dozens of others and we had previously not thought of the word as a very personal concept while not conflicting with Webster. Maybe it is shades of agreement, just as in acceptance of religion or beauty or appreciation of music. I am satisfied with a non-answer: there is no way to bring it all to a common point.
    Oh, just to get Clever Hans out of the way: the way I heard it, many years ago, was that the horse responded to clues from the trainer, purposely given. I like this better than the horse responding to subtle clues. I don’t see horses reading people’s faces or physical mannerisms that well, since they do not live with people as closely as pet dogs do and never had a reason to learn human expressions.

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    Comment by budavar — July 21, 2010 @ 1:22 pm | Reply


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