The Hidden Power by Brian Inglis (Jonathan Cape, £10.95).
READING this book, I wondered if there is an intentional double meaning in the title: for while it is mainly about the evidence for occult psychic phenomena it is also about the "hidden power" wielded by the modern scientific establishment which, Brian Inglis claims, has consistently and successfully prevented psychic forces from being seriously investigated.
I must confess that I remain unconvinced about either hidden power. Extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, poltergeists and the like seem as elusive as ever, although there are innumerable hints of curious phenomena which defy rational explanation. Perhaps everyone's mistake is to try to classify such things and describe them in a mechanical way, as if the supernatural could be made natural by dint of sufficient logical analysis. Anyway, I can assureInglis that there is no cover-up by scientists to suppress the evidence.
Nevertheless, the book is fascinating and valuable, and serves an extremely useful purpose by highlighting the defects and limitations of science, and undermining the modern rationalist philosophy which so many people, Inglis included, imagine to be inseparable from science. En setting out his powerful critique of science, Inglis acquaints the reader with important modern thinkers like Paul Feyerabend, Michael Polanyi, and Peter Medawar.
Don't be put off by the way Inglis repeatedly compares the rigid dogmatism of science with that of the Church, giving quite unnecessary offence and no doubt alienating Catholic readers who would otherwise be on his side: he sees science as the cultural successor of religion, and opposes both with the venom of one who feels doubly betrayed.
Perhaps the real reason I like The Hidden Power is that Brian Inglis is obviously an individual of great knowledge, talent and peruasiveness, and yet .here, as in his other recent book Natural and Supernatural, we see hen obsessed with the occult: its rather like the spectacle of a great nation ensnared in sore unwinnable foreign war.