Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Science and the supernatural: the truth is out there

13.05.2003


Scientists are not prepared to dismiss beliefs about aliens landing on Earth in the past or that some houses are haunted by ghosts.



Researchers from the University of Leicester, UK, and Waikato University, New Zealand, found scientists to be much more open-minded about ‘new age’ beliefs than might have been expected.

Water divining and the healing power of crystals were beliefs that some scientists were prepared to accept according to the findings which the researchers describe as ‘remarkable.’


The study, submitted for publication to the International Journal of Science Education, reveals that there was even acceptance of the power of a ouja board in some cases.

The study was carried out by Dr Richard Coll and Dr Neil Taylor at the University of Leicester School of Education. They surveyed 18 scientists at the University of Leicester and Waikato University.

While the scientists gave much more credence to ‘superstitions’ than expected- they were dismissive of astrology and palmistry.

Dr Coll, who was a Honorary Visiting Fellow at Leicester from the Centre for Science & Technology Education Research, The University of Waikato, New Zealand, said: “We investigated scientists’ perceptions about superstitions and ‘new age’ beliefs. We were interested to try and understand how scientists think, how they weigh evidence and judge testimony.

“Two things stimulated the research; one was a study of UK school children that showed that in spite of years of science education many students were highly superstitious.

“Second, was an observation by the researchers that many reports in the science education literature work from a prior assumption that scientists work and think in certain ways - specifically that they are totally objective. We were suspicious of this rather simplistic stance and we decided it warranted investigation.”

Dr Taylor, who was a Lecturer in primary science education at the University of Leicester when the study was conducted, is now at the University of New England, Australia. He added: “The findings were remarkable, and provided a fascinating insight into the ways scientists think. Many of the scientists were much more open-minded than suggested in the literature. They were, for example, open-minded about things such as water-divining, acupuncture, and a few cases even in things like claims of the healing power of crystals, that aliens may have visited Earth in the past, and that some houses are haunted by ghosts.

“That is not to say that these scientists believed these notions - rather that they would not automatically discount them.”

Dr Coll said: “One would have expected them to say these things are complete nonsense - they didn’t. The ones they were more likely to believe were aliens and ghosts- the latter surprised me.

“Probably most important was a perception of at least a potential underlying theoretical basis to the belief. So water divining ‘might be possible’ because there is a physical difference between dry, waterless land, and land which has water flowing underneath it. The very possibility of such a link meant that the scientists were prepared to keep an open mind.”

The researchers conclude: “The findings suggest that scientists make reasoned judgments, wanting to see hard evidence, but that they do not dismiss unusual things out of hand. This we think means that the public can have more confidence in the human side of science, that scientists are human and make rational decisions, but are not automatically opposed to different ideas.”

Ather Mirza | alfa

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Statistical method developed at TU Dresden allows the detection of higher order dependencies
07.02.2020 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Novel study underscores microbial individuality
13.12.2019 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: High-pressure scientists in Bayreuth discover promising material for information technology

Researchers at the University of Bayreuth have discovered an unusual material: When cooled down to two degrees Celsius, its crystal structure and electronic properties change abruptly and significantly. In this new state, the distances between iron atoms can be tailored with the help of light beams. This opens up intriguing possibilities for application in the field of information technology. The scientists have presented their discovery in the journal "Angewandte Chemie - International Edition". The new findings are the result of close cooperation with partnering facilities in Augsburg, Dresden, Hamburg, and Moscow.

The material is an unusual form of iron oxide with the formula Fe₅O₆. The researchers produced it at a pressure of 15 gigapascals in a high-pressure laboratory...

Im Focus: From China to the South Pole: Joining forces to solve the neutrino mass puzzle

Study by Mainz physicists indicates that the next generation of neutrino experiments may well find the answer to one of the most pressing issues in neutrino physics

Among the most exciting challenges in modern physics is the identification of the neutrino mass ordering. Physicists from the Cluster of Excellence PRISMA+ at...

Im Focus: Therapies without drugs

Fraunhofer researchers are investigating the potential of microimplants to stimulate nerve cells and treat chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease. Find out what makes this form of treatment so appealing and which challenges the researchers still have to master.

A study by the Robert Koch Institute has found that one in four women will suffer from weak bladders at some point in their lives. Treatments of this condition...

Im Focus: A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.

Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists 'film' a quantum measurement

26.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Melting properties determine the biological functions of the cuticular hydrocarbon layer of ants

26.02.2020 | Interdisciplinary Research

Lights, camera, action... the super-fast world of droplet dynamics

26.02.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>