Michael Nahm - The Missing Link: What Psi Tells us about Biology and Evolution QA

Published by View Parapsychological Association's profile Parapsychological Association on Saturday, April 10, 2021

Dr. Michael Nahm is a biologist and parapsychologist. His research interests include 1) the history of parapsychology, 2) physical mediumship, hauntings and poltergeists, 3) unusual phenomena near death and 4) the links between parapsychology and unsolved riddles of biology. He has published three books and numerous articles on these matters.

Psi phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, pre- and retrocognition call for a model of space and time that goes beyond the traditional model of spacetime. Many parapsychologists are in agreement that the world we perceive represents only an excerpt of a larger structure of reality, or background reality, that is inaccessible to our senses and technical measurement instruments. Hence, explanatory models of life and its evolution must take the existence of this background reality into account. Few parapsychologists or biologists, however, have so far attempted to connect unsolved riddles of biological life and its evolution to the findings of parapsychology. Hence, I will elaborate what psi can teach us about these topics, beginning with a short historical overview.

Although usually forming a minority in the psi community, there have always been biologists interested in psi. Especially in the first half of the 19th century, several biologists contributed to advancing parapsychology as well as biology in developing detailed neo-vitalist concepts of life. They soon resulted in the formulation of related approaches such as holism and organicism. Nevertheless, these older theories seem largely neglected in the present discussions linking psi to nature or life, which lack a comparable depth and richness of detail. To improve current discussions about the link between psi and biology, these historical concepts need to be taken into account, thus recognizing, revitalizing, and strengthening this tradition of thought.

Moreover, modern developments in parapsychology and biology have expanded the possibilities for a better understanding of life. Regarding parapsychology, a potentially important step consists in accepting additional modes of causality in nature such as Hans Driesch’s “wholeness causality”, or C.G. Jung’s concept of “synchronicity”, and in pondering the nature-philosophical models resulting from them. Jung mentioned possible areas of biology in which synchronistic events might come into play only in passing, but they are nevertheless significant. A deeper look into possible ramifications of synchronistic events or processes in organisms and their interaction with the environment offers fascinating perspectives.

These perspectives match trends in biology in which the basic understanding of organisms is currently shifting from regarding them as mere biochemical machines to regarding them as active and systemic centers of individuality, and even as active drivers of evolution. In particular, epigenetics provides important new insights into heredity, and a growing number of biologists recognize that the traditional neo-Darwinian model of evolution is insufficient. For example, the significance of natural selection has been diminished in new theories such as the “Extended Synthesis”, in which it is accepted that many traits of organisms have not been carved out via random mutations and merciless selection of the best adapted in the course of evolution. Some traits could simply have come into existence because of autonomous development dynamics and may have no selective value.

Linking these seemingly divergent lines of reason, I argue that the acceptance of psi phenomena, as well as that of the background reality they are rooted in, provide a missing link that allows for the synthesis overcoming the still existing explanatory gaps in (evolutionary) biology in understanding life, although there are promising steps of development into the right direction. But the “Extended Synthesis” needs to be extended even more by including psi. In doing so, I follow a long tradition of thinkers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Eduard von Hartmann, Hans Driesch, C.G. Jung, Aloys Wenzl, or Sir Alister Hardy. It is time to lift their approach to understanding life on a contemporary level.

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