Thursday, 7 March 2013

Finally, definitive evidence of the paranormal!

Shadow ghostSometime in the next week, month or year, someone will come up with what they will imply is definitive evidence that the paranormal is real. It might be an undeniably dramatic event caught on video during a ghost case. It could be a parapsychological experiment giving such obvious positive results that it will defy simple alternative explanation. It will doubtless cause controversy, with many people believing it while others dispute any paranormal interpretation. But here's the weird thing. A few years later, hardly anyone will have heard of it and paranormal will still be looking for that 'definitive evidence' that will change the world.

How do I know this? Because it's happened many times before! Take the Enfield Poltergeist case, for instance. It looked like a game changer at the time. But, few even remember it today. There are many similar examples. Back in the early 1990s, ASSAP had a number of exciting cases that also appeared to be good evidence for the paranormal. But who remembers them today? And I predict that this pattern will continue on into the future.

So why doesn't this apparently 'definitive' material ever change the way most people think about the paranormal for all time? I think there may be three main reasons.

Firstly, even at the time of release, the evidence is likely to be strongly disputed. It is likely that few people who did not already believe in the paranormal will change their mind as a result. And when such believers see that the evidence did not change anything, it is gradually forgotten.

Secondly, after some time has passed, anyone critically re-examining the original case or experiment will see obvious limitations that more recent methods or technology could have addressed. For instance, old still photos and tape recordings of haunting incidents are never going to be convincing when compared to modern HD video of similar events. Furthermore, more possible natural explanations for recorded incidents, that were either unknown, or could not be checked for at the time, will have emerged in the intervening years. Such things will tend to move the case from 'definitively paranormal' to 'not totally explained' at best.

Finally, some people have an unusual attitude towards the paranormal - they actually WANT it to remain mysterious! So whenever anyone comes up with an 'answer', whether paranormal or normal, their instinct is to reject it. The overall result is that public attitudes and beliefs towards the paranormal have apparently moved little in many decades. Ghosts are still spirits to most, despite the lack of any compelling evidence. This may be why many ghost researchers are still searching, apparently in vain, for definitive evidence for paranormal ghosts. The ghost hunting boom has seen unprecedented numbers of people seeking this definitive evidence but, despite all that effort and regular claims to have found it, nothing ever appears to change.

Is there a way around this apparently bleak never-changing future for paranormal research? Well, it's all a question of approach. The problem with the approach used by many people now is that they first propose a theoretical mechanism, the paranormal, to explain weird experiences and then seek definitive evidence of its existence. If, instead, you research the causes of the weird experiences themselves a different picture soon emerges. Many such experiences clearly have xenonormal causes which is why they will never produce evidence of the paranormal. And if there IS a paranormal cause to some currently unexplained cases, it should emerge naturally from such an approach. In other words, stop worrying about 'proving' the paranormal, it will emerge naturally, if it is there, if you just concentrate on the causes, natural or otherwise, of weird experiences.

1 comment:

  1. As ever, you make some excellent points here. The great majority of the population have depressingly short memories when it comes to the paranormal -- they take each reported event in isolation from everything else, utter a few knee-jerk OMGs and WTFs, and then go back to reading the latest celebrity gossip. Then there are the hardcore believers, who "know" the truth (e.g. that the human soul survives after death) and interpret everything as evidence supporting this. The hardcore skeptics are pretty much a mirror image of this -- they "know" the paranormal is impossible, so they dismiss reported events without even thinking of alternative explanations. The number of people who don't fit in any of the above categories -- i.e. people who are genuinely curious about apparently paranormal events, are open-minded about causes, and have good memories -- is depressingly small. What's more, it's my impression that such people tend to get more sceptical as they get older... for the simple reason that they do have good memories! I'm now in my mid-fifties, and I've been interested in paranormal-type subjects for over 40 years -- and I get the impression there are quite a few people of my generation (myself included) who used to tend towards belief but now tend towards disbelief.