Supernormal, supernatural, unnatural–the paranormal is full of contradictions. Even the word has conflicting meanings. The prefix, “para,” from the Greek means against and from the Latin means for.
As a whole, the paranormal is a boogieman’s closet full of the dark, the strange, and the unexplained. It holds a host of diverse topics from UFOs to the Bermuda Triangle, parapsychology to cryptozoology, and hauntings to déjà vu.
Belief in the paranormal is widespread. Recent polls show:
- Nearly one-third of Americans believe in astrology and that the position of stars and planets affect their lives.
- Nearly half of all Americans read their daily horoscope at least “occasionally” according to a poll conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
- 50% of the American population believes in extrasensory perception (ESP).
- Over one-third of Americans believe in unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
Surveys continually show an increasing belief in what the scientific community generally calls “false” or pseudoscience. Various skeptics groups and renowned skeptic James Randi have long-standing offers of large sums of money to anyone who can prove a paranormal claim. Randi and members of his “2000 Club” are offering more than a million dollars. So far, no one has met the challenge.
Yet, while the US National Science Foundation doesn’t support paranormal beliefs, many respected scientists still strive to explain the seemingly unexplainable abilities and events of the paranormal.
The Society for Scientific Exploration was founded in 1982 to address the gap between conventional science and paranormal studies by presenting results of serious investigations into any study of paranormal phenomena.
In his article, “The Study of Paranormal Phenomena Can Be Scientific,”Peter A. Sturrock, the former director of Stanford University’s Center for Space Science and Astrophysics says,
“Carl Sagan was correct in asserting that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,’ but that does not mean that anything less than extraordinary evidence may be ignored.”
2. Alternative Healing Dictionary P-S. 2004. reiku.nu 4 March 2008. <http://www.reiki.nu/treatment/healing/dictionary4/dictionary4.html>
3. Douglas Harper. November 2001. Online Etymology Dictionary. 4 March 2008. <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=para&searchmode=none>
4. “Paranormal.” Wikipedia. 3 March 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 March 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranormal#Paranormal>
5. Melissa Pollak. "Belief in Paranormal Phenomena Is Unscientific." Opposing Viewpoints: Paranormal, The. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. August 2004. 4 March 2008. <http://www.enotes.com/paranormal-article/42907>
6. Peter A. Sturrock. "The Study of Paranormal Phenomena Can Be Scientific." Opposing Viewpoints: Paranormal, The. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. August 2004. 4 March 2008. <http://www.enotes.com/paranormal-article/42908>