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What Is Wicca? [An Atheistic Perspective]

Saturday August 22, 2009 10 comments

Introduction

I actually had a request to write about this topic. It’s not exactly my area of expertise, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Now, I could go into a bunch of history, specifics as to what Wiccans believe and whatnot, but I think it would be a little redundant. There are plenty of sources for that on the internet. Wikipedia has a great article on Wicca.

My main purpose here is to give an Atheistic, or, maybe the more appropriate term might be Naturalistic, view of Wicca.

Nature-Based

Nature Wicca is referred to as a “nature-based” religion. What seems apparent are the common themes in Wicca that span many different religions. The idea of a trinity, for instance. Many Wiccans worship the “Triple Goddess;” the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. We see this idea in Christianity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We also see this in Hinduism (the Trimurti); Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. (More info on various other trinities can be found here.)

Taking into account the very symbolic nature of these trinities, it’s worthwhile to mention that in its basic form, religion seeks to explain the world around us. As opposed to science, religion seeks to explain our world with decrees and absolute statements through divine revelation.

With that in mind, we can see that the Triple Goddess is symbolic of things such as the phases of the moon and stages of life. Attempts to anthropomorphize the world around us.

It is said that the origins of Wicca stem from various pagan beliefs which may have been around since before the Abrahamic religions came into existence.

These religions were developed long before scientific inquiry was the standard for proof of a claim. Before we understood as much as we do today about physics, Newtonian mechanics, relativity and even that the world is round. The standard explanation for anything in those times was that a god was in charge of the workings of nature.

We can see how these symbols of Wicca reflect that idea. Things such as the phases of the moon symbolized by the phases of life of a goddess.

Essentially, by “nature-based,” this means that everything in nature is anthropomorphized and brought to a level where everything around us is somehow expressive of some human quality. It gives everything a more personal quality, and where the feeling of “connectedness” stems from.

We can’t relate with trees, or the moon, or any other species on this planet outside of a human context. But, when we attribute human qualities to them, they soon become more relatable and filled with a certain “energy” which is, in its most basic sense, an emotional attachment.

Magic

Book Of Shadows A large part of the Wiccan religion is magic. Be it White or Black magic, Wicca centers around this practice.

As with any claims of paranormal activity, be it ghosts, ESP, dowsing, or magic, there is a huge burden on those who make these extraordinary claims to show evidence that these claims are real.

The problem with magic is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that it actually works. The people who propose that magic works use vague terms such as “energy” and “intention” or “will.” These terms are meaningless, for several reasons.

The most basic of these reasons is that “energy” is nothing more than the potential to do work. This can be either kinetic or potential. Energy is not an invisible cloud floating around waiting for someone to tell it what to do.

If the proponents of magic intend to claim that it is anything more than kinetic or potential energy, then it is up to them to provide the mechanism for how it works. To simply say that it is mysterious, or that science cannot understand it is meaningless. Let me explain a little further.

To claim that magic can have an effect on the physical world intrinsically means that this “magic” must consist of something physical. I liken it to when people claim that ghosts can move objects in a room, or that ghosts can walk through walls. If a ghost can walk through a wall, then it obviously does not interact with the physical world.  This is also the same reason why ghosts cannot be visible. If it were visible, it would have to consist of some physical medium which could reflect light back into the eyes of the perceiver.

A ghost cannot walk through a wall, then in the same instance knock a cup off of a table. Those are two contradicting phenomena. It’s not just that I think it probably couldn’t happen. It is physically impossible, no matter what excuses you use. It violates the laws on which this Universe is based.

In this same way, magic cannot perform work and at the same time consist of something that is not physical. By necessity, any energy able to perform work is detectable by scientific instrumentation. At the end of the day, it all boils down to friction.

In order to perform work, or to actually affect the physical world, there must be friction. One surface against another. To open a door, there must be friction between your hand and the doorknob. To push a cup off of a table, there must be friction between your hand and the cup and the surface of the table. Even, as some magic spells claim, to affect emotions such as love, there must be friction in the brain, causing electric activity in the brain to be sparked by a transfer of electrons.

Any other use of the word “energy” outside of the realm of physicality and friction is simply a ruse to make a claim sound mysterious and beyond our comprehension, to bring the claim beyond the realm of questioning. The word “energy” used in this way is, again, meaningless.

Conclusion

While I am far from an expert on Wicca, there are some glaring similarities between it and many other world religions. The anthropomorphizing of nature, the idea of a trinity, forms of magic and spells and an overall manifestation of mystery around normal, everyday phenomena.

From a Naturalistic or Atheistic perspective, Wicca really is no different from any other religions except maybe for the fact that personal control over the environment is deemed possible through the influence of magic. In most other religions, this control over the environment is only possible through the influence of the godhead, or in the case of monotheism, the god of that particular religion.

Essentially, Wicca is another attempt to explain the world through supernatural means. A way to get easy answers to the complicated questions, such as the origin of the Universe.

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Is Nonsense A Good Measure Of Reality?

Saturday May 3, 2008 3 comments

Recently, I’d read a post on the existence of ghosts, and left a comment. A very short comment…

I’ve written a logical refutation as far as the existence of ghosts goes. It’s actually impossible for ghosts to exist in the way that people claim they do.

There Are No Such Things As Ghosts

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m just asking for trouble, posting on an entry like this. Call me a glutton for punishment.

Needless to say, I got what I was looking for. Immediately, Middle Man replied to me. I couldn’t have asked for more nonsense in a single reply. But why try to describe it? Take a look for yourself.

Oh godkillzyou if only logic and science was the measure of reality. Ghosts, like alien abductions, are because we fall asleep?

Belief in things makes things real. For some, God is real because of religion. For others, vodoo can inflict real pain and hurt. Others, believe in ghosts.

The psychic can be powerful from the intuition or instict that makes children afraid of natural dangers such as spiders, through to the inner power that enables small women lift heavy cars to free a trapped child.

In theory, if you build a big enough telescope you will be able to catch up with the light emitted from planet earth and view history being played out in real time.

Ghosts, real? Trapped energy? Psychic imprints? Dunno. But, you cannot tell me that what I have personally experienced was not real. Your logic may tell you so but you have no theory to give me an alternative cause of what I have seen, felt and heard.

That aside, how is life on planet Vulcan?

Thanks for visiting.

I’m just going to come out and say it. This guy is a nutcase. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but let me dissect this big ol’ pile of poopy.

Let’s take a look at his first mal-formed paragraph.

Oh godkillzyou if only logic and science was the measure of reality. Ghosts, like alien abductions, are because we fall asleep?

This guy obviously has no interest in facts, or reading the entire entry he’s commenting about. Ghosts, alien abductions and the like can be explained by sleep paralysis, not “because we fall asleep.” Nice try, though.

Now comes some real nonsense for you…

Belief in things makes things real. For some, God is real because of religion. For others, vodoo can inflict real pain and hurt. Others, believe in ghosts.

Wow. This guy is really detached from reality. And he’s trying to tell me logic and science aren’t the measure of reality? I believe that gas only costs $1.00 per gallon. Guess what? That didn’t work.

This guy has absolutely no critical thinking skills, whatsoever. What would make him think that belief in something makes it real? Does he really believe this? How deluded must one be to think this way?

And just how easy is it to test this idea? Well, there some very simple ways to disprove it right here.

People used to believe Thor caused lightning. Nope, that’s not real. There are countless religions in the world. They can’t all be right. They, for the most part, all make contradictory claims. Christianity and Islam can’t both be true.

Why is this kind of thought process detached from reality? Because he’s created for himself a paradigm where nothing can be proven incorrect. Unfalsifiable. Nothing is open to testing. If you believe it, it’s true and that’s all there is to it – regardless of evidence to the contrary. That is a chaotic existence that I would want no part of.

If what he was saying were true, what could be said about paranoid schizophrenics? They would make our world a living hell with all of the things they believe! Imagine if every delusion any person had became reality!

The psychic can be powerful from the intuition or instict that makes children afraid of natural dangers such as spiders, through to the inner power that enables small women lift heavy cars to free a trapped child.

Again, wow. What exactly is he trying to say? That being afraid of spiders makes one psychic? Children don’t become afraid of spiders until you tell them that they bite. And as far as “small women lift heavy cars,” I’d like him to state his sources. Judging from his earlier statements, I can’t give him enough credit (benefit of the doubt) to assume he’s not just making this up in order to advance his ideology.

In theory, if you build a big enough telescope you will be able to catch up with the light emitted from planet earth and view history being played out in real time.

Now he’s trying to play the part of the physicist. The problem here is that he knows nothing about physics, apparently. Unbelievable. You cannot “catch up” with light emitted from earth. When you perceive light, it is travelling in your direction, entering your eyes. And I’m not just making this up. I’ll even cite my sources. Reality-based, scientific sources. Here’s the study.

And by the way, what exactly does this have to do with being “psychic?” He seems to be making an excuse, or at least a scientific explanation for psychic ability. Do psychics actually just have really big telescopes or something? But then, you can’t catch up with light from the future, right? Maybe in this guy’s mind, you can.

He believes it. Therefore, it’s real.

Ghosts, real? Trapped energy? Psychic imprints? Dunno. But, you cannot tell me that what I have personally experienced was not real. Your logic may tell you so but you have no theory to give me an alternative cause of what I have seen, felt and heard.

I’m not exactly sure why he says that “you cannot tell me that what I have personally experienced was not real.” I mean, judging from his apparently delusional nature, I think I’ve got more than sufficient evidence to think that what he’s “seen” is not real.

Ghosts, trapped energy and psychic imprints. I’m wondering if he even knows what he’s talking about.

As far as not having an alternative cause for what he’s allegedly seen, I wasn’t there. So I have no idea. The possibilities are endless. I could speculate, but I won’t.

I’ll just conclude by saying that, strangely, I love being berated by delusional individuals. I mean, it gives me great material to write about. It also gives my “Bullshit Detector” a thorough workout. Dissecting these little trinkets is a great exercise in skepticism. I fully appreciate all the help I get with that.

So, thanks for reading. Read a book.

What Is Your Standard Of Proof?

Wednesday March 26, 2008 9 comments

At work, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. That’s not to say that I’m not busy. I should say I’ve got a lot of “thinking time” on my hands. Recently, as my mind’s been wandering, I’d been pondering… perseverating, maybe, on standards of proof.

What is your standard of proof? This could apply to anything. What is your standard of proof for accepting any particular proposition? Do you have a high standard of proof? Low? Any standard? Does it depend on the proposition?

I suppose the reason I pose this question is because I get frustrated when people use false logic in order to add steam to nonsensical beliefs. They may not even realize they are doing it. I think my pet peeve, as far as logical fallacies are concerned, is the post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. Basically, it’s when an event (A) occurs, followed by another event (B), and it is assumed that A is the cause of B. There are examples of these types of fallacies if you follow the link. They are excellent examples, but there’s one in particular that really gets my goat…

Let’s just say, for example, someone gets injured. Hypothetically speaking, that is. Let us also suppose that, again hypothetically, this person visits the doctor and the news is given that surgery is not required. The injury should heal on its own.

Now let’s suppose, again hypothetically, that a separate party, upon hearing this news, says, “I was praying for you.” Suppose this other party claims that surgery was not required because of the prayers they had previously offered up to God. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. After it, therefore, because of it. Because B happened after A, it is assumed that A  was caused by B. It is automatically assumed that the prayers were the reason for not needing surgery.

Here’s another example from Infidels.org:

“I was healed from cancer.”

“Praise the Lord, then. He is your healer.”

“So, will He heal others who have cancer?”

“Er… The ways of God are mysterious.”

It makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. If you were to follow this line of logic consistently, you could arbitrarily apply random causes to anything, and it would make just as much sense.

This thermometer goes up to 100 degrees Celsius, therefore water will boil at 100 degrees Celsius. Why does the light turn on when I flip the switch? Oh, because the sun went down first. And for a final example, why hasn’t God ever healed an amputee? Because, since the beginning of the Earth, the sun has always risen in the East and set in the West.

Here’s an important point to be made about this logic from Why Won’t God Heal Amputees:

No matter how many people pray, no matter how often they pray, no matter how sincere they are, no matter how much they believe, no matter how deserving the amputee, what we know is that prayers do not inspire God to regenerate amputated legs. This happens despite what Jesus promises us in Matthew 21:21, John 14:14, Mark 11:24, etc.

The bottom line is in the question what is your standard of proof? Would you accept an ad hoc logical fallacy as genuine proof of something? Do you simply accept anecdotes as proof? Stories and personal accounts? If this is your standard of proof, then you probably do not have a truly firm grasp of reality. You would find yourself in a constant state of delusion. You would find yourself constantly rationalizing your beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary of those beliefs. Constantly seeking ways to discount or ignore that evidence. Arguing emotionally instead of rationally or scientifically.

Again, I stress the importance of science. And even more than that, simple logic and reason. There are ideas in this world that persist despite being completely unsubstantiated. In fact, they persist despite evidence proving the exact opposite of what these ideas claim. ESP, telekinesis, homeopathy, psychic powers, dowsing, ghosts, etc. All of these, and many more, have contradicting evidence that would, to a rational thinking person, completely disprove them all. Yet, the standard of proof for most people is very low.

In many cases, all it takes is someone to simply make the claim that they are psychic in order for people to believe and completely accept it. If the average person exercised even a modest amount of critical thinking concerning these claims, they would no longer proliferate in our society. Montel Williams wouldn’t make Sylvia Browne a permanent guest on his program each week. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see someone with a scientific education on a talk show once in a while?

I think that, for the most part, people accept things based on how it makes them feel. If an idea makes them feel good, then they “believe in it.” The thought of ghosts existing makes people feel good about there being an afterlife. The idea of God makes people feel good about having a purpose or goal in life. Critical thinking is simply tossed out the window.

Sincerity is another basis for proof for a lot of people. Does the person who’s telling the story seem honest? Sincere? Then it must be true.

I respond to this by asking how much more precious is life without God? To know that this is the only life we’ve got? Wouldn’t you want to make the best of it? Doesn’t it make you feel lucky to be alive? Scientifically speaking, the odds of you existing in this point and time (or at all, at any point in time) are astronomically small. And yet, here you are. What more hope, joy and inspiration do you need?

God cheapens the deal. According to basically any religion, this life doesn’t matter. In fact, the Bible tells us that this life is something we have to live through until we get to “Heaven.” We are taught, as Christians, to revile this life, our bodies of filth and sin. We are taught that we are worthless and have nothing to look forward to except death. Only then will we see “Heaven.” How wretched…

Anyone who’s ever gazed through a telescope can testify that they’ve seen “Heaven.” Even looking up at the night sky with the naked eye is awe inspiring. To know that the light you’re seeing from those distant stars is thousands, if not millions, of years old is enough to fill one with awe and wonder. To realize how small of a piece of space we occupy. It is more humbling than any Bible verse telling me that God created me out of sand, or a blood clot, or any other nonsense.

I didn’t really want to get too deep into this just because I’d never stop writing. The basic point I wanted to make was that we need to up our standard of proof. We need to exercise critical thinking. To stop thinking of science as a bad thing, or that it’s just another way out of a myriad of ways you can “prove” something (it’s the only way). Or, thinking that it’s too hard to look for evidence of something. To think that it’s easier instead to just accept it.

I’ve come to revile the word “Faith.” When someone says, “Just have faith,” all I hear is, “Stop thinking about it and just accept it, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. You won’t get anywhere in this life by thinking. You need to just believe everything you’re told… especially if it’s in the Bible. Just believe any kind of woo-woo nonsense people throw at you.”

I usually end with the standard “Read a book,” but this time I’d just like to close with a quote from one of the greatest teachers of all time, the late Dr. Carl Sagan…

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

More "True Believer" Conversations

Saturday March 15, 2008 4 comments

Ah yes. My site seems to get quite a bit of attention these days from the “True Believer” crowd.

This one, like the last one, argues greatly from ignorance. There was also a great amount of undue credit given to the TAPS gentlemen, the Ghost Hunters. The reference given was to a show where their sound-man was supposedly attacked by a ghost. I address these things in my response, but for now, let’s just get to the email.

I recently read your writings concerning the above. Needless to say, it did not surprise me that there are people who doubt in their existence (ghosts, that is) and deny anything paranormal is a possibility.

At any rate, my main dispute is in regards to what was said about the Ghost Hunters on TV which (part of your statement) was that “They have an agenda. To prove that ghosts do, in fact, exist.” Apparently, you have never watched the show Ghost Hunters on Sci-Fi. The reason I say you’ve never watched the show is because if you did you would know that on every single show the founders (Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson) make it very clear they are out to debunk their findings. As a matter of fact, they have walked away from several investigations with the conclusion of a place not being haunted or having paranormal activity. (However, as it has been stated several times by paranormal investigators, apparitions don’t manifest on queue). If you’re still in doubt, I dare to to disprove the episode of Ghost Hunters when the TAPS sound-man gets attacked and is knocked to the floor. This was at New Bedford Armory in Massachusetts. When the findings were revealed to those individuals who had requested TAPS to do the investigating were astonished, and the clients were also on the premises when it all happened. Keep in mind that the clients who asked TAPS to come was not a family just hearing or seeing things. These people at New Bedford Armory were actual soldiers. These men are trained to not be afraid of things and to have tactful thinking. After what happened that night, they don’t doubt any longer in the paranormal. So, for you to say that Ghost Hunters, i.e. TAPS, are out to prove ghosts exist is completely inaccurate and an untrue statement. Although, I will say that there are those people (such as Lorraine Warren) and paranormal researchers/groups (such as the Most Haunted group) do give ghost hunting a bad name. I will agree that the Most Haunted group is a disgrace and embarrassment to legitimate investigators.

I have witnessed things I cannot explain as well. I saw my great aunt’s apparition about a week after she passed away. My boyfriend at that time was standing right next to me and witnessed it as well. I know what I saw and I didn’t see her out of the corner of my eye nor was anything placed in my mind to “imagine” what I saw. My head was fully turned and my eyes were locked onto the figure. It was something I will never forget, nor have ever doubted. I wasn’t afraid … just a bit startled but also felt honored that she made herself known to me.

I suppose you’re someone who believes in angels and demons but not in ghosts. How can you believe in one thing but not the other? Yes, most spirits are benevolent apparitions. Others, well, aren’t so nice. Are some sightings just manifestations of one’s own imagination? Possibly. There are many other sitings, etc., though, that cannot be explained. This does not mean ghosts do not exist. It wouldn’t surprise me none-the-least if your next writing is about how Wiccans are Satanists and worship the devil.

I suggest you read a book and do some research about how ghosts can and do exist. The thing is, though, you’re going to believe what you want just as I’m going to believe — and I know ghosts exist. It’s just like believing in God — either you believe or you don’t.

Over and over and over again, I repeat myself. I suppose it doesn’t do much good. I have NEVER said that science “does not allow for paranormal activity.” Whenever I have brought up paranormal activity scientifically, I have always said that science requires evidence!!! If there is no evidence, then of course, science will not accept it.

The thing that really floored me was the last paragraph. Apparently I need to do a little more research because I don’t read books which, as she says, show that, “ghosts can and do exist.” I don’t read much Sci-Fi. I guess, according to her, I probably should start. There aren’t any peer-reviewed books which claim that ghosts exist.

In case you’re interested, here’s that stupid video of the “Ghost Hunters” episode referenced where that sound man is supposedly attacked. Like I said, no evidence that a ghost was present at all, whatsoever.

So here’s my response to her.

Hello and thanks for writing,

I understand that you take issue with some of the things that I’ve written. I’ve also noted that you, as well as many others, misinterpret what I’ve said about ghosts. I’ve always said that I will accept the possibility of the existence of ghosts provided that there is sufficient evidence. By that, I mean reasonable scientific evidence.

What is reasonable scientific evidence? Well, to start off with, an extraordinary claim such as the existence of ghosts requires extraordinary evidence. I will not believe anything that I see on television… at least nothing I see on that Ghost Hunters show. These guys are daytime Roto-Rooter dudes. They have absolutely NO scientific training whatsoever. They have no clue as to how to operate scientifically. Their sole agenda is to try to prove that ghosts exist.

Let’s put it this way. If their goal wasn’t to prove that ghosts exist, why is their show called “Ghost Hunters?” Why not call their show “Anomaly Explainers?” Why? Because they want people to believe they really are catching ghosts on camera… and they’re not.

Just to give you an example of how completely unscientific these guys are, here’s a video from their show…

If you can’t see that, here’s the link to the video.

This is a video of a chair supposedly “moving by itself.” Apparently they didn’t do a whole lot of “debunking” because if, before the chair moves, you put your mouse pointer on the edge of the chair, you’ll find that the chair doesn’t actually move at all. The only thing that changes is where that light is pointing. You can see that someone is clearly messing with it. Does that look like they are trying to “debunk” anything? I’ve never even been on a “ghost hunt” before and I can see this is total garbage.

What these guys do, as do any tricksters and hucksters, is to they take very small details of the story and claim that it’s evidence against there being a haunting. Then, donning this scientific facade, they proceed with the rest of the show where they marvel and awe over things which have purely natural and scientific explanations. They perform what is called “Anomaly Hunting.” Anomaly hunting is where they search and search until they find something they “can’t explain.” And what that means is, they don’t even bother to try to explain it. They just say it’s a ghost.

I’ve seen the episode of Ghost Hunters that you mentioned in your email. There is absolutely nothing in the video that suggests there is a ghost present. You see a camera flailing around wildly for a second and then there is a guy laying on the floor. He says that something “went through him.” I hope you aren’t just going to take this guy’s word for it?

I’ll say what I’ve said countless times before. You wouldn’t take this kind of evidence from a pharmaceutical company, would you? “We’re not going to show you any proof that this medicine works, or even that it won’t kill you, but just take our word for it. We wouldn’t lie.”

What I ask of you is, if ghosts are so real and so obviously present in this world, why is the entire concept rejected by the whole of the academic scientific community? Why is it that you can’t go to Harvard and get a Ph.D. in “Paranormal Research?” Why is it that any educational program designed to research paranormal activity ends up shut down and out of funding? I’ll tell you why. It’s because it’s all nonsense. No respectable scientists is going to waste their time going on “Ghost Hunts.” It’s all fake.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B – Wow, a whole TWO places in the USA to get a “Paranormal Degree.” *As a side note, not included in this email, every college in America offers some sort of Science program, as opposed to these TWO places that offer “Paranormal Degrees.”

As far as you witnessing things you cannot explain (as you say, “I have witnessed things I cannot explain as well.”), that’s all it is. Something you cannot explain. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a ghost. Can you explain Multi-Dimensional Derivative Calculus? No? That must mean it’s a ghost. Can you explain what a Higgs Boson particle is? No? It must be a ghost then. Are quantum computers ghosts because you can’t explain them?

As far as attacking me by saying that I probably believe in “angels and demons but not ghosts,” I place them all on the same level. Ancient mythologies. From this argument, you proceed with, “How can you believe in one thing but not the other?” You’ve not even been made aware of my opinion on such beings… or at least not spent enough time reading about my opinion.

And again you say, “There are many other sitings, etc., though, that cannot be explained. This does not mean ghosts do not exist.” It also does not mean ghosts DO exist. Again, just because something is unexplained, doesn’t mean that it’s automatically paranormal. Can you explain what the Bernoulli Effect is? No? That must mean it’s a paranormal phenomenon.

Concerning your statement that, “It wouldn’t surprise me none-the-least if your next writing is about how Wiccans are Satanists and worship the devil,” I feel that there is no difference between ghosts, spirits, devils or what have you. It is all nonsense. There’s no scientific evidence for any of the above… nor magic spells. Might as well be worshiping woodchucks. They are real.

As far as your recommendation for me to read a book, what would you recommend? I have requirements for my reading. It must be peer-reviewed… meaning that many scientists have read it prior to being published – insuring that it has been vetted of all ridiculous, unscientific material. If you can find even ONE peer-reviewed scientific book which claims that ghosts are real, I’d be more than happy to read it with an open mind.

I will just conclude with a response to your last few statements. “The thing is, though, you’re going to believe what you want just as I’m going to believe — and I know ghosts exist.” You are incorrect in your assumption. I’m not just going to “believe what I want.” I’m going to accept whatever the evidence points to. If there is a consensus among the scientific community that ghosts do, in fact, exist, then guess what? I will “believe in ghosts.”

It’s just like believing in God — either you believe or you don’t.” I don’t suppose it is much like this. I accept where the evidence points. You, on the other hand, will believe in ghosts no matter what.
Why wouldn’t I want ghosts to exist? That would be amazing! Strange beings floating around, defying every law of physics known to mankind. That would be awesome. It’s just too bad that it isn’t real. I can’t make myself believe in something that there is absolutely no evidence for. I would be lying to myself.

Another person fallen victim to the false logic of these “Ghost Hunter” shows. As long as there is a small amount of token skepticism, everything else is taken as truth. “See, everything they say is the truth because they were skeptical about one thing.” Nonsense. Just look at that stupid video with the chair that “moves.”

Then there was the whole attack, talking about how I probably believe in “angels and demons but not ghosts,” and how she says, “It wouldn’t surprise me none-the-least if your next writing is about how Wiccans are Satanists and worship the devil.” What kind of logic is this? More like an ad hominem attack.

I think I did a good job of covering everything. Anyway, she writes back…

Your points and opinions have been taken into consideration. However, until the day that you actually experience what I have (since my childhood), then and only then will you change your mind about the existence of ghosts and that paranormal activity does occur in this world, irregardless if it can be “scientifically” proven or not. Although, you probably will never have an experience because when people are closed-minded and choose to ignore/discount the possibilities, it usually takes a major upset in one’s life to open that door after reaching a certain age. It’s a proven fact that adults are more quick to dismiss things than children are. As for the scientific stance (and those I’ve spoken with who have majored in that field) on paranormal research have explained to me the reason why most scientists don’t believe in ghosts or paranormal activity is because of the inability to scientifically explain it. They also went on to say not all scientists don’t discount the possibility of unexplainable occurrences, i.e. the existence of ghosts or other paranormal activities. Some times things just aren’t meant to be explained. They just are …. what they are.

Another person stuck in the mindset that somehow there are other ways to know things; other ways than through science. Science, as I’ve also said many times before, the only way we can know anything. But, I’ll address this in my final (so far) email response.

Hello again,

I guess the most important part of what I’d been trying to relate to you, the part that you’ve seemed to miss, is that I don’t totally discount the possibility of paranormal phenomenon. If there is evidence for it, then I’m more than happy to accept it.

For you to say that I’ll never experience anything paranormal because I’m “closed minded” is basically saying that ghosts only exist if you “let them.” That somehow the existence of ghosts is subjective – dependent upon whether or not you believe in them. If ghosts were real, I would see them whether I wanted to or not. It’s not like I can prevent them from existing just by not believing in them. You couldn’t say computers aren’t real just because I don’t “believe in them.” They’re still real, regardless of how “closed minded” I might be. Thankfully, facts don’t require someone to believe in them in order for them to be true. If the existence of ghosts was a fact, I would not be able to deny it just because I didn’t want them to be real.

It’s a proven fact that adults are more quick to dismiss things than children are.” Children also accept things and believe them because they are also very “fantasy prone.” Their reality testing abilities aren’t up to standard as compared with adults. Children are not as rigorous about proof as adults are. They accept things they are told without proof, believing things told to them by authority figures. It’s part of our evolutionary history. If children didn’t listen when told not to go near the lion’s den, they’d be killed. Only when they get older do they engage in reality testing. This seems like you’re cherry-picking your evidence. Children believe in a lot of things. Things that adults know better than to believe in (Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, etc). Do you really want to base your proof of ghosts on the opinion of children?

You also say “scientifically” as if it’s no different from any other way of proving something. That there are other ways of proving things? Science is the only way we, as human beings, can know anything. Science isn’t a religion or a dogma… it’s a methodology. It’s the only way we can find things out. Anything outside the realm of science is, basically, outside the realm of human experience. It would be foolish to think that our mere human senses are capable of perceiving phenomenon that our advanced technological devices can’t. If something interacts with our senses, then it is obviously “scientifically” detectable. It logically follows that if scientific instrumentation cannot detect these ghosts, then how much less would our mere senses be able to detect them.

As far as your last comment, that “Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be explained,” I very much disagree. That is a very big leap to make. To make an assumption that things not “meant to be explained?” Besides being human nature to seek out the explanation for everything in the world around us, it would seem that to say some things are not meant to be explained is almost an effort to keep the real explanation of things hidden. Possibly that you might not like the results of knowing the real explanations for certain things?
To conclude, I’d just like to reiterate the fact that I do not say that paranormal phenomenon is impossible. If there arises some type of evidence for it, then, as I said before, I’d be more than happy to change my stance. Until that time, I concede to the current state of the evidence, which is no evidence.

And so, thus concludes (so far) another conversation with a True Believer. A lot of what I deal with are logical problems. There are countless examples here, as well as in my previous conversation.

So, if you’ve got some logical fallacies you want to throw my way, or if you’ve got some convoluted reasoning that I haven’t yet considered, godkillzyou@gmail.com is the address to send them to!

Read a peer-reviewed book.

Conversations With A “True Believer” [Part I]

Tuesday March 4, 2008 1 comment

I think the majority of people who read what I write are pretty well aware of the fact that there is no scientific evidence for paranormal activity. None whatsoever.

With that being said, I’d like to present you with a series of email exchanges I’ve had with someone who I’d classify as being a “True Believer.” Someone who believes something regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

I’d received the first email from the person in question around the end of December of 2007 (12/18/2007). She had apparently been reading a few of my entries concerning ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon.

When paranormal activities occur you can’t say science doesn’t permit it. It’s obviously that is it something that the human mind does not have knowledge of, nor can we understand how it is possible. I have seen objects manifest before me and crash down to the ground, with 5 other people in a closed room and we all saw it. We can’t all be crazy. This happens daily in a house that I have investigated and is still happening to this day. I have it on my voice recorder, but did not have a video going at the time. There are sciences and afterlife that we just don’t know about. 100 years ago we probably would think computers were not possible. But as we learn and understand.. it’s not impossible.

I just wish we could find a way to get rid of this spirit or demon. We have tried everything. It is physically harming this family.

Before supplying you with my response, I’d just like to point out the logical problems with this email. The main problem is that this person is arguing from ignorance. There are things that happen which we cannot “understand how it is possible.” Because we don’t understand it, then this means that it is paranormal? This doesn’t make logical sense.

Here’s my response:

Hello,

Thanks for taking the time to write to me.

I just wanted to clear a few things up about what you suppose my thoughts are on “paranormal activity.” (I’m also assuming you’ve gotten these impressions from what you’ve read on my blog; godkillzyou.wordpress.com.)

First of all, I’ve never said that science “does not permit” paranormal activity. Any time I’ve written about ESP, Ghosts, or anything Paranormal, I’ve always said that there is no scientific evidence of it. If there were, than I’d be more than happy to accept it as truth that these things do, in fact, exist.

Think of it this way. If what you’re saying is true, then humans couldn’t rely on anything. No laws of physics, no science whatsoever. What good is a law of Gravity if a ghost can make things rise into the air? Randomly? There would be no way of constructing a reliable experiment of any kind. “A ghost messed with the results.” It’s like saying the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Universe, and He keeps us from finding out the truth because he modifies the results whenever we try to carbon date something. There’s no logic behind it.

If what you’re saying is true, and you have all of this evidence of ghostly activity, why then isn’t there a video camera running 24/7 in this house? A web cam? Wouldn’t you want to be the first person ever on Earth to prove that ghost do, in fact, exist? It just seems strange that whenever someone claims that they have ghost activity, there is never a video camera around. Only very questionable audio. Nothing reliable.

In terms of standards of proof, you wouldn’t take the type of evidence you’re offering from a pharmaceutical company. “The scientific community hasn’t actually studied this medicine, but 5 people we know said it works really well and you won’t die from taking it. Five people can’t be wrong.” I wouldn’t bet my life on that kind of proof.

As far as objects manifesting themselves out of nowhere, I find it very hard to believe. As, I think, it should be. How does one accept a statement like that when everything one knows about life contradicts everything that statement claims? It’s fundamentally a horrible idea to blindly accept anything (everything) you’re told. You’d end up believing that politicians told the truth.

As far as your analogy about computers, it isn’t really accurate in this situation. In fact, it speaks totally against what you’re trying to convince me of. Computers came about because of scientific study. Research and ideas based on a solid scientific foundation. Computers didn’t exist in some strange dimension in which we brought them out of by “detecting them,” or using strange devices to “prove they exist.” What you’re claiming goes against EVERY solid scientific idea known to man. You’re proposing something that goes against hundreds of years of solid scientific discovery. Scientific theories and laws that apply to every single possible situation in life… except when it comes to ghosts. There, as you seem to think, science has it all wrong. You saying that matter is spontaneously generating itself (manifesting, as you say). If that was true, we’d have our energy crisis solved. We could spontaneously manifest crude oil in this family’s house and pay $1.00 per gallon of gas again!

We know how matter and energy work. Objects are made of atoms. They reflect light and that’s how we see them. Atoms do not “manifest.” Newton’s law applies here. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For matter to spontaneously generate, it would, logically, spontaneously destruct/disappear/implode… whatever you want to call it. And the amount of energy required to create matter would be so tremendous that the Earth would no longer exist. Einstein’s equation E=MC^2 spells this out. Written in its original form, M=E/C^2 tells you, theoretically, the amount of energy required to create a mass. (I’m doing actual science here.) Suppose we wanted to create a glass plate that weighs, modestly, about 5 grams. This would require 449,377,589,368,408,820 joules of energy. Put another way, this is the amount of energy capable of accelerating 990,707,999,000,000,000 lbs of weight (495,353,999,500,000 tons!!!) at a speed of 1 meter per second, per second. This amount of energy “manifesting itself” in someone’s house would destroy the planet, and probably anything within a few light years of us.

I’m sure that you do sincerely believe what you’re telling me. But, when looked at under a scrutinizing light, nothing that you’re proposing makes any kind of sense. It’s easy to take something that is “yet to be explained” and claim that it is “unexplainable.” It just hasn’t been explained yet. Before lightning was explained, it was thought to be the work of “God,” the paranormal explanation. Now we know that static electricity causes lightning, through the discoveries of science.

My overall point is that science has been a tool for mankind for as long as man has been able to reason. Anything that has stood the test of scientific scrutiny has always been what human society has thrived on, because of its truth. Because it works! Anything that doesn’t stand up to the test of science falls by the way-side. Into the “paranormal,” or, as the word indicates, that which is not normal. Accepted. It is anomalous phenomenon. And anomalies are just that; anomalies. Things that are perceived as strange because of a lack of information. Science is the “normalizing” factor. If a proposition can’t stand up to accepted scientific knowledge, then we know that it can’t be true. There must be additional unknown information that needs to be discovered.

That’s the beauty of science. It isn’t set in stone. It’s only “accepted” if it works. If it doesn’t, then it changes. Our laws of physics are laws because they apply in every situation. And if someone claims something that goes against those laws, they have the burden of proof on their shoulders, because that one claim has to “out-prove” every bit of knowledge that has been acquired throughout human history. For you, your ghost activity has to “out-prove” pretty much every law of physics known to man. That’s a heavy burden. It would take a tremendous amount of documented proof before it would be accepted as reality. Remember, the same standard of proof as a pharmaceutical company. I’d have to trust my life with the evidence you provide.

Ok, so this ended up being a little long (-winded). But, I think you understand where I’m coming from now. Remember, I don’t rule out the possibility of the existence of ghosts. I just say that the probability that they do exist is infinitely small. Each day that there isn’t solid proof makes that probability even smaller. Just like every day that someone doesn’t find Bigfoot makes it even less likely that there is such a creature.

Thanks for writing.

David (AKA GodKillzYou)
No Special Qualifications
I Just Read Books And Study Reality
I Have Enhanced Looking Skills

A bit long-winded, but I feel that I got my point across. And yet, the next email continued with the same type of logical fallacies. Arguing from ignorance…

We have set up cameras in an investigation where the whole family had to move out for the night including 6 children. We cannot keep cameras going 24/7. The family has to live their lives and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is just to have an EVP session with the voice recorders. I never believed in a lot of this stuff, but regardless of what science is since the beginning of time….I think there is a lot of spiritual (don’t know if that is the right term) things that billions of people don’t have a clue about that is out there. You would have to be there, standing with a group of people and see a cup come from nowhere, like a flash of light, and just crash down on the floor smack in the middle of the five people who are talking about getting rid of this thing.

I used to watch shows on TV and think they were all made up for good TV, even when they said based on a true story, until now. I know what you are saying, it is impossible according to the laws of physics and years of scientific studies, but it happened.

Thanks for writing back. I am frustrated that I can’t figure this out…I am a private investigator.

It must be a pretty well-kept secret if billions of people don’t know about it. And that is part of the point I made in my final email reply.

I guess that is exactly what I don’t understand. If there is something out there, something that is solidly provable out there, how is it possible that, as you say, “billions of people” don’t know about it? It’s the same with Bigfoot and aliens and the like. For Bigfoot to even be alive, there has to be a sustainable population of them, in order for them to reproduce successfully. And yet, in a world of billions of people, not ONE of those people can provide even a single strand of concrete evidence that they exist.

Like I said, I don’t doubt that you believe what you saw, or that it was certainly compelling. I have a strong tendency to believe, though, that possibly you may have misinterpreted what you saw, or you were mislead. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but our laws of physics govern everything, every action that takes place. Magicians like David Blaine and James Randi, as well as Penn & Teller are capable of mystifying feats. One might even question the reality of what they saw. But, as with what we know about the scam artist Uri Geller and his “spoon bending” fiasco, the human mind is easily deceived. All it takes is a little understanding of human psychology.

I think what might even be more appropriate in this situation is to design some experiments to prove that what you’re witnessing is NOT, in fact, ghost activity. That would fall more in line with the scientific method. It’s important to exhaust all options, every possible scenario before looking to the supernatural explanation. If it’s cups that are appearing in a room, remove all cups from the room, place them in a secure location, lock all the doors leaving only yourself and a few trusted colleagues in the room. Check for trap doors and lighting equipment that may be hidden in the ceiling or lighting fixtures. No one from the family should be in the room, as they may have some type of motive to convince you of this activity. Maybe they’re looking to make some money off a book or movie deal?

I would always question motive above anything. What can this person gain by trying to convince people that there are ghosts in a house? But, being a person with your qualifications, I’m sure you understand all of this. And I’m hoping you understand where I’m coming from.

Anyway, I appreciate your correspondence and I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

David

The most important thing thing when “investigating” paranormal phenomenon is to be truly scientific about what you’re doing. If you go into a situation looking to prove that ghosts do exist, then your investigation is already tainted. If you’ve got an emotional investment in the results, then you will, more than likely, slant the outcome.

Hi David:

I have a Merry Christmas as you I hope. I just want to say that you had to be there.

We had the room secured and I saw a flash come out of the wall up near the ceiling and as it hit the wooden floor and crashed the realization that it was one of her coffee cups that was in the dishwasher 30 minutes prior, 30 feet away and behind closed doors. Other things happened when I was there, but not in front of me. This was the convincing factor. I have EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) of more than one voice responding to my questions. The first thing we try to do is disprove it, but there are many recordings that we cannot debunk. These people DO NOT want anyone to know about this so I know they do not want a movie deal. They signed papers saying so. They just want help. There have been cups and glasses that manifested and crashed that were packed in newspaper in the basement and one that was packed in a box in the bedroom closet and they just come out of nowhere. One incident that I experienced was we were all talking and a bulb blew out in the chandelier in the foyer, so we thought, but I turned and looked immediately and saw a screwdriver falling from the chandelier and hitting the stone floor. I inspected the house when I went in and there were no screwdrivers in the living room which is where the screwdriver came from. The other side of the living room wall is the garage, but I didn’t think it was possible to come thru the wall, until I saw the cup manifest in the bedroom in front of me. I wish there was something else we could do to try to figure this out..but we are a small group with little equipment. Do you know of any scientist or universities that may be able to help us? What state are you in?

We also do this on a volunteer basis and don’t get paid so we have to do this when we all have the time and we aren’t working.

Thanks for all your advice. Let me know if you think of someone I can contact.

To Be (Possibly) Continued…

There Are No Such Things As Ghosts

Friday July 20, 2007 205 comments

What is it about the thought of supernatural things that intrigues people so much? I should say alleged supernatural things. Maybe it’s not intrigue. Maybe it’s something else…

People are intellectually lazy! Why do people believe in the supernatural? ESP, psychics, Astrology, ghosts, etc? Because it’s easy to just say that something is caused by supernatural forces, rather than to actually think about things, to do a little research or even perform an experiment… to actually find out what the cause of something is. It’s really not that hard.

I want to talk about ghosts for now. What are ghosts? Or, what do people purport ghosts to be? Basically, what survives of our soul or spirit (whatever you want to call it) after we die. Okay. Let’s take a look at just what this would imply.

In order for something to exist, it has to consist of something. To start with, everything consists of atoms. From there, we know that atoms emit energy. And energy has certain limits, as does matter, or atoms. The first thing we know for certain is that one object cannot pass through another object and retain its original form. There is a certain topic in quantum mechanics called “quantum tunneling” which deals with this very topic. The quantum tunneling principle basically says that it may be possible for the energy from an object, namely on the atomic level – not automobiles or people, may pass through another object.

It follows that if ghosts are real, in that they consist of matter, then they cannot pass through walls. It is physically impossible.

The next topic to deal with are the claims that people make that ghosts throw objects, move chairs, open and close doors, etc. These claims make believers chose one or the other. Either ghosts are physical beings, or they are not. Either they consist of atoms, or they don’t. We know this is true because in order for a ghost to move or throw anything, or to turn a door handle, friction is required. And friction is caused by two surfaces working against each other. Simple physics… not to be confused with psychics.

Because friction is required, then any claim that a ghost caused some object to move locks one into saying that a ghost is a solid object, or that at least it is atomic in structure and is in some phase of matter, i.e. solid, liquid or gas… probably not plasma. And if this is the case, then the ghost could not “become invisible” unless it was bound by specific temperatures. Meaning, whatever material the ghost consisted of has a particular temperature at which it changes states of matter – boils, melts, evaporates, etc. And the way to make the ghost visible is to simply change its form from a gas to a solid… to simply lower the temperature to make its material “solid.” And with everything we know about matter, if you were to bring an actual human being to its boiling point… well, you know what would happen.

To say that the ghost is not a solid or physical object totally goes against everything that we know about science. If one claims that a ghost is not made of matter, or atoms, then it totally throws out the possibility of its existence. Everything we know about energy and matter totally contradicts this theory. In order to interact with reality, it has to consist of something. And if these alleged ghosts do consist of something other than any kind of matter or energy that we know of, then they do not even enter into our reality. They cannot interact with us on any possible level and are outside the realm of science. The most one could say, in this situation, is that they were agnostic in terms of belief in ghosts, because they would be neither visible, nor noticeable in any circumstance. They could neither show themselves to us, nor could they interact with any object in order to “show us a sign.” They would be likened to the pink Unicorn on the dark side of the Moon. No one is there to see it, and it doesn’t effect us in any way, so whether or not there is a pink Unicorn on the dark side of the Moon means nothing to us.

So what do we do? Do we rewrite every book on science, physics and biology to support the wild claims of a few people who have never actually proven any in any scientific way? Or, do we simply disregard these claims as the result of the inner workings of these people’s imaginations, and rely on thousands of years of human observation, and hundreds of years of compounded, unrefuted scientific knowledge? You tell me.

Then we come to these “Ghost Hunter” shows on television. These people are, to start with, not scientists. They say so themselves. They have an agenda. To prove that ghosts do, in fact, exist. Any evidence that points in any other direction is disregarded. And look at the equipment they bring to these sites: Geiger counters, Infrared surface thermometers. Are they looking for nuclear fallout? They wave that stupid Infrared surface thermometer around wildly and say, “Look, the temperature is constantly changing.” Yeah, no kidding. You don’t know how to use that thing. It’s for measuring the temperature of a solid surface, not for waving around the room like a magic wand. Of course you’re going to get odd readings.

The main problem is that they never actually do any real scientific research. The first main component in scientific research is hypothesis testing. Say, for example, you believe there might be ghosts in a certain location. Ok. So what are these ghosts purportedly doing? Moving an object around the room? Making the temperature change? Well, design an experiment that aims to disprove that theory. That’s how the Scientific Method works. You don’t start with a conclusion and look for every bit of evidence that supports that claim, then disregard anything that doesn’t support it. It’s the same thing with “Creation Scientists.” They want to prove that God created everything, so that’s the only evidence they look for. When they see that biology and genetics prove that people evolved from other forms of life, they throw that evidence away because they aren’t interested in the truth. They want to prove that “God did it.”

In this way, the Scientific Method doesn’t work for ghost hunters. These guys go in there with a whole bunch of crap they bought at Radio Shack, stuff that isn’t designed to “detect ghosts.” Then they go through looking for things they can’t explain. Like why they get electromagnetic readings when they’re in a room with an electrical panel. Hmmm… I wonder why? Could it be that there is electricity in the room? Then, in the true scientific spirit, instead of trying to figure out what caused the strange occurrence (say, for example, having the electric company shut off the power to the house, and then performing another reading), they simply assume it was a ghost causing these readings. How intellectually lazy these people are. It’s nonsense.

Then there are people who claim to have had very real experiences which include things such as a ghost attacking them, accompanied by the feeling of paralysis, being unable to breathe, etc. These experiences are very vivid to those who have them.

These experiences are easily explained. Here is a link to a study on the topic, although this study was done on those who claimed to be abducted by UFOs. But the situations are similar enough to note this study. Both are relatively similar experiences.

Basically, what happens is when one falls asleep, there is a part of the brain stem that paralyzes the body once you enter REM sleep. This happens so that you don’t act out your dreams. The frightening thing that can happen is that the sleeping person wakes up, but this part of the brain stem fails to release its paralyzing effect on the body. The person cannot move, possibly has a very difficult time breathing, and also possibly is still experiencing the dream they were having. It’s called a waking dream, and the person experiencing it is totally convinced that what is happening in their mind is happening in reality.

The basic point that I want to make is that instead of immediately jumping to the supernatural conclusion, try doing some experimentation to actually discover what really caused what you claim to be ghost activity. You’ll be surprised at what a little research will reveal.

Do some research and read a book.

There’s No Such Thing As Psychic Ability

Saturday March 3, 2007 14 comments

This post is intended as a step forward in human evolution. A clearing of the mind of distractions, falsities, and lies. To free from our consciousness this disease… this plague of so-called psychics. People who claim to have “paranormal” abilities.

There is no such thing as Paranormal Ability, or ESP. Whatever you want to call it. Fact.

As soon as this topic is brought up, images of Sylvia Browne are conjured in most people. She’s the one who’s pretty much a permanent guest on the Montel Williams show, telling people that she can talk to dead people, foresee illness, and tell the future with her “Spirit Guide,” Francine. This woman is such a fraud – along with all the others.

Then there’s that Uri Gellar guy. Supposedly he can bend spoons, move things with his mind and all this garbage. A simple magician’s trick. See for yourself.

As you can see, it’s all nothing but simple tricks. Nothing “psychic” about any of this at all. In fact, that “Faith Healer” with the wireless radio reminds me of something a little like what happened with our President, George W. Bush. Didn’t he use a wireless radio while debating John Kerry? All these fakes need a little “prompting” now and then.

The following 2 clips are from my favorite radio show, The Paul Harris Show on KMOX in St. Louis. The first one is his radio interview with James Randi (1/24/2007). The second one is his interview with the creator of StopSylviaBrowne.com. Both worth a listen.

James Randi

Stop Sylvia Browne

Also, it should be noted that James Randi is offering $1,000,000 for anyone who can PROVE that they posses psychic abilities. Sylvia Browne has accepted this challenge, but that was back in September of 2001, and she still hasn’t actually stepped up and taken the test.

Sylvia Browne once told an audience member on the Montel Williams Show that she was having pains in her stomach because in her previous surgery, one of the doctors left a surgical instrument inside her. Her next bit of advice was for this woman to go have an MRI done.

Do you know what an MRI is? It stands for MAGNETIC Resonance Imaging. Anyone who has a surgical instrument inside themselves, entering a booth which is, essentially, a giant magnet is going to be in extreme pain, if not dead.

Liars, cheats and deceivers… every single one of them.

One final note on James Randi. My good friend Aaron wrote to James and his comment is posted on the site. You can read it here.

Read a book… not the future.