I just finished Steven Volk’s 2011 book “Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn’t“. I’m a skeptic of the paranormal in general, but I’ve also experienced things I can’t explain. I’ve seen two apparitions, heard impossible noises, seen lights in the sky that made no sense; just general strangeness.
Volk points out that the word “paranormal” just means “events or phenomena that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding”. Like the term “UFO” society has added a depth of connotation that really shouldn’t be there. When you say “UFO” you think something from outer space, right? That is the additional connotation or emotional baggage of a fairly innocuous phrase “Unidentified Flying Object”. In other words “I saw something flying in the air and could not figure out what it was”.
Paranormal is the same way. It conjures up visions of supernatural forces like demons or some kind of spiritual phenomenon when all the word really means “I saw or experienced something that I couldn’t explain with our (or my) current scientific knowledge”.
Volk goes into depth on various phenomena, such as afterlife experiences or poltergeists, that people do experience but cannot be adequately explained. Some of these phenomena can’t be reproduced on demand, which results in ridicule by the scientific community and a lack of funding for adequate research.
The book isn’t about proselytizing the paranormal, rather it lays out the current scientific thought in several different fields, looks at what the skeptics say, and draws the simple conclusion that something is indeed occurring which is beyond our current scientific knowledge.
By the way, the chapter on skeptics, skepticism, and the unvarnished believers is worth reading on its own. Volk points out that true believers and skeptics are both so blinded by their own viewpoints they refuse to consider any argument at all.
I loved this book, and read it straight through in about two days.