Sunday, December 22, 2013

A short history of the world as told by a spirit (by Brian Foster)

A new article has been added to the SKL repository: "On the Way to the Light: the Spiritist Story of Earth as told by Emmanuel" by Brian Foster which is a review of F. C. Xavier book 'On the Way to the Light'  (see reference below for book availability).

On the Way to the Light, by the spirit Emmanuel, psychographed by Francisco C. Xavier, was written in 1938, but first published in English in 2011. Emmanuel details how the Spirit world has managed and channeled the human race, from the conception of our planet to the present, on the road to a higher plateau. This book upends all we know about world history. 
The article surveys the book and provides commentary on key events described by Emmanuel. It is intended to introduce the reader to a different aspect of Spiritism. Whereas most literature concentrates on our personal relationship to our own spiritual progress, On the Way to the Light exposes the larger manipulation of the human race. Emmanuel also provides hints as why the Spirit world follows certain strategies.

Read the article here: link to SKL repository.


Xavier, F. C. (2011), On the way to the light, Edicei of America, LLC. Available at Amazon here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

New article about Rosemary Brown in SKL (by Érico Bomfim)

Physical effect are really able to impress the senses, but intelligent effects carry the traces that help to reconstruct the underlying author's personality with much more clarity. (E. Bomfim)
A new article by Erico Bomfim, "Rosemary Brown and psychic art" has been posted in the SKL repository. The article briefly reviews the history of the remarkable British medium composer Rosemary Brown and analyses, from an initial musicologist point of view, her work.

Article content.
  1. Introduction.
  2. Rosemary Brown versus Fritz Kreisler.
  3. Stories of the subconsious mind.
  4. Psychic art as evidence of survival.
  5. References.
Some excerpts of Bomfim's manuscript are reproduced below.
"Rosemary Brown was the greatest musical medium ever. In a time span of only six years, Rosemary Brown composed more than 400 music pieces. And not only music for piano, but also songs and parts of other quartets, concerts and symphonies, besides the beginning of an opera."
"To elaborate the musical material that Rosemary Brown brought to the world, it would be necessary a deep knowledge about a variety of different styles, in all their subtleties that distinguish them. The domination of composition techniques would also be required in order to build a well structured work from the formal point of view, what would probably be equally - or even more - difficult than simply knowing the styles. In short, to compose all Brown's musical pieces, knowledge from distinct musicologists plus the ability of a mature composer would be mandatory. But Rosemary Brown was not neither one person nor group of persons. Therefore the strength of her case."
"Psychic art, as a proof of survival, has a very peculiar value depending of the degree of sophistication and content. Since the spirit is the intelligent principle and true source, an intelligent effect (the very artwork) is an evidence of survival stronger than physical effects such as raps and other material phenomena. Physical effect are really able to impress the senses, but intelligent effects carry the traces that help to reconstruct the underlying author's personality with much more clarity. Those who read an automatic letter or enjoy a work of art have the clear impression that the true author has survived and is doing well."
People cited in the article:

Fritz Kreisler (1865-1972)

Otto Maria Carpeaux (1900-1978)

See reference below for the full article.


SKL#05 E. Bomfim. Rosemary Brown and psychic art.(2013)

Related materials

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Spiritist articles in PDF format: the release of the SKL repository

A new repository of spiritist articles can be accessed in the Spiritist Knowledge Letters which is a static page incorporated as a tab at top of the Spiritist Knowledge blog (see above). The aim of this space is to bring together spiritist information in the form of academic articles. 

The present content of SKL contains the following titles which can be reached through Google Docs:

SKL#01 A. Xavier. Pragmatics and intention in automatic writing compositions: the Chico Xavier case.

SKL#02 A. Xavier. The Non-observable Universe and an Empirical Classification of Natural Phenomena.

SKL#03 S. Chibeni. The Spiritist Paradigm.

SKL#04 S. Chibeni. Spiritism: An experimental approach to the issue of personal post-mortem survival.

In particular, we highlight the last artible by philosopher Silvio Chibeni, containing an interesting study about the question of post-mortem survival against the background of modern epistemology.

Please, read the abstracts and dowload the files of other articles in the SKL page.

SKL is also also open to contributions. If you have any interesting article in English on the subjects described on SKL page, do not hesitate to contact us. We will format the material to the style that was chosen for all SKL texts. 

It is important to emphasize that SKL is not an academic journal, but simply a repository of articles (similarly to whose aim is to provide a place in the internet for modern texts of interest for spiritualist and spiritist people in general.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

VI - The Non-observable Universe and a General Classification of Nature's Phenomena (End)

Previous Post: 'The non-observable Universe V'

Read the full article here (via SKL repository).


According to a well-known type of realist standpoint, entity realism (Losee, 1993; Harré,1986), we can divide the world in many ‘cognitive kingdoms’: realm I asserts the existence of fully observable entities of Definition 1.1; realm II corresponds to non-observable in the sense of Definition 1.2a and realm III is made up of entities in the sense of Definition 1.2b. Much of what exists in the Universe is and will always be non-observable, leading to the proposition of non-empirically accessible causes in realm III. Examples of such entities abound in statistical and quantum physics or in genetic biology to quote a few. By adopting such realist view of the world, modern science has definitely showed that the scope of scientific enquiry cannot be restricted to public available phenomena. Here we have extended such a view to include meta-observable occurrences that would constitute “realm IV”.
The phenomenological classification that we propose has 16 main classes as the set of all possible types of phenomena in Nature, in accordance to 4 distinct phenomenological properties: observability, visibility, reproducibility and periodicity. These features are independent of any cause or theory that is proposed to explain phenomena; although knowledge of the occurrence conditions may impact the way they are perceived or reproduced. This simple classification is a useful picture for the exposition of many the features associated to a purely phenomenological description of Nature. The aim of this text was to emphasize such features and to show that they may lead us to wrong theoretical conclusions if class specific research methods are misapplied across other classes.
Such classification ‘landscape’ (in the final entity-relationship diagram of Fig. 1) must be remembered before any attempt to use a research method exported from a predefined discipline. A research method is a theory dependent procedure from which propositions or statements for certain phenomenological classes are inferred. The theory associated to such a procedure is essentially a language to treat events caused by established objects of study. In principle, the research process popularly described as the ‘scientific method’ cannot be said to be inadequate, but possibly that it can only be applied to a very restricted subset of events, in particular to those that are minimally reproducible or highly cyclical. On the contrary, one can argue that to demand reproducibility (laboratory tests) at any cost poses a severe threat to the development of theories to account for anomalies, because of an unjustified restriction of scope it leads to, given the variety of phenomenological classes in Nature. It also represents a threat to science understood in a more general way.
The characterization of certain diseases by the observation of similar symptoms in large populations, mainly when an unknown disease cannot be reproduced in the lab or is associated to symptoms not directly accessible, is a standard methodology among physicians. According to our classification, symptoms may be described as both public and private occurrences that require direct or device assisted diagnostic procedures. And, just as a physician is not admitted to discredit his patients complains about the symptoms (private events), researches cannot undermined meta-observables associated to the registration of many anomalies. The physician task is to arrive at plausible mechanisms to explain all aspects of the disease, symptoms included, and to propose a suitable treatment procedure. So, again a true science of anomalies will only take place as plausible mechanisms for understanding meta-observables become available, paving the way for the correct identification of other sources. The new way of doing science will thus demand to accept meta-observables (new sensory faculties) as the first step toward the correct treatment of anomalies in the sense of Definition 8.
Will it be possible to devise a new research method to study anomalistic occurrences? Such is the challenge of future science from the methodological point of view. The development of such special methods will require an open minded attitude on regard to the attribution of causes or phenomenological sources. What is at dispute here, defying naturalistic explanations, is the proposition of new sources to properly account for facts representing anomalistic events. Thus, forcing naturalistic explanations may lead to bad science contrary to what many skeptics believe.


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Franklin A., (2003), Are there really neutrinos?, An Evidential History, Westview Press.
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Harré, R (1986), Varieties of Realism: a rationale for the natural sciences,Oxford: Blackwell.
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Kaas J. H., (2007), The evolution of the complex sensory and motor systems of the human brain. Brain Research Bulletin, 75, Issues 2-4.
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Kowal C. T. and Drake S. (1980), Galileo's observations of Neptune , Nature, 287, p. 311
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Wikipedia: Scientific  Method,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

V - The Non-observable Universe and a General Classification of Nature's Phenomena

Previous Post: 'The non-observable Universe IV'

Read the full article here (via SKL repository).

We can then add a new branch in our previous entity-relationship diagram, increasing the number of phenomenological classes (as shown in Fig. 1 here). Since private phenomena can be reproducible, periodic etc, more 4 types (f={13,…,16}) were added. These are private occurrence that can only be registered by specific group of individuals, those endowed with the meta-observable faculties. The full phenomenological set has now 16 elements and may be called G set (F Ì G). For example, an NDE event may belong f=14 or f=16 class.
The adjectives ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ are only applied to non-observable events, since it is not possible to assert beyond any doubt that special devices could not be constructed to register meta-observables occurrences (Bender, 1972; Ellis, 1975; Baruss, 2001). In other words, it is not certain that meta-observables could be converted into invisible occurrences in the sense of Definition 1. According to our picture, meta-observables constitute a ‘fourth phenomenological kingdom’ of Nature for which the same phenomenological properties may be ascertained, but which are independent from the other two groups (observables and non-observables).  

Fig. 1
The existence of meta-observables gives rise to a new type of anomaly (regardless of the cause):

Definition 9
(Private or type II) Anomaly: the set of all occurrences belonging to G-F.

Suppose that, due to a genetic mutation or disease, a group of humans develops the ability to sense radio waves of a certain frequency and intensity. Such capacity would be restricted to the group and represent a meta-observable, initially taken as a private anomaly. If a causal correlation were discovered, a theory could be possibly formulated to explain the ability. In order to be successful, such theory should account for both the phenomenological cause (radio waves) and faculty acquisition (perhaps the ‘mutation of some cells into radio waves sensory cells’) and the anomaly would be accepted. In our initial discussion about private anomalies, we have seen that, paranormal occurrences manifest themselves as both public and private events. The former are related to controversies on regard to the phenomenological sources while the later are caused by the lack of theories to account for the faculties granting the observations. Compare this with UFOs occurrences: polemics is rooted in the lack of consensus about the sources, since in genuine UFOs sightings, there is only limited skepticism about the trustiness of witnesses and their sensorial faculties, including mental states.  Therefore, we can conclude that private anomalies are the hardest ones from the purely empirical perspective, because they involve justification of the very senses that are responsible for their apprehension. 
Thus, it is also a logical fact that the task of creating good theories for type II anomalies requires the preliminary and tacit acceptance of the faculties without which it is impossible to apprehend the effects.  Starting with the analysis of ordinary observables, anomalies of this type will only be accepted as genuine facts as theories appear to justify the use of human instruments capable of their registration.

Skepticism and phenomenon classification

In an established scientific activity, there is a natural skepticism whose purpose is to protect research programs, the so called ‘negative heuristics’ of Lakatos (1980). Its purpose is to protect well established research programs against malicious excerpts or unnecessary modifications of the program core. Such skepticism is important because it gives stability for research programs. In order to exist, the negative heuristic must also refer to a predefined research program, with a predefined scope (object of study) and language.
Regarding general anomalies, the situation is very different, since many are not related to any stable research field. In fact, what is the conventional research program to accommodate psychic faculties and their associated phenomenology? Obviously, the fundamentals of the phenomenological G-F group rest upon the ‘positive heuristic’ supporting the existence of meta-observable faculties, as well as the causes of many unexplained sources. Skeptic groups invoke the so called ‘scientific’ methodologies to invalidate or explain away anomalies. Having no rule to play in the development of well-established research programs (Popper, 1968; Kuhn, 1970), the ‘scientific method’ is invoked to deny primarily the new faculties, when then the task of denying the external sources become trivial. For such specific type of ‘skepticism of anomalies’, it is impossible to accept any anomaly and much less the faculties supporting their occurrence. According to these skeptics, a meta-observable event is, at its best, a ‘subjective impression’ that stands against the ‘objective evidences’ corresponding, in our classification, to observable facts (j={1,…,4}). The challenge of parapsychology and other disciplines created to study anomalies is therefore twofold: to propose generalizing theories that provide good explanations for both faculties and the phenomenological causes. 
We have seen however that, to establish the fundamentals of what is ‘scientific’ solely on the basis of observable occurrences is a limited belief given the existence of many non-observable and sporadic phenomena (most elements of the F set) [1]. Thus the fundamentals of pure empiricism that gave rise to logical positivism, are long considered defective (Quine, 1951; Joad, 1950). Given the existence of sporadic and non-reproducible events, many evidences are sporadic and uncontrollable, requiring time and special conditions to become manifest, thus challenging purely inductive methodologies that demand laboratory replication. Such sporadic and uncontrollable events are further disregarded by skeptics of anomalies on account of being termed ‘contextual’. However, many occurrences in Nature cannot be reproduced at will (irreproducible events), their occurrence rate is unknown, so that the only sources of knowledge available are contextual in nature. Proper accumulation and consistent historical registration constitute the only method available in the lack of a theory to guide the research.
Since for each anomaly a corresponding skepticism exists, using Definitions 4 and 9, we can distinguish between two kinds of skepticism: one with regard to the phenomenological sources and another denying the faculties required to apprehend and record private anomalies. The first type is weaker than the second, since in the case of private anomalies, the acceptance of extended faculties is necessary. It is then easy to understand the enormous popularity of the ‘theories of hallucination’ of ‘self-delusion’ among skeptics who deny the faculties, thus facilitating the task of providing any other explanation for the causes.


[1] Take, for example, the ‘discovery’ of planet Uranus by Leverrier and Adams (Kowal, 1980, Kollerstrom, 2009), or the proposal of the anti-electron by P. A. Dirac. (1928). If it were not for the theories, no extraordinary evidence could be found to support the mere suggestion of their existences.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

IV - The Non-observable Universe and a General Classification of Nature's Phenomena

"If you see the numbers or letters in the circles, pat yourself on the back.  You’re an example of an advanced human." (llamas blog). Tetrachromats are perfect examples of the emergence of meta-observable senses. 
Previous Post: The non-observable Universe III'

Read the full article here (via SKL repository).

4. Private phenomena

So far, we have ventured to describe events that are publicly available. By this we mean events that are independent of anything except the investigator ordinary senses. For example, take  a f=9 occurrence. If its apprehension depends on a device capable of impressing some human sense, the observation result by no means will depend on the observer: no matter who observes, the result will be the same. Thus, the use of equipments does not change the ‘public’ character but gives rise to the definition of publicly available phenomena:
Definition 6
Publicly available phenomena: the apprehension does not depend on any internal observer disposition, but only on the accepted ordinary senses. 
Such definition should be compared to that of private phenomena:

Definition 7
Private phenomena: their apprehension does depend, to a certain degree, on internal observer disposition beyond the accepted ordinary senses.  
There are instances which, despite sensitizing the ordinary senses, special training is required for the phenomena to ‘objectivate’. An example is the diagnostic of X-ray images (Chalmers, 1999). As there is dependence on training, the correct apprehension of the effects of a given pathology via X-ray imaging must be regarded as a distinct event in our classification scheme. The ‘public’ status following Definition 5 stems in essence from the public character of the ordinary senses: it is indirectly assumed that they are universally and equally distributed among all observers.

If a given sense fails for a certain group of individuals, then any natural phenomenon whose apprehension depends on that particular sense will become unobservable (Definition 1). For example, suppose that, for a certain group of individuals, one of the common senses changes due to an unknown cause. This group will be marginalized, since many occurrences depending on that particular sense will be perceived differently by the group. Thus, in a largely color blind society for blue, events involving blue will be described as private occurrences by non daltonic members, but they are non-observables for the majority. This is a consequence of Definition 1 and 7. A recent work has shown that color blind dichromats are able to see certain features while (normal) trichromats are not (Morgan, 1992). The persistence of genes of color blindness is explained as a consequence of an evolutionary advantage provided by such special ability. Evolution may thus favour the development of new sensing faculties or suppression of currently existing ones. Similarly, it is well known that olfaction and taste (Bartoshuk, 2000) vary from individual to individual so that it is impossible to have an absolutely public description of certain experiences involving these senses.

5. Meta-observables

If a particular occurrence is restricted to a group of observers, there is marginalization of this group due to the onset of new faculties beyond the ordinary senses (e. g. color blindness). Certain anomalous phenomena seem to exist whose explanation is only possible if we accept an expansion of human sensory capacity. For such group, non-observable occurrences become visible.

Since no devices are available on the basis of an accepted theory to validate the observation (otherwise the event would a public fact), such occurrences may be regarded as private phenomena par excellence. An example of such events is the retrieval of unknown information by psychic means (the so called mental mediumship, Gauld, 1982; Alvarado, 2010). Other evidences are in the form of reports of Near Death Experiences or NDE (van Lommel, 2001; Parnia, 2001; Ring, 1993; Schroter-Kunhard, 1993). Using a positive heuristics that states the reality of such events [1], they may be described as private anomalies.

Taking into account the existence of private anomalies as exteriorizations of observable events by a change or alteration of the ordinary senses, we define a new type of phenomenon:

Definition 8

Meta-observable phenomenon (neologism): a natural occurrence that is only accessible to extended or severely altered states of sensorial perception.

We can advocate that the confirmation of meta-observables was involved in Rhines’ research program with telepathy (Rhine, 1966; Morris, 1999). In principle, meta-observable occurrences cannot be converted into non-observables (either visible or not). A meta-observable distinguishes itself from a non-observable, as the former involves a sense extension. It is important to emphasize that meta-observables are not exclusively tied to classical anomalies (paranormal etc). Any phenomenon that is apprehended by means of altered human senses should be classified in this way. Thus, non-public changes in taste or smell perception that are described by certain people are genuine examples of meta-observables. Another source of meta-observables is the modification in health states investigated by medical sciences. Changes in the body’s metabolism (e. g., caused by the use of drugs) may alter the senses, thus creating opportunities for meta-observable manifestation (as NDE’s seem to suggest).


[1] In the lack of a supporting theoretical framework, a special ‘positive heuristics’ may be assumed stating that such events really occur and are caused by things outside the observer’s mind. On the contrary, a negative heuristics denies any external reality to such events but may claim that their registration is the result of some ‘psychological derangement’.

Friday, May 17, 2013

III - The Non-observable Universe and a General Classification of Nature's Phenomena

Ball lighting. The rarity and lack of a natural paradigm for explaining ball lightnings made them a recurrent anomaly  (cortesy:
Previous Post: "The Non-Observable Universe II"

Read the full article here (via SKL repository).

3. Scientific method and anomalies

Fig. 3 is an entity-relationship model of 12 phenomenological classes, that is the set of classes F(f), for f={1,…,12}. In this way, a f=1 class contains reproducible, periodic and observable occurrences, the easiest ones for scientific investigation on the base of evidences gathered by the human common senses. Difficulty seems to increases as j increases. A f = 2 phenomenon is irreproducible, periodic and observable. Events of this type range from a simple sunrise to the change of seasons. Sound beatings in a loudspeaker of a radiotelescope pointing to a rotating star – a pulsar – (D’Amico, 1999) correspond to f=11. In fact, its confirmation is only possible if a sensible (and expensive) device is at hand (and not only that, but also a theory based fully developed method of observation and analysis), otherwise the event is simply unverifiable.

Fig. 3
At this point, we make reference to a popular definition of the scientific method:

The Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. (Wikipedia, Scientific Method, 2010)

It is easy to see that the notion of observability and reproducibility are deeply established in the tradition of doing science. Thus the scientific method, understood in this way, is applicable only to a subset of F, as a consequence of natural selection process applied to the scientific development (Toulmin 1974; Hull, 1988). We can argue that observable and reproducible phenomena are the ‘fittest’ ones to survive scientific tradition in a stable form. It is undeniable that human knowledge has advanced as a consequence of such method, but, it does not follow logically from this observation that every natural occurrence has to fit the method in order to be scientifically valid (Bauer, 1987). A perception error is hidden in its core, forbidding certain phenomenological classes as described by the full F set. 

Given the definition of the F set, one can define a special type of anomaly (Bauer, 1988, 1989):

 Definition 5

(Public or type I) Anomaly: a special subset of F for which no explanation exists that is widely accepted.

Many people disregard anomalies because they defy ‘naturalistic explanations’, that can be understood as statements accounting for the existence of a natural occurrences in terms of definitions and causes accepted by the established knowledge. Other definitions for ‘naturalistic explanation’ exist (Giere, 1992), and they should not be confused with well-established theories. However, history of science shows that naturalistic explanations follow closely constantly evolving theories in order to accommodate new facts. Very often, the accepted knowledge on regard to phenomena of unknown causes is much more influenced by mainstream culture of a given time than by any truly scientific explanation that eventually becomes available in a later phase of theoretical maturity (Oreskes, 1999). Thus, naturalist explanations fit this picture as an immediate response of the established culture to certain anomalous experiences.  Let us consider other examples:
  • Take the f={11,12} set. These are non-reproducible, unobservable, invisible events. In the lack of any hint about their causes, they will be regarded as anomalies if, by chance, a method is discovered to register them. The situation will persist until a promising theory is found. 
  • Genuine cases of UFO apparitions (unidentified flying objects) (Swords, 1993, 2006) show that, without going into further considerations about their causes (remember, we are mainly interested in an explanation independent categorization), these are possibly f=4 events. This is exactly the same class of meteorite falls and, not incidentally, it is common to compare both phenomena. Not coincidentally, until the second half of the 19 century, meteors were anomalies for the scientific community. (Westrum, 1978). From the purely phenomenological point of view, UFOs and meteorite falls are analogous events, and the same the same can be said about ball lighting (Turner, 2003; Coleman, 2006). 
  • Still another example is the occurrence of transport phenomena (movement of objects) or psychokinesis (PK) in parapsychology literature (Braude, 1986; Rhine 1943, Schmidt, 1974). Many of these facts are public or f=4 cases.
f=4 phenomena are occasionally considered ‘physical’ in the sense of being public (Definition 1.1). Moreover, they are also many times rare. What distinguishes them, however, is the attribution of cause or phenomenological source, whose acceptance seems to depend on the prevailing culture of a time. As regard to meteorites, the theory of volcanic eruptions or fusion of terrestrial rocks by lightning (Sears,1975) was superseded by the acceptance of their alien nature, while the same is still not true for UFOs. However, the lack of a naturalistic explanation does not prove the validity of any claim about supernatural explanations. This is because the mere existence of an anomaly does not lead to any contradiction in the natural order, but only represents the influence of possibly unknown causes.

The meteorite of Bendegó. The first explanations to account for the existence of meteorites ruled out their extraterrestrial origin. Courtesy: National Museus of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

We can say that theories are models that allow us to understand the conditions for many natural occurrences. Theories that are well intertwined with the phenomena they purpose to explain are also capable of:
  • Explaining the four phenomenological features described above. A good theory is thus able to explain why a certain phenomenon is observable or not, why it is visible, periodic, sporadic etc. 
  • Providing orientation for building up analyzing devices and performing measurements. This explains the huge success of modern scientific theories, especially physics. 
  • Explaining a variety of associated events and not only a single particular occurrence. Again, physics is full of examples. With a reduced set of laws, classical mechanics was able to explain a large amount of facts. In the same way, several other areas of physics such as quantum mechanics or relativity were extremely successful in predicting phenomena before empirical verification. 
  • Most important of all, good theories fully specify the conditions under which a given phenomenon may be empirically observed, paving the way for their replication under controlled conditions.
Physics has become the guiding paradigm for other areas such as biology or even economy. However, is it possible to develop research programs in these areas in accordance with the methods of physics? The theories of physics share an important feature: they make extensive use of mathematical language in the form of methodological tools. It is not easy to see how other disciplines could benefit from the same methodology in face of such a variety of objects of study. Given the lack of exact descriptions correlating fundamental ingredients, a new research procedure must be developed to study f=11 and f=12 classes.

In view of our classification scheme, the set of events for which f={9,…,12} are only detectable in presence of theories that provide suitable empirical verification methods. Moreover, the opposite situation automatically puts a check on the acceptance of their existence: they become matters of belief or anomalies. We will see that the situation is even worse in face of natural occurrences that are not publicly available.

Next Post: "The Non-Observable Universe IV".

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

II - The Non-observable Universe and a General Classification of Nature's Phenomena

A rare lenticular cloud takes the shape of an UFO.
by Ademir Xavier

Read the full article here (via SKL repository).
Previous Post: "The Non-Observable Universe I".

Any discussions about the periodicity of natural occurrences must also take into account the fact that events may not be reproducible. In fact, what is a reproducible event? Both periodic or sporadic event may be involved, observable or not. In summary:
Definition 3
1. Reproducible phenomena: some information is known about their occurrence conditions so as to render them repeatable. E.g.: chemical reactions;
2. Irreproducible phenomena: events that cannot be reproduced at will either by knowing their occurrence conditions or because such conditions are themselves irreproducible. Ex.: E.g. climate or weather phenomena.
It is easy to see that, in order to be reproducible, it is necessary (but not sufficient) to know certain conditions. Reproducibility is associated to the ability to control the circumstances of a natural episode, which is a truly sufficient condition. The ‘laboratory reproducibility’ is a subset of Definition 3 (first type). Here it is important to emphasize the difference between ‘condition’ and ‘cause’ or ‘explanation’. As we have seen, it is possible to reproduce a phenomenon for which no suitable explanation exists (since it is sufficient to reproduce its conditions). This is often misinterpreted as an explanation mainly when someone manages to reproduce the event in the laboratory. Sometimes the knowledge of the operational conditions may lead to many purely phenomenological explanations that are not complete in face of the possibility of other explanations at a deeper level (1). As in the case of periodicity, the scientific community quite understandably prefers reproducible events. The task of the scientific exploration is the search for plausible causes to explain the reason beyond the occurrence conditions. Moreover, irreproducible events may become reproducible when knowledge of their operational conditions becomes available. Even though much is already known when the conditions are unveiled, science only happens when the causes or phenomenological sources are found.

As the causes are revealed, what was previously improbable becomes certain to the point of being possible to forecast the result by controlling the occurrence conditions. Therefore, irreproducible events could be further divided into two subclasses: predictable and unpredictable phenomena:

Definition 4
1.     Predictable phenomena: events whose occurrence or details can be forecasted by knowing in advance a sufficient set of occurrence conditions. E. g.: weather phenomena;

2.            Unpredictable phenomena: events that are inherently statistical in nature and, therefore, cannot be forecasted. E. g.: meteorite falls; the result of successive measurements of two non-commuting operators on a quantum state of a microscopic system. 
Fig. 2 Another possible way of classifying phenomena according to Definition 3.
Irreproducible events are common in Astronomy and Meteorology, and many can be simulated by computers (Pasini, 2003). It is clear here that such numerical ‘reproducibility’ has no relationship whatsoever with Definition 3.1. Again, it is interesting to compare our definitions of aperiodicity (Definition 2.2) and unpredictability (Definition 4.2). They are interrelated, however ‘unpredictability’ implies some sort of irreducible randomness. Yet, Definition 4.2 makes explicit reference to the operation conditions which are absent in Definition 2.2. Most unpredictable phenomena result from the inherent indeterminism of microphysics (Bohm, 1952; Popper, 1950; Penrose, 1989). 

Reproducibility can be added to the diagram of Fig. 1 resulting in another branch as shown in Fig. 2. The four phenomenological features: observability, visibility, periodicity and reproducibility are of paramount importance when validating and developing whatever explanation for a given natural phenomena. Such features are ‘weak’ or defective in many anomalistic events in the lack of any theoretical framework to justify their existence. 

An extended ‘entity-relationship’ diagram can be arranged in favor of any particular property. So far there are 8 classes which could be associated to the feature ‘visibility’, performing a total of 12 phenomenological classes. Fig. 3 shows the result of our general classification scheme starting with the main feature ‘reproducibility’.

Fig. 3 Adding more features in a more extended classification.

(1) An example was the development of thermodynamics in physics. Thermodynamical principles were later explained or reduced in terms of statistical physics and microscopic entities such as atoms and their interactions.

All references will be presented in the last post.

Next post: "The Non-Observable Universe III".

Monday, March 18, 2013

I - The Non-observable Universe and a General Classification of Nature's Phenomena

by Ademir Xavier

Read the full article here (via SKL repository).

1 Introduction

The development of modern science, starting in the 16th century, (Shapin, 1996) led to a world view in which almost everything should be explained in terms of rational or so called ‘scientific’ concepts. According to this view, all knowledge, in order to be true, must be tested in the laboratory, and, therefore, must be publicly available (Chalmers, 1999). The scientific method was conceived as the need of exhaustive and repeatable testing, data analysis together with the postulation of simple explanations in face of a universe that was definitely proved to be rational in their underlying structure and organization.

An ongoing debate was then established between a community that is regarded fully rational in their judgments and a large contingent of people who still lives in a world filled with supposedly unfounded, marginal or rejected beliefs. This debate closely follows the conflicts between Science and Religion (Segre, 1994; Pakdemirli 1993). Whatever does not fit the notion of a fully logical, rational and publicly available Universe is, at best, regarded a ‘metaphysical speculation’, and therefore, a matter of belief.

While such Universe conception acquired rationality, some developments in modern science (Verschuur, 2007; Papantonopoulos, 2007, Peebles, 2009) – notably and not coincidentally in physics – are not in accordance with notion that all phenomena should sensitize the ordinary senses. Modern theoretical physics and its aftermath predicted new phenomena (Anderson, 1933; Casimir 1948) leading rationalist ideas to a climax. It became clear that a wide range of events would never be discovered were not for the existence of theories to explain them (Lakatos, 1980; Franklin, 2003). From developments in electricity and magnetism in the 19th century (Whittaker, 1953), it was shown that phenomena exist (in fact, the immense majority of Nature´s phenomena) that demand equipments for their observation, i.e., they are inaccessible to the human senses. The need of equipments to measure and record phenomena is today naturally accepted by professionals and people trained in a particular science. Such devices are regarded as sense ‘extensions’, without realizing that their developments involved theories and, therefore, hypothesis or systems of thought for their validation. Thus, although the use of such devices for phenomenological observation is a valid procedure, it does not follow that they have the same ‘status’ of direct observations which are able to convey a different impression to the observer (Bechtel, 1990).

Our concern here is to sketch a distinct categorization of natural phenomena, taking into account recent discoveries that do not directly impress the senses. The goal is to establish a broad classification scheme that is independent of underlying phenomenological causes. Such classification has the advantage of providing a territory expansion by considering potential and new events that must receive suitable attention from the scientific community, given the lack of theories to explain and validate them (Szostak, 2005). So, in Section 2, we start by regarding the phenomenological picture revealed by normal science and then proceed to anomalies (Section 3). 

Section 4 deals with the topic ‘private anomalies’ or events suggesting an extension of the ordinary senses. This topic will be further developed in Section 5, where we discuss the notion of ‘meta-observable phenomena’ and the importance of their acceptance for the development of a ‘science of anomalies’ such as those of pyschic origin. Finally some conclusions are presented in Section 6. The author is aware that the subjects of this article are related to epistemology or philosophy of science. It is also connected with much deeper subjects such as realism, or the philosophical position sustaining that our best scientific theories correctly describe both observable and non-observable aspects of the world (see Section 7) because the theoretical entities they assume to exist do exist in reality. We agree with the fact that the accurate design of experiments demands the coordination of pre-existing theories in terms of which data analysis will take place. However, the seizure of many anomalous experiences (and we are not referring here to those arising within the context of existing theories) is many times undertaken by ‘observers’ (witnesses) rather than by ‘researchers’ in a theory free or ‘non-academic’ context. Many anomalies occur without being ordered, they are perceived as they manifest themselves, because operational conditions are not known a priori. Thus, the epistemological view of the scientific process as organized and managed by theories seems to be of little value in those cases, since recent epistemological theories have little to say about how to do science in the presence of anomalous events of this sort. In this sense, our study here is a superficial analysis in order to determine what course of action would be minimally necessary (without claiming to be sufficient) in order to develop new scientific paradigms of anomalous phenomena.

2. Publicly available phenomena

The universe contains different strata of phenomena. Some of them are cyclic or periodic while others are sporadic or non-periodic. Moreover, it is a well-established fact that only a small fraction of natural phenomena is accessible to ordinary observation, i.e., accessible to the senses (Rinia, 2006). Thus, regardless the field of inquiry (physics, biology, chemistry, etc.), we can separate phenomena in distinct classes, according to the degree of ‘accessibility’ to the human ordinary senses:

Definition 1

1.    Observable phenomena: events fully accessible to the human senses. They make up our immediate neighborhood in the form of life experiences. Note that by ‘observable’ we make reference to events that are accessible to human senses without any intermediate medium;
2.       Non observable phenomena: the vast majority of natural occurrences belong to this category. Only a small fraction of natural events are available for the human senses. We can only speculate that this is due to limits imposed by natural evolution (Kaas, 2007), so that human senses are still evolving. This class can be divided in two:
a.       Visible phenomena: unobservable events that may become ‘visible’ by using special equipments. Examples: the eclipses of Jupiter's moons; bacteria in aqueous solutions through a microscope, Biophoton emission by living bodies (Creath, 2005) etc. Microscopes and telescopes produce amplified or enhanced images of objects with small apparent sizes. ‘Visible’ here means  ‘which is able to sensitize any of the five human senses’;
b.       Invisible  phenomena: Unseen, unobservable events that cannot be registered by the human senses through any kind of amplifying device. However, in special conditions, transducers can be used to convert certain non-observable signals or radiations, so that they may become detectable. Examples: Geiger counters (Frame, 2004) record the incidence of charged elementary particles and convert the signals to audible sounds. In this case, the correlation between the input (charged elementary particle) and the output is a technical artifice. Radio frequency receivers transform electromagnetic waves into acoustic signals and ‘infrasound’ transducers (Evers and Haak, 2009) convert inaudible sound frequencies into the audible range etc.

There is no generally accepted agreement about the ‘ordinary human senses’; their functional characterization still depends on ongoing research about body sensors and the peripheral nervous system (Brynie, 2009; Hubel, 1995). For simplicity, we use a notion originally attributed to Aristotle and regard only the ordinary five senses. 

Another important dimension of the phenomenological description of natural events is the frequency of occurrence:

Definition 2

1.    Periodic phenomena: events that occur periodically, as the name indicates. E.g.: eclipses of the Moon, Sun, tides etc;
2.     Aperiodic or sporadic phenomena: events that do not exhibit any pattern of regularity. E. g.: meteorite falls.

The occurrence rate plays an important role in the scientific acceptance of a previously unknown occurrence. Nobody will consider as real an event that happened only once or even a few times in history. In fact, science has difficulties in formulating theories for non-reproducible and rare events. There is a clear preference in the scientific community for periodic events, since it is considerably easier to find a cause for them. Cyclical phenomena are probably correlated to cyclical causes sharing the same replication frequency. Rare events are common in astronomy for example. However, since the Universe is very large, in many cases, the rareness and randomness observed in a single occurrence is counterbalanced by a large number of sources that increase the detection probability. A typical example is the detection of hydrogen in space using radio waves at the wavelength of 21 cm (Carilli, 1995). 

Fig. 1 A first classificaton of Nature's phenomena according to Definition 1 and 2.

Extremely rare phenomena can be periodic or aperiodic as it is natural to conceive. However, in the lack of a theory to guide experimental research, this brings almost insurmountable problems to the task of finding a cause and, therefore, in providing a suitable explanation. In a sense, rare phenomena, that are both periodic and aperiodic, are indistinguishable from the empirical point of view because evidence takes a long time to accumulate. An unobservable and invisible phenomenon that is barely detectable by any known technique is particularly interesting. Add an unknown occurrence rate and we have one of the most difficult events for science. We clearly see that such a case is at the threshold of scientific inquiry and has great chance to be taken as an anomaly.

A graphical representation of the above definitions and their relationship is seen in Fig 1. There are several ways to organize the relationship among the many phenomenological features. In Fig. 1, we start with ‘observability’ and further subdivide the class using other features. The final diagram in not unique and results in a particular hierarchical distribution of features that can be used to categorize natural occurrences.

All references will be presented in the last post.

Next post: "The Non-Observable Universe II"