It’s All Geek: Perspectives on Science and the Paranormal (and why I write both, simultaneously)

I can’t tell you how many times I hear “But if you’re so science-minded, why do you write Paranormals, and believe in the paranormal?” Like these two things are mutually exclusive, and acknowledging one excludes me from acknowledging or understanding the other.

This is a stereotype I’m sick of. So let me set the record straight, once and for all. Parapsychology, the paranormal sciences, and physical science are not mutually exclusive. They never have been. The base concept of science is, in itself, to explain the unexplained. Let’s take a look at a few established principles, and a few conceptual theories, to explore what I’m talking about.

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A mere five hundred years (plus or minus change) ago, the science of the day declared the Earth flat, and that the heavens revolved around the Earth. This planet was, by established science of the day, the center of the universe. The concept of space flight wasn’t even a glimmer, and the established medicine of the day often involved the judicious application of leeches, for everything from poisoning to excessive bleeding (I’d love to see someone explain that one!).

The people who dared to challenge this established science of the day were labelled insane or heretics. They were often ostracized, sometimes imprisoned, and in some cases even put to death for daring to challenge the established science of the day and/or look for explanations to those things deemed inexplicable, at that time.

Thank goodness we’ve come so far, right? But have we really? When science declares something “hogwash” or “ridiculous” without exploring the possibilities inherent within it, that science loses its ability to truly function as it should – it loses the flexibility to bend and explore new dimensions and possibilities within our universe. Without that flexibility, without the “what if,” most of the science we take for granted today would never have existed.

I firmly believe that science holds the key to unlocking the potential of the human spirit. As Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Anyone can spout knowledge. Being able to imagine how that knowledge might be put to use is of far greater value. While science seems content to study the human brain at length, it fails to explore how that brain chemistry might apply to things which, today, appear “paranormal.”

“Paranormal,” by most basic definition, means “outside of the normal.” By this definition, in the 1500s, the law of gravity, for example, would have been considered “paranormal.” So would Columbus’ assertions that the world was actually round, rather than flat, or Copernicus and Galileo with their “crazy” theories regarding the heavens above us. A mere hundred years ago, the computers we so take for granted as part of “normal” life were considered “science fiction” and completely, utterly paranormal, by the word’s definition.

Medical science will be the first to admit they do not have all the answers to how the human brain works, or even what it might be capable of. By this very admittance, they lay the groundwork for the possibility of eventually being able to empirically test for and gauge things like clairvoyance, clairaudience, Psychokinesis, telepathy, and a host of other parapsychological conditions. I firmly believe that, in time, science will uncover the root of these types of abilities, and will be able to study it very effectively, and therefore expand our knowledge and use of such abilities, taking them firmly from the realm of “paranormal” and into the realm of “normal.”

By the same token, I believe that science will one day progress to the point of being able to prove, conclusively, the existence of the spirit (human and animal) and its ability to survive corporeal death. Already, we see rapid advances in the methodology and equipment used to study and document potential hauntings, and I believe that if these advances continue to happen, and people continue to strive for that understanding, someone will stumble into the same kind of “eureka!” moment Archimedes did when he figured out volume displacement.

To understand why I believe this, I will apply some simple, established science. Namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics (otherwise known as the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter). It states that neither energy nor matter can be either created or destroyed. They simply change form to fit new conditions or environments. Medical science proves that the human body is animated through a complicated and not-completely-understood system of bio-electric signals, chemical reactions, etc. Basically, the human body is a kind of living, working biological battery/computer. We put off a tremendous amount of energy, in the form of heat. This is best seen in how our bodies begin to overheat when we are exerting a lot of energy, thereby requiring our bodies to kick in their onboard coolant system (sweat) to help cool us down. When we exert energy in a focused manner, we do so by transferring said energy to another activity or object – say, picking up a box. The energy our bodies generate through the use of fuel (food, water, air, etc) is transferred into kinetic energy, which allows us to grip and lift the box, at which time the kinetic energy is changed into force energy, applied against gravity to lift the box.

So, if we are batteries, with all this stored up energy at our disposal at any time, when we die, what happens to all that energy? The Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter says that it has to go somewhere. It can’t simply disappear. Rather, it must change form to fit its new environment and situation. In time, this energy might be absorbed into other things which utilize energy, or it might continue to absorb energy from around itself, taking on a more definitive form. In both of these cases, it would be following the Law of Conservation of Energy, and by the same token become the energy source known as “ghosts” or “spirits.” Since a large part of the energy we store up is stored in the brain, logic would follow that the energy released to a new form during death would retain some measure of its former use, at least for a while. Those electrical pulses that carry information and accumulated knowledge around the brain could retain some kind of energy “memory” which would allow for the intelligent interactions experienced by paranormal investigators.

The same principles of scientific thought can easily be established to many areas currently deemed “paranormal.” As such, I say with confidence that I do not actually believe there is a division between the paranormal and science. Instead, I think the one (science) simply hasn’t yet arrived at point where it is capable of empirical measurement of the things we at current deem “paranormal.” But I do believe the time will come when these fields of study collide, and I don’t believe it is very far off, either. In the meantime, I will continue to write my geeked-out, scientific paranormals, and enjoy the hell out of knowing that, on this front, I’m ahead of the curve.

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“In Harm’s Way” – Excerpt from Dead Men… (Section Psi)

SectionPsidecalAnyone who knows me knows I have a lot of faith in and respect for science. I believe that, in time, science will answer a lot of questions that are currently mysteries, and will allow us to travel to and live in places where at current we can only imagine what life would be like.

My love for science is part of what inspires me to write Science Fiction, to ask the “What if” question of science and technology. What if we could? What if we found ourselves exposed to new things we can’t even currently imagine are out there. History and science have proven that the coming together of an established society and a society or location completely unknown to them often results in situations outside of human control. The influx of Europeans into the New World sent the Native American death toll spiraling from disease alone – exposure to viruses and germs they lacked the immune system to combat.

So, what would happen if you took humanity from its home planet, and found a way to make human life possible on Mars? We can send all the robots we want – we still have no idea what kinds of pathogens or problems we might encounter from the natural environment of Mars, alone.

This “What if?” was the inspiration behind Section Psi, set in the 25th century, after portions of Mars have long been colonized. However, a virulent infection known as Martian Fever is still a very real threat. No viable vaccine or cure has ever been manufactured for it – disaster has dogged every one ever created. It strikes nearly 75% of the children born on-world. While most recover with little to no lasting effect, some children suffer genetic mutations to their brain and body chemistry, turning them into what are known as Psis – people with extrasensory and paranormal abilities. And children aren’t the only ones at risk. All new arrivals to Mars risk the same infection. While most adults arriving never even contract the Fever, those who do and whom are genetically altered by it suffer far worse than children do.

So how do you police a group of people with paranormal abilities written into their DNA? You form a special off-shoot of the on-world police force, designated solely to deal with crimes against and committed by Psis – Section Psi.

Hope you enjoy!  As always, please leave comments and let me know what you think!

 

“In Harm’s Way”  – Excerpted from Dead Men… (Section Psi, Book 4)

At the Section docking hanger, Calli powered down her Flitter and unstrapped her helmet as she made her way into the nearly deserted facility.  She dropped the helmet on her desk and kept going toward the Lexus Chamber.

“What are you doing back here?”

Calli stopped as Bethanie stepped out of the lab, and her own brows lifted in mock surprise.  “I could ask you the same thing.”

Bethanie grinned.  “I never left.  I’m running a hazardous chemical analysis that’s very sensitive.  I can’t leave until it’s done.  What’s your excuse?”

“I had a breakthrough.”

“More like a breakdown,” a new voice said, and Calli swung around to glare at Cade accusingly.

“You followed me!”

“Damn straight I did, darlin’.  You’re determined to kill yourself.”

“Go to Hell!” She brushed past him to reach the Lexus Chamber.  If she was lucky, he wouldn’t follow her.  But, of course, she wasn’t that lucky.  She could hear his booted feet on the concrete floor behind her.  She ignored him, setting up for a direct jack-in that would allow her a straight free-dive into restricted space.  She had a name to find, and she didn’t have time to scour the Lexus for a back door.

“Do you even know what you’re doing?”  Cade’s hand slapped over the power conduit, keeping her from plugging the jack in.

She jerked back and glared at him again.  She sure as hell knew what she was doing, unlike him.

“I’m working.”

“Bullshit, angel.  You–”

”Like you’d know.”  She straightened then, her breath frozen in her lungs and her eyes wide as what he said finally registered.  Angel.  “What did you call me?”

He frowned, as if replaying his words in his head, and she swore she caught the flicker of panic in his eyes, if only for an instant.

“Nothing.  Calli, you haven’t worked this hard on a case in years, from what I’ve heard.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “From who?”

“Your brother.  The captain.  Hell, everyone.”  He gave her a strange look she couldn’t decipher.  “They all say you’re a workaholic, but that you’ve never taken a case personally, before.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Who says it’s personal?”

“Please.  You’ve been ready to go to the wall – Hell, you hacked an Earth Council facility – for this case.  I want to know why.  What makes this case different?”

She glared at him, even as her suspicion meter pegged out.  Just how the hell did he know what she did in her home Lexus Chamber?

copyright 2008 by Esther Mitchell

Section Psi – Coming Soon from Desert Breeze Publishing

“World On Fire” – Excerpt from UP IN FLAMES (Guardians, Inc – Witch Hollow)

Guardians, Inc. has, as a series, had a profound impact on me and where I see my writing going in the future. It started almost two decades ago, as a whimsical way to keep my writing muscle and creative process fresh and engaged. I really didn’t anticipate ever being published, either by a publisher or by myself. However, in the years I’ve been working on the project off and on, it’s grown from a writing exercise into a full-fledged series, with an additional two sub-series, so far. And some random books I had floating around out there, uncertain what I wanted to do with them, have found a home in this series, as well.

One of the sub-series I’m most enamored with and proud of is Witch Hollow, which takes one of Guardians’ investigators into the rural community of Witch Hollow, Pennsylvania, where an independent forensic lab known locally as the Bunker takes Guardians, Inc. to a whole new level, bringing forensics and the paranormal together in a way I wasn’t sure would work, but flowed together seamlessly.

“World on Fire” – Excerpt from UP IN FLAMES (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book #2):

Faith jumped, her heart performing an impromptu series of somersaults in her chest, as something grabbed her shoulder. She blinked, surprised to find she’d dozed off at her desk, the crime scene photos spread out before her. Glancing to her right, she found Jonathan with one hand on her shoulder, his expression creased in concern.

“What’s happened?”

He straightened with an exasperated sigh. His gaze darted over her desk. “Have you been here all night, Mac?”

She shrugged. After their argument last night, she wasn’t about to admit to him she had. He already thought she was obsessed with her work. “What did you want, Caulder?”

Belatedly, she realized he held a file in his left hand. He dropped it on her desk, amidst the photos. “Tom sent this. He thought it might be connected to our case. I’m inclined to agree.”

She reached for the file. “Why?”

His hand landed on top of the file, holding it closed. “Mac…”

“I’ve been studying the thermal patterns, and I think Joyce is right – there’s something odd about them. I just can’t put the char and spall patterns we found in the warehouse together with the charring on the bodies. It’s like they were burned at two different temperatures. Only that doesn’t make any sense, if—“

“Faith.” His deliberate use of her given name yanked her attention to him in surprise. He never called her Faith. His eyes were intense, and there was no mistaking the worry there. “You need to go home. Take a break, think of something else. All you’ve done is work on the case, twenty-four-seven. You’ll drive yourself crazy.”

“You being the expert on crazy.” She nearly slapped her hands over her mouth in mortification the moment the words left her. The kindle of anger, and the hurt flickering across Jonathan’s face confirmed she crossed a line she was well-aware of. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—“

Her apology died, unfinished, beneath the anger in his eyes. Glaring, he lifted his hand from the file and backed away with a cold, “I’ll leave you work.”

Before she could stop him, Jonathan turned on his heel and stalked from her office. Faith winced as the frosted glass of the window rattled beneath the force of the door slamming shut. She wished she could be certain he’d be back.