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The Revolution in Paranormal Research begins with you . . .
Let's Go Beyond Now!
The beauty of the scientific method is that it allows the consensus to be overthrown when necessary.
-- Corey S. Powell, Editor In Chief of Discover
magazine, November 2009
Science or Insanity: That's the question . . .
The modern era of paranormal research -- characterized by a stated sense of determination to obtain scientifically credible proof for the survival of human consciousness after death -- has its historical roots in the mid to late 1800's. During that time period some of the most highly respected names in science and philosophy began to apply themselves to the question of survival after death, and to the rigorously controlled and meticulously documented investigations of certain extraordinary claims that were being put forth in their time. Today, more than a century later, paranormal research stands at pretty much the same point it started from: With the same lingering questions and no scientifically definitive answers (at least none in the affirmative sense.)
One significant change in paranormal research is that highly respected scientists and philosophers no longer consider this field to be worthy of their consideration. Virtually all continuation of the work has been abandoned to the pursuit of amateurs and the number of amateurs with an active, sincere, and well-meaning interest in paranormal research has been growing exponentially in recent years.
Unfortunately though, what passes as "education" and "training" for amateur paranormal investigators is little more than the dogmatic repetition of certain fallacies and the continued practice of some embarrassingly inadequate research techniques. These shortcomings have become the ritualized indoctrination for a crowd of self-appointed experts who have elected the Clown Princes of Paranormal Plumbing to be their role models.
Operating under the misguided belief that storming into a building with an arsenal of video cameras, voice recorders, computers, EMF meters, infrared thermometers, and other assorted techno-gadgetry automatically bestows the title of "scientific" upon their work, today's mob of paranormal vigilantes goes forth on its mission to accomplish ... what exactly?
I really don't understand what it is these people think they're doing that's supposed to be scientific. Their true goals seem to be having fun, grabbing a few thrills and giggles...feeling like they're doing something important maybe? The methods employed by contemporary paranormal investigators bear little (if any) resemblance to the time-honored "scientific method" and this fact should be painfully obvious to anyone that ever worked on a junior high school science fair project.
Yet, as the years slide by, the paranormal research community has strayed further and further from the scientific method and brought itself more in line with what I call the "Hollywood Method" of research. People go through the motions and "act" like they're conducting scientific research, but it's all for the sake of fun, ego-gratification, and, sometimes, money.
The following quote has been attributed
to a scientist of no less esteem than Albert Einstein:
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
I don't think Dr. E. had the ghost hunting crowd in mind when he said that, but it could certainly apply to them. If you are a happily entrenched member of that crowd, then this website will probably not be of much interest to you, although I do hope that you will find some of it annoying and disturbing. If, on the other hand, you are coming here with an open mind, if you realize that what's currently being done in the paranormal research scene is getting us absolutely nowhere, and if you understand that computers could never have been invented if we hadn't first learned to master the telegraph, then you might be someone capable of helping to take paranormal research to a new and more productive level.
Welcome to the revolution . . .but believe me, it's an uphill struggle.
Exactly what do we mean by the word "paranormal" anyway . . .
St. Augustine's famous comment about time, "I know what it is until I try to explain it," could well apply to the term paranormal. An excellent Wikipedia article on the subject (link below) opens with this stab at a definition:
"Paranormal is an umbrella term used to
describe unusual phenomena or experiences that lack an obvious scientific
This definition is more open-ended than some since the phrase, "lacks an obvious scientific explanation," leaves room for the possibility that such an explanation might eventually be discovered.
Of course, there are many phenomena and experiences which "lack an obvious scientific explanation" but aren't thought of as being paranormal. For example, current cosmological theory holds that 75% of our universe consists of something that lacks an obvious scientific explanation, something called "Dark Energy", but scientists don't think that Dark Energy is paranormal. (Maybe they should?) Libraries are filled with books on many subjects that were once lacking scientific explanations, but were never regarded as paranormal. There must be something more to it than simply the lack of an obvious scientific explanation...
In the definition presented above, perhaps the word "unusual" in the phrase "unusual phenomena or experiences" is the key to differentiating between things that simply lack a known explanation and those considered paranormal?
Yes, evaluating the degree of "unusualness" is important for understanding certain connotations associated with paranormal. Even loyal proponents agree that paranormal phenomena and experiences are extremely rare, usually spontaneous, transient, unpredictable, and irreproducible. Opponents, on the other hand, refuse to concede that paranormal phenomena and experiences have ever occurred at all -- never, not even once. Skeptics say that the sum total of all paranormal events that have ever occurred throughout human history = 0. In fact, Paul Kurtz, philosophy professor and chairman of the organization formerly known as CSICOP, has argued that the very word paranormal, "ought to be dispensed with as a meaningless concept."¹
The thing is, there's another important level of meaning to the word paranormal that goes beyond a statistical incidence rate. If paranormal merely implied something that was "counter to" or "beyond" the norm ² then what is or isn't included should be a matter for simple numerical analysis. Why then do discussions about the paranormal tend to ignite fiery philosophical arguments, even vociferous personal attacks, not merely over what is regarded as paranormal, but ultimately, over what is regarded as possible?
What someone believes to be possible depends, of course, on their own individual belief system. That's an axiom of human psychology and has nothing to do with actual "possibility-ness" since humans can't possibly, and obviously don't, know everything that is or isn't possible. Whether one considers his or her own beliefs re what is possible to be based upon science, religion, or some other arbitrary concept, those beliefs stem from some very deeply ingrained personal, psychological, cultural, and perhaps even genetic factors. These beliefs are the primary elements that form the core of an individual's world view, the very roots of one's psyche. Therefore, one's beliefs concerning what is or isn't possible tend to be extremely subjective, emotionally charged, held onto tenaciously, and doggedly defended.
Any proposed definition of the word paranormal that fails to consider our deep-seated personal belief systems concerning what is or isn't possible has missed the point. After all, when you really think about it, doesn't it come down to the question as to whether certain things are possible that gives the word paranormal its unique position in our vocabulary?
One belief system argues that a certain set of phenomena and experiences cannot happen, another belief system counters that it can. In modern times, the first camp often waves the battle flag of science in their attacks against the paranormal believers of the second camp. Regardless of who wins or loses this war however, the Truth -- of which science, even at its best, is but one small and ever-changing subset -- will still be out there, same as it ever was, maybe watching, laughing, and wondering why it takes so long for us humans to figure things out.
From the article,
"Is Parapsychology a Science?", by Paul
Kurtz, in Paranormal Borderlands of Science,
by Kendrick Frazier (Editor), Prometheus Books, 1981.
For 30 years, CSICOP was the acronym of the "Committee for the Scientific Investigation for Claims of the Paranormal".
In 2006, Dr. Kurtz finally succeeded in abolishing the use of the word "Paranormal" -- at least from his group's name.
The organization is now known as CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
² According to the Wikipedia article referenced above:
"The term paranormal is derived from the Latin use of the prefix 'para', meaning 'against, counter, outside, or beyond.' "
Hence, paranormal = against, counter, outside, or beyond normal.
Click here to see the Wikipedia article on Paranormal referenced above.
Remember, if you want to fight science, there's
only one method that works.
Click here to learn more about it.
Image courtesy of The Committee to Stop Continental Drift
The material on this website (except where otherwise indicated) has
been prepared by J. Hale.
All original content is copyright protected and all publication rights are reserved. Effective September 1, 2006, and beyond.