Originally posted by Hand of Hecate
Does magic, conjuring, supernatural beings, esp, pyrokenisis, occult phenomena, teleportaion, etc... exist? I've been looking for documented, repeatable experiments with verifiable results. Can y'all point me towards anything interesting?
If you mean 'are there phenomena we don't (yet) understand', then yes, of course there are. If you mean 'was Aleister Crowley/my deranged aunt/that guy I saw on telly right all these years', the answer is almost certainly no, at least in a scientific context.
People have groped for explanations since the beginning of time, and if they can't think of a common-sense one, one of their favourite answers has been 'that's magic'. Unfortunately this is rather a cop-out, as is calling it 'occult', 'paranormal' or 'supernatural', as it says nothing about how it actually works.
On the other hand, there are numerous theories of the world which have a more specific concept of 'magic'. One common theme seems to be 'mind over matter'.
The conventional scientific view is that the mind is simply the processes of the brain, and the brain has a great deal of control and influence over the body it's in, but not much else. Perceptions of things being caused by the brain in some strange way are just that, perceptions, and they're caused by defects in the way we think, such as our tendency towards wishful thinking. If you concentrate hard enough, you can make yourself believe anything, and so eg you can make yourself believe that you are moving objects with the power of your mind.
The 'magical' view turns this on its head. In this view, the various inner workings of the mind are in fact fundamental to external reality. Strong emotions are not feedback systems or releases of chemicals in the brain; they're forces or substances pervading the whole universe, which just happen to have an effect on people's brains. 'Intuition' isn't just a calculation process whose workings we are only dimly aware of; it's in fact a 'sixth sense' that tells us directly what's really going on. 'Empathy' isn't your mind devising a model of someone else's mind and using it to try to understand their behaviour; it literally lets you see what they're thinking. A 'powerful mind' doesn't just let you focus on a particular task, with the result that you can do things other people are too distracted to do; it allows you to will things you want to happen into occuring, without any physical effort.
In essence, most magical theories I've come across try to come up with a psychological explanation of the universe - it is a universe of perceptions, thoughts, feelings and desires, rather than the scientific model of a universe of numbers, equations and mathematical structures. In this spirit, if you have a magical view of the universe you shouldn't look for scientific evidence for propositions, but rather psychological evidence - how does it make you feel if you assume it to be true/false?
Of course, just as it's possible to come up with scientific explanations for some apparently 'paranormal' occurrences, so it is possible to come up with psychological explanations for some scientific concepts. For example:
Gravity: All matter in the universe belongs to one great family, and as such, all matter feels a love for all other matter, and is drawn to it.
Electromagnetic force: Nature strives for balance, and one of the most fundamental balances is between the positive and the negative. If matter is unbalanced, this makes it unhappy, and it seeks to redress the balance.
It's this kind of thing which leads people who have a psychological worldview to claim that they are in agreement with scientists. That may be so, but they have come to such an agreement from fundamentally separate ways of understanding how the world works.