Leader...even the inexplicable

August 10, 2007

It is curious and reassuring that as economic need increasingly directs academic activity, universities carry out research into parapsychology.

How do university finance directors justify research into telepathy and ghosts while pulling the plug on mainstream disciplines such as chemistry, physics and engineering?

It is hard to think of a discipline with less immediately obvious practical economic or social benefit than parapsychology. Yet the fact that people report paranormal experiences surely warrants academic investigation. Are these experiences any less worthy of investigation than, say, our experience of gravity, light or schizophrenia?

Leaving aside possible external physical explanations for aspects of the paranormal, there is real psychological and physiological meat here. And having barely begun to understand the laws governing the universe, who can rule out physical explanations for incidents of precognition or telepathy?

If universities stop investigating areas such as parapsychology or, for that matter, other subjects with little obvious economic relevance such as philosophy, ancient history or English literature, then society will be the poorer for it. Universities must also continue to champion research into the unorthodox if only to test constantly the mettle of orthodox ideas.

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