Twenty things to consider when regarding paranormal phenomenon.
1. It is claimed that the subject does not seek money or fame, and thus no motive to deceive exists.
This is the demonstratively false, because we wouldn't know about these claimants unless they were gaining fame and/or noterity.
2. The subject (a child, or sweet little old lady) is said to be incapable of the techniques required; lack of sophistication precludes deception. Agist, sexist, racist, whatever, the ability to lie, hood-wink, or otherwise swindle is a condition of being human. As long as the claimant is human, we must accept the possability of duplicity.
3. It is said that the subject has failed to pass tests designed to determine if the necessary skill is present.
The ability for gullability is another function of being human. This includes scientists and other authoritative investigators (police, courts, etc.). It is unacceptable to simply accept that something is proven or disproven to someone else, examine the method of examination utilized and determine for yourself if the investigator was bamboozled or not.
4. Faults discovered in the story or performance tend to prove the phenomenon real, it is agreed, since a clever trickster would not make such basic errors. Unlike conventional wisdom, exceptions prove a failure of a rule, exceptions cannot prove a rule. Similarly, a fault in the story of performance indicates duplicity or failure of the claim.
5. If a phenomenon is consistant with previously reported ones, this is cited as strong evidence that it is genuine. Consistancy can be bred too easily, especially since claimants usually are familiar with previous reports. By way of example, original U.F.O. reports were cigar shaped, until one famous report was made with the description of being saucer like. Then reports began to come in of flying saucers, and this fed the phenomenon. In a like manner after some science fiction stories had shown aliens to be big headed yet frail bodied with large black eyes, abduction stories are of such aliens. As more reports are made of such aliens, and such reports become more publicized, anyone thinking they met an alien will be more likely than not to confirm previous reports.
6. It is claimed that critics give poor or insufficient reasons for doubting reported paranormal events and are therefore not to be taken seriously. It is very true that poor argument is dismissable. However, one will usually find that claimants will be very dismissive of any counterargument, regard them all as weak, and ignore them all. Powers of discrimination tend to be lost on those who want to believe, and such is the reason to plan studies of phenomena in such manner that bias is controlled or eliminated.
7. Prominent personalities lend their support to the claims and are considered unassailable because of prestige, academic background, and so on. Given the amount of doubt that exists for each book that has been written by God (through the hands of the faithful, of course) it is clear that any supporting personality is acceptably subject to scrutiny.
8. Similarly, supposed experts are called in to verify the claims. I have nothing else to add beyond 3, except to say that even credentials should be regarded with skepticism generally. We (try, at least) to live in a democratic society, we should not regard ourselves as being more gullible than an 'expert.'
9. The findings of experts who are critical are minimized or ignored. Again I point back to 6. In real science the process of peer review and skepticism in near and dear to the scientist's heart. Typically people who want a phenomenon to be true regard negative criticism as being mean-spirited. It most certainly is not. All one has to do is look at the defense process required to get a Ph.D. in the United States (at least). Even one's advisor, the mentor who nurtures the to-be collegues work and thought, takes an advesarial position during this trial. In the end it strengthens a claim, and should not be feared.
10. Those who allege paranormal events are equivocal and evasive, allowing investigators to assume facts and fill in details in support of their claims. This clearly works into human psychology. If the details are left to be completed by the oberver, then of course the details so supplied will be true to the observer. However this also clearly indicates that no two people will observe the same phenomenon the same was, and therefore the claim of objective reality of the phenomenon is moot.
11. Conflicting versions or details of a paranormal event are ignored. This speaks to the error that commonly arises from 10. If two alternative stories of experience exist then it is more logical to assume trick of the human mind, and not something paranormal.
12. A subject's ability to perform trickery is de-emphasized or ignored. Going back to 2, high-lighting innocence of the claimant only serves to increase the salability of the story to the more gentle-hearted. As (fortunately) there are more kind, nurturing people in the world than not (I find), then playing on one's good feelings will only heighten the believability of the claim.
13. Any controls that seem scientific are used to provide authentication, whether applicable or not.
Unfortunately, while I believe most people are inheirently good, most are not well educated in discriminating differing methods of study. Thus if a physical test will not demonstrate a phenomenon, then perhaps a logical argument will suffice, an argument that ignores the more complete direct test. The tight value of this alternative argument will seem valid to most people, although upon closer study it clearly isn't a direct test of the claim.
14. It is said that the subject cannot produce phenomena on command or on a regular basis, since such abilities are ephemeral and sporadic. I have always felt that such a claim indicates that while the phenomenon may be neat, it isn't worth worrying about. For example, suppose a psychic can indeed predict airplane crashes. However he can only get the 'feeling' for one in every hundred or so flights. Not failed readings, mind you, if he has a feeling it will be correct. However with a dependability of 1%, his powers will not be useful to any regulatory agency and therefore has no practical purpose other than party trick. (This logic is generic scientific logic. For another example, I can tell you that right now somewhere in the world a number of people are having sex. What, if any, meaning does this have in your life? Exactly, yet it is a scientific and verifiable fact.)
15. It is claimed that conditions that make deception possible are also those that allow the miracles to take place, and miracles are the more probable explanation. Unfortunately if such logic were correct, then we'd be back in the stone ages of superstition. Occam's Razor is the logical theory that the simplest explaination that completely explains a phenomenon is most probably correct. Look at volcanos. Clearly thermodynamics is a complex theory, but it is more simple and complete than belief in fire gods, which have indescribable and unpredictable personalities. For another example, the one time that Uri Geller was not able to prepare his targets for psychic activity (on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson) he failed, and claimed that his powers were tired that night. Clearly the simpler solution is that he wasn't able to perform his trickery, and therefore his miracle failed too.
16. Unless the critics can explain away all the reported details, the residue is considered an irreducible basis for validation. While it is true that if some claims are left unidentified that there may be a basis for further investigation, it is not true that such remnants are themselves correct or proof of the whole.
17. We are told that subjects do not do well when persons with "negative vibrations" are nearby. As "negative vibrations" are clearly not proven phenomenon then clearly consideration of such a variable is irrelevant. It also shows that the claimant is only willing to 'prove' the claim to those that believe anyway, an obvious bias error.
18. It is claimed that when money is paid for the services of a psychic, or the psychic powers are used to earn money, the powers are defeated. On the other hand - since parapsychologists like to have it both ways - moeny rewards, they also claim, tend to encourage performance. While this statement is autodisproven by it's opposing claims, I can verify that I can perform the duties that I am employed to perform despite being paid. That is, while normal talents operate whether or not the person is paid, it is not logical to assume with this basis that paranormal talents won't operate for compensation. This implies that paranormal abilities have sensory organs that can only detect money, a further absurdity.
19. It is argued that too many controls on an experiment cause negative results. This shows a misunderstanding of the scientific method. If controls eliminate confounding variables that cause an effect where an effect from the hypothesized source is absent, then the control did not 'cause' the negative result, it prevented a false positive. I hope that distinction is clear.
20. Any trickery detected by the investigators may be attributed to the subject's desire to please, and therefore there is a compulsion to cheat. This is an elemental variable that must be so accounted. For example, we can look to facilitated communication claims (a trained specialist guides an autisitic child or child with severe cerebal palsy's hand around a keyboard, thus enabling the child to type messages while otherwise unable to communicate.) In intial studies the results were astounding, we found a way for these children to communicate! However the original method allowed the facilitator to see the target information. In later studies the facilitator was not able to see the target, and the children typed gibberish. Here the additional control (19) removed the facilitator's ability to please the investigator, and good science is the result.
Compiled by James Randi.
Poltergeist - Classification of Progressive Activity.
Many investigators of this subject use a method of classification. This classification rises as activity increases. In most cases, poltergeist activity follows the same pattern, starting at a low classification and then growing until the phenomenon dissipates.
Poltergeist Activity Level One (PA1).
Audible Disturbances such as, bangings, knockings, rappings or other unusual sounds and strange smells or odours, cold areas, plasma effects.
Poltergeist Activity Level Two (PA2).
Disturbances such as levitation of objects, object movement, manipulation, animation, objects stacked or arranged, apportations / asportations, objects found unusually hot or warm to the touch. Physical formings such as oil, blood tar or water. Disembodied voices or imitative sounds. Electrical or Mechanical interference. Audible communication, objects found that do not belong, objects that go missing and turn up in odd places. Plants uprooted, disturbed or die. Doors or windows open or close, pets are annoyed or upset, sudden increase in electricity bills, regular faulty appliances, items unscrewed, dirt or excrement found. Strange drawings, writing, paintings or pictures found.
Poltergeist Activity Level Three (PA3).
Disturbances such as manifestations / apparitions, and amorphous shapes of lights.
Poltergeist Activity Level Four (PA4).
Disturbances such as physical interaction etc.
Poltergeist Activity Level Five (PA5).
Disturbances such as the feeling of sexual interaction and pressure on the chest or head whilst resting. Sometimes paralysis is reported. This is usually known as the Incubus / Succubus stage. The incubus interacts with females and the Succubus interacts with the males.
Poltergeist Activity Level Six (PA6).
Disturbances such as possessive activity, behavioural disorder, alleged possession or altered character. (The above must be in association with poltergeist activity to be categorised as a PA6). Each PA Range can include any one or all categories, except PA6. Sometimes the phenomenon may never reach a high classification.
MAPIT investigators have no set belief in regards certain alleged phenomena. Case details are built on the actual merits of evidence.
Hauntings - Classification of Activity.
There are three main categories of this type of phenomena:
1. ‘Translocational Hauntings’.
Those cases when the investigators cannot find any information that associates the phenomena with the area, location or property etc.
2. ‘Localised Hauntings’.
Those cases when the investigators find an association between the phenomena and the area, location or property. This is the opposite theory to translocational hauntings.
3. ‘Residual Hauntings’.
Those cases that usually arise after an initial haunting. These consist of in-frequent activity. Some investigators describe it as being a type of echo or after affect. These rarely last for more than six to twelve months, similar to poltergeist residual activity. One must be careful regarding such a theory, as these could be the start of such haunting or even poltergeist activity.
Investigators are advised to monitor the situation for some time before reaching this theory. In many cases there seems to be some form of direct relationship between poltergeist phenomena and hauntings. As I mentioned earlier, categorising can sometimes cause problems. In circumstances when it is difficult to suggest one or the other, investigators should simply list what is taking place.
Residual Hauntings are also referred to as recoded phenomena, such as the sighting of Phantom Aircraft, apparitions of battles, monks in an old church. Also, this form of residual phenomena is termed The Stone Theory or The Stone Wall Theory - SWT, but only when the incidents are said to take place throughout an old building that consists of heavy stone or Granite.
There are also references made to the Severity of the incidents, the Frequency of the incidents, if the alleged phenomena is Non-Interactive or Interactive. It is very important to act fast on those investigations that require urgency. It is necessary also to have a Rapid Response Team...l
Substantiating Paranormal Phenomena Protocol.
Investigation of paranormal phenomena:
1. After all report forms and basic research conducted investigators should conduct active investigation.
2. Only conduct an on-site investigation if warranted.
3. On-site investigations are only warranted if there is a 10% chance or higher of obtaining evidence of paranormal phenomena or normal agencies hoaxing.
4. Preliminary on-site investigations should only consist of basic equipment.
5. Basic equipment for preliminary vigils should consist of the following : Video recording devices, Audio recording devices, Standard 35mm or Digital camera, Temperature alert devices, Heat and motion detectors, mobile temperature probe and compass.
After Preliminary On-site Investigation:
1. If evidence of paranormal phenomena is obtained further research and secondary on-site investigations should take place.
2. There must be no doubt that evidence was obtained. If in doubt a second preliminary on-site investigation should take place until there is no evidence or no doubt of paranormal phenomena has been recorded in some manner.
3. If there is no evidence of paranormal phenomena, witnesses should be asked to keep a diary or log of events indicating times, dates, events and locations until the chance factor of obtaining evidence is heightened.
4. If there is no doubt that paranormal phenomena is or has been recorded in some manner after preliminary on-site investigation, then a secondary on-site investigation should take place using more specialised equipment.
5. Investigators should obtain a weekly report of incident from the witnesses log or diary for at least 3 months. If at that time the frequency or severity of the paranormal phenomena has not increased. Investigators should ask witnesses to continue with their log or diary for a further 3 months but only inform investigators if phenomena increases. After a further 3 months and no increase is noted then investigators should write up reports and shelve the investigation until further notice. If paranormal phenomena does increase then investigator should revert back to (Investigation of paranormal phenomena – Stage 3).
After Secondary On-Site Investigation:
1. If no further evidence is obtained after secondary on-site investigation then investigators should revert back to (After Preliminary On-Site Investigation – Stage 5).
2. If evidence of paranormal phenomena is obtained, then investigators are to compile such findings and submit reports to scientific establishments and to conduct further research and investigation with the aid of scientific departments.
3. If witnesses do not want phenomena to continue then investigators may require outside assistance from accredited mediums, the church etc.
4. If witnesses are not to bothered regarding paranormal disturbances then further investigation and research should continue until all avenues are exhausted.
Never use mediums that are not accredited, as evidence obtained at some point of the investigation may be criticised by a scientific departments or establishments SEP may associated with.
Compiled by Steve Mera & James Randi.
Details copyright (c) 2010 - BITC Course.