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A response to ‘Ghost hunting, pseudoscience and skepticism’

Published: Friday, November 5, 2010

Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 14:11

In the recent critique of ghost hunting, Michael Dippold argued that paranormal investigation is merely pseudoscience. He wrote that "there's not a single shred of evidence to suggest that ghosts exist..." Despite being written in such elegant prose, this article is wholly lacking in any real substance.

    His claim that there is no evidence could not be further from the truth; there is an absolute abundance of evidence on the paranormal that has been gathered by investigators who fully adhere to the scientific method. The obvious problem is of course that the real, authentic evidence is often drowned out by the many so-called "ghost hunters" who do not practice scientific methods and tarnish the professional image that many paranormal investigation teams fully deserve. A distinction must be made between these two very different types of groups.

    Furthermore, as a student who has done extensive reading on the differences between science and pseudoscience, I can say with absolute certainty that there is nothing that precludes the use of the scientific method in studying the paranormal. By definition, pseudoscience is said to be "easy to recognize because it violates the basic criteria of science ... systematic empiricism, public verification, and solvability." Is there a systematic way to observe supposed paranormal locations? Yes. Over time have there been theories developed in regards to the paranormal that can be tested, replicated and verified by others? Yes.

    In fact, there are many academics in psychology, physics and numerous other fields who have proposed such theories, some even dealing with the cold spots Mr. Dippold mentioned. Is it possible to prove the conclusions made regarding paranormal energies? No, but in fact one can never say anything is "proven" in science. What can be said, however, is that there is a growing accumulation of data to support them.

    No one would presume that the investigation of paranormal energies is a simple task; it isn't. There is much yet to be discovered. Admittedly, the current level of technology in the field does seem rather crude for its purpose and leaves much to be desired. This does not mean humans should simply give up on the investigation. What it means is that individuals with an interest in the paranormal should continue to refine their methods, continue to gather data and ultimately help achieve a greater understanding of what these energies are.

    Although I understand the ham sandwich and fairies analogy was intended to be humorous, in order for it to have been so it would have had to be in some way relevant to this conversation; it isn't. To assume that paranormal energies should be able to communicate within the exact same parameters as humans is to commit an attribution error at the most fundamental level.

    Electronic Voice Phenomena can be very clear; characterizing it as a "low" threshold is entirely dependent on the standards that are placed upon it. If a so-called ghost hunter labels an inaudible murmur as evidence of a paranormal energy, then most people would agree that is a very low standard, but when credible researchers record very clear audio of words being spoken when it is known for a fact that no human could have possibly produced it, that is fairly solid evidence.

    In closing, there is actually very strong, credible evidence that has been gathered using the scientific method; it is there, but it will continue to remain "hidden" to those who are ardently opposed to accepting it.

Peter Allen, Undecided major

 

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