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Thread: How should science deal with the paranormal?

  1. #1 How should science deal with the paranormal? 
    Time Lord
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    I'm kind of drawing from different threads. Here's a quote from the "Psychic?" thread, but other people have been posting other things not dissimilar:

    Quote Originally Posted by Manynames
    Quote Originally Posted by Absum!
    Quote Originally Posted by Manynames
    Quote Originally Posted by Absum!
    Interesting BBC doc which investigates a well known psychic

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode...and_Possessed/

    Bad Psychics website referred to in the doc - http://www.badpsychics.co.uk/

    If you cant use the BBC link because you're in the wrong country use a proxy or hidemyass - http://hidemyass.com/

    So do you think this guy is a fraud?
    I don't care about him. All i need to care about is that i have seen things and experienced thing that cannot be explaibed other than some ''psychic'' interpretation.
    Ok

    Well are you gonnna tell us about them?

    I'd be interested to know what you've experienced.
    I was the age of 13

    Two friends of mine came by my house in a very old- and history based village of Innellan. We decided to venture (quite early, but nights getting early as well) during the summer up into local stabels. We saw when walking down the darkened path a strange illuminated object in the road which dissipated after our amazement to run after it. But nothing tangible was found.

    I just moved into my new house

    And it was when i was 16, i moved into my new house. Free of drugs and influence of alchohol, i saw a face which emerged in my kitchen, literally face-up to mine. It whad no body attached, but it made me fall back crying with sadness. And i am hard cunt... seriously... but this ecperience shook me more than what i can imagine today.

    At fourteen

    Myself, my mother and father, grandmother and grandfather saw three objects, illunited above the dak clouds of a winters night - we saw these objects do things that where unexplainable to conventional aircraft. We probably would have been considered ''eccentric'' if it was not for several independant claims of observation of these mysteriously-aloof objects. A massive investigation went into the the probable source of the light, which explained nothing.

    At fifteen turning 16

    I was in a hotel awaiting a new house. It turned out that my stay had me in a corridor, quite a spooky corridor at that, on reflection of the events. I saw young girl one night, with a small stack of hay on her back. It had me running back into the room (from the toilet where i had a shower), and for me phoning the hotel manager to redirect me to a new room in a corridor which had other residents.

    It turns out the next morning, the lady who gave us our food, said ''you're not crazy. you are not the first to see it.''

    Enought, because that is all my expereinces.

    The "scientific" approach to such claims, appears to consist of finding any semi-credible (but mundane) explanation that can possibly be found, and then holding that explanation up as an absolute certainty.

    "Debunking" just doesn't seem like a proper kind of science to me. It sets the burden of evidence in favor of itself (which scientific theories are not supposed to do), and completely isolates itself from critical discourse. The mere fact a debunk doesn't deviate from accepted theories is seen as sufficient proof of its validity.

    Paranormal, psychic, and spiritual events are observed by enough people, and often outside of any kind of group pressure (like the hysteria effect you might get from a church group or cult), that it seems to be a genuine part of reality.

    If we discount it as arising from dillusion then we have to discount human experience as being a valid source of data for all other scientific purposes as well, because the dillusion argument can applied to absolutely any observation if it can be applied to paranormal ones.

    It's not that I think science could actually arrive at a proper theory. The evidence is too hard to examine in the right way. It just seems stupid for scientists to go so far as to actually try and deny the possibility of the paranormal. They certainly don't have evidence sufficient to be making claims about its existence.

    All they can say for sure is that, if the paranormal does exist, then the motivating force behind it is not one of those that has yet been rationalized scientifically.


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  3. #2 Re: How should science deal with the paranormal? 
    Moderator Moderator Dishmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    If we discount it as arising from dillusion then we have to discount human experience as being a valid source of data for all other scientific purposes as well, because the dillusion argument can applied to absolutely any observation if it can be applied to paranormal ones.
    My opinion is that this is the central argument. Not only is human perception not a very good source of truth, which is why it is regarded as the weakest piece of evidence at court. Such experiences also tend to change in time. Both the immediate receptions and the recollection of a past event are strongly affected by the expectations and beliefs of the individual. Often, reports are already full of interpretations of what actually happened. This is why in science one strongly separates observation from interpretation. Example: What does it mean, when somebody claims, "we saw these objects do things that were unexplainable to conventional aircraft"? How could someone make such a statement? Is he an expert on aircraft engineering? As long as there is no OBJECTIVE piece of evidence not tampered by subjective interpretation, none of such reports can be considered to be suitable for scientific investigation.


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  4. #3 Re: How should science deal with the paranormal? 
    Time Lord
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dishmaster
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    If we discount it as arising from dillusion then we have to discount human experience as being a valid source of data for all other scientific purposes as well, because the dillusion argument can applied to absolutely any observation if it can be applied to paranormal ones.
    My opinion is that this is the central argument. Not only is human perception not a very good source of truth, which is why it is regarded as the weakest piece of evidence at court. Such experiences also tend to change in time. Both the immediate receptions and the recollection of a past event are strongly affected by the expectations and beliefs of the individual. Often, reports are already full of interpretations of what actually happened. This is why in science one strongly separates observation from interpretation. Example: What does it mean, when somebody claims, "we saw these objects do things that were unexplainable to conventional aircraft"? How could someone make such a statement? Is he an expert on aircraft engineering? As long as there is no OBJECTIVE piece of evidence not tampered by subjective interpretation, none of such reports can be considered to be suitable for scientific investigation.
    Well, the people making such claims as the one in bold, are usually professional pilots, and the underlying suggestion is that the G-forces would kill a human pilot regardless of whether the aircraft in question were otherwise able to execute the maneuvers they're seeing.... but .... I see your point.

    One House episode I remember is one where House is on an airplane and a person gets sick. Turns out its a non-contagious disease, but somehow everybody on the plane seems to be catching it. Every time he names a symptom, people start exhibiting it. So, to test, he names a false symptom, and everybody exhibits it. At which point.... he concludes that their symptoms are actually merely the result of mass hysteria.


    So.... I think I kind of know what you're getting at, but I don't think mass hysteria would be sufficient to explain everything that happens, most especially psychic experiences where a person becomes aware of information that would not seem to have been available to them. I don't mean Nostradamus either. I mean very specific information, sometimes from the future, sometimes the present. And it usually doesn't happen in a clinical environment.

    Ghost sightings could be shitzophrenic delusions, but ...they seem to happen an awful lot to people who aren't otherwise schitzophrenic (though I'm sure they happen to schitzophrenics as well).

    A lot of people who have such experiences are very reluctant to talk about them. I know a friend of my brother who thought he saw a UFO appear over his car one night, and hover really close for a little while before going away. It's really hard to get him to talk about it, because he doesn't really want to think about it. It's like he's sure he saw it, and... at the same time he doesn't know if he really saw it, because it doesn't make sense. But, the only reason he has for thinking it might be a delusion is that it doesn't make sense.
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  5. #4  
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    Treat it as we do religion - test wehat we can and resist the attempts to confuse pereption and beliefs with science.
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  6. #5  
    Time Lord
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    I guess the trouble with the paranormal is that nobody knows of any way to deliberately create paranormal phenomena on demand so that we can run tests on it. It happens at random places and random times, so even fairly scientific approaches run into the problem of only being able to gather little bits of reliable data here and there.

    Yeah. Maybe treating it the same as religion is the best approach then.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    How should science deal with the paranormal?
    Ignore it since science only deals with the 'normal'.
    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

    - Arnaud Amalric

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  8. #7  
    Time Lord
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    The trouble is, how shall it deal with the occasional claim from the Paranormal? Refusing to touch it with a 10 foot pole is a nice approach. However, sooner or later, the debate over whether the experience of an individual really happened or not comes up, and .... some paranormal experiences might be taken as violating known laws of physics, or seeming to.

    It would be nice if science would just say "Well, since it's paranormal, we can't say one way or another." But scientists are all too fond of saying "Well, since it's paranormal, I'm absolutely certain it didn't happen." Which, interestingly enough, loses science a lot of credibility in a lot of peoples' eyes, because they're making claims that exceed evidence.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Freshman Malcient's Avatar
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    I think science should not deal with paranormal, because science deals with that which is observable and testable.

    Paranormal is, by definintion, outside of that realm.

    However, I do think that science should deal with anything observable, and it is probably possible, or will be possible, to test the theories that are considered "paranormal".

    ** to make myself clear here, I am merely quibbling with definitions, most likely because improperly defined words like 'paranormal' and 'supernatural' bother me because they are self-defeating.

    I am not close minded toward investigating areas that may be considered/labled paranormal, however, it is my personal belief that most of these subjects are full of people who are not practicing good science.
    Happiness is Understanding the Underlying Causes of Things.
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  10. #9  
    Time Lord
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    I take these stories as a wonderful opportunity to get inside the person's psyche. One can learn much and sometimes help because this line in skirts barriers. My questions about the ghost or whatever are actually probing them. It's all very convivial. Finally I can often speak to the person (their problem) while apparently just commenting on that 3rd object.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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