Why Use Science? A perspective by the Department Chair


Being my first “official” submission to NPS, it may be important to explain where I am coming from. It is not my intent to provide answers. It is not my intent to decode individual experiences. It is not my intent to focus on what is right or wrong. It is my intent to leave readers with more questions. Hopefully, some will choose to research their questions.

My current perspective

As an investigator/researcher, my approach may seem contradictory. My focus is science and research but I accept that current science and technology are unlikely to provide useful data to even begin to explain paranormal events. Even though the evidence is worth consideration, I am a skeptic of evidence more than I am of the experience itself. I do believe there will eventually be widely accepted scientific explanations for many paranormal events but the popular technology and techniques currently in use are unlikely to provide these explanations. I trust my instinct and intuition more than any “paranormal data” I have collected or reviewed. From my perspective, all historical and current paranormal data have plausible scientific explanations other than being purely unexplainable paranormal in origin.

My numerous personal experiences allow me to accept that many things are not easily explained and are perhaps something from the paranormal realm. I accept that while theology and mysticism may be paranormal at their roots, they often provide some of the best explanations for paranormal events. By definition we must always remind ourselves that paranormal is simply that which lies outside of a definitive scientific explanation. At the same time, paranormal does not need scientific explanation. If it had scientific explanation, it would not be paranormal. I am, in a sense, saying that nothing is paranormal; it is just awaiting proper explanation.

So, why use science?

Grabbing a number out of thin air, I’ll estimate science has been involved with paranormal investigation, in an attempt to explain things, for at least 150 years. Have we gained a significant understanding in this time? We are still chasing noises, energy fields, odd images, and intuitive impressions. Yes, our technology to do these things has changed significantly but, are we doing anything new? Our ability to measure has become more and more precise (more finite in some cases) but, has this accuracy lead to specific solutions? More recent technology has us looking at brain waves but this is essentially a subset of energy fields. All this said I have to ask…why are we so dead set on applying science?

Regardless of our core beliefs and biases, we apply science because we have to. It is human nature to ask who, what, when, where, and why. If we ask questions and try to find answers, we are using science in its basic form (we do not need to agree on the answer to the same question). The more answers/information we collect and analyze, the more robust the science becomes. When we can verify and repeat the information over time, we begin to find theories and perhaps explanations. Notice that I do not use the word “proof”. “Proof” has been misconstrued to imply 100% fact. Some people like to use the word to shut down discussions. Proof is nothing more than compelling evidence. To insist on or to claim 100% proof is to stop asking questions. If questions are not being asked then science has been abandon. Similarly, to claim an opinion is 100% fact or simply “the way it is” is to abandon science. Question everything, nothing is absolute (yes, I am aware of the irony).

Rob Hillstrom

Rob Hillstrom

Director / Chair Science at TEPI
Paranormal: Somewhat cliché but, my experiences began at a young age though I don’t recall making the “paranormal” association until the age of 9 when my grandmother died and returned for a visit. Through the years, I have given many phenomena more attention; from subtle dream images to apparent physical contact from “unseen” sources. I have been involved in independent research/study and investigation for about 30 years and began using some equipment about 20 years ago. I have been working with the Colorado based TEPI team since 2010. As a science oriented investigator, I am a bit of a contradiction. I believe the experience more so than the evidence. Simply because there can be many plausible explanations for most evidence. The experience on the other hand, can sometimes be very complex and difficult to explain easily. Professional: I have a Master of Science degree that essentially qualifies me to manage a multi-discipline team in their efforts to accomplish technical activities. (If I say more the MIB might show up.) My engineering background is primarily electronics but includes mechanical, astrophysics, and some aspects of thermal, optical, and audio. Previous careers were medical including paramedics and medical device technology (design, manufacturing, and training medical staff). I also dabbled heavily in photography before the wide spread use of digital imaging. Ideological: I was raised Presbyterian but allowed to find my own path. I studied Zen for a short time and explored many other faiths. In my late teens I attended a seminar on the subject of Quantum Physics and how it relates to our mind and consciousness; this was the turning point in my belief system. I did not become a scientific skeptic, I simply began to view nearly everything differently. I removed definitions I had learned and replaced them with relationships to my personal experiences and observations. Things once clearly defined as paranormal now had a plausible spin to them. Personal: In my spare time I write dark music, dark poetry, and horror/science fiction stories.
Rob Hillstrom

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