- "Believe it or not," Robert
Roy Britt writes in the January 20, 2006 issue of LiveScience, "according
to a new study higher education is linked to a greater tendency to believe
in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena."
- Even though researchers Bryan Farha at
Oklahoma City University and Gary Steward of University of Central Oklahoma
admitted that they had expectations of finding contrary results, their
poll of college students found that seniors and graduate students were
more likely to believe in haunted houses, ghosts, telepathy, spirit channeling
and other paranormal phenomena than were freshmen.
- Skeptics Confounded
- Although the results of the survey are
not surprising to long-time researchers in the metaphysical/psychic fields,
what is startling is the fact that the poll analysis is published in the
January-February issue of The Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the journal
of true unbelievers. While the poll may have been conducted with expectations
of demonstrating that as students became more educated they dropped questionable
beliefs in favor of more skeptical attitudes, The Skeptical Inquirer must
be congratulated for publishing results that they really did not wish to
- Farha's and Steward's survey was based
on a nationwide Gallup Poll in 2001 that found younger Americans more likely
to believe in the paranormal than older respondents. The results of the
Farha/Steward poll discovered that gaining more education was not a guarantee
of skepticism or disbelief toward the paranormal. While only 23% of the
freshman quizzed professed a belief toward paranormal concepts, the figures
rose to 31% for college seniors and 34% for graduate students.
- The complete results of the survey may
be found in the January-February issue of The Skeptical Inquirer. The percentages
are rounded, and I have indicated the Gallup Poll 2001 figures in parenthesis,
the Farha/Steward percentages in bold:
- Belief in psychic/spiritual healing:
- Belief in ESP: 28 (50)
- Haunted houses: 40 (42)
- Demonic possession: 40 (41)
- Ghosts/spirits of the dead: 39 (38)
- Telepathy: 24 (36)
- Extraterrestrials visited Earth in the
past: 17 (33)
- Clairvoyance and prophecy: 24 (32)
- Communication with the dead: 16 (28)
- Astrology: 17 (28)
- Witches: 26 (26)
- Reincarnation: 14 (25)
- Channeling: 10 (15)
- It is in the "Not Sure" column
that the researchers found that the higher the education level achieved,
the more likelihood there was of believing in paranormal dimensions and
the possibilities of a broader spectrum of reality.
- Belief in psychic/spiritual healing:
- Belief in ESP: 39 (20)
- Haunted houses: 25 (16)
- Demonic possession: 28 (16)
- Ghosts/spirits of the dead: 27 (17)
- Telepathy: 34 (26)
- Extraterrestrials visited Earth in the
past: 34 (27)
- Clairvoyance and prophecy: 33 (23)
- Communication with the dead: 29 (26)
- Astrology: 26 (18)
- Witches: 19 (15)
- Reincarnation: 28 (20)
- Channeling: 29 (21)
- Why Disbelieve?
- Why do skeptics find it so difficult
to believe that individuals who achieve a higher education may still maintain
a belief in the paranormal? The world of the paranormal is one where effect
often precedes cause, where mind often influences matter, where individuals
communicate over great distances without physical aids, and where the spiritual
essence of those deceased may be seen. Why, especially in an age of new
theories embracing quantum physics and other dimensions, should skeptics
find it difficult to believe in a world that lies beyond the five senses
and the present reach of science?
- For those of us who have been researching
and writing in the paranormal, UFO, and spiritual fields for many years,
the repeated allegation that we and our readers must be undereducated and
unaware of the science and technology of our contemporary culture becomes
very annoying. As early as 1965, when I was researching ESP: Your Sixth
Sense--which, in addition to becoming a popular book became a college and
high school text, complete with workbook and study guide--the pioneering
work of Dr. Gardner Murphy, Dr. Montague Ullman, Dr. Stanley Krippner,
Dr. Henry Margenau, and many others had already demonstrated that contrary
to common assumption, intelligence has little connection to paranormal
abilities or beliefs. Neither is it the "odd" or poorly adjusted
members of society who most often demonstrate high degrees of psychic ability.
Quite the contrary appears to be true. Those individuals who are well-adjusted
socially and who are possessed of an extraverted rather than an introverted
personality are the ones who score consistently higher in ESP tests.
- The January 12, 1994 issue of USA Today
carried the results of a survey conducted by Jeffrey S. Levin, associate
professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, which stated that
more than two-thirds of the U.S. population has had at least one mystical
experience. Furthermore, Levin said, although only 5% of the population
have such experiences often [that's around 15 million people], such mystical
encounters "seem to be getting more common with each successive generation."
And very interestingly, Levin added, individuals active in mainstream churches
or synagogues report fewer mystical experiences than the general population.
- The November 1993 issue of the Journal
of Abnormal Psychology announced the finds of psychologists at Carleton
University of Ottawa, that people who report seeing a UFO or an alien are
not any less intelligent or psychologically healthy than other people.
Their findings clearly contradicted the previously held notions that people
who seemingly have bizarre experiences, such as missing time and communicating
with aliens, have "wild imaginations and are easily swayed into believing
- Dr. Nicholas P. Spanos, who led the study
and administered a battery of psychological tests to a large number of
UFO experiencers, said that such individuals were not at all "off
the wall." On the contrary, he stated, "They tend to be white-collar,
relatively well-educated representatives of the middle class."
- Becoming More Common
- Psychiatrists Colin Ross and Shaun Joshi
have affirmed that paranormal experiences have become so common in the
general population that "no theory of normal psychology which does
not take them into account can be comprehensive."
- It may well be that we are turning into
a nation of mystics regardless of the frustration of organized science
or organized religion. And we might add, a nation of intelligent mystics.
- The October 27, 2004 issue of USA Today
declared that "a spiritually inclined student is a happier student."
According to a national study of students conducted by the Higher Education
Research Institute at the University of California- Los Angeles, being
spiritual contributes to one's sense of psychological well-being.
- "A high degree of spirituality correlates
with high self-esteem and feeling good about the way life is headed,"
Sarah Hofius wrote of the study that took place at forty-six wide-ranging
universities and colleges, encompassing 3,680 third-year students. "The
study defines spirituality as desiring to integrate spirituality into one's
life, believing that we are all spiritual beings, believing in the sacredness
of life and having spiritual experiences."
- Another survey that should have offered
an enormous amount of proof that one can achieve a higher education and
still believe in the paranormal was released on December 20, 2004, revealing
that 74% of medical doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the
past and 73% believe that miracles can occur today. Sixty-seven percent
of the doctors encouraged their patients to pray; 59% admitted that they
prayed for their patients.
- The national survey, conducted by HCD
Research and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies
of the Jewish Theological Seminary, polled 1,100 physicians throughout
the United States. According to Dr. Alan Mittleman, Director of the Finkelstein
Institute, doctors "although presumably more highly educated than
their average patient, are not necessarily more secular or radically different
in religious outlook." Perhaps because of their frequent involvement
with matters of life and death, medical doctors do not lose their belief
in the miraculous as their level of education increases.
- A Believing Skeptic
- In 2002, the National Science Foundation
found that 60% of adults in the United States agreed or strongly agreed
that some people possessed psychic powers or extrasensory perception (ESP).
In June 2002, the Consumer Analysis Group conducted the most extensive
survey ever done in the United Kingdom and revealed that 67% of adults
believed in psychic powers and that two out of three surveyed believed
in an afterlife.
- Michael Shermer, the ubiquitous talking
head who represents the skeptical view in dozens of television documentaries
each year, author of Why People Believe Weird Things (2002) and editor
of the aforementioned The Skeptical Inquirer, was among those who deplored
the findings that such a high percentage of Americans accepted the reality
of ESP. In Shermer's analysis, such statistics posed a serious problem
for science educators. Complaining that people too readily accepted the
claims of pseudoscience, Shermer concluded his regular column for Scientific
American (August 12, 2002) by stating that "for those lacking a fundamental
comprehension of how science works, the siren song of pseudoscience becomes
too alluring to resist, not matter how smart you are."
- Shermer must have been somewhat surprised
some years earlier when he interviewed Martin Gardner, the prolific science
writer, author of the classic Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science,
and the founder of the modern skeptical movement, who told him that he
believed in God, that he sometimes prayed and worshipped, and that he hoped
for life after death. Gardner explained (Skeptic, Vol. 5 No.2 1997) that
he called himself a "philosophical theist, or sometimes a fideist,
who believes something on the basis of emotional reasons, rather than intellectual
- Gardner also identified himself as a
"mysterian," explaining that "there are certain things I
regard as ultimate mysteries. Free will is one of those. Another is timeTime
and space are the ultimate mysteries. Free will is bound up in the mysteries
of time about which we can never understand, at least at this stage of
- In my opinion, humankind's one truly
essential factor is its spirituality. The artificial concepts to which
we have given the designation of sciences are no truer in the ultimate
sense than dreams, visions, and inspirations. The quest for absolute proof
or objective truth may always be unattainable when it seeks to define and
limit the Soul. And I truly believe that one can achieve a high level of
education and still maintain a firm belief in the unseen world.