Ten Phenomena That the Scientific Community Can’t Explain

April 1, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015
Many people who came close to death told of experiences of passing through a tunnel into a bright light.  (Photos.com)
Many people who came close to death told of experiences of passing through a tunnel into a bright light. (Photos.com)

Through the development and achievements of modern science, mankind has increasingly come to believe that science holds the power to give an explanation for every existing thing on our planet and in our universe.

But let us remember that although many phenomena in the world do have scientific explanations, not all phenomena can be explained by today’s scientific knowledge.

For instance, science has not yet given a definite answer regarding the process by which the universe was originally formed. Nor can science explain the formation of religious beliefs. Stepping into the realm of the supernatural, there are mysterious manifestations that have not been given plausible scientific explanations because the scientific method cannot be applied to measure or study such phenomena.

Let us take a look at some of these unexplained phenomena and remind ourselves that nature is a wonder in itself and that many things still remain mysteries.


1. The Placebo Effect

The placebo effect has been a medical enigma that has touched upon the mind’s influence on physical health and healing. It was found that patients believing to have been given an effective medicine could be healed even if they were only given sugar pills. This finding has led to research employing double-blind trials to avoid having the expectations of both experimenters and participants affect the results.

Unfortunately, over the years, the effectiveness and measurability of the placebo effect has been deemed by science as not reliable. This may be due to the limitations of the scientific method. Nevertheless, there are many cases of humans’ self-healing, which sometimes even surpass medical means available for healing the physical body.

2. The Sixth Sense

The five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell help us explore our physical world. There is also a sixth sense, an inner power of perception known as intuition. The word intuition is from the Latin word “intueri,” which means ‘to look within.” Intuition is the ability to know and understand without the use of logical reasoning or analysis, and it is common to all people in varying degrees of acuity.

Intuition is popularly referred to as a “hunch” or “gut feeling,” an inner knowing about something or some situation without prior knowledge. According to the 2006 PRWeek/Burson-Marsteller CEO Survey, 62 percent of CEOs are more likely to make business decisions based on their intuition than on data analysis.

A 2007 study published in Current Biology also found that participants, when given no time to look and having to rely on intuition, are more accurate in picking out an odd symbol among over 650 identical ones than when given 1.5 seconds to look at the symbols.

Ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi once said, “The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.” Albert Einstein also said, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”

But where does intuition come from? Studies of the human brain point to the pineal gland as a possible answer to this mystery. René Descartes (1596–1650), the father of modern philosophy, called the pineal gland the “seat of the soul.” Ancient Eastern thought considers intuition to be in the region of the pineal gland and believes it can receive illumination from the soul in the form of knowledge and ideas.

3. Near Death Experience

There have been many reports of various strange experiences that come to people close to death, such as passing through a tunnel into a bright light, meeting up with beloved ones, and having a calm, serene feeling.

The most notable was the experience of Dr. George Rodonaia, whose “clinical near death experience” in 1976 was the most extensive case ever recorded. The experience transformed Rodonaia, who was an atheist before his experience and thereafter became an ordained priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church. His experience hints to us that there is another world beyond this human physical world.

Although people have truly gone through these experiences, science has not been able to provide an explanation for the near death experience phenomenon. Some scientists try to suggest that these near death experiences can be explained as a result of hallucinations from an injured brain. But brain injury is not always the case, so no concrete scientific theory is able to offer either explanations or reasons for why people have had these experiences and why they are often life-changing.

4. Unidentified Flying Objects

Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) is a term coined by the United States Air Force in 1952 to classify objects that could not be identified by experts after investigation. In popular culture, the concept of UFO is usually taken to mean a spaceship flown by aliens.

UFOs have been sighted and recorded as early as the Song dynasty in China. In the 11th century, scholar and military general Shen Kuo (1031–1095) wrote in his book “Dream Pool Essays” (1088) about a flying pearl-shaped object with a blinding interior light that could move at incredible speed.

Kenneth Arnold, an American businessman, reported seeing nine objects with brilliant light flying near Mount Rainier in Washington state in 1947. Arnold described the objects as “flat like a pie pan” saucer-shaped disks. His account received significant media attention and drew great public interest.

Since then, UFO sightings have increased exponentially. The UFO phenomenon has been studied by both government and independent investigators worldwide. Dr. Josef Allen Hynek (1910–1986) worked for the United States Air force to investigate UFO sightings. At first, Hynek was highly critical, but after examining hundreds of UFO reports over three decades, his opinion changed.

In the later years of his career, Hynek became vocal in expressing his disappointment at the simple manner in which most scientists considered UFOs—unwilling and unyielding to admit the unexplainable.

5. Déjà Vu

Déjà vu, French for “already seen,” is the eerily familiar sensation of having been at a certain place or event before, as it is being encountered for the first time. People may have very strange feelings of familiarity about a vision in front of them as if it has happened before, but they know that it is the first time they have faced such things. Neurophysiology research has tried to explain such experiences as anomalies of memory, or brain pathology, or as side effects of drugs.