Posted June 4, 2008on:
Telepathy, from the Greek τηλε, tele, “distant”, and πάθεια, patheia, “feeling”, is the claimed innate ability of humans and other creatures to communicate information from one mind to another, without the use of extra tools such as speech or body language. Considered a form of extra-sensory perception or anomalous cognition, telepathy is often connected to various paranormal phenomena such as precognition, clairvoyance and empathy. Because anecdotal claims of “strange currencies” and similar related explanations have deep resonance in history, fiction, and belief, telepathy carries perhaps greater interest than any of the other numerous subjects, which referred to as “paranormal.”
Truth and fiction
Telepathy has traditionally been treated within the context of particular religious concepts, which both extol the truth of non-physical (psychic) connectivity between human beings, and go on assert guiding rituals and principles which govern that communication toward positive human bonding traits such as love, friendship, and community. Nearly all religions (by definition) embody aspects of “metaphysicality” within their doctrines.
Since the beginnings of civilization, religious debates have often dealt with the apparent emerging disparity between a religious concept of “truth” and an emerging human rationality and empirical-based belief, which by dogmatic religious perception, appeared akin to disbelief. This schism between “skeptic” and “believer” continues to this day, typically in the form of greater debates between religion and science.
Modern skeptics often claim that scientific “proof” equates to “reality”, and that “reality” has exclusive title to any notion of “truth.” Proponents have argued that the consistent threads between “witnessed” and claimed metaphysical experiences have reasonable and plausible (though not exactly scientific) explanations in the idea of telepathic communication — between individuals and even between larger collective groups and societies.
Because current science has no plausible explanation for claims of telepathic phenomena, there can be no “theory of telepathy,” as all of the various explanations have certain unbridgeable gaps to current science. Proponents on the other hand argue that the difficulty in rationalizing or “proving” the concept does not diminish the fact that most people have some belief in metaphysical concepts. And given the benefit of the doubt, people maintain their beliefs not because they are ignorant of science, but because science (by definition) ignores unexplainable personal experience. Proponents point to concepts such as psychology and quantum mechanics, as areas of research that are considered to be deeply based in the scientific method, but have equally problematic and unexplainable links to the exclusively physical description of reality.
Metaphysical and other non-standard religious concepts have prospered in the context of this modern debate, by asserting links between skepticism and belief, while avoiding the pitfalls of both exclusive religious dogma, and exclusive science-based rationality. Within this context of seeking a resolution to the science-religion debate, metaphysical explanations have abounded, which largely attempt to tie personal experience of psychic community to the philosophies of religion, and the empiricism of science. The rift between science and religion has been the center of popular focus for related non-standard beliefs, like paganism and the occult, which (despite their own inherent dogmas) are considered by their converts to provide an objectivity toward mainstream views of religion and science.
Modern concepts of telepathy have attempted to draw both legitimacy and scientific curiosity, by making both general and specific analogies between the “unaccepted unknowns” of religion and parapsychology, and the “accepted unknowns” in the quantum sciences, where the classical and understood concepts of physics (time and space) don’t generally apply. The relevant example is in quantum mechanics and its exclusively theoretical cousin, string theory. Both have radically changed modern concepts regarding the nature of time, space, energy, and matter, and the relationships between each. In seeking a “scientific explanation,” telepathy proponents have gone on to claim a direct connection between scientific quantum theory as a basis for telepathy, the basic idea claiming that the mind is simply a naturally-formed physical scaffold for a matrix of electrical and quantum impulses. This system, in turn is claimed to have evolved capabilities for influencing and receiving “quantum fluctuations” from other minds. In essence, proponents claim that telepathy is not “extrasensory”, rather that the brain is the telepathic organ, its connections to other brains are not physical, but psychic, and the very definition of the psychic medium is the localized inertial frame of reference which is affected by the mind.
This new and “scientifically-grounded” concept of telepathy provides the context for further speculations. However, physicists and skeptics state that quantum mechanics does not show classical effects until objects are at sub-nanometer scales, and since the physical components of the mind are all much larger, these quantum effects are considered negligible. Proponents counter that the scientific statements carry two flawed assumptions, namely that the experience of telepathy need be a classical effect, and that the mind is sensitive to only classical effects.