April 26, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-Three: W is for White Raven

Have you ever seen a white raven? I haven't. But does that mean that such a creature could not exist? Everyone knows that all ravens are black, right?

Apparently there is such a thing, but I've never observed one in person. Whether the picture I found of a white raven is real or doctored I cannot tell you for certain. But what this post is about is the paranormal, more specifically about philosophy and how it relates to the paranormal and science. During the A to Z Challenge I have touched on quite a few paranormal topics. Some I think require quite a bit more suspension of belief to even entertain in your mind, while others are much more believable.

But back to that white raven. 

According to the late Carl Gustav Hempel, you cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that there is no such thing as a white raven. You see, Hempel was a huge critic of inductive reasoning, which was widely used in science back in the mid-20th Century. They also used to think that what was reality was anything a human being could touch, see, smell or feel.

In any case, to boil things down to a more basic level, Hempel argued that you could not possibly make a statement that "all ravens are black" simply because the only way you could say that with certainty would be to observe all of the ravens in the world to ensure there is no such thing as a white raven. All it would take would be to find that one white raven in existence, and it would absolutely destroy the statement that all of that species of bird are black.

This is why I sigh to myself when people make statements like "there is no way sentient life exists on other planets anywhere" because how could a person at the present moment even know that? I think some people think I'm a gullible fool because I am willing to entertain in my mind a number of different paranormal theories. But just like scientific theories, they are just that -- theories. They are untested, unproven and so I cannot execute final judgment on those theories. How many creatures have people proudly declared were a figment of society's collective imagination only for those creatures to actually be discovered in highly verifiable ways some time later? Gorillas are a prime example cryptozoologists love to cite, as are giant squids.

Do I have my own personal beliefs or views on various paranormal topics? Absolutely. But when I write about them in a nonfiction setting I try to wash my writing of my own bias. Sometimes I do a better job of that than other times. I do this because I want readers to draw their own conclusions. I also do this because I cannot observe all of the crows in the world; I simply do not have the time or the resources.

Where does that leave me? Suspending final judgment on many, many paranormal topics.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The world and universe are too big to say something isn't possible.

Sharon Himsl said...

A white raven. Very cool. A character in future book, eh?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There are still so many areas to explore that I'm sure we'll find many things we never knew existed. I'm still holding out for Bigfoot.

VR Barkowski said...

Just because something is beyond the scope of current scientific understanding, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If all we do is close our eyes and deny, we'll end up missing what is right in front of us.

VR Barkowski

Chippy said...


I've only ever seen black Ravens and that was at The Tower Of London.

There are a few large black birds that fly around near where I live but I'm pretty sure they are crows.


Julia King said...

There's got to be albino ravens, just saying. And the world is MASSIVE! Parts of it probably haven't even been explored, for that matter. We probably don't know of hundreds if not thousands of animal species or plant life, too. I think there definitely can be white ravens as well as grey ones. Now if we try to say there are green or purple ones, then that's just pushing it. Enough said. :D

Steven said...

Alex, we should all learn from the Sicilian who said things were impossible.

Sharon, maybe I'll use one in a book. You never know...

Diane, I could tell you some theories about Bigfoot that are pretty out there. There are quite a few sightings around here, but I've never seen anything when I'm out in the wilderness.

VR, I couldn't agree more. People used to say it was impossible for people to fly.

Chippy, I was able to have a raven fly right over my head at a bird show a couple of weeks ago. Apparently they are incredibly intelligent birds. Oh, and it was black.

Julia, albino ravens! Of course! But yes, purple ravens are completely ridiculous... :)