Tag: Reductionism

The Curious Case of Freeman Dyson and the Paranormal

That is now the title of my paper forthcoming in ‘The Skeptic’ (Volume 14, Number 2, I believe). It is not a title I chose, but I suspect Dr. Michael Shermer (who does ‘works’ now) felt that ‘Saving the Paranormal from the Laws of Science’ was a bit wanky. Which, admittedly, it is, but philosophers love those titles. Big, swanky and filled with hubris.

I found out about the new moniker on Wednesday, when Shermer sent through his edit upon the paper. Originally I wrote a three and an half thousand word monstrocity; he wanted it edited down to three thousand. When I committed the third edit in September I got it down to a paltry two thousand eight hundred. Shermer’s latest edit gets it down to two and an half thousand words, with fifty on the side. It’s actually quite pacey now (almost hip). However (and there is always one of those) he achieved this with some slight rewording, some of which actually introduce new and exciting issues (not of my making) into the paper. I’ve advised him of these irksome sentences and so, hopefully, they will be fixed. Then I have to await the galleys (nautical jokes on standby).

Publication imminent. It’s only been three years…

Finally, it will see the light…

Several thousand years ago (or so it seems) I wrote a paper defending an epistemological position regarding the possible existence of things called ‘paranormal,’ which was submitted to The Skeptic which was accepted for publication and then… Well, nothing happened. About a year ago I started to chase up Dr. Michael Shermer and his promise to publish and now, with some slight revision, the paper has been formally approved for publication in the forthcoming issue (which goes on newstands… Well, I don’t know. Sometime in the next three months; more news as it comes to hand). This is, of course, a very good thing. Publication is king in my world and this is a publication with an interesting readership that I think philosophers should be communicating with, the skeptical community which is often science-literate but not necessarily epistemologically savvy.

An abstract follows. This one is deliberately a little obtuse; it was written as an example of overly technical writing for one of the courses I teach, but it’ll suffice for the time being. I’ll draw attention to the article closer to publication with a better abstract.

‘Saving the Paranormal from the Laws of Science.’


One reason to believe the conclusion that paranormal phenomena should not be taken as be counter-rational is one based upon the reduction of fundamental predicates from observed instances. It is all well and good to be epistemic reductionists and take a Humean worldview but we should not think that this necessitates the controversial thesis that the predicates of epistemic reductionism are indicative of ontological reductionism. Such a move would require some bridging principle which would show that epistemic statements, based upon limited instances of supposed regularities, can generate genuine ontological knowledge.