Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Scientific investigations of the paranormal?

Rate this topic


srschirm
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone. I'm trying to explain Objectivism to a friend. Of course I started with metaphysics and after explaining the three basic axioms, I tried to explain our denial of the supernatural. Being a ghosthunter himself, my friend explained his experiences with EVPs (I have heard them myself, and they are thought-provoking) and experiences actually "seeing" ghosts. How can an Objectivist explain these things? Thanks for your help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello everyone.  I'm trying to explain Objectivism to a friend.  Of course I started with metaphysics and after explaining the three basic axioms, I tried to explain our denial of the supernatural.  Being a ghosthunter himself, my friend explained his experiences with EVPs (I have heard them myself, and they are thought-provoking) and experiences actually "seeing" ghosts.  How can an Objectivist explain these things?  Thanks for your help.

Have you ever wondered why the EVP voices are only heard on some form of electronic equipment, but not directly heard audibly? There are a variety of explanations for this sort of phenomena, but the one which explains the most frequent occurrence is that via a tuned circuit the device picks up signals from any strong-enough or close-enough communication sytem. Nowadays even cell phones can do this, but more typically the culprit is probably AM radio broadcasts.

All that is required for acceptance of most paranormal phenomena is scientific ignorance coupled with a wild imagination and a willingness to believe. This has been so throughout human history.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello everyone.  I'm trying to explain Objectivism to a friend.  Of course I started with metaphysics and after explaining the three basic axioms, I tried to explain our denial of the supernatural.  Being a ghosthunter himself, my friend explained his experiences with EVPs (I have heard them myself, and they are thought-provoking) and experiences actually "seeing" ghosts.  How can an Objectivist explain these things?  Thanks for your help.

When thinking about such theories, Occam's Razor is a useful principle to keep in mind.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great example:

There is a story floating around the History/Discovery channels about a murder case in the New York area. For years they searched for the last body in this mystery. They follow tons of leads, make a map of the findings of the other bodies, etc, all to no avail. Finally the lead detective in the case calls in a psychic from France. According to this tv show the clarevoyant heard the details of the case and channeled the body of this last victim, making a sketch of the surrounding area. The detective recognized the sketch and used it to get a search warrant at one of the suspect's former houses. They dug up the backyard pool and, sure enough, they found the body. True story, according to the tv show.

I was thinking about this for the longest time. How can it be possible for a psychic to channel someone's dead body? Do psychics really exist? This is unbelievable but somehow credible. It was the most credible "ghost story" I had ever heard. Then it hit me. This was a mafia case. The detective or someone in the department knew where the body was all along and for whatever reason was unable to give this information up without a cover story, maybe they didn't want to blow their informant status (or whatever). They used the psychic as a cover to find the body based on information that was private or illegal for whatever reason. And it worked, because apparently everyone bought it.

Now this is just my explanation for that story, it's not official or anything. Still, it makes a lot more sense. It is a great example of the fact that even the most convincing stories that defy what is known usually have metaphysically simpler explanations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I grew up in a "spiritualist camp" full of people who thought they were communicating with the dead. (Cassadaga, Florida). My mom was and is a "psychic" there. That was their profession. As far as I could tell, none were self-consciously con-men. It was self-deception pure and simple. Every possible piece of "evidence" in favor of their beliefs was retained, treasured, and re-told. Every bit of contradictory evidence was immediately forgotten. Some are drug users, and that can explain some of their visions and self-deception. I suspect a number of them are really crazy, as in chemically imbalanced brain-malfunctioning crazy, which also helps to explain some things. They all have troves of "evidence" for what they believe, but I spent about 15 years there, surrounded by "spiritualists" and never saw anything at all our of the ordinary except for but a lot of gullible and deluded people talking about nonsense to one another.

When I was 11 or 12, I went out looking for some solid evidence of stuff people around me were talking about. I didn't see or hear anything, didn't accomplish any magic spells, didn't summon ghosts, etc. I spent about 6 months trying this, mostly because some neighbor kids were alleging various supernatural abilities. Well, I wasn't as good at self-deception as they were, and after that, I had absolutely no interest or respect for people who believed in that kind of mysticism, or religion in general. But I have no doubt that your friend could come and within a week find all sorts of "ghosts" there.

When a person is willfully distancing themselves from reality as a "ghost hunter" must, and are emotionally invested in fooling their senses, I think there is nothing you can do except distance yourself from them. You can check back on them in a year or two, to see if they reclaimed their committment to reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a scardey cat. I stayed up all night last night because I watched The Exorcist this weekend and I was afraid, for what reason I'm not sure.

But this is my refutation: People have been looking for ghosts, angels, demons, ect. for millinea and there is not any absolute proof that these things exist. But as for things that are truly metaphysical but invisible to the human eye (atoms for example) speculatiom, induction, and proof have determined an absolute existence. I'm pretty sure that if ghosts existed or psychics could really predict the future accurately, we would know by now.

Aristotle says that an assertion has to be proven, not disproven. Until there is quantitative proof that a supernatural existence is a fact, we are under no obligation to disprove anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to recommend my favorite book on the subject of pseudo-science and such: The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan.

Also, James Randi has a website on which he posts a weekly "newsletter", full of examples of various cons and hoaxes, and his ongoing efforts to expose them for what they are. It's at:

http://www.randi.org/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 11 months later...

I know Ms. Rand mocked NASA for attempting telepathic experiments during the Apollo program, but since my favorite film is Ghostbusters, I have always been fascinated by the paranormal. While as a youth, I often believed in it, since growing up I have since become quite the skeptic.

However, I was wondering if you think there could be a rational way of studying the paranormal? Is it possible to use the scientific method to investigate, for example, ghost sightings, out-of-body experiences, mental telepathy etc., or is it just a waste of time?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Huh? If you use the scientific method, then it is called "science" and that's the end of the story. But, I think you are asking something else. Once, during a philosphical discussion, I asked a Christian what evidence he had for the existence of God. He said once his grandmother had a dream where God spoke to him. And I was like "I'm wasting my time." So thats my answer.

NASA tried telepathy experiments? Where can I read more about this? If they were not federally funded, I would laugh and say that they can experiment whatever they liked. If it turns out to be grounded in reality, then that would be super. Instead of typing on this forum, I could "think" my thoughts here for everyone to "read."

Edited by xavier
Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I think ghosts and whatnot are crap, I'm not convinced that telepathy is impossible. My fiancee and I frequently pick up the phone and call each other at the same time. I also frequently call her right as she's walking in the door.

Now, that could either be a crazy coincidence that happens a lot, or it could just be that we know each other so well, we know when the other is about to call. Even if, as is likely the case, telepathy is not involved, I see no reason why it isn't a possibility. I'm not saying I believe in telepathy...I don't really know anything about the subject. If you can show me why it isn't possible then, by all means, I'll concede that it isn't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How would you study something without the scientific method? Pardon my scientific ignorance and chronic inattention in grade school (for both of which I am a little embarrassed among this group), but by "scientific method" do you mean some specific formulas and such, or is that merely a figure of speech for reason?

Do you know how mirages were initially studied? Maybe a study of "ghost" sightings would proceed similarly, on the initial theory that such sightings are also an interesting result of light waves or something.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it possible to use the scientific method to investigate, for example, ghost sightings, out-of-body experiences, mental telepathy etc., or is it just a waste of time?
It is both, unless you are James Randi or some other professional debunker and make your money off of such testing. It is a waste of time because you will learn what you hopefully already know, namely that all of this paranormal codswallop is a bunch of hooey. Since there is not a shred of credible evidence that suggests that it is true, you gain nothing by pounding money and time down the rathole to prove this. Additionally, nobody has ever claimed that these phenomena are replicable as is demanded of phenomena that can be investigated scientifically. [FN: exception -- some people hold that ESP-like phenomena can theoretically be tested by repeated tests, typically card reading. However, since those tests always involve subjects whose identity is held secret, ESP tests cannot actually be replicated]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think any research into the paranormal ought to be funded solely by those who support its undertaking. I'm not down with NASA using taxpayer dollars to study something that generally provides so little empirical evidence.

However, I'd be the last to make fun of anyone who actually apllies the tried and true scientific method and reason to research of the paranormal. The kind of 'coincidences' that Moose mentioned happen to me all the time, in many different forms. I also used to get Deja Vu a lot, and sometimes still get it every now and then. I haven't done much research on this, but it is difficult for me to believe that some chemical reaction or strange function of my brain can actually cause me to conciously realize that I've experienced every minute detail of a certain situation before.

I've seen far too many crazy things in my life to believe that there isn't something out there (or in there) that we are currently not able to see. Unfortunately, I haven't even enough of my own experience to take the first step of making any hypothesis on the issue. Therefore, if anyone thinks he/she can research paranormal phenomenon scientifically, more power to you. Just don't talk to me about funding. I'd rather spend my money on drugs or something. :worry:

Edited by TheNewIntellectual
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My fiancee and I frequently pick up the phone and call each other at the same time.

This hadn't happened in a rather long time, but it just happened again about half an hour ago...we also pretty much just (past couple of days) got over the period of doubt that we were going through, as a couple.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This hadn't happened in a rather long time, but it just happened again about half an hour ago...we also pretty much just (past couple of days) got over the period of doubt that we were going through, as a couple.

[sarcasm] Clearly a higher power was at work. Praise be to Allah! [/sarcasm]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...I'm not convinced that telepathy is impossible. My fiancee and I frequently pick up the phone and call each other at the same time.

I'll bet you also frequently call each other at different times. In fact I'd bet that if you actually kept track you would notice that you far more often call each other at different times. That's not something you would particularly notice. On the other hand when you do happen to coincedently call each other at the same time, you notice it. If you are calling each other often - significantly increasing the odds - it will happen what seems like "frequently" but actually isn't.

Or people will say when a friend calls, "Wow, I was just thinking of you. Must be ESP." And...err...how many times have friends, including this friend, called and you weren't thinking of them?

Or people report how they wake up in a cold sweat and think that a friend has been injured - and sure enough that friend was just injured. Would you bother noticing or telling anyone about the *hundreds* of other times you think about friends and nothing special happens to them?

When was the last time someone told you, "Gee, I had a dream about Joe - and nothing particularly noteworthy happened to Joe. Oh well, the ol' ESP wasn't working then." Or how about, "Joe was injured last night. And guess what? I didn't dream about him."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll bet you also frequently call each other at different times. In fact I'd bet that if you actually kept track you would notice that you far more often call each other at different times. That's not something you would particularly notice. On the other hand when you do happen to coincedently call each other at the same time, you notice it. If you are calling each other often - significantly increasing the odds - it will happen what seems like "frequently" but actually isn't.

Or people will say when a friend calls, "Wow, I was just thinking of you. Must be ESP." And...err...how many times have friends, including this friend, called and you weren't thinking of them?

Or people report how they wake up in a cold sweat and think that a friend has been injured - and sure enough that friend was just injured. Would you bother noticing or telling anyone about the *hundreds* of other times you think about friends and nothing special happens to them?

When was the last time someone told you, "Gee, I had a dream about Joe - and nothing particularly noteworthy happened to Joe. Oh well, the ol' ESP wasn't working then." Or how about, "Joe was injured last night. And guess what? I didn't dream about him."

This is similar to how I would tend to answer when presented with what you describe, Moose. Alot of the time I find myself thinking "Wow, what the chances that [this and this other event] would both occur at the same time?".

But when I come to think about it I realise, well the chances are such an event would happen once in a while, and given that the frequency of its occurence is not significantly more than what one would expect upon a rational analysis, that part of my mind is trying to blow things out of proportion, trying to attach significance where really there is none.

I sometimes find that my friend rings me about the same time I start thinking about him. If I was to look at it without inspecting it further, this might seem significant. But he often rings at roughy similar times, and usually this is when I start thinking of him, partially I am sure because my mind is used to him calling at these times.

I have add dreams that on the surface would seem to indicate premonition. But upon inspection, it usually turns out that either my dream is not really all that like what I first beleived, or that the dream could mean any number of things, or that I incorrectly remember a quite different dream (alot of the time my collection of these things are very hazy).

You can twist the meanings of many dreams to mean almost anything if you want. Especially try to find symbolism where there is not really any. This is probably why those crackpot dream-interpretors are so successful, they take someones dreams, and give them all these symbols which could mean one of dozens of different things, in order to construct a lie that suits what they think the client wants the dream to mean.

I long ago concluded that dreams are of no use, they do not tell you anything useful, that they are just the mind sorting through stuff, occasionagly this might reflect what the mind fears, but I have never known this to be in any way significant. It is about as useful as alot of the other paranoia the human mind is subject to from time to time, and how much use is that?

Edited by Prometheus98876
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, I recognize that it's probably just a coincidence. But when I say "exactly the same time," I mean literally "exactly the same time." As in, we both press the "talk" button simultaneously and, as a result, get busy signals. There was time at the beginning of the summer where it happened 3 times in a row.

So, I realize that us calling at different times happens far more often, but the simultaneous calling thing happens more than one would expect to happen by random chance. So, it just makes me wonder.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, I recognize that it's probably just a coincidence. But when I say "exactly the same time," I mean literally "exactly the same time." As in, we both press the "talk" button simultaneously and, as a result, get busy signals. There was time at the beginning of the summer where it happened 3 times in a row.

So, I realize that us calling at different times happens far more often, but the simultaneous calling thing happens more than one would expect to happen by random chance. So, it just makes me wonder.

Another thing to consider is that the subconscious is a very powerful computer. It can "recognize" patterns and complexities that we couldn't do consciously. If two people are picking up on the same thing - calling the other at 6:15 P.M., or just when the sun is beginning to set, or just when traffic starts to pick up in the morning rush hour, etc. etc., it seems mysterious but the cause is a common element in reality that both are subconsciously identifying and acting upon (it's a different question as to why a particular pattern of elements would lead to the desire to e.g. make the phone call). That's my take on that kind of coincidental action, if it's anything except simple coincidence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I sometimes find that my friend rings me about the same time I start thinking about him. If I was to look at it without inspecting it further, this might seem significant. But he often rings at roughy similar times, and usually this is when I start thinking of him, ...

That's a good observation and may also be part of the explanation for what "Moose" is experiencing.

There was a book written on this subject some years ago, but unfortunately I forgot the title. I recall the author also mentioning how amazed people are when they run across old friends they haven't seen in years at, e.g. Disneyland. He points out that given the number of people at Disneyland at any given time and that you are walking around looking at all the attractions, the odds are actually pretty good that you would run into an old friend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a good observation and may also be part of the explanation for what "Moose" is experiencing.

There was a book written on this subject some years ago, but unfortunately I forgot the title. I recall the author also mentioning how amazed people are when they run across old friends they haven't seen in years at, e.g. Disneyland. He points out that given the number of people at Disneyland at any given time and that you are walking around looking at all the attractions, the odds are actually pretty good that you would run into an old friend.

Indeed, I am sure that it is a part of what Moose is experiencing.

It is a shame that you cannot recall the title of this book, it sounds rather interesting.

The author makes a good point about the Disneyland thing, I have come to similar conclusions myself after people kept claiming this sort of thing is significant. But of course, this sort of reasoning fails to make much impression on alot of the mysticaly inclined fools that I know.

It reminds me of those bloody physic mediums who 'talk to the dead'. They claim that they can talk to the dead (even though after death, by definition ones conscioussness is lost).

Something like "I am getting...a Mary. Does anyone know a Mary?" Of course the chances are that at least one audeince member will have known someone who is now dead that was called Mary.

Then they will go on to say stuff like "She is worried...about...about money". Who isn't worried about money at some stage or another? The medium will guess his way through that person until he runs dry and then go on another tangent of generalities until he finds someone else for whom he can attempt to stun with cliched guesses that could mean almost anything.

Of course, the thing the audeince really want is some sort of assurance their beloved ones are 'in a better place' (as if nothingness was better than conscioussness), that they are happy. They want mystical assurance to help them deal with something they have not come to terms with. They just want to hear that Mary or whoever is OK and is wishing them well. And when the mediums do this, this further convinces them that the whole thing is real, as it validates their reason for choosing to beleive in this crap in the first place.

I am sure they rehearse alot of those shows and probe these people and get some idea of their past :) Say things to the audeince in general that will most likely match at least one audeince member. Their is at least one show that was on lately (I cannot recall what it was called) that a relative was watching that was like this.

The medium seemed to know everything about the people on the show, more than probing and guessing would really allow for. Amazing! It must prove that she is a medium! Or that she knows alot about the peoples past, which of course is the more rational assumption of the two.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...