The U.S. Air Force recently published a “Teleportation Physics Report,” which among other things, calls for $7.5 million to conduct “psychic teleportation experiments.” An Air Force Research Lab spokesman justified the report by stating “If we don’t turn over stones, we don’t know if we have missed something.”
What kind of philosophic corruption makes such a statement possible? Imagine if psychics and faith healers were taken as seriously as scientists. Any crack-pot could present his delusions and demand that they be taken as seriously and potentially valid as a scientific theory that comes from careful research, a rigorous inductive process, and published, verifiable, and falsifiable evidence.
Any man who wants to apply scientific research to the creation of values that improve human life must first recognize that not all claims are equal – that valid knowledge can only come from perceiving reality, and integrating new evidence with the rest of one’s knowledge. A scientist cannot randomly pull theories out of thin air– he must look at the evidence before him, and integrate it with his existing knowledge to propose new explanations for previously unknown or misunderstood phenomena – and then validate his explanations by testing his hypothesis against new evidence. Only by strict observance of the scientific process, can he have confidence that he made the best conclusion possible from the facts available to him.
When this process is circumvented by allowing arbitrary claims on the same cognitive plane as empirically validated knowledge, the result is not just to turn over more “stones,” as the Air Force spokesman claims. The result is to destroy and void the entire scientific process. Why invest the effort in lengthy and difficult validation and fact-checking, when one can simply imagine an infinity of theories and present them all as potentially valid? Violating the integrity of the process even once is equivalent to a surgeon who flips a coin to decide the next step of an operation.
It’s not surprising that this came from the Air Force, which has previously flirted with “remote viewing” and other hoaxes. An entrepreneur who is interested in creating values is successful to the extent that he can identify men who know how to think. There is no guarantee that he will be honest or choose correctly, but the market will reward him to the extent that he does. Government sponsored scientists on the other hand, have little incentive to focus on reality. On the contrary, their incentive is to maximize research grants, which have more to do with political popularity, and the politics of academic and government bureaucracies.