Feel free to explore, enjoy and marvel at the “unknown”

I scour the medical and scientific literature looking for any findings that can really advance our understanding of health and healing. But they’re not always easy to come by. Most publications are filled with articles and studies that pay lip service to the standard medical practice guidelines and generally accepted public health recommendations.

Yet real innovation and advancement doesn’t happen by blindly following these pre-established protocols. You and I know all too well that economic interests, politics, historical precedent, academic and bureaucratic careerism, and even scientific bias strongly influence mainstream medicine practice guidelines. And these influences have little or nothing to do with human biology and natural healing.

One of the most biased scientific publications I’ve ever come across is Scientific American. They often represent an uncritical celebration of all the wonders of modern technology. They advance the philosophy that a man-made, technological approach to anything is always better than any “unimproved,” natural approach.

Now, I like the idea of having cheerleaders for your favorite team at a football game. But in my opinion, we don’t need cheerleaders for every new scientific or medical technology. But that’s basically what Scientific American is…a cheerleader for technology.

I remember reading back in 1979 that the editor of Scientific American, Gerard Piel, was presenting an award for some new, tunnel vision, technological advance. (It might have been for improvements in tunnel vision, actually.)

He found it necessary to make some unrelated, gratuitous comment that “his” readers “do not want to read about unclothed natives prancing around some island in the South Seas.”

By throwing in such a seemingly out-of-the-blue, arrogant remark, I thought his buttoned-up attitude only betrayed his professional jealousy toward another popular publication–namely, National Geographic. Of course, National Geographic was (and is) far more widespread and influential than his own magazine.

I then wrote to Piel that our modern society still had a lot to learn from indigenous peoples and practices. They get along with Nature, without despoiling the environment as a precondition for technological advances.

In addition, Piel was out of touch with his readers’ interests in 1979. That year proved to be a tipping point for serious interest in “alternative” medicine. You see, even back then, many smart, educated people in the modern world wanted to learn more about age-old, ethno-medical approaches. These “alternative” approaches place human biology and natural healing at the center, rather than just finding ways to use the latest medical technology.

Furthermore, Piel’s glib remark discounting people in the “South Seas” showed just how out of touch he was with real, emerging science from that part of the world. If he had paid any attention to the right scientific journals, he would have known researchers were in the process of testing kava kava. Traditionally used in Samoa, kava kava has superior mood-boosting benefits. (It also shows remarkable protection against lung cancer.) Especially when you compare it to all the dangerous and frequently ineffective “modern” drugs from the West.

Of course, “science” guys like Piel pride themselves on their skepticism. They only accept what they see and experience if it fits into their definition of “science.” And when something doesn’t fit into a clear scientific category, these scientists ignore it. (Even if they see it with their own eyes.) Then they label it as “anomalous.”

The thing is, more than 50 percent of people (including several U.S. presidents) worldwide report having had some type of “anomalous” experience. In other words, an experience that doesn’t fit with some “approved” version of “science.” And without a doubt, most doctors somewhere along the line witness medical events that remain unexplained by our modern version of medical science.

Well, we are now in the time of year that gives license to every publication to explore the “anomalous.” Even the scientific snobs at Scientific American.

In fact, Scientific American’s current issue features a column called “Anomalous events that can shake one’s skepticism to the core.” In it, their famously skeptical columnist claims to make the most profound, earth-shaking discovery ever. And he proclaims: “I just witnessed an event so mysterious, it shook my skepticism.”

The columnist went on to describe, in breathless tones of wonder, something anomalous that occurred at his wedding. The radio of his new wife’s long-dead grandfather mysteriously began playing…all by itself!

Grandfather’s radio? Didn’t he ever hear of the grandfather clock that “stopped, short, never to play again, when the old man died”?

This silly radio story, anomalously given ink by the clueless scientific elitists at Scientific American, is positively junior league compared to the catalogue of real, “anomalous” experiences investigated by scientists who know what they are doing in the field. These scientists are serious about the so-called “paranormal” experiences.

In reality, these experiences are nothing more than natural phenomenon that we can sometimes detect, and even see and hear with our own eyes and ears. But they remain unexplained by Scientific American’s “real” science…so they’re called “paranormal” or “anomalous.”

Perhaps the writers at Scientific American have finally discovered what Shakespeare knew half a century ago:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

–Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

My colleague Mike Jawer and I explore “anomalous” experiences as part of the science of human emotion and feeling in our popular book, Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion: How Feelings Link the Brain, the Body, and the Sixth Sense.  It makes good reading on cold, dark autumn nights. So, feel free to explore and enjoy the anomalous, unknown aspects of Nature.

Sweet dreams.


  1. “Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core,” Scientific American (www.scientificamerican.com) 9/16/2014