I have seldom been more embarrassed for our school than when I read the recent article in the Pipe Dream about the promotion of parapsychology ideas on campus. I would very much like to know how one can go about verifying “spirit” communication, let alone testing it empirically. If these spirits that are discussed in the recent pipe dream article are material, then presumably they should be measurable. Also presumably, since they are a part of the physical universe, they would take up mass, space, etc and therefore would be measurable. Yet more than a century of experimentation in parapsychology and two thousand years of its promotion by various segments of Western Christianity have failed to provide substantive proof of spirits operating in the physical universe. One could, of course, posit that these spirits are non-physical beings who interact with the physical universe. But how do non-physical beings produce physical reactions in a natural environment? How can a non-physical spirit – which is presumably what Gary Truce is promoting, since otherwise we should have had definitive proof of spirits and ghosts centuries ago – produce a physical reaction? Indeed, I would love to know how this non-physical mind, which clearly does not have a brain – or else it would be physical – can even think, let alone write “Hi Gary” as Dr. Truce indicates. Truce’s ideas here not only seem to violate common sense, but Occam’s razor. How can a non-material, brainless being (not speaking biologically here, but in terms of being composed or not composed of elements in the physical universe) not only have a mind, but a mind that can affect the physical universe without itself being physical? Perhaps Dr. True is promoting a version of Strong A.I. for ghosts, but somehow I don’t think that’s the case.
Many students see such lectures as harmless fun. I do not. The promotion of the idea of non-physical beings affecting the physical universe has had profoundly negative effects on people that grew up in my former culture, evangelicalism. I have had to stay up all night listening to young women threatening to kill themselves because the demons they had been taught about had caused them to be cursed by God for the “sins” of anorexia and bulimia. I have seen the idea of demons and evil spirits being used in the Third World to promote the murder of so-called “witch children”; hundreds, perhaps thousands of children died because of the promotion of these beliefs, which had their roots in evangelical demonological systems of the 80’s to which both secular and Christian critics contributed. And I have seen the idea of “strategic level spiritual warfare” (SLSW) become the dominant discourse of Charismatic Christianity. This doctrine promotes the idea that literally entire people groups are “demonized” because of their indigenous religious practices. Great suffering has been caused by this doctrine, including the promotion of death penalty legislation for LGBT people in Uganda, based directly on SLSW ideology; ideology imported directly from the United States.
So next time students here want to play Ghostbusters, or a teacher wants to promote hauntings, just remember that ghost-hunting comes at a cost. And it may be a lot higher than a lot of people anticipate.
Dr. John Weaver