What is the paranormal and is it real? This is a question which has been asked and considered for centuries. When the word paranormal is mentioned, we commonly think of bigfoot, UFO’s, ghosts, hauntings, aliens and even God and angels. Some claim that there is no concrete evidence that any of this exists, but it’s very hard to simply dismiss the vast amount of evidence out there. If you check out the Merriam Webster dictionary‘s definition of paranormal, you will find “not scientifically explainable” along with a link to their definition for supernatural, which in paraphrase says that it is anything which seems to transcend the laws of nature or that relates to an existence outside of the visible universe.
So what does this mean? Anything that is not scientifically explainable is paranormal? If we apply that logic to history, we can see that “paranormal” things become “normal” on a regular basis. There would have been a time when we would have considered the fact that the earth revolves around the sun to be a paranormal idea. Of course today we all know this to be true because of scientific advances which have helped us to prove it to be true. Today, its considered “normal” or scientifically explainable. Prior to 1514 though, the science to prove that the earth actually revolved around the sun and not vice versa simply did not exist. Did our inability to prove the pattern in which the earth orbits around the sun cease to make it true or stop the actual pattern from being real? Of course not, we simply lacked the ability to show scientific evidence to prove that was the case.
Let’s look at another example of something paranormal becoming normal as it relates to supposed “mythological” creatures. Did you know that it took over 2200 years to find scientific evidence of the existence of the giant squid? Yes that’s more than 2200 years from the time that Aristotle first described the giant sea creature in the fourth century B.C. Sightings of the creature continued for thousands of years before finally, in 1857 a piece of a giant squid was retrieved by a French boat, and we finally had the scientific evidence to prove that the creature actually existed and was not just mere fantasy. It took well over another hundred years for anyone to be able to produce an image of a living giant squid, which finally occurred in 2002. So did our inability to produce scientific evidence of the giant squid’s existence cause it to be less real? No way, it still existed, even though we couldn’t prove it.
Is the paranormal real then? In these two cases it certainly was, and there are countless others. A few examples of other occurences which would have once been considered to be paranormal and are now normal are the discovery of blood typing and transfusions in 1901, the discovery of radio carbon dating in 1943, or perhaps the discovery of genetic engineering in 1973. For more examples of paranormal ideas which have become normal, check out this pdf we’ve prepared Paranormal or Normal? (pdf)
In 2006, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia did a study of 2000 adults to find out what their beliefs were on the paranormal, and interestingly enough 96% of those in the study believed that they had experienced at least one brush with the paranormal, and 80% of participants believed that they had experienced at least one premonition. Details on the Study. Those are incredible numbers and this huge number of claims which can only mean one thing. While there is certainly the possibility that some of these experiences can be written off to imagination, or circumstances, just like the earth’s orbit around the sun and the existence of the giant squid, many of these are true as well, we just lack the ability to explain them.
As time has proven, we cannot dismiss ideas simply because we are not able to explain them. With time and scientific advances we will continue to see more and more of these paranormal ideas become normal as we are able to prove their existence.