Two stories, no thinking

By Phil Plait | January 8, 2009 5:00 pm

What do these two stories have in common?

1) The TV channel A&E has greenlit a new unscripted program called "Paranormal Cops", where police moonlight chasing ghosts. This is not a joke. Well, the program is, but the story isn’t. The only accurate part of this thing is that they didn’t call it a "reality" program.

2) A woman in Papua New Guinea "was bound and gagged, tied to a log and set ablaze on a pile of tires this week". Why? Probably because she was accused of being a witch. Yes, a witch. There has been a growing number of people in that country who have been tortured and killed because they were suspected of sorcery.

Those two stories don’t seem too similar at first blush. One is a frivolous program meant to entertain, the other a deadly serious and shameful act.

But I think they are both shameful (on different levels, but still), and both are driven by ignorance. Ignorance of science, ignorance of logic, ignorance of reality.

There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip. Just first-hand testimony, notoriously inaccurate and untrustworthy, and fuzzy pictures either obviously hoaxed or obviously pareidolia. Our all-too-human fear of the dark, bred into us by ten thousand generations of being prey, takes over our rational mind.

The same with witchcraft; it’s our all-too-human ability of linking events together that may not be causally connected. You find a penny, and then you get a raise. Your brain says, finding a penny is good luck! Your neighbor sneezes violently, and your crops fail. Your neighbor is a witch.

Both of these feelings are natural. Both are understandable, and both are powerful motivators. And they’re both wrong. We are more than animals, capable of far more than simple stimulus and response. One of our finest aspects is our ability to reason, to check our logic, to make sure our senses aren’t trying to fail us. The TV show on A&E will teach thousands of people to trust their senses, to not use reason, to not analyze things logically. It will steer people away from our finest and noblest attributes.

And the other story… that’s the extreme consequence of ignoring our ability to reason. When you partially reason, when you only take logic part-way to a conclusion, when you let your desires and your fears rule your thinking rather than the other way around, people get hurt. People die.

These stories are both about ignorance. One may seem relatively harmless, and the other horrifying. But they are linked strongly by their combined willful disdain for logic and reality.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to Tim Farley for the witch article.

Comments (135)

  1. It’s not just Papua New Guinea. Witch hunts have become all too common in West and Central Africa. There was a horrific case of a seven year old boy in Ghana who was beaten to death for refusing to confess that he was a witch. Exorcists and witch hunters make big bucks identifying witches. Families in industrialized nations have even brought their children back to Africa so they could be “cleansed”.

    http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2008/12/ghana-news-spiritual-leader-kills-boy-7-for-witchcraft-breaking-news-news-in-ghana-news.html

  2. So the fact that this new fictional TV show is set in the real world makes it worse than, say, Doctor Who – which has tons of impossible “science”.

    Sorry, the witchcraft thing is deplorable – but railing against fictional TV seems like a slippery slope…

  3. Mena

    I haven’t watched A&E for probably close to 20 years. I’m just not that enthused about the mafia, natural disasters with lots of autopsy pictures, and anything involving the penal system. It was so bad at one point that my sister and I were flipping channels and they had something about the Jewish mafia. My sister looked at me and asked “What happened, did they finally run out of Italian mobsters?” I see that it is still Must Miss TV.

  4. Bennie

    It says that the show is unscripted. Just because they don’t call it a reality show explicitly doesn’t mean it’s a fictional show. Though considerably less heinous than the witch as no one has lost their life (yet), it is still reprehensible that this show could make it on the air. It is completely without merit and damaging to the effort to promote rationality.

  5. Richard

    From the article: “The ghost-hunting genre shows no signs of slacking on cable, with ratings continuing to grow for several shows. In addition to the A&E’s ramp-up, Sci Fi recently ordered a new ‘Ghost Hunters’ spinoff.”

    It means that the credulity of the nation is revving up. These shows don’t get made unless theirs a demand for it. That there is such a demand means that ratings are up for this kind of programming.

    I don’t think Phil’s reacting too much.

  6. Bennie

    Sorry, in my earlier post, I meant to put quotes around witch. I didn’t mean to imply the unfortunate woman was in fact a witch.

    Though…

    She has got a wart!

  7. Alan French

    I’ve been scratching my head a bit. I read the witch article this morning, immediately after reading about Oklahoma’s upcoming doom here, and I then I had a vague thought that I had read, long ago, some correlation between bad times and increased belief in the paranormal and other nonsense. I did a little web searching, but came away without any revelations.

    Anyone recall seeing something along these lines and where it was?

    Thanks!

    Clear skies, Alan

  8. David D

    So what would possess (pun intended) a popular astronomer to be a frequent guest on a radio show like CoasttoCoast (and seem to speak quite fondly of the experience)?

    Is there a double standard here? Just wondering.

  9. Negatron

    [Jim Seymour says

    So the fact that this new fictional TV show is set in the real world makes it worse than, say, Doctor Who - which has tons of impossible “science”.
    Sorry, the witchcraft thing is deplorable - but railing against fictional TV seems like a slippery slope…]

    I don’t think you get it Jim, it’s not a fictional program, it’s meant to be real, like the show “COPS” except it’s “Paramormal Cops”. It’s entirely reasonable to criticize this type of programming as more non-rational sheep fodder. It’s meant to be taken seriously, whereas a show like Doctor Who is intentionally unreal, not serious or based in the real world. It’s shot in a studio augmented by CGI, while these ghost type shows are following people around with cameras and literally promoting the reality of the supernatural.

  10. Alan French

    @David D,

    I think it is marvelous to have someone like Phil – a voice of reason – on a show like Coast to Coast. Should we leave the audience solely in the hands of the pseudo-scientists?

    Clear skies, Alan

  11. David D

    I see your point, but, BA’s presence on a program such as Coast to Coast gives it an air of legitimacy–maybe not to you or me, but to some of its more regular listeners (“a REAL astronomer was on, so it HAS to be REAL!”). Do you really believe that when Phil is on that show, that someone listening goes “Wow–that guy’s right–I’ve been so silly”?

    If someone truly feels that a show such as Paranormal Cops is “shameful . . . .driven by ignorance. Ignorance of science, ignorance of logic, ignorance of reality” then how can one justify lending one’s reputation to something like Coast to Coast, which I ‘m pretty sure is also rather ignorant?

  12. Heidi Anderson

    I nominate my two year-old Max for this tv show. I bet he can find just as much evidence as the paranormal cops.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26yXUOJ2FDs

  13. Davidlpf

    Basically its cops+ghost hunters=male bovine excrement

  14. The New Guinea story makes me feel sick.
    I wanna barf!

  15. Alan French

    No, I doubt Phil will cause many listeners to see how credulous they are. I do believe that the audience does include some people who are listening with some degree of skepticism, some folks who were just looking for something to fill some time, and some folks who listen for amusement. The latter two groups might well be thrilled to hear something that reflects reality.

    I suspect most regular listeners consider the normal guests to be real experts on whatever nonsense they are selling, and have already given the show their stamp of legitimacy. I don’t think Phil’s appearance has any effect on their view of the show. I think a little real science by a real scientist can never hurt.

    Clear skies, Alan

  16. David D

    @Alan–

    “I think a little real science by a real scientist can never hurt.”

    Except when that real scientist does no more than lend unwarranted legitimacy to an anti-science world view. He’s not debating anyone, and he’s not particularly enlightening to this group of viewers.

    I just think it’s curious that Phil rants about the level of scientific discourse, yet finds no problem in making somewhat regular appearances on a show that popularizes a variety of anti-science views. Double-standard, to put it simply.

    Just an opinion.

  17. Alan French

    @David D,

    As I said, I think there are some folks in the audience who would benefit from hearing Phil’s views, and the core group of the audience has already decided it is a legitimate show.

    And, obviously, all three audience groups I mentioned could benefit from Phil’s appearance, not just the latter two as I originally wrote.

    Not a double standard at all. Phil “rants” about the level of scientific discourse and then does something about it by appearing on a show and providing just that.

    A well known astronomy writer I know once wrote an astronomy column for a UFO newsletter. Was this a bad thing? Would it be a bad thing if a skeptic appeared on one of the ghost hunter shows and said there was no evidence ghosts exist?

    I think such appearances as provide much needed balance and reason to otherwise completely credulous shows. Far better than boycotting the shows for fear of giving them credibility – credibility they already have in their audience’s mind anyway and will continue to have even without the appearance of a real scientist.

    Clear skies, Alan

  18. Nick G

    I would have to say that this comparison is being stretched a little bit. A TV show, no matter what the topic, is for entertainment purposes. Sure some TV shows have secondary motives like programs on the Discovery (just watched the moon hoax mythbusters last night), or History channel, but the number one purpose is still to entertain the audience. Just watch the News if you need any more proof of this.

    While this paranormal cops show is following people who actually believe and try to pursue paranormal activities, it is only for the purposes of entertainment, while killing someone because that individual is accused of witchcraft is murder. To link the two is using a straw man argument

  19. I greatly enjoy Phil’s blog and insights into many things astronomical. However, being an anthropologist with 10 years’ experience in Melanesia, I have to take issue with the way the witchcraft story is being portrayed and used here. If you really want to get serious about being überlogical and hyper-real here are a few bullet points for more balanced thinking on this subject:
    1) Note how the story on CNN discreetly says “possibly because villagers suspected her of being a witch” That “possibly” may not seem important, but it is, very much so, in view of some other points, notably:
    2) Both the Post-Courier and the Nation (PNG’s foremost national papers) are known to consistently play on primitivist stereotypes of “tribal” and just simply “savage” behaviour on the part of various different Papuan and Austronesian social groups from rural PNG. In other words, they are not quite the most accurate or serious sources for reporting on outlandish stories which are virtually guaranteed to raise the hackles of the civilized readers of this world. Think I’m nitpicking? Take a look at this damning dissection about the propagation (by the media) of a story about child cannibalism in PNG:
    http://savageminds.org/2008/12/03/male-infanticide-in-papua-new-guinea-get-real/
    3) Bruce Knauft, who is cited as authority by CNN (after, presumably, the Post-Courier), is an extremely respected anthropologist, and wrote a rather more nuanced set of things regarding sorcery in that same book that is cited in the news note (incidentally, witchcraft is not an academically accurate term for the South Pacific or even Africa, given its origins in Medieval European terminology and practices), among others:
    “In most parts of Melanesia…suspicions or fears of sorcery have not resulted in the frequent killing of suspects, even though belief in the power of social and spiritual malevolence continue to be widespread…”

    For my part, I can say that over more than 36 months of fieldwork in the most remote and supposedly “backward” rural islands in Maritime Melanesia, I have never run into cases of murder associated with accusations of sorcery – although belief in spiritual forces is of course widespread.
    By contrast, the vast majority of Melanesian peoples whom I have lived and worked with are generous, sensitive and sensible human beings. In sum, they are neither noble savages nor primitive troglodytes, and whatever primitivist projections we cast on them often speak volumes more about our own shenanigans than about their realities.
    Just my 2 cents.

  20. Salul, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that. I’d be curious to hear more about this, since most of the info we get on topics like these are through the media. Do you have any links to other sources?

  21. kuhnigget

    @ Salul:

    Excellent points and link.

  22. Dave Hall

    Alan and David:

    You are discussing a man who apparently could not tell that Marketplace was joking when they did a story on using astrology to predict economic trends.

    I tend to agree that his appearances on Coast To Coast AM add an air of false legitimacy to the show. Has Phil ever actually attacked the anti science crap Bell and Noory have built their careers on? The only times I have heard him on there, he was about as confrontational as Jack Horkheimer saying “keep Looking up.”

  23. Luke

    Just because the evidence for ghosts may be lacking, it doesn’t mean we should dismiss the notion of ESP, or that some other phenomenon is at work. TAPS always state they go in trying to find evidence that something natural is going on, and when then can’t they call it either paranormal or they just can’t explain it at this time.

    Have I ever seen a ghost? No I haven’t but I have heard stories from family members that I can’t explain. Like my Dad use to let his friends dog out when they would be out of town, on many occasions he would come over and oven burners would be on or cabinets would be opened. Unless a cocker spaniel grew thumbs I can’t explain it.

  24. IVAN3MAN

    Alan French:

    I’ve been scratching my head a bit. I read the witch article this morning, immediately after reading about Oklahoma’s upcoming doom here, and I then I had a vague thought that I had read, long ago, some correlation between bad times and increased belief in the paranormal and other nonsense. I did a little web searching, but came away without any revelations.

    Anyone recall seeing something along these lines and where it was?

    Yes, I recall reading about something just like that in Wikipedia on the Consequences of the Black Death during the Middle Ages where Jews and other minority groups were blamed for the plague. No one in the fourteenth century considered rat control a way to ward off the plague, and people began to believe only God’s anger could produce such horrific displays. There were many attacks against Jewish communities. In August of 1349, the Jewish communities of Mainz and Cologne were exterminated. In February of that same year, Christians murdered two thousand Jews in Strasbourg. Christian mobs attacked Jewish settlements across Europe; by 1351, sixty major and 150 smaller Jewish communities had been destroyed, and more than 350 separate massacres had occurred. In some cases, Jews were burned alive.

  25. quasidog

    Phil .. regarding the incident in Papua New Guinea.

    Western University education is not going to apply to these people mate. Think tribal Africa .. with cannibals and drug supply and trade routes and an insanely corrupt government, a very low education level ….and you have Papua New Guinea.

    This is nothing new and a… ‘growing’… number of people have not been doing this … despite what this tabloid new report from CNN says. This has been part of their culture for centuries! If someone dies from a disease, it is common for people to blame a relative and that relative is marked for death, due to sorcery or witchcraft. Remember this is a very old culture. They don’t see things as obviously as highly educated west-ees. Sometimes its a kid .. and by death I mean spears or machetted to death by a group of men. One of my close friends was born there and has family from there, and had to leave the country for similar reasons. This place is really dangerous and it a drug trade route on the way to Australia from Asia and other parts of the Pacific region.

    They are really undereducated there and the government is extremely corrupt. It is almost an impossible situation to fix. I haven’t even touched on half of it. Researching the country would be wise before judging them relative to your level of education.

    The way you are presenting this story smacks of western ignorance. It’s really easy to point out that this person wasn’t a witch, and then tell everyone here … der! .. but that country has a problem with basic, and I mean ABC 123 EDUCATION. If they don’t even have basic education, how are we going to fix the issue of them believing in witchcraft mate? We are talking about some of the oldest tribal cultures on Earth here. Just because some of these places have cities and some wear western looking clothes doesn’t mean that their culture, which is deeply ingrained into their life is going to be removed easily. Sitting back and telling other educated western people that they haven’t got a clue … that’s like blaming a 5 year old for believing in Santa Claus. Pick on someone your own size.

    Pointing this out in the way you have is weak, tactless and self righteous. Sorry mate.

    Your astronomy blogs rock.

  26. quasidog

    Can I just add, that every time I read an article on astronomy, whereby I know you are in you realm of expertise and I also notice there is never any sarcasm, nor attacks, nor self-righteousness. I really love those blogs.

    They make me smile. :)

    Then there is nasty, self-righteous Phil, often popping up with sarcastic comments about stuff in topics unrelated to astronomy, where it seems obvious you are not an expert.

    They often make me angry. :(

    I love ‘Astronomy Phil’. He is a really nice guy. ‘Non-Astronomy Phil’ just makes me want to never read another post again. Honestly. Sometimes I wish I had some automatic filter for every astronomy post you make and just read those. I am going to try really hard just to read the astronomy posts ‘Astronomy Phil’ blogs from now on. I don’t like to be angry. :/

    Don’t get cut mate. It’s just a viewpoint.

  27. quasidog, I dunno but I think you’re being a bit harsh on Phil going on what he wrote above. He didn’t come across as self-righteous, sarcastic or nasty. The CNN article didn’t seem tabloid either. The reporting was no more tabloid than I what I saw here in Oz from the ABC or Triple J and seemed to report the facts as they stood.

    You’re right about PNG being a bit of cesspit these days. My mother taught there in the early 60s and places like Lae and Port Moresby sound horrendous now compared to then. They were still eating people in the highlands back then though.

    We do have to call ignorance for what it is. It is ignorance that drives people to commit acts like this. It doesn’t matter that I’m calling it from the comfortable west either. The history and cultural reasons for such ignorance at some point cease to be excusable. Something has got to change. Unfortunately for PNG it isn’t going to happen soon for the reasons you mentioned.

  28. José

    @quasidog
    So, pointing out the dangers of ignorance is weak, tactless and self righteous? Others have already pointed out that Phil may have been somewhat led astray by bad reporting, but your comment smacks of western ignorance far more than Phil’s post does. And is it really that difficult for you to read only the astronomy posts? I’ve been visiting this site for a few years now and I have yet to read a Doctor Who post. But then again, when it comes to not reading things I’m not interested in, I have an iron willpower.

  29. Quasidog:

    I don’t see exactly why our moral judgement should be different just because we can more easly understand the cause behind the perilous ignorance going on in these parts of the world. Every action has some reasons behind it, and given those reasons the action must by logic be understandable because in reality there is no room for paradoxes. Hence, according to you, no one is ever to blame for any action! But lets say we don’t blame them, maybe thats the right way to go (and maybe no one could ever be truly responsible because of determinism), your comment is still unjust to Phil. He didn’t say these people should have know better by themselves, he said that they should know better, period. Actually, the only think Phil was pointing any blame at was ignorance. A 5 year old that starts killing of his friends because he believes Santa told him to, might not be to blame for his condition, but still it would be fully reasonable to be upset about it and say that it’s dangerous when a child starts believing in nonsens, and ignores reason. As I understood Phil’s post, he didn’t want to put the 5 year old in prison, but rather in school! I don’t think that is something to be angry about at all.

  30. Phil,

    Unfortunately there are very few sources for balanced discussion regarding media portrayals of Melanesian savagery on the web, although the Savage Minds blog I cited is as good a place as any for informed conversation. Barring specific links, here are three easily available – although slightly specialist – readings that deal with related subjects and consistently pop up on humanities syllabi across the US (with apologies for going all scholarly all of a sudden): Witchcraft, Sorcery Rumors and Gossip, by P. Stewart and A. Strathern; Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond, by L. Lindstrom; Yali’s Question, by Errington and Gewertz, who provide a wonderfully different and far more gripping answer to Jared Diamond’s rather facile line of thinking in respect of the apparent politicoeconomic backwardness of Papuans in the modern world; and, finally, The Meaning of Whitemen, by Ira Bashkow, who looks at the way in which white people are, in their turn, portrayed and understood by people of PNG.
    NOTE: I mistakenly wrote “child anthropophagy” in my first post, whereas it should have read “child infanticide”.
    Note also the readiness of certain readers, such as our good mate, quasidog, to pounce on the uneducated and corrupt nature (thus, as in inherent quality), as well as a centuries-old penchant for gruesome forms of violence among Papuans. It is impossible in this short space to adequately unpack the various level of misunderstanding and prejudice here, which nonetheless sort of speak for themselves.

  31. Grand Lunar

    ” The TV channel A&E has greenlit a new unscripted program called “Paranormal Cops”, where police moonlight chasing ghosts. ”

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

    I already get enough non-science caca from my folks watching “Ghost Hunters” and “A Haunting”, amongst other programs.
    Now THIS?

    “A woman in Papua New Guinea “was bound and gagged, tied to a log and set ablaze on a pile of tires this week”. Why? Probably because she was accused of being a witch.”

    Now this really grinds my gears.

    We’re living in an age of science, with technology that can probe the depths of the ocean, the mysteries of inner space and outer space, and tech to improve human life.
    And yet, there are people with mentality no better than that which existed a couple hundred years ago.

  32. Grand Lunar

    @Luke,

    “Just because the evidence for ghosts may be lacking, it doesn’t mean we should dismiss the notion of ESP, or that some other phenomenon is at work.”

    I think we can.
    That million dollar challenge went unclaimed, you know.

  33. Jason Heldenbrand

    Yes, it is sad that there is more science fiction on A&E however I personally feel mroe annoyed at the state and direction of the History Channel. It used to be 24 hours of WWII, which while could grow annoying, was at least historical. Now it is 24 hours of 2012 theories, the bible code, a 2 hour perspective on Satan and the anti-Christ, UFOS and Big Foot.

    Don’t we have a pretty long and interesting history that more time can’t be spent on it? According to that channel we have a history that spans from 1930 to present. The only time I’ve ever caught anything of interest or value has been early in the morning before I leave for work.

  34. UmTutSut

    “There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip. Just first-hand testimony, notoriously inaccurate and untrustworthy, and fuzzy pictures either obviously hoaxed or obviously pareidolia.”

    Whoa, camel, whoa!

    First, I don’t know exactly what a “ghost” may be, but there have been enough phenomena captured on video by the TAPS guys to at least make even a diehard skeptic go “WTF?” Example: In the first St. Augustine lighthouse investigation, it certainly APPEARED that some kind of entity peered over the top rail of the staircase. That was what Jason and Grant both SAW with their eyes and that’s what appeared on tape. (And they were adamant that no one else was in the lighthouse.)

    I’m well aware of Carl Sagan’s adage about extraordinary claims. My .02 zlotys is that there are genuine phenomena occuring — reported by thousands of people over thousands of years — that may be beyond the ability of our current technology to detect, except in rare instances like the lighthouse investigation.

    In my opinion, looking at the subjects of ghosts, UFOs and other unusual phenomena with a skeptical eye doesn’t mean simply ignoring them and refusing to try to get information about them. Maybe in 100 or 200 years, such claims won’t be so “extraordinary.” They’ll be part of scientific investigation.

    BTW, I’m not in any way affiliated with TAPS, Pilgrim Productions or SciFi Channel.

    Les (Friendly Airplane Asylum flack)

  35. Alan French

    @UmTutSut,

    Do you believe the magicians who appear on television and assure you “No camera tricks were used?”

    Television is all about ratings, and that alone gives reason to be skeptical of “evidence” for ghosts on such a show.

    Clear skies, Alan

  36. UmTutSut said “And they were adamant that no one else was in the lighthouse”
    Really? They were adamant? In that case…

  37. AndyN

    @UmTutSut

    “there are genuine phenomena occuring — reported by thousands of people over thousands of years ”

    Okay, sure people are reporting phenomena, but just think about it for a second. Imagine a universe identical to ours but in which someone has managed to prove100% beyond doubt that there is no supernatural phenomena at all. Do you think people would still report phenomena? Of course. There’s always going to be a “background noise” of reports and claims of supernatural activity, regardless of if it exists or not. It’s human nature. Our perceptions are fallible and our psychology encourages it.

    So my question to you is: do you think the current level of supernatural reporting is above that background noise? Personally, I doubt it.

    By the way, you argue against yourself. One minute you say that a ghost appeared on video, the next you’re saying that supernatural activity may be “beyond the ability of our current technology to detect”. You need to pick a consistent approach.

    The argument based on the lack of our current technology to detect supernatural phenomena is fallacious. As humans, our senses respond to physical things like photons (light), pressure waves (sound), chemical sensitivity (taste, smell). Science is able to build sensors to detect these stimuli too. Anything we are able to detect, science is also able to detect. An argument often given along the lines of… “I saw it, but my camera showed nothing”, would make me just think you imagined it.

  38. Salul, you have an interesting blog. I particularly enjoyed your review of Australia. Maybe they should have called it Turkey. No offence intended to our Turkish friends.

  39. Leander

    “There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip.”

    I doubt that this TV show can be taken seriously – but if lack of evidence isn’t a reason to go looking for it, what is ?

    Aside from that it reminds me of a quote by one of your colleagues – “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. A very logical and reasonable statement in my opinion, yet you repeatedly, concerning topics like this, act contrary to that logic. To assume that evidence of absence means absence of evidence, you first need to assume something else – that our understanding and investigation of reality/existence is thorough and sophistacated enough to already have yielded evidence in case of presence of said phenomenon. Only if you assume this, claim this with confidence beyond a shred of doubt, are you entitled to take absence of evidence for evidence of absence. Are you ready to make this claim ? In face of all the gaps in our knowledge concerning realitiy/existence, how it works and came about ? Said gaps of course are not evidence of presence – but they illustrate that our understanding is not thorough. And as long as it isn’t, do you still feel you can justifiably act like absence of evidence is evidence of absence ? Or would this not be a very bold and arrogant step for a member of a species that got out of stone age just a moment ago ?

    I’m sure you’re aware of the etymology behind the word “scientist”, which is, after all, your profession. With that should come a decent understanding and appreciation of what you know and what you don’t, and the fact of the matter is – you don’t know whether there’s ghosts or not. Period. To act as if you do is leaving the field of good science, for…

    “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus

    And, because it’s such fun to quote, I’ll close with another one by one of your colleagues.

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For a while knowledge defines all we CURRENTLY know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” – Albert Einstein (emphasis mine)

  40. Phil, I usually enjoy reading your posts. While I don’t always agree with what you say, I do think you typically post reasonable and reasonably well thought out ideas. This post however was very disturbing. Your implication is clear, if you believe in anything outside of established scientific dogma “People die.” That type of statement is no different Fundamentalists saying atheists are naturally immoral. It is fear mongering and is better suited for dysfunctional defunct political administrations than intelligent and rational scientists.

  41. Sir Eccles

    There is hope, I just read about “Sense About Science” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7808348.stm which seems to be trying to fight back against mystical rubbish.

  42. UmTutSut

    I work in media relations, and I know how unreal “reality” TV can be. But the TAPS guys were doing investigations long before the Ghost Hunters TV show came along.

    Magicians readily characterize what they do as illusions, so they aren’t meant to be taken as reality. We’ve seen the “Masked Magician” prove how many of the well-know illusions are done. If someone wants to PROVE (my emphasis) that the TAPS guys are mere illusionists, not the serious investigators they claim to be, go for it!. Of course, that also means you’re calling Jason, Grant et al. blatant liars. I think that’s unlikely, because the popularity of the show rests on its credibility. I have tried to watch several of these paranormal investigation shows, and the only one that has even a hint of credibility is the original GH, IMO.

    Also IMO, TAPS has demonstrated there are phenomena occuring worthy of further scientific investigation with the tools we currently have available. I don’t expect proof of WHAT these phenomena actually are — that would be great, of course — but merely proving the phenomena are genuine would be a step forward toward fostering skeptical, yet open-minded, inquiry.

    Les (Friendly Airplane Asylum flack, who has never actually seen a “ghost”)

  43. @Jim Seymour: From am article about the show:

    “Paranormal Cops is the perfect marriage of A&E’s successful crime and justice genre with our blossoming paranormal programming that documents real-life accounts of bona fide paranormal investigators,” said Senior Vice President at A&E, Robert Sharenow.

    Given how it’s described elsewhere as “unscripted” , I don’t think it’s an explicitly fictional drama like Doctor Who, and it’s obviously geared toward believers.

  44. @quasidog: I wish I had some automatic filter for every astronomy post you make and just read those.

    Have you tried reading the subject lines? It’s not hard to tell which articles are astronomy related and which are about politics or antiscience or TV shows.

    I don’t like to be angry.

    Then, by all means, you should avoid paying attention to the world around you.

  45. AndyN

    @Leander

    “Said gaps of course are not evidence of presence – but they illustrate that our understanding is not thorough.”

    No, that’s wrong. They illustrate EITHER that our understanding is not thorough, OR that paranormal activity doesn’t exist. You’ve assumed the first.

    I find it incredible that you can think that our understanding of the world is not sufficient. I think that science has already demonstrated that we have extremely thorough knowledge of natural phenomena down to the atomic level. Look at the things we can do through our understanding: biotechnology, nanotechnology, send people into space, the LHA etc. That’s why I have no doubt that paranormal activity doesn’t exist as at no point has any mainstream scientist *ever* said anything like… oh, that is just down to the spirits of dead people.

  46. @Corey Feldman: Your implication is clear, if you believe in anything outside of established scientific dogma “People die.”

    I don’t know how you twisted “when you partially reason, when you only take logic part-way to a conclusion, when you let your desires and your fears rule your thinking rather than the other way around” into “if you don’t believe in scientific dogma”. That’s one heck of a leap, and it invalidates everything else you said.

  47. Leander, yeah Sagan said “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” but I do not think he meant what you think he means. It was his take on the argument from ignorance. Just because I have a weak argument doesn’t make your crappy argument true is one way of saying it.

  48. Corey J Feldman said “Your implication is clear, if you believe in anything outside of established scientific dogma “People die.” “.
    That’s not what I got out if it. I read that in cases where ignorance and superstition reign supreme people can die. It’s not about blindly accepting one dogma over another. Anyway, I thought science was a method not dogma.

  49. @ Naked Bunny with a Whip @Shane

    The whole point of the article was to draw conclusions and similarities between this tragedy and the TV show/ belief in ghosts. No Twisting required. Phil pretty clearly argues that ghosts don’t meet the test for scientific credibility, therefore they don’t exist and this type of thinking will lead to people getting hurt and killed…

    “Two stories, no thinking”

    “Those two stories don’t seem too similar at first blush. One is a frivolous program meant to entertain, the other a deadly serious and shameful act.”

    But I think they are both shameful (on different levels, but still), and both are driven by ignorance. Ignorance of science, ignorance of logic, ignorance of reality.”

    “What do these two stories have in common?” “And the other story… that’s the extreme consequence of ignoring our ability to reason. When you partially reason, when you only take logic part-way to a conclusion, when you let your desires and your fears rule your thinking rather than the other way around, people get hurt. People die.”

    “These stories are both about ignorance. One may seem relatively harmless, and the other horrifying. But they are linked strongly by their combined willful disdain for logic and reality.”

  50. Leander

    @Shane: Sagan’s intentions when using it don’t change the logic of the actual statement, and thus are completely irrelevant to my post.

    It is indeed a take on the argument from ignorance, and one that shows that Phil supporting the apparent laughability of ghosts with the lack of evidence basically is an argument from ignorance.

    “The argument from ignorance [...] is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise [...] is false only because it has not been proven true.” (Wikipedia)

    That basically applies to Phil’s reasoning and is illustrated by Sagan’s statement.

  51. Corey, so you’re saying that Phil is implying that a belief in ghosts will lead people dying? What Phil meant could be something else entirely but, as I said, I read that magical thinking may be harmless but in extreme cases it can be harmful and it is the same superstition and ignorance in both cases and that is the root cause of the problem not a belief in ghosts per se.

  52. kuhnigget

    “And, because it’s such fun to quote, I’ll close with another one by one of your colleagues.”
    Ah yes, the Einstein strategy. When trying to win an argument with a scientist, quote the good doctor Albert, font of all knowledge.

    No evidence for leprechauns, either. Anyone want to give me a grant to go searching for some? I’ll throw in unicorns, too.

    See pretty much every previous post on UFOs for the exact same arguments pro and con.

  53. @Shane yes his post very clearly attempts to draw a conclusions between a heinous event and belief in ghosts. Phil pretty clearly states that he believes this show only SEEMS harmless. “One may seem relatively harmless, and the other horrifying. But they are linked strongly by their combined willful disdain for logic and reality.” The whole point of this post was to take these two items and show who they are related.

  54. kuhnigget

    BTW, anybody remember the Wenatchee, Washington witch hunts of the 1980s? A couple of overzealous child psychologists working with the police department managed to convince some kids that their parents were practicing witches. The police investigated – no, persecuted, is more apt – a whole group of innocent people, pretty much ruining their lives and destroying their relationships with their kids. The community bought into it with the fervor of…well, witch hunters.

    Such is the power of stupidity. You don’t need a “primitive” culture such as that of Papua New Guinea to find similar incidents.

  55. Leander, now we’re getting to issue of burden of proof and shows the absence thing to be completely fallacious in the way you’re using it. The only way the ghosts can be proven to exist is with evidence. There is a distinct lack of evidence. The burden is on the claimant provide the proof.
    Otherwise I would like to introduce you to my invisible pink unicorn.

  56. David D.

    There was also a “witch hunt” of sorts in the 70′s and 80′s regarding daycare workers/providers supposedly molesting children on a global scale. I don’t recall a religious or superstitious angle to the stories; it was based entirely on the “science” of recovered memories.
    Bad science can be just as guilty at destroying lives as ignorance and superstition.

  57. kuhnigget

    @ David:

    That was the McMartin preschool in Los Angeles. Also the 1980s. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the those and similar events saw a revival during the same years as the rise of the fundy religious right in the U.S. (Heh heh…probably matches sunspot cycles too…)

  58. @David D. I do agree that science is not infallible, but most people wouldn’t define hypnotic regression as actual science.

  59. Don’t forget the Satanist scares.

  60. David D.

    @kuhnigget–

    I googled Wenatchee witch hunts. Couldn’t find anything about people being accused of being witches, although the actions of local law enforcement were compared to witch hunting. There was an overzealous detective combined with an overzealous CPS, and “experts” in the field of child psychology. People were persecuted for alleged sex crimes, not for being witches.

    Did I miss something?

  61. David D.

    I don’t think the false memory syndrome had much to with the rise of the fundy religious right. Do you have something to back that up?

  62. kuhnigget

    @ David:

    Did I miss something?

    Not sure. I’d have to try and dig for it. I seem to recall the first guy to get accused, who was a priest or pastor or something, was accused of starting a satanist or witchy type of cult that involved child molestation/sacrifice. The details just kept getting more bizarre and elaborate, which is what finally led to its end. The “witch hunt” comparison was, I believe, just in reference to the Salem witch hunts, in which the coerced testimony of kids was used to destroy lives.

    Do you have something to back that up?

    No, hence the facetious comment about sunspots.

  63. David D.

    But sunspots DO correlate with witch prevalence as measured as a function of national GDP.
    :)

  64. UmTutSut

    “The only way the ghosts can be proven to exist is with evidence. There is a distinct lack of evidence.”

    I disagree with the latter statement. Seems to me there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that SOMETHING science doesn’t understand is going on. That makes the phenomenon/phenomena ripe for scientific investigation.

    Les (Friendly Airplane Asylum flack)

  65. kuhnigget

    @ umtutsut:

    Maybe I’m missing your point, but how can a scientific investigation inquire into something that science can’t understand? Or did you mean scientists currently don’t understand it?

    And could you please suggest what some of that substantial body of evidence might be?

    First one to say anecdotal evidence wins a leprechaun riding a unicorn.

  66. Bill C.

    @UmTutSut:

    “I don’t expect proof of WHAT these phenomena actually are — that would be great, of course”

    You don’t see the contradiction here? You’re approaching with the notion that the phenomena ARE real, and are beyond the scope of science to accurately investigate – so science would do well to investigate? That’s like asking scientists to whip out their “God detectors” so they can start investigating God. Before science can investigate anything, you have to at least determine that it’s plausible, in that there exists some quantifiable occurrence worth investigating. Open cabinets, malfunctioning stoves, and glimpses of “entities” may be spooky (hey, they totally are), but there’s really no scientific merit there, at least until someone can posit the specific inexplicable interactions of reality which led to the opening and burning and manifesting.

    Phil’s criteria for credulity aren’t really that hard to meet: A clear, universally appreciable record of phenomenon, including some indication of how to quantify it. Beyond that, it’s just people walking around with “EM field detectors” in the hope that ghosts are made of bundles of electrons. That’s the thing about the supernatural – until it or its proponents offer some mechanism of how it interacts with the natural, it remains scientifically worthless.

    “but merely proving the phenomena are genuine would be a step forward toward fostering skeptical, yet open-minded, inquiry.”
    See, you do get it. Once there’s a reasonable foundation, one can start to build. I think scientists like Phil are more in the “Yeeeeah, get back to me on that” camp than anything. Sort of like if I asked him to study how the influence of invisible alien spirits really throws off my Thetans. If I could give him some indication of what Thetans were physically, what they did in my body, and how I thought aliens were manipulating them, he could investigate. Until then, it’s all in my head.

  67. killyosaur

    @umtutsut
    Nice to see someone in media relations naive enough to trust everything someone tells him just because they have a television show and have been “investigating” for years. That isn’t to say that they are lying about their experiences, it’s just that there are simple and readily available explainations available for most if not all of the phenomenon that most ghost hunters and experts proffer as “evidence.” Also just because someone has done something for years doesn’t mean that they actually know what they are doing. There are quite a few IT people and software engineers who have been working in their respective fields for years who still don’t know what they are doing (though they will suggest otherwise).

  68. @UmTutSut

    The TAPS guys, IIRC, are not trained scientists and are using some very sophisticated equipment to try to measure things they weren’t designed to measure. Go to the JREF web site (www (dot) randi (dot) org) and search for “gnome” (or click on my name) for an interesting review of TAPS and the Ghost Hunters.

    A more likely explanation for what is reported in that TV show is, if not outright lying, misinterpretation of the data and mistakes of observation.

  69. DaveS

    The McMartin case, IIRC, featured induced false memory regression of children under hypnosis. What was widely reported in the news was the molestation claims, but the actual reports by the children were of satanic rituals, magic, and demons, with a side-helping of abuse. The McMartins were prosecuted for sexual child abuse, but the fact the the police didn’t question the credibility of the witnesses, implying a belief in the *possibility* of satanic rituals, magic, and demons, that’s the fundie angle.

  70. David D

    @DaveS–

    The children “remembered” a variety of bizarre experiences, but the authorities were most disturbed and concerned with the possibility of sexual molestation. I don’t know whether the police believed in the “possibility” of demons or magic; I don’t think it would be unseemly if a police officer believed in the “possibility” of satanic rituals (some people DO worship differently).
    Again, this “witch hunt” was not led by members of the local clergy or “fundies” but was directed by people who had credentials and were considered “experts” in their fields. Yes, there was the Satanist scare that happened in different areas around the country, but the McMartin and (apparently) the Wenatchee cases had little to do with religious fear-mongering.

  71. Leander

    @shane & kuhnigget: Using the pink unicorn and the leprechauns and whatnot is such a graceless and tiresome way by (pseudo)skeptics to evade discussion. What you’re really employing is a cringeworthy hybrid of straw-man and argument of personal incredulity. You bring up a different case (i.e. the pink unicorns) from the one at hand (the ghosts), that you hope will bring out the same incredulity (that you feel concerning ghosts) in the people you’re trying to convince, and make them conflate the two cases and discount them both. The straw-man part also is found in the simple fact that nobody goes around proclaiming to have seen pink unicorns or leprechauns, while there is an abundance of people saying they saw ghosts – a difference you simply ignore for your agenda.

    @kuhnigget: I wonder if you noticed that I used two other quotes, one not by a scientist, even though talking to a scientist. I use quotes for the point they make, regardless of who it’s attributed to. To not answer to the actual point made by the quote and instead imply use of some ridiculous “Einstein strategy” to discount the quote is simply an embarrassing straw-man tactic. Unless you respond to actual points made by the quote and contribute something intelligent to the discussion, don’t bother replying.

    @shane: I’m well aware of the issue of burden proof. That you bring it up though seems more to follow from a preconceived, by-the-book notion of how to engage “evil, reality-hating enemies of science and reason”, than from something I actually wrote. Where did I make a claim, and where did I not back it up – or defend someone doing so? I was simply pointing out a flaw in Phil’s thinking, and I seemingly didn’t succeed in making it clear enough for you to follow. Let me try again:

    To be fair, Phil nowhere claimed explicitly that ghosts don’t exist. Implicitly though that’s what he’s saying, and he’s backing that up with the lack of evidence. Now the crucial point: For this to be a valid support to his claim, it would have to be absolutely certain that no evidence can show up in the future. Only then would lack of evidence mean that the thing in question doesn’t exist. In other words: If Phil wants to use the lack of evidence to back up his position that ghosts don’t exist, he’s indirectly claiming that we would have found evidence for ghosts by now. In this case the burden of proof is on him to explain why he thinks our investigation and understanding of reality/existence is thorough enough to rule out future evidence of ghosts. To make that claim would be very unscientific. But it’s either that, or admitting that ghosts might exist. And what’s the proplem with that ? Why can’t any (I say it again, the behaviour on here makes me do so…pseudo-)skeptic seem to do so without at the same time trying to ridicule the whole topic with childish mentions of pink unicorns etc. ?

    If it’s his personal opinion that they don’t, fine. If he however wants to ignore the fallaciousness of the argument from ignorance to support that opinion, he should be aware that it makes his love for reason somehwat questionable.

    As a sidenote, if you guys keep bringing up the pink unicorns and leprechauns at this frequency, at some point they’re gonna be ideas as widespread as ghosts, and somebody will actually fund research into them.

    Pseudoskeptics: those who take “the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves ‘skeptics’”. – Wikipedia

  72. kuhnigget

    @ Killoysaur:

    There are quite a few IT people and software engineers who have been working in their respective fields for years who still don’t know what they are doing (though they will suggest otherwise).

    Having just spent the entire morning trying to manually uninstall Norton Utilities from my computer, I would have to say, “Bwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!”

    @ DaveS:

    Yes, there was the Satanist scare that happened in different areas around the country, but the McMartin and (apparently) the Wenatchee cases had little to do with religious fear-mongering.

    I think that is an accurate statement, although I think the ease with which the satanist stuff was not viewed as a sign something might have been askew with the investigations is fairly indicative of the mindset at work. A little critical thinking would have helped.

  73. kuhnigget

    @ Leander:

    Please see every UFO story ever posted on this site for responses to your comments. You’re well on your way to replicating their well-reasoned arguments.

    the simple fact that nobody goes around proclaiming to have seen pink unicorns or leprechauns

    My Irish grandmother begs to differ.

  74. Leon

    Well said, BA! I’m sick and tired of people who, when I insist this sort of thing is wrong, ask “Well, what’s the harm, really?” It’s good to see someone connecting the dots that lead from the goofy to the perverse to the deadly.

  75. Quiet Desperation

    Well, you all by now I like to play devil’s advocate. It helps hone skeptical skills, in my not so humble opinion. :)

    Shows like that might have good side effects. I know people who have watched similar stuff (Ghost Hunters), and eventually I hear them comment about how the shows never really catch anything on film. It eventually reduces their beliefs in such things when a show devoted to the paranormal, one that goes looking for it, can’t deliver.

    Just a thought.

  76. UmTutSut

    @ kuhnigget

    “And could you please suggest what some of that substantial body of evidence might be?”

    Thousands of reports over thousands of years from people who claim to have seen apparitions of what they characterized as “ghosts” or some manifestation of activity thereby. Most likely 99.9 percent misinterpretations of some other phenomena, or products of imagination.

    Given the POSSIBLE import of finding that the other .1 percent represents a manifestation of non-corporeal existence or some previously unknown scientific phenomenon, I believe some level scientific investigation is justified.

    To me, the skepticism expressed by Phil and others sometimes borders on closed-mindedness. Observers are unreliable…evidence is faked…investigators are liars. Investigation is beneath the degnity of science.

    Doesn’t that smack — even a little — of the hubris that most of us who read this blog so deride?

    Les (Friendly Airplane ASylum flack)

  77. kuhnigget

    @ Umtutsut:

    Doesn’t that smack — even a little — of the hubris that most of us who read this blog so deride?

    Hm. No, not really. Good deductive reasoning, I would say. Because for all those thousands of reports, there has never been one shred of physical evidence that stood up to inspection. Therefore, the more logical conclusion is that people misinterpret what they see all the time, and because our lives are relatively short and death often unpleasant, most people are only too happy to interpret some strange sight or feeling as a visitation from beyond the grave, if only to “prove” that death isn’t the end.

    Human nature, not ghosts.

  78. UmTutSut

    @ Bill C.

    “You don’t see the contradiction here? You’re approaching with the notion that the phenomena ARE real, and are beyond the scope of science to accurately investigate – so science would do well to investigate?”

    The phenomena ARE real! People have seen SOMETHING. I don’t know if those apparations represent life after physical death or something else entirely. That’s my point: Investigate with the best possible scientific tools and method to try to determine what we’re dealing with. I don’t “expect” proof, but you won’t know until you try.

    Look, I would love for an apparition to sit down with me and have a chat about who he/she is and how he/she got here. I’d love for an extraterrestrial spacecraft to land on the White House lawn with a gift from a far-off civilization. No question, that would constitute unimpeachable fact.

    But I can’t wrap my head around the idea that those are the ONLY events constituting proof, so it’s beneath the dignity of skeptical inquiry to try anything else.

    We simply agree to disagree, I think.

    Les (Friendly Airplane ASylum flack)

  79. José

    @ Umtutsut
    Given the POSSIBLE import of finding that the other .1 percent represents a manifestation of non-corporeal existence or some previously unknown scientific phenomenon, I believe some level scientific investigation is justified.

    Scientific investigation has been done.

    To me, the skepticism expressed by Phil and others sometimes borders on closed-mindedness. Observers are unreliable…evidence is faked…investigators are liars. Investigation is beneath the dignity of science.

    What more do yo propose skeptics do? I guarantee that the average skeptic has spent far more time investigating things such as this than the average believer has. The problem is that good evidence for paranormal activity is nil.

    Think of scientific mainstays like special relativity and quantum mechanics. Both are more insane sounding and counter intuitive than the idea of ghosts. Yet both are widely accepted for the simple reason that the evidence is there. But when scientists and skeptic apply the same level of scrutiny to things like paranormal activity, they’re accused of being close minded.

  80. quasidog

    WHoa! … maybe I was a bit harsh on Phil. OK I’ll admit that, @Shane. It’s a touchy subject to me.

    @Naked Bunny and @Jose … um … automatic means I would not have to choose to read it. The bit where I said ‘sometimes I wish’ means it’s just a thought. That’s why I used the word automatic. Did you even read the line I wrote after that? The line where I said I will only read ‘astronomy’ posts from now on? That means I am aware of the subject headings .. and have the ability to choose to read just those, and have come to the conclusion that I will do so. What are you trying to correct in my comment? Am I not allowed to say that I mostly don’t like the non-astro ones? Do I have to only ever say suck-uppy positive things about what I read? I am just being honest. Reader feedback is better that way. He can choose to ignore my comment or not. Again. In hindsight I was a bit harsh on poor Phil. I will note never to say anything negative about his posts again .. lest I be flamed to death. :)

    Did anyone note how I said I loved his astro blogs .. and the bit where I said he rocked ?

    Probably not.

    Again … sorry about the ‘sarcasm’ and ‘self righteous’ bit. I was a bit harsh but it was also a little tongue in cheek. My apologies Phil. I actually speak to my friends this way and they to me. Maybe it’s an Australian thing. Meh.

    I still stand by most of my comments.

  81. Leander

    @kuhnigget: I’m not gonna go around looking for your replies to other topics so you can get around saying something intelligent to the topic at hand. If you can’t do that, just admit it. So your Irish grandmother’s testimony of leprechauns is equal to the culturally widespread testimony of ghosts ? If you understand just a tiny bit of the logic and reason actually involved in being a skeptic you should realize how silly that is.

    If Phil was using the lack of evidence for ghosts to counter someone claiming they exist, that’s perfectly legitimate. To counter someone though who’s just interested in finding out whether they do (what he did in this post) with the same argument amounts to an argument from ignorance, UNLESS he can be certain that finding of evidence can be ruled out…and then he has to back up this position like a good scientist would. Of course he’s not really gonna be held accountable on his blog if he doesn’t, where he’s mostly preaching to a devout choir.

    You know that you’re not a truly open and reasonable person, neither a “good” skeptic, if you can’t get statements like “some UFO sightings might be due to ETs” or “ghosts might exist” through your teeth without compulsively adding childish and silly references to pink unicorns, or trying to make fun of the whole topic in some other way. Period.

    If you want to confront people who claim the above statements as truth, be my guest, as the burden of proof is on them. If you want to confront people who want to investigate the mentioned topics, you’re being neither a good scientist nor very reasonable. If you don’t see why, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

  82. UmTutSut

    @ José

    “Scientific investigation has been done.”

    Yes, it has, with equivocal results. Perhaps I should say CONTINUING scientific investigation.

    Les (Friendly Airplane Asylum flack)

  83. Greg in Austin

    @Leander,

    How does this sound: There is no evidence that ghosts (the floating spirit of the deceased) exist. There are no tools or instruments specifically designed to “detect a spirit” because nobody has been able to predict or prove what material a “spirit” is made of. If you or someone else comes up with a method for detecting ghosts, then that would be great. Until then, the fact is, there is no proof that ghosts exist.

    As a good skeptic, you should demand evidence for the claim that ghosts exist.

    8)

  84. Greg in Austin

    UmTutSut said,

    “The phenomena ARE real! People have seen SOMETHING. I don’t know if those apparations represent life after physical death or something else entirely. That’s my point: Investigate with the best possible scientific tools and method to try to determine what we’re dealing with. I don’t “expect” proof, but you won’t know until you try.”

    Hundreds of psychological tests have proven that humans are completely unreliable witnesses when it comes to scientific testing. We’ve known this for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Its the reason the scientific method was invented. You have to rule out all possibilities of human error.

    There are no scientific tools designed to specifically detect ghosts. Think about why that is. How do you build an instrument to measure “spirits” if you cannot say what a spirit is made of?

    And if you think that nobody has tried to scientifically prove ghosts exist, then you haven’t been looking very hard. It has been tried, thousands of times over hundreds of years, and so far the evidence has failed to turn up. Until someone has real, testable, repeatable proof that ghosts are real, it is safe to say that they do not exist.

    8)

  85. Leander

    @Greg

    “As a good skeptic, you should demand evidence for the claim that ghosts exist.”

    Exactly. Nowhere did I disagree with that, on the contrary, in the post you’re replying to I wrote for example: “If you want to confront people who claim the above statements as truth, be my guest, as the burden of proof is on them.” Why do you feel the need then to point this out ?

    Concerning the method of “detecting spirits” – I don’t know what exactly that has to do with my posts either, since Phil didn’t object to investigation of ghosts on these grounds, and my replies are specificially to his flawed objections. Had this been his objection…

    How does this sound: You collect anecdotal evidence, make a selection of spots where “spirit activity” is said to take or have taken place and try to establish whether there’s actually unusual phenomena, for example ones that can be observed by more than one person simultaneously etc. – as a preliminary step.

    If there indeed are such phenomena, based on these observations it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with at least a tentative classification of their nature, and following from that procedures to “measure” them, or attempts to find out whether they show signs of consciousness.

    I’ll quote you here and take some liberty with the quote:

    “There are no tools or instruments specifically designed to figure out what caused the Big Bang because nobody has been able to predict or prove what the nature of “before the Big Bang” is.”

    Yet I don’t see Phil or any of you guys objecting to the abundant speculation about its origins. And before you point out that the speculation in this case is about something that we can be certain has happened in some form while that’s not the case with ghosts – that’s changing your argument, not a reply.

  86. kuhnigget

    @ Leander:

    I’m not gonna go around looking for your replies to other topics so you can get around saying something intelligent to the topic at hand.

    Of course you’re not, because then you’d realize that your “argument” is exactly the same as the ufo nutters, to wit: people want to believe in something, therefore it must exist, despite there being no scientific evidence for it. And no, anecdotal evidence does not count. See Greg’s post above.

    So your Irish grandmother’s testimony of leprechauns is equal to the culturally widespread testimony of ghosts ?

    Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. Both represent the same phenomenon: the popularity of folk beliefs being used as evidence for the actual existence of something for which there is no physical evidence. Doesn’t seem too silly to me.

    To counter someone though who’s just interested in finding out whether they do (what he did in this post) with the same argument amounts to an argument from ignorance, UNLESS he can be certain that finding of evidence can be ruled out…and then he has to back up this position like a good scientist would.

    It’s not up to Phil to find evidence. It’s up to the people who hypothesize the existence of ghosts. No such reliable evidence has been found or presented.

    You know that you’re not a truly open and reasonable person, neither a “good” skeptic, if you can’t get statements like “some UFO sightings might be due to ETs” or “ghosts might exist” through your teeth without compulsively adding childish and silly references to pink unicorns, or trying to make fun of the whole topic in some other way. Period.

    I’ve made lots of replies to those sorts of statements. True believers don’t respond to them, because they don’t like being confronted with the basic fact that there is no evidence for their beliefs.

    If you want to confront people who claim the above statements as truth, be my guest, as the burden of proof is on them. If you want to confront people who want to investigate the mentioned topics, you’re being neither a good scientist nor very reasonable. If you don’t see why, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

    Investigate away! Who’s stopping you? Real scientists don’t investigate ghosts because there is nothing to investigate! There is no evidence for their existence! And I’m not asking for your help, so don’t bother withholding it.

    Now here’s a suggestion, Leander, and I mean this very sincerely. Why don’t you devise a ghost detector, and why don’t you come up with some good, verifiable, testable evidence for their existence? That way you can put all us nasty ol’ skeptics to shame.

    Happy hunting.

  87. Greg in Austin

    @Leander said,

    “To be fair, Phil nowhere claimed explicitly that ghosts don’t exist. Implicitly though that’s what he’s saying, and he’s backing that up with the lack of evidence. Now the crucial point: For this to be a valid support to his claim, it would have to be absolutely certain that no evidence can show up in the future.”

    That is an incorrect statement. In science, when new evidence is discovered, and has gone thru the entire process, it is accepted, even if it contradicts previous evidence. Phil has on many occasions apologized, retracted his statement, and changed his conclusions when new evidence has been brought to his attention. And Phil did say ghosts don’t exist. He said, “There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip.”

    That means, unless you have any credible evidence, ghosts do not exist.

    8)

  88. Greg in Austin

    Leander said,

    “I’ll quote you here and take some liberty with the quote:

    “There are no tools or instruments specifically designed to figure out what caused the Big Bang because nobody has been able to predict or prove what the nature of “before the Big Bang” is.””

    I would appreciate it if you did not. Please do not change the wording of my comments and try to pass it off as a legitimate statement from me.

    We have a great deal of evidence that points to The Big Bang. We have instruments (telescopes, satellites, etc.) that are designed specifically for finding more evidence of the Big Bang. There are entire fields of study dedicated to finding more information about the Big Bang, and there are thousands of amateur and professional astronomers and physicists who spend their entire career studying it. Your statement shows a severe lack of understanding of what science really is.

    8)

  89. Greg in Austin

    Leander said,

    “How does this sound: You collect anecdotal evidence, make a selection of spots where “spirit activity” is said to take or have taken place and try to establish whether there’s actually unusual phenomena, for example ones that can be observed by more than one person simultaneously etc. – as a preliminary step.

    If there indeed are such phenomena, based on these observations it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with at least a tentative classification of their nature, and following from that procedures to “measure” them, or attempts to find out whether they show signs of consciousness.”

    A) Anecdotal evidence is extremely unreliable in scientific studies.
    2) Please define, “unusual phenomena.”
    C) Please describe what tools you will use to measure “unusual phenomena.”
    4) What methods will you use to determine “consciousness?”

    Also, please tell me why you want me to do this?

    8)

  90. NMIlluminati

    There are lots of things that modern science cannot and will not ever explain. The rules of science are set by men to explain things that go beyond human understanding. I am surprised by the number of educated people that do not understand, as the black science of Quantum Physics shows us, that not everything we see is really what is there. And that we tend to find that which we seek, no matter how unseeming the expectations. Empirical observations are doomed and tainted by the very rules of the observations themselves. Newtonian Physics breaks down on the quantum scale, and many of the laws which we are accustomed too, function in a very different manner than expected.

    You will never find empirical data support observation of something that is not empirical in nature; eg ghosts. Does it mean they do not exist? Dreams are commonly held to exist as well, but there is no true physical evidence for them either. Doesn’t make them any less real.

  91. kuhnigget

    @ NM:

    Nice attempt at profundity, but it failed.

    Quantum physics shows us no such thing. The act of observing a particle at a the quantum level may indeed change a characteristic of that particle, but the particle is still there.

    Since when are the woo-woos observing ghosts at a “quantum scale”? Perhaps you know of one that’s haunting a particle accelerator?

    There is so physical evidence for dreams. Your brain undergoes very distinctive physiological changes when it’s active during REM sleep. These changes can be measured and studied….and measured again.

    Try again. Oh, and next time leave out the “beyond human understanding” quackery.

  92. José

    @quasidog
    Did you even read the line I wrote after that? The line where I said I will only read ‘astronomy’ posts from now on?

    I read the part where you said you would “try really hard just to read the astronomy posts” as if it requires some great effort. That part was tongue in cheek.

    What are you trying to correct in my comment?

    The parts not pertaining to your struggles with non astronomy posts.

    Am I not allowed to say that I mostly don’t like the non-astro ones? Do I have to only ever say suck-uppy positive things about what I read? I am just being honest. Reader feedback is better that way. He can choose to ignore my comment or not. Again. In hindsight I was a bit harsh on poor Phil. I will note never to say anything negative about his posts again .. lest I be flamed to death.

    Was Salul flamed for his criticism of Phil? No. And the reason is that is was a well thought out and possibly valid criticism.

    Phil’s post was about the dangers of ignorance. The only way your criticism would apply would be if Phil had proposed some silly, insensitive and culturally ignorant solution for curing the ills of Papua New Guinea like ”Why can’t these savages just hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya”, which he didn’t do.

  93. José

    @kuhnigget
    Are you crazy? You can’t cross the New Mexico Illuminati like that and expect to live. When the doorbell rings, don’t answer it! Just quietly sneak out the back and make for the woods.

  94. UmTutSut

    @ Greg in Austin

    “It has been tried, thousands of times over hundreds of years, and so far the evidence has failed to turn up. Until someone has real, testable, repeatable proof that ghosts are real, it is safe to say that they do not exist.”

    I must not be communicating well. I don’t know if “ghosts are real.” I DO know humans are sensing some phenomenon (or phenomena), and quite a few instances involve multiple individuals observing the same phenomenon and reporting the same details. I don’t KNOW what that phenomenon represents; that’s why I believe scientific study is justified.

    And of course there are “no scientific tools designed to specifically detect ghosts…How do you build an instrument to measure ‘spirits’ if you cannot say what a spirit is made.” This strikes me as a logical fallacy. If we knew what the phenomenon was and its characteristics, why would we have to investigate it? We can only use the tools we have to gather whatever data we can, then try to figure out if those data (e.g. EMF or temperature fluctuations, video images) actually APPLY to the phenomenon previously reported.

    Les (Friendly Airplane Asylum flack)

  95. kuhnigget

    @ José:

    Uh-oh…there’s some tall guy wearing a robe and holding a big shiny dagger standing on the sidewalk. Hm. He seems to be walking with a limp. I’d better go re-read The Da Vinci Code so I know how to deal with him and all his clichéd friends.

  96. kuhnigget

    @ umtuttut:

    ” I DO know humans are sensing some phenomenon (or phenomena),…”

    How do you know they are “sensing” something? How do you know there is any external phenomena involved at all if there is no physical evidence of it? Seems to me like you are trying to support your argument with your own conclusion.

    “How do you build an instrument to measure ’spirits’ if you cannot say what a spirit is made (of).” This strikes me as a logical fallacy.

    The error in logic is presuming that ‘spirits’ are what you are trying to measure. Again, you are making the assumption that your conclusion is correct before you have any evidence to support it. If you truly want to investigate purported “sightings”, you need to open yourself up to the possibility that it could be, and likely is, all in the human mind. The science of psychology will best suit your needs, not “EMF” detectors and video cameras that record dust motes floating around in the air.

  97. Umtuttut, Leander asked earlier why we invoke flying pink unicorns and leprechauns and suggests that it is a graceless way of evading discussion. Far from it. It is a way of illustrating how ridiculous claims of seeing ghosts are without evidence. A person can claim anything. Are we to set up an investigation for every sighting of a leprechaun? Kuhnigget’s granny would probably welcome the idea but it just isn’t possible. So far every single claim has been baseless, without merit, sans evidence. You can’t see the wind but you can see the trees bend. With ghost claims there are no “trees bending”. There’s nothing. Nothing can be measured, captured, computed or inferred. So where do we start? Unfortunately most of the people making claims should probably see a geologist because they have rocks in their heads. :-)

  98. Leander

    @Kuhnigget

    “Of course you’re not, because then you’d realize that your “argument” is exactly the same as the ufo nutters, to wit: people want to believe in something, therefore it must exist, despite there being no scientific evidence for it. And no, anecdotal evidence does not count.”

    Point me to where I defended belief in something in spite of lack of evidence. Point me to where I claimed anecdotal evidence counts as proof for the existence of a phenomenon. Did you actually read and comprehend what I wrote ? Are you seeing things or malevolently making them up ?

    “It’s not up to Phil to find evidence. It’s up to the people who hypothesize the existence of ghosts.”

    You’re a tough nut to crack. Where did I say anything else ? I never said it was up to Phil to find evidence for ghosts. It’s up to him though to find evidence to back up his positions – or to gracefully admit that he’s lowering himself to making logical fallacies to defend his position opposing anything paranormal. To make it clear for you Sir:

    1) He clearly seems to think speculating about ghosts, or trying to get to the bottom of ghost sightings is silly.
    2) These things would only seem silly to a reasonable person if it was established beyond doubt that ghosts don’t exist.
    3) To make it seem as if that’s the case (and following from that, his incredulity towards the topic a reasonable one), he’s using the lack of hard evidence for ghosts as evidence for lack of ghosts.
    4) Acording to Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit, that is the logical fallacy of appeal to ignorance.

    Now the one way for him to get around this fallacious reasoning is to claim that it is absolutely certain that ghosts don’t exist. But that claim he would have to back up all by himself.

    “True believers don’t respond to them, because they don’t like being confronted with the basic fact that there is no evidence for their beliefs.”

    You seem to not like being confronted with the basic fact that lack of evidence for other people’s beliefs is not evidence for your opposing beliefs.

    “[...] because there is nothing to investigate! There is no evidence for their existence!”

    See above. Logical fallacy. Or are YOU claiming now that ghosts definitely, beyond any shadow of doubt, don’t exist ? Then back that up, but not with any further fallacies please.

  99. Leander

    @GregInAustin

    “And Phil did say ghosts don’t exist. He said, “There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip.””

    Exactly, and according to my understanding of the English language, that is not saying that ghosts don’t exist. Between the lines that might be what he’s trying to get across, but he wouldn’t be where he is now if he was not clever enough to skirt around making statements like that explicitly.

    “That means, unless you have any credible evidence, ghosts do not exist.”

    Not as scientifically established fact. But basically everything that is a scientifically established fact today was once not, but existed nonetheless. Something not yet being a scientifically established fact does not rule out its actual existence. Go have a look at that Einstein quote I posted further up. Not because of who made it, but because of the beautiful point it makes – which is completely independent of whether it’s by Einstein or Gyro Gearloose. It says that our body of knowledge (what counts as scientifically established fact) is limited, but that we shouldn’t impose these limitations on our imagination – because this very imagination is what keeps expanding this body of knowledge, and thus is even more important. This body of knowledge will most likely forever be incomplete, so in order to not let incomplete knowledge of reality define what’s real and what’s not, we need our imagination. Please let that sink in.

  100. Leander

    @GregInAustin

    “I would appreciate it if you did not. Please do not change the wording of my comments and try to pass it off as a legitimate statement from me.”

    I didn’t. You quoted me yourself, I said that I took liberties with your quote, how does that constitute passing it off as a legitimate statement from you ? Don’t be so stuck up.

    “We have a great deal of evidence that points to The Big Bang. We have instruments (telescopes, satellites, etc.) that are designed specifically for finding more evidence of the Big Bang. There are entire fields of study dedicated to finding more information about the Big Bang, and there are thousands of amateur and professional astronomers and physicists who spend their entire career studying it.”

    You missed the point my friend, I didn’t talk about the Big Bang, but about its CAUSE (which is obvious in the paragraph you quoted btw.), meaning the part of it that is not even indirectly observable by us, and about which our established laws of physics can make no statements – so basically your whole paragraph was pointless. I admit though that drawing the parallel between the cause of the Big Bang and ghosts was taking it a little too far. While it’s not a universally accepted theory, there’s what could be considered hard evidence for the first, while there’s only anecdotal for the latter. Still, the parallel between both things: “no tools or instruments specifically designed” to measure them, nor anybody who “has been able to predict or prove what material” they are made of. Yet that for you speaks against looking into one of the things in question, but not the other ? Double standard. You should have stuck to arguing hard vs. anecdotal evidence.

  101. Leander

    @GregInAustin

    “A) Anecdotal evidence is extremely unreliable in scientific studies.”

    When will you people learn to stop replying to statements that were not made ? I said we could look into what’s behind the anecdotal evidence, to see if we actually find something to study – not that AE counts in a study.

    “2) Please define, “unusual phenomena.””

    Observable phenomena that are not yet satisfactorily accounted for by natural science.

    “C) Please describe what tools you will use to measure “unusual phenomena.””

    Don’t you think that’s a silly demand at a point where we haven’t established whether there definitely is a phenomenon ?

    “4) What methods will you use to determine “consciousness?””

    I bow to you in respect for being such a great motivator to practice patience and restraint. *sigh*. Jeez, maybe see how whatever phenomenon we might find responds to stimuli ? Kinda like we do with animals to find out more about their consciousness ? Ultimately it will depend on the kind of phenomenon – again, a premature demand.

  102. Leander

    @UmTutSut

    “I must not be communicating well.”

    You’re not alone, I’m doubting my skills of communication as well when I’m on here. What gives me hope though is that nowhere else, in real life or on the web, people so consistently misunderstand me, or so stubbornly reply to statements that were not even made. It’s as if the guys on here have a bunch of answers ready to take on people with an ideology diametrically opposed to theirs, but lack the ability to detect and enter a discussion about shades of grey. That, or there’s some spooky psi-phenomenon going on here, that magically renders what people interested in a level-headed discussion write into incrompehensible nonsense. We should have Phil look into it.

  103. Leander

    So Phil’s position is seemingly that the idea of ghosts, or trying to look into the matter, are silly things. I disagree, and nobody here has yet countered that disagreement with something logical. What I’ve seen on here so far…

    - arguments from ignorance
    - appeals to incredulity
    - many merry little straw-men
    - attempts to ridicule a subject instead of dealing with it rationally

    Let me ask you, what the heck are you people doing on the webpage of a science magazine with the term “discover” in its title ? There are no rational grounds for discounting investigation into and speculation about paranormal phenomena as silly. Nothing in the data accumulated by natural science so far rules out the possibiliy of their existence. “None. Zip.” Depending on your interpretation of that data, their existence might seem unlikely, but that’s all. All you have is your personal opinion that these things are silly, and that’s fine. You can’t use science and logic to support this personal grudge though – you need straw-men, smokescreens and ridicule.

    I can only think of two reasons why an intelligent guy like Phil would lower himself to such tactics – a deeply seated, pathological antipathy towards the topics at hand, or simply peer pressure and politics, both of which are getting in the way of clear and scientific thinking. Giving him the benefit of doubt, it’s the latter. I mean, would you expect him to actually admit that at some point we might find out that ghosts exist, even though that’s the only rational thing to do ? Of course not. What would all his oh so open-minded and scientific fellow skeptics think ? And his fans would probably drop away like flies (he’d probably find some new ones though among the people who are neither dogmatic skeptics, nor dogmatic true-believers, but simply interested in finding out about our world).

    I’m not sure whether in his position I’d have the courage to come out and do the one reasonable thing – stop ridiculing ideas about our universe he or his pals don’t like and instead add his training as scientist to finding out the truth. After all, he’s repeatedly remarked (on UFOs for example) that there’s no hard evidence presented to him – but that he’d love to see some. Then why does he ridicule people trying to find that evidence instead of supporting them with his education and expertise ? If he’s too afraid of the reaction of his fans and peers he should at least have the honesty and dignity to be silent on these topics, instead of against all reason playing the great skeptic.

    It’s sad that he has to stoop to politics, instead of keeping his spine straight for science. I’d love to see guys like him and investigators of the paranormal calmly come together in the name of science to find out about our world, instead of keeping on butting heads for a battle between rigid dogmas. He should focus on being a scientist and an educator instead of an ideoligist and politician. It’s clearly not his strong suit, and while he doesn’t seem to notice, in his sphere of influence he’s definitely doing our collective quest for knowledge a disservice.

  104. Leander

    @AndyN

    Sorry, totally overlooked your reply…

    “No, that’s wrong. They illustrate EITHER that our understanding is not thorough, OR that paranormal activity doesn’t exist. You’ve assumed the first.”

    You misunderstood me – of course, had I been speaking about the gap that is the lack of hard evidence for the paranormal, you would have been right – it’s

    either a lack of understanding, or a lack of the paranormal. But I was not talking about gaps concerning the paranormal, I was simply talking about the gaps

    in our understanding of the world in general. And there’s some big ones. I don’t remember who used that image, but it’s spot on – our current physical

    understanding of the world is an ugly bastard of two theories that as of yet don’t fit together very well. Not to speak of our understanding of

    consciousness. Yes, incredible advances recently, but a tiny fraction of the way still to go. Those are some pretty essential gaps.

    And the point I made was, that as long as our understanding of reality has these or any gaps at all, no one can with certainty claim the nonexistence of anything.

  105. Julian

    “Point me to where I defended belief in something in spite of lack of evidence. ”

    Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t you defending belief in the paranormal despite the lack of evidence?

    “It’s up to him though to find evidence to back up his positions – or to gracefully admit that he’s lowering himself to making logical fallacies to defend his position opposing anything paranormal.”

    It’s perfectly reasonable to dismiss a proposition with no evidence behind it especially when the idea is based entirely on myths and legends.

    “3) To make it seem as if that’s the case (and following from that, his incredulity towards the topic a reasonable one), he’s using the lack of hard evidence for ghosts as evidence for lack of ghosts.”

    but that’s just the thing, for creatures that people have believed in for ages no one has in all that time been able to return with a shred of credible evidence. If you keep looking and nothing is ever found what can you conclude other then there’s nothing to find?

    “Observable phenomena that are not yet satisfactorily accounted for by natural science.”

    Then autism is supernatural???

    “Still, the parallel between both things: “no tools or instruments specifically designed” to measure them, nor anybody who “has been able to predict or prove what material” they are made of. Yet that for you speaks against looking into one of the things in question, but not the other ? Double standard.”

    There’s no double standard. You admit it yourself we have reason to believe the Big Bang happened because of hard data whereas for ghosts there’s nothing but drinking stories.

    “After all, he’s repeatedly remarked (on UFOs for example) that there’s no hard evidence presented to him – but that he’d love to see some. Then why does he ridicule people trying to find that evidence instead of supporting them with his education and expertise ?”

    Because they aren’t trying to find that evidence and when a story is debunked they respond like raving howler monkey and try to move the goal posts?

  106. Leander, it is all very good to be sceptical of sceptics but the problem is that there has to be something to investigate. As I said above (you might have missed it because it was directed at Umtutsut) about pink unicorns…

    Umtuttut, Leander asked earlier why we invoke flying pink unicorns and leprechauns and suggests that it is a graceless way of evading discussion. Far from it. It is a way of illustrating how ridiculous claims of seeing ghosts are without evidence. A person can claim anything. Are we to set up an investigation for every sighting of a leprechaun? Kuhnigget’s granny would probably welcome the idea but it just isn’t possible. So far every single claim has been baseless, without merit, sans evidence. You can’t see the wind but you can see the trees bend. With ghost claims there are no “trees bending”. There’s nothing. Nothing can be measured, captured, computed or inferred. So where do we start? Unfortunately most of the people making claims should probably see a geologist because they have rocks in their heads.

    We can not prove a negative. Ghosts, god, fairies and pink unicorns may indeed exist but until some verifiable evidence is produced no amount of anecdotal claims will suffice. Because a person can claim anything for all intents and purposes they don’t exist. We’ll happily look at evidence when and if it is produced but until then…

    You’re right. You were stretching it a bit comparing ghosts with the cause of the big bang. We have evidence that the big bang happened. If it happened it had a cause. We don’t know the cause yet and we may never know but at least we can infer that it did.

  107. Julian

    forgot to add this.

    “And the point I made was, that as long as our understanding of reality has these or any gaps at all, no one can with certainty claim the nonexistence of anything.”

    A piece of evidence doesn’t just give support to a position. It also discredits most, if not all, others. The more evidence the more certain a given position is and the weaker all opposing ones are.

  108. kuhnigget

    @ Leander:

    And it starts. Really, truthfully. Check out the UFO threads. You are comically in sync with them, including the tendency to repeat yourself, only using many more words to do so.

    1) He clearly seems to think speculating about ghosts, or trying to get to the bottom of ghost sightings is silly.

    No, he (Dr. BA) thinks chasing after ghosts with phony “scientific” equipment operated by people who make claims that dust motes are ectoplasm is silly. It is.

    2) These things would only seem silly to a reasonable person if it was established beyond doubt that ghosts don’t exist.

    It has been so established. There is no evidence for them. There never has been. Never once in recorded human history has there been verifiable, testable evidence for a ghost. Pretty damn reasonable.

    3) To make it seem as if that’s the case (and following from that, his incredulity towards the topic a reasonable one), he’s using the lack of hard evidence for ghosts as evidence for lack of ghosts.

    Not lack of hard evidence…lack of any evidence. And how else would one use such a lack of evidence? It’s the invisible unicorn again…

    4) Acording to Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit, that is the logical fallacy of appeal to ignorance.

    I don’t think you’ve actually read The Demon Haunted World. Step one in Sagan’s “kit” is this: Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

    In the case of ghosts, this is a show-stopper as, wait for it… there is no evidence! You can’t confirm facts that don’t exist.

    Now the one way for him to get around this fallacious reasoning is to claim that it is absolutely certain that ghosts don’t exist.

    See responses by others. Dr. BA’s reasoning is not fallacious and it is not up to him to find evidence to refute a theory that has no evidence supporting it. That is not the way science works.

    You seem to not like being confronted with the basic fact that lack of evidence for other people’s beliefs is not evidence for your opposing beliefs.

    I have no “beliesf”. I have a conclusion based upon the evidence. To wit: no evidence for ghosts.

    Or are YOU claiming now that ghosts definitely, beyond any shadow of doubt, don’t exist ?

    I am stating the arguments for the existence of ghosts are utterly, absolutely, completely without merit because they produce no evidence to support them. Just as there is no evidence for leprechauns and I therefore conclude they do not exist.

    Now if you’d like to convince me otherwise, I’d be happy to examine your evidence for a different conclusion.
    Please present it.

    what the heck are you people doing on the webpage of a science magazine with the term “discover” in its title ? There are no rational grounds for discounting investigation into and speculation about paranormal phenomena as silly.

    Are you for real? The fact that you put “paranormal” and “science” in the same paragraph suggests otherwise. Science, by definition is the study of the natural world. If something by definition is beyond the natural world, doesn’t have to conform to its laws, doesn’t leave evidence that can be measured and tested, that something is not a phenomenon that can be studied by science.

    Nothing in the data accumulated by natural science so far rules out the possibiliy of their existence.

    Now you’ve stepped over the official nutter line. Although in a certain light, you are right. “Natural science” has not seen anything in the data yet…BECAUSE THERE IS NO DATA!

  109. IVAN3MAN

    Science fiction author and critic Bruce Sterling noted in his essay in CATSCAN 13:

    Online communication can wonderfully liberate the tender soul of some well-meaning personage who, for whatever reason, is physically uncharismatic. Unfortunately, online communication also fertilizes the eccentricities of hopeless cranks, who at last find themselves in firm possession of a wondrous soapbox that the Trilateral Commission and the Men In Black had previously denied them. [My emphasis.]

  110. kuhnigget

    BTW, Leander, this is the stage in the process where you:

    a) Post your argument yet again, addressed to someone else,

    b) Quietly fade away,

    c) State something to the effect of “you people are too close-minded, I’m can’t have a real discussion about this incredibly important subject”, or

    d) Actually present some evidence backing up your thesis.

    My bets have been placed.

  111. Leander

    @Julian

    “Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t you defending belief in the paranormal despite the lack of evidence?”

    I’m not. I defend considering the topic and looking into it. Maybe you wanna take it upon you though to find a quote where I defended belief in the paranormal or anything without evidence ?

    “It’s perfectly reasonable to dismiss a proposition with no evidence behind it…”

    Sure, nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what he’s doing. He seems to dismiss the possiblity that in the future evidence might be found for that proposition. I’ve explained before in detail why he’s doing so, and why that is unreasonable. And noone can go and claim that the phenomenon was investigated in-depth – it’s always been a fringe area, to an extent where even, every once in a while, skeptic investigators have complained that “real” research isn’t being done. Way too premature to dismiss it.

    “…especially when the idea is based entirely on myths and legends.”

    Uhm, no. Present-day witness reports (whatever might be behind them) occuring on a regular basis are not equal to “myths and legends” – that’s just, plain and simple, false. I wonder why you’d want to make it look like that though.

    “If you keep looking and nothing is ever found what can you conclude other then there’s nothing to find?”

    Not in a universe this vast with no consensus in the scientific community on questions like the nature of consciousness and substance, or their relationship – or heck, not even on the nature of 96% of the universe. To suggest a stop for further investigation into areas that involve these questions (after all ghosts directly relate to consciousness and its properties) would be a little premature, to say the least. Unless you don’t really wanna find out certain things. “It’s us, being curious. That’s science.” – Phil Plait

    And “keep looking” ? You mean because we have been looking so vigourously so far ? See above. What a two-faced statement. All over the place guys like you and Phil don’t do anything but spewing ridicule over these things, making it hard for any scientist genuinely interested in these phenomena – instead of in defending ideologies – to move these topics out of the fringe areas without getting their reputaion tarnished – yet here you go and make it look as if these things have been investigated on a mainstream scale by science ? Ridiculous. I tell you what – all you people and scientists who think these ideas so laughable that you’d rather have them go away, put a final nail in their coffin once and for all, if you feel so sure. Move them out of the fringes, start up some large scale studies, and do away with it all. What are you so afraid of ? To fail, because that would upset your small, comfortable universe ? Or to succeed, and then nothing left for you to scoff at to make yourselves feel better ?

    “Then autism is supernatural???”

    Do you think so ? I don’t. Do you think Dark Flow is supernatural ? Do you think “observable phenomena that are not yet satisfactorily accounted for by natural science” have to be “supernatural” ? What are you even trying to achieve by injecting this term into the discussion ? Would you care to define your usage of the term ? Explain why ghosts would be supernatural. As far as I know, physics doesn’t make any statements about consciousness that would be violated if ghosts exist.

    “There’s no double standard.”

    Yes there is. When you draw the parallel not between the kind of evidence available for the phenomena, but between their both not being readily quantifiable, they’re pretty much the same.

    “You admit it yourself we have reason to believe the Big Bang happened because of hard data whereas for ghosts there’s nothing but drinking stories.”

    Calling anecdotal evidence by people who experienced something they can’t explain, yet are not so afraid to be ridiculed by people like you that they would keep it from the rest of the world, “drinking stories” is resorting to unfair tactics – and doesn’t really come across very logical or scientific. Why do you feel the need to resort to this kind of tactic ? Surely if you’d feel your position was a safe one there’d be a more sophisticated and civilized way of argumenting, no ?

    “Because they aren’t trying to find that evidence and when a story is debunked they respond like raving howler monkey and try to move the goal posts?”

    A part of the people does, but there’s people genuinely interested in finding out the truth. No sane person would argue that. All SciFi fans are geeks ? All computer programmers are nerds ? All scientists are eggheads ? All fantasy fans are virgins ? Is that your simple view of the world ? If not, what’s your interest in making it look that simple ? Because if you claim (against your knowing better) all people interested in these things are nutjobs, you can more easily dismiss all of the people interested in the paranormal ?
    And besides witnesses there’s scientists out there really investigating these things. Phil could just join them, instead of mocking the whole affair, if he’s really honest about his enthusiasm about evidence were it to be found.

    “A piece of evidence doesn’t just give support to a position. It also discredits most, if not all, others. The more evidence the more certain a given position is and the weaker all opposing ones are.”

    I know. Where are you going with this ? As Shane so aptly remarked, you can never prove a negative – so there never can be evidence for the position that ghosts don’t exist, and so the opposing position that they do can not be discredited by these means. As for no hard evidence for ghosts having been found yet, see my answer above to your question “If you keep looking and nothing is ever found what can you conclude other then there’s nothing to find?”.

  112. Leander

    @Shane

    “You can’t see the wind but you can see the trees bend. With ghost claims there are no “trees bending”.”

    I beg to differ. I consider people reporting sightings of ghosts or UFOs “bending trees”. Why they bend is the question. To broadly assume without backing this assumption up that they’re all liars or nutjobs and nothing’s going on beyond that, is very unscientific. If this is your explanation of these things – back it up ! Just prove that they’re all lying or nutjobs, instead of making a a generalizing assumption in the most unscientific way.

    “We can not prove a negative. Ghosts, god, fairies and pink unicorns may indeed exist but until some verifiable evidence is produced no amount of anecdotal claims will suffice.”

    If that’s your position, I wonder why you are not among the people suggesting these fringe areas should become objects of mainstream science. Shouldn’t you not be interested in these things as a curious person ?

  113. Leander

    @kuhnigget

    So you’re the one around here defining the “nutter line” ? Hm, I can see why that would be so.

    “including the tendency to repeat yourself, only using many more words to do so.”

    Well, I’m sorry, but it seems to take so many words with you. I don’t like repeating myself, but if you so insistently address claims I didn’t even make and fail to understand what I’m really saying…what else can I do ?

    “No, he (Dr. BA) thinks chasing after ghosts with phony “scientific” equipment operated by people who make claims that dust motes are ectoplasm is silly. It is.”

    Like I said, then he should lend his scientific expertise and suggest a better way of investigation, or stop whining.

    “It has been so established. There is no evidence for them.”

    I know, I’m repeating myself. But you know, so do you. You keep throwing this fallacious line of reasoning at me. Lack of evidence for a phenomenon does not establish its non-existence. I indeed haven’t read “The Demon Haunted World” in full, but I don’t need to to understand this simple logic. Sadly, for you reading the book doesn’t seem to have done much. If you want me to stop repeating myself – work on your understanding of appeal to ignorance, until you see why your reasoning is fallacious.

    “Not lack of hard evidence…lack of any evidence.”

    Blatantly false. Are you even serious, or are you trying to frustrate me until I go away ? There’s no hard evidence, but heaps of anecdotal evidence don’t equal no evidence at all.

    “You can’t confirm facts that don’t exist.”

    Again, you seem to think you know more than the rest of the world – namely that ghosts don’t exist. If you wanna claim there’s no hard evidence, fine. But there’s no grounds for saying they don’t exist at all – it’s a negative claim. And like Shane said, you can’t prove a negative. So a negative claim can never be backed up, which makes me wonder…who in his right mind would claim a negative as fact ?

    “BA’s reasoning is not fallacious and it is not up to him to find evidence to refute a theory that has no evidence supporting it.”

    You know, you’re not really in a position to accuse others of repeating themselves. Nowhere – ABSOLUTELY EFFIN NOWHERE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD – have I said it’s up to him to find evidence for other people’s claims. STOP MAKING IT LOOK LIKE I SAID THAT ! Or back up your idea that that’s what I’m saying with a quote. Until now you have failed to do so.

    “I have no “beliesf”. I have a conclusion based upon the evidence. To wit: no evidence for ghosts.”

    If you have gone back by now and studied your “Baloney Detection Kit” a little more in-depth, you know the answer to that. Just saying – I don’t wanna keep repeating myself, you know ?

    “Just as there is no evidence for leprechauns and I therefore conclude they do not exist.”

    ………..*thump*

    “Now if you’d like to convince me otherwise, I’d be happy to examine your evidence for a different conclusion.
    Please present it.”

    Please present a quote that shows how exactly it is my mission to concinve people of the existence of ghosts, let alone that it is my conviction that ghosts exist. Thank you.

    “Are you for real? The fact that you put “paranormal” and “science” in the same paragraph suggests otherwise.”

    I don’t really see why they wouldn’t be mentioned together like that. And you know what, if you can refer me to old UFO threads, then I’ll just take the liberty to refer you to a dictionary to figure out why I thank that. It is, after all, quite exhausting to answer you.

    “Although in a certain light, you are right. “Natural science” has not seen anything in the data yet…BECAUSE THERE IS NO DATA!”

    Tell me what principle or law of physics that arises from presently known scientific data rules out the continuity of consciousness, and its appearance in some form to the living. And just in case, your lack of imagination is not a physical law.

  114. Leander

    @kuhnigget

    “a) Post your argument yet again, addressed to someone else,”

    I’ll post any argument, in response to points made by someone else, in modified (hopefully clarified) form, as long as it takes for whoever is addressed to to exhibit signs of actually understanding it – and I’ll do so as my time permits. That’s what I consider respectful discourse. I don’t really see your point, unless of course, you’d rather have mud-slinging.

    “b) Quietly fade away,”

    Sorry, no such luck, even though it sometimes might seem like that. You know, “real life” stuff getting in the way of these funny little exchanges. Though sometimes I wonder whether your stamina when it comes to responding to things not even said, or veering completely off-topic, are really due to misunderstanding, or a tactic to get me to do exactly that – quietly fade away, because your tiresome by-the-book arguments don’t really apply to what I’m trying to tell you, and you’re just lost in cases like that.

    “c) State something to the effect of “you people are too close-minded, I’m can’t have a real discussion about this incredibly important subject”, or”

    You heard that before ? Hm, I wonder why. Me personally, in cases like that, I start to wonder whether it’s really all the people who keep telling me this that are somehow wrong – or whether it’s just me. Maybe you wanna try Ockham’s Razor on that one.

    “d) Actually present some evidence backing up your thesis.”

    And what’s the thesis that needs backing up ? With quotes please, because you’ve repeatedly failed to back up with quotes the things you claim I’m stating.

  115. Leander

    I’ve said it’s unreasonable to discount an idea like Phil is doing. The ideas of ghosts, continuity of consciousness, the afterlife etc. are not off the

    table for many decent, reasonable, science- & “reality-loving” people – even respected scientists. If you don’t know that, you should leave that comfy circle

    of people who think like you every once in a while to broaden your horizon. So why do you want them to be off the table ? Actually it’s you guys who have

    been repeating yourselves – you keep saying “because there’s no evidence”. And that’s a reason to not take an idea as fact – but that’s all. No evidence for

    ideas that are not off the table doesn’t mean anything. Not if the ideas have never been subject to large-scale mainstream scientific investigation, but

    instead ridicule and pathological opposition. Not if a thorough understanding of the involved factors, substance and consciousness, is still lacking and

    updated. Not if our methods of investigating these things are constantly evolving and getting more sophisticated. No self-respecting person, especially not

    scientists, would under these circumstance ridicule an idea and be so hellbent on making it look as if it was not worth considering – except for ideological

    reasons. And this is the part where the ideals of science, a quest for knowledge, are stabbed in the back.

    The people I mentioned above can calmly talk about unexplained phenomena, the possibility of ghosts, ETs visiting us etc. without going into attack mode,

    without making attempts to ridicule these things, without calling people who are intrested in these ideas “woo-woos”, “nutjobs” and “crackpots”. What does

    that say about people though who do resort to that kind of behaviour, like Phil and you guys ? Behaviour like that shows an underlying aggression. That’s

    what’s necessary to ridicule someone, to call them names. Aggression. It is usually a response to being threatened in one way or another – in discussions

    like these clearly not on a physical, but on an ideological level. But if you were okay with the fact that you don’t have all the answers and actually might

    be wrong – why would you feel threatened by people whose ideas suggest that ? Only if you’re not okay with the fact that you might be wrong, only if you need

    your favoured explanation of the world to be right could you ever feel threatened by suggestions that the world doesn’t work the way you think it does – even

    if there’s no evidence for that yet. But this is irrational behaviour that gets in the way of clear thinking, to which the scientific method belongs. The

    science community would be a better place if it was free from people feeling the need to protect their views, especially when it’s in such primitive ways.

  116. Julian

    Not in a universe this vast with no consensus in the scientific community on questions like the nature of consciousness and substance, or their relationship

    This has nothing to do with anything. Don’t change the topic. We’re talking about ghosts/ufos/demons ect not what matter is. Support your belief in the supernatural.

    Calling anecdotal evidence by people who experienced something they can’t explain, yet are not so afraid to be ridiculed by people like you that they would keep it from the rest of the world, “drinking stories” is resorting to unfair tactics

    That’s exactly what a drinking story is. Taking an event you don’t entirely understand, jumping to conclusions about it and bragging about to your friends while updating it every few times you tell it.

    Besides this is more misdirection. We’re talking about credible evidence, right? You have none for ghosts/demons/possessions ect.

    Explain why ghosts would be supernatural.

    -_-

    And “keep looking” ? You mean because we have been looking so vigourously so far ?

    judging by all the paranormal shows on t.v.

    What are you so afraid of ? To fail, because that would upset your small, comfortable universe ?

    Even more misdirection. You can’t provide evidence for your belief in the supernatural so you’re going to attack me, Phil and anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

    btw, I’m sure you could get the money you want from some hollywood couple if you tried. My question is, why don’t? Why don’t you find some rich donor (like many scientists do) to fund your research and then submit your findings to scrutiny? Do you have somehting to hide?

    A part of the people does, but there’s people genuinely interested in finding out the truth. No sane person would argue that.

    can you name these people and the controlled trials they are performing?

    And lay off the ad homs.

    Nowhere – ABSOLUTELY EFFIN NOWHERE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD – have I said it’s up to him to find evidence for other people’s claims.

    You’ve been calling for Phil to investigate the paranormal and find evidence for it since you started posting here. Please stop lying.

  117. @ Leander:

    january 14, 10:23:
    You know, you’re not really in a position to accuse others of repeating themselves. Nowhere – ABSOLUTELY EFFIN NOWHERE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD – have I said it’s up to him to find evidence for other people’s claims. STOP MAKING IT LOOK LIKE I SAID THAT ! Or back up your idea that that’s what I’m saying with a quote. Until now you have failed to do so.

    january 14, 10:23:
    “No, he (Dr. BA) thinks chasing after ghosts with phony “scientific” equipment operated by people who make claims that dust motes are ectoplasm is silly. It is.”
    Like I said, then he should lend his scientific expertise and suggest a better way of investigation, or stop whining.

    Forgive the confusion. But then I guess “lending one’s scientific expertise” isn’t really the same as finding evidence for others, or doing their jobs for them. And tell me again how a scientist – any scientist – is supposed to devise better detection methods for a phenomenon for which there has never been any physical evidence, is not predicted as a side effect of any known natural processes, nor is suggested as an outcome of any other scientific theory or hypothesis?

    I know you don’t like the leprechaun analogy, but honestly, do you really not see the parallels? In Celtic cultures the little people were “sighted” and believed in just as aggressively as your ghost-hunters see and believe in ghosts. You could dig up tons of anecdotal evidence from folklore and tradition. You, personally, may find little green guys wearing spats and dancing jigs silly, but devising “scientific” methods of searching for them is no more irrational than trying to do the same for ghosts. Hand to face. Smack! (Since we’re now adding sound effects.)

    Please present a quote that shows how exactly it is my mission to concinve people of the existence of ghosts, let alone that it is my conviction that ghosts exist.

    Then what is your mission? To encourage scientists to hunt for ghosts? Why, when there are so many better, more interesting, more productive areas of research that actually conform to the laws of nature and have mounds of evidence to back them up? Honestly, I guess I just don’t understand your motivation.

    Tell me what principle or law of physics that arises from presently known scientific data rules out the continuity of consciousness, and its appearance in some form to the living.

    Now this is an interesting question. First off, as I’m sure I don’t need to say, our understanding of consciousness is incredibly spotty. However, we can state a few things unequivocally. First and foremost…consciousness seems to require life (I’m going to ignore artificial intelligence for a moment. I’m sure you’re okay if we assume for now ghosts aren’t artificial constructs?), which requires a biological host. Rocks aren’t alive. Long-dead pieces of wood and plant matter aren’t alive. No rocks or dead plants have ever shown any sign of being aware. So, to put it another way, consciousness requires a medium to carry it around, and that medium must be supported by on-going biological processes that provide fuel for electro-chemical processes that – somehow! – create our thoughts and our self-awareness.

    That’s where the conflicts with “ghosts” start coming into play. Consciousness seems to require a complex mechanism like a brain, filled with gazillions of synapses firing off (some of the most active ones firing over a thousand times a second, if memory serves) continuously. How can consciousness continue if the synapses stop firing and the brain dies? How can it continue when the medium and the processes that create it are no longer there? Look what happens when a brain is even slightly damaged: consciousness is radically handicapped, even destroyed. Everything we’ve learned about how the brain functions tells us that it’s “hold” on conscious thought is incredibly tenuous. Take away even a bit of the biological stuff it needs and poof! It’s gone. Yet the concept of a “ghost” as a conscious entity flies in the face of all that. A ghost is consciousness without a brain, without synapses, without electro-chemistry, without an energy source, without all the stuff that scientists have found life as we know it needs.

    So, yeah, it’s kind of a leap, don’t you think? And that’s not even getting into the whole “why do ‘ghosts’ wear clothes” angle. But…why do they? Why does a huge chunk of all that anecdotal evidence you love to cite include observations of ghosts wearing clothes? Or carrying objects?

    The usual new-agey response to that conundrum is something to the effect of, “Oh, well, that’s just the observer’s interpretation of the phenomenon.” Yeah, well, if that door is opened, then why not just accept that the phenomenon is all a result of the observer’s interpretation…interpretation of events that don’t lie outside the bounds of the well-established natural laws? Since you bring up Occam’s Razor, perhaps you’d care to wield it on that one.

    No evidence for ideas that are not off the table doesn’t mean anything. Not if the ideas have never been subject to large-scale mainstream scientific investigation, but instead ridicule and pathological opposition. Not if a thorough understanding of the involved factors, substance and consciousness, is still lacking and
    updated. Not if our methods of investigating these things are constantly evolving and getting more sophisticated.

    But, Leander, the evidence has been investigated. Repeatedly. Throughout history there have been rational people looking into accounts of ghosts and supernatural phenomena. No one has ever found anything. Nothing!

    And how are our methods evolving? How is the TV program cited by Dr. BA evidence of this? “Investigators” carrying around electrician’s voltmeters and video cameras taping backlit dust particles? This is more sophisticated? No, it isn’t.

    The science community would be a better place if it was free from people feeling the need to protect their views, especially when it’s in such primitive ways.

    This, Leander, will be our biggest disagreement. Science is the most powerful tool we have to study and understand the universe. A scientist must be constantly forced to defend his views – with testable and verifiable evidence – in order to assure that the insight those views may provide are sound.

    If scientists suddenly could start claiming their findings were true without defense, simply because they want to believe, or because their feelings might get hurt, then we’d be back in the dark ages when Truth was defined by decree, not investigation.

    I cannot emphasize that last bit enough.

    Have a nice night.

  118. @Leander “I consider people reporting sightings of ghosts or UFOs “bending trees””

    No, they’re just anecdotes. No branches whipping around, not even a leaf falling. No independent verification, no photos, no weather reports, no nothing. So how do we start looking? Who said we hadn’t?

    I’m as curious about these things as the next person but anecdotal evidence is almost worthless. Most people are fallible when in comes to observation. But, again, there is nothing left behind, no photos, no evidence. As we have been trying say any one person can claim anything. We can not give the same weight to every claim or anecdote as a claim that has some verifiable evidence. If it can’t be tested, inferred, measured or whatever it may as well not exist.

    As an aside, many observers see or hear what they want or expect to hear. I’ve listened to friends tapes of visit to clairvoyants where my friends will claim all sorts predictions or observations from the clairvoyant but when I’ve listened I’ve heard nothing but vague generalisations or the clairvoyant will repeat verbatim what my friend has said earlier in the session and my friend will claim it as evidence of the clairvoyant’s spooky powers. We humans are funny creatures.

  119. Leander

    @Julian

    “This has nothing to do with anything. Don’t change the topic. We’re talking about ghosts/ufos/demons ect not what matter is.”

    Wait a minute, last time I checked ghosts were the continued consciousness after death of an organism, and making themselves visible to such an organism through this very organism’s sense organs that are made of substance and evolved to perceive substance – how exactly am I changing the subject ?

    “Support your belief in the supernatural.”

    Support your belief that I belief in the supernatural. Please, by all means, do.

    “Taking an event you don’t entirely understand, jumping to conclusions about it and bragging about to your friends while updating it every few times you tell it.”

    How can you be sure that that’s what EVERY SINGLE WITNESS is doing ? Would you care to back it up, if that generalized idea is indeed what you think ?

    “We’re talking about credible evidence, right? You have none for ghosts/demons/possessions ect.”

    Why would I have to ? Did claim ghosts etc. exist ? Where did I do so ? So far you’re building a post entirely on straw-men.

    “Explain why ghosts would be supernatural.

    -_-”

    No, seriously, explain – if you wanna make a point. And it’s up to you to define terms you introduce into the discussion for whatever reason. You got no right accusing me (wrongly even) of misdirection if you evade things like that.

    “judging by all the paranormal shows on t.v.”

    That made my day. So now when it suits you these shows suddenly count as mainstream scientific investigation ? Good one. Bending things like you need them, huh ? If they do count though – I wonder why Phil doesn’t like them.

    “You can’t provide evidence for your belief in the supernatural so you’re going to attack me, Phil and anyone who doesn’t agree with you.”

    No. Because there’s no belief in the supernatural I need anybody to agree on. Again, back up this assumption or stop making it to evade addressing what I really said.

    “Why don’t you find some rich donor (like many scientists do) to fund your research and then submit your findings to scrutiny? Do you have somehting to hide?”

    Misdirection, huh ? My research ? what the hell are you even talking about ?

    “can you name these people and the controlled trials they are performing?”

    For example the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, the Parapsychological Association (affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science), the society for Psychical Research, or the Society for Scientific Exploration. But that you don’t seem to be aware of these just supports the fact that it’s not mainstream science, and never has been. Thanks for making my point.

    “And lay off the ad homs.”

    Like ?

    “You’ve been calling for Phil to investigate the paranormal and find evidence for it since you started posting here. Please stop lying.”

    I’m not lying. I nowhere said that it’s up to Phil to support other people’s claims with evidence. I DID say that instead of just complaining about ways of finding evidence, he should maybe suggest a way to do it better. Seriously, how do you like it when you try to do something, and someone is standing next to you just complaining how you’re not doing it right ? And would you not expect that person to shut up or contribute someting other than complaints ? And do you see how that’s not the same as expecting the person to do your job altogether ? If that difference is not too subtle for you, you have no business calling me a liar and hold me responsible for supposed ad-hominems. If this wasn’t the blog it is, I’d expect an apology. But I guess I’ll never get that in a place where people flatout call everyone a nutter or liar who can’t provide evidence for an experience they made, the nature of which you just don’t like.

  120. Leander

    @kuhnigget

    “Forgive the confusion. But then I guess “lending one’s scientific expertise” isn’t really the same as finding evidence for others, or doing their jobs for them.”

    Fogiven. But yeah, you nailed it – it’s not the same. See my reply to Julian.

    “And tell me again how a scientist – any scientist – is supposed to devise better detection methods for a phenomenon for which there has never been any physical evidence, is not predicted as a side effect of any known natural processes, nor is suggested as an outcome of any other scientific theory or hypothesis?”

    He wouldn’t necessarily have to devise a better detection method. One way of intervening would maybe be – if he is indeed as fond of educating people as he claims – to tell these guys – mind you, without calling them nutjobs and the like – in a manner that suits a true educator, why their approach is not scientific, and what needs to be done before it can be so. For example establish whether it’s a physical or psychological phenomenon etc. Don’t see why that would be so hard, but I guess it’s hard to get someone to listen to your advice when you can’t sop peppering it with ridicule and insults.

    “You could dig up tons of anecdotal evidence from folklore and tradition. You, personally, may find little green guys wearing spats and dancing jigs silly, but devising “scientific” methods of searching for them is no more irrational than trying to do the same for ghosts. Hand to face. Smack! (Since we’re now adding sound effects.)”

    Ouch ! Man, you really gave it to me there, respect. I don’t find these little guys silly. I was conditioned to do so, but conditioning and looking for truth don’t really mix well, so I don’t let myself get influenced by the former. If the number of people who, today, still witness leprechauns, I guess I would see no reasons not too look into it to find out what’s the root of these sightings. You know, as a “reality-loving” person I don’t like making broad asumptions about something without proper investigation – neither in the form of ruling out something that seems silly according to my cultural conditioning, neither by assuming everybody who claims something I find unlikely through the lens of these conditionings is a liar or nutter. That’s neither “reality-loving” nor civilized.

    “Then what is your mission?”

    So you couldn’t find anything to backup your claim that my mission was promoting belief in ghosts ?

    “Why, when there are so many better, more interesting, more productive areas of research that actually conform to the laws of nature and have mounds of evidence to back them up? Honestly, I guess I just don’t understand your motivation.”

    It’s okay, don’t worry. Like I’ve stated before though, I find the possible continuity of consciousness and what that would entail if indeed were true to be a very fascinating area of research.

    “How can consciousness continue if the synapses stop firing and the brain dies? How can it continue when the medium and the processes that create it are no longer there?”

    You said it yourself: “our understanding of consciousness is incredibly spotty”, and you repeatedly, yourself, use the word “seems” when you state that consciousness needs a host. So, as long as this is the case – spotty understanding and something seemingly being the case – how can the model assuming that rule out alternative ones, when it rests on such shaky ground – as you yourself make clear ?

    “Yet the concept of a “ghost” as a conscious entity flies in the face of all that”

    Only if you assume without evidence that consciousness indeed needs a host – what only “seemingly” is the case. Furthermore we have no idea whether consciousness depends on the brain (is the brain or is generated by it), or whether the brain just acts as transmitter/receiver. In the latter case, if the brain is damaged, the interaction of consciousness with the brain would suffer. If you then assume, again without evidence, that consciousness is the brain or generated by the brain, you’d not find anything contradicting this idea – while it still might be false. So I don’t think it’s a leap at all. Our understaning is spotty enough to not rule out any of these models.

    “And that’s not even getting into the whole “why do ‘ghosts’ wear clothes” angle. But…why do they?”

    Well, to conclude that it is strange for ghosts to appear in clothes, you’d need to know something about the nature of ghosts, and I personally, don’t. And I think not knowing anything for fact about such an idea is shaky grounds to call any proposed property of this idea “strange”.

    So again…how would ghosts violate our understanding of the physical world ? I know you didn’t introduce the term, but maybe you wanna answer (or not, fine too) why ghosts should be considered supernatural then ?

    “No one has ever found anything. Nothing!”

    Strange that they’re still looking here and there (and so far it never has been more than “here and there”) – if indeed they are as certain as you that there’s nothing to investigate.

    “And how are our methods evolving? How is the TV program cited by Dr. BA evidence of this? “Investigators” carrying around electrician’s voltmeters and video cameras taping backlit dust particles? This is more sophisticated? No, it isn’t.”

    I didn’t specify which methods I was referring to, so you just assume I was referring to the easiest ones for you to discount ? No, in fact I was referring to our studies of consciousness as done in the neurosciences, for example. Would you dispute that our methods of investigation are getting more and more sophisticated there ? And if they are, would that not mean in the future a phenomenon directly related to consciousness, could be investgated better ?

    “A scientist must be constantly forced to defend his views – with testable and verifiable evidence – in order to assure that the insight those views may provide are sound.”

    Defend his theories with testifiable, verifiable evidence, yes. I said VIEWS though. That’s not what science is about. It’s about gathering facts about our world, not about defending views/ideologies/paradigms. That’s what hurts science, whether it’s a pathological dislike for “paranormal” ideas or a pathological like for them.

  121. Leander

    @Shane

    “No, they’re just anecdotes.”

    Yes, anecdotal evidence, motivated by something. Like a tree moving because of the wind. Simple really. No fallen leaves, meaning no hard evidence. So what kind of wind makes a tree bend without leaves falling ? It’s quite unscientific to assume this kind of wind in every case equals lies and crackpottery, without backing that assumption up. And if you don’t wanna be unscientific, you have to admit that the wind might be something more. Whether psychological or physical in nature, who knows. But that’s exactly why you should stop opposing investigation. So we will eventually know.

    “Who said we hadn’t?”

    Uhm, nobody. Did I say anybody said that ? Hm.

    Your two paragraphs about anecdotal evidence are nice, but I nowhere suggested we just accept something based on anecdotal evidence alone as fact – so I don’t really see your point.

  122. Julian

    How can you be sure that that’s what EVERY SINGLE WITNESS is doing?

    lol how can you be sure you won’t get an apology? Are any of the accusations you’ve made? I’m sure you’re observing a general trend in the community and using that to determine the majority of cases. Whether the trend is accurate is another issue but it’s pretty obvious you’re being quite the hypocrite right now.

    Seriously, how do you like it when you try to do something, and someone is standing next to you just complaining how you’re not doing it right ?

    As I intend to join the military, this appeal to emotion won’t get very far with me.

    And would you not expect that person to shut up or contribute someting other than complaints ?

    That would be asking them to do your job for you.

    But I guess I’ll never get that in a place where people flatout call everyone a nutter or liar who can’t provide evidence for an experience they made, the nature of which you just don’t like.

    First of all, you did lie. You said you didn’t call for Phil to provide evidence for the supernatural when you’ve repeatedly called for him to investigate. Second of all, Phil corrects himself when he’s wrong, as is obvious from all the edits he makes to his blog posts. And third, why the hell would you make a claim you can’t support? When a claim, any claim, flies in the face of the accumulated data and that claim can’t be verified it is going to be rightly attacked. Remember what i said about evidence and how it discredits any position it does not support? Remember how you agreed with me?

    Misdirection, huh? My research? what the hell are you even talking about?

    You complained that scientist won’t make their resources available to paranormal researchers. I was pointing out how easy it would be for you to get the funds and resources you want. So, I’ll ask again, why don’t you?

    For example the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, the Parapsychological Association (affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science), the society for Psychical Research, or the Society for Scientific Exploration.

    Like I asked before, what trials are they conducting?

    And while we’re on that, how are they controlled? What are their results? What’s the review process? Is there a review process?

    If they do count though – I wonder why Phil doesn’t like them.

    Because nothing any of these paranormal investigators (or any paranormal investigator for that matter) have ever found is supernatural or magical or anything like that and yet they spin it until it is.

    No, seriously, explain – if you wanna make a point.

    *sigh*

    Leander, when someone says the moon is made of cheese, whats the proper response?

  123. kuhnigget

    Leander, when someone says the moon is made of cheese, whats the proper response?

    Brie or Camembert?

  124. kuhnigget

    @ Leander:

    Fogiven. But yeah, you nailed it – it’s not the same. See my reply to Julian.

    Switching off sarcasm filter, since it doesn’t seem to be recognized… Yes, they are the same. It is not Dr. BA’s, nor any scientist’s job to devise experimental procedures for someone else. If you want to investigate supernatural phenomenon, or if you want someone else to do so, then either devise your own experiments or fund someone who will.

    I don’t find these little guys silly.

    Yet you continue to fail to see the importance of the analogy, which you have only now acknowledged as being valid, compared to your earlier tirades. (See January 9, 12:49 pm). No scientist is investigating leprechauns because the “evidence” clearly points to a combination of folk beliefs (the science of sociology & anthropology) and the tendency for the uneducated human mind to interpret natural phenomena in anthropomorphic terms (the science of psychology). Likewise, no scientist is investigating ghosts because all the anecdotal “evidence” points to the exact same conclusions.

    So you couldn’t find anything to backup your claim that my mission was promoting belief in ghosts ?

    No, I couldn’t. I can’t find anything to back up any rational explanation for your beliefs, other than the usual crank need to feel like you’re an outsider exploring esoteric knowledge that “bad ol’ science” refuses to acknowledge.

    I find the possible continuity of consciousness and what that would entail if indeed were true to be a very fascinating area of research.

    Then go for it. But don’t get defensive if scientists don’t share your enthusiasm.
    .

    You said it yourself: “our understanding of consciousness is incredibly spotty”…

    Ah, here’s the crux of the issue, Leander. Pay attention, this is important.

    Yes, our understanding of consciousness is spotty, but…that understanding is getting better and better all the time, as biologists and chemists and psychologists and information theoriests continue to investigate the functions of the brain. Their work builds upon the solid foundation laid by countless scientists working for years, decades, centuries before them. It uses the tools and techniques consistent with good science. It is not on “shaky ground,” as you claim. It does not require the introduction of any paranormal theories or phenomena that do not follow the consistent laws of nature. It is growing deeper every year, and slowly but surely becoming less “spotty.”

    That is the power of science. And that is why real scientists continue to employ its methods to investigate the natural world.

    And that is why followers of “paranormal” and “supernatural” woo are not taken seriously, because nothing they have ever done even remotely compares to the achievements of science. Nothing. Not one thing. Unless, of course, you can point to an example. I’ll wait.

    I didn’t specify which methods I was referring to, so you just assume I was referring to the easiest ones for you to discount ?

    No, you did not. Like all cranks, you use general language peppered with key phrases and sciencey-sounding words that is vague enough to give you the “outs” you need when called on your b.s.

    Defend his theories with testifiable, verifiable evidence, yes. I said VIEWS though.

    Case in point. Laughably so, and predictable.

    Have a nice day.

  125. Greg in Austin

    Leander said,

    “Wait a minute, last time I checked ghosts were the continued consciousness after death of an organism, and making themselves visible to such an organism through this very organism’s sense organs that are made of substance and evolved to perceive substance – how exactly am I changing the subject ?”

    Wait, stop. Stop. STOP! Right there, you’ve made a claim without any evidence: “ghosts were the continued consciousness after death of an organism” That is a presumption or guess or hypothesis or whatever you want to call it. So far, in all of human history, no data has shown this to be true. There is currently no evidence to support the claim that a consciousness can exist outside of a living body.

    You don’t like the leprechaun or flying pink unicorn analogies, so how about this one: Have you ever heard of the Loch Ness Monster? Someone many years ago made a claim that a creature resembling a dinosaur lived in Loch Ness. Despite YEARS of scientific study, not one shred of evidence has confirmed that such a creature does or ever did exist. Because there is no proof, it is safe to say that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist.

    If you or someone else comes up with proof that shows that Nessie is real, then believers will be thrilled, and so will the scientists. If you or someone else comes up with proof that a consciousness can exist outside of a living body, then believers will be thrilled, and again, so will the scientists.

    8)

  126. Leander

    @Julian

    “lol how can you be sure you won’t get an apology? Are any of the accusations you’ve made? I’m sure you’re observing a general trend in the community and using that to determine the majority of cases.”

    I’m far from being a hypocrit. I’ve backed up with evidence the general trend I see in this community in the comment section of another one of Phil’s posts, the one were you confirmed that impression and aptly asked me why I wouldn’t “piss off” elsewhere. So now it’s up to you to not be a hypocrit and go back up your impression that the trend in the communities you take issue with is indeed that it’s mostly liars and nutters, and to an extent that it justifies making that assumption safely about the whole community. I’m waiting.

    “As I intend to join the military, this appeal to emotion won’t get very far with me.”

    Uhm…oooookay.

    “That would be asking them to do your job for you.”

    You DO know the not-so-subtle difference between contributing advice and taking over the job, don’t you ?

    “First of all, you did lie. You said you didn’t call for Phil to provide evidence for the supernatural when you’ve repeatedly called for him to investigate.”

    I beg to differ, but I’m not sure if that’s of much use, since you clearly are incapable of seeing the difference between someone following up their criticism with some constructive advice and working to provide evidence themselves. I tried to explain…if you don’t get it, sorry.

    “And third, why the hell would you make a claim you can’t support?”

    What mysterious claim are you referring to now ?

    “Remember what i said about evidence and how it discredits any position it does not support? Remember how you agreed with me?”

    Remember my reply to that ? Did you comprehend it ?

    “I was pointing out how easy it would be for you to get the funds and resources you want. So, I’ll ask again, why don’t you?”

    You’re claiming it’s easy ? Let’s continue our “back-that-up” game. Pleaso do. Maybe you should know I’m not even a scientist. How would I then easily manage that, for research areas that are not even considered mainstream ? You gotta be kidding, right ?

    Besides – you ask me to just do the research myself, because I’m complaining about research not being done as I like it. How is that different from asking Phil to do the same ? Still wanna use the word hypocrit, be my guest.

    “Like I asked before, what trials are they conducting? And while we’re on that, how are they controlled? What are their results? What’s the review process? Is there a review process ?”

    While we’re on all these questions…if you don’t care to answer mine (like why you introduced the term “supernatural”, or how you define it, or how by your definition this would make ghosts supernatural) – why would I answer yours ? You can’t just skip over answering my questions and expect me to answer yours.

    But let’s say the case you seem to be expecting comes up, and I can’t answer your questions with decent examples…would that not take all wind out of your sails when you claim sufficient investigation of paranormal phenomena exists to already discount them ?

    “*sigh*”

    Aw come on, don’t be so shy and evasive. After all, if you wanna join the military…man up and define the terms you deem worthy to be introduced to the discussion.

    But then, I’m not sure if I want you to. I’m pretty tired of your antics and insults as well. Go in peace, believing you’re a reasonable person, and maybe even that you “won” this one. In case of a guy like you, I don’t really care. Kuhnigget at least tried to inject some fun.

  127. Leander

    @kuhnigget

    “Switching off sarcasm filter, since it doesn’t seem to be recognized…”

    Don’t worry, it was recognised. Did you not pick up on that from my wording ? Hm. And it clearyly is a difference, I’m sorry if you don’t get that. I didn’t say it was his job. I pointed out that it doesn’t look very good if you just stand around complaining, sometimes in an insulting way, about how peple are not doing something right. Especially if you place value on education, you’re really making a fool of yourself if you keep doing that, instead of giving at least some constructive criticism. I don’t know how else to explain it to you, I hope this time the subtle difference is not lost on you.

    “No, I couldn’t. I can’t find anything to back up any rational explanation for your beliefs, other than the usual crank need to feel like you’re an outsider exploring esoteric knowledge that “bad ol’ science” refuses to acknowledge.”

    No offense, but you’re making a fool of yourself too, at least to any impartial reader of this exchange. You keep referring to a belief of mine. You’ve shown that you can quote me – so why, after repeatedly being asked to do so, are you still failing to quote this belief of mine ? So far you haven’t, and that behaviour suggests that you’re just trying to paint me into one of the few corners that you’re equipped to deal with.

    “Their work builds upon the solid foundation laid by countless scientists working for years, decades, centuries before them. It uses the tools and techniques consistent with good science. It is not on “shaky ground,” as you claim.”

    Maybe YOU should pay attention. Or it’s another one of your straw-men. I never claimed their work or methods were on shaky ground. The idea that consciousness depends on the brain is though. How did you say it again ? Oh right, “it seems”…

    “It does not require the introduction of any paranormal theories or phenomena that do not follow the consistent laws of nature.”

    I’m still waiting for you to explain how the concept of ghosts, as it is commonly understood, if true, would violate the laws of nature, and which ones specifically.

    “That is the power of science. And that is why real scientists continue to employ its methods to investigate the natural world.”

    Lectures like that strike me as slightly funny, coming from someone who repeatedly had to be explained something so simple and essential to the scientific method like the appeal to ignorance, before he finally stopped this fallacious kind of reasoning.

    “No, you did not. Like all cranks, you use general language peppered with key phrases and sciencey-sounding words that is vague enough to give you the “outs” you need when called on your b.s.”

    Dude, seriously, if you have any self-respect, cut that behaviour. I left my language general because I actually cut you some slack and thought you didn’t need any specification. It wasn’t an out, and obviously I didn’t need one, since I specified what I meant, and you failed to demonstrate how that specification would constitute BS. Do yourself a favour and stop embarrassing yourself like that.

    “Case in point. Laughably so, and predictable.”

    You don’t get it, do you ? You think you can lecture someone on science, but you fail to see the difference between a scientific theory that needs to be backed up by evidence, and a “view” – which is a personal interpretation of these theories, and up to our personal tastes, and doesn’t have any business in science ?

    You know what cognitive dissonance is ? It’s what makes people start calling other people cranks, when they have nothing clever to back up their standpoint with. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m tired of your antics. Your behaviour suggests you still haven’t had a shred of a realization of how to engage in decent discourse – so I’ll leave you in peace, possibly even thinking that you’re a reasonable, civilized person, and “won”.

  128. Leander

    @GregInAustin

    “Right there, you’ve made a claim without any evidence: “ghosts were the continued consciousness after death of an organism” That is a presumption or guess or hypothesis or whatever you want to call it.”

    Sorry, but no. If I go and say “last time I checked, Superman was an alien from the planet Krypton”…does that constitute the claim that Superman is real ? Where in such a statement do you find such a claim, that suggests I think the thing referred to is real ?

    “Because there is no proof, it is safe to say that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist.”

    I don’t like this analogy either. Yes, it is pretty safe to say that Nessie doesn’t exist. But that’s because the nature of a Loch is not in dispute, and it’s relatively easy to thoroughly search it. There’s no consensus on the nature of consciousness however, and as of yet no way to “thoroughly search it” in a way that would allow us to understand it well enough to say it can’t exist without a body. Your example is overly simplifying.

  129. @Leander
    GregInAustin said “That is a presumption or guess or hypothesis or whatever you want to call it.”
    Where in GregInAustin’s statement do find a claim that suggested you thought it was real?

    “Yes, it is pretty safe to say that Nessie doesn’t exist. But that’s because the nature of a Loch is not in dispute, and it’s relatively easy to thoroughly search it.”
    What has the nature of the lake got to do with claims that Nessie exists or not?

    “There’s no consensus on the nature of consciousness however, and as of yet no way to “thoroughly search it” in a way that would allow us to understand it well enough to say it can’t exist without a body.”
    You’ve got to be kidding. Oh hang on. Anything I say to criticise this seemingly ridiculous statement will be returned with something like “why did you assume I meant human consciousness… I could have meant machine consciousness… blah blah blah”. Because that is what you do. You turn seemingly clear-cut statements into ambiguous doublespeak. Shift the goal posts so to speak. Very good. Carry on.

  130. Greg in Austin

    Leander said,

    “I pointed out that it doesn’t look very good if you just stand around complaining, sometimes in an insulting way, about how peple are not doing something right.”

    That’s funny. From my point of view, that is exactly what you are doing, Leander. You are assuming that Phil and others have not put forth effort to determine if ghosts are real, you complain that they haven’t done the work to your satisfaction, and yet you are unwilling to do the work yourself when others suggest it to you. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black syndrome.

    Leander also said,

    “I’m still waiting for you to explain how the concept of ghosts, as it is commonly understood, if true, would violate the laws of nature, and which ones specifically.”

    That is exactly what we have been trying to do, but you aren’t listening. Your logically fallacy is that ghosts exist in the first place, and so scientists must therefore devise some method of detecting them. This is the opposite of how science works. Science is based on what we can observe and repeat under controlled conditions, eliminating all bias and human error. Ghost hunting has never withstood even the most basic scientific tests.

    Oh, you don’t like the Loch Ness Monster analogy because why?

    “But that’s because the nature of a Loch is not in dispute, and it’s relatively easy to thoroughly search it.”

    The nature of air is not in dispute, but that’s where ghosts are supposed to exist. The nature of light and dark is not in dispute, but for some reason ghosts are believed to only come out at night. How about Bigfoot? Or the Yeti? Or werewolves? Aliens? UFO’s? These too are all examples of things people have claimed to see, but that have no evidence to support their existence. Which analogy to ghosts would you like?

    “There’s no consensus on the nature of consciousness however,”

    Oh really? How did you come to that conclusion? (Here’s the part where I normally would ask for your source, but you don’t seem to use them.) Have your degrees in psychology, biology and physiology taught you this? Oh, you don’t have those? Well, then you’ve studied psychology and neuroscience in college, right? Please tell me you at least googled “conciousness,” before making such a statement?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conciousness

    I think there is a great deal that we DO know about consciousness and the human mind, and very little that we DON’T know. And what we don’t know gets smaller and smaller all the time. Even if human consciousness could exist outside a body (which it can’t), there’s still no evidence that said consciousness could affect the real world in any physical way.

    8)

  131. kuhnigget

    Okay, Leander, volley #42,000:

    “No, I couldn’t. I can’t find anything to back up any rational explanation for your beliefs, other than the usual crank need to feel like you’re an outsider exploring esoteric knowledge that “bad ol’ science” refuses to acknowledge.”

    No offense, but you’re making a fool of yourself too, at least to any impartial reader of this exchange. I kinda doubt that. You keep referring to a belief of mine. You’ve shown that you can quote me – so why, after repeatedly being asked to do so, are you still failing to quote this belief of mine ?

    I guess you can’t read, either. The quote of mine you used quite clearly states I can’t find any rational explanation for your (unstated) beliefs. I simply don’t know what they are. You claim to be interested in science, yet you want to investigate ghosts. Why not investigate Santa Claus? Millions of people have “seen” him! Why aren’t you ragging on scientists for ignoring this huge potential area of investigation? What are your motivations? I don’t know. I said I don’t know. Repeatedly.

    Strike one.
    .
    I never claimed their work or methods were on shaky ground.

    Yes you did. January 15, 7:24 am: “how can the model assuming that rule out alternative ones, when it rests on such shaky ground” Hypothesizing a “model” and testing it is the work of science. Therefore you are either ignorant of science or you are a liar.

    Strike two.
    .

    I’m still waiting for you to explain how the concept of ghosts, as it is commonly understood, if true, would violate the laws of nature, and which ones specifically.

    Well, for starters, the law of gravity, given that the “concept of ghosts” includes their ability to float about willy-nilly with no regard for gravity. Or the physics of gaseous bodies, since their ethereal bodies are “commonly understood” to be vaporous, yet they don’t dissipate or expand to fill the volumes that enclose them. And let’s see…how about acoustics? How does a vaporous being produce such clear sound when there’s nothing solid to vibrate? Gosh, that’s three right off the top of my head. How about electrostatics? Passing through solid walls without regard for the charges inside the atoms that make up those walls…

    Strike three, but we’ll let you send another batter to the plate.
    .

    Lectures like that strike me as slightly funny, coming from someone who repeatedly had to be explained something so simple and essential to the scientific method like the appeal to ignorance, before he finally stopped this fallacious kind of reasoning.

    See, this is really where you need to review those ufo nutter posts. They, like you, glom onto one particular phrase that makes them sound all sciencey, and then they keep repeating it, just in case nobody read it the first time.

    Yes, dear, we know what an appeal to ignorance is. And by the way, it’s not “essential to the scientific method,” is it? Slightly detrimental, wouldn’t you say? Less emotion. More reason.

    I left my language general because I actually cut you some slack and thought you didn’t need any specification.

    Of course you did. Because gosh, people never require specifics when arguments are being made, do they?

    You think you can lecture someone on science, but you fail to see the difference between a scientific theory that needs to be backed up by evidence, and a “view” – which is a personal interpretation of these theories, and up to our personal tastes, and doesn’t have any business in science ?

    Ha. See what you just did there? How is “a personal interpretation of these theories” – a “view” – separate from a scientific interpretation, if that “view” is presented in a debate about the very science itself? Are you expressing your “views” here? They why are you “lecturing” Phil on how to do science? Oh, wait, you never actually lectured him on how to do science, did you? You just expressed your “view” that his “view” regarding someone else’s “view” was not polite.

    Honestly, Leander, this is crank 101. Substituting pedantry for rational thought. Give us a break.

    It was fun while it lasted, but I’m tired of your antics.

    Of course you are, because none of us bow down to your greatness. Crank. Nobody believes me because they are bad scientists. Crank. Their all agin’ me. Crank. I’m going to go away to my Remote Sensing Conference and keep my esoteric wisdom to myself. Crank.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….

    Have a nice day.

    Crank.

  132. Julian

    I’ve backed up with evidence the general trend I see in this community in the comment section of another one of Phil’s posts, the one were you confirmed that impression and aptly asked me why I wouldn’t “piss off” elsewhere.

    I believe my full quote was along the lines of ‘Why don’t you piss off to 9/11 consipracy board.’ I thought it’d be your natural habitat. A place where individuals refuse to look facts in the face and spin data until it fits whatever they’re selling.

    So now it’s up to you to not be a hypocrit and go back up your impression that the trend in the communities you take issue with is indeed that it’s mostly liars and nutters, and to an extent that it justifies making that assumption safely about the whole community. I’m waiting.

    the communities I take issue with are creationists, anti-vaxxers, aids denialists, ufologists, conspiracy nuts and others like you who refuse to support their positions with any evidence and then cry foul when they get called out. If you want to defend these people by all means do so but you’re only sinking further into the whole you dug for yourself.

    Besides – you ask me to just do the research myself, because I’m complaining about research not being done as I like it. How is that different from asking Phil to do the same? Still wanna use the word hypocrit, be my guest.

    There’s no comparison between what you said

    ‘And would you not expect that person to shut up or contribute someting other than complaints ?”

    and what I’m saying. Here you are telling Phil and skeptics like me to help find the evidence. (Notice how you say ‘contribute something then complaints’) I’m telling you to go find it yourself. There’s a clear difference.

    I think it’s also worth reposting what you wrote that began this exchange.

    “Move them out of the fringes, start up some large scale studies, and do away with it all. What are you so afraid o? To fail, because that would upset your small, comfortable universe? Or to succeed, and then nothing left for you to scoff at to make yourselves feel better?”

    like why you introduced the term “supernatural”, or how you define it, or how by your definition this would make ghosts supernatural

    I’m sorry but did you read the Blog post we’re all commenting on? Notice how it is explicitly about the supernatural?

    But let’s say the case you seem to be expecting comes up, and I can’t answer your questions with decent examples…would that not take all wind out of your sails when you claim sufficient investigation of paranormal phenomena exists to already discount them ?

    Because the sum of human experiences isn’t defined by a few organisations I can still make the claim ‘Despite looking nothing has been found’. It’s a win/win for me.

    Aw come on, don’t be so shy and evasive. After all, if you wanna join the military…man up and define the terms you deem worthy to be introduced to the discussion.

    dictionary.com being a couple clicks away to much trouble for you, is it?

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